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Daughters of Tith

December 1, 2022
Chapter 2

Tchardin walked reluctantly across one of Tith’s branches towards Sirrhon. A council meeting had been called and she felt compelled to attend, mostly because Jaydin would mention it to her if she didn’t. She stopped when she reached the place where Tith’s thick branch ran almost parallel with one of Sirrhon’s. The place where the council met.

The council had arranged themselves on Sirrhon’s branch–the smaller of the two and slightly higher–and dozens of kandar filled the other. A large shadow obscured the council, darkening the members’ features and blurring their shapes. They still looked like kandar, but all detail was erased, making it impossible to tell whether they were tevadra or devoshai, let alone who they were. Even the number of them seemed to change on occasion, the shadows sliding over them so they were impossible to count.

The collective itself was dimmed in the area. When a kandar approached the council shadow they could no longer search the tree in their mind to find others. This close, the thoughts that should have buzzed in Tchardin’s mind were muted. It made her feel hindered, like she could no longer see or hear as well as she normally did, but only her mind was truly affected.

Jaydin stood with the kandar on Tith’s branch, facing the council. She’d been doing that a lot lately–pretending she wasn’t a member and supporting Tchardin in the crowd as she approached quarter life. Sandin was there too, although Tchardin couldn’t see why. Council meetings took place in the mind. No kandar here would speak aloud for her.

The Voice of the council was already speaking when Tchardin arrived.

‘We can no longer ascend to Coralynth. The nine Earths that were entrusted to us by Creator are lost and we languish in exile.’

Tchardin walked into the crowd of kandar occupying Tith’s branch. She knew all those around her who were younger than she, having attended their births. Some nodded as she walked by them. The older kandar were less interested in greeting her. Sometimes when she passed one the collective would grow a leaf, and she was shocked to find she had never met them before, but it shouldn’t surprise her. Kandar on Calendrai were difficult to find, let alone get to know. By nature they were solitary, and the older they were the more wary of her–some having been present for the births of all four of her sisters before her.

She passed Ryten on the branch and the big devoshai turned to watch her. Jaydin thought he was Tchardin’s dodenzinn. Another thing their oldest sister talked about publicly that no other kandar would dare comment on. He was well past quarter life and should have found his other half by now, but sometimes the pairings were strange like that. None of her sisters had found theirs yet and both Sandin and Jaydin were older than Ryten. Tchardin couldn’t know hers for sure until she passed quarter life. Then it should become immediately obvious who it was.

She stopped beside Jaydin and listened with the others.

‘What are we without the Purpose?’ the Voice asked, the words eclipsing all other muted thoughts in the collective. ‘What is a kandar without the Earths? What use is a guardian race with no access to those they are meant to guide?’

 

Jaydin said the role of the council had changed when they came to Calendrai and found themselves exiled. Back when the kandar had access to the nine Earths the council had chosen which of them were best suited to each world and sent them off to guide it. The council would then be called upon to make decisions on the type and scope of the guidance provided. Under the leadership of their High Seat they had judged how much interference was required and acceptable. The Voice had spoken their decrees. Now all the council did was talk.

‘Where is Tchar, the first of us? And Dani, the second? Do they wait on Coralynth for our return or have they left us?’

 

Tchardin turned to leave. The council’s words wouldn’t help her change things for her people. Jaydin gestured at her to stay but she had heard this a thousand times before. Some of the kandar watched her go. None followed.

She walked slowly away along Tith’s branch. When it met another of Sirrhon’s she switched over to his and walked back towards Tith’s trunk. The branch curved upwards and she followed its slope until it became too steep to walk easily, then she jumped to another. She walked up and up through the branches until she came to an opening in the leaves.

She looked over Cens and onto Water Side. She searched the horizon for that special place that called her and focused on it. The feeling was even more intense now.

“I think I know what it is.”

Tchardin looked for the source of the voice but there was no one to be seen. She studied the collective and found a leaf bright. Then a face resolved out of the shadows. Damarin walked up beside her.

