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Eclipse: Flying Against the Hurricane

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(03/18 The night before the Mak'Gora)

It was dark.

The moon was hidden by tonight's cloud cover. The sun had made a brief and glorious appearance on it's way below the horizon, having painted the blanket of grey into brilliant oranges, pinks, and finally crimsons. But now it was an inky black that lay overhead, with the faintest glow where a moon should be. It was almost easy to believe it a trick of the imagination. There was no moon.

Kerala did not need the light. Even if the torches were not there, she was at home in the darkness. How often had she roamed the tunnels, eyes closed because there was no difference in having them open or shut? She shoved the thought away violently.

Her hooves made gentle crunching sounds as she paced the pathways of the Horns garrison. She kept to the shadows. It seemed that everything was irritating her, and even the unnaturally uplifting effects of the curse within her was not enough to temper it. She welcomed the emotion. It was real. It was familiar. And so she did another thing that was familiar, and she was walking around nude. The way she felt, it would be welcome for someone to say something. Despite her general wish against violence, she felt the need to punch things.

Dark thoughts aside, her mind gladly returned to the immediate concerns weighing on her, turning fast around and around like a cyclone. She shoved her fingers into the mass of unruly curls. Knowing better than to try and rake her hair back, she just grabbed the mop in a fist and yanked, frustrated.

She didn't know what to do.

The stupid woman had gone and issued, not just any challenge, but the orcish Mak'gora, a duel to the death. Regardless of what he thought, Konro was tauren, and NOT an orc. For Breygrah to use their traditions just to get revenge... Kerala did not understand. Despite his actions, Konro had not actually killed anyone. If she won the duel, she would be committing murder, and yet she claimed it was for honor. In the next breath she'd then gone on to say that even if she lost, there would be others to deal with Konro then if she died. It was alright that THEY had no honor? Did the Ragetotem not conform to ordinary shu'halo traditions?

Even Kerala, as detached as she was from her people's customs, knew this one thing. There was no crime higher to the shu'halo than the taking of life from another shu'halo.

Murder was expressly frowned upon. There were annual rites specifically for forgiving all other transgressions against a person. Lomani knew them, certainly. Everything else could be punished, but the only answer for wrongful death was the Blood Revenge. It was a ritual based in harmony, not really vengeance. One death must be countered with another- not to punish the wrongdoer, but to restore the balance. Accidental deaths could be balanced without death, if the victim's kin allowed it, as had occurred with Kerala's uncle, but it was still a severe and solemn thing.

It had only occurred twice in the druid's childhood.

Kerala's uncle had died accidentally in a drunken brawl. The other had been a man mad with jealousy supposedly because the object of his love had fallen for another. No one wanted the shame and dishonor, or to be associated with such disharmony. Balance was everything. The man's entire tribe had outed him to the victim's kin.

Her thoughts thus circled back around to Konro.

Time was running out. Coqui and Chanchu had spent a few days now looking for the elf Civarra, but she was nowhere to be found, at least by a couple of tauren healers. Though she was bitter at them, Kerala knew she would not have had any better luck herself. No use being upset at their failure.

The druid had reached out to the elf Naheal, against her better judgment. When had trusting others ever worked out? She couldn't quite make herself say it plainly, but the elf was sharp. He'd guessed her intent well enough when she'd asked him if he could find the horn. She didn't even know if there was enough time left.

Kerala had promised Breygrah. It was one of very few promises she had ever made in her entire life. She would be there tomorrow. Maybe she could stop this insanity. She knew in her heart that Breygrah, despite everything, did not want to do this, but felt compelled.

Despite reports of Konro's actions, even though they made her react strongly due to her own experiences, Kerala still stubbornly believed that he was not what he wanted everyone to see. More and more, she saw a child in him, unable to cope, lashing out. Hadn't she been the same, once, a lifetime ago? The warrior had been through similar fires as she, but where she had been hardened and tempered, he had turned brittle.

Kerala sighed, turning to retrace her steps. She was restless, unable to stay still. She felt... like a bird fighting to fly against a hurricane. A wind that didn't even know she was there, or wouldn't care even if it did. She felt useless.

Kerala didn't sleep that night, not that she had ever required much to begin with. As the sky began lightening, she found her armor and put on the skirt. The beautiful blue shirt felt constricting, the sleeves just.... ON her, so she left it and wore the vest alone.

There was a whole day left. It wasn't over yet. She did not want to bury anyone.

For the first time in ten years, Kerala spoke to the Earth Mother she did not believe in. "Goddess, please let them live."

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I hope I can find you before this package does, because I'd rather tell you myself, but I need some time alone with my thoughts.

I just hope you will understand


Kerala was on the ground in front of the mailbox, where she'd sat down in order to work a package open one-handed. The druid's arm was in a sling. She'd refused healing beyond what it had taken to save her life, and had even actively blocked it, despite the addition pain it had caused. Even the skytotems had not had any success changing her mind. She allowed the injuries to be treated only manually. Her right arm was supported by a cloth that tied around her entire torso, to keep strain off her neck from only hanging in the front. It would take weeks for the muscles, tendons and ligaments to naturally recover, even though her collarbone was back in place. The druid wheezed slightly when she breathed, and could barely raise her voice above a coarse whisper.

