A Clash of Winds
Yinza opened one eye slowly to see a young security – no – War Urisha standing in front of her. He looked at the elderly Urisha sitting on the stone bench kindly and reached out a hand.
“It’s time for your rounds, is it not?”
She took his hand, and raised herself to her feet smiling sadly, “Owotun. I guess I lost track of time, the sun feels warm on the skin this time of day.”
“It feels better on Earth’s surface.” Owotun replied, he had been born on Earth so it didn’t surprise her that he preferred the environment down there. Such a thing wasn’t uncommon among the Earthborn Urisha.
“It does sometimes, I don’t visit nearly enough anymore.”
“So will we take the usual route?” He asked as they approached the edge of the Oruka.
“Yes, I think we will.”
Owotun enjoyed this job, not only did it mean he got to leave the Oruka, but it also meant he got to spend time with a very knowledgeable and powerful Urisha. He had learned so much already over the past year. They met here at descent platform 5 (an area Urisha capable of flight could leave the Oruka easily) once a week and would fly around the Earth making sure the winds were blowing as they should. In the past the Urisha of wind would do this by themselves or with other members of the weather division, but the growing concern over The Underwater Kingdom’s next move had prompted the Primarchs to insist all Urisha not proficient in high level combat be accompanied by an escort. Yinza was not new to battle, but she was not what she once was, so she welcomed Owotun’s assistance.
As they neared the jumping point, Owotun noticed a blue clad figure sat on the platforms lip.
“Darakowe, is that you?” Owotun called.
The figure turned around and adjusted his hat, “It most certainly is, Owotun. And not by coincidence. Arunmila said he got an impression about today being important, but could only connect it to the descent platforms – this is the only one in use today.”
“Ah, a prediction from the Tome,” Yinza mused, “hard to decipher, but rarely wrong my young friends. But it would seem that it is worthy of note if he has sent a scribe.”
“One of the best scribes too!” Owotun said, “Darakowe was one of the mentors when I was a Young Urisha.”
“You flatter me,” Darakowe laughed, “shall we go?”
Yinza nodded and with a flick of her wrist lifted the three of them into the sky, with another hand twist, they began hurtling across the sky, every now and then she would pause, raise her palm to her hand, whisper a word into it and blow as if blowing a kiss. By doing this she corrected and redirected the winds ensuring that they blew as they should. The Prosaic Urisha marveled silently as they watched this former Prime handle her Onus with such skill. This was part of why she was so highly admired.
They glided around for hours, Yinza doing her job, Darakowe taking notes, and Owotun keep a watchful eye on their surroundings. Yinza entertained the two younger Urisha with stories from her life as they travelled. She explained how a large city they passed had been founded by one of her human children, how she had encountered the Highmother in a fairground and partied alongside her all night, and of how she enjoyed going for walks in a certain field after her retirement. Sometimes as they flew overhead, humans below would wave at them or chase them on horseback for the thrill.
It was turning out to be quite an enjoyably day, until Owotun saw something out of the corner of his eye. He tapped Yinza on the shoulder, and she paused mid gesture. He motioned downwards and Yinza looked down to see a group of a hundred or so human soldiers with two hooded figures at their helm.
“I don’t they have good intentions,” Owotun said.
“I believe you have observed correctly,” Darakowe said narrowing his eyes.
“Yinza, I think we should-” Owotun’s words were cut short as an arrow whizzed past his head.
“They must have a deathwish!” Owotun said, unsheathing his sword.
“They wear the sigil of the Underwater Kingdom.” Darakowe said.
“Hopefully they are just eager humans and this is not a sanctioned attack.” Yinza reasoned optimistically.
“Either way, we shall show them that the Oruka is not to be crossed.” Owotun said, his brown eyes flashed gold for a brief second as his sword glowed with power, he raised the blade and threw it with force at the group. Yinza looked away knowing it would incinerate each and every soldier once it hit the ground, but no sound of impact came.
“Oh dear.” Darakowe said, a tremble in his voice. Yinza looked down to see the blade stopped middair by a gust of wind. Owotun stretched out his hand and called the blade back. The two figures at the front of the legion removed their hoods. One was a human with green glowing veins on his face – augmented no doubt, and the other was the Supreme Urisha Aya.
The first battle had begun.
“Leave Aya to me Owotun,” Yinza muttered as they descended.
“Are you sure?” Owotun looked concerned as he charged up his blade again and blocked an arrow aimed at Darakowe.
“Yes,” focus on dealing with the humans and protecting Darakowe, he is not built for war.
“Truer words could not be said!” Darakowe screeched cowering behind Owotun’s armoured frame.
“Understood!” Owotun shouted. He grabbed Darakowe and jumped over Aya and her companion landing in the middle of the legion. With one swing he felled ten soldiers and then prepared himself for another attack.
