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

Chapter 9, Episode 1: Fearing the Known

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Fearing the Known


23, Jylta 545 AFD

Viàn Falínai, 10 Ur 30

Kyaevy jumped down from her Hawk and, while his head was still bowed, gave him an uncharacteristic kiss on his forehead.

Why this show of affection, my friend? Aillèpi asked, perplexed.

"Because you've been wonderful, patient and have permitted me to ride on you for a long time," the Kyadd smiled, gently clawing at her neck, which had become itchy within the last Ur or so, "and once I'm back home, you will have a long break from me, I promise."

You need not make rash promises Kyaevy. And you speak as though I resent carrying you, which I do not, he explained, I also know you were about to offer to make your own way back to Bruhàn Foyblànii, yet you are beginning to be afflicted with that which the Deenfeiss from Frostplain struggle.

"Oh, that's why I'm scratching," she responded, stifling a nervous laugh, "it is only an irritation."

For now, Aillèpi pointed out, then raised his head, inclining it to one side, the Kyadd from Qal'ath needs your support I think.

"Then I will go find him, thank you."

Walking in the direction her Hawk had indicated, she saw once more some of the Kyadii she had to face in battle just a few Urs earlier. She rubbed her now-dry eyes, made her way around one of the burial hills and passed two Qalathian soldiers deep in conversation. Eventually she sensed, and then noticed the one Kyadd who stood out as a stark contrast against the others. He wore a tunic and black cloak and, to her surprise, appeared uncomfortable in the cold. He also seemed to be trying to explain something to the other Kyadii in a manner which she would adopt if someone could not, or would not, understand.

Stopping half-way through a phrase, Klor'asq caught the scent of someone he had never met before.

Quite a pleasing scent too, he mused.

Kyaevy smirked, knowing she had both seen and smelt him first, but ensured her satisfaction was not evident once within a normal Kyadd's so-called sharp-sight range.

"Greetings," she announced with a half-bow, "you appear to be having a battle of a non-tribal sort."

"And who is this Kyadd, Klor'asq?" one demanded,  "she too has the blue markings."

"You may ask me directly," Kyaevy interjected, put out, "I am Kyaevy of the White-Leaf Forest in the North-East," she explained, "and yes, my heritage is Deenfeiss also."

"'Kyaevy' is no Rarshk name," one stated in surprise, before realising it sounded insulting.

"That is correct," she affirmed, "and I am not offended by your...shock. Kyaevy is an adopted name, acquired through how I respond to nature and how it responds to me. Not too dissimilar to some Rarshk conventions, such as 'Silent Fang' here," she added with a sideways glance at Klor'asq.

Klor'asq turned to her. "And 'Kyaevy' simply means Wind-Cat, or Cat of the Wind, with a capital 'W', yes?"

"Indeed. 'Wind' or 'Air', it doesn't really matter to me, though. It could be roughly translated back to Rarshk as Ghytveer, which I prefer to Tygveer, as I do not consider myself wild."

"And Ghytveer almost sounds like Kyaevy," Klor'asq noted, "and you're from the Brùha Foyblànii, the wood that neighbours the Deenfeiss territory in Frostplain?"

"The very same," she confirmed, "so, what's the problem? My Hawk said you might need assistance."

Klor'asq shrugged.

"Far be it from me to undervalue the opinion of a Great Hawk, but to a degree it was correct. I'm trying to explain why tribal life isn't for every North Kyadd."

Kyaevy grinned, baring her brilliant white fangs.

"Let me guess, your words did not convince them?"

"We can accept Klorrr'asq can no longer rejoin us," one answered, "but cannot grrrasp why he would not do so, even if his body adjusted."

Kyaevy looked to Klor'asq who threw his hand-paws in the air in frustration.

"Be my guest! I've already used every method I know to try and explain that every life is different even in the same clan. You can't make them understand less."

10 Ur 40

Meanwhile, behind the northernmost burial mound of the Viàn, the other contingent of Deenfeiss Leen were preparing for the return trip home. It had become obvious that many would be unfit for hunting if they were exposed for many more hours to the relative heat of the Qalathian Winter.

It was near to this group that Ayàvi had landed her Hawk an Ur earlier. Evy had been distributing remedies or casting gentle incantations to those who were willing, stemming the worsening of their condition. She had become concerned that the Kyadii were still at the Viàn, when they should be as far North as possible - and as soon as feasible.

