Shadow Over Varsha ((World of Were-creatures))



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Shyla paced restlessly, her eyes closed as she made tracks in the dirt from her endless movement. She had never known such agony as the loss of her daughter. The pain made it hard to breathe and even harder to think, which was bad since it was her job to think for her clan. She'd tried flying to clear her mind but the random bouts of sobbing she found herself prone to had proved dangerous in the air. So she walked; as if, somehow, if she took enough steps, she would turn to see Aleeyah racing toward her.

From a distance, high up in one of the small trees that speckled the hills of Thyme, Rya and Karin shot one another worried looks. Karin was an eagle, huge and elegant in his ferocity. Coloured with browns and whites with shining, intelligent eyes he looked as if the bird sitting beside him would not even suffice as a snack. Rya, a dark brown sparrow, had the same intelligent eyes though her size diminished the predatory aspect most were-creatures had about them. The two birds looked back toward Shyla, their thoughts one in the same. She's not capable of facing this threat.

Kahn had called for a clan meeting, and when the Alpha called; the pack answered. Even the old and sick lycanthropes gathered around the mountainside cave used to host meetings. Khan was an intimidating man; he stood at six foot seven with hard blue eyes and short blond hair. He was built like an athlete crossed with the Hulk and his word was law for the citizens of Avens. His wife, Adeara, was the complete opposite. She stood barely over five feet with a slender build and dark eyes and hair. She was the velvet glove for her husband's iron fist but she had a will and intelligence unmatched in the pack. In fact, most of the clan would rather have Kahn angry at them than Adeara, but that wasn't much of a problem; she didn't anger easily. Today, she was fuming.

Darine paced around his Alpha quietly. He was a very average looking man but he'd spent time with all of the other clans so he was an invaluable resource when it came to information and perspective. He was also one of the pack's best fighters. When the last of the clan finally settled in, Darine stopped pacing and went to stand back behind Adeara as Khan addressed the group.

“The threat to our pack is also known with our brother and sister clans. This danger to our children is unacceptable and will be destroyed. We have been asked to send two generals to each clan in order to train their military. Each other clan will send two of their specialists to our clan, and the others, so we may best understand each other's strengths and weaknesses and thus allow us to work as an effective whole in destroying this opposition. This is what was decided at Council. As your Alpha, I expect full cooperation at all times with all clans and clan members.” He paused, head high, the worry in his eyes hidden to his pack. “I will take volunteers first and, if necessary, I will recruit any spaces not filled for those traveling to the other Clans. You may, of course, take your family with you. I would not expect you to separate from your loved ones at such a dangerous time.” And with that, Kahn stood back to allow his pack to talk and decide who would be their ambassadors.

((I will type for other clans as necessary but since we only have Thyme and Avens so far I assumed that was all we needed.))
Nilajani took a deep, slow breath in an attempt to quell her anger. For the most part she'd done as her father had taught her. She kept her mouth shut, and listened to her mother's tirade. For the seventh time this year, the woman had caught her husband and daughter practicing their flight maneuvers over the empty hills.

As usual, she had never let any indication slip that she'd borne witness to their practice until her father had left with Shaku to teach him the art of map making.

It was only when mother and daughter were alone that Nilajani's mother turned on the young woman, her eyes livid with reproach.

"How many times do I have to warn you about this Nila. Your father doesn't understand, you don't understand. For you, combat is dangerous. We don't know what your condition entails, why you came out the way you did, but Yani-Nila you can't strain your eyes - "

Her mother's eyes were pleading, now. But Nilajani's eye twitched with irritation. She had to force her lips to remain relaxed, lest they curl into a derisive snarl at the word Yani , a term of endearment Nilajani despised.

"There are many, many ways you can contribute to the clan without having to fight. You could do map making, like your brother. Become a scholar. An singer. You could even make a full profession of weaving, i know you like that. Anything but the martial profession. It relies so heavily on reflexes. You've never been as fast as the other fledglings. Your vision is too..." Her mother trailed off.

At this Nilajani had grown absolutely livid. Though shed kept her arms at her sides, her face relaxed, her fury at what her mother had been about to say must have shown through her eyes.


The word her mother had always used to describe Nilajani's vision, her flight abilities, her reflexes, anytime she strayed close to the path her mother wanted her to avoid the most. It was the only word that could cause the woman's self control to completely and utterly dissolve.

"My vision is what?"

Nilajani's voice was flat, soft. But her mother still took insult.

"Silence! Respect. You must learn respect. You have no respect for my wishes. Your father doesn't see what your doing. I tell you no, and you go to him - "

Her mother grew tearful and choked on her words. It was times like these that Nilajani wondered if her mother had lost a small piece of sanity when her uncle had died in a sparring match. A sudden, unexpected death caused by a blow to the head. His partner had not even been malicious. She was never told the whole story. The most that she'd learned from various whispers within the village was that somehow her mother had been at fault.

