The following is an excerpt of one of my novels, Aspen.
Two tribes exist on an island of black and white. One day, when a new hue is discovered, the tribes band together to explore the source of the colour and discover that they have not been alone when a girl from a third tribe agrees to help them on their journey.
Chapter One: Two Tribes
D’leto is our leader.
He has an exceedingly ugly nose that extends from his face past the brim of his hat. This long length is useful for prodding in other peoples’ business. He’s cavalier most of the time, brooding about how the Wilkes don’t have it as good with their leader, Weirs.
Technically, I should call him Mister Weirs, if out of nothing but pity and a hint of sarcastic respect.
D’leto has it running that he has a brutal capacity. It’s not entirely believable, nor fair: who would fight such a fiery, ugly man and expect to win? I’ve never tried. To be honest, I keep my hands soft for one reason…
But back to the Shécorité. They live on the edge of the forest, maybe on the verge of the middle to put things liberally. We have two villages. One of them is where D’leto is, and the other is where his idiot advisor, Mimco, resides. I may not be entirely eligible to make this observation, but is it not the point of the advisor to be near to the leader to aid in making decisions?
I don’t get it either.
We have things going quite well for us. To be Shécorité means to be part of a clan that is larger than its enemy; I like protection from a spectrum of what it could be as well as anyone else. It’s how things are here: you have the big chaps on the top, like D’leto and (regrettably) Mimco; then there are the fighters; then the people who do petty things like provide food and build things and run our festivities, like me.
What the Shécorité have missing, however, is the thing that D’leto’s hate for Weirs springs from: Weirs is intelligent. He’s cunning. He can plan big and get away with it. He makes his liberalness work for him in a way that D’leto can’t quite figure out. You see, D’leto’s got the strong arm and the land and the guts, which theoretically could be enough, but Weirs has the minds of his people. He makes them think like he does, call it manipulation. He has their best interests in mind, and he’s easy to hate from a distance.
Put that hate up close, and it shatters. He’s got a clan that bows when he sneezes. They will attack us.
D’leto’s people have a different kind of respect, a respect for a king.
Weirs has got the respect of a leader.
All hell breaks loose when the fine line of business turns to sabotage. Right now, hell looks to be well on its way to showing up.
Allow me to explain this hellish past:
A bit back, going on fifteen years, D’leto became our leader. At this point, Weirs’ father, Rafael, had just fallen ill from pneumonia and was on his death-bed, so Weirs was pretty much running things for the Wilkes. Anyways, the Wilkes had sent a pack of twelve men to the Misty Mountains, to see what was up there.
The center of our conflict: none of the men returned, but two were found pierced with arrows at the base of the peak.
When news of the expedition found D’leto, he was sure that the Wilkes were trying to expand past the boundary agreement, perhaps to overtake the Shécorité. He never trusted Weirs from that day, not fully, at least. Weirs assumed that D’leto had killed his men (which he never formally denied) and henceforth never completely trusted D’leto.
The things that happen when foolish leaders do foolish things….
Ever since that disastrous endeavor, D’leto has been trying to plot a trek up the mountains. Truth is, he never had anything to do with the death of the twelve, so he’s just as agitated as to what lives in the Misty Mountains. I cannot say I support his efforts, not that they’re making progress amongst the people whose opinions matter.
I suppose I should say a bit more about the present, the place where we live.
This island has four main parts: the Caspred Forest, where the Shécorité reside; the Sea of Karnalyte, home of the Wilkes; the dwelling cliffs, which no one has been to in ages but everyone is fairly certain still exist uninhabited; and the Misty Mountains, which no one has ventured to and come back alive. Those mountains have only about the first quarter kilometer exposed. After that, they are blanketed with a fog so thick, no one knows how far into the sky they climb. I’ve been to the spooky, other-worldly place where the fog begins to seep and swirl around the dense trees. I think it must be better further up, but I’m not so curious as to be killed to find out.
The sector of the forest isn’t snug against the Misty Mountains. It’s sort of awkwardly placed, actually. The Sea of Karnalyte is south-east of Coślak (my village). There’s a rock graveyard in between, which we like to call Paranem. After that is the beach, then Karnalyte Cove and an expansion into a vast gray-black plane of water. The mountains are north-west of our land, with maybe three of four kilometers of dank forest and pools in the middle. The Shécorité don’t usually venture out past the Brim, where the trees begin to get taller and the mist sits. Eventually you run into the green, mossy foothills, swirling with mist and daft to hike around.
Coślak is near Paranem; D’leto likes to be in close proximity to the Cove so he can “keep a prudent watch” on Weirs.
He really just is scared of the forest.
Coślak is a nice place to be, other than D’leto. Really, D’leto isn’t a problem. He gives out books when he’s feeling generous; I now have four. The books are about rituals and things, not fiction or history, but interesting, nonetheless. D’leto has set of our village prudently, all centered around his hut of council and a silver pool. It makes meetings convenient, but it’s hard on the ears when D’leto is in one of his fits (usually marked by a visit from his advisor staff). Supposedly, they’re boiling with information about the forest beyond the Brim. It sounds intense. If I get slotted, I’ll go.
We Coślaks keep in touch with our other major village, Wyngentia, which sits near the Brim. We have a running joke that Wyngentia should be Loose-gentia, because when Mimco is near, there is no winning. Mimco’s idiotic advising is the most interesting thing we have here. Aside, when we are not making fun of D’leto’s snoff or Mimco’s whiny, insistent voice, we hunt and read and trade with the Wilkes at the market.
