Excerpt: The House of the Scarred Backs
It was always safest in the Interior. The near desert’s days were warm, and the nights cold. The rivers were still clean enough to drink from. There was little brush to hide in and plenty of roads to ride.
The House of the Scarred Backs said that the Interior was the Promised Land to all those brave enough to ride the roads. The Valley might have been beautiful, with its bountiful fruit to eat and water to slake thirst, but sanctuary was a lie mothers told their children to soothe them to sleep.
The desert was where all things were brought to light. The desert was where men and women proved their worth on asphalt and dirt. It was the only place where one could determine their own survival.
The House of the Scarred Backs rode from the reaches of the Southern Lake to the north of the Meeting Rivers. The mountains were disputed territory, and other houses might test their strength in order to gain more land, but the Scarred Backs had held their ground for six generations. They would not let any other house take the land that was rightfully theirs.
Any who wished to ride their roads would give up their own crest and take the crest of the House of the Scarred Backs. They would test their flesh as their forefathers and mothers had done before them. All of their warriors bared the marks of their house’s namesake. The number of the home-road of all Scarred Backs: 97.
Alkeides, torn of Lincoln, was proud to wear the same marks as those who came before him. His jacket designated him as one of his house, the fiery crest embroidered into the hide. His vehicle too was of the Scarred Backs. The bronze finish across the handles, the pure chrome of the engine, and the deep red leather seat all marked him as one of his clan. He was proud to ride the roads beside his brothers and sisters as part of the vanguard. The weak would look upon them with awe, and the creatures with despair.
The creatures lurked in the mountains, but among the weak as well. Vile things who could be human or beast at will. They too wanted control of the Interior, but the unnatural things were not meant for the glory of the roads. They were meant to submit or to be destroyed and the house of Scarred Backs did not take prisoners of war.
The House of the Scarred Backs was to convene in the south of the Okanagan Valley. Each member had been phoned and the word spread through the Interior. Alkeides had been only in Vernon, and it had not taken him long to get to the Moot. As a result, he was early and looked for a place to stow his gear and rest for a time.
There were several hotels in the Kelowna area where their clan was more than welcome and where the sixty odd members of the house could rest indoors during the winter. However, the most secure was the Sunrise Inn. This hotel was owned by a retired Scarred Back and his wife. It was a resting house for the young recruits and a favourite spot for riders to do more serious repairs on their gear. Alkeides had built his own chariot here and had never been so proud as when he had ridden alongside his brothers and sisters as an equal.
Alkeides pulled into the hotel’s entrance and parked his motorcycle out front. He went into the lobby, and the elderly man behind the desk nodded to him before clasping his hand in his.
“You’ve returned, brother.”
“It is good to see you, Claudius. You’ll be joining us at the Moot?”
“Unlikely,” Claudius admitted. “Hades made it clear that only those currently on the roads will attend now. I have made my views to him clear, but he continues to be stubborn.”
“It is his way,” Alkeides admitted. “How are your daughters?”
“Well, Diana finished her chariot less than a year ago and Julia is going through the trials now. You’ll see Diana at the Moot, but you may not recognize her. She is a woman grown. You can see it in her eyes.”
“You must be proud.”
“I am,” Claudius said, “but I worry. She rides different roads than I did. The Interior is changing, Alkeides. You are not so young as to not notice that. You have been in the vanguard for six years now, have you not? It is more dangerous than when you were a boy.”
“The highways are always dangerous,” Alkeides said. “That is why our house travels them. It is our dominion.”
Claudius bowed his head. “Of course, brother. You should rest. We dine at seven if you care to join us and the recruits. We have closed the restaurant to civilians tonight. You will not be disturbed.”
“I would like that,” Alkeides said. “Is my usual room ready?”
“It is. Brother Maximus will be sharing with you when he arrives, but he is not due to be back until the morning. Is that a problem?”
“Not at all,” Alkeides said truthfully. “It has been a long time since I have seen him.”
“Good, I shall see you at dinner, brother.”