• ~ 2 ~
    Fear to Familiarize

    Tanous speedily opened his eyes as he awoke from his sleep in a cold sweat. His breathing was rapid; he had another nightmare. Noticing that he was lying in a bed and not on the earth where he fell took Tanous by surprise. He was inside of a strange house. The room he was in seemed friendly enough not to pose a threat to the injured young man; a picture sat beside an electric lamp on the wooden nightstand to Tanous’s right. A half-melted and unlit candle rested beside the frame the picture was in showing Tanous that perhaps the lamp’s bulb was burnt out. As Tanous looked to the left, he noticed that his shirt and cloak were folded neatly on a wooden stool that was held together by iron nails. His belts and hand-wraps sat on his cloak and shirt. His claymore was leaning up against the wall behind the chair with its holster still looped around the blade closest to the hilt. Tanous’s boots sat beside the sheathed blade.

    Looking down at his shirtless torso, Tanous was relieved to see that his left arm was still covered in bandages. He looked over at his right arm where he was wounded to find that the wound was wrapped in some fresh and clean bandages. After he was finished inspecting his body, Tanous looked forward just to see that he was being watched this whole time; a small and young girl sat on her knees on a wooden chair staring at him. Tanous starred back at the girl with a look of confusion on his face. Was she starring at him just because he was shirtless? Or was she admiring the scars located on Tanous’s left pectoral muscle?

    Suddenly the door into the room creaked open. “Neph,” said the voice of an older young woman as she entered the room. “Are you still…in…here?” The girl paused close to the end of her sentence as she noticed that Tanous was awake.

    Both of the girls were dressed in a single-piece cotton dress. They were nothing fancy, just simple farm-like cloths. The older girl seemed to be close to Tanous’s age. Her hair was light brown and descended down to her mid-back. She gripped her hands on a plastic tray of food; two eggs and some bacon sat steaming on a glass plate. A fork and knife rested the tray beside the plate of food.

    The girl walked over the nightstand cautiously. Tanous watched her vigorously as she set the tray down. “I’m glad to see you’re up,” the girl said. “I brought you some breakfast. I’ll leave to let you eat.”

    With that, the two girls left the room and closed the door behind them. Tanous looked at the tray of food, hesitant to accept it. After a minute or two of thinking if over, Tanous grabbed the fork and knife and began to feast. The food wasn’t half-bad, and it was consumed by the hungry Tanous fairly quickly. After finishing with his meal, Tanous set the tray back onto the nightstand. He threw his legs over the left side of the bed and tossed aside the covers. He stood from his bed and grabbed his single-sleeved shirt. He slipped it on and strapped on his belts. He swathed his hand-wraps onto his right and left hands. Putting his socked feet into his boots, Tanous grabbed his folded cloak and sword. As he began to leave the room, Tanous halted, and turned. He grabbed the tray his breakfast was on and then he left the room. As he left the bedroom, the eyes of the same girl who brought him the food and a much older woman who appeared to be the girl’s mother greeted Tanous.

    “Oh, hello,” the mother said with a smile as she washed dirty dishes in a sink tub filled with warm water.

    Tanous nodded his head as a friendly greeting. “I…um,” Tanous muttered looking down at the tray. “Here’s your food tray.”

    The younger girl softly took the tray from Tanous’s hands. “Thanks,” she gently spoke.

    “May I ask where I am?” Tanous asked.

    “Sure,” replied the younger girl. “You’re in the village of Nectill; just some small town nobody has ever heard of. Oh, I have neglected to introduce myself; I’m Elise Cartner, and this is my mother, Harriet. You’ve already met Neph, my younger sister.”

    “It’s nice to meet you,” Tanous said. “I’m Tanous. Tanous Splitwings.”

    “Splitwings?” Harriet said. “That sounds familiar, but I can’t recall where I’ve heard it before.”

    “So, Tanous,” said Elise. “Would you like a tour of the village? I’d be pleased if I could introduce you to everyone.”

    “I really shouldn’t,” replied Tanous. “I should get going. I wouldn’t want to be a burden.”

    “Oh, please,” pleaded Elise. “It won’t take that long, and I know you’ll like the friendly company of everybody.”

    Tanous rolled his eyes at the childish behaviour of the eighteen-year-old girl. “Alright, I’ll join you,” Tanous agreed to go along with Elise.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    The village of Nectill, a small farming community with twenty building at most within its fenceless boundaries; each of them was made of wooden logs and large rocks and a straw roofs. Some of the buildings did have shingled roofs. The straw on the less fortunate buildings was a dark brown and aged, but did not collapse into the edifices due to the rafters on the inside that supported and held up the roofs. The simple structures each had a chimney; the inglenooks that were apart of the rock flues had only ashes in them from the previous night. Glass windows could be seen on almost every wall on the houses, each draped with makeshift cloth curtains. The streets of the small hamlet were dirt, abundant with small pebbles and fine grains of sand that hid beneath the hay and compacted dry horse waste. Horses’ hoof prints and wheel marks from wagons and vehicles could be seen going up and down the low-quality road. Multiple power poles stood on the sides of the village’s path, each connected to the one beside it by wires that carried electricity into the buildings. Rusting trucks were parked by many of the buildings; most of them were large transport trucks for carrying the harvest from one village to the next. The occupants of the village were all hard at work tending to the animals and making horseshoes and carts. Many men were out in the fields tending to the crops, each equipped with a hoe, scythe, or sickle. Most of the women sat in the shade mending together wreaths of freshly picked flowers from the nearby meadow that sat peacefully on the top of a hill to the south of the village. An apple tree sat on the very centre of the hill.

