- “Its quite a sunny day today isn’t it Chao-Li?”
- “Yes, it’s a perfect day to set up this new stable here. Pass me the hammer will you Feier’an”
- “Here you go, good thing that you are the tall one here right, haha”
- “Well, I am a Zoraï as tall as they come.”
- “Yeah, and I am just the sneaky Tryker, I know I know.”
- “Yeah, sneaky alright, hold the plank still so I can nail it here will you.”
It was a warm day this summer day. Even the animals around them seemed to be affected by this sudden heat, but for them it was also welcome. They could spend some time to continue to build the stables, which was long overdue since the weather had been bad recently, and it would also do good for their crops as the rain had nearly drenched their small meadows. But it seemed as the tide of luck had finally swept the other way around and brought them some good weather.
It was not long ago since they had left the old homes in order to find a new place to call home, a safer place for their children to grow up. A place where everyone could get old together and hold found memories of days passed.
It was pure accident that had placed them together, these two families; one of Tryker and one of Zoraï. Through the interference of a Kitin they had been molded together in friendship and trust.
It had been a rainy day a bit over a year ago as they had met near a tunnel’s exit out through a cave. Not more then the courteous greeting had been their first impression, but that was to change quite rapidly. Not far outside the entrance to the cave from which they emerged there had been a Kincher roaming around, and as they came unknowing of its presence it had caught their scent. And set out for the easiest target; their children.
Nih’na and Feuor were young then, so young that they had not seen any of the Kitin previously. And when one came running towards them they had not seen its dangers, but seen an animal rushing to greet them. They were used to have their parents tell them not to touch anything, so they ignored their calls and happily waited for the funny thing to come to them.
As Nih’na was the longer of them she was the one it saw first. They smiled and laughed as it came closer and in a flash it held Nih’na in its claws. She screamed from the surprise and the sudden pain around her waist, it was not until now that Feuor grasped the serious in the situation, he fell back on his back and fear struck through his body. He could not move. Another scream from Nih’na told them about the hardening grip it had.
Another bellowed scream roared of a sudden and Nih’na fell to the ground, next to the Kincher stood Feier’an holding a a sword, he just looked at the Kincher as its blood came running out from the deep cut he had made in its arm. It turned to him, but he did not notice its leg as it came swooping around and hit him hard over the head, he fell backwards and tried to stand up immediately. The world spun around him, it had been a fierce hit and he had taken serious damage, he needed time to recover. Time he did not have as the Kincher now laid its eyes on Feuor.
He started a rush, but he knew that he would not make it in time yet he ran. Suddenly a bolt came flying through the air hitting the Kincher placing it out of its course, but it was soon back up again and continued. Another bolt stunned it and as it staggered around confused roots shot up from the ground gripping it and pulling it down holding it hard. This was all that Feier’an needed as he now was at the Kincher, a jump and a concentrated attack on the Kinchers head made the battle short.
As the roots let go of their hold the Kincher stood up then to fall down onto the ground, dead.
It was then Feier’an noticed the small dagger in the Kinchers leg. He knew that dagger, it was Feuor’s.
Nih’na had some bruises on her waist but she seemed to have got no more wounds other then the shock. Same was for Feuor, he was still shaking as he came into his mother arms comforting him and soothingly talking to him.
- “Daddy, it was bad to her.” He said through his shakes.
- “Yes, it was bad for us all. You have to be more careful and listen to your parents Feuor.” He said smiling at the little one lying safely in his mothers arms.
- “You might be short, but you are brave.” A voice behind Feier’an said.
- “Short yes, but our temper and will cannot be measured in height.” Feier’an said as he turned and looked up at the Zoraï facing him. He knew the origin and beliefs of them, as he was certain they knew his.
The Zoraï moves his hands and Feier’an made himself ready to counter any attack, he was surprised. The Zoraï removed his amps and extended his hand.
- “I am Chao-Li, thank you for rescuing my daughter from this Kitin.” He said.
Feier’an was stunned at first, this was the first time he had met a Zoraï on such grounds. Not that he had met many before, but those had been more hostile.
- “I am Feier’an.” He said as he extended his hand and shook the hand of the Zoraï. He could instantly feel that this was a true and honest gesture with no hidden notions. How strange.
- “I am glad that your brave little one is well too.” The Chao-Li said as he turned and looked at Feuor.
- “Yes, thank you for your aid. How is your daughter?” Feier’an asked still surprised over what had happened.
- “She is well, thank you. She is cared for by her mother, my wife, Naom’Chi. Her name is Nih’na.”
- “My son’s name is Feuor and his mothers name is Limeh.” Feier’an replied to answer the courteous gesture.
Since that day much had happened and many things had passed. Through these interventions of the Kitin they had become friends. They had decided to continue the journey together from that point as they knew that together they would have had a bigger chance to survive and manage. It had also turned out that they were both almost looking for the same thing, a new home. And weeks later they had found a place near a village and they were not working on building the stable for their mounts to rest in at nights. For what mission they had undertaken it seemed as the two families had grown more and more together, this day something started to move.
- “There, finally the last joint is in place.” Chao-Li said as he wiped the sweat from his forehead.
- “Well, for the roof at least.” Feier’an replied as he smiled towards Chao-Li.
