On the most eastern side of the Zao kingdom stands a small wooden fort.The fort has been molded and cracked under the endless tide of seasons. It has seen generations of guards stand behind its rotting walls and under its fleeting hay roofs. The forts foundation stands right beside the river that marks the edge of the zao kingdom, the river separates the kingdom from the unexplored Eastern Mountains. The small wooden fort stands to protect the kingdom from any unwanted foreigners, though it has spent its whole life doing nothing more than listening to rumors and tales of monsters.
"God this heat is killing me" the German Shepherd said as his fur starts to stick to the leather armour "we've only been here for 3 hours and I'm already covered in sweat". "Just take it off" says his bulldog partner sitting there on the railing of the bridge, his leather armour, shirt, sword and shield laying by his side. "No offence, but I rather be armoured in case anything comes out of that forest" says the German Shepherd as he did his best to stand up straight in this blazing heatwave.
"What are you talking about nothing has come out of this side of the kingdom since it was created over 2000 years ago" says the bulldog with a surprise look. "Yeah, but also every expedition we have sent into those mountains has never come back" says the German shepherd as he keeps a close eye on the forest. "Look on either side of the bridge, there is a large wooden tower with at least 3 lookouts inside them. We are the least likely to notice anything suspicious going on" says the bulldog while going to the river, splashing some water on his face and his bare chest. The German Shepherd annoyed with the lack of pride coming from his partner, chose to stop listening to him and pay more attention on the forest. Then at least the heat wouldn't be so unbearable.
Out of nowhere he sees a flick of light coming through the forest and turns to his partner. "There's something metallic in the forest" the shepherd says taking a closer look into the darkness. The forest is far too dense for the sun to shine all the way through, making it quite difficult to look deep within the forest itself. "Are you serious?" says the annoyed bulldog as he drags his feet to his partner's position and looks into the forest. "I don't see anything in..." but before the bulldog finishes his sentence a crackling explosion echoes inside the forest, sending both canines falling onto their backs. Just then they see a rock fly over them. Then they hear an explosion of power sounding as if an entire wooden building collapsed on to itself. They look behind them and see that the wooden door of the little fort they'd have built has been completely smashed to pieces leaving nothing behind but hinges. Turning towards the forest, they can only see eyes.
"Good work son" dad says, as he looks over the newly planted carrot crops. I and my father just planted a new crop for spring.My body is aching in pain and my fur is soaked in sweat. Dad points to a hill on the edge of the farm where a large tree sat on top. "Let's go take a break under the shade of the tree".I nod my head in agreement and we slowly made our way up the hill. Once we finally reach the tree, we both pressed our backs against the trunk and sat down in the shade.The wind is slowly picking up, giving me the breeze to cool off my body.
"You worked twice as fast as I did back when I was your age".
I look over to dad with a smile and reply "Two more months and I'll be 16 years old, which means I'll finally get my relic". Dad smiles and gets up to walk down the hill and grab his relic.
My father, though being a hamster is large for his size, some say as tall as a Cat. His body completely covered in brown fur except for his mouth and belly which are covered with white fur. His eyes are a darker shade of brown than his fur, and he wore a white cotton shirt with brown pants. As he came back I notice a rip on his white shirt, which by now is covered in dirt.
"Mom is not going to be happy about that". dad gives me a questioning look and asks "what.. the dirt"?
"No" I say pointing at the rip on his shirt. Looking down he sees the rip and makes a sour face, but quickly changed into a smile. "Will deal with that when we get back to the house for lunch, but for now let's talk about the relic your about to get". That's my father, never looks at the negative and doesn't worry about problems until he can deal with them.
"My son, as you know in the book of Zao it is said that every hamster is meant to work with nature as our goddess Auxano has intended. Thus whenever hamster turned 16 years old a priest will come to his or her door and give them the relic of Auxano. But as time went on, some hamsters chose a different line of work like your grandfather".
"Dad" I say with a reluctant sigh "I already know the story, you told it to me over 100 times".
"Please son let me say this one more time for it will be my last".
I knew that was a lie. dad loved telling this story and even if he stops telling me, he sure as hell will keep telling it to my younger sister. "Now where was I? Oh, right, the relic of Auxano. The relic of Auxano is a shovel with a wooden handle and a metal head. On the metal head, it bears the engraving of our goddess Auxano, just like mine" my father states as he is pointing to his relic shovel. The symbol of Auxano is an arrowhead held up by 3 separate lines that twist and turned like rivers. These 3 rivers start at the same point and separated upwards towards the arrowhead, one going into the center and the other two on each side
Before I can say how rusted his shovel has gotten over the years. I hear my mother shout over the newly planted crop; "James it's time for lunch". Dad stood up and yelled back "will be right there, just give us a minute Laura". About halfway down the hill, dad looks behind and says "well aren't you coming"?
