A small stream of sweat made it’s way slowly, irritatingly, down his spine. He shifted his leather jerkin hoping the light wool shirt he wore beneath it would soak up the sweat. Dark auburn hair was bound tightly at the nape of his neck by a stretch of fine leather and fell in a complex, five-strand braid to the small of his back. The breeze coming at him from across the valley whipped the dark cloak hanging from his broad shoulders.
He took a deep breath filling his lungs with the clean air and his nose with the sweet, fresh scents that belonged to the world above ground. Being above ground made his kin nervous and once they were accosted by the stark daylight and the expansive cobalt sky, all they could think about was going back into the Mountain.
Turning from the valley below that stretched far beyond the range of his dark green eyes, he fixed his gaze on his home. Shale Mountain was part of the range that the Men had christened Verre Lure or The Glass Range. He liked to believe that they were given the name due to the jagged line they tore into the horizon and for the multitude of colors that were reflected by the sun on it’s peaks, but he knew the reason was far more complex than the aesthetic.
It was the reason his family and the other Havad had always lived under the constant shadow of threat. “Glass” the Men called it when they very well knew it was stones. Precious stones. Some of the Men had even nick-named the range the “diamond-hills”.
He was very unlike any Havad in that he frequently loved to come out of the mountain and look over the peaceful valley. It was a patchwork of a half a hundred shades of green and brown and gold, and each sunrise and sunset brought a new spectrum of colors to flood the valley. Thinking again of the journey he must take, Javel turned away from the Mountain and let his gaze soak up the vision of land before him. He closed his eyes and let the soft breeze cover his entire body.
Opening his eyes, he looked down at himself. He took in his stature, his small hands, small feet, small torso, short legs and short arms. A smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. We are small he thought but we are greater men.
Javel heard Milal calling his name from the entry of the Mountain and knew it was time to return home. Home. Why was it the Shale never felt like home? His family, his friends and even those he wouldn’t consider a friend all preferred the immense under-ground cities tied together in a network of tunnels beneath the Glass range. They felt freedom in the ground and suffocation above it, when all he felt was a weight. Suffocation in the ground and elation whenever he could get even just a glimpse of the sky.
His mother always said that Elshin had carved him from a special stone. She said it was his destiny to be the voice of the Havad to the world. But she died in his eighth spring and no one else understood his anxiety.
Milal called his name again, hastily this time “Javel!” his nervousness was apparent, “Stop staring at the sky boy, and get back into the Mountain. The sky is resilient, I am positive it will still be here on the morrow.”
Javel smiled again. Yes. That was a guarantee, the sky was always there.
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