Ogres and Ogresses Ch. 21bystubborn_dreamer©
Chapter 21: The List of Importance
"Your village is that way."
The Chief was at a loss for words.
He had not known Kyzu, not truly known her as he had supposed. She was cordial, elegant, and docile, willing to listen to him ramble about when he was younger or take his teachings with clever remarks of her own. Never had he imagined she would be so...bold.
Looking at her sister beside her, who had first greeted them with war paint and viciousness, he began to finally see the family resemblance.
"You...would sever our bonds?" the Chief breathed? "You would end the treaty that has been in motion for the last 100 years?"
"If that is what you wish," Kyzu replied unshakably. "If you can see no other way to resolve this problem then so be it. You may leave now if you so choose."
The Chief looked at his son who stood beside Zyra, noticing for the first time that he had not joined his people.
"Has been wronged," Kyzu agreed. "And we will right this according to Rovian laws."
Kyzu turned her head to Rell. "Rell, do you demand reparations?"
Rell hid his smile. "No."
"No!" Hanto snarled, stepping forward.
The sharp drawing of knives and spears accompanied his outburst, the ends pointed to the belligerent fool whose jaw clenched with fury.
"Quiet!" Kyzu snapped. "You are a guest. I have extended you every courtesy and this is how you repay me? You drag me from the warmth of my bed to look for my missing sister, only to bask in her shame? And who reported her missing?"
There was a silence as the villagers looked amongst themselves. Never once thinking such a question could be relevant.
"My son called me," the Chief said stolidly.
They looked at Hanto expectantly as his merciless eyes drifted down the line of Rovians until they settled on a particular girl.
Henna's heart began to race. Surely this fool would not give her up. Didn't he see what was happening? It was a trap! They were trying to divide them. If he gave in—
"Henna was looking for her this morning," Hanto stated. "I saw her wandering and asked her the cause."
Kyzu looked at Henna for answers.
"I-I went to her tent," Henna stuttered. "She wasn't there. I was just looking around the campsite when I remembered seeing her wander into the forest last night."
"You saw me wander into the forest?" Zyra shouted angrily. "Why didn't you get me then?"
"I-I wasn't sure if it was for relief or-or something..."
"You could have told a huntress before you called a Chief!"
"I was worried about you!"
That statement uttered from Henna's mouth made the Rovian's entire party pause. Henna being worried about the one person she openly despised? The blatant lie made Henna lose all credibility and the Ursies watched the instant change curiously.
"So...you led them to the ogre's camp," Kyzu seethed.
Her knowing eyes cut into Henna who could not believe what was happening.
Yet she could not give up, would not give up, when she had been so close. She clenched her fists, her nails drawing blood.
"I did," Henna blurted.
"And how came you upon such information?"
"You knew where she would be," Kyzu answered for her. "Whether you admit it or not you had a hand in this. Do you deny it?"
Henna gritted her teeth, her eyes wavering in Kyzu's sight. "I do."
Kyzu sucked her teeth in anger. "And with that you have lied to me for the last time. You will be punished."
Kyzu reached into her pocket and began to slowly glide towards the girl. Producing a white piece of clay she pressed it to Henna's quivering forehead. Carefully, she began to draw a large thick X.
"I hereby strip you Henna of the huntress honor. This is your third slight that has caused us shame. You sullied the name of your sisters, you disobeyed orders, and now you turn our allies against us. This is the last time. Never again will you ever become a huntress. You will live your life in the village and the village alone."
Henna let out a wet sob and rubbed her tear filled eyes. In a quick movement she looked at Hanto to see if he would say anything, but he said nothing. In the end they were both cowards and thieves. Gritting her teeth, she ran from them in agony.
Kyzu turned back to the stunned Chief.
"I will not ignore that Zyra is in the wrong," Kyzu said frankly. "But there is no Rovian rule against the using of slaves. Kail is her conquest which she may use as she sees fit. Rell is her chosen and she has stayed by him as the celebration rites demand. If she has fulfilled her duty to Rell, she has committed no wrong."
Hanto's voice grated against Zyra's moral code like stones.
He looked at Zyra, his eyes filled with hatred, longing, anger, sadness, simply, too many emotions for one face. Zyra could see his mind turning, plans, schemes; revenge intermingled into a ball that he was going to throw at her.
