Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2018 finalist, Lochlan Kominar! Lochlan finished 5th grade this past school year. The story he submitted is called “Stories of Kyroness: A Tribe Divided.” Lochlan said his favorite part is the twist at the end. Enjoy!
In the beginning, the land of Kyronesse was filled with diverse biomes and creatures. Many life forms walked the land and over time the lands changed, evolving these animals differently. As humans evolved, they developed a higher intelligence which put them ahead of the other animals. Eventually, they colonized and settled the land. From one group of many, they divided into two main tribes: the Kath-kôl and the Vorteîn. Then, from the tribe Kath-kôl came a band of outlaws, traitors to the tribe. This is the story of how the Kath-kûn came to be.
The Chief of the Kath-kôl was a kind man. Ëlgethe of the Ulthaan family was born of chiefly blood and was a natural leader. He ruled well over the Kath-kôl with his wife, Lauran, and their son, Ëlthane, by his side. He was a steady ruler: planning ahead for cold winters, settling disputes fairly, and peacefully working with the Vorteîn.
His brother Ilorin, however, was a man who thought he had a very great destiny that had been denied him. He believed the gods wanted him to lead Kath-Kôl because he felt their people could be more powerful with a more ambitious ruler, like him. So he plotted against his brother and on the feast of Štěstí, a celebration of good fortune so far and good fortune to come, he made his move. Gräden, a poor chef wishing he could feed his family well, accepted Ilorin’s bribe to place the poisoned leg of mullen on the chief’s platter. Within a day of the feast, Ëlgethe fell sick from the slow but deadly poison. Ilorin was quick to blame the chefs of the feast, who were immediately executed before his treachery could be revealed. Ëlthane, however, knew the cooks well and had overseen the meal preparations himself. This was part of his training as the future Chieftain of the Kath-kôl. His grief, however, buried him in denial for a long time, and he was so distraught that his uncle managed to rise to power in his place; to rule the Kath-kôl ruthlessly. He was never satisfied with what they had as a tribe: he tested their relationship with the Vorteîn by challenging their borders; he ordered the children out into the fields at the age of seven so more adults could train as warriors; he increased the mining of ore and gems. He always wanted more and he pushed the Kath-kôl to do so.
Two Years Later
Ëlthane walked into his uncle’s stan. It was the Chief’s stan so the many mullen hides woven tightly around its wooden frame were painted with the history of the Kath-kôl. Flaps had been cut out for windows and could be lifted for fresh air. The hole at the top of the tent filled with the smoke of the fire burning even in midday, leaving the air warm inside the stan. Woven rugs of grass covering the dirt floors muffled his steps as he approached his uncle, seated on the Chieftain’s chair. Seeing Ilorin in his father’s chair angered him. Today I confront him. I must, he thought. Three guards stood ready to help and protect Ilorin. Ëlthane nodded in their direction and one bowed slightly.
“What do you want, boy?” his uncle asked coldly. Ilorin’s dark eyes swept over Ëlthane’s strong and tall body, noting the contrasts between the two: Ëlthane’s rough, black hair, Ilorin’s smooth and brown; Ëlthane’s small nose, that of his mother’s, Ilorin’s long nose shared with his and Ëlgethe’s father. Suddenly, he realized that Ëlthane was not the little boy he used to be.
“Strýc Ilorin, I ask for a private conversation,” replied Ëlthane.
Ilorin heard the determination in his tone. “Fine. Let us get this over with. Guards, you are excused.”
Ëlthane waited for the final attendant to walk out of the stan before he spoke. He returned his uncle’s gaze with his grey eyes, so like his father’s. “Two years ago, at the feast of Štěstí, you claimed it was the chefs’ fault that my father died. Yet, now that I have overcome my grief, I know that is not possible.” Ëlthane could feel his anger rising. “First, the feast fell in the Rok of the Mullen, so eating it was forbidden during that time.” He could feel his face burning red. “Furthermore, no diseases that mullen may carry have the side effects my father’s illness showed. Uncle, I believe someone poisoned my father.”
Ilorin smirked to himself. The boy is right. Quite right, in fact. His thoughts were quickly interrupted.
“Uncle, I know who it is. He is in this stan.”
A bead of sweat formed on Ilorin’s brow. “What? Are you accusing me of murdering my own brother? How dare you! Guard—”
Ëlthane cut him off quickly. “You see Uncle, when I look back on that day, my suspicion rises when I remember that it was YOU who accused the chefs. It’s as if you were trying to mislead us.”
“I was furious! Besides, who else was to say it? They had improperly prepared the mullen!” As he spoke, Ilorin realized what he had said.
“Ah! But that’s the thing, Ilorin. I already established that there was no mullen cooked that year. My father was drunk as he was every year, and did not remember what he shouldn’t eat.”