Her mother looked away from her to sit before the hearth.

"You have his eyes you know."

Nilajani blinked, realizing she'd been staring into empty space, and frowned at her mother, though her irritation had faded.

"My brother had the same eyes as you. Our mother knew he would be at a disadvantage from the beginning. But she believed in him. She was ready to help him achieve what ever he dreamed. So when he wanted to become a guardian..."

Her mother stared into the fire, her eyes distant.

"...She trained him. He'd go to the trainer with his peers to learn, and when he came home, our mother trained him as well. No matter how tired he was, or how much he cried, she forced him to master every technique, every weapon she could teach."

Nilajani watched her laugh, and cringed. It sounded slightly hysterical.

"I believed in him too. I was so proud. I was his sparing partner at times and...I didn't know he was going blind. I wouldn't have let him go if i'd known..."

Her mother trailed off. It was silent for a long, grim moment. The only sounds that could be heard was the occasional pop and cackle of the dry wood as it burned. It was in that moment that Nilajani finally understood.

"I'm not your brother."

Her mother's eyes lost a bit of their intensity. Nilajani sighed. She knew reasoning with her mother was nearly imposible. But she tried anyway.

"You know why i'm doing this." She said.

Her mother didn't respond.

"There are children missing. We do not decide who is taken. Or how. Or when. Shaku could be next. I've trained all my life in the event that something like this would happen. I've tried everything else. Nothing else seems to be right for me."

Her mother remained still. Catatonic. Nilajani smirked. So it was a family trait after all.

'Stop it, that's your mother.' She thought to herself.

It was only when Nilajani had come to terms with her mother's mental instability that she'd come to realize that her eyes had triggered something within her mother. Unhinged her.

She closed her eyes, forcing back the lump in her throat. She hated her mother like this.

"I'm going."

Their house was in a small glen on the far side of the valley, the boughs of the trees forming a green canopy over their home. It forced her to walk for a ways before she could reach a clearing. On her way down the path leading to the villlage, she happened to pass her father and her brother. Upon seeing her, Shaku's brown eyes lit up with joy.


She smiled, her grim mood dispersing. He ran to her and she swept him into her arms.

"Hello my Bana-Shaku." She said, using her favored term of endearment for him.

He was 9, but exceptionally small for his age. mostly to do with the fact the his were form was an Aquila wahlbergi eagle. . Shaku knew something was amiss almost immediately. He gave her a questioning look. She told him.

"Mother saw."

Shaku's smile faded. Her fathered sighed.

"Take shaku to the village for herbs. Stay away from the house for a while." Said their father.

Without further word the man wall down the path to the cabin.

For a moment, both siblings simply watched their father disappear down the path. Unexpectedly, Shaku leapt from Nilajani's arms and converted into a wahlbergi eagle.. He flew around her head in a circle, then tugged on a lock of her hair with his beak.

They did not have the gift of telepathy, but the challenge was clear.

Lets race! Play! Fly!

Nilajani smiled softly.

"Very well." She murmured. This was his way of tying to make her smile.

With a running start, she leaped and converted into the form of the darker Martial eagle.

With trilling cries of merriment the birds of prey raced to the village under the evening sun.

In the heart of the Avian Clan's territory.

Desh found himself sitting on a tree branch watching some children play. After the kidnappings, He'd taken it upon himself to try and safeguard against anymore abductions. It wasn't right for people to live in fear and anguish. Someone had to do something about it, and this was the best he could do. Sat upon his perch his soul smiled as the children played and laughed. It reminded him of a time when he was young himself and enjoyed playing with his friends, the competitions, and games. His tail flicked gently as he purred contentedly on a branch within the tree. It was nice to see them being so happy and carefree in light of the spreading darkness that was threatening to loom over their people.

Being a Kalan in the middle of Avian territory was a new experience. When the kidnappings first started the blame was immediately directed towards himself. He could understand why they felt that way about him though. He was after all a feline and hunting is in his nature. But he could never bring himself to harm a child or do something that could allow harm to fall them. He yawned and licked his lips and then groomed his shoulder for a moment with his ears sharp on the kids playing below.

play freely young ones. Fear not for we will watch over ya.

Play freely.
Karin and Rya talked together for a long time and when their decision was finally made it weighed heavily on their hearts. They called Shyla to the tree where the council typically gathered and told her of their decision. At first, she was outraged that the two of them would hold such an important meeting without her but when she admitted that she wasn't in a place to lead at the moment, she found peace in her heart.

Rya and Shyla were very close friends and out of love, Rya had convinced Karin to allow Shyla a reprieve from her duties. Karin agreed to this without hesitation, it was Rya's request that said absence wasn't revealed that he disagreed with. He believed they needed to replace the whole in their leadership but Rya knew that when Shyla had finished grieving she would be an invaluable asset to their trio. Karin offered one month before they searched for another elder and Rya agreed in return for his silence for that month. It was with this in mind that Shyla joined them for the gathering of the clan as the two elders announced who would be representing them to the other clans.

