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

Chapter 4: Held Back, Bursting Forth

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Who Stands, Goes


 

The Viàn Falínai

23, Jylta 545 AFD, 6 Ur

Knowing his stance would make a counter-attack inevitable, Rusziné side-stepped the Kyadd, who found himself face-to-face with the irate visage of Lyssah. She had counted herself fortunate that the shaft of her spear had landed directly with the wood of the Kyadd's weapon and not one of its blades.

"I am not... giving in, to you, woman," he growled, as both his and her arms began to shake with the effort.

Lyssah was about to sweep his legs from under him when a deft move from Jaridà resulted in a cloud of herbal scents filling the air.

"Stand back everyone!" he shouted, more so he could be heard than because he wanted to command people's attention.

He was surprised when everyone did so, except the Kyadd who had fallen onto his side, apparently in deep sleep.

"Well done, Jaridà," Rusziné acknowledged, before turning his attention to the remainder of the group of Deenfeiss Leen, "and, unless you all also want an impromptu nap, I'd suggest sitting down and sheathing your weapons, while we figure out what's next."

"You don't want us to surrender our weapons?" one asked.

"Don't give me ideas, now," Rusziné chuckled, "but no, I don't know how to use one of those things without cutting my hand off, and I think you've already lost your key 'weapon' - that of surprise. Wouldn't you agree?"

The Kyadii reluctantly did as instructed, and sat in a circle muttering amongst themselves in Rarshk, their own tongue.

Seeing the threat as having passed, Lyssah climbed to where Calledth was sat, hunched over.

"Love, that's...horrific," she stared aghast at the deep wound, "you're fortunate no bones were  damaged."

"Hey," he croaked, "I stopped the bleeding by putting pressure on it using that rock," he motioned behind him, "I did say I needed a healer. For once."

Lyssah's mind was whirling, trying to decide how best to achieve that. Calledth's leather-and-leaf armour was ripped to shreds down the middle of his back and it took no Foya12 to tell the difference between the deep red Maple leaves adhered to the animal hide and the ones that were stained with his blood. It was proving difficult to avert her eyes from the rock, which should have been crème-white, now mostly a dark brown. She was grateful Calledth had been honest in saying he had stopped the bleeding when he would usually hide his weakness or beaten pride even from her. Or, at least, he would try to.

"Men of Qal'ath," she called down, "do you happen to have a spare one of those pouches?"

Rusziné nodded and threw one up to her, which she caught and began to gently open. The slightest shake of her hand, she knew, would be enough to create another sleep-inducing cloud, an outcome which would serve neither her nor her life partner. She held her breath, forcing herself to keep her hands steady, when worry and post-battle stress could cause them to shake.

"I wouldn't mind being knocked out right now," Calledth grimaced, as he watched her strong yet elegant fingers working the corners of paper away from whatever glue Qal'ath had used in creating the intoxicating concoction.

"That's not the plan," Lyssah replied, while finally peeling the last corner away, "at least, not while you're here at the Viàn. Having seen the effect on our dear Kyadd down there, I suspect these herbs are also remedial. Hold still, it will only hurt like crazy for a few seconds."

"What's extending the pain for a few more seconds? Do what you need to, love."

Lyssah nodded. Sealing the wound and soothing the pain were the priorities, but he was going to need a great deal of sleep and rest to recover his blood-loss. And if there was one thing Calledth was not good at, it was resting.

"After this, I need to learn more of the healing arts," she muttered, "tree-swinging and spear-craft are all well and good, but there's more to fighting than being an overdressed lance-monkey."

Calledth tried to laugh but the pain shot to his head. Lyssah flushed red.

"I- I'm sorry love, the nerves had to get out some way."

Down below, an air of uncertainty hung over all present. Two groups of Kyadii had been put out of action with, Rusziné hoped, the third being handled elsewhere. But with their tribal leader absent and his commanders pacified, he was left watching over more of them than he had seen in his lifetime, and had no idea how to proceed. He could not leave the Kyadii where they were, as they were still a threat to Qal'ath until they returned home. Equally, staying where he was not an option until all of the would-be invaders were rounded up.

