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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Snap (09/04/08)

TITLE: The Fittest Punishment
By Holly Westefeld


Though bound, Stranger scrutinized the three leaders of the Hahida Valley as they strode into the clearing. Once seated on the log bench draped with intricately woven vines, they snapped their fingers to hush the assembly perched on rows of stumps.

"Bring the prisoner forward," commanded Leum.

The guards flanking Stranger each put a hand under an arm and deposited him before the trio.

"Stranger," Rehp charged, "you stand accused of undermining the strength of the Hahidan people. This most heinous of crimes is punishable by death. After we have heard from all concerned, you may speak on your own behalf."

"Enil, come forward, and bring the lad also," Drah instructed. "You first accused Stranger. Tell the assembly what you saw."

"I was assigned to gather fruit with Stranger and the lad, who, as you can see, is beyond the age of instruction. He started to climb a fruit tree entwined with poisonvine, but Stranger warned him and he stopped. I do not know whether his birthgiver failed to instruct him properly, perhaps neglecting to snap the vine of correction, or whether he is simply not fit of mind, but were it not for the interference of Stranger, the assembly would have been purged of this lad."

Leum turned toward the adolescent. "You will not attempt to mate for at least five cycles. If you still live, without aid, you will then be deemed worthy of being a seedgiver." Panning the assembly, Leum proclaimed, "Assigners, you are to give this lad the most challenging tasks. We must be certain of his fitness."

"Lrac," Rehp announced, "You brought the next charge. Bring the careless one with you, and tell the assembly what happened."

"Stranger, this careless one and I were assigned to fell trees. This careless one did not correctly judge the time and angle at which his tree would fall and became trapped beneath it, breaking a leg. Stranger moved the tree, splinted the leg, and cut two sturdy branches with which he hobbled home. If he could not have done those things for himself, he deserved to be food for the worms."

Drah pronounced, "Assigners, you are to give this careless one the most physically demanding tasks for the next cycle. Should he complete them all satisfactorily, he may be assigned as you will. Should he fail at even one task, expel him from the valley as those whose prime has passed."

"Yllo," Leum called, "Come, bring the non-birthgiver, and tell your story."

"This female has the tent next to mine. She was great with child and retired to her tent for the birthing. Her wailing kept me awake through the night. As I prepared my morning meal, I saw Stranger enter her tent. After a while, the wailing ceased, and Stranger came out with a bundle wrapped in a skin and headed into the trees."

Rehp addressed the wan young woman. "What did Stranger do?"

"I had labored for many hours, but the child would not come. He said the child was in the wrong position and pressed on my belly to turn it. It came quickly after that, but did not breathe, so he took it away."

"Should any male actually choose to mate with you," Drah admonished, "and a child grow, you will labor in this clearing before the assembly to prove whether or not you are worth their seed."

Leum confronted Stranger. "You were an outsider who sought to live among us. We instructed you in what it means to the assembly to be of fittest mind and body, and you said that you understood. You lived among us for two cycles, abiding by all our law, then you break it three times within a moonturn. Have you anything to say?"

"The assembly of the Hahida Valley is renowned for your fitness of body and mind, but not for fitness of soul. The Creator of body, mind and soul sent me to teach the assembly fitness of soul, which is proven in aiding those who are created with less fitness of body or mind."

"You speak waste!" Rehp spat. "There is no fitness beyond body and mind, and any weakness of those must be purged. To even suggest that such a thing as spirit exists shows unfitness of mind."

"Get a vine and make the loop, non-birthgiver," instructed Drah. "You and the careless one will lift Stranger while the lad secures the vine to a sturdy branch. Then the fittest punishment will be executed."


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Jan Ackerson 09/13/08
Wow! This reminds me of my very favorite YA book, "The Giver"...a look at an alternate world, with deep lessons for our own. A very successful experiment, in my eyes!
Sunny Loomis 09/13/08
Very well written story. Good descriptions. Interesting view of an alternate world. Nicely done. (Jan, The Giver came to my mind too.)
Sunny Loomis 09/13/08
I had already thought of The Giver before seeing Jan's comment, so I mentioned it. Very good job.