Ashar waited in at the line where the jungle grew thicker. His knuckles grew white from the tightened grip he clutched his kukri with. He counted his breaths. Other young warriors mimicked his actions beside him. His brother gave them clear directions they must follow before allowing them to join the fray with the blooded warriors. Despite the breathing technique meant to induce a calm, clear head, Ashar felt waves of impatience bearing down on him. The impatience grew as his count came closer to the number his brother had set. Shouting and smoke from uncontrolled flames drifted to the group waiting for their turn to earn a name.
Ashar worried the blooded warriors would not leave any soldiers left for him or his fellow unblooded. The urge struck him to speed up his breathing. He fought it down. Slow in. Slow out. He continued just the way his brother had demonstrated. One of the young warriors waiting broke suddenly from the line and ran for the fighting. Ashar panicked. He wondered if he had lost count. He wanted to follow after. Two other warriors shared his thought as they broke formation, rushing to the action. Ashar moved a foot forward. Stopped.
His brother’s face loomed in his mind. The instructions rang in his mind. He knew he needed to complete them. That was the way to honor. To a name. He wanted to earn a name with honor. Disobeying orders fell from his mind. He closed his eyes and continued to count where he had dropped off. One by one he heard the other unblooded rushing toward the enemies’ camp. Their feet slapped noisily against the ground. He stood straight like a totem. His grip loosened by a fraction. The leather grip of the kukri felt more comfortable in his hand now.
His impatience dissipated. He realized two other unblooded remained with him. Distraction fled. He knew why he had to count now. Focus on the task remained. With slow steps he left the umbrage of the jungle. Measured strides led him to the edge of the camp. His eyes took in the dead bodies. Most of them were enemy soldiers. He recognized one or two of his kinsmen. He headed toward the sound of the fighting. Wended his way through tents made of a thick cloth that now burned unbridled.
Several unblooded were locked in combat before him. He left them to earn their kills. His slunk through the unfamiliar terrain. His eyes scanned for any movement, prepared for a hostile warrior to jump at him from the tents. He spotted Ghost of the Jungle ahead. His brother engaged the white men two at a time. His steps followed the wake of destruction the blooded warriors were making. He knew he could jump into the fight at anytime. His instincts told him to wait. Earlier he might have despaired at the delay. Calm ruled him now. The fracas cleared ahead of him, revealing his brother’s counter part in the foreigner’s army. A grizzled man fighting with ferocity of a cornered elephant bull. Without thinking his steps guided him toward this ferocious prey. He needed its blood.
Apropos of: Arathania
Side note: I’ve been working 50-60 hours a week at the Day JobTM. That’s the reason why the posts have slowed for the time being. Originally I had wanted to write this section yesterday, but waiting for a couple of hours for a tow truck in the hot, humid Florida afternoon interfered. So here it is, later than I wanted. Next week we’re going to have the conclusion to this arc of fiction. Until then, thanks for reading.