A Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 32byTaLtos6©
***There was a reason why Xunafae ran so far all alone.
It came to me as I wrote the lead-up to this chapter that a girl like Cha'Khah ought to come with a warning sticker with just one rule.
Never, ever piss her off.
Book of the Mountain Clan Part 9
Vadren stood watching the little scene for a moment longer and then he wandered away a little in thought. Of them all, he was the only one who knew much of anything of the background here and it troubled him a little.
Xunafae had been no ordinary girl. He remembered her features, and while she'd been no great beauty, she was a pretty thing. He brushed the pleasant memory aside to think on what he felt a little more. As wild elves go, Xunafae had been a bit of a slightly spoiled good-time girl whose exploits had brought her a bit of trouble occasionally. That in itself was nothing really out of the ordinary.
So what if a girl sought a little pleasure for herself now and then? It was where she'd been placed in the hierarchy of her family that was the trouble, to his mind.
One might say that it had been quite a feat to have come this far, seeking the Drow mage in the hopes of making a life for herself if he'd accepted her and agreed to take her and the daughter which must have been born to her along the way, but he knew Xunafae well enough.
She'd come running here in desperation, certainly, using her sense of him to guide her. The Wild Ones were famous for it. But the distance, he thought, the distance was the thing here. She could have found someone to stand for her with a little luck. She had the looks for it. This sort of thing happened every day in a thousand places; a girl who found herself in a bit of need and deciding to look for a male to settle down with.
But she hadn't walked into a manor or an inn, swiveling her pretty hips, and casting those eyes of hers around. That would have been easy enough for her to manage. She'd come hundreds of leagues, seeking Vadren and no other.
He wasn't stupid. There was a reason for that, and he doubted that it had anything much to do with the way that he could make her gasp out his name in the darkness.
Xunafae had been driven here in her fear for some reason, and she must have wanted his ability to protect her from someone or something, if she'd run this far.
He knew that he'd likely have helped her and done what she'd needed, accepting her offer of herself. He also knew that it would have been about the worst thing that he could possibly do to himself.
But again, that wasn't the issue now. Xunafae was dead. What about whatever it was that had driven her? What was it that she'd feared so much? Enough to have done something like this?
Vadren walked down the long corridor to open the outer gates and stand just inside the portal overhang. He looked out and in a minute, he wasn't seeing anything nearby – he was seeing much of the lands around, nowhere and everywhere at once.
Two minutes later, he'd closed those doors again and was running back to warn the others.
The afternoon light was fading as she wandered over the forested mountainside, staying very near to a trail. Something was very wrong.
It made her smirk to herself a little bitterly. When in the past year had anything gone right for her? She thought farther back than that and decided not to think about it too much.
Born the daughter of a woman who could still trace her lineage far back to the other side of the fall of mankind; all the way back past the oppressive days of Communism – beyond the bloody days of the Bolsheviks and into the even darker past of some of the lesser Russian nobility in the Middle Ages, Ksyusha was an anomaly if there ever was one.
Her mother was a rare beauty and she was both wise and powerful in her craft. Not the crafts of healing and midwifery, which she'd always made her living at, oh no; Ksyusha's mother stemmed from an unbroken and easily traceable line of witches, sorcerers and others of that ilk. At the age of twenty, Ksyusha's mother had decided that it was time for her kind to step out of the shadows and dark corners to get away from the deals and conjurings made only in the darkest of basement and at the backs of old barns to take what she saw as their rightful place in the world.
With the thought in her mind, she'd begun to look to see what sort of being there was for her to pair with. She sought a mate for herself – not in any immediate sense, but for the long term. She wanted to find a male out of antiquity if need be, someone who could appreciate her and what she had to offer in exchange for more power and protection for her as they rose together.
She scoured all the old texts and any of the surviving scrolls which there still were in the possession of any of her relatives. She made a very long and careful list and then began to pare it down. What she was left with was a choice of two, but that turned into only one when it was time to find the invocation by which to summon the one – if he still lived somewhere.
The one that she decided on was known to as many as seven of the ancient civilizations. They all had different names for the one, but it was clear to a properly-trained student of the history of the dark arts who was being referred to in every single one of the translations which she'd either purchased or worked out for herself. She was after one who was as a god to some and a demon to others, one who had never taken a bride in any of the accounts that she'd found. She hoped that he still lived and that by proving to him that he was still wanted, well, ... it is one of the oldest sorts of witches' tales.
On the night which she'd chosen for this, she prepared everything and began her summoning. She was very clear in the wording of it, that if he chose to manifest himself, it was not by her will or command, it was by her desire to seek his love and begin what should have happened for him long before with one who could appreciate him.
As it happened, and as in more than a few of these things, the personality in question had not been what he'd been seen as at all. Where the fearful and superstitious humans had heaped all manner of titles on someone not of their plane, they'd been mistaken - completely and utterly incorrect in their assumptions.
He still lived, but not here.
He'd been here for a time long ago, but not as a god or a deity. That was the reaction of the local populace. They'd seen him work some of his power and taken it to be the sign that he was a god, when really, he'd been a traveler and nothing more. Their prayers to him had gone unanswered because he'd been more interested in repairing his means to get home than pay attention to the rag-covered creatures around him who often got in his way without meaning to or knowing any better to test his patience.
