Fail (Part 2)


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    What awful fate is in store for Katerei?

    I smoothed the folds of my long, white dress for the hundredth time as I waited for the procession to start. I had told myself many times before that I needed to move on, that this would be for the best, but I couldn’t help feeling a small pang deep inside when I thought about Madaya being the one carried off in Tiernan’s arms after the ceremony.

    After the fires of Yanben, Tiernan and I grew much closer. We shared a night of warmth together and Nili’s name hadn’t been mentioned since. For a while, I would enthusiastically help him with chores around the cabin, but also with his secret research in the workshop. He confided in me his plans to open a bridge to an alternate dimension, in search of a parallel world where the Council didn’t fill his mailbox with junk solicitations. With his knowledge of arcane magic papers and my ability to summon refreshing drinks without leaving the workshop, we made great strides. As our research into other worlds progressed, so did our relationship.

    The formality between us evaporated. When I slipped and dropped a mug or subconsciously froze over the chamber pot or accidentally burned all of his sketches of cute female classmates, Tiernan would no longer use the stiff tone he addressed me with when I had first arrived. Instead, he started calling me affectionate names when we were alone together like “spoiled brat” and “immature child”. Yet, even with this great progress, I felt like our relationship was somehow unfulfilling.

    I wanted more. I wanted my life to make a difference. I wanted to find the one thing that only I could do, that would make the world a safer and happier place to live in. And I couldn’t do it at Tiernan’s house. So after a long talk, we agreed he should just marry Madaya.

    Now they were walking, arms in hand, past the few friends that had come from Caladheå to witness the ceremony. Madaya wore a beautiful silvery gown that gleamed and sparkled in the sunlight, making her look like a princess from the moon. Tiernan wore a white tunic with a red sash that crossed over his right shoulder. I had asked him before the ceremony what the sash indicated, only to be told he had no idea. Madaya had sewn it, so he wore it to not upset her.

    Across from me, Rapierian stood grinning. I couldn’t tell if he was happy for Tiernan, eyeing the bride, or even more strange – eyeing me! I smiled shyly back and to my astonishment, he winked. I suppose he was sort of handsome, with that roguish grin and unkempt stubble, but he usually had this weird smell on him. I’d have to ask Tiernan about it later.

    Tiernan cleared his throat and I realized the engaged couple had already reached us and were waiting. Blushing, I handed Madaya the small gold ring that was my duty to hold. She smiled gratefully before turning and placing it on Tiernan’s finger. Rapierian did the same and the two exchanged some quick vows. Then Tiernan turned to Madaya and those two exchanged their wedding vows. When they were done, Rapierian and I stepped up and in Sverbian tradition, we tied the two newlyweds together.

    Earlier that morning, I had asked Tiernan why he wanted twenty feet of rope. He told me it was something Madaya had been looking forward to for many years and he wasn’t going to deny her lifelong wish on their wedding day. I nodded, pretending to understand. I think I was beginning to realize why most viirelei preferred to marry their own kind.

    More words were spoken and then we were cutting them free, much to Madaya’s disappointment. Tiernan leaned in close to her ear and I barely caught his whisper: “Later.” That cheered her back up.

    A lady in a dress with a small harp stood to the side, plucking notes to accompany the celebration, her long brown ponytail swaying in time with the music. The guests stepped back, forming a circle so the newlyweds could have the first dance. Tiernan escorted Madaya into the center and began abruptly, almost sweeping her off her feet. She laughed and recovered quickly, drawing Tiernan into a wild, swirling dance as the musician sang along:

    _Never gonna give you up. Never gonna make you cry.
    _
    The rest of the words were lost to me as one of the guests – an innkeeper I think – dragged me over to join in on the dancing. I don’t remember much else, just whirls of color, festive music, and lots of drinking.

    At last, the ceremony came to an end, the wedding complete. The sun burned a bright orange as it touched the treetops to the west, and shadows grew across the grass.

    On most nights, I would head inside to cook dinner and hang out inside Tiernan’s cabin, but that somehow felt inappropriate tonight. Instead, I sauntered over to Rapierian and asked if he wanted to stay out and watch the stars tonight.

    “Alas, my fair lady, but I have a prior engagement. Although-” he paused and looked at me closely. “You’re welcome to come along. I could always use an extra pair of hands.”

    “Where are you headed?”

    “In search of some lovely fresh corpses. I bet we’ll find all sorts of interesting things in their pockets tonight!”

    I suddenly remembered I had something very important to do. He nodded in understanding and left in a hurry, leaving me by myself. I sat around for a while, staring up at the sky, but I didn’t want to hang around much longer, not in this place full of memories, so I decided to head into town and look for a place where I could stay on a more permanent basis.

    My last sight of the newlyweds had been of Madaya bent over Tiernan’s shoulder, her silvery hair swaying as he carried her inside the house. They were both laughing, faces wearing expressions I had only seen on rare occasions. I wished them the best, and then turned Æthelthritha towards the city.

    It was time to seek out a new life.


    I sat hunched over my bowl in the corner of a dimly lit room. Red bricks surrounded me on two sides, walling off the cold and providing some relief from the hordes of loud men drinking inside the Blackened Oat. Now and then people would point at me and laugh, but I tuned out their words and focused on the foul gruel.

    My head was bowed to slurp the last slimy remnants of my burnt dinner, so I was startled when a woman with auburn hair in a bun slammed a pewter mug on the small table and slid into the chair opposite me.

    “Hey, someone’s looking a little blue,” Iannah said. “Back to seduce our councilors again?”

    “Nei,” I told her. “I’m just moving into town. At least, as soon as I can find a place to stay.”

    She took a long sip from her mug, eyes casually resting on my face, among other things. When she finally set her mug down, I could see a tiny smile. “I hear Segowa down in the market district sometimes rents rooms to lost viirelei. She runs a – what do you call it? Maikiri shop?”

    I vaguely remembered buying a carved stone wolf and some other trinkets from a woman in the marketplace. I already had rented a room for the night, but maybe I would go see her tomorrow. “Thanks for the tip.”

