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The Tales Of The Last Feakara


Shion
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Rain fell hard when Delthglor finally left at the end of the week. The rain trapped her inside the house with her parents. However, she spent the time alone in her room. Nakti spent his time by the fire, not wanting to interfere with her dark mood. Delthglor’s final question caught her off guard as he mounted his horse, “Who would you choose as Regent today, anyone alive in this empire?”

 

Christine did not hesitate, she replied, “Lord Arachyak or Lady Sheta Enarea.”

 

Delthglor nodded. It was hard to read his expression. Did she answer wrongly? Should she have lied and said his name instead? He said, “Remember your assignment, and double encrypt your reply, until next time.” He rode out into the sheets of spring rain.

 

Spring. Most people looked forward to the season, but Christine was confined to the house scrubbing and thinking. Poisons. Which poisons would work quickly and leave no trace? The lists she had memorized as a child danced in her mind. The thoughts of the various chemicals promised freedom from the drug-induced fog she lived in. Too bad they were intended for the current Regent and not for her tea. She ringed out the rag and dunked into the scalding vinegar solution. The baseboards near the door were filthy. She soaked the rag again, rung it out and kept scrubbing the mud and dust from the wood.

 

The long sleepy hours passed as she moved slowly through the house. Poison. Why bother with poison for him? Regent Velkh Shen ingests so many minor poisons in his intoxicants it is almost too easy! I should be an assassin. Maybe that is what I will be for Delthglor when he is Keitarkh again. I do not see the next Regency lasting long. He will hound Lord Fedavya Shen into madness. When Delthglor chooses for you to be ‘Regent’ or ‘Keitarkh’ or ‘priest,’ he will use every tool he possess until you are his. These thoughts disturbed her. She shouldn’t question Lord Delthglor. The man was so kind to her. He gave her hope for a future. Surely he had deeper feelings for her beyond that of an apprentice. Perhaps he would adopt her, free her from this cage. Even she scoffed at this notion. She never received what she wanted.

 

The night was looking equally dreary when a knock came to the door.

 

“Christine go to your room and change out of those nasty looking things. Quickly, quickly,” said her mother, herding her upstairs.

 

Heru opened the door, his massive body blocking any view beyond. She slipped into her room. Somehow she knew it was Kesenet and his family. Maybe if she feigned illness she could avoid the scolding for harassing the difi the other day.

 

“Not your pajamas,” said Nakti. “Looks like company for dinner, maybe games. Wear something nice, but modest.”

 

Jealous of Kesenet, she teased. Kesenet was only one year older then her. He was moderately handsome, of average height, well tanned, well muscled, and of reasonable humor. However, Christine found him no match intellectually, so her threats were hollow. Nevertheless, Nakti did not see it this way. Kesenet was first of all a young, single male, and therefore not to be trusted around the opposite sex.

 

She wore a deep green skirt and a cream tunic embroidered with tiny green and silver leaves. They had been a gift from Lord Delthglor when she turned fifteen. She walked down the staircase slowly, listening to the conversations below.

 

Heru’s booming voice echoed up easily to her ears, “It’s good to see you again, Hekket and Arana. Your son has gotten taller since the Festival of Aran .” (The Festival of Aran falls the week before the Keitaran New Year. Aran is often the prominent god in the Keitaran pantheon. He is god of law and rulers.)

 

“Only an inch,” said quieter, shyer voice of Kesenet.

 

Christine could hear Kesenet’s mother Arana exclaim, “Ha! If only it were so! If I do any more sewing for you I should need my hands regenerated. You’ve grown two inches in the past season or I am blind.”

 

She came to the bottom of the steps. Christine had not grown since she was thirteen. Standing five foot four inches, she was dwarfed by the other adults in the room. Indeed, she was still light enough to ride atop of Nakti like a pony, but she rarely did this.

 

“Christine! You sweet girl, I have not seen you in so long. Come here. Come, come and give this old woman a hug,” said Arana.

 

Christine willingly obliged. Her arms had difficulty reaching around the plump woman. Arana stood like a giantess in the room. Her black hair flowed over her shoulders like a river of black silk. “You are looking more like a grown woman everyday, my gods,” she said. “Ah, before we know it you will be married and mother.”

 

Christine said nothing. She noticed Kesenet stood blushing and quiet. He had been staring at her until his mother mentioned ‘married and mother.’

 

“Oh, you two are so modest,” exclaimed Hekket.

 

“What brings you here at this hour?” asked Shemei, who seemed put off by the company.

 

“The spring festival is only a week away. We need to start planning everything now. Neither of us has the money to travel to the shrines in Kalychya. So I thought we could celebrate here either my place or yours,” she replied.

 

“Why don’t we sit down, there is no sense in standing about,” said Heru.

