|...I hope it's alright if I just leave this beginning here.|
~ ~ ~
When I awoke, my head was splitting for the ache at the base of my skull. I tried to open my eyes, but the pain blinded me into closing them immediately. I could, however - even through the pounding thud-thud of my pulse in my ears - distinctly hear raindrops on some kind of roof. Far, far away, the rolling thunder soothed my mind back to sleep.
I soon awoke again, to reduced pain and the smell of food cooking. I hazarded to open my eyes, and found that though the stars still exploded in my vision, they quickly faded until I could view my surroundings. A table with chairs, a fireplace, a bed, and a single window; that last one just beside the door. My eyes adjusted to the dim, flickering light of the fireplace, and I could see a hooded dreamkeeper crouched before the flames. She had long claws, which I viewed with apprehension as she tasted a spoonful of stew from the pot hung over the fire. Her long, fluffy tail, dotted with sable rings and spots, swished from side to side idly whilst the 'keeper went back to stirring the pot.
Just as I was about to speak, she turned, and fixed me with her gaze. Those quicksilver slit pupils were transfixing, and I found my words dying on my lips. From her rough, hooded tunic and leather clothing, I guessed that she was fairly self-sufficient. This was all but confirmed, as I realized with a startled hiccup that I was resting atop the hide of some huge beast. I decided to preoccupy myself with the rest of the home - and that turned out to be an interesting look-see in and of itself.
It was a one-room shack, with a second door I hadn't noticed in the corner behind the bed's headboard. In a barrel were a wide variety of old, old blades - but whoever had made those relics was a master, because I am proud to say that I'm the apprentice of a curator, and I can spot a priceless relic when I see one. Those had to have been from the wartorn days far in the past, but they were so flawlessly made that - I kid you not - they didn't have a speck of rust on them! I could also spot many pieces of jewelry scattered on the table, all glinting and glimmering in the firelight. A bow and its quiver were hung on the wall, above the bed.
Suddenly, I noticed the dreamkeeper looking at me again. She crooked one clawed finger, beckoning me over to her. I cautiously rose up, and got a bit closer. When I was as close as I dared to get, I abruptly found the spoon inserted into my mouth. I almost coughed, but found that the stew was absolutely delicious. The broth was rich, slightly spicy, and the meat and the vegetables melted in my mouth! I was too stunned to respond, but the dreamkeeper seemed pleased by my expression.
The mysterious feline stood up, and retrieved two bowls from the mantle of the fireplace. She also fetched a spoon for me, handing it over as she filled either bowl with soup. We ate in silence, watching each other carefully. I noted that, despite her small smile and fluffy white mane, she had a coldness hidden in her eyes. Though, how can I say it was hidden? She did nothing to disguise the icy, steely edge - just like she did nothing to hide her joy at having a visitor. From the daggers and blade of a kind sheathed on her belt, she was prepared to fight if she had to.
Actually, I began to wonder about the whalloping I must have taken before winding up here. Once our bowls were finished, I carefully felt the back of my head. With a hiss, I found that it still smarted something awful. Beneath the plumes and scales on the back of my head, my skull was pounding with an ominous pain. I found my host drawing near, watching me curiously. I didn't want to worry her, but this pain was certainly worrying me.
The feline dreamkeeper interrupted my thoughts in her velvety voice, tinged by an accent that I couldn't place. "Ja'tila found you in the Starfall, unconscious," she murmured. "Whomever did it placed a bag over your head and bound your hands, Ja'tila presumes so that you would be at an animal's mercies. There was no blood, and minor swelling. Ja'tila suggests you use her bed, while she goes out to attend to matters." I nodded, realizing just how tired I was at the revelation that someone had tried to kill me.
It took more urgings on Ja'tila's part, but I agreed to come to rest in her bed. Peacefully asleep, I had no way of knowing just what I'd been brought into.
|Wow, I can't wait to read more!|
|Well, you're now getting your wish!|
~ ~ ~
Early morning in the Starfall, overlooking Norvondire by an arpent or two. The trees grew tall, high into the mist, their bark fat with moss. The forest was alive with fauna, but it was as if they were hushed by the ethereal beauty of this transient time. Streams babbled quietly, beneath the faded starlight. It seemed like a place for spirits and magic, not a place for dreamkeepers of the modern era to walk.
