Chapter 82 = Loose threads
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.
The weather took an abrupt turn for the better in the morning, with the sun beating down through gaps in the clouds, turning the snow on the ground into slush. Skafria and Tsi-Lau didn’t care much, flying off as soon as dawn broke, but the surviving Dragon Slayer emerged from the cave he had taken shelter in cursing the heat, opting to go helmetless to relieve himself from the heat as much as he could.
He found his men lying dead with their throats slashed and bearing fang marks, but he left them as they were, collecting his sword and taking note of the reddish, black-flecked substance the blade was coated in. If he got the chance, it would receive a fresh coating…
But he had a duty to do. The other group of Dragon Slayers was a little bit behind them, so if he cut across the mountains, he might be able to catch up to them and warn them about what was prowling around at night…
Tsi-Lau easily picked out the Anthro’s village, nestled between a sheer rockface and a large crack in the ground stretching out of sight. At either end of it were a series of towers with sentries in them, and simple barricades fashioned from stone serving as a basic wall. She and Skafria headed towards the village, landing outside of it and transforming back into Yoshies, finding themselves immediately greeted by a loud call from the nearest sentry tower.
“Halt!” came the voice, “State your business!”
“We’re travellers!” Tsi-Lau shouted back. “I’m an assassin from Corvan and I wish to speak to the relatives of Taráya.”
“You may pass.” The guard called back immediately. “Their house is the large one at the back…”
His tone of voice didn’t bode well for Tsi-Lau, and she led Skafria over the snow through the Anthronian settlement. With barely any wood in these parts, all of the houses were made from stone, their sizes varying depending upon the occupants, with flat roofs and smallish chimneys, through which the occasional trail of smoke rose high into the partly cloudy sky. There were thick layers of snow on the tops of the houses, and hardly any signs of life outside, though the occasional trail of footsteps indicated that there was some activity. There was a large empty space in the centre of the settlement, presumably used for gatherings and festivals, but it too lay under a blanket of snow at the moment.
Eventually they reached a large house with several additions to the basic architecture, and Tsi-Lau knocked on the door lightly, pushing it open when she heard a call from inside. Skafria followed her in as they entered, closing the door behind them, and finding themselves greeted by an entire family of Anthro Yoshies.
There was one grandparent, an elderly greenish female with silvery hair but a youthful look, and two parents, dark purple and blue, one blonde and the other a brunette, slim not from exercise or good physique, but from a prolonged lack of proper nourishment. Of the three children, the eldest was a handsome, blonde male with brownish skin, and then there were two younger daughters, a blackish one and an orange one, both with brown hair, and all three had blue outlines around their eyes.
The warm smile on the blue mother’s face faded when she saw the various markings on Tsi-Lau’s body and equipment, and completely disappeared when Tsi-Lau asked if she knew Taráya.
The father ushered everyone except the mother into another room, evidently aware that it was a sensitive topic, and left her behind to talk. “She… was my eldest daughter, only a year younger than my son. She’s been gone for quite a while now, several years in fact… I was hoping I wouldn’t have to hear from her again…”
Tsi-Lau waited a moment before speaking up. “I’m not a messenger. She was my teacher at the assassin’s guild… I bring you news of her death.”
The mother took a sharp breath, before holding a hand to her mouth to stifle her cries even though tears began to slide down her cheeks. “No, no…” she whimpered, barely able to speak, “I… I didn’t want…”
The father came back into the room, apparently having heard her cries, and pulled her into a hug, pushing her head onto his chest for her to cry on. “What’s wrong, honey?” he asked, holding her gently but compassionately.
“O-Our daughter… Taráya… she, she’s dead…”
The father seemed to take this news a little better, keeping his eyes dry although his facial expression betrayed his feelings. Talking to the two visitors, he said, “I’m sorry to hear that… we were just thinking about trying to contact her, but now there’s no point…”
Skafria stepped forwards, but Tsi-Lau pushed him back, fixing him with a steely glare. “Not yet.” She hissed, pre-empting what he was going to say.
Turning back to Yasei-Yeiko’s family, she asked, “She told me of you once or twice, but I didn’t know that you and her weren’t speaking…”
“She sent us money.” The father said. “We never got any letters, or anything else, just money… she wanted to help us, but at the same time, she didn’t particularly want to talk to us…”
“Why did she leave?”
The mother regained her voice, standing on her own with her hands on her husband’s shoulders. “We made her feel out of place… it wasn’t intentional, but… we just couldn’t accept her, what she was doing… you know…”
Tsi-Lau shook her head. “No, I don’t know…”
“Oh, I… I’m sorry, I thought…” the mother stammered, blushing, apparently having made a mistake.
“She was always different.” The father said, taking over. “But one day, she just… told us that she… she was a… khíshala…”
Although she had expected it, Tsi-Lau was taken aback by this. Skafria, however, couldn’t stifle a chuckle and said, “Oh, I thought Darkmark was joking, but I guess it’s true that you and her-”
“Shut up!” Tsi-Lau barked, hitting Skafria hard in the chest. He wasn’t hurt but the force knocked him back, and she turned back to face the distraught parents again.
“I didn’t know she was until after her death.” Tsi-Lau said honestly. “She had a note with her that said that… she loved me, but I thought it was just a friendly expression, I never knew…”
“We didn’t either.” The mother said. “Just… one day, she spoke up and told us… the other girl she left behind in the village has since passed away from hypothermia, but we never could accept her while she was here, and only after she left did we find out how much we missed her…”
“I know that most of the Octhotheist commandments are only supposed to be suggestions,” the father added, “but we didn’t feel it was right… and because of that, she felt unwelcome, and one day just left to become an assassin… we never felt easy spending the money she sent us, knowing how she got it, but without it we and the rest of our people would long ago have perished…”
Skafria spoke up again, too quick for Tsi-Lau to stop him. “I… I helped to kill her.” He admitted. “But she did horrible things to me and my friend… she killed his feral partner and their unhatched child…”
The mother dipped her head. “How could she do such a thing…”
“And what of your friend?” The father asked.
“He’s… he’s the next saviour…”
True to his word, Darkmark had not stopped flying for hours now, and wasn’t even sure whether or not Yoshata was still following him. But it was getting intense, now… the feeling of power, of some huge source of psionic energy up ahead…
And then he saw it. Diving through a cloud layer, he found himself gazing upon a gigantic hole in the ground, plunging into the bowels of the planet. Around the edge of the hole were several obelisks with various glowing red symbols carved into them, forming a perimeter around the hole. Across the surface of the hole was a fluctuating web of psionic energy, pulsing and crackling, radiating little sparks of the purple energy out into space, producing a low buzz to couple the black aurae that surrounded each obelisk. The ground around it had no snow, and was a toxic murky swamp, poisoned by the evil radiating from it, from the passage sealed by the obelisks, upholding the seal placed so long ago by the goddess Karshina…
The entrance to the Underworld.
To be continued…