The blog has a full Table of Contents and Reference page for Part One: Inundation. It is also advisable that one reads the added scenes with the new character Brisa tu’Onr. (PDF download) Otherwise, now begins the second part of When Comes the Firetide: Emergents.
WHEN COMES THE FIRETIDE | PART TWO: EMERGENTS
Chapter One: Antecedent Consequences of the Past
Mossreign Gorge, River Ceyr, Southern Dagger Fells Cord, Southeast Tybraes
1st Som of Duty, month of Foundations 8178
Roaring in their ears, the rapids were a beast hungry and eager to pull them in. Aside from the chill of the water, the sound caused Zakeriel’s limbs to tremble as he gripped the slick rocks, vines and roots to edge his way along the canyon ridge. Although there was more than enough room for their feet most of the way, the water and growth of algae and moss made it more treacherous than climbing ice. Eyes closing, he pressed his brow to the cliff face and took deep breaths between each bolder move. He had faced down enraged Ganroth and Dusters. These were wet rocks. He could do this.
In front of him, Khes’ much smaller hands wriggled into crevices or twisted smaller roots about her wrist for security as she sought sturdy footing. Though she too shimmied and stepped cautious and slow as a tortoise, her agile hops and occasional over-reaching terrified him. Be it over-confidence or lack of fear for death, neither appealed to him as both could result in the same. Testing a foot outward, she then leaned back to see around a far-jutting outcrop.
“DON’T DO THAT!!!” He screamed over the snarling of the starved waters. Visions of her bleeding head and limp body flashed through his mind and his heart pounded harder. Though he gripped tighter to his holds, his position felt as if it were slipping out from under him. An emotional vertigo, he knew, but he pulled himself tighter to the wall anyway. The vines near his face could have sprouted indigo-purple flowers, smothering his face in a bouquet of Wolfsbane. Illness churned his stomach for all the strength with which he could smell the perfume. Memory was too vivid, the sight of her on that funerary bed.
The Erahs turned her head and looked back at him. Somehow just the sight of her face brought a wash of peace. Calm eased over him as if she sent the feelings to him. She must have sent them. He could not possibly have found such peace on his own, not even in the depths of those shimmering black eyes.
“THE MEANDER IS NEARLY PASSED! JUST A FEW MORE PACES AROUND THIS OUTCROPPING, THEN THERE IS A COVE WITH A SMALL PLUNGE POOL!”
Shimmying along the ledge closer to her, he scowled, “I STILL DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY THE OTHER THREE GOT TO RIDE BACK ON ATIRIAN’S MYSTICAL WAVERING PONY RIDE, AND WE HAD TO CLIMB THE TELLORATH CLIFFS!”
A beaming smile glittered back at him over one shoulder. Silvery-white hair matted to her face in wet webs and tentacles, her lashes fluttered against the splashing waves. With a devious glint beneath those lashes, she shouted, “WE DIDN’T!”
“OH, I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU SO MUCH!”
A laugh, like the call of an exotic bird, carried on the wind as she crept along the wet rocks then straddled the outcrop and climbed around to disappear into the cove where the others were likely lounging with sweet cakes and warm spiced cider laughing at his ineptitude and cowardice. Staying focused, he managed the last few paces as she had said, then climbed around to where the river was calm, as if an entirely different body of water.
“BWAH!” Khes’ voice carried in a laughing bark from behind him.
Zakeriel lurched back and fell ass down into the plunge pool startled by the Eras’ leap from the shadows like a feral Sunda. Shoulders deep in water, he stared up at her with absolute resentment as a wave of cackling carried across the eddy and shore. “I do hate you,” he emphasized far quieter.
Offering him a hand, she grinned, “no, you don’t.”
She fully expected him to pull her in, when the Shae jerked her down into the water. It was evident in her face, a consolatory peace-offering for her mockery and cruel exercise. Nevertheless, he was cautious to catch her and ensure she did not land on anything that could injure her. That did not mean he didn’t hold her down for a brief count just to make sure she learned her lesson. Bursting from the water with a sputter and a laugh she leaned back as if to lounge. Had he been more aware of their surroundings, seen the rock she braced herself on…
Slender legs flew up and caught him about the head. As she lifted torso up and leaned forward, she threw her body weight onto him and forcing him under, arms and legs entangled about him as a cephalopod. Standing up, he twisted and tossed her back again, the two tussling in the water a moment.
“I rather think he won on that maneuver, Mith’Erahsh,” Atirian chuckled at Khes when she arose again. When it occurred to Zakeriel that he did not mean the standing but rather her bold physicality– thighs about his head, hips facing him– the knight blushed and sank into the water.
Khes laughed and splashed him. “He teases only. Besides, what fun is had through leather trousers?”
“More than enough if you know what you’re doing!” Atirian laughed again, Pelleas joining in this time.
Zakeriel saw her shoot him a look over her shoulder and knew they must be having a terse Elhia exchange. Flicking water at her with a finger and thumb, he muttered, “it’s fine. That was an impressive trick. If you can do that in a fight…”
“I can,” she grinned, “but it has taken practice. Better suited for small fighters. I’ll show you, next time I beat you in sparring.”
He grinned, eager to see that, then gestured to the cliffs behind them. “So…explain to me why we were risking our lives? Just to torture me?”
The woman shook her head. “You are too cautious. Pamper me, even now…caught me like a little child. I am not glass, I won’t break. And you…you need to remember what you are. Who you are.”
Heart pounding again, he was conscious of the others, though they seemed to be ignoring them for now. Ducking his head he fought his anxiety, tried to block out the sounds of the waterfall, of the river rapids. “You don’t remember, Khes…the river…the water fall… it’s– this was asking a lot.”
Moving to him, the water swirling about her in silver ripples, she whispered, “I do remember. Just differently.”
Reaching out she rest a hand on his temple and hushed him, “do not be scared…”
Sensations and emotions pierced him, an unfathomable hunger. Agony assaulted him like a living thing embodied by the river enraged, like he was stabbed by a thousand knives of ice and super-heated iron. The icy waters flooded him, filled his lungs, stung his limbs. He felt the crack of the rock upon his skull and felt the jolt of black nothingness. Gasping in a hysteria he jerked back from her gasping for air that was plentiful yet felt withheld from him.
“Shh…shh…you’re fine.” She moved to him again and rest her hands on his shoulders then face, tender and loving. The same sense of calm filled him as had upon the cliffs. It had been her.
“Is that–? Oh Goddess…Khes…” Eyes bulging and heart still pounding he attempted to maintain a sense of propriety but, it was lost in the horror of what she had shared with him. Slipping his arms about her, he pulled her to him and held her tight. She allowed it, but only briefly before pulling away. “How were you not terrified when we– just now?”
Khes’ smile was soft, enigmatic as she inclined her head. “I was, but that was why we were there. If we are afraid of a river, what hope do we have against a God?”
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