Meanwhile Yinza came face to face with the Urisha she once called student.
“Aya, is this what you have been doing rather than your job?” Yinza mocked.
“Establishing a new world power? Yes, that is exactly what I’ve been doing. This supersedes my Onus, as I now supersede you.” As Aya spoke, Yinza noticed the wind begin to stir at her opponent’s feet. “Surrender, Yinza, retire to the Underwater Kingdom. Once this war is over, I will return to my position as Urisha of the wind and you can rest again.”
“I was a Prime Urisha. I am loyal to The Grand Purpose, the Earth and the Oruka. To my dying breath I will never surrender.”
“So be it.” Aya turned to her companion and nodded.
The human lunged forward and pulled out an axe, swinging at Yinza’s neck with all his might. Yinza stretched up her hand and stopped the blade inches from her neck with ease, her hand lightly grasping the haft. She sniffed.
“An augmented human, I see,” Yinza pushed him back with a gentle flick of her fingers “I can smell the Alympian on you. Such energy does not belong here.” She raised her hand, whispered into it and blew. A few seconds later, blades of wind sliced through the augmented human and he fell to the ground in pieces. Yinza grimaced, she disliked using the wind this way.
“Impressive,” Aya said, her brow furrowing in curiosity, “I guess we need to work on their strength and durability of these Augs.” she turned her attention back to Yinza, “I guess for now your opponent will be me.”
Aya began wafting her hands throughout the air as if dancing, the wind began to pick up speed. Yinza, began gesticulating and whispering in return. The two stood opposite each other, no more than ten metres apart, twisting and bending the wind forcefully in different directions. Any soldier who accidently crossed their path fleeing from Owotun was torn to shreds immediately by their invisible blades.
“This is truly amazing,” Darakowe said to himself from atop a boulder some distance away, enjoying the safety as Owotun dealt with the last few soldiers, “Weather Urisha rarely fight each other. To see two of such immense power trying not just to overpower, but to actually kill each other is almost unheard of.”
Darakowe looked closer, “And yet I fear this battle has been decided by time.”
Darakowe looked on as Yinza fell to her knees exhausted and Aya stopped attacking. The younger Urisha walked forward and looked down at her former teacher.
“I had so much respect for you. But now when I look at you, I see the representation of everything wrong with the Urisha – soft, fragile, undeservedly compassionate. Vestiges of a past long gone.” Aya pulled out a silver dagger, the symbol of Fadahka glinted on the hilt, “You represent everything that we will destroy.” And with that the sun set on Yinza’s Onus.
“No!” Owotun screamed running towards Aya. Aya threw her dagger at him, he lifted his blade to block it but it suddenly changed direction. He moved to block its new trajectory but was too slow as it tore through his armour and pierced his heart. He dropped to the ground lifeless.
Darakowe looked on with horror. No one was left except him and the Supreme Urisha Aya.
“Darakowe? Was that your name?” Aya called to him.
“Y-yes,” Darakowe stuttered.
“We have no scribes in the Underwater Kingdom, all appear to be loyal to Arunmila. Would you like to continue your work within our palace?”
“O-Of course,” Darakowe nodded profusely and hopped out of the tree. He was no coward, but he knew was no match for Aya by himself. This was a game he would have to play - and he would play it smart.
“Good. What takes place in this war must be recorded. Every victory, every fallen star.” Aya looked down at the bodies around them. For the age that will arise from this ugliness, for a certainty will be beautiful.
“Straighten your stance, Toju!” Etin smacked her rod against the gardener's calf, Toju straightened quickly in response. “Good. Now strike.”
Toju raised the rod in her own hands and brought it down with crushing force upon the dummy. The dummy was rent in half.
“Wow.” Toju looked at the broken equipment in front of her, “sorry.”
“Makes a massive difference doesn’t it?” Etin grinned.
“Good to see you’re still training, Toju, we never know when the fighting will reach here.” The two turned to see Unsin standing in the doorway, surprisingly she wasn’t armoured, in fact it looked as if she had been rushed out of her slumber prematurely.
“Lets hope it ever comes to that, Unsin,” Toju said and sensing she was no longer needed quickly said her farewells and vanished out of the door.
“You are not yourself, daughter.” Etin said stooping to pick up the pieces of metal and wood on the floor, “you come bearing bad news.”
“The first battle has taken place. Yinza has fallen.”
Etin paused for ten long seconds, then resumed her tidying “who was it?”
Etin stood up and screeched a sound that was so unnatural it rocked the entire building. There was a cacophony of flapping as the birds nestled on the roof fluttered off. She paused again and silently stared her daughter in the eye. She spoke quietly but with an anger Unsin had never seen before.