    Tanous followed Elise out of the door of her house. He halted his feet and looked about the peaceful village. Elise, merrily skipping ahead, looked behind her to see that Tanous was not trailing her. “Tanous,” she said to get his attention. Tanous looked at the girl and then walked after her.

    Their first stop was at the mayor’s residence. Mayor Halth was a chubby old man with a bushy white moustache. His head was bald and he had a large smile on his face all the time giving any stranger a pleasant feeling.

    “Good morning mayor,” Elise said with a bow.

    “Ho! Good morning, Elise,” Halth replied as he rubbed his plump stomach. He then looked at Tanous “You must be that lad, Carter found in the field. Welcome to Nectill. I hope you enjoy the hospitality.”
    Tanous said nothing and gave his head a simple nod. Elise and Tanous then turned and continued their walk through the village. They stopped to see a group of three elderly women making the flower wreaths.

    “Morning, Glades, Pelly, Jennet,” Elise friendly spoke.

    “Good morning, Elise,” replied Pelly. “Oh, this must be that young man from the field. It’s nice to meet you.”

    Tanous, once again, nodded as a greeting.

    “You don’t smile much, do you?” said Elise as the two walked to their next stop. Tanous did not reply to her.

    The two stopped at the blacksmith. Carter Cartner -- Elise’s father -- was a large man. Bulky and tall, Carter was a respected man within Nectill. His large black moustache told people that he was the kind of man who deserves reverence.

    “Hey, daddy!” Elise excitingly said.

    “Elise,” Carter replied with a smile as he pounded a horseshoe into its shape. “And you must be the body I found in the field last night. You sure are lucky the smoke from over in Blackern woke some of us. If we didn’t notice your bike, you wouldn’t have survived the night.”

    “I suppose I should say thank you,” Tanous said.

    “Dad, this is Tanous,” Elise introduced. “Tanous Splitwings.”

    “Splitwings?” uttered Carter. “I once knew a Splitwings. I can’t recall his name; it was Tan-something, but I’m sure he’s dead.”

    “It could have been my father,” said Tanous. “I have never known or seen him, so I wouldn’t know for sure.”

    “You never knew your dad?” asked Elise.

    Tanous shook his head. “Or my mother,” said Tanous looking down at the ground. “The only family I have ever known was my… my…”

    Elise and Carter looked at him. They could easily tell that he was troubled by something. A dark memory perhaps? “What is it, Tanous?” asked Elise. Tanous just shook his head in response.

    “So tell me, Tanous,” Carter spoke. “How’d you come to sustain a wound like that? A scuffle with a scorpion-bat perhaps?”

    “Brigands,” Tanous replied looking up at Carter. “This wound was caused by a brigand sword.”

    “Brigands?” Elise said, an astonished look upon her face. “You fought against those creatures and survived? How many did you fight?”

    “I didn’t have time to count them,” Tanous answered back. “All I know is that there were a lot of them and I somehow managed to kill them all.”

    “You killed a horde of brigands all by yourself?” asked Carter. “Even trained warriors find that a difficult task to overcome. I find you story hard to believe, but even if you are telling the truth, then you must be quite skilled with a blade. Who’s you teacher?”

    “I taught myself everything I know,” answered Tanous. “I have been alone for most of my life. I couldn‘t ignore teaching myself how to protect myself against this realm’s beasts.”

    “Alone? What happened to you family?” asked Elise, curious to know.

    Suddenly, Tanous felt the sharp pain in his left arm again. “What’s wrong?” Elise asked as she took a step towards Tanous. Tanous stepped away from her. “Please, I really should go,” he said. “If the brigands catch my scent around the bodies of those I killed, they’ll follow it until they find me, and it will lead them straight to this village. If I’m still here if they come, they will kill everybody to get to me, so I really should go, I don’t want the blood of any of you to be spilled.”

    “None of us will stop you, Tanous,” Carter uttered as he prodded the coals within his fire pit. “If you feel you should go, then go.”

    Tanous nodded as the pain in his arm reduced itself. “Thank you,” he said with a nod of his head. “Thank you for bandaging me up.”

    “Don’t thank me for that,” Carter said. “Elise was the one who stitched and bandaged you up.”

    Tanous moved his gaze to Elise. “Thank you,” he calmly said. Elise simply nodded in reply, and with that, Tanous turned northward and took his first step to leave the village, but stopped himself. “Um, may I ask where my bike is?” Tanous asked after turning to face Elise and Carter again.

    Elise pointed to the side of the blacksmith. Tanous’s bike was parked beside the building. Tanous walked over to the bike and hopped on.

    “Tanous, wait,” Elise said as she approached him. Tanous turned to face her. “Um…it was a very nice pleasure to meet you. I hope we meet again sometime.”

    Tanous, once again, nodded in response. He then started up his bike, and turned it to leave the village. It only took a few seconds before Tanous was out of the parish and in the lush fields of Yuntelly. Tanous turned his head to take one final look at the village. In the distance, he could see Elise waving farewell to him. Tanous looked forward again and replied to Elise’s gesture of parting with a quick wave of his bandaged left hand.