Chapter 87 = Fragile Peace
Disclaimer: 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.
23rd of Eira, Chyrusian Date 2156; Anthronian Village in the Kaftata Mountains
Skafria was pacing. It was a habit he had always had even when he was still alive and younger, and he did it whenever he was completely lost in thought. He was continually walking past two lain-out bodies of his friend, Darkmark, and his newfound partner, Tsi-Lau. The former was completely knocked out by the use of his own powers, and the latter was recovering from the subsequent blast those powers had caused. Both were alive – well, Tsi-Lau was still undead – but what happened next would depend on who regained consciousness first.
If Tsi-Lau awoke first, then Skafria would have his work cut out stopping her from killing Darkmark while he slept. He’d have to persuade her, take her weapons, whatever it took, unless she was able to persuade him to kill his old friend… and how much persuasion would that take? Perhaps he could try and lead her away, back to a city, any city, where they could live together and feed together. A vampire couple was a completely unheard-of prospect, so Skafria wondered what might come of it…
And if Darkmark awoke first, then Skafria would have to try to stop him from killing her. An equally thrilling prospect given the potential pain involved if Darkmark got angry and started sticking his banishing sword into undead things such as Skafria himself. He could live – undie, whatever – without that, as far as he was concerned.
24th of Eira, CD 2156; Shared City of Corvan in the Felennia Grasslands
Vachez straightened up and adjusted his scarf as he heard someone approaching, but his heart filled with dread when he saw some of the city guard entering, weapons drawn. He’d seen the leader of this particular group before.
“Begone, foul humans.” Vachez commanded. “Cease to defile this place with your unholy presence.”
They stopped advancing at this, and chuckled amongst themselves before spitting on the floor in disrespect, making the black Yoshi’s fists clench. “Shut up, heathen. You know why we’re here. Hand him over.”
Vachez shook his head. “Not this time. I know what you’ll do with him.”
“You’re not fit to look after a child.”
“And you are? You couldn’t care less whether they starve or survive. Your orphanages are places of hatred and torture. You make them sleep on the floors and feed them whatever nobody else would touch. You beat them for the slightest mistake and if you kill them, you see it as an opening to accept another. You have no regard for the sanctity of life.”
“You talk big, but you’re just one lizard.” The leader retorted. “I’d like to see you stop us.”
“Then let me try.” Vachez remarked, reaching into his saddlebags. “I’ll do whatever it takes to stop you from taking back Tamaroro.”
O divine Gods, please forgive me for what I must do…and grant me your strength and power to overcome adversity…
He pulled a small orb from his saddlebags, and held it in his palm as it began to glow, a bright white light shining from its centre, and it hovered above his hand, bobbing up and down slightly as it levitated. When they moved forwards again he directed it with a gesture, and it flew forwards at blinding speed, slamming into the face of the closest one and breaking his nose. It immediately returned to Vachez, and he held it up as they stopped and looked at him again.
“I should not be so lenient with you foul creatures, but my teachings command it. Leave or suffer my wrath…”
The one he had injured headed off, but the other two remained, the leader calling for the fleeing one to come back, in vain. Before they could make another move Vachez sent the orb back again, and when the guard ducked it, the orb hit the back of his head on the return flight, bouncing up into the air and flying back to Vachez. Targeting the leader, the only one left, he sent the orb straight for him, but it circled around his body several times to confuse him before smacking him in the side of his head and knocking him out.
The orb flew back to Vachez and he calmed down, allowing it to float down to his palm, the shine receding. Saddlebagging it, he prepared to send the unconscious guards off somewhere, but a little voice caught his attention.
“How did you do that, Uncle?” Tamaroro piped up, peering from around a pedestal pushed up against the wall.
Vachez chuckled; though he was of no relation to the baby, Tamaroro called him ‘uncle’ anyway. “My father gave it to me. If I ever have any children I’ll give it to them, otherwise I may hand it over to you some day…”
The little green Yoshi beamed, and Vachez picked him up and held him close, so that he rubbed against his scarf, making the little one giggle. “Don’t worry. They probably won’t come back in a hurry. They won’t be that desperate to get you…”
The green baby didn’t seem perturbed in the least. “What’s that?” he asked inquisitively, pointing to what was on the pedestal he had been hiding behind.