“Unsin, Iron Wall of the Oruka, Prime Urisha of War. Promise me with your very being that you will bring an end to those pretenders and burn their Kingdom to the ground. I will revel in the ashes as the sea boils and their charred bones crumble to dust.”
The Ore Ambush
To say Toju was nervous would be an understatement. She stepped aside and motioned to the horse drawn convoy to move ahead without her as she looked on. Everything seemed in order, just as it did thirty minutes ago when she last checked. The human soldiers and miners were keeping good pace, and the carriages, filled to the brim with iron ore, were well on their way to the forge. But Toju still felt uneasy. Uranyin who was monitoring the back of the convoy stepped off the path to check in with her.
“Relax, Toju,” Uranyin said, “The fighting is far from here, and should anything happen, Etin has trained you well, has she not?”
“I guess,” She knelt down awkwardly in her light leather armour, and gently plucked a pale daisy from the floor. It was good to be back on earth after a hundred years away, but she wished the circumstances had been better.
“You doubt her teachings?” Uranyin said his brow furrowing.
“No, never.” She said quickly. Uranyin smiled.
“Then have faith in what she has taught you. The Prime Council entrusted us both with this duty. We show them our dedication to the Oruka and The Grand Purpose by carrying it out fearlessly – even if it is outside our usual remit.”
“Thank you, Ura-” Toju began but was cut of by a crash at the front of the convoy. The two Urisha leaped to the front of the group and landed next to an overturned cart. Their front guard soldiers were locked in a shield wall formation, spears turned out towards three familiar figures.
Orkas and Awadi, from geology and research, Toju recognised them from a few parties she’d been to in the Oruka’s recreation district. And the final one, was none other than the blue skinned silversmith, Fadahka.
“We were coming out to do some mining, but it appears our work has already been done for us.” Fadahka smiled drawing her sword. It was ornate with intricate engravings running its length and her crest was visible on the hilt, “Since when was Etin’s lacky such a trusted warrior?”
“I could say the same for you silversmith,” Toju retorted, “I don’t see a single War Urisha or high ranker among you. Who thought it would be wise to let you out here with these two rock heads?”
“We’ll see if you still think you’re so hot when we’re walking away with your ore!” Awadi shouted pulling out a gilded axe.
Toju stamped her foot, and roots burst out of the ground, grabbing Orkas and Awadi. Orkas tapped the ground with its foot and it opened beneath them and they slipped away, appearing somewhere behind her towards the back of the convoy where they began fighting with the soldiers there. They were stronger than the average human soldier, but as low power prosaic Urisha, they could still be bested by an especially skilled and experienced warrior.
“I’ll handle them, and protect the convoy,” Uranyin unsheathed two short swords, “You handle Fadahka.” He leapt to the back of the group and began fighting.
“I guess it’s me and you then,” Fadahka said. Toju unheathed her sword. This would be her first real battle, but Fadahka was probably just as inexperienced as her... this fight could go either way.
The human soldiers held their shield formation and remained ready as the two Prosaic Urisha fought relentlessly. There was the occasional wince among the humans as a particularly vicious blow landed, or when either fighter made a misstep due to lack of experience.
Toju took a swipe at Fadahka which failed to make contact. The momentum carried Toju an extra step and in that gap Fadahka kicked her to the floor.
“It’s curious,” Fadahka raised her visor and peered down her nose at the Garden Urisha, “Aya loved you like a daughter. She pulled you out from among these humans to serve a greater purpose – The Grand Purpose. And yet you spurned her.”
“She wanted me to become jsut like her, to become something I am not. That is not the Urisha way!”
Fadahka shook her head in disappointment, “That is exactly the Urisha way. We transform and become greater, we move forward, becoming refined, purified like the finest silver. Each generation surpassing the former.” She raised her blade admiring the silver filigree that decorated the hilt.
“Then maybe I am not fit to be an Urisha, maybe I would have been better of drowning in the sea as a human!” Toju screamed and lunged towards Fadahka with her blade outstrecthed.
Fadahka dodged sideways and sliced downwards, completely severing Toju’s left leg above the knee just as Toju’s sword crashed into Fadahka’s visor. Toju crashed to the floor screaming in pain while Fadahka stumbled backwards in shock, blood pouring from the glass in her face.
Behind her the soldiers in the shield wall rushed forward to attack Fadahka, but were stopped by Awadi who landed before them.
“Fadahka, we lost Orkas - we have to go!” Awadi stamped her foot and a section of the ground rose, blocking the path of the human soldiers.
Fadahka looked up, her left eye was useless, and the right had a minimal amount of vision, she composed herself and tried to sense all the metal in the area to get a gauge of where everything was.
“Grab, Toj-” She began, but was cut off by a roar. The mound Awadi had pulled out of the ground collapsed as Uranyin smashed through it, his face contorted with rage.