- “Well, it wasn’t there two days ago. So it is progress.” Chao-Li replied, knowing that Feier’an was intentionally teasing him a little, a not uncommon and indeed a welcomed event. The free minds of the Trykers…..
- “Haha, yes indeed it is, great work there tall man! Feier’an concurred as he gathered the tools they had used during the day.
The warm sun slowly moved across the sky followed by an orbiting planet with rings that sparkled as the rays from the sun shined through them. It had taken some waiting and some hard work, made even thirstier due to the warm sun, but finally the frame was done and crossing boards that supported it. The roof was constructed so that it would stop the sun from reaching the ground in the middle and also hold off what rain that fell onto it. Even though it was not entirely finished; the troughs were missing and the food holder, it had already started serving its purpose. Underneath the cool shade, their mounts and packers stood together enjoying the fresh breeze in the shadow. They grunted delightedly as Feier’an placed a large bucket of water in front of them and they noisily drank the fresh cold water.
- “You have both done well.” Naom’Chi said as the approached them holding a tray with two large tumblers. She was accompanied by Nih’na and Feuor who each held smaller cups which they were drinking from.
- “Here, have some refreshments!” she said as she held up the tray.
- “Mmm, this brew sure serves to put the energy lost back into the body! I guess that we have to thank the Fyros for that one, haha” Feier’an laughed as he took a huge sip.
- “Yes, it was a very successful brew this one.” Chao-Li agreed as he tasted it.
- “Daddy, can I have some?” Feuor asked as he had seen how delighted his father had been with the drink, yet not knowing what was in it.
- “Yes you may.” Feier’an replied.
- “How strange, I knew that Trykers are spirited and free in mind. But as free as this?” Chao-Li asked himself when he heard Feier’an’s reply.
- “When you are older, my son. For now this is just for me and Chao-Li.” Feier’an added, greatly reassuring Chao-Li.
- “Daaaaddy…” Feuor said a bit disappointed.
- “There, there. In time you will understand. Now finish your drink, it is good for you.” Feier’an said as he grabbed Feuor and lifted him up into his arms. “You want to be as strong as your old dad, don’t you?”
Feuor nodded his agreement while he was almost gulping down his drink. Soon, Limeh came to them holding a bag. In it she had packed some bread and food put on bread to make a sandwich; it was time to celebrate the almost completion of the third building in their little place.
The first two buildings to be raised were the houses. After they had met in the cave, they had chosen to travel together to find a new home. They had wandered through the lands seeking for a place to settle down, and eventually they had found one not far off from a small town. Just across a small mountain, near some clear waters they had started to gather the necessary materials. Some kind Homins had lent them rooms to sleep in while they were working on the houses. Everyone had helped as much as they could; Chao-Li and Feier’an had found jobs to get dappers for tools and materials. During their off days they had worked on the houses and hunted to gather materials from the animals around, both for crafting and to render the area safe.
It had transpired that the area held many materials of fine qualities and they had harvested as much as time allowed them to, giving both Naom’Chi and Limeh items to use in their crafting.
Naom’Chi was very skilled in making jewelry of all kinds while Limeh was working on her armour crafting.
It had taken them some time, but as they saw the first house completed, it felt as time had flown them by. They had moved in the same day, both families in the same house while they were finishing the second one. It had been a fun time for them all, the more so since it was something they could never have imagined the first time they met.
- “Aahh, that was a good drink.” Feier’an said as he placed the empty tumbler on the tray and grabbed another sandwich.
- “Mmm” Chao-Li replied as he closed his eyes and took another sip.
- “Seems like they like the effort we placed in it.” Feier’an said as he looked at the construction and the Mektoubs in it. It had been a great relief the day they finally could afford the packers. It made the transportation of materials much easier for them, and it had turned out that word of mouth had made both Limeh and Naom’Chi a name for their crafts as increasing numbers of Homins asked what they would charge for various sets of armours and jewels. Nih’na and Feuor had worked hard to help their mothers; handing them materials, fetching new ones from the store room or cleaning up the left overs.
- “How was your crafting today?” Chao-Li asked his wife.
- “It was very successful; it seems as if all my hard work and concentration have given good results.” Naom’Chi replied.
- “Yes, very successful, I even wore out my tool. I need to buy another one tomorrow.” Limeh filled in as she saw that Feier’an was about to ask her.
- “Haha, how many does that make this last week?” Feier’an asked her teasingly.
- “Lucky for you that my goods sell so we can afford to buy new.” Limeh said to him and extended her tongue towards him and pinched his arm.
- “Ouch, guess I deserved that!” Feier’an said with a happy laugh.
Chao-Li smiled to himself as he took a last lingering sip.
- “These Trykers are fun; I never thought I would end up like this.” He thought to himself as he opened his eyes and looked at his family and his friends around him. “This is a good life.”
- “Well, tomorrow we will finish the stables; we just need a few things from the town.” Feier’an said as he placed Feuor in his lap. “You want to come with dad to the town and buy some things; we can even get your mom a new tool? Oh and candy!”
- “Yeeey” Feuor replied happily. “Can Nih'na come to? Pleaase, pleaaaase.”
- “Haha, I guess I can’t get out of that one... Yes of course she can. Let’s all go together!” Feier’an said and grinned towards the others who silently agreed.
- “But not too much candy you two, you hear.” Limeh added.
