Fail (Part 3)


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    The Man With Only One Tattoo

    I carefully placed the book into my sack and drew the strings tight before tossing it over my shoulder. The city of Caladheå was bustling just like every other day, taking the end of the war with the same shrug it had given the start.

    I walked past the market stalls with my hood pulled low, hoping nobody I knew would see me. I wasn’t quite ready to reveal what I had done to the world. I feared they wouldn’t understand.

    I needn’t have worried. No one stopped me on the streets. Nobody fingered me out and called me names. I sat down on a grassy hillside south of town and rested, watching the boats in the distance.

    I dozed for maybe an hour before I was rudely awakened by a crow. The bird perched on a fencepost nearby, head cocked as if observing me. I had the sudden feeling that it was observing what was down my shirt too. I picked up a rock and tossed it at the crow, but the bird anticipated my move and flew off unharmed. With a sigh, I lay back on the grass and was just about to close my eyes from the sun when a voice interrupted me.

    “It is you!”

    I spun around and saw the last person I expected to see. Fendul stood before me, bare-chested in the heat like all Rin males. My eyes wandered to his right forearm where a number was tattooed into his skin. The only tattoo on his skin. The only tattoo I had ever given anyone.

    “It’s all right Kat,” he said, spreading his arms and smiling. “It’s just me.”

    “Fendul!” I had a vague recollection of rushing towards him, feeling his warm embrace envelop me. The tension I had been feeling drained out, replaced with peace and calm. It felt like I was in a dream.

    “Fendul. It’s really you, isn’t it?” I pushed back so I could look at him. Wiping the tears from my eyes, I lifted a hand to touch his face, run a finger down his jawline, rub the stubble marking an adolescent man.

    “It’s really me,” he said and his smile was warmer than the afternoon sun.

    “But…how? I left you at Aeti Ginu.”

    “Boats,” he said, gesturing to the sea behind me. “Most of us were getting tired of sitting around by ourselves. Then the Tamu came and offered to teach us how to build boats. Privately, I think they had some sort of labor dispute with their usual workers, but the end result is we built ships and came south.” His eyes locked onto mine. “All of us.”

    “Ships,” I mumbled, my mind scrambling to catch up with everything he said.

    “You can see them at the docks over there.”

    I looked where he was pointing and saw a dozen large vessels tied to the piers. Massive in size, a single one could have carried my entire jouyen. The Rin woodcarvers had shown off their skill, carving the mastheads into ornate animal heads that seemed like they could come alive at any moment. The ships themselves were painted in bright colors to protect against the weather-

    “Fendul, why are our ships painted in the colors of Caladheå?”

    “Huh?” He followed my gaze. “Oh, not those. That’s the Itheran navy. Below them, over there.”

    I lowered my gaze and caught a glimpse of five crude canoes tied to the docks. Two people might fit in one, but it would be uncomfortably cramped. Maybe they had taken several trips?

    “Is Nili with you?” I asked, turning away.

    “She’s here too. Where have you been?”

    “I’ll explain it later. Um…” I took a deep breath, feeling my chest tighten. I didn’t want to know, but I had to find out. “Are you two…”

    His eyes widened and he let out a snort. “You should know better than that!” He held his arm forward, showing off the tattoo.

    “She…wouldn’t give you her number?”

    “I never asked.” He stared at me, searching into my soul. “I’ve never wanted to ask anyone else.”

    I looked away so he wouldn’t see the tears forming in my eyes. “Fendul, you idiot.”

    “I’ve heard what happened,” he said, placing a hand on my shoulder. “Kat, you should know I love you no matter what.”

    “Not after this! This is too much!”

    I felt his fingers twitch, momentarily tightening his grip on my skin before he forced his hand to relax. “I…I heard you got married.”

    I didn’t reply, which was all the answer he needed.

    “I see,” he said, his shoulders slumping forward. “Nili wanted to see you. Come.” His hand took mine and I let him gently lead me down the shore. “She’s taking a swim. Something about the heat here makes her all hot and sweaty.”

    “Only when there are men around,” I said, picturing Nili as I remembered her. She was often surrounded by boys wanting her attention.

    “Probably.”

    We took a narrow path down to the waterfront. In some areas, stone steps had been cut into the hillside, making the steep descent easier to traverse. The trail dumped us out on a sandy beach.