“Fadahka!” The hunter called wiping dirt from his face. From his ragged breathing Fadahka realised Awadi and Orkas had managed to inflict considerable damage. She moved swiftly, leaping forward towards the sound of Uranyin’s breathing, and kicked his feet out from under him. As he fell, Awadi pulled her hands upwards and the ground around Uranyin wrapped around his falling body, encasing him completely.
“Is he subdued?” Fadhka asked.
“Yes,” Awadi replied, and began approaching the compacted mound of dirt, “shall I finish him?”
Fadahka, knew that her response should have been yes. But she hesitated. Uranyin was a child of the forges. She had watched Uranyin grow from a newborn up into the Urisha he was today. She had played with him, laughed with him, created weapons for him, cheered for his successes.
“I can’t do this,” Fadahka whispered, and began stumbling away, “You decide, Awadi.”
Toju tossed and turned amongst her silken sheets as sweat poured down her brow. She had prayed that sleep would take her, and if not then maybe death. Alas, the sun would not set on her onus today, nor would she be given reprieve from the phantom pain that gripped her where her right leg should have been.
It had been two weeks since Awadi and Fadahka had brought her down to Ulukun's Palace, she hadn't seen anyone except a few of Ulukun's Prosaic subordinates who had brought her food, changed her wound, and checked on her physical wellbeing. She was locked in this room, but it wasn't a cell, it appeared to be an old guest room used for visiting Urisha in the past, it smelled familiar and gave her an immense feeling of nostalgia. It was comfortable enough, filled as it was with books and objects of intrigue that had distracted Toju from the pain during the day. Welcoming as it was though, it was still her prison.
There was a thunk as a bolt shifted in the door and it opened slowly, bathing the room in a cold blue light for a second before it shut again. A slender, robed silhouette glided in and sat down in the chair next to the bed.
"How are you feeling, Toju?" The silhouette asked. Toju recognised the voice immediately.
"Lady Aya?" Toju turned her head to face the Supreme Urisha who sat partially hidden in the darkness.
"It is I," Aya confirmed, before repeating, "How are you feeling?"
"Awful," Toju groaned. Aya reached into a pouch and pulled out a small blue vial, she opened it then grabbed Toju's face with her free hand, squeezing gently until the injured Urisha opened her mouth. She poured the contents inside. "Swallow."
Toju obeyed and almost immediately felt her pain ease. She stared up at her old mentor with wariness. Obeying Aya came easy. Decades of following her around as a Young Urisha had ingrained automatic subservience into Toju. But she needed to remember, this was now her enemy.
"Am I really your enemy?" Aya asked, as if reading her mind.
"Yes, you betrayed The Oruka. You killed Yinza."
Aya turned her head slowly to the floor and and sighed.
"I do simply what my Onus tells me to do. I have been gifted power and authority. I use it to fulfill the Grand Purpose in the I see most suitable and efficient. Is that so wrong?"
"..." Toju hesitated.
"I never wished to hurt you, nor Yinza. I do not wish for anyone to die in this war, but this is the situation we are in - casualties are unavoidable."
"So what now?" Toju whispered.
"You are our prisoner," Aya said sitting back in her seat, "this is my old room, you'll be comfortable and be assisted in your recovery. Of course, my hope is that you will eventually become our guest."
"You want me to join you?" Toju laughed, "No way."
"I want you to cease hostilities at least," Aya then swiftly changed the subject, "Fadahka said that she saw you make roots grow out of the ground, that you fought well. You always claimed you had no special abilities, but already you are proving to live up to what I envisioned for you. You stand side by side with Primes, you lead warriors into battle, you wield nature like a child's play thing. You are like m-"
"I am nothing like you!" Toju interrupted.
The two stared at each other in silence for what felt like an eternity. Aya stood up abruptly and walked to the door.
"Some Urisha can regrow limbs, I hope you are one of them." And with that Aya was gone.
“Well, well, what do we have here?”
Uranyin opened his eyes to see a relatively young Urisha kneeling over him with a smirk on his face. Uranyin tried to sit up but the Urisha pushed him back down.
“Stay down, hunter,” The Urisha stood up, his pale yet tawny robes flapped about as he did “Do too much and every wound will reopen.”
“Who are you?” Uranyin asked, sniffing to see if the scent would give it away. He smelt the Oruka, but he smelt the dampness of the Underwater Kingdom too. It appeared that wherever they were was on Earth, in a ruin of some sort. Maybe an old palace or temple.
“I am he who was spurned, mocked and cast out,” He laughed and grabbed a staff that was leant up against a wall. He slammed it down twice, and the doors shuddered open. Hooded Urisha began to file in.
“Brothers and Sister sof The Asonu. Our guest is awake!” Uranyin craned his head around but could not make out their faces.
