Terna was dreaming. She knew this because the edges of her vision were just a tad bit blurry and the light of the sun shined just a little too bright through a sky empty of any clouds.
She also knew because some terrified part of her understood that, somewhere, she was being imprisoned or trapped, and that her mind had fled away from the horror of it all and come here to this place of memory.
The tribe. They were Tribe Ector Sanne, one of the NoMort tribes that lived scattered throughout the world. They wore the term NoMort with pride, beaming on the occasions when beings from the other worlds and places came to do trade with them, or to even just converse.
They had many homes, the people of the tribe. They moved with the food and the scavenge, seeking out treasures buried throughout the wastes, often battling large bugs and beasts that could not have been of this world.
In her dream Terna was walking, smiling, carrying on her wiry back a pack that contained all of the knickknacks and gadgets that she held most dear.
There was a pre-war dolly named Seriph, her best friend when she had been much littler, and now a constant reminder of the way things had been for her people — and of the destruction the BuyMort had visited upon them.
There was a pair of copper earrings and a single nose gem as well. She didn’t wear them and she wouldn’t until she married, but she treasured them well and imagined she could hear their clink as she marched forward with her tribe, seeking the next place of residence.
And there was a KinderTite Sleeping Bag, Thermal Constant, never be too cold or too hot again with KinderTite Sleeping Bags. Guaranteed in even the most extreme of environments. 400,000 morties, 4.3 stars.
The last one was of the BuyMort. She could tell because it would always try to entice her into its embrace with that mental rundown of what the item was, and how many of the morties it would demand in exchange.
She smirked at the BuyMort, knowing that so long as she remained beyond its temptations, it would remain powerless to harm her.
It did bother her a little, though, to use such an item. She imagined what the exchange must have been like, how some poor Hobb had given into the charms of the demon and given away their soul to the eternal plasma of their sun all in exchange for night time comfort.
She shuddered. It was a large sacrifice. She sighed and silently gave thanks to the hobb who had done so, beseeching the great above to take mercy on the man or woman whose soul had been lost.
“What is on your mind, little one?” her father asked. He marched beside her, the weight of their family tent and most of their belongings humped onto his back. He looked like a hunchback, so great was his burden. But he grinned and stomped forward without complaint, his once-broken pugnose dominating her vision as he reached massively thick arms to pick her up.
How her father could bear so much weight was a thing she could never understand.
Behind them, her mother tsked and laughed. “One day, Jayrod, you will break your back doing such things. And then I’ll just have to marry a Grangran beast to take your place!”
Jayrod snorted. “You’d be doing yourself a favor, Jarna. You ever see this mug? It’s hideous.”
Terna smiled. “I think you are very handsome, father.” He held her cradled in his arms, their stiff black fur acting as a sort of bed for her. “I was thinking about the BuyMort, and how I have one of its artifacts.”
Jayrod nodded. “The items are graves to the souls that bought them. I understand. But there really is no need to worry about it now. So long as you do not contact the BuyMort, you will be safe.”
“The items are useful, so give thanks to those who sacrificed themselves to get them,” Jarna scolded. “It was a foolish sacrifice, but it was one that brought you great comfort.”
Terna nodded and sighed again. Jayrod put her back down onto her own two feet, and the three of them stopped walking, looking around at the vista before them.
Tribe Ector Sanna, Nation of the Tundra, numbered almost a full thousand when they all came together like this. As they tended to do at the start of each season.
This year, at the start of Spring, all of the families had come together to the Hot Springs of the Moradesh. Here, in the chalky shallow waters of the heated Moraine, the rites of passage into adulthood would be undertaken.
Each of the children who had survived a full 16 cycles would pledge themselves free of the taint of the BuyMort and promise to all to remain so until their dying days. Then they would be dipped in the waters and baptized into the name of the All-Bright and their coven of goodliness.
The sun glimmered over the top of the lake, and all around the grasses and trees of summer waved in the breeze, bugs humming through them, and an abundance of hanging fruits swaying invitingly.
“This is going to be a grand three days,” Jarna said, putting meaty hands on stout hips. Terna was never sure how she had come from such thick and stout people, but she was glad they were as they were. The two giants were strong and nothing in the whole world could defeat them.
They were solid and powerful. Anything that even tried would be foolish to do so.
“May I go find my friends?” Terna asked, excitement pumping through her.
Jayrod dumped his massive bundle to the ground and laughed merrily.
“The joys and energy of having to only carry half a pack, hey?” her father said. “Yeah, go on. My parents didn’t make me work on my Ascension Day, and I won’t make you work either.”
“Lucky girl,” Jarna said, dropping her own pack. Jayrod raised an eyebrow and she swooped at him, tackling him and wrestling him into her arms.
Terna giggled. “I can’t wait to do that with my own husband.”
Jayrod growled, but the jovial tone to it showed he was joking. Mostly.
“Go play with your friends already, Terna,” Jarna said, her eyes twinkling. “And no boys!”
Terna ran off to find the banners of her friends. And above, the sky faded to darkness, and the memory fell away to consciousness.