That had gone on until one of them had broken something rather important to him and he'd fried that one where he stood as a warning to the rest.
They'd called him a god to be feared and worshiped after that.
He thought they were idiots and he was gone as fast as he could effect the repairs that were needed.
But on the night that Ksyusha's mother had begun to call him to her, he heard it in his mind and sent questioning feelings to the one who called.
Ksyusha's mother answered truthfully, and he replied that he was on his way, wanting to meet the one who called him and hoping that the fools what he'd known had finally grown brains.
It took him half a year to come because of the distance and when he arrived, the house blew down along with most of the village. The most beautiful woman for miles around waited in the face of that terrible wind, and as he came, she was surprised to find that she was no longer in that village. She was moving at incredible speed and she looked up from the broad chest which she suddenly found herself against, and he looked down at her.
Their romance was very short, and they consummated it minutes after he'd brought her to his craft. The rest was a very long and still-spinning love story and in that sense, it was still very much a romance.
But it hadn't worked out the way that Ksyusha'a mother had planned it. She found herself on a very different plane of existence altogether. It wasn't bad at all, once she'd gotten used to it, and they lived in happiness there, but she'd wanted for this to happen where she was from, not where they'd gone to live.
But she knew the way that this worked; she'd called, he'd answered and that was that. She wasn't stupid; he was wonderful to her, so she'd settled.
Ksyusha was the only product of their love. She had a lot of her father's features and abilities – even a few of his physical traits, all wrapped up in a lovely package similar to her mother in stature. But there were differences – enough to make living among ignorant and superstitious humans an impossibility.
Ksyusha was something known as plane-touched, the product of a spawning between a human and one from another plane. It happened sometimes, and what was passed to the offspring depended on the parents.
In Ksyusha's case, her father came from somewhere that the Merren and the Xer had never heard of, just as she knew nothing of them.
Her outward appearance was similar to her father's in her coloring. She wore dusky skin which leaned toward being dark with soft thin lips the color of dull, but almost golden dusty sand.
And though it was nice to touch and good to look at if one had the eyes to appreciate her unusual type of beauty, her long hair was just the perfect color of dirt which matched her skin, since it carried no highlights. She often wore it as a long braid with a few beads woven into it to offset the dullness of it. Her eyes were red – deep red, and they were always that way, holding little flecks of orange in their irises which moved subtly so that if one looked into those eyes for long enough, they'd begin to get the impression that there was a slowly burning bonfire behind her pretty face.
But most would never see those highlights. They were put off by a few of her other features. The demon patterns on her skin – birthmarks which came from her father were mostly hidden under her scalp, but some could be seen just below her hairline on the sides of her head and down the sides of her neck if her hair was tied back.
Even if her hair wasn't tied back, the marks were there just below her hairline on her forehead as well – and right below those two small, thin, and rather sharp horns which protruded from her hair above the corners of her forehead .
Ksyusha was actually quite beautiful, but few if any ever got close enough to really appreciate it.
She didn't know it, but she had a really nice smile until it widened enough to allow her sharp teeth to show. Back home, she was an uncommon beauty.
Here well, ...
Where her father was from, and where she'd grown up, it was the custom to add markings to the skin of young ones who had proven themselves as they came of age. Ksyusha had been on her spirit journey, and she'd found a band of twenty-eight marauders in the blazing hot wastes of her homeworld abusing a young female spark demon and there was only one ending to how it was to have gone. When they'd tired of tormenting her they would have sated another type of hunger, cooking their meal while the victim still lived.
Ksyusha saw their shamaness in a moment and laid her low after a quick exchange of attacks. Then she'd waded in and after cutting the bonds which held the spark demon, they dealt with all the rest of them together.
The markings hadn't been her personal choice, since that was the father's right, traditionally, but Ksyusha had long ago gotten used to the long and thin pale silver fangs which she wore from her forehead to her cheeks that ran down right over her closed eyelids as they went. They were always there, but how plainly they showed on her face depended in large part on her mood at the moment. If she was asleep, or feeling subdued, they were almost not to be seen at all, but when she was roused, well, they almost glowed in their intensity.
During her childhood, she'd learned several languages from her mother as well as the demonic speech of her father's tribe. English was in there somewhere mostly from her mother, but since there were no other English-speaking persons to use as her models, Ksyusha's English carried both the accent of her father and the soft, but definite presence of her mother's Russian accent in hers.
Most humans wouldn't come near her on a bet, and that was at first sight.
It wouldn't have ever become an issue but for her mother's reminiscences of her home world; the way that it looked and smelled so nicely – outside of the towns and cities, of course.
That was the way that Ksyusha put it down as. She'd never explain the true reason - though her father might have sympathized. He'd always been a romantic. Ksyusha had shared dreams with the spark demon - which was not supposed to be possible. Their vividness were the true impetus.
It took a few years, but eventually Ksyusha decided that she wanted to go there, and with her father's help, once she'd demonstrated her prowess at the sort of magic that her father's kind had always relied on and then gone on to choose her specialty, she found herself here.
