Exalted South: Crimson Sands
Field of Glass
The late afternoon sun beat down on Old Chiaroscuro. Raising her hand to block the glare, Arunika stared out across the Field of Glass. The square mile of broken shards shone a bright gold under the intense heat. During any other season it would have been miserable, but during Descending Fire, it was nearly unbearable.
To her left, a young Delzahn noble cried in pain, his feet blistered and burnt. The others surrounding him congratulated his courage to face the field despite the fact he did not make it across. This was common, as the Field of Glass was a symbol of pride among them. Few could make it across, and almost none even attempted during the hottest season of the year.
The test was simple; all one had to do was run across the field. Or at least, it sounded simple. The Field of Glass was the shattered ruin of a First Age tower. Immense in its original construction, battle had reduced it to rubble. It was melted and smooth in most areas, with sharp and dangerous shards in others.
One mile. Arunika knew she could cross that distance in under five minutes normally. Observing the damage done to the Delzahn, she wasn’t so sure this time. Yet, it had to be done. She was the only female in the assembled group. Already the others began to snicker and mock her. Many seemed simply confused. She did not wear the grey sash of Dereth, yet she clearly tended no children and cooked no meals. Barely fourteen years old, she was as tall as many of the boys her age. Lithe and athletic, she knew she was stronger and faster than them as well.
She had wrapped her hands and feet in cloth in case she fell. Focusing herself as master Bel-Sama had taught her, the only world that existed for her now was the Field of Glass. A crowd had gathered around her, but she paid them no notice. There were no towers, no market places, no family, no politics, and no arrogant Delzahn boys.
When she had reached harmony within herself, she began.
Her feet burned the moment her first foot fell on the blistering glass. Forcing herself to ignore the pain, Arunika concentrated on balance first, speed second, and her well-being last. Step after step, breath after breath she surged forward, each bringing her closer to her goal.
Halfway across she momentarily lost her footing. Catching herself before the sharpened terrain could draw blood, she recovered and pressed on. The air felt as hot as the ground under her, each inhale harder than the previous. Yet, she still ran.
Mentally, she was going through the basic mental katas her sifu had taught her. Though Bel-Sama had encouraged her to face the Field of Gold, it was not a test he had tasked to her. Rather, it was a challenge she undertook on her own. He had said clarity and strength would come from it. As the skin on her feet began to bleed, she knew he was right.
Four minutes and fifty eight seconds later, she collapsed on the other side of the Field of Glass. Her body felt as though it was on fire, her feet cracked and bleeding. Yet she stood. Next time she would be faster.