 

So they all sat around the fire either on the sofa or the two armchairs. Christine sat by Nakti near the fire. Kesenet sat on the others side of the fireplace. The conversation of their parents was soon ignored.

 

“Rough time?” he asked at last. “I heard what happened in the field the other day, and was surprised to see you still here.”

 

She shrugged, “It was just a headache. I get those from time to time.”

 

“You work too hard, always your nose in a book or scrubbing this, that, or the other. I have an aunt who would hallucinate and get headaches like that when she would work too much,” said Kesenet. “Did you catch the latest on the Philosopher’s site?”

 

“No, Delthglor forbade me to go there, and I have been too busy since,” she replied tersely.

 

“Well, now, they are saying that we need to return to the ancient laws,” said Kesenet.

 

“Ancient laws…which ones, the humans or the Scuntharians?” she asked. She did not bother asking if they mentioned the original laws of the Karae. The Philosophers secretly backed groups trying to exterminate the Karae from the planet.

 

“Human laws,” he smirked as he quoted, “ ‘the old ways were rich with life and fulfillment.’”

 

“Oh, yes, let us return to the heart of superstitions and poor logic that will surely solve all of our problems,” she said rather quickly. “Funny for all their reverence of the old ways, they spend a lot of time bashing the temple of Bashini.”

 

“Well you have to admit, they are a weird lot since Serpetra died and all,” he said, now unsure what to say next.

 

She stiffened ready for a full assault. “First of all, the Temple of Bashini actually devoted most of their funds helping those displaced by this stupid war. Second of all, they were the first of all the theocrats to call for equal treatment for all sentient life forms. Third of all if the ideals of justice, equality and compassion are weird then we might as well write off civilization!”

 

“I think this is why you were blocked from that part of the Net,” said Kesenet.

 

“I’m not blocked, but I have been too busy to bother with it,” she said. “I wormed out of that security field weeks ago. I found more interesting things to do with my time. How’s your application going?” Kesenet had been trying to join the Ahara for the better part of a year. He had spent the past two weeks testing.

 

“Well they said I had a good chance, but that they will contact me after the spring festivals. My sisters were not pleased,” he replied.

 

Christine vaguely remembered his twin sisters: Arinat and Astiri. One became apprenticed to one of the highly regarded artists on Bashini’Pa (one of Keitara’s oldest colonies), and the other joined the Ascetics of the Priestesses of Chyariana on Haflia. They were eight years older then she and Kesenet. So she had only seen them once or twice a year. “I can imagine Astiri was far from happy with you,” she said.

 

“Yeah, she would have given me an earful if it was for her vow of silence that week,” he grinned.

 

Christine laughed and said, “You are such a jerk.”

 

“What did you expect? I’m not that stupid. She became so red I thought she would burst,” he said, soon laughing with her.

 

Nakti let out a huff as he laid his head between his paws. Christine was too busy talking to notice, and for this Nakti was happy. It was good to hear her laugh, and to think about more pleasant things then poisons and death. Still he wished Delthglor would have listened and told her the truth right then and there. How much longer would the old lord wait?

 

After an hour or so of talking, Heru pulled out his lute case. He began strumming a tune singing bawdy ballads from his days as a soldier. Christine knew many of his tales. How he had piloted fighters deep into battles on the borders of Keitaran space fighting with the barbarian Keitarkh before he married into royalty. He had many stories about distant bars filled with exotic pleasure women from hundreds of worlds and different species.

 

It was midnight before Kesenet and his family left. Christine was allowed to go upstairs without finishing her chores that day. Her throat was hoarse from talking and laughing. Nakti plodded upstairs with her. She was about to go to bed, when she noticed her computer monitor was flashing. She let out a sigh and began typing in passwords. She had to enter three and give a retinal scan before she could open Lord Delthglor’s message. She read: Lord Fedavya Shen has been chosen. I need that list. Pick a date. Secondly, read over the following data and summarize it if it is important. I need it by six tomorrow. Signed Lord Delthglor. The official seal of the Keitaran government glowed at the bottom of the message. She cringed when she saw the large attachments, but she began her work all the same.

 

“Sleep first,” advised Nakti.

 

“No, this needs to be done,” replied Christine. She typed: Lord Delthglor, I recommend the drugs offered by the Marnic Ambassador. They will be most pleasing to the Regent, and we will be well rewarded by the effort. The others are too obvious, and you know that the Philosophers have resources enough to dig. This is a narcotic that the Regent enjoys above all others, but rarely has the money or access to have it often. A full normal dose should get the desired results. The date is your choice not mine.

