The Egg Stone

by Doc Sawzall

Authors note and fair warning:

At the beginning of this tale are scenes of graphic violence, it is not the authors intent to gratuitously to use such material, needlessly or cheaply.

Rather it is used to set a tale of redemption. If such triggers are harmful…please forgive me. There are many fine stories by some fantastic authors for you to peruse elsewhere.

A Prequel to Tomoko And the Goren

In the time before and in the time after does the following take place on a planet with two suns and three moons. For there are many tales that follow this story. The time is one of change as the inhabitants are moving from the nomadic to an agrarian lifestyle, where trade is conducted between remote villages and the first use of metals has started. Technology has advanced to the levels to support a merchant class coexisting with the farmers, hunter/gatherers and the religious order. Their culture has developed rules of conduct based on the Chronicles and the Protocols. They have a written language which was a gift of the Chronicles.

Units of measurements

La'gan made his way across the hot dry dusty public square of the village with a heavy heart. He knew what would be asked of him, he was certain of that, why else would he walking with such a heavy heart? More to the point, despite any and all of the objections he would raise, he knew at the end he would have to do what would be asked of him.

This dilemma tore at his very soul and shook him to the core of his being. That death was certain was no doubt, either a lucky stone would find it's mark or the accumulated weight on the platform would drive the Fali so deep that the internal damage would cause Tomolo to bleed out.

The platform was an intricate device. A prisoner would be brought up to the platform where a pole rose out of the middle of it. There were two cross bars attached, one high and one low, adjusted to accommodate the height of the prisoner. At the bottom their legs would be spread and tied to the lower crossbar in stirrups, forcing the knees apart. Their arms in turn would be fastened to the upper crossbar at the elbows allowing the hands and forearms to swing freely. Vertical pole was the Fali. The Fali was not part of the platform and came up through a small square hole in the platform that was directly between the prisoners legs. It was also adjusted so that it lined up with the prisoners groin where it would gain entrance through the prisoners' Kunna.

The platform sat on four large animal skin bladders. As the prisoner was bound to the cross bars on the pole, Priest Stones would be added to balance the platform and to ensure the Fali rested snug against the prisoners Kunna. As the accumulated weight of the stones thrown at the prisoner increased, the platform would slowly descend as the Fali entered the body. If the thrown stones failed to do their job then the Fali would, as the weight of the stones accumulated. Once the weight of the stones on the platform overloaded the animal skin bladders, the Fali would be driven deep into the body as the bladders burst and released the air trapped inside.

If the prisoner's crime was heinous enough, the priests would oil the prisoner's body in the belief that the slippery flesh mitigated all but direct hits prolonging the prisoner's agony. The stones would then slowly gather on the platform. If the prisoner were not oiled, then the body would better absorb the impact and the weight of stones on the platform would accumulate quickly.

As he passed the pole in the center of the square, a not so imperceptible shudder coursed through his body. It was just a week ago that the pole was last used. While he wasn't present to witness the execution he was there for the aftermath. What had been done as a so-called punishment went far beyond anything recorded in the Chronicles of their village; the priests had fired the crowd and themselves into a frenzy going beyond bloodlust. La'gan was back in time for the end and as son of the chief hunter he was given the remains to feed his hunting dogs as no one would claim the body. As he removed the body from the platform he began to doubt the priests. By all that was holy, punishment such as this was to be swift and merciful. This was anything but. Unable to reconcile what had transpired with what he had been taught; La'gan brought the body out of the village and gave it a simple burial in a meadow near his hut after cleaning and tending to the body as best he could.

La'gan paused for a moment when he came to the gaol; the fetid stench was already making itself known. Taking a deep breath he pounded on the entrance door. After a minute or so the view port slid open. Identifying himself and his purpose he was granted access and brought to the lowest level where the worst of the worst were held until their date with the platform and the Fali arrived.

At the far end of the lowest level near the exit for the sewer was the cell that held the pole's next victim, Lagan's best friend from childhood Tomolo. Putting on a brave face to mask his confusion La'gan commanded the cell to be opened and for the gaoler to grant the condemned prisoner some privacy in his last evening as customs demanded.

"La'gan, may the gods smile upon you and bless you for coming. I am asking you to cast the first stone and to prepare me on the platform.

"Tomolo, do you know what you ask of me, are you positive this is what you want"?

"You have to do it, don't you see, if you don't, think of the consequences, what is going to happen to me. Instead of being over quickly, how much can you ask me to suffer until someone gets the lucky hit, how long will it take until the Fali claims me?

Listen La'gan…please listen very carefully, all you have to do is keep your sling under your shirt. You aren't the one who has to go out there and while I have no choice in the matter, I get to select who goes first and prepares me. I know your aim will be true, swift and strong. When the time comes I'll turn my head sideway's. If you hit me just in front of my ear as hard as you can throw and it will be over painlessly, nothing else matters afterwards. Do you think for a moment the crowd wants this over quickly?

How many stones did it take to kill Marekh I ask you, was it necessary? No one has ever suffered the weight of stones that were thrown at Marekh. The Fali was imbedded so deep it nearly had to be cut off. I was there; they made me prepare him and watch.

"He was your lover La'gan exclaimed, it was against their teachings".

"I was your lover once La'gan," Tomolo softly replied, "Did not Marekh deserve at the least to go quickly rather than make a spectacle and an afternoon out of it? How sporting was it, when he was tied to the post for nearly half a sun, and like a cat playing with a mouse, was it necessary to drag his death out? How many stones were thrown simply to hurt him, not to punish him"?

"We were children Tomolo, playing children's games Dhani is with my second child; my seed is in her, have you placed your seed in a woman? I don't think so, had I not been on the hunt for game that week Maerkh's punishment would have been swifter".

"La'gan, when Dhani was found to be with your first child, who took your seed then? Who came to my hut and gave me pleasure as I returned pleasure? When you left me, Marekh took your place willingly knowing how I felt about you and he knew how you felt for me even as you deny it".

"Tomolo, it isn't right you ask this of me…you can't".

"La'gan, tonight you will go to the hut of my parents. You will tell them I have asked that you cast the first stone and my time at the post will be swift. You will also tell them I have asked you to prepare my body on the platform. You then go to my hut and in my old chest, is the egg stone we found down by the river that day we first spilled seed. You will use that stone when the time comes. There is a vial of Narg Oil that you are to take as well, there isn't much but it should be enough. Tomorrow when I am brought to the post, I will claim my right to name the one who casts the first stone and prepare my body, and I will name you. The choice is yours now, the manner of my death is in your hands now, and I beg you to show mercy, for what you and I once were, dies tomorrow with me".

La'gan was weary with a heavy heart leaving the gaol. After leaving Tomolo's cell he informed the gaoler that he would be returning later that evening to begin the prisoner's final preparations. He went to Tomolo's parents and told them of Tomolo's request and that he would honor it. With weeping faces his parents thanked him and blessed him for ensuring that Tomolo would not suffer as Marekh had. He retrieved the egg stone and the vial Narg Oil, placed them in his satchel and returned to the gaol.

As best he could he tried to comfort Tomolo as comforting words were difficult to find. There were many awkward silences and pauses in their conversation as they both focused on the implications of what was to come.

"La'gan", Tomolo began… "No one spoke for Marekh not even his family, that's why at the end, the priests gave you his body…his family wouldn't claim it. When they brought him to the pole that afternoon I was forced to attend him on the platform. No one else would stand for him. I wanted to refuse knowing I was to share the same fate, but the priests informed me that my parents would suffer if I did not attend him.

When Marekh was brought to the platform and saw me waiting to attend him he thanked me. He asked who stood for him and I replied that I, Tomolo would stand for Marekh. Once the priests had bound his arms to the upper cross bar the ceremony began. I was given the anointing urn with the oil and went up on the platform. I oiled his body taking care to apply as much as I could. I don't know who was trembling more but as I oiled him he kept thanking me. Marekh was instructed to place his feet in the stirrups ensuring his legs were spread wide apart, with his knees bent in a half squat. Forcing his back to rest flat against the pole, leaving his Kunna fully exposed. I was told to place the Fali in the hole in the ground that had been prepared for it. It came up to his Kunna but the blocking supporting the platform prevented it from entering him. Once the Fali was pressed against him, I bound his legs firmly to the lower cross bar.

When the priests were satisfied that he was bound to the pole they demanded he spill his seed one last time on the soil below him as the Protocols demanded. Herbs infused with the anointing oil would act upon the skin of his fali, ensuring maximum hardness. I grabbed his fali and applied more oil and massaged his eggs. I fully retracted his Herka and stroked his seed out of him.

They made him suffer one last indignity before the platform was released. The head priest came forward with his Stygel and a curved knife. He took Maerkh's fali and pulled his Herka forward over the Stygel, pushing the head of his fali back into itself. A second priest came forward with some twine gave it to me. I and swiftly tied it around his Herka as instructed securing it to the Stygel. The head priest then took his curved knife and made me cut his herka off.

Marekh's body betrayed him. He clenched his teeth as the cut was made. The head priest bade me to undo the twine and release his fali, as I did there was a bloody ring that appeared behind the head of his fali. I let the Stygel fall through the opening in the platform where a small dog lapping at his seed, grabbed it and ran off. In the momentary confusion I was able to slip Maerkh's herka off the Stygel as it fell and slipped it into my pocket.

Satisfied that the Protocols had been followed the head priest instructed everyone but myself to leave the platform as the junior priests began placing the priest stones on the four corners of the platform. Once their weight was replaced by the priest stones I was instructed to hold the Fali against Marekh's Kunna as the supporting blocking was removed. The platform settled slightly and the Fali was pressed more firmly against Marekh.

La'gan this wasn't a Fali for a youth of sixteen summers such as us, it was a larger adult size and its blunt end tried to lift Marekh rather than enter him. The platform was loaded with another round of priest stones and Marekh's Kunna could no longer resist the Fali's passage as it went in the width of two fingers. Another round of priest stones were placed on the platform and the Fali's carved head fully entered Marekh. This continued until the Fali was four fingers deep into Marekh.

At this point I was handed the covers for the platform's opening and I put them in place. There was just enough space in the covers to let the Fali through and not let any stones fall to the ground. I was then instructed to leave the platform. Before I left the platform, shorter blocks were placed under the platform and additional priest stones were added to compensate for my weight. Once that was done, I was brought off the platform and the blocking removed and the platform held steady.

It was time to cast the first stone. I was brought out the Bata line where a pile of stones had been placed. The head priest asked the crowd who was this and why was he here. Before they could answer Marekh cried out'' …"I am Marekh…mate of Tomolo and I ask that Tomolo cast the first stone as it is my right. I will await Tomolo on the other side where our love will continue to grow and prosper and we will share our seed for eternity".

"Silence yelled the head priest; you are here as a result of you heedless self serving actions and you will pay the price the gods demand, you are to speak no more".

