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, we are beginning part two of When Comes the Firetide: Emergents.
WHEN COMES THE FIRETIDE | PART TWO: EMERGENTS
Chapter Seven – Burned by Fires Cleansing and Cold
Mossreign Dale, Southern Dagger Fells Cord
1st Set of Integrity, Month of Foundations 8178
Mere inches from his face, Nelah’s fingers worked with a delicate touch. Zakeriel’s eyes focused on them as she carefully stitched the split in his brow. Long and tapered, they were elegant, yet the dark fingertips were hardened like petrified wood. Although he tried, he could not see a division of soft flesh to calcified point. Still strangers, the man’s impression was they reflected her personality. Perhaps it was an Erahs trait, for Khes was much the same. Was.
As she bent forward to bite the thread off at the knot, he averted his eyes to where Khes lay. It was the Erahs tradition to leave their bodies to nature. They did not bury or burn the dead. The idea pained him, to just leave the woman in a strange place, far from her people. A fair notion of cruelty, to his mind.
Nelah had combed Khes’ hair, laid her out on a bed of collected moss. Though removed of her chainmail and clothing, modesty was preserved in the gathering of purple Wolfsbane flowers. Zakeriel wanted to argue when Nelah placed one flower in Khes’ mouth. ‘Wolfsbane is poison!‘ he wanted to yell. The realization she was not waking struck him before he spoke to his shame. The Shae man never bothered to ask why one was rest between the woman’s lips. It seemed irrelevant.
“Go sit with her,” Nelah encouraged as she rocked back on her heels. “Her energy has not yet left. Be with her as long as you can.”
Leaving him to his grieve for his “friend,” Nelah strode to where Paoel sat. Although Zakeriel had explained what he was, she remained wary. The Tōk were creatures of legend, myths to many people and that beast was very upset. Sahaan asked that he allow Atirian help him bring Nahiet across the pond. To spare his honor, Sahaan made no mention of Paoel’s apparent inability to swim. This left the grieving Tōk alone in his agitation, which only seemed to be escalating. Nelah feared what would happen if they did not soothe him somehow.
“Are you recovered?” the Calhalla Eto inquired, maintaining a bit of distance. “I imagine you are quite distraught.”
Twitching his head, bulging one large eye at her, Paoel stared as he determined her words’ meaning. “Shamed. Paoel’s hhhonor is… no more.”
“You did what you could–”
“No! Paoel is Relic! To guard Motherless. To–” The man’s upset dissolved his language into the clicks, dooks and growls of the Tōk. Waving his hands, slapping his tail as he spoke, Paoel’s emotions reached a tipping point. Nelah backed a few feet away, afraid the creature of legend might suddenly spew fire. Pointing out she understood none of the rant was, at best, a very bad idea.
~Help me please. I cannot understand the Tōk and he is very upset.~
Nelah’s plea to Sahaan was quickly answered. ~Just listen for now. Let him vent his frustration. Perhaps the Shae can offer more intelligible information.~
She looked over at him as he and Atirian delivered the dead Shae to the shore. Zakeriel rose to help them arrange him on a pyre bedding. At another silent urging, Sahaan gestured then left the men to join her. Reaching her side with a patient smile, Sahaan interjected at the first opportunity. “Forgive us, Paoel. We are not familiar with the Tōk language. Perhaps your friend can help translate?”
“No. Knows nothing. They all know nothing. You know nothing.” Paoel snorted and turned away like a pouting child. Relieved no one was set on fire, or smacked with his barbed tail, Sahaan appeared to consider the exchange moderately successful.
– – – –
Dusk began to dim the day. Fireflies popped about them like stars being born and dying in the damp forest air. Although typically she would never do so away from the holt, Nelah collected colonies of the Inwaldrhe fungi to wrap bio-luminescent candles for the strangers. Emotional distress was no time to be sitting in the dark and it would be upon them soon. The ‘light of the rainforest’ might help alleviate more than just the night’s darkness. She rest one on either side of Khes then left Zakeriel undisturbed.
The knight was kneeling at Khes’ shoulder and stared down at her serene face. For not having known her, Nelah showed such care in the preparations. Delicate braids wove flowers into her hair, and Nelah had washed away any signs of blood from the crack in her skull. The thought of Khes’s head bouncing off a boulder caused the man’s own skull to throb. A trembling hand rose to his sutured brow bone.
Reaching over he took the dagger from the neat pile of her belongings. “I’ll find Revas. I will make sure he gets this and knows how brave his sister is… was.”
He kept his eyes on Khes’s face, expecting her to suddenly blink or gasp. Nothing. Zakeriel hung his head with a soul-weary sigh. Drawing the ornate blade, he examined his reflection in it, then tested its edge. He imagined the tiny Erahs slaying bears and Ganroth. Boasting or not, the man coveted the fantasy of that woman. Small in stature but powerful in spirit and will.
Sliding the dagger back into its sheath, Zakeriel waited for the figure approaching to speak.
“I am sorry to intrude,” Atirian announced himself. With the Shae’s back to him, the sly Jasuuk took a moment to appreciate what bared flesh he could see. The woman was dead, but showed no signs of such yet. It was like marveling at a sleeping lover, if only the damned flowers did not hide his view.
Bending forward, Zakeriel tenderly kissed Khes’ brow and whispered, “join with the Light of Naaris, brave one.”
Too quickly distracted by Atirian, Zakeriel did not notice the droplets of watered-down blood that dropped from his wet hair into the woman’s jugular notch. The diluted crimson fluid appeared like a tiny sunlit ruby nestled at the base of her throat. Stark though it was, Zakeriel overlooked it as it seemed deliberate in placement for aesthetic.
“My apologies, but Sahaan has questions… and eventide is coming soon.” The Jasuuk extended his hand in traditional Shae greeting, allowing Zakeriel to brush his knuckles against his own. “I am Atirian Vaeth.”
