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Muer'Khista Ch.1

by Kimberlain O'Driscoll, MBA, M.Ed 5 months ago in Series · updated 5 months ago
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A young elf with mundane magical ability discovers she inherits a powerful bloodline ability. Is it a gift or a curse?

Ch. 1 The Thinking Spot

Tre’Leigh Esha sat on a large flat slab of shale, poking at a clump of moss with a dry twig. She could hear the Kasii River for which her village was named as it flowed below her in the distance. Maple, birch, and fir provided a curtain from below, hiding her from others in her village. The massive wall of fractured rock which broke through the mountainside behind her, sheltered the small nook and the stone she sat on. She called this place her thinking spot.

She was elven; a Silen to be more exact. Silen weren’t of one race of elves, but a communal group made of many. Tre’Leigh was among the smaller number with dark skin. Her contrasting silver hair, like that of her parents betrayed some element of Grey in her family tree but nobody had memory of it. Her sister Liandrin’s cascading red locks and even darker complexion told of another deep family secret that wasn’t discussed among polite company.

Tre’Leigh had been up here for days. It wasn’t the first time she stayed out and slept under the stars, but for the first time she was considering not going back home. It wasn’t that her parents were cruel. Quite the opposite. She loved them deeply and they loved her. Her sister was almost her best friend. Yari however was her best-best friend and Shannon too, with her sister Liandrin being close behind.

No, Tre’Leigh was planning to run away because she couldn’t face the shame. She had been enrolled in a school that all children her age went to. They were taught magic and how to use the sword and other weapons such as the mataar, a bladed short staff. Each year she and the other children were tested to see how well they progressed. She did well with weapons but showed almost no improvement in her ability to wield kuja, the magical force by which all things exist.

Her sister Liandrin was by contrast very gifted and soon to graduate. She would become a Kujatai, a mystical warrior. Kujatai were revered among her people. They were the protectors and always had marvelous adventures. Tre’Leigh’s parents were not well gifted in kuja. Her father used his limited skill to make glass steel, a material used in the forging of superior armor and weapons. It wasn’t really made of glass, nor was it steel. Only an exceptional craftsman willing to devote their life to this art was capable of such work. Her mother was a weaver and used her meager control of kuja to form intricate designs. Sometimes her mother would weave the glass steel her father made into a filigree that was prized throughout the nine houses. Tre’Leigh did not want to be a weaver like her mother or make things as her father did. She dreamed of excitement.

The thought of her friends Yari and Shannon moving on to become Kujatai without her and seeing the world while she stayed home making baskets drove her to tears. She pressed her stick too hard into the dirt as this thought came to her and it snapped. Tre’Leigh started to cry.

“So there you are.”

Tre’Leigh’s head spun in the direction of the intrusion. Her eyes were still red and salty streaks from old tears clung to her face. Her sister Liandrin was standing about twenty feet away. She seemed to appear from nothing and was silent as midnight. Liandrin was very good at this.

“I have a secret place too but yours is much nicer. I can’t believe in all this time I never knew such a great lookout existed so close to home.”

Liandrin felt like she was intruding on more than her sister’s privacy.

“I won’t tell anyone about it. Can we talk?”

Tre’Leigh nodded after a brief pause. Liandrin smiled only slightly, seemingly understanding how serious this was and worked her way up the rough ground. Not so much as a leaf was disturbed. Liandrin sat next to her little sister, took Tre’Leigh’s hand into hers and just took in the view. Tre’Leigh spoke first.

“I can’t go home. I’m too embarrassed.”

“I heard about the test.” Her sister responded. “Will you come home if I help you?”

“I don’t think you can. Mistress P’lara says I’m finished. She said I should learn to be a baker.”

Mistress P’lara was one of the teachers of kuja and a member of the testing tribunal. She was always harsh on students.

“She had no right to say that to you.” Liandrin stated. Tre’Leigh said nothing. She picked up a fresh twig and started scratching it against the rock’s surface.

Liandrin broke the silence again. “I say she’s wrong and I’ll prove it.” She looked at her sister who was still toying with the stick. “Will you let me show you?”