- “But moooom…” Feuor said saddened; candy was a favorite treat, after all.
- “Don’t worry; the moment she looks away we sneak off and ….. Ooouch!” Feier'an didn't have time to finish his sentence before he felt a pain in his arm again.
- “I heard that, love.” Limeh said with a firm gentle voice.
- “Alright, alright I give up, I give up. Surrender!” Feier’an laughed out.
- “Yes, let us all travel to the nearby town; it has been ages since we last went there together.” Naom’Chi smiled. Chao-Li and Nih’na joined her in agreeing the plan.
They spent the evening sitting beside the stables talking about times past and the fun they had had. The sun moved across the Atys sky, and soon enough it hid behind the mountain tops, allowing the stars to take over raining them with brightness. It was a nice evening, as if it had waited for them to finish so they could just relax a moment. In the raw new building, the Mektoubs added their part with grunts and thumping sounds as they moved around getting accustomed to their dwelling.
- “You have done well today dear, and so have you Nih’na.” Naom’Chi said as she leaned towards Chao-Li and the side of the stable. Nih’na was lying between them sleeping calmly as she breathed softly into the cool evening air.
Next to them Feier’an sat with Feuor in his lap and Limeh leaning towards his right shoulder. Both were soundly asleep and Feier’an was staring into the sky. They sat there for a moment longer until the breeze became colder before they stood up as gently as they could in order not to awaken the sleeping children. Silently they moved away into the house, only noted by one of the wakeful Mektoubs. They whispered good night before entering the houses and heading for bed.
The morning came early, or so it felt for Chao-Li and Feier’an, but in fact it was most likely due to them working so hard the previous day. Excited about going to the town with the family Feuor came almost running out into the kitchen to have breakfast. He was greeted by Feier’an and Limeh whom had just sat down to start eating. It seemed as everyone was excited this morning as the breakfast didn’t take as long to eat as it usually did with Feuor complaining about having to eat vegetables and clear the table. Feier’an looked at his son eating and he smiled on the inside.
As they got outside they were met by Naom’Chi and Nih’na, Chao-Li were already at the stables preparing a packer to carry some of their crafted goods.
- “This will certainly be enough to cover the expenses today don’t you think Feier’an?” He asked as Feier’an came to the stables.
- “Oh, I see that there are some fine things there, perhaps we will even be able to afford a nice dinner while we are at it.” He replied with a smile. Could anything be better than this?
Since the town was not actually too far away, it didn’t take long to wander there. They did not hurry as the packer was carrying a heavy burden for them. Soon enough the stables and gates of the town appeared in front of them, as both Feuor and Nih’na ran off in advance ignoring their parents’ warnings about getting lost. They stopped at the guards by the gate and looked at them in amazement as to how well trained they were, with their bright swords shining in the morning light. Feuor decided there and then that when he grew up he wanted to be a swordsman and a user of daggers. This was his destiny.
Nih’na looked at the guards as she stood beside Feuor; she found them to be impressive, but almost too rough for her liking. She, with her short slim body, was not cut out for the use of swords or pikes. She could probably handle them, but she was not certain if she would be capable of more than scaring off straying animals around their houses. Then she thought about That day.
She and Feuor had sneaked behind the house as she had wanted to show him something. She had been practicing since she had found out how to do. As they stood there she held out her palm and asked Feuor to look at it closely. They sat down on their knees and she closed her eyes and concentrated on a chant she had read in one of her mother’s books. As she chanted something started to whirl in her palm, as if it held a small tornado which started to drag small blue sparkles out from thin air into the center forming a small globe. She shut her eyes harder and focused more; - she wanted to really show Feuor. As she opened her eyes she saw a ball rotate in her hand, it was the largest one she had managed to summon yet and it even lit up the face of Feuor as they stared at it in amazement.
- “What is it?” He asked as he leaned forward.
He came to close and suddenly the ball made a swift movement and hit him on his nose. He fell backward while shouting “Aaahh”.
Nih’na got scared that she had harmed him as she didn’t really know what sort of chant it had been. She hadn’t looked that closely in the book after reading it. She stood up and ran a few steps to Feuor who was still lying on his back. When she saw his face again she saw that he was smiling.
- “Aahh, that felt really good Nih’na, what was it?” He asked her as he opened his eyes and looked at her.
- “I don’t really know. I read it about seven days ago, I didn’t read it till the…. Feuor, your scratch in your face, the one you got when hitting the door…” She said abruptly.
- “Yes?” He asked as he touched his tingling cheek.
- “It’s… gone…” Nih’na said as she stared at his face. The spell had been a healing spell.
- “Nih’na, Nih’na! Let’s buy some candy before our mothers arrive.” Feuor interrupted her reverie and dragged away to the merchants.
She knew what she wanted to be now; a user of the elemental arts. Both caster and healer, this was her fate.
Nih’na and Feuor found their parents at the stables as they tied the packer, and watered it. Both children were clutching a big bag of flavored Shooki Seeds and chewing without a care in the world.
- “Haha, that sure is our kids, isn’t that right Chao-Li!” Feier’an said when he saw them coming.
- “It sure is” Chao-Li said and smiled.
- “Kids, please don’t run away like that again, you never know who you might meet here.” Limeh reminded the children as they met again outside the stables.
- “I know, Mama.” Feuor grinned apologetically as he helped himself to another seed.
