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"INITIATING INITIATION", PERSONAL LOG, SD 201801.23
Lt. Cmdr. Relok
. It was the height of summer in the southern hemisphere of Vulcan and the forest already steamed with humidity though it was early morning. The region of Chetzoplan wasn't like the metropolis of ShirKahr, the place most offworlders automatically thought of when they envisioned Vulcan - a broiling hot volcanic desert. Instead, Chetzoplan was a cloud forest, high in the mountains of the equatorial tropics of the planet Vulcan, and perpetually bathed in mists both rising from the ground and blowing in from the ocean to the west.
. Twelve-year-old Relok rose with the sun, as was the usual habit, struggling to control both his excitement and his anxiety. Today was the day. Today he would begin the initiation to the Order of the Sehlat. If he survived, and managed to acquire a fang of a sehlat, he would be a member of the Order. If he did not survive, well, he'd be dead, and if he could not acquire the fang, he'd be a failure and he might as well be dead, especially since both his mother and his sister had successfully passed this initiation ritual when they had performed it.
. After donning the ritual outfit - a pair of thick leather pants, high-topped leather boots laced nearly to his knees, and a linen shirt crossed with a pair of bandolier-like straps with nearly a dozen small pouches (all empty) - he gathered his long hair and tied it into a tail at the base of his neck. Once secure, he carefully arranged several long, colorful feathers taken from the tail of a parrot-like bird native to the region, into his hair. He had been told that the feathers served a purpose, to frighten off the more timid predators and provide heat dissipation from his scalp, but he was sure they were more likely just a throw-back to the ancient times and were purely decoration.
. He checked himself in a mirror and almost smiled but stifled the emotional response just as his older sister entered the chamber. She studied him a moment then said, "It appears you have properly dressed. Mother is waiting outside along with the other priests. Here, you should eat something before you go." She handed him a piece of food which was pureed fruits spread onto a sheet of baked grains mixed with honey and then rolled into a hand-held treat. He took it obediently and bit into it, a low "Mmm" escaped him and his sister scowled at him a moment before her mouth slanted into a smirk as she turned about and escorted him from the room.
. Slightly chagrined at his emotional slip, he quickly stuffed the remainder of the roll into his mouth, chewing as he reached for his dagger lying on a small table nearby, slipping it into the bandoliers across his chest and following his sister from the room.
. Outside, his father stood to one side dressed in his usual outfit, grey pants and long white shirt. He wasn't a member of the Order and so wasn't part of the ritual. He stood stoically out of the way, his hands clasped in front of him and his face expressionless, but his eyes gazed intently at his son and seemed to glisten.
. Relok gave his father a crisp nod as he strode past. Torek's nod was slower but no words were exchanged. Relok continued and approached the group of six priests in their hooded robes. His mother stood slightly apart from them, her hood thrown back. She scowled fiercely at her son. Here she was High Priestess and not mother.
. Relok stopped in the semi-circle of priests, dropped to one knee and bowed his head. In a moment, his mother spoke. "Thou, Relok, son of Torek and T'Pen, doth accept the quest of the Fang?"
. "I do."
. "Thou knowest the risks?"
. "I do."
. "Thou dost swear to follow the restrictions our Honored Ancestors have placed upon thee?"
. "I do."
. "Then we annoint thee with the Sacred Paints, making the signs of our Honored Ancestors. May they guide thee and protect thee and lead thee to the sehlat!" She dipped her fingers into a bowl and drew several ornate signs on his forehead and cheeks with the bright paints. Then, surreptitiously with her other hand, she kissed her fingers and pressed them to his forehead and gave him her "secret smile", the barely noticeable brightening of her eyes and up-turn of the corners of her mouth. In his mind, Relok heard her voice, "Live long and prosper, my son."