"Please Papa," the child's eyes were moist with tears, "I don't want to go!!! Why can't I stay here with Mama and you go?" She was curled up in a ball, her brown and grey wings hiding most of her body, just her face visible outside of their mass. it was obvious she was distressed, panicked. He could hear the almost instinctive growl of distress as he came near. It never completely left his child, though it had been many long years since she last snapped at him, and he doubted she would do so now.
He touched her cheek tenderly, smiled at her with all his affection for this special little girl, "Because you need to live, my beloved daughter." He loved her so much, for all that she was not of his blood, or even of his species. He had taken her in, even when those of his own kind had warned him she would be difficult to raise, so alien to him and his people, bound so tight to the physical world, so often letting emotion over-run reason.
She shook her delicate head so hard her ears flapped against her skull, "You need to live, I want to stay here, here and be safe with Mama." She looked so helpless, so innocent like this. He had endured the torture of the shadow, of having to stop his own dear friends and never flinched. Why did her distressed face make him want to sway from his task?
His wife looked unhappy, she knew, like he did, the hell they would have to send their beloved daughter into, though they had planned and taken steps to train her to be able to handle it. But it was harder than he thought to face her tears and pleadings, her terror at being alone, away from her "Herd". Still that world would be safer than the one here, where only death would await her, "This place is not safe, dear Kaja. There won't be safe places for a very long time."
She clung to him, "Please Papa, with Mama I'll be safe, and you can help the baby!"
He looked to his wife, cold with what needed to be done, silent order for him to come and comfort their adopted child, get her to accept her fate. He couldn't do it, she had to much faith in him that he didn't want to shatter. How could he tell her that her beloved Papa was dying on his feet, it wouldn't happen soon, but it would happen. And he wasn't sure which would go first, his body or his soul, if it was his soul then all was lost. He could not, would not allow that to happen.
Emirra came and gathered up the girl into her arms, wiping the tears away, her voice filled with grief and pain, yet paradoxically calm, "This place isn't safe, darling, he speaks the truth. Nowhere is safe for us anymore. Even if we left this place for another."
Kaja's wings furl fully and press tight to the sides of her lower body. though she still doesn't rise, her head go down to the lap of the only real mother she's known in her life, "PLEASE MAMA, PLEASE! I don't want to go there, I don't!" She starts sobbing again, her entire body conveying her distress. If she was Kchronaen she would be a ball of energy. Sometimes her control over her telepathic powers would slip and they could both feel the jarring static laced with her pain, til she brought it under her control to only loose it again.
Emirra starts gently stroking the back of her taken-in daughter's neck, careful not to grab, to scruff her, because she isn't wanting to punish the girl at all for her fear and terror. just comfort the frightened child so she will not bolt. "Why, sweetheart?" she continues to gentle the often feral child she loves so much. Smiling at her encouragingly.
Kaja's eyes go down and she whispers, "They are scary." then once more she hides her head in her mother's lap. Both of her adoptive parents look at each other, and much passes between them. They both know how Kaja was raised at first, how starved she was for affection and praise, for a life without fear of death for the tiniest of mistakes. It tears at Emirra's heart to have to send her away from the only place Kaja has known such. They both know most do not fully accept everything Kaja is.
Still, the Praithians are a good people, and while they may not always accept everything this strange adopted daughter of Kchronos may need to do, they will not hinder or punish her for it either. "Why are the Praithians scary, precious?" That nickname for their daughter causes her to look up, and Emirra smiles so tenderly. Once she wasn't sure she could love this child enough, now she was more precious to her than her own son.
The slender muzzled head rubs under her mother's very humanoid cheek, "They look at me funny, as if I'm strange." Kaja looked away then, Emirra looked to Amrender, both of them wanted to strangle P'Tera for what she had said to their child so long ago. The utter rejection that had torn that innocent soul apart and nearly started a killing spree in the still feral girl.