The citizens of Thyme rarely gathered all as one but word of what had been decided in council hadn't been spilled yet and so it was an expected meeting. The decision, however, was met with little acceptance. “What of our families!” Many declared, horrified at the idea of leaving their children in such a time. “You may take your family with you.” The elders responded calmly. “This is only for a small time, but it is necessary that we bond with the other clans so we may face this threat united.”

In time, all questions were answered and the crowd had fallen silent as Karin stood to announce whom had been chosen. A list of names were read, brief murmurs passing between each. And, at last, he came to the duo he planned to send to the wolves. “My son, Rayne and Nilajani.” The response to this was louder than a flock of crows settling in at sunset. Surely there were more suited Avians than Nilajani. “This decision is final.” Rya's piercing voice cutting through the uproar with a tone of finality that silenced even the largest birds of prey. The sparrow's eyes met Nila's for a moment and, if she were looking closely, she'd be able to see the hint of a smile.

“Make your preparations and say your goodbyes, you leave at dawn tomorrow.” Karin told the flock before turning and gracefully lifting into the air, transforming with each inch as if he'd shed his human form and flew out of it; a feat few could do without some sort of momentum behind them. Rya and Shyla followed, officially concluding the meeting though they knew that the crowd would probably remain to discuss what they had been told for many hours yet to come.
"And so it has come to pass... the flock flee's at the signs of darkness coming." The wise beyond hsi years Ka'aw stood leanign against a wall, his shamans staff rattling in a slight breeze. "We send those barely older than the children taken to war... we leave behind those of proven valor... our elders are slipping, or I'm getting pecimistic in my young age." he chuckeld to himself. not quietly either. SOMEONE had to have heard the black cloth swathed healer speak.
Desh watched silently from the rear with his arms folded as the announcement was about to be made by the elders for the clan at large. He tucked his small pack upon his shoulder and leaned against a nearby tree as the names were listed and everyone immediately went into gossip with their opinions and thoughts until they were silenced by one of the elders. He smiled at the exercise of discipline and control. They could have let this just breakdown into a horrible gab fest that would errode their support and cause fractures in the clans infrastructure that could break down the cohesion the Avian clan enjoyed till now. It would be a shame for that to happen to such a prestigiously intelligent clan. Given they were vaunted historians and collectors of knowledge. It made him wonder, how would he react in a similar situation with his own people? He thought for a moment and reached the exact same conclusion he came to originally. He wouldn't allow it to happen to anyone else ever again. Avian or Kalan or otherwise. Blood lines and lineages damned, he didn't care at all. What mattered to him was maintaining the now fragile and crumbling peace that everyone had grown up to enjoy. He couldn't bring himself to see a world in which war became the constant. Especially one of misunderstanding and hatred.

He stepped forward amongst the crowd tugging his pack onto his shoulder again. "If I may....I know I'm not of your people, and you've all been so graciously generous for allowing me to stay with you given our...unique differences, but I was wondering if there were objections to me traveling with the chosen? or if nothing else visiting another clan for you? This problem could eventually effect us all and I feel it's important that we all face it together instead of divided which seems to be the intent." He directed his voice to the woman, Rya was her name he believed. If memory served she lost a child as well? Or a sibling? He kept his nose out of Elder personal affairs but he knew she was somehow affected by this closely.

He remained silent as he waited for a reply. He knew he didn't really need to request permission to travel from them but if he could get their blessing it would make things easier and cause less hostility. He was afterall a bit of a traveling nomad and all he wanted was to please his hosts whenever possible.
Nilajani, at first, was surprised by Nya's choice. But then, she realized that her mother and father must be some where within the crowd. Deviously, she imagined her mother's face, frozen in disbelief, her eyes wide with horror. Her father would be able to do nothing but watch as his wife went into a comatose state. Again, she had to berate herself.

"Stop it! Cruel! Cruel to find it humorous!"

But still, despite her morality's voice, she found it to be amusing that her mother had spent a lifetime trying to convince her that she was physically handicapped, while Nya, known for her wisdom, had elected her to partake on a journey farther than anyone in her family had ever flown.

"And so it has come to pass... the flock flee's at the signs of darkness coming."

She whirled, and saw Ka'aw. A strange, mysterious character she'd never been able to quite understand. Or rather, was too afraid to. Swathed in black veils, he made an ominous figure even in the light of day. His white, seemingly sightless eyes, stared out over the crowd, and she had a strange, eerie feeling. He continued.

"We send those barely older than the children taken to war... we leave behind those of proven valor... our elders are slipping, or I'm getting pecimistic in my young age."

He let out a deep, dry chuckle, and she shivered.