Tre’Leigh shrugged. “I guess so.”

“Good. You had me worried. I’m trying to imagine you as a baker and well, I’ve tasted your cooking. I’ll be doing the world a favor by keeping you out of the kitchen.”

Tre’Leigh laughed and gave her sister a big hug. “Thank you.”

Liandrin scooted herself silently behind her sister. She reached around with both hands and placed them on Tre’Leigh’s.

“Look around and tell me everything that you see. I want to hear you describe every small detail.”

Tre’Leigh did as her sister asked. She described the trees and what type they were, the leaves and the color of the soil. She told of the rocks they sat upon, how they looked and what they felt like. She spoke of the sound of the water against stones in the river below and of the numerous birds in the trees.

Liandrin smiled with satisfaction.

“If I had never been here, that would have formed a beautiful image in my mind. Now I want you to do it again, but this time close your eyes and tell me what you see. Don’t tell me anything about what you already described. Tell me new things.”

Tre’Leigh did as instructed. There was a pause.

“I can’t see anything with my eyes closed. This is silly.”

“I know it seems that way. I thought the same when I was shown this. Trust me, okay?”

Tre’Leigh nodded.

“Okay Tre’Leigh, open your senses. Imagine yourself stepping out of your body and walking around. Tell me what you see.”

“I see nothing. I told you. My eyes are closed, I don’t understand what you’re trying to tell me.”

Liandrin sighed. It sounded like disappointment. Tre’Leigh felt small and wished she’d simply disappear.

“Let’s try this instead.” Liandrin continued. “Tell me where you like to go when you’re with your friends.”

Tre’Leigh told of a small bend in the Kassii River a few days north where there is a waterfall. She and her friends like to go fishing and swim in the pool below.

“Good.” Replied her sister. “I want you to imagine that you’re there right now. Can you do that?”

There was a slight nod.

“Are you seeing it?”

“I see it.”

“Wonderful. Now tell me about it. What do you see?”

Tre’Leigh told about the spot as she remembered it.

Liandrin rubbed her shoulder gently as if approving.

“Now, pretend you’re there. Tell me what you see, not what you remember.”

Tre’Leigh’s breathing began to slow. Liandrin softened her voice.

“What do you see now? Reach out and feel it.”

Chills begin to pass through Tre’Leigh’s spine. She could actually see it…well, sense it more than see it. The colors were brighter than she remembered. A smile crept across her face as she described it.

“Everything is so bright. The colors are more intense. Is this real?”

“It is. You’re doing it. Tell me more.”

“I can smell the trees. How can I smell trees? There’s juniper. I know that one but others; I didn’t know what trees make which smell, but I can actually smell them. I hear buzzing. It’s loud. Bees! I see bees, but they’re way down stream. This is amazing.”

“That’s it baby sister! Now if you can, reach down and use rocks or sticks…anything and spell out your name with them. I’ll bet you if you go there, you’ll find it.”

Tre’Leigh moved toward the pool to gather some stones. Fish with colors that fish never seemed to have before darted away, leaving rainbow hued ripples in the water’s surface. When Tre’Leigh got to the water’s edge she saw her own reflection.

She screamed, clawing at her sister to get away and rushed to a rock crevice. Her eyes had a wild look as she tried to press herself deep. She curled into a ball with her arms around her knees as if hiding.

“Tre’Leigh, wake up! Wake up. It’s over!”

Panic stricken eyes met Liandrin. Tre’Leigh’s body was shaking, and her skin took on a grey pallor.

“I saw it too. I was with you in your spirit walk. I saw everything you did. That big cat was you Tre’Leigh. My dear sweet baby sister. You made that. That monster cat was you”

The shock of the image was fading. It was something she’d like to forget. The massive creature glowed like a blue phantasmal shadow with a pair of insanely long canine fangs that were like daggers. It stared back at her in the water’s reflection.

“I never saw anything like that.” Tre’Leigh stated. “How can I make something I never saw?”