It was a suit of armour, comprised of plated sheets held together loosely, so that they could fit over many sizes and builds whilst still sturdy enough to take a solid blow from a weapon. It was accompanied by a visored helmet and a large sword, propped up neatly and polished to a fine shine. It had clearly not always been for decoration, as there were dents in the armour Vachez had been unable to completely remove, scratches on the helmet that could be repaired by skilled metalworkers, and nicks in the sword that Vachez had yet to have removed. Next to it was a brown shield made from dragon scales that Samintha had handed over along with the little infant.
“My brother’s.” Vachez murmured. “He was a Holy Knight.”
“Why’s it here?” Tamaroro asked naïvely. “Why doesn’t he have it?”
“Well, he wore it to the very end. He was here before I was, but unfortunately, he got into trouble with the wrong people… he almost won, but…”
Tamaroro sensed it was something his adoptive parent didn’t want to talk about. “Why don’t you wear it?”
“I’m not a fighter.” The black Yoshi sighed. “Only Holy Knights can wear that, and I never… well, it takes a long time to become a Holy Knight. You have to learn about more than just fighting, you have to be a strict Octotheist, and you have to be really strong…”
He looked down at the three-year-old cradled in his arms. “You’re a bit too small for it, but you might fit into it someday when you’re older, hm?”
A smile shone back up at him, and he returned it. “Heh, when you’re older, perhaps… I still need to teach you, though. They’d never take you on if you can’t read or write.”
Tamaroro gave him a dejected look, but resigned himself to making another attempt at reading. All he knew was that Vachez had a lot of books, a lot of which were far too difficult for him to be trying to read…
As it turned out, Tsi-Lau awoke first. And she wasn’t at all happy.
Skafria had, as a precaution, put heavy chains around both of them. The two medics the village had were attending to Darkmark and making sure that he was able to take some water and some of the fruit juice they had, while Skafria had sat idly by. He had temporarily stopped drinking, since he wasn’t really doing much, and had devoted some of his time to trying to strike up conversation with Salína, to minimal success.
“Comfortable?” Skafria asked as Tsi-Lau gave him a look of hatred.
“Get these things off of me. I’m hungry… I need food…”
She gave him an endearing look, but he shrugged it off. “Not until you promise me something.”
Her head tilted over towards Darkmark. “Let me guess.”
“Why do you want to kill him so badly?”
“He killed my Sensei, and he killed me…”
“Be fair.” Skafria replied. “Think what she did to Shiala and his son. And you were trying to kill him; it was one or the other of you.”
She went silent, but the look in her eyes told him her mind wasn’t made up yet. “He won’t try to hurt you if you don’t hurt him. Can’t you just forgive him? Surely you remember long ago now… he was a nice person, but then…”
“Shiala, I know.” She said quietly. “I must admit I never thought that she would do what she did. But my years of training taught me obedience.”
She shook her head. “I still have my opinions, and my honor. What she did was wrong, yes…”
“Then why do you want to kill him?”
She remained silent.
“Do you still want to kill him?”
“I… I hate losing.”
“I hate losing. I hate only being second best. I can’t stand failure. It claws at me and tears me apart from the inside. And I see him as a failure of mine. I was ordered to kill him, and I failed. Several times. He’s beaten me. And I want to beat him. I want to defeat him, to prove to myself that I’m capable…”
She went quiet again, and Skafria thought for a moment. “Tell you what,” he said after a moments’ deliberation, “When he comes to, you can fight him. No chi, no psionics. I can lend him my sword. And you can fight him, then, and you can see who’s better in a fair fight. Nobody dies or gets banished, but you have the opportunity to prove to yourself whatever you want to prove.”
She looked him in the eyes, and then nodded slowly. “That… that sounds fair.”
“Then do you promise not to kill him while he’s out?”
“I promise… on my spirit and honour.”
“Good.” Skafria said, undoing the rusty lock on the chains and pulling them off of her. They’d been leftover from something or other, but the anthros hadn’t needed them, so they had let him borrow them for awhile…
She got unsteadily to her feet, rubbing at herself. “Get me some food so I can heal myself properly, okay?”
Skafria nodded, grabbing her and holding her up on one shoulder. “Okay, we can go find someone together. I need to eat too…”
25th of Eira, CD 2159; Winged Yoshies’ Aerie
Karva was bent over on his knees beside Márynn, using a special brush to straighten out her wings and keep them fluffy, and in good working order. It didn’t have to be done as often as it usually was in the aerie, but since almost all of them had a surfeit of free time, especially in the winter, they kept themselves in the best condition they could.
