Chapter 19 = Feral country
Disclaimer: Although all characters here are of my own invention, the original idea of Yoshies, Birdos, etcetera, are copyright of Nintendo, and I make no money from writing this.
Much, much later, as evening turned into night, the group of ferals and the four travellers that accompanied them reached the edge of a forcefully cleared section of the forest. It was completely unlike the elven village they had been in less than a week ago; instead of being built in harmony with nature like the elvish tree houses, the ferals had cut down and uprooted enough trees to make a clearing for them to pitch their tents, which appeared to be made out of some kind of fabric Marcus had never seen before. The layout of the tents was fairly erratic, and even though feral Yoshies were running around all over the place, it somehow seemed to Marcus that this was how it always was in a village hidden in the forest.
The group of ferals dispersed as they entered the village, leaving the three Yoshies and Laen with the red female and the cloaked male they had seen earlier. The two of them then lead the travellers on a weaving path through the village, stepping around various possessions strewn on the ground near the entrances to tents as well as the occasional large fragment of Yoshi eggshell here and there.
As they walked through the village, Marcus noticed, many of the ferals would temporarily stop what they were doing and stare at the travellers as they went past. Marcus wasn’t surprised; aside from the fact that one of them was an elf, the Yoshies were city Yoshies that stood out from the ferals, and Marcus was pretty sure that the entire underside of his tail was coated in blood, which he could feel running down his skin as he walked with one arm around Xenly’s shoulders.
They were lead into a largish tent, which had two feral guards outside of it, both dressed in cloaks and holding wooden spears with sharpened points. They parted to let the group through, and Marcus found himself inside a very lavish tent that obviously came with some kind of power in the feral community. It was lit by several candles that burned silently, releasing almost no smoke into the tent yet casting a fair amount of light.
The red feral motioned for Marcus to lie down on a largish cushion on the floor, and Xenly gently let him down onto his back. Manny looked away in slight revulsion; from between Marcus’s legs all the way down to the tip of his tail, his white underside and a little bit of his brown skin was completely stained red from blood. The red feral grabbed a towel made of some kind of furry white fabric, and began to wipe off the blood as the others found places to sit on the floor. The cloaked feral took a seat in a small wooden chair that had many carvings across it, most of which appeared to be letters in the old Yoshi alphabet.
The red feral began to rinse the bloodstained fabric, muttering quietly to Marcus in her native tongue. “You’re not bleeding any more… but it’ll probably sting for a bit until whatever was damaged heals over.”
Marcus nodded and mumbled his thanks, and she took a seat on the floor next to him, putting the towel off to one side to dry. The cloaked feral Yoshi looked at each of them in turn for a moment, before speaking in a clear, commanding voice in the old Yoshi language.
“I am the chief of this feral community. My name is Andreas, and this is my daughter, Shiala. Would you care to tell me your names?”
Manny nodded and said, “Of course. I am Manny, and these are my companions, Marcus, Xenly, and Laen.” He pointed to each of them as he spoke, and the feral nodded before continuing.
“I rarely bother myself with domesticated Yoshies or elves like yourselves… but I am interested as to why that one…” he pointed to Marcus as he spoke, “…has the eyes of Karshina like the rest of us do.”
Manny translated for Laen as the feral spoke, but when he stopped she whispered to him, “Eyes of Karshina?” in a questioning voice.
“Karshina is one of the Yoshi goddesses.” Manny replied in a low tone, but stopped again to translate as Marcus began to speak.
“I wish I could tell you that…” Marcus said in a quiet voice. “Neither of my parents had them, nor my grandparents… nobody I knew had them; none of my friends or distant relatives… the only slight hiccup is my great-grandfather; nobody knows who he is, and since my great-grandmother died shortly after laying the egg with my grandfather in it, nobody remains alive to know…”
Andreas nodded as Marcus finished, before getting out of his seat and kneeling nose-to-nose with Marcus, staring into his eyes. Eventually he stepped back and sat on his chair again as he spoke.
“I don’t imagine that your great-grandfather was a feral… we never leave the community or travel to the cities; it’s just too dangerous for us. It’s entirely possible that it’s just a mutation… but it still seems pretty strange to me. Let me see your talons.”
Marcus paused for a moment, before leaning forwards and undoing the laces on his right shoe, then slipping it off and allowing it to fall to the floor. Both ferals came forward to look, but Marcus could see for himself that his shiny white talons were very different to the dull cream-coloured talons on the two ferals in front of him. They stepped away again and Andreas had an expression of confusion on his face as he drummed his fingers on the chair in thought.