“Have you decided what to do with him, Bobolu?” One asked.
“No, I was hoping you would help me decide.”
Bobolu!? Uranyin clenched his eyes shut. This situation could get precarious.
“Bobolu, The Indecisive. How unsurprising to find you hiding in such a dilapidated hovel,” Uranyin said.
“You speak as if you know me, hunter. But you don’t, you never had the chance because you were too busy grovelling at your father’s feet, praying to the gods for his approval,” Bobolu whipped his locs back, “Laughable. And sad.”
Uranyin said nothing. He would not be irritated by the words of this Urisha who had barely reached maturity.
“They did quite a number on you, you know,” Bobolu said pulling up a chair and sitting down, the other figures walked round to stand by his side, there were about twenty of them in total, “Whoever did it clearly wasn’t a trained fighter, but they certainly tried to kill you.”
“It was Awadi and Fadahka-” Uranyin began.
“Not Fadahka. Fadahka’s no fighter, but she knows how to deal a finishing blow,” One of the hooded figures interrupted.
“She’s right. I assume this was Awadi’s doing. That trouble-maker was always dodgy with the hands-on stuff,” Bobolu smiled, “Either way, we found you and I’ve given you a special Bobolu mix! You’ll heal sooner rather than later... If we let you.”
Bobolu smiled as he said the last part.
“What is it that you want from me exactly?” Uranyin grumbled, trying to roll over onto his side.
“Stay! Down! Gosh, you hunters never listen,” Bobolu said leaning forward in his seat and motioning downwards, “What we need is fairly simple – what we need is a promise.”
The Chains That Bind the Sea
Fadahka wiped the sweat from her glistening blue brow then raised the hammer high. She brought it down with all of her might on the chisel gripped in her left hand. There was a mighty CLANG and Fadahka recoiled violently backwards as the chisel and hammer shattered into pieces. Through her one good eye, she stared at the headless haft in her hand and flung it at the wall of her forge, screaming with frustration.
“Calm down, Fadahka,” Ulukun reached over from where they were lying and released their manacled wrist from the vice. The manacle was completely unscathed.
“Ulukun, you are one of our Supreme Urisha,” Fadahka said, rooting through her tools for another hammer, “You are also the most powerful Urisha in the Underwater Kingdom, we cannot afford to have you chained to the ocean floor!”
“I understand your concerns, silversmith,” Ulukun slowly walked towards Fadahka. They grabbed her blue hand and gently pulled her away from the toolbox. “You will succeed.”
Fadahka turned away from her superior, and mumbled, “I can’t do it.”
Ulukun gently grabbed Fadahka’s chin and turned her face toward theirs. “You are frustrated because you cannot undo the work of Egun. You are frustrated that we fight those we once stood beside, and that their powers are so great. I understand – he was my friend too. I, myself, have struggled against Egun’s works for over half a millenium.”
Ulukun removed Fadahka’s visor. They stared intensely into Fadahka’s eyes, one hazel and the other one pale and lifeless. Her injuries had taken some time to heal after her battle with Toju, and the bodyies of most Urisha could not revive a dead eye.
“Egun’s power does not mean we are weak. His success does not mean our failure. Rather, let it inspire you. You show him honour and respect by rising to meet the challenge.”
Ulukun released Fadahka’s face and returned to the vice. Fadahka watched them quietly and then her eyes widened with realisation.
“Meet the challenge!” Fadahka shouted and grabbed a hammer and chisel, “Of course!”
Ulukun smiled, “You have an idea?”
“Yes. I need Omanja, can you summon her?”
Omanja somersaulted into the room and floated over to her mother. Fadahka looked at her curiously, the start of the war was changing the Young Urisha. Already she was beginning to look the equivalent of a human in their early teens.
“Omanja, my dearest. Prosaic Urisha Fadahka has an important job for you,” Ulukun motioned with their head towards the blue Urisha standing by their side. Ulukun noticed Omanja’s amusement appeared at the way they were clamped to the table by their wrist and smiled, “She will explain what we’re doing.”
“We are trying to break your mother’s chains, but they are extremely strong and force resistant,” Fadahka explained, “So what I want you to do is increase the force of gravity multiple times in the chisel the moment my hammer meets it.”
“But won’t the chisel break?” Omanja’s feet dropped to the floor for a second and she furrowed her brow. “How do we solve that?”
The Young Urisha was often seen as playful, immature, and unserious, but those who watched closely knew she was capable and very intelligent.
“You also increase the forces around the chisel so that it stays together during the impact,” Fadahka answered, “Will that be possible?”
“Maybe,” Omanja said, “I’ve never done anything like this before. If I mess up, the broken chisel shards might really hurt you as they scatter. Or the force might get redirected up into you and literally blow you into pieces.”
