The Early Days: Part 1

  • Disclaimer: I wrote this entire thing in four or five days, from planning to completion, so I offer no defense for its literary qualities. Or consistency. Or accuracy to the game and TS world.

    That said, assuming no one shows up at my door with pitchforks and torches, this is now 100% canon, replacing the original backstory I wrote for Katerei (which we can now pretend doesn't exist.)

    Yes, Part 1 implies there'll be another part eventually, since this only covers the first major plot arc. I have in mind sort of a series of vignettes that link into existing stories, rather than one overarching storyline. I just have no idea when I might actually write the next one. :>

    For reference, here's the un official TS/chron timeline.


    I peered over the side of the ship. The city sprawled out along the coast, a mix of timber and grey stone. A pair of docks jutted into the water to the south. “What kind of coastal city only has two docks?”

    Ferazel leaned against the salt-stained wood. His hood cast his face into shadow from the harsh sunlight. “The kind whose dock builders were all killed by scylla.”

    I frowned up at him. He was taller than anyone I’d ever met, so I had to look quite far up. “What are scylla?”

    “They’re what people draw on maps to scare other people away from deep water.”

    “It’s just water.” I traced my finger through the air, pulling water into the shape of a bird. “See? How scary can it be?”

    “Terrifying, if you’re made of dirt. Maybe cartographers are concerned for golem safety on the job.”

    I giggled, twirling my bright blue hair around a finger. “So if this is your homeland, does that mean people here speak the language you’ve been teaching me?”

    He nodded. “If I knew we’d wind up in Cythera, I wouldn’t have spent so much time teaching you sailing terminology.”

    I twisted around to look at the splintered mast. The main sail had torn clean away while wind and rain battered the ship. We’d drifted for days through a fog bank before spotting land. The crew steered us into this bay on Ferazel’s assurance that Cademia was the most likely place to find a new mast and sail.

    “All right, let’s go,” the captain called.

    We crossed the deck, Ferazel’s staff thumping on the timbers. The passengers waiting to board the rowboats still huddled into groups, but most of the tension had evaporated like ocean mist. We were all sunburned, hungry, crunchy from salt spray, and eager to get back on land.

    Ferazel had been my constant companion for the near month we’d been at sea. I wasn’t even sure he was male except for his voice and build. He moved like someone in his youth, but might have been two years older than me or twenty. I’d gotten used to never seeing his face, and to the blue glow that surrounded him when the moon hid behind clouds.

    “Don’t fall in,” he said as he helped me into a boat roped to the side of the ship. “Scylla will get you.”

    I stuck out my tongue. “I think you made those up.” But even so, I kept my hands away from the water as we rowed to the docks.

    Being on solid ground was a bizarre feeling. The land seemed to pitch and roll as if I was still on the water. I dropped my shoulder bag in the red sand and stretched my limbs. The captain had said it could take days to repair the mast. Looking at the scrubby trees, I suspected it might take that long just to find a trunk big enough.

    People had already gathered onshore to watch us come in. I stared back, as curious about them as they were about us. They mostly had dark hair and tanned skin. Everyone wore pants or long skirts or robes, even though early autumn here felt like midsummer back home.

    We were a far more ragtag lot. Half the passengers were viirelei kids like me, with pale blue skin and varying shades of blue hair, clad in scraps of dyed cotton. They huddled together like petals, each tribe a different flower. The others were humans – farmers whose land had been burned or families who just wanted to escape the war in our homeland.

    Ferazel and I wandered into the city behind the others, passing low buildings with arched windows. A man drove a herd of goats down the dirt street, not as big or shaggy as the mountain goats I knew. The smell of baking bread wafted out from a shop.

    “Where are you going next?” I asked.

    “The Alraeican Tavern,” Ferazel said. “I could use a glass of Northshore Red.”

    I scrunched up my face. “But what about after that? I mean, you’re home. Are you going to stay here?”

    He shrugged. “What are you going to do this afternoon?”

    “I don’t even know what’s here. Is there a marketplace?”

    “The Commons. Head north until the houses stop looking abandoned and then turn west. You’ll find it sooner or later.” He rummaged in his jingling cloak pocket and pressed something into my palm. “Ten oboloi. That’ll cover a couple meals if you get stuck.”

    I blinked at the two metal coins. “Th-thank you–”

    “Stay away from the Two-Tailed Rat. It has rats.” A smile appeared in the shadows under his hood. “This is where we part ways. For now. Come to the Alraeican if you need help.”