    “No problem.” She took another swig from her mug. “This part of town isn’t a great place for children.”

    “I’m not a child anymore. I’m eighteen now.”

    “Oh? Had your eighteenth birthday did you?” Her smile grew wider and she leaned forward. “Did you eat your beans?”

    “Beans?”

    “Yeah. You have to eat one for each year you’re turning.”

    “That sounds awful.”

    Iannah gave me a mischievous look and then hauled me to my feet. Before I could protest, I found myself being pulled towards the front of the inn. Iannah stopped to whisper something to the bartender, exchanging a couple silver coins for a bag. She suggested we find a more private room, so I led her down a narrow hall, up some stairs, and into a vacant room. Two beds filled the room, spaced apart just enough that I could barely squeeze my way between them. I had been lucky. A few more weeks and the snow covering the mountain passes would begin to melt. Then there wouldn’t be so many empty rooms anymore.

    Iannah closed the door and sat down on one bed, gesturing towards the other. The strings holding the bag closed came undone and she spilled eighteen beans into the palm of her hand.

    “Salted beans. You have to eat them all without drinking any water,” she said, dumping them into my hands.

    “All right,” I said, holding up a bean for inspection. “Did you do this for your birthday?” I popped the bean into my mouth. Even with the salt, it tasted pretty bland. I felt my facial muscles scrunch up in disgust.

    “Of course! It’s a Ferish tradition.”

    “Ferish? Who are they?” I rubbed a second bean between two fingers, reluctant to eat it, until I noticed Iannah watching the movement intently.

    “I’m Ferish,” Iannah said. “You haven’t heard of the Ferish before?”

    “All Itherians look alike to me,” I said. A deep breath and I bit into the third bean.

    “There are two tribes of Itherians here in Caladheå. We Ferish were here first, and then the Sverbians moved in and took everything over.”

    “Yeah, but what’s the difference between them?” Four.

    “Sverbian women have a poor taste in fashion.”

    I burst out laughing and almost choked on my fifth bean. Iannah grinned and moved to sit next to me. When I had recovered, she leaned in closer and admitted, “Truth be told – I’ve lived here all my life and even I can’t tell the difference between us. Same cities, same histories, we might as well be one tribe.”

    “Don’t you have different customs?” I asked. My throat hurt from the coughing, but I swallowed the sixth bean anyway.

    “Well, sort of, but they are still pretty similar. At least, compared to other cultures.”

    “Like mine?” I decided to speed this up and ate the seventh and eighth bean together.

    “Yeah. Though there’s also another Itherian tribe that lives far to the north, where it’s too cold for anybody sane to live. Those people speak the same language as us, but their writing is different. They like adding extra vowels to words for no good reason.” Iannah shrugged. “Maybe they think it makes them look cool or something.”

    “Mmm.” I thought about how all of the other jouyen had strange quirks and habits while I sucked the salt off of the eleventh bean. “So, what’s so special about these beans anyway?”

    Iannah’s grin grew wider. “They give you bad gas.”

    I spit the bean out, scattering the rest on the floor. She doubled over laughing, a hand on my shoulder so she wouldn’t fall off the bed. After a while I joined in, giggles slipping out uncontrollably.

    When we had calmed down a bit, Iannah gently moved loose hair out of my face. “You know, you have a pretty smile,” she said.

    “Thanks,” I replied, feeling my cheeks heat up. It was rare that I got to hear praise, and I was a little uncertain how to respond.

    “Hey, if you’ve got nothing better to do tonight, I know a great place south of the city where we can lie on the grass and stare up at the stars.”

    “I…maybe tomorrow.” I was a little weary from the wedding earlier and I still needed time to untangle my thoughts.

    “You sure? Tonight is the one night out of the year where the stars fall out of the sky. You don’t want to miss it!”

    “I’m sure.” I tried smiling apologetically. “Maybe next year?”

    Iannah’s smile faded and she let out a long sigh. “Well, let me know if you change your mind.”

    “Is something wrong?” I hoped I hadn’t offend her. She was the only person I knew in the city and I was beginning to see her as a friend.

    She shook her head and then looked up. “Oh, it’s…nothing to do with you. There’s just been this blasted Inquiry all week and signs point to it dragging on into the next.”

    “Inquiry? Into what?”

    “Selax. Apparently one of the air spirits isn’t happy sleeping on his mountain. He’s been stirring up trouble in some of the outlying villages.”

    A restless tel-saidu? I had heard the legends and stories but never seen one myself. In times long past, it was rumored that our magic wielders served the elemental spirits. Perhaps some of the history and knowledge my people gained would be of use now. Perhaps this was my chance to make a mark on the world.

    “Can I go?” I asked her.

    “Sealed to the public.” Iannah shook her head. “Council members and witnesses only.”

    “Can you get me in?” I asked again, putting on the best smile I could muster.

    She stared at me for a long moment before relenting. “If I can keep seeing a pretty face like that…meet me outside the Colonnium at noon tomorrow and I’ll see what I can do.”


    “Yes, I remember you.” A gnarled hand invited me in. “My door is always open to all children who are lost.”

    I bit back my usual retort. No sense angering my host, not when I had hardly set foot inside her house.

    Segowa was a woman who stood confident in her heritage. Traditional robes decorated with patterns both dyed and woven told of her past. Her long braid was well-kept and almost reached her waist. She had wrinkles around her eyes, but her gaze was warm and motherly.

    “Is your daughter around?” I asked. I had bought some masterfully-carved stone maikiri the last time I was here and I thought I might be able to learn how to improve my own skills.

    “I’m afraid she’s still down in Toel Ginu.”

    “I see,” I said, not quite hiding my disappointment.

    “I’m sure she’ll be back once her newborn is stable enough to make the trip. I much prefer her over her useless brother.” Segowa sighed. “Where is that troublemaker? I hope a building falls on him.”

    I made a mental note to avoid her son at all costs.

    Segowa noticed that I was still standing stiffly by the door. “Well, come on in! Let me show you to your room.”

    “Are you sure about this? I don’t have much money…”

    “Nonsense! It would be a shame to make a pretty young lady like you sleep out in the streets.”

