The Final Farewell

An old warrior stood atop a hill overlooking the lands below. A black wolf stood at his side and above him a circled an eagle forever alert. He looked out over the valley below which stretched for as far as he could see yet there was a distant look in his eyes. He held his arm out, the eagle swooped down and landed gently on his outstretched arm. His other arm was by his side and the wolf nuzzled it gently in a knowing kind of way. Both him and his companions knew that this would be their last journey together. Off in the distance lay their destination which was the Grove of Ancients. A sacred place to this lands people and one which only a select few of the holy men were allowed to visit normally. What lay in the Grove of Ancients was only known to the Chief and those holy men that were permitted to enter there for ritual purposes. To the others it was only known as the last resting place of the honoured. No-one else knew of its secrets and those that did were sworn to secrecy under the Oath of the Gods.

To further understand this tale, I must tell you more of this man and the people of these lands. Some of you may recognise this man i speak of but many of you may not. The name he is known by is Sko’ventra. Born the son of the tribal chief of a village of these lands, there was always something different about him. Sko’ventra means He of the Animals and you will come to understand why he bears that name. The lands i speak of are the Sha’Vahl, which means in the language of these lands, means Lands of the Ancients. A peaceful place now although it was not always like this. These lands reside on a planet much like Earth but a considerable distance away in the further reaches of the universe. The Sha’Vahl are a peaceful people comprising mainly of hunters and gatherers. The landscape of this world is very much alike to Earth with forests, mountain ranges and seas. Even the flora and fauna are like those that you find here on Earth but there are a few exceptions. Creatures such as dragons and griffins can be found here although they tend to reside in the mountainous regions.

From an early age Sko’ventra was trained as a warrior but also as the future chief of his village. His mother passed away when he was a mere 7 years old during a raid on their village. She was a warrior as was he and his father. Standing tall, as did many of the Sha’Vahl, at around 5 feet 10 inches but she had the fierce gaze of a warrior maiden. Swift with both sword and bow her prowess was unmatched by many. Her name was Shi’landra which meant swift warrior maiden, she was not of the village but a Sha’Vahl none the less. Shi’landra was the daughter of another village chief whose lands lay several days trek from here. Sko’ventra father was a different man altogether. Shorter in stature, than many at only around 5 feet 5 inches in height, yet he had the build of a dragon and the temperament to match. He could be fiery yet calm even though he had a quick, fiery temper so when he spoke, he spoke with the powerful voice of many men. So what of Sko’ventra? After the loss of his mother, his father brought him up alone and instilled in him the ways of the warrior. Like his mother, Sko’ventra was swift with the sword and bow. Many would say that he took to these with ease and a natural ability as though he had been born wielding those weapons. As he grew his prowess with the sword became greater and in the annual competitions he remained unbeaten.

Nightfall was drawing in as Sko’ventra stood on the hill. The wolf lay by his side and the eagle had come to rest on his right shoulder. It was still warm from the days sunshine and the skies were clear. The eagle suddenly flew up into the air as though it sensed something closing in. Was it something sinister it sensed? Sko’ventra looked down to the wolf at his side but it did not stir. The eagle circled them twice and then settled once more onto his shoulder. Gesturing with his left hand, he instructed the eagle to move, removed his sword, still in its hilt, from his back and then sat down on the warm grass of the hill. The wolf turned its head towards him. A silent communication occurred between them as he looked at his companion and softly muttered to him “I know, old friend”. He did wonder what would happen to his companions when they finally reached their destination of the grove. Would they stay with him until the end? Would they go their own way once more when he was gone? So many questions raced through his mind yet he knew not the answers. That far away looked once more showed in his eyes as he, once again, allowed his mind to recall memories of long ago. Resting his hand on the wolf’s back, he recalled the day when they had encountered each other for the first time.

It had started as a day much like any other previously. At sunrise, the gatherers had risen and then left in their group same as any other day. Only this day was to turn out differently. The hunting party was due back in the village a few hours after dawn after several days away. Children played around the huts as they always did while the women of the village prepared for the return of the hunters. Nothing unusual was happening to say that this day was not going to be like any other. There had been talk of raiders hitting villages many days travel from them and so the scouts were out to watch for any danger. Several hours passed as the normal village life happened and Sko’ventra trained as he always did with the other warriors of the village. A horn call cut across the normal noise of the village life signifying the return of the hunting party. The hunting party comprised of 20 young men. They entered the village with 3 long branches carried by 10 of them. Hanging off the branches was a dead griffin which would feed the villagers for many days on its own. 3 of the hunting party were showing signs of injury and were sent to see the healers to have their injuries seen to. The chief came out of his hut to greet the party and the womenfolk moved the griffin to be cut up for food. Of the 7 men remaining, the hunt leader, a young man called Shi’vachtor, held a bundle of furs close to his chest. The chief looked at him and motioned Shi’vachtor to come closer. A small head poked out of the bundle of furs. Shi’vachtor carefully unwrapped some of the furs to reveal a small black wolf cub but this young cub was not like your normal wolf cub. Its fur was black but a small, white streak of fur went from its head along its back up to the front legs region. Its ears were also tipped with white fur and it trembled, as though with fear, as Shi’vachtor held it. Sko’ventra held his arms out to Shi’vachtor so that he may hold the cub. Shi’vachtor gave him the cub and it suddenly stopped trembling as though it suddenly felt safe. The chief motioned Sko’ventra and Shi’vachtor to follow him as he re-entered his hut. Inside the hut Shi’vachtor recalled their encounter with the wolf cub. The party was returning to the village after the hunt when one of the scouts with them had found the cub wandering among the trees. It appeared that it was lost or had been left behind by its mother, Shi’vachtor decided to bring it with them rather than leave it to the mercy of the griffins. And that is how Sko’ventra and his wolf companion started out life together. Over the following seasons, as the wolf cub grew, they became inseparable. Where Sko’ventra went so did the black wolf.