“Damarin,” Tchardin said with a little relief, happy to see Jaydin’s enthusiasm hadn’t forced her to follow. “I didn’t see you at the meeting.”

“I didn’t attend. Just another occasion to make the High Seat feel important.”

Tchardin had never seen Damarin at a meeting before, but her attendance would have explained her presence in the high canopy when she was usually at the shore. Damarin followed Tchardin’s gaze to the water.

“You feel drawn to a certain point on the horizon, don’t you?” she asked. “It’s very specific and always the same. You could point to it from anywhere in Calendrai.”

Tchardin looked over at her sister and saw in her eyes a yearning for what lay beyond the horizon. Damarin was looking at the same thing she was.

“The thing that calls you,” Damarin said. “That calls us. It’s something on Land Side. Maybe it’s Black Valley. Maybe even Ovaeron.”

Ovaeron. Tchardin raised her eyebrows. The father of all kandar through Tchar, the first of them. The legendary tree had been left behind when the kandar abandoned Black Valley, departing Land Side and the place of their birth to come to Calendrai after the kandaran war.

She focused on the patch of sky that called her. Calendrai was an island city on an infinite plane. You could look out from it in infinite directions and see only infinite water. The likelihood they looked directly towards Black Valley was almost zero. The likelihood they faced Land Side at all was only half.

But Damarin could be right. According to the trees there was nothing else on Water Side that would draw the eye or mind. Why would they both choose this tiny part of an infinite sky to become obsessed with? How could they?

“When you first appeared to share my interest I wasn’t sure,” Damarin said, “but as you’ve approached quarter life I’ve grown more certain.”

“Why does it matter what it is?” Tchardin had never wondered what exactly called her from the water. It had only mattered that something did.

“I think we need to go there. Back to our birthplace.”

“But why? All the kandar are here now. Black Valley is deserted. Land Side is empty.”

“How do you know that?”

Tchardin didn’t answer, the response was so obvious. If Damarin really wanted to hear it she could listen to Tchardin’s thoughts.

“The word of the trees,” Damarin murmured, doing exactly that. “You believe them without reserve, as all kandar do.”

“Of course I do.” Their names and the knowledge provided by their fathers were the only things the kandar were born knowing. “Their word is all we have to tell us about the world.”

“They’ve been wrong before.”

Tchardin was shocked by Damarin’s statement. It was the first time she had heard the word of the trees questioned. “About what?”

“Jaydin says before we came to Calendrai the trees told us there was nothing on Water Side but lifeless water. No island. No trees. No pandinzori. According to our fathers this land we stand on didn’t exist.”

“But it does exist,” Tchardin said.

“It does. The trees told us Water Side was created empty, yet we stand on an island on Water Side now.”

Tchardin struggled with the apparent contradiction. The word of the trees was natural law. It was truth plain and simple.

“Do you believe it could be something on Land Side that calls us?” Damarin asked.

“I guess it could be.”

“Is it necessarily empty if the trees say it is?”

Tchardin hesitated. The trees said Land Side was abandoned but what Damarin said about Calendrai made their word suspect. Either the trees had been wrong–and Calendrai had always been on Water Side–or Derkra had changed, and Derkra didn’t change.

Tchardin searched for Damarin’s thoughts in the collective. Thoughts that rejected the word of the trees. To think like that was so contrary to their way of life that Tchardin understood now why Damarin rarely came into the clearing. Just as Derkra didn’t change, so kandar didn’t question. She only found a slight buzz around Damarin’s leaf. No way to interpret its meaning.

“It has to be something on Land Side,” Damarin said when Tchardin didn’t answer, “and I’m going to prove it.”

“You can’t. It’s impossible to return–”

“It’s possible.”

