Disclaimer: I apologise in advance for any spelling/grammar - this is an entirely unedited Work In Progress and therefore my dyslexia will be on full display. ^_^; If I publish this, I'll get it edited, but for now, enjoy the very, very first rough draft - let's have fun!
Just take the first step. Begin the journey. Let the path forward make itself.
Otherwise, you may never leave the comfort of today.
And tomorrow will remain forever unknown.
The sword hissed by Tyrin’s ear. With a twist he glided past the swing, allowing his bare foot-paws to carry him back as his twin tails balanced his strides between the weapons’ twirls. He had missed the dance. Being able to read an opponent’s features, the way their eyes betrayed subtle little strains and stresses that he could pounce upon. Perhaps the tensing of muscles just under the hip that pulled on fur around an old injury he could agitate to his advantage.
If an opponent’s behaviour, their outward actions could be read, then his craft need not be activated to its full extent, and therefore, he could weld the blade most empaths loathed to touch.
His blade, an extension of his arm, that he could feel with a vibrating tone in his mind, counteracted his opponent’s strikes. Each collision sent a spark through his craft, cracking his mental walls, making him flinch at the physical manifestation of the pain marring his body. It would require time and mediation to repatch his protective shields. Though he had trained for combat, though he had forced muscles beyond their endurance time over time, nothing could prepare a crafter for the pain of battle. Emotions and thoughts would always bled through even the strongest mental armor, worse than any blade to his skin, and the distraction was devastating when in combat. He knew the dance though, through countless hours of vigorous training, and willingly committed himself to a final strike. He slammed his paw into the side of his opponent, striking at an old war-wound. The elder female reared backwards from the thrust. Taking the moment of imbalance, Tyrin coiled forward his blade, sliding it down his opponents and forcing the full weight of his far slighter body into a vice grip around the pulsing throat muscles. With a shout Tyrin swung them both and they landed roughly on the ground in a plume of dust.
“I am not the one who must yield, cub.”
Tyrin froze stiff, growing aware of the buzzing dagger pressed into his neck, nestled beneath his sensitive tone glands.
“You are still letting your craft fight for you.” The elder rumbled a low chuckle. “It distracts you.”
Tyrin released his kopia. Growling with frustration. “I was so sure I had you!”
His kopia jumped up with too much of a spring for an aging litin. She dusted off her heavily feathered tail, and he glimpsed the dangerous poison spikes buried therein that she had not welded. He had none—he was not born of the Warrior Pride—his mutated twin-tail was for speed, his horns delicate and small, his body sleek and tiny. But his kafa’s sister, queen of the Warrior Pride, had been born for ground combat. His falathra often snidely commented that kopia was like the ancient tanks left in the wastelands; thunderous, heavy, strong and obsolete. Such comments often earned his falathra a fierce tongue lashing from kalathra.
Nothing about his kopia was obsolete, but falathra had remained painfully sore about never being welcomed into the Warrior Pride, though he never admitted such a thing aloud—a crafter did not need to speak for such resentment to be as obvious as a wet coat.
“If it is any consolation, despite your long stint away at the University, your skills have not diminished too much.” Kopia’s neck feathers puffed proudly as she ruffled his hair. She was the only one who could treat him thus without him taking offence, for she had at least respected him enough to take him on when he had begged her, bowed low on the dirt, sobbing—please—please—make me stronger. It had not been pity that he had seen in glinting in her eyes that day, long past, but deep sorrow. He had lost his brother, and with such a happening, his parents had lost two sons. One to death and the other to the poison of fear.
Tyrin’s ears perked up in relief at her positive comment. He climbed to his foot-paws, patting out dust from his kilt. “So, you’ll still sign off on my weapons test then?” He glanced at the sword by his foot-paws, reaching for it and twirling it skilfully. His kopia caught his wrist in an overpowering grip, taking the blade from him. Even without a craft, he could see how torn his kopia was. He had asked much from the leader of the Warrior Pride. To train a crafter in the Ways of the Warrior was taboo, and he knew his kopia had only done so out of love for a blood.