"La'gan I am but a simple farmer's son and don't have the strength in my arms you possess nor swiftness or accuracy of your aim. My intention was to throw the first stone at Marekh's head and send him into unconsciousness if I couldn't end his torment with a fatal throw. My aim was off slightly and the stone hit him just below an eye, splitting his cheek open. As the stone hit you could hear it hit bone and Marekh refused to cry out. When shock of the impact passed he looked at me and gave me a sad crooked bloody smile

Volan, the smithy's son demanded the rite of the second stone as he was the bastard who claimed he saw us that afternoon. The head priest granted his request and as he pushed me down he told me to watch carefully he was going to do the same to me when it was my turn at the pole. He stepped up to the Bata line and grabbed a fairly large rock with jagged edges. Volan called out for the Bata Board. Once again the platform was stabilized with blocking and I was given the board.

Kneeling in front of Marekh, he looked down at me with a sad smile on his face. We both knew what was coming. I placed the Bata Board between his legs and behind his eggs, inserting it in the bottom slot provided so it rested firmly on the ground.

I was given a piece of twine and instructed to tie it around his fali. I was to tie his fali around his body so his eggs were unobstructed. With the Bata firmly in place I stepped off the platform and the supporting blocking was removed. The head priest asked for another round of priest stones and as they were added Marekh's body was forcibly pressed into the curved saddle of the Bata Board stopping any further penetration by the Fali. His eggs were draped over the front of the Bata Board and I had noticed slight traces of blood had begun to appear on the Fali

Volan hefted the stone with jagged edges from hand to hand until he was sure Marekh had recovered enough to know what was coming. Volan stepped back from the line a pace and let his stone fly with all his might. The stone flew true to Volan's aim and hit Marekh squarely on his eggs crushing them against the Bata Board. Marekh's head snapped back and his body went taught, straining against the bindings on his legs and arms.

The stone then fell onto the platform and with the exception of the air rushing from his lungs, not a sound was uttered. He had passed out from the pain. The jagged edge of Volan's stone had split Marekh's egg sack open and one of his crushed eggs fell out and hung there. Satisfied with the damage done, Volan looked at me and let me know he would recover that stone and use it on me. Better yet he told me he'd see that both of my eggs would suffer Marekh's fate when it was my turn at the pole.

The priest called for the Bata Board to be removed and once again I was forced up onto the platform, this time there was no blocking, my weight would only add to his misery. When I got to Marekh, I told him how sorry I was that once the board was removed, the Fali would sink deeper into him.

The Fali that was chosen for Marekh was normally one used for the most vicious of prisoners. For below the Fali's sculpted head were small quartz edges worked to the sharpness of a knife, embedded into the shaft of the Fali. The Fali was deep enough into Marekh that the first ring of quartz edges were at the entrance to his Kunna; with the board removed they would pass at least the width of a finger into him. As I grabbed the Bata Board I told Marekh what was coming, that the quartz blades were at his entrance. As I removed the Bata Board, Marekh sank onto the quartz edges and his Kunna was sliced open.

The head priest then declared that Marekh would suffer the fate of single stones. Custom demanded that everyone would throw at the same time. Now, one stone at a time would be thrown until Marekh breathed his last. Not one person went for a mercy shot except for myself. Stones had been thrown at Marekh's arms until they were hopelessly broken and battered, the same for his legs and they could no longer support him.

All the while the Fali kept sinking deeper and deeper into Marekh. What had been but a trickle of blood on the Fali at the beginning, became rivulets as the Fali became soaked with his blood. Still no one had taken a head shot, when the arms and legs were no longer a viable target his chest and mid section took the brunt. Volan picked up a stone for his second shot that was even worse than his first; it was like a plate with jagged edges. Throwing it like a discus he let it fly and hit him squarely on the base of his fali, it hit with a sickening thud ripping the flesh from it and splaying it open. My second shot landed just below his jawbone but was deflected just enough to avoid crushing his windpipe.

For what seemed a lifetime, stones continued to rain upon Marekh. As the head priest stepped up to the Bata line, calling for a pause before beginning the third round, the first animal bladder burst. It was quickly followed by the others, sending the Fali deep into Marekh. As Marekh's body was forced further down on the Fali the quartz edges worked to slice his insides. The lower he sank, the larger the quartz blades became and the more damage was done. With the weight of the stones on the platform released by the failing animal bladders, the Fali quickly ripped upward through Marekh's intestines. It went past his stomach, crushing his barely beating heart thus finally ending his life.

La'gan, once more I ask that you spare me this torment. I am not afraid anymore and know I will join Marekh on the other side. Tomorrow you will use Narg Oil on me after I spill my seed. Its numbing properties will spare me the worst of the beginning of the ceremony. There should be enough to use on my fali and the head of the Fali. On this piece of twine around my neck is Marekh's herka. Take this and do the same for me as I did for Marekh. I ask that you bury me next to him and bury us with our herka's. I have but one last request of you, we will be alone until you leave for the night. I ask that while you will spill my seed tomorrow, that you do so now and then spill your seed in me.

La'gan took Tomolo and laid him on his sleeping mat on his back after having removed his trousers and jerkin. He lifted Tomolo's legs up and slid between them. "Tomolo tomorrow your Kunna will taste the Fali and while I can apply some Narg Oil it won't be enough to dull the pain, if there isn't that much left. As the Fali drives deeper into you after your herka has been removed, your Kunna will feel the increasing pain as the Fali widens and splits you open. Protocols demand the Fali be the width of four fingers wide inside of you before the platform is released. The quartz edges embedded in the Fali will be ready to slice you open should my stone fail you. Are you sure you want me to do this knowing what you will experience tomorrow?"

"I am ready La'gan, place yourself against my Kunna and spill my seed, once spilled I want you to quickly bury your fali as deep into me as you are able…don't hold back…drive forward with all your might and prepare me for tomorrow".

La'gan did as he was requested and spilled Tomolo's seed while pressed against his Kunna. When Tomolo stopped pumping his seed, La'gan released Tomolo's deflating fali, positioned his arms above Tomolo's shoulders he drove forward without warning.

Searing pain replaced the sweet feelings of Tomolo's seed pumping out of him; the force of La'gan's thrust caused an involuntary gasp for air. La'gan's entry into Tomolo's Kunna was brutal; it was without care or concern it seemed. Tomolo could only helplessly feel La'gan's fali plunge into him, the unyielding force that ripped its way into his Kunna and slammed through its doorways.

The pressure of La'gan's entry forced Tomolo against La'gan's restraining arms, pinning his body just so. There was no escape from the engorged fali ripping through his insides. The violent force of his entry knocked Tomolo's breath away. This is what it will be like Tomolo thought if La'gan's aim wasn't true and the egg stone missed its mark. This is what the Fali will do to me tomorrow; this is the pain that will rip me from this world. The pain that will drive all other thoughts from my mind and only let me feel this as the Fali cuts and slices me apart.

La'gan's fali quickly reached maximum depth and as soon as it was bottomed out it was just as quickly brought back out and violently forced back in again. La'gan repeated this assault on Tomolo's Kunna until his seed flowed deep into Tomolo.

La'gan was but an empty husk as he left the gaol in the early morning hours, sleep would not come easy if at all. He had done as Tomolo asked and more, three times he emptied himself into Tomolo and was surprised the gaoler never came back to the cell with the noise they had made.

End Chapter 1

The command ran out shortly after morning prayers, bring the prisoner forward. A pair of burly gaolers came to Tomolo's cell and asked him to stand and face the wall. With not a care or concern for the condemned prisoner, Tomolo was stripped naked and a bucket of filthy water tossed over him. Bringing his hands roughly behind his back they were swiftly bound. Once the prisoner was secured he was spun around and started his journey from the dark depths of the gaol to the hot, dusty public square where Tomolo knew he'd knew he would breathe his last. Having some pride, Tomolo made sure to void his bowels and bladder earlier, so when the end came, he wouldn't suffer the indignity of soiling himself. He'd deny the Fali that particular taste of his body and the taste of La'gan's seed.

As Tomolo entered the public square he saw La'gan standing on the platform holding what looked like his vial of Narg Oil and it puzzled him slightly. He gave La'gan a tentative smile and walked up to the platform and stepped onto it. Turning to the crown he cried out "As my right I ask that La'gan cast the first stone and prepare me according to the Protocols. Will La'gan accept"?

"I am La'gan, son of the chief hunter and I accept prisoner Tomolo's request. I will prepare him according to the Protocols so he may receive the punishment for which he stands here today. Head priest know that it is my right, according to the Protocols to fully prepare this prisoner. His punishment will be swift and just, the Protocols will be satisfied before this morning is past, so let the Chronicles record what we do here today.

Prisoner Tomolo, you understand that the High Priest has condemned you to death as a result of your actions with Marekh? You are here to suffer the consequences of those actions and you will follow my commands without any struggle".

"I will accept your commands and go willingly to the post. Before this morning is over I will cross over to the other side and once more be with Marekh. Together we will spend our seed together for all eternity".

La'gan brought Tomolo over to the pole, before placing his back against it he untied his hands. Taking each arm in turn he tied each one to the cross bar at the elbows. Satisfied that the bindings were tight he then moved his legs wide apart and placed them in the stirrups. As with Tomolo's arms, each leg was securely bound to the lower cross bar leaving each leg bent at the knees in a half squat. La'gan then removed the covering where the Fali would be placed. Setting each half of the cover in front of Tomolo's feet La'gan picked up the vial of oil and held it in front of Tomolo. "Prisoner Tomolo, no oil other than what is required to spill your seed and anoint the head of the Fali will be used today, your abhorrent behavior with Marekh demands so. You will feel the righteous pain as the stones land upon your body and the Fali works its way deep inside of you".

La'gan commanded "Bring me the Fali priest and not the one used on Marekh! I want the Fali D'Ore as the Protocols demand so"!

The head priest and the crowd were momentarily stunned. The last time the Fali D'Ore had been used was a distant memory. For generations it occupied a prominent space above the temple altar. Like the one use on Marekh this also had quartz edges but the difference was in that the sculpted head was not as blunt and it slowly tapered out to the thickness of a man's arm. Because of the shape of the Fali D'Ore, when the platform gave way, its quartz edges were designed to rip through the prisoner's body as the Fali D'Ore exited up and out of the prisoner's mouth.

While the head priest was fetching the Fali D'Ore La'gan applied some anointing oil to Tomolo's fali. The herbs infused in the oil would bring on an erection of maximum firmness. Tomolo was acutely aware now that he was naked and vulnerable in front of the village and whether he wanted to or not, his fali would stand proud.

His fali when erect was not quite the length or girth of La'gan's, but it was larger than most of the boys he saw, when they swam naked down at the river. It was as long as a hand and a half wide when hard and nearly as thick as the green seed fruit he grew and his mother would pickle. Only the gods and two others had ever seen what was about to happen, what he had shared in love now would be a spectacle, as his seed would flow for the last time for all to see. He had been afraid that his fali would stay soft and not grow just like Marekh's did. He took comfort in knowing that whatever the herbs that were infused with the anointing oil were, they would ensure that everyone would see his fali standing proud and strong just as Marekh's did.