Tchardin tried to remember what Jaydin had told her about the move to Calendrai. After the war a tevadra called Carrensing had been called to the water–similar, now that Tchardin thought about it, to her own situation. Jaydin said Carrensing shifted into nothing and found Calendrai on the other side. She had returned to Black Valley to take the entire population of kandar with her, leaving their city of origin on Land Side empty. She had then been called to rest by Tith.

“But we’ve lost the shift,” Tchardin said. “There’s no way for us to repeat Carrensing’s journey.”

“I don’t propose we shift.”

“How then?”

“Cross the water. Just the two if us, as humans would, on a raft.”

“A raft?” Tchardin struggled with the unfamiliar word.

“A flat bed of branches–lashed together–that floats on the water. We could easily make one.”

Bed? Lashed? Floats? Tchardin stared blankly at Damarin. Her sister’s thoughts grew forceful and an image began to form in Tchardin’s mind. Bed. Branches. Lashed. Floating. She saw the raft for a moment, then she stared at Damarin in horror.

“You need to spend more time with other kandar, Damarin, you’re losing your mind.”

Damarin shrugged.

A terrifying thought came to Tchardin. She looked over the water, looked out to the horizon–limitless and unbroken. “Have you tried it before?”

“No.” Damarin followed her gaze. Her thoughts had returned to a nearly silent hum in the collective. “I haven’t.”

Water Side wasn’t meant for the kandar. Despite the longing she felt, Tchardin had never considered actually going into the water. There were no trees on the water. There wasn’t even anything in the water, if Tchardin remembered what Jaydin had said correctly. It was just blue, and clear, and you would sink into it if you tried to step on it.

Damarin leaned towards her. “You can point to that spot from anywhere in Calendrai, anywhere in Cens even?”

“I can.”

“I don’t think it will be any different on the water.”

“But a raft, Damarin? What if it fails?” Tchardin shuddered. Dying in the water wouldn’t be the same as going to rest in the trees. They could lose their bodies. Never feel Tith again. Never be reborn. “The water could kill us.”

“I won’t let that happen,” Damarin said. “We have to try.”

“We don’t.”

“But why not? Don’t you want to go somewhere new? Learn more about our world? Not just from Jaydin–from talking–but from seeing it yourself? Derkra is more than just Calendrai.”

“It really might not be,” Tchardin said.

Damarin sighed. She looked at the horizon in silence for a moment before turning back to Tchardin. “Have you considered that we may never find our way out of exile from here? We left our birthplace and lost our Purpose. Maybe we have to go back to Black Valley to find it. Isn’t that what Jaydin would want you to do?”

Tchardin frowned. Jaydin had been relentless in trying to educate her in pursuit of acknowledgment, so sure Tchardin could lead them back to the Purpose once she was queen. Their oldest sister had never mentioned returning to Land Side but she also hadn’t given Tchardin any realistic ways they might help themselves from Calendrai. Four generations in their new home and nothing had changed. What if the reason they hadn’t found a way back to the Earths was because they were trapped on the island? Tchardin looked at the water and the longing pulled at her. She felt a need to cross it.

No. Water was not for the kandar.

“I need to stay here, with our people,” Tchardin said. “There are no kandar on Land Side and the water is too dangerous. I am to be acknowledged–”

“You may not be. That aura isn’t fixed and I’ve seen it waver before.”

Tchardin opened her mouth to respond but stopped. Jaydin tried not to talk about the fact that Tchardin’s aura wasn’t guaranteed to stay gold but Damarin was right. In the first quarter of her life it had become faint on occasion, but it always came back brighter. She had to be close enough to quarter life that there wasn’t time to lose it. She would be acknowledged soon.

“I will be queen,” she asserted.

Damarin laughed. “What kind of a queen could you be to the kandar in exile? Only an irrelevant queen with no plan to return us to the Purpose.” She backed into Tith’s shadows and disappeared. ‘Find me when you’re ready to go,’ her mindvoice added.

Tchardin was left speechless. She looked out at the water again. That argument was more convincing. Quarter life was approaching, but even as the acknowledged queen of the kandar there was no guarantee she could find a way back to the Earths for her people. Maybe Damarin was right. Maybe the answer was on Land Side.