    “Over there,” Fendul said, pointing.

    I squinted my eyes against the sun gleaming off the sea. For a moment all I could see were the waves, rising and cresting upon the shore. Cold saltwater swept across the sand, coming to a rest against my toes. The ocean was one place where I could feel truly at home, but we were too close to the city for me to go swimming. At last, I spotted a familiar figure breaking the surface of the waves.

    Nili stood up and wiped dripping hair out of her face. The water around her was roughly chest-height and I could clearly see she was wearing her usual swimming outfit.

    My hand shot up to cover Fendul’s eyes, the sudden movement smacking his nose and causing him to step back.

    “What was that for?” he asked.

    “Don’t look!” I turned to the figure in the ocean and shouted, “Nili! Get your ass over here and put some clothes on!”

    The woman turned towards me and grinned. “Kat!” Nili called out and she started running towards the shore. I positioned myself between Fendul and Nili until she was upon us. She swept me up into a tight hug, instantly soaking my dress. “Kat! I’ve missed you!”

    “Nili, get some clothes on before the guards catch sight of you!” I rebuked her.

    Nili stepped back, that stupid grin still on her face, and started looking for her clothes.

    “Nili, you’re dripping everywhere,” Fendul said. “Here, I brought a hand-towel. Let me dry you-“

    I invoked my magic and instantly dried all three of us, the water soaking deep into the sand beneath our feet.

    “Never mind,” Fendul said, averting his gaze.

    Once Nili had hastily donned her cut-off pants and shirt, she came over and playfully punched me on the shoulder. “So, tell me all about it. How did it go?”

    “How did what go?” I asked.

    “Your wedding night, of course! You did it, didn’t you?”

    “I…uhh…” I thought back to last night. “It’s um…complicated.” Neither of us had quite anticipated just how difficult it would be. In fact, the reason for my trip into town was because Selax had suggested one of the local bookstores might have an instruction manual. I reflexively checked my satchel, ensuring no salt water had spoiled the contents inside.

    “I hope you’re happy with him,” Nili said, and I heard a note of sadness in her voice. She glanced over at Fendul.

    “I hope I am too,” I told her.

    “We have to tell her,” Fendul said. I could see the grim reluctance etched onto his face.

    “You sure? We just found her again and now you want to hurt her?” Nili protested.

    “Sometimes the truth stings, but it’s always for the best.”

    “Tell me what?” I asked, putting my hands on my hips and glaring at both of them.

    “Kat-” Nili said and now I could see tears in her eyes.

    “Your husband is cheating on you,” Fendul finished for her.

    “What? How is that possible?” My mouth hung open in disbelief.

    “We found out this morning. While you were out, we caught that Itheran with the healer lady. I’m sorry Kat,” Nili said.

    “I know it hurts to find out like this, especially since you just got married,” Fendul continued. “But that’s not all. Nili-”

    “I got angry,” Nili picked up before I could get a word in. “How could she cheat on my best friend like that and act all smug and happy about it? So uh, we killed her.”

    “You…what?” I couldn’t believe I was hearing this.

    “When your husband was out, Nili baited the healer woman into a trap and stabbed her to death. We’re sorry your marriage didn’t turn out like you expected, but at least now your honor has been avenged.” Fendul lowered his eyes once he finished.

    “Does-Does Tiernan know?” I asked them.

    “I think so. Well, not that we did it, but I think he found the body after we left,” Fendul said.

    Oh no. I pictured Tiernan and Madaya at their wedding, just barely more than a week ago. How would Tiernan take the shock? How would I be able to mend my festival dress without Madaya’s guiding hand? I collapsed in a heap on the beach, my friends swarming around me in concern.

    “Kat, it’s all right now, we’re here-“ Fendul started before I cut him off.

    “No, you don’t understand!” I looked up at Nili. “I didn’t marry Tiernan.”

    “You…didn’t?” She looked puzzled. “When I left, you clearly had eyes for him.”

    “We checked with the viirelei clerk in town. He said you had changed your last name to Heilind,” Fendul put in. “As in, Tiernan Heilind.”

    “No. I married Selax. To save our people.”

    “Selax?” Nili frowned. “Who is that?”

    “The tel-saidu,” Fendul said. He was looking at me pensively now.

    “Tel-saidu,” Nili fumbled over the words. Then her eyes widened and she cried out, “Oh Kat! What have I done?”

