Doira'liim (the beautiful whisper of the goddess saga)

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                                                        Chapter 1: Salira's Jest

    Arizira Ahmanae crouched low against the harsh blow of nightly wind. The gust, blowing from the east, ruffled her silver-blonde hair and forced her to pull her light leather jerkin tighter around her body. Feeling the chill carried on Salira's breath, Arizira entertained a passing wish that she'd brought along her deer hide cloak. The dagger-like bites of the wind's teeth pricked her flesh and forced her to keep herself from shivering.

    She could do nothing to give away her position, lest she run the risk of being noticed by the newcomers in the valley below. HerNai'iris, or honored elder in her native tongue, had tasked her with learning all she could about the presumptuous and audacious settlers that had taken up a position so close to her tribe's lands.

    Arizira inhaled a slow and controlled breath and wrapped her fingers, more for comfort than for reaffirming her grip, around the ashwood shaft of her longbow. Her normally bright blue eyes were alight with a silver glow as she used her people's inherent night vision to make out the many shapes beneath her.

    Tall, dark skinned, and powerfully built forms went about their duties on the plain far below her. With her enhanced vision, Arizira could make out the dark hair and elaborate tattoos of the men and women setting up bedding for the night. She brought her right hand down to her side and felt the rough leather wrapping that held one of her favored blades,Daisir. The name, in her people's language, meant "death seeker." A second similarly curved blade hung at her other side. Its name, much the opposite of its twin wasLa'nu, or "hopeful in life."

    Though she much preferred her bow and ranged combat, Arizira could wield the long-bladed sabres with expert proficiency if melee combat was required. She continued her watch of the strangers in the valley. Their physical characteristics told her much of what they were, but little ofwhothey were.

     For all of Aitla's infinite grace and wisdom she could not reconcile what she was seeing. The figures in the valley looked to be Esu, but how could that be? The Esu were nothing more than stories and myth. They did not truly exist, yet how else was Arizira to explain their appearance?

    She cocked her head quickly to the left. There was a commotion coming from a section that seemed to house several of the clanswomen. Ariziria watched, her eyes glowing with more intensity, as a tall woman with exotic features shared heated words with a shorter and more stout figure. Though she could not understand the words, that being by no fault of her extraordinary hearing and having more to do with her ignorance of the language spoken, Arizira made out enough to deduce that something was amiss in the camp.

    The taller woman, she noticed, was without any tribal tattoos. Her hair was ebony and wavy and hung down her back. Though Arizira knew little to nothing of the dark skins or their traditions, she knew enough to take note that the woman's lack of markings was probably significant. The woman threw her hands up and marched away from the shorter figure, their spat having met its end.

    Arizira leaned forward, away from the base of the tree she'd been kneeling against, and watched the woman with no markings head into the woods along the eastern edge of the plain. Salira had blown from the east only moments before.

   What game do you play this night, Lady of Air and Wind? Arizira thought to herself. Her keen ears, pointed and shaped like the leaves she loved so much, strained to make out any other signs of pursuit for the woman who had departed.

    When she felt confident that the other members of the dark skin clan were not going to follow their wandering clanswoman, she quickly and silently left the tree's company and blended into the forest around her. Where her feet touched the ground, no sound was born. It was as if the forest itself masked her footsteps. Her agile and lithe form ran effortlessly down the hillock that had given her a clear view of the newcomers. Salira continued to assault her as she moved deeper in the direction she'd seen the tall woman take.

    Arizira did not know what she hoped to accomplish by following one of the dark skins. Perhaps it was her curiosity. All Arniran children knew of the Esu, the dark skinned peoples said to be from the South. She herself had grown up hearing tales of how the Esu were the antithesis of her own people, the Arnira. Where her people were creatures of the night and worshiped Aitla, the Moon, the Esu were beings of the day and gave their thanks to Esuval, the Sun.

    The Esu were said to be strong and powerful, able to withstand forces thought of as only legend and myth. They were excellent craftsmen and built their homes out of rock and stone instead of using the trees like Arizira's people did. Yet that was not the strangest thing about the Esu.

    No, the Esu were different from the Arnira in another very distinct way. They hadesu'lat, or men, in their clans. There was no name for man or men in the Arniran language. They had adopted a name using supposed Esulan words,latbeing the name for a male, or so the old tales went.

    Arizira's people were all female. Aitla, the mother Moon, blessed them with child when She deemed it time. Yet, the Esu laid together and brought about their children in a different way. Their society was ruled byesu'lat, men. The idea was strange to Arizira. Though she knew nothing ofesu'lat, she couldn't imagine the women of the clan not claiming their birthright to be hunters and protectors. They acted nothing like the women of the Arnira.

    Arizira came to a slow stop as a wide clearing spread out before her. The thick copse of trees she was hidden in gave way to a circular area with various plants and flowers of vibrant shades. The light of Aitla parted the clouds above and shone down on the glade in a lustrous glow. Arizira knelt behind the base of a tree and placed her hand upon its trunk. Closing her eyes, she communed with the spirit of the ancient oak. The elder tree said little to her, apart from expressing its gratitude for her company.

    A sound like that of a twig snapping in heavy underbrush forced Arizira's eyes open. Sliding further behind the oak, she attempted to steady her breathing. Someone was approaching. Her hands slid down to her sides and grasped the large, leather bound handles of her twin sabres. "Gei'orei Aitla,"she whispered, the words being a warrior's prayer to Aitla.

