Completed Stepping Backwards To Step Forwards Part I

A memory seizes Tazrae and she rewrites it as she remembers.

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Syka is a new settlement of primarily humans on the east coast of Falyndar opposite of Riverfall on The Suvan Sea. [Syka Codex]

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Stepping Backwards To Step Forwards Part I

Postby Tazrae on February 19th, 2023, 7:41 am

Timestamp: 30th of Winter, 522 A.V.

Tazrae rocked her daughter slowly as she walked, staring down at her in utter awe, as she wandered down the ruined stacks of Reclaimed Knowledge. Originally she’d ended up here for a break before heading home to Garden Beach. Planning to borrow a book or two, Khari was distracting her though. She had no idea how it had come to be that she was so in love with the babe. There wasn’t anything she wouldn’t do for Khari. Even the child asleep had an utter hold over her heart in a way no man had ever or would ever claim. In so many ways, it was just her and Khari against the world. Bree was an ally as well. So too were all the Ixam in the Settlement and the denizens of Syka themselves. But Taz wasn’t in the actual Settlement, not today, instead she’d taken to the jungle on patrol for the Rangers, and had marked some new trail and cleared some old ones and had been acting as a full time Ranger for most of the season while The Protea was remodeled and the second-floor suites were added on.

People thought she had shut The Protea down this season deliberately because she was troubled. Maybe troubled was the wrong word. Broken? But no… she wasn’t troubled or broken. She was remolded. Syka was a small community and having her disappear for a day and return with a newborn daughter caught people’s attention… especially since the healer’s had made it clear she indeed had just given birth when she appeared bloody, weak, and with a wailing newborn still covered with birthing fluid. She’d spent a year trapped in her Grandfather’s Dominion, a prisoner and brood mare for true evil. And in all that time… she’d grown, changed, and become someone different than the young idealistic woman that had opened that chest to spring the trap.

Telling Alric about what had happened, and rather than receive comfort, love and understanding… she had him walk away without a word. He couldn’t even bring himself to ask if she was alright or offer her comfort. That wasn’t love, not at all, it was something vastly different and something she’d started to suspect for a long time. Alric had used her for what he could gain from her… not because he actually wanted to have a woman like her in his life because of his feelings for her. The silent judgement was the last straw in that relationship. The man she loved had come to Syka for her and the Settlement, true enough, but once here he’d done nothing but wasted his life away drinking and wandering; feeling sorry for himself. It was utterly pathetic and by examining things from all angles, Tazrae was glad Khari and Kaysen weren’t Alric’s children.

The man had been more occupied with feeling sorry for himself than actually doing anyone any good or bettering his own situation. Even his adoptive daughter suffered his arrogance. It turned out, in Taz’s mind at least, that Sunberth did ruin everyone and everything that came into that cities influence with its misery. Tazrae truly knew why the Nymkarta had died off in Mizahar. The last of them left were seemingly worthless human beings, mourning something lost that they’d never had to begin with. They acted like they should have a sort of automatic privilege none of them earned or deserved, and to Tazrae’s thoughts, the Gods gave them way more attention than they merited. So what if they were all related due to inbreeding? She didn’t think the Nymkarta cared and she was certainly sure the God blood in them had run thin in all those still living.

It was disgusting – the whole wasted amount of time she’d spent on the man. And it was why she was moving on, focusing on her children… or at least Khari, and getting on with her life. The Inn would get its remodel and the Rangers would get her undivided attention for a season…. something that worked out for all of them. Trails were getting cleared, new ones cut, and things discovered. People were getting lessons out into the wilderness and guests were getting escorted to see the jungle for the first time. It was hoped, at least in Tazrae’s mind, that some of those newcomers to Syka would consider staying. She actually thrived under the break from The Protea.

Taz liked being a hostess. She liked cooking for people and looking after them. She enjoyed making food and seeing to people’s needs. But this was a break from the stares and questions and whispers, even if done in kindness, because it got her mind off things and kept her out of her Inn or her brooding at Garden Beach. So even as she stroked her daughter’s soft silky newborn hair, she lifted her eyes to the rows of books, overgrown by jungle, and turned her attention from her infant in her baby wrap tucked against her chest to the reason she was here: to get a book.

Nothing drew her attention. She drew her fingers across the spines of books, some in perfect condition, others mostly decayed. There was a haphazardness to the decay, as if some volumes were more precious than others and were bound or spelled to be protected accordingly. Tazrae sighed. She kept walking, one hand on her daughter, one trailing lightly across the stacks. Regardless of nothing catching her attention, the place still felt at peace. It calmed and soothed her like no other. It was a place of knowledge and learning, something that pushed aside thoughts of enemies and dangers, and spoke more of the hopes and aspirations of wisdom expanded and the entirety of the potential of what kind of education someone could get here.