"If I may....I know I'm not of your people, and you've all been so graciously generous for allowing me to stay with you given our...unique differences, but I was wondering if there were objections to me traveling with the chosen? or if nothing else visiting another clan for you? This problem could eventually effect us all and I feel it's important that we all face it together instead of divided which seems to be the intent."

This voice was younger, lighter, yet it carried quite well over the crowd. It had a light feel to it, one that almost set her off guard. She had to scan the crowd briefly before she spotted him.

He stood roughly at six feet tall, only a bit taller than herself. He had clack hair cropped just above his ears, and an olive skin complexion that was marred by various scars, yet they fit him. She could not see his face, but his posture was not proud, but rather had a courteous feel to it. She liked him.

Immediately, she responded to this by tightening her inner resolve to remain practical and impersonal. For a brief moment, her instinctive need to avoid traveling with not one but two male companions, and the knowledge that a trio was much more preferable than a duo warred with each other. But in the end, her father's wisdom which had been passed down to her won out.

With one unnerved glance back at Ka'aw, whom she decided to question later, She called out to the young stranger.

"All i ask is that you tell me your name, and I shall not object to your assistance. The lady Rya and her son, however, I cannot speak for."

Rya's eyes narrowed and a stern look fell upon the young avian woman. Slowly, she turned that gaze to the feline. “Yes. You may do as you choose with our blessing. But we are not facing this thread divided. Only a fool would think that. If we did not plan on bringing all seven clans together for this battle, why would we send our own to their homes? The point is to learn about the best way for our clan to incorporate the skills of the other clans and vice versa. We couldn't all gather together because none of us individually have enough food and housing to care for all Varshian creatures. So we are integrating slowly and in doing so we knit ourselves together. Do you understand?”

Rya sighed and glanced back at Shyla for a moment. “The loss of our children is best confronted with a united front but it takes time for such different creatures to work together. We are going to learn how to do that in the couple months where our ambassadors are with our sister and brother clans. It is in taking this agonizing but crucial time to learn one another that we become the force we need to be to get back our children.” At this, Shyla offered Rya a weak smile; thanking her for her silent affirmation that her daughter would be returned. Rya did not wait for the cat to respond; now she had explained where the elders stood, to the entire clan as well as the young stranger, she felt no need to continue conversing. It was then that the healer spoke.

At the sound of Ka'aws mockery, Karin sneered, whirling until Rya laid a small hand on his arm. “Ka'aw,” she called out, her voice resonating through the crowd. “Your ignorance echos louder than usual. We send our sisters and brothers to our fellow clans to learn and return to us. War has not even been discussed yet. However, the insult to our leadership has been heard. I will assume that your comment is, in fact, a challenge; therefore, we accept. We will meet you at dawn to fight for the right to our leadership. Unless, of course, you are willing to rescind your comment and apologize for your impertinence here, before the entire clan.”
Desh smiled to Rya for her honesty and level headedness in the situation. "I thank you. While I can't speak for the others of my people I can say from personal experince that living amongst you has been one of the better blessings of my life. Anything I can do to help keep the peace in the land and ensure that no more harm falls upon those undeserving of it will be one of my foremost goals. Be it side by side amongst your emissaries or alone speaking to others I promise to do what I can to help and recitify this situation as swiftly as possible. My skills may not coincide with you're own but I can hopefully contribute something extra to the pool of knowledge and power. "

He turned and faced the young woman who had been chosen to make her voyage. He smiled with a tilt of his head. "You may call me Desh. I'm of the Kalan, and I turn into a leopard. Not the biggest or baddest of them....but...well, I have my uses." He smiled and extends a hand outwards to her to shake. After the exchange he turns back to face Rya smiles appreciatively to her once again. It was nice to know that even though he wasn't home, he still had a place he could stay and belong. The people were nice and tolerant, even a little wiser than most. Not like the sturdy broad skilled focused Kalan. Everyone here seemed to have something they excelled at, something they did better than most. Be that a historian, librarian maybe even something of a mage. Kalan by fault of his people could do several things relatively well. It made him a pretty good survivalist and made being a nomad/wanderer a little easier. He could hunt and fend for himself. Make a shelter and keep himself warm and safe. He wasn't however very versed on Varshian history, nor was he much of academic. He'd always been more physically gifted save for perhaps competitive sports and sparring.

He tugged his pack on his shoulder and sniffed at the air casually and took all the scents in with a lazy smile. The air was warm and carried a gentle breeze which played at the womens hair. They were all pretty nice on the eyes. He wasn't much of a woo'ing mate, he felt he had little to offer. Either a fault or blessing in disguise. Either way he didn't mind. He liked to keep people at arms length sometimes. Letting someone in exposed you, and he didn't like being that exposed. The thought made him tense up and he turned it aside for something else. Like Rya's facial structure. It was smooth and slender with curves in the right places. He noticed his gaze was transfixed and he broke his focus to look away. He didn't want to look like he was staring and seem rude. With an apologetic smile he nodded and turned back to Nil.

