What a year this has been! In 2017, I substitute taught, tutored, started my first permanent teaching job, began posting Child of the Kaites, rewrote Child of the Kaites, joined Twitter, met amazing authors, joined Phoenix Fiction Writers, and a bunch of other things.
Today, on the final day of the year, my gift to you is the last chapter of Child of the Kaites.
Kaites right the boats.
The ocean smoothes.
And I’m crying.
“Clear back, let them land,” Drigo orders the people on our boat’s deck. He herds them back so that Savi and my axex can land. Hands help us down from our mounts. I drop Luemikaroeth.
I don’t pick it back up.
Savi gathers me in his arms, and my knees buckle. We sink to the deck and weep.
“I don’t understand,” one of the Maraians whispers. “What happened? Who was that man?”
That just makes me cry harder.
“Don’t you know your history?” Hoenna asks. His eyes are red. Hoenna wraps his arm around Liwin’s shoulders. “That was your ancestor, the ancient immortal Firstborn.”
“Firstborn?” someone says. “But they all died a long time ago.”
Nhardah, the last of the Firstborn, cursed or blessed with immortality. How could he give himself over to Aivenah?
“Quiet, before you embarrass yourself more,” Drigo snarls. His voice wavers at the end. Drigo covers by glaring at the Maraian and turning to the railing.
There’s a bang: the hatch thrown open. Everyone is watching, but I don’t care. My heart is splitting in two. I can scarcely breathe. Savi’s tears mingle with mine.
It is my latest nightmare come true. Nhardah will be taken where no human has ever survived, tormented beyond imagination for generations. There will be no rest, no relent, no salvation from any of us. Nhardah is beyond our help.
Small arms wrap around Savi and me. “Hey, it’ll be okay. We’re safe,” Yori murmurs.
Savi struggles to compose himself enough to say, “Yor, it’s Nhardah. He…the enemy has him.”
Hoenna’s nearby, whispering the story to Yorchan. She sucks in a breath. After a while, she tells us, “He’s had a long life. It’s horrible, what happened, but he did it to protect his descendents. Nhardah did it for you, Rai, Savi. He won’t suffer for long.”
“You don’t understand,” I cry. “He can’t die. Aivenah will torment him forever.”
It’s the next day before we’re able to rally. Savi and I spend most of that time huddled together, grieving. Those who knew Nhardah join us from time to time, a somber group weighed down by speechless horror. The sky on the horizon is a short band of burnt orange, and the murky water slowly clears, when I speak again.
“It should have been me.”
“What?” Savi says. He tenses beside me.
“It should have been me, not Nhardah.”
“That’s ridiculous. Rai, don’t say that.” Savi scowls.
I lean away from him and rub my forehead, which is swollen from crying. My head throbs. “It is not ridiculous.”
“I don’t understand,” says Yorchan, who hasn’t left us all night. “Why would you want to be in Nhardah’s place?”
“I don’t want to be in his place. But I should be. Aia chose me to lead Maraiah. I called Aivenah out during the battle. It was my fault he appeared to begin with.” The memory fills me with dread. I turn away from the ocean, trying to block out the blue waves.
“Oh.” Savi slumps. “It wasn’t your fault. I don’t think Aivenah was far off, not with all Maraiah in boats like we were–like we are–heading to the land of promise. He would have showed up eventually.”
There’s more, though. The thought eats at me until I voice it. “And I can die.”
Savi buries his head in his hands and shudders. “Don’t say that. Please. Rai, back in the battle, I really thought…” His voice catches. Savi clears his throat. “I thought I was going to lose you.”
I’ve hurt him, and Nhardah’s in torment, and the guilt chokes me. I don’t know what to do. But I can’t lose Savi, not now. I reach for him. When he doesn’t flinch away, I touch his arm.
Savi starts crying again, silent.
I pull him close and hold him, and my tears dampen his hair. “I’m sorry,” I whisper. “I’m here.”
Yori leaves us alone.
Savi cries, but it doesn’t last for long. Neither of us have many tears left, at this point. I hold him and whisper promises of staying even when he calms.
The sun’s burning my arms, but I can’t bring myself to care.
At length, Savi asks, “Do you really feel responsible for Nhardah?”
I can’t get the words out, but I nod.
Savi pulls back and looks right at me. “What happened with him was not your fault, Rai. The aivenkaites were going to destroy us. You did what you thought you had to do, and Nhardah did what he thought he had to do. It was his decision. Remember at the Havilim? Nhardah said he wanted to be more involved in the events of Orrock instead of sitting idly by. He did that. He got to save us all.”