***

The shadow over the council broke up slowly. It never fully cleared–the area had to be somewhat shaded for the council members to arrive without being recognised–but it lightened. Jaydin had remained on Tith’s branch with Sandin after the rest of the kandar left. She resisted the urge to go to Tchardin.

“You have to wait for her,” Sandin said.

Sometimes Jaydin found it hard to believe her sister couldn’t hear her thoughts, despite knowing Sandin had no place in the collective.

“It’s not like we don’t have time,” Sandin continued. “Giving her a moment to escape isn’t going to break the world.”

“It might already be broken.” Jaydin sighed. It had been a long time since the human worlds had kandaran guidance and so many had already been so far gone. “I just want to go back to the Earths. I can’t help but be impatient.”

“You can’t go back,” Sandin corrected, “when you’ve never been there.”

Jaydin closed her eyes and images of her time with Tith flashed through her mind. Humanity. The Earths that were its home. Thousands of generations worth of history rushed by in a moment.

“Maybe not,” she said, “but I have seen them.”

Jaydin knew what her purpose was. She knew she would be better serving on the Earths with the humans. She knew what most of the kandar had forgotten and couldn’t seem to understand. They had been created to fulfill a purpose and that purpose had been abandoned.

The kandaran world, Derkra, was a world of infinite sand and water–endless empty desert and desolate ocean. It was impressive in its scale but not in much else. Ovaeron and Tith were grander than the World Trees on the Earths, but other than those two Derkra had few great trees, and the variety in those it did have was sorely lacking. Images flashed behind Jaydin’s eyes. The World Trees. The other great trees that sometimes stood with them on the Earths. The trees that made up the forests that covered great spans of land. Derkra had only one forest. Cens was unique as far as Jaydin knew, in that it was the only forest that could be said to be truly alive, but it was small and plain. There were only trees, moss, and grass contained within it, whereas the forests of the Earths were teeming with abundant plant and animal life. She had seen them. She saw them now.

Waves. Images of violent water, of still water, of the creatures that lived beneath both came to her. The water on the Earths was breathtakingly beautiful. The humans had waterfalls, rivers, lakes, salted seas and deep oceans where Derkra had only Water Side, flat and featureless for as far as they could see. And empty. The waters of Derkra were dead.

The Earths had suns, moons, day and night, light and darkness, where Derkra had only ubiquitous light with no apparent source and floating shadows that chose their places to cling at random. Not that it bothered the kandar. Jaydin was the only one who knew any different. There was no wind to ruffle the leaves of the trees. No mountains or valleys to break up the landscape. Only Calendrai–which was flat where it rose slightly above the water–and the dunes of Land Side which were static and unchanging and had been since the beginning of time.

Even the humans themselves were magnificent by comparison. No kandar could stand up to them now. Pandinzori was used only to save a climb down the trunks of the great trees, when in the past it had been used to create marvels. The members of the guardian race had slowly become more dull, more uniform as time passed away from the Earths. Of course they had, having only Derkra and other kandar to interact with.

The images in Jaydin’s mind spoke of things the kandar of this generation had never experienced and maybe never would. By now the humans could have changed the faces of their worlds. Without kandaran guidance everything could have been destroyed. The Earths could even be gone. No one had seen them in generations. World Nine at least… Well, anything was possible. Jaydin stood up.

“I’m going after her,” she said to Sandin, who frowned.

Jaydin turned and ran into Tchardin. She recoiled immediately, flustered, as a pulse of revulsion ran through her body from her sister’s aura. She must have been too caught up in her thoughts of the Earths to notice Tchardin’s leaf grow bright in the collective.

She fought the strong urge to put distance between their auras with her relief. Tchardin had come to her. That had to be better than chasing the future queen all through Calendrai and attempting to force her to learn.

“I was just about to go looking for you,” Jaydin said.

Sandin moved closer and Tchardin looked up at her.