"So then...I'll set up my camp. See you at sunrise"
Ka'aw did not skip a beat once he was berated for his words "Words pointier than any beak, and just as truthful milady. forgive me my quibbles." he said, bowing gently. " But ignorance is the privelege of youth." he smiled. " And youth is prone to abusing the privilege." His wicked smile turned into a knowing smirk. "May i offer my services in return for your forgiveness?" his words bore a strange a lofty air of mockery. His eyes stung then, at Nilajani, with a knowing glance, he whispered to her.
"see now child, how the strong conquor their demons."

"Of course." he added, spreading his black swathed arms wide in a slight bow. "Should my offer, the only apology my pride will allow me to give, NOT be good enough for your tastes...then let it be a challenge with the truth known. that my words are only as guidance... I doubt anyone could run this world better than the leaders currently on the THRONEs.... of the tribes." something was wrong with his verbage. he didn't seem to tell which side he was one... fight.. or grovel...
Nilajani looked at Ka'aw, her brow furrowing slightly.

'See now child, how the strong conquer their demons.'

Nilajani's eyes darted from Ka'aw to Lady Nya, then back again to the figure in black veils. She wondered if the council had done something against him to earn that reference. Nothing else could explain his words which seemed to taunt the elders, or placate them... She could not decide which.

She looked up towards Lady Rya, wondering what her reaction would be.
Rya seemed to float as she moved through the flock toward Ka'aw. Her people parted before her until she stood directly in front of him. Being a sparrow, she was incredibly small even in human form, but her eyes were piercing and though her voice was soft, it echoed through the entire flock. “Ignorant youth don't live much past their younger years.” She offered, holding his gaze for a long time.

When the healer spoke to Nilajani, Rya's sharp eyes narrowed dangerously. “You know not of strength, but should you continue to speak as if you have knowledge you do not possess you will know much of demons.” The threat was clear. Rya would not tolerate any member of her flock being mocked any less than she would allow the elders to be the target of such disrespect.

At his double edged apology, Rya knew she would have to react quickly or Karin, who was trembling with rage, would lose his temper. “We do not need, nor desire, the guidance of an impertinent, self-important fool.” And, before giving him a definitive answer on if his apology was accepted or not, she shifted before him and disappeared into the crowd. It was then that Karin's voice pierced the clan. “We will meet you at sunrise, healer.” And he, too, transformed and took to the air.

Having vanished from Ka'aw's sight, Rya flew back through the crowd to land upon Nilajani's shoulder. She paused there for a moment, staring at her with intense little eyes, before lifting herself back into the sky, her voice echoing through the girl's head. “I will join your family for dinner tonight. We have much to discuss.”
Nilajani, shivered slightly at the strange, tickling buzz that came with being spoke to telepathically for the first time. Then, she stared after Lady Nya, contemplative. Indeed, she was a force to be reckoned with when angered. Yet, she could help but be intrigued by what the sparrow had to say.

It was then that she saw her father headed towards her through the crowd, a soft, closed lipped smile upon his lips. Benjamin and her mother were no where to be seen. His dark brown eyes twinkled with pride.

"So, my training has made you worthy enough to be sent on the errand of a century."

Nilajani stared up at her father, the corner of her lip quirked up in a mirthless half grin.

"How did mother take it?"

Her father's smile fades. He stares at her, solemn.

"You hold much spite, Nila."

She chooses to say nothing as they begin to weave through the crowd towards the outskirts of the village. Once free of the masses. They both merge into their avian forms in an almost synchronized fashion. Two martial eagles, the female strangely boasting a larger wingspan than her father's as they ascend.

In her peripheral vision, she only just catches sight of her father taking a sudden pitch upwards with a powerful sweep of his wings. Within seconds , he was gone.

Immediately she closed her eyes, and listened to the way thermals brushed against her feathers, supported her, parted for her. Then, she reached out with her senses, tracing the feel of the air. She could feel a slight influx of pressure as the air was parting for another...

With out another moment's hesitation she thrust her rightward wing with extra force, in synch with it's twin, dodging to the side as the other martial eagle rocketed past her from above. The displaced air that pushed against her at his passing was strong enough to ruffle the feather's on her cheek.

Immediately she dived after him. She hugged her wings close to her body and let herself plummet downwards, until she was below him by half a foot.

She then snapped open her wings, and with an sudden down sweep of her wings she delivered an explosive underblow to the African eagle's chest. She made sure to hunch her back as she did so, turning her body into a makeshift fist. It was a feat that required extraordinary practice to achieve without forcefully ripping crucial muscles like her pectorals and biceps.

It was a solid blow, and her father slipped behind her, taking a brief, one foot plummet at his wings are set out of rhythm. She watches with an appraising eye as he tucks his wings to his shoulders, and then gradually spreads them, using gravity to gain momentum.

