Part 2: Fire - Chapter 6

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I'm in trouble now.

Dorac strapped his dagger to his right thigh in proper clan-style and made sure the tassels hung correctly over the top of the scabbard, the green one laid between the two red. It was the first thing his birth mother would look for. He made sure every item of clothing was correctly in place. Of course, the pride of the clan was at stake as well, but the absolutely correct display of clan regalia was of paramount importance in his mother's eyes.

He walked out of the room and down a long sloping corridor of white stone to where his mother and sister sat ready for him. The eyes of Sasha-Dorac Maru Serria Elsibala flickered from the dagger on his leg up and over her son's clothing and then up to make sure his hair was brushed in the appropriate style. He'd taken more than usual care with the cut of his beard, too. It had been necessary to consult the clan archives to ensure the trim he'd given it the night before didn't offend traditional styles.

'You pass,' she said.

'Yes, Maru.'

The dagger on Maru's thigh was encrusted with gems and the hilt was traced delicately in fine platinum wire. It outshone even Hera Rani's weapon, and Dorac couldn't help but feel a little jealous of the thing. Perhaps one day he might do something honourable enough to earn such a blade. Of course, that was problematic now—it was more likely his own blade would be taken from him for his stupidity in shooting at the police officer two nights ago, for failing to protect his sister, for allowing Maddy to remain outside during a riot. For so many things.

'It is time,' said Maru, and rose. A fraction of a second later, Hera Rani also stood, falling in behind her mother as the older woman proceeded out of the door. Dorac took his place at the rear. Another long corridor, and down further into the lowest part of the house, the place with most honour, the assembly room of the clan. Some obscure cousin of Dorac's—he forgot the boy's name—opened the door and Dorac bowed to the assembled clan-parents sitting in an assortment of armchairs at the far end of the room. Cool white stone surrounded them and the sound of a tinkling fountain came from the underground fore-court.

The Clan-father who sat in the centre chair acknowledged Dorac's bow with a wave of his hand. He was both Dorac's Clan-father and his semi-brother, and a powerful man within the influential clan of Sasha. His black beard flowed across his chest, styled in an intricate pattern of tight plaits that looked impressive but painful.

'You are Dorac Malanu Rhudana Landa Misentu-Rish Heruda Mistana Elsilunda of the Sasha clan,' said the Clan-father.

'I am.'

He remained standing, as was required, while Hera Rani and Maru were permitted to sit, since they were female and therefore theoretically outranked every male in the room. Of course, it was a ticklish matter when the Clan-father was there. Protocol was turned upside-down when assorted mothers and fathers gathered together on clan business.

After Maru had taken her seat with a jangling of jewellery Dorac removed his dagger from its sheath and held it out before him, hilt towards the row of clan-parents, the point aimed at his heart in ceremonial sacrifice.

'I offer my retuka as a clan blade to my parents who raised me and who benefit me,' he intoned. He'd had to look the words up that morning on his fone. It had been ages since he'd last uttered them. 'May it be used in their service in a way that honours the Sasha clan and the Dorac family.'

And that was the end of the ceremony. He breathed a little easier as the frown on the Clan-father's face dissolved. Even Maru seemed to sit back as if allowing herself to relax.

Dorac managed to raise his eyes to look directly at the Clan-father, who breathed loudly for a while in the silence that followed. Then he shifted in his seat, smiled from under his beard, and nodded.

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