"Just give me a minute I'm still a bit tired" I expressed with my muscles aching after working 6 hours straight on the field.
"If you think your sore now wait till you're my age, then you'll know how sore you can get" Dad jokingly says as he walks across the fields. I watch my father as he passed the crop and heads into the house.
I sat there enjoying the cool breeze while looking over the 6 fields we owned and across them, all the other farmers and their fields. I always did love this view. It was the highest point of this entire grassland making it easy to see all the farms surrounding it. But my favorite part was in the distance looking at the third-largest city in all of zao kingdom.Georgos may have been the third-largest city but it was the city that connected all the farms in the wetlands. Separated in half between the wide river that opened into Fire Lake; which is connected to another 7 rivers that expanded throughout the kingdom and further into the world. The city had a large 15 feet stone wall surrounding it with every 30 feet a tower stood along it. Out of all the large cities in Zea, it is the least defensible. After all it is the last city anybody believed would get attacked. It has a small garrison of guard dogs which dad said had forgotten all their training and now are nothing more than a bunch of drunken dogs. It is surprising that the walls are still standing from the constant damage from weather and the lack of maintenance.
I think I was 6 years old the first and only time I've ever gone into that city. The stone buildings, the small alleys and huge markets were just some of the examples of what I saw and what amazed me. Though the city is heavily populated with hamsters, dogs, cats, ferrets and bunnies all over the city. They wore nothing compared to us hamsters who wore simple shirts and pants while, carrying our farming tools we bought in the market to work on the fields or our vegetables, fruits and meats to be sold in the market.
I remember looking at the purple fabrics and fancy clothes of the cats. They were golden necklaces around their neck bearing the mark of their God PLOUTOS, which were 2 triangles facing on the opposite direction. One pointing up and the other down with 2 lines in between them, one going horizontal and the other vertical. To the cats it is a symbol of wealth, or as my father puts it, greed.
I remember looking at the stern looks from the ferrets that walked around in their blue robes bearing the mark of their God NOMIKO, which is 3 pillars joining together to hold up a diamond. To the ferrets it represented law and order. The ferrets always did believe to be just you must be cruel.
The rabbits walked around wearing their mixture of brown, green and white clothes, covered with all kinds of containers. Filled with liquids and herbs meant to ease any type of pain. On their backs they bear the green symbol of their goddess AGAPAO which was a long line that has two half circles underneath, one on top the other. On each end of these half circles there is a black circle and at the top of this line there is a horizontal line going across. To the rabbits this meant kindness and love making them care a lot for other animals, even other species than their own.Whenever a rabbit noticed that I was looking at them, they would quickly put on a smile and wave to me. They always did give me a sense of safety from their warm smiles and kind words.
I remember hiding behind my father the first time I saw a dog. The Husky was standing guard at the front door of the city, standing over 7 feet tall compared my father who was only 5. He wore brown leather armor with a large plate of metal over his chest. He wore leather pants with metal plates on his knees. One hand held the the handle of his sheathed sword and the other holding up his shield. On the red shield there was the symbol of their God DUNAMAI who stood for strength and pride. The symbol of DUNAMA is a two-sided axe with three spearheads coming out from the top, with the middle one going further up than the other two.They never seem to pay any attention to anyone who was passing by. They either would stand in front of the gate or walk along the streets talking amongst themselves, either telling stories or making jokes.
I sat there looking at the massive city when suddenly I hear my sister voice "Marco it is time for dinner and mom won't let me start eating until you get here. SO HURRY UP"!
"I'm coming right now Sam" I say as a stand up and start patting the dust off my pants. I began my slow walk back to the house. I felt an overwhelming joy out of watching my sister face as she got angry at how slow I am walking.
She was just 2 years younger than me. She had completely white fur that covered her entire body except for her ears which were black. Her eyes were just like dad's, dark brown. She was wearing her favourite red dress, with black flowers adorned on her chest and back. I was about a third of the way there when my mother stepped out covered in black fur, wearing an apron over her white cotton shirt and brown pants. She seemed quite annoyed until her blue eyes finally see me just a couple steps away from the house, which brought a smile to your face. Without a single word she turns around and goes straight back to the house. My sister following right behind her with a big smile on her expression, excited for dinner. After all, we were having her favorite, black bean soup.
