Cozy Flash: “Path to the People”

The dragon was dead. The glory and treasure had been won in that trove, thought indomitable. Lucaine and her faithful friends had succeeded in liberating the vale of Vankle. She now traveled back down the road that had led her there, this time alone and on a different quest, a red cloth token her most precious reward.

Through the Soughing Desert and the Valley of the Trammelled she would not be impeded. Over the High Hold Mountains and across the Fey Thrall Canyon she lightened her burden to make the journey faster, discarding unneeded armor and trinkets. Through the eidolon-full ruins of Dernost, fighting off camps of goblin pucks and kobolds; in maelstroms of snow and rain, she trudged.

With naught but her token and a few bags of ancient coins taken from the hoard, she marched her way into the plains of the People of the Viaticum. It had been more than a year since she had been there, and the excitement and determination that had taken her like an unalterable fate back to this place was now accompanied by a heaviness in her gut, as she worried that her approaching goal may be out of reach.

She advanced to the steading she fondly recalled, its simple rustic nature inviting her back to the one she remembered. There were predominantly two types of structures: some were tents and others sheds. All were homes, easily moveable by the nomadic, pastoral clan. It was clean and open, and smelled welcoming compared to the dirty, confined, shoddy permanent houses of her birth city.

The People were about and staring at Lucaine in the remnants of her armor, for it was just the gambeson left, torn and dirtied. She had shed the encumbering plate over the long leagues behind her. All for this. The climax of her one truly desired goal was at hand. As is the custom of the People, she had the right to ask for the uniting of two in handfasting, to propose to the person of her choosing. She had won this status at the heart of the mountain, in the worm’s lair. Since she was no native of the People, she knew her deed proclaiming her a woman and worthy would need to be extraordinary.

It had been.

Before that humble home, what Lucaine’s people would call a lowly shack, she called out.
“Umeberan, I would ask that you be my man, my carl and my husband. If your wrappings still be boyish green, I offer you the red, taken from the claws of the serpent Withorm as he lay slain in his den.” She held forth the ancient, immaculate weave of scarlet.

The rustle of cloth accompanied the drape over the entryway being pulled aside as a man, clothed in the browns of his tribe, came out. His head was still robed in green. Lucaine felt her nervous heart soar.

“Lucaine,” he said, his pronunciation different from her own, but it was sweet on her ears.
Smiling the bright smile for which she was named, she gave the ritual response. “I would be your woman.”

He approached her slowly, his face showing he thought she was a shade from memories and dreams returned to haunt him. It was more emotion than most People would show publicly, that is, unless great feelings were at play.

“I would let you take me, lief,” he gave his answer.

With a shout of exultation, they embraced. Together they would be, and part of the People. Lucaine knew she would never leave the plains again. She had found her home.

— Liam Hall

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