Once the head priest returned with the Fali D'Ore La'gan took it and placed it in the hole in the ground that had been prepared for it. La'gan switched the vial of oil with Tomolo's vial which had been secure in his satchel. After switching vials, he anointed the head of the Fali D'Ore with some Narg Oil before placing it in position. Like Marekh's Fali, the Fali D'Ore rested snugly against Tomolo's exposed Kunna.

Everything now being in place, Tomolo could feel the effect of the herbs as the oil was absorbed by the dry skin of his fali. With each stroke of La'gan's hand he could feel himself growing firmer.

As La'gan began to stroke his fali Tomolo looked out over the crowd, they were mesmerized at the sight before them, all eyes on his body waiting, watching to see the seed spill out of him. It seemed that each stroke heightened the tension in the crowd. Many young boys had moved up close to the platform to get a better view Tomolo recognized one of the boys, a youth of about fourteen summers.

He wondered why he looked familiar at first and then he realized he was also present the previous week when Marekh was on the platform. The boy sat on the pile of straw that would be used to clean the platform after. Tomolo remembered thinking that it was obvious that what he was watching excited him greatly. When Marekh was finished spilling his seed he had looked back at the boy and noticed his eyes had glazed over. It was obvious he had also spilled some seed.

The boy stayed put watching the removal of Marekh's herka and not until Tomolo had left the platform did the boy move back and joined his father in line behind Volan. The father had grabbed a stone the size of an apple and let it fly, hitting Marekh squarely on the inside of his knee opening his flesh with a sickening sound. Turning to the boy he handed him a slightly smaller stone as the head priest instructed to hit him anywhere but his head. The boy, he remembered now, his name was Taraq, walked up to the Bata line. He hadn't enough summers to wear trousers and was still in his Dbijb robe.

He waited until Marekh recovered from the hit to the knee before he threw. He lined up and threw as hard as he could and hit Marekh at the base of his upturned fali. The memory of his second shot came flooding back to Tomolo, after Volan's second shot had flayed Marekh's fali, Tarek's father hit Marekh dead center in the chest knocking the air out of his lungs. Taraq's second shot hit Marekh in what was left of his egg sack severing the egg that was dangling.

Tomolo looked at Taraq as La'gan was working on his fali and they locked eyes, and the boy knew Tomolo understood what he was doing. Unabashedly the boy grinned at Tomolo and continued to stroke himself, he looked to see if anyone else knew what he was doing, but all eyes were on Tomolo. Sitting on the straw pile with his hands in his dbijb pockets he spread his legs open and exposed his erect fali to Tomolo and just as quickly closed the opening and continued to pleasure himself.

It was just another humiliation Tomolo thought, the boy and everyone else was going to get a show and if the La'gan's aim was true, at least the show would be over quick. He had no desire to face the boy with a stone in his hands. Tomolo could feel himself being brought closer to spilling his seed; as much as he tried to prolong it the herb infused oil was doing its job.

La'gan tightened his grip. Tomolo could feel the pressure build with each stroke, the sensitive head of his fali was responding to the firm grip of La'gan's hand. After a few minutes the pressure was unbelievable and his fali was on fire. His eggs drew close to his body and when the sensations couldn't get any stronger, Tomolo cried out, just before he spilled his seed back to the earth, that he would always and forever be a part of this place, he spewed forth in a mighty blast, four pulses strong.

La'gan kept his hand firmly against the base of Tomolo's fali, forcing his seed to be pumped out rather than stroked out. For Tomolo the intensity was overwhelming. When his fali stopped throbbing, La'gan resumed stroking Tomolo's fali's sensitive head as he discreetly poured the Narg Oil on his fali. For Tomolo the sensation was overwhelming at first, but then the Narg Oil had its effect, and the feelings slowly decreased until Tomolo could no longer feel his fali. More to the point, Tomolo could no longer feel the head of the Fali D'Ore and could not tell if it was against his Kunna or if it had already entered him.

Turning to face the High Priest and the crowd behind him La'gan announced the seed had been spilled according to the Protocols. Walking over to the edge of the platform he demanded the High Priest's Stygel and knife. From the High Priests assistant he took the twine that would be used to bind the herka to the Stygel.

Tomolo knew only too well what was about to happen. He took a deep breath as La'gan returned with the Stygel, knife and the twine, which would bind his herka to the shaft of the Stygel. Dejectedly he watched as La'gan placed the Stygel against the head of his fali and the other end against his hip. La'gan pushed the head back drawing his herka further up the Stygel's shaft. He knew he should be feeling pain from this violation yet he felt nothing, even as the slip knot La'gan tied, tightly bound his herka to the Stygel.

Standing back so all could see, La'gan let Tomolo's fali go and announced that the Protocols were being followed. Turning back to Tomolo, La'gan softly asked his forgiveness for what was to follow. Tomolo knew from this point forward the Protocols now would be irreversible, he would soon breathe his last and nodded his head and told La'gan to continue. There would be no turning back, he would now lose his herka and more importantly once the twine was removed, La'gan would place the covers back over the hole in the platform. The blocking would be removed from under the platform. Once the Fali D'Ore was in his Kunna to the depth of four fingers wide, then La'gan would take his place at the Bata line as more priest stones were added to the platform.

Tomolo watched La'gan step back towards him with the knife held high. "The Protocols demand that Tomolo sacrifice his herka and so it shall be done". Bringing his knife hand under Tomolo's fali, La'gan pulled the Stygel towards him. With a swift circular movement of the knife and twist of the Stygel, Tomolo was separated from his herka. La'gan held it high for all to see. Turning back to Tomolo, he held it in front of his face and loudly announced the next to last protocol had been followed.

Tomolo watched the removal of his herka with a curious sense of feeling. The Narg Oil had worked and he had felt no pain, just the dull crunching sensation of the knife as it cut through the flesh and found the shaft of the Stygel. He watched as La'gan again held it high for all to see. As he turned back towards him, La'gan removed it from the Stygel's shaft as he threw the Stygel to the ground. It was quickly taken by the same small dog lapping at Tomolo's seed. La'gan returned to Tomolo's fali, grasping it with one hand and Tomolo's newly shorn fali expanded back to its normal length with an angry circular red wound behind the head of his fali's shaft.

This was it Tomolo thought to himself, the blocking would soon be removed and priest stones would be added until the Fali D'Ore would be embedded deep within him. He knew death was soon to find him and a feeling of inevitably and helplessness permeated his body, he'd not live to see another sun. La'gan replaced the covers on the platform so no stones would fall through the opening. He watched as La'gan asked for the blocking to be removed. As it was removed, he still felt nothing from his Kunna as the platform settled slightly.

La'gan called for the first set of priest stones to be added and the platform settled the width of a finger into Tomolo, he could sense a slight increasing pressure, a vague discomfort as La'gan called for the second set of priest stones to be added. La'gan called out for the third set of priest stones to be added as the platform settled some more, increasing the pressure Tomolo was now becoming more aware of.

La'gan, checking the markings on the shaft of the Fali D'Ore told Tomolo he was not quite halfway there and called for the fourth and fifth sets of priest stones. There was a noticeable settling of the platform and the pressure Tomolo had felt, became very real. La'gan knew the Narg Oil would only last just so long, he was only able to anoint the sculpted head of the Fali D'Ore; the deeper it penetrated the more Tomolo would feel it. Checking the markings once again La'gan called for the sixth set of priest stones to be added to the platform.

Tomolo was in pain now; La'gan heard it as Tomolo exhaled. The embedded quartz blades were the width of two fingers away from the lips of Tomolo's Kunna. Tomolo could feel his body being forcibly opened now. The crowd could sense his discomfort from the way he gasped for breath and rolled his head. He saw the boy Taraq watching his discomfort, pointing it out to his friends.

La'gan called for the seventh set of priest stones to be added to the platform and as the platform settled again, La'gan could see the quartz blades were now in position. Now, as more weight was added, the quartz blades would begin to cut into Tomolo.

La'gan called out for the blocking to be restored to the platform so he could take his place at the Bata line. Before he stepped off the platform, he announced that the Protocols had been followed faithfully and it was now time for the final Protocol. Turning to Tomolo and looking directly into his eyes, he assured him his aim would be true and left the platform. Directing the priest to remove the blocking, the platform rose slightly to compensate for the loss of La'gan's weight. The head priest called for the eighth set of priest stones to be added and the platform settled enough so the quartz blades were all but against Tomolo's Kunna.

Tomolo looked out over the crowd as La'gan walked to the Bata line followed closely by the boy Taraq. How many more breaths would he take, for now, that was the span of his life. Sixteen summers had come to this as Tomolo looked at the crowd in the public square. Time was short, only moments away as La'gan removed the sling from under his tunic.

The High Priest was furious and demanded that he not use it. La'gan answered back the both the Protocols and Chronicles allowed it. Did the High Priest want a taste of what the sling could do? Chastened the High Priest stepped back and before La'gan could place the egg stone in his sling, Volan clutching the Bata Board, stepped forward and demanded right of second stone and head priest nodded his head.

Tomolo watched as La'gan placed the egg stone in the sling, he recalled that La'gan named it so because it resembled one of his eggs, on the day they both first spilt seed together. He watched as the sling went round and round La'gan's head gaining speed and deadly velocity. When he was sure he was nearing his release point he turned his head sideways as agreed, and waited for the other side to claim him.

If anyone was watching La'gan instead of the sling and Tomolo, they would have seen a tear form as he released the egg stone and sent it on its way. His aim was true and the egg stone hit Tomolo just as he turned his head.

To anyone watching it was obvious Tomolo was no longer, from the sound the stone made on impact, the blood spilled to the final exhalation of the air in his lungs. The way his body slumped served only to confirm what everyone knew. La'gan called for the blocking to be replaced under the platform and once secured he climbed up and announced to all, that the Chronicles would record that the Protocols were followed and that prisoner Tomolo was no longer. The physic followed La'gan onto the platform and after inspecting Tomolo, confirmed his death.

La'gan announced his claim to Tomolo's body as his right to feed his dogs. He bent over and picked up the bloody egg stone that had found its mark. Using the High Priests knife, the physic cut the bindings for Tomolo's legs and then his arms while La'gan was holding him securely by his waist. Once freed from his bindings he raised him up off the Fali D'Ore and placed the lifeless body over his shoulder and left the village for his hut where he would clean and bury Tomolo next to Marekh.

It was a broken La'gan who walked to his empty hut far from the village proper. His woman Dhani, their child and the child to be, would stay at her mother's for the remainder of the week. La'gan placed Tomolo's body on the table he used to clean the carcasses of his successful hunts on. He went into the hut and returned with a tattered blanket and placed it over Tomolo to keep the insects off while he dug his grave. Once the grave had been opened next to Marekh, La'gan went to the spring with a couple of buckets to fill with water.