“Zakeriel Téos. I have many questions as well… how the Teigne died?” The young man’s brow creased. “Was it that… thing…?”
Atirian shook his head. “No, I think merely the fall. I found blood on a rock and his neck seems to be broken. I fear he was unfortunate to not land in the waters as you and your Tōk companion. We have questions about the ‘thing’, as you called it.” As the worried Shae looked to him, ease was readily given, “it too is dead. I… dispatched it.”
With a grateful nod, Zakeriel started toward the others but noticed Atirian lingered. He cleared his throat. The Jasuuk, looked to him. “If you do not object… she was of my people. I can see the touch of Jasuuk in her blood. I would like to say our prayers of mourning on behalf of her family– only if you will allow it. You are welcome to observe if you like.”
A faint bob of the head and Zakeriel stepped off to the side, not wanting to be too present in what felt like an Erahs tradition. Atirian bowed graciously, then lowered to one knee near Khes’ head. He rest one set of fingertips on her brow, so tenuous a touch his hand trembled to stay aloft. He spoke in the Shae tongue so Zakeriel was not ostracized from the prayer.
“Divine twins, feel my sorrow. Nel, I plead you bear–” He glanced up at Zakeriel.
The Shae gasped, “oh, Khes Adaia.”
“Lovely name…” Atirian offered a compassionate smile then lowered his head again and continued,
“Nel, I plead you bear Khes Adaia’s spirit through the Firetides,
then by Ndor’s side collect the spirits of those who wronged her.
Jaa, heal my heart, cleanse me of this pain.
I ask this with a gift of life.”
Atirian opened his eyes and inclined his head to study her face as he murmured to Zakeriel. “Normally we would offer up a harvest or other game for the children of the goddess who would come to claim her… but, I have nothing.” Looking down he saw the droplet of blood on her throat. “I see someone else offered an adequate substitute, however.”
Drawing his dagger, he immediately calmed Zakeriel with a hush, then slit a small cut in his wrist and let a few droplets join with Zakeriel’s on Khes’s pearl-white throat. The impression of a gemstone was complete, a swirl of ruby red and lilac. Re-sheathing his dagger as Zakeriel turned away in discomfort, Atirian bent over the woman and placed his lips to her brow, still making a show of ‘tradition’. As he kissed her, however, he began to draw the life essence from her that he and Nelah both could feel clinging.
Sinking back on his haunches, he stared at the woman. Zakeriel eyed his odd posture, and expression. The Jasuuk looked as though he struggled to contain something, hide some emotion, pain or confusion. “Are you not well?”
“I am fine, friend.” Atirian rose and shudder as if shaking a chill from himself. “Just a headache coming on. It has been a long day.”
Exhaling his grief, the knight nodded agreement then gestured for them to leave the funerary shrine. Joining the others, Zakeriel and Atirian sat opposite each other as Nelah and Sahaan completed a rough circle in the grass. Feeling very alone, in spite of Paoel’s presence, Zakeriel felt on trial. Answers, however, were in short supply, unless Paoel had more to offer. The first question was not what either expected.
“Your companion was a thief? She is far too young to be of the Witan, even if a Raesry tu’Nelenr.” Nelah fixed her glimmering amber eyes on Zakeriel and produced the Weyd journal. “Who did she steal it from?”
With a shake of his head, Zakeriel fought to restrain the ire that snapped to the fore. That fury gave him speed, however, and he rocked forward, snatched it from her hand. As outrage was voiced, he hugged it to his chest. “She was not a thief! It was given to her. She was going to translate it… I think.”
“You think?” Nelah snorted. “How could she even open it? The seal is an Irikedyr. It is sealed by the Weyd owner’s blood… none but the blood of that Weyd can unseal it. Not even with magic.”
Confused at how this was even relevant or important now, Zakeriel flung one hand toward the waterfall and shouted, “I am far more concerned with how we came to be here! This morning I woke up at the base of The Shards… at the Iaegonaul ruins! Explain how we came over the falls to… to…”
“The Southern Dagger Fells near Mossreign–”
“WHAT?!” Zakeriel’s jaw fell slack and he looked at Paoel for some correction. “How did we fall into the Northern Kedei branch of the River Ceyr and land in the… in… this?!” He glowered at Sahaan, refusing to believe the Calhallan’s words.
Atirian interjected quickly, “well, technically this is still the Ceyr, just a tributary vein to the southwest end of the Mossreign Dale.”
~Not helping.~ Sahaan chastised with a scowl.
Atirian ignored the Elhia and spoke aloud, “you do not think it relevant that they entered the same waters that they emerged from, given the distance that he claims they traveled in the same day? That is weeks, a month easily even by vnesh unless you are a dedicated rider. Even then he could not have traveled so far with a sick girl and–”
“HE is right here and does not appreciate the insinuations!” Zakeriel glowered and waved to Paoel. “Did you not ask him? Paoel, tell them!”
“Yes. True.” The Tōk postured with authority and stated, “Tōk settled Kedei. Reside in Kedei. Jaed army at–”
“–Kedei.” Atirian interrupted. “Well, at least his story is consistent.”
Paoel’s tail slammed the ground with ferocity and the small Tōk stood. “Paoel is Lalsamraat! No disrespect!”
In the hopes of averting any further unpleasantness, Zakeriel tried to calm his angry companion. “Paoel, he means no disrespect. We are strangers to them… please, calm yourself. Do you have any idea what has happened? Gregoire said you would explain.”
“No matter. Motherless is dead. Paoel tainted Relic. Useless. Death comes.”
“No one is going to die!” Zakeriel insisted, although it sounded hollow to his own ears as he held Khes’ belongings in his lap.
– – – –
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