Skirmishes and Schisms by FibroJedi | World Anvil Manuscripts | World Anvil

Chapter 9: Episode 2: Healing and Hatred

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Episode II: Healing and Hatred


23, Jylta 545 AFD

Bezélan, 11 Ur 15

King Carnael surveyed the soldiers around him. All were astride Qalathian Battle-Cats, the Kyjushii, as though heading into a war. Rusziné's former squad members were on smaller, younger cubs but those that were large enough and had been trained to carry a rider. Lytania had saddled their mother, the better to maintain the training exercise and to provide the assurance the cubs needed to follow the King and Royal Guard.

"These should not be considered your cats, unless they bond with you on this journey," Carnael explained, "Battle-Cats are a privilege, not a right. But we have to reach the Viàtoli in good time, so you have been entrusted with one. Do not betray that trust. Am I clear?"

"Yes, Your Majesty," most of them answered in response.

Natarr was gently stroking the still-growing mane of his male Kyjushé, and had missed his cue to respond in like manner.

"Natarr?" Lytania asked, anger playing on the edges of her voice.

"Yes, Royal Guard?" he frowned in bemusement, looking directly into her eyes, "I was just connecting with my Battle-Cat. For the record, I agree with the King in what he just said. I am simply nervous and did not want that to transfer to this creature."

"Fair enough, at least you've proved you listened to your training instructors," Lytania accepted, before turning her attention back to Carnael, "we await your order to depart, Your Majesty, Our King."

"Then let's go," Carnael responded, "while I have no obligation to be on time, I do not wish to give Rusziné a reason to be smug by arriving long after him."

If he arrives at all, he thought in self-satisfaction, and he had better not.

 

23, Jylta 545 AFD

Viàn Falínai, 11 Ur 30

 

Ayàvi was about to lose hope, when the Hawk's voice halted her.

<< Do not judge what your eye has not seen, friend Ayàvi. Wait. >>

And so she did, her eyes intensely gazing at her comrade and friend for any sign of movement, however small. Despite this vigil, she still nearly jumped out of herself22 when the Kyadd suddenly coughed.

"Don't...call...me...a kitten," Kyaevy wheezed, and tried to push herself into a sitting position, only to fall back and cling to her friend's knees, "hùlàn, I feel like I'm going to retch."

"Kyaevy!" Ayàvi gasped, kissing her cheeks, "I was so scared."

"You, scared?" the Kyadd tried to scoff, "I...did not see it...so it did not...happen."

Ayàvi wiped another tear from her eye and chuckled quietly.

"Even half-conscious, you can make me smile."

"What did happen is that you probably brushed too closely with essence degradation," Evy gruffly explained, rolling her eyes, "thankfully your body gave in before your mind did. Whyever did you push yourself to heal that many in one go?"

"The heat-sickness...Deenfeiss...Frostplain," the Kyadd hissed, "they...".

"They are suffering the same ailment as you are, and are about to journey home," Evy responded, aware her previous question would go unanswered, "but they are now well enough to do so. You, however, are in no fit state to worry about others and should also be taken home."

Evy closed her eyes briefly, knowing she just needed to push a little longer before her purpose was fulfilled for that day.

"I must also...apologise," she continued, more softly, "I was working, but was so focussed on them that I was not aware you also required aid."

"This whole situation should not have been allowed to happen," Ayàvi sighed, still sniffing back tears, "We used to have allies, friends in other nations. But Carnael severed that today, Evy."

"What was his reason?"

Ayàvi shook her head.

"That king was not acting under reason."

"Qal'ath, gaping void...ugh, abandonment," Kyaevy forced herself to continue, struggling with each breath, "they've never cared...about the Foyii, nor the...Kyadii. How can I not...worry?"

"Oh brave, strong Kyaevy," Ayàvi whimpered stroking her friend's forehead in the direction of her fur, "you cannot give out of resources you do not have. You can worry about them once you're on the mend back home."

Evy sighed and was about to reach for her branch, when Aillèpi snorted at her.

"Whatever was that for?" she retorted.

<< Apologies for the unseemly noise, but before you heal her, Evy >> the Great Hawk addressed Ayàvi's seemingly-new companion, << allow me. And Ayàvi, do not reach for your branch either. Keep your gentle hands where they are. You are both a power and a reassurance. Thank you. >>

"Wait, I can still hear you, how?" Ayàvi asked in shock.

<< That will gradually fade, unless we work together more often. Given Kyaevy's state, I suspect your Hawk and I will be required in the same places for the foreseeable future. And Evy can hear me because she is...unique. >>

The woman huffed and turned away, her arms folded tightly across her stomach.