As his mind returned to those of his squad stationed at the Stones of Myrn, the call of a Hawk overhead startled him. As if to rattle him further, when the bird landed, a Kyadd jumped from its back.

"No need for alarm, I am Foyblànii," Kyaevy explained, "and there is also no time to talk. A small number of the trrrespassers have made it into Doon and are heading South."

"Then they will have to get past my forces at the Stone of Myrn," Rusziné replied, "but they may well be bent on killing anyone there."

"They have no idea that we've been using non-lethal force with complete success either," Lyssah called down from next to Calledth, "in other news, I need to get my partner home for a healer."

It was then that one of the Kyadii in the circle pricked his ears up and glanced sideways at her.

"You planned to only use methods that would not kill?" he asked in almost a whisper, "I hate to admit it, but that was ourrr plan too. Choose to believe it orrr not, it changes nothing. But one of yourrrs may have perrrished by our paws."

"Who?" Lyssah asked, frowning.

"We did not have time to ask names, Leaf-Woman," the Kyadd grumbled, "but he was spying and firrring arrows from up there," he explained pointing towards the North-East.

"Kighas!" Lyssah exclaimed.

"Beforrre you despairrr," Kyaevy interjected, "I think my squadrrron leaderrr took him to Everrrspring. And please excuse me, being around Kyadii brrrings out my purrr."

"Never apologise for who you are, friend White-Leaf," Lyssah replied, closing her eyes and letting her shoulders fall back to their rightful places.

"As for your need for a healer," Rusziné thought out loud,  "my medic is somewhat indisposed right now, but she was last on the Forest's edge with one of my soldiers."

Kyaevy scratched her head in thought.

"But my healerrr is parked just out West holding a shield bubble over one of the attack groups. You, I think, have two groups here," she pointed out, glancing around at the seated Kyadii, "hey, if the Deenfeiss Leen werrre split into three groups, who then passed into Doon?"

"That would be our chief," one of the dejected Kyadii replied, "and our scout."

"The stealth specialist who knocked out one of my group before we even set foot on the Viàn?" Rusziné asked.

"I can't speak for what she has done, but it sounds like her work."

"Right, then we have to do another mad dash. The strongest Kyadd of a clan of strong Kyadii, backed by one who can make herself nearly invisible will easily overcome my soldiers. And Lyssah is right, they may well kill to reach Qal'ath. However," he pondered, aware that he was already five minutes delayed, "I am not allowed to leave you here sat on the Viàn either, where I cannot see you."

He knew the answer to the problem, but wanted them to come to the conclusion on their own.

"I just want to be reunited with the chief," one moaned, "take me with you. That way we all do what we must."

And, as though a rock had been moved from a river about to burst, one by one all the Kyadii joined in and agreed to do the same.

"Sir," Jaridà piped up, "some, and by that I mean, many, are not in a fit state to run."

"Good point," Rusziné acknowledged, then turned back to the Deenfeiss Leen, "whoever is fit enough to run, get up now and run with me. We need to reach your chief before anything happens to him and I need to reach my people for the same reason. If you are not fit enough to run, then..."

"I'll stay," Jaridà volunteered, as those feeling they could run stood.

"And I'll get the bubbled Kyadii over here so at least they're together," Kyaevy suggested.

"I still need a healer or transport!" Lyssah called, frustrated.

"You can have both in less time than it would take to get you to Everrrspring, friend Green-Leaf," Kyaevy affirmed.

"Right, Jaridà, you've volunteered for something serious and I want you to take it seriously, alright?", Rusziné reminded him, "work with our friends and allies. You are Qal'ath's representative now. No one here must come to harm. I mean no one, got it?"

Once his subordinate had nodded, Rusziné motioned to the standing Kyadii and they began to sprint in the same direction as Ferrfeiss and Arrnwarr.

Everspring, 6 Ur 5

"How do you feel?" the medic asked tentatively.

"Still a bit stunned, but I can move now," Natarr replied.

"Good, I promised Rusziné I would try to make you useful."