- “So where should we be off to first then?” Chao-Li asked everyone as soon as they had all gathered.
- “I have some orders I need to deliver.” Limeh said peering into the large bag filled with various Light Armors.
- “As do I, I shall accompany you Limeh.” Naom’Chi added.
- “Alright then it seems like it’s just you, me and the kids.” Feier’an said.
Limeh and Naom’Chi took a left at the next junction, heading briskly for the market place, where they planned to meet their customers. It was not just the normal Homins who appreciated their careful crafting, even the merchants were happy to snap up their wares. So, it was to the marketplace that they usually headed unless there was a request for a special delivery.
Chao-Li, Feier’an, Feuor and Nih’na headed off in the other direction as they had decided that they wanted to have a look at the town itself, perhaps have something to eat before they wandered around the marketplace. They walked through some small avenues, lined with booths along the narrow streets, the merchants each crying their goods for sale. It was one of the reasons they had chosen to take this route; for it was among these merchants that the rarer and more diverse items could be found. As they were walking slowly along the street, chewing the sweetened seeds now and then, they heard the echo of a booming voice carried on the wind above the normal cacophony of the stall holders.
Following it, they soon found a larger intersection where booths were set up in a ring around a fountain in the middle.
Beside the cool fountain stood a Matis man, holding some pamphlets. These he thrust into the hands of the bustling crowd, all the while shouting “They are weary for now, but they will retaliate, they will strike back. Join Defencia Academia today and do your part to keep the village safe.”
- “What is this Academia you speak of?” Chao-Li asked the man as they came closer.
- “It is an institute where young warriors, fighters, mages and magicians will undergo basic training.” He replied proudly as he held out a pamphlet. Chao-Li accepted the gift and gave it a good look.
- “What’s the requirement and who are you talking about?” Feier’an asked thinking that it was likely to be some crazy talk from a pale white skinned man whom might have had just too much sun.
- “The Kitins of course, the Kitins are just waiting for their chance to strike back at us.” He replied with a look of pure amazement that these Homins were blithely unaware of what he considered to be the greatest threat to Atys. “But that is ancient history, The Karavan and The Kami drew them away. That is why we can walk safely on the surface here today!” Feier'an was slightly worried that the man would scare the children.
- “Calm down, Feier'an. Even though he is exaggerating somewhat – there is still some truth in his words.” Chao-Li remarked as he finished reading the pamphlet. “It says here that the Defencia Academia will tutor any Homin no matter what age and help them find their abilities. But that it is only in preparation for what might come - you do not provide a full training?” Chao-Li asked the man.
- “No, we can only harness the basic attributes of a Homin. To see what they can do and help them train towards their abilities.” The Matis replied as he handed out yet another pamphlet to a passing Homin.
- “I see, so where can one register and when is a suitable time for this?” Chao-Li asked. Feier'an and the children just stood there looking at Chao-Li.
- “Whenever the time is suitable for you good sir, and the place is not far away from here. Pass through two arches, then head left and you shall see the gates of the Academia.” The Matis man said, excused himself and walked away.
- “Chao-Li, what are you thinking. You have that look again...” Feier'an said.
- “Well, he is right and you know it. Perhaps it is what is best for our children. You do remember the way we met, don't you.” Chao-Li replied still looking at the pamphlet, his mind full of thoughts.
- “Yes, you are right there... But the children? What about them?” He asked.
- “I want to be a fighter dad; I want to wield swords and pikes!” Feuor added all of a sudden. He had only heard parts of the conversation but in the little that he had noticed he realized his chance to live his dream to become like one of the town guards.
- “Uhm...” Was all Feier'an could manage, before Nih'na interrupted.
- “And I want to learn the ways of the magician father.” She said.
- “I have practiced dad!” Feuor shouted as he grabbed the dagger that Feier’an had in his belt and started to wave it around.
Feier’an almost lost his jaw when he saw his son grabbing the dagger, but even he could see that the boy was capable of wielding such a small weapon. Feuor kept on swinging the dagger wildly, but one of his circles took him too close to the leaning walls and his hand connected with a crash, making him drop the weapon and hop in pain. Feier’an had barely picked it up and placed it back in his belt so that he could administer first aid, when Nih’na brushed past him.
- “You klutz, you should be more careful. Let me see your hand!” She almost shouted as she took hold of it and placing her free hand above the small wound began to do something curious. Slowly a small blue glow formed and the edges of the scrape healed and smoothed. “Did you know of this ability Chao-Li?” Feier’an asked as they both looked at the children.
- “No, I did not. But it seems as this is something that fate may have decided for us.” Chao-Li replied as they walked up to their children. “I see that you have inherited your mother’s skill of healing, Nih’na.”
- “Dad, I … I just read in one of her old books…” Nih’na said, trying to excuse her behavior as she had not told her parents of what had happened that day when she had showed Feuor.
- “Ahh, do not feel any shame Nih’na, you seem to hold a natural gift for the healing arts. Your mother will be pleased to hear this.” Chao-Li comforted her as he examined Feuor’s fingers. “Feier’an your son is in good hands indeed, there is not a scratch is left.”
- “Well, isn’t that the twist of fate then?” Thank you Nih’na.” But what are your thoughts about this Chao-Li?” He asked.
