Yeren let the smoke of the fire
engulf him. He didn't need it to get a vision but the tribe elders
expected the show so he put up with it. In fact, the smoke probably made
reaching a trance state harder than it should have been. Yeren suppressed
a cough and focused again. This time he felt the tug of the spirit world
and let himself be drawn inside. Almost instantly the purple glow of Yanna
zipped close to him. The butterfly had golden markings and she was his
spirit guide. She wasn't the easiest of spirit guides, enjoying his
company a bit too much to give him what he needed without some pampering
and playing, but she always came through.
This time, Yanna led his spirit to the trees. They lingered between the
leaves, playing hide and seek and sunning in the rays of light. Yeren felt
himself coming alive in the world of bright colours and soft scents. Here
he felt at home. After a
while, Yanna was satisfied and placed her little head in between his eyes.
Yeren closed his eyes and waited for the vision to come. He called it a
vision but sometimes it was a message wrapped in smell or taste, a song
or, like now, a gathering of words.
"Travel I must to the valley of the river. Rest I must at the feet of
the ancient tree. Follow I must to the new world of the Giants. Bind I
must the danger that is lurking."
When Yeren left the trance he noticed that he'd spoken aloud. Most people
that had gathered had hoped for good news. And why wouldn't they? His
other visions had given them leads on where to find extra food, or a vein
of precious metal. At one time he'd been able to solve a long-lasting feud
by finding the proof either party needed to decide what was to
Troubled whispers whipped around the square in front of the dais where
Yeren sat. He stood up to calm the people, but the elders had other ideas.
They dragged him inside the pyramid-shaped structure that acted as town
hall and temple. Yeren spent most of his time in it or in his small home
just a few yards away.
"What did you do?" one of the elders asked.
Yeren blinked incredulously, "What you expect me to do? Tell me what
my spirit guide shows me."
The elders talked like he wasn't there, ignoring him like he was some
piece of furniture. Maybe he was. But Yeren knew his visions to be truth.
It seemed though that some of the council thought he'd make a run for it
and they didn't want to lose their seer. As if he'd ever shown signs of
wanting to leave. Yeren took his duty seriously, even if he did feel like
there was something else out there. Maybe even someone else. Someone who
would accept him for who he was.
"We have reached a consensus." the elder with the most authority
told him, "You can go on your quest but not on your own. We fear you
might face too many dangers and are not trained to react to them. For your safe
return we'll give you a guard of four."
Four, a holy number. But Yeren'd be damned if he gave them all the power.
He did not want to travel with a set of small-minded fighters who'd
probably keep him from experiencing anything interesting. Maybe that was
the entire point of the guard. Keeping him from doing anything shameful.
'I get to pick two." he said, flipping his hair back and putting his
hand in his waist.
Yeren stared at the elders. He wouldn't openly defy them, but he also
didn't want to give up without a fight like he'd done so many times
before. After several incidents where they'd chided him for doing trivial
things, he'd finally understood that they wanted him to act a certain way.
Anything that was even remotely feminine had been denied as if it was a
sin. Tough when your interests ran in that direction.
"Patrik will go with you." the elder spoke.
"I suggest Ilda." Yeren said.
Patrik was a good hunter and tracker and though he wasn't the dumb muscle Yeren had believed the elders would pick, the man had old-fashioned ideas
about how the tribe should be run. Ilda in turn was a woman, but also an
experienced hunter. They could not find problems with her. The elder
looked a bit puzzled and then surprised him:
"Calla shall join you as well."
A butcher and practical woman, Yeren was stumped as to why they'd pick her
until he realised that Ilda was an unmarried woman and law dictated that
they travelled in pairs to chaperone each other. Yeren had his doubts
about whether or not that custom worked but he didn't mind having another
woman join the party.
Yeren decided to throw the elders a bone. Kerrik was a progressive
thinker, but also a strong man and certainly someone with a lot of
practical skills. The elder nodded relieved and bowed as he left the
building, no doubt going to tell the four chosen ones about their
Now that he was finally alone, Yeren thought about his vision. The words
were clear enough but visions had a tendency to be a bit mysterious. But
try as he might, he couldn't exactly think of another meaning that might
be hidden behind the words. He only hoped they'd find someone near that
ancient tree who might be able to give them answers.
Drained by all what had happened, Yeren drifted to sleep.
Calla awoke to an early dawn, but
she was used to that. As a butcher she made the most out of the cooler
times of the day to work with the prey the hunters caught. Today however
she'd be leaving on a wild goose chase. She hadn't been able to deny the
request of the tribe elders but if there'd been a way for her to get out
of it, she would have. Travelling to some old tree, exposing themselves to
who knew what kind of danger, all because their seer might just want to
escape? If he wanted out, Calla felt they should just let him go.