“Quarter life is almost upon you–” Jaydin began, but Tchardin interrupted.

“I want to know more about Black Valley.”

Sandin raised an eyebrow. Jaydin felt the same but didn’t react.

“Why?” Jaydin asked.

Tchardin looked off into the distance, between Tith’s leaves, and out to the water. Jaydin was reminded of Damarin.

“You think you’re seeing Ovaeron, don’t you?” Tchardin’s gaze snapped back onto her. Jaydin smiled inside, pleased at having guessed her youngest sister’s thoughts without searching for them. “You’ll be the queen of Calendrai soon. Your focus should be here. Black Valley is our past.”

“I’ll be queen of the kandar. Black Valley is the birthplace of the kandar. I thought you of all tevadra–”

“Black Valley is the history of the kandar. Calendrai is our present and our future. Tith told you about Black Valley before you were born. What he told you was enough.”

“But why abandon it?”

Jaydin turned away. Those images were blurrier. Tith had told her a lot about Carrensing–the tevadra who had last come to him in rest–but there were pieces missing. Jaydin knew Carrensing had brought the kandar to Calendrai, and she knew the reason for the move had something to do with the kandaran war, but she didn’t know it exactly, and that contrasted so sharply with everything else she knew. She wondered as she had many times before if the great tree had chosen to omit that information for a reason.

“You’re so close to acknowledgement,” she said. “You know the High Seat isn’t going to let the ceremony go smoothly. She will test you, and not on your knowledge of Derkra.”

Tchardin backed away from her.

“We can talk about the shift to Coralynth if you prefer. I’ve seen how the kandar used to do it. If we could only get back to the path–”

“Why should I be able to open it when no one else can?”

“Carrensing was exceptional in the shift–”

“What does that have to do with me?”

Jaydin didn’t answer. This was familiar territory for them. Tith was the only tree to have birthed more than one kandar in the same generation and as far as they knew the only kandar he’d taken in rest was Carrensing. There should have been more, for five tevadra to be born, but Tith had never mentioned them to Jaydin. Another piece of information she was missing. If Tith had made Carrensing into Tchardin, as Jaydin expected–who else would be Carrensing but the tevadra with the golden aura–it was possible she retained some of the tevadra’s abilities. Great kandar made great kandar in the new generation.

Jaydin turned away from her two sisters and sat down on the branch. She motioned for Tchardin to do the same. Her youngest sister complied and didn’t say anything. Sandin sat as well. Jaydin focused on the pandinzori around her and lifted her notebook into the light.

She opened it to a random page and scanned it. Not for information–she knew everything contained in its pages as if it were written on the inside of her mind–but for comfort. It was reassuring to see some of her vast knowledge contained in a small, finite thing.

“Why do you keep it?” Tchardin asked.

Jaydin saw the poorly masked confusion on Tchardin’s face. Her notebook was the only human thing on Derkra–the only human thing any other kandar of this generation had ever seen.

“I know too much,” Jaydin said honestly, for maybe the first time in her life. “It’s overwhelming and almost wholly useless because I’m not able to apply it in exile.”

Sandin looked concerned. Jaydin realised this information might be new even to her.

“To know all the history of existence when the kandar have always been uninterested in history. Unaware of it, even. To think of how to use it, how it affects us, if at all…” Tchardin wouldn’t understand if she continued. Tith had told Jaydin too much before she was born and he had never told her why. “I am only kandar,” she said. “Tith must have taught me these things for a reason. Without the Purpose, it seems like this must be it. To record them. To teach them.”

“Without the Earths I can’t apply them either.”

Jaydin shook her head in annoyance. “Something in here must be able to help you return us to the Purpose. Or even one of the other kandar. The problem is they don’t care about the things I know. They’ll only care when you are queen and you tell them to care.”

Tchardin’s expression was utterly blank. Jaydin looked into her eyes and it was obvious she was lost in her mind. She seemed to look to the water again, the slight buzz of her thoughts passing through the collective. Jaydin placed her hand against the edge of the pandinzori at Tchardin’s forearm, so their auras touched slightly.