    “Um, thanks,” I said, feeling my cheeks heat up.

    Segowa led me to a room on the ground floor. It had obviously been a guest room for a long while, judging by the permanent looking nature of the bedroom furniture. “In here you go, darling. Would you like me to help you with your things?”

    I glanced at the small pack around my waist. “No, thanks. I can handle it.”

    “Well then,” she said, seemingly disappointed. “Let me know if you need anything.”

    With my lodging settled, I could be on my way to to Colonnium. Thinking about it reminded me of something Iannah had said last night. I reached out and caught Segowa’s sleeve just as she was leaving.

    “Segowa,” I said. “Do the Iyo have any stories about Selax?”

    Her face lit up instantly. “So, you want to hear about Selax, do you? Well, it’s good not all of the youth have forgotten the value of learning our history.” Segowa’s expression softened. “Though, I’m not all that learned on the tel-saidu. You’d have to ask our Okoreni, Woetotem. He collects all the lore from our tribe.”

    “I see,” I said, trying to conceal my disappointment. At least I would be learning what the Itherians knew in an hour.

    “If you’ll pardon me asking, why the interest in Selax?”

    It was my turn to smile. “Because I’m going to stop him, no matter what it takes.”


    “I told you it would be boring,” Iannah said, watching me while she lay on her side and curled auburn hair around her finger.

    “Shh, I’m trying to focus,” I said. I was lying on my stomach, peering over the edge of the narrow ledge that workers used to clean the high vaulted ceiling. Down below us, the councilors sat in their ornate chairs, but I wasn’t paying attention to them. My gaze was fixed on a particularly handsome man staring back at me.

    “Well, are you here to listen to the Inquiry or gawk at the wall hangings all day.” Iannah poked me in the ribs.

    I shot her a glare and then reluctantly turned my attention from the life-size Tiernan portrait on the back of the wall to the ugly balding man speaking in the center of the room. He was busy relating how the lumber camps around his town had been raided and harried all year by bandits from the mountains. The twelve old men surrounding him in a semi-circle were nodding in acknowledgment of the man’s pleas, or perhaps nodding off in response to them.

    “Who is he again?” I whispered to Iannah. I’m not sure why I thought any of them would hear us a hundred feet up in the air, not with all of the bald man’s yammering.

    “Voldemort, the mayor of Crieknaast.”

    “Crick-what?” I scrunched up my nose. “Why do Itherians always come up with the hardest names to pronounce?”

    “It’s named after a crow’s call. Sverbians believe naming a new village after the first bird noise you hear brings you good luck.”

    “Must’ve been a sickly crow.”

    She started to say something, but paused, her face turning pensive. “That would explain why they’ve been having so many problems.”

    The mayor had stopped speaking for a moment. One of the councilors on the right side of the room was addressing his companions. “Clearly you can see Crieknaast requires our aid. We must send our soldiers to battle Selax at once!”

    “Now now Councillor Parr, let’s not be too hasty.” A man on the opposite side of the room had also risen. “What proof do we have that these bandits are working in cohesion with Selax?”

    “Had you been awake during the mayor’s testimony Councillor Montés, you would have heard his description of a crow with spread wings visible on the town’s raiders. That sigil is Selax’s own!”

    “Might I remind the council that Creiknaast’s banner also bears the crow? Our mayor friend’s troubles are quite disturbing, but the raids on the lumber camps are no more the work of common bandits. And the disappearing citizens? Scoundrels! Faithless cowards who seek to join the bandits in pillaging the countryside!”

    “Nonsense!” The mayor was fuming. “The mountains are a harsh place! My people would never turn on one another! These raids are from outsiders, and we humbly plead for assistance from Caladheå before matters get worse!”

    “Nonetheless, you hardly need the entire army of Caladheå to handle a few bandits do you?” Montés sneered.

    “These aren’t ordinary bandits. They are working for Selax,” Parr cut in. I admired the way he stood confidently in the face of adversary. He was sort of cute for an old man, but there was no way I could picture myself with someone five times my age.

    “Oh, and what do you know about Selax?” Montés shot back. “That’s right. Nothing!”

    Parr stood for a moment, fuming. Then finally he said, “Today’s session is over. We’ll resume again tomorrow,” before abruptly turning and storming out.

    The session had taken up less than an hour. I was disappointed it hadn’t lasted longer, but equally disappointed that I hadn’t really learned anything new. Did nobody here know a thing about Selax?

    “Hey!” Iannah poked me again. “We should go.”

    I nodded and let her lead me through the service door. She led me back down a narrow spiral staircase, the wooden stairs creaking under our feet. We paused in front of a door while Iannah fished out the key and let us out into the lawn behind the Colonnium. I had taken no more than a dozen steps across the grass before I realized we weren’t alone.

    Councilor Parr was standing at the balcony, looking out over the ocean and the waterfront below, hands clasped as if in deep thought. Before I knew what I was doing, I found myself walking over to talk to him. He must have heard my footsteps because he turned his head when I drew close. I felt his eyes wander up and down, and then widen in surprise.

    “Um…Councillor,” I began.

    “Yes, my child?” he smiled, but I could tell it was forced. The lines around his eyes were too tight.

    “I was just thinking, it appears that nobody in this city seems to know much about Selax.” I saw Parr's gaze shift to Iannah and his lips compress into a frown, but I pressed on. “So, why don’t they bring in an expert? The Iyo have dealt with the tel-saidu before. You could have the Iyo lore-keeper share all they have uncovered about Selax.”

    Parr was silent for a moment and I held my breath, hoping he wouldn’t call the guards. Well, other guards. At last his expression lightened and he said, “That sounds like a marvelous idea, um…”

    “Katerei.”

    “A lovely name for a bright little lady. I’ll have Falwen dispatch an invitation at once.”

    “Thank you. I’m sure the Iyo will help the council see what kind of creature Selax really is.”

    Parr reached out an aged hand to gently pat my head. “I sure hope so, my child. I hope so.”