When a single thought formed, Zyra's hand clamped onto Kyzu's arm. Startled, her sister turned to her.
"I want to enact Shino Shuen."
Rell's mouth gaped open in astonishment.
"Brother...how could you..."
"It doesn't have to be me," Hanto declared. "Or our father," He glanced at Kyzu, "...or her sister. They simply have to be impartial. One ritebearer who both tribes can trust, or one from each tribe."
Hanto turned to the Chief. "Human law states that when a chosen couple are involved in dispute during celebration, the truth of their consummation may be tested if wrong is done."
Hanto faced Kyzu. "You yourself have admitted that Zyra has wronged my brother. He may not seek reparations, but the Ursie tribe is not satisfied."
Hanto turned back to his father, his eyes pleading.
"May I speak for us father?"
The Ursie Chief looked between his sons. Zyra could see his thoughts. He had been embarrassed by another Chief, his back was against the wall and his son, Hanto, was aiding his escape. Without even understanding the gravity of his actions, the Chief made a choice.
"Yes," he declared. "And state your reasoning."
Hanto stepped forward, his eyes drilling into the Rovians and his brother.
"The rite of Shino Shuen is not to test the loyalty of the mates, Rell has already accepted her faults. However, since the goal of the celebration is to produce an heir for either tribes, we must make sure at the very least that the mates have consummated, and that the possibility of a child is still apparent."
"But we have already consummated," Rell began.
"But no one, can confirm it," Hanto snapped. "You say you have been together, but no one has seen. It stands to reason that if you were truly consummating, Zyra would have no need of her ogre slave. Why is it that on the last night of celebration, Zyra was found away from you?"
Rell could find nothing to say. Before Zyra could plea the Ursie Chief took Hanto's argument, and ran with it.
"If you truly care for my son, this should be of no embarrassment to you," he exclaimed. "You may choose a female representative if you wish, but I find what Hanto says to be true and fit. What say you Kyzu? Can you think of anything else to right this wrong?"
Zyra released her sister's arm and stared at the ground. So it was finally happening. Kyzu had warned her over and over about the tribe's law, she had drilled into her fear of consummation, she had encouraged her to ignore her hurtful lies, but now Kyzu had a duty to the tribe. Even if she knew Zyra had been lying, even if she didn't, the Rovian tribe law stated that Zyra needed to have a successful celebration attempt or she would be exiled from her tribe.
Kyzu was silent, her mind racing with things to say, or ways to best serve her sister, but she was only a Chief. She could not make Zyra undo the past, and she did not have the power to change the written human law, the highest of the old order, the order that had kept them alive.
"What you say...is fair," Kyzu said finally. "We will arrange this carefully. I will speak with both parties and assure to their security and comfort during the rites. No one but their ritebearer or ritebearers will bear witness to their joining. With Shino Shuen we will consider this matter resolved. Agreed?"
"Agreed," the Ursie Chief proclaimed.
Zyra took a shaky step back, staring at her feet. She knew her eyes would betray her. A pale hand reached for her arm.
"Zyra," Rell breathed.
His hands brushed her arm and she recoiled. Not wishing to disgrace him she bowed to him in front of the camp.
"I must make myself clean for the rites," she uttered.
She ignored his call, running for all she was worth. Stumbling on a broken limb she fell forward, her arms aching with tension. Her breath quickening she forced herself up and continued on. She had to see Kail. She needed to, to tell him that—
With a shout she ran into a body that cut off her path. Pressing her fingers against the chest, she pushed herself up to look into the eyes of Hanto.
"Where are you going?"
His nostrils were flared, his eyes wild.
"Get out of my way," Zyra commanded. "Or I will move you."
Hanto smiled at her cruelly, his dark eyes narrowed.
"Going to run to your slut? Tell him how little he means to you? That you go off to sleep with another man under the eyes of your fellow humans?"
"Why?" Zyra shrieked. Unshed tears made her vision waver. "Why are you doing this to me?"
Hanto's face contorted, writhing into a frown, into pity, into hatred and back.
He took a step forward, placing a warm hand on her face. Her jaw trembled in his grip.
"You think it's so easy don't you?" Hanto whispered painfully. "You think you can affect all of our lives...affect me...and just walk away?"
