Daughters of Tith
January 1, 2023
Sandin sat on the soft forest floor and tried to relax. She leaned back against a trunk and closed her eyes. She needed a moment away from Jaydin and all her sister’s worries about Tchardin becoming queen. She needed to get away from the kandar. All of them.
At least when she closed her eyes and shut out the world she was left in quiet darkness. She couldn’t understand what it would be like to have all the voices of the kandar in her head constantly. Jaydin said you learned to block them out if you worked at it but Sandin doubted they could ever have real quiet. And pandinzori was supposed to be something you could see behind your eyes, even when you closed them, because it wasn’t a physical seeing. For the kandar, darkness was just as elusive as silence.
But not for Sandin. When she closed her eyes she saw nothing. When she removed herself from the clearing she heard nothing. Sometimes she cherished that solitude, but it was also lonely. The other kandar didn’t interact much–Sandin was lucky Jaydin spent so much time with her–but they all had that special connection to one another. They were never left alone in their minds.
Sandin was always alone in her mind. No one had been able to penetrate it. That made her very strange amongst the kandar. Jaydin said it might even be human, because as far as they knew the humans didn’t connect in their minds. Jaydin said there were too many of them, and on certain worlds it was even difficult for the kandar to connect with all of them and stay sane.
Jaydin had admitted to Sandin once that there was no previous instance of a kandar born without a mindvoice, without a place in the collective mind. Never a kandar who couldn’t see pandinzori and therefore couldn’t manipulate it. At least not in Jaydin’s vast memory that spanned generations. Tith’s memory. Sandin would live and rest and no one would ever know what she was. A blip on the history of kandar that, after Jaydin was gone, no one would bother to remember.
Would it be worse if Tchardin returned them to their Purpose and brought them back to the human worlds? Would Sandin be better off on the Earths? Or would the lack of access to pandinzori make life there impossible for her? Perhaps she couldn't even go.
She opened her eyes to let the world back in. Then she heard footsteps. Two sets. They were playful, erratic. She suspected the kandar who made them talked, maybe even laughed together, their buzzing thoughts making their interaction plain to any other kandar around them, but as usual, for her, there was nothing.
She got up quietly and climbed into the tree she’d been leaning against. As she ascended, his shadows clung to her skin and came with her to hide her. It was her natural state to be shrouded. Jaydin had once said that Sandin’s superior ability to blend into the forest made up for the fact that she couldn’t identify kandar by their auras or mindvoices, couldn’t sense them approaching. She would see them before they saw her. Courtesy of her lack of a place in the collective, they often didn’t see her at all.
Tchardin and Ryten passed by below her.
Sandin relied on her vision more than any other kandar. Most of them wouldn’t be able to describe the two who passed. They might say Tchardin had dark hair, skin, and eyes, but the finer details of her face and features would be lost to them. Tchardin’s golden aura–visible to all kandar except Sandin–and the brightness of her leaf in the collective obscured them and made them unimportant. Take that aura away and any normal kandar would have trouble distinguishing between the youngest of Tith’s daughters and half the rest of the tevadra in Calendrai who had similar colouring.
Sandin had nothing beyond the physical to go by, and since kandar looked mostly alike she coveted their unique characteristics. It was almost funny that her closest friend and sister had one of the most distinctive features in Calendrai. Jaydin’s hair was as red as Ovaeron’s leaves were said to be, though Sandin had never been able to receive an image of the great tree to compare.
Tchardin was not so striking. Only her eyes were out of the ordinary. They were much darker than expected. Almost black. Damarin and Kadailin’s eyes were nearly as dark, but those two sisters were distinguished by their darker skin. Tchardin’s skin tone was medium brown from a distance and nothing unique, the shadows that wrapped her obscuring a typical dappled pattern. Her black eyes against her brown skin were really her only individual physical trait. If the kandar didn’t have such sharp vision Sandin would have missed the difference.
Ryten was much easier to identify because he was huge. As far as Sandin knew he was the biggest devoshai in Calendrai.
Examining them, she thought of humans. Jaydin had attempted to describe them to Sandin many times since she was born because Tith hadn’t given her images. It was only through comparison with the kandar that she could understand the things her sister had said.
Adult humans were meant to be a similar size to the kandar, who were born full-sized and never grew. Jaydin said human skin was often a uniform shade, ranging from as black as Ovaeron’s trunk to as pale as the lightest grain of sand–two more things Sandin had never seen–unlike the skin of the kandar which came in similar shades but displayed the dappled pattern of light through leaves. Human skin and hair also changed, while that of the kandar never did, not from the moment they were made through their many lives. Humans had no aura to distinguish them from one another, and no shadows clung to them to obscure their bodies. They would be wreathed in swirling and growing pandinzori, as the trees were, because they created it, but Sandin wouldn’t be able to see that. She wondered if there were many humans as large as Ryten.