“Stop worrying, you’ll be fine. Fadahka believes in me, and I believe in you. You will be perfectly fine.”
Omanja looked to the silversmith and saw she was smiling. Prosaic Urisha Fadahka believed in her. Her mother - a Supreme Urisha - believed in her. She could do this.
Omanja stretched out her hands and began to focus on the point of the chisel, feeling the forces acting on it, but especiallly her favourite force – gravity. She played with it a bit while Fadahka lowered her visor and lined everything up.
“Here we go,” Fadahka whispered, “on three, two, and ONE!”
She struck the chisel with all her strength; time seemed to slow for Omanja as she felt the hammer begin react to the force of the blow. She redirected the force together with gravity down into the chisel, stopping energy wastage by ensuring the hammer head didn’t shatter. It held together. Now for the chisel. She focused all her attention on pushing in on the chisel’s form, while simultaneously multiplying and forcing the power of the strike down into the tip where it met the manacle.
Omanja felt the force begin to transfer to the manacle and for a nanosecond her attention slipped. A millimeter of the chisel broke away and shot out of the impact zone shattering a shield on the other side of the room. Omanja felt her focus slip further as the shield shrapnel scattered across the room. Her thought process began to unravel and cracks spread up the chisel. She began to panic - with this much force, even her mother may not survive this.
And then suddenly the cracking stopped.
The force transferred over and the manacle cracked open neatly. And it did not stop there; as they looked on, the cracking continued down the chain and across to the other chains and manacles on the Supreme Urisha’s body and hair.
Omanja dropped to the floor and breathed a sigh of relief. Ulukun raised their bare arm and flexed their wrist, they picked up locks of their hair and ran their hand along their length.
“Finally, I will be able to feel the soil beneath my feet.” Tears rolled down their eyes. Ulukun had not been on land since banishment. Even their children had been conceived upon human ships and floating villages. Almost a third of their life had been spent in chains.
“For this gift I will be eternally grateful. Words cannot describe what you have returned to me,” Ulukun hugged Omanja tightly and kissed her forehead, “Now I am certain that you will be an amazing Urisha once you are fully grown. And you,” They turned to Fadahka, “You who would sacrifice all. I promote you to Select Urisha, Fadahka. Lead well, and may your instincts and skill continue to serve The Grand Purpose.”
In a corner of the room, invisible to the eyes of the Urisha, two divine figures stood accompanied by a floating metal form. They looked on with great interest.
“Some would say you’ve broken the rules of interference, Xipe.” the Highmother smiled. She was a towering figure with elaborate deep purple and gold robes. Her head was adorned with lengthy golden horns and her skin was a glistening fuchsia.
Xipe looked to Bia who floated next to him and grinned. Bia had said the same thing earlier.
“The Chronicle, in all his neutrality, said that the playing field should be as level as possible, did he not?” Xipe asked the goddess as they watched Ulukun praising their daughter, and Fadahka beginning to clean up the metal that had scattered everywhere.
“You do not think the five century long head start did enough to level the playing field for Ulukun and Aya?”
“Oh no, I think it was sufficient. But be reasonable,” Xipe turned to face the Highmother, “How can one side have a leader who is chained to the ocean floor, while the opposition can move around freely? It doesn’t quite sit right with me. If The Flame or The Eventuality have an issue with it, then they know where to find me.” Xipe drew a circle in the air with his forefinger and a portal appeared, he walked through it with Bia in tow.
“Speaking of The Eventuality, have you and your little sister made up yet?” the Highmother said following him through. They emerged in Xipe’s workshop, a constantly expanding jungle housed within a constantly expanding glass conservatory. Xipe, swung his arm and the jungle moved around them until they stood in the middle of his lab. The lab was just as leafy as the best of his workshop, but had all sorts of furniture and tools dotted around the space. The Highmother noticed a half finished animal on a table, some sort of large winged creature which had not yet been given its limbs yet. Xipe raised his hand and a wall of palm trees rose up to block his work from prying eyes.
“My little sister...” Xipe threw himself into an armchair made of woven palm leaves, “Now that is a goddess who breaks the rules. We should rename her ‘Ruin, The-Eventually-I-get-my-own-way'.”
“Be kind, she did not see the last universe, she does not fully understand why we chose the path we do.” The Highmother smiled sadly and lowered herself gracefully onto Xipe’s only leather chair. It was green and blended in nicely with the surroundings.
“And what is your excuse for The Flame?” Xipe asked, “You said he would come around, but he certainly hasn’t.”
The Highmother closed her eyes and reached out as a butterfly flew past. She whispered something to it and it flew on. Xipe watched silently, she always showed curious reverence to butterflies, but he never knew why.
“In matters of governance, we are often in disagreement. It has been this way since even before we gained divinity.”