"I'm in no fit state to fight, and I'm not just trying to wriggle out of it."

The medic shook her head.

"I don't think that will be necessary anyway. But I think you should get to the Stones of Myrn and warn Marshall Jewan."

"Wait," Natarr interrupted, rubbing his eyes again, hoping it was not another sneeze, "I don't remember you."

The medic smiled.

"It must have been that knock to the head."

"Yeah, maybe," he replied, unsure what to believe.

"Anyway, get you to Myrn, and swiftly," the medic insisted.

"But the Kyadii have a head-start, from what we overheard," Natarr protested.

"But they also have to rely on stealth, which you do not. Please."

Natarr sighed, considered the request for a moment then nodded.

"Very well. What about you?"

"I'm needed at Everspring, whether Chief Ki-E-Vwa realises it yet or not."

With no further words, they each placed a hand on the other's shoulder then turned and ran in their respective directions.


Everspring, 6 Ur 15

Chief Ki-E-Vwa was finalising a plan to visit the Viàn Falínai to help protect it, when a brief but violent rush of air swept through his open door, knocking a few cups and ornaments from shelves in his hut. Pulling his cloak tightly around him, he reached for his staff and cautiously approached the door, where he saw a Hawk carrying a limp form of a Foyi.

"Kighas!" he cried out.

"He's not gone yet, I don't think, but we need to work on him quickly," the rider explained, "where should we place him?"

"By the pool over there," Ki-E-Vwa motioned to the Hawk's left, "on the grass, not the mud, please."

"Acknowledged!" the rider responded.

The chief watched as the Hawk, with its long, sharp claws and fierce, piercing gaze, delicately and tenderly place Kighas next to the azure waters of Everspring, before lightly landing a short distance away. As quickly as he could muster, Ki-E-Vwa made his way to the spot and knelt on the ground, wincing as he did, and held a hand over Kighas' face, to sense the man's state.

"Before you go," he said, while still looking at his watch-guard, "what is the state of the Viàn?"

"Changeable. As far as we know, no one was killed, but there are injuries on both sides."

"And, did any make it into Doon?" Ki-E-Vwa asked.

"I'm not the one to ask, as I left as soon as we found Kighas. I would advise not worrying about that question, but focus on him," the rider responded, pointing to the Chief's patient.

"I will, thank you."

With that, the Hawk took off once more and returned North. Tears formed in the Chief's eyes.

"I refuse to believe it is your time to return to the Elements, my friend. You're still here, and you're staying that way."

"And I...came...to help," called a voice from somewhere to his left.

"Oh, thank the Elements, a Qalathi," Ki-E-Vwa exclaimed, "and a medic unless I'm mistaken. Come, let us find a solution that fits both of our cultures, before it's too late."

"The culture question is...of a lower importance," the medic replied slowly, her eyes focused on Kighas, "when faced with life and death, we do what we must."


The Stand-off at the Stones


 

The Stones of Myrn, 6 Ur 15

"Must we hang around on the off-chance something happens, Jewan?" Vimas complained, to which the Marshall scowled.

"Have you already forgotten we were told to be ready, and that it was not an 'off-chance'?" he asked through gritted teeth, "now is not the time to be lax. Hùlan."

"Your Captain has orders from the King," Y'mtyrn, a spearman of Proven rank, sternly reminded him, "and you have forgotten another direct order from your Captain if you think you're just 'hanging around'."

Vimas frowned, trying to recall what those instructions were.

"But he didn't give us much...oh," he realised, "he told us to listen," he added with regret and shame, before turning his attention back to the Forest's edge.

Y'mtyrn and Jewan exchanged shakes of the head and shrugs, before doing likewise.

"I hear something!", Oesuli exclaimed, "and now I see someone...but just one person. No tail either."

"Stand your ground and wait for them to approach, it may be one of ours."

As the figure drew closer, the half-decantà relaxed as Natarr came into focus. Wheezing and gasping with the exertion, he grasped onto one of the Stones, and Vimas rushed over to him. Opening his satchel of salves, the healer removed a small blue bottle, uncorked it and rubbed a small amount across Vimas' upper lip, before returning the ointment to his bag. As the vapour entered his nostrils, Natarr found he could breathe more easily but still found speaking a trial.