- “I think we should enjoy the rest of the day here as we intended in the first place. Then this evening we should all sit down and talk about this.” Chao-Li said as he folded the pamphlet and placed it in his side bag.
- “Yes, that sounds fair. Let’s enjoy it as much as we can. When we get back home your mother will probably bash me into a pile for even considering this, Feuor.” Feier’an said and laughed.
They continued their travel through the streets and alleys of the town, until they were eventually rejoined by the women who had sold all their goods and were looking for some bargains on their own account.
In this quiet way do the years roll over us all.
Some time had passed since the day they had met the Homin handing out pamphlets in the town.
The evening had brought a somewhat reflective mood since there were now serious matters to discuss.
Initially, Limeh had refused to even listen to the pleading of Feier’an and even Feuor. She considered that it was dangerous to have the children to walk around the town alone and Feier’an had agreed but had gently pointed out that this was not the subject of the discussion. After a few moments however, she had regained her composure and listened to what they both had to say; becoming gradually convinced that in these dire times it might indeed be essential for Homins to be able to defend and protect themselves and their loved ones. The security and safety of the Defencia Academia was appealing and she finally agreed to let Feuor apply for training there. When hearing that Chao-Li held the same thoughts for Nih’na, she became increasingly convinced that they had all made the right decision.
For Nih’na it had been easier, as her father, Chao-Li, had embraced the idea of his child as a scholar and when he spoke to Naom’Chi he had such calm and confidence in his manner that she was convinced instantly. He had told her that not only had Nih’na inherited her mother beauty, but also her skill in the magical area. When he explained how their daughter had healed Feuor’s wound earlier that day and that not even a scratch was left, Naom’Chi had smiled at her and nodded. She had been delighted when both her parents had agreed to allow her to join the Academia together with Feuor. She had happily studied the books that her mother had fetched from the small library, just one precious shelf in the larger living quarters, and she had instantly taken the book in which she found the healing spell.
In the days that followed, the parents had not seen much of their children as they had been busy with their chores while Feuor had been given an old dagger, a sword and a pike that Feier’an had purchased a long time ago when they had just started to settle in. He had used them to rid the area of the dangerous animals that roamed there in that time. With these old weapons Feuor spent as much time as he could in training. Since he knew what was awaiting him, he practiced harder, reminding himself of the accident that day they had spoken to the tall pale man. Feier’an had shown him the standard stanza from which to begin the wielding, and had made sure that he had grasped it before teaching any other moves. “Basics are basic” he had stated when Feuor had complained about the monotonous training, and after learning it he had understood what his father had meant. The more he trained, the easier it was to wield the weapons and soon he was practicing switching between them as fast as he could in case it was ever needed.
Nih’na had studied most of the books her mother had handed her, devouring their contents with a raw hunger for the knowledge they contained. There were not only books about how to cure wounds in battle, but also how one should focus the energy in order to extract stamina and increase the sap flowing in Homins. A few of the books she was given later on in her training spoke of the other kind of magical skills to learn; the destructive ones. Her parents had told her that she should study them equally so as to know how and what kind of damage they would inflict on their target. It was good to understand this since some animals could easily resist some sorts of magic yet be vulnerable to other kinds, and it was also very useful information when one was healing. At first she had been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information, but after a week she had read most of the books containing basic knowledge and becoming tired of her own room, had taken to sitting outside with her books, choosing a spot near to where Feuor was training. At times, with his consent, she had tried the heal spell on him. It had been small bursts of magic, but he had felt the difference that they made.
One day her Chao-Li and Feier’an had come to them as they were training. Chao-Li had extended two large glove-like things to Nih’na. She had looked at them strangely, recognizing them as they appeared to be similar to the old ones her father had lying on the shelf with all the books. She had never asked about them, not deeming them to be important. When he asked her to put them on she was surprised; why wear gloves on such warm day? As she had put them on, however, she felt that they were not warm at all, in fact they seemed altogether lighter than their appearance suggested. Chao-Li had told her that they were magical amplifiers which he had crafted for her. She was stunned as she had never known that her father was able to make such things She tried them on Feuor with no warning and the sudden rush that went through his body as Nih’na levitated, turned in the air and shot a larger blue bolt right on him, made him almost stumble and fall Chao-Li had smiled while Feier’an had laughed and thrown something to him with a “Here, better use this to support yourself my boy”.
Feuor had grabbed the stick but as soon as he regained the balance he had seen what it really was. It was a well crafted pike, a thing of both function and beauty. He looked at it in awe and then at his father who just nodded and said, “Yes, it is yours, my son.”
Examining it further, the materials seemed to be of some special variety that Feuor had never seen around their home. As he studied the fine weapon he found the inscription,
- “A pike as mighty as its user!”
Nih’na looked at her amps as she removed them and she also noted that they were also inscribed
- “To cure and give strength is to care”.
They had both wondered what these inscriptions meant but their fathers’ had just shaken their heads telling them that in time they would know their meaning. Their mothers joined the group, bringing more items; Naom’Chi had secretly worked hard to find materials and craft two sets of jewels in which she had set sap crystals that gave their bearer the ability to receive more hits.
Now Limeh approached and unfolded a light armour made with the softest of cloth and hardest of threads. She had also used sap crystals so that the armour held the same ability as the jewels. When Feuor had changed into his armour, she had turned to Nih’na with a smile handing her another set of armour, crafted for a girl and a Zorai. Feuor’s eyes widened when he saw his friend stand tall and proud in her new identity.
