Ogres and Ogresses Ch. 17bystubborn_dreamer©
*AHHH! I'm so excited!O.~ ok ok, on with the show -SB)
Chapter 17: The Return
"She did what?"
Etaceh was turning purple and the lesser witch before her quivered because of her rage.
"We watched the Moon Mirror as you asked," the witch said shakily.
"The monokeros has left the circle. He...he is gone."
"Gone?" Etaceh shrieked.
"How could he be gone? He should have taken Rell at the..."
"Calm yourself Etaceh."
Caligula brooded in the corner. His purple gaze was filled with dismay.
"It appears that the humans outsmarted us."
"Not without help no doubt," Etaceh growled, kicking the cowering witch out of the way. She yelped and promptly scurried to the side.
"We underestimated the snake's fondness for her. I was sure it was mere narcissism but it seems...the ground crawler has actual feelings for her."
"I wouldn't go that far," Caligula said dismissively. "It is possible she reminds him of his dear lost Zatannya."
Etaceh's lips quirked up. "Perhaps we should arrange a visit."
Caligula let out a chuckle. Etaceh was truly a twisted and wicked witch.
"Very well, if it pleases you."
Etaceh nodded, but her face went grave again.
"And the Monokeros?"
"I wouldn't fret too much," Caligula said sighing.
"Zyra is still bound to obey him, even if it is outside of our walls. The monokeros will be sated."
"But how will we catch the prophecy?" Etaceh groaned. "What is she forgets? What if it's what we think? What if C..."
"Don't you dare say it," Caligula seethed in his darkest voice. It sent chills down Etaceh's spine.
It took a moment for his rage to calm down, but when it did, Caligula still looked angry. Even though his eyes boiled with rage there was a smile on his face.
"We can only wait my dear," he tutted lightly. "Perhaps it would be best to waste time in a more...erotic manner," he suggested.
The violence in his eyes made Etaceh step back.
"Caligula...I..I am not sure you are in the right state of mind to..."
"Do you refuse me Etaceh?" Caligula asked in a sweet voice.
Etaceh swallowed hard.
"No...never my lord."
Zyra awoke confused.
She was warm and an arm lay about her waist. Her first instinct was to attack whatever was gripping her so tightly, but she relaxed when she gazed upon the pale white arm.
The Monokeros, yes they had spent the night by the stream.
Gently she peeled his arm off of her waist and looked down at his slumbering face. He looked angelic in the low brown light that shone through the top of the tarp. He looked so comfortable she was reminded of the aching in her bones from the travel she had endured.
Was it necessary that she get up right now? She could lie back down and be as comfortable as the Monokeros. All she had to do was ignore her sense of duty for once in her overly valiant life.
Ignore her sense of duty?
Zyra frowned. Her subconscious had chosen the wrong set of words. Now she had no choice but to rise.
She sat up, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes and began to crawl out of the tent. She had loosened the flap when she heard a raspy voice ask, "Where are you going?"
Inquisitive ghostly eyes met hers and for a moment she could not find her words. They were just so...strange. Finally she responded.
"It's day time."
He looked at her with disbelief.
"You abandon me because the sun has risen?"
Zyra's brow furrowed as she tried very hard not to box the powerful youth behind his ears.
"I'm not abandoning you. Merely, it is my duty to check on..."
"Your duty lies with me," the Monokeros said defiantly. "Need I remind you that you have promised me..."
"It is too early," Zyra interrupted pointedly. "...and I am too hungry for such a conversation. Go back to sleep if you are in such miserable spirits. I will return to you."
The Monokeros opened his mouth to say something, but he was interrupted again, this time by his growling stomach.
He looked down at it with alarm.
"What was that?" he asked.
"You are hungry," Zyra said frowning. "Haven't you eaten since your transformation? Don't you know what hunger is?"
"I am aware of the mechanics of hunger," the Monokeros said snottily. "Merely the food that I attempted to ingest did not sit well with me."
"What did you try?"
"Fresh and dried grasses."
Zyra's mouth twitched as she restrained laughter.
"You...you are not a horse anymore," she said smirking. "You can't eat those things."
"What is it that humans eat?" he said, sitting up.
His naked chest came into view and Zyra was reminded of another reason she needed to go into the village. The Monokeros needed clothing.
"I will bring you food," Zyra said inching out of the tent. "However, I need you to stay here. I will be back. Please do not leave."