“Guards—” Ilorin began to cry but was silenced again by Ëlthane. “Uncle, do you really want witnesses?” he exclaimed, and Ilorin paused. “Where was I? Right. My story comes to a week ago when I overheard one of your helpers talking about the stores of meats you keep. You would have had mullen available that rok to serve him. And when you executed the chefs so quickly, no one could speak against you! Then just now, when I told you I knew who it was, I saw the sweat drip down your face, Ilorin. You have been caught.”
Ilorin’s face turned pale while his eyes narrowed. “You can’t prove anything! You have no evidence. They will never believe you!”
Ëlthane just smiled. “What about this jed flask I just found here?” He reached for a clay jar with Ilorin’s symbol on it that he had spied amongst the jars and flasks on the table as they talked. Filled with the putrid poison of the Vorteîn, which only a few could afford to buy, and whose symptoms matched the fate his father had suffered, Ëlthane knew he had found the poison used.
“Boy! You leave me little choice. Be executed as a traitor, or I kill you here. Now!” Ilorin raged as he lunged from his seat, dagger in his hand.
Ëlthane sidestepped him easily. “Uncle, I am taught to fight by the best hunters in our kmen.”
Ëlthane grabbed a mullen bone from the table and they clashed, knife to bone. As they were locked in combat, Ilorin pulled a second dagger from his belt. Ëlthane saw it just in time and moved to the left. His uncle hit the ground hard. Ëlthane kicked Ilorin and he flew out of the tent. Ilorin got up shakily to face his nephew.
“Chief! Are you alright?” one of the helpers asked, rushing to aid him.
His grimace turned into a small smile. “Ëlthane is attacking me. He has gone mad! You must silence him!” shouted Ëlthane’s uncle. The guards retrieved spears from the side of the stan where they had rested them. They stood ready to attack.
Ëlthane burst from the tent after his uncle, only to be greeted by the points of spears.“People! You must help me! My uncle killed my father—your rightful chief—and now he tries to kill me, too!” His plea fell on deaf ears, they were already advancing on him. I can’t take three at once! He realized, fearfully.
One guard swung his spear out. He ducked and grabbed the spear. And furthermore, I can’t kill them—they are my people! He turned the spear around and smacked the guard on the forehead. Then he shoved the butt of the spear into another’s stomach. While he fought the two, the third snuck behind him and knocked him out.
“Lock him up where no one can see,” demanded Ilorin. Cruel victory iced his words.
“But Hlavní, he is your nephew!” said the man in confusion.
“You listen to me alone! Don’t you forget this. Now go!” Ilorin snarled.
When the boy woke hours later, memory of the fight banged around in his aching head. He tried to rub the back of his head, where he had been hit but found that his arms would not move. He was shackled to the floor with strongly woven branches and roots of the Keimyaar tree. They were incredibly strong, and when woven with smaller roots they could not be broken by hand alone. He shivered with cold and realized they had stripped him of his clothes. How long have I been in here? Thoughts and fear whipped through his mind. His skin was already quite pale, so he must have been in here for a while. His “cell” smelled of mold and urine, making him gag a little. He turned his head to the bond on his left wrist and started gnawing at it and discovered it was not very tight. What game are you playing at uncle?
Ëlthane broke his wrist bonds after some time. Now how do I take care of the ankle bonds? These bonds are too far and my hands are too weak. He turned his head in frustration to survey the cell. It was then he noticed a sharp rock next to him. Surely uncle wants me to get out of here. But why? He used it to cut away at the bonds and then slowly stood once his legs were freed. His clothes were in a pile by the exit. This is all too easy, he thought as he dressed.
Looking outside the cell, he saw no guards—to his surprise—so he cautiously walked out. Calmly he walked to the third ring of stans and then he ran as fast as he could, keeping to the shadows of the stans, only stopping once he reached the edge of the village. Looking around, he saw villagers with stone knives and spears standing every twenty stones apart surrounding the village. Are we under attack?
He ran up to one and asked, “What has happened here?”
But she did not reply, instead, she picked up a stick and started banging the buben next to her. “He is here! The traitor!” she called out to the other villagers.
“The what?” said Ëlthane. The woman began to advance on him. So, my uncle has been spreading lies to turn the people against me! Ëlthane realized.
A gruff-looking man came up behind her. They were joined by two more men and another woman. He was outnumbered again. They will likely kill me, not capture me. My people will kill me here for my uncle! Ëlthane was filled with the horror of his uncle’s deceit. He ducked under the first woman’s reach, grabbed her spear, and kicked her, sending her sprawling. Then he parried the first man landing an uppercut on his chin. His eyes rolled up in their sockets as he fell. The other woman rushed to catch him. Well played uncle, he thought, now they will be surer than ever that I am the traitor.