Yet, down a roughly-hewn path, a lean lynx-like dreamkeeper made his way - digitigrade, with pale beige fur and russet spots beneath his dark gray and olive green military-grade armor. He carried a pair of oversized kukri daggers, and his deep blue-green eyes shifted all about without missing a single detail. Or at least, he presumed that he didn't miss a single detail. He failed to perceive a hooded feline creeping up behind him, a coal-gray halo lit above her head.
In a swift movement, she proceeded to plant her knee into the small of the armored 'keeper's back. His armor buckled, and one hand released its dagger. However, he swiftly moved away, spun, and swung his dagger down towards the assailant's head. Ja'tila had her own dagger drawn in a heartbeat, meeting the larger combatant's blade. He pressed his weight down, trying to break the hooded feline's stance, yet with a flick of her wrist, Ja'tila sent the other dagger spinning away to pierce a tree.
The next moment, and then the next, into several tense minutes, Ja'tila kept the taller dreamkeeper prone with her second dagger at his throat. Her frown was more than enough to keep the armored fighter from so much as breathing too loudly. "You were told to extract the artifact with no fuss, Hadagg," Ja'tila breathed. "No hostages, put any witnesses out with Horus's Power, just in and out with no one knowing you were there. Please, explain to Ja'tila why there is now a concussed curator in her home." Her glare made it clear that Hadagg was to choose his next words carefully.
At last, Hadagg sighed. "We panicked," he whispered hoarsely, "and made a mistake. He would no longer have been affected by Horus's Power. We had to dispose of him, or else our mission would have been compromised." He felt the blade pressing closer to his neck, and was afraid for his life. "M, Madame Executor, please, we retrieved the artifact, we shall compensate for the damages, but I beg of you - " The low hiss in Ja'tila's throat caused him to break off his statement with a rasping wheeze.
Ja'tila tutted, like a disappointed parent. "Hadagg, Hadagg, Hadagg. The Hand of Arthaya do not beg. We would die before asking mercy of our enemies." She pressed the tip of her dagger closer, and a growing red stain formed. "As is customary of the Hand, Ja'tila gave you one last chance to rectify your mistakes. And you would have, which is good. You admitted your mistakes without hesitation, which is very good. Yet if you would beg for your life, then you would divulge secrets to our foes.
"Since the dissolution of the Dominion, we have fought evils with evils," Ja'tila lowly murmured, "Poisoning the evening meal of those who betrayed the dreamkeepers, stealing back precious tools for combating Nightmares which were ordered archived so as to not be used, ensuring that all things are in their place. We are not an organization for ourselves - we must all be prepared to suffer and die one thousand times over, for the sakes of all dreamkeeperkind." She leaned in, and whispered to Hadagg, as his eyes grew wide.
"Even if were to mean that we all should fall to hell, the children must live. And if you cannot be ensured to accept your failures, and look death in the eye without ever once breaking your oath to never ask mercy, and never give secrets...Ja'tila is sorry, Hadagg. Ja'tila is so, so sorry." In one swift movement, a splash of blood onto the grass and moss and stone, and Hadagg fell - his throat torn open in one clean movement. Ja'tila contemplated her reflection in her dagger's cold steel - a sad, empty pair of silver eyes stared back, one almost obscured by the blood of a newcomer who could have done so much. But at least it had been her - if he had been under the jurisdiction of any other Executor, he would have met a cruel end.
Ja'tila sheathed her daggers, and took out a small disc, unfolded a microphone, and pressed a button on top. "It is Madame Executor Ja'tila Iri'laya. Hadagg begged mercy. Under the Stoic Word, it was Ja'tila's duty to kill him. Ensure that he is documented, given his proper place in our hall, and entombed in the Iron Crypts. Send the nearest Burial Agent to Ja'tila's home on a mission to where Ja'tila leaves this transmitter. Thank you." She knelt down, and carefully tucked the transmitter under the collar of Hadagg's bloodsoaked tunic.