He stepped closer, his palm pressing against her throat. She grabbed his arms, her teeth clenched in fury.
"No," he seethed. "No. You want to be selfless? You want to play the hero? Then be the hero, Zyra."
Zyra peeled his hands away from her and turned her face away, leaning on a tree to steady her nerves. She felt Hanto lean over her, his lips moving in her hair, his demeanor curled with cruelty.
"Even if you can't be mine," he breathed. "Even if you will never be mine, I will never let you claim that ogre. If you are to be Rell's than so be it. But you will never escape me. I will be watching, waiting to pull you back from your mounting pedestal."
"I will trap you..."
"Until you have no choic, but to be all that you boast."
Zyra turned in Hanto's arms and looked into his intense eyes. A sickness churned inside of her, coaxed higher and higher by the hot breath that puffed against her skin. Even now, Hanto looked like he wanted to kiss her. He leaned in, trembling with weak restraint.
"How can you say that you ever loved me?" she whispered.
He halted, just before her lips. "You have no love in your heart to give you understanding."
A harsh blow sounded through the air and Hanto's head snapped to the side. Blood dropped from the side of his mouth and he grinned.
"Hit me if you wish..."
She struck him again, this blow staggering him backwards.
He began to chuckle as he looked up at her from beneath his reddening brow.
"But you will not pass. I will tell them where you have gone and I will demand nothing less than the ogre's death."
Zyra could see in his eyes that he would rather die before she wounded his pride anymore. Unsettled, she turned on her heel and ran.
She was headed toward the stream when she realized Rell would look for her there. She ran along it, farther in towards where the monokeros Luneh had pitched his tent. She had told the villagers that she was planning to cleanse, and if she could not walk to Kail she would swim.
Pulling off her sandals she dove into the water, striking the surface powerfully. She could see the embankment in her mind, the places where Kail had lovingly held her, caressed her, taken her; this water held many memories. But her loyalties were frayed. How could she...
She froze mid-stroke.
All was silent on the cool crystalline surface as she bobbed in the currents dusted by the wind. They were calling her. They were calling, and it was not like the times before. This time, she could tell something important, something vital had changed.
She bit her lip and shook her head in protest, diving back into her swim. No, not now. She couldn't go now.
Zyra...Come to us.
Suddenly a searing pain wrenched her side and she gasped in a mouthful of water and air. Spitting it out, she found herself unable to avoid sinking towards the bottom of the river. Bubbles sputtered from her mouth as underwater she saw a cloudy vision of Etaceh, beckoning her with a red fingered hand.
Come my child. Come to me. Don't be difficult.
Zyra shook her head, fighting towards the surface and against her uncooperative limbs. The magic inside her was mutinous, threatening to drown her.
If you drown me I'll never come, she thought angrily.
Then we won't drown you.
Zyra felt herself jetted towards the surface. As she broke through she sucked in dry painful gasps of air, her lungs creaking gratefully.
Then, she was pulled back down.
Wide-eyed she felt her chest burn from lack of air, to surface again, only to be submerged again.
Do not disobey us.
Over and over, the torturous cycle brought Zyra to tears until finally, she could take no more.
"Where are you?" she screamed.
She felt her tattoo burn and in her mind saw Caligula standing at the border.
"You have until sunset disobedient keromedio," he said pleasantly. His smile did not touch his purple eyes.
She weakly paddled towards shore and collapsed on her stomach, her feet dangling in the water.
"And hurry," he whispered in her head.
"We do not need water to drown you."
Black spots dotted her vision and she felt strong arms pull her out of the water, before all went black.
Kail heard the knocks on his door and rushed to it. He threw it open to find a worried looking Ginger standing outside.
"Where is Zyra?" he demanded.
Ginger blinked quizzically in response.
"I-I was coming to ask you."
"She has gone missing?"
"She ran off," Ginger stated, "After...the judgment."
"Is she to be punished?" Kail inquired stepping outside.
"No," Ginger answered. "The curse of Kyzu is broken, and with her regained speech she stood up for her."
"Then what was the judgement? Why would she run? What—"
"It is not within my rights to tell you these things," Ginger replied.
She averted her gaze as though something weighed heavily upon her mind. It made Kail nervous, an emotion he was not overly fond of.
"If you see her...tell her that we are looking for her."
"No," she snapped.