Back up at the hut La'gan found a rag to wash Tomolo's body with. With one bucket used with a crude bar of animal fat soap, he rolled Tomolo over so he could wash his back. Starting at his feet he carefully scrubbed his way up to the back of his head, satisfied that his back was now clean he rolled Tomolo back over so he could clean his front.

Again starting with his feet La'gan scrubbed the day's dirt from Tomolo. One at a time he lifted his legs so he could clean between them. When that was done, much like one would do with an infant, he brought both legs up so he could clean his Kunna and the areas around it. He was surprised at what he saw; he would have thought that the damage from the Fali D'Ore would have left its mark. To be sure, there were definite signs that his Kunna had been violated brutally but it wasn't wide open as he would have expected.

Still, it looked no worse than when he left it for the third time the night before. Shaking his head in puzzlement, he lowered Tomolo's legs and spread them apart. He began washing Tomolo's eggs and fali carefully handling the distended eggs as he gently washed them. Picking up Tomolo's fali he closely examined the angry red wound encircling it. It had started to scab over from the dirt and dust that had accumulated there. There was absolutely no trace of his herka, the cut had been that smooth. Placing it down he scrubbed the patch of hair that lay above the fali and then as gently as he could he finished washing Tomolo's fali, admiring the now exposed, perfectly formed head.

La'gan continued to wash up Tomolo's body there were several areas of blood that came from the fatal wound on his head. Laying his arms out he washed the areas that weren't cleaned before he rolled him over. Picking each arm up in turn he washed from the fingers down to the underarms making sure to clean the sparse patches of hair growing there. Finishing with his arms, La'gan moved to Tomolo's neck and head with a growing sense of foreboding.

He was not looking forward to cleaning the wound he had caused and bringing him to this moment. La'gan understood what had to be done and would have wanted the same if the situation had been reversed. Tomolo was his closest friend and for the past three years, an occasional bed mate as they shared each other's seed. He knew he was lucky that it wasn't the two of them that had been caught, while he was happy to lay with Dhani, it wasn't the same or exciting as laying with Tomolo, and that's what bothered him. What bothered him more was no other boy made him feel that way. La'gan turned Tomolo's head so that the wound was obscured while he washed the other side of his neck and head.

Not being able to avoid it any longer La'gan turned Tomolo's head so he could wash the top of his head and his face. The wound was now partially visible through the blood soaked matted hair that covered the side of his head. Gently La'gan dipped his rag into the clean water and washed Tomolo's face thinking of those eyes that would look right through him as they spilled seed and see La'gan's true self. He cleaned his nose and the bloody crust at the end of it, those soft lips that excited his fali so much, and his strong chin that mashed against his when they shared lips.

It was love tinged with sad regret, for what had to be done. To spare him as much unnecessary pain as possible, La'gan realized Tomolo loved and trusted him completely. Tomolo was that certain that the egg stone would do as he asked. That La'gan's aim would be true, the velocity of the stone when released from its sling would so violently impact his head that his passage to the other side came quickly. What courage it must have taken to stand there, impaled on the Fali D'Ore, full well knowing what would happen if the egg stone missed or otherwise failed to do its intended job.

How brave he must have been, to allow his best friend to forever change the appearance of his fali, by having him remove his herka. How secure in the knowledge in his best friend, that he trusted him to see the Fali D'Ore went in the prescribed distance, and kept the lips of his Kunna from the quartz edges. How confident he must have known when the end came that while he couldn't be buried with La'gan, that La'gan would see that he was buried with Marekh and their herka's would be returned and buried with them.

La'gan was confused as to the depths of Tomolo's love and the certainty of his faith in him, La'gan, son of the chief hunter. That he realized in many ways he was lacking, a lesser man. Tears filled his eyes as he turned Tomolo's head to at last clean the wound that dispatched him to the other side.

Carefully wetting and soaking the matted hair with clean water, he removed the soiled hair from the broken flesh. Like most head wounds, he had bled profusely. His scalp was literally torn apart at the upper corner of his forehead, exposing the bone beneath the flesh. La'gan realized he had missed the softer, thinner bone at Tomolo's temple. The wound was the length of a finger and surprisingly it went laterally, and wasn't the crushing impact, forcing the bone into the soft brain matter, the egg stone had hit where the skull was thicker and was more of a glancing hit than he had intended. The egg stone must have hit Tomolo as his head was turning. Still, it made no difference; Tomolo was still on the other side, no longer of this world.

The body cleaned La'gan raised the head end of the table up so he could bleed the body, drain the blood from Tomolo, in the mistaken belief that it would prevent the body from bloating in the grave. Securing Tomolo to the table with a strap under his arms and over his chest he draped the arms over the sides and made sure the heels of his feet hung free. He went into the hut and returned with his hunting blade. To ensure that Tomolo would bleed out it would be necessary to open the veins and arteries in his wrists and heels and let gravity take its intended course. Once those veins and arteries had been opened he would open those in his neck. While Tomolo's blood was draining, La'gan would empty his jugs of honey mead and hopefully find his own oblivion.

Lagan moved to the lower end of the table and placed the knife to what he thought was the right spot below Tomolo's ankle and pressed the knife in.

"Mother of a dog...that hurts" La'gan heard as the leg jerked away from the pointed end of the knife.!!

End Chapter 2

"Mother of a dog...that hurts" La'gan heard as the leg jerked away from the pointed end of the knife.!!

The knife fell from La'gan's hands as he stood there in shock staring at what he thought was Tomolo's lifeless body. What cruel trick was this; did the other side not want Tomolo? What was it that Tomolo said just before he spilled his seed on the platform, had the gods listened to Tomolo?

"Water" the body in a voice barely loud enough to hear…"I need Water".

The request for water shocked La'gan into action. As the son of the chief hunter La'gan knew death. He had visited with death nearly every day of his life. When he was old enough to hunt on his own he was the bringer of death to his prey. He had seen death as life drained from the eyes of the game he had killed. He knew death's face, he'd seen it countless times and all of his experience told him Tomolo had died and now a dead man was speaking to him!

La'gan grabbed a cup from the hut and filled it from the bucket of clean water and brought it to Tomolo's lips. Tipping it slowly he let the water trickle into his mouth, just a bit at a time much like he did when his first child was but an infant. Tomolo tried to lift his head and groaned at the effort, La'gan could feel his distress.

La'gan went back into the hut and returned with some of the herbs Dhani used when she was birthing; he crushed them in the cup and left them to soak for a few minutes. Carefully lowering his head to Tomolo's chest he could hear and feel the faint beating of Tomolo's heart. He opened an eye lid and looked at the eye, it was not like the eyes of something that had died. Damn he thought, how was it possible…Tomolo was alive…returned from the dead! The gods must have heard Tomolo's cry as his seed was spilled and answered La'gan's sadness.

The wound on Tomolo's head began oozing blood and needed attention La'gan noticed. He knew it needed to be closed. What was it the physic had done to Marekh's father when the drunk slashed at him with a knife, he thought? Hadn't he soaked thread in wine and used a bone splinter to pass it through the flesh? Damn he thought to himself, was it thread or a tendon fiber? If he was going to do this he'd need to calm down and use whatever was at hand.

Tomolo groaned again for water and La'gan brought the cup with the birthing herbs to his lips. This time he kept the cup to Tomolo's lips a bit longer, made him drink more until the cup was nearly empty. It should do the trick La'gan thought; it should dull his pain and give him time to close the wound on Tomolo's head.

Back inside the hut La'gan searched through Dhani's belongings until he found her sewing bone and thread. Grabbing another cup, he filled it with some wine and dropped the thread and the sewing bone in it. He'd use the bone to pierce the flesh on both sides of the cut and force the thread through as he do as he saw the physic do to Marekh's father. Grabbing his whet stone he sharpened his knife and went outside to prepare Tomolo for the repair to his head. Using the knife as a razor he cut Tomolo's hair as close to the scalp as he could around the wound. That done he took the sewing bone and thread from the wine and set to his task. It wasn't pretty when he finished but Tomolo's hair should cover the scar when it grew back.

That thought startled La'gan, what was he going to do, how was he going to explain Tomolo to Dhani and the rest of the village, more importantly how would everyone react? Before he could give it any more thought Tomolo groaned, "If this is the other side why do I hurt so much, why are you here La'gan"? Before La'gan could answer Tomolo's eyes closed and he slipped back to a fitful sleep.

La'gan moved Tomolo as gently as he could back into the hut and laid him on his sleeping pad. The wound on his head taken care of La'gan needed to tend to the cut on Tomolo's fali. He knew it had to be kept clean and covered while it healed. He soaked a strip of fabric in wine and wrapped it securely around his fali.

La'gan kept tending to Tomolo in this manner for the next several days as he slipped back and forth between this world and the world of his dreams. He slipped out early one morning and brought down a wild goat. Quickly cleaning and dividing the meat he brought a large portion to Dhani's parents and told them he would be off on an extended hunt. He'd be away for several weeks as he cleaned the skins, and smoked the meat. Dhani was to stay with her parents until the child to be was born and he had returned from the hunt. That chore taken care of, La'gan went to Tomolo's hut and gathered the rest of his meager belongings into a bundle. He took Tomolo's farming tools as well. Before leaving the hut he posted his mark that the hut was his now and not to be disturbed. He would move Dhani and the children there before the fall season ended.

When La'gan got back to the hut he looked in on Tomolo who was lying awake. "This isn't the other side…is it Lagan?" He asked.

"No…it isn't, the gods must have heard you plea and answered my hearts prayer as I washed your body for burial" La'gan replied as he leaned over and gently shared lips.

"I remember everything up to the point where you were rebuking the head priest and setting the egg stone in the sling. I can see you swinging it around your head admiring how fast you could make it go and turning my head to the side, then nothing till a short while ago. I don't think I saw the other side" Tomolo recalled. "I feel weak, thirsty, and somewhat hungry…I need to make water".

As La'gan again bent over to help Tomolo stand he brushed lips. Bring one arm behind his back La'gan helped Tomolo to his feet and out of the hut. Holding Tomolo from behind he gently lifted his fali and told him to make water. Once he had finished he brought him back into the hut and laid him down on the sleeping pad. He carefully inspected the wine soaked bandage to see it remained in place.

As the days then weeks passed, Tomolo had healed physically, the thread holding his scalp together was removed; keeping it clean had prevented any infection. The angry red incision around his fali had healed as well, leaving a dark brown scar encircling it. The dizziness and mild confusion had, were gone as well. He was able to eat solid food with his broth and his morning movements passed without complaint from his Kunna.

As Tomolo's health returned he spent more time outside walking with La'gan as he hunted small game. He helped to clean and smoke the meat and prepare the skins. The hair around his wound had grown back and covered it well. Wherever possible Tomolo went without clothes or his jerkin, when he had to put something on, he would wrap his fali to decrease the uncomfortable sensitively. In time that had passed, his morning erections had returned. He wanted to spill seed but was afraid to do so.