“I don’t know but when I share this with Mistress P’lara she’ll change her mind about you. Baby sister, I knew you could do it, but that…that thing you made is more than I imagined too, except maybe in nightmares. I don’t know of anyone who spirit walks as anything other than themselves, never mind a mountain cat the size of a horse with those…” She placed her hands against her face with fingers pointed downward; a gesture to imitate them. “Huge fangs. I’m so proud of you!”

For the first time in a long while Tre’Leigh actually felt good about herself. She looked up at her older sister with a huge grin that said let’s tell mom and dad.

“Liandrin. Let’s go home.”

Mirah and Reniith Esha were thrilled that Tre’Leigh decided to come home but when Liandrin told them of her ability to see with kuja they were especially excited. They decided to celebrate. After a special welcome back supper, the four shared some melon; a favorite treat of Tre’Leigh’s.

Tre’Leigh was almost too excited to wait, but Liandrin felt it was better to tell about the spirit walking after they ate. When the last of the succulent orange melon was finished, Tre’Leigh revealed the second half of the news. She told about her gift to spirit walk. Liandrin

interjected to fill in details. This raised eyebrows from her parents who were at first overjoyed until Liandrin got to the part about Tre’Leigh taking the form of a massive phantasmal mountain cat.

The festive mood suddenly vanished. Tre’Leigh’s mom reached across the table and placed it on Tre’Leigh’s hand. There was a mixed look of grief, pity, and concern.

“Sweet child…no.”

Tre’Leigh was confused. “What’s wrong?”

“I need to tell you about something that I kept secret from both of you. I hoped it would pass you by.” Mirah replied.

She shared the legend of the wolfen of the mountain, while Reniith leaned back lighting his after supper pipe. His facial expression was unreadable.

“It went back to when my grandfather was young and just starting a family. A human community; farmers mostly, who lived just past the shadow veil began to notice disappearances in the livestock. Wolves were suspected since they were known to feed on sheep, but the tracks were no ordinary wolf. They were huge, the size of a dinner plate.” She held hers up, tapping it slightly with her finger to demonstrate. It was a wolfen…an abnormally large predator.”

It went unseen for a long time, but more sheep were taken. Sometimes what was left of them was found all torn open and half eaten. Sometimes there was no trace other than a patch of flattened grass with blood. And when the humans began trying to hunt it down, many of those men turned up missing or dead. Their mutilated bodies ripped apart and some even eaten.”

“Did they ever catch it?” Asked Tre’Leigh.

No. One day the killing just stopped. That was the day your great-grandfather, my grandfather died in an accident. He was at coastal port the humans call Cormorant Bay to buy fish for the autumn harvest Tanden Fest. He drowned. Everyone there thinks he simply slipped off the pier and fell into the water. Nobody realized he was missing until it was too late. You see, he never learned to swim.”

“But why did the attacks stop when great-grandpa died?”

“Because he was the beast…the killer.” Answered Liandrin coldly.

Reniith pulled the pipe stem from his mouth and leaned forward with one elbow on the table. “That apparition ability is a family trait and a curse.”

He looked at his wife whose sharp reproach showed she didn’t like her side of the family being called cursed.

“Sorry my love, I didn’t mean to offend.” His attempt at a smile didn’t appease her, so he went on since the damage was already done.

“When your great-grandma was about to move on, she confessed the truth of what happened. Your great-grandpa told her all about it whist he still lived. He made that thing and was proud of it. He felt powerful. At first it seemed an extension of him, but after a while it did as it wanted. Maybe a bit of what he wanted too. He never liked those human farmers so maybe the attacks weren’t such the out of control accident he claimed.”

“Reniith!” Mirah glared at him. “That’s my grandfather you’re talking about.”

“Well, that’s what I think and I’m not alone.” He took another puff on his pipe and leaned back again as if to proclaim I said what I had to.

“Tre’Leigh. It’s not a curse as someone who’ll be sleeping outside tonight claims it is.”

“Won’t be the first time.” He replied. “Nice outdoor sleeping weather tonight.” Reniith’s voice carried a hint of cautious jest as he spoke through his pipe. He was

kidding as he knew Mirah was, hoped she was.

