A Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 03byTaLtos6©
***We continue with the lives of a small family of part-demons living in the Rocky Mountains. In this chapter, I introduce two important characters. The type has been seen in literary works before and have found their way into a few video games as well, a far cry from their beginnings in the legends of European peoples far in the past. These two are trying to make new lives for themselves and one has a little trouble with English. What's important is that I've tried to create a pair of characters which readers might find themselves falling in love with for their strangely endearing qualities and I hope that these two are as much fun to read as they are to write. 0_o
Book of the Mountain Clan, Part 2
The heat of the day found them at the stream. Since it was clear just what the three of them were -- aside from a family trying to re-invent itself, or a family of two seeking to integrate a new member in Azrael, they just went in their demonic forms, horns, wings and all. Sariel and his mother stood in a slower section of the steam near the house looking into the water at the small fish and noticing one or two salmon, the first of the spring spawning run to reach this far upstream. Azrael was off about three hundred feet away looking for some herbs when he heard Rachel cry out.
He snapped his head around and saw a large brown bear moving toward the pair. From what he could feel, the bear had been intent on doing a little fishing and saw Rachel and her son as someone who ought not to be there in his way.
Inside the woods at the edge of the clearing, a pair of individuals in dark hooded cloaks watched the scene unfold after exchanging curious looks at one another.
Azrael spread his wings and was airborne toward what would be an uneven conflict in a few seconds. As he climbed, both of his hands began to work patterns in the air -- patterns which were completely unrelated to one another, though one's purpose was to intensify the other. The bear was intent on the ones trying to stumble out of the pool to run and didn't see the half-demon as he came around in his wide turn, streaking like a rocket.
Rachel and Sariel turned to look back when they heard the snapping sizzle and the pained roar of the bear. They saw the bolt shooting from Azrael's left hand while his right continued its machinations. Rachel stared, seeing that this wasn't only a ball of electrical energy thrown at a target. Her brother had established an arc which stayed, flowing from him to the bear, even as he raced past. As her eyes met his for only an instant, the thoughts of one of the watchers were complete and the female demon and her son felt the ground shake a little under their feet.
Something large and white flashed by them, spraying them with water splashed from the stream and throwing divots of earth as it accelerated up the far bank and then it was racing away from them toward the bear who looked about as amazed as it was possible for a bear to appear. But the expression was gone in an instant and the animal recognized the threat as it stood up on its hind legs to bellow a warning before the fight.
Rachel grabbed her son's arm and they ran into the forest, since it offered a place to get out of sight. Taking off would have been the best option, but there was no room for it in any direction that didn't face the bear.
That brought them face to face with the pair in the woods. They stood looking at a pair of small pistol-like crossbows in the hands of a surprised female. Like most of the elven races, she was lithe, and not tall compared to a human, though this one was tall for a Drow female. All that her hood revealed of her features were her coal black skin, her eyes, and a little of her snowy white hair. The one next to her was the same type of creature, though quite large for his people, very close to Azrael's height. He looked past them, holding out an ornately carved staff in the direction of the animals.
"Stand still for a moment," he said in a strangely accented voice without looking at them, "before something tragic happens to more than the bear."
The brown bear bellowed its warnings, but the white intruder only began its assault. Several times, the brown bear connected solidly with the polar bear, but there was no visible effect, though when the polar bear retaliated, there were bellows and blood from the brown bear. After a few minutes of this, the brown bear turned and stumbled off. There were a few other altercations as the polar bear hounded the brown bear out of sight. Neither animal returned.
Azrael landed at the edge of the trees and walked to stand next to his small family. Rachel and Sariel didn't understand what was said -- at least at first, about half of what was spoken was in another language.
The female nodded in the direction of Rachel and Sariel. The few elves that Rachel had ever come into contact with carried slightly musical voices, but she'd never seen any like these. What came out of this one was a blend of two languages, and her voice held a little of the same musical quality, but it was a touch lower and carried a slightly smoky silkiness, all overlaid with a tone of curious confidence. She tilted her head a little with a small smile.