La'gan returned to the village as the summer season drew to a close and moved Dhani and the children to Tomolo's hut. He harvested Tomolo's gardens and left half with Dhani, the other went with him when he returned to his hut. He told her as he was leaving that this was the way it would be, he would provide and she would remain safe in the village while he was off hunting. It wasn't unusual in this society as long as the family was provided for and any extra meat was given to the village.

When he got back to his hut Tomolo was sleeping on his pad, naked and fully erect. La'gan walked over to Tomolo and sat beside him. He gently touched the scar that encircled his fali. Tomolo's fali twitched at the light touch of La'gan. He ran a finger down its length feeling it pulse as he reached his heavy eggs. He leaned over and lightly shared lips with Tomolo bringing him out of his sleep. Awake, Tomolo looked down as his fali and back up to La'gan. He spread his legs slightly and nodded. La'gan gave Tomolo's fali a slow rubbing, clear seed appeared at the end, he rubbed this over the head and the sensitivity from his hands lessened.

"Once my seed is spilled I want you to enter my Kunna and spill your seed inside me La'gan", Tomolo panted, his fali was on fire with the need to spill. La'gan leaned over and placed his lips over Tomolo's fali and began to suck on it as Tomolo would suckle on his. It was too much for Tomolo as he cried out that his seed was near, oh by the gods was his seed near. La'gan kept his mouth over Tomolo's fali and as the seed erupted from him he gently rubbed his eggs, milking the last of it into his mouth.

"My fali" Tomolo exclaimed "Is it alright, did the wound open, and am I ok?" he cried out.

La'gan knowing everything was in good shape and wanted to tease Tomolo but saw by the look on his face it had best wait, told him to look for himself, it looked fine to him. Tomolo looked down and saw other than a rapidly deflating fali, all appeared normal. Letting his pent up breath go, Tomolo collapsed back on the sleeping pad and recovered from what had just happened.

La'gan stood up and removed his trousers and jerkin, his fali snapping to attention. He removed his shirt and tossed it to the floor. For the first time since it had been removed, Tomolo saw his herka hanging from La'gan's neck by a loop of twine. As La'gan sat back down, Tomolo reached out and held it in his fingers. La'gan had oiled and preserved it, it was like a piece of soft leather.

"I want you to keep this La'gan and never take it off; did you bury Marekh's with him"?

"I did the day I brought you here", La'gan answered.

"I'm sure he gives thanks to you as I give thanks to you; now spill your seed in me".

La'gan took his time loving Tomolo's body; it was completely unlike their last experience. He was patient, slow and methodical gently probing, tasting, teasing and seeking pleasure in the giving of pleasure. No one else could do this to La'gan and he had given up trying to make sense of it. While he would always return to his wife and do his duty, it was Tomolo he loved and his actions that day showed the true depths of that love.

When he thought Tomolo was ready, he pressed against his Kunna and looked into the eyes that held his soul, seeing loving permission he pressed forward slowly. Tomolo's body would be his guide until he was rooted deeply with him. This was an act of two joined…joined deeply, there wasn't any of the exuberance of young lovers pounding away at each other but that of gentle thrusting while completely joined in each other. It set a different rhythm and pace and allowed for the slow and steady climb towards the inexorable explosion of their passion. Their love making lit a flame that would burn forever betwixt the two of them.

Instead of the slap happy dance of flesh, this was the dance of tender touches and slight caresses. Slow and steady would win this race, a nighttime building a connection so deep, only death would sunder its bonds. Unlike the explosion release of animalistic sex, it took strength and determination to see this out, to deny the quick release, to build to soul cleansing climax. Not merely content to take one's breath away but it was the utter subjugation of self, the giving of self completely that all differences melted away and forged a new beginning.

End Chapter 3

"It's time to get up sleepy head, before you know it the fish will have gorged themselves on all of the insects not attached to our fishing lines. If we get there late they won't be interested in our bait. We might have to use this little worm if we're desperate."

Taraq woke with a start; there was a hand over his erect fali hidden under his blanket and a voice that sounded like his older brother Carig. Looking up at the body that belonged to the hand Taraq realized it was in fact his brother Carig, he was finally home!

"Carig…you're home…your back from the trading mission in time for my birth luni, when did you get back?" Taraq exclaimed breathlessly. "I've got much to show and tell you…there's so much we have to do now that your home…I've missed you so much…did you miss me…did you bring me back anything?"

"Slow down little one…we have the day today, just you and I, by the look of things you need to make water, so get dressed and meet me by the cooking fire, there's bred for you on the table and your water skin is filled. I am going to get the fishing stuff and let's get a move on….the fish are biting and we need to get us some!"

A naked Taraq flew out of bed and in one motion tossed on his dbijb as he stepped into his ratty old pair of mokans. His motion was fluid as the lean youth flowed out the door to his watering tree.

He couldn't believe it; his beloved brother was back and by the looks of things, Carig and his father's partner must have done well trading with the tribes far to the south. He wanted to see the goods brought back, all of the mysterious and new treasures they must have gotten but it could wait, he wanted time with Carig!

Taraq would go over the accounts and inventories later and balance everything later. It was simple, he could do it as fast as anything, and numbers were easy to him. Why anyone couldn't see them as he did, puzzled him. It was for the best this way he thought, his father would stand by him as he did the counts and showed profits and loss. Time and time again others would challenge him and he would always win. Many a trader left angry that a boy of fourteen summers couldn't be fooled and could prove his numbers in such a simple way, anyone could see he was right.

When he was finished making water Taraq ran quickly back into the hut and leapt on Carig who was expecting just such a maneuver. "Judging by the size of you and the condition of your Dbijb it think the time is coming for some trousers and I think new mokans!"

Taraq beamed and hugged his brother tighter if that were possible. This is why he loved him so much. Carig was always there for him, listened to him, explained stuff to him and always had his best interests at heart. For as long as he could remember Carig was always at his side taking care of him and at the same time, treating him as an equal.

"Of course we have to see if there are any small rags we can make a jerkin out of…I don't think it will take much fabric from what I saw this morning!"Carig commentated as he pulled his little brother deeper into his arms, planting a peck on the top of his head before releasing him.

Blushing, Taraq looked at his brother with unabated love tinged with a bit of mischievousness. He grabbed the fishing sticks and ran out the door telling his beloved brother he was the better fisherman. After all, there couldn't have been any good fishing in the wastelands. And he, Taraq, master fisherman had been practicing plenty!

It didn't take long for the two of them to find their favorite spot, chattering all the way. Taraq wanted to know every new thing Carig saw and the places he traveled to. He wanted to know about the people, animals and food. How did they dress and talk, did they live in huts or caves as he had been told by some of the other boys, were their customs like ours?

As they were talking, they were doing alright in the fishing department. They had eight fingers worth of fish on a length of twine resting in the shallow water of the banking. They settled on their backs to enjoy the rest of a lazy morning where Carig asked Taraq the news of the village.

Taraq told him the events that had gone on while he was away for eight luni that Carig had been away. He filled him in on who died who had babies or got joined, whose hut had burned or who had built new huts. He filled him in on the petty gossip he heard in his father's store and told him of Marekh and Tomolo.

Carig was stunned when he heard that Marekh and Tomolo had been brought to the pole and asked Taraq to explain what had happened.

Taraq went on to explain "Volan accused Marekh and Tomolo of being mates, they had joined and he had caught them. He went to the head priest and both were arrested. The trials were over quickly, neither could deny being together, many had seen them before and after the time of Volan's accusation, but they couldn't disprove they hadn't joined. To some it seemed it was an accusation only and the two of them should have spent time in the gaol. The head priest overruled those who felt that way and called for the both of them to be punished on the platform as an example to the village.

I watched as Marekh was bound to the platform and the Fali inserted into him. They cut his herka off after spilling his seed. They made Tomolo attend him on the platform and he threw the first stone as well. Instead of everyone throwing the head priest called for the rite of single stones. Tomolo went for a head shot but missed, hitting Marekh on the cheekbone, splitting it open crunching his cheek bone.

Volan called for the Bata Board and his stone hit him squarely on the eggs. His egg sack was split open and one of them fell out. I was allowed to throw after father and Marekh survived the first round of stones and was instructed by the head priest his head was off limits.

The crowd, urged on by the head priest made a game of throwing stones. They started with his legs, one at a time, until they were battered and broken and did the same for his arms. Only then they move towards his middle when the second round got underway.

In the second round of stones Tomolo tried to hit Marekh in the throat but did not score a direct hit. Volan's second shot was thrown like a plate. The stone had jagged edges and it hit him at the base of his fali, ripping it open as it mashed it against the bone behind it. Father's shot hit him in the middle of his chest and my second shot destroyed the rest of his egg sack.

When the second round of stones was over, the head priest called for a break before beginning the third round. As soon as he called for the break the first animal bladder burst and the others were right behind the first in bursting. And Marekh was no longer as the Fali went deep into him. La'gan appeared from nowhere and claimed his body and carried it off to become food for his dogs."

Tomolo's turn was seven suns later and everything that was done to Marekh on the platform was done to him as well. Tomolo asked La'gan to stand for him and he accepted. When it was time for the first stone he brought out his sling and the head priest demanded he not use it. La'gan replied the Protocols and Chronicles did allow and if the head priest wasn't careful, he could taste what the sling could do. It was over quickly, La'gan's first shot hit Tomolo in the space in front of his ear dispatching him to the other side. He claimed Tomolo's body as well and left the village. The head priest was very upset and the crowd wasn't happy but there wasn't anything anyone could do, La'gan followed the Protocols.

"Tell me how you feel about this Taraq?' Carig asked visibly sickened, "Do you think it was right or acting in accordance with the gods?"

"What do you mean?" Taraq asked.

"When you and I hunt or fish, do we play with our catch?" Carig asked softly. "Do we not thank the gods and see to it our catch does not suffer…we are respectful and thank the gods for the bounty we are given…what purpose of the gods requires us to administer punishment the way the head priest called for, there is nothing in the Chronicles that supports his position. If you are to take another's life then do so with all dispatch. If a crime has been committed that requires the guilty to forfeit his life…then carry out the punishment in a just manner…we are not animals, we don't kill like animals…the gods gave us reason and they desire us to exercise that reason for the good of the village…I have been lacking in your teachings and I will soon fix that. While I still love you and always will, I am disappointed you and father let Marekh suffer needlessly.

La'gan was correct in his actions and followed the will of the gods; they will smile on him and bless him. I don't agree what Marekh and Tomolo did as men, or deserved that they be sent to the other side, and I don't think the Chronicles do either. I will have to check into it. You can be sure that neither Marekh or Tomolo were fed to his dogs

I think the head priest forgets who he is; he is not of the gods but there to serve them. He is not to interpret or make up punishments but to apply the Chronicles as written. He needs to be reminded of this. I will speak to La'gan and we will see what can be done.

