Rynn and Khaska on life, women, clans, and the Dark Times.

A short dialogue created by BlackWolf XIIIBlackWolf XIII and ThevarouThevarou over instant messenger. The conversation takes place in Codex I-Chapter 1.

“So, Khaska,” Rynn said, turning to the Maha’i. Amara was talking to Kirza, and Orensland and Jenika were listening to Elial play a small song, but it was not a performance. The ranger didn’t feel bad about turning to the cleric to discuss things. “What brings you to be guiding this caravan? I don't know much about Maha'i culture, but I thought it rare for your people to associate with non-Maha'i outside of trading.”

“Ah, that's more than most people from your side of Thanor know about us. And it is true. However, it is common for my fellows to serve as guides through the Wastes. Even this far north the territory belongs to the Maha'i. It's not only a matter of trade, but also of security.”

“I see. I'm not very familiar with these lands, much less the territories. Please pardon my ignorance, but I don't think I'd really heard about Maha'i until I met my mentor, Arandur. The Maha'i territory includes more than just the Wastes, does it not? Have your people always lived in the harsh deserts? Or is it a consequence of other nations?”

“This Arandur must have been well-travelled.”

“Yes. He's visited most of the world over the years.”

“Perhaps he came through our lands once. And as for the Wastes, they have been the home of the Maha'i, it is said, since the dawn of time, and Jevereshk was where our race began, when it was still a mountain and there was no city. There are others who live to the east of the Wastes, in the Savannah; but there is a deep division between us.”

“Others? You mean other Maha'i?”

“Yes. Long ago some of the tribes moved east, founding the nation around the city of Gtarrei. But they have fought bitter wars against us, and many blaspheme. When I say 'we' I speak of the Maha'i of the Wastes, those with allegiance to Jevereshk and its High Queen.”

“So you are tribal then? Are you of the queen's tribe? I understand goblin and orc tribes somewhat, but I'm guessing yours is much more formal.”

“Ha! The orcs and the goblins. Goblins may have tribes, but they do not have cities or even villages. They survive by evading us in the desert.”

“I can't say that I've always been in the company of pleasurable people.”

“No, nor have I. I am not of the Nem Tawru, the queen's tribe. Not even near unto it. I am of the Mawkhavi by birth. We are from the easternmost parts of the Wastes. I am now seeking a new tribe. You are the first human that asks such questions of me.”

“Well, I hope my questions don't offend you. I don't mean to pry.”

“Oh, no. Do not worry yourself.”

Rynn looked like he wanted to ask a more probing question. He opened his mouth, but then didn’t ask anything.

“It is simply a curiosity. I do not mind questions. I enjoy asking them. It is just that not many questions are asked often of me. Are… are you an outcast? Or an orphan? Why do you need a new tribe?”

“You speak as if these words are bad.”

“Sorry. In some cultures being an outcast is looked down upon. I don't know your culture. I myself am an outcast of sorts.”

“Oh, so it is not good to be cast out? For many of us it is normal, even expected. Those who are not are few. What do you mean when you say you are one?”

“Well, an outcast in most cultures is someone expelled from their home. Usually because they did something wrong. So in that sense I'm not an outcast. More like a wanderer. I had a home once, but no longer.”

“Oh, I understand. For us, being expelled is natural. After that, we wander as necessary as we search for a new home. But the humans are not that way then? Why did you leave your home? I know that some humans stay.”

Rynn sighed and got a distant look on his face. “I had a home. But it was destroyed by bugbears and my family kidnapped or killed.”

Khaska looked at him, a serious but unreadable look that gradually leaned toward concern. “That is very sad. Did you seek after them?”

“Yes. That's how I became a wanderer actually. I searched for them for a long time. Lived in the dead lands for years, lost until Arandur found me.”

“Who is this Arandur, to wander the Dead Lands? They are full of evil.”

“Evil? Yes, I suppose there is some of that. Arandur, he's a Elf who has traveled all around the world. He understands the wilds very well. He rescued me and taught me how to thrive in the wild. Now I don't have a home, but I'm comfortable living anywhere in nature.”

“Well… most anywhere I guess. The desert is slightly less comfortable than other places.” Rynn chuckled.

“Now that is what most of the human-talk in our lands is about. You say it is hot!” Khaska smirked slightly.

Rynn smiled in return. “Yes indeed.”

“But it is not summer. It is not hot now.”

“Remind me not to stay around here too long then… it's hot enough for me already! Although good company makes such things bearable.” Rynn nodded toward Khaska,

“We like to think we are good hosts.” Khaska smiles. “So long as others are peaceful, they can come through our lands and have our protection. You do not seem to be a lover of war.”

