posted on Apr, 4 2017 @ 11:55 AM
40 - As Good as a Death Sentence
Gaalen slept soundly, his soft breathing deep and rhythmic. Kaena lay awake, her mind spinning in circles. The Greatmoon was up high tonight, First
Moon and Second Moon had both fallen below the horizon, bathing the room in purplish light that shined on Gaalen’s chest, gently rising and falling.
She loved him more fully than anything else in her life. She knew his heart, and the pain he had been forced to endure.
At one time in her life, she had thought she wanted an estate, and a title, a handsome Lord to give her daughters to pass her legacy on to. But this
world had taken that from her.
Kaena grew up on the Milaener Estate, just around the shore of Lake Naonn from Braeghe Estate. Their maarke was small compared to Braeghe
Maarke, but it was old – older than Braeghe even. A Milaener had worked the land on the shores of Lake Naonn before Aavelae even kept
records, long before Easaera, the first Queen of Aavelae, had carved a village called Avaanse out of the forests and bogs near the mouth of the Ash
River. Milaeners were as Aavalaen as a family could get.
Lady Raea, her mother, had taken her to see the local Meioshi, Seeress Benna, when she was a teenager. She had been bitten by a kinnic as an
adolescent, and had barely survived the resulting fever, convulsions, and seizures. However, by the time she was a teenager, her cycle was too short
– only about twelve days, and her courses lasted a day, sometimes only hours. The Seeress had examined her, and done something with tamborae
– Kaena remembered the strange warmth spreading through her whole body as Seeress Benna gently touched her belly over her womb. She pronounced as
much as a death sentence that day. “I’m sorry, my Lady, your daughter will never bear children.” Kaena thought her world had ended.
Her mother had tried to console her, but it was hollow. Lady Raea changed that day. Kaena was no longer the hope of the House. She could not have
children, so she would never produce a female heir to pass the title on to. Kaena knew she could get a husband, she had been certain of that. She
was still a noble after all, and although she attached little importance to her appearance, she knew men did, and that if she tried, she could land
just about any man she sought. It wouldn’t matter if she was barren, though, she would always take second place to one of her younger sisters who
could produce a daughter.
She had gone out that afternoon into the heat of late Spring, unarmed, wearing a simple blue and white dress. There were ges’etaaken to the
southeast. Her death would have been quick, with no loss of honor for her House. She remembered climbing to the small clearing on the high hill that
marked the corner boundary between Braeghe Maarke and Milaener Maarke, hearing faint voices in the distance but paying them no mind. It
had been a perfect evening, the Greatmoon rising as the sun set. The colors in the sky were unbelievable, and for a time, she just stood and watched,
taking in her last moments. In the fading light, she sensed she was not alone. She turned, and there was her death, a slick black
ges’etaaken, the gleaming black claws on its middle legs flexing and flashing, its eyes starting to shine in the dying light.
It circled her, growling and hissing at her. They were quick and vicious, but they didn’t let their prey linger on like gith-gesaarm. Death
from a ges’etaaken was almost immediate. The creature began to settle, adjusting its hips for the lethal pounce at its prey. She stood
still, watching, strangely calm.
Its ears had perked then, and it snapped its head to the side and hissed.
“Kaena! Everyone’s worried about you! What are you doing up --”
It was Gaalen. Always Gaalen.
He hefted a short spear and attacked the ges’etaaken. “Gaalen no!”
But she couldn’t stop him. At sixteen, she couldn’t even fully control a kir yet. He stabbed the creature in one of its middle legs, then
again in another shoulder, as it snapped and swiped at him. He was nimble and muscular, a beautiful young man two years older than she was, just
coming into his full strength. The creature pounced and knocked him down, breaking the spear. She had screamed then, and that still upset her. What
a weak thing to do, when Gaalen’s life was in danger. She was not that scared girl any longer.
He had kept his legs under it when it jumped him, keeping its claws away from his belly, which was how ges’etaaken usually attacked –
slicing prey open with their middle claws, then finishing them off by tearing out their throats. He shoved hard and launched the snarling creature
backward over his head into a tree. It was dazed for a moment, giving him time to roll into a crouch and pull his knife out. Then it came back at
him and Kaena finally reacted. She might serve her House best through her death, but she refused to stand by and let that creature kill Gaalen, not
when she was the reason he was up there in the first place. She found steel inside herself that night.
She picked up a thick fallen branch and ran toward it, trying to hit its skull but instead connecting with the spines on the back of its neck. It
turned and swiped viciously at her, slicing deeply through her dress across her stomach and hip. It bared its fangs, growling and hissing horribly at
her as she brandished her pathetic stick toward it, one hand pressed to her side. She would die honorably, at least, defending the one person she
realized she actually did care about.
But there was Gaalen. Seizing the opportunity, he leaped onto its back, wrapping his arm around it with his hand under its jaw. With a savage yell,
he yanked its head back and slit its throat with his belt knife, spraying her with blood that fountained out of its artery. It spasmed and thrashed
as they both scrambled clear of its death throes.