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Chapter 3 A Nilactin, Arrainanite and an Asoonadye, Oh My!
“I shouldn’t be here on this stupid mission,” Othyos muttered under his breath. The strange traveling companions had been traversing the Asoonadye countryside for three days on foot. They were looking for refugees and signs of the Dyvanor’s army. Othyos kept up a constant dialog the entire time. “I’m an ambassador not a messenger. I could get killed out here. I don’t know what King Thealos was thinking. I have a family!”
“That’s enough egg man.” Junkar growled as he grabbed the ambassador by the shirt collar and lifted him a good three feet off the ground. “I’ve had enough of your endless whining. You act like you are the only one with a family. Do you think either Tylander or I want to be here? No, but here we are making the best of it. So suck it up and shut your mouth or I will be having roast Asoonadye for dinner tonight.” Junkar dropped Othyos to the ground. Tylander had to suppress a laugh. He had been about two seconds away from smacking Othyos himself when Junkar grabbed him first. “Well, now that is settled, how about we set up camp. The sun will be setting soon so here’s as good a place as any to stop.” Tylander offered. Both Junkar and Othyos grunted in response as they began unpacking their supplies.
Despite this incident, the three men were getting along surprisingly well for having been enemies less than a week ago. As they traveled together, they began to realize that they each had more in common than they had originally thought. Family seemed to be the cornerstone of each civilization. It was hard to not respect someone who held the same family values as yourself.
Around the campfire that night, Junkar decided to open up to his strange travel companions. “About a year ago my wife, Injanari, was pregnant with our third child. She was having a difficult time of it so the healers put her on bed rest. One night King Chenji had summoned me.” Junkar spoke while looking deep into the flames. “When I returned, my village was burning. I ran through the streets to my home praying the whole time that Injanari and my children were safe. I remember standing outside my home and looking up to see that my house was the only home not consumed by flames. In fact my house was soaking wet as if someone had gone to the trouble to ensure it could not possibly catch fire.” Junkar looked up at Tylander. “Inside my home I found my wife and my children huddled up in my bed. They were completely unharmed.” Junkar took a stick and began poking at the fire. “According to my wife an Arrainanite soldier came into our home and saw that she was obviously pregnant. He told her he was going to burn down the house and he suggested she leave. When she told him she couldn’t without risking her unborn child he just nodded his head and left. Instead of burning down our home Injanari hear him call out to the other Arrainanites. He told the others to leave the home alone then proceeded to soak the house to keep it from going up in flames.” Junkar reached over and placed another log on the fire. The flames jumped slightly. “That’s when it hit me. Arrainanites follow the same honor code that we Nilactin’s do. I can’t remember ever hearing a story about an Arrainanite not fighting fair, hurting someone unarmed or weaker than themselves. I guess we are not so different after all are we?”
Othyos shook his head clearly confused, “OK, So he has the same honor code as you. That’s great. But his people burned down your village. I would still be very angry about that.”
Junkar let out a throaty almost purr like laugh, “Yes, they burned down our village. We probably burned down their village the week prior. My village is right near the border and the Arrainanites have a small settlement less than a days ride from us. It’s kinda like a game to us. Nilactins’ love to battle–it’s how we socialize. When we burn down a village we are saying, here we are, we think you are strong enough to be a worthy opponent, so we are going to raid and burn down your village. We see it as a complement when the leaders of the village we burned return our attacks. In this way, they indicate that they see us as strong and worthy opponents–so, they burn our village to the ground. Sure people die in battle, but if both sides weren’t willing to take that chance, we would all stop burning down other peoples’ villages. Besides, “he continued, “it keeps us all gainfully employed and what better way to go than to die in battle against a worthy opponent.” This revelation shocked the hell out of both Tylander and Othyos. Could it be that the only reason we’ve never had peace is because we have never truly gotten to know each other? Tylander thought these things to himself as he slipped off to sleep that night
* * *
Just before dawn, Tylander awoke. The fire had gone out, allowing Tylander to see glowing lights in the distance. He quietly approached his sleeping companions. “Othyos, Junkar, wake up, you need to see this.” Junkar was faster to wake than the Ambassador. Within Seconds, the Indigo cat was on his feet using his superior cat eyes to take in the distant lights. “Those are campfires, lots of them. If I had to guess I’d say we just found Dyvanor’s army.”
“Great,” Othyos yawned, “Now we can head back to our kings and the safety of the Arrainanites city walls.” Othyos got off the ground and started packing up his things.
“Not so fast egg-man,” Junkar said bursting Othyos’ happy bubble. “Our kings need usable Intel. So far all we know is that Dyvanor’s army is here. We need numbers or some kind of insight so we can find a strategy to use against them. We need a closer look.”