Our house is no different than any other hamsters home. The walls are built out of thin layers of wood, that help keep out the heat of the sun, but during winter the wooden walls were never capable of stopping the cold from creeping in.The roof is made out of wood but has a thin layer of moss on top, so that no rain can seep through.There is a large amount of herbs growing around the house. Mom always loved using all kinds of herbs and spices in our food, though most the time it just made the food taste weird. Most of the herbs are just now starting to sprout out of the ground, and they are giving out all kinds of weird smells that by now I've gotten used to.
I walk into the wooden house through the front door and stand in front the main hall. There are 4 doors altogether, 2 on the left and two on the right and at the end a small window. To my left is a large mirror that mom uses to see how she looked. In the mirror I see my reflection. A hamster covered in brown and black fur, forming these lines and circles along my body and a pair of dark blue eyes. Just like mom and dad, I am wearing brown pants with a white T-shirt, but I have a red vest on. It was a gift from my sister on my 15thbirthday. I didn't much like red but she made it herself, so I didn't mind.
I walk through the first door on the left and entered the living room. The living room has two windows facing the front of the house and one window on the side. The back wall has a door going into the kitchen and beside it the only painting in the entire house.
A painting dad bought for mom as a gift for their 16thyear anniversary. It was a log cabin surrounded by dense forest. It is a reminder of her old home where she used to live Southeast of Georgos in the forests. Not far from here, we visit down there once in a while during winter to see my uncle Peter and his 2 daughters Jess and Jamie. In the middle of the living room there is a large wooden table with 4 chairs surrounding it. Their sat mom, dad, and Sam. Only till I set my eyes on the dinner table did I realize how hungry I am. I sat in front of a bowl of black beans soup with 2 slices of bread and a glass of water. I was about to eat but dad stopped me. "Son you know every time we start a new crop we make a prayer". Signing I put down my spoon waiting for my father to start the prayer. "O our beloved goddess AUXANO, please bless the fields that we have planted in and in return we will grow more crops for you and for the animals of Zao". "For the mother and her children" we all say at the same time finishing the prayer.
I start gulping down my meal. It wasn't my favorite but, when you're hungry everything tastes good. "Dad?, mom?" asks my sister. I look up to see Sam and I am surprised to see she hasn't even touched her food. For some reason she just held her head down at the soup, not making any eye contact with anyone. Dad, mom and I look at each other questioningly. Mom asks "is there something wrong with the food"? My sister shook her head. "Are you feeling sick" dad inquires with a worried look. Sam again shook her head. My father suddenly grew a big smile and says "are you jealous of your brother getting his relic". "No dad" said Sam. "Then what is it" dad asks with a curious look on his face. Sam looks up to dad and says "I don't want to be a farmer". He laughs and says "you don't have to be a farmer. Sam you can be a woodcutter, a florist, groundskeeper, hell you can even be a minor if you want. Your brother here will take good care of the farm, I know it". Sam looks up to dad and says "I want to be a soldier".
The room fell quiet. We are all surprised. "Why do you want to be a soldier honey?" mom asks with a worried look on her face. "Because I don't want to work with plants. I don't want to spend the rest of my life cutting down trees or planting seeds". "Sam you can't become a soldier! Only dogs that are the children of DUNAMAI can become soldiers. It was cute when you were younger and wanted to play soldiers, but this isn't a game with sticks". Dad stands from his chair "and what if they do let you in then you become a soldier. You know what will happen. You'll be sent up north into the mountains to fight against the northern kingdoms. Against dears, moose, lynx, wolves, and bears; you think a hamster could fight them"?
Dad says, keeping his voice levelled but quite loud. Sam just sits there looking down at her soup, neither eating it nor walking away. We'd sit there for a couple minutes in awkward silence. Mom and Dad keep staring at Sam with worried looks. A couple minutes later the silence is broken by a sound in the distance. My father immediately looks out the window wide-eyed. I look at him and say "what's that?" "Quickly everyone we have to get to the city" mom says and starts heading for the door. "Why, what's going on?" Sam asks with a worried look on her face. Dad turns around and says "that horn is sounded when the Eastern border Fort is under attack". I look at my father as we are running out the front door and ask "how far is the eastern border fort from here"? Looking over his shoulder dad replies "not far enough".