This is the second standalone fantasy chapter I’m releasing to the blog. Kindness in Anguish was first released back in May 2020 to Patreon Supporters on early-access. This chapter takes place well before the events of my actual #fjfantasybook Book 1 and introduces two of the main characters.
Although I have created species and developed a language for my world, this chapter does not assume any previous knowledge. So I’ve explained everything or translated items into the footnotes.
Kindness in Anguish
Fyrva, 510 AFD
Sablesand Dunes, Suda da Shevezz, Nightfall
The stars began to peek through as the skies over the desert faded to deep purple. The moon was barely visible, being just a tiny sliver of a crescent. Its faint light was all but blocked out by the dense smoke from the fire in the middle of the camp. The Passage of Rebirth was how the tribe described it, though it rarely gave birth to life at each cycle.
The tribe heralded the Rebirth with hunting, feasts and war-dancing. It was a time of strength, victory and, as the Chief called it, “cutting the fat” – ensuring only the most capable remained as part of the Parrtrof TeegTranslates from the Kyadii language to Common Tongue as “Cats of the Coarse Sand” clan.
In front of the flames, a cub of approximately eight winters was silhouetted against the angry orange glow. The ceremonial chanting had been going on for so long, it was beginning to hurt her young head.
How can this be celebrated? She wondered.
Such was the nature of the creatures known as Kyadii throughout the Known Lands, that tribal tradition was fiercely, and sometimes viciously, defended. A cat-like warrior species that walked on their hind legs (or “feet-paws”) they gathered in clans, usually in regions considered uninhabitable by established nations. The harsh reality of living in the most desolate landscape of the South necessitated brutal measures to ensure the tribe’s survival.
Well, they claim it is a necessity, anyway, she pondered bitterly.
All That Was Left
In her left paw she held her mother’s legacy – the weapon known as a Rzarchprl. It had the shape of a walking aid, though about three quarters of the length of one. Along the edge of the curved end were angular, jagged razors – though sometimes the teeth of desert beasts were used if metal could not be scavenged. The weapon was usually held in the middle of the shaft and could be wielded with one or two paws. At the opposite end, a dagger-like blade protruded, which was sharpened on both edges for maximum effectiveness. All the Kyadd cared about is that it used to belong to her mother.
The Final Pronouncement
Just as she began to despair of this horror never coming to an end, the Chief held the ceremonial horn-staff in the air and all fell immediately silent.
“Grrn-Deen-Arrn, step forward,” he commanded.
The girl-cub gritted her teeth and obeyed. She found herself merely paces from the Judgement Seat, where the chief sat, flanked by the prime Soothsayer and his Healer. She did not kneel as was custom in every other ceremony; it was not expected either. Though she knew what was about to happen, she had nervously wrapped her tail around her abdomen as the only one left to embrace her was herself.
“As you know, cub, your father perished while hunting for food critical to the Tribe’s survival. He proved weak.” the Chief spat.
Tears welled up in her eyes, but she fought against them with all the strength she could muster. She would not be proved weak. Not that she believed the Chief’s damning description of her dear father.
“As such, Tribal tradition dictated that your mother undertake purification by combat in the Proving Circle. This was to determine if she had the power to lead her family. She failed and has burnt as a result, as the Spirits demand.” the Chief pronounced.
As the Spirits demand! Grrn-Deen-Arrn cried in her mind, You just couldn’t bare to think of my mother being the leader that she was. You were threatened by her being there.
Her claws dug into the wooden shaft of the Rzarchprl, carving an imprint of her anger in the weapon. Trembling with rage and uncontrollable sadness she glanced back at the fire and felt a tear wet the fur beneath her eyes.
No, I must not cry now!
“Child, face your Chief!” the Soothsayer growled.
She turned back to those who pronounced her doom and scowled, her foot-paws digging anxiously into the sand.
“Your brother has been accepted by another family-clan. But you, cub, I pronounce Nrr Nuch – not ours – and banish you from the Parrtrof Teeg. For the good of the Tribe.”
Grrn-Deen-Arrn glanced to her right, where her brother stood with his new family-clan, her eyes pleading with him to intervene. But he had not yet undergone the “Trial of the Hunt”, which meant his voice would either be disregarded, or he would face a similar fate to her. For his part, her brother felt a huge sadness and inner shame. He had asked to be cut off from the clan, so he could protect his sister, but had been forcibly prevented from moving to aid her. Their glance lasted but a moment, before he looked away, trying not to show his feelings.
“A cutting of the fat, you mean?” the girl stated, more than asked.
“You know we have to do it for the good of the Tribe,” the Chief stated.
“Just like you had my mother killed, then,” Grrn-Deen-Arrn whispered resentfully.
“She could have redeemed herself and therefore you also,” the Chief shrugged.
“Not against the Prime Hunter, she couldn’t. No one could.” the girl-cub responded with anger.
“How dare you speak against your Chief like that!” the Soothsayer scolded.
“He isn’t my Chief any more. So I can. And your tradition says you can’t attack me now.” she stated forcefully.
“Not unless you attack me first,” the Chief pointed out, almost goading her into trying.
“I may be a cub, but I’m not stupid,” Grrn-Deen-Arrn stated, affixing her weapon to the strap on her back.
The Direction of Judgement
Sighing, she glanced around at faces she once called friends, clans-folk and family. She herself had witnessed one of these ceremonies herself not long ago, but never imagined it would happen to her.
“In which direction do you command that I travel?” she asked with a growl of resignation.
“If you were your former brother’s age, I would have told you East or South,” the Chief began.