Let me ask you something Taraq, other than Tomolo, did anyone try to end Marekh's suffering and if not …what does that say about respect for the Protocols or Chronicles?"

Taraq hung his head in shame, that he had disappointed his brother bothered him greatly and tore at him inside. His eyes filled with tears and his chest heaved as he tried to breathe. Abject shame permeated the very fiber of his being. All of a sudden, he felt lost, confused and had not a clue as to what was going on with him. He could see what he had done, dishonored the gods, his family and now he was convinced his beloved brother hated him. He had helped to kill someone and acted like an animal and took pleasure from it. It was too much to bear, he wanted to melt into the river or have the ground swallow him whole, to disappear without a trace.

"Little brother look at me" Carig asked softly. Taraq sat paralyzed, frozen stiff. There was a loud sound in his head, roaring between his ears, his skin felt hot, hot enough to burst into flames and he could not look at his brother. It would kill him to see the disappointment he must feel in his eyes.

"Little brother, please look at me" Carig asked again in a voice even softer. Reaching out to Taraq he placed his hand under Taraq's chin and lifted it up. Carig knew he was at a dangerous moment, if he failed to reassure Taraq of his love, he could lose him forever.

Cupping Taraq's cheeks with both hands he brought his face close to his, "I love you little brother, I always will. Some of what happened is my fault also. I wasn't here to guide you, to teach you the ways of the Chronicles as I should have. I wasn't here to stand beside you. You listened to those you had been taught to listen to, not knowing it was wrong because you don't know your Chronicles.

The gods will forgive those who are unknowing, those led astray as long as they find the righteous path. I failed you…can you forgive me?" Carig asked his voice breaking and eyes watering.

Taraq was stunned, he wasn't hated…his beloved brother loved him! Throwing his arms around Carig, Taraq started sobbing uncontrollably. His words were incoherent vocalizations. Carig let him cry himself out and held him just as tightly. When Taraq had finally expunged all of the bitter feelings he leaned back and told his beloved brother how much he loved him and wanted him to be proud of him. Craig leaned in and planted gentle lips on his forehead saying he would always be proud and love his little brother.

"I think we need to go swimming little one, we both smell" Carig said softy as he took the edges of Taraq's dbijb and brought it up off his body. Taraq stood naked in front of his beloved brother as Carig removed his shirt and trousers. He was in awe of Carig's body and hoped that when he was eighteen summers he'd look as good.

Carig stood there clad only in his jerkin as he looked lovingly at Taraq's body, no longer was he a child but not quite a man and his physical development showed that. Time spent in the warehouses had started to define what his body would look like as he finally grew into manhood. From the broad, wide shoulders that sat on the top of his chest which in turn, tapered down to a thin waist which gave way to his muscular legs. He certainly wasn't lacking in the fali or the egg department while not huge he wasn't small either. He had certainly grown and filled out while he had been gone the past eight luni, and was clearly evident that he could make seed. The hairs above his fali had started to come in and still there was no sign of hair beneath his arms.

Carig found the crude bar of animal fat soap that he remembered to bring with him, if only to distract him from looking at his little brother, in the way that was also making his fali take notice. It had been some time since they had last fooled around and he wasn't sure that Taraq would even be interested. Everyone knew he was due to be joined two luni from now with the only child of the village baker, Tan'yla.

She had been sought after by many and many of those couldn't understand how or why she would wait for a nomadic son of the village trader. She knew as well as Carig that those days would end. He was planning to take over the trading business from his father, he hadn't been well. They had discussed and planned on buying his father's partner out and bringing Taraq into business with them. The boys' talent for figures was too valuable to let him go and do other work. Between operating the bakery and the trading post there would be more than enough work for the three of them.

Carig hoped that Taraq would be interested; it would mean a comfortable life for the two families after Taraq was joined with a mate as well. There would be much to do, he'd have to train Taraq further and he would have to spend time on the trading trips with the tribes to the south. Taraq would need to know these things and more if Carig's plans were to bear fruit.

"Beloved brother, just what are you thinking so long about, I thought we were going to join our brother and sister fish in the waters."

Taraq's comments jolted Carig out of his ruminations. Lifting his little brother up and over his shoulder and he ran to the river bank with a giggling, almost protesting squirming mass, that was his little brother.

Little brother, let's see if we can find father hard-shell with your little worm of a fali. Let's see if it interests him enough to poke his head out of his hut, and I'll catch it as he goes to bite it off!"

Squealing and protesting mightily Taraq did his best to wriggle out of his beloved brother's arms. Carig's hold was too strong as they both plunged into the deep part of the river. Within seconds they were both coming up for air and lunging at each other as they began to play wrestle. Carig let Taraq win and control most of the action. He knew it was important if he was going to recover from the rebuke and disappointment of their conversation a short while ago. He wanted his little brother to become a kid again so the conversation would have its proper import. He was after all caught halfway between boy and young man and o so easy to mold for good, bad or worse. He had but a small part in the taking the life of a villager. Unlike hunting or fishing, that action was a needless and wasteful death. It needed not to have happened, and whatever the confluence of events had transpired in the village, it was wrong, very wrong.

The head priest was acting far beyond what should have been his limitations and prescribed role. It was if the head priest was trying to become the leader of the village and the Chronicles were firmly against that sort of thing. Under this head priest the reading and teaching of the Chronicles became less and less important. It was as if the head priest was trying to become the sole authority when the Chronicles were a gift from the gods to all, not just a few.

Carig's understanding and knowledge of the Chronicles were shaped by the previous head priest. Don'al was a kindly and wise older man. At one point in his earlier youth Carig and many others thought he was destined to follow in the footsteps of the wise old priest. However his untimely end put an end to that. The head priest's replacement, the current head priest, didn't quite see eye to eye. Of all of the students of the Chronicles, only La'gan came close to knowing them as well as Carig. Now there were no students being taught the Chronicles and even worse not even their letters or numbers.

"Beloved brother, pass me the soap before I become like the skin of the old folks of the village and shrivel up like a dried fruit!"

Laughing, Carig turned his full attention back towards his little brother tossing him the soap. When Taraq was done washing his front he tossed the soap back to Carig and asked him to wash his back. Standing behind his brother Carig was amazed the tone of his little brother's body. He gently washed him down to the pale mounds that housed his Kunna. "Little brother, did you take care to wash here?" as he slipped a soapy hand into the taught crevasse. Taraq moaned and parted his legs, how he had missed the touch of his beloved brother as he felt a finger lightly drag across the surface of his Kunna. His fali was throbbing and firm, by the gods how he loved his beloved brother! He felt Carig's other hand come around to his front and grasp his fali. Leaning back into Carig, Taraq let go, surrendered to the intense feeling coursing throughout his body, he could feel the hardness of Carig's fali pressed against him, not only was it hot against his skin, but he could feel it pulse!

Carig's other hand was making his eggs very excited as he gently rubbed them from between his legs. It was too much and Taraq's seed spurted and fell into the waters. Carig held him tightly as his body shook as his seed flowed. When at last Taraq was able to breathe Carig released him and he moved to wash is beloved brothers back. He did as was done to him, washed his Kunna and moved to kneel in front of Carig. Using his hands, he stroked Carig's fali and as his beloved brother's seed became near, he tightened his grip and watched his fali turn a darker, harder shade of color. As Taraq thought Carig's seed was coming he placed his mouth over his beloved brothers fali. Carig needed to steady himself by placing his hands on Taraq's shoulders, as he emptied his seed into his little brothers mouth and stood there until his strength returned. Taraq licked cleaned the last vestiges of seed from Carig's fali.

Lifting Taraq up, Carig carried his little brother up onto the banking where both lay back and collapsed. Taraq loved the sense of security he was feeling, laying his head on his beloved brother's chest, wrapped tightly in his arms. He could hear and feel the beating of his heart, the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed in and out. He never wanted this moment to end, by the gods how he had missed his beloved brother!

"Little brother I've missed you and thank you for sharing with me. I will always love you and know this in the suns and luni to come. We have work to do, I will teach you the Chronicles and you will help me with my numbers. Once I am joined with Tan'yla you will stay by my side. I have plans to run the trading post and the bakery and will need you; you will be a big part of what we do. We're going to run both and I can't do it without you."

Taraq was stunned, it was more than he could have hoped for, his beloved brother needed and wanted him!

End Chapter 4

La'gan was troubled, something foreboding was bothering him and he was uneasy. The Chronicles weren't being followed and worse, misapplied. He suspected trouble was in the air and not of his or Tomolo's making. That was another issue, how were the two of them going to explain Tomolo's presence once news got out that he was alive, living in the hut of La'gan.

He needed help and there was no one in the village he could turn to. The tribes to the south were too far to be of help and that left only the people of the lake to the north. He would speak with their village elder, the one everyone called Grandfather. Don'al had respected him deeply and said as such when he was teaching the Chronicles to the boys of the village.

He'd be able to make sense of how Tomolo came back and the hair that had turned color. It wasn't noticeable at first but over the last luni, the hair that grew back over Tomolo's head wound had turned the color of the frozen waters! The gods had marked him and La'gan needed to know for what purpose and there was only one way to find out.

Tomolo's strength had returned and from the time he had spent with La'gan had paid off. He was nearly as good with the sling, could skin the catch as well. He had learned the art of smoking meats and making jerky. The long hikes as they traveled the woods and fields had done wonders.

One night, after sharing seed, La'gan broached the subject that was bothering him with Tomolo, his plan to find some understanding of what was happening; the changes in the village, the head priest's actions and what had happened to Tomolo.

Tomolo, to his credit understood and agreed with La'gan. They would pack in the morning and make their way north to the people of the lake. It would take five suns to get there. La'gan had traveled the people of the lake more than ten luni ago when out on an extended hunt.

That in itself was unusual, while there was little intermingling of the various villages, every ten summers or so the head priests of the villages would gather to reaffirm the Chronicles. The distances between the villages acted as a barrier to closer encounters. He had been welcomed and made an honorary member. La'gan had spent time with the Grandfather as he taught the Chronicles to the boys of that village. The Grandfather was impressed with La'gan's sincerity and abilities. The students loved La'gan who helped them with parts of the Chronicles they would not admit to Grandfather to having problems with. They followed him on his hunts and learned much from those as well.

As much as he would have liked to stay, he had a family to go back to. La'gan promised to come back in a summer or two. Grandfather blessed him as he was set to leave and gave him a copy of the Chronicles for his use. La'gan was visibly honored and thanked Grandfather from the depths of his being.

La'gan rose early that morning of their departure, fed his dogs, checked what they had packed once again. La'gan made sure the fur robe he made for the Grandfather was securely packed in his waterproof skins. Tomolo was up right after La'gan and had the morning meal ready as La'gan came back to the hut. They made short work of the morning meal and set out with the dogs leading the way with packs on their backs.