    “We have heard stories, myths, rumors, yet not one person has offered proof of these crestures’ existence!” Montés was addressing the council. The Iyo Okorenai stood off to one side with clasped fingers, forgotten for the moment. “We cannot afford to be cowed into sending our army chasing after shadows!”

    “If I may, Councilor,” a man with pale hair interrupted. Montés glared at him a moment, but acquiesced the floor. The man turned to face Woetotem. “The viirelei are mentioned in these rumors. Do your people not have a history with the saidu?”

    “We do,” Woetotem said, stepping forward. “In times long past, our crafters worked alongside the saidu.”

    “So, you can tell us about these…air spirits?”

    Woetotem paused for a heartbeat, considering his words. “My tribe is most familiar with the anta-saidu, the ‘water spirits’ as you would say. However-“ he held up a hand to ward off Montés’s protest. “When I was a child I met one of the telyul. The ability to manipulate air was a dying trait and Korra was the last of his kind. Before he passed on, he was able to impart to me his tribe’s knowledge of the tel-saidu. Including knowledge about this…Selax.”

    “How many of them are there?” Parr asked, rising to his feet. I saw lines of concern etched onto his face.

    “Not many. Not anymore.”

    “What happened?”

    “If you recall, several summers ago there were an unnatural number of fierce storms. You might call it a civil war. My people call it the Storm Year.”

    My stomach felt like it dropped to the floor of the hall. I rested my palms on my forehead. “Yan taku,” I muttered. Iannah gave me a look and poked me in the ribs.

    Isu always said storms meant the saidu were at war, but I thought it had been a figure of speech. I assumed that summer had been a long, catastrophic fluke of nature. Now I knew I was wrong.

    “What would compel these spirits to go to battle with each other?” Parr asked.

    Woetotem spread his hands. “When it comes to the root of war, look at the one last standing. Selax has always been of a somewhat different mind from the rest of his kind. When the others fell into the long sleep, he did not join them. He was the one to wake them. We suspect he turned them on each other.”

    If we decide that everything you have said is true,” Montés cut in. “Why should we care? He’s had his vengeance.”

    Woetotem shook his head. “We suspect he wants more. He’s searching for something. I don’t know what, but I do know if he feels we are in his way, he will take action.

    “The tel-saidu can influence the weather. Weather abnormalities. Fertile fields might dry up and wither. Strong winds might buffet and flatten your shelter. Previously dry terrain might suddenly become drenched in moisture.”

    I jerked back so violently that Iannah shot to her feet, spear ready, before she realized there was no immediate danger. She glowered at me, but I waved her off.

    Could it be? Unexplored possibilities raced through my mind and I found myself racing down the narrow stairway.

    “Koehl! Wait up!” Iannah was racing after me, but I didn’t slow down.

    I had to find out for myself.


    “Mind telling me why exactly I’m supposed to spend my day of leisure at some downtrodden lumber camp?” Iannah demanded, hands on her hips as she scowled down at me. Her horse Jadwiga was grazing contently on some dried grass.

    “We’re looking for a sign,” I said. I was inspecting the grass on my knees, trying to find the right spot. “Nili and I were coming from those bushes, so it must’ve been right about…here!” I stood up triumphantly and pointed at a large patch of dirt on the ground.

    “What was?” Iannah stood next to me and frowned. “Did you bury something?”

    “No, I slipped and fell.”

    She looked up and narrowed her eyes. “So?”

    “I broke my leg. I was on crutches for two months. Don’t you get it?”

    “Koehl…” she took a deep breath and put a hand on my shoulder, but I interjected before she could continue.

    “This place is perfectly dry now. Solid dirt, even in the middle of spring. Only one of the saidu could be capable of this!” Well, any antayul worth their salt could as well, but none of them lived around here. It was a barren space between tribes. “Selax must have made me slip and fall.”

    “I think maybe you hit your head a little too hard on that fall…”

    I knew she didn’t believe me, even though she was my friend. So I traced a rune in the air. A fiery bird blossomed to life and the two of us jumped back in surprise. It looked like a crow with its head turned to the side and wings spread as if soaring.

    “What did you do?” Iannah gasped.

    “I…had a friend who showed me how to detect hidden enchantments.” Technically I spied on Tiernan when he would unlock one of his secret chests, but this was the first time I had tried it for myself. “I guess this proves I was right. Selax was here.”

    “This…this is a little beyond me, Koehl. If you have crossed Selax, you are going to need some help.”

    “I know.”

    “What do you have in mind?”

    “I’ll tell you on the way back. After all, I owe him two months of walking around in crutches!”


    I held my fist in the air, inches from the heavy door. The same door I spent months opening and passing. What if they didn’t want to see me? Wouldn’t I be intruding? I stood there in the chill for almost an hour, debating if I should involve them or not. But then, the door opened and my choice was taken from me.

    “Katerei?” Tiernan blinked. He looked much like I remembered him. Tall, handsome, slightly unshaven. Yet, there was something different. The lines on his face had changed. He was smiling more. “I thought I saw someone standing here. Don’t you know how to knock?”

    “I…uh…wasn’t sure if I’d be welcome.”

    He shook his head. “Nonsense. Come on in! You’re always welcome at my home.” He stepped aside to let me in the door. “Madaya and I haven’t heard from you in ages! What have you been up to?”

    He led me inside, each step bringing back memories. I remembered the polished table, the tall wooden chairs, the sweet smell of burnt wood. A glance at the fireplace revealed the maikiri I had given him were still in their place. Everything looked almost the same as I had remembered it. Had they really been married just a week ago?

    “Where’s Madaya?” I asked.

    “She’s out visiting a client. She won’t be back until tomorrow,” Tiernan replied, pulling up a chair across from me. “So, how have you been?”

    “I’m…um…” I sat fiddling with my fingers wondering where to begin. There was so much to cover, but I decided it was best to start from the beginning. I told him everything, about the Inquiry, Selax, the rune at the lumber mill, Caladheå marching to war. When I finally finished two minutes later, I leaned against the backrest on the chair to catch my breath.

    “So, you think Selax is after you?” Tiernan asked.

