By Ryan St and Stephanie Lauren
Spoken by Kavi, an Akavar Shaman:
Soon, you will be Akavars, or you will be dead to us. Don't be fools - you think you're Akavars now? I see a man, he has gold skin like me, he is tall like me - is he an Akavar. No! He is a tall Dac. Are you fools? An Akavar is part of an Akavan. An Akavar has hunted to earn a name for his Akavan. An Akavar is a warrior, as strong as any in The Wastes but fighting and dying among the cities. An Akavar has no city nor kingdom, but we dwell here, along the river, and when we travel to the cities the wise know us as fierce mercenaries and breeders of dogs.
When you were 8? You remember: I gathered you myself. I have this duty, because I see whole Akavans where you see a handful of separate children. Since then, you have eaten, slept, been praised and beaten together. Now, you are 14 years, and we will see if you are Akavars, or beasts. Have your families made you strong in the arts of war? Will you survive without the comforts of your roof above and soft bed below? I see how brave you look, and your fear too.
We once lived on an island, and ravenous Gaugau ate our bodies and spirits. His island was barren, for Gaugau had eaten all the good spirits that make the land fertile. A boy like you, Ak, escaped Gaugau’s clutches with his four brothers, and they returned with mighty spirits to defeat the demon. The Akavars came from these people. When we wandered The Wastes Ak began the Naming Hunts, and we hold to them even now, even here on the river.
There - you hear the chanting, and the drum that shakes the ground. Storm spirits are summoned to the tent. Soon you will not seem like your fathers sons - you will be beasts, and no Akavar will aid you. You will be like apes that need to be driven off, or killed. You will be this way until you return with the beast that will be your name. Are you going to be the Akavan of the Little Duck? Perhaps the Akavan of the Scared Rabbit! This hunt will bring you shame or glory - are you fierce like a wolf, strong like a bear, smart like a hawk? We will see. And if you do not return then you are dead. Even in the cities you would be dead to us, cursed, with no soul and no family. So your fear is good, your fear will make your belly fill with fire and tighten your grip on your knives. If your return to us, with the head worthy of your name, you will be Akavars, like Ak who beat Gaugau, or Meshec who stormed Yi'ersh, or your fathers, who have killed many men.
The smoke rises, the tent is ready. Go!