 

She then opened up the documents, more casualty reports. She wondered as she stared sick-hearted at the numbers if she should bother summarizing this. She wanted Lord Delthglor to read it himself. She felt so dirty reading this in a clean room, far away from battles, lumping people in the same category as packages. X amount didn’t make it; Y did, what is the difference? How can we lessen the difference? What loss is acceptable? This is how it seemed to her, a dirty math problem. Yet she read it all the same, and wrote the report. She cross-referenced the information with third-party sources, and double-checked the math of the military reports. Dawn was pink on the horizon when she finally crawled into bed. At the bottom of this report she added, an assassin and negotiations seem better suited in this war then mass bombings Rethink your appointment of Lord Fedavya Shen, he does not appear stable enough for your plans.. She doubted Delthglor would take note of it, none of the other rulers had.

 

It took her awhile to drift to sleep. She hoped Kesenet would not be counted an ‘asset’ and marked down as a ‘casualty’ in this long and fruitless war. She dreamed she was a man with very pale skin, dressed in black. He stood before a large window arching towards the ceiling, revealing a lovely full moon. The land was nearing summer. Yet the sweet smell of blossoms gave him no peace. He had to keep drinking. It was the only way he could be free. She kept asking him ‘of who, he ran from?’ Yet, he gave no reply. His glassy black eyes inhaled the moon, and his loneliness filled her.

 

Kesenet came over the next day. She finished most of the cleaning that afternoon, so she was free to do as she pleased. They walked into the forest. The landscape was dull with brown and gray. The few new shoots of life were still covered by autumn leaves. Nakti ran along side of her, until the three friends came to wide meadow by a stream running southward.

 

“Is it that obvious?”

 

“What was so important?”

 

She said nothing but tossed the ball to Nakti. Nakti caught it. With the red cloth ball in his mouth, he ran into the brush of the forest. “North,” he said in her mind.

 

“Ahh that’s not fair! Two on one,” Kesenet groaned as she ran northward into the forest.

 

Nakti threw the ball to her and she thought, west. Nakti ran southward to confuse Kesenet who had caught up to him.

 

“It is more then fair. She is a terrible runner and you are a terrible guesser,” teased Nakti.

 

Kesenet stopped and looked about. He thought he saw a glimpse of deep blue flying through the brush. Christine watched him intently. She could hardly contain her laughter. He had been so focused on Nakti that he did not notice her sitting right above him. She flung the ball as hard as she could towards Nakti and laughed.

 

“You’re a rotten tease!” he shouted up at her.

 

“You can’t catch me,” she yelled as she jumped to the forest floor. She picked up the skirt of her dress and ran back towards the stream.

 

Nakti doubled back. She grabbed the ball from his mouth. Thinking to make life more difficult for Kesenet, she hopped onto a large stone in the stream. Another jump and she would be on the other side. The cold water gurgled below her. Nakti turned his head and snorted, “That is dangerous, come back. You are a lousy swimmer and the water is too cold for you.”

 

Kesenet pulled a red ball out of his coat the size of a melon, and tossed it to her. “We should play. Looks like Lord Delthglor kept you up all night.”

 

Whatever, she thought and bent her knees to jump. However, the wet stone slipped beneath her. She fell far short of her goal. Kesenet heard the splash and came running down the muddy hill. She had to get out of the water fast, if she was to retain any dignity. She waded towards the other side. Once again, she slipped on the matted grass of the bank. Her dress was now covered with mud. Kesenet who was much taller waded across to see if she was all right.

 

“Wow, you are a mess,” he said, looking down at her.

 

“Says the man with soaked pants, and grassy hair,” she said smirking. She got to her feet.

 

“Honestly, you can’t go home like this. Your parents will kill us,” he said with serious tone. “Besides you are bleeding.”

 

He was right. She had scraped her leg badly. Pulling up her skirt slightly, she touched the edge of her wound. It stung, but it wasn’t deep. “I will be fine,” she said.

 

It was then that Kesenet noticed the other bruises. His other hand instinctively balled into a fist. “He has been beating on you again, hasn’t he?” said Kesenet.

 

She didn’t say anything. She drew herself to her full height and let down her skirt. She looked Kesenet in the eye and said simply, “I am quite all right.”

 

“Why hasn’t Lord Delthglor done anything? Can’t he see what is going on?” asked Kesenet both scared and angry.

 

“Kesenet who is more believable, a person taking twenty medications or two responsible medication-free citizens of Keitara? Hell, one of them has an excellent service record. He served the former Keitarkh. It just isn’t worth it,” she said finally, her voice running out of false conviction.

 

They stood staring at each other, both too scared and ignorant to come to a decision. In a single bound, Nakti cleared the stream. He stood beside Christine now looking protective. She walked away from Kesenet. She knew of a place she could cross, where the water was shallower. Her heart screamed for Kesenet to proclaim something aspiring, to grab her and tell her not to go. Her heart asked for him to intervene.

 

She went homewards. Kesenet did not follow.

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