Daughters of Tith
April 1, 2023
The landscape before him was a bleak picture of barren continuity, broken only by the rise and fall of the waves of sand that separated it into infinite, sinuous lines. Humanity would call this a desert. The kandar called it Land Side. It was Derkra. All there was. It was home.
A familiar pang of emptiness resonated through Cien’s body. The swath of shining pandinzori that covered a small stretch of sand in the infinity faded into the distance behind him. Black Valley’s trees were hidden there, in a deep depression behind the dunes. Every time he left them to wander the desert he felt the loss of pandinzori, felt his strength diminish with it. This time the journey was worth the slight emptiness however, because as he neared the shore, Cien felt a fulfillment unlike anything he had experienced in his existence.
Usually a journey to the water evoked additional pain. Of all the kandar he was the only one who yearned for something beyond the sand, when they all knew there could be nothing there. He had quickly stopped trying to convince the others.
It had been different this time. When he left the caves by Ovaeron he had felt called, not only by the great tree, but also by the water. It had always been a compulsion of his to wander in the direction of Water Side, but this time there was a finality to the call. For once it felt like he would find something other than emptiness waiting for him at the end of the journey.
The dune that confronted him now was a big one. Cien studied the pandinzori against his skin to make sure it was still thick. The sand on the slope would slide under his feet and he would lose most of his strength in the climb. Using the pandinzori that surrounded him would weaken him too, but not as much as the sand. He focused on the light that outlined him and pushed it down to concentrate around his feet. He closed his eyes and spread it into the sand, a shining pathway that led to the crest of the dune. He felt a slight weakening as the pandinzori left him but the climb was easy on the hardened pathway. When he reached the top he elected to leave the path behind. It would be easier to move it onto the opposite rise for the way back than to pull it up and expend it again.
His early trips to the shore had been much harder. In his first quarter life he had been unable to touch the pandinzori around his aura while out in the desert. Using it would have killed him. Those trips often ended while he was still in sight of Black Valley. Many times he had been forced to crawl and slide back, ending up in a limp mess of his own limbs when he finally dropped into the valley. He would lie there while the pandinzori from the stunted desert trees slowly padded his aura and strength came back to him. The kandar who chose to notice at all had been perplexed by his behaviour, having never experienced the loss of pandinzori.
Over time he found he could bring more pandinzori with him into the desert, to counter the lack of a natural source. After achieving this he was able to make it farther and farther into the sand, closer and closer to Water Side. Being wrapped in a thicker coating of pandinzori did nothing to combat the feeling of loss when he wasn’t surrounded by it, but it did let him use the excess.
Eventually, it brought him to his goal. He had seen the endless blue during his time in the belly of his father, Roa, as all kandar had before their births, but when he was confronted with the calmness of it, the complete flatness and limitlessness, the emptiness, his mind had changed inside. He was the only kandar to have seen the water with his own eyes. The others simply couldn’t understand.
Cien felt that could be the reason why the quiet of the desert didn’t bother him. The collective was dark in his mind, but the silence was his. He was the only kandar to have ever been truly alone.
He topped the dune and sent more pandinzori–a thin current–through the air and up the next rise. He looked towards Water Side. There had to be something new to see. The call was different. The yearning was fading. He scanned the three mountains of sand he had left to cross, looking along each one carefully, as far into the distance as he could see. The one closest to the water was the largest. It blocked the shore ahead from view.
He was about to slide down to the next valley when a tiny dark spot far to his left caught his eye. There was a slight depression in the top of the big dune, a flaw in the soft yellow perfection of Land Side. He changed course to walk towards it. It seemed insignificant in scale, but there had never been anything there but sand.
As he climbed one dune and then the next, losing and gaining sight of the anomaly as he progressed, he came to believe it really was the thing he had been searching for. It had to be the thing that called. It was the only change in his journey. The only change he had ever seen.
He struggled with the last climb. His pandinzori had worn thin and in his excitement he had been careless with his expense of energy. He had nothing to spare for the last twenty or so steps of the rise so he trudged through the sand. It had been a long time since he’d been forced to do that.
The small dark spot had grown and resolved into two. Now it looked to be something impossible. He walked the last couple steps to the top very slowly.
They were two tevadra, lying motionless in the sand at the crest of the dune. Cien had never seen skin like theirs before, nor hair. They were very dark. The colours of shadow. There were no kandar in Black Valley with such colouring.
He knelt near them, keeping enough distance to react if they moved, and waited for them to join the collective. His mind ran along each branch quickly, scanning, searching for the leaves that would go with their strange auras. The one had a golden aura. In normal circumstances that would make her the queen, but where had she come from? The other tevadra had a yellow aura. He couldn’t find their leaves, when suddenly, something new began to form in his mind. It grew up beside the original collective, and it grew to be much larger. On it were only two leaves–these two–but there was space for many more. A second collective mind?
Then, just when it seemed this collective was a tree of its own, the connection grew. What was once a full tree, his tree, was now only a branch of something greater. The two collectives had joined, but they didn’t make a tree. The resulting combination was wrong. The shape and structure were off. It was as if what had been there before was a tree, and this new part of it had also been a tree, but together they made what could only be a branch. Cien shuddered. The collective now appeared incomplete.
The thought unnerved him greatly, but something else took precedence. When they had joined the collective he knew. These two tevadra had called him to the shore. They had always called him, only they had failed to appear until now.
Surely one must be his dodenzinn. He smiled despite the strangeness of the situation, no longer contemplating the impossibility. He had waited so long for a dodenzinn. He had felt empty and weak since his quarter life. But they couldn’t both have called him.
He tried to discern which it was by circling them. He shouldn’t be unsure. He couldn’t be. And yet, he was somehow. As he regarded them more closely he noticed a pair of magnificent eyes looking back at him. The one with the yellow aura was awake.
For a moment Tchardin thought she was back on Calendrai, trying to escape her impending responsibility and losing the one thing that had promised her change, if only she would go to it. The feeling of longing was gone. She cried out in her mind for it. Then she realised that what replaced the feeling of longing was one of contentment.
She opened her eyes to a view of the sky. She was on her back on a sheet of pandinzori, floating over the sand. A devoshai walked ahead of her. His grey aura said he held the pandinzori that supported her.
Then she noticed that the smooth back ahead of her was not the dark of the woods it should be. It matched quite well the sand beneath the feet, and those feet didn’t sink into that sand but skimmed lightly over it.
Tchardin willed strength into her arms and lifted her head and shoulders to look around her. Desert everywhere. And Damarin. Her sister walked a few steps behind the devoshai who held her. Damarin smiled back at her.
End of Chapter 6
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Release date: May 1, 2023