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While it was common for the families of Mitgardia to send their sons to the northern tribes after their twelfth summer, only the children of the Burial Isle were sent out regularly before they came of age to become accustomed to the wilds. Makny had learned from his father when he was only seven how to fish the streams, trap small animals, and build shelters and fires to keep him warm through the cold nights. One of his favorite things to do after a long autumn harvest and many days in the hustle and dust of the storehouses was to take his horse into the hills and be alone. Makny liked to make camp beneath one of the great black-barked trees that grew on the high hills, deep inland. They had broad branches that kept off much of the rain and snow, and were usually found near some of the strange ruins that dotted the Burial Isle. Makny enjoyed spending his evenings - after building his lean-to, unsaddling his horse, and lighting his fire - contemplating the ancient stone structures and the people who might have built them. I've been sitting on this, waiting for a sufficiently overcast day to photograph it and enough free time to post. C&C welcome as always!
While out riding one day, Makny's horse spooked and veered off the road, galloping through a field of tall grass. Makny was irritated, but not worried; he had ridden fast before. He tugged on the reins and chided the horse, trying fruitlessly to steer her back to the road, not watching the ground in front of him, until suddenly the horse was rising beneath him. He lost hold of the reins. His legs flew clear of the saddle. He flailed and grasped at the air. Now he was worried. He coughed and sputtered on the ground, struggling to regain his breath after a thick tuft of grass had knocked the wind from his lungs. After a few moments his father was over him, still in his own saddle, with Makny's horse at his side. "You're lucky," he said, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth. "You just missed that rock." Makny grimaced and rolled over onto his hands and knees, coming face-to-face with the stone that could have killed him had his head fallen a few inches to the left. He stumbled to his feet, limped defiantly over to grab the reins from his father's hand, and clambered back atop his unruly mare. As they picked their way back through the field an old saying played at the back of his mind. "A man is not beaten until he stops getting up."
The journey had felt long to Makny, though it was only a few days slow ride from Førstlys. He and his father had been through several towns and villages along the way, though they had kept to themselves rather than announce their presence. As his father said, it was far easier for them to learn the minds of the people if the people did not know who they were. So they had traveled alone, unannounced, and humble, observing what they could from horseback and making note of what directions they ought give along their return trip. They overtook an older fellow leading a cart laden with bags of grain just before entering the village of Sorgheim. As they passed through the gate, Makny saw what appeared to be a large lantern set in the center of a circle of eight carved stone columns. The glass inside it was broken, and its columns were worn and crumbling, with moss slowly climbing their bases. Makny watched the townsfolk pass the lantern indifferently, but he could not ignore it. “Father, what is that?” he gestured as he asked. His father answered slowly, seeming to concentrate on weaving his horse through the traffic around them. “A remnant,” came the reply, “of a people long gone from these shores. All but forgotten, I think... though we might see for ourselves soon enough.” There was a concealing air and a strange distance to his voice, though Makny barely registered it, caught up as he now was in the activity that swirled around them. Everywhere the village folk were hard at work, hustling to and fro, shouting greetings back and forth, while above it all the Jarl's soldiers stoically paced the barricade. They followed the sandy, well-worn path up the hill, past the flour mill and the low-slung storehouse, and deeper into the village proper. Overhead, the early summer sun was bright in a clear blue sky. As it shone warmly on his shoulders, Makny began to feel the drowsy weight of several nights spent in the dew on ground, and he hoped against hope that tonight might find him in a soft bed with a roof above him.