Both of them knew, for all that she was a very lovely and kind hearted girl, under it all still lived a predator, a hunter that never quite saw any of them as anything other than "prey". It showed in the few times Kaja had gone completely feral. The little girl tried to live like her Foster parents as much as she could. She was vegetarian as much as possible, but sometimes, she would need fresh raw meat, well more specifically she needed the blood in that meat. Rin had trouble absorbing iron unless it was already bound in hemoglobin. And their powers caused them to burn energy at massive rates, a red blood cell in most species lasted several weeks, a Rin operating at full power went through the same amount of red blood cells in four or five days. If their brain's oxygen levels dropped below a certain level due to anemia they would go feral and kill and drain their victims of blood til oxygen levels were restored back to optimal.
No wonder the Praithians looked at her strange. She was a walking time-bomb in their midst. Still, she wasn't the only one who made them nervous, "They look at us the same way," She smiled as she said it, for it was true. Kchronaens were living energy given solid form. A Kchronaen was the only known creature that could take on a Rin in blood lust and survive. The two races didn't have all the same powers, but they shared many, and seemed to be able to counter those that the other didn't have. except for one. The Kchronaens were masters at the Mechanical. The Rin never developed that beyond a crude point. instead the Rin went biological. No one knew just how many of the races and species in the worldling were of their foundation.
Kaja shivered and Emirra leaned close and whispered, "And they do like us. You know that darling." And that was truth. Many Praetheans like Kchroneans in general and Amrender and her in particular. They had chosen two of the bests friends among them to be her guardians and caretakers. They would not leave her to cold hearted strangers who would only see a refugee, but to friends who would see a beloved child who lost everything that mattered.
"Do I have to go, Mama?" Those eyes seemed to get huge in the reddish brown furred face, and the ears drooped, making her look all the more miserable, "Can't I please stay here. All my friends are here. All my family." She makes little whimpering pleas and licks under Emirra's chin. All the ways a Rin youngster would beg her parents forgiveness, to be accepted back into the Herd. It's all that Emirra can do to keep from breaking down into tears. This tears her soul apart.
"You would die, here, dear one." Emirra keeps her voice soft, trying to keep the agony out of it, but a tiny bid seeps through despite her iron discipline and control. Such devotion in a child. Such loyalty, she was such a dear child.
Kaja nuzzles her mother's neck and throat, nipping softly, expressing her love and affection, "I would be with you and everyone." her cheek rubs against Emirra's own.
"But the world would lose you before you should pass on." The world couldn't loose her, she was to special for that. She should live long enough to find a worthy mate, have foals of her own, Emirra should be able to spoil them, well some of them. Kaja would still be a teen when Emirra was old, gray, and ready to pass to the next phase of her life. Kaja's race lived many times longer than her own, and she was still so YOUNG even by Kchronaen standards, "Loose all the things you can do, all the things you can learn. All that, and far more, gone, lost forever."
Kaja gets a stubborn look on her face, "A foal stays with its herd, you are my herd." Rin biological imperatives, born of a mid level herding omnivore. Stay with the group, stay with the hunters until your strong enough to go out on your own and find or found a new group. So much they had to fight with her. and in a Shar'rin instinct was much stronger than most other species.
She took Kaja gently by the shoulders, making her look into her eyes, "You will not be the only foal going, Kaja." She looked at her daughter, her best loved child, "Would you abandon that part of the Herd?" She tried to turn those imperatives to her advantage. an even younger herd member needed her, her brother, the baby Kaja could not resist. How often had she found her son out of his cradle and sleeping under Kaja's gentle wing. How often had her thoughtful daughter kept her even sharper ears tuned for the slightest sound of discomfort and taken care of it as best she was able.
"I am a foal, foals don't leave the heard, that's why Papa should go." and again that look of hero worship, of pure childlike love and faith as she glanced over at Amrender. Emirra once had been almost jealous of that look, until she talked to Kaja for the first time and had a lesser version of that look coming to her after a few minutes. When Kaja realized that Emirra, like her husband, didn't see anything other than a wounded little girl.
It was so hard to say to her, harder than she thought it would be, "Papa can't go." her eyes soften here, "Ishim's desires." the Rin word for Eyah, for the created of all. Almost as hard wired into her as the need for blood was a love of Eyah and his creations. A respect for his will. Her child was a Shar'rin Tira. a Rin of the forests and wilds, of love and faith and unfortunately tragedy.
