Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Koreshi Chronicles: Chapter II - B'Ti

“What is it?” Her eyes narrowed slightly at the clearing in the jungle.

Amaraa smiled. He knew this tangle of branched, polished stones and hanging vines had a reason behind it, that the forms flowed from function.

Amaraa had convinced Lyta to take a walk and get away from the healer’s gathering if Bestha promised she would stay by Lukas and come get Lyta if there were any change.

“This is the first level of the B’ti. If you pass it in the standard time, you pass on to the next level.” Amaraa spread his arms to take in the dense and knotted segment of the jungle which the Koreshi had sculpted, groomed, enhanced and augmented.

“So it’s an obstacle course?” Lyta asked, showing a hint of interest. She had been worrying Amaraa and Bestha, his mate, since they had taken her on as their own a season ago. Her nightmares were frequent and powerful, and the Koreshi knew to give great weight to dreams.

“Yes, but in order to get to the end, you must be both skilled and daring. And if you succeed, you are honoured with the right to attempt the next level of B’ti. This is one of our most coveted competitions. Clans of all Koreshi come here and compete against each other every summer. There is much honour to be gained for one’s clan.”

“Can I compete?” Lyta asked as she surveyed the clearing. After weeks upon weeks in the desert, the Bathani clan of Koreshi had entered the Godwell Valley. They called it Junira Loresh in their tongue, and it was unlike anywhere Lyta had been before. She had seen trideos of the Southern jungles of Mekong, but it was hard to imagine anything like that existing in the Badlands. Harder still to grasp that is could survive in the middle the harshest place on Terra Nova, the Great White Desert. Todd--Torgath--had told Lyta that no Badlander had ever come out of the Great White Desert alive, that all his books said that the white sands could eat flesh off the bone. Yet past such barriers lay a jungle so lush and so great that all the Koreshi found refuge within.

“It’s very hard, Lyta. It requires skill and focus and strength, of body but also of mind. You don’t eat, you don’t sleep. I don’t know if you are ready.” Amaraa was bent down by Lyta’s side. He was not being condescending; he spoke with genuine regret about her decline in health since the Koreshi had found her and her brothers, and since she had been bachanned by him and Bestha. Children were such a blessing; they felt as though they were failing in a most sacred duty to let her wither.

“I can do this, it's not so hard. Can I climb on the ropes to get over the vertical parts?” Lyta was ever more animated as her mind looked for the ways up and around the natural and artificial barriers she could see ahead.

“Once within the B’ti, you can use all your surroundings, the polished stones, the vines, the limbs of trees and planks. It is part maze, part race, part puzzle and part meditation.” Amaraa had hoped she would take interest in the B’ti. Jonas had said she would.

“I can do it,” Lyta said with a small huff, her fist clenched.

“We may see,” her bachan, her surrogate parent, was exercising old wisdom: That which is denied is that much more desired.

“Can I do it now, can I, Amaraa, please?” His heart nearly broke to see her plead for something he could give her; he had so wanted to do anything for this child since he and his mate had been blessed with her. “Very well,” he said simply, suppressing the well of emotion surging up.

She took off at a sprint, jumped halfway up a protruding tree branch and caught a vine to swing to the first stone barrier. She caught the lip with one hand and let go the rope, lifting her lower body to the side and catching a foot in a tangle of roots and used that to leverage her way the rest of the way up. A casual vault over a thick limb and under a tangle of spiked thorns, and she was out of sight. He sat on a stone bench and waited a short while.

“How did I do? Can I try the next one? It was fun.” Lyta was flushed, her cheeks imbued with colour and her eyes sparkled with health, which once again nearly brought Amaraa to tears. So great was the difference between this energetic child before him and the one which had been cleansed upon entering the Junira Loresh two days before that he could scarcely believe it.

“You did very well for your first attempt, but you cannot attempt the next B’ti until you have completed the first,” he said beaming.

“I made it all the way through. I can do the next one.” Lyta frowned, feeling that this jungle gym hadn’t been such a challenge after all for someone with her cycles of training, even if she did notice she was a little out of shape.

“But you did not do it in the time allotted. You succeeded in fifteen minutes, but you must do it in seven.” Amaraa was apprehensive. He did not know if this would crush Lyta’s burgeoning enthusiasm or cause it to bloom. For this, he had to trust to Jonas’ council.

“Seven! That’s impossible,” Lyta cried out.

“I have done it. However, seasoned B’timasti can do it in under four minutes.”

“Four minutes, that? How many levels of B’ti are there? How many have you done? Can you show me some tricks?” Lyta’s questions couldn’t keep up with the speed of her thoughts. She figured she could shave a few minutes off the course once she knew it better and learned to use vines and branches instead of rings and parallel bars, but she could hardly believe such proficiency.

“I have completed three, and there are twenty-one levels. But it has been a number of generations since we have had anyone who could complete the twentieth B’ti.” Amaraa watched as her appreciation grew.

“Can I go again?” Lyta finally said.

“No, little one, you need to eat and rest, but we can return tomorrow. If you take care of yourself and train, I’m certain you will succeed.” Amaraa knew that Bestha deserved to partake in this transformation and felt guilty that he had been here to witness it and not her.

“Then can I compete in your summer thingy?” Lyta was smiling now, encouraged by the prospect of something to look forward to.

“If you represent our clan, we would share in your honour. Will you represent the Bathani?”

“Yes, and I’ll make you proud.” Amaraa swallowed hard. He could not imagine being more proud than he already was.

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