Welcome to day 7 of the Immanion Press blog hop for the new Wraeththu anthology, Para Kindred. Every day until 25th June the PK authors will be posting a blog post about their story in the collection. Read every contribution to the blog hop, answer all the secret questions about the posts, and you will be entered into a prize draw to win an item from the New section of our Café Press store.
Authors who don’t have blogs of their own will have their articles posted here. Today’s featured author is Daniela Ritter. The secret question is at the bottom of this post, along with details of previous contributors’ questions.
Maria’s question: Where was Chenga’s servant Dolah planning to escape to?
Earl’s question: Who do the spirit wolves watch over, according to legend.
Storm’s question: What can Cherrah do in the mountains that ordinary hara cannot?
Nerine’s question: What birds fly past Taym’s window as he’s staying in the garret?
Wendy’s question: What is the name of her alter-ego?
Fiona’s question: What colour did Kethoak turn when he mused on the fundamentally linear nature of time?
Daniela’s question: What was the name of the first har who arrived after Sapphire and Julee had founded Serenity?
Link to E. S. Wynn’s 16th June http://www.eswynn.com/2014/06/ghost-wolf.html
Link to Maria’s 17th June https://ipmbblog.wordpress.com/category/articles/
Link to Storm’s 18th June http://dreamsofdarkangels.wordpress.com/
Link to Nerine’s 19th June www.nerinedorman.blogspot.com
Link to Wendy’s 20th June https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/6490018-para-kindred-blog-hop-day-4
Link to Fiona’s 21st June https://ipmbblog.wordpress.com/category/articles/
By Daniela Ritter
I am the phylarch of Serenity. I didn’t really chose to become that. It rather happened on its own.
In the beginning, Sapphire and I were alone. We had a lot of work to do. The village we had chosen as our home was lovely, but not in very good condition. Years, if not decades, of negligence due to the absence of the former inhabitants had taken their toll on the houses.
No day passed without Sapphire complaining extensively about what we found inside the dwellings: Heaps of dust, insect nests, rusted cans of what could have served as a good meal, roofs far from being intact and thus a large variety of fungi on the moist walls, or depressing remains of long deceased pets, still in their cages.
Sapphire did not seem to be comfortable. More than once I asked him if he would like to leave the village, which just made him mumble unintelligibly. Soon I figured that his rambling was only his way to deal with the depression the old houses tried to force on us.
The aura of death around them was unnerving. We found a total of six human bodies, all dressed and lying in beds or sitting in armchairs, as if they once had gone to a sleep they had not waken up from any more.
I admit that I threw up the moment we found the first one. The stench was not that bad, but I had never seen a dead body before. I had taken Sapphire for dead when I first saw him, though. But he had been a beautiful corpse. The humans we found were already beyond recognition.
Sapphire insisted on getting them out of the village at once, and of course I agreed. We couldn’t leave them where we found them, could we? The houses were to be occupied again.
So we piled them on an old handcart and brought them beyond the border Sapphire had drawn. There we burned them and gave them what we thought was a proper burial. Without knowing the dead and not being priests we did what we could to appease their spirits, so that they might not haunt us.
As he had promised, Sapphire had learned to build a magical barrier around the village to keep us from harm. Serenity was guarded by a huge invisible dome of energy. It covered the whole valley. When an outsider reached the border, it appeared to him that there was no valley at all, but an unfriendly looking plane, covered by sharp stone needles, slippery rocks and other obstacles which made it an uncomfortable road to chose. If the stranger wanted to try his luck anyway, he suddenly changed his mind when he touched the barrier and went away, forgetting about what he had seen.
The dome blocked everyhar’s way – as long as he was not expected or in need of help – but animals and rain passed through it as if it didn’t exist.
From the inside you could not see it was there. So it looked rather funny when you found strangers standing outside, gazing worriedly at the illusion of a dangerous plane, but at the same time staring right through you, not being able to perceive your presence. The dome concealed our auras as well as it hid any visual information about Serenity.
Sapphire and I both knew exactly where the energy met the ground because we renewed the magic patterns regularly. The easiest and most powerful way to do this was by performing a grissecon. I’m not as powerful as my chesnari is, but he always leads the ritual and guides me, and I became an efficient supporter.
Before we learnt how to do that however, we had to stand at the borders for hours, holding our hands up against the barrier and channelling agmara. Both methods are effective, but grissecon is more efficient. And more fun, to be honest.
Arynn was the first who found us. Sapphire was sleeping off his blood loss at the time, so I was not expecting to meet anyone around the village.
In the afternoon I was collecting firewood. The autumn air was warm and the birds were singing. I was at peace with myself and the world.
Searching for fallen twigs and branches as a first start, I roamed between the trees. That’s where I found him. Huddled beneath a heap of fallen leaves, I discovered a sleeping har. Eyeing him curiously, I ventured towards him.
The rustling sound of my steps woke him. After blinking sleepily for a few times, he finally noticed me and jumped on his feet, alarmed. Scared but decisive, he reached for a small branch on the ground and pointed it into my direction. “Go away! Leave me alone!” he barked.
Looking down at my bundle of branches, I smiled. I had more sticks than he did.
“There’s no need to be afraid, Tiahaar.” I glanced up, and as I had expected, I found him startled. My appearance confused him. “Yes, I’m har, too. And whatever is wrong with you, you are welcome here. This is the village Serenity, a refugee camp for failed inceptions.”
I had been practising that little speech in secret. Now I was proud that I could hold it without stuttering. I was very excited, but I desperately wanted to make a good impression on him.
Thinking back now, I should have been a little more vary of the complete stranger in front of me. After all, if he had wanted to attack me, Sapphire would have been left without protection in the worst case. But back then I was convinced that my chesnari’s magic worked just fine, and that the unknown har could only be needing help.
