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

Chapter 7: Myths of Freedom

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Perceptions of Freedom


23, Jylta 545 AFD

The Stones of Myrn, 8 Ur 30

"The question of my language is of secondary importance at best," the medic curtly responded, before checking herself, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't speak to you like that."

Rusziné half-heartedly lifted his forearms and let them drop, dejectedly.

"It's not like I'm your superior or anything, so, please just speak your mind."

"Not my superior? But you are a Captain, no?" she asked.

"Not any more, I am being set free in the direction of Tolmyr Sands for an eternal holiday. Isn't that delightful?" he sarcastically responded.

"Tolmyr Sands? But why?"

'Why' indeed? Rusziné thought, there is no good reason.

"Because the King has decreed it," he replied, keeping it simple.

"Oh, it's one of those moments," the medic murmured, looking briefly into the sky then closing her eyes.

What happened to that order of mages that was supposed to keep Carnael accountable? Not the Crystal Circle, the other one? What were they called? she thought, frustrated at the gaps in her knowledge.

"Yes it is," Rusziné confirmed, "stuff happened, it got resolved, the King didn't like it, so it's westward I go! Here's to freedom!"

"Freedom? He's free from you, I guess. It's a pity I don't have an ale or a Fyrous to hand for me to raise a glass to you," the medic responded in like manner, holding up then throwing away an imaginary glass.

"A pity indeed," Rusziné agreed with all sincerity, "freedom is totally dependent on circumstances and even then, on your perception of them."

"If you arrre imprrrisoned, or enslaved, you arrre not frrree." Arrnwarr stated, "it is quite simple."

"I agree to a point," Rusziné replied, "but having spoken to those in prisons a lot, those unjustly so feel free from being pursued, free from accusing eyes, free from expectations. It doesn't justify the injustice. But you could argue ruling a nation can make someone feel trapped, even though they have the most power."

Ferrfeiss seemed to growl, while staring at the ground. Rusziné cast a sideways glance and caught him nodding slightly.

I didn't mean to be on-point, but I'd bet on nearly all these Deenfeiss Kyadii expected him to have the answers to everything, he thought.

The medic sighed and glanced around those remaining at the Stones. She mentally compared what she saw with the words Ki-E-Vwa had shared. Seeing the Kyadii look mournfully up in her direction, she smiled.

"You have nothing to fear from me. I am what you may call a 'Binder' - at least when translated out of your native language."

Ferrfeiss scowled.

"No human, can bind like a Northern Kyadd. Ice is our friend."

The medic nodded.

"As it should be. While you may be correct that I cannot bind as well as your people," she paused to retrieve a small branch from her side-bag and crouched down near them, "I can help in like manner."

She whispered to the branch and a chilling, but gentle breeze flowed from it and around the two Kyadii. Once she was certain the incantation would persist, she  made a hole in the ground near them, and secured the branch's end carefully in it, so that it remained upright, and a thin mist of tiny crystal shards fell like a star-shower, easing their pain.

"From what that king said earlierrr, I'm surrrprised he allowed a mage-craft binderrr in his forces," Ferrfeiss observed.

"I certainly am unusual," she responded keeping her focus on the brand, "I'll come back and check on you in a few moments, after I've tended to Rusziné,"

To her eyes, it seemed the Kyadii were fighting a tension in their expression between suspicion and gratitude. Rusziné tutted.

"I'm fine," he grumbled, "whatever your name is."

"Brùfùs!" the medic retorted, "complete and utter brùfùs."

Rusziné forced a half-smile, "Your name is Brùfùs, or I am talking 'rubbish'?"

"You know very well what I meant, and how correct I am," she responded, her pale blue eyes seeming more glacial than the ice of the Frozen Ocean, "now," she continued, "I assume you're not injured nor have something broken in your body?"

Rusziné shook his head in reply.

"As we expected," she confirmed, before sensing confusion within the man, "I am not given to referring to myself in the plural. I was with the Foyii chief before coming here."

"Ah," Rusziné simply, and pointlessly in his view, responded, feeling some verbal acknowledgement was expected.

What she says makes sense. It's what she's not saying that I don't trust.

Ayàvi had listened, but remained silent through the exchange and was surveying the area around the Stones of Myrn, while also not wanting to leave Rusziné's side. The medic, she pondered, had not divulged her name and Rusziné hadn't greeted her with one, which should be unusual if in fact they were both Qalathii, or at least, serving that nation in the military. She also noted that Ferrfeiss and Arrnwarr were much more relaxed and almost peaceful with the icy mist that was now swirling around them. It was an incantation she was familiar with, being from the Bruhaii Foyblànii, or 'White-leaf Woods' in the Common Tongue, but the speed and power of its effect and the ease at which the medic had evoked it made her wonder who this woman truly was.