Tchardin’s eyes brightened as the spark of repulsion passed between them. “What if we can’t go back until we return to Black Valley?”

Jaydin seethed with exasperation. “Did Damarin put this in your head?”

Tchardin looked away.

***

Kadailin hung off some of Ahron’s thinner branches near the edge of Cens, looking down into the forest. She was as far out as she could go and still be supported. The leaves below her were full of pandinzori.

‘Kadailin,’ her name floated into her mind. ‘I need you.’

She searched the collective for the mindvoice. Definitely Tchardin. Probably being forced to listen to Jaydin’s endless droning. Kadailin couldn’t help being jealous although she knew it was dull from Tchardin’s descriptions of it. Jaydin had never shown much interest in educating Kadailin. No one but Tchardin had shown much interest in her at all.

Kadailin dreaded interrupting their oldest sister. And Sandin would be there too. But she had to go. She could never ignore Tchardin.

Loosening her grip on the branches above, she let those below and around her support her. She reached ahead and slowly pulled and pushed herself through the mesh of small branches until she felt she could stand safely on a larger branch. Then she started to descend. As she got closer to Ahron’s trunk his branches grew farther apart and her reach failed her. She jumped from one down to the next until she was past Ahron and into Tith.

She searched the collective for Tchardin and found her close by and slightly below. Jaydin was there too, and Kadailin could only assume Sandin, although she couldn’t know for sure since Sandin didn’t have a leaf.

Kadailin ran along the large branch until she saw them and dropped down behind Tchardin. Better to surprise the future queen than the other two and she didn’t want to land in the middle of the three.

Jaydin frowned at her. “Tchardin doesn’t have time for you right now.”

“I have to go,” Tchardin blurted. Before Jaydin could say anything else she dropped off the branch.

Kadailin smiled weakly at the two tevadra, now clearly angry, and followed quickly after her. When they were in the grass below the three towering trees Tchardin began to walk towards Cens. Kadailin moved beside her and matched her pace.

“I need to go to the water,” Tchardin said.

Kadailin tried to stop herself from cringing but Tchardin noticed.

“You don’t have to come. I just needed a reason to leave Jaydin.”

“I’ll walk through Cens with you,” Kadailin suggested in compromise.

Kadailin had always wondered who Jaydin thought the bigger disappointment, herself or Tchardin. On one hand, Jaydin had been expecting Carrensing and a queen at Kadailin’s birth and had been unimpressed with what she got. On the other, she had gotten a tevadra with a golden aura from Tchardin’s birth, but to her great dismay Tchardin was turning out to be more and more like Kadailin despite that. And Jaydin often blamed Tchardin’s lack of interest in learning on Kadailin.

“I’m happy we left quickly,” she said.

Tchardin made a sympathetic face towards her. “You should spend more time with Jaydin. The things she says might be confusing but at least she has something to say. She couldn’t put any pressure on you.”

Kadailin didn’t respond. She focused on the passing branches to avoid her sister’s gaze.

“Or Sandin alone,” Tchardin continued. “Or maybe Ocien. I attended her birth–do you know her?”

“Not well.”

Kadailin didn’t think anything less of Tchardin for attending all the kandar’s births, though it was generally considered a waste of time. It was better that she know as many kandar as possible for when she became queen, or at least that was how Kadailin felt. She also still felt bad for missing Tchardin’s birth. She expected a lot of kandar did.

Tchardin continued. “Maybe Damarin–”

“No.” Kadailin shuddered. Jaydin and Sandin ignored her, but Damarin seemed to hate her. It might be that the two looked so much alike. Every kandar who could be provoked into conversation in their presence said so. Damarin couldn’t stand that they shared that small thing. Appearance on Derkra should have been irrelevant, when most kandar only looked at auras, but if even one noticed their similarity that was too much for their middle sister.