Something was off about the guy anyway. Every time he got close to her,
her vision blurred and she started to see streaks of yellow. She didn't
know how he did it but he must be drugging her somehow. Maybe with
"It is an honour to be chosen." her mother told her, feeling her
"I'd be just as happy to see the honour go to someone else."
Her mother nodded, grabbed hold of her shoulder and gently squeezed,
"I heard tell that they chose you after the seer requested Ilda to
join the party. You know they can't leave her alone with two unmarried
"Isn't a married man enough to keep an eye on things?" Calla
asked, referring to Patrik.
"If he were related to her certainly. But you know as well as I do
that Ilda doesn't have family in this tribe except for her aunt. And
you're her friend."
"That is true."
Ilda had been a good friend for her over the years. The two of them had
grown fond of each other because of their unusual professions. Not many
women took up jobs that had to do with blood or death, preferring to
believe that women should keep to those jobs that were less intensive and
more on the nurturing side of things, like growing crops or teaching the
children. In honesty, there was nothing wrong with those, but neither Ilda
nor Calla had had an interest in them.
Calla's mother embraced her and then quickly ushered her out of the door,
no doubt trying to hide her tears as she said: "Keep safe."
"I will." Calla called back and then added in a quiet voice:
Reluctantly, Calla went to the temple where she found the others already
waiting. She immediately felt the heavy gaze of the seer and the world
started to close in on her. But before the flashes could start, she took
hold of Ilda and used her as a shield. Immediately the tension lessened
and she let out a sigh. Her friend misinterpreted and asked:
"Not really, just not sure what I should do on this trip."
"Leave the hunting and guarding to me and the boys. I'm sure you can
build a fire and cook enough to make yourself useful."
"I'll manage." Calla replied with a sour look on her face.
"And be sure to keep the men from looking my way." Ilda grinned.
"As long as you do the same for me." Calla nodded,
"especially the seer's."
"You're not comfortable with Yeren?" Ilda asked.
"He looks at me funny."
Ilda had her own thoughts about what the seer might be thinking about
Calla. She doubted it was anything quite as simple as lust or a romantic
interest. But she promised to never leave the two of them alone and
decided she would talk to Kerrik about it later as he would be the one
who'd be guarding the seer when she and Patrik would be out hunting.
It didn't take long for the four of them to pack their travel gear onto
the mules. They would be walking most of the way but every now and then
one of them could ride on the spare mule. Ilda figured that at least the
seer would need to rest regularly since he'd never been outside the
village. She didn't think he'd be fit enough for the journey at hand. Ilda
herself was raring to go. She'd pay to be part of a trip like this. Who
knows what new things she'd see? The trip on itself wasn't that unusual.
Just about everyone in the tribe knew which tree the seer had meant. But
who or what would they meet there? And what danger would they bind? It was
all so exciting.
Patrik aimed and with a minimum of
movement and noise he let go of the arrow and watched as it flew straight
and true. The small furry mammal never knew what hit it. They'd eat well
tonight. Travelling with the seer had been challenging to say the least.
Patrik smirked at his thoughts. In the privacy of his own mind he should
be able to think freely but he'd learned to keep a strict reign on
profanities, even unspoken.
The party of five had taken an unusual route that Patrik was certain had
been dictated more by the seer's whims than by the actual words of the
prophecy. Which was why they'd already spent 3 days to clear a distance he
could have traversed in half a day. At this pace they'd take a full two
weeks to reach the tree. And by then the tribe elders would be worried
sick about the whereabouts of their seer. The other members would be
missed but could be replaced by others. Patrik had no question of his own
worth. The only ones who'd miss him were his wife and children. And with
his brother on the same expedition he wouldn't feel secure that Kerrik
would take over his duty if anything happened to him.
At least the hunting was good and with a butcher on the team they'd been
making the most of their kills. Patrik had been hesitant to let the young
woman on his team but had to now consider her an asset. She was quiet and
practical and apparently not that happy to be near the seer. Patrik
couldn't have liked her more even if she were a weathered fighter. He and
his brother had promised Ilda that one of them would always stay close to
either Calla or Yeren.
Returning to their temporary campsite, Patrik waited for Ilda to join him
with her own bounty. When he saw her a little later, she was carrying a
couple of birds.
"We'll eat well tonight." Patrik said approvingly.
"We have every night so far." Ilda shrugged.
"Any idea on how to get Yeren to let us go straight to the
"Your thoughts are as good as mine." she answered, "I think
he's enjoying a little bit of freedom."