That was so many seasons ago now and here they are, still together after all this time. Only this journey would be their last together. The sun had set as the two companions sat side by side and the twin moons were rising bathing them in soft moonlight. Looking up, Sko’ventra could just make out the eagle, still circling above, in the pale moonlit sky. He called the eagle to him and it circled once more before coming to rest on his right shoulder. How the eagle came to join them is another part of this tale, and even though it is a sad part it must be told so that you may understand more of how the three came to be. Gazing into the night sky he could see that the twin moons had risen and the stars were out. The eagle let out a short cry which even though wasn’t loud, it was enough to bring tears to Sko’ventra eyes. The eagle had belonged to his wife who had died many seasons ago after raiders had hit their village one fateful night and he sat there, upon the hill in the pale moonlight, his mind wandered back to the day the two had first met.

Sko’ventra was around 27 years of age and the wolf was fully grown on the day he and his wife had first encountered one another. It was approaching the end of summer in the lands of the Sha’Vahl and the village life was very much like its normal self but this day was to end differently. The sun was starting to set when an average height woman entered the village. She walked like a warrior maiden, a bow in one hand and a quiver of arrows on her back. Yet she was dressed differently to those of this land and her skin was slightly darker in colour. A young man had run to the chief’s hut as word had been reached that a stranger was approaching. By the time that young woman had entered the village, the chief and Sko’ventra were stood awaiting her. At this point i must say that this was no warrior maiden of their lands but indeed a stranger from unknown parts. As she strode through the village towards where the chief and Sko’ventra stood, one thing stood out more than just her attire and that was the eagle resting on her left arm. She caused quite a stir among many of the males of the village with whispers passing from one to another as they followed her. Who was she and what brought her to these parts? Arriving in the village’s centre where the chief and Sko’ventra stood, the wolf as always at Sko’ventra’s side, she bowed with respect to them both. She claimed her name was Chitara and that she came from Em’tah a land far off to the west. Sko’ventra’s and Chitara’s eyes met as they looked at each other. Chitara shifted her stance slightly, as in awe, as she caught sight of the wolf by Sko’ventra’s side. The chief motioned for both her and Sko’ventra to enter his hut as he walked away. Walking side by side, they both entered the chief’s hut leaving the echoes of the young males whispering to each other behind them. The chief asked Chitara many questions about her lands and how she came to be here. A holy man had been summoned to join them because of the eagle which was still perching on Chitara’s arm. The relationship between this strange female and the eagle was a strange one amongst the Sha’Vahl. Again, this was no ordinary eagle as known in these lands. Although the same size as the ones they knew of, its colouring was different. Instead of being a speckled brown as the Sha’Vahl knew, this one was almost white but with black speckles in its feathers. The holy man asked to speak to the chief and Sko’ventra in private. The chief gave his permission as he waved Chitara out of his hut. After she had left, the holy man reminded them both of the prophecy which told of a stranger who carried an eagle of the description they had just seen. Dismissing the holy man, the chief turned to Sko’ventra. The chief asked him what he thought of the strange woman. Sko’ventra considered his answer and then told his father his thoughts.The strange woman had asked if she may stay for a while in the village since she had heard of raiders pillaging villages many days further out. After a while of deliberation between the chief and Sko’ventra it was decided that she be allowed to stay. Over the coming days, Chitara was attracting a lot of interest from many of the single males in the village. However she rebuffed their advances because she had eyes only for Sko’ventra. Over the following seasons, they became very close and love blossomed between them. The seasons rolled on as time passed and Sko’ventra and Chitara were eventually married under Sha’Vahl law by the holy man of the village. She bore him a son before long but then the raiders became ever bolder in their pillaging of the surrounding villages. During one raid upon the village, the chief fell in battle defending the village from the marauding raiders. Sko’ventra was became chief of the village and was always at the forefront of the ensuing fights with the raiders over the following seasons. Always by his side was Chitara and they fought side by side in each and every fight. Then came that fateful night. The night that changed Sko’ventra’s life forever. The raiders struck the village and caught them at a disadvantage. The hunting party had left about 2 nights previously so the number of fighters in the village was depleted. It was the night of the new moons when the raiders struck. Sko’ventra and Chitara, along with those warriors left, fought as hard as they could. Chitara got separated from Sko’ventra during the battle and even though she fought as best she could, she was overwhelmed and dragged off by the raiders into the moonless night. The battle raged on for many hours and eventually the raiders were driven back but Chitara was missing. As the sun dawned upon the carnage left behind in the aftermath of the battle, Sko’ventra searched among the fallen calling her name. His calls to her were unanswered and there was no sign of her amongst the corpses. It seemed as though she had completely vanished without a trace. No-one could be spared to search for her. Scouts were dispatched with orders to find any traces of where the raiders had gone. All that was left was to wait for the hunting party to return and hope that the raiders didn’t return. 