"Kyadii...nearly here," he wheezed, taking in deep breaths of the fresh air afforded by the small hillock on which the Stones of Myrn stood, "I only made it...after...being patched up, ugh..."

Jewan stepped forward, placed a hand on one of Natarr's shoulders and smiled.

"You've done well, thank you for the warning."

"Thank you...Marshall...but the King..," Natarr started to explain.

"...is likely to know within five minutes. Your work as a messenger is done," Jewan smiled to reassure him, "if you can breathe well enough to fight, draw your sword. If you are not, sit behind the Stone furthest away from Doon, where you are out of sight, so that you are safe."

Natarr nodded and pushed himself off the Standing Stone he had been leaning on. Recalling their inscriptions from his studies, he knew that one read "Ni-Tolii, Y-via", meaning "there should be no outcasts, there is a way." He shuffled to the Stone that Jewan had motioned to, which read "Graszii, Kyl" or "Thanks, and Protection".

That's the most appropriate wish right now, he thought.


Saf-Athan Palace, 6 Ur 20

"Thank you for coming in person, instead of sending another bird," Carnael acknowledged after the Neophyte had recounted his report, "not many speak bird anymore."

The King turned to his Royal Guards.

"I think I know what must be done. However, what is your advice?" he asked, invoking obvious shock from them both.

"If--if it pleases my Lord the King," Latisha explained, stammering, "and--and if my, erm, 'advice' fits with my Lord the King's thoughts--"

"Skip the pleasantries for once, but only this once," Carnael snapped.

Latisha saluted. "I believe the King should ensure the borders of his Realm are as he wishes them."

"Very well," Carnael nodded, "inform the Kyjushii trainers that I require my War-Cat, and I need it now."

"Does my King wish a guard to ride alongside him?" she asked.

"Indeed I do. You shall join me."

Latisha saluted again, then ran to follow his orders. The Kyjushii were carefully-bred deep-red felines, with sharp fangs and claws. They had been selected in ages past in preference to horses. The reasons behind this decision included the simple shock of enemies on the battlefield to seeing mounted wildcats and their climbing abilities and grip on slippery hillsides during wet battles. They also fought fiercely and were not easily frightened, making them seem more reliable as mounts.

Carnael turned back to the Neophyte.

"I will reach the Stones before you if you return on foot. Do you wish to stay in the Capital or ride with my Royal Guard?" he asked.

"My Lord the King, if the aim is to prevent an attack on Qal'ath and more from our glorious Realm are to arrive at the battle-scene, then my presence may indicate a more aggressive stance than we had planned."

The King nodded.

"As you wish. I highly suggest your return to your barracks, wash and get sleep. Again, you have my thanks."

The Neophyte bowed, saluted and steadily marched out of the Palace. Carnael shrugged and stretched.

Well, let's go and see what a mess Rusziné has made of this one, then, he thought.


The Stones of Myrn, 6 Ur 20

At the same moment the messenger had delivered his report to King Carnael, another, much taller figure strode towards the half-decantà.

"Kyadd," Jewan stated, loud enough so all in the so-called invisible defensive line could hear him, "But only one, draw your weapons but do not use them. And remember what you have in your pockets."

Ferrfeiss came into view at the Stone nearest the Forest's edge, his gnarled Rzarchprl in his right hand-paw.

"Indeed, I am a Kyadd, as you say in a tongue not your own," he smirked.

"Would you prefer that we called you Cat-Person?" Jewan frowned, "because I would not."

Ferrfeiss shook his head.

"Kyadd is fine."

He glanced up and down the line of soldiers and around at each of the Stones.

"Is this all the mighty Qal'ath sent to defend it?" he asked in surprise.

"Are you all the mighty Kyadii sent to attack it?" Y'mtyrn countered, "I was under the impression there were more of you - many more."

"Speak carefully, Y'mtyrn," Jewan warned.

Ferrfeiss shrugged.