The gods favored them over the five suns. It had rained very little during this season before the snows and they had made good time. When they drew near the outer edges of the village territory, La'gan collared his dogs and took the lead, as they walked the last sun to the village.

A group of children saw them approaching and ran to warn the others. Some of the older boys and young men came forward and tallest recognized La'gan and gave a welcoming shout. This in turn brought out a larger crowd that walked forward to greet La'gan as he left the dogs in Tomolo's care.

Walking forward to greet the people of the lake La'gan cried out "it is I, La'gan…from the people of the land and woods…I come seeking you help!"

An ancient voice parted the crowd facing La'gan, "My son La'gan, holder of the Chronicles…how may we help you?" La'gan recognized the Grandfathers voice and cried out "I am in need of your wisdom and guidance…for much troubles me and our village…the gods are not happy."

"Then come and tell us of those things that upset you and bother the gods." The grandfather replied.

"I come not alone…but with a gift I do not understand but love regardless."

"Welcome to you and your…gift…please accept our hospitality for you are both one of us, the people of the lake." The grandfather announced spreading his arms wide in the universal sign of greeting and trust.

Tomolo was unprepared for what followed. As they entered the village many were taken by the shock of white hair that covered his scar as he was stunned at the beauty of the lake, as they entered the village proper. He'd never seen such beauty and it took his breath away. He was overwhelmed by the hospitality, it seemed as if the children were drawn to him and carried him forward.

They were brought to a large hut; it was big enough to hold many people. Tomolo thought the entire village could fit into it. In the center was a large fire pit and the wall facing the lake could move! It was opened so as they sat they could look out over the lake.

La'gan took a pack off of one of his dogs before they were led away, fed and spoiled by some of the children. They had gotten to know them well the last time La'gan was here. Opening the waterproof skins La'gan took out a large robe made out of animal skins. The hides had been cured so the skin was very soft and smooth. The fur was of the water swimmers, the playful animals that inhabited the banks of the river and would often float on their backs as they ate their prey. Their fur was well noted for the way rain would not soak through it and was highly prized as it would also when reversed; keep the wearer warm during the season of the snows.

"Grandfather…please…accept this humble gift…however poor and inadequate it is in relation to your gift of the Chronicles." La'gan pleaded "Much wrong lives with us now and I seek your wisdom if I am to bring our village back to the Chronicles."

"Let us eat as we discuss your request. I am highly honored…and you honor us with your gift and presence La'gan…son of the chief hunter. Tell us of what bothers you so greatly."

As the afternoon turned into early evening La'gan spoke of what had transpired since the death of Don'al that the Chronicles were not being taught, nor was reading or numbers. The head priest acting as if he were one of the gods and finally what had happened to Marekh and Tomolo. La'gan spoke of his joining with Tomolo as well and the deep feelings he had for Tomolo. He asked Tomolo to stand and show his fali and an audible gasp went through the hut. Bringing him forward to the Grandfather he had Tomolo lean over so his fali, scar and hair could be examined.

The Grandfather frowned deeply for what he had heard and seen bothered him greatly. "La'gan…can you tell me where in the Chronicles, where what has happened, is permitted?"

"Grandfather…I cannot…my head hurts from trying, it anything they should have spent a few days in the gaol for being caught where others could see and I am not even sure of that. Punishments were handed out that only the worst should sentenced to. Neither took a life or involved others in their joining."

"Tomolo," Grandfather interjected, "Please excuse my rudeness for not involving you earlier in our discussions…but I needed to see the depth of La'gan's heart…he is a beloved son to me and what affects him affects me…the gods have smiled and have plans for you…you will have much to do and have much to give…your tasks will require much work and will be difficult, but it is within your heart to do as the gods ask. I would be honored to call you son as well.

La'gan…the gods have given you a precious gift…for Tomolo is of the two halves. The Chronicles speak of this and accord those of the two halves the utmost respect. They are male and female, of this world and of the next, and as you can clearly see, the gods not only saved him from your sling but marked him as well…treasure and protect him always.

Tomolo…we are honored by your presence and we ask you to stay with us for a while. You have much to learn and you will teach us what is in your heart. La'gan…Tomolo will stay with us for five luni after you leave…When those luni are past we will bring him back to you, it is time I traveled to your village. Let us talk of other things before we retire for the night."

The rest of the evening passed quickly and La'gan and Tomolo joined down by the lake before retiring. Sleep came easily and La'gan slept deeply and untroubled. Morning found them intertwined and they awoke as the morning birds welcomed the new sun. Taking care of their morning needs they went to the communal hut escorted by a group of excited children holding their hands and directing them to their seats. The Grandfather made his appearance shortly after that and after exchanging pleasantries they ate their morning meal.

The Grandfather stood and a silence fell over those who were seated for the morning meal "La'gan and Tomolo, I have slept on the problems before you and the gods have spoken. La'gan while Tomolo is fully of the two halves you are not solely male, for residing deep within you is your dual nature. You are bound to Tomolo as surely as you are bound to Dhani, the mother of your children.

Tomolo, while you are fully of the two halves, the children of your seed are destined to join with La'gan's. They will be the future of your village for many generations. Tomolo…the gods ask that you join with Ren'olo, daughter of my eldest son before you leave. She will follow you, and along with La'gan's family you will make a home, she will bear you twin sons. Raise your children in the Chronicles and prosper…so be it…the gods have spoken."

And it came to pass as La'gan left for his hut, Tomolo joined with Ren'olo, and the results, while not evident achieved what the gods intended. Ren'olo proved to be a worthy mate to Tomolo's male half and together they were happy. Tomolo felt content, fully healed and ready for the future. Much had been answered and explained and much was given. The five luni passed quickly. Tomolo's mind was a sponge as he sat with the Grandfather as he taught the Chronicles.

For La'gan time passed quickly, he hunted and gathered root vegetables on the way back to his hut. The concerns weighing on his heart had evaporated and he was excited for the future, unencumbered by false teachings.

Back at his hut La'gan made quick work of the meats, skins and root vegetables. He began thinking on how he would expand his hut to accommodate the two families. He wondered if they should move to the high river banking. The land would be fertile for Tomolo, despite his recently acquired skills with the sling and the hunt, he would always be a farmer.

The Grandfather's lessons were remembered on the way back to his hut. And La'gan made sure it was ready to receive the coming visitors. The suns of the season after the snows were mild with only occasional rains. As La'gan completed his chores and tasks he could sense Tomolo was nearing. Gathering his dogs, he set out to meet his mate, and the Grandfather.

He was but a morning's walking before he saw them coming over the next rise. The dogs were excited as La'gan to see the travelers. They exchanged greetings and welcomes, and La'gan with Tomolo by his side walked back to their hut. The next few days passed pleasantly as possible. It was on the morning of the third sun when the tranquility of the visit was broken when Taraq came running into the yard in front of La'gan's hut yelling for La'gan when he saw Tomolo and fainted dead away.

End Chapter 5

A bucket of river water quickly brought Taraq back to the land of the present. He awoke confused until he remembered where he was and why. The shock of seeing Tomolo had been forced into the background. He was still sore and the fall to the ground when he fainted didn't help.

La'gan hearing the commotion had stepped forward to the boy as the bucket of water was fetched. What he saw troubled him deeply, for someone had beaten the boy. That much was evident by the bruises on his face and the ones his dbijb failed to cover.

When the boy's eyes opened he saw La'gan who asked him what had happened to him. The boy shook his head and sputtered "Its Carig…he got into an argument with the High Priest and now he's locked up and in two suns they're taking him to the pole. He's asking you to stand for him."

Tomolo had made his exit during the time that Taraq was on the ground to find the Grandfather and brought him to where La'gan was sitting. The Grandfather came to face the boy and once again he saw Tomolo and grabbed onto La'gan for protection.

"What's your name boy and how do you know Carig?" the Grandfather asked.

"I am Taraq, son of the trader Fonali and brother to Carig." Taraq replied.

"Do the markings and bruising on your body have anything to do with your brother being taken to the gaol?"

"It is part of the reason; it started when the head priest thought we should supply his needs freely. I refused and the head priest had his acolyte Volan beat me."

"Volan…Is he not the smithy's son?" La'gan exclaimed!

"He is, but it is much easier and less work to do the bidding of the head priest considering he can bully anyone with impunity." Taraq stated ashamed that Volan had beaten him.

"Protect me form this spirit La'gan, I am afraid he's to take me to the other side…Please protect me!" Taraq cried.

La'gan started to speak when the Grandfather asked Taraq to tell his story; the Grandfather explained that Tomolo was in fact not a spirit but had been spared by the gods. La'gan walked over to Tomolo and grabbed him in a hug and shared lips. "Does this look or act like a spirit Taraq? I assure you that this is Tomolo alive and well!"

"Well boy or should I say Taraq…tell us your story," the Grandfather commanded.

"I was working for my father inventorying a bundle of firs, grains and some honey mead that had been brought in. I was getting them ready for the warehouse when the High Priest accompanied by Volan came in. He demanded a sack of grains and some of the bottles of honey mead as I was told we were expected to support them freely.

I told the High Priest I could not give my father's goods without his permission. He began to get angry with me. His anger only grew stronger the more I refused his requests. I told him if he would trade goods of equal value or buy outright I would be glad to see his request was filled.

The High Priest began to scream very loudly at me in an attempt to bully me into acceding to his demands. The louder he became the more determined not to give into him and I kept politely refusing him. Finally he snapped when he realized I wasn't going to change my mind. He spoke to Volan and told him to see if he could make me change my mind. Before I knew it I was on the floor with Volan on top of me pummeling away. I couldn't defend myself against the bigger boy; he came at me so quickly I was helpless to defend myself.

Volan hit me so hard in the stomach I doubled over and as he got up to leave with the head priest he threatened me with another beating if I ever refused the head priest again. More to the point if I wanted to end up like Marekh or Tomolo he'd have a word with the head priest just like he did when Marekh refused him some ber from his father's brewery. To make sure I understood he kicked me again as he was leaving.

I couldn't move after they left, I think I was out of it for a while. It was the mid day meal when Carig found me still lying on the floor. I explained what had happened and Carig was as upset as I had ever seen him. He asked me to re-inventory what we had and compare it to my earlier counts so we could determine what the head priest had taken. It didn't take long and Carig helped me to my sleeping pad. What I didn't know until the next morning that Carig had gone to confront the head priest and Volan.

The head priest and Volan were in the public square when Carig confronted them, Volan denied everything of course and lunged at Carig. It was no contest; Carig put him on the ground with one swing of his fist. He went over to the head priest and handed him a bill for the items taken. He informed the head priest he had until evening meal to come to our fathers and pay the bill otherwise he would call a meeting of the village elders.