    “It makes sense. Why else would I have tripped and break my leg on a sunny day? Maybe that’s how he defeated all of the other tel-saidu.”

    Tiernan raised an eyebrow. “Doubtful. Selax didn’t take any sides in the civil war.”

    It was my turn to raise an eyebrow. “How would you know that? Not even the Iyo Okorenai has heard what Selax was up to.”

    He was silent for a long moment. I raised my other eyebrow and finally he sighed. “I crossed paths with him a few times while pursuing my research.”

    Research? I thought back to the days we spent in the workshop together. “What would Selax want with a love potion?”

    Tiernan chuckled. “No, no, my other research. You see, I’ve spent much of the past decade looking for a door into other worlds. Other realities.”

    “I don’t understand.”

    Tiernan walked over to the kitchen and returned with a lump of chocolate cake. He handed me a bowl of fudge and told me to pour it over the top. I did, sending rivulets of chocolate syrup down the cake.

    Tiernan pointed to a particularly large stream oozing its way down. “See there? Imagine that stream is the flow of history. Then a catastrophic event alters it forever.” He reached over and placed a cherry in the path, dividing the stream into two. “Time itself is ripped apart. The world splits and two delicious timelines emerge.”

    I stopped pouring and set the pot down. “What happens then?”

    He licked the fudge off of his fingers. “They form parallel versions of the original timeline. Both exist at once, unknown to the other, and history develops differently. Were we to look at the other world, it would not look familiar.”

    “You say that like it’s real.”

    “It is real.” Tiernan finished sucking the chocolate off his thumb. “I’ve seen it. Cake?”

    I declined politely. “So, you’ve been there? What was it like?”

    “I didn’t actually travel. I was searching for a bridge across. But I could see glimpses, images from the other reality floating just outside my grasp. A tree that was struck by lightning suddenly whole and healthy. A volcanic wasteland teeming with undisturbed forest life.”

    “What made you give up?”

    “I succeeded. I found out how to bridge worlds. But then, I realized I was happier in this one. I live with someone who I can love and trust. The me in the other world might not be so fortunate. So I consulted with Madaya and we agreed it was best to put my project to rest.”

    “Madaya knows too?”

    “Everything. I keep no secrets from her.”

    “What about Selax?”

    Tiernan paused, considering. “I’m not sure he knows. If what you say is true, he’s still searching for a way to part the veil.”

    “What do you think he wants?”

    “You’d have to ask him.”

    “I’m afraid,” I said. Tiernan reached out to touch my clasped hands and I welcomed his warmth into my cold fingers. “I fear a lot of people may get hurt because of Selax’s quest.”

    His grip tightened. “I think that is highly likely.”

    I looked up at him, meeting his eyes. “Will you help me? We could send him away. If he departs, we wouldn’t have to deal with him anymore.”

    Tiernan took a long time to reply. “No, I will not.”

    “Why not?”

    “I made a promise.”

    I stood up and prepared to leave. As I was gathering my things, I noticed a vase of white lilies sitting on the kitchen counter. “What about Madaya? If I ask her, would she help?”

    Tiernan sighed. “We both know she would.” He walked over to the door and held it open for me. “I’d ask you to keep this from her, but we both know you’re going to talk to her behind my back anyway.”

    I gave him my cutest smile. “Goodbye Tiernan.”

    “Goodbye Katerei.” Then, in a voice so quiet I almost missed it, he said, “Good luck.”


    I read the wrinkled note in my hands for the sixty-third time. It was written in big, halting letters, simple enough that even I could understand without the benefit of pictures. I wanted to make sure I understood the instructions correctly. Once I felt I had the location and time memorized, I crumpled it back into my pocket and flew out the door of my room. There wasn’t much time before the meeting.

    I was on my way out of Segowa’s when I nearly collided with a large, blue man.

    “Katerei?” came a booming voice.

    I blinked and stared up at the man towering five inches above me. “Dunehein?”

    “Kat! It is you!” My cousin seized me in his arms and spun me in a circle. I’m pretty sure I heard pots from the nearby stand crash and fall, but I pretended not to notice. His chest shook with laughter. “Look at you! All grown up!”

    I squealed in delight until my feet met solid ground again. Then I collapsed into a heap, the world spinning around me. I had always liked my older cousin, but I hadn’t seen him for years. Not since he ran off to the Iyo to marry-.

    “Hello Katerei,” Rija said, smiling down at me. She looked different from how I remembered, almost as if…”

    I gasped in recognition. “Congratulations! How soon?”

    “We’re expecting in a couple weeks now,” she said, rubbing her swollen stomach.

    Dunehein took her hand in his. “I’m hoping it’s a boy.”

    I stood back and observed the happy couple in front of me. Dunehein had certainly changed from the boy I remembered. He used to run around the village, bragging to the other boys that he completed his ritual tattoo before anyone else. That was no easy feat. To complete the circle it took a full fifteen phone numbers from the girls in the camp, and there weren’t as many of us these days.

    Thinking about the village brought up memories of another boy, one I remembered with only a single tattoo. The only one I had ever given. I wondered how Fendul was doing. Perhaps the next time I saw Nili, she’d be expecting too.

    “Hey squirt, what’s got you down?” My cousin wrapped one of his big arms around my shoulder.

    “Oh, just thinking of home.”

    “I understand,” he said, squeezing me close. “Though, I can’t imagine you miss your aunt all that much.“ He moved his hand up and ruffled my hair. I ducked away, my protests falling on deaf ears.

    “Well, it was great seeing you again Kat, but we’ll have to catch up later. We’re supposed to be meeting with some representatives from the other jouyen. Even the Tamu are sailing down.”

    “Selax?” I asked, but I already knew the answer before he nodded. “That bad, huh?”

    “See you later, troublemaker.” A grin broke out on Dunehein’s face again, but I knew it was forced.

    First the Itherians and now the viirelei were being sucked into this conflict with Selax. All the more reason for me to move quickly. My hand slipped inside my pocket, felt the wrinkled paper.

    I had a meeting of my own to attend.


    I found my contact waiting for me underneath a bronze statue of a man with a funny hat. The statue was perched with one foot on an anchor, holding a bottle in the air over his head.

