Chapter 79 = The Birds and the Butterflies
Disclaimer: With one exception, all characters here are of my own invention, but the original idea of Yoshies, Birdos, etcetera, are copyright of Nintendo, and I make no money from writing this.
Walking around on her own, Yoshata found herself at the entrance to the aerie, a thousand feet above the ground, overlooking a massive valley between the mountain she was on and the next one over. The snow was lighter than before and she could see a fair distance, though the cloud did eventually obstruct the view of the seemingly endless mountaintops.
Turning around, she saw the same dark blue Yoshi that had helped them before walking in from the aerie entrance, pushing aside the heavy fur hangings designed to try and stop the cold getting in. He still had his spear but was now wearing a thick leather gauntlet about his left hand, and greeted her as he stood on the edge of the overhang just above the sheer drop back to the ground.
“As much as I hate the winter, the snow always makes everything look so serene…” he mused, casting his eye across the view. “Just goes to show how something so pretty can be so deadly…”
She nodded. “It doesn’t bother me so much, but it’s such a horrid season that most creatures just sleep through it…”
“Ah, if only I could do that.” Karva murmured. “It’d be so much easier…”
Silence held for a moment, before he looked up to the sky, scanning for something. Apparently finding nothing, he turned his attention back to her. “Life is hard out here, but we can’t give up… some day we will be rewarded, either in my lifetime, or someone else’s…”
Looking up again, he apparently saw something and held out his left arm in front of him. Yoshata looked up to try and see what he had noticed, but before she could a large eagle soared down from the side and perched on Karva’s arm, digging its talons into the gauntlet. It had something tied around its leg, and he removed it with care before lifting up one of his wings to take a bit of food out of his saddlebags, giving it to the eagle, who took it graciously and flew off again, leaving a single feather behind.
Unfolding the message he had recovered, Karva scanned it quickly, his melancholy frown turning into a smile as he did so. “News from the leader… he’s been successful, and he’s bringing us back enough food to last us another month, if we stretch it a bit. It’ll take him awhile to get here, but in this kind of weather he won’t need to worry about it spoiling, that’s for sure…”
He folded up the note and tucked it inside his saddlebags before going inside, stopping just behind the fur hangings where it was marginally warmer. Yoshata held back a moment to pick up the feather the eagle had left behind, before following him, looking at the markings on it as she did so.
“The birds are our friends and allies…” Karva explained, hanging his gauntlet up on a hook embedded in the wall. “We share food and living space with them, and in return, they act as our messengers and warn us of any predators coming our way that our scouts may not see.”
Yoshata turned the feather over, careful not to break apart the locked fibres that made it virtually waterproof. “Surely it’s too cold for them at this time of the year?”
“Yes, but when we venture out beyond the aerie, we’ll take a bird or two with us to send back if we need to. We used to keep bees, too, back when we lived on the ground… but that was a while ago. I miss those times… the sweet taste of fresh honey, fruits picked straight from the trees we grew them on… we can’t have any of that now… for a while we tried to get some from the anthros, but then they too were pushed further from the inhabited lands…”
He sighed, expelling a stream of breath from his nostrils, watching it condense in the air. “The leader had a daughter a long time ago, and she visited the anthros, eventually falling in love with one of them. I don’t know if she’s still alive or not, but she was there when they were attacked, and we haven’t heard from her since… perhaps, in the spring, I shall go see if I can find where the anthros are now, and how they are faring, locked firmly to the ground, unlike us…”
Turning to leave, he forced a small smile. “But now that the saviour has arrived, surely all will be set right…”
Darkmark had stayed indoors, exploring the network of tunnels and caverns, taking a look inside each to find out what they contained. Most were bedrooms, but there were food storage rooms, a room with a hole in the ceiling that snow and light filtered through, presumably used to grow plants in given that the floor was coated in dirt, a room containing spears much like Karva’s, and a room full of various tools used for digging deeper into the mountain. Light was provided further down by torches on the walls, but Darkmark found it easier to hold up a light ball, since the torches didn’t provide much illumination and Karlo-Shin’s sword didn’t provide that much illumination right now…
Finding an end to the path he was taking, he doubled back and took another, stumbling upon a comparatively large chamber well lit by candles and torches. Apparently a place of worship, there was a blueish-purple winged Yoshi wearing an Octothesian scarf knelt between an altar and a small shrine carved into the wall, containing statuettes of all the seven Light gods, plus Klashkna. Whispering under her breath in Yoshian, the Yoshi prayed aloud, though Darkmark could only hear snippets of what she was praying for – food for the aerie, a short winter, freedom from the threat of the humans – all things that they should have had, but didn’t, through no fault of their own…
“Khílhóren ohn kayín ki.” Darkmark said softly, putting a hand on the Yoshi’s shoulder. She started abruptly, but stood slowly, moving her hand across her chest in symbolism of the emblem of Octotheism, before putting a hand on his chest to bless him.