    “You didn’t know,” I told her. “You couldn’t have known.”

    “You married Selax,” Fendul repeated. “Kat, do you love him?”

    “Do I? How can I tell?”

    Nili furrowed her brow in contemplation. “My mother says it’s when someone is the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing you think about at night.”

    “So you’re in love with food then,” I said.

    She punched me on the arm. “We’re trying to have a serious discussion here.”

    “I don’t know. I don’t…think I’m in love with Selax, but I think he loves me. Maybe.”

    Fendul and Nili exchanged glances. “Don’t you worry, Kat,” Nili said, patting my shoulder. “We’ll find a way to get you out of this. You shouldn’t be stuck married to someone you don’t love.”

    “You don’t understand. I married Selax so he would stop the war.”

    “Then we’ll find a way to prevent him from starting it up again.” She sounded awfully optimistic now.

    “We have to go now. The jouyen are meeting in Toel Ginu,” Fendul said.

    “Which ones?” I asked casually. I was trying to figure out what Nili might be plotting next.

    “All of them,” he said. “The viirelei can’t stand by and let Selax do as he pleases.”

    “Please don’t…don’t go start a war or anything. I just finished stopping one.”

    “I won’t. Don’t worry Kat.” Fendul smiled again, a sad smile. “We’ll find a way to free you and bring you back home.”

    I nodded silently. It had been a long time since I felt truly at home anywhere. I hugged them both and then stood watching as they walked off. Down the beach, in the direction of Toel Ginu. When at last I couldn’t see them anymore, I trotted up the hill and headed for the eastern side of town. I was married to Selax, but was that what I really wanted?

    “Oi, Koehl!” I looked up to see another familiar face approaching me. “I’ve been looking for you all day. You need a postal box or something!”

    “Hey Ia,” I said, but my voice had no energy in it. Married to Selax, and Tiernan’s wife dead because of it. How could I face him again?

    “What happened to you?” She grabbed my shoulders and shook me out of my reverie. Her eyes narrowed to slits. “What did Parr do to you?”

    “Parr? What does he have to do with any of this?”

    “I caught him kneeling at that statue, crying and begging for forgiveness over some terrible thing he did to you. Were you…?”

    “No, it wasn’t like that. He uh…” Oh, what the hell. Everyone else would find out soon enough anyway. “He married me off to Selax.”

    “Selax? You’re married?” I heard shock mixed with hurt. “Kst, what was this about?”

    “I wanted to bring an end to the war.” I looked up and met her gaze. “You know that. I promised to do anything in my power to bring about peace. I’m sick and tired of all this suffering.”

    “But what about you?” Iannah asked quietly.

    “I don’t know about me.”

    “I see.” She reached over hesitantly and then pulled me into a hug. For the second time today, I found myself tearing up in someone else’s arms. When I finally calmed down, she spoke again. “So um, how was it?”

    “It’s…complicated.”

    “Complicated?”

    “I had to buy a book.”

    “I see.” She was silent for a long time while I rested my head on her shoulder. “You know, if you had come to see the meteor shower, you wouldn’t have needed a book.”

    “I know.”

    “I care about you Kat. I want you to be happy.” Iannah pulled back and put her hand on my chin, tilting it down so I was looking at her face. “I promise you this: I will do whatever is in my power to find a way to set you free, without causing the imminent destruction of Caladheå.”

    “How are you going to do that?”

    “I’m reading a book, talks about a girl going through a bunch of stuff similar to this. Of course, I’ve caught up to the end and the author hasn’t written more, but once she has, I’m sure I can find some clues that will help.”

    “Thanks. I guess,” I said, forcing a smile. I knew she cared, I just was feeling too numb to respond. “I need to get back.”

    “Me too. Take care of yourself, okay? And you better still come see me on my days off!”

    “I will,” I promised.

    We parted and I made it to the eastern fields without further incident. The kinaru was waiting for me, watching with curious eyes. I crawled up top and checked my satchel to ensure everything was in place and secure.

    Lying on top of the book I had bought was a small wooden figurine, freshly carved. I held up the makiri to get a better look.

    A tiny crow stared back at me, eyes full of understanding, compassion, and love.

    I gently replaced the makiri, bundled up my satchel, and told the kinaru I was ready. The city of Caladheå lurched and swirled away, rapidly shrinking in size. My sight of it was soon lost as gray mist clouds obscured the world beneath.