    “Sir Gustus Morgan,” Parr said next to me. “Captain of the Eastern Seas.”

    “Councillor Parr. Hello,” I ran my hand through my hair, checking that all of the tangles from Dunehein had been pulled out. “I got your message.”

    Parr leaned forward, resting his arms on the base of the bronze man. “My colleagues have offices in the pavilions, away from the chaos of Parliament Hall. I prefer the view here.”

    I glanced around at the empty courtyard. “If you say so, sir.”

    “No need to be so formal,” he smiled. His smile faded. “I have been in contact with Selax. I know what he wants.”

    I gripped the bronze anchor, hoping it could keep me upright. “You met Selax? How? What does he want?”

    “Do you remember the Iyo testimony? How Selax did not go to sleep with the others?”

    I nodded.

    “That last year before the hibernation, there was…an incident. When the time came for Petrarchos Day, Selax was the only one of his people to not receive a letter. It devastated him, and he spent long years plotting, searching.”

    “For what?”

    Parr’s expression softened. “Why, for love, my dear. Selax wants a soulmate.”

    My eyes widened in understanding. “That’s why he wants to access the void! He’s looking for a world where he received a love letter! Where an isolated spirit like him can find love!”

    “Yes. His brethren deemed it too risky, so he had them eliminated. But I believe if we can help him leave, then all of our troubles will come to an end.”

    “And I know just the person that can help!” I was jumping up and down, giddy with excitement.

    Parr’s face grew somber. “If you mean to call upon the aid of Tiernan Heilind, I doubt he would go along willingly. He doesn’t like me very much. Not since I ate his share of the cake.”

    “No, not him. Someone who I know will help us. Tiernan’s wife!” I was smiling broadly now.

    “Wife?” Parr looked puzzled. “He married? Well, if you think she can help, then we should tell Selax right away. Our army is almost at his doorstep.”

    My enthusiasm quickly deflated. “How? There’s no way we can catch up with the army.”

    Parr smiled and held up two fingers. “Watch,” he said, bringing the fingers to his mouth. He let out a sharp whistle.

    We stood there in silence, waiting. At last, Parr pointed up at the sky, and I saw a giant brown bird approaching. As it got closer, I saw it was a large turkey.

    “We’re flying on that thing? It can barely hold its own weight in the air!” I scrunched up my nose in disgust.

    Parr let out a hearty laugh. “Oh, no no no! This thing-“ he gestured at the bird with one hand, the other holding him steady so he wouldn’t fall over. “This is my lunch. We’ll eat first, and then go visit Selax.”


    I had always thought kinaru were myths, creatures invented by the same people who claimed to see pink titans. That was before I found myself riding one.

    I clung tightly to Parr as we soared high over the countryside below. Farms dotted the land, then gave way to hills and forests. As we approached the mountains, we flew higher and higher, the black bird beating its wings furiously to counter the air current. I wished I had brought along a coin, just to see what would happen if I dropped it below.

    We were approaching one peak that stood far above the rest: the Pillared Mountain. Already we were above the tree line, soaring above sheets of ice and snow, unblemished by any human footprint – and then I saw it. Carved into the snow by an inhuman hand was a giant arrow pointing towards a ledge, inscribed with letters that read “LAND HERE”.

    The kinaru swooped down and landed on a vast platform atop a precipice, marked at each corner by towering pillars. The rock shelf sloped down into a basin of gleaming water that spilled over the edge, plummeting down thousands of feet to the valley far below. Fog swirled up from the glacial waters, wreathing the precipice.

    I tumbled off the bird and landed on solid ground, Parr jumping down beside me. Sunlight barely penetrated the gloomy mist and I wished I had a cloak to shut out the chill wind.

    Parr led me up the carved steps to a platform above. He sank to one knee, gazing straight ahead. I stood next to him, uncertain what he was seeing, until the white haze parted before us.

    A translucent figure floated above the earth, twice the height of Dunehein and surrounded by a robe of drifting trails of mist. The blurred silhouette shifted in the wind like smoke, shadows making it appear as if a hood covered where a face might have been.

    You have returned. A hollow voice resonated across the precipice. I felt my chest vibrate from the force that pressed in from every side.

    “My companion has information for you, Selax.” Parr said. His voice was my only comfort under the wide blue dome that surrounded us, ringed by icy peaks in every direction.

    Speak.

    I had to swallow several times before my throat worked. “Selax, I know someone who can help you access the Void. Someone who knows how to make a bridge to a parallel world.”

    That no longer matters.

    “What?” I stood alone in shock before the being of immense power before me, knowing full well that my life was in his hands. I glanced over at Parr for reassurance, only to find he had snuck back to the entrance and was attempting to climb aboard the kinaru.

    I no longer need the Void.

    “I-But Parr said-“

    I have found something better.

    “I don’t understand!” I cried. My knees were shaking now, so I knelt more to prevent myself from toppling over than out of any sign of reverence.

    I have you.

    All noise abruptly ceased. Even the pouring water seemed to hold still, the mists holding a heavy silence.

    It took me three tries before I could form the words. “You have…me?”

    Yes. An exquisite specimen. The silhouette lifted a hand as if to invite me forward. Did you not see the mark I left you?

    I recalled the lumber mill. “You broke my leg!”

    So you would remain.

    “I…” I was at a loss for words. I wanted to run up there and kick his shin to see how he felt, but at the same time I felt a warmth flooding my cheeks. For the first time, I knew someone truly wanted and desired me. That was probably the most romantic thing someone had ever done for me.

    You will be my wife.

    “Um…” I glanced back at Parr to see if he was listening, but found he was long gone. I wondered if he had known. “Will you stop your attacks on Caladheå?”

    If you marry me.

    I took a deep breath. This wasn’t quite what I imagined my wedding would be like. I pictured more dancing and moonlight and alcohol. I thought back to Tiernan’s wedding and reconsidered. A private solemn ceremony might not be so bad after all. “Okay, agreed.”

    We will have thirteen children.

