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Kanrik's Tale: Memories

by extreme_fj0rd


I have lied many times, about many things; but I ask you to believe me this one time, on this one thing; and that is this: I did not lie to the Usul. Hannah, her name was. She's probably at the bottom of an abyss in the Lost Desert, and that suits me perfectly, for she was much too clever for her own good. She found it easy to believe my half-truths, easier still to sympathize with me for the loss of my village and my sister.

      I did have a sister, once. Back when I was still oblivious to the world's evils, an innocent and carefree child-ah, how the years slip backward in my mind! I can almost hear her calling now-

* * *

      "Ayenti!" The middle-aged Gelert took her paws from her mouth and shook her head. "Where can that boy be." She turned to go inside. A blue Gelert pup, his fur splashed with mud, ran up behind her and tugged shyly on her skirt. The mother looked down and laughed. "Ayenti!" she cried again, but this time it was of welcoming, not of searching. She scooped up the child and carried him into the small hut that served as their home.

      She set Ayenti down on the floor inside. "Now, what've you been up to?" she asked him. A teenage Gelert rose from her seat in the corner and smiled down at Ayenti, eyes sparkling with laughter.

      "Running around somewhere getting muddy, I suppose," the girl said in a teasing voice. She smoothed down a muddy patch of Ayenti's fur and tweaked his nose. He laughed.

      "And no time to clean it before the festival, either," Ayenti's sister continued. She shook her head, her long, heavy braids whisking across her back. "Well, I suppose it'll do." She stood back and considered her younger brother, paws on her hips. "Or we could just duck you in the water barrel," she suggested.

      "Now, now, Kanrica," their mother said, shaking her head at her children. Kanrica smiled at her and turned away to pick up her ceremonial dress. It was blue, and embroidered in blue; the embroidery was hard to see. She unfolded it and shook the dust out, and smiled at Ayenti. Ayenti smiled back.

      "That's better," Kanrica said. "This evening is a time of celebration, brother. Be joyful!" She left the room, humming the song she would sing this evening and practicing her dance steps as she walked.

      The evening was spectacular; at least, Ayenti thought so. Kanrica danced, her hair hanging lose down her back; she sang, for pure joy, for the joy of the dance and the joy of the song. If Ayenti hadn't already idolized his older sister, he did now.

      That very night the sickness came. Their mother stayed up all night with Kanrica, who had developed a cough. Ayenti lay awake in the darkness and listened, his worry growing with each rasping breath his sister took.

      The next three days were terrible. More and more in their village got sick, and Kanrica seemed to lose her energy, her interest in life, with each passing day. Ayenti was kept busy, though, with the chores of those who were sick; he had almost no time to simply sit and speak to his sister.

      Ayenti left after the third day, sneaking out while everyone was sleeping, sick and well alike. His belongings, such as they were, he had in a knapsack over his shoulder; he only looked back once. "I'll find the cure for you, Kanrica, and I'll come back with it." Ayenti paused, and said, "This isn't goodbye, you know, Kanrica. It's only 'see you later.'"

      Then he left, and he did not look back again. Ayenti walked for most of the night; soon after dawn he found himself at a ferry station, and snuck onto a boat headed for Krawk Island.

      When the boat bumped against the dock of the island port, the tourists that filled the rest of the ship left in a gaggle and went one way. Ayenti went in the opposite direction, wondering how to find the cure. He didn't notice as the street got more and more shadowy and foul-smelling until a fist came out of nowhere and knocked him sprawling. Ayenti looked up; a Darigan Grarrl stood looming over him, sneering and readying for the next blow upon the helpless Gelert pup. Ayenti closed his eyes.

      The blow never came. The Gelert slowly opened one eye, then the other; a hooded and cloaked figure had stepped between him and the Grarrl.

      "Leave him be," the cloaked girl said, and turned. She knelt by Ayenti to give him a paw up, and he saw her face; that of a green Acara. She couldn't have been older than Kanrica was.

      "I'm sorry," the Acara murmured as Ayenti brushed himself off.

      "I'm looking for-" he started. The Acara held a paw to her lips, indicating silence; he nodded. She turned back to the Grarrl, who still stood nearby.

      "He is only a pup. Spare him, my love," she said. The Grarrl grunted, and she continued in a whisper, "We could take him in; train him. Soon our dreams of the most powerful thieves' guild will become reality, my love."

      The Grarrl considered this, and nodded. "Bring him," he said shortly, and went inside a building nearby. Ayenti watched, and saw a sign above the door, marking it as the Bronze Dubloon.

      The Acara smiled at Ayenti. "Would you like a-a job?" she said, and cursed herself for stammering.

      He nodded. "I'm looking for a cure, for-my village," he said. "Would you help me look?"

      "Are they sick, then?" the Acara asked. "Take the job, and I'll do everything I can to help you find the cure." Her paws were crossed behind her back; she had no intentions of keeping that promise.

      "I'll take it," Ayenti said, not hesitating now that his new friend had told him that she would help. "What sort of job?"

      "Galem will have to tell you that. He's the Grarrl," she added. "I am Masila. What's your name?"

      Something prompted Ayenti to give a false name. Perhaps it was the memory of the Grarrl, Galem. Perhaps his memory of his sister. Perhaps he was simply cautious. Whatever the reason, though, he answered steadily, "My name... my name is Kanrik," shortening his sister's name to something that might be a male name.

      Masila nodded. "I am your friend, Kanrik," she said. "Never forget that."

      Ayenti, now Kanrik, nodded dutifully.

      "Come along, then." Masila beckoned; and Kanrik followed her, away from everything he had ever known.

* * *

     She never made good on her promise. Masila, I learned later, was sly and treacherous; to me, to Galem; to everyone. If I had known before, if I had declined their offer-but I hadn't, and I didn't. I have only myself now, and a memory, a memory of my sister, dancing in the firelight, singing songs of joy, and one other; a memory of the Usul, agreeing to help me find a cure for people she didn't know.

      If only I could go back, find my family, and apologize-but it has been too long, and I do not know the way. Now, I begin to see what I could have been, what I could have done, if I hadn't blindly followed Masila into the Bronze Dubloon.

      It is only memories now, only the past now, and it can no longer harm me.

The End

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