Taz kept moving, restless as always, until her fingers brushed something soft that gave but sprang back as she traced its form. It was a huge hawk or eagle feather, in burnt earth tones, that reminded her of Lira’s plumage. Lira… Nyle’s twin sister. She was a Kelvic Eagle and the feather beneath Tazrae’s touch reminded her a lot of the coloring. Taz grasped it and pulled it free, only then realizing that it was a quill pen, not just a feather. She ran her hands over the plume along the individual rachis, zipping and unzipping the vanes and their tiny individual barbs and barbules. It took her straight back to the birth of the twins and all the chaos that was going on during that time.

She’d been a prisoner of her grandfather’s domain. Used as a broodmare, the babes in her belly were the result of rape… repeated and systematic rape. It hadn’t been violent, but she’d definitely not been a willing participant. Nyle had serviced her like a stud would a ripe mare, not violent, not personal, just functional. She’d been wearing a collar that took away her ability to feel emotions. So she wasn’t angry, scared, or even violated when it happened. She’d been alive during those times, but she hadn’t really been living. It was later, after his seed had been deeply rooted and happily growing within her that he had helped her bank the affects of the magical collar she wore. And he did so gradually, bringing her slowly back to herself and ultimately resulted in her ability to save her life.

Her birthing of the twins had been… sudden, chaotic, and terrifying. Being a first time mother with that sort of burden was unthinkable. And while she’d been in labor, a foreign dominion had slammed into her grandfather’s dominion – which happened sometimes – and everyone had been pulled away to deal with the damage and invaders. In the confusion, Taz had birthed Khari still standing up, then on her hands and knees had expelled Kaysen from her womb. There was such chaos. Lira had appeared, a babe had been handed to Tazrae, and her other one given to Lira who in turn gave her the hourglass that supposably housed her grandfather’s soul…. The one that was the key to Sran’tuka’s immortality. It was wanted by the Gods, but well hidden in the domain. Taz couldn’t carry more than one child and grab the hourglass too. And while all chaos was unfolding with the whole of the domain shaking and collapsing… Nyle urged Taz and Lira to flee. Lira took one of the infants, and Taz had the other one and the hourglass. It had been so wrong, taking the hourglass instead of her son. Taz knew it… and there wasn’t a day that went by that she didn’t hate herself a little bit more because of it.

Her father… who really was her uncle… had come to her after his death and told her something important. He’d braved a lot to get the message to her.

” Our Kois and Lisuli ways influence what has happened. All the infighting and stubbornness, all the misuse and fighting over desert resources, all of it… we wanted you away from it. We… those that love you, and your ancestors, chose you to venture into a new place and find a way to live there that we could emulate. You became a Wildling. You tamed the Ixam and set up a shelter for travelers to ease their way into the new environment that is rich beyond belief. You are the combined blood of the Kois and Lisuli and carry in you more of that combined blood from a different source and even from the Nymkarta themselves. Through you and your children, we will come out of the desert and into the jungle and learn to live again. You are the trailblazer, and what you carry is the best of all of us. Forget about Sran’tuka. He’s not your burden to carry. We do not even think you are the one destined to kill him. You just need to be wily enough to evade him and get home when you can and with your children.”

Taz hadn’t been sure what twin she had. Khari had been in her arms when she had fled and appeared in Syka again. Every day she felt Kaysen’s absence like a hole in her heart. It was a gaping huge hole that was bloody and ragged and oozed guilt and shame. Even as Taz thought that, she found herself instantly drawn back into the happening…

Her exhaustion from birthing the twins slammed into her and she staggered, looking around. At first she thought she was just reliving the past, but the sensations were too real. It was as if the feather quill gripped in her had sucked her right into the memory to relive again. Taz couldn’t even feel Khari’s comforting presence against her chest, shifting and wiggling even in the stretchy fabrics confines. She turned a circle, exhaustion hitting her in wave after wave. Plaster crumbled overhead as the Dominion rocked and surged, as if something collided with it. Outwardly, it looked like they were in one of the Benshira Fortresses called Quas’. This one… Gold Lake, was perched on the edge of a huge oasis that reflected the golden desert hills around it. Palms swayed in the breeze, riffling the water and destroying the perfect reflection of the massive stone fortress reflected in its usually glassy surface.

It smelled like the desert, the air dry heated and warm. It also smelled that unique smell of birth – fresh blood, fluid, a bit of urine either from the babes or Taz – something she couldn’t actually describe if she tried. Taz was dressed in a birthing gown that was bloody from the event. As she moved, she could feel fluid still leaking from her body, even though she’d passed both children and their afterbirths. Khari – for she knew it was her daughter now – was swathed and clutched in her arms. It was exactly as it was before…. the memory was a reality and for a terrified moment Tazrae wondered if she was once more somehow suckered into her Grandfather’s Dominion. It froze her in place, so that when the Dominion rocked again, she was almost thrown off her feet. She clutched Khari tighter, licked her lips, and realized the Homefinder was still tucked into her cheek behind her teeth.

That fact reassured her more than anything else in that crazy moment did.

