Whenever a Clan-son came of age, daughters from all over would be sent for evaluation as a potential bride. For such a match to be made was to bring great honor to her family. So when the eldest son of the Clan-Chief came of marrying age, even royal daughters were sent to be evaluated in the hopes of being chosen.
The Chief-son vowed to be very choosy. Being next in line for the position of Chief afforded him that privilege. He promptly passed over those who were sickly in health and mind. “My wife is to be healthy.” He said.
Next to be sent home were those he deemed to be too young or too old. “I want a wife who will age with me.”
He then began to assign tasks and chores to them. They were to know how to cook and clean, carry water from the well and feed the animals. Many daughters of the upper nobility just gave up and demanded to be taken home. Such tasks were beneath them.
The majority of those who remained in the test were of lesser houses and village-stock. Humble and patient, they were proving themselves to be worthy in the Chief’s son’s eyes.
He then tasked them to care for the children in the clan, and yet more maidens departed. As was such when they were to aid the very old and the sick. “The wife of a Chief must be responsible for all within the tribe.”
The maidens were asked to provide counsel when the Chief mediated disputes. Each was given three chances to offer up opinions and arguments. Only those who could provide logical reason were asked to stay. “A wife must be able to advise her husband, to persuade him to follow the prudent course.”
It was not long before it was only a half a dozen young women who remained. At which point, preparations for the Coming-of-Age celebration for the Chief-son could properly begin. Of which, the celebrations would last for several days until the Chief-son had made his decision for who would undergo the final test. Should the chosen pass the test, then they would be betrothed.
The Maidens worked alongside the Clan-women as they cooked the feast and readied the Hall. The conversations were casual, both groups getting to know each other. The opinions of the mothers would be a heavy influence on the young man’s decision making process.
All through the celebration, the maidens served the special guests in attendance. These consisted of visiting clan chiefs and their heirs. The young women were watched intently, their manners and behaviors carefully scrutinized. Every action was taken into account.
There was one in particular that the Chief-son had come to focus on. She had come from a poor village, but beneath the rags she pretty. Not only that, but she was sweet and kind. A gentle soul who gave what she had to those in need. She had not come in the hopes of bettering her own situation, but to give her a means of bettering that of others.
The Chief-son found himself to be seeking out her conversation at the table. He thought her to be intelligent and enjoyed her laugh and her smile. Sensing that the Chief-son had come to his decision, the other maidens drifted away toward more available company. Of which, there were many.
On the last night, the young maiden was escorted off to a sleeping chamber that she was to have to herself so that could prepare herself for the final test.
When the last of the revelers had drifted off to sleep, one soul still stirred. On silent feet, it crept toward the maiden’s private chamber, and once it was sure that the maiden slept soundly, it set the basket that it had been carrying inside the room and closed the door.
After several moments, a soft rustling began to issue from the basket. When it began to grow louder, it roused the maiden from her slumber. Blinking into the dark, she sought the location of the noise.
With bare feet, she padded over to the basket, only to jump back with surprise when the lid was knocked off by the emergence of the creature within.
She had never seen anything like it before. It had a pale and bloated humanoid face with scraggly tufts of hair protruding from its scalp. The bulbous head was attached to a squat serpentine body with a rattle at the end of it’s tail, which it gently swayed back and forth. It fixed two milky eyes on her before beginning to slither toward her.
Her breath caught in her throat as her heart pounded inside her chest. It was a demon. It had to be. She backed away slowly, eyes darting about as she looked for a suitable weapon. A forked tongue flicked from between fangs dripping with venom. Spying the iron poker propped next to the fireplace, she leaped for it at the same moment that the creature lunged for her.
With a growl, she swung the poker at the creature, severing the head clean from its body. However, it still fastened its teeth into her calf, injecting her with venom. Prying it off with the poker, she then jabbed at the creature experimentally with it. Satisfied that it was indeed dead, she then collected both the body and the head and limped from the room.
When she arrived at the main hall, she found the Chief-son waiting for her. “A Demon Hunter feels fear, but acts despite it. I would expect no less from the wife of one.”
She was still shaking with adrenaline as he approached her, a vial of liquid in hand.
“A Naga for training the youth.” he said. “Not deadly, but the venom causes fever and vomiting.”
He then eased the remains from her hands and pressed the antidote into them, urging her to drink it.
“Welcome to the Clan.” he said, kissing her cheek.