Mud River – Mating Day
“The tall one. No, the other one. Yes, you,” the blonde woman chose. She was the chosen best this time and got to pick first. The tall man grinned, ran forward, picked up the woman and carried her into her tent.
Mating day was upon them again. Something Ren didn’t really care for; almost dreaded. It was never easy to tell no to the women; and the look on their faces! Ren had done it anyway, time after time. He wasn’t very into the idea of the day.
“And now,” the elderly woman who took care of the girls shouted. The spokespersons, who also participated, echoed her, with their unusually loud voices. They got up on their little pedestal – that they carry with them everywhere, kind of like a soldier and his sword.
“We have just received news that one of ours went up against a Hero and is still here to tell the tale!” she spoke lower now, knowing that she had the spokespersons’ service.
The spokespersons echoed.
“RENNER FLAME! Come on up here, dear”
The spokespersons echoed.
Renner felt like his stomach was a couple inches closer to the ground. “Um,” he growled; his stomach followed suit.
“Told ya I had something in store for ya, Runner,” Saint was saying, with just the most proud look on his stupid face.
“Cummon, let’s carry this survivor! He must be bone tired,” Saint shouted cheerfully. “What? No-” Ren was saying. He was already hoisted above and passed around to the front. He stopped flailing after his boot got someone right in the eye. He was put down rather roughly, face down. A large group of people erupted in laughter.
Oh I hate Saint.
“Oh dear, are you okay?” the elderly woman asked. Ren nodded, and spat out mud.
“He’s okay!” she exclaimed.
The spokespersons echoed.
“Would you like to speak a few words about your brave act, dear?” she asked. Ren shook his head, his finger in his mouth getting the last of the mud out.
“He’ll not be speaking, too eager for the next part, probably. Hehe. Pick your woman! Hell, you’re a hero. Pick your women, if u want…” she said, friendly.
The spokespersons echoed.
That however didn’t sound friendly. It didn’t sound anyway, actually. It was always the same dead, flat tone.
Hundreds of women were before him, half of them barely visible. He searched a certain type of woman, there was always one. He scanned through everyone (above the neck) that he could. There she is. He pointed. The crowd, who were weirdly silent till then started to mutter among themselves; some laughed.
Even the woman seemed to be taken aback. Then her tired face got more twisted, like she would rather be anywhere else; best case scenario : asleep in her own bed.
“Sure dear? She’s new. There are more experienced ones. For instance-” she was saying when Ren cut her off with a wave.
“No, she will be fine,” he said. Yep, I’ve hit the jackpot. Jackpot was an old game that existed before the war. It was also used as a phrase, mostly used when someone got just the right thing. Renner didn’t fully understand it, but he used it anyway. Why not? Everyone does.
After realizing that he wasn’t making a big scene out of taking her, the woman led him into her tent, very unenthusiastically. The newbie was given a quite cramped up tent. The bed alone took up half of the space.
Ah, the bed…
Admiring the bed and imagining the delights of a comfortable sleep for one, he completely missed the woman stripping next to him. Here goes nothing.
“Er-no. Don’t,” he said.
Her eyes widened With an unmistakable tone of relief, she said, “Why? You don’t like me? I can go tell them. You can get someone else.” She sprinted to the tent’s opening.
“What? No. I just – I just want to sleep,” he said hesitantly.
There was a frightening pause. The woman suddenly jumped in glee. Ren flinched and nearly tripped over a wooden table, afraid that she was about to lash out.
“Oh thank you, kind sir. I would like nothing more. I had been dreading this day. Also, you’re not really my step,” she said, giving him a smile and threw herself onto the bed.
Well, that went really well.
He crawled into the minimal space he had left on the bed. There were shrieks, shouts and something that sounded very much like a roar, coming from every direction. Ren’s mind went to the woman in his dreams again and he was fast asleep.
The bed certainly fulfilled its purpose. The woman had to practically pull him away from the bed in the morning. Well, she tried. She was quite thin. Her features were more visible in the morning. Tall, thin, curvy and almost beautiful, even.
He clung onto the bed for dear life. That was his home now. He never wanted to wake up. Even with the nightmares that came with it. No, Nurse Alyssa. I don’t want to… ‘No one is coming for you, boy. No rescue.’ said the cold voice that he heard almost every day. That was interrupted by a hoarse voice. A male voice this time.
“What do we have here?” the man asked, coming in chuckling. Ren grabbed his sword and swirled around in one swift motion, in a ready position. It was the Elder, still in his cyan robe.
Is it the same one he had on yesterday? And the day of the visit? Or does he just have an infinite supply of cyan robes?
Those were questions for another time, perhaps. There was another one on his mind now. “What are you doing here?” he blurted. He always seemed to leave his manners behind when he was with the Elder.
“I have been hearing about your exploits,” the Elder replied calmly. “A Hero, ought to be tough.”
“I only ran away, wasn’t really that hard,” Ren said matter-of-factly.
“Oh I wasn’t talking about that. No. You’re nurturing a grudge against this man,” the Elder went on, looking around the cramped space to find a place to sit down. He shuffled to the table and sat down.
“Ugh, Saint…” Ren said out aloud.
“Oh it wasn’t our mutual friend, no,” the Elder said.
Then it hit him. “Saint isn’t the only one. You have more around me,” Ren said, searching the old man’s wrinkled face. Not a single muscle seemed to move.
“Yes,” he said.
“But why? Why me?” Ren inquired, growing tired of the playing around and vague answers.
“All in due time,” the Elder said, still calm apparently not sensing the hostility in Ren’s voice.
“Why are you even here? If you’re here to talk me out of going for the Hero, I deny it. There is no grudge,” he said, really expressing his frustration.
“No. Quite the opposite actually,” the Elder said, rising. “I’m here to wish you luck. You don’t need it, nothing’s going to happen to you anyway,” the Elder said, with a smile that only seemed to come out in his eyes.
“What?” Ren asked as the Elder paced out of the tent. Nothing going to happen to me? He gasped. Nicola!
“Nicola was one of yours, wasn’t he?” he shouted running after the Elder.
“You expect me to remember their names?” the Elder playfully said. “Wait, I might. Is that the one who killed himself noticeably for you last time? Good riddance then, you weren’t supposed to notice,” he continued as if he was making sense.
“What? Why? I don’t even know your name. Who are you?” Ren asked, half-shouting.
“Oh, I didn’t tell you? Maverick. And who I am is not the question you need to be asking. Don’t worry. The time is near. Just one more hurdle. Your combat skills are to be tested one more time. This time, when things are personal. Hence the good luck on your grudge,” the Elder said and walked away swiftly.
His head was swimming. He felt like he was going to be sick and got to his knees impulsively. Then something occurred to him.
Nothing can happen to me! This changes everything. Here I come, Hero.
And with the thought, came his strength. He got off his knees and walked with a confidence in his eyes; his head held up high – probably for the first time in his life.