"What is holding them up, Ayàvi?" she asked as the Foya walked by her.

"I expect it's just the obvious, Evy, they want their leaders back."

As though directly summoned, Ferrfeiss and Arrnwarr ran around the hill to the group, followed by the remnant from the Stones of Myrn.

 


23, Jylta 545 AFD

Saf-Athan Palace, 11 Ur

"Now what?" Carnael demanded, irritated that he had barely laid down before Latisha had, rightfully, awakened him once more.

"Sorry, my King, but a representative from Bezélan Minor and an inhabitant from Uranbé-Kur have an urgent request. That request seemed just to me, but outside of my authority."

The King wrapped a purple cloak around him and shuffled towards the throne room.

"Very well, I will see them shortly. And send coffee and bread."

"Not Purple Tea, your Majesty?" Latisha questioned, "N-not that I question your judgement, but-"

"No, Royal Guard, I said coffee. I have no patience left, do not play to my preferences when I have to deal with my needs and what others expect of me."

Shocked at the unexpected outburst, Latisha saluted and ran to the kitchens, flushed in shame.

Exactly five minutes later, the King with warm bread in one hand and a hot coffee in the other admitted his unwelcome guests into his presence. They shuffled down the plush, purple carpet towards the King, and knelt at the bottom of the three steps to the throne itself.

"You may rise," Carnael growled, "now tell me, how am I supposed to help?"

"I a-am, N-nyk from Uranbé, one man stuttered, and this," he continued, "is Leníc from Minor."

"I am just a humble inn-keeper Your Majesty," Leníc explained with a little more control of his nerves than his counterpart, "but we share a common issue. Every morning around five Ur, maybe six, one of the army always comes with bread he has bought. This he gives to help those forced to live in the streets to have least one scant meal a day. For many that is there only meal. My inn barely makes profit, but I have tried to add our own-baked bread to it, but the need is too great. While those on the street are a small proportion of the populace, their need is extreme."

"I see," Carnael pretended to sympathise, "that does sound challenging. But what a soldier does before his shift is not of concern to me. So long as that bread was paid out of his own coin."

Latisha, who had been stood in silence to one side, shifted her balance from one foot to the other. The King, hearing her boots scrape against the crimson stonework around the base of the Throne looked at her.

"What is it, Guard?" he snapped.

"I- I can confirm that story," Latisha replied, still shaken from Carnael's earlier harsh words, "I delayed telling you of these citizens' arrival while I visited the Treasury. No funds were missing and neither has any coin been paid for the expense of the provisions for the, erm, breakfastless of the city."

"'Breakfastless'? Get a grip, Guard," the King sighed, and turned his attention back to the visitors, "so, what of it, then?"

Nyk looked up at the King with watery eyes, wondering why his ruler was not seeing the problem, when he was supposed to care for the whole populace, rich or poor.

"Y-your Majesty's soldier did not come with bread, t-today. It is now past eleven Ur. We were wondering if he had taken ill, or ... worse."

Leníc took one step closer to the throne, the only one remaining at the feet of the King that he was permitted to be in. He knelt again with his head bowed.

"Your people suffer, My Lord, My King. There is not enough work in the city and insufficient housing outside of it. Immigrants are not being processed, but left languishing, joining the poor of Ragged Row and, eventually, Bezélan Minor. The streets in our dark corner of your Glorious Capital are never cleared, though we try to keep them clean. And, unless the daily bread delivery arrives, more people will start dying. It is Winter, and that bread literally could mean life or death. Your Majesty holds that power in our Realm, the power to give and restore life, or...or not," he added, his voice betraying his feelings.

He took a moment to regain some measure of control over his own emotions.

"That soldier only ever repairs his own armour, sharpens his own sword - when he should be able to get those paid for. Anyway, we know when he's on duty in the Capital that he skips meals, usually to give it to one or two people that need it. In him we saw the true heart of Qal'ath and the care of the authorities. Please My Lord, My King, can you find out who was doing such a kindness and, if he is on some glorious campaign, please can the King provide twenty loaves of bread for Uranbé Kur and thirty for Minor to supplement the twenty I can scrape together? Your people are struggling and we await your judgement."

As if staged, though it could not have been, Nyk's stomach gave such a loud rumble it echoed around the throne room.

"A-apologies, Y-your Majesty," he stammered, "it's just your bread and coffee, smells...like real food."