    “Aren’t you coming back to the ship tonight?”

    “One may return. One may only wonder.” He chuckled as he walked off to the east, staff tapping on the red dirt.

    “Wait – where’s the tavern?” I called, but he didn’t look back.

    I shook my head and tucked the coins into my leather purse. What an odd man.

    The Commons was the biggest marketplace I’d ever seen. The shops along the perimeter seemed permanent, but most vendors had set up on the sun-bleached grass in the centre. White stone pillars surrounded pools of clear water where children waded. A few people lounged in the shade of scrawny trees.

    I wandered past carts of vegetables, piles of grain sacks, pens of reptiles that bared sharp teeth. Fresh produce looked tempting after weeks of salted meat and stale flatbread. I stopped by a crate of deep red fruit that gave off a beautiful juicy smell.

    “Don’t touch,” the man behind the crates snapped in Cytheran.

    I reeled back. “I didn’t–” But his eyes narrowed and his mouth tightened. I hurried off.

    “Hey,” a voice hissed. “Hey, blue girl!”

    I spun around. A girl with tangled black hair and a green dress leaned out from behind a tree. She beckoned me over, but I couldn’t understand her rapid speech. “Slower, please,” I said. The phrase had been all too common in my lessons with Ferazel.

    She started over, speaking each word deliberately, pointing between me, her and the fruit stand. “You want a pomegranate, yeah? You give me oboloi. I’ll buy it for you.”

    I hesitated, but I was so hungry and the fruit smelled so good. I fished a coin from my purse and held it out.

    The girl grinned. She clamped her grimy fingers around the coin and bolted the opposite direction from the fruit vendor.

    “Ai!” I shouted. People turned to look. No one stopped her.

    I ran after her. She ducked into a crowd of people. I pushed past them, clutching my bag close, and saw the girl slip down an alley. She was gone by the time I got there.

    I swore in my native language. This time, everyone ignored me.

    Ferazel didn’t return to the docks that evening. I waited until the last boat, but eventually we had to return to the ship without him. I ate my meagre rations alone by the prow. On the open ocean I’d fished to supplement our dwindling food stores, but nothing bit in the harbour. I finally packed away the net and slept on the deck with only the moon and stars to watch over me.

    I spent the days exploring Cademia. Ferazel didn’t turn up again. When the ship’s rations ran out, I scoured the Commons to find vendors who would sell to me. I spent my last five oboloi on a loaf of flax bread and a bag of apples, savouring the tart juice. When that ran out, my worry started to verge on panic.

    As I walked back to the docks, I settled on a plan. I’d find something to eat in the ocean. I’d catch a fish with my bare hands, dig clams on the beach or collect seaweed. I could round up the other viirelei kids, find out if any of them knew what was safe to eat.

    All that fled from my mind when I reached the shore. The captain stood alone on a dock. The crew was nowhere to be seen, nor the passengers that normally gathered by sunset. Then I realized they weren’t all that was missing. The bay was empty except for white-crested waves and rowboats bumping against the docks.

    “Where’s the ship?” I asked.

    The captain looked grim. “At the bottom of the ocean.”

    What? What happened?”

    “Some kind of… sea monster. Not the first time I’ve seen one. We were floating out the new mast when something started crushing the ship. Crew was lucky to get away alive.”

    Scylla. Maybe Ferazel hadn’t just been teasing me. “So we’re… stranded here?”

    “For now.” The captain pushed back his hat and rubbed his forehead. “I’m sure not going to stay forever, but it’ll take months to build a new ship, and I won’t risk sailing in winter. You want off this island, come back in spring. Until then it’s every man for himself.”

    I stared out at the waves. “How are we supposed to survive a winter?”

    “Build a fire and pray.” He clapped a hand on my shoulder. “Wish I could help, miss, but I can’t even feed my crew, and I’ve got to find a ship builder who can build more than a fishing boat. Hope you can track down your hooded friend.”

    I suddenly had no desire to search for food on the shore. I bid the captain goodbye and headed into the forest instead to see what I could find there.

    It was wasted effort. The fish in the streams were too small to bother catching. The little lizards scampering in the undergrowth dodged every time I tried to grab them. Several plants looked similar to ones from the islands south of my homeland, but I couldn’t be sure they were the same. I wasn’t that desperate. Yet.