Yeren had almost told her so when she'd questioned him about their
roundabout route the evening before. He'd told her they had time still and
asked if she wasn't enjoying the trip as well. She'd had to agree that so
far everything had been wonderful. She'd told Yeren about the flowers
she'd gotten just that morning that would become a really vibrant yellow
fabric dye. Yeren had listened as if he was really interested so Ilda had
maybe rambled on about some of her hobbies. She felt a bit embarrassed,
feeling the seer had humoured her. But just maybe she could get Yeren to
speed up their travels by telling him about the different flower species
rumoured to grow near the river. Some could be used for dyes, others to
brew tea and medicine. It was worth a shot.
As the two of them entered the campsite they found that Kerrik, Calla and
Yeren had already pitched the tents and built a fire. Upon their return,
Calla got out her knives and eagerly took the animals to prep them for
cooking. Surprisingly, Kerrik was the best cook among them and had taken
to seasoning the pieces of meat. Patrik went to help his brother while
Ilda ventured toward Yeren to try her plan.
"Busy?" she asked.
"Not really." Yeren replied, "It's not like I can help
much." he shrugged.
"Spirits keeping silent?" Ilda raised an eyebrow in question.
Yeren laughed heartily. His spirit guide was never silent. But she sure
wasn't giving him any new information. So far she was quite happy to let
him roam around in the rainforest. As long as he took the time to play
with her every now and then. Sometimes he too wondered whether the vision
was something of a wish Yanna had granted for him. The gods knew she liked
him enough to do that. But he wouldn't look a gift horse in the
"You know, I've heard talk about some plants near the river banks
that could be well worth some extra time to investigate." Ilda said,
not very subtle.
"I think we could go faster if you have work there." Yeren
consented, "We'll just have to wait around the tree then."
"Oh I'm sure the boys won't mind staying in one place a couple of
nights, packing up these tents every morning is a chore."
"I've realised." Yeren said, massaging his shoulders.
"Some faster travel might get you into shape." Ilda winked.
"Be careful, I might just rethink my decision."
Ilda smiled sweetly and retreated to the fire where the others had started
Kerrik unpacked the tents and
started building the camp. He was a builder by heart and though he
preferred to work with timber and stone, putting up the tents felt good as
well. Especially now that he knew they'd be staying for a while. Because
having to pack up the tents every morning had become a sad event. As
usual, Ilda and Patrik were out hunting and Calla was getting the fire
started so they could cook when the hunters returned. Also as usual, Yeren
was keeping himself entertained.
"What are you doing?" the seer asked.
"Same as always, putting up the tents." Kerrik replied.
"Can't you do it differently?"
"I could, but why? They've been fine all the other times."
"To change things up? To try out new things?" Yeren insisted.
Kerrik shrugged and waited for Yeren to give him instructions. It didn't
matter if the tents were put up in a different order or in a different
placement. Kerrik only made certain Calla wasn't in earshot and out of
their sight. So far Yeren hadn't approached her. Which was why it
surprised him when the seer said:
"She doesn't like me, does she?"
Kerrik chose to remain silent.
"Can you tell her I don't mean harm? It's just that she holds promise
and my spirit guide is interested in meeting new friends."
Kerrik blinked, not knowing whether to believe this simple explanation or
being extra careful because it sounded so loony. Taking a little time to
compose an answer, the quiet man finally said: "I could give the
message but I don't think it will help."
"You're probably right." Yeren nodded, "She'd probably
think I was crazy."
"I think everyone thinks that." Kerrik said before he could stop
himself and cursed.
"Thanks for the honesty." Yeren grinned.
"I didn't mean offence."
"I know. Of course I look crazy performing those little shows. To be
honest I like to perform with all the smoke and mirrors but I hardly need
Yeren looked up, wondering once again why this place made him feel so
free. It was like he was expecting something to happen but as of yet,
Yanna hadn't given him a sign that the prophecy was drawing near. In stead
she just seemed to enjoy flying around the tree, meeting the spirits it
held. Maybe that had been the real reason she'd given him this
The seer left Kerrik to build the camp and returned to examine the flowers
that Ilda had baited him with. Kerrik wondered if he should tell Calla
what he'd learned. Would she even believe it? Did he? Up until now he
hadn't paid much attention to the seer, believing he was a pawn to the
elders and out of touch with the reality of the tribe. But Yeren had kept
up with their pace and aside from taking that mad detour, hadn't done
dangerous or inappropriate things. Maybe the man knew more about the world
than he'd given him credit for.