"I don't think any more of us will be emerging from the Forest," he replied, struggling to contain his frustration and sadness, "we are all you are dealing with. I just hope that we are enough."

Jewan looked around him and searched for shadows from behind the Stones, but saw none.

"We? But I only see one of you."

A rustle from the Stone behind him forced him to turn around and Arrnwarr, holding Natarr in a strong grip and bearing a dagger emerged into the clearing.

"Man of Qal'ath, which at least you are, unlike your Captain, it's time to negotiate."

South of Everspring, the Forest of Doon, 6 Ur 20

Now this is weird, Rusziné thought as he clung onto the shoulders of one of the female Kyadii warriors.

At first, his speed and endurance had outpaced the Kyadii, but, having been worn down by the journey to the Viàn and subsequent non-battle, he found himself tiring more rapidly than he had anticipated. The Deenfeiss Leen, however, were spurred on by urgency and loyalty to their chief and eventually resorted to running on all hand- and foot-paws, which enabled them to move much quicker. In this way also the Deenfeiss shared a single focus - reaching the Stones of Myrn - and by instinct, formed a triangle similar to those seen in migrating birds, granting them almost problem-free passage through the early-morning mists.

"Think nothing of it," the Kyadd growled in a not-unfriendly rumble while leaping some taller tree roots, "I mean it literrrally. Don't rrremember it, and don't speak of it."

Rusziné nodded, then, realising that gesture would not be seen, let alone understood, simply responded, "I respect that."

Azagrrn, who had taken her turn to lead the group howled.

"We break free in a few minutes...be sure to walk with dignity once in the open."

Overhead, they thought they heard the cries of birds of prey, but sensing no danger, they pressed on.

The Stones of Myrn, 6 Ur 25

"Let me get this straight," Marshall Jewan replied, after hearing Arrnwarr's explanation and demands, "You won't kill my friend, who was already weakened, so long as we free a Kyadd you believe is imprisoned in Bezélan?"

Y'mtyrn nodded, "that's what I read of it too. Do you know of any such prisoner?"

Jewan shook his head.

"No, but I don't know the prisoner record like Rusziné does."

Ferrfeiss growled and placed a second hand-paw on his Rzarchprl.

"Captive need not mean prisonerrr," Arrnwarr pointed out, "he may be a slave instead, but,"

"Slavery is not a principle Qal'ath stands for," Y'mtyrn interrupted.

"You think that's trrrue?" Ferrfeiss snarled, "then where is Klor'asq?"

Y'mtyrn and Jewan looked at each other for the answers that neither of them had.

"I'm sorry. But I'm not bluffing when I say I don't know who that is," the Marshall replied.

"Then find out where he is!" Ferrfeiss howled, "there cannot be many Kyadii in your Realm and, least of all, one with our proud markings. You promise to release him, or face the retribution of the Deenfeiss Leen."

It was at that moment the pack of Kyadii arrived at the Stones, with Rusziné at its head. Seeing that one of Jewan's half-decantà was being held at knife-point he motioned to the group to stop behind him, then drew his sword. For his part, Ferrfeiss turned and snarled at Rusziné.

"Ah, the leader of this bunch of soldiers, you will fight for your Realm's honour," he stated, pointing his Rzarchprl towards Rusziné.

In the skies above the Stones, two Hawks who had been circling descended and landed on the East side of the hill, and their Foyblànii riders jumped off.

"Sorry we were delayed," Ayàvi apologised to Jewan, who nodded in response, "I had to finish rounding up the Kyadii before I could fly here."

Just as Rusziné was about to answer Ferrfeiss' challenge, all their attention was diverted towards two huge cats being ridden by King Carnael and Royal Guard Latisha, that leaped onto the Stone Circle's edge with thunderous growls.

"My Lord, the King," Y'mtyrn and Jewan saluted.

Carnael surveyed the scene, noted one of his soldiers held in the grip of one Kyadd, some forest folk he did not recognise, and then his eyes came to rest on Rusziné. As silence descended, the King's voice took on a menacing tone.

"Someone had better have a good explanation for why one of my supposed Captains appears to be leading the Kyadii."


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