An Unfolding Tale

an experimental fantasy fiction by M.D. Ward

The Remnant’s Hand Ki-Kala

His name had once been Yin-Jarah, in the time before the Sundering. Like Ki-Kala, he had been a wyran, a spirit of the air. There had never been another who could match the speed and grace with which he rode the currents of Vin Tiraseya, or anywhere else in the world. Once, he had been called the Glory of the Skies by his people; now, the treacherous wretch was known only as Crayvan, the Apostate. He was the Remnant’s hand, her most trusted weapon—if she was truly capable of trust at all—and some said her most favoured lover.

Ki-Kala set her jaw in grim defiance.

“That was an impressive stroke, my dear,” said the Apostate. “Using the forest’s own currents against me. You remember your lessons well.”

“If you’re looking for praise, Crayvan” she replied, “then look elsewhere.”

“Ah! Time has done nothing to dampen your spirit, I see.”

“What do you want?”

“Only to see your face, my dear. It took me a long time to track you down, you know. I was beginning to fear that perhaps you were hidden behind that damnable shield they’ve set to keep us out of the Homeland. But I knew you wouldn’t be there. You’re too free spirited to live behind a coward’s wall.”

“I’m here because the Vanarch asked it of me,” Ki-Kala retorted.

“Is that so? Well that is good to hear. I seem to remember a time when you were only to willing to defy his orders.”

“They were not his orders, even if they did come from his own lips. We all did what needed to be done.”

“The Qualarch has a long memory, dear one,” said Crayvan. Ki-Kala did not miss the threatening undertones in his strange and unfamiliar voice. “She has not forgotten the role you played in her banishment.”

“Let the Remnant remember, then. I would do it again, a thousand times over.”

Anger flashed across the Apostate’s face. “Perhaps you will not be so bold when you stand before her. Her anger has only grown stronger over these seven hundred years. She tells me that she has been devising a number of delightfully painful punishments for those who forced her imprisonment.”

Ki-Kala fought the shudder that threatened to run through her entire body. She refused to show any sign of fear or weakness, but she also knew that if the Remnant ever did catch her, she would be screaming for death long before it ever came.

“I can spare you that suffering,” continued Crayvan, reaching out with one filthy hand. “I can convince the Qualarch to spare you. There will be enough others upon which to satisfy her wrath. Come with me, Ki. Join with me, as we once were. We can be great together, holding positions of prominence and power when the Qualarch comes and remakes this wretched world.”

Although she knew she would never admit it to anyone but herself, for a moment she was tempted. She had loved Yin-Jarah, had loved him more than anything else in the world. Was it possible? Could they be together, even after everything that happened? The very thought made the winds of her heart blow harder and faster. She found herself starting to reach for his outstretched hand.

And then her eyes fell on the wound at his side. Though mostly closed, a faint cloud of darkness still lingered there. Yin-Jarah is dead, she reminded herself. He died the very moment he bound himself to her. To the Remnant. Fresh anger coursed through her, and with it the painful sting of betrayal. It felt as fresh and as raw as the day he had first come to her, making this same exact offer.

She had not accepted it then. She would not accept it now.

“No,” she hissed. “I will never serve the Remnant, Crayven.” She spat the name, just as though it had left a foul taste in her mouth. In a way, she supposed it had.

“How very disappointing. I will offer you only one more chance, dear one. The next time we meet, you will join us or I will destroy you. Think of that as your watch over your precious human.” As he turned away, the black winds began to stir again, surrounding him in a shroud of roiling darkness.

“Where is she, Crayven?” Ki-Kala demanded. He paused. “Where is the human girl?”

“Where she needs to be. She is safe, I assure you.”

“What do you want with her?”

“You speak as though you don’t already know. If you that is true, so much the better. If not, your deceit is without purpose. She is no concern of yours.”

“I’ll be the one to decide what concerns me,” retorted Ki-Kala.

“As you wish. But I warn you, do not try to find her. Her guardians have already been warned to watch for you. Goodbye, Ki. I truly hope that our next meeting will have a more pleasent outcome.” With that, the winds came up in one great gust and the darkness bore the Apostate’s human form away.

When the shadows dissipated, Ki-Kala stood as frozen as a statue, gazing into the quiet emptiness of the Fellwood. Her heart ached with that too-familiar pang of regret, but she ignored it, even as she knew she would ignore Crayven’s final warning. Even if the human girl’s guardians—whoever they were—had been warned to watch for her, even if they knew she was coming, Ki-Kala would still seek the girl out.

She would not be able to live with anything less.

Eventually, the wryan turned back towards her den, dropping the shield with a single thought. To find the girl, she would need help. The human would be useful, certainly. With the sheer power he had displayed against the Urophex, he would be a valuable ally. But will he help? Ki-Kala knew that family ties could be strong among the humans. They were certainly stronger than her own. But how far would this man go to save his sister? Would be be willing to risk the dangers that would await him?

There was also the problem of the human’s apparent confusion at his own abilities. She remembered his inexplicable reaction when she told him that he had been the one who killed the Urophex. She remembered how his eyes had widened with a mixture of bewilderment, astonishment and fear, and how he had looked so long and hard at the strange metallic band that he wore around his wrist.

Ki-Kala’s own gaze fell upon that band as she entered her den. The human was burning up again, shifting restlessly and muttering in his sleep. Whatever dreams filled his slumbering mind, they did not seem pleasant. She quickly applied another layer of cooling water, then knelt beside him. Lifting one hand, she turned her attention on the metal band.

At first glance, there did not appear to be anything special about it. The craftsmanship, though plain, was of exceptional quality and the four amber stones were of rare purity. Beyond that, however, it seemed to be little more than an unattractive ornament. It was only when she looked deeper, beneath the material properties that she found the familiar currents. Realization struck so hard that she dropped the man’s hand and nearly leapt to her feet.

This band had not been wrought by human hands at all. It was the work of her own people, radiating with ancient, Quiliani magics.

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