I also happen to have made a Wilkes friend named Cobalt while I was at a market. (Our leaders may not get along, but the commoners can cross the border). On account of my comrade, I’ve picked up a lot on Wilkes life.
Cobalt is from Gorg, the major village on Jistoll Point, past the cove where Weirs lives. He is a fish merchant. He is also blind, though I have not verified this; Cobalt is different than anyone else I have met. He’s what D’leto might call a “White Wilkes.” My friend is honest. Plus, he hates Mimco, so there’s not much we disagree on.
The border rules are slippery: Technically, one could cross at any time, as many days as one pleases, but cross too often and for a “sketchy” reason (like visiting a friend) and you’ll be called a spy by the other tribe and a traitor by your own.
So Cobalt and I meet at Paranem every other day.
That’s my life.
I’ve said all there is about the Shécorité and Wilkes; there is only one thing left to say:
My name is Yamson.
It is nice to meet you.
We are the people of the sea, the Wilkes. There are three things to know about our clan:
We are bigger in numbers than the Shécorité, and if we wanted to, we could take them over. But we don’t want to.
Our leader, Weirs, is manipulative and ruthless, yet more intelligent than Mister D’leto.
We were the first clan to travel to the Misty Mountains.
The Wilkes clan is bigger because the Shécorité are a break-off. They still manage to break away with some credit of the things we Wilkes do, but that’s no problem compared to our feuding leaders.
D’leto is smart, sure. But he doesn’t know how to use his power. He thinks scaring people will get him what he wants?
We have the upper hand. Always have. Always will.
Now that things have been established, allow me to introduce myself. Call me Cobalt.
Don’t ask me why that’s my name. According to the Wilkes, I’m blind, and that’s how I intend to keep things. A few times, I made the mistake of forgetting I was supposed to be visually impaired, and I opened my mouth and exposed things that are difficult to explain. That was when I was Shécorité. Since then, I’ve clamored over the border to become a Wilkes.
That’s right. I didn’t feel like explaining things that ought not be known, so I ran away from my life. Deal with it. Sometimes, it’s just easier for everyone when things disappear.
Back to the Wilkes. Weirs is a young guy. Cunning, purposeful, charming. He’s not bad looking, either.
Neither of our villages is more important than the other. Wilkes people are all over equality. The village I hail from is Gorg. We are the traders. But I’m getting ahead of things, so I believe a tour of Wilkes land is in order.
There are two villages. As previously stated, Gorgs are traders. We take the stuff, we get rid of the extra, we get what Wilkes people need in return. Our coastline is an awful shape, ragged like a leaf after a hail storm. There are two parts we deal with directly, as Wilkes. Trapäz is the alternate village, where our axis of power shifts to Weirs. It is near a plane of rock we call Paranem, tucked by Karnalyte Cove. The cove has light gray water that ripples when we set spearing boats on it. The boats are stored on our half of Paranem, where the cove’s summer swelling can’t damage them.
I haven’t lived here for so long, but a friend of mine called Irish has taught me about “appreciating the scenery:”
“The point we live on is called Jistoll, because of it’s colour. I’ve always envied the view. We are lucky to live hear, to see the silver sunlight rise over the Stone-” (they call the sea the Stone because it’s smooth and looks like the black slate at Paranem).
From the air, I imagine the edge of the Point looking like a half-frown. Pebbles line the shore, so it’s rather unpleasant to walk on, but the edge of the bank makes tiny pools when the tides come in. Every time I go down, I bust my conscience for catching the miniature crabs that get trapped. But then I think, They’re crabs. They don’t know they’re going to die, and they probably won’t care. Out of mind, out of… mind. Yeah, that phrase doesn’t work here.
The foam ebbs up every once in a while, which makes a gross moldy line across part of the village. It looks like charcoal from a distance. Only when you accidentally step in charcoal, you think, Well, now my foot is black. I wish I hadn’t stepped in charcoal. When you step of the lead line, you think, I want to cut off my foot because the lead line is so disgusting it entices me to vomit. I wish I hadn’t stepped on the lead line.
I really hate the lead line.
But despite the weird sea foam hold-up, Gorg truly is nice. The village is built in a spiral. At the heart is a large sun dial. Weirs’ council of advisors meets at the hut situated at nine-o-clock. That’s when the plaza must be cleared, to maintain privacy. Even though we’re all about trust.
Goodness, how contradicting, Weirs.
Alavat, upward from the meeting hut is a deep sea-cave, where we keep the goods. The cave juts out enough into the sea to make another smaller plaza. This is where the elite reside. It is on the verge of the unattended Shécorité land, so we sometimes steal the wood.
This is the border where we trade with the Shécorité, and the spot where I befriended Yamson, a stirling hut-maker. We bonded over a book, though I can’t read Shécorité.
Yamson made me remember living in Coślak.
There’s something I miss about living with the Shécorité- perhaps it was simply the land, maybe the air of solitude. I am an independent soul, after all. But maybe it was what is missing amongst the quiet Forest People… Trust here is a deity; it is automatic, “because we are a community,” according to Mister Weirs. Yet the Wilkes are not trustworthy: we are cheats, and we live for deception.
It is creepy, in a way, albeit for the sake of community. Superior people are not always so superior once their motives have been clarified, be it known what I mean. Always, I have maintained trust equals time (and it is ironic that Weirs disagrees, as he has instituted equality as a value).
However, lately, time has been of the essence… So perhaps I could see where the dismissal comes from. Still.
Yes, the Shécorité will never measure to the greatness that is the Wilkes clan. But if we have one downfall, it is our blindness.
(An unintentional pun…)