Rusziné, while allowing the medic to examine him, caught Ayàvi's eye, and he wondered how long she had been staring pensively at the binder.

"Look," the medic said, as she held out a hand to assess Rusziné for other injuries, "I'm not ignorant. If you need a name, I can give you one. I just don't think it's that important. Ki-E-Vwa certainly didn't mistrust me because I did not identify myself."

"Oh," Ayàvi exclaimed, suddenly feeling self-conscious, "It's not that I don't trust you! It's just that ice cast with malign intentions is easy to spot, and yours wasn't, which got me thinking."

The medic, who had been making as though to check in Rusziné's eyes, stood once more and stifled a yawn.

"Thinking's dangerous Ayàvi," Rusziné grinned at her with a wink.

"Not among my kind of people, as you know well," she retorted, laughing.

Seeming to completely ignore the exchange, the medic turned to face the Foyii girl.

"Ah, a White-Leaf. Excellent," she noted, before her eyes fell to Ayàvi's own brand, "and you didn't heal the Kyadii, because...?"

Ayàvi opened her mouth in shock before closing it and swallowing hard. As she was about to respond, it was Arrnwarr who came to her defence.

"Things have been...difficult. Knowing what to do and who should do it, well, that sums up the mess you find here," she tried to explain, "those of us that remain here are out of place."

"Speak for yourself," Nìrsen replied gruffly as he leaped onto the back of his Hawk, "I did the job I came to do and now I make for home."

Ayàvi scowled at him and folded her arms.

"After everything that's happened, there really is no need to be like that," she scolded him, "leaving in that manner only reinforces Arrnwar's explanation. Will you not stay to help?"

Nìrsen rolled his eyes.

"Okay, I'm sorry. I was leaving anyway," he replied, shaking his head, "and no. This whole mission has reminded me why I am ill-suited to diplomatic and sensitive tasks. I'll see you back at home 'Avi."

As his Hawk ascended into the chilled air above the Stones, it was the medic who broke the silence.

"Evynglà Gouha," she stated still looking at the sky, "that is my name. Or simply 'Evy'."

Rusziné and Ayàvi locked eyes for a moment, sharing a moment of silent understanding. Grateful the issue was, at least for the time being, resolved, Evy turned back to Rusziné once more.

"How are you feeling now? Still, 'fine'?" she shrugged.

"Come now," he retorted, feigning ignorance, "I'm supposed to be the sarcastic and cynical one around here."

Even Ferrfeiss managed a rumbling laugh at that.

"I am feeling improved on various levels, thank you," Rusziné acknowledged.

He was about to continue when a voice filled the brief pause in the conversation.

"Is there room for another cynical one, friends?"

Ferrfeiss and Arrnwarr both looked up to where the voice came from and their eyes widened, as a slim, black and white Kyadd, wearing a dark, rough cloak and with a blue dagger hooked onto his belt emerged from behind one of the Stones.

Ferrfeiss and Arrnwarr carefully stood, strong enough now that Evy's branch had fortified and, from a physical perspective, healed them.

"K-Klor'asq," Ferrfeiss murmured, "at long last."

 

The Viàn Falínai, 8 Ur 30

Jaridà was taken aback at how quickly Polarnis and Hera'llyn had got to work. While he couldn't understand how they were doing it, the groaning of the pained Kyadii had noticeably lessened within just a quarter of an Ur. As he paced around in an attempt to keep warm, Kyaevy was sat with Calledth and working with Lyssah to patch up his torn back.

They will have to depart soon. With or without magic, the outdoors is no place for an open wound, even if it has partially closed up, he thought.

In fact, given that he was a medic in the loosest possible terms, granted through his choice of training specialisation, he felt out of position and a touch lonely. He had feigned keeping watch, but everyone else had deemed the situation safe enough to tend the wounded and begin to plan their departure from the Viàn. He agreed with that stance, which left him feeling adrift.

"I've struggled to make real connections with other soldiers," he muttered, leaning against a tree and folding his arms, "but it's strange working alone."

As he was about to consider this further, a familiar voice intruded upon his thoughts.

"It is how we usually preferrr to operrrate, Jarrridà," Klorwyrrb responded, gravely, "and, I begrrrudgingly accept, is Arrnwarr's specialty."

The Qalathian soldier smiled and a laugh played on the edges of his mouth. He had become accustomed to this particular Kyadd hoping to startle him, while truly just needing someone to talk to. He turned his head to the side and frowned in contemplation.