The sooner I can leave here, the better, she thought, more cross at herself than those around her.

Aillèpi closed his piercing, white eyes and spread his enormous wings over all those near to him. He seemed to briefly wince, and one of his feathers detached. This he caught it in his beak and the Hawk folded his wings once more, before holding the feather on Kyaevy's forehead and gently breathing into her face. The Kyadd's pained expression eventually relaxed and from the feather a visible aura of a gentle breeze surrounded her. Aillèpi ceased his own, wordless, incantation and nodded in satisfaction. He then gently lifted the Kyadd with the top of his head and let her slide down his neck onto his back.

"That was...lovely," Kyaevy murmured, "thank you."

She raised a hand-paw, and Aillèpi placed his feather delicately into it. Holding it carefully, but closely to her body, the Kyadd smiled.

<< We work together and look after each other, >> the Hawk responded, << and now, we depart together so I can care for you better. Ayàvi, I ask that you accompany the Frostplain Kyadii to the edges of their territory. As quickly as practical. >>

He did not wait for a response before spreading his wings once more, pushing himself from the ground and elegantly soaring high above them all. Ayàvi had to shield her eyes to prevent pieces of dirt and twigs being blown into her face by his down-draft.

I'm so used to being on a Hawk, I forget what being under one is like, she thought ruefully.

By the time she moved her hand away from her face, Aillèpi was out of sight.

"Right, Evy, we have a final task to do."

Evy turned back to her and forced a smile.

"There's always 'one final task' in my experience. Even after the last 'final task'. But they always need doing."

Ayàvi nodded. "Then let's get started."

A couple of burial-mounds away, Polarnis and Hera'llyn had managed to encourage the Kyadii in their care to stand, even though they felt weak and humiliated.

"So, what's the plan?" Hera'llyn asked Polarnis, "before we let the Elements rip into Carnael, I mean?" she asked, through gritted teeth.

"Mage Hera'llyn," Rusziné interjected, "the worst thing you could do right now is to prove any of the otherwise-false impressions and prejudices the King has about you."

Hera'llyn huffed.

"Whatever. Whether we do it or not, it will fall back on his head in the end. Naturally, he'll still blame us first."

"As for today," Polarnis gently replied, easing her focus back to the task at hand, "I believe we need to ensure all the Kyadii are together once more, then head North."

"Who would have thought that a Crystal Mage would be tasked with 'herding Kyadii'?" Rusziné chuckled.

"Sir, how can you laugh on a day like today?" Jaridà asked aghast.

"Jaridà, if I do not laugh on a day like today, how will I cope if tomorrow is worse?"

"I suppose..." he begrudgingly accepted, "I don't have your strength of character to do likewise."

"My friend," Rusziné smiled, "the day all soldiers have my kind of character is day the Realm under Carnael is doomed. He will see today as a blessing."

As the group sluggishly followed the two comrades and pair of Mages to rejoin the rest of their clan, Polarnis heard Hera'llyn utter something under her breath. Catching her attention with a small hand gesture, he gave her a questioning look.

"Don't ask," she retorted, "you know my feelings about betrayal and hypocrisy. The next time anyone even looks like they've betrayed me, they won't even be given a chance to explain themselves."

Rusziné gave such a growl under his breath, one of the Kyadii thought it had come from one of their own.

"What was that for?" Hera'llyn asked, angrily.

"I was wrong. There is one thing worse than confirming Carnael's biases: thinking and acting in the way he does. Be careful you do not punish an innocent based on insufficient evidence."

 

23, Jylta 545 AFD

The other side of the Viàn Falínai, 12 Ur

It had felt like an age had passed, but at long last all the Deenfeiss Kyadii were together once more. None had perished in the fighting, nor had any died as a result of their elemental exposure. Ferrfeiss looked over his bedraggled, defeated and sick friends and sighed.

"Frrrostplainers, we depart now for home. We found our long-lost brrrother who has chosen to stay here. I am..." he paused and struggled to maintain his composure, "I am sorry for dragging you all into this. Once home, you may elect a new leader if you wish. I will not stand in their way. But I have to be the one to lead us home."

Arrnwarr coughed and pinched his right arm.

"I mean," Ferrfeiss winced and cleared his throat, "we will be the ones to lead us home."

Klorwyrrb stepped forward and bowed low to Ayàvi and those from Qal'ath.

"If I may say a few worrrds, though I am not used to...speeches. We came here expecting to fight enemies. You fought well, and I am sorry for the injurrries we have caused, because I have rrrealised something."

He looked into the now-grey sky and let his shoulders relax as he took a deep breath.

"Yes, we fought against each other. But it was doomed to fail because we were fighting frrriends, not foes. Thank you for shielding us, for healing us and for...corrrecting us."