“Every generation in my family had a spirit walker who could project in animal form.” Mirah went on, ignoring her husband.

“My mother was one, and of course my grandfather. What is conjured is unique. My mother for example created a ferret. Her ferret form got into places she wasn’t supposed to and created a lot of mischief and havoc. My grandmother had quite a twisted sense of humor, and her spirit form reflected that. Beyond that we don’t know how or why it happens or why it’s unique to our family.”

She looked at Liandrin. “I had a brother who died when he was little. He had red hair like you. I think he was destined to inherit the trait in my generation. Everyone who could do this had red hair. We actually expected you to be the next spirit walker.”

She looked into Tre’Leigh’s eyes with a look of concern.

“Those phantasmal extensions are dangerous. You must be careful, especially since you made a monstrous cat.”

Tre’Leigh was devastated. She went from being useless, to having a great gift, then on to carrying a deadly family curse, and all in a few short hours. She could take it no longer. She left the table, raced through the door, and ran off into the night.

Tre’Leigh slipped back into the house several hours later, shortly before sunrise. Her first plan when she bolted earlier was to go to her thinking spot, but now that Liandrin knew about it, the magic it held was lost. She decided instead to take a long walk. She always felt comforted when surrounded by trees. After what she learned earlier; her ability to see beyond what the eyes revealed, she understood why. It was likely there all along, but she never realized.

As Tre’Leigh navigated through thick terrain that most would avoid, she tested her newly understood kuja awareness. Her night vision was always outstanding. All elves can see exceptionally well in the dark, but this was seeing beyond.

Patterns of color swirled around everything. She began to observe consistencies. Trees of a similar type exhibited the same hue, yet older trees were more vibrant than young ones. Only trees that were noticeably diseased or at the end stage of life presented a dimmer aura. This was a good thing to know.

She also observed that a plant’s aura could tell her many things. Although each plant species was unique with him their own color and hue, variants in shade and intensity revealed many things. She observed that edible plants emitted a more purplish glow as well as other darker colors, while toxic plants that she was already familiar with exhibited red. The intensity of these colors also matched the potency.

Animals too had auras, but she didn’t know enough about them to match them with any attributes. Plants she knew well. She wandered around matching her existing understanding of known plants with their properties to these now seen colors. She could match identical traits in any fauna she hadn’t learned about. In what seemed an instant moment of revelation, her sister Liandrin unexpectantly opened a new world for Tre’Leigh to explore.

She spent hours wandering woods she had trekked in since she could walk and was only now truly seeing them for the first time. She was no longer worried that her other gift, spirit walking was a curse. She was content with the rest of it and decided to head home. She had a plan.

When she was only part way back it started to rain. She never minded rain, she loved it in fact. As she intentionally jumped in newly formed puddles, soaking herself to the skin, she remembered her father’s comment about it being wonderful outdoor sleeping weather. He was an exceptionally gifted man in many ways but had no clue how to read storms.

The door creaked only slightly when she opened it. Everyone had gone to bed. That was normal. Tre’Leigh had spent many nights out before, so nobody was worried, especially since Liandrin had this way of knowing where she was. She needed her space to sort things out and they let her. Tre’Leigh spotted a patchwork quilt folded across her mother’s rocking chair by the hearth. The flames were just barely licking the air above the still smoldering coals. The blanket was obviously placed there for Tre’Leigh. Not only did her mom know she was coming back this night, but also that she’d be wet. She sat in her mom’s rocking chair and wrapped herself in the soft blanket which held the slight hint of her mom’s favorite scent. She stared into the glowing embers of the fireplace, finally drifting off to sleep.

It moved through the woods with amazing silence considering its size. As it stepped closer to the edge of a clearing it settled into a low crouch. The world was a collection of colorful images and intense smells, with sounds that echoed deeply within its mind. It followed its quarry; a doe for more than a mile, being careful to prevent her from knowing. Although the doe’s scent was powerful enough to ease the task of the hunt, the hoof prints she left in the wet soil still glowed and the freshly broken twigs pulsed in a myriad of angry color.