The scene was familiar and everything was unfolding around her. She watched, at first, a spectator in her own memory, until she realized that she was deviating from what she remembered. It somehow strengthened her, knowing that at the end of this day she’d be sleeping in her own bed. That drove her as the past her wasn’t driven. It gave her more energy, more drive, and she moved with a purpose, like a horse tired from a long run with a heavy rider having just sighted their own barn in the distance. She mentally burst into a trot, her senses sharpening and her mind focusing on what went wrong that first time.

How many times had she told herself the hourglass Lira retrieved was not her problem? How many times had she beat herself up for taking it instead of her son?

Nyle was busy using his own belt dagger to cut the cord on Kaysen’s little form, announcing to her that she had a boy and a girl, who both looked good. Lira burst in then, the twins exchanging looks with each other, and Nyle demanding if she got it. She nodded, his sister setting the hourglass down on the nightstand.

Before, Taz had picked up a towel discarded by the birthing woman that had fled at the first rocking of the dominion. But she ignored her own comfort and the fluid still oozing from her and instead reached for her son. She wanted both babes with her. Nyle looked surprised, but did not fight her. Instead he handed the baby boy to her and let her hold them close.

Lira stole Nyle’s attention by studying the children in Tazrae’s arms and repeating the words Taz had heard before. “So, it’s done then? What can I do?” She asked, as Nyle studied the hourglass a moment, then turned back to his children in Tazrae’s arms. Taz clearly saw the awe on his face, reaching a hand out to stroke first one head then the other, repeating their names as if committing them to memory. “They are beautiful babes, Tazrae. You did a great job, mother.” He smiled at her, his face full of pride.

Taz nodded. “Thank you for keeping us safe.” She said, something she’d wanted to say for a long time now, now that time had passed and seasons had changed since the scene had unfolded. She hugged them close to her even as the Dominion rocked again. She took two staggering steps towards the balcony and let tears flow down her cheeks. The moment was so tragic, so beautiful, and about to end. The feel of two babies in her arms was different, unfamiliar. Khari fit so well against her chest in her wap, but it was awkward with both children. They looked identical as well, swaddled against her. Taz bent down, smelled each of them, and nuzzled them with individual kisses on the parts of their faces showing.

While she was doing that, Lira and Nyle were getting into a heated argument. Lira said something to Nyle, which he completely ignored or didn’t hear. Looking angry suddenly, Lira snarled. “Nyle. We have to get out of here. We have to get her out of here. We have the Hourglass. The children are born. We can’t wait any longer.” She hissed.

Taz’s eyes went wide, as she had before, when the events actually unfolded. Having forgotten, Taz realized this was the moment in time she realized her rapist was none other than her trainer… Nyle. It had always been dark, she hadn’t seen his actual face, and in the past when this first happened… she’d staggered away from the pair of twins fighting and had bumped into the hourglass and picked it up. This time, though, she left it lay. Lira, instead, came and claimed it once more, Nyle tight on her heels.

Gold Lake rocked again, with bits of plaster falling from the ceiling, showering the room with white dust from the ornately plastered ceiling. Then, as before, something horrific that Taz barely remembered happened. She had focused on her own loss… her son being gone… and this… what happened next… she hadn’t remembered.

The door across the room… the one that lead into her chamber wasn’t damaged, pushed in, or destroyed. Rather it was consumed. There was a black mist that moved through what was left of the doorway, and the world around it dissolved. Where ever it touched, the environment of the Dominion melted. The wood, the plush throw carpets, the ornate paper on the walls… everything was consumed. Taz screamed, the Homefinder rattling in its position tucked between her teeth and her cheek, both babes clutched to her. She backed up, away from it, further out on the balcony as the horrific thing that wasn’t a thing poured into the room like a casted shadow growing longer… and ate most of her bedchamber.

Nyle threw himself between Tazrae on the balcony and the thing in the chamber, pushing Lira behind him towards Tazrae. Then he turned, glancing at Lira then Taz. When he met Taz’s gaze, his own was full of sorrow and regret for her and their children. Then, as the rest of the room was consumed, he tried to explain what there was no time to hear.

Nyle spoke, firmly, and quickly. “I did it for Kami. He took her ability to have children from her as a safety precaution. And I had the proper blood but was unsuitable as a host. If I hadn’t said yes, he would have given you to another and that man would not have been as gentle. I will love them both those babies unto my dying day and if this day is that, then I will love them beyond. But share them with your sister… she deserves them and you in her life. Tell her the whole story… all of it. For there’s never been anything but the truth between us.” He said, and quickly turned and held out the hourglass to Lira. Lira ran forward and took the pre-Valterrian artifact as Nyle turned and drew his sword against the creature, protecting the women. Lira’s eyes were streaming with tears.

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"A mark of an open mind is being more committed to your curiosity than your conviction.
The goal of learning is not to shield old views against new facts, but to revise old views with new facts.
Ideas are possibilities to explore, not certainties to defend."

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"Listen to the wind, it talks. Listen to the silence, it speaks. Listen to your heart, it knows."
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