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This week's content release is a lore piece by Forsaken Studios writer Kerryanne Leach. Set among the Onakawan people of Nupoanqa, it tells the story of a young man's right of passage into adulthood.

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My stomach growls like a hungry banaak. I haven't eaten in over a day. But nor have any of the others, so I bite my lip and stifle a groan. The old women sit as petrified wood in the gloom, their chanting filling the hut. I strain my eyes to make out their faces - my grandmother will be among them - but I can't tell one from the other. The dying fire offers nothing but ambiguity.
I steal a glance to my left. Ratu squats there, looking as uncomfortable as I do. The paint on his face, daubed by my own hand this morning, has dried in crusty swirls of crimson, blue and yellow, and his body is a sea of murky brown. I wonder if I look as strange as he does. The women change their chant, quickening its pace, and a whisper of fear ripples through my heart, through the hearts of the other children. It is time. I take a deep, slow breath. The dried paint on my chest cracks, rife with canyons.
Drums ring out in the darkness, accompanied by bone horns. I can't see who is playing, and the chanting grows in intensity. It speaks of Dao'Gharan, warrior without equal, he who completed the Great Task. Tonight we walk in his footsteps, from childhood to adulthood. Tonight we become Onakawa.
The Headman appears out of the darkness and Ratu screams. The Headman is clad in animal skins and wears the great head of the banaak, its eye sockets burning red with the captive spirit within. It seems to blend with his form, Headman and banaak becoming one.
Someone scatters a handful of kinu leaves across the flames, and plumes of cloying smoke rise from the embers. A second handful follows, then a third, and the leaves swell and burst. The air fills with glowing yellow spores, igniting like stars in the darkness, and we inhale.
My mind blooms, and I reel. The Headman is speaking, but I can't understand him. The air is filled with light. I look at Ratu - the smears of paint are moving, undulating across his face and body. I see the fear in his eyes and force myself to speak.
"Let go of fear, brother." My voice is cavernous; I barely recognize it. "Do not deny your heart. Let the spirit enter into your soul."
Ratu blinks and nods and tries to swallow his fear. My heart fills with love for my brother, for my people, and I fight back tears.
The banaak prowls between our transfixed bodies. The drumming ceases and only the low drone of the longpipe sounds, vibrating up through my body, settling in my chest. Another handful of leaves, another wave of starbursts. I inhale again, more deeply this time, and the world falls away. For a moment I am unformed, malleable, alone in a dark void.
Slowly, sensation returns. It's solid underfoot, and mud oozes between my toes. I gingerly step forward, wincing as twigs stab the arches of tentative feet. A breeze flits across my skin, chilling my sweat to rivulets of cold silt. I can smell the mulch of leaf and bark, taste rain in the air, scent the tang of canopy mists. Yet all is blackness. All is silent. I am blind, deaf, and I struggle not to panic. I stand immobile, concentrating on the silence so my being, not my ears, can hear the jungle that lies all around.
Movement. I sense movement ahead, something low to the ground, padding through the thick leaves. It is soft, unthreatening, and I feel its radiance, a warm blue hue calling me forward. I take a purposeful stride. I will trust in myself and follow.
As I walk, the muddy ground gives way to a carpet of tall grasses. They tickle my calves and slide between my toes, bursts of citrus sweetness assailing my nostrils with each step. The air is full of minute flying things; I can feel the waft of their wings as they tumble and swirl about my head. I've never been beyond the jungle's edge, to the south where lush pastures stretch from the far bank of the river mouth to the sea, but I know this is where I stand. I tilt my head toward the sky, stretching out my arms and reveling in the gentle winds brushing against my skin, taunting my redundant senses. I laugh, drunk on this new sensation, and make my way to the water's edge.
The river welcomes me, but no sooner have I given myself to its embrace, when the torrents pick me up and hurl me against rocky outcrops and exposed roots. Stabbing my body with cold, the water thrusts me down into the gravel bed, forcing silt into my mouth and nose, blocking the air from my lungs. I can't breathe. And neither can I swim to the surface; the current is too strong and no matter which way the water turns me, it's as though I fight the flow at every turn.
I let myself lie flat, spreading my weight, letting my body find the troughs that guide it to deeper waters, calmer waters. Once there, I wave my arms above my body and kick to bring myself upright, treading water. Still unaware of direction, I move across the flow; if it is indeed a river, there must be a bank.
I feel a change in the waters around me and snap to a stop. Floating in black silence once more, I force my will to reach out and search for the creature that has broken the rhythm of the flow; I know it's there, can feel it circling, feel its body causing ripples against the tide. It's big, slow, lying across the surface. The stench of rotting fish assaults me and I know what I am facing. Manaq, the great river serpent.
Fifteen feet of digestive system and teeth, the manaq moves silently across the water in search of its quarry. I fill my lungs and dive back beneath the waters, pushing towards the hoped-for bank with all the speed my muscles can afford.
In a heartbeat I find myself plowing through not the inhospitable depths, but the sodden, leaf litter of the forest floor. I can smell running kaob sap and the blood of a recently-killed pig. Patting the ground around me my hand lights on a particularly thick leaf. It's far larger than my hand, smooth like tanned hide. I fold it until it splits along its length, and raise it to my mouth, running my tongue along its exposed flesh. Honey. It tastes of honey.
I lower the leaf from my mouth. The irrithi are known to prey upon animals that flock to the sweet plant in this season. The pig - was it the victim of an irrithi ambush? Could more of the creatures linger nearby? I know I should edge forward and determine the state of the kill, but that would surely alert any irrithi.
Instead I wait, try to become one with my surroundings, sense any sign of movement - vibrations in the forest floor, the slightest change in the air, anything to pinpoint the threat. At the same time I scrabble at my feet, searching for a rock or branch. My fingers find their target: cold, hard stone, moss-covered on one side smooth to the touch. It fits perfectly in the cup of my hand. I crouch, ready to spring and, as the ground shakes with the impact behind me, I spin on my heel and hurl the rock where my mind's eye directs. I feel the beast stumble, then feel no more.
When I open my eyes they sting as if I've been beset by bees. The air is filled with swirling blue smoke, acrid and choking, the dried grasses I lie upon scourge my flesh, piercing like a thousand thorns, and my limbs feel as though they've been wrapped in hot wax. I burn, yet it is a pleasurable sensation. I itch and long to rake back the caked, crusty flesh to expose the fresh tingling skin beneath. To emerge in the new.
I open my eyes and see Ratu smiling at me. There is no fear in his eyes. Only the light of the spirit. I know it because I recognize it - that same light burns within me. When I close my eyes I can see it. When I cover my ears I can hear it. I am no longer blind, or deaf. Now I see with the spirit's eyes, hear with its ears. Now I am a man. Now I am Onakawa.


Wow, that's quite well written! Very good work.

So can we expect our player characters to get high for days and go on a psychedelic rite of passage in lieu if a traditional tutorial sequence? ;D

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Who can possibly say!? ;)

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