It was not without a cost to her. There had been a young male who she loved enough to sleep with often enough, but though he'd said that he wanted to go with her, when the moment came to leave, he'd balked and decided to remain.
Ksyusha had shown no emotion. She'd only wished him luck as she'd hugged her parents and boarded.
The male didn't catch her turn of phrase, but that was alright, she'd thought. She'd settled in for the long trip, and knew that she had six months to get over the way that she felt. She wasn't completely alone; she had Nika, the spark demon whom she'd befriended.
Her ex-boyfriend hadn't known it at the time, but he had less than ten minutes to live – judging by what Ksyusha saw in her father's eyes.
Ksyusha was a tiefling, first and foremost. She knew that she was different, and she knew that most people looked at her with fear and mistrust. Her defense mechanism for that was to laugh. She was much more than that. Among her people she was widely known as a rather young and powerful warlock, proficient and deadly in her ability.
But once she'd arrived and hidden the craft which had brought her here, she'd found that she loved the world that she was now on. But by their actions in most of her interactions with them, she wasn't all that fussy about the inhabitants.
It had been only the start of her troubles.
Finding herself seeming to be unable to make any friends here- or even a single person who even wanted to know her a little, she'd turned away then and gone to a dark tower, all that remained of the fortress of a once-mighty king who had lived the same arts as she now did. He caused some trouble in the area now and then, and on meeting the red-eyed beauty, he thought that his dreams had come true until, with the introductions made, she'd taken all of his power and dissolved the last of his mean little spirit. Everyone for leagues around rejoiced.
But they still wouldn't come near her.
Ksyusha didn't care. She summoned his confused followers and set them to work, cleaning the place out before she set all of the spirits of the condemned free and lived there quietly, gathering old tomes to study. That had ended roughly a year ago now.
All day, she'd been following the trail of the one that she'd been coerced to track. She knew that she couldn't be more than a day behind her quarry, and likely, she was a lot closer than that. As she'd followed, she'd come to ridges which gave her the occasional overview of the land. She knew roughly where she was and where she was headed, though she'd never been this far west herself – until now, she'd never had the need.
She cursed these heavily-wooded mountains a little for the way that they never allowed one to travel in a straight line on the ground. And if you were tracking, then on the ground was where you were, though that was a poor name for the way that she had to follow the one that she sought.
Her quarry seldom if ever left any tracks which were visible, but that meant little to Ksyusha. She followed the fading presence of the one that she hunted. She needed no tracks.
At the same time, the nature of the terrain gave her more time to think of her own problem and how to be rid of it, not that she'd thought of any solution thus far. She only knew that once she'd found the one that she was looking for, her real trouble would begin.
Ksyusha had been within sight of her quarry several times. Each time, she'd been unobserved and she'd turned away then to give the one she hunted time to escape. There was no joy for her in a hunt like this. She felt for the girl, and to catch her would only end this part of her troubles unless she had a solution in hand – and she didn't.
She was supposed to drop a marker for her employer to find near to the end of each day. Sometimes that brought him to her and it was never a pleasant meeting. As far as elves go, the one who used her for his own ends was an ogre, a cruel wild elf king who had murdered his father to claim the right to lead. He was hunting his own sister to assure that there would never be any challenges to his questionable right. He usually only threatened Ksyusha to make more progress, but sometimes it was all that she could do to defend herself.
She could summon allies which would cause the bravest man to tremble. She could steal someone's life force from them to leave them an inch away from death, and she could rip a warrior's flesh and muscle away to have him serve her as one of the walking dead, but as long as the cruel king held the single shred of her soul away from her, she was very limited in what she could do.
He held a piece of her life in an enchanted amulet around his neck. As long as it was in his possession, she would never be free, and at some point, she'd become his half-dead slave. More and more, she was toying with ideas of ways to end her own life.
Often, the bastard couldn't be bothered to come at all, and those nights were the best for her. If she'd found something important or significant, She was supposed to drop a different kind of marker, one which would bring him to her very quickly.
Sometimes, if she'd made only some difficult progress over very hard terrain and had found nothing but more trail to follow, she didn't drop a marker at all. That usually got her a lot more abuse, but sometimes it was worth it to her.
Just like the one that she hunted so half-heartedly, she'd never felt so alone in her life. She had only Nika, and even then, they couldn't often spend a lot of time together since one never knew when her captor might arrive and she was determined that, no matter what Nika said, he wouldn't have two prizes to abuse.
At one point, hours ago, she'd seen smoke in the distance and wondered about it, but then it was to the north of her and she was headed west at the time. Now she was growing concerned, since her quarry had found her way out of one valley and had turned north. She'd sent Nika ahead to see and when the little demon had come back to her as fast as she could fly, keening out her distressed calls, Ksyusha had picked up her pace then.
But when she'd seen the tracks of a pack of dogs converging with signs of the fugitive's passing, Ksyusha began to run, cursing herself out loud for allowing this much space between them. She was very weak in terms of her natural ability, but if she'd known of this, she'd have stepped in and killed the dogs herself and let the chips fall where they may afterward since there was a child involved.