    I woke with a stiff neck and leaves in my long blue hair. I bathed in a stream, brushed the tangles from my hair and scrubbed my clothes. The purple dye was fading from my cropped shirt and shorts. My skin peeled from sunburn. I’d never been anywhere as hot and dry as this island.

    The first place I went was the market. I tried to ask the baker for directions, but halfway through my question, I realized I couldn’t remember the name of the tavern. The woman barely understood me, and she was so busy with customers that I soon gave up. The apple seller wasn’t there. A young woman near a pen of chickens saw me looking lost and waved me over, but said she’d never heard of a tavern that started with an ‘a.’

    I rummaged through my bag to see what I had to sell. It was all things I’d need to survive the winter or things I couldn’t bear to part with. The gnawing in my stomach was getting fiercer and my hands were shaking, but I refused to be like the girl in the green dress.

    Five viirelei kids begged on the grass by a pool. They were all from the same tribe, but I only knew the oldest boy – Akolin, fourteen and a water caller like me. His hair had grown out on the voyage, starting to fall in his eyes.

    I edged closer and sat on the grass. The kids frowned, but didn’t chase me away.

    Most people ignored us. Some snapped at us and hurried past. One woman slapped the youngest girl’s hand when she reached out. Children stopped and stared, only to be dragged off by their parents. When I noticed three kids with dirt-stained faces and matted blonde hair lurking by a stone pillar, I nudged Akolin.

    “Watch out for those three,” I whispered. He nodded.

    I drew water from the pool and swirled it around in a circle out of boredom. Magic felt easier on Cythera. The things I used to have to concentrate on were as simple as breathing now.

    Akolin nudged me back. He jerked his chin at a young couple watching me.

    I spun the circle into a fish. The woman smiled – and then a swirling shark burst forth from the pool and darted after my fish. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Akolin grin. I turned my fish into a ship that wheeled and crashed into the shark, splintering into a thousand droplets.

    The woman laughed and clapped her hands. She said something to the man with her. He smiled and tossed a few coins into the grass at our feet.

    The young kids snatched them up. Akolin shushed their excited cries, but the dirty human children had snapped to attention like hawks watching prey. Akolin glanced at the stalls, biting his lip, and I knew he was afraid to separate his group.

    “Let me. I’ll buy something for us to share.” I slid my bag off my shoulder and held it out to him. “Keep it until I come back.”

    His eyes narrowed. I wondered if he’d been scammed too, but he was just like me, never straying far from the burlap sack that probably held his most valued possessions. He took my bag and handed me the coins.

    Three oboloi, I guessed from the marks. I went back and forth between stalls, settling on a loaf of bread and a cluster of purple grapes. I was just heading back when I heard a shout.

    A brown-haired boy pelted the viirelei kids with rocks, yelling things I was immensely glad they couldn’t understand. Akolin tackled one to keep him from throwing rocks back. The brown-haired boy’s mother cuffed him over the head and pulled him away, but the dirty kids had seen the scuffle and moved in.

    Akolin shoved one of them back as she grabbed at my bag. Within seconds it had turned into a full-on brawl between viirelei and human beggar kids. All I could do was watch, clutching our food to my chest – and then I saw Akolin pull out his bone hunting knife.

    “No!” I yelled. “Akolin! This way! Come on!”

    He spun around to look. I pointed down an alley. He slammed his fist into a boy’s head and yelled to the viirelei kids to follow me. The older two picked up the younger two and ran. I waited until they’d passed me before dashing down the alley after them.

    I didn’t know where we were going other than south, but I knew from wandering around Cademia that there were lots of hiding places in the ghetto. Even the harsh afternoon sun didn’t reach all the nooks and crevices here. I heard footsteps and twisted to see Akolin running after us, alone, carrying both our bags.

    We piled into a crumbling house missing its door. Akolin shoved a chest of drawers into the doorway. The little kids were on me before I could set the food on the table. I gave them the grapes and cut the bread and cheese into six portions with my own hunting knife.

    “Katerei, right?” Akolin said as he handed out the slices. “I owe you one.”

    “No, you don’t.” My stomach rumbled as my teeth sank into the soft bread. “I wouldn’t have this without you.”

    “Still,” he said around his mouthful. “You earned half of this, and you’re only getting a bit of it.”

    I glanced at the kids crouched on the floor as they devoured their food. The red dust had turned them slightly purple. Their skin looked too small for their bones, scraped and cut from the brawl.