2 days and nights went by with no word from the scouts. Sko’ventra’s son would not settle and nor could Sko’ventra. The disappearance of his beloved wife troubled him greatly especially since there was no sign of her eagle either. Just after dawn on the third day, a scout returned with news that tracks had been found leading off to the east. They had followed them for a day and night and came across an encampment which looked like one of the raiders ones. Sko’ventra quickly gathered 5 warriors to come with him and so along with the scout, they made their way to the area where the encampment had been discovered. As they approached the outer reaches of the encampment, Sko’ventra motioned those with him to spread out. Carefully they approached the camp, forever watchful of ambushes. Sko’ventra entered the camp, the wolf at his side. It looked like it was left in a hurry because small shelters had been left up and the fire was still smoking in its pit. Slowly investigating each shelter he encountered a sight which almost brought him to his knees. Inside one of the shelters was his beloved Chitara, lying bloodied in a heap on the shelter’s floor. She was dead but still Sko’ventra lifted her into his arms and carried her out of the shelter with tears streaming down his weathered face. His heart felt like it had been ripped from his body. Even the wolf appeared to be weeping as Sko’ventra, tears still streaming down his face, walked out of the encampment area carrying Chitara’s lifeless body. The men with him, upon seeing him carrying his wife’s body, bowed their heads in respect. Not a word was spoken as they made their way back to the village. All the way Sko’ventra carried his wife, refusing help from them even though it was offered many times. Sko’ventra became a recluse, shutting himselft away in his hut even long after her funeral. Food and drink was brought to him yet he ate little and spoke even less. Days turned into nights and nights turned into days yet still Sko’ventra did not stir. He wept like he had never wept before or since. Such was his grief and yet all along he asked himself about what happened to her eagle. No sighting of it had been heard of and so eventually he fell asleep due to exhaustion. It was around the tenth day after her funeral and village life had returned to normal, well as normal as it could be after recent events, when a cry went out from one of the sentries on guard. Emerging from his hut, he looked to where the sentry was pointing. Circling above the village was the eagle!! Sko’ventra shrilled as Chitara had taught him. After one circle the eagle descended and landed lightly on Sko’ventra’s outstretched arm. There was a sadness in the eagle’s eyes as it looked into Sko’ventra’s eyes. He spoke softly to it and it appeared to nod to him in its own way. For around 2 further seasons there was no reports of raiders pillaging and it was though they had disappeared as suddenly as they had appeared. The peace did not last much longer as more reports came flooding in of villages being raided. It would appear that the raiders had returned! Many battles were fought over the following years against the raiders and more warriors fell in battle, yet Sko’ventra fought like a man possessed by the Guardians of Fire. All the while, the memory of Chitara stayed with him.

Now he was old and the chiefdom had been passed to his son. So many seasons had passed since Sko’ventra and Chitara had been parted and here he was on his way to the Grove of the Ancients for the final time. His companions seemed ageless unlike himself. Through all those times, the three had them had been together and now they are with him on his final journey. He wept once again over Chitara’s memory but now they will be together forever more in the Grove of the Ancients. He knew that much to be true. Staring out in the night sky, those years that had passed felt like only yesterday. The day they had found the wolf cub, the day he and Chitara had seen each other for the first time, the birth of their son who was now Chief of the Sha’Vahl. Was it his need for revenge on the raiders that had made him fight so fervently? More questions swept his mind yet the answers seemed immaterial now. He ruffled the wolfs fur gently and it lifted its head as though it was going to speak. The mere look from one to the other spoke volumes even though neither made a sound. Laying back in the grass, he allowed his mind to wander. What faced them in the Grove of Ancients? Would he die a hero’s death in battle? Or would his old age finally get the better of him? There was no real reason to hurry to their final destination. The Grove would still be there no matter how long it took to reach.

This is where my tale ends dear reader. Many clues have been left here for those who may recall the man who i have spoken of in this tale. For everyone else, I bid you long life and much happiness. The ending? Well, i shall let you decide that one for yourselves, for there is no real ending to this tale since their spirits still live on.

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