The doe stopped and turned her head in sharp motions, looking around for any threats. It could see the doe’s ears twist in every way in the attempt to catch any sound of danger. It slowed its breathing and then its pulse. It became a void in the shadow, a hole where none should exist. The doe lowered her head and began to drink from a small pool of water created by a stream. The remnants of massive paw prints were still formed in the ground near the water’s edge where it had been before, earlier that day. It raced forward like a silent shadow and collided with the doe before she could react, pinning her under its weight. The doe struggled and cried out to the night air that didn’t respond. It began to feast. Mist rose from the warm body of the still living victim.

Tre’Leigh screamed uncontrollably as she woke up. In moments her mom, dad and sister rushed in. They could see Tre’Leigh’s face in the pre-dawn light. Her eyes were wide with a glazed look. Her hands were gripped so tight to the arms of the rocking chair, they lost all color.

“Tre’Leigh! What happened? Tre’Leigh!” Her father’s voice seemed distant. Horrific images filled Tre’Leigh’s mind, overwhelming her with layers of violent and intense repulsion. She let go the chair, hitting her father as if not really knowing where she was as he tried unsuccessfully to calm her.

“This happened before; after her spirit walk.” Reported Liandrin. “It shocked her.”

“Well she’s in shock now. She must have conjured the damned thing again!”. He said in a loud tone while trying to shake her from this nightmare.

Tre’Leigh’s flailing began to lose power. She whimpered a bit, still apparently caught between the worlds of dream and reality.

“Mirah, fetch my bottle if you would?”

Tre’Leigh’s mother retrieved a stoppered bottle from a corner table nook. It was a potent distilled concoction made of wild flowers called naye. It was a gift; courtesy of Camrin, one of Reniith’s best friends. She poured a small amount into a teacup and handed it to him.

Reniith took the porcelain cup and held it near Tre’Leigh’s mouth.

“Drink this. Take small sips.”

He tipped the cup to wet her lower lip, then moved it away. She didn’t respond.

“Come on little one, you have to wake up! Come back to us!”

He kissed her forehead. Her skin was cold and coated in a sheen of sweat. He tried a few more times to get her to drink. After the fourth attempt, her lips moved. He poured a small amount into her mouth. She made a face.

“I know, it takes getting used to. Here, have a little more.”

After a couple of sips, barely half of what was in the cup, Tre’Leigh seemed to recognize where she was. She wrapped her arms around her father’s shoulders and held him tight. He rocked her gently.

“It’s okay now. You’re safe. Nothing can hurt you.”

In time Tre’Leigh was steady enough to walk. Her mom and sister helped her back to her room and washed her up. She was not just covered in mud and sweat, but she had peed herself as well. When they asked her what happened she simply told them it was a bad dream and that she couldn’t remember the details. Although skeptical, they didn’t press. Her dad managed to get the other half cup of naye into her before she climbed into bed. She slept soundly, seemingly free of any more bad dreams. When she awoke, it was late in the afternoon.

Tre’Leigh felt refreshed and amazingly good. After sleeping, the happenings of the previous night seemed to make sense. She felt as if a wash of knowing wiped away the doubt, leaving clarity and purpose behind. She dressed quickly. She wanted to go see Mistress P’lara. She wanted to take the test again. This time she would pass.

“Where are you off to in such a rush?” Asked her mother.

Tre’Leigh stopped short of the door. Mirah was at the hearth stirring a stew in a large pot.

“I need to meet with Mistress P’lara. I want to re-test. I can pass this time.”

“Mistress P’lara can wait a few minutes more. You need to dinner first.”

“I want to see her before it gets dark. Besides…I don’t think I could eat another bite.”

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About the author

Kimberlain O'Driscoll, MBA, M.Ed

My stories come in the form of vivid dreams. The challenge is putting them to words. I'm medically a retired navy veteran and nurse, world traveler, artist, lecturer, and past journal reviewer with 5 ferrets who keep me very entertained

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