Aero combat tended to be filled with swooping recoveries and collisions strong enough to crack ribs. If the flyer was strong enough, talented, and skilled, they could train themselves to even damage larger animals with little or no harm to themselves. Something her father had taught her to combine with her telekinesis.

She kept track of him as he made a large, diagonal ascent, circling her at a full 360 degrees once he was 20 feet above her. Then, he made another plummet towards her, this time coming up on her right. To dodge with an down swipe of her wings, which would lift her upward, would only serve to put her in his path.

So she waits until he is a hand's width from her right wing before she folds it, letting her body roll upon the current of air that he displaces at he jets past her.

She holds the spiraling roll, then carefully spreads her wings to cut through the air to swoop left, beating the air wings and she catches the other black eagle with the speckled white underbelly. When she draws close, she quickly ascends so that she is above him. With a push of her wings, she launches herself forward, and upon passing above him she uses the small buds of her feet, carefully keeping her talons erect to nudge his head and neck downwards, pushing him into a forced, frantic plummet.

Yet when he recovered to fly beside her, his eyes were twinkling with excitement, and mirth. Her made a swift veer to the left, and she half expected another attack. But she was mistaken.

She spotted their cabin between the foliage of the trees.

She followed her father, and upon reaching the ground transformed into her human form, her arms shaking. A simple after effect of the usual strain it placed upon her wings to practice the ariel maneuvers.

"You did well."

Her father was smiling at her again. Then, his demeanor changed.

His head snapped back towards the house, suddenly alert, his dread locks almost hitting her full in the face.

Then he was sprinting towards the cabin, his powerful limbs propelling over through the woods, down the path. Nilajani quickly follows him, confused, anxious. She'd never seen him act like this. Then it hit her.

He was an empath, and he shared a strong bond with her mother.

Something was terribly wrong. She began to panic. Somehow she knew, yet she wanted to deny it with every fiber of her being.

She arrived at the cabin to find her father standing at the doorway of the cabin, so still that she could not even she him breathing. The cabin's interior was pitch black.

She felt a wave of foreboding sweep through her as she slowly came to stand beside her father. At first, she can not see anything. But quickly, her eyes adjust.

When they do, she wished that she were blind.

Her mother was sprawled before the hearth in a pool of blood. A tarnished dagger was gripped limp within her fingers. She was motionless, her eyes staring up at the ceiling, lifeless.

Nilajani could not comprehend what she was seeing. Had her mother fallen upon the knife? Cut herself by latching it in her belt?

She walked closer towards her mother's body. So much blood. Then, she sees the gaping gash on her mothers neck. A choking smell of iron, rust, and salt made her wretch, and her covered her nose and mouth to try and keep from vomiting. She knew the smell would haunt her forever. That's when it became real. A riveting realization sent a nearly crippling wave of shock and despair through her.

Her mother had slit her own throat.

She fell to her knees, her eyes wide, the acid burn of grief making her throat constrict, and she swallowed in order to be able to breath. She reached out to caress her mother's face, her hands trembling violently, and her breath came out in a short sob when she realized that her flesh was still warm. Her skin was still a chestnut brown, her delicate features composed in an expression of peace.

She wished that, more than anything, she could shed tears. Anything, anything, to soothe this crippling pain within her bosom, this burning, aching, gut twisting agony that tore into her heart like an iron blade.

She plucked her mother's fingers from the dagger and entwined them with her own, holding her mother's hand and holding it to her cheek. Another wave of grief rocked through her when she realized that she'd not let her mother do so in years. Hadn't touched her mother in months. She'd held spite in against her for her faults, mocked her, despised her.

And now she was dead. She looked back on her earlier perception of her mother, and was filled with self loathing.

"Why did she do this? Did i cause this?" She thought to herself.

As she laid her mother's mother hand gently upon the floor, she started searching for signs of Benjamin. She ran through the house, desperate, searching every where. In her state of delirium, she hoped that perhaps, he was hiding from her. But it was a small house, with only three bedrooms. She let out small, distressed whimpers, something she'd never done before.

He was gone. Benjamin, her mother, both gone.

Half her family. Gone.

Her world seemed to turn in on itself. She fell against a wall, and slid down to the floor, the world growing steadily dimmer as her grief, her panic, her self-loathing all drained away into a dark, vacuum like void within herself. She vaguely saw her father's silhouette, but clearly felt his strong arms scoop her up as if she were a child again.

She stayed motionless when he set out in front of the cabin. She could not turn to look at him, could not move. She was forcing herself to breath, and it took all of her will power to do so.

She vaguely heard her father go about lighting a fire as the sun began to fall, then sitting flush beside her, one of his large arms draped over her shoulder like a heavy blanket.

Her silver eyes reflected the light of the calm dusky evening, then later on the amber fire as she retreated into herself, her stare as vacant as stone.

