Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Children of Namaste Village

( entered in the 2009 Blizzard writing contest )

Soft light awakened the children of Namaste Village. Another day had begun…and with the full moons fast approaching there was much to be done. The three moons of the village were simultaneously full only once every 60 days, and in the week preceding this each child was excused from training and lessons to prepare for the Twilight Marketplace. The recurring festival was an integral part of village life providing for the trading of goods and interaction with the outer world.

Haandra prepared for the day by quietly dressing in his room. Like many of the other children here, his parents had sent him to live in peace amongst children of all races until he was fully grown. Some of the children here were orphans of various wars, and had been placed in the village to heal their spirits and renew their lives.

The only life Haandra had known for 13 years was one of peace. His studies with the village Elders were quite varied; his skills in an assortment of professions were becoming well rounded and his friends were plentiful This particular season found Haandra studying 3 languages in depth, becoming an artisan fisherman, working on his diplomacy certificate and enjoying, for the first time, some simple engineering. He was president of the Junior Gatherers Club and organized food gathering tasks each week in conjunction with the village dietitian.

Alexstrasza, the life-binder, had always protected the children of Namaste. Long before the first war, Alexstrasza received part of Eonars spirit, and the gift awakened in her a great personal mission. The elegant red dragon, queen and protector of all life, had been approached over the centuries by parents of all races and from all corners of the universe. Hearing their pleas for a way to provide protection for their children, Alexstrasza made it her personal mission to find a safe haven for them. Her heart opened wide to embrace each child entrusted to her care.

Putting aside any personal prejudice, Alexstrasza set out to prepare a secret location where she could provide protection to all children. The chosen location, called Namaste Village, was known only to her; the self-contained island remained invisible - suspended mid-air and surrounded by a bubble of transparency. The entire ’world’ of Namaste Village could be transported in an instant from one location to the next in order to protect it from those who might wish the children harm. Only during the Marketplace days were portals opened up in the major cities so that parents, visitors and trades people could arrive.

Alexstrasza stove to provide an environment where the children were raised as one family. Each parent placing a child in her care swore an oath that if Namaste Village was ever under attack, they would set aside their differences, and join the Unified Protectorate Forces of the village to protect all of its inhabitants. Drawing upon the universal love a parent has for it’s child, Alexstrasza bound parents of all races together for the preservation of all species. Namaste Village Elders, the caretakers, endeavored to foster the intellectual, physical, social, spiritual and emotional development of all children.

When the children of the village were very young, their daily routines were comprised primarily of cooperative and imaginative play. From the day they arrived, the children were surrounded with languages and sensory images from all the known cultures. The sounds of one language blended with the nuances of another so that no one dialect seemed out of place. The natural habitats that surrounded the village were taken directly from each of their home environments, and rendered safe. This afforded the children both educational and experiential opportunities as they grew.

One hour each day was spent taking the youngest children into the older children’s classrooms and workshops scattered about the village. Early exposure to a variety of activities available to them here seemed to peek their curiosity and keep their minds open to multiple possibilities as they matured.

Alexstrasza knew that protecting the children meant more than just keeping them safe. She had to provide an environment where they could flourish physically, emotionally, and in spirit. She wanted each child to find, and hone, their hidden talents and to rejoice in the gifts they had been born with. She wanted the wisest and most companionate mentors to be available to them. She wanted “her” children to know joy just in “being“ during these years of innocence.

By the time they reached their middle years, each child could hold basic conversations in all of the major languages of the outer world. Now their language studies would be more intense as they took 2 or 3 languages at a time and studied them in depth. They would also experience all of the professions and crafts available…cycling through these learning pods several times during their middle years. By the time they reached the transition years, they would be in a position to choose one, or many, to master.

Exercises in conflict resolution held as much importance in a child’s training as fencing; knowing how to skin one’s kill cleanly was as necessary as knowing how to care for one’s pet. These and infinite other disparities of life were taught side-by-side. There were classes in all of the major wars and minor conflicts prompting lively discussions and deep reflection amongst the students. Every child was encouraged to make discoveries about life and about the place they wanted to assume in that life one day. There was no finality about opinions and decisions … it was by offering a fluid and open learning environment that the Elders sought to teach that all things can change and that each child could be whatever they chose.

After the middle years, a child in Namaste Village was acclimated gradually to the outer world. This occurred during the 16th and 18th year of life. As with all the children, the day would come when Haandra could choose to leave the village and return to the world of his family. When that day came, the village protector wanted all her children to be fully prepared for their future.

Alexstrasza knew well the difference between this idyllic world she had created and the realities of the outside world. Carefully she and the village Elders would prepare each child for the choices that lay ahead. Any child reaching their 18th birthday could choose to leave and enter the world of their parents, or to stay and apprentice with one of the Elders, eventually to assume a teaching role in the village.

For those who stayed, there was a mandatory 1-month sabbatical at 18 and every 3 years thereafter. It was important for them to visit and reevaluate the outside world and to renew their commitment to support the village - or to have the opportunity to rejoin the outer world if they so chose at a later time. No one choosing the outer life was ever allowed to return permanently to the village - for the protection of the children. The prejudices of the outer world had no place corrupting Namaste Village.