Today marked the day that their practice had ended with this small ceremony, it was a brief time to enjoy the feast that all had made and to look forward to the future and all it might bring
The last lazy afternoon passed at the table, eating and talking. As evening stole the colour from the skies, the adults started to clear the table and prepare for the night, while Nih’na and Feuor, still clutching their armour and jewels, wandered off to a spot where they used to sit when both were reading. They lay in the grass for a moment and looked at the brightening stars.
- “So, tomorrow it is then, when it begins” Feuor said.
- “Yes, tomorrow all will change.” Nih’na replied.
The following day they stood before the Defencia Academia looking at the high gate in the grey dawn light, wondering what their futures behind it would hold.
This was two years ago.
Two years had passed since they stood in front of the gates, two long years for some that had passed by like a flash for Feuor. He had found that his early practice had paid off when came to the wielding of weapons; he excelled in the arts of swordsmanship and was among the top five in his year with a pike. He worked and trained hard each day to improve his skills, always striving to use the pike that was his father’s gift for joining the Academy.
- “Very well… Well done Feuor, you can handle that sword pretty well it seems. Bring on your shield and we shall run through some evasive manoeuvres.” The trainer appreciated his hard work and was keen for him to learn ever more difficult passes in his quest for perfection.
Feuor quickly found his place in the Academy; he enjoyed everything about his training and mixed well with his fellows, at ease both on the practice ground and in the common-room.. Indeed, some of the girls seemed especially keen to mix with him, even if he was an outlander; his fighting skills and well-developed muscles more than compensated for his origins.
For Nih’na alas, it was otherwise, although she had found herself to have a gift for all magical skills and proceeded to learn them with ease.
Unfortunately, however, she was the only Homin in the class who was of Zoraï birth and it placed her somehow outside the group of her peers in a way that the more outgoing Feuor had not had to contend with. The fact that she was knowledgeable and clearly skilled, merely added to the jealousy and pettiness of some of her classmates.
They did not often talk to her or invite her to work with them, unless they were especially stuck on some magical problem, usually they ignored her, or she caught the glimpse of a grinning face or the tail end of a whisper as they made fun of her Mask. She responded by turning to her books, her only friends, and studying harder than ever.
Feuor had noticed that she often seemed to be alone when he was walking from one class to another, and he always tried his best to share lunch with her whenever he could. When they were together she smiled and joked, but he had noticed that when he caught sight of her at other times, the smile was absent and she hurried along with her head down in the pages of a book. Not even to her parents did she mention the loneliness and unhappiness that the she was enduring due to the cruelty of her fellow students.
The classes that they had first joined mixed Homins of all abilities together to see who might shine at what, but after a year things had shifted and the very best students were selected to work together. In these new, more specialised classes many came from the better areas of the town, families with a heritage or a fortune and the leisure time to devote to such studies instead of the daily grind of existence. To them, the fact that this outlandish, blue skinned figure was doing better than all their wealth and family influence could manage was galling in the extreme, and the teasing gradually became something rather darker.
One day things went a step too far.
Nih’na had finished the day’s lessons and was hurrying to the market to buy some special spices her mother had requested. In her hurry to be home, she tripped over a small rock and went flying, her precious books scattered everywhere. Feuor, who was practicing defensive wielding in the training yard, had seen her fall and he asked his tutor if he could leave his class early as he wanted to walk her home. He could sense her increasing unhappiness, and he wanted an opportunity to see what was really troubling her. Changing quickly, he raced in the direction of the market.
Picking herself up and dusting off her books, Nih’na had continued her way towards the market, but in her consternation she had failed to notice that she was being followed. Suddenly, something hit her head and everything spun into blackness for a brief moment. When she regained her sight she was lying on the ground again, and her books were once more scattered around her, but this time it was no accident. Rough hands grabbed her and tossed her in a small alley and as she hit the wall she was finally able to see who her attackers were. Two Matis and a Fyros boy were standing there, eyes dark with hate as they blocked the only exit from the alley.
- “You are a nuisance, you know that? You’re always in the way acting as you know everything. Answering correctly every time…” One of the Matis boys said.
- “Teacher’s pet… I bet that is not all you do for them…” The other one said.
Suddenly she felt a sharp blow and realised that one of them had kicked her. She fell backwards and landed on the ground, turning in pain and trying to protect her head as she curled up into a ball. Tears started to trickle out through her mask as she wondered if this was the end of everything she had strived for.
There was a strange stillness to the air, and no more blows followed. Slowly she opened her eyes, to see that the dynamics of the scene had altered, as a tall shape, eyes blazing with anger, stood rigid at the entrance to the alley.
- “I have already killed a Kincher who tried to harm her, do not ever think that I would hesitate to do it again to anything or anybody that threatens her.” As he spoke with chilling precision, she noticed that he was holding a dagger to the throat of the Matis boy that had first spoken and she recognised the fear stamped on the boy’s face as a reflection of her own, earlier terror.
- “Who are you to judge someone that you do not even know! How can you cast judgement on her when your only measure is in the twisted lies of old stories?.”
- “I… she is … she is…” The Matis boy squealed out.