She didn't wait to hear his response. Abruptly she began to run towards the village.
Ginger was still asleep in her tent when she went up to her. She stirred, grunting as Zyra shook her awake.
"Why...why do you torture me," she moaned loudly.
"Where are the leg pants and tunic I outgrew a summer ago?" Zyra asked her.
She rubbed her eyes and drowsily pointed towards a box in the corner. Zyra nodded and went to sort through it.
"You know Zyra," Ginger said yawning. "You have no hunt today. Waking up at the crack of dawn like some herald of war is not necessary."
"What do you know of wars?" Zyra asked sardonically. "The land wars are west of us. We are safe here."
"You know what I am saying," she said grumpily.
The Rovians were lucky to be a considerable distance away from their neighbors. They had never had land disputes, and for the most part there was peace amongst them.
She fished through the box until she discovered the items that Ginger had saved. She had asked her to save the cloth just in case Nima chose the path of a huntress before becoming a full fledged Chieftess. She felt a tinge of regret thinking that the clothes would never go to her, but she let it go. It was better to live in the present and she could ask Ginger to sew a new pair.
"How fares Rell?" she asked her quietly as Ginger tried to slip back into unconsciousness.
"Decently," she mumbled under her furs. "He is sometimes in a tent on the outskirts since he is male, and the celebration is not yet here. Though it will be very soon..."
Ginger's head popped irritatedly from the furs.
"You aren't going to allow me sleep are you?"
"What did you mean it will be very soon?"
Gingers nose wrinkled.
"Zyra, don't you realize? The snow time is almost upon us. We took away a moon cycle in consideration of the cancelled celebration as well. Don't you remember?"
Zyra shook her head as she tried to count.
No, this was all wrong.
She had three days, plus the week and one...or two...
No...Oh no, Ginger was right.
"The preparations," she exclaimed frantically standing up.
Ginger pulled her down, glaring at her angrily.
"What? Do you intend to hunt down all the forest by yourself?" she snapped.
"But the provision..."
"Don't bother," Ginger said, mid yawn.
"...Enui and Gharla have been gathering in your stead. And we prepared the provision from the trip you had before. Most of the main preparations bode well."
"Okay," Zyra said, still unable to ease the tension in her gut. "Tell me, how many days more do you think it will take for them to arrive?"
"I would ask your sister for specifics, but by my calculation it would be one more moon cycle. In three weeks time the moon will complete it's course once more."
Zyra nodded and prepared to leave.
She paused and looked at Ginger. Ginger's face was uncharacteristically serious as she gazed upon her sister.
"Zyra my sister," she said solemnly. "You know what the celebration will bring. Your 21st year will be closer than you know. The tradition...you know the tradition."
Stress started to pile on her as she thought about what that would mean. Hanto would be looking for her, and she would have to accept him or risk offending the Ursies. Other than his arrogance, Hanto was a fitting match in the eyes of the villages.
"Do you suppose I could wait one more celebration?" she asked Ginger sighing heavily.
"I don't think you can," Ginger mumbled giving her a brief hug. "Do not worry Zyra, things will be much easier soon."
"I do hope you are right."
"Of course I am. Now, about your virgin unicorn..."
"Yes, Mono-care o's."
"About him! When will he be...you know," Ginger smirked lecherously. "Visiting me?"
"Most likely today," Zyra said. "I go to visit with Kyzu, then I aim to feed him. After I suppose I shall fetch you."
"Very well. Say hi to the village girls for me, and don't keep me waiting!"
Zyra shook her head.
Where had she heard that said?
Oh yes, from everyone.
She rushed towards her sister's tent and she noticed she was not the only one awake. Imjah was easing out of her dwelling with her spear.
"Good Morning," Zyra said to her, nodding in her direction.
The woman looked stunned as she looked at her, then she rushed forward to catch up with her.
Imjah rounded in front of her, her hands out in a passive manner.
"What is the worry Imjah?" Zyra said concerned.
"I wanted to apologize," Imjah said firmly.
Zyra watched as the proud huntress went on her knee and pressed her fingers to her lips. She offered the kissed fingers to Zyra's knee.
"I am not fit to stand beside you, but I kiss your knee that I might learn to kneel before your power and brace upon your strength," Imjah chanted in the old ways.
The legacy, she hadn't heard that since she was a child. It was the highest display of loyalty a huntress could bestow.