Today, Haandra left his room and joined his friends, Kus and Yvaine for breakfast. The children sat at round tables under a dining tent and were served berries and breads and glasses of pungent whey. As was often the case, children ran from one table to another exchanging greetings with friends and excitedly planning for the upcoming festivities. Today was the day they were to set up the marketplace stalls in preparation for the Twilight Marketplace 2 days hence.

Orc and night elf , human and tauren … no labels or prejudice existed here. There was the usual banding together of children with similar interests, of similar ages and abilities … but race was never a divisive force. Supportive mentors, apprentices and Elders were always on hand to offer studies in absolutely anything a child could imagine. In addition, there were master crafts persons sprinkled throughout the village. At anytime, a child could dabble in blacksmithing, alchemy, archery, cooking ….the choices were limitless.

The village itself existed on a small island suspended in the middle of the transparency bubble. It was surrounded by emptiness that disguised its protective attributes by reflecting natural scenes off the inner surface of the bubble. Three moons waxed and waned above at night .. By day, a gentle, natural light warmed the village. Seasons and weather varied providing the children a natural exposure to all living environments known. Abundant flora and fauna surrounded the village. There was an invisible barrier keeping the children within the confines of the village and it’s surrounding lands …limiting their access to the outer shell that protected them day and night.

During a child’s transition years, they spent their classroom time researching current events in the outer worlds. They had access to real time information on most factions via the village communication systems. The children began to see how the inhabitants of the outer world viewed one another; how they chose alliances and enemies. They spent endless hours in philosophical discussions with the Elders and with one another on the merits and supposed necessity of such actions.

Whereas up until now, the flora and fauna surrounding the village was rendered harmless, these teens now found that increasing danger faced them in their daily pursuits. No longer was the prey docile and the environment completely safe. They learned to sense their enemies presence and to be ready for attack. The Elders made sure that this heightened awareness of danger and of difference did not enter the interactions between their students - that it remained relegated to their interactions with their environment only. Once a child left Namaste, there would be plenty of pressure to segregate themselves into the factions of their forefathers.

Haandra and Kus were assigned to help the grand-master engineer travel from tent to booth to kiosk attending the final details of the construction efforts. They ran eagerly to his home and dragged him away from his morning coffee out into the day. NutAndBolt was aptly named; he took huge bags of materials crafted at the blacksmith hall and the three of them set out laden with all the bits and pieces they would need for a full days work.

Their first stop was the open market. Children were running all around placing flowers and plants next to the long tables. Children painted pictures on the large signs announcing the seasonal faire that would soon be displayed and traded. NutAndBolt, with his two assistants, moved from one table to the next, making sure the tables were secure and sturdy. Haandra and Kus climbed up on the empty tables, tugged at the poles where the signs would soon hang and tested general fitness of the tents and booths. Taking a misanthropic driver or a slammer to the loose and rattling parts, they tightened and secured booth after booth; adding a bolt here, some tape there, and an extra hand wherever needed.

In other parts of the village, anxious children rehearsed a myriad of talents for the festivities. They sang, danced, performed magic. Children rushed back and forth to their craft studios finalizing the artwork to be put on display. Out in the yard children were practicing their martial arts over and over seeking perfection. Nearby older children gently herded younger ones into formation for the parade as hand in hand they walked the parade route familiarizing themselves with each step they would soon be taking when the guests arrived.

As the day progressed, the marketplace began to shape up. Tomorrow they would decorate it further and the now empty tables would become laden with the goods they would trade with the visitors. Last minute lists were prepared of any additional supplies that would be needed from the outer world during the trading days. The Marketplace days were important trade days with the outer world. Visitors would look over the lists posted near the portal locations in the week preceding the Twilight Market. The visitors would gather, make or buy the items needed by the Namaste villagers. As last minute additions were transmitted to the cities and added to the postings, parents would rush to fulfill their bags with the required trade goods.

As dusk approached, the children gathered to light the candles all around the festival square. Tired and hungry they gathered to eat their final meal of the day. Kus, Haandra and Yvaine regrouped and shared stories as they excitedly planned for the next day. After settling the children down for the night, the Elders rested and Namaste Village went to sleep.

Alexstrasza looked with immense pride at the village. The next day preparations for the Twilight Marketplace would be complete. The portals would be opened in the cities. Visitors would arrive dressed in cloth only; robes, overalls, shirts and sandals. There would be no weapons crossing through her secure portals. Bags would contain only gifts for the children and trade goods for the Namaste economy. The week before each Marketplace, a list was posted in the major cities of the items needed by the village. These items were brought in and traded for market coins. The children sold their unique goods, none of which was available in the outer world, for these market coins. They sold their handmade toys, colorful clothing, quirky gadgets, unusual pets, and unique trinkets, much to the delight of the visitors. There were contests. challenges and games to be played for pure enjoyment. Food would be plentiful…visitors would leave with bags full of joy and fond memories.