They walked in silence for a moment. Tchardin seemed to know exactly where she was going. That was strange. Kadailin had always considered herself to be the best of the sisters at navigating Cens. Maybe even better than Damarin.

“Quarter life,” Tchardin said. “Soon to be queen. Then I need to find a way to return us to the Earths. Something no kandar has been able to do since we moved here.”

Kadailin looked around, paying attention to their surroundings for the first time since they'd entered Cens. The trees were incredibly dense as always but she had a feeling they were close to the edge.

“I guess that’s a reason to listen to Jaydin,” she said. “If anyone can figure out how to get us back to Coralynth it must be her.”

Tchardin was silent. Kadailin turned towards her. She appeared to be deep in thought. She stopped walking.

“Nothing she’s told me has helped,” Tchardin said. “But Damarin suggested something I’d never thought of before. Do you think we could rediscover the shift if we returned to Black Valley?”

“You’d have to ask Jaydin.”

“Jaydin told me to forget about it.”

Kadailin had to admit that seemed reasonable. “There’s nothing in Black Valley.”

“I’m not sure that’s true.”

Tchardin was staring hard at something now. Kadailin followed her gaze but didn’t see anything, just the trees of Cens and the shadows that littered them. “What is it?” she asked, perturbed.

Tchardin’s posture had changed completely. She looked possessed, as if her whole body and mind were being put into wanting something. Kadailin had never seen anything like it.

“Tchardin–” she started, but her sister walked ahead. She followed. An instant later they were on the shore.

Tchardin continued forward but Kadailin shied away from the edge of the water. Everything there was too strange to her. Water Side was a barrier she knew she would never cross and preferred to avoid entirely if possible. Tchardin was intent on her course and Kadailin worried she would walk right into the water.

Tchardin stopped at the last moment and continued her uncanny staring at the horizon. Then Kadailin noticed something even more disturbing. Damarin stood a few steps away and she mimicked Tchardin in stance and gaze. Kadailin stepped back into the treeline and was swallowed by quiet forest. The water was bad enough but Damarin was too much. She turned back towards the centre of Calendrai.

Like most things Tchardin had, Kadailin wished that strange obsession was hers. She wanted something unique, some reason for the kandar to notice her. All her sisters had something special.

Looking at the trees around her and growing calmer as they soothed her, she rethought that. She wanted to be special, that was true, but at the same time she also felt like she had escaped relatively unscathed from Tith. She, at least, was only kandar.

***

Tchardin shook herself and noticed Kadailin had left. She felt the pull of the horizon more now that she might know what it was. She’d been obsessed before but now she needed it. Needed to know.

She twisted away from the water and found Damarin watching her.

“Has it gotten worse for you since we spoke?” her sister asked.

“Much worse,” Tchardin admitted.

“It’s been unbearable since I’ve known what it could be. Why do you think I rarely leave the shore?”

Tchardin had always assumed Damarin was particularly antisocial. A kandar with her personality would likely be found in Cens, hiding away from the rest of their people. But Damarin wasn’t born in Cens. Being born of Tith would exclude her from the secret world of the forest as it did Tchardin and their three other sisters. So Tchardin had assumed the shore was her substitute. This made a lot more sense.

“Why didn’t you say something sooner?” Tchardin asked.

“No one else understands it. When I saw it grow in you as it grew in me I knew I needed to do something about it. That we could do it together. What you felt before was nothing. It’ll only get stronger.”

Damarin sounded almost sympathetic. The pull overwhelmed Tchardin as her sister spoke. She looked at the forest and back at the water and knew which she would choose. But she would be queen and there was nothing she could do about that.

“I’ll go on my own if you won’t come–” Damarin said, but Tchardin was already halfway to the treeline.

She broke through it and the forest surrounded her, the leaves and branches crowded her. She tried to focus on the trees, the island, her world, but it was no use. Only one thing consumed her thoughts.

End of Chapter 2

***

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Release date: May 1, 2023

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