Blood and Fire

After earning the title of First Rank, Kranti the half-were relaxed and basked in the praises of his many admirers. Kranti the Whirlwind, they called him, for his devastatingly fast assaults capable of immobilizing an opponent in the first round of battle. Kranti the Invulnerable, for he could count the number of times he was ever scratched on his ten fingers. His childhood ally, Kentabri the Second Rank, was always by his side. Kranti even got himself a karaci girlfriend by the name of Seinga and showed her his gentler qualities.

The top ten ranks of the North Forest hierarchy were largely settled, and didn’t look as if they’d be shaken in the near future. But though he held the top rank, Kranti was just first among equals. His warlike mind grew twisted when surrounded by relative peace, and became obsessed with the idea that him and Seinga deserved nothing less than to be King and Queen. Seinga very much disliked the idea, but her protests fell on deaf ears.

Like their predecessors centuries before them, Kranti, Kentabri, and their followers took over the Kayintas cave and declared a monarchy. The other North Foresters rejected his proposal, but he was not deterred. Kranti resumed the persecution of his competition a hundred fold. If they would not agree to his rule out of respect, they would be forced to do so in fear. He burned Elcorian villages, terrorized low-ranking caves, and just to make sure everyone knew he was serious, dueled and killed Keratop the Fourth Rank.

With all this trouble brewing, Gaisa’s Elcorian village became suspicious of Raven and forbid him to see his best friend for fear that he might be one of Kranti’s spies. Heartbroken, Raven went back to his old spot of solitude by the pond to sulk. He was gone for days and his cave did not know why he stayed out alone at such a dangerous time. But one night, as he lay back against a weeping willow, Raven saw a blazing conflagration in the distance.

Instantly he recognized that it was in the direction of Gaisa’s village and raced over roots and rocks in a desperate effort to defend them. But it was too late. By the time he got there whole houses have been burned to the ground. Charred, hacked up bodies littered the forest floor. And then he saw Gaisa’s body, fresh blood pouring from her ghastly wounds, engulfed in flame. He fell to his knees, weak and defeated, unable to protect the only person he loved.

         The scene of carnage was too much for Raven’s gentle soul. He couldn’t handle the blood and the thick smell of burning corpses that stung his nostrils. Coughing and retching, he crawled off to the side and vomited in the bushes. The code of the North Forest was life for life. He had to find a way to avenge their deaths, but though he was skilled with the sword, his mind was too soft. When the fires died down, he went back to the village and gathered some of Gaisa’s ashes.

That night Raven held a ritual in honor of the Warrior Spirit – Yugashii himself. He lit a bonfire by his pond and cast into it the bloody ashes of his dead friends. In a clear voice he invoked the great god of war. He would pledge to him his sword, so that every felled foe would be a sacrifice in his name, he would dedicate himself body and soul to him, if only Yugashii would help him renounce all weakening emotion. Raven vowed to forsake all fear, all conscience, all guilt, and all remorse, so that only his burning hatred would remain.

He danced around the bonfire in ecstatic trance as the tortured spirits of the massacred Elcorians passed through his soul. He danced to the drumbeat of his own heart until he could dance no more and the world spun into deep oblivion. A hazy mist clouded his mind and he found himself drifting in a silent void. Then a distant light broke through the fog, as a radiant spirit stepped forth. He could see that it was Gaisa, but as she came closer, her form changed to that of a raven.

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Copyright © 2003 by Yumeni All rights reserved.
Revised: 12 May 2010 07:47:48 -0400 .