That indeed was the case. The stranger looked me up and down. “Really..? I mean, you’re… and you’re sure, that you’re…” He slowly lowered the stick, showing the first, careful trust in me.
I smiled. “Well, I did acquire a soume-lam, so…” “I didn’t” he half-whispered.
At first I frowned. Could he be human? No, not if he knew what I was talking about. I opened my arms. “So, make yourself a home here, then. We’re only three now, but I’m sure others will follow. What’s your name?”
The stick dropped onto the ground and he ventured closer. “Arynn.” He bowed, insecure if I might be a har of high rank. “You are… the phylarch, then?”
I thought about that for a moment. I actually had mused that Sapphire would be our leader, but what good is a leader who needs so much time for sleeping and recovering? Someone would need to substitute him in that time. And I guessed he would trust me doing that.
“I think so. My name is Julee har Serenity.” I returned the bow to show him that I did not consider him a lesser person. Arynn smiled.
In the evening we were already talking like old friends. It turned out that he was had found the village by following an indistinct feeling, like a pull in his chest. At that time he had been living on his own for a few months already. The subconscious call had appeared all of a sudden, when he had once again parted from a group of travelling hara. He never stayed with others for longer than a few days. Not any longer than it took him to take the occasional aruna in the dark, where nohar could see what was wrong with him.
Later I learned that nearly everyhar who arrived in Serenity told that very story. It’s a shame that the first Wraeththu, who had undergone a massive change in their physical bodies, nevertheless cast out those who had changed differently. I often shook my head at how fast hara had set up rules of how a proper har has to look like.
Well, those unlucky ones were welcome in our little family. I did my best to welcome everyhar without being biased in any way, but I have to admit that it was not always as easy as I had imagined.
For instance, Jennah’s body fought the change fiercly during althaia. In the end the human flesh had to submit, of course, but his face remained somewhat askew. He has the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen, and the rest of his body is perfectly normal. But I admit I had to learn looking at him without wincing.
I openly admire him. He wore a mask at first, but as time went by, he learned not to be ashamed. He even lets his chesnari call him “Picasso”, as a reference to these old paintings. I like to imagine that I have been a kind of role model for hara who are ugly but happy and that I helped him with that, but I don’t want to ask.
After we had become a considerable group, I took up my training again. I have always been a good fighter, and despite of my looks I am quick, and having to carry my own weight every day makes me probably even strong than the average har.
Sapphire got to know me when I was depressed and mistook me for a weak coward. Living in Serenity and doing good work for other hara quickly returned my self confidence. I had become a leader, and as a har in charge for others I had to be able to defend myself and my family.
Those who were interested got lessons in how to disarm or hold down somehar – or, in the last resort, how to kill. In my early days as a har I have taken lives, as have most of those from the first generation. But the times in which I was proud of that have long gone. Luckily, as Sapphire’s barrier hides us well, we have never been attacked.
It is early in the evening. The sun already touches the mountains that surround the valley. Nightfall comes quickly in Serenity. Everyhar knows that. Yet a certain someone usually denies that once month.
As I expected I find Sapphire hunched in our garden, digging frantically in the earth. Although the full moon will soon rise, he does anything but prepare for his ritual. I sigh and step up to him.
“What do you think you’re doing?” I do my best to look stern, but he does not even lift his face.
“Planting flowers. Don’t you see?” he mumbles. Shaking my head, I remark: “You’re ruining them, actually.” Sapphire snorts. “Ah, screw the daisies. I got seeds for moon flowers. Lunil’s going to like them.”
My voice becomes louder now. “Sapphire, you have an appointment! Don’t make me drag you up to that pool!”
Now I have his attention. He looks up at me, then turns his head to the flag pole we have built in the middle of the village. Most hara get their water from the stream which flows down from the mountain pool that Sapphire bleeds in, so on the day before full moon we fly a large, red banner. From dusk to dawn nobody will touch the water, then. That’s enough time to allow my chesnari’s ritual and afterwards rinse out all the blood.
Today Sapphire sticks out his tongue to the banner, that dutifully announces his inner moon cycle. “Lunil can bite me. I have not finished, yet,” he decides.
Thank Lunil, he’s not always like that. But when he is, he even manages to annoy a patient har like me. At least I know he doesn’t mean to. His hormones are driving him crazy right now.
Sapphire is the kind of har who hates losing control. So although he has accepted his regular bleeding, he tends to procrastinate the inevitable. I guess he wants to prove to himself that he makes his own rules by that.
And so I realise that I won’t get to him with words. Well, I know other methods, too. Proudly I strike a fighting pose, threatening to kick him if he doesn’t move.
Sapphire blinks. “Oh no, you wouldn’t.” “If I have to, I will” I answer calmly. He just snorts and keeps on digging, until he suddenly hangs upside down. I have grabbed him by the ankle and hold him in the air, while I patiently wait for his loud rambling to end.
A minute later, Sapphire folds his arms and pouts, trying to look superior despite of his embarrassing situation. “Fine” he finally agrees. “Okay, I’ll go. Let me down!”
I know that trick, so I insist: “You will go now. Right now.”
“Right now” he repeats somewhat quiet. Smiling, I lay him softly on the ground. Sapphire chuckles. Mood swing at its best.
“You caught me.” he admits. “I know,” I whisper softly. I kneel beside him and bent down to share breath. I taste a dark velvet night sky over a wide, nightly meadow speckled with white bonfires.
With a satisfied smile, Sapphire looks up to me. “You know, sometimes I don’t know how you can stand me.” I kiss him on the forehead. “Because I love you, silly. And besides on werewolf-days, you are wonderful.”
He really is.