Completed Stepping Backwards To Step Forwards Part II

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 II

Postby Tazrae on February 19th, 2023, 7:42 am

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

They turned to exit to the balcony, but there was suddenly more darkness there. A thing identical to the one that had oozed through the doorway by dissolving the hardwood door was crawling up and over the high wall, cutting on Tazrae and Lira’s escape. It was the single most terrifying thing Tazrae had ever seen in her life. It was, in the daylight of outside, more like an acidic mist that had sentience and purpose. Whatever it touched was quickly dissolving under that same touch, including the balcony rain and floor where it stood.

Behind the women, Nyle uttered a word and the room exploded in fire outwards towards the creature there. He hissed over his shoulder, not seeing the other creature that was outside on the balcony. “GET OUT OF HERE. GO NOW!” He shouted, and the two women backed up, forced onto the balcony with the second creature. There was no room, no place to go until Lira glanced up.

“I can fly… carry the Hourglass or one of the babes. But I can’t take you or both children.” Lira said, her eyes wide. Taz nodded.

“Take the Hourglass. I have my own way out.” She said suddenly, clutching the children tighter as the balcony itself began to dissolve. Lira shifted shape, took the form of a beautiful eagle and as she transformed the hourglass fell from her wings to her taloned feet that grasped it tightly. She was airborne off the remains of the balcony in seconds. One wingbeat, two wingbeats she was up and out of danger.

Taz turned and glanced at Nyle who was throwing Reinmancy at the creature, trying one element after another in order to slow it down. He was in retreat though as well. Tazrae, trapped, shifted her jaw and realized the Homefinder was still in her mouth, tucked between her teeth and her cheek. She spit it out into the hand that was clutching the Kaysen, her other arm still holding the Khari close. She wasn’t sure how long she’d be on her feet, but it was now or never. She had to trust Lira… somehow Nyle too… to get themselves to safety.

“Home!” She shouted and closed her eyes. The world literally swallowed her whole, babes and all.

The next thing she felt was warm sand beneath her feet and the ocean breeze of a clear Syka afternoon on her face. She took two steps forward, staggered, and fell to her knees… protective of the babies in her arms. Dear Gods… she started to fall over and instead took a knee and gently eased herself to her side, setting one child down, and twisting to lay flat out next to the baby that was still protectively and safely tucked in her arms. She could feel both babies’ minor movements, a light struggle and a sharp mew of unhappiness from one and an ungrateful wail from the other as the mother’s arms went limp and she let the blackness claim her.

Taz awoke briefly later. She was being carried, clutched up against a strong warm chest. Long white hair fell around her face as she looked up and blinked. Jaelis. He glanced down and offered her a concerned smile. “Tazrae…. You are covered with blood and in the company of two newborns. We are on our way to the healer. I brought Randal. He has the babes.” Taz blinked, relief flooding her system, and she let her head tilt back, tucked into the crook of Jaelis’ elbows. “I’m sorry… so sorry… I…. the babes are mine.” She whispered.

She could feel Jaelis nod. “I know. They are as bloody as you are. We’re getting you to the blue healer… or your sister. Both are capable.” He rumbled.

Taz felt relief sweep through her. And with that relief came blackness. Her arms felt empty, she worried momentarily with her last waking coherent thought, even though she could still feel the Homefinder clutched in her palm. Randal had the babies. Jaelis had her. These people were more than she deserved. As Taz wandered in and out of consciousness, she could hear her sister talking to Jaelis.

“I’m Kami. Let me have a look at them.” She said and carefully picked up the first of the infants from Randal’s arms. The founder wandered over to the cot Jaelis had laid Tazrae in and checked on her as Kami looked over the infant.

The Healer carried the child to what appeared to be a small bassinet and unwrapped it, frowning, as she laid it down. “This child was just born… just a short while ago… like within this bell.” The woman’s voice sounded odd, puzzled. Then she moved to the doorway. “Jansen! Kalum! I need help in here!” She shouted. That started both infants crying, which brought Kami back over to the child’s side. And caused Randal to start rocking the one still in his arms.

She turned to Jaelis and gestured out the door. “Go… draw water from the well and heat it on the stove. I have a fire already going for tea. This child needs to be cleaned up. We’ll need warm water for that. Monitor it. Make sure it won’t burn its skin. Bring back towels. They are in the linen closet by the door.” She barked, taking charge and scurrying around, grabbing medical supplies and items she needed for the child.

The Akalak came barging in at that point and took charge of the second infant. Jansen nodded at Randal, took his bundle, and moved him to a higher table near to where Kami was working on Khari and began his own inspection. “Newborn, within the bell…. not doctored. Who is the mother?” He asked, glancing at Kami.