Klorwyrrb turned to face Rusziné.

"You lead well, Rrrusziné, and you fight verrry well. You do not deserrrve what is coming. But if you desirrre just revenge in the futurrre, you may come to find me. And for you White-Leaves..."

Ayàvi stepped up to within a few paces and smiled.

"You're welcome. I am not even close to the chief of our clan, but after today, we will need to ensure we create no more rifts than the one Qal'ath tore open today. I think the time has come for our people and yours to look out for each other. You know, without weakening the other by dependence."

Klorwyrrb grinned, bearing his fangs, and realised how foreign the concept of a happy expression was to him. He only hoped his face did not look contorted.

"Very similar worrrds to my own and the exact sentiment. If I am not speaking out of turrrn, chief?" he asked, suddenly aware of himself.

"You are not," Arrnwarr responded softly instead of Ferrfeiss, "we all need to learn to treasure each other a little more. We share the Northern Reaches with the White-Leaves, but we have never thought of it like that. Until today."

Rusziné shuffled on the spot, feeling awkward at the signs of unity in front of him, yet being glad they were there at the same time. Feeling the scraping of ice against his boots vibrate through the ground, Ferrfeiss turned to him.

"Rrrusziné, Jarrridà, Herrra'lyn, Polarrrnis..." he paused, "your names make a five-second sentence take two minutes due to yourrr arrr's," he chuckled, before returning to a more serious expression, "You represent parts of Qal'ath past and present. Ourrr people usually blacken the name of all under an enemy's bannerrr. But not you fourrr. Nor the Mages you work with. And not Klorrr'asq or his Rarshk co-workerrr. If you need us, send a Messenger. If we find you, we will help you. If drawn into a battle against yourrr people, we will sparrre you."

"H-how will you know us?" Jaridà asked, unnerved.

"Jarrridà, I will miss trying to startle you," Klorwyrrb laughed, "we know your scents now."

Of course, Jaridà thought feeling self-conscious.

"Anyway," Rusziné interrupted, "goodbyes must come to an end if we do not want your people to repeat their suffering. Please do continue talking, but we have to ensure you make it to Frostplain."

There were murmurs and growls of agreement and, almost in unison, yet without instruction, the Kyadii turned North and began padding away from the Viàn.

Ayàvi turned to Rusziné and reached up to place a hand on his shoulder. Taken aback he gave her a quizzical expression.

"How can I help you, friend Ayàvi?"

"You can start by not being surprised when the next person doesn't pour hate on you," she replied disconcerted.

"I'm sorry," he replied with sadness.

"It's fine, I'm relatively thick-skinned," Ayàvi explained, "I was just going to ask how an erdàn you thought you would get to the Viàtoli on time."

Rusziné shrugged, "Carnael expects me to be late. I expect him to be late. I still have to go to Traders Square for, uhm, non-combat supplies. But technically my mission isn't complete until they are at Frostplain, so I should see this through."

The girl stretched her back, which was beginning to feel sore from carrying Rusziné's sword.

"The Kyadii are done. The Foyii are fine. Bezélan's not going to be attacked by the Kyadii. There's nothing more you can do. But you haven't answered my question."

Rusziné shrugged.

"Is that your answer to everything?" Ayàvi asked, a little annoyed.

"Pretty much," he acknowledged, "not because I have no answer, but usually because my input has little value."

"Sir, don't speak of yourself like that!" Jaridà interrupted.

"Why not? And please, stop it with the 'Sir'. I'm just a citizen now - and not even that to be honest," Rusziné glanced back to Ayàvi and sighed heavily, "I don't have a plan. Or transport. My mind is on surviving Tolmyr. I'm sorry, again. I'm not being a great friend right now."

"I can't pretend to understand your feelings about everything, Iné. I'm just trying to help," she added, a touch saddened, "anyway, I thought you would have been preoccupied with the step after the next one, rather than this moment. So, I've decided you two are travelling by Hawk, at least for some of the journey."

Jaridà considered the offer in the context of what had happened that day.

"You shouldn't drop us at the Viàtoli, as that could leave you at risk of attack now there's no pact in place, yes?"

Ayàvi nodded. "I don't think we're at war, but I won't be the first one to test that theory. So, I can drop you North of Oestun Vyai."

"Then... thank you," Rusziné acknowledged, "but I may need air-dropping near the Square first. It's quite a trek from here and I am tired."

"Consider it done, well, once we have seen the Kyadii safely off," Ayàvi smiled with relief, "and I may be able to offer you something once we're there. Hopefully even you cannot shrug at that."

"Don't give him a dare, or he'll make you gamble on it," Jaridà smirked.

