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When a person reaches a certain age in my clan, boy or girl, they must go on
a journey. This journey proves what type of person they are. If they come back home
alone, they are weak. If they come back with the goal, they are brave and intelligent. The
goal of the journey is to capture and tame a forest creature. This creature will be their
companion for life, and after they unite with their creature, they cannot exist without
There is a legend that tells of four men and five creatures. In ancient clans, four
different men captured and tamed four mythical creatures. These creatures were the most
powerful and unique creatures to have ever existed, and they were also immortal until
bonded with their person. Those men and their creatures are long gone, but are
considered heroes in many clans today.
The legend goes on to say that the last creature, Nova, was never caught and is the
most powerful and dangerous of the five creatures. Every boy and girl dreams of being
the one to tame it.
These were the thoughts that were running through my mind the day I set off on
my journey. Clothed in the exotic Caro skin, which is tough on the outside but soft on the
inside, I stood outside my family's mud and straw hut.
"Here is your bag, Kaya. It was mine when I went on my journey. I put food and water in it, and I sharpened your knife, and I fixed your shoes, and....," my mother faltered. Her chocolate brown eyes seemed to melt when she looked at me, and her tanned face was creased with worry.
I gently lifted her face to my own and said, "I'll be alright. You did this, and so did father. It's something I must do. I will see you soon."
After giving my mother and father a final hug, I turned and faced the foreboding village gate. Lining the dirt path to my destiny were the people from my village. As I walked past them, their encouragements and advice slipped past my ears so all I could hear was the silent pulsating of my heart. Before I knew it, the familiar wood-smoke smell of my village disappeared, and the scent of sweet flowers mingled with lurking danger replaced it. I was on my own.
I hoisted my dark green bag higher on my shoulder and pushed into the vibrating forest. The loud drone of crickets pummeled my ears as I began to look for tracks that could lead me to my goal.
The leaves and plants around me shook and hummed with life, and the blue sky broke through the thick canopy. As my feet carried me deeper into the forest, the mood changed, and it got darker, quieter, and more sinister. Branches reached out and pulled on my clothes, and unseen roots tripped me. Shadows jumped out at me at every turn. Every once in a while I heard an animal shriek in agony, so I knew I wasn't alone.
When dark finally descended, I was forced to stop and make camp. After making a small fire, I hungrily ate some strips of dried meat and gulped down some icy water. I cleared a small area on the hard earth and settled down to sleep.
Just as the sun was beginning to wake, a blood-curdling cry jolted me from my
slumber. Large black birds flew from a clump of trees about 40 yards away from me, and a frightened hare scampered past me through the dewy grass. Sensing danger, I quietly unsheathed my knife and moved to a standing position. Using the technique my father taught me, I crept like a ghost toward the source of the awful cry I had heard. All of the forest seemed frozen like ice, for nothing moved.
I smelled the rusty odor of blood before I saw it. In the middle of a tiny clearing lay a full grown male Caro, it's entrails spilling out of it. I looked around, but its killer was nowhere to be seen. The first thing that crossed my mind was that the unseen predator had to be big and fierce, because Caros don't go down without a fight. Looking down at my Caro skin clothes, I shuddered and felt thankful that the creature hadn't decided to prey on me.
Even though I was scared, I was even more curious, so I crept out into the open to investigate the Caro, putting myself in full view of the killer. Hearing the bushes rustle behind me, I immediately whipped around and got a glimpse of the beast's strange purple eyes staring at me through the foliage. My hands grew cold and I almost dropped my knife. I had never heard of an animal with purple eyes. I had no idea what kind of beast I was up against.
Every time I heard rustling I spun around to face my opponent, but it had already moved to another spot. Before I knew it, I was so dizzy that the dark trees and bushes blurred into one and I fell to the ground.
Suddenly an agonizing pain sliced through my head, and I realized the beast was yanking on my long braid. I quickly sliced of half of my thick brown hair and got back on my feet. Across the clearing the beast came out of hiding, and I observed this strange animal.
It looked a lot like a black panther, only twice as big. Its tail was exceptionally long, and it's large ears twitched at the slightest sound. I noticed some strange ridges along its side, and as if sensing my curiosity, it showed me what they were. It spread out large wings that had the unique pattern of a monarch butterfly underneath, and I gasped and stumbled a few steps backwards. Silently laughing at me, the large beast bared its sharp teeth. The last thing I noticed before it lunged at me was a strange pulsating purple glow on each of its massive paws.
Adrenaline rushed through me and I rolled, but not soon enough, because its long tail slapped me in the face. Feeling a large welt beginning to form, I took off running, and it lunged after me. Ahead I saw a shallow cave, and I hid in the bushes beside it. The beast, so intent on catching me, ran straight into the cave. Then, in a moment of sheer bravery, I leapt in the entrance, and found myself face to face with the beast. Its purple eyes gazed intently into mine, and then down at my knife, which was pointing straight at its heart. The tables had turned.
The creature did a strange thing. It bowed before me, as if to say, you win. I stood in a trance as the creature nudged my hand with its nose. For some reason, I instantly knew to lift my hands up high over my head. The beast stood, towering over me, and placed its glowing paws on my shaking hands. A tingling feeling coursed through me, and then a sudden surge of power rushed through my veins, into every part of my being. When it was over, I knew I had found and tamed my creature. Then, on instinct, I looked at my hands and noticed they were glowing slightly purple. A distant memory lodged itself out of my mind and forced itself into being remembered.
"When the men united with their creatures, their hands glowed with the color of their creature's paws, signifying their special bond," my grandfather had told me when I was younger.
The realization hit me. I hadn't tamed just any creature. I had tamed the last of the five most powerful creatures in the world. I stared at my new companion in wonder, and suddenly I knew everything about her, as if we'd known each other forever. Somehow I just knew she wanted me to get on her back, and so I cautiously obeyed. I fit perfectly, and as she started running, I didn't even slip. We were made for each other.
She began running faster and faster, and I was having the time of my life, until I saw we were heading towards a cliff. I screamed at her to stop, but no matter how loud I was, she kept going. Closing my eyes, I felt her lunge into the air and heard the whoosh of opening wings. I slowly opened my eyes, and once they were open, I couldn't get myself to close them again. Dancing all around me were marshmallow clouds, and beneath me I could see the world spread out like a map. My loud laughs resonated through the air. I felt like I was a queen, and the whole world was mine.
We flew for a few more hours, and then I decided it was time to return to my village. As we descended, people came out of their homes in droves and stared at us in wonder. I saw my mother crying tears of joy, held tightly by my father. My friends began clapping for me, and soon we were shrouded in a thunderous roar of applause. It was then that I realized. I had left home a regular girl. I had come home a hero.