"Then why bring such a large group? Wouldn't extraction have been easier with just a few Kyadii?"

Klorwyrrb nodded.

"Yes," he admitted, "but we have neverrr been here, norrr did we know how larrrge the city was. Sneaking is our way, but once discoverrred, combat is rrrequired. As you have just seen."

"Indeed," Jaridà agreed, "and I was hoping my squad would be sneaking back here any moment."

A flash of white caught his eye and he followed it to where Kyaevy and the two Foyii were. After a few moments, Kyaevy stood and waved to Jaridà, before cupping her hand-paws around her maw.

"Rusziné's will be on his way, so says the Blàmìs," she called, "He is coming with the Kyadii leaders, Ayàvi and your other healer!"

Jaridà mirrored her action to respond.

"Thank you...wait, we don't have another healer!" he shouted back, confused, causing Kyaevy to laugh, which echoed around the Viàn.

"Apparently, you do now!" she replied with a grin, before turning her attention back to Calledth to make sure he was bandaged and salved28 sufficiently to make it safely to his home in the Forest of Doon.

"Good news, Jarrridà," Klorwyrrb noted, "forrr once."

The soonerrr we leave herrre the better, the Kyadd thought bitterly, preferrrably before the warmth here affects my vision and smell.

The Stones of Myrn, 9 Ur

A few steps away from the Kyadii

Evy had ceased her examination of Rusziné, concluding his pride had been hurt, but also noticing he was struggling to keep his emotions in check, and finding it difficult to focus on any one task. But in body he was, she hated to admit, perfectly 'fine'.

She turned her attention to Klor'asq as he conversed with the Kyadii leaders. Rusziné himself, having abandoned most sensitivity of Qalathian culture, leaned against one of the Standing Stones, staring blankly as though lost in the gap between this world and the next. It was Ayàvi who had managed to split her attention between him and the Kyadii, wanting to ensure all were as well as she could make them. Trying not to speak over Klor'asq's conversation, she skipped lightly up to Rusziné's side and placed her hand gently on one of his arms.

"'Iné?" she almost whispered, looking up at him with concern.

Rusziné sighed and looked down at her and tried to smile.

"Am I a friend, or a 'supposed friend', or an 'ex-friend', 'Avi?" he asked softly, provoking a concerned, yet somehow scowling expression from the White-leaf, "how many friends can one about to be ejected expect to have?"

"Of course you are a friend," Ayàvi responded, letting her head come to rest on his upper arm, "even if we've only known about each other an Ur or two. Any friend of the Foyii is a friend of mine, and," she paused, "I care deeply when justice is not served. Worse than that, when someone who was only doing their best was punished for doing so. It's...ugh, I don't have any words that will help you feel better after what's been done to you."

"You don't need to have them, 'Avi," Rusziné pointed out, "You said it yourself - there are no words that can fix this. Just...make sure my sword makes it home. That's more than enough. I can't ask any more of a friend."

As she drew herself up and looked into his face, she nodded with determination.

"And you, don't forget your name, or its meaning," she reminded him, "Blàniné doesn't have the same sound to it, sadly."

"I'm fairly sure that's a frozen edible treat anyway," Rusziné tried to joke, "but I get your meaning."

"As for your sword, I will do as you ask. As you need."

"Thank you," Rusziné acknowledged, "and...keep the Foyii this side of the river talking to each other, trading with each other and learning how to... defend one another."

"You think Carnael will wage war over this?" Ayàvi asked, doubtfully.

"After today, I wouldn't put anything past him. But do nothing that could be seen as provoking him. As you have witnessed, if a situation can be blamed on someone or something else, he uses it justify his actions."

"So we, what, keep our distance? But there are supplies we regularly acquire from Qal'ath."

Rusziné shook his head.

"There were supplies you used to regularly acquire from Qal'ath," Rusziné explained, "that's how Carnael is already thinking. Outlying villages may still help you as they're not cared for by the treasury, though. If you're able to trade with Qal'ath at all, you'll find bartering is no longer accepted and coin prices extortionate. I know how he works and... I'm sorry."

Ayàvi reached out and jabbed her finger into his chest-bone.

"You should not be apologising," she said firmly.

"You're right," Rusziné replied, "I should be getting ready to be exiled to a small desert in the middle of Winter. Let's see whether our furry friends can continue their discourse on the...paw?"

Ayàvi wanted to laugh, but she could not muster the strength in that moment to join in the masking of pain with humour.

Maybe later, she thought, sadly.