“So I do not think he will acquiesce this time. We leave it to the mortals to decide, as planned. The Chronicle will make sure we follow the rules.”
Xipe, opened his mouth to complain, but stopped himself, “As you wish. But I’m still not speaking to Ruin until she apologises for trying to seal me.”
“Stop being so juvenile about it. We would have broken you out.”
“That may have taken years!”
“Maybe the quiet would do you good.”
To Dream of Frivolities
“I feel like you’re barely on the Oruka these days, Unsin. And when you are here, you spend most of your time in your new office or with the council” Sesewo leaned on the edge of the balcony overlooking the Prime Heights, “forever out of my reach, eh?”
Unsin who was shuffling papers around her desk inside the office did not look up.
“You spend too much time dwelling on frivolous things, Sesewo. There will be a time for such thinking in the future. Once the war is won.” She hated being so dismissive of his feelings, she longed for a simpler time where she could entertain his musings and maybe even give him a chance.
Sesewo leapt up onto the stone balcony edge, and began to walk its length, his bare feet making a faint tapping as he stepped. She was right, and he knew it, but his mind needed to wander – he needed to be distracted.
“We keep losing! We just have no idea of their scale or capability. But because they came from here, because they were us, they know us inside out,” Unsin muttered, poring over reports and maps. Sesewo sighed and lowered himself down onto the floor. He walked into the room and joined Unsin at her desk, he perched himself on the edge and looked down at what she was so focused on.
“No way,” Sesewo’s face fell in disbelief, “Uranyin... Toju?! No way!”
“Calm down Sesewo,” Unsin said, “Why are you acting like a stranger to war. Did you not fight with us against the Dark Serpent. Against the Human Seige? How amny Urisha did we lose then.”
“I know, but still... they’re our friends, Unsin!” Sesewo shook the reports above his head, “And now they’re gone!”
“Actually we have no idea where they are. We know they lost their battle, but their bodies were never recovered,” Unsin said looking through another file with seeming apathy.
“There‘s something you’re not telling me isn’t there,” Sesewo’s eyes narrowed, “You know something I don’t.”
“Hasn’t that always been the case?” Unsin responded, standing up, “Now I need to go see my mother, and try and console her about the loss of Toju. I fear she no longer has the stomach for such news.”
As Unsin rose from her chair a small piece of paper fluttered into the room from the balcony, it tumbled past Sesewo and hovered over the desk for a second before Unsin snatched it out of the air. She opened it out and read it carefully then placed it into a small pouch on her belt.
Sesewo tilted his head curiously, “What was that?”
“None of your concern, Sesewo,” Unsin tapped him on the forehead with her pen and turned to leave, “Like I said, just focus on the important things, there will be time for curiosities and frivolities later.”
Sesewo sighed once more and followed her out.
Sorrow and Guilt
Egun knocked lightly on the large golden door before opening it and walking into the room beyond. The room was as welcoming as ever. it was for all intents and purposes Emaja’s office, but it certainly did not look like one. Filled bookshelves lined the walls of the room with heaps of cushions at their base, and wherever there was a gap in the bookshelves, a map, painting, or old photograph was pinned to the wall. The floor was tiled but layered with thick fluffy rugs and animal skins that were a joy to walk on barefoot, and in the centre of it all, lit warmly by a low hanging chandelier, sat the elder Primarch. She sat cross-legged at a large but low desk, combing through reports.
“Highmother’s blessing, Emaja,” Egun greeted his co-ruler, “do you mind an interruption?”
“I do,” Emaja said lowering the papers in her hand, “But you have my attention. Take a seat.”
Egun removed his shoes, walked to the centre of the room, and sat down at the tale across from Emaja.
“What ails you?” Emaja asked pulling up two wooden cups from beside her and filling them with water from a matching jug.
“I am aware.”
“We’ve lost countless Urisha already, including Uranyin.”
“I am aware.”
Egun looked at Emaja in confusion. She sipped her drink slowly and continued to watch him with an expressionless face.
“Is this my fault?”
“Ah, finally! The real reason you’re here,” Emaja lowered her cup, “You ask a big question. Explain your reasoning.”
“You suggested we imprison Ulukun on the Oruka after he flooded the Earth, even though they were your own flesh and blood. I, Ulukun’s friend, however said banishment would suffice. If I had listened to you, then we wouldn’t be in this situation. My son would not be gone.”
Emaja paused, thinking on his words. Egun spoke again.
“Or how about Unsin’s suggestion to execute the Alympians? If I had listened, we may not have lost Uru or had so many Urisha join the Underwater Kingdom.”
“Yes, I suppose it is a possibility...” Emaja ran her finger along the pattern on the edge of her robe in thought, “But can you choose and control the thoughts of every Urisha? Are you responsible for the actions those thoughts lead to?”