Both of them waited, silently for the Lady Rya, neither one wishing to set foot inside the blood stained cabin that had once been their home.
With nothing more to say to anyone else and no need to be spoken to Desh took his leave of the group and set up camp in his customary spot on the outskirts of the Avian clans village.
Ka'aw disappeared intot eh alley, a angered look on his face. " Damn... thsi was not in my plans... not yet... i cannot reveal my strengths yet." he said to himself once he was home. the countless animal skulls and stained parchments papers all around were of no comfort tonight. tonight he wished he had done more to be prideles. " damn... DAMN!" he scoweled agian, his arm smashing the wooden table, a large crack spewing black trails of moldy vapor spewed forth and he clenshed his fist, tryign to hold back the rage. " Demons... they all devised this to appoint me.. me, the strongest child of my clutch. me the most skilled craftsman of lore they have known, me, the healer they all coem to in their weakest hour...

But wait.. perhaps... losing tommorow.. hmm... can i do it without death? perhaps pridelessness really IS the answer." he chuckled to himself now, laughing heartily as his rage dissipated, and the skulls on the table and adorning the walls schattered away, teeth grinding and eyesockets lighting up with ethereal flame.

"I will fool them all!" he chortled, retreating to the top floor of the healer stuy, he cast his staff of dreamcatcher, feathers, and fur intot he sky and twirled the clouds with ephemeral perception, binding the wind to his call but for a moment, a moment to make the morning wind... hazardously void... doldrums of nonexistant air current were only the strongest wings could fly.

Varsha was plunging into darkness... Ka'aw couldn't have a shadow larger then his cast ... now could he?
Rya felt the wave of grief wash over her and she was torn between racing to support her flock members and allowing them time to grieve in private. For better or worse, the decision was made for her when Karin informed her of his acceptance of the healer's challenge. Though she knew his impudence could not be ignored, she suspected he had more tricks up his sleeve than she let on and had no interest in fighting him. As Karin and Shyla spoke aerial strategy, Rya found herself growing impatient. Finally, she joined the group and said in a soft voice. “We can bet that he will not fight respectfully, so why should he. Here is my plan...”

Half way through discussing the alternative plan of attack, Shyla scowled. “Rya...” “I know.” The sparrow answered shortly. “I must go to her.” And with that, she transformed, her clothes tucking away into an unknown space; a skill the Avians had mastered that a few of the other clans had not yet even discovered, and left through the open window. Though sparrows were amazingly agile, they were so small that their speed didn't matter as much when flying distances so it took nearly half an hour for Rya to reach the small, dark house. She approached on silent wings and shielded her thoughts, sweeping around to the back of the house so she could enter through a cracked window without being noticed; she wanted to understand the situation she was entering.

She smelled the copper and acrid cloud that indicates death before she saw anything, but it wasn't until her eyes adjusted that the true horror of the situation hit her. She felt as if she'd been drenched in ice water, her tiny body trembling and chilled to the bone. Nila... It took a moment for Rya to get her body working again, but she circled in a large loop around the house so it appeared as if she'd come from in front of them. Releasing the binding that hid her presence, Rya flew to the edge of the firelight and transformed, her forward approach becoming steps; motion never stopping. She fell to her knees before the two and grasped their hands in turn, lifting their knuckles to her forehead as a sign of sympathy and grief.

She whispered when she spoke, as if the slightest sound would shatter the silence that preserved the couple. Her eyes held Nilajani, for though her father was grieving the loss of his family, this was his daughter's choice alone. I have two questions. The first you must consider but answer quickly. The second I fear I know the answer to, but I am hoping you can prove me to be incorrect.” She paused, settling back before them until she appeared to become as much a part of their space as the fire. She projected soft waves of calm acceptance and serenity; not enough to be noticed as anything other than the feeling of relaxing. It would be as if her presence were an anaesthetic for their hearts; one of her countless abilities.

“Nilajani, my first question is this: Are you still willing to represent our people in the face of another clan as is the mission I have charged you with? There will be no repercussions should you refuse.” She paused, long enough to allow the question to settle but not allowing the time to reply, she wanted to allow the woman some time to think. “Secondly, where is your brother?”

Shadows gathered across the plains the Avians called home causing Karin and Shyla to watch in distress. The waves of evil washing around their home stole their breath and left their lungs chilled. “We should call for Rya.” Karin told Shyla, his eyes dark with worry. “No. Nila needs her. Give her time. She is wise and will know what to do.” The male elder's jaw clenched but he nodded, differing as usual to the female elders. After all, they each had their talents and he was not fool enough to believe his was wisdom. He was also the newest of them and even after twelve years he was still learning. What he did know was that Rya was the most incredible woman he'd ever met. He never felt anything for her more than the utmost respect and a deep level of closeness akin to that of siblings but she was a power to behold. It was as if the maker of all had taken the willpower and intelligence of the world and squeezed it into a tiny little sparrow. Indeed, she would know what to do. He just hoped she would do it soon...
Nilajani looked at the Lady Ryla, feeling the continuous, painful pulse in her chest. She felt as if it hurt to keep her heart beating. It was hard to breathe, each breath taking a conscious effort. At first, she wanted to speak.