“Welcome, my friend.” She said, drawing her hand back. “May the gods be with you on this day. What can I help with?”
“Do you have a copy of the Fayen?” Darkmark asked.
“But of course.” She replied, turning to the shrine behind her and taking the thick book from a shelf near the bottom. The leather cover was showing signs of age further mitigated by the cold, but despite that it looked well cared-for, and the golden Yoshian letters engraved on the cover seemed as bright as if they were new.
He took the holy book from her and placed it gently on the altar, gingerly opening it as he scanned the pages for the answer to a question that had been plaguing him for a long time – what was the Marble Altar he had heard of, and the legend behind it?
He couldn’t find it in the largest part of the holy book, the legends of the Gods and Saviours, and skipped past the Commandments and Rituals, stopping in the part before the Prayers, in the section of various Octhotheist Lore, scanning the cut-vaell pages as fast as he could for any mention of it.
“Are you a traveller?” She asked as he searched, her breath condensing in the freezing air.
“Yes, I’m just passing by. A winged one named Karva saved me.”
She smiled gently as he continued to turn the pages. “I know him, he’s a good friend of our leader. He rambles a lot, but he hasn’t had anyone to talk to since his family died, so he’s lonely… my own husband died too, when the humans came, protecting my daughter. She escaped, but he was surrounded and killed…”
Darkmark paused momentarily, looking over to her. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
She smiled anyway, brushing away the faintest trace of a tear at the corner of her eye. “It’s okay, I still have her… she’s a handful, but most Yoshi kids are, so bubbly and hyperactive… but that’s what makes them so much fun to raise. Butterfly, I called her… when she hatched, I didn’t have a name ready, but when I took her outside she always used to be fascinated by the butterflies, watching them flit by, and she’d run around chasing them until they flew away… those days are gone now, and she just sits in her room huddled under her blankets, painting on whatever vaell she can get her hands on to pass the time and take her mind off of her hunger…”
Darkmark gritted his teeth as he read onwards, an internal conflict raging within him; he was supposed to be evil now, a Dark-God-to-be, but he felt pity for these winged Yoshies, and he dearly longed to help them…
I can do both, he thought, I can use whatever powers Karlo-Shin will bestow on me to force the humans away so that the winged ones can return to the lands they used to live on… like Vachez said, it’s not what the followers of the darkness wanted that was so bad, just that they took innocent lives to do so…
Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted the words ‘Marble Altar’, and backtracked to the start of the story. Apparently the Marble Altar had been made by Eirsir to bring himself back if he died whilst on the mortal plane, but it turned out that he didn’t need to do that as even if he were killed, his godly powers would save him from being kept in the afterlife forever. However, it was known that it was possible to bring someone back from the afterlife, and the rumour circulated, though the exact location of the altar and the temple it was in were lost in the mists of time. According to the legend, only a true follower of the light with a pure heart could use the altar to ascend the path to the afterlife in such a way as to be able to come back again, ‘whilst curtains of light hang in the sky and a trail of colours spirals up to the stars…’
Seeing what he was reading, the priestess piped up, “Have you, too, lost someone that you love?”
“Yes.” Darkmark murmured. “Twice now my heart has been torn asunder by the death of a true love, and I seek like anyone in this situation for some way to talk to them, some way to bring them back…”
“I wish you luck, then.” She said, stepping back a little. “Nobody has found it yet, and it’s been millennia since Eirsir created us, setting us free onto the lush, green lands of Chyrus…”
Darkmark shook his head. “Where did it all go wrong?”
“With the Lord of Darkness.” Came the reply. “In his blind lust for supremacy, all of the gods were drained of their power and we were sentenced to live under the rule of the humans… ‘tis a lesson for all of us not to thirst for dominance, excessive power… or anything in excess, for that matter…”
Darkmark remained silent. Yes, he was trying to obtain power too… but for a different cause; to help his fellow Yoshies… and he wasn’t killing innocent people to do it…
I can right the mistakes other people have made. They weren’t my fault, but I live with the consequences, and I can use any means necessary to undo what has been done…
“May the gods be with you.” The priestess called out as he turned to leave.
To be continued…