- “She is Nih’na and she is my friend. And I will do what it takes to defend my friends, never forget this.” Feuor said in a tone that made even Nih’na shiver as she gazed up at him, holding his knife steadily and speaking with such determination that none of the other boys dared to move.
- “Feu…*cough* Feuor. “ Nih’na managed to say, but her stomach hurt too much.
- “Leave, and if anyone of you ever lay a foul hand on her again, I shall make sure that you boast one hand the less.” Feuor said and slowly removed the dagger. The boys faded quickly into the alley, not one of them wishing to make a fight of it.
- “There, Nih’na. Let me help you up back on your feet.”
When Nih’na looked at him it was as if the previous Feuor she had seen was washed away. He was smiling as he extended his hand to her and his eyes were kindly and calm. She hesitated for a second but after an encouraging word from him she took his hand and he helped her back on her feet.
- “Are you Ok, Nih’na?” He asked her.
She could not help it, tears started to fall from her eyes, as she hugged him tightly. Why had she not told him how she had felt from the start? Why had she held it so deep inside when someone who would understand was already so close to her? There were so many questions in her mind, but for now all she could do was to cry and to wash away the months of hurt.
Feuor stood there holding her, speaking soothingly to her as he rocked her in his arms. He knew that in time she would explain everything to him, but he did not rush matters. For now all she needed was a kind shoulder to rely upon, and this he could do for her.
- “I am here Nih’na; here as always for you.”
A day had passed since the incident in the alley. Nih’na had stopped crying but she had turned silent even to Feuor. She was ashamed that she had not been able to tell him of how she had felt recently and that events had become so serious in order for him to find out. Attempting to resume some normality, she had returned to the Academia but she now ensured that she took the lesser used corridors between the classrooms. She tried to make herself as small and invisible as possible in fear of the aftermath of the incident. As she trailed along her solitary path, however, she felt her arm seized in a tight clasp.
- “Nih’na? Why are you hiding like this?” Feuor asked calmly.
- “Fe..Feuor, I am .. “ She tried to explain, but the words just stuck in her throat.
- “I am your friend Nih’na, not your enemy. You can trust me I swear.” He said with a voice full of kindness. A voice she recognized.
- “I know, I am sorry. I thought that… I wanted to spare those important to me from this pain, sorry.” She said as she felt the tears starting to come.
- “Come, lets go somewhere. “ Feuor said and walked her away still holding her arm.
They hurried through the doors leading outside and then rounded a corner and soon they found themselves on a small field a few hundred meters behind the school.. It was a place that was sporadically used for combat training or magical learning. But it was not as large as the main practice grounds so it was mostly used by students that wanted to work in peace.
- “I think we are pretty safe here Nih’na. No one usually comes here. So what is it that you want to tell me?”
- “I.. I don’t know what to say Feuor. I though it was my fault, I am the only Zoraï in the class, and a short one too. I thought it was why..” She started to confess.
- “You know that that is just your imagination Nih’na. You are not the one at fault here, they are, for hitting out at what they do not understand and are jealous of. They are weak cowards acting as they did.”
- “I am alone, I don’t have any friends and indeed I feel as if no one wants to be friends with a strange blue Homin like me.” Tears wandered down her cheeks as she finally was able to tell someone how she felt.
- “You have at least one friend, there was one that came looking for you right?” Feuor said with a smile. “We have been friends as long as I can remember Nih’na, don’t think for a second that I attacked that Kincher only so you could get hurt through the whim of some Matisian rich man’s kid and his skewed views.”
- “But.. what will happen now.. What will they do to me now?” She asked him, afraid of their reaction now someone had finally fought back
- “I have already sorted that out too; I confronted him during a training session this morning and made him confess in front of everyone how brave he was attacking a lonely girl with two trustworthy men on his side. I don’t think he will try to harm you again, especially not if he wishes to keep his hands attached to his arms.” Feuor said, as he winked at her and smiled.
Nih’na remembered what had happened in the alleyway and suddenly she did not see him as the frightening Homin she had seen him as back then. Now she could see that there was a reason behind his anger, and she understood his actions. Although it was disquieting to see him transform like that, she now realised that he could never act in this way towards her, only to those that tried to harm her. He was her friend. A little smile started to form behind her mask as she considered this.
- “Uhmm, excuse me. But I want too… ehm..” A voice said from behind them.
- “Oh, hi there Dinah, didn’t hear you.” Feuor said. “I'm sorry, but I am busy for the moment could we...”
- “It's fine Feuor.” Nih'na said, and she did actually smile for what felt like the first time in an eternity.
- “You sure Nih'na?” He asked her and she nodded yes. “Well then, what was it Dinah?”
- “There is , ehm.. an assignment... for school, that requires... ehm.. “ She started to explain.
- “Don't be nervous, just say it, will you?” Feuor said with a broad smile and a little tease in his voice.
- “There is a requirement for an assignment for school which needs you to work with someone else. And I was wondering if you wanted to… ehm.. work together with me..” Dinah said it as fast as she could and she was almost surprised that she had just said it.
Feuor looked at her and then at Nih’na and smiled. He had heard of the assignment; it was a preparation for a crafting lesson where they were required to hunt and harvest for materials so they could craft. No specific materials were needed, the main idea was to train the ability to work in team, and to ask for Homins to form teams.