A few moments later, he shrugged and slowly removed his cloak. “Well, we can talk later… it’s very late, and Koopa hunting is tiring. I can set you three up in other tents for this one night.” He said, gesturing towards Laen, Xenly, and Manny.
“What about me?” Marcus asked, struggling to sit up on the cushion.
“You stay here with my daughter… you’re injured, so you should have someone nearby in case your condition gets worse.”
With that, he stood up and led the others out of the tent, leaving just Marcus and Shiala on their own in the tent. He led them a few yards away to another, slightly smaller tent, opened the flap, and let them inside. “This one is empty;” he explained, “the family that used to live here got ambushed and killed by that Koopa we were hunting this afternoon.”
“Ah…” Manny muttered after translating for Laen, “So that’s why you were after it?”
“Yes… but we would have attacked it anyway; Koopas are a very dangerous species. We don’t consider them to be more than animals… anyway, get some sleep, and I’ll see you in the morning, when we can talk some more.”
Andreas left them, closing the tent flap as he did so, and leaving them alone in the dimly lit tent. They could see that there were several cushions like the one Marcus had been laid down on in the other tent, as well as a few things that probably belonged to the previous family. Laen grabbed a few of the cushions and laid them down, before stretching out on her makeshift bed, but caught sight of the two Yoshies kneeling down with their right hands over their chests, in front of a small table on one side of the tent.
“What are you two doing?” She asked, but didn’t receive a reply from either of them. She could faintly hear Xenly muttering something, but it was inaudible to her, and she simply waited for them to finish whatever it was that they were doing.
Eventually, they both stood up and let their hands fall to their sides. Xenly grabbed the remaining cushions and tossed one to Manny, while Laen just looked at them sceptically as Manny set down his cushion next to her. She could see that there was a small statuette of a Yoshi on the table the Yoshies had been kneeling in front of, but she wasn’t sure who it was.
“What were you doing?” She asked again, and Manny simply replied, “Praying.” as he got comfortable on his cushion.
“Praying?” Laen asked questioningly. “You’re the two least likely people I’d see kneeling down and praying. One’s an assassin with hundreds of kills to her name, and the other’s a vicious swordsman with few morals in combat.”
“Hey!” Manny replied haughtily, “I do too have morals! Just because you only saw me fight in Lince doesn’t mean that’s how I fight all the time.”
Laen shrugged, noting that Xenly hadn’t given a reply. “Whatever. Is that a statue of your god?”
“One of them.” Manny muttered. “There’s eight of them, and the whole Yoshi religion is based upon them; that one there is a statuette of Sorsoy, the goddess of hope and courage. You can’t see it on the statue, but her skin is a bright sky blue and she has vivid red fins. Do you see the little streamers coming from behind her? They say that they change colour according to her mood, but nobody knows, obviously. She’s supposed to have forged a rapier that amplifies the intensity of magical spells cast by it, but it’s believed to have been lost during the climax of one of the great wars long ago.”
Laen was intrigued, and inquired, “What about the other seven?”
“Well,” Manny continued, “There’s three other female gods and four male gods, which is supposed to represent a balance that’s meant to be reflected in our society, that females are just as good as males.”
“If not better.” Xenly added with a sly wink towards Laen.
Manny rolled his eyes before pressing on. “There’s a number of old legends related to the gods… some of them relate to their weapons, but there are others, like the fabled Marble Altar that can bring back someone from the dead, or the Underworld deep below Chyrus where the most horrid monsters, dragons, and unspeakable demons are eternally imprisoned, though powerful summoners can bring them above the surface. It’s said that one day the world will end when the forces of evil release the seal on the underworld, whereupon the lands will burn under the wrath of the evil creatures and all life is wiped out from the lands… which spells doom for the gods, too.”
“It’s said that the gods get their strength from those who believe in them… if all of the believers are killed, the gods fade from existence. Aside from Sorsoy, there’s Karshina, the goddess of luck and fate, a female feral who manipulated magical force with nothing more than her mind and supposedly put the seal on the Underworld. She’s supposed to have a dark purple skin tone and bedecks herself in jewellery, which is why so many ferals these days adorn themselves with rings, bracelets, necklaces, and so on. There’s Miyala, the goddess of time and space, who is more like the god in human religion… she can see everything in the universe and every point in time whenever she so wishes, and is supposed to have been the first Yoshi oracle in the lands. She’s dark brown, a little darker than Marcus, and has a strange birthmark on the back of her head that looks like a third eye. The final goddess is Laryshka, the goddess of war and power, who’s… pure white… in colour… with white fins… and… long eyelashes…”
Manny suddenly stopped and looked behind him to Xenly, who shrugged noncommittally. “I’m no god. Trust me, if I was, I wouldn’t be scrounging around the world with no money to my name and no family or lover.”