“I do not agree with what you are doing, Tyrin. I think it is a foolish endeavour. Your actions bring such pain to my sister…to us all…a part you is being selfish in this, you know that, do you not?”
Tyrin bowed his head. “I know.” He had not spoken to his kalathra in over a full rotation, and even then, their parting words had been one of anger and bitterness. That was the note he was leaving his home with. It left a foulness in his mouth to know she had no desire to reconcile with him—and he with her.
“You cannot change the traditions of an Empire overnight, and you know how deeply engrained litins are in our traditions.”
“I know.” Tyrin gathered his cursed twin tails against his chest. “But the very fact that crafters are alive at all prove that traditions change, all it takes is one pebble…”
Kopia sighed, massaging her scalp with a claw. She gripped a horn, tipping her head to one side. He could sense the unease rolling off her in aching, palatable waves. She did not want to cause pain to her sister, and yet, a small little ball inside her was curious.
What if he could? What if he could change things—then even those born with crafts in her Pride would not need to leave in shame.
“Please, kopia. I need my licence. I cannot do this without it. Fafa can forged my papers but…not this one…”
“I know, cub, I know.” She repeated his phrase, mimicking his aspirated tone.
His blade was handed back to him in its shortened form.
“I do not know what good it will do for you in the long run though. When it comes down to it, Tyrin, you crafters simply cannot fight.”
“I am your blood. You have been sparring with me most of your life. It will be a very different story when you are faced with those who truly mean you harm. That will be the true test of your spirit.” A paw was placed on his shoulder. He felt the weight of it; weight, and power.
“I will send your credentials along.”
Tyrin’s tone-glands puffed out in a vibrant show of green and blue. “Thank you, kopia!”
“Go. Go.” He was clapped heavily on the back, sent stumbling towards the dressing rooms. “I have more classes to teach. Get out of here. Find your answer in the stars, cub.”
The great metropolis of Yin shimmered in the twilight. Hanging lanterns cast dancing light across the canals and high aqueducts, wherein slow-moving boats or the faster paced speeders moved litinians throughout the city. There was a constant hum that Tyrin’s ears had long become accustomed to, and beyond that, a layer beneath the noise; the combined emotional swell of an entire city filling his tone glands with reverence for a deep sweet, favourable harmony. He would miss this incredible sensation of standing on the crux of a powerful, building wave with nowhere to send the energy. He was alone upon the lookout, in the red glow of the gradually darkening sky. But slowly the invasive cold—a bitter emptiness—crawling as ice through his veins—eased as the steady warmth of kindred affection approached, like the great winds of the Tandamine Deserts their Pride Castle Lands were nestled against. He acknowledged his falathra with a smile. Their minds met in a low hum of greeting. Falathra’s mental shields were down, his emotions raw and exposed. Tyrin blinked back his tears. His tone-glands stung from the invisible wounds. Over dried lips his tongue quickly licked, trying to dispel the taste of blood dribbling down this throat as the echoing memory of the shipyard’s desolation invaded his own mind.
That day—that day had altered his falathra. It had torn a hole through him that he had never managed to piece back together. Not even kalathra had healed it with all her skills in mind-healing. There was such shame, guilt, and bitter self-loathing within his falathra that it was too dangerous a symphony for his far too inexperienced craft to even attempt to unravel. Knots upon knots had gathered into a tight, black, tarry ball that none could ever hope to heal. It festered and poisoned him, gradually, over the cycles, weaking a once mighty craft.
Falathra leant wearily on the banister, the slight wind catching on the grey tinge of his braids and gills. When had his falathra aged? It had happened without him even noticing, rotation after rotation, the gradual etching of time being chipped away into the large litinian’s form.
Tyrin shifted on his foot-paws, casting his gaze to the shipyard across the city. It had been rebuilt, almost as a defiant testament to the will of litinians. Somewhere his brother’s name was on a memorial in the main auditorium. Since that day their Pride had not returned to the spaceport, for they had all felt the death of Zydra and like a lingering curse it had tainted them. Without truly noticing it they had become ever more recluse, and ever more planet bound.
And he was attempting to break free.
Tyrin breathed in deeply.