Carnael inclined his head to Latisha.

"Which rank of the army could afford that much bread a day before providing for their own needs, and who could have been showing this so-called 'heart of Qal'ath'?"

Latisha considered the numbers as given by Leníc.

"It would be at least half of a Proven's wage, so very unlikely to be that rank, your Majesty. At a push, a City Watch or Marshall might manage it but only with significant personal risk. Your Royal Guards could, naturally, but our duties rarely afford us the freedom to travel across the city with that kind of regularity. That leaves the Captains, my Lord."

"The Captains?" Carnael pondered, hoping the answer was not that which he was dreading.

"Y-your Majesty?" Nyk ventured, "S-sorry for s-speaking out of turn, but h-he never gave us his rank. He said, off duty, i-it didn't matter and if he c-could do it at another time h-he wouldn't even be in uniform."

The King ripped off another piece of bread, dipped it in his coffee and chewed on it, a disconcerted frown playing on his brow.

"There is only one person with that kind of attitude towards being a Captain," he began, as measured as he could force himself to be, "and he is no longer serving Qal'ath, and today I have removed him from his position."

Lenìc's head dropped further until it rested on the floor and he whimpered in dismay. Nyk's jaw looked as though it could do likewise.

If he has been removed from his position, then he no longer has the pay needed to help us, Leníc despaired.

The silence felt almost touchable, broken only by the moaning of the inn-keeper of the poorest district in the whole of Qal'ath.

Eventually he raised his head.

"Then we look to you for bread, or even grain we can tread ourselves. We need only the basic ingredients. It is the wrong season for planting that even Your Majesty's personal field is not yet yielding crops. Please. Your Majesty. Where is the heart for the most unfortunate in your glorious Realm?"

Latisha kept her jaw locked and face impassive, but for the first time, began to worry for the future of Qal'ath under its current ruler.

Or at least, the system under him, she considered, surely he cannot be blamed for every injustice, can he?

Carnael's eyes narrowed.

"The strength of Qal'ath has always been in its people, the everyday folk," he smiled in a way which unnerved the visitors, "your bread-bringer was not acting as a representative of Bezélan, but on behalf of himself. You said so yourself, by saying he paid for it from his own coin."

Nyk began to tremble in fear and weakness, realising where this thought was leading.

The king looked at the half-hunk of bread on his plate and threw it down the steps of the throne.

"Take your bread, supplicants, and hope for miracles. Or prove that you, the everyday folk, have the strength of Qal'ath. Today starts a new era for my Kingdom, one where I will not be made to look bad by those beneath me. The Realm will not just appear great, it will be great, because the natural order will reign. Who survives the natural order, supplicants?"

Leníc felt hollow, but forced himself to stand, keeping his eyes downcast, trying to prevent his seething anger from being witnessed by the King.

"Outside the walls of your Capital, your Majesty," he responded through clenched teeth, "it is the strongest animals that whittle down the weak."

"And inside?" Carnael goaded him.

Leníc shrugged in resignation. "Just now, I have learned that the same applies here too. I must leave, I have bread to bake to try to save what few I can and must inform our governor that the daily deliveries have ceased from today. As though that fat man truly cares, but I will do things the way they should be done anyway."

Nyk glanced down at the partially-eaten, rich-brown, seeded loaf on the floor and back to Leníc.

"You may take it, friend. It would only taste bitter in my mouth," Lenìc nodded with a tight smile.

Nyk shook his head.

"If others must die, I will not live because I ate from the king's plate."

"Then accompany me back to Minor and I can try to help you."

Nyk nodded and reached up to grab Leníc's outstretched hand.

"I used to think the unknown was the thing I feared the most," he sighed, shaking his head.

"Now, we must fear and face the known," Leníc, "let's leave this soulless place."

Without ceremony, Leníc held and supported Nyk until they were out of the palace and could seek assistance to return to the inn. Latisha shifted uncomfortably again, for once wishing she was not guarding King Carnael.

He did not stop that conversation from taking place in front of him, she wondered in confusion, why? What is going on with him?

Carnael drained his coffee cup ignorant of, or ignoring, her restlessness.

"I must get ready for the journey to Oestun Vyai now," he simply stated, then stood and wiped his mouth.

Latisha, without looking at her king, responded:

"Does y-your Majesty want the rest of his bread?"

"It's been on the floor. You can give it to the birds."