- “Well, I have sort of already promised Nih’na here that we would do it together.” He said, and it was an obvious lie, since he had not said a word to Nih’na about it. In fact she had almost forgotten about it herself.
- “Oh. Well then I am sorry for disturbing you both.” Dinah said, bowed and started to walk away.
- “Hey Dinah, stop will you.” Feuor looked at Nih’na with eyes telling her he had something on his mind and she looked at him and nodded without really knowing why she did. “You know, a team can be more then two Homins, do you want to join me and Nih’na?”
Dinah stopped and turned around quickly looking back at them.
- “Are you sure that is alright?” She asked. Nih’na was surprised that it seemed as if Dinah was not bothered by the fact that she would be in the same team as her.
- “Haha, it seems as we have ourselves a team of three then.” Feuor said happily and stood up. “I'll be your warrior; taking hits and dealing blows.”
- “I will heal as it is what I do best…” Nih’na said with a lowered voice as she thought that her interference might burst the bubble of happiness that had formed in the last few minutes since Dinah had arrived.
- “That is great, so what do you want to do then Dinah?” Feuor asked and smiled so much that Nih’na thought that his jaw would come loose.
- “I have had.. ehm.. some ease for the afflictional skills.. I was wond.. hoping that I could..” She started to say and found her voice to become even lower then Nih’nas.
- “Haha, wonderful then we have the fighter, which is me, the healer Nih’na and Dinah the afflictionist. Sounds like a team to me. Come and sit here with us, we are a team now!” Feuor said.
Dinah did as she was asked to and sat down next to them and Feuor started to talk about the objectives of the assignment and how they should plan it, and soon they all found themselves involved in heated but cheerful conversation. They devised some tactics after discussing what they wanted to craft and Dinah and Nih’na agreed to look up what animals they needed to hunt in order to get the materials they needed, while Feuor would investigate where and what to harvest for the rest of the parts. It seemed that after a while it became natural to them all to divide tasks quickly and sensibly and to come up with new ideas as they melded into a team indeed.
As Feuor and Nih’na waved good bye to Dinah for the day and walked home they stopped at a small cliff and watched the evening sun shining red as it descended.
- “What do you say Nih’na, are you looking forward to tomorrow and the hunt?” Feuor asked her as he stared into the darkening sky.
- “I am.. I really am Feuor, thank you.”
- “It’s a nice evening tonight. Remember this Nih’na; there are days that are rainy, it’s natural. But there are also days that are like this one. And if it rains too much you have friends that can give you shelter.” Feuor turned back to the path that led home.
Nih’na stood there for a moment looking at the vanishing sun, astounded by Feuor’s words. Sometimes he could make so much sense. Then she ran to catch him up and walked companionably beside him thinking that even though she had been through some bleak times, they faded in comparison with the events of today and her hopes for the future.
She was looking forward to tomorrow.
The next day seemed to take forever to arrive as Nih’na lay in bed in a restless tangle of blankets.
Over and over, she replayed recent events and the way that Feuor seems to be changing before her eyes. Maybe the constant battle for survival had stopped her noticing the imperceptible changes,
as he had grown and matured in front of her.
She contrasted the mental image she had of Feuor from the day that he had turned into a vortex of fury when he had defended her from her attackers. He had been so strange, so determined and fierce, but in the blink of an eye he had suddenly been the caring Feuor that she had grown up with.
Maybe it was a one-off, as she had seen no more sign of the harsh and angry Feuor since that terrible day?
Somewhat comforted by the direction her thoughts had led, she drifted finally into a light sleep.
The next day they met up outside their houses as they always did before going to the Academia to start the long walk into town. They had arranged to meet Dinah on the road just outside the town, dressed for a fight since they were to do the hunt first. Nih’na and Dinah had looked in a few books during their discussion yesterday and found some animals they would focus on. According to the documentation of their habits and what they ate they were most likely to be found near watery areas and fortunately there was a small lagoon not far away from the town which had become their destination for the hunt.
As they approached the town they saw someone standing at the roadside in the distance but initially they had trouble in recognizing her as Dinah.
The armour she had worn yesterday had been of a lower quality so the details and colour she wore today confused them initially.
Perhaps knowing her as little as they did, just seeing her in the Academia and having only spent a day with her, had accustomed them to seeing her in simpler garb.
- “Wow, your armour is really a masterpiece Dinah. We almost mistook you for someone else.” Feuor said with a smile.
- “Th-thank you.” She replied with a lowered voice.
- “Is there something wrong Dinah?” He asked her with concern, surprised at her reaction.
- “Well.. ehm.. thank you then.” She said and raised her head looking at Nih’na and Feuor. “I thought everyone knew that I come from a less fortunate family. And I..”
- “Dinah, with a friend like you; who could ever be poor?” Feuor stated with great conviction and started walking down the road leading from the town towards the lagoon.
Dinah and Nih’na just stood there gazing at his departing back, he had done it again; said something serious and meaningful in his casual, throwaway manner. They looked at each other in silence and after a second they both broke into a smile and followed after.
The three new friends continued down the road at a fast walk, and even though conversation lagged a little at the start, they were soon chatting as if they had known each other for ever.
The journey took them an easy hour’s travel to arrive at the small beach bordering the lagoon, where they flopped down, glad to be relieved of the burden of their equipment and stretch out on the inviting sand.
— anonymous author.