"What is the meaning of this?" Zyra asked incredulously.
"I have wronged you," Imjah said woefully. "We all did. But..."
Her sorrowful eyes rose to Zyra's.
"How were we to know? When you shielded us and told us nothing? When you kept the horrors to yourself?"
Zyra looked at the woman in shock.
"Gharla and Enui...they told you didn't they?"
"Not just me," Imjah remarked, her eyes now to the ground. "All of us. We all know."
Zyra sucked her teeth. This was exactly what she didn't want. Before they treated her like a leper, now they were groveling.
Was there no balance in her life?
She reached down and extended her hand to Imjah. Imjah went to place it to her forehead, but instead she lifted her to her feet.
"Imjah I respect you," Zyra said gently. "Thank you for your words, but they are unnecessary."
With a quick smile she began to walk off.
"Is there no way to gain your forgiveness?"
Zyra turned to Imjah, the woman who called after her. The woman who had tried to take her title away.
Her life away.
"You have my forgiveness," Zyra said quietly.
Imjah's face looked relieved. "Thank..."
"But you do not have my trust."
Her face fell but Zyra was cold to her response.
"If telling a tale is all it takes for you to follow me, than you are not a loyal follower," Zyra said simply. "You are talented and Rovian blood runs through your veins, but I can only trust those who trust me. Even without proof. I have never given you reason to doubt me Imjah. You of all people should know that."
Imjah wanted to protest, she could see it in her set jaw, but Zyra's words were true.
Instead she asked, "What must I do to earn your trust?"
Zyra could only shrug.
Then she left her, tired of such games early in the morning.
Knowing that it was inevitable, Zyra slowly made her way towards' Kyzu's tent. When she arrived there she heard Kyzu stewing in anger. Sighing heavily she opened the flap of the tent. Kyzu was mixing something green in her bowl. It was already the right consistency, but she could see that Kyzu had long ago stopped mixing from necessity.
It was now a form of stress relief.
"You're over doing it," Zyra said sitting before her.
Kyzu glared at her, her hand still swirling in a crazed manner.
"Ah dear sister. I had heard that you had returned from your perilous journey, only to let your only sister know that you were safe by word of mouth."
Zyra shook her head, smirking.
"Why sister, it almost sounds like you're upset."
"I am upset!"Kyzu screamed mentally, banging the bowl and allowing the green juice to spatter onto the tent floor.
Zyra studied her sister who had told her weeks previously that she had hated her.
"I'm sorry then," she said finally. "I'm sorry Kyzu."
Kyzu's eyebrows furrowed and she began to stir in the bowl again. Her thoughts were empty, only projecting a wave of frustration and sadness. Zyra sat with her sister in the silence, wondering what there was to do now.
There was so much unsaid, yet, was it the time to say it? What if it could ruin everything?
What if there was nothing left to ruin?
That was what scared Zyra most of all.
"So is this it then?" she asked. "Is this us?"
Kyzu looked simply looked at her.
"Answer me," Zyra snapped.
"I don't know.
"Sure you do! You have to know."
"Why should I know?"
Zyra shrugged. "Because you're Chieftess."
Kyzu snorted. "The Chieftess is in charge of the tribe's population, our nutrition, negotiations among neighboring tribes and the creation of rules as needed. I'm also a keeper of the laws made before me..."
"And as lead huntress," Zyra interrupted. "I enforce your rules. If we were at war I would be your general."
"But we're not at war," Kyzu scoffed. "This tribe hadn't been to war since we settled here. That's why we have stayed. This is the only place where the land is vast enough that three tribes could intermingle without stepping on each other's toes."
She gave Zyra a dry look.
"That being said, there is nothing in that description that says I should know."
"You're also my elder sister," Zyra quipped. "Doesn't that mean anything to you? Isn't there some kind of...maternal instinct that..."
"Would you like me to be more like our mother Zyra?" Kyzu asked scathingly.
Zyra stopped. They rarely spoke about their mother. Even now, her loss cut like a blade.
"I...I never said..."
"I know you never said," Kyzu spat, placing the bowl away from her. She had reduced it to a pile of froth.
"But when we were little. I know you were hoping that I would look after you. That I would make you feel safe. But I was too sick wasn't I?"
"I wasn't your fault," Zyra said, trying to put a hand on her sister, but Kyzu turned from her.