Butterfly was napping under a few blankets on her bed close by, and Márynn kept a smile on her face as her gaze alternated from the peacefully sleeping child, to the careful and gentle Karva next to her. She had already done his wings, and Butterfly’s before she had gone to sleep, but was content to stand there and try not to think about how cold it was, or how hungry she felt.
“Almost done…” Karva told her, as he moved along to the ends of the wing he was doing. “They look better already.”
“Thanks…” she said softly, shivering. She looked at Butterfly huddled under her blankets, and thought that she just might hop into her own bed and curl up beneath their soft, tempting warmth… perhaps taking Karva with her, his gentle touch bringing her inner warmth…
Karva put the brush back on the shelf – carved out of the stone rock – and hugged her gently, rubbing the side of his head against hers. She kept looking at Butterfly as she smiled more from his touch, which did not go unnoticed by her partner.
“You have a wonderful daughter.” He said quietly, standing next to her and putting an arm around her shoulders.
“I didn’t know your kids very well.” She whispered back. “But I’m sure that with someone like you as their parent, they were wonderful children too…”
Karva tried to smile. The memory still hurt him deep in his heart, seeing them slump to the ground bearing fatal wounds after-
“I… I was thinking…” She said, breaking his thoughts, something he was thankful for. “I love her so much… perhaps I should have more…”
She pulled him a little closer as Butterfly slept on. “I don’t know if you’re ready, but…”
“I’d love to.” He replied. “I miss my own, but I can’t have them back… I, I still feel my fatherly instincts when I see Butterfly… and right now there’s nobody I’d rather start again with than you…”
A moment of silence passed between them before slowly, cautiously, Karva edged towards the door and walked through it, Márynn following as they passed by other rooms full of winged Yoshies huddling under blankets for warmth, families trying to comfort each other, ones with food eating uncharacteristically slowly to savour every piece, every precious crumb…
These sights had darkened Karva’s spirit a little by the time they reached the plateau just outside the aerie, but when Márynn put her arms around him he cheered up again. Looking into the distance, he could see that while the volcano was still spilling molten magma into the faraway ravines and crevasses, the smoke had ceased and the sky was clearing a little. He hoped there wasn’t anybody near there, but at least it would be warm…
Márynn diverted his attention with a gentle kiss, sliding her hands down his back to just above where his wings came from his body. Carefully, the two of them moved up to the edge of the plateau and stood next to it, beside a thousand-foot drop back to the ground, which would normally be a lethal fall to anyone without wings who could soar back up into the air after gaining enough speed…
Karva put his arms around her, too, so that they had a firm grip on each other, and exchanged a few words with her, as was the ritual, but smiled the whole time, knowing that he was making a fresh start, another attempt to repair his broken life, the shattered peace he had once enjoyed…
He was about to pull her over the plateau edge and begin their descent when a loud, friendly voice called out from behind him. “Karva!” it shouted, “I leave you for three weeks after keeping an eye on you for years, and you finally get yourself a new partner?”
Karva looked over his shoulder, blushing at being surprised during a personal moment. His friend, the aerie’s leader, was there, holding a large, overstuffed sack in front of him, with a smile on his face, his fine wings folding up on his back, snow melting on his greenish skin…
“I wasn’t expecting you…”
“I’ll say.” The leader replied heartily as another winged Yoshi landed beside him, and headed into the aerie with a matching large sack. “Well, I’m glad to be back anyway. We’ve got plenty of food here, and it’s good stuff… some fresh fruit too, which we won’t see any more of until the winter ends. We helped ourselves to a little, but we’ve brought back the rest of it for everyone else.”
Karva let go of Márynn and turned to face his friend. “Then you were successful, I take it? Did anybody get caught or anything?”
“Well…” the leader mused, “Old Djíro hurt his back trying to carry a big sackful… he’s two hundred and twenty-three years old, you know, but insisted on coming along… we left him at the traveller’s inn just outside the mountains, so he’ll be coming along once he’s gotten some bed rest. We didn’t have to kill anyone either, which is wonderful… anyway, since you’re a good friend, how’d you like to take this in while I go get some more?”
Karva chuckled, taking the sack and dragging it through the fur hangings with Márynn’s help. “See?” She said calmly, still blushing madly but trying to make some conversation, “I told you… if we held out our hope, we’d be rewarded…”
To be continued…