    “What are you gonna do next?” I asked. “There’s beggar kids all over the marketplace, and they know how to do this better than us.”

    Akolin shrugged. “Go back to the ocean, I guess. Gotta be something there we can eat.”

    My eyes widened. “Aren’t you afraid of scylla?”

    “What, that sea monster thing? Nah. At least it’d probably kill us quick. Starving to death sounds worse.” He swallowed the rest of his bread. “Where’s your hooded friend?”

    “Dunno. Still looking for him.”

    He peered out the window. “I don’t wanna stay in the city. You can come with us, if you want. If you’re not at the docks by sunrise, I’ll assume you’re not coming.”

    I gave him a shy smile. “All right. Sunrise, then.”

    I traced my steps to where Ferazel and I split up and headed east. Maybe someone closer to the tavern would have heard of it. But the further I went, the more worried I got. I passed buildings with boarded-up windows and sagging timber walls. Half the street lamps were broken. It was oddly quiet. Even the trees looked dead.

    Then I saw a girl in a filthy green dress scamper down an alley.

    I ran across the street. The alley was empty except for broken boards. I was sure someone had gone down there, but it lead to a dead end. I waited and listened. Nothing.

    Just as I turned away, something slammed into the back of my head.

    “Get her weapons!” a boy yelled.

    Hands grabbed at my belt. I rammed my elbow sideways and heard a crack. I drew my bone knife at the same time someone yanked my flail from its sheath. The strap on my bag tore as it was ripped away from me.

    I scrambled up and brandished my knife at the scrawny boy clutching my bag. “Give it back or I’ll gut you,” I said. Only when a blank look passed over his face did I realize I’d spoken in my own language.

    Someone grabbed my arm and wrested the knife from my grip. I whirled to see a tall boy. He pushed me into the alley and against the wall, pressing my knife to my throat.

    “We don’t wanna hurt you,” he said. “Just keep still.”

    Behind him, I saw the girl in the green dress clutching my flail. The three of them all had black hair and sharp noses. Siblings, probably. I couldn’t tell if it was the girl from the market.

    “No money,” I said, trying to not to breathe too heavily. “Look.”

    The girl tossed my flail on the ground. She unbuckled the purse from my belt and turned it upside down. I cringed as two wooden figurines thumped to the dirt.

    She kicked at them with a bare, dusty foot. “What are they?”

    “Makiri. Not…” I struggled to find the right words. “Not worth. Special to me.”

    “Look at this, Mirra.” The scrawny boy had strewn the contents of my bag in the red dirt. “You want any of this?”

    The girl crouched next to the pile of fabric. She laughed and tossed my leggings and shirt at the tall boy. “Boy clothes. Those might fit you, Amus.”

    I bit the inside of my lip to keep from yelling as they went through my belongings. Mirra seemed to approve of my cloak. They were confused by my mantle, running their fingers through the thick fur until Amus snapped at them to hurry up.

    The younger boy held up my embroidered blanket. “Hey. Think we could sell this?”

    No!” I slammed my fists into the stone wall. “Don’t touch!”

    Amus pressed the knife closer to my throat. “I said keep still. Come on, you scabs. Take it all and let’s go.”

    They shoved the fabric back into the bag. As Mirra reached for my flail, the scrawny boy gave a squeak of fear. The other two spun around. An ice spike hovered in mid-air, pressed to the boy’s chest.

    “I die, he die,” I said.

    “Mage,” Amus spat. He backed away and dropped the knife.

    “You’re letting her go?” Mirra said indignantly.

    “Shut up, Mirra!” Amus shoved her out of the way. “Take your stuff, mage. But I wanna see that spike gone before you leave.”

    “Fair.” I scooped the rest of my belongings into my bag and held out the bone knife as I backed up. When I was at the end of the alley, the ice melted and splattered onto the dirt.

    I ran and didn’t look back. I ran until my lungs burned and my legs throbbed. The city streaked past. When I couldn't run anymore, I searched the alleys until I found a broken window at ground level. I squeezed through the gap and passed out on the floor.

    It was dark when I woke. My head throbbed. I touched the back of my skull gingerly and found matted hair. My whole body trembled. A chunk of bread and a handful of grapes couldn’t make up for days of not eating enough.

    I scrabbled around in the shadows until I found something solid to set under the window. I stood on it, tossed my bag onto the dirt and hauled myself up into the alley. Clouds covered the moon. I could feel the ocean off in the distance, but who knew how many buildings and twisting streets lay between it and me.

