The ethereal glow of the full moon beamed in the night sky. Melodic notes from harps and citoles resounded euphonically while some individuals danced around a column of fire. Frolic kids sprinted across the village square in merriment. At a corner, a man was roasting a wildling over a fire through a roasting rack. The fire show ceremony was vibrant as always, perhaps almost like a nobles birthday party. Lores stood with arms crossed. He was waiting for what was to him the most important segment of the ceremony; the wrestling contest.

”Your….Lores eat something. ” A voice told him. It was no other than Vicksen. He had warned him on several occasions not to address him formally, but his fathers stauncher kept eating his words in front of him. Vicksen once told him that his princehood was valid so long as he had a royal blood. However, in his eyes, it wasn about the validity of his title. He just doesn feel comfortable when addressed with formality.

He took the limb that was offered to him and tore a part from it with his teeth.

”You left for the night watch yesterday, didn you? So tell me, when did you start crushing on night immortal. ” He asked after chaveling a mouthful. Vicksen winced at his words.

”I don understand. How can I crush on someone Ive never seen. ” Lores gave him a startled look, his eyes revealing mischief.

”Were you expecting to see her yesterday. ” Vicksen giggled as he buried his head in his hand.

”Why are you taunting me? I only left for the night watch because Zyno persuaded me to. ” Then he leaned towards Lores. ”If the locals should hear you make jokes like this, theyll say you are impious. ” A quiet laugh bursted from Lores mouth.

”Who cares? I like this village but I find its belief too weird for my liking. ”

The weird belief of Vatmos emanated from the mythology of the Middle East. It was said that there was a priestess who usually took men as mediators. When she died, she was believed to ascend into a goddess. The tradition still continued after her death with men mediating on behalf of women and children.

Lores heard the origination of this belief from Idrissa but it didn terminate his weird feeling toward the belief.

”Me too. But I thought youd be accustomed to it by growing up here. ” Vicksen said while staring at him like he was staring at an unsolvable puzzle. Lores shrugged. Inasmuch as he wasn a bona fide indigene of Vatmos, he was bound to feel different in one way or the other.

”Why don you join the fun? ” Vicksens voice resounded.

”You know Im not good at dancing. Ill join the fun when the wrestling contest begins. For now, I find it more fun to discuss your love matters with a deity. ” The taunter taunted with a jocular sigh. He threw a glance at Vicksen whose face seemed as if he was devising something. He began to retract his steps expecting a chase and it came. He bolted off with Vicksen chasing from behind.

”Your dad never teased me like you
e doing. Ill bridle your tongue today. ” He could hear his chaser hollering from behind. His relationship with Vicksen had been up to par. His apprenticeship to the latter in swordsmanship played a significant role in the build up between them.

He took his chaser round the column of fire and then out of the arena. After a while, he gave up, breathing like an antelope that escaped from its predator after a long run. Vicksen caught up with him in the same condition or perhaps even worse.

”You should know that I am no longer young. Is this how you treat your elders? ” He uttered amid a racing breath. His eyes swung for where to sit like they were searching for gold. Once he captured a stale wood not far from where they were standing, he heaved a sigh of relief and flumped helplessly on it. Lores stood akimbo with his mouth loosely hanging open. He was astonished by how the once agile Vicksen became so old that he couldn even stand after a short run.

”Supposing I had never seen you wield the sword. I would have never believed that you were once a warrior. ” He said with a blatant tone of sheer disbelief. Vicksen laughed.

”You will understand when age starts telling on you. ”

”Maybe hes really getting old. ” He thought as he looked compassionately at the self-proclaimed old man who was suspiring in peace.

”I didn ask you to chase me. ”

”Why did you run? ” He asked defiantly as though Lores was blameworthy for his frailness.

”Why did you chase after me? ” Lores retorted to prove that he was faultless. Both of them stared at each other for a while and then guffawed at the same time. They were having their own unceremonious meeting when Joanne joined them. She had been dancing round the column of fire.

”What do you two think of my dancing skills? ” She said, grinning in expectation. Lores and Vicksen exchanged glances in alarm. How were they going to tell her that they weren paying attention to the rituals?

”Eh, sister Joanne. ” Lores began in a cool tone. That was his usual method of calling her whenever he wanted to be polite. ”We didn see you dancing because weve not been paying attention to the ongoing ceremony. ”

She shut her eyes underwhelmingly as a crease appeared between her eyebrows. She was about to rage so Vicksen had to clear himself out.

”W-we? What do you mean by that? ” He asked Lores in counterfeit confusion. ”I saw you dancing. You danced beautifully and more elegantly than the paid dancers in a royal banquet. ” He added with a convincing smile.

”You betrayer! ” Lores was yelling inside of him while his eyes glistened with shock.

”It doesn really matter how you dance. Its just a ritual that should be carried out. ” He opined thoughtfully with the hope that it could be more convincing than Vicksens lie. Joanne snorted with a a difficult-to-read smile.

”I know you. You
e always against me. You
e simply saying that I can dance. ” Lores kept his head quizzically. His words failed to convince her even a little. No he can lose to his betrayer. He clicked his tongue and proceeded to try again.

”Youve misunderstood me again. I… ”

”The patriarch. ” The three of them scooted to join the crowd after Vicksens announcement left him unfinished with his statement. An elderly man in a sleeved tunic that extended to his ankles showed to announce the beginning of the wrestling contest. The crowd sidelined circularly while the two contestants stepped into the open space. The viewers were cheering the name their respective favourite.

One of the contestants was a thewy man whose beard was as thick as a frosty ice on a cake, while the other was normal in stature. The three of them were on the side of the man with a normal stature because he was Zyno Keslin, the father of Joanne and head of their household.

”Zyno! Castoph! Zyno! Castoph! ” The cheerers yelled with an aura of expectancy. The contestants locked their arms together and tried to suppress each other like two bulls locking horns in a challenge.

”Dad you can do it! ” Joanne cried from the sideline. As if Zyno was motivated by these words, he gripped his rivals groin and tried to put him down.

As the two men were wrestling, howls of wolves echoed repeatedly from somewhere in the woods but not very far from the village.

”The wolves are here! Run for your lives! ” People began to announce. In no time, a pack of hungry and angry wolves stormed Vatmos. The boisterous cheers and turned into incessant screams and wails.

”The night immortal has forsaken us. ” A voice called out. Lores glanced around in amazement. People were scattering headlong. He couldn find Joanne and so he began pondering where to run to. Vicksen rushed towards the column of fire with a big stick and began to scatter it in an effort to scare away as many wolves as he could. Brave men with bows and arrows, stakes and blades joined the mission of tackling the wolves.

Lores found himself dashing toward the rear of the village. Suddenly, he tripped and fell. The rustling of leaves and distant cry of people made him realize he was already in the forest.

While in distress, he heard the growl of something behind a trunk. In the process of suppressing his laboured breath, a grey wolf materialized. It advanced toward him with a slow gait and a fearsome growl that relayed a sense of intimidation. Vertical wrinkles became visible on his forehead as he flinched with panic.

”Oh no! Its the alpha male. ” His fidgeting mind jumped into a hasty conclusion. He could feel his heart throbbing abnormally. It came to him that if he succumbed to the threat of this imperious wolf, that night might be his last day on earth. Instantly, every ounce of courage began to summon within him. He brazenly got to his feet and maintained eye contact with the wolf.

As they were combating with their eyes to see who would shrink away first, a piercing sound emitted into the air. The wolfs fiery glowy eyeballs rolled up in arcs as its savage snarl converted to a deep groan of pain. A figure with a sword half stained with blood ran to meet him.

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