Jaelis, who was kneeling at Tazrae’s head, answered. “Tazrae says they are her children.” He said, his voice uncertain. He carefully stood up, bypassed Randal, and gently picked at the nightshift she seemed to be wearing. It was coated with blood. He pulled it away and stared at the blood all over Tazrae’s thighs and legs. He exchanged glances with Randal, as both healers worked to clean up the babies, weigh them, and get them nestled together in the makeshift bassinette.

Kami unwrapped the baby she had, found it was a little girl, and carefully checked the umbilical. She added fresh astringent to the wound and cleaned her up as Jansen did the same with the boy. As she worked, Kami snuck glances over at the woman on the bed. While she worked, she snuck glances over at the woman on the bed. Kami knew who she was, of course, but they hadn’t had any time to actually get to know each other. To Kami, her sister had always seemed larger than life. She was the woman that inherited the magic Sran’tuka wanted. She was the woman that got spirited away for the safety and future of the Kois, while she had been left, abandoned.

Was these infants another of those? She left the babies to Jansen at that point and turned her attention to Tazrae.

With Randal and Jaelis watching baffled, she stripped the prone woman, looked for injuries and saw only her still-extended stomach, signs of the pregnancy, and the recent birth. Tazrae’s breasts were leaking milk and her thighs were just as dirty as the babies were themselves. It was hard for the people in The Panacea to wrap their heads around how one of their own could have a nine month pregnancy in the span of one day. Taz had been around the day before and hadn’t been pregnant. And it hurt Kami…. hurt so badly because she hadn’t been able to get pregnant. And now, here, her twin had two children… two beautiful children. They were her niece and nephew.

Shelving her doubts and denials, Kami got to work cleaning her sister up, deciding after a thorough exam that she was just exhausted and most likely traumatized. She noted the lump embedded in Tazrae’s breastbone, tucked behind the Ixam scale, and shook her head. She also noted the gnosis marks and the faint scars all over her sister’s body. She knew Nico had gotten ahold of Tazrae at one point, but staring at the physical evidence of the capture disgusted the physician. She shook her head, tried to be fair, and gave Tazrae the same gentle treatment she’d give anyone else. She ran wet cleaning cloths full of soap all over her and noted the djedline tattoo on the small of her back.


That was Kami’s biggest issue. Mages in the Kois were treated differently than non-mages. She was born with djed. All people were. But mages just got a disproportional amount of power from others. To Kami’s mere spark, Tazrae was a bonfire burning bright. It had saved Kami from Tazrae’s fate, but it hadn’t saved Kami from Sran’tuka and his cruelty. This life, here in Syka, was the first peace she’d ever known. She had been abruptly and repeatedly drawn away from the Kois life she knew and thrown into others, on loan, until she was needed and called back home.

She ran through the differences between her and her sister, the advantages and disadvantages. Kami blamed Tazrae for a great deal. But she would not refuse her healing. And she would not refuse her children. Kami would never have any of her own. Sran’tuka had seen to that immediately. Because of Nyle… because of their relationship and the fact that she was a distraction to him. She kept getting sent away over and over. And she kept returning – usually of her own volition – because of the same man’s presence. Kami hated it… hated all of it. And most of all she wanted Florentin’s unwelcome rider to die.

There were so many wounds… that ran so deeply.
She rolled her sister back over, dressing her in a soft isuas gown, and shifting her to a bed with clean linens. The woman stiffened when she did, and carefully lifted her eyelids. Turquoise eyes met green as the two women sized each other up. Kami started to tell Tazrae not to speak when the Innkeeper spoke anyhow. “Syka? Am I back in Syka? Are my babies here?” She asked, a desperate edge to her voice.

Kami nodded. “Syka… yes you are in Syka… in the Panacea. Your daughter and son is with you. They are fine… hungry but fine. Can you nurse them?” The green-eyed twin asked, concerned.

Taz nodded, sitting up with a wince, and holding out her arms. She had no idea how to nurse a baby, but she’d try for sure if her daughter needed to eat. “I don’t think Nyle made it out. He… he bought Lira and I time to escape.” She said, lifting her hand and opening her palm. She stared at the Homefinder a moment and realized she’d never be without the coin again. She asked, as Kami retrieved Khari and set her in Tazrae’s arms. Tazrae awkwardly pushed her nightgown down and adjusted the baby to try and get her to suckle.

“I need a bath.” Taz said softly. Jaelis snorted and Randal grinned.

“She’s feeling better.” Randal said, offering Taz a grin.

Kami nodded. “Bathe later. First feed them. Rest. Then we’ll get you a bath.” She said, getting one child set up then returning for the other one.

