Obsidian Command

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The Skull Challenge (Background)

Posted on 07 Dec 2022 @ 12:41am by Lieutenant Bayre Da'Razi

Mission: M3 - Into the Deep
Location: Da'Razi Estate, Kerelian Homeworld
694 words - 1.4 OF Standard Post Measure

The skull was a work of art. Regifted by their scholarly uncle, Armonys, to Bayre and his brothers on their eighth birthday, it was carved from wood and made more remarkable because it was anatomically correct. In the minds of eight-year-old boys, especially ones whose current obsession was all things pirate, it was a highly coveted treasure. Armonys, who taught history at the university, had no children of his own and could be forgiven for not understanding the nature of boys and presents. Experience had taught Bayre’s parents the wisdom of making sure birthday party guests understood that presents were not expected.

As was customary, the boys sang their thanks acapella for their uncle’s gift. Kerelians embraced music as an intrinsic part of their culture and with the six of them, they blended well in flawless harmony. There had been many jokes over the years about the number six and its usefulness. Bullies avoided them and they all had their own cheering section for performances and team events. Yes, six was a magic number in their household. The Da’Razi sextuplets had found a sort of local fame the year they were born; journalists and reporters kept tabs on them as they grew to manhood. They shared everything – a massive bedroom, toys, even clothes – by choice and without complaint.

The skull was sent to their bedroom. Now, over the years, cribs and playpens gave way to six sleeping alcoves built into the walls with shelving on either end of the bed and drawers built in underneath. And always, when they returned to their parents’ home, they slept in that same room. Stars had been painted on the alcove ceiling above each bed so that, at night, it seemed as though they were sleeping outdoors; there was a built-in shelf that could hold books with recessed lighting underneath for each of them and an old stone fireplace that dominated one wall. It was there, on the mantle, that the skull was placed by their mother.

Now, above the mantle were six shelves, each inscribed with their name, and it was on those shelves that the boys placed things that mattered to them. Each of them had a wooden shelf, inscribed with their name, over the fireplace in their bedroom. The contents varied depending upon the individual. Maelon’s usually held awards from debating competitions while Aleran’s nearly always held a painting. Anson preferred statues of animals and Arev collected miniature instruments. Bayre’s usually held construction models – for pirate ships, forts, and the like.

All of them wanted the skull. Badly.

Ideas were thrown out, tried, and abandoned. They split into teams and fought as pirates would, claiming the skull as their treasure, and that worked until Maelon came up with the brilliant notion of the Skull challenge. The rules, hammered out in endless arguments, were simple. Perform a daring feat that hadn’t been done before. There needed to be some unusual aspect to it and, most importantly, it had to be something that their tutor, Roland Sograni, would not approve of them doing. When it came time to award the skull, everyone must agree; when agreement wasn’t possible or in the case of a tie, the family housekeeper, Elleran, would have the deciding vote.

Amendments came later. Spying was permitted, for example, while teaming up with another brother to perform acts of sabotage was not. You vied for the skull on your own without help and if you won, the skull sat on your shelf until someone could take it away from you. The longest it ever sat on one shelf was two years when nine-year-old Bayre, the first to introduce costumes, attended class dressed as an Orion pirate and refused to speak anything but Orion for the length of the session. Their tutor was nearly apoplectic but the fact that he learned enough Orion to make it work was decided to be skull worthy.

With its roots in their childhood, the skull challenge stayed with them into adulthood and while attempts took more planning and records had to be kept, they still happened.

to be continued


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