The head priest showed up to our fathers, not to pay the bill or make arraignments to pay the bill, but with a couple of gaolers to arrest Carig and they hauled him off. Once I found out there wasn't going to be any sort of trial, they had accused him of violence against the priesthood. I came here after stopping to see Carig, and he asked me to fetch you La'gan. Please tell me my beloved brother is going to be alright. You can't let them do this to him, our father isn't well."

The Grandfather brought Taraq to him and spoke to him softly. He wasn't to worry, what was happening would be sorted before the next sun was over. He would along with La'gan and Tomolo travel to the village after the morning meal. Taraq was invited to stay until they left for the village. It was felt that it was safer this way and he agreed.

Losing some of his shyness and overcoming his initial fears Taraq sought Tomolo out and asked him to walk with him.

"I can only say how sorry I am and beg your forgiveness for what I have done." Tears were forming in Taraq's eyes. "I had a long talk with Carig and he helped me to see how wrong I was. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. I can't tell you how sorry I am, I helped to take Marekh's life and would have done the same to you. Carig told me how disappointed he was with me and explained why, but I need to beg your forgiveness. I learned a hard lesson and I will forever regret my actions."

Tomolo looked at Taraq and saw a broken boy sobbing uncontrollably and his heart went out to him. What has happened he wondered, where has the hate come from? This isn't the village I grew up in or the people I knew, more to the point what were they turning into. The Chronicles aren't being taught or followed; in fact, they are being kept from those who they were given to. And just how do I reach this boy who had been so horribly misguided, what words of comfort can someone give?

Life was cruel, harsh and hard. We live amongst death every sun, luni, season and summer Tomolo thought to himself. It is present with every meal we eat and with what we drink. For what we consume lived once, was alive once and died to our benefit so we may grow healthy and whole. The Chronicles speak to this and guide us in the preparation of our foodstuffs.

To take a life before the gods called for it is the worst crime anyone could do. It is why the most drastic of punishments is reserved solely for that crime. Death wasn't a stranger, every wild goat, rabbit or other source of meats had prescribed rules and required the giving of thanks in the taking of their lives. All have seen death visited upon the foods we eat. Thanks were given to the grains, fruits and vegetables harvested. The Chronicles demands respect for what was taken and how it was taken, that just what was needed was taken. There were strict prohibitions against over harvesting of any food source.

What do I tell this boy…how do I find his heart…he wasn't alone in his misguided actions. After all I threw a stone, while with a different purpose. I threw a stone. What do I say to this boy who knows the seriousness of his mistake, his partial responsibility? Where lies his fault, is it with his hand that picked the stone up and the arm that threw it? Was it with the older ones who encouraged it, the head priest who has forgotten the Chronicles for his own misbegotten ends?

How do I tell him how I failed Marekh with the first stone? How do I tell him if I had refused, another would have taken my place and I was helpless to stop the madness? What do I tell him of the scar upon my heart? What do I tell this boy who hadn't the foundation to make the correct decision, the one who realizes this and is scarred by his actions? What do I say to help make him whole as the Chronicles say I must do? Where do I find the strength to find forgiveness in my heart, not only for me but Taraq? I must, for the madness in our village must come to an end.

"Taraq, your brother is a wise man, one who knows right from wrong and the way of Chronicles. I am glad he spoke to you on the consequences of your actions. I find in my heart only love for you. For as a child is to learn the ways of the Chronicles, he needs to be taught those ways. If the elders fail to teach a child in the way of the Chronicles, how can the child, know what is correct? You are far from being a child, I see a young man full of promise and of value to the village, and you are our future. When we do wrong, it is what we do with the knowledge that we made a mistake, do we learn or do we continue with wrongful behavior?

How do I forgive myself Taraq, I myself got caught up in the terrible wrong that was done that day? Can you forgive me, my heart hurts so?"

Taraq stood there listening to Tomolo and found the forgiveness he was seeking and found it in his heart to accept what Tomolo was saying. He leaned into Tomolo as Tomolo's arms wrapped him tightly. The boys stood there holding on to each other, afraid to let the moment pass. Both had been hurt, led astray and forced to do things against their essential natures. Healing would be a long process but at least it had begun and they weren't alone. Together they would help each other find what they needed.

In the morning the Grandfather sent Taraq ahead of the others with instructions to gather the village elders and merchants in the public square and not to speak of Tomolo. They would follow behind him.

Taraq did as he was told and when the head priest became aware of the commotion he went to find Volan. Once Volan was by his side he walked over to the crowd in the middle of the public square.

"What's the meaning of this gathering?" he bellowed. "Who is responsible for this?" he yelled even louder.

"I Taraq, asked the elders and merchants to gather this sun." Taraq replied calmly. "Someone has to account for the foodstuffs taken without pay from my father's place yesterday. Someone had to pay for the beating I received because I dared to refuse the head priest his request for free foodstuffs. Someone has to pay for falsely imprisoning my brother who only defended his family and himself when attacked for demanding only what was fair!"

"You dare to accuse me, a boy in a dbijb…you dare to accuse your High Priest?"

"I accuse you in front of the gathered merchants and elders for the crimes I stated, you took foodstuffs without compensation and when refused you had me beaten!" Taraq said in a firmer but louder voice, turning to face the crowd that had gathered he pulled his dbijb up and over his head throwing it to the ground. "People of the land and woods…look at me, I am Taraq, son of Fonali, brother of Carig.

This along with the false imprisonment of my brother is the payment we received for denying the head priest the foodstuffs he stole. Yes! The foodstuffs he took without payment! Is this the payment you expect to receive when he come to your place? Do you wish your children to be beaten such as I if any of you deny his outrageous demands?

I ask you, where in the Chronicles does it say we are to support the head priest, did we support Don'al or the head priest before him?"

"Silence you miserable snot nosed cur or you will be beaten for your insolence! How dare you accuse me without proof?"

"Elders and gathered merchants, I am but a boy of fourteen summers, yet I keep my father's books. You all know me and the honesty I have, when explaining numbers, weights and measurements. Have I ever cheated or shortchanged any of you?

Here are my inventories from yesterday. One took before my beating at the hands of Volan and the other taken with my brother Carig. These inventories are detailed transactions as I would do with any of you. The foodstuffs that were taken were unique; they only arrived at my father's place yesterday morning. None of them have been placed for public trade.

Head priest…you accuse me of being a meddlesome boy…let us prove that by going to your quarters. If I am wrong…you have no fear or worries and I will accept my just punishment.

What say you priest?"

"Volan!" Demanded the head priest…" Fetch the gaolers…all of you quit wasting your time and to return to your homes and your place of business."

As Volan turned to go, a stone hit him squarely on the side of the knee, dropping him to the ground.

"No one moves unless they would like a taste of what my sling can do!" said La'gan as he entered the crowd and stood in front of the head priest.

"What is the meaning of this, you have no affair here La'gan son of the chief hunter, take your sling and go!" Demanded the head priest angrily, he was starting to lose his cool.

From the crowd behind La'gan a deeper voice commanded "He has every right by the Chronicles to stand in support of the accusations against you!"

The crowd parted as the voice finished and the Grandfather walked forward, hood pulled over his face, "You stand accused of serious crimes and in encouraging others to commit crimes in your behalf and against the Chronicles."

"And just who are you to quote the chronicle to me old man?" The head priest sneered.

"I quote those Chronicles any child would know, you do teach your young the Chronicles as the the Chronicles demand!" The Grandfather answered calmly, without fear in his voice as he spoke to the head priest.

"I am the Chronicles,' said the High Priest, "If anyone wishes to know them, then they will come to me and I will explain! Now leave us be old man and let us tend to our business."

"You are my business priest!" The Grandfather said throwing back his hood, there was no mistaking the look of horror in the head priest's eyes.

I am the one called the Grandfather, he said turning to face the crowd. Some of you elders will remember me form the time of my last visit. I am the head priest for the people of the lake, your former teacher…priest!

You have much to answer for and I suggest we do as the boy Taraq asks…let us walk your quarters…if what you say is true we'll be done quickly. Better yet, let the boy take one village elder and one gaolier and we will wait until they return."

The head priest could not refuse as much as he wanted to, he was outnumbered and he knew it. He had let that stupid boy Volan get away with too much to quickly and he knew his greed and lust for power had gotten away from him. He could feel his bowels loosening and suddenly he was afraid of the future.

Volan also could sense things were not going well, he wasn't so stupid to know things were going to end badly. At the moment he hated himself for listening to that pathetic bag of gas the head priest was. He tried to slink away but quickly found himself restrained by merchants, they had demanded free items from and had gotten.

Taraq along with the elder and gaolier returned with the missing items from his father's place. After checking the off against Taraq's inventory tablets, there could be no doubt.

The gaolier was instructed to release Carig and he returned with him. When Taraq saw his beloved brother he ran and leapt into his arms.

La'gan addressed the crowd, "Much wrong has been done here, a member of this village lost his life based on lies and deceit. And another suffered the same fate all because we failed to follow the Chronicles. Instead we followed a false priest who only brought hate and fear amongst us.

Volan falsely accused Marekh of joining with Tomolo when refused ber from his father's brewery. If you examine the tax records from the brewery you will find missing containers of ber in the priest's quarters as well. Volan has admitted this to Taraq by threatening him with the same fate as Marekh and Tomolo.

These two committed serious crimes against the village and they must be held accountable and pay the price for their actions. This village has also committed crimes against the teaching of the Chronicles and must redeem itself by coming back to the ways of the Chronicles.

To do this we need a new head priest to lead us down the path the Chronicles prescribed for us. I as who among us is worthy of that role?

I am but a hunter and so I will remain. Carig's path lies in joining with Tan'yla and running the bakery and his father's business, I ask again…who shall lead us?"

"I would like to propose a candidate La'gan, I have spent many luni with this man and he knows the Chronicles as well as I or any man...I give you your new head priest!" turning to Tomolo, the Grandfather threw the hood off of Tomolo's head and had him face the crowd.

Later it was said it became so quiet as the crowd tried to make sense of what they were seeing, that you could have heard a bird fart. There were a few faint murmurs at first, and then some quiet questions whispered. As the noise in the crowd built it soon became loud, there was much ado about the shock of hair the color of icy waters.

"Silence, you will be quiet!" Commanded the Grandfather loudly, he needed their undivided attention. "Standing before you is Tomolo son of a farmer and a simple farmer himself. The gods spared him that day on the platform. It is the will of the Chronicles that he stands before you today.

"Tomolo, head priest of the people of the land and woods the decision for punishment for the two accused by Taraq is yours to make, what say you?"

"Before I announce punishment this day, I expect all of the children in the village to gather here on the next sun to star learning their Chronicles, numbers and letters, there will be no exceptions as we return to the village, we all remember.

Volan and Saraq you stand accused and found guilty of crimes of theft, willful deceit and that taking of innocent life. While the platform calls for you, death would be too merciful for your crimes.

With the morning sun you will be stripped of your herka's and so marked, you are forever banned from any village of the people. The word will go forth that you are both to be known as untouchable, so sayeth the Chronicles.

End of Part One

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