He was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he barely noticed the second man approaching on his left. Narrowly, he blocked this man’s attack when the third man threw his knife at Ëlthane. It grazed his cheek, stinging immediately. Ëlthane swung around to the second man who lunged at him again and choked the man with his spear. The man dropped his spear to the ground. Ëlthane hit the man with the butt of his spear and picked up the one that had dropped. With two spears, Ëlthane felt his confidence returning.
He threw the blunt side of a spear at the third man’s chest, sending him crashing into his stan. The second woman threw her spear at his back, but Ëlthane rolled to the side just in time. He felt the sharp edge graze his ear and a single drop of blood appeared on the tip. He leaped and slammed onto the ground but the woman was good. She kicked his cheek and he flew to the side. When he stood, she punched at him but he grabbed her arm and twisted it, flipping her over and onto her back. Ëlthane moved cautiously forward. She did not move.
Through the mayhem, he suddenly heard his uncle’s voice ringing through the air across the village so all could hear: “He is a traitor! A murderer! He is dangerous! He killed your former chief and he is now trying to kill me—your chief. Be on high alert and notify all around you if you see him. This is not to be taken lightly!”
He cursed his uncle silently. Suddenly, he heard footsteps coming around the stan. He grabbed the boy who appeared and cupped his hand to the boy’s mouth before he could shout. “Listen, boy. I will not hurt you. My uncle killed our chief, my father, and is spreading lies so that he can have me killed. Do you understand?” The little boy nodded in terror. “How old are you? What is your name?” he asked the frightened boy in his kindest voice.
The boy asked, “Why do you smell like pee?”
Ëlthane suddenly smelled the urine, too. “That is not important, little boy.” Ëlthane replied, slightly annoyed. “Now… answer me!”
“I’m Lalion, and I’m eight years old,” the boy said and giggled.
“What now?” asked Ëlthane, getting more annoyed.
“Your pants! Your pants!”
Ëlthane shook his head in disgust. This kid is crazy! But then he looked down to see that his belt had become unfastened and his pants were slipping down his waist. I’m so thin! A gnawing hunger was growing steadily within him. He sat down in the shadows of the stan after tying his belt. “Lalion, could you get me some food?” he requested.
“Sure, my parents run the butchery!” he replied and ran off.
“Tell no one of me,” he called after him, gently.
A while later, he heard footsteps once again. But the person who came around the stan was not Lalion. It was a woman with a sharp spear and following her a man holding Lalion by his shirt.
“Lalion! You—” Ëlthane began to reprimand him.
“I’m sorry, sir,” he shrugged, apologetically.
“Chief Ilorin must be obeyed.” Declared the woman as she advanced on him but the man cut her off.
“You know your place, Hiltha!” he snarled, and she shrunk back behind him. “YAAH!” he cried and rushed forward. He plunged his spear deep into the ground where Ëlthane had been just a moment ago. As he tried to free his spear, Ëlthane punched him in the gut. The man staggered over and fell to the hard, packed ground.
“Listen, Hiltha, I don’t want to harm you,” implored Ëlthane. “My uncle is lying. He killed the chief with poisoned mullen during the Rok of Mullen. He should never have been served this meat and the poison is stored in the jed flask in my uncle’s stan. You must listen to me. Believe me.”
Hiltha stepped back. “Who should I believe? You and your uncle both accuse the other of killing the chief. This is just too much.”
Ëlthane could see she was torn by his words. She sighed and picked up her spear. She came towards him to fight, but he could see in her eyes she did not want to.
“Listen, I do not want to fight you!” shouted Ëlthane, tossing his spear aside. Hiltha, however, didn’t stop. Confused but determined to protect her tribe, she swung her spear at his head. Ëlthane ducked and rolled behind her. He kicked at her shin swiftly and she fell to the ground. He saw Lalion watching with awe.
“What do you want?” Hiltha asked quietly, not lifting her gaze to meet his.
“I want to free our people from my uncle’s grasp and to lead my people properly as I was born to do,” replied Ëlthane. He looked to Lalion. “No more telling anyone, okay?” Lalion nodded and pulled a chunk of mullen from his apron that Ëlthane hungrily took and devoured. He could feel the rumbling inside him quiet.
“I must go and see my uncle. Goodbye, Lalion. Hiltha, please make the right choice. I know you can. Share with our people my innocence.” With that last request, he left to find his traitorous uncle.
Hiltha and Lalion exchanged a glance. Hiltha retrieved her spear and followed Ëlthane while Lalion checked on his father.
Ëlthane found him by a tree, carving a stone knife. Four others were laid on the ground before him and another was hanging from his belt. Ëlthane had a sickening feeling of what they were meant to do.