“Is mercy not the Urisha way?” she continued, “Are kindness and love not carved into our very being?”
“Egun, you were chosen as a Primarch for a reason. Your choices are sound, and though your feeling of sadness is warranted, I cannot say the same for your feelings of guilt. You have seen many of your children come and go, Uranyin is a great loss, but you are no stranger to it nor are you stranger to the dangers hunting and security Urisha face. And as we know, you have cast friends aside in the past - Fadahka and Aya’s defection is not new to you.”
Emaja reached across and pressed a finger into Egun’s chest. My child is the cause of this war. My grandchildren are in the centre of it. I feel the pain of every mother as her child is lost to this conflict. Yet do you see me questioning the past? Questioning our choices?”
“Then raise your head and remember who you are, Primarch Egun. Do not lose your resolve now.”
All was quiet except the rustling of autumn’s leaves as a gentle but chill wind rolled through the forest. Isangbe admired the peaceful surroundings as the path lead him towards a clearing ahead. As the trees gave way he saw the location he was aiming for: Ilatijo.
It was the original home of the Urisha, a vast enhanced clay fortress that climbed into the sky far above the treetops. Its warm terracotta surface seemed to gleam and glisten in the sunlight, evidence of the special properties imbued into it by Imun when her team of builders had constructed it. It had been sealed for a few ages. Locked in time with all its secrets inside. It paled in comparison to the Oruka, but it still held a special place in the hearts of the Urisha. The First Age was an age of wonders after all.
Isangbe looked near the entryway. Three other figures sat chatting joyfully in the grass. As he approached they turned and waved to him, he jogged over and took a seat among them. Present were Aya, Ije and Turesi.
“Congratulations on your recent victory, Isangbe,” Aya said “I heard you ripped an oak tree out of the ground and used it to break a gate open.”
“It was the only tool nearby.” Isangbe smiled.
“I keep telling you to come look at my weapon collection. It’s grown so much since the smiths joined us,” Ije said.
“The gods gave me these hands. That’s enough for me.” Isangbe leant back in the grass and winked at Turesi.
“You’ve done a good job minimising the casualties though, the war effort is definitely flowing in our favour at the moment.” Turesi acknowledged, pouring him a cup of hot chocolate.
“Thank you,” Isangbe responded taking it gently, their eyes locked for a minute and then he looked back to the other Urisha, “Hopefully the war will end sooner rather than later - if we can keep this up.”
"It is certainly what we hope,” the voice made everyone jump. They turned towards the forest to see two figures approaching them, one in a wheelchair, the other behind pushing them.
“I don’t believe it!” Ije screamed.
“My goodness!” Aya exclaimed just as surprised.
“Yes, it is as you see,” Ulukun said, “I have been set free.”
“And the reason we’re late, is because the Supreme Urisha kept stopping to sightsee.” Miaritra said from his wheelchair. Ulukun tapped him on the head softly.
“I haven’t been in a forest for hundreds of years. Do not blame me for enjoying myself.”
“But how?” Ije asked.
“It was Fadahka, and Omanja,” Ulukun began, then went on to recount the events. Ije was crying by the end, and Aya could barely contain her excitement. Isangbe, Turesi and Miaritra, found the entire thing both touching and amusing. They had never seen such strong emotions from their usually stoic superiors, but it was a great reminder of who and what they were fighting for and with.
“So apart from the celebrations, what have you called us here for today,” Isangbe asked after everyone had called down and got some food.
“To tell you that I am pleased with our current success and victories,” Ulukun said, becoming serious again rising to their full height, “And also to say that I have spoken with Aya and Miaritra about our strategy moving forward. We all think that it will be a good idea to become more aggressive in our approach. This would shorten the conflict therefore minimising the suffering and weakening of our planet and its inhabitants.”
“A swift and sure approach,” Isangbe nodded approvingly, “I judge this to be a wise action.”
“But we’re stretching thin right now. So, we’ll need to take a break,” Aya continued. She looked tiny besides Ulukun, but no less fierce “A break to compose ourselves and gear up for a strong but decisive assault on all fronts. We’ll take their Earth outposts before going for the end goal.”
“The Oruka itself,” Ije whispered.
“Exactly. Myself and Miaritra will take the lead in this area.”
“For now, avoid battle, focus on defense, rest, and get preparation,” Miaritra said, craning his neck as much as he could to look at them all.
“And what will you do, Supreme Urisha Ulukun?” Turesi asked.
“I will focus on the scientific side of our operations, and continue to monitor worldwide security,” Ulukun took Turesi’s hand, “We need more Augmented humans like yourselves, and I fear we haven’t seen the last of invaders from other universes.”
“Then the plan is set,” Ije said, “May our victories be swift and our coffers overflow with the spoils!”