Lomani stood in the doorway of the inn. The other Skytotem healers were gathered inside. The news of Konro's death had struck them all hard. Chanchu especially seemed to blame herself, though the pragmatic sunwalker seemed to be doing much to convince the poor red monk that none of it was her fault. It was Kerala that Lomani was worried most for. Despite her own grief, she knew the chieftain was hurting more.

She couldn't help feeling, now that it had all happened, that this was what the Earth Mother had been trying to make her See. The death of a brother, the near-loss of a chieftain. The scarring of a Sister. Even if it was, she wasn't sure what she could have done differently to change the outcome. To avoid the tragedy.

“Oh goddess,” the seer said suddenly. She gripped the doorway.

“What happened?!” Coqui demanded. “Is she alright?” The sunwalker pushed her way past the other healers suddenly jumping to look out the doorway.

“It's a tabard. The box had a tabard in it.”

“Breygrah left the Horns?” Chanchu guessed. Slower than the others, the crippled monk hadn't bothered to go for the doorway, but she was standing, leaning on her staff.

“I'm betting yes. Konro's is ...already here.” Coqui said, realizing only after she'd begun that the comment was rather tactless.

Anura tapped first Coqui, to get her to move, and then Lomani, to get the seer to look at her. She gestured solemnly.

Lomani nodded to her. “I know it. Of course she lied. She did care, but this...”

Again with an insight normally hidden with her playful antics, the monk asked the important question. “Is there any way to keep her from leaving?”

Coqui snorted. “Hells no. You've seen her. The woman has survived on sheer determination alone. She's raw and real. She knew better than to let them get close to her, but...” The sunwalker sighed, watching Kerala. The druid seemed stunned. She'd dropped the tabard back into the box and was staring at it. “Well, you saw how she felt about them. She called us, didn't she? Yeah, there's the whole Accalia curse thing, but you know as well as I do that isn't why she sent out the summons.

“It all happened too fast... if we'd had more time -” Lomani was suddenly spun around to meet Coqui's violet stare. The sunwalker was frowning.

“This is NOT your fault. Not Kerala's, not Chanchu's or mine, not any of ours. If anything, Konro and Breygrah did this themselves.”

“Konro was possessed,” Chanchu said quietly.

“And whose fault was that?!” Coqui snapped at her. “We all know that only the strongest of spirits have the ability to force themselves on another. It is only a weak-willed soul that becomes the victim.” The sunwalker repeated sternly, “Konro and Breygrah. Did this. To themselves.”

“She's still going to leave.” Lomani said sadly.

Anura, her amber gaze having gone back and forth following most of the conversation, held up her hand for her turn to say something. The seer watched her hands move, relaying the words to the group. “That is her choice, dear Sister. It is our nature to sometimes walk alone. Remember it was not so long ago that we all followed our hearts down the paths they led. She will return, if the Earth Mother wills it..”

“And if she doesn't?” Chanchu asked quietly.

“It would not be the first time the Horns were laid to rest.” Coqui said. “Write the stories. Store the colors. They will be there if the shu'halo have need of them again.” She glanced outside. “Here she comes.” The skytotem returned to their places, but Lomani knew Kerala would have seen them. She didn't miss much.

The druid stepped inside the inn carrying a bundle. White fabric was folded neatly, the red and turquoise splashes of proud color. The guild colors were bold as always, especially against the thick dark blue dress Kerala wore. It was long sleeved, but very simple to allow her to dress herself with minimal movements of her injured shoulder. The sleeves and neckline were wide to be as comfortable as possible. Lomani hadn't known how long Kerala might need to wear it. Blue was the druid's favorite color.

The symbolism was not lost on Lomani.

In shu'halo tradition, blue was associated with the direction north, and with winter. It represented trouble. It was failure or defeat, disappointment, sadness, or unsatisfied desire. Winter was a season of survival and waiting. Though the druid had always worn blue, right now it seemed especially fitting and significant.

Kerala looked around at the skytotem gathered there in her inn. Perhaps due to her injured throat, she only nodded at them, but it was a sincere 'thank you' nonetheless. She stepped up to Lomani and held out the bundle.

The seer took it, tears in her eyes blurring her vision. She blinked them away, but Kerala was already walking back outside. She took several deep breaths and managed to push back the upwelling of emotion for a moment.

Anura was staring at the bundle with narrowed eyes. She stepped over to Lomani and held out her hands for it. The seer handed it over without hesitation.

The sand-colored shaman promptly dropped the cloth. She let it unfold beneath her fingers in a whispering cascade down to ground. Something clattered on the stone floor. A collective sigh left each and every healer.

Anura was not holding a tabard.

Kerala's cloak hung from the shaman's hands, the turquoise ends pooling in soft folds. The druid had always preferred the long protective garment to the frivolity of a tabard worn only to show allegiance. A cloak was useful. Lomani knelt down and lifted the folds gently to find whatever it was that had been wrapped in the cloth. Her fingers found it. Kerala's skytotem.

Konro's death, Breygrah's departure, Kerala...

It was too much.

The silver seer clutched the piece of bone to her chest and sobbed, there in the floor on her knees.

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