If that day had not happened, he was quite sure that he would now be applying to follow his father and kalathra, and all his bloods, in the set roles society had built for crafters; a diplomat, a peacekeeper, a negotiator. The streets of their great cities were kept in calm harmony because crafters made it so. Not since the War of Unification had there been a skirmish amongst the Prides, and it was all due to the work of crafters, loitering in the shadows, carefully keeping a marginal balance.
Well, in a manner of speaking, you are following our paw-steps.
His falathra’s tone rested gently in his mind. Tyrin gave a wiry smile. He had been broadcasting. He swung on the banister as though he were a cub.
I suppose so.
It is simply that none has considered the possibility that a crafter would be useful in space.
Oh, come fafa, we both know the possibility has been considered. Tyrin slouched back, staring up at the reddening sky, watching as several cargo-liners slowly climbed their way through the atmosphere. And we both know why it became taboo.
The heaviness rested between them as they jointly recalled the lingering ancestral pain. There was something about space—about the emptiness—about the void—the absolute lack of a tone a crafter could latch onto that drove a crafter to madness. After several instances’ centuries ago, no mature crafter was permitted beyond the First Moon.
And he was about to break that law.
Tyrin breathed in deeply.
“So…” he spoke aloud. “Did you…organise my placement?”
For awhile falathra was silent, watching the ships leave the port, their hulls glistening in the evening light. “There has been talk recently on the Joint World Council…”
Tyrin glanced around, a habit he had picked up from his stint at the university when trying to blend in with non-crafters. Though he knew there were no other litins around, the moment his falathra mentioned the high-profile nature of his position he was compelled to check their surrounds.
“Talk about what, exactly?”
Falathra’s thought patterns had grown jumbled—cluttered—unorganised. His gaze shifted to the darkening sky and the faint stars beginning to flicker in the velvet blanket over the ocean.
“The stars are vanishing.” Falathra murmured, “And none of us can figure out why.”
The insidious ice within Tyrin’s veins had become a part of his life, he had learnt to exist with the feeling, yet every so often it would rise to the surface like an invasive parasite—and suddenly—with his falathra’s words—it was there, hackling his fur as he shivered.
“That’s impossible…” he whispered.
His falathra nodded slowly. “Which is why the Litin Empire has been asked to send forth an expedition to the Frontier.”
Tyrin managed a weak laugh of disbelief. “Father, that’s…that’s a five-rotation journey.”
“I suggest you pack light.” There was a hint of jealousy—just a hint—in his falathra’s tone.
“Wait.” Tyrin touched his chest. “You…you got me a spot? How?”
“Captain Runeadine is an…old…acquaintance…” Falathra eased away from the banister. “Through her, I have worked to provide you with credentials, but, if you are discovered, she will deny all knowelage and involvement.”
“I see…” Tyrin rubbed an ear. Five rotations. This was not what he had expected.
“However, you are not going in wholly alone. You may have a shield. If you…accept it…”
His tense shoulders eased a little and he looked to his falathra in hope.
“It is Runeadine’s place to explain.” Falathra reached for his arm, firmly squeezing. “Tyrin, what you are attempting to do could very well have you imprisoned by the Military Pride, at the worst they will execute you. I cannot stress enough that you must trust the contact aboard the Celetris, no matter what your initial reaction may be.”
“I understand, Fafa.”
There was a serious tone of concern underlining his falathra’s mind.
“Fafa, I understand.” He insisted.
“No. You do not, but you will.”
Falathra tugged out a hologram slate, hesitating before he handed it over. “These are your new credentials, thank your kopia if you speak to her again.”
Tyrin frowned curiously at the holo-slate.
“I am in the Science Division? Ship’s Counsellor? Seriously…” He scratched an ear again. “Fafa…I…I…am not kalathra…”
“You are more like her than you give yourself credit.”
He was not entirely sure how he felt about that assessment, despite how honest of an appraisal it was from his falathra.
“But why the Ship’s Counsellor?”
Falathra waved a paw. “It will be made clearer when you get onboard.”
“Wait, wait, it has me down as kopia’s son. Kopia does not have cubs, she has never taken a mate.”