The South held nothing but death and desolation. The East was rumoured to house some ancient ruins and a people-group relating to the fluttering, screeching “night birds”. A cub would not survive long there either, Grrn-Deen-Arrn presumed.
“However, I command you to travel North,” the Chief decided, “Maybe those humans your father was so fond of may find you. If you can survive the three-day trek to the Walled City. Follow the moon, while it still shines. Now, begone.”
With a deep sense of shame, wracked with sorrow and struggling to control her anger she looked up, turned towards the moon and began her slow walk to isolation. As she neared the edge of the clans-folk she turned back and looked the Chief in the eye.
“One day I will return and prove you wrong. You were wrong about my father. You were wrong about mother. My family-clan had a different type of strength. You’ll find that out from my brother soon enough.”
“Grrn-Deen, no!” her brother suddenly shouted out, “this isn’t fair!”
The girl-cub turned to face her brother.
“Ghyt-LeenNot his real name. It literally means “stalker-kitten” so was likely an endearment,” she began, sounding more assured than she felt, “prove your strength. You know what strength I mean. One day I will stand by your side again. I promise.”
The Dead Hills, Sablesand Dunes, The Early Night
The girl-cub shivered. Away from the campfires and tents, the clear desert night was much colder than she had expected. Having known she would be cut off from her people, she had eaten as much as possible at the Final Feast. She had also slipped some strips of meat in her small satchel when judgemental eyes were not fixed on her.
As the Tribe’s settlement disappeared behind the dunes, the darkness enveloped her as an invisible sleep-nest sheet that offered no comfort. To her left, the so-called Dead Hills rose up, its peaks as jagged teeth seemed to pierce the sky itself. During the cubs’ schooling by the Soothsayer, they had been told that these mountains were only called the Dead Hills due a lack of living things there. Other cubs liked to tell stories of things that should have been dead but weren’t, a rumour quickly put to rest by the Tribe. But here in the cold light of the stars, Grrn-Deen-Arrn felt little comfort knowing they were “safe”.
A Voice in the Dark
After a while, she came across some lower-lying boulders on the edge of the mountain range, and set her satchel down for a rest and to take a little food. As she knelt to open up her meal, she thought she hurt a scraping noise behind her and reached for her Rzarchprl.
“I mean you no harm,” a male voice said.
With a yowl, Grrn-Deen leapt into the air in fright, landing a few paces away from the man.
“Grrn wyrrb!“Wall or barrier of light”, also used as a curse/insult among the Kyadii to mean “I hope you get blinded”” she cursed.
A sudden flash of bright light knocked her to the ground, and she landed with a grunt. The man ran over to where she lay.
“Are you okay, child Kyadd?” he asked, concerned.
“What did you do that for?” Grrn-Deen protested, “you frightened me enough already!”
The man smiled kindly and reached for her hand-paw to help her up.
“I did not create that light,” he pointed out, as she stood, frowning, “but we can talk about that later. I did not think the clan would banish a child-cub.”
Dusting the gritty sand from her fur she sat down on a nearby rock and shrugged.
“Whatever they think is for the good of the clan, apparently” she monotonously recalled.
“But you couldn’t make the journey to the edge of Sablesand on your own. Please, let me help you.”
The Measure of the Man
Grrn-Deen looked up at the man before her. His face, though care-worn, did not seem as old as his long, grey hair indicated. He was simply-dressed in some loose robes and shod in ragged sandals. He also had a small branch attached to his belt.
“You some sort of sorcerer?” she asked.
“I dislike the term, but from your experience, yes I am. But look, it’s cold out here, and we should seek shelter until the morning.”
“Only if you have the means to make a fire,” she countered.
“You need not worry yourself about that,” the man smiled, “I always have the means to make fire. But first, what is your name?”
Same Cub, Different Name
The girl-cub stared at the floor.
“My name is meaningless now. Wish I could replace it. For what it’s worth I’m Grrn-Deen-Arrn.” she replied, “and I’m not growling at you, that’s how my name sounds.”
“That’s quite difficult for me to pronounce,” the man chuckled, “but it means ‘a light in the shadows’, yes?”
The girl-cub nodded.
“Want to give me a name you can actually say, then? Even if we part ways tomorrow,” she asked tentatively.
The mage considered the question.
“Well, in my preferred language, fary can mean ‘a little ray of light’. Aun means ‘shadow’ and na means ‘not’. You have brought me light today and given me hope, if we mash those words together, it would have the same meaning as your Kyadii name. I see there is ‘no shadow’ in you, though many are cast over you.”
“Faryaunna is a bit of a maw-full,” the girl-cub pointed out, “why not Farynna? It almost sounds like Grrn-Deen-Arrn. Maybe? Close enough.”
“Farynna it is then. And I am Frehghan. Come let us make camp.”
Shadow of Things to Come
The man and Kyadd cub made their way together a little way into the hills. Neither could foresee that this would begin a long journey in each other’s company, nor that their chance meeting would reverberate through the Realm and the Known Lands. Although she would not express it, Farynna was as glad for Frehghan’s company as he was hers and, though she had mentioned a parting of ways, she hoped and believed it would not happen. She had a new clan, albeit one of just two people. But she felt accepted and, after how the Parrtrof Teeg has expelled her, she would treasure every moment she could with the man who had probably saved her life.
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||Translates from the Kyadii language to Common Tongue as “Cats of the Coarse Sand”|
|2.||↑||Not his real name. It literally means “stalker-kitten” so was likely an endearment|
|3.||↑||“Wall or barrier of light”, also used as a curse/insult among the Kyadii to mean “I hope you get blinded”|
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