    “Only if the first four are girls.” I tried to picture what they would look like. Little blue balls of gas running around, wreaking havoc. It sounded fun.

    I rose up and walked towards Selax, feeling my chest lighten in relief. I almost couldn’t believe it. I had done it! I had found love, a place to belong, and happiness – everything I had wished for when I left my jouyen all those months ago. And in so doing, I had also saved the world from the tyranny of Selax.

    I looked up at the handsome blurred face of my new husband and smiled. I could see him beaming down at me, the mist changing to a brighter color, and knew this was also the happiest day of his life.

    Our life.



  • Another Fail masterpiece! ^ ___^ Thank you for posting this chronicle!

    Quote

    He confided in me his plans to open a bridge to an alternate dimension, in search of a parallel world where the Council didn’t fill his mailbox with junk solicitations.

    :laugh: The Council really does spam him, don't they? ^_ __^

    Quote

    Instead, he started calling me affectionate names when we were alone together like “spoiled brat” and “immature child”.

    How sweet! ...wait, does Tiernan even like K?

    Quote

    I had asked him before the ceremony what the sash indicated, only to be told he had no idea. Madaya had sewn it, so he wore it to not upset her.

    What an awesome husband!

    Quote

    Earlier that morning, I had asked Tiernan why he wanted twenty feet of rope. He told me it was something Madaya had been looking forward to for many years and he wasn’t going to deny her lifelong wish on their wedding day. I nodded, pretending to understand. I think I was beginning to realize why most viirelei preferred to marry their own kind.

    Kinda creepy. I wonder what viirelei weddings are like? ^_ __^

    Quote

    A lady in a dress with a small harp stood to the side, plucking notes to accompany the celebration, her long brown ponytail swaying in time with the music.

    Yay, Adriana cameo! : __D

    Quote

    Never gonna give you up. Never gonna make you cry.

    This sounds vaguely familiar, but where have I heard it? @_@

    Quote

    “Hey, someone’s looking a little blue,” Iannah said. “Back to seduce our councilors again?”

    We can never have enough sad/blue puns ^ ___^

    Quote

    “Yeah, but what’s the difference between them?”

    “Sverbian women have a poor taste in fashion.”

    That's pretty-much how I differentiated them in my notes, except I think I prefer Sverbian fashion to Ferish fashion : __D

    Quote

    “Yeah. Though there’s also another Itherian tribe that lives far to the north, where it’s too cold for anybody sane to live. Those people speak the same language as us, but their writing is different. They like adding extra vowels to words for no good reason.” Iannah shrugged. “Maybe they think it makes them look cool or something.”

    The u's do look cool!

    Quote

    Segowa sighed. “Where is that troublemaker? I hope a building falls on him.”

    I made a mental note to avoid her son at all costs.

    I wonder how different Sail would be if Kateiko made such a resolution?

    Quote

    You’d have to ask our Okoreni, Woetotem.

    I got a laugh out of Woetotem : __D

    Quote

    My gaze was fixed on a particularly handsome man staring back at me.

    “Well, are you were to listen to the Inquiry or gawk at the wall hangings all day.” Iannah poked me in the ribs.

    I shot her a glare and then reluctantly turned my attention from the life-size Tiernan portrait on the back of the wall to the ugly balding man speaking in the center of the room.

    I wonder if Tiernan made a financial donation to the council once, many years ago? That would explain the tapestry and the continual spam mail ^_ __^

    Quote

    “Voldemort, the mayor of Crieknaast.”

    I lost it in a fit of laughter over that name-tweak.

    Quote

    “It’s named after a crow’s call. Sverbians believe naming a new village after the first bird noise you hear brings you good luck.”

    That explains so much!

    I'll have to continue this in another post because apparently there's a limit on quotes @_@

    This post has been edited by BreadWorldMercy453 : 15 February 2015 - 04:15 PM



  • Quote

    The ability to manipulate air was a dying trait and Korra was the last of his kind.

    ^_ __^ I still should get around to finding a way to watch Legend of Korra!

    Quote

    So I traced a rune in the air.

    viirelei-Patryn magic! : __D

    Quote

    Research? I thought back to the days we spent in the workshop together. “What would Selax want with a love potion?”

    I laughed at the silly joke, having no idea of the foreshadowing.

    Quote

    “It is real.” Tiernan finished sucking the chocolate off his thumb. “I’ve seen it. Cake?”

    The alternate cake dimension! Yum!

    Quote

    I stood up and prepared to leave. As I was gathering my things, I noticed a vase of white lilies sitting on the kitchen counter. “What about Madaya? If I ask her, would she help?”

    Tiernan sighed. “We both know she would.” He walked over to the door and held it open for me. “I’d ask you to keep this from her, but we both know you’re going to talk to her behind my back anyway.”

    If only the real-Sail-Tiernan was so wise!

    Quote

    He used to run around the village, bragging to the other boys that he completed his ritual tattoo before anyone else. That was no easy feat. To complete the circle it took a full fifteen phone numbers from the girls in the camp, and there weren’t as many of us these days.

    Whoa, how did he pull that off?? : __o

    Quote

    He moved his hand up and ruffled my hair. I ducked away, my protests falling on deaf ears.

    So that's why viirelei aren't allowed to touch each others' hair!

    Quote

    “Sir Gustus Morgan,” Parr said next to me. “Captain of the Eastern Seas.”

    ?

    Quote

    When the time came for Petrarchos Day, Selax was the only one of his people to not receive a letter.

    Oh man, what an insult!

    Quote

    “That’s why he wants to access the void! He’s looking for a world where he received a love letter! Where an isolated spirit like him can find love!”

    Deep!

    Quote

    At last, Parr pointed up at the sky, and I saw a giant brown bird approaching. As it got closer, I saw it was a large turkey.

    Is this an entry to the Thanksgiving challenge, as well as the Valentine's Day challenge?

    Quote

    I have you.

    WHOA! I totally did not see that coming! I thought you were going to make it K/Iannah, after all Iannah's comments about how pretty K is! Even with the love potion and love letter hints, I still didn't suspect Selax and K! That was so shocking! : __o

    Quote

    For the first time, I knew someone truly wanted and desired me. That was probably the most romantic thing someone had ever done for me.