“No, I'm not. I can see why people fight… but war seems to take small problems and make them larger.”

“That is good. War may be righteous at times, but it is never harmless.”

“Yes.” Rynn looks up toward Arkenos in the sky. The other moon’s arc hung just over the horizon at this place on Jenoa, a sliver of a world hovering from one side of the sky to the other. “They say that war will come. If not amongst ourselves, then from the Dark Times.”

“Even the most inept astronomer know the portents Arkenos brings.”

“I heard the stories when I was young. But it never felt real to me. Who would have thought such peril would come in our lifetimes?”

“I knew from very young. We sing the songs of Markus in our festivals. It was at Jevereshk that he defeated one of the greatest of the evil armies. For in Dark Times the brightest lights shine brighter. Whose light will that be this time? Whom will the loremasters remember?”

“I'd never thought to ask such a thing. You have a very interesting perspective.”

“We all hope there will be loremasters after the battles. There would be nothing more tragic that for the songs to fall silent.”

“I guess although I want us to win and survive, I've not wanted to think about the details. I've never thought about who could be like the next Markus.”

“It is said that he himself will return and unite the peoples.”

“I hope he does.”

“Do they say that among humans as well?”

“Not where I'm from. Where I'm from the people place their hope in the Knights of the Silver Dragons and then go about their day, hoping that someone else will deal with the problem.”

“Ah, so the Knights are to save the world? That is what the Hammerdines say.”

“So they say.”

“Do you believe it?” asked the Maha’i?

“I'm sure they'll do what they can. Everyone will have to face the problem once it arrives. I hope that all people will do their part. Someone has to write the songs after all, right?”

“Most certainly. It is also said that some of the strongest magic is done by song. Perhaps the bards could coax Arkenos away? Or would they be better repelled by a choir of orcs?”

Khaska gave a glimmer of a grin.

Rynn laughed. “I've heard orcish songs… you might be right.

“Their loremasters do not remember beyond the last meal, and their voices sound less like music than the clanging in a blacksmith's forge.”

“To each his own, I suppose. The bird may not appreciate the cat's song, but both have their own beauty.”

“Ha!” Khaska scoffed. “Cats' songs are worse than orcs'.”

Rynn smiled.

“Where are you going when you leave this place?”

“Oh, who knows. Maybe help these folks head up to Hammerdine. Maybe go visit the elven lands. What about you? Help more caravans?”

“That seems most likely, though I do not wish to keep doing this.”

“What would you rather be doing? Finding a new tribe?”

“Yes, that is my purpose.”

“How do you choose a new tribe?”

“I cannot choose my tribe. They must choose me.”

“Oh, so you have to earn your place.”

“Yes, and there are some who are never chosen. Every year, there is a festival in Jevereshk where those males without tribes go and present themselves. Many come, but few are chosen in the end. I was not at the last festival. Not chosen, that is.”

“Sorry to hear it.”

“It is why I am here. I am seeking something that I might do to deserve adoption by one of the clans of Jevereshk. I do not yet know what that will be.”

“How have others proven themselves worthy?”

“There are many things one can do. Some might be master swordsmen. Some may be learned scholars. Some may be master artisans. In the older days, when dragons still roamed the lands, some would go out to slay them.”

“Acceptance sounds like a difficult thing. No offense, but it makes me glad to be non-Maha'i.”

“How do human women make sure that their adopted sons are honorable?”

“Uh, well… Most humans and dwarves and elves that I know aren't adopted. They live with the family they were born into. Sometimes children are adopted, but usually when young—too young to prove themselves worthy.”

“But when they come of age and leave their homes? That is when Maha'i men are adopted.”

“When human men come of age, they try to find a woman that they like — that they love, and who will love them back. Then they make a new family together.” Rynn got another distant look in his eye and went silent for a bit.

“How is this 'love' decided?”

Rynn didn’t respond immediately, but then turned and realized the question. “Mutual approbation, I guess you could say. Sometimes the parents help decide.”

“That is curious.”

Rynn grinned. “Yes it is. And it's hard to understand, even for us.”

“It seems like it would go wrong. And there are many options.”

“Yes. Sometimes it does go wrong. And sometimes it seems like there are many options. But for me… I discovered there was only one option—one woman for me.”

“Then why do you wander?”

“I… I lost her.” Rynn didn’t say anything for a moment. When he did speak, he changed the subject. “Are there many Maha'i villages spread over the wastes? Or do you keep close to places of water?”

Khaska looked concerned, but did not pursue the topic. “The villages are near the oases and rivers, but there are many tribes that wander. Mine of birth does, though I would often journey with my father to Artabbek for trade.”

“Glad to see you’re all getting along!” Laalarash’s voice cut into their conversation.