The Talisman

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs


Bree finds herself commanding an army and needs to understand why.

Submitted: November 06, 2017

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Submitted: November 06, 2017

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Bree couldn’t understand how or why she had become the commander if this, the army of the Mist People! She was sitting atop a grey stallion, with a sword in her hand, her knees pressed firmly into the flanks of her mount and feeling the power of the people behind her! They were the youth of the Mist People, male and female, all between the ages of eighteen and twenty five. This time they held the high ground, this time they would win the Talisman.

In a single battle, the Mist People were to meet the Misutu in a life or death struggle to win possession of the Talisman, an ancient stone carving they called, ‘Olo The Priestess of Plenty’. Few markings remained on the carving because of handling by the pious over the centuries. Each and every person in the land of Pinque believed in its power and that the holders would enjoy ten years of prosperity until the next battle. The Mist People hadn’t held the Talisman in living memory, but those who had appointed Bree believed this was their time! The battles were fought every ten years, the victors taking the Talisman to hold for the next ten years. The ancients had decreed it would be thus, and it remains so. It was the order of nature, Olo’s way to regulate wealth and the population. 

Between the decennial battles, the peoples of Pinque lived harmoniously, although never together, other than for trade, and then trading was only carried out by the Greys. The Mist People were known by their straw-coloured hair, there were no exceptions among them. The Misutu were identified without exception by their heads of flame. In the land of Pinque, the Mist People lived by the bounty of the sea, they were expert fisher folk, harvesters of seaweed and farmers of seals. Seals provided pelts, meat and fat. The Misutu lived on the higher plains where there were meadows for their goats, copses for timber and fuel, where the deer and pheasant could be hunted.  In the forested areas they gathered mosses and lichens for making incense and medicine.

The Greys, the elders who had reached status and wisdom through their hair turning grey, believed Bree to be special. Something she didn’t quite agree with, and was suspicious of. It happened when she was just eight years old. She was collecting cockles in the mudflats beyond the gannet rookery with the girls from her star-study class, when they came upon a stranded green turtle. It was lying as if dead, on its back. Bree scared off the scavenging gulls and coerced her fellows, instead of butchering it, to help flip the stricken animal over. She stroked its head and dug a small pit in the mud that quickly filled with water. She used her headscarf to wet its head and clean its eyes. She comforted to the animal. Left alone, she stayed until the tide came in. As she gave it a final push to freedom, she felt something like a rainbow ark softly between them! Smiling, she watched as it swam strongly out to deeper water. Gregon, one of the near-Greys had witnessed the incident, which gave the Greys reason to think Bree’s relationship with the turtle was an omen! Bree thought it to be no such thing, just simple kindness.

After the turtle incident, anyone in the village with aching bones or bruises would ask Bree to touch or massage them, somehow she found the right spots to relieve pain. Tutored by Wixan, the crone-of-the-potions Bree learned the mysteries of becoming a healer. The Greys were uncomfortable with her but hid their feelings, saying she was destined to take Wixan’s place after her death and burning ceremony. Bree never considered herself to be special or a leader, even though she had knowledge of healing. People would say that she had helped them when in fact she had done nothing more than listen to their complaint or laid her hand upon them. But the Greys kept insisting that she was special.

Two years before the battle, the males manufactured weapons, swords from mild steel, spears, bows and arrows, while the females hardened seal leather for armour, manufactured shields and helmets. During this activity, there were the stories, always stories, traditional stories. They had no written language, the stories had been handed down from generation to generation over millennia. Bree often thought about truth, why would Olo promote death on a ten year cycle? To test the truth of handed-down stories, she brought together ten people, telling the first, ‘The stars are bright tonight.’ And asked her to pass the message on and to the next and the next. The tenth person finally told her, ‘Our people came from the stars at night.’ Bree had good reason to distrust the mythical stories.

Late one night, after Wixan had completed the night’s tutoring and was happy after smoking flavoured leaves, Bree asked her about the Talisman. Wixan’s eyes rolled back to show only the whites, and they sparkled.

‘It is unknown,’ she chanted, ‘if it was found or carved, only that whoever possess it shall have prosperity.’

‘We, The Mist People have not held the Talisman for a hundred years.’ Bree spoke as if to herself. ‘But we are prosperous, and in need of nothing.’

Wixan became wide-eyed and serious! She pointed a bent finger at Bree. ‘Never doubt Olo, The Priestess of Plenty!’ She commanded, ‘Our dead youth are our sacred sacrifice to her!’ She then whispered, ‘And never let the Greys hear you speak thus.’

Astride the grey stallion. Bree came to realise why she was at the head of the army! Nobody would volunteer for her task, she would surely be the first to die! She remembered back to that night with Wixan, Astrid must have overheard their conversation! At the time she thought nothing of it, when in the darkness she saw her, shawl covering most of her face, on her way to share what she had overheard! Like a thunderbolt, came the understating that the Greys wanted her dead, it was their plan all along! Well then, she would fight, and if she survived she would confront them! Why are they stifling free thoughts? Are we not free?

The flame haired, Misutu appeared at the bottom of the rise. In formation they marched, banging their shields and shouting obscenities to boost their courage. Bree held up her sword defiantly, they would wait until the Flame-hairs were halfway up the slope, then they would swarm down upon them with all their might! With every step the Flame-hairs took, Bree’s heart beat in her chest to their rhythm – boom, boom, boom!

Quite suddenly she felt at cool and soothing peace, she was unware of the cacophony around her! Something, a feeling, the same feeling as that day on the mudflat. The soft rainbow? The light began to dim, was it her eyes? What was that feeling? She looked skyward, towards the tip of the sword she still held high! Bree saw that the moon was beginning to cut a path across the face of the sun! A mystical event!

She shouted in excitement, ‘Olo, The Priestess of Plenty protects us by shutting out the light!’ A shout rose from the ranks behind her. The Flame-Hairs fearful of the day-night that Bree had called on Olo to deliver! They turned and fled! The army of the Mist People gave chase, but there was no fight in their bellies, for they had already won! The Talisman had been left on the cairn! No blood would be spilt this day!

The Mist People’s army lifted Bree to their shoulders, claiming it was she who had caused the darkness! She knew better, but allowed them their glory! Once her feet finally hit the ground, she marched off to confront the Greys…


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