“I see you made it past the people, hm?” noted his uncle, his voice as sharp as his knives.
“Yes, uncle, I have,” Ëlthane replied with confidence.
“Well, I am bored with all of this now. Shall we just get to the point?” Ilorin asked, pausing his carving. “Your father was never fit to rule our people. It was always destined to be me, whether my hand turned the fates or another’s.”
“Indeed, Ilorin. Let’s get to the point—you are wrong. It was never your destiny. “You are not worthy of Ulthaan blood!” Ëlthane shouted as he shot forward, intending on impaling his uncle through the neck with his spear. Ilorin, guessing his nephew’s intentions, jumped to the side. The spear only landed on the tree where Ilorin had been seconds ago.
His uncle took advantage of his surprise and threw one of his knives so quickly that he caught Ëlthane’s cheek, reopening the wound.
“May that serve as a warning, boy!” spat his uncle. Instantly, two more knives whizzed towards Ëlthane. He ducked as one cropped the top of his hair, the other bit into his right arm. Pain shot through his arm and his hand went numb. He was dimly aware that he had dropped his spear and bent to retrieve it. Instead, he fell forward as his vision went red. This isn’t it—get up Ëlthane! For father. For your people!
He stood, to Ilorin’s surprise, and charged with nothing but bare fists raised at his uncle. He aimed for his stomach but felt only air. “Uncle, you-you will, uugh, you will be stopped,” he struggled to say. His uncle grabbed his face and ripped the dagger from his arm. The pain blacked him out immediately.
He awoke to find his enraged uncle fighting Hiltha with only two knives left. She made the right choice! With relief, Ëlthane stood up weakly. He felt the warmth of his blood as it dripped steadily down his arm, staining his tunic. He almost threw up at the sight of his bone shining through the gaping wound.
He pulled some moss from the tree and pressed it carefully to his wound to stem the flow of blood. He cried out: “Help! He will kill Hiltha!” That should attract some attention and they will see who my uncle really is, he thought. Ilorin turned to see what Ëlthane was yelling and Hiltha took advantage of his distraction, landing a punch square in his face. Ilorin recovered and turned to find a spear at his throat.
People were now gathering, summoned by Ëlthane’s cries.
“What are you doing, woman?” one yelled. They saw Ëlthane and began to advance. He was getting so tired of having to fight his own people, but it was that or death. With his wounded arm, he could not fight well and was soon covered with more blood and bruises. He looked over wearily to see that Hiltha had also been pinned down by the people. They were hitting her over and over. I have failed and now she suffers for it. I am a fool!
Lalion ran through the crowd, shouting “Ëlthane is good! He is good! My mother is good! She is good!” A man grabbed his arm and shook him. “Boy! You run around shouting nonsense for these traitors! Go back to your stan!” and Lalion was pushed back from the crowd.
A man yanked Ëlthane up by the tunic. A blade was pushed to his throat. “Kill me then,” he said defiantly, despite being so tired. “But where will it get you? If you kill me, it will not make a difference. My father’s murderer will rule you and betray you all over and over.”
“Our Hlavní is no traitor! He rules with power and the gods’ blessings. You seek to destroy our tribe and anger the gods,” cried the man holding the blade.
“Kill the traitor!” shouted a woman from the crowd. “Ilorin will keep our children safe and our people strong.” Kill the traitor echoed through the crowd until it became a steady chant: “Kill the traitor! Kill the traitor! Kill the traitor!”
Ëlthane took one last look at his uncle who, although bruised and bloodied, smirked with pure hatred and victory towards him through the riotous crowd. He was filled with sadness and pain beyond his years and realized he had lost the fight for his people.
So, Ëlthane’s throat was slit and he did not protest his fate. His body was left by the tree where he had confronted his uncle one last time. Hiltha was also killed as a traitor and her body was placed on the other side of the tree. However, they spared Lalion’s life, thinking him a confused and foolish child. He grew up filled with the rage of revenge. He knew he was destined to take down his hero’s enemy and avenge his mother’s murder. He trained in combat, fought in many battles for his tribe and became a respected warrior. When he saw cracks showing through Ilorin’s reign, he used his alliances to raise an army that eventually defeated the false chief and his supporters. Ilorin and his followers, about 30 in all, were banished. Their small tribe traveled far away across Kyronesse, suffering many hardships before they settled land and became the tribe of Kath-kûn.
That is why the Kath-kôl and the Kath-kûn were enemies for many years. In Ëlthane and Hiltha’s honor, the Kath-kôl celebrate the day of hrdinové, or heroes, while the Kath-kûn celebrate the day of zrádci, or traitors. It would be many centuries before the two tribes would find peace again.
Glossary of terms:
Kath-kôl and Kath-kûn are my own creation. As are mullen. They are like an ox. All others are Czech.
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