There, she murmured a soft prayer in an indistinct tongue. Gently closing Hadagg's eyes with one hand, Ja'tila retrieved both of the dreamkeeper's daggers, placed the weapons in his hands, and crossed them over his chest. Making sure that no hikers or such would easily spot the corpse, she stole away for home.
It was Ja'tila's sincere hope that she wouldn't have to kill again for a time.
|Oh, wow, NICE.|
I will definitely be following this thread.
|Oh, man, this is amazing! I'm loving this story! Keep it coming, please.|
|Thank you both -very- much!|
The next chapter is incoming, and I hope it is similarly enjoyable.
~ ~ ~
Upon returning to her dwelling, Ja'tila found with a chuckle that I had discovered the book collection beneath her bed. I was presently thumbing through 'The Prince of Beggars,' but looked up when she entered. "Oh, welcome back," I chirped. "My head feels much better; and you have a brilliant collection, here!" This seemed to leave Ja'tila quite pleased. Then, she knelt beside me on the floor, and began telling me of how she came to acquire her collection.
In time, I realized to some embarrassment that I had forgotten to introduce myself. Once the hooded feline before me was done telling me a story of how she'd found a book on medicinal herbs and fungus in a lonely, abandoned crate, Ja'tila seemed to realize what I had to say. "My name is Thetdo Tyedoll," I said, redfaced despite my violet scales. "You have my thanks for saving me. I don't know what would have happened to me otherwise." Ja'tila merely gave me a silent inclination of her head in recognition. We promptly returned to discussing the books which she had amassed through various means. I was relieved that at the least, none which I asked about had been stolen.
Soon after, Ja'tila rose back to her digitigrade feet. "Ja'tila has something which she would like to show you," she smiled, "if you feel that you can make a short trip to and back from there?" I smiled, rising to my feet and carefully returning the book in my hand back to its place. "Excellent. Ja'tila believes that you will find this exciting." The stealthy feline led me out of the rear-side door and into the world. The air was crisp and invigorating, as that first breath filled my lungs. The sounds of birdsong and winds rustling and streams gurgling put my heart at ease, and after the rain late last night, everything felt vivid and alive this morning.
As Ja'tila easily picked her way among the rocks, I endeavoured to keep up with her. She looked back briefly, and began advancing more slowly for my sakes. This was fortunate, as I did not wish to slip and fall on the rainslicked stones. In time, we arrived at the mouth of a cavern carved out of the mountainside. It was narrow, so that only one 'keeper could enter at a time. Ja'tila stepped aside, and let me go ahead of her. I stepped to the entrance, and at the verysame moment I entered, a pillow of warm air and wet, earthy aromas caressed my face.
Entering the cavern was truly like crossing over a mystical threshold. From a huge gap in the ceiling, sunshine fell to illuminate the cavern, and the pool of water at its center. Nearly every surface the eye could see was coated in velvety green moss. Vinelike roots groped from the walls and ceiling, into the floor in many parts; coated in moss, some dotted by flowers. Tiny streams carried water to and from the pool, no doubt feeding the abundant plantlife with the help of that glorious shaft of sunlight.
Behind me, Ja'tila followed and took a deep breath. "This cavern is like a chapel of life," she murmured in quiet joy. "Ja'tila shows it to everyone she can. Everyone walks away a little bit happier, and Ja'tila likes to think a little bit wiser." I was simply too stunned to answer.
We stayed there for a long time, just talking. I felt uniquely happy.
|This is beautiful. You've earned a subscribe, from me.|
|Keep up the good work, and you may yet gain another follower.|
|Come on, T3rminal, I thought there'd been another chapter posted!|
I subscribed on the first post, btw. This story ROCKS!
|By the way, I'm writing a story myself, called "The Fight for Memories", also in the 'LOOKIT THIS' subforum. For the time being, it's going to have DAILY UPDATES; go read for more!|
I've been incapable of generating new content for quite some time.
Know that this story is -NOT- discontinued.
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