    As I stumbled east, lights appeared out of the gloom. I blinked, my vision still hazy. The lights were in a straight line, getting closer together as they ran toward the horizon. Street lamps. That meant no more abandoned houses.

    I approached the first person I saw and quickly backed away again. He wove across the street mumbling to himself. I tried again with a man wearing richly patterned robes.

    “Help,” I begged, grabbing his sleeve. “Food? Please?”

    The man snatched his arm away. “What happened to you? Fall in a vat of dye? Get lost, beggar rat.”

    The third person was a woman. She looked annoyed at first, but as I followed her into a pool of lamplight, her expression changed to shock. I reeled back as she reached for my hair.

    “You poor thing. There’s a tavern down the road. Go buy some food.” She fished a coin from her purse.

    I grabbed it and held it tight in my fist, half-scared another beggar kid would jump me. It took a few seconds for her words to sink in. “Tavern?”

    “The Alraeican. Look for the sign outside. The barkeeper is named Talos.”

    “Thank you.” My eyes brimmed with tears. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I ran off without waiting for a reply.

    The tavern was easy to identify once I got there. The symbols on the sign meant nothing to me, but the chattering voices and the smell of food meant everything. I pushed open the door and slipped inside.

    A layer of smoke hung over the room. My boots stuck to the floorboards. I pressed close to the wall, trying not to attract attention as I searched. There weren’t many people around, but a suspicious number of them wore hoods. Maybe Ferazel wasn’t that unusual in Cythera.

    “Hey!” A man squinted at me. “Are you blue, or am I that drunk already?”

    “What?” I backed into the corner. I couldn’t understand most of what he slurred at me.

    Another man wearing an apron whapped him over the head with a rag. “Shut your trap. I’m cutting you off for the night. Go home.”

    “So she’s not blue?”

    Go ,” he repeated, pointing at the door. After the drunk man stumbled out grumbling, the aproned man turned back to me. “Sorry about that. I swear, one of these days I’m going to give up bartending and go do something exciting.”

    I blinked at him. “Talos?”

    He nodded, then peered at me closer. “You all right? You want some water to clean up all that blood?”

    “No. I… I look for Ferazel.”

    “Ferazel? He was in here…” Talos looked thoughtful as he went back to wiping tables. “Must’ve been over a week ago. Haven’t seen him since.”

    The tavern walls seemed to close in on me. I should’ve known it was too much to hope for. Ferazel said to come if I needed help, but he didn’t say how long that offer lasted.

    “You want a drink? Food?” Talos said. “We’re out of ribs, but we’ve still got fish.”

    “Fish!” The word burst out of me. “Where? Ocean?”

    Talos shook his head. “Think the fishermen get ‘em from the river northwest of here.”

    My thoughts raced. I could get Akolin and the others, fish in the river, camp there away from scylla. We wouldn’t have to return to Cademia until spring, when we’d find the captain and sail away from this strange place. Maybe to the island where we planned to take refuge, maybe even home again.

    But first, we had to survive.

    I held out my coin to Talos. “Food?”

    “That’s a five oboloi coin,” he said. “You can buy whatever you want with it. Fish, bread, cheese, ale, wine.”

    “Bread, please. Two loaf.”

    He took the coin and disappeared into a door at the back of the tavern. I waited anxiously, trying to ignore the stares from other patrons. When Talos returned, I stuffed the loaves into my bag and the last oboloi into my purse, thanked him and hurried outside.

    I raced the moon, watching the faint glow move behind clouds. I avoided every person I saw, every noise I heard, backtracking through alleys, hiding behind bushes or fences – only to wind up back at the lamp-lit street. I swore and set out again, keeping the weight of the ocean fixed in my mind this time.

    Once I got to the shore it was straightforward, but I was so worn out already. I tore off a chunk of bread and ate as I stumbled over the shifting sand. The sky brightened over the ocean. A bird sang somewhere.

    By the time I reached the docks, it was too late. The shoreline was empty. Just rowboats bumping against the docks. Akolin and the others had left.

    I waited past sunrise to be safe, but deep in my heart I knew the truth. I was completely alone. For the first time since landing on Cythera, I allowed myself to cry.

    Talos was right, at least. Fish swam in the depths of a wide river flowing into the bay. I stood in brackish water, diverted the current and snatched up squirming fish with my bare hands. They were mostly bone and guts, but big enough to skewer over a fire.