She watched them for a moment longer, perched high above in the tree, covered in shifting shadows. They didn’t look up, and there was no way they would notice her unless they did. But if they spoke aloud they spoke quietly enough that she couldn’t hear them. She gained nothing by watching them. She jumped down before they could get lost in the trees.
One of them must have heard her land because they both spun around to face her. Ryten stared at her in silence and Sandin recognised the attempt to connect with her mind that was so common among the other kandar. Tchardin had no such trouble.
“Sandin,” she said. “What are you doing alone?”
“I don’t spend all my time with Jaydin,” Sandin answered, a little offended though she knew Tchardin hadn’t meant anything by the comment. Ryten hovered by Tchardin and avoided Sandin’s eyes. “What are you two doing?”
“Staying far away from Jaydin,” Tchardin said.
Sandin frowned. If Tchardin didn’t want Jaydin to find her she was going about it the right way. Jaydin was hopeless at navigating the living forest. She was probably the least proficient of the five sisters when it came to Cens. The big devoshai beside Tchardin smirked and Sandin turned her disapproval on him. He would be better than all of them because he had been born in the forest. With his help Tchardin could hide forever.
Ryten looked at the ground when he noticed her attention. Sandin ignored his discomfort. It wasn’t unusual for the kandar to be uneasy with her flaw.
“You shouldn’t be avoiding her,” she said. “You should really be with Jaydin when quarter life comes upon you.”
“Or with me,” Ryten said. He and Tchardin exchanged a quick glance.
Sandin had to restrain herself from expressing the surprise she felt. Jaydin thought Ryten was Tchardin’s dodenzinn and she hadn’t been quiet about it, but there was always doubt until both kandar reached quarter life. No kandar would mention the possibility to the one they expected until it was a sure thing. Ryten was very bold to say what he said. Especially when there was even more doubt in this instance. But Sandin wasn’t sure anyone had told Tchardin that. She raised an eyebrow at the big devoshai.
He looked down at Tchardin and Sandin could tell from their expressions that they spoke silently for a moment. Then he turned and disappeared into the trees. Tchardin was left staring after him.
Sandin reached towards her and stopped when she felt the shock of her youngest sister’s aura connecting with her own. It was always strange to feel the result of a contact she couldn’t see. Tchardin’s eyes regained focus.
“You should come with me to find Jaydin,” Sandin finally said. “Your acknowledgement–”
Tchardin backed away, disappearing into shadow and leaving no trace Sandin could follow. Without access to the collective she would never find her sister in the living forest.
Tchardin rushed through the trees, angrily pushing aside branches that blocked her path and mentally apologising to Cens for her haste. The urge to run to the water, to wade into it even, beat strongly in her.
She ran through Cens, ducking branches, darting past trunks. The forest was dark and apparently endless but she felt the edge approaching. Then the world shook.
She fell to her knees, skidding across the forest floor before finally resting. Her muscles clenched involuntarily. The tension that had been building, telling her she would soon be queen was released all at once. Her vision blurred. Her cheek pressed into the grass as she fell. She opened her eyes. Her body no longer hummed. She felt stagnant, yet changed.
A bundle of brown sticks walked past her nose. Tchardin jumped up off the forest floor. She scanned the shadowed ground around her. There was no sign of the strange object. She dismissed it as a symptom of the change.
She was about to continue towards the shore when the council called her. It was insistent–a demand, not a request. The collective pulsed in her mind, and that pulse originated at her own leaf. All the kandar in Calendrai would be called to accept her as their queen, to formally acknowledge her so her aura would matter.
Her vision must still be fuzzy. She thought she saw red in the forest where there had only ever been green and brown. There seemed to be scattered red leaves on the ground and spread throughout the branches. Pandinzori surrounded her, so bright it was almost blinding.
The council called again. She panicked. She wanted to see the horizon one last time before the ceremony. She ran towards the shore. Suddenly the branches parted and let her into the open. Her eyes locked onto Water Side.
She stared at the faint line where the sky met the water, stared at a tiny point on that infinite line. She was losing herself to it when movement below it caught her attention. Damarin was only a few steps away. She stood in the water.
“Damarin–” Tchardin began. Her sister stood knee deep beside a large rectangle of branches that rested on the water. Tchardin recognised the construction from the image Damarin had given her. It was the raft.
Damarin looked up at her calmly. “I told you I would go without you.”
“That is what you’re planning to cross the water on?”