 


23, Jylta 545 AFD

Viàn Falínai, 11 Ur

"So, you see, I do have a clan. It's just that, since cubhood, mine has been mostly made of Foyii instead of Kyadii," Kyaevy concluded, "to use their language rather than yours."

Klor'asq had been leaned up a nearby tree, more as a shelter from the chilly breeze than for listening intently to Kyaevy's explanation, but even he had to admit her arguments had been better than his own. He also struggled to fight the thought that he found her distracting.

"And you do not feel less a Kyadd for it?" one of her hearers asked, perplexed.

Kyaevy shook her head, then scraped back her silver and blue hair so it was out of her eyes.

"If anything I feel more a Kyadd, because I am in contrast to those around me who are not. Tell me, do you feel more like yourself as an individual, or just one part of a larger identity?"

"Clan life is supposed to be about group survival," another explained slowly, "isolation breeds vulnerability."

"Ah, but I did not suggest isolation, but individuality. My point is, you can become the Kyadd you want to be and be part of a larger clan. It is not a choice of two opposing views. Your group is made of Kyadii and there is honour in that. Mine is not, and there is honour in that too."

Deciding they had had enough to think about, Kyaevy let them fall silent. She took a deep breath and rubbed her eyes with the backs of her hand-paws once again.

They feel like sand. We must hurry.

"Klor'asq, before you return to the walled city, please can you let the other group know we should be moving out?"

Figuring that was at least on his way home, Klor'asq agreed and padded away, casting one last glance at her over his shoulder. Kyaevy turned back to look at her group of seated Kyadii and resumed scratching the back of her neck.

"Ugh, this is infuriating", she growled, before noticing others under her careful gaze were beginning to hold their heads, seemingly in pain, some even on the edge of consciousness.

Pain I can deal with, until more help arrives.

"My friends," she called out, hoping she was loud enough, "it is time to stand and rejoin your clan to head North. We urgently need to hurry this along."

When no response came to her, she was momentarily stunned.

So this is what happens when a Deenfeiss Kyadd spends too long away from the cold, she thought, concerned as the itching spread to her face and shoulders.

I am running out of time to help them, she thought frantically.

She deftly unclipped her Rzarchprl from behind her back and closed her eyes, grateful she had harnessed it as both a hand-to-hand weapon and Elemental brand. She tried to focus on how it felt in her hand-paw, pushing herself to ignore her stinging eyes, and sensed the element of the Air from which she drew much of her power.

"Beràun-ai, Vyàn'orm, Bùja'jétyn!"21 she called out, her voice raspy as the itch became pain.

Forcing herself to open her eyes, she lifted the Kyadii weapon into the Air, where it glowed white. Ethereal petals formed in the aura, and flowed forwards and down to the afflicted Kyadii, dissipating on them as a mist.

I must...get them...home, she willed, her concentration wavering.

She had not tried this particular method before - one where she banished pain and attempted to shield her patients from the Elements, both natural and ethereal. But not long into channelling her incantation, she realised she had misjudged how many Kyadii needed attending to.

Hùlanerd, she cursed in her mind's eye, there are too many!

"Keep your arm steady, Kyaevy," an unknown voice commanded her, with such an authority she felt she knew she could obey, "I can see that's difficult with your...condition."

The Kyadd grimaced and nodded.

"Good. Ayàvi, hold her arm up, if you please. And if you have any mental reserves to spare, now would be the time to share them. With her, not me."

The girl nodded and smiled, glad to support her usually-independent friend.

Evy surveyed the group before her and sighed.

"Kyaevy is relieving your pain at a great cost to herself," she explained, "but we cannot stop your heat-driven illness without your consent and your action. I can help with the cold, however."

The group groaned in near-unison.

"And please", Evy added, "you may not have understood Kyaevy's incantation but you must try to stand."

From behind them, Arrnwarr and Ferrfeiss ran to their subdued comrades and began to grasp the hand-paws of those too weak to move themselves. Satisfied that enough willing was being shown, Evy unclipped the Branch from her belt and pointed it towards the group. It wasn't natural for ice and snow to fall sideways, but preventing Nature from rendering these Kyadii senseless meant not being completely in step with Her for once.

"E-an Aevyten, Ormà'glynà, y-randusàn!" she whispered.

Swirls of snow began to form at the tip of her branch and, heeding her words, shot forward and joined Kyaevy's conjured Wind where the Kyadd's petals reformed into the shape of crystalettes, and rained on both Kyaevy's group and those who were assisting them.

