This is not flash fiction, it’s back story. It is the tale of how the Bren came to live in the tundra. It is told to Sel, a direct descendant of Bren. It’s been many generations since these events took place. Memory of the Demen has faded and no one knows why the Bren never leave their home.
Bren and his people were banished to the icy wastes in the year of beginnings by their own calendar. The Demen, or first people had always been worshiped in his village but Bren did not believe. He only had doubts, until the dream. After the dream he believed the Demen were only powerful beings: Immortal, but petty and vengeful. They were not worthy of worship. Bren had been the high priest of Phaedra, the most vain and jealous of the Demen. Every end day for twenty years he had preached on the sins of waste and slovenliness as all Phaedran priests did. He believed his words, but he had started feeling that his life had no real meaning.
One night he knelt by his bed to say his ritual prayers and felt empty. He stared down at his crossed hands unable to say the required words. For the first time in his life he refused. He did pray that night, not to Phaedra, to something else. He prayed to what he hoped was a higher power asking for his life to have meaning, for a purpose other than what Phaedra demanded of him. Bren asked for a sign that his doubts about Phaedra were justified. That night he dreamed of the God. The true God answered all his questions. He learned that the Demen weren’t gods at all. They were godlike in that they had powers that ordinary men didn’t but they were created by the true God as men were. When the true God made the Demen he gave them certain powers and gave the earth to them. Soon enough he saw their faults. They were shallow, vindictive, and overly proud. He felt giving them magic had been a mistake but loved them still, so he made a special place for them to live and separated them from the rest of the world. They could only leave their new home for short periods of time but their powers remained.
The God then created man. He only gave a few people power but weaker than the first people. In time, man spread to most corners of the world and the Demen became jealous. They considered man weak and not deserving of the bounty. Some were angry that the God’s new creatures could have children while they could not. There were soon many thousands of men but there were only a handful of Demen. So a few of the Demen went out into the world, when they could, to terrorize man and take back what was theirs. They soon learned how long they could be away from their new home, not even a full day once a week. The race of man in its ignorance and fear began to worship the Demen and provided them with offerings to appease them. This suited their pride and vanity and both races settled into their new roles with Man never really knowing his creator.
When Bren woke he felt thankful. He didn’t know what he would do with his life but he would no longer be the high priest of Phaedra. He knew hope again. He renounced his title and went out to share what he learned with his people. Soon he had many followers excited to know their true God. Eventually Phaedra came to Bren and knew the God had spoken to him. The loss of the priest enraged her and she set the rest of her followers against him. The Phaedrans outnumbered them three to one and soon drove Bren and his people out of their lands. They were banished to the icy wastes. Phaedra decreed if they returned they would be killed. They packed their belongings into wagons, gathered their livestock and headed north. After three days of travel they reached the south edge of the tundra.
They set off across the tundra, Bren leading the way. There were rumors of valleys hidden in the ice. They would search for one of these and settle in it. The rest of the tundra seemed lifeless. One could look in any direction and see nothing but white. They had lived in a cold climate but nothing could have prepared the people for the harshness of the tundra. They had to make the wheels of the wagons into crude sleds then they set out. The sheep were dead within a day. The horses lasted a week. The hearty oxen were better suited to the cold but Bren knew it was only a matter of time until they too dropped. Hope was a memory but Bren and the true God drove the people on. They had to get far enough away that Phaedra couldn’t hurt them.
One morning, two weeks into the trek, the group woke to find half the oxen had died during the night and even Bren started losing faith in their ability to survive. The entire day was spent butchering the oxen. They started off again the next day with little optimism. The group had only traveled an hour when they came upon a hidden valley. The walls were very steep and dotted with caves. There were only two entrances, both easily defensible. While exploring the vast cavern system they discovered an underground lake and hot springs. There was enough space for all the people so they made the valley their new home. The caves provided shelter from the harsh tundra winds and the hot springs kept the temperature steady. There was plenty of ventilation for the smoke of fires but very little firewood. They had brought some wood with them but most was used on their trek. They would have to find another way to prepare food. The problem of light was solved by lichen found deep in the caves that put off a bright enough light. They sent out search parties to gather anything they could find that was useful. To everyone’s delight the valley was a day’s walk from the great icy sea. Fish was plentiful and there was a sea cow beach nearby. The people would survive.
Two years after the people settled into The Valley, Bren went out to check his nets. He came upon the most amazing sight. Caught in his largest net was an enormous sea dragon. It was clearly female as it was obviously pregnant. She was frantically trying to chew through the net to escape. Only her head was out of the water. When she caught sight of him, he saw the desperation in her eyes. Without a thought to his own safety he drew his knife and dove into the water. He started cutting the net even as he started freezing to death. While he worked he felt a surge of warmth. He didn’t question, he just kept cutting. While he worked he heard the dragon speaking in his head. “Bren, I have seen you and know you to be good. I appreciate your help but for the True God’s sake please hurry. The birth will be soon and if my youngling is to ever breathe air, he must take his first breath on land. If he is born in the water he will be forced to stay in the sea forever.” Bren finally cut her free and she hauled herself to the shore. He was amazed at her beauty. She was larger than the whales he occasionally saw while fishing, yet she as graceful a creature as he had ever seen. Her back was a solid deep blue shading down to the hue of the morning sky along her sides and belly, each color like that of precious stones. As she moved the sun glinted off her scales and he had to cover his eyes at times. He tried not gape as she gave birth but he was genuinely surprised that she was not an egg layer. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity as well.