The blue Yoshi looked at her oddly for another few moments before turning back to Laen and continuing unperturbed. “She has a white tongue, though, so it’s obviously not Xenly. Anyway, if you ever see one of those old pictures painted in wartime with Yoshies praying before a battle, they’re asking for blessing from Laryshka to see them through to the end of the day and return safely to their families.”
Laen nodded. “Wow… everything is so in-depth, so detailed… we elves don’t believe in gods… we believe that we are our own gods, that we shape our own lives and our own futures, our own destinies…”
“Well, everything has its own appeal.” Manny said, getting back on topic. “There’s four gods that supposedly watch over Chyrus along with the goddesses, but one of them… well, I’ll get to him in a minute. The first god, the original god, is Eirsir, a green Yoshi with orangey-red fins like the rest of us. He’s supposed to have had a golden sword embedded with jewels that could mould the very bounds of existence, create something from nothing, and destroy matter at its master’s will… however; it’s said to have been lost or broken, but only after the world as we know it was created and left to run itself.”
“Wait a minute.” Xenly interjected. “Your throwing knives… aren’t they…?”
“I don’t think they’re real.” Manny said. “I stole them when I was young from this human merchant who simply called them the Knives of Eirsir… that’s when I got my sword and Marcus’s flail, too. Besides, Eirsir had a sword, not seven throwing knives, and I’d KNOW if these things contained all the power in the universe.” He patted his saddlebags as he finished his sentence, before stretching a little as he prepared to continue.
“There’s also the god Vizorvy… the god of love and compassion, who is said to have done his best to convince everyone to be faithful, to stay monogamous, not to be homosexual or bisexual, not to pursue… uh… ‘masochistic pleasures’, shall we say, and not to… ah, I can’t remember them all.”
“Not to have sex for non-procreative purposes.” Xenly said, slightly smugly.
“That’s probably why I forgot it.” Manny said sheepishly. “That last one didn’t go down too well, but aside from that everything was fine. If you ever go to a Yoshian wedding, you’ll see a carving of Vizorvy on the altar… he has black skin but bright pink fins, which is supposed to be symbolic of something.”
“Then there’s Tivaro… the god of knowledge and wisdom, an orange Yoshi with bright red fins like Sorsoy’s. I heard that Yoshian schools and universities have statues of him about the place, but I’ve never been to one.”
“They had one in the entry hall at my old guild.” Xenly interrupted, irritating Manny a little. “They said he would help us learn our craft, or die in our search for knowledge.”
“Anyway,” Manny resumed, “Tivaro, it’s said, used to invent things all the time, and he’s most famous for the mass-printing of books. Normally, we Yoshies use knives to carve things into the leaves of a special kind of plant, the Vaell plant, and we’d record things that way. Tivaro came up with the idea of adapting a design that one of the humans came up with. You see, they print onto paper with an ink that stains the paper, and mass-printed books with something called a ‘printing press’. Tivaro adapted that by using the same method, but switching the paper for Vaell, and using bladed letters of the Yoshian alphabet rather than ink-coated letters of the common tongue. The blades cut into the Vaell, saving hours of work.”
“The last god… I dare not to speak his name here, for the true name alone is a curse in itself, used only as an insult or by those corrupted by evil, who wish to follow in his footsteps. Rather, people refer to him as the ‘God of Death’… he’s a dark red Yoshi with a black aura that rose to power and summoned all manner of creatures from the Underworld in an attempt to break the seal. Somehow he achieved immortality, and when he was finally struck down he became a god rather than dying. The other seven gods use all their power to stop him from wreaking havoc, but it’s said that the God of Death stole Eirsir’s sword. Rather than submit to evil, the sword fragmented, ending any significant intervention of the gods within the world today.”
“Whoa…” Laen murmured, hooked on every word. “A god of death? Intense. But why would there be a god of death in the first place, anyway?”
“It wasn’t meant to be that way… he has a long staff embedded with razor blades supposedly made from a tree from the underworld that glows with a red aura. It amplifies the intensity of spells, making all of them lethal. He somehow used it to gain immortality and become a god… but, get this: it’s written in the legends that one day, a descendant of one of the original seven gods will sacrifice everything to banish the God of Death, but die in the process, and become what you might consider a replacement.”
Laen exhaled slowly. “Wow… I wonder if that will really happen…”
“It’s supposed to be a climax… the ultimate battle of good against evil… if evil wins, the seal on the Underworld is undone and Chyrus burns. If good wins, evil is forever eradicated and the world flourishes for the rest of eternity.”