“How much closer?” Othyos asked
“A lot closer.” Tylander answered the question before Junkar could. Tylander was looking around their camp site for something. “There see that tree.” Tylander pointed to an old gnarled tree with a large hollowed out space at it’s base. “We should stow our gear there. We can travel more quickly that way. Then we need to split up. It should still be dark for another hour, so we can use that time to get close to Dyvanor’s army. We can spend the day observing them. Junkar you are the fastest, so try to circle around to the rear. Maybe you can get your eyes on Dyvanor.” The big indigo cat nodded his head in consent as he stuffed his sleeping roll into the base of the tree. “Othyos, I want you to head north following the road, but stay off it. We don’t need you getting captured. Just get as close as you can and keep your eyes and ears open. I will head South towards what looks like a destroyed Asoonadye village to see what I can find there.”
Othyos listened while Tylander continued giving instructions. He stuffed all but a small bag of his supplies into the tree with Junkar’s things. “We meet back here just after midnight,” Tylander added. Othyos looked terrified. The ambassador made a visible effort to pull himself together to follow Tylander’s instructions. Just as Tylander stuffed his things into the tree, he heard Othyos clear his throat, “So um Tylander, if I were to be captured–accidentally that is–you would come for me wouldn’t you?”
“Of course I would, and I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone either. You think that battle hungry kitty over there would allow me to socialize with the enemy on my own. He’d be right beside me showing those giants what a formidable opponent he is.” Tylander smiled.
“You know me so well Arrainanite.” Junkar laughed, “I certainly wouldn’t let you go to a party without me.” Nodding goodbye to his companions Junkar dropped to all fours and took off into the waiting forest. Tylander patted Othyos on the shoulder before heading south to the Asoonadye village.
* * *
Tylander reached the Asoonadye village less than an hour after sunrise. While most of the village had been burned to the ground, several structures were still standing. Tylander set himself up in a tree overlooking the village. He had spent a good deal of time as a child hunting with his father. One of the first lesson’s his dad had taught him was how to stay perfectly still for hours while you lie in wait for your prey.
Tylander stayed still in that tree for hours as his muscles cramped. Although very sore, still he didn’t move. Just before sunset, his patience paid off. The door to what must have once been a school opened and out walked a line of greenish grey creatures. They were much shorter than the Asoonadye described, thicker and wider too, but otherwise they fit the description. Bald heads and grayish green skin pulled tight over their skeletal frames. Each beast was bare chested wearing only loincloths for clothing. Tylander could literally see every bone in their bodies as if they were being starved. Suddenly the beasts began to change right before Tylander’s eyes. Tylander focused on the beast closest to him. The creature’s bones began to move under his skin almost like they were breaking apart and putting themselves back together again in a different order. The beast who had walked out of a short Asoonadye doorway without bending over now stood over 9 feet tall. While Tylander had heard stories about the ability of these beasts to rearrange their bones to change shape and size, seeing it was an altogether different story, and a quite terrifying one at that. Tylander noticed that the other beasts had also changed form as they headed out of the village and towards their waiting army.
The beasts’ sleep during the day, Tylander thought to himself. He watched the beasts as they looked through the wreckage and made their way toward the outskirts of the village. At this point, Tylander noticed the bodies. Several Asoonadye bodies were strewn about the village, How had he missed that? The beasts did not try to bury the dead or acknowledge them as anything more than debris. A few of the creatures gathered items off the bodies as the were moving away. Tylander felt sick to his stomach. He was not looking forward to giving his report to King Locktos.
Once the beasts were out of sight, Tylander shook out his muscles and slowly climbed out of the tree. Moving cautiously through the village, Tylander examined the bodies on the ground. The first was a man who obviously died of a stab wound to the gut. The next was a woman with similar injuries. As Tylander straightened from examining the woman, he caught sight of long dark hair waving in the wind coming up from the ground. Tylander moved closer to it and for the first time noticed a woman lying face down on the ground. She wasn’t an Asoonadye female she looked human. Just as Tylander approached the woman a strong breeze washed over him carrying her scent with it. Ryanne! Tylander thought as he froze. It had been eight years, but his body would recognize that addictive scent anywhere.
Fear and adrenaline shot through Tylander. “Oh Lunester please let her be alive,” Tylander whispered to himself as he dropped to his knees next to Ryanne. He gently turned her over to see her familiar face. She was bruised and battered, but she was alive. Her clothes were saturated with a mixture of mud and blood, but she didn’t appear to be injured badly. Tylander let out the breath he had been holding. “Thank you Lunester for returning her to me.” Tylander cried as he held his wife for the first time in eight years. After a short while, Tylander pulled himself together, picked up his wife and headed back to meet up with Junkar and Othyos. They had what they needed–it was time to head back to Quinetta.