    I fled from everything – fishermen on the bank, snapping lizards in the forest, travellers on the roads. I still felt weak, when once I could walk all day without tiring. My boots were too big around my calves. I left my hair in a braid so I didn’t have to keep brushing it. Pale blue skin emerged from under a layer of red dirt whenever I went into the river.

    The droves of fish waned. Berries dropped off branches and the forest exploded with mushrooms instead. I didn’t know how soon or hard winter would hit, but I couldn’t live on just fish, or wintersick would set in. That would be the end of me altogether. Already I had traded my cropped shirt and shorts for my long-sleeved shirt and leggings.

    I stood in a berry patch one cool afternoon, staring at the last few orange berries clinging to the branches. Back home, two kinds looked like them, one poisonous and one not. I plucked a few and rolled them around in my palm.

    “Don’t eat those,” a grating voice said.

    I reeled back into sharp branches. The berries fell to the dirt. A wrinkled woman stepped out of the bushes, a wicker basket hanging from a string around her neck.

    “You’ll regret it in the morning,” she said. “Taste good. Make you sick as anything.”

    “Thank you,” I stammered.

    She squinted at me. One eye was clouded over. “You look sprightly enough. Can you climb trees, girl?”

    I nodded. She pointed at a high leafy branch. I climbed onto a log, grabbed a lower limb and pulled myself up. My weak muscles protested, but my boots gripped the rough bark. When I sat astride the branch, I looked back down at the woman.

    “Get those leaves.” She pointed at a cluster of deep green leaves in the crook of the tree. “Careful. They’re sharp.”

    I flipped one over and saw a pattern of yellow lines on the waxy underside. I unsheathed my bone knife, carefully cut the stems and slid back to the ground.

    “Nokarem.” I pressed the fistful of leaves to my bare stomach. “Here. Pain? Yes?”

    The woman smiled, showing a mouth with half the teeth gone. “Very good. It’s used for stomachaches. We call it waxleaf.”

    I held out the leaves. “Healer? Herb… herber?”

    She chuckled as she dropped them into her wicker basket. “Herbalist. Getting too old for it, though.” She squinted at me again. “Where do you live?”

    “Here. There.” I gestured around with my knife. “Forest. River.”

    “I could make use of a youngster like you.” She tapped gnarled fingers on the basket. “Come with me today. Help this old woman gather herbs, and I’ll teach you what you can eat without dying.”

    “I help you?” I pointed between us. “You teach me?”

    She nodded. “What’s your name, girl?”


    “Girl it is. I’m Agne. Believe me, girl, you’ll be glad you met me.”

    One day helping Agne turned into two days, and then into three, until I was showing up at her little hut in the forest almost every morning. At first we went together. Some plants were what I thought they were, and it was just a matter of matching up the names I knew to Cytheran names. With others, Agne pointed out subtle differences that marked them from the ones I knew back home – the shape of a leaf that would cause skin rash, or the colour of a mushroom that was deadly poisonous. Before long all she had to do was tell me the names and where to look.

    In exchange, she gave me food and medicine. Some of the food I was hesitant about – it took days to figure out what ‘mushroom steak’ was – but I was grateful for the tea and preserved fruit that staved off wintersick. I could see my muscles growing strong again, feel my clothes fit properly again.

    Maybe just as much, I was grateful for the company. I hid whenever people came to buy medicine, despite Agne’s assurance that if anyone so much as looked at me wrong, she’d poison their tinctures with something that would leave them stuck in a latrine for a day and a night. But Agne herself was kind and hilariously crude, and never mentioned the colour of my skin or hair.

    The one thing that worried me was the dropping temperature. Frost came later than I was used to, but it was still miserable to sleep in. My fur mantle only covered my shoulders and there weren’t any native mammals I could hunt. Agne offered to let me sleep in her hut, but the place had such a constant reek of chicken droppings that I declined.

    A day after the first snow, I saw the wolf.

    We spotted each other from opposite banks of the river. I dropped my net into the water and had to scramble to get it back. The wolf slunk to the shore and lapped at the water, keeping a wary eye on me. It had a thick silvery coat, almost blue like the inside of an icicle.

    “You’re a long way from home,” I breathed. “How did you get here?”