"These are yours, Master? These ones are important to you?"
"We -- did not see how this began," the male beside her said as he lowered his staff. "Were they running from you or the bear?"
"From the bear," Azrael smirked, "Put those things away," he said, pointing to the crossbows. He looked at the female and smiled, "They're mine, Cha'Khah."
The Drow female's eyebrows rose and she looked at Rachel with a bit of wonder on her face, "You are his female?"
Rachel nodded and the hooded one regarded Sariel for a moment before she looked at Rachel and Azrael with a smile spreading across her face, "Then this surely must be your son, Azrael. Either that, or my hair is in need of shearing again since it hangs over my eyes and keeps me from seeing well."
She lowered her weapons and in a flash they were out of sight under her cloak.
"A thousand pardons, "she said with a little bow that looked as though the gesture was killing her to make, "I did not know, honored Mistress. What is your name, please? And the young drowling, how is he called, so that I might know you both?"
"This is Cha'Khah," Azrael said, indicating the Drowess, "She has a little trouble with language sometimes, but never as much as she is pretending to have at the moment. She is apologizing for threatening you and didn't mean to, now that she knows. It's not something that she finds pleasant to have to do. I don't think that I've ever seen her apologize to anyone, now that I think about it.
She asks for your names, so that she can stop playing at calling me her 'master' and you 'honored mistress'. She has an ironic sense of sarcastic humor, though she doesn't mean anything by it."
"My name is Rachel," she said, bowing a little herself, "and this is Sariel, my son -- our son."
"Azrael is right," Cha'Khah grinned, "I mean nothing by it. There is not even any humor to be gained if you do not understand our ways.
So'," she said in a pleased and deciding tone, "Well met. The Dark Maiden be praised! It is good to know that there lives a female SOMEwhere who knows the way into the heart of my friend Azrael. I am honored to meet you." This time she did bow deeply and it didn't seem to bother her at all.
"And this is Vadren," Azrael smiled, "mage and, ... bear maker, it seems. These are the ones that I told you about."
"What was that?" Rachel asked, "What just happened there?"
"Where did that other bear come from?" Sariel asked.
"That is a little hard to answer," Vadren replied, "I think the best answer is that I made it. It does not exist anymore and it was not really alive anyway."
Rachel snorted a little, "Well for something that you say wasn't alive, it did a great job of driving that first bear off." She could see the blood-stained ground and pointed. "It looks as though it can be hurt and even bleed."
He shook his head, "That did not come from my bear."
"Why not?" Sariel asked.
Vadren shrugged, "Because there was no blood in it. You may not have noticed it, young one, but when my bear hit the other one, you could see the force of the blow ripple through the flesh."
He touched the boy's arm and moved his finger around. "See? Your skin is attached, but it rides on the flesh beneath. If you were watching, you didn't see anything like that when the white bear was hit -- no rippling of the force through the flesh because there was no flesh. The white bear was solid because it was not a bear. It was only a construct."
He let Sariel chew on that while he asked Rachel if they were alright.
"Yes, but I really need to practice a lot more. I took far too long to think of defending myself, and I didn't want to take off with Sariel thinking about trying to protect me. I'm pretty sure that the bear was the same one that I got in the way of earlier, so that's twice now that I've run into him."
"He will trouble you no more," Vadren said, "for he is already dead."
"What about the white one?" Sariel asked, looking up.
"Gone as well," Vadren replied, "His single purpose was to attack the first bear. I felt that one die, and so ..."
"Why have you come?" Azrael asked them.
Cha'Khah touched Rachel's shoulder to get her attention. "You do not know me," she smiled, "and perhaps I risk your wrath here, and I do not wish to offend, but, ... "
She threw her arms around Azrael for a moment. After a very brief hug, she released him and turned to Rachel, "I have only two people who I might say are close friends. I know no one else on the surface. The embrace was because I missed one of them and it is better than my usual alternative -- to strike him for his thoughtlessness at walking away with so little notice, though I can see why now."
Azrael nodded, "That was what I was expecting, to tell you the truth."
