It was dark all around. The dim light radiating from the floor was of little avail as it expanded less than a man’s height. None of the corners, where the floor meets the walls, nor the ceiling was visible as they were too far to be touched by the light.
The light that radiated from the flat stone floor beamed in all directions in no orderly manner. It was just beams as thick as a man’s arm, stretching out in straight lines and mystical curves.
Such a strange sight to one’s eyes, too vast for one to have a full view of it. However, if only one could look down upon it from far high up in the air, one could surely make out that the array of lights, radiating from the floor, forms a gigantic rune on the ground.
In one corner of the rune, lit up by the light, had a cluster of people sitting around in huddles with each other. They looked ghostly due to the shades casted by light beaming up against their wizened faces. They talked in whispers among themselves.
"Can’t they make this any softer?" One annoyed voice could be heard among the crowd.
"You know how quickly it will mold if it isn’t completely dried before it’s sent down here."
"But I have bad teeth. And this bread is too hard."
The elders turned to Mur all at once as they appraised the quality of their rationed bread. The silent pressure in the air propelled Mur into a response.
‘I’ll see to it when I go back up." He said to appease the unsatisfied elders of the tribe.
– Just eat what you’re served or go hungry. It’s ridiculous to get picky with food at your age.
A clear voice resonated in everyone’s mind alike. All gazes were then turned to the owner of the voice who had just uttered a blunt remark. He was easily spotted as he was the odd one among the group of the aged.
Not only was he young, but it was also his contrasting look that made him stand out from all. The color of his long hair, streaming over his shoulders, was of conspicuous gold even under the poor light. And the eyes of the handsome stripling, whose comely features were a work of art, shone brightly in crimson.
"What gives you the right to say that the aged can’t complain about what they eat?"
"Right you are! Eating is indeed one of the great pleasures in life as we humans have a delicate palate, unlike you. I bet you’ll never come to understand how exquisite such senses really are."
The elders reproached the blond lad with all their fingers pointed at him. However, he simply ignored them all with a snort as the elders continued to glare and grumble. "Shame on you, you impertinent greenhorn."
– Have you finally gone senile? Or have you simply forgotten the fact that I’ve lived much longer than you all?
The blond lad quipped in retort.
The elders winced shortly before they went on with their grumblings. "Don’t get on your high horses just because you’re older. As it happens, age has nothing to do with one’s maturity."
"Well said. As it’s the wisdom and experience that really matters. What have you accomplished as you get on in years? Playing leader to odds and sods?"
"Having much fun, aren’t you?"
"Do you have a dead wish, you parcel of old fools?"
One voice screeched as he flew into a rage. "What if I say I do?"
"I’ve told you to pipe down! Are you trying to impair the hearing ability of blind old men?"
No one bothered to stop the commotion. The quarrel was starting to take an ugly turn and from everyone’s experience, they knew that such squabble always escalates into a bigger fight. But, things were different now. As a matter of fact, they don’t feel fear should things take a turn for the worse as the seven elders no longer felt obliged to be obsessed with life anymore.
The ardent will to protect the tribe had almost faded and dampened with time. All that’s left in their hearts was nothing but a faint sense of responsibility. They’ve easily submitted to fate without any eagerness left in them that could spark new changes.
Mur was however the one who was having the most torturous time as he feigned soulless smiles, shunned from the conversation. Although this was not at all an unfamiliar sight to him as he has been coming down at least every once a year since he had become the chief, cold sweat still broke down his back without fail. He doesn’t think he’ll ever get used to the sight of his ancestors, who were literally a living corpse, bickering with a lark (blond lad) that mimicked humans.
Mur then turned his head around and gazed at a human figure in the distance. Aldrit was sitting at one end of the rune with his back turned from all.
‘I believe more than a day has passed since then…’
Aldrit’s response, upon confronting the truth, was calmer than Mur had ever expected.
[Please give me some time.]
Aldrit has been sitting still as a rock in that very spot since then. He never moved an inch, nor ate or slept, as if he was only a statue.
Although Mur had no ability to read minds, he felt like he could easily assume that Aldrit was having a whirlwind inside his mind at the moment. He remembered how much it took him to recover from the shock when he first learned about the secret of the tribe shortly after he became the chief.
‘I think you have done enough thinking. So will you please save me from all this trouble already?’ Mur pleaded inwardly but he was more than determined to give Aldrit as much time he needed to organize his thoughts.