    Half a dozen explanations ran through my mind. Swam a long, long way. Brought over on a ship. Came from an island nearby. A secret colony of wolves on Cythera. Or just an illusion cast by one of those mages Agne always talked about.

    I’d never know. The wolf finished drinking and loped back into the forest. Then it was just me, the fish and tiny lizards scampering about indignantly in the snow.

    That night, I woke feeling oddly warm. The coals in my fire had died. Frost glittered in the moonlight. I tried to get up – but everything felt wrong. My feet slid around in my boots. My skin wasn’t… skin.

    I screamed. It came out as a howl.

    My whole body writhed. Branches snagged on my fur. I could smell the dirt underneath me. I could hear everything – frozen leaves whispering, reptiles scurrying across the forest floor, water running. My ears moved of their own accord. I had a tail , a bushy tail that twitched as soon as I realized it was there.

    I’d known it was coming soon. I was almost fifteen, later than most people already. But it wasn’t supposed to happen like this. Alone, away from home, not a single person I could tell. I wondered if Akolin had attuned yet, wherever he was now.

    Through sheer willpower, I managed to turn back into my viirelei body. I gasped, craving the feeling of breathing normally, of smelling nothing except burnt wood. It didn’t hurt, but no medicine could fix the lingering sense of my limbs twisting and fur withdrawing into my skin.

    My clothes were tattered. With practice I could transform with them, but I was vaguely aware that I’d have to ask Agne for help getting something to wear. That meant either asking for ‘boy clothes,’ or giving in and wearing a dress like humans did.

    I was grateful for one thing. At least my second body was an animal I knew from my own land. Just the thought of turning into a giant snapping lizard made my stomach churn. Then as the cold settled in and I wrapped my cloak around my bare skin, I realized how much of a gift I’d been given.

    Fur. I didn’t need to hunt an animal to make fur clothes. I had my own fur now. If a wolf could survive on Cythera, so could I. All I had to do was hold out until spring.

  • Thank you for writing this chronicle! ^_ __^ It was cool to read about Katerei's past. It's sad though, she had such a hard time of it : __(

    I think you did a good job being true to the game and the early Cythera board stories ^_ __^ It was fun to reminisce through reading this story ^ ___^ The prices of food are slightly lower than in the game, but come to think of it, it doesn't make much sense that you can get a meal for cheaper than the cost of the ingredients.

    I hope we'll get to read another installment of the series later! ^_ __^

  • @breadworldmercy453_bot, on 21 July 2015 - 11:35 AM, said in The Early Days: Part 1:

    The prices of food are slightly lower than in the game, but come to think of it, it doesn't make much sense that you can get a meal for cheaper than the cost of the ingredients.

    That's what I figured; if a hot meal is 4-5 oboloi then staples like bread and fruit should be cheaper. I went with a loaf of bread being 2 oboloi each, and you can imagine it to be a small loaf if that fits better. Grapes, apples and pomegranates are all in season (the story starts in September), so that's when they'd be cheapest.

    I guess I could've asked if you had a price list for all the types of food, but ultimately it doesn't really matter. : >

  • An enjoyable callback to the old TSs and characters :) . It does a good job of showing early character development and fits in nicely with the current character.

  • Whatever did happen to Akolin and the kids? Did they swim out to sea and get eaten by scylla? Drown from fatigue? Or did they wander up and down the coast?

    Also, were the makiri her parents?

  • @avatara_bot, on 03 September 2015 - 03:54 AM, said in The Early Days: Part 1:

    Whatever did happen to Akolin and the kids? Did they swim out to sea and get eaten by scylla? Drown from fatigue? Or did they wander up and down the coast?

    They're hiding out in the wilderness somewhere. I haven't decided exactly where, or whether they'll show up again.


    Also, were the makiri her parents?

    Nope, it's the fox and crow makiri that Av sees in her house in Outcast, gifts from Nili and Fendul before she left. She doesn't have a wolf yet because she hasn't attuned yet.

  • @ikaterei_bot, on 03 September 2015 - 04:40 AM, said in The Early Days: Part 1:

    They're hiding out in the wilderness somewhere. I haven't decided exactly where, or whether they'll show up again.

    So, they've become ruffians (after all, ruffians make up 99% of Cythera's wilderness population)?

  • Well I don't think they're dumb enough to try attacking people…

  • Maybe if they get hungry enough? After a while, I'm sure they'll become bold enough to try.

  • Actually, all ruffians in Cythera are avid gardeners (as well as being adept at origami).

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