"No," Kyzu breathed.
"I felt guilty nonetheless. Jealousy and guilt are two very difficult emotions to swallow Zyra."
Zyra raised her hands up in surrender.
"Well, it's not like I pried open your mouth and fed them to you. Are you always supposed to be the victim? It wasn't easy for me either. When you say these things I don't think you ever think of me."
She could see the shock in Kyzu's face but instead of feeling crushing guilt she found it quite funny.
"Kyzu, I want things to be better between us. I know we will never go back to the place we were and I'm glad. We were lying to one another. I was jealous of you and you were jealous of me. We were so wrapped up in pretenses that we believed it."
She heard Kyzu briefly think "You were jealous of me?" in wonder, but knew this was a side thought.
"I simply came to pay my respects to you," Zyra said lifting up. "And I wanted you to know that I will always be your general...even when we're at war with one another."
She turned back to her. "Yes?"
Kyzu's mouth wriggled from side to side, then like magic it slowly straightened into a small grin.
"While you were gone, I made you an outfit for the celebration."
Zyra's eyes widened. "Honestly?"
Kyzu's lips quivered into a wicked smile and she nodded.
"Oh yes my pretty sister. It approaches and I know you care too much for this rotten tribe to allow yourself to be expelled. So I made you something that should allow you pick of even the most exclusive and choosiest of the men. Even your snarl won't keep them at bay."
Zyra rolled her eyes.
"I think it's disgusting that you have somehow managed to be caring and make me suffer simultaneously."
"It's a gift."
"A curse more like it. May I see it?"
"I don't trust you with it. You'll try to shred it."
"So you can see my intent?"
"I wasn't made your sister yesterday."
Zyra chuckled and shook her head as she left the tent. Somehow that went a lot better than she expected.
Now to deal with the monokeros.
She hurried off to Ginger's tent. Ginger was waiting for her with Gharla and Enui. As soon she was in sight the air was crushed out of her lungs.
"HOW DARE YOU MAKE US WORRY!" Gharla shouted as she clung to her.
"WE WAITED FOR WEEKS!"
"...but, I was only gone for..."
Zyra let out a rueful sigh and patted Gharla's back.
"I missed you as well sister. Though I feel I must address your talkative lips."
The hug slackened and Gharla pulled away looking rather guilty.
"We both opened our mouths sister," Enui said stepping forth for her hug.
Zyra hugged her, but it was simple and contained.
"And what details did you spare them?" Zyra asked skeptically.
"Not even the basilisk? Or your rape?"
"Certainly not, you saved us both times remember?"
Zyra wasn't sure how to feel about that. She could feel a powerful headache coming on. In her head she had a list of things that needed dealing with. It only made her feel queasy.
"So what damage did this do?" she asked, sitting on a log Ginger's camp.
Ginger was squeezing berry juice into her cheeks and her lips. She was currently garbed in her best dress and her hair had been braided. Ashes lined her eyes and small fertility markings lined her forehead. She looked quite lovely.
"Why do you assume we did damage?" Gharla asked curiously.
"Imjah approached me today and asked for my forgiveness with the legacy."
"You consider that damage?"
"Imjah would not apologize to me if she had shot an arrow close to my heart. Whatever you said must have shaken her."
"You are too kind to them," Enui said firmly."We did what was necessary. I hope you will understand that and do not interfere."
Zyra's eyes narrowed as she took in Enui. She looked the same, but the girl was noticeably different. It made her wonder if her Enui was replaced by some magical spy.
"Enui, what present did you give me for my coming of age ceremony?"
Enui stared at her then gave her a bright smile.
"A single white flower."
Zyra sighed. "Forgive me I just feel..."
"I understand," Enui said comfortingly. "We all do."
"I don't," Gharla quipped. "Why did you ask..."
Ginger stepped out, her hands containing a basket of food as well as a set of clothes they believed would fit the youth monokeros.
"Where are you going?" Gharla asked suspiciously.
"Into the forest," Zyra said grabbing Ginger's hand. "There's no time. Ask Rair if you want more details."
"Ask Rell," Ginger said smirking. "He came to visit me and...he's inside."
That caused Zyra to pause. She opened the flap of Ginger's tent and saw a bare-chested Rell sleeping soundly in her furs. That quickly?
Ginger simply smiled.
"It's good to stretch before an important game Zyra. Surely you know that."
Zyra shook her head.