He watched and guarded the dragons for a few hours until they both recovered and entered the water again. He set about repairing his net. Many things had damaged his nets over the years but never his own knife. His job was almost complete when he heard the dragon’s voice in his mind again. “Thank you Bren, for saving my child from the fate of a fish. I will reward you.”
“The result is the reward lady, and you also saved me from dying, so my thanks are yours,” Bren replied with a bow. “No reward is needed.”
“True,” she replied haughtily, “but I will reward you all the same and make a request of you. Firstly, my name is Silandra. Appreciate the gift of my name for there is more power in it than you can know. Secondly, my request: Bren, I ask of you when a dragon calls to you or any of your people, you will heed the call. Vow that he who hears the call will answer. Vow for yourself, your people, and your children’s children and so on. In return for your vow I will give you another gift.”
“Lady you ask nothing I would not freely give. I vow to you on behalf of my people and our descendants, we will heed the call.”
Silandra nodded her giant head solemnly. “I gift you with fire. From henceforth fire will never harm you. You will be able to awaken it any time. You will have power of heat and cold; you and all your people.”
“My thanks to you.” He did not truly understand what she meant but accepted gladly.
She laughed and she disappeared back into the ocean.
Bren dropped to the ground in a very deep sleep. When he awoke his mind contained the fire knowledge. He was warm because he’d been putting the knowledge to use as he slept, raising his body temperature. He packed his gear and returned to the settlement to share his tale and the gift of the dragon.
This is told to one of my MC’s – Sel as he prepares to go out into the world. He is a seer and while young, seventeen winters, he is soon to be a leader among his people. He can hear dragons. He has to gather the other MC’s together and go save the world. He needs this information given to him to accomplish this. Obviously it’s a fantasy story. There is an ensemble cast, of which, Sel is the youngest. Some of the basics about him are: He’s good at a lot of things. He has to be, as he lives in a harsh environment. He can make tools, sew, cook, hunt, fish, he can do some basic healing – with herb lore, and he can find food in the most unlikely places. He’s a bit over-confident, but terrified of horses. He also hates camels when he encounters them and doesn’t understand the concept of pets. He is not the leader of the group he has to gather and that doesn’t sit well with him. In his land, he is an adult but people in the other realms see him as a child. He also has the gift of the Bren. Along his journey, he will learn exactly what that means. He has dark hair and blue eyes. In fact, all of the Bren have blue eyes, so everyone he meets will know what he is.
I know I need a lot of description in the story. Feel free to give any advice you want to. All comments are welcome. I’ve decided to concentrate on this story for a while so any help you can give would be appreciated.
You are such a great writer, I love this latest entry. I have actually nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award because I love reading your blog so much. Here’s a link: https://streamsofconsciousthoughts.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/nominated-for-versatile-blogger-award/
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You definitely have a good back story. Initially it feels like it’s written from Bren’s pov though rather then an oral history from a dragon. But that may just be my interpretation of it.
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That’s a good point. I guess I better change the storyteller.
As your MC is a seer there is also the option of visions of the past as well; you could potentially keep the draft as you have it with minor alterations.
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There is a point later in the story when he has to explain to his traveling companions why his people are isolated. Perhaps he can be the storyteller!
That could work really well – it would help his companions understand him/his people better while drawing them closer to him as an individual. Its the kind of story that would make good campfire entertainment for bonding while illustrating how the MC has been shaped to the other characters. Of course, how they each interpret it can only lead to interesting subtext between the characters.
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Very good story and style of writing
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I like this. Reading through this I had a thought on your setting. Where I live we have every kind of tundra you could imagine. Based on the details, you’re describing the low grassy, mossy, and usually rocky variety. Instead of repeating the wird tundra, you could describe the kind. Also, you’d have a real job trying to move any sort of cart through that sort of snow covered terrain. Could you use a cart on skis? An inexperienced adventurer would probably break a ski within a few days, leaving the story with the same outcome. Just a thought. It’s backstory, and I suppose those details aren’t relevant, but perhaps they could be.
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They do have to make crude sleds to move the carts. I’ve thought about some hardship with them breaking, but I don’t know how long I really want the back story to be. They are from just south of this wasteland so they should know what to do I suppose. They probably wouldn’t be foolish enough to be so unprepared. As for the type of tundra, I didn’t know there many different types until I started researching more. What I know for sure is I’d rather there not be any/many trees. Thanks for bringing those things up! I am from Texas and winter here is…well sporadic so I have no idea what it’s like to live in a cold, snowy place.
Actually, the thing about tundra is its about the most versatile setting you could use. One moment you’ll be walking on mostly mosses and grasses, then you descend into a ravine with a frozen creek at the bottom that is filled with dense willow thickets and towering spruce. The snow can be anyway you like, deep powder, solid ice, grainy, hard packed, even heavy and wet. a couple of details that might be hard to come by: when really cold (-40), hard packed snow makes a squeaking sound when you walk on it. Sound carries A LOT farther, your clothes freeze so its hard to walk. Also, the glare from all the snow can cause you to sunburn your eyes. I’m looking forward to seeing how your story comes along.
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That’s a relief because I want the place they find to live to actually be liveable! The snow squeaking thing, that’s weird and awesome. I’ve never heard of that. Freezing clothes–so many ideas exploding in my head now! I’ve thought about the eyes thing, that will be a big deal later in the story. The group of MC’s have to travel to Sel’s home at some point. Thank you so much for the information. There are many places these people have to travel. From farmland to grassland to a warm ocean, through a very odd desert and to a volcano. Mountains, forest etc. But of all the landscapes, the tundra area is the most fascinating.