The Drowess tilted her head a little mockingly, "A can always add the gesture if you wish, Azrael. I would not want you to feel any less loved than ever for causing us to worry for you.
You told us nothing of these ones. You left us only a strange and cryptic note that you had gone to the place where you were born, but you said nothing of what you sought for there, saying only that you would be gone a few days.
We waited, and then we sought to track you."
"You couldn't have waited for very long," Azrael said, "I've only been gone a week and a half. It must have taken you most of that time to come here, and it takes time to walk in and up the mountain."
"The fire was still warm when we came home, so you must have left not long before" she said, nodding with concern written on her lovely face, "We waited for as long as we could."
There was an awkward silence for a moment before Vadren cleared his throat a little uncomfortably. "We waited for as long as Cha'Khah could sit still for." He looked off into the trees at some birds.
Azrael waited and smiled a little. Cha'Khah grumbled an almost silent warning at the mage.
"So we left within the hour," Vadren said with a sigh and a grin.
The Drowess exhaled a curse through her teeth in her own tongue and then added, "I will gut you while you sleep for that, Vadren."
"You might need that bear again soon," Azrael laughed," to keep you alive."
"Why did you say nothing about these ones?" Cha'Khah asked, indicating Rachel and Sariel, "We knew you for a year underground, and two years after. Three years, Azrael, and you said nothing about such a beautiful female for yourself and a fine drowling son. I would be the first to say that I know little of the ways of your people, my friend, but you said nothing, and any male should be proud to have such a family, I think."
She spoke to Rachel a little conspiratorially, "I seek to cause guilt in him. Is this done by females here and is it too much?"
"It's done here," Rachel laughed in a little delight, "No more than that, though. That was just enough."
Cha'Khah nodded her pleasure.
"I came to see what might be left here," Azrael said, "I didn't know that Rachel was here. We haven't seen each other for eight years. I didn't know that I had a son. I suddenly have a family. We have decided to be a pair again."
"What's a drowling?" Sariel asked.
"You are not like us," Cha'Khah said as she reached to tousle the boy's hair in a gesture that was as uncharacteristic of her as an individual as it was of her race, "I have never really seen the children of your kind, Rachel, but you have made a beautiful one here."
She reached her graceful hands to her hood and pulled it back.
It can often be said that a person's face might have one feature which might make it striking and memorable, the way that someone's cheekbones may catch the observer's eye. In Cha'Khah's case, almost every feature was lovely. Her face was angular, leading to a small-looking mouth, but it was only an impression. In fact, if one took the time (or was allowed it), all of her features were a little other-worldly and might be termed unremarkable though lovely, but together, her beauty was rather uncommon for her kind.
Her lips were thin and yet, because of the line of her chin they looked full. Her cheekbones were prominent, and yet they didn't dominate that face. Her nose wasn't long, yet it was rather tall from a point between her eyes to the nostrils. The tips of her pointed ears protruded from the long slight ringlets of her white mane, though they weren't large themselves. She had high arching eyebrows and after a moment, it might come to anyone that if there was one feature that dominated her lovely face, it was her eyes.
They were a little large, and there was a very pronounced almond shape to them and the way that they sloped upwards towards her ears. Like any Drow, they were red in a dim or dark place. In a well-lit area, they appeared to be blue at first glance, but closer examination revealed that they were in fact, a pale shade of lilac. They looked like two flowers or gems sparkling in a bucket of shiny coal.
The whole combination could take one's breath away. It was an effect that Cha'Khah was well aware of. Such was the effect of that face on others that more than one opponent had simply stopped to stare or gaze at her loveliness. And of course they died as they did. This was the serene and interested expression that she wore most often.
When Cha'Khah was supremely angry, she looked more like a hornet. But at the moment, her face wore only a friendly interested look. She was pleased to have found Azrael and amazed at meeting Rachel and her son.
Rachel stared at her beauty and Sariel stood smitten with his mouth hanging open. It caused the Drowess to laugh softly.