 

The Stones of Myrn, 9 Ur 00

A few steps away from Rusziné and Ayàvi
(Conversation translated later by Klor'asq from Rarshk, the language of the Kyadii)

 

"You look like slaverrry is trrreating you well," Ferrfeiss sourly observed, trying to muster some of the aggression and strength he thought Klor'asq would expect.

"It barely qualifies as slavery," Klor'asq explained, "we have a couple of changes of clothing, free food, warm and dry lodgings and can pursue our own interests when we're not required."

"Who arrre 'we'?" Arrnwarr asked, inquisitively.

"Myself and Grrn-Deen Arrn, the other Kyadd."

Ferrfeiss frowned.

"I did not rrrealise there were two of you!" he exclaimed.

"Hmm? Oh," Klor'asq realised what he was referring to, "yes there are two Kyadii, but no, there is only me from the Deen Feiss Leen. Grrn-Deen is a desert cat."

"And how has she taken to slaverrry....I mean, serrrving?" Ferrfeiss pressed, still seeking to justify the outcome of the day to those of his kin at the Stone, knowing their conversation would be listened to.

"Honestly? She is usually very happy. Her and her Master are more like partners than anything else. Partners, as in working together, I mean."

"So," Arrnwarr started to slowly muse, "you do not see yourrrself as a slave. And she is happy. You both sound..."

Ferrfeiss mournfully looked at her and sighed.

"Free?"

Arrnwarr nodded.

"I wouldn't go that far, either," Klor'asq explained, "we do have to work and any coin we carry is rarely our own. And while I have all but lost my purr, I always had a smoother growl - you know, before the clan abandoned me those years ago.

Ferrfeiss began to growl until Arrnwarr stroked his cheekbone with the back of a hand-paw.

"Nrr-maach, ah-kurrtz20."

Shaking his head in pity, Klor'asq unclipped his blue-bladed dagger from his belt and held it, on its side, towards Ferrfeiss who took hold of it, pensively.

"You did always like this dagger and it proved useful," he recalled.

"What makes it special, aparrrt from its colour?" Arrnwarr asked.

Klor'asq smirked.

"Once inserted into something, the blade freezes it from the inside out," he explained to her shock.

"I've used some unusual techniques in my work, but nothing as callous as that," she exclaimed.

Klor'asq shrugged.

"Mehch, it wasn't actually used for anything as exciting as freezing an enemy. But it did keep newly-killed prey fresh even longer than ice. And I still use it for that exact purpose today. It saves the Water and Sky mages from using their skills more than necessary."

"Why, then, did you sharrre this with us?" Ferrfeiss asked.

"Firstly, I have not forgotten my past - neither the good from before our separation, nor the manner of our parting of ways. And secondly, while it is useful, the dagger is a reminder of who I am, where I came from and how I got here."

"Like a youth-cub making a necklace from their firrrst kill's teeth or claws?" Ferrfeiss asked, to which Klor'asq nodded.

"Exactly. It is a constant reminder of a journey - a journey which will move forwards, because it has to."

Arrnwarr looked between the two male Kyadii, hoping Ferrfeiss was understanding the obvious implications of what Klor'asq was saying, but giving him space to come to the conclusion himself.

"So, you are resolved to stay?" he asked, carefully returning the dagger.

"I cannot go back North," Klor'asq replied, "because I cannot undo who I am. I do not see myself as better than you or your clansfolk either. I am still Deenfeiss Leen, but being in my situation does not make me less a Kyadd either."

Seeing an unexpected, but deep-seated self-loathing behind Ferrfeiss' expression, Klor'asq reached out a hand-paw and placed it on his shoulder.

"It has not been for nothing," he affirmed, "you have met me and seen that I am alive and well, yes?"

Ferrfeiss nodded, blankly.

"Tell me, did any Kyadii lose their lives on this journey?"

"We...don't think so," Arrnwarr slowly replied, "potentially a Woodsman, though."

"Then..." Klor'asq thought, trying to find the appropriate words, when encouragement was not a skill he felt gifted in, "the only cost is to your pride."

"Only cost?" Ferrfeiss growled, "you speak of it as though it doesn't matter!"

Klor'asq startled him by baring his fangs and returning the growl.

"Pride always matters, Ferrfeiss," he forcefully reminded him, "it took me years to recover mine. And I will fight for it in due course. But look around you. Are there fewer Deenfeiss here now than when you arrived at the Stones?"

As he did as Klor'asq suggested, his fellow Kyadii moved and stood in a circle around their leader.

"Prrride won't let him answer," Arrnwarr replied, "and none shall force him. But I will reply: we have lost none."

Klor'asq took a step back and bowed his head briefly.

"Then the Pride is safe, and your pride will mend."