"Mama, I don't know what to do," the panic again in her voice, "Without you and papa, who will take care of me? Who will teach me?" All of them knew what was unsaid, the secret question of her heart, who would love her. She was at once so hard yet so easy to love, so hard because she held most at bay, but if you got around that, so easy because she would do anything, even hurt herself, to win just a kind word.
She stroked her adopted daughter's long dark mane, trying to sooth her, "The same kind of people who will take care of your brother. Good and wise people, people who will look at you longer than others because they ADMIRE difference, like the new and the special." She leaned in close once more and whispered, "People your father and I trust with you."
Kaja started crying again, "I don't want to leave you, you are my herd, you want me even when my own kind don't. What if when these new people die no one wants me, what will I do then?" And they came to it, Kaja's true terror, at being abandoned, being alone.
Emirra shot a pleading look to her husband over their daughter's head. She couldn't handle this, she would break and tell her daughter she could stay. If Amrender wanted to save her life......
And he steps forward and takes that muzzle into his hand by cupping the lower jaw and gently making her look at him, "Know, my precious daughter, that your brother lives. And by all that is in me, I KNOW...sweet Kaja....that your brother will desire you to be near." she nods and murmurs something that sounded like yes papa, but he isn't sure and continues, "Yes, your new teachers...new FRIENDS...will pass away. But your brother will still be out there. Once the day comes that your friends.....Go away, and not by their choice....." he takes a deep breath then, "That will begin the time to look for your brother. And he WILL accept you."
Kaja looked up with worshipful eyes, though the fear was still in them, "Yes papa, but I'm scared, I don't want to live out there, they can be monsters."
Amrender nodded slowly, remembering a few times frightened people had thrown stones at his daughter when they had visited those worlds, until he set things right, until he protected her, "These people have learned from those like I and your mother. They have learned how to control monsters. And the day the monsters are no longer controllable...."and it would come, he knew that now, and he said his greatest hope for his special daughter, "You will be old enough to have learned much. To be much less frightened."
Kaja was shivering, but the tears had stopped, "Is there anything I can do to stay?"
He fought back the tears that threatened, "My beloved daughter..." Pride and grief almost choked him. "I desire you to LIVE. Not die. Would you steal our last joy?"
"I want to be with my FAMILY, No mater what." How his heart swelled with pride, "You told me Family is those who love you. Aunt Zara and Uncle Thethros are gone. Do I have to loose you too?"
"Do your mother and I have to what you burn, watch you and your brother be harmed, on the inside?" He couldn't back down now, she was close to accepting that she HAS to live, because he loved her and valued her more than anything in this world, and more than most things in the next.
"I'm scared, Papa, I'm so scared,"
"So am I, Kaja, that's why I'm protecting you." He smiled gently then, brushing her soft furred cheek with his thumb.
"NO, your Papa, your never scared,"
Amrender sighed softly then, "All be Eyah are scared, some times, Kaja." and he leaned close and whispered so softly, "The key is to know what to do with it." and he nibbled softly on her long furry ear, as a Rin woman he admired told him long ago was a parent's way of expressing approval and love to a Rin child.
Kaja was settling, her ears coming up, her body not as tense, "I don't know what to do Papa, except stay with the herd and you want me to leave it."
He took a moment to nibble on the other ear then scratch her under the chin, "Your brother will be your herd, someday, my daughter. He will have my...have your papa's...authority. Power." He took a deep breath, for this was important, "And once you find him, and you WILL find him." If she didn't he knew HE would find her, "You need to stay with him as long as you can." How could he tell her the truth in a way she could understand, he didn't know, he would have to leave that to Eyah. Have faith in him to protect and guide his child.
Kaja's voice was unsure, frightened, "But will he want me"
Amrender held her tighter than he ever had before, "As much as I did, and DO, My daughter. But he can't have your help unless you live. And you MUST help him, when the time comes." She would help his son face the darkness that the father had accidentally bred and unknowingly nurtured. Help his son set himself and the universe right. Atone for the arrogance of his race and the chaos and pain it would bring. The last living descendants of the heroes of the Shadow War would have to try to do what their ancestors couldn't. To break the Shadow's power once and for all.
"I still don't want to go," She was shaking but her shoulders were squaring up, and she looked as determined as the feral assassin he tamed down, "But if you want me to, I'll do it."