Her brown eyes looked at him with pity as she shook her head. "No."
Stoically she walked off, leaving Kail with an unbearable sense of dread.
Zyra moaned, tossing and turning as she fought her way back to consciousness. When she opened her eyes she found herself inside of her tent.
Looking down she saw that she had been wrapped inside of her furs. Her hair was dried and her wet clothing had been taken off and was hanging outside, the shadow of Kyzu's dress staining the tent.
She jumped when she felt a warm hand placed on her head. Above her, Rell frowned and felt her cheek.
"Hm, no fever. You were chilled when I found you."
Zyra's throat felt raw, so she used that as an excuse to remain silent. Instead she looked at Rell, who above all, looked tired.
He took out a waterskin and pressed it to her lips.
"Here, drink this."
She sat up and drank slow measured sips before passing it back. He crouched before her.
"So...did I catch you trying to end it all? Or can you not swim?"
Ugh. Why did they always think that?
Her lips shrugged into a half-hearted grin that flinched away with her next movement.
"I felt it."
"Well, not exactly," Rell corrected. "They didn't call me, not this time. I know this call was for you, but I felt you, calling out I mean. When... when what happened, exactly?"
"I tried to refuse," Zyra mumbled.
Rell's lips thinned. "Could you have not chosen to do so on land?"
"I was trying to reach Kail."
She saw Rell's frown deepen.
"I saw Ginger leave a bit before. I'm sure he knows you are fine."
"Your brother wants to trap me."
Zyra ran a hand through her hair, holding the furs against herself.
"Would you hate me if I killed him?"
Rell raised an eyebrow.
"Would you hate me if I killed Kyzu?"
"Point taken. Turn around."
He obliged her as she found her clothing and donned it, wearing a spare pair of boots.
She rolled her shoulders, feeling achy and tense. It reminded her of her precarious situation.
"They want me to come to the border," she said, strapping on her huntress gear.
She looked at herself in the reflection of the water basin and smeared two huntress stripes along her face.
"Are you leaving?"
"Zyra, the rite."
"I don't want to talk about it."
"We have to."
The uneasiness between them escalated each moment they stood there stubbornly. Rell could see her strong front, knew it was a front, knew that if he pushed her she would crumble. But he couldn't do that to her, he owed her that much.
He moved to the side as she gathered her spear and walked out. As the flap lowered she paused.
Then, she left.
Zyra strode with purpose toward the huntress gathering point. She saw her fellow huntresses there together, laughing, sharpening weapons, sparring, and no men were in sight. When she arrived they hushed, looking at her garb and demeanor.
"Rair, Gharla, Enui," she barked. "With me."
They stood and followed her as she headed towards Kyzu's tent, understanding that what was occurring was serious.
Ginger swooped in from nowhere and grabbed her arm.
"Zyra! I've been looking for you everywhere!"
Zyra's expression didn't change as she patted Ginger as she passed her.
Ginger's eyes widened. 'What's wrong?"
Rair turned her head forward to follow behind them.
They heard rough hushed whispers and saw Kyzu standing outside her tent by the Chief. Kyzu looked up, greeting the small party with a terse nod.
"I have been summoned."
The Ursie Chief looked at Kyzu suspiciously.
"We did not summon you."
"Not by you," Zyra snapped. She looked at Kyzu whose face began to blanch.
"What do you refer to?" The Chief demanded irritatedly.
"I suppose Rell and Hanto told you no stories," Zyra said dryly.
"They told stories," The Chief repeated. "But they were far-fetched and riddled with impossibility..."
"Well this is reality," Zyra said as respectfully as she could. "I am being summoned by the witches of the valley. I am to go there before nightfall, or my life will be forfeit."
She was threatened to mention that Rell's life would be forfeit as well since he would take her place, but kept her mouth shut.
Zyra bowed to her sister.
"May I have permission to go my Chieftess?"
"But Shino Shuen—"
"Will be postponed," Kyzu stated firmly to the Chief.
He glared at her angrily before storming off. Never before had the tension been so high between their tribes. It made Zyra uneasy.
Enui stepped forward. "Yes my huntress?"
"Tell the others that I want two sets of eyes on Kyzu at all times. Tell Imjah that I give her discretion whilst in my absence. Meet us at the ogre's dwelling."