"Th-thank you," Ferrfeiss managed, "no one has ever stood up to me before. And that...was what I needed."

Rusziné's heavy footsteps, accompanied by Ayàvi's, drew their attention.

"Do not worry on my account, I never had the opportunity to learn Rarshk, at least not beyond the basics. I also don't listen into other people's conversations on purpose, though it has been known to happen by accident. Fairly recently, actually," he added.

Seeing Ferrfeiss and Arrnwarr appear to lower their caution a little, Ayàvi smiled gently.

"We were wondering if you could all talk on the way back to the Viàn? Rusziné needs to find Jaridà and, no doubt, your other Kyadii will be wondering when you will returning."

"Why did you bring so many Rarshk with you?" Klor'asq asked,"Bezélan does have an enormous front door, you know? It's generally open, too."

Hearing no reply, he realised the truth.

"Oh, you didn't know," he sighed, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand-paws, "I see. 'Fight first, talk later'. I'm not criticising you," he clarified, "but the King here has a similar approach to life."

Ferrfeiss grimaced. "But, to answer the White-leaf, yes we can pad-and-talk."

"Good," huffed Evy as she rejoined them, "because I already sent a Blàmìs to say you were on your way. I for one am tired of traversing Doon at speed, so we need to get going."

Ayàvi cleared her throat and waved her arms dramatically towards her Great Hawk, making Rusziné grin despite himself.

"Thanks 'Avi. As much as I think these two need to be back with the Kyadii at the Viàn, the others who rushed to the Stones need leadership to inspire them to rush back again."

Since the cold, Winter sun had begun to rise over the trees of the Forest of Doon, the other Kyadii began to complain of head pain, skin itches and affected eyesight. Ayàvi was beginning to prepare her Hawk for flight once more, but when she heard the groaning she turned sharply from tending her bird and frowned.

"Something's not right," Rusziné murmured, looking around the circle of Kyadii, "are you able to tell me what's wrong with your clansfolk - in a way that retains your honour and dignity?"

Ayàvi, with a sudden feeling of concern for Kyaevy back at the Viàn Falínai, stepped back to his side.

"What dignity and honour, Rrrushinay?" Ferrfeiss asked.

He had taken to standing with his arms crossed and claws digging into his skin, something not lost on Arrnwarr, nor Ayàvi.

"It is yourrr heat. It burrrns, it boils, it singes," Arrnwarr explained in short, sharp responses, "Not us two - at least not yet. But the others, they suffer. And," she continued, facing Ferrfeiss and prising his hand-paws away from his arms, "there is no need to make it worrrse."

"I would enhance my incantation from earlier," Evy explained, "but I wasn't made, erm, prepared, for mass binding work."

"We arrre grrrateful for what you did, though," Arrnwarr acknowledged, as Evy picked up her brand, and hooked it onto her belt once more where it hissed slightly before extinguishing its ice shower.

"Our frrriend here seems strrrangely unaffected," Ferrfeiss noted, indicating Klor'asq.

"A consequence of acclimatisation, nothing more," he explained.

Rusziné considered that then looked up at Ayàvi.

"Then we need to change how much the climate is affecting them. We cannot change the weather, so let's get them 'under the Roof' of Doon and then we can carefully return them to their friends. At least, that's what I think. It would also be a good place to get changed, I believe," he added with a wry smile, "while Carnael did order me to be 'unarmoured', I also guess he still meant attired."

Ayàvi chuckled lightly, then nodded.

"It's as good a plan as any," she responded to him before turning to ensure she made eye contact with the Deenfeiss Leen Clan Leader, "your comrades will be more inclined to go if you lead them to the shelter of the Forest, Ferrfeiss."

"If they'rrre inclined to follow me at all, now," he replied, sadly and then sighed, "sorrry, you arrre corrrect. Come, let us try." 

"Will you at least, join with us to greet the clans folk, Klor'asq?" Arrnwarr pleaded, "they risked much coming here."

He considered that for a moment and then nodded.

"While this whole situation could have been avoided, and that risk unnecessary, even I couldn't doubt you had good intentions. And before I came here, I tried, believe me."

"Why?" Arrnwarr asked, frowning.

It was Klor'asq's turn to grin.

"To save the effort of walking here, of course!"

Ayàvi laughed, glad that she finally could.

"Then it's decided. We will only need just over a third of an Ur to come back to you, but I will try and be quicker. You'll need to decide which of you comes with Klor'asq, if any, on the Hawk and which are taking the foot-pad way."

Checking she had all of her medical supplies, Evy joined Ayàvi and Rusziné in climbing carefully onto the Hawk's back and, in a few short moments, were speeding northwards once more.


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