Silence held for a moment before Xenly yawned and lay down on her cushion. Laen shook her head and said, “That’s an incredible story… but probably not one I should’ve heard right before I go to sleep… I’m going to -try- and get some sleep now, but after that…”
Manny chuckled as he, too, lay down on his cushion and closed his eyes. Laen snuffed out the single candle lighting the tent, then fell onto her cushions and became lost in a world of vivid dreams relating to the stories she had just heard.
As soon as Andreas left, Shiala took the now empty chair as Marcus pulled his egg out of his saddlebags, from where he had placed it earlier. It was smooth and shiny, and had several brown spots on it that matched the chocolate-brown colour of his skin, but unlike a real egg it was completely motionless as he held it gently in his hands. He hadn’t seen a real egg, of course, but he knew that they were much larger and often moved a little from time to time as the baby Yoshi inside developed. Nobody knew what was inside a fake egg like the one he was holding, since breaking them open to find out caused them to burst apart in a small but non-fiery explosion that could easily stun people or hurt them with shrapnel.
He put it back in his saddlebags before taking them off and laying them on the floor next to him. He undid the laces on the shoe he was still wearing and slipped it off, but paused as he reached for the buckles on his saddle.
“Uhm…” he murmured, casting a look at Shiala. “Would you mind…?”
Shiala rolled her eyes, giving an exasperated sigh as she did so. “You’re only taking off your saddle, right? I certainly hope that’s all you’re going to do…”
“Yeah, you’re right, I’m not Manny.” Marcus muttered as he unbuckled his saddle, before rolling onto his side so he could pick it up and toss it down onto the floor, next to his shoes. “After all, you’re not wearing anything either, except for those bracelets.”
Shiala nodded and said, “Ferals just don’t usually wear anything. We’re pretty tough and we don’t need shoes…”
Silence prevailed for a little bit, before Shiala looked towards the now-closed tent flap. “What’s it like to be a domesticated Yoshi?” She asked Marcus.
“Is that what you call us?” He inquired, and she nodded. “Well, it’s alright, I suppose… I only lived in a small village, but I wouldn’t mind living in a city.”
“Yeah… I’d like to go live in the city eventually. Nice though it is here with my feral cousins, it’d be nice to go to some place with civilisation. I mean, I know it’s out there; all I’d have to do is learn the common tongue and get some clothes…”
“This doesn’t seem like a bad place, though. It must be peaceful here…”
“Only in this feral village. If you’re living in one of the ones that keeps moving to avoid being torched, it’s not so calm and peaceful.”
Marcus nodded as he reached up to snuff out one of the lamps. “I’m going to get some sleep… good night.”
Shiala got up to put out the other lamps as Marcus rolled onto his side and relaxed on the cushion. It supported his entire upper body, but his feet and tail could still touch the floor when he straightened out as though he were standing upright. He rubbed the side of his face against the cushion and smiled; the fabric was soft and fuzzy, and was cool to the touch against the moderate heat of the tent.
The tent went dark as Shiala blew out the final lamp, and he closed his eyes as he waited for her to leave and go to wherever she would be sleeping. He heard her shuffling around for a moment, and the bracelets on her wrists hit each other as she moved, but he opened his eyes again when he heard something soft hit the ground behind him. He looked over his shoulder to find that Shiala had put down another cushion beside his, and she bent down to it before lying on her side on top of the fabric cushion.
“Erm…?” he began, but she put a finger to his lips to silence him.
“I just want to sleep with you, that’s all…” she said, her innocent tone of voice telling Marcus she meant literally, not figuratively. “I don’t like sleeping on my own if I can help it; I enjoy the feeling of having someone next to me while I’m asleep… it brings me comfort. Is there something wrong?”
Marcus looked up to the roof of the tent with visions of Alziana floating through his mind. He had to admit that he, too, enjoyed sleeping next to somebody, but he had mixed feelings about it right now, and wasn’t sure what to do.
“We’re only going to sleep next to each other,” she said as he was lost in thought, “I’m not going to come onto you or touch you up or anything.”
Marcus made his decision; after all, it was nothing extreme. “Yeah… sure…” he mumbled, taking the moment to get a good look at her. His eyes had adjusted to the dark, and he could see that though she didn’t have eyelashes yet, it was still obvious from her build that she was a female. He rolled onto his back as she settled down onto the cushion, and let his eyes close from tiredness as fatigue began to overwhelm him. He was still awake when she put her arm across his chest in a show of affection, but he was too tired to pull her off or ask her not to touch him. He felt somehow reassured to have someone next to him as he drifted off into his dreams, now untroubled by memories, visions, or the wills of the gods…
To be continued…