I tug on my chanavea–Savi’s chanavea–around my neck. “But shouldn’t I have been the one to save us? I’m Raiballeon. You and I are the Champions. It should be us, doing the great sacrifices.”
Savi bites his lip. “Maybe Aia has something different in store for us. Maybe we’re still needed, while Nhardah’s time is over for now.”
“But what can we do that the Firstborn couldn’t?”
“I don’t know. But we can start by honoring his memory. We can start by telling his story.”
So that is what we do. In the evening, we gather all the boats as close as we can without collisions. Savi and I face our people with the setting sun in our face. In a loud voice, I tell the story of Nhardah the Firstborn.
“His story is not over,” I add. “Nhardah will not die at Aivenah’s hands. Gather together now with your families. Let us thank Aia for Nhardah’s sacrifice, and let us pray for Nhardah’s deliverance.”
Voices rise in praise and petition. Each person on my boat, even Bathatyz and Tatanda, takes their turn addressing Aia.
Aia, You have done so much for us. But the world is still not right. Remember us. Remember Nhardah.
When the prayers wind down, Yorchan pulls us aside. “The boys and I finished writing our song.”
“The one we started writing on Ira, commemorating what Aia’s done this week,” she reminds us. “Can we share it with everyone?”
We ask Yori to share it with us first. She does, and it’s far better than I would have imagined. When we call for the rest of our people to gather back together, we introduce Yorchan, Liwin, and Forziel to them.
The three of them start singing, hesitant at first. As they continue, the melody becomes clearer and rings across the water.
“We were thrown in a pit.
We were bound by chains.
The sun up above
And the whips from behind
Burnt our backs.
Our infants, they cried
And we joined in their tears.
A month went by,
They were torn from our arms,
Lost for good.
Hæ-Aia: To the one who can save.
Hæ-Aia: To Thaies far away.
Whispers in the night,
Rumors through the dark.
When all hope was lost,
Light broke forth
Blinding as the day.
Our Champions arose
To fight the Izyphorns:
Fires rose up high,
Plagues burst out,
Crops turned into dust.
Hæ-Aia: To the one who saves.
Hæ-Aia: To God, with us today.
In triumph, we set out
To cross over the sea.
With gifts, sent away,
Begged to leave—
Finally we’re free.
The Iranines were scared
And threatened us with war,
But He spoke long ago;
Tolak finished the boats
Just in time.
Hæ-Aia: To the one who saves.
Hæ-Aia: To God, with us today.
The aivenkaites burst out
And set the sea to roil.
Our boats tossed around,
Hope seemed lost,
We were near the grave.
The Champions flew forth.
The Firstborn’s voice rang out.
A pact was arranged,
Bound our enemy.
Hæ-Aia: To the one who saves.
Hæ-Aia: Thaies paves our way.
Hae-Aia: To the one who saves.
Hae-Aia: We are saved always.”
Their notes fade. We end the ceremony, hoist anchor, and continue toward our homeland. Far off, fins appear in the sea. A majestic creature leaps from the water, twists, and slips back below the surface with hardly a splash.
We will continue teaching our people about their past, about Nhardah, and about Aia. The Firstborn’s legacy will not fade. One day, by Aia’s grace, Nhardah will again walk Orrock and Aivenah will be vanquished once and for all.
For now, Aivenah and his cohorts are bound by Nhardah’s exchange. Without the aivenkaites, there’s nothing left to stand in our way.
Now is the time of Maraiah.
sigh of contentment There we have it :’) What thoughts do you have about this story? I’d love to know what your favorite moments were and any advice you have to make CotK better. Also, I’d love to hear about the good things that you experienced this year. Please share all that down in the comments.
So what’s next? I’m working on polishing up Child of the Kaites and tentatively planning to publish it this summer. There’ll be some cool extra features in the published book (like far fewer grammar problems, and also like illustrations and a map). I’m also writing a fourth fairy tale. When it’s finished, I’m planning to compile it, The Weavers’ Blessing, The Kangraffs’ Curse, and Noemi’s Dragon into a fairy tale anthology.
This blog is going to slow down a bit. I’ll periodically publish updates, poems, and maybe even short stories or writing advice articles. It probably won’t be as regular as it has been this past year, but there’s a lot of past material for you to check out.
That’s all for today, dear friends. Thanks for sticking with me through this story, and may you all have a happy and blessed new year!