“Alright. Sleep sounds good… but owe…” She said softly, wincing as the baby girl wasn’t the gentlest. Khari was drawing milk, drinking, her golden eyes open, and staring up at Tazrae. Kaysen was much gentler, his little hands balled into contented fists. Jaelis helped support the boy as Taz supported the girl, feeding them both together. It was awkward, but satisfying. There was something comfortable about the children eating, her body nourishing them.

Kami saw the child’s eyes and her own widened. She turned and looked at Tazrae. There were a hundred questions in her eyes, and a hundred more emotions playing across her face. “Is Nyle the father?” She asked, no demanded, her voice soft yet deadly.

Tazrae whispered softly. “It wasn’t his fault. I don’t think he had a choice.” She said softly. “I think Sran’tuka was holding you or something else over his head that was more precious than his own life. I didn’t have a choice either.” She said, lifting her hand up to touch her throat. The collar was still in place, though so too were all the nullifiers. “It’s a long story… a long long story.” She added, and then, with the two physicians, a secret soul, a Kelvic, and two infants as her audience, she began to tell it, finding no reason to keep anything from Kami lest she decides a truth that wasn’t anything close to what happened. When she was done, Kami nodded. Her gaze was still troubled, but she was less upset than she had been nearly a bell before when Tazrae had started telling her story.

The telling took time, long exhausting time, and both infants fed until they were only half awake, drifting off, then waking to take a pull or two, before falling asleep again. Kami moved to attend to them, drawing closer to Tazrae finally.

Taz looked up and reached out weakly, laying her hand on Kami’s shoulder. “She shook her head. “I’m sorry.. so sorry. He told me… that if I made it home with the babes I was to tell you the truth.. all of it… and let you share my children. He said you could not have any, and that you are the closest thing they will have to a true Benshira mother without me. I would… be honored for you to be a Godmother and be in their lives. They are Khari and Kaysen.” Taz said softly, starting to drift in and out of consciousness again. She was exhausted, but safe, and it was hard to stay awake though she’d do it to see her infants fed.

Kami nodded. “I want that. And I want to know you better.”

Taz nodded as well. “It’s the same for me. I’m sorry I’ve been such a coward and have not made time to visit.” She said weakly, her voice ripe with the regret she felt. “He said… we were a lot alike. Well, a lot except you were more beautiful and more intelligent.” She said with a slight smile, waving that tidbit like a verbal white flag.

Kami smiled. “Are you done feeding these piglets yet? I want to hold my niece and nephew… to burp them… or should I call her my daughter and son?” She said, somewhat confused as she took one of the now-dozing infants from Tazrae. Randal, well versed in baby duty, took the other, and instantly transfer edit to his shoulder as Kami did… both adults burping the children.

Jansen, meanwhile, mixed up something for the new mother to help her stop bleeding and to sleep deeply. He took it to Tazrae and had her drink it carefully once she was relieved of the babes. She did so, nodding off slightly, but managing to finish the nasty brew before she fully passed out.

Taz cracked a smile. “If they are my children, they might as well be yours too. She is your husband’s blood and we are each other the same.” It was an uneasy truce. And time would tell if it held firm or fell apart. Kami had fresh feelings that she clearly hadn’t sorted yet… and Taz couldn’t blame her. She was too exhausted for deep thinking.

Jaelis, from the doorway where he leaned, stepped forward. “Tazrae.. do you have things for the infants? Do I need to take a trip to The Outpost and do some quick shopping for you?” He asked, uncertain, but sure she didn’t have a single thing for the babies. Kami, who had turned to look at the Kelvic when he asked his question, sighed softly.

“Tazrae’s asleep.. and should be... for bells and bells. I’ll watch the babies. I’ll get you some coin, and a list of what’s needed, and you can go find someone to help you shop at The Outpost. If you're quick you can be there and back before she wakes. The babies will sleep for a while now that their stomach’s are full and their diapers are clean.” Then she went to fetch some coin for the Kelvic, more than enough to get all the supplies… and made him a list. “Come get me when you get back. And I’ll go back with you to help set things up.” She added, turning to watch her exhausted sister sleep.

She ruthlessly cut off the emotions churning in her stomach. Her husband and her sister? She knew Arcadias. She knew Nyle. She knew what the Kois head was capable of. But this… this was almost too cruel. She thought that as she stared at the children in the bassinet, her features softening. So many people were dead in the Kois clan. So many more would die. Kami wasn’t sure how she could hold it against Tazrae and the children. She also wasn’t sure how she couldn’t.

Taz, on her part, slept deeply and dreamlessly. There was a rightness about this memory… a rightness that was missing from the first go-around where Kaysen wasn’t rescued. She had both her babies with her. She’d put her entire family first and not sacrificed her son for something that would benefit of a man who would never show her love or reciprocate her dedication to what he didn’t think they had.

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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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