Yvaine awoke at first light. She ran to wake Kus and Haandra. Today the 3 of them were assigned to fill the engineering kiosk with the “contraptions” created by the village residents. They hurried through their breakfast and rushed across the square to find the engineering kiosk abuzz with activity. They began to pile the kiosk with oinkin’-boinkers, friddle-griddles and hi-amp-l-flyers. Children ran back and forth from storage shed to workshop to the marketplace hundreds of times gathering the fruits of their labors and carefully placing them on display.

Older children rehearsed and practiced with the youngest who would be performing throughout the festival… the noise level was only surpassed by the level of energy and the intensity of the activities. Barely able to take a break for lunch, the children resumed a frenetic pace all afternoon. Colorful silks were hung high and low throughout the square; firework launchers were sprinkled about near the fountains; welcome signs in all languages topped the portal entrance.

Ovens filled the air with fresh smells …flowers scented the breezes…music and laughter abound. Hours passed in what seemed only an instant.

And finally … silence … the marketplace was ready.

Tired, hungry, dirty children headed to the dining hall…too tired to talk they ate quickly and rushed to clean up and settle into bed. Tomorrow was the Twilight Festival.

Alexstrasza went from city to city that night, making sure the portals were secure and ready to transport their guests. There had been only a few times in all her years that she had to entrust Namaste Village and its security to another. During one time of imprisonment, she had chosen the wrong person to look after her beloved children. Never again …her silent partner now remained a secret to all but her. He never showed his face…but he was her only trusted and faithful friend.

She had almost lost the village many, many centuries ago. All of the village secrets had to be rewritten after Neopolis had betrayed her. Once her most trusted friend, Noepolis sold the village secrets to the highest bidder who then launched a full scale attack upon the children while Alexstrasza languished in captivity. Their goal was to eradicate all of the races save one. Only through the quick reactions of the village Elders, was the damage minimized and lives saved. Many children lost their lives alongside the village elders. The Unified Protectorate Forces rallied but not in time to save all.

After that, there were no Festivals for many, many moons.

Twilight Marketplace Festival !

Everyone looked forward to seeing their friends and families; children and Elders alike! The children arose early and all gathered around the portal. The Elders stood off at a distance … as anxious as they were to see their own friends and families, they knew that for the children the first glimpse of their families coming through the portals would send them rushing forward into the arms of loved ones.

Kus’ father was the first through the portal. A tall, proud hunter, from a long line of hunters, his keen eyes immediately picked Kus out from the crowd. He ran over and swept his son up into the air! They began to talk simultaneously about everything under the sun. Although they exchanged daily visual conversations over the communication system, nothing compared with these shared moments during the festivals. Kus dragged his father from booth to booth, showing him the items he and his classmates had been working on. Kus proudly pointed out a crossbow he had hand carved, and his father proudly made his first purchase of the evening.

At first, the crowds around the portal were enormous, but as the morning wore on, the visitors spread out to barter and trade, or to participate in the various activities the children had planned. Families united and walked the square together catching up with one another and enjoying the day. By noon, there was a steady, but more moderate, stream of incoming and outgoing portal traffic. Such were market days…

Yvaine and Haandra gathered up their families and after a quick stop by the various vendors, they headed to the jungle area for some fun and games. Here the children fed the ‘wild’ animals, mounted them and rode them around obstacle courses both on land and in the air to the delight of their audiences. Yvaine and Haandra excitedly showed their families how their skills in dragon riding had improved in the last 60 days. Haandra was especially proud of his acrobatic abilities while mounted upon the back of his favorite dragon. Balancing precariously on one foot on back of his dragon, he made turns and twists without losing his balance even once. All of the children delighted in the applause and cheers that rang from the crowds.

Alexstrasza tried to make a personal appearance once a year. She did not want to take the spotlight off the children and their accomplishments by attending all of the Marketplace festivals. She had so many responsibilities in addition to Namaste Village, but she knew that the parents who entrusted her with their most prized possessions would be happy to see her. The day to day intricacies of running the village were left up to the Elders who had, for centuries, maintained her vision. There were few parents in the outer world who did not entrust the village to raise their children away from harm. Perhaps this village was the single unifying force in an otherwise harsh and changeable world? For the sake of the children, Alexstrasza hoped it would always be so.

Yvaine, Haandra and Kus spent most of the first day entertaining their parents and ushering them from one activity to the next. On the second day, they took turns running one of the bakery kiosks and selling the fresh breads and pastries. Their families traded the items they had brought from the outer world to the quartermaster, and then took their marketplace coins from booth to booth, filling up their backpacks with the most wonderful trinkets. Haandra’s brother selected a pet umi to take back with him after being assured it would turn from the bright pink it was today to a dark purple color in another month.

The two days passed quickly as kiosks emptied out and songs faded into the final night - soon it was time for hugs and goodbyes as the remaining visitors exited through the portals. As was customary, when Alexstrasza was present, the children would then gather in the square at her feet and listen quietly as she told them stories of times long since past. As the candlelight faded, the children of Namaste Village left the square. Tomorrow would they would clean-up and after that back to their studies …back to their explorations…back to their lives.

Alexstrasza smiled.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This story is dedicated to Cob, Kus…and all my friends and guildees.

Written by: " Pi " April 2009

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