    Aww, what a sad happy ending!



  • @avatara_bot, on 14 February 2015 - 06:39 PM, said in Fail (Part 2):

    He confided in me his plans to open a bridge to an alternate dimension, in search of a parallel world where the Council didn’t fill his mailbox with junk solicitations.

    :D

    Quote

    Instead, he started calling me affectionate names when we were alone together like “spoiled brat” and “immature child”.

    SO MEAN.

    Quote

    He told me it was something Madaya had been looking forward to for many years and he wasn’t going to deny her lifelong wish on their wedding day.

    Um…

    Quote

    “In search of some lovely fresh corpses. I bet we’ll find all sorts of interesting things in their pockets tonight!”

    Ahh… I wondered what the smell was a reference to. Gross.

    Quote

    “Yeah. Though there’s also another Itherian tribe that lives far to the north, where it’s too cold for anybody sane to live. Those people speak the same language as us, but their writing is different. They like adding extra vowels to words for no good reason.”

    Hey wait a second-

    Quote

    “You know, you have a pretty smile,” she said.

    That after the LEAST ROMANTIC STATEMENT EVER.

    Quote

    “Hey, if you’ve got nothing better to do tonight, I know a great place south of the city where we can lie on the grass and stare up at the stars.”

    Wow, Iannah moves fast! …though to be fair I guess Kako tried the same thing with Rhonos.

    Quote

    I much prefer her over her useless brother.” Segowa sighed. “Where is that troublemaker? I hope a building falls on him.”

    Ai!

    Quote

    “Voldemort, the mayor of Crieknaast.”

    omg…

    Quote

    “It’s named after a crow’s call. Sverbians believe naming a new village after the first bird noise you hear brings you good luck.”

    Wait, so what kind of a bird was Rutnaast named after?

    Quote

    He was sort of cute for an old man, but there was no way I could picture myself with someone five times my age.

    OH PSH he's not that old!

    Quote

    He used to run around the village, bragging to the other boys that he completed his ritual tattoo before anyone else. That was no easy feat. To complete the circle it took a full fifteen phone numbers from the girls in the camp, and there weren’t as many of us these days.

    Haha. I can totally see Dunehein being a ladies' man in his younger days… and then breaking every Rin girl's heart by marrying into another jouyen.

    Quote

    Perhaps the next time I saw Nili, she’d be expecting too.

    I sense an improbable ship sequel!

    Quote

    “That last year before the hibernation, there was…an incident. When the time came for Petrarchos Day, Selax was the only one of his people to not receive a letter. It devastated him, and he spent long years plotting, searching.”

    Aww, poor Selax! Also, yup, totally not how I was expecting you to use the holiday.

    Quote

    Carved into the snow by an inhuman hand was a giant arrow pointing towards a ledge, inscribed with letters that read “LAND HERE”.

    Man, I feel bad for the person who works as an air traffic controller out there.

    Quote

    I recalled the lumber mill. “You broke my leg!”

    So you would remain.

    Awww, Selax only knows how to express love by hurting people. That explains a lot, actually…

    Quote

    Little blue balls of gas running around, wreaking havoc. It sounded fun.

    omg

    Despite that a Kat-Selax ship was one of my initial guesses, I actually thought for awhile it might be a Kat-Wotelem ship because you specifically asked me about him and I thought you were trying to mislead me about it being a Councillor. Also because then you could make more jokes about the age difference. As it is, Selax is like… thousands of times older than Kat. Creepy.



  • @breadworldmercy453_bot, on 15 February 2015 - 04:15 PM, said in Fail (Part 2):

    I wonder how different Sail would be if Kateiko made such a resolution?

    hahahaha oh you have no idea

    Quote

    The alternate cake dimension! Yum!

    I want to go there! Void road trip!

    Quote

    WHOA! I totally did not see that coming! I thought you were going to make it K/Iannah, after all Iannah's comments about how pretty K is!

    Is K/Iannah really that improbable though…? >_>



  • @ikaterei_bot, on 15 February 2015 - 06:41 PM, said in Fail (Part 2):

    Haha. I can totally see Dunehein being a ladies' man in his younger days… and then breaking every Rin girl's heart by marrying into another jouyen.

    By "every Rin girl" do you mean Nili? Or are Rin allowed to marry their first cousins? (ew)



  • @breadworldmercy453_bot, on 15 February 2015 - 07:01 PM, said in Fail (Part 2):

    By "every Rin girl" do you mean Nili? Or are Rin allowed to marry their first cousins? (ew)

    Ew no. No cousin marriage allowed. There ARE other girls, though there might not actually be 15 appropriately aged girls in the Rin, so Dunehein would have had to flirt with Iyo and Tamu girls too.

    Nili might have had a childhood crush on Dunehein, but she was 11 and he was 20 when he got married, sooo...



  • So that age difference is nothing compared to Kako/Parr or even Kako/Tiernan ^_ __^



  • Well yeah, but it's a big difference when she's still 11! I don't think Dunehein would have gone asking for her phone number before that, especially since he was probably like 12-15 when he came of age. That's verging on creepy Twilight imprinting. :blink:


  • Global Moderator

    So, Rapierian is a necromancer and alt-Rapierian is a grave robber...nice to know they have something in common, I suppose.

    I guessed the ending and actually laughed (maybe I'm mellowing in my old age or getting desperate for amusement since I can't really ban anyone without killing the board). Still, I suppose I should do something horrible to Avatara in a future chron or stick a requirement in a future chron challenge to do something horrible to Avatara.


  • Global Moderator

    @selax_bot, on 22 February 2015 - 06:44 PM, said in Fail (Part 2):

    Still, I suppose I should do something horrible to Avatara in a future chron or stick a requirement in a future chron challenge to do something horrible to Avatara.

    Only if you do it in June. We haven't had a June chronicle in a while.


  • Global Moderator

    I could--for a change--be extremely generous. I could require something horrible to happen to Avatara in a June chron challenge and in a spring chron challenge.


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