    Leaning against the tree, Arizira turned so that her eyes could survey the nearby area. With the Moon's light shining down, she had no need for her night vision and her eyes returned to a shade of light blue, though they still retained a silvery luster. The sound or movement came to her ears again and she stiffened. If one of the newcomers had followed the woman with no markings, there was a chance she'd have to fight her way out in order to give word of what she'd learned to herNai'iris.

    Clearing the sabres of their bonds, she held her breath and waited for the heavy-footed intruder to make themselves known.

    A moment passed and the person in question finally came into the glade.

    It was the woman Arizira had been following. She wore plain clothes of simple cloth, her attire telling Arizira that she was no warrior. Her gait, however, did not match her homely clothing. Though she walked heavily, Arizira noticed a grace and an ease of movement that was common among her own people.

    The woman sighed, the sound being picked up easily by Arizira's hearing, and sat herself down on a large cropping of rock along the northern side of the glade. Silence fell around both women. Arizira noticed that Salira no longer blew against her. The wind was finally at rest.

    Allowing her blades to fall back to her sides, Arizira leaned around the tree and took in the woman's features again. Despite being a dark skin, Arizira thought the woman was beautiful. Her coloring was a stark difference compared to her own and her eyes were a deep brown or black. Such traits were unheard of among the Arnira and Arizira found herself enthralled with the woman's dark features.

    She noticed the Esu female was larger than she was and more muscular. Everything about the woman was enchanting to Arizira. She wished for a moment that she spoke the woman's language. Did the Esu, if that was what they truly were, even know about her people? Did the woman know that her clan had settled in Arniran territory? Did she even know of the Arnira?

    Time passed and Arizira remained an unknown spectator to the Esu woman. The woman did nothing that indicated she was a threat or a possible threat. Feeling bold, and thinking that perhaps the encounter had been blessed by Salira and Aitla, Arizira quietly stood up and turned away from the powerful oak.

    The woman, noticing movement, looked up with wide eyes. "Eto nuleywa?" The words were unknown to Arizira but the inflections in the woman's tone informed her that a question had been asked.

    Stepping into the light, she held her arms away from her body and crossed them over her head at the wrists. The gesture was a common Arniran symbol of peace and friendship. Her bow and quiver were still strapped across her back and her twin sabres hung at her sides. Any of the weapons could be easily grasped if the need was great.

    The Esu woman took a step back and regarded her with great curiosity. Arizira was unsure if the woman knew anything about her people or if she was just as stunned by her own appearance as she had been of the woman's.

    Arizira, hands still above her head, knelt on the ground before the Esu. Her act was another gesture of her people. By lowering herself before the woman, Arizira was showing she was not a threat. Blue eyes regarded brown while both women remained awestruck. Arizira lowered her hands slowly and pointed to herself.

    "Arizira Ahmanae," she said, her voice light and mellifluous. Pointing toward the woman she asked,"Tai?"

    The tall woman stood up and continued to look upon the newcomer. She'd never seen a creature so fair. Eyes the color of the sky stared back at her. In them, her own curiosity was mirrored.

    "Tai?" the woman asked again, her brow furrowing.

    Before anymore words could be exchanged, the sound of many feet bounding through the forest brought both women back to themselves. Arizira looked up, startled, and then made eye contact with the Esu woman. Quickly, she was back on her feet, body taut and curved blades in her hands.

    The dark skinned woman took another step back, unsure what to make of such fluid movements. She looked in the direction of the voices and knew her people had found her. When she spared a glance back toward the center of the clearing, the mysterious woman was gone. In her place, a strong gust of wind blew through the area.

                                                        Chapter 2: Rae'kir

    Arizira found herself back upon the hillock from which she'd first gazed upon the Esu settlers. The sudden reality of her situation, as the dark skinned woman's people had come looking for her, had forced Arizira to take flight into the wooded realm around her. One moment she'd been trying to establish a dialogue with the beautiful woman before her, and the next she'd been running along familiar paths and endless stretches of grass.

    Peering back into the valley beneath her, Arizira searched for the Esu woman with no markings. She knew she needed to return to her people. HerNai'iriswould be wanting to hear word of what she had discovered. Scanning the camp below one last time, Arizira conceded defeat in the endeavor and silently left the shelter of the towering tree she'd been sitting under.

 

                                                                      *  *  *  *  *  *

    Talliea followed behind the threeLat'sa'val,orMen of Light, in front of her and tried to keep her head down. TheLat'sa'valwere guardsmen and leaders of the clan. Through Esuval, they wielded magnificent powers of the Sun. The extent of those powers was unknown to Talliea; being merely a woman, it was not her place to understand the divine gift of Esuval.

    Still, she found herself envious at the ease in which the men of the clan could come and go. Were she like them, her whereabouts would have been her own business. She would be free to move at her heart's desire. As it was, she was not and so her comings and goings were monitored closely by theLat'sa'val.

    Talliea let her thoughts drift back to the woman she'd seen in the glade. Her hair had been nearly silver like the moon, but traces of yellow and gold had been present. Unlike her own dark skin, the woman's had been fair and smooth, seeming to take in the glow of the night's stars. Talliea had never seen someone who looked anything like the enigmatic woman. Her eyes had been blue, nearly pale, and her ears had tapered at the top.

    Who was she?Whatwas she? The closest thing Talliea could come up with to explain the woman's appearance was an Arniran, mythological faeries thought to possess near infinite powers. Tales of great battles between the Esu and the Arnira had been told for generations around roaring Esu campfires.

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