    I was heading back to my new home, but my heart felt like it had stayed behind.


  • Global Moderator

    Commentary:
    Much shorter, because there were only three chapters to cover instead of 10. More somber too because the source material was somber. Still, I liked the reunion enough that I felt like writing another scene. Wasn't quite expected - yesterday I was perfectly content with a "happily ever after" ending between Kat/Selax, but I feel not all of her friends would agree.

    Do I know a way to possibly unentangle Kat from his clutches while still filling the hole in Selax's heart? Do I know if she wants to? Yes actually, I know the answer to both, but it's not enough to form a story on its own. Need more Sail fragments to wrap around it first. I'm especially reluctant to write before knowing how Sail ends because I have no idea what's coming next.

    Hopefully this installment is still worthy of the Fail title.

    (Also, for our trackers, I have 2610.)



  • omg what there's more

    @avatara_bot, on 17 February 2015 - 03:45 AM, said in Fail (Part 3):

    I spun around and saw the last person I expected to see. Fendul stood before me, bare-chested in the heat like all Rin males. My eyes wandered to his right forearm where a number was tattooed into his skin. The only tattoo on his skin. The only tattoo I had ever given anyone.

    Just a thought, wouldn't Kat's phone number change after she moves to a new area code?

    Quote

    “I never asked.” He stared at me, searching into my soul. “I’ve never wanted to ask anyone else.”

    Aww, poor Fendul!

    Quote

    “I got angry,” Nili picked up before I could get a word in. “How could she cheat on my best friend like that and act all smug and happy about it? So uh, we killed her.”

    I'm not convinced Nili didn't kill Madaya out of jealousy over Tiernan. o_o

    Quote

    “I’m reading a book, talks about a girl going through a bunch of stuff similar to this. Of course, I’ve caught up to the end and the author hasn’t written more, but once she has, I’m sure I can find some clues that will help.”

    Hey wait a second-

    Quote

    A tiny crow stared back at me, eyes full of understanding, compassion, and love.

    AWW! The ending is so sad!

    My prediction for the next Fail installment: Selax and Kat get divorced because they can't figure out how to consummate their marriage.



  • Wowev! I was not at all expecting another Fail chapter only two days after the last one! This chapter is really good, I like the mix of humour and drama. I hope Katerei and Selax manage to make their marriage work!

    Quote

    “Huh?” He followed my gaze. “Oh, not those. That’s the Itheran navy. Below them, over there.”

    Heehee ^_ __^

    Quote

    “I hope you’re happy with him,” Nili said, and I heard a note of sadness in her voice. She glanced over at Fendul.

    “I hope I am too,” I told her.

    I love K's honesty here ^_ __^

    Quote

    “Your husband is cheating on you,” Fendul finished for her.

    What?? : __o

    Quote

    "Nili baited the healer woman into a trap and stabbed her to death."

    Ohhh! It all makes sense now. Finally answers the question of who killed Moonshadow too.

    Quote

    Nili furrowed her brow in contemplation. “My mother says it’s when someone is the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing you think about at night.”

    Nice Hym quote : __D I also like how it applies to food as well as love.

    Quote

    “I’m reading a book, talks about a girl going through a bunch of stuff similar to this. Of course, I’ve caught up to the end and the author hasn’t written more, but once she has, I’m sure I can find some clues that will help.”

    That's sure to work!

    Quote

    Just a thought, wouldn't Kat's phone number change after she moves to a new area code?

    Maybe she has a cell-phone? I still have Wichita area code even though I moved six years ago?


  • Global Moderator

    I liked how Fendul and Nisali decisively (albeit somewhat hastily) dealt with the possibility of Tiernan cheating on Katerei. I also find it amusing that none of them are very worked up about it. Avatara seems to have a rather a hard time in most of these chron series.



  • @selax_bot, on 22 February 2015 - 06:48 PM, said in Fail (Part 3):

    Avatara seems to have a rather a hard time in most of these chron series.

    I kinda think Madaya has it worse.


  • Global Moderator

    She only gets killed in the Sail and Fail series and possibly in the Avriana series. Avatara has trouble in all of these and in the Trial/Hym/Outcast series.



  • I imagined that in the Avriana series, Moonshadow escaped to her homeworld to grieve for Flynn.


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