But strangely, the ragged pain seemed to dim down to a dull ache, and a strange sort of serenity over took her. Like balm to a wound, the Lady's presence soothed her, allowing her to pry her self out of her frozen state.

Yet still, even then, her grief was great.

She tried to summon up the will to project her voice, and failed twice, each time choked off by the lump her her throat. Her father remained silent through this, cradling her in his arms tightly as if she will be the next light snuff out in his world. It is only when he give her a gentle squeeze on her arm that she finds the strength to speak.

"I will only go on this journey if you allow my father to accompany me. I can not leave him behind. Not after this."

Her voice was unrecognizable to her own ears. She had to take another two breaths before she could answer the final question. When she speaks, she can only whisper.

"And Yes. Benjamin is gone."
Rya nodded, a soft smile touching her lips. “Of course, my child. I would have allowed you to bring your entire family should you have chosen so. For you are my personal candidate,” A light that didn't seem as if it reflected from the fire touched her eyes. “I am sending you with my son, after all.” She settled in, continuing to project a warmth like the soft caress of the firelight into the hearts of the two before her. “I, also, would accompany you if it were possible. In truth, I may yet...depending on the outcome of the battle.” Casually, she indicated the shadows swirling dangerously above them. “Ka'aw is under the impression that we underestimate him. The truth is the opposite. But we shall keep it this way.”

When she heard the news about her brother, a sorrow filled her eyes and her calm projection flickered for a moment before she controlled herself. “He is still alive. I can feel these things, Nilajani. All of our children are still alive. We will find him.”

She allowed a few moments for what she had said to sink in before retrieving two small amulets. One appeared to be a simple dream catcher like design, this she handed to the young woman's father. It was infused with her magic and would allow the same calming affect she was giving now. Very gradually tapering off so he had time to process the situation before the grief clouded his thoughts. The second, much more complicated amulet, she handed to Nilajani. “Wear this at all times.”

This amulet also eased the pain of loss though the effect lasted longer than the other one. This dream catcher however, had a dark stone in the middle that, if one looked carefully, appeared to have a tongue of bright blue flame in the centre; living flame. When Nila would put it on, she would feel as if a web of strength would spread though her, enhancing her senses and reflexes phenomenally. Powerful magic.

“Consider this a parting gift from us.” And, with that, Rya stood and shifted into the form of a tiny sparrow, wings beating the air to propel her up. In the silence of Nilajani's mind, her voice would echo softly. “Please check in with me before you leave.”
The next morning, Nilajani awoke to find herself upon the bough of a tree. There was no muddled confusion upon awakening. As the martial eagle, her mind was acute and quick. She spread her wings, having them poised and ready for flight before she spotted her father upon a higher branch, a small way away from hers. He was still asleep.

She flew up to perch herself beside him and woke him with a gentle nudge of her beak. He opened his golden eyes sluggishly, staring about disoriented before locking his eyes on her own. Despite this, he seemed to be content almost. Calm.

She surmised that it had much to do with the lady Rya's gifts. She gave him two quick bobs of her head, signaling that it was time to leave. He only responded by spreading his wings, and she followed him close behind.

It was dawn, and upon approaching their appointed meeting spot she spotted a figure beneath a lone tree on a low hill. She looked at her father, nodding her head for him to go meet their traveling companion. He clicked his beak in a motion akin to irritation, but flew down to the tree, too weary to protest.

Nilajani stowed away the sight of the meeting place into her memory before she turned to search out the lady Rya, remembering her parting words the night before.

It took her a while before she found her. The small sparrow was perched on a tree, and it watched Nila as she flew to stand beneath the tree branch, converting into her human for before speaking softly, having a bit of difficulty locating the small bird with her human eyes, her sight by far less acute in the light of dawn. Something about the twilight confused her senses this morning.

"You wished to see me, Lady Rya?"
The meeting place for the duel was a wide open stretch of grass tucked into the alcove of a large rockface. open on three sides, the area had served as an arena for the avians since times untold. so much so, that names of those victorious in battle had been etched into one of the sides of the stone, and the rock had been enchanted, ( though mystical in origin before then) to never be worn by the passage of time. immortal meadow, and eternal place of conflicts resolution. The rocks had plants frowing out of them sparsely, and the top of the rock was littered with memorial statues, and ancient ribbon decorations, tattered, but unmoved by the decades of tiem they had spent in the weather. A small congregation had already arrived, some prayed, others threw bets, but the feeling of tension was on the rise as the sun crested above the rock, all shadows slowly being removed as dawn turned into day.