Amrender let the pride show in his voice, his love and pride in his alien daughter, "I want you.....to LIVE...Kaja." and he stood up, making her rise as well, then took a step back to look at her, "No one has greater love for others than being willing to die for them. We're willing to die for you." He was actually shaking with pride, with unshed tears, how beautiful she was, even if she was the drab colors of a child, every inch of her perfect.
So different from the slender build of his own people. Eight limbs instead of four. Rin were built to fly, two sets of lungs so that the air ever and always flowed one way through their respiratory system, double hearts. twin digestive systems, one for meat, one for vegetable matter. The soft fur that covered her, the large dark eyes, the flowing mane, and the tail with it's long feathers capable of spreading out like a true bird's tail to help her fly steady. And the brown, gray and buff wings, so lovely, how he wished he could live to see them go to the rainbow hues of a broodmare. but he never would.
He took a deep breath, "You...are....loved...Kaja....Always. Always."
"I don't want you to die, either of you, Mama, Papa."
Amrender moved up and hugged his daughter, in part to hide the few tears that threatened to escape his control, but mostly to hold his child, "If we do not....Much worse will come, Kaja. Everything we have given you....Ruined, destroyed, made cold and empty." The shadow was trying to change them both, Kaja was safe, the more she was exposed the stronger her strange allergic like reaction to the shadow became. But for them, there was no such safeguard. And the siren song was harder and harder to resist.
"I wish I could come home, I want to be with you." She looked at her mother then with pleading eyes.
And it came, so quietly most would have missed it, "Amrender." it was a request, an imploration, as much of one as Kaja had ever heard her mother make of her father. "Please, this once, give not only what is right, but also what is begged for." and her mother was crying, Kaja never saw her mother cry, but there were at least three huge tears.
"She would die, Then or now, she would die with us, all the same." Amrender wanted to refuse, but......
"She knows that." His wife met his eyes as she spoke, then looked at his daughter. He was so used to thinking of her as a child, he realized this was his daughter's first request, not as a child, but as a young woman.
He took another deep breath, he had to be sure this was what his daughter wanted, "If you returned to us, someday...." it took him a moment to control the pain, "You would die with us, my daughter."
She nodded then and closed the gap his step back had created and nuzzled his hair before saying, "I know Papa, but you are my herd, a Foal lives or dies with her Herd."
"Our herd unlike any other. A price, required of those within it. I, your mother, you, your brother. Are you willing to pay that price, My daughter?" Did she know the horrors she would face if she followed this path, how hope would make her hold on when she should let go, how it would tear her soul apart, shatter her heart and mind?
It wasn't a child who spoke then, but a young woman, "I will do my best, just let me come home when it's done. And be with you."
He studied her face, gaged her expression, her words, her stance, everything, and he looked and saw the pain, the sorrow, the breaking of his beloved daughter, and the hell that would be the price of his race's arrogance. then he looked into his and his wife's hearts, and knew there was only one answer.
"You will return." A single nod then to Eyah, to fate, to the shadow, and to the wound in the worldling that needed to be set right, "Your brother will be taught how to do it. Someday. But to reach it....you must never stop believing. Do you understand?"
Kaja nods, though she still looks unhappy to leave, "You are making me a promise, you always keep your promises, Papa."
"With Eyah's help, Kaja, with Eyah."
"Yes Papa, with Ishim." and she hugged him then, so very tight, "When do I have to go?"
"You don't, you will sleep soon, instead. And when you awaken....you will be elsewhere, with those you can trust."
She started shaking again, "I understand Papa. Can I sleep between you and Mama tonight?" she sounded so lost and frightened.
It made Amrender smile, so like a herd creature, when scared she wanted to be in the middle of the adults. He stroked her mane and nodded for Emirra to join him in holding their child, "Of course, Kaja." he told her
Emirra said softly, "You need not even ask. Now it is time for bed. so go and get ready."
And she trotted off to do so, her tail no longer between her legs, though not yet held high either. The two Kchronaens looked at each other, then back at their child. and for a moment they hugged each other and let the tears come. she would be gone before Morning, and they didn't know for sure if she would survive to come home again,
All they knew for sure was that when she awoke, she would be crying for a very very long time.