"To the other races here we are Drow. A drowling is what we call one of our children. You may take it as a compliment from me, but do not look to hear it from another of my kind. We are known to be cruel to outsiders and I am no different."
She tousled his white-blonde hair again with a smile, not being able to help herself. "But to you, beautiful boy-child, I offer a word of well-meant advice in case you ever meet others like us. Do not ever show one of us that you are this taken with how we look to you -- especially not ever a female. We use everything that we can to our advantage."
She sighed and smiled at the boy and his mother. "But here, Vadren and I are the strangers, no? Here, we are the ones who must try to learn your ways -- and this I seek to do."
She indicated the carcass of a doe that they'd set down as they came upon the scene of the fight. "I knew that if we found our friend, our coming would be unexpected, and so I sought to bring something of use. If you would show me a place, I can begin on the evening meal."
Rachel and Cha'Khah worked together outside the cabin on the skinning and butchering. It gave them a chance to talk and they found a friendship beginning. To Rachel, these were a very different people, and the Drowess was quick to point out their nature as it was where Drow normally lived.
"We seem to find ways to like each other," she said, as she pushed a bit of her long white hair away from her face with the back of a bloodied hand, "This is a gift to me, and it is something that I have always wanted since my first steps out of the underground -- to get to know someone here. I left my underground city for many reasons, and one of the most important was a want that I had to make and have a friend who I could trust, Rachel."
"Don't people have any friends where you come from?" Rachel asked, a little astonished.
"One can have many friends there," the Drowess replied, "but there are always limits. If some sort of opportunity came up where a pair of friends both had a chance at something, and yet there was room for only one, you would soon see the small value of friendship there. You and I might be friends -- if you were a Drow for this moment. We might have been drowlings together, gone to the same academy, been through thick and thin, everything. But say that there was a male that we both wanted.
That is a bad example, because very few Drow look for love. They look for gain, Rachel. But say that it was so in this case. We might help each other to remove any competition in the females who might want that male for themselves until it was only you and I. What do you think would happen then? Quiet murder is a form of art where I grew up."
She laughed the dark scenario away. "But that is there and this is not. I am tired of having only friends which I must watch at my back. I want a true friend for once in my life, the kind that Azrael says that one can have here."
She nodded at Azrael who stood watching as Sariel pestered Vadren with questions out in the clearing.
"I am a little envious that you have Azrael's love the way that I see that you do," she said, "I have never seen this in him, the way that he looks at you and the drowling. It would be something that I could see myself desiring. But this is not Drow society, and I am making a friend in you, I hope. I would much rather have you as an ally who cares about me. I would much rather have a friend who I can care about and not have my motives questioned in the back of her mind."
She laughed a little, "I am also falling in love with your sweet boy. I watch him for a time, and then I notice that he has made me smile. I take this as an important step in my journey from what I was to what I might become."
She nodded to Rachel, "Another reason to thank you, for I spent all of my life before I came here being as miserable and cunning as the rest. It is a big reason why I left."
Rachel thought that she'd heard a little bit of wistfulness in Cha'Khah's voice. "What is it that you might wish to become?"
Cha'Khah looked down for a moment, "This is a little hard for me to say," she said, "We are raised to be reliant upon ourselves above all. I think that our self-serving nature comes from this a little, perhaps.
I commanded a unit of fighters guarding Vadren's home. To show you the distrust of our kind, he and I are related, though not closely. But we both worked for the same house -- the same family, as it is expected. Even so, it was my task to learn what I could of whatever he was up to and report on this to the Matron Mother of the house -- and Vadren is her nephew! If she thought that he was up to no good for the house, she would instruct me to kill him.
If I died in the attempt, the matron would think nothing of my death and merely appoint another for the task."
"That sounds awful," Rachel said.
"It does here on the surface, does it not?" the Drowess smirked, "But that is life there. Imagine a city where the power is divided among many houses such as this, each one's place and importance determined by a balance of threats, everyone looking to get ahead, and everyone ready to turn in an instant if the alliances shift a little here or there. Imagine each house ready to turn. Imagine each city ready to turn on another for the right incentive.