Two more days of leisure had passed
and though Yeren had found plenty interesting things to study, he was
starting to notice that the others were growing restless. Patrik was near
to asking him whether they should just return and declare the danger had
been met. He probably assumed that this quest was something Yeren had
dreamed up to get away. Calla had pulled away even farther, not even
appearing in his line of sight even though he'd done his best to ignore
her. But Yeren suspected Yanna hadn't been as patient. Ilda didn't seem to
mind the wait but she was worried about her friend. And Kerrik was as
stoic as ever and seemed content to wait. Yeren doubted he'd said anything
to Calla though. Or maybe he had and that was why she'd retreated
Yanna flitted closer, appearing as purple streams at the edge of his field
of vision. She also seemed to be impatient, wanting him to do something
that he didn't quite understand. For the umpteenth time he saw her flitter
close to Calla. He had to will her to come back and leave the woman alone,
which only made Yanna more impatient and frustrated.
Slipping into the trance, Yeren tried to placate his small purple
butterfly guide and ask her what they should do. Without the smoke and
mirrors, the rest of the crew didn't know what hit them when Yeren
suddenly launched in a rapid mnologue:
"Want meet Calla. Need Calla to call the pretty sparkles. Need them
to find the big playmates. Please play with me Calla."
When Yeren returned to consciousness he was met by four pairs of staring
eyes. He acted like he was swooning but didn't seem to be very convincing
when not one of them got up to help him. He opened his mouth, closed it,
coughed and finally just waited.
"I'm not going near him." Calla finally hissed, "He's been
sending me headaches this entire trip."
"I have not." Yeren replied quietly, "though Yanna might
have pushed too hard at your mental defences."
That last statement only got him a wary look from Calla. Patrik seemed to
want to be as far away as possible though Ilda and Kerrik seemed to at
least want to listen to his explanation before they left him here for the
wolves to find.
"Don't you need the incense to get visions?" Ilda finally asked
'Hardly. The elders insist on that."
"What did you just mean? You sounded like a girl." Kerrik asked.
Yeren blushed, apparently Yanna had even hijacked his voice this
"My spirit guide has been wanting to meet Calla's companion for years
and she doesn't understand why you won't play with her." Yeren said
as gently as possible.
"I'm not like you." Calla insisted.
"You must have noticed some unusual things. Colours at the edge of
your vision? An uncanny knack for something?" Yeren asked hopeful.
Calla kept quiet. The colours certainly had happened a lot lately. Swirls
of yellow and purple invading her vision and giving her damn big
headaches. But as for premonitions? Surely she'd never had those. Though
her mother had told her she always knew where people were hiding when
she'd played hide and seek. Maybe she wasn't exactly clairvoyant but
something else... and then she stopped that thought. She was not believing
what Yeren was trying to tell her.
"Would you be willing to try at least?" he asked her.
Calla looked around and saw the quiet support from Ilda and Kerrik and the
blatant regard for duty from Patrik and felt the pressure.
"We'll be here for you." Ilda assured her, "I won't leave
Sighing, Calla finally gave in. What else was she to do to prove him
wrong? Maybe failing now would mean everything'd return back to normal.
Now that would be something she could get behind. And realistically
speaking, what could happen anyway?
"Sit near the fire and gaze into it." Yeren said, "Having a
focal point helps on the first tries."
Calla did as he requested. She flinched when he took her hand, but relaxed
when she felt Ilda come stand behind her, putting her hand on her
"Clear your mind and just listen to my voice." Yeren said.
He started talking and before long Calla felt herself drift away on the
sleepy drone of the seers voice. Almost immediately the yellow flashes
appeared at the edge f her field of vision. She was so used to blocking
them that she was doing just that when she felt Yeren's hand squeeze hers.
As if he broke down all her defences, Calla suddenly felt like she heard
something breaking and then it was there. A small yellow wisp of a thing
with a fur-tipped tail and head. The creature flew closer and nudged her
chin, clearly happy to be able to touch her.
"I find everything." Calla spoke in a similar childlike voice,
"I call everything."
Yeren felt as Yanna joined her power with the newcomer and suddenly he saw
two shiny rainbow creatures making their way for them. Taken aback by the
amount of power that was released he tumbled backwards and broke the
connection with Calla. When he got back up he had a splitting headache and
saw the same two glittery creatures flying above the fire.
"They called us, Paperweight." one of the spoke.
"Indeed they did, Glitter." the other replied, "Shall we
take them back?"
"Might as well, the little ones want to meet the beasts."
"That should be interesting."
Before they could react, something shifted and the next moment all five of
the Khymarian tribespeople were standing or sitting near an impossible
waterfall that extended down into a rift below but also up into the air
above. Some rocks floated in the air and there were also buildings below
in the water. The entire place was disorienting.
"Welcome to the Empyrean Stair, Welcome to Planet Kynn." the two
fairy-like creatures boomed, "
[CALLA] [ILDA] [KERRIK]
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