“It’s your last chance to join me.” Damarin seated herself on the edge of it. Water lapped against the branches but the raft remained afloat. She turned to look off into the distance. “See something new. Learn something for yourself.”
“No!” Tchardin practically shouted. “You won’t make it on that.”
“I will make it. We both will, if you come.”
“I don’t want to die in the water.” Faced with the possibility of stemming the ache in her mind with something new, with a potential solution to her impossible responsibilities, Tchardin could only defend against it with the thought of losing her life to the deep. The council called her.
Damarin looked up, tilting her head. “So you’d rather stay and become queen–a useless queen, when the kandar have no Purpose–while I explore Derkra. You’ll never get to Coralynth if you stay here.”
Tchardin looked away.
“First we’ll find Black Valley,” Damarin continued, “then perhaps a purpose.”
For a moment Damarin’s thoughts became clear to Tchardin. She needed Tchardin to join her with an intensity of feeling Tchardin had never experienced before. Almost like this trip was more for Tchardin than for Damarin herself.
“No,” Tchardin finally said. “The kandar need me here. There’s nothing in Black Valley but the past and Jaydin has the past in her mind. There’s no reason for me to cross the water for it.”
Damarin shook her head.
“I’m the queen of the kandar–” Tchardin started to offer more explanation.
“Not yet, Tchardin,” Damarin cut her off. “Not yet.”
Reaching one long leg back towards shore Damarin kicked the raft into motion. Tchardin watched it slowly move away. She wondered how long she would be able to see it for on the infinity. The farther out Damarin got, the more tension Tchardin felt. She watched her only hope of escaping a life of pointless purpose drift off into adventure. Without her.
“Wait,” Tchardin mouthed. Damarin turned.
Tchardin looked down at the water, only steps away. She had never touched it in her life. It was too different.
She cleared her mind, tried not to think, and took a step. Then another. She ran. Her right foot hit the water’s surface and she sunk down. She shuddered as her momentum carried her forward, deeper and deeper into the water until with one last push she leapt clear of it and landed with both feet on the raft, water rising in a spray behind her.
Damarin stared at her for what seemed like an eternity, while Tchardin fell backwards into the blue. She opened her eyes wide, scrabbling for the thin pandinzori that surrounded her. Damarin reached out and grabbed her hands just before she lost her balance and pulled. In a moment the two were sprawled on the raft together. The wisps of pandinzori Tchardin had gathered swirled around them.
Damarin didn’t let go of her hands as they stared at each other, as the pulse of discomfort radiated through Tchardin, as the reality of what had just happened sunk in. Then Damarin’s eyes moved away and Tchardin saw the shore diminishing in their depths, reflected.
Tchardin laughed. She couldn’t think what else to do. She laughed and she stared at Damarin in terror. Her sister returned the look and laughed too.
Tchardin turned towards the disappearing shore behind them. The height of the great trees on Calendrai was magnificent. Tith, Ahron, and Sirrhon burst from the centre of Cens like the giants they were and seemed to reach out towards them. Pandinzori billowed around the three brothers and spread into the water. The council would be in their branches soon and all the kandar in Calendrai with them. They would be waiting for her. Tchardin tried to put that out of her mind as the call of the council dwindled.
The water around the raft appeared to be deep now. The distance to the shore quickly grew. There was no going back. They settled down flat on the branches and Tchardin watched their father shrink.
When the great trees had begun to fade into the distance she turned to look where they were going. Towards a faint line. There was nothing else to look at. After staring for a while it became confusing. Tchardin blinked, then grimaced.
“My mind feels strange.” She closed her eyes tight, an unpleasant sensation building behind them. She opened them again to look at Damarin and noticed her sister was reacting similarly. “What is it?”
“I don’t know,” Damarin replied. “Maybe the pull is stronger on the water?”
Tchardin looked around them. “Could it be something in the water?”
“No.” Damarin squinted. “I know it. It’s pain.”
Tchardin heard the word–a new one to her–and felt it in Damarin’s thoughts, and all of a sudden she understood. Her head was splitting. The dull pressure had turned into a full-on stabbing, threading pain.
“Why is this happening?” She grit her teeth. “Will it be like this the whole way?”
Damarin lay back on the raft, her eyes tightly shut. Tchardin lay down with her, trying to remember what the feeling of longing had been like but it was hard. The new pain–a physical pain–eclipsed it entirely.
Damarin opened her eyes and sat up, stock-still. “I know what’s causing it,” she breathed.
Tchardin gazed at her pleadingly.
“Look around you.”
Tchardin did. She didn’t see anything of note in the endless blue.
“There’s no pandinzori on the water,” Damarin specified.
End of Chapter 3
Release date: May 1, 2023