From a nearby tree, a small white bird chirruped, bobbed then took to the skies.

 

23, Jylta 545 AFD

Near Everspring, 12 Ur

They had had to slip away from the crowd of Kyadii to make their way to the Forest of Doon. While they could have called on the Qalathian or Foyii healers some more, both he and Lyssah were in agreement that the Frostplainers were the priority. But never before had Lyssah seen her life-partner in so much pain, nor struggle to walk and lift his arms properly.

At regular intervals, they paused to take water, pick some winterberries and allow Calledth to rest. It was during one of their breaks, the last one before they would reach Everspring, that he had noticed Lyssah collecting leaves from the ground.

"Love, what...are you doing?" he asked, wincing.

"Amassing as many fallen red leaves as I can," she simply explained.

"Clearly," he groaned, "I think I meant... why?"

"You're not going to let yourself go back to duty with a torn tunic and shredded leaves now, are you?"

"Do I look well enough for any duty?" he frowned, which was only answered with a smile.

"Yes, your duty to your own health, for once. And with teamwork, other...duties too," she smirked, "but after what has happened, I will be making this tunic, and it will be stronger than your current one. Without limiting your movement, of course."

Calledth winced.

"I don't...deserve you." he managed before resting his head on the ground.

"Being loved isn't about earning or deserving it. It just is," she said, before something caught her eye, "oh look, Nature claimed a frost-elk."

"That normally makes you sad," Calledth pointed out.

"Yes, but ice-infused skins, if sealed in with certain incantations, can make stronger leathers."

"Well skin it quickly, before I become infused with the floor then."

Lyssah chuckled.

"Yes, Sir Foyruszi."

23, Jylta 545 AFD

Timri, West of Traders Square, 12 Ur 30

"We break here, but not for long, okay?" she ordered, "take food, but be careful of your drink choices. Do not dull your minds."

The other mages grumbled, and she sighed.

"Fine," she sighed, "you can dull your minds once the job is done. I need to consider what Carnael meant by 'not armed yet armed'. So if you have input, now is time."

They had wondered if he was versed in weaponless magecraft, but given the king's general disdain for their arts, he would have likely explicitly stated that upfront. He was also not of a hybrid race, so had no claws to conceal, and the King's reference would not have included fisticuffs as being "armed".

If anyone is going to have the weaponless advantage, she thought, frowning, it will be me.

As nothing new was put forward, the group split up, each going their own way. They were used to how rest breaks functioned by now, and knew precisely how many minutes they had on their own. But if today's "job" put them where they should be in society, they could bear with it a little longer. It had taken many such "jobs" to get them this far and even now the outcome was not certain.

At least we were sent with a distinct purpose and mission, she pondered, brushing some road dust from her deep blue robe, even if the road has been complicated so far.

She sat on a boulder next to the rough fence that led West along the Bracken Barrier towards the northern gate to Oestun Vyai and gazed in that direction, her brow furrowed. The Viàtoli, and therefore Tolmyr Sands, lay due West of that fortified village. There was practically no risk of her target arriving from the South and, unless he took a very long detour, he almost certainly would not trek through the Wild Marshes either.

Yes, that gate is ideal, she decided, in fact it is the only plausible route.

To the king, this was about hatred and revenge. To her it was just a job, task or assignment - and one that needed to be done professionally to prove her worth. Their worth. It would bring them another step closer to the goals of their masters, the ones with the "full tapestry vision" as some in the Order called it.

She had chosen an area open enough to expose him, yet far enough from a settlement not to risk blackening their personal names courtesy of witnesses.

"If we have to do the dirty work for His Perfectness," she muttered through clenched teeth, "it'll be worth it."

Overhead, small flurries and flocks of birds passed over; some red and some white, their blazing colours occasionally broken up by a raven.

At least the Bluebirds aren't around, ruddy spies, she thought.

A small group of white birds fluttered overhead, and followed each other in a circle before following the breeze back the way they had come.

It must be wonderful to be so ignorant of the world that you can go literally wherever the Wind takes you, she thought wistfully, free and happy.

She might never be truly free, but she was determined to work towards a happier place in the lands and today was one stride of that journey, if all went according to plan. Today, some factors were outside of her control, but she was too committed to this approach to back out now. In the recesses of her mind, she knew that she harboured doubts, like stricken ships hanging onto the docks by ropes, where one snap would sink them but if the ropes held then the boats could be made seaworthy once more. She doubted her leadership and the level of their magecraft. What concerned her most was the timing of their Movement. It had taken many years for the Order to make it even this far. The success or failure of today all hinged on...

"Someone who is unhinged," she muttered with a bitter sigh, "what was I thinking?"


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