"Oh, that's really pretty," Ayàvi smiled.

"Focus, Ayàvi!" Evi snapped, "You have a much more important task."

"Sorry," the girl flushed, before realising to her horror that she had ceased to share her power with her Kyaddi friend.

Kyaevy thought she sensed something crack, deep within her body. Or was it deeper than even that? The pain in her eyes was straining her concentration, and she clenched her teeth together, inadvertently biting her lip with one of her fangs.

I may not be officially Deenfeiss, but I'll be condemned to the Void before I let a Kyadd die on my watch. My life, for many.

At the edge of her awareness, she felt Evy's incantation and gave a gentle sigh of relief.

I don't have to do this...on my own...now, Kyaevy thought, feeling dizzy, I think...I think I cannot save more. Aevyten...Aillèpi...Ayàvi...thank you.

Sensing that Kyaevy was losing concentration, Evy shuffled to her side, and carefully prised her Rzarchprl from her hand-paw, her own focus allowing a continuation of the White Leaf's incantation.

"I need this, friend," Evy explained, "get rained on. Now."

As she let go of her weapon, Kyaevy moaned and collapsed, caught in time by Ayàvi who manoeuvred her gently under the cascade of both the active incantations. Ayàvi herself was tired, firstly from the physical exertions of the early morning and then from sharing her mental reserves. She was also berating herself for losing concentration at such a critical moment.

"I've got you, Kyaevy," she whispered in her friend's ear, which laid flat against her head, "And I am so sorry if I've made it worse for you."

Evy, still holding both weapons in the air, took a deep breath of the icy breeze, the product of their joint effort and smiled.

"There is hope yet," she muttered under her breath, before allowing the two weapons to gradually reduce their effect, until they ceased. She gently rested the Kyadd's Rzarchprl on the ground, grateful she had been able to slip her fingers between the blades and barbs.

I'll never fathom how they use these without losing fingers or paws.

The Northern Kyadii, while not fully healed, were greatly strengthened. The presence of their leaders came as a great relief. Although Ferrfeiss and Arrnwarr's behaviour as a life-couple was new, none were surprised by it either.

"It's about time!" one said with a smirk, "you criticise each other so much, you could only have wanted the other to become stronger,"

Their smiles momentarily faded when a huge shadow loomed overhead, which was accompanied by Aillèpi, Kyaevy's Great Hawk. For one of his size, he landed gently near to where Ayàvi was cradling the Kyadd's head in her lap. Seeing the crumpled form of the one who had mended their hurt, many of the Deenfeiss Kyadii rushed to where she was laid.

Aillèpi, conscious that most of them would not know his interest in the Kyadd turned his head to one side and gave a gentle hiss, which so took them aback that they kept their distance.

"I didn't know birds could hiss," Arrnwarr noted, "they don't in Frostplain, that's for sure."

"Then you've never hunted the grrround-based birds near the White Peaks," Ferrfeiss grinned, "they don't take too kindly to...intruderrrs. At least hawks don't spray poison brrreath to keep you away."

"Ugh, if they stink that bad, I can live without hunting them," Arrnwarr spouted in disgust.

"Yeah, but theirrr eggs smell divine, so it's almost worth it."

"Almost?"

"The smell can overwhelm the taste, so make sure you rrrun into a cave or a frrree corner before consuming it. Don't eat the birds there either."

"I don't think that's something I plan on doing anytime soon," she chuckled softly, "I have otherrr distractions and priorities."

A few paces away, Ayàvi was not aware of the crowd, their concerns or words. Her focus was on her friend who had not stirred since falling, and on the overwhelming feeling she had let her down.

"Come on Kyaevy, wake up," she whimpered, "wake up, kitten. I don't want you to have saved all these people and not see the good you have done. Wake up."

Aillèpi leaned down, until his enormous beak touched his friend's forehead. Ayàvi slowly reached one hand out to the bird's cheek, keeping the other on her friend. Though she had done it to give and receive comfort, she had not expected to understand Kyaevy's Hawk, one of those usually only understood by their chosen rider.

<< Kyaevy, my friend, you have given much. Too much. Though you thank me often, I do not do likewise nearly enough. Awaken now, and learn to receive as well as give. >>

A tear dropped from Ayàvi's eye and fell onto her friend's nose.


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