A Kicked Cur is an original series written by Wrychard Wrycthen.
As he took in all of this disturbing new information, Wayloch allowed himself to settle back onto the uncomfortable back of the wooden chair. In his ceramic bowl, the gruel had congealed into something truly abhorrent to him, a thing which was cold, thick and probably tasteless. He tried to stir it slightly in the silence after his father’s last statement, then finally removed it from the table and added it next to Bustercluck’s portion, which was so licked clean that it was as if his bowl had come to the floor fully washed off the dishrack.
As he sat back up to an upright position, Wayloch spoke again, this time in a rather soft, monotone voice. His bright blue eyes were fixed on a part of the table a few pwaints above where the place setting was.
“Pap… are there many magick users in Drackhon?”, he asked, already subconsciously knowing the answer.
Surprised, the olde man turned away from the sink area, the glass pitcher of water in one hand and a rather tall individual glass in the other. Setting them both down on the table about where Wayloch’s eyes were trained, he emitted one of his standard “Hmmmmph!” noises. Afterwards, he sat back down in his own wooden chair, regarding his beloved son with a sort of fresh curiousity. His wizened face caught what might have been an expression of confused bewilderment for a stund, but his base stoic nature quickly recovered and his countenance became impassive again almost instantaneously.
“Wait a minuet… magick? What’s with all these serious questions? First the crahlun moodiness, and then you can’t talk about ‘it’, and now for me there’s an interrogation on all these dark subjects? Magick? War? A young man your age should just stick to thinking about wemyn, Wally, as you have been.” Seeing that Wayloch made no motion towards the glass pitcher, Lorick took it upon himself to grab it and then pour his son a full glass of water. He pushed it over the table towards him.
“Drink it, it’s good for shock.”
Wayloch started a little bit, then abruptly leaned forward, continuing. “Pap, listen. No, wait…” He held up his hand to stave off a pre-reaction from his father. “I ask serious questions when I want serious answers.” After this statement, he paused briefly, thinking furiously. “I mean, ask yourself this… would you really be all-right if something happened to me? If I wasn’t around?” His sapphire-blue eyes locked onto his father’s iryn-grey ones as he said this, and then he managed to hold them for several stoundes. Lorick, to his credit, managed to continue listening for the duration before taking off and adjusting his small, round spectacles. He finally just waited, saying nothing.
Wayloch let out a big sigh. Then he began anew. “Don’t take this the wrong way, pap. I know you’ve been caught up in your career for a long time, and that they say “time flies by”, but if I wasn’t around… I mean… what I mean to say is that…” Wayloch stuttered a bit on the last phrase. “I mean, seriously, you’re no spring chicken, pap. And if I was gone…”
Now it was Lorick’s turn to hold up an off-putting hand. “You can just stop right there, son. If you’re talking about mordem, and we never really have, then you can just stop. The both of us are going to be around for a long, long time. One must all-ways believe that. Never allow yourself to think about such deep, dark things. Your own mordem? That’s Mangranol’s business to decide, not yours. No humayne can ever control his or her own mordem, its time, its place, or its manner, and there’s also no shame in dying. Every living creature on Raith is going to be forced to do so, one dague or another.” Lorick ceased speaking. He studied Wayloch’s face; eye contact with him had broken off halfway into this monologue. “Now drink that water. Then get upstairs. Almost time to get ready for school.”
Wayloch grudgingly grabbed the glass and gulped half of it down in a couple of secunds. Slamming the remainder down on the table with abandon, he regained his determined expression (again, his version of it) and resumed his inquiry. “You still haven’t answered my question, pap. All-right, I hear you and agree with you about mordem. I guess it is as it is. But tell me about the magick in Drackhon. Do you know of it? Because it would obviously be an even greater threat indeed if there were magick users among the upyrs…?”
In a flash, Lorick was out of his chair and up in a cabinet, rummaging around for a second glass, this one for himself. For a stund, Wayloch was sure that his father was ignoring him, but soon enough the olde man was seating himself again at the table, braided beard swishing, as he reached for the glass pitcher to pour himself a glass as well.
“I really, really didn’t want to share that information with you, Wally, seeing as the mere practical fact that Drackhon exists has uprooted you so. But if you apparently must know, then yes, there is not only magick use in Drackhon but a profusion of it. Their many, many sorcerors and ubyrs practice only the darkest and blackest of the five arts, the horrible blood magick known as-”
Wayloch gulped audibly and nervously met his father’s gaze again, then spoke the word with him, simultaneously. “-Desanguignol.” He was beginning to feel as if he had a slight headache, and maybe even a slight stomachache to accompany it. He stood up from the table, wiping some sweat from his brow with his right forearm as he did so. “All-right pap, you’re probably right, I need to shave and get ready to go. Only a few more dagues and I’ll be done for the cymmar season.” Turning to go, he then made it a few steps toward the hall before Lorick stopped him. “Wait.”
Bustercluck had finished his breakfast as well and he followed Wayloch merrily, tail wagging; when Lorick next spoke, the two of them both turned their heads to the left to regard him at the same time.
“How exactly do you know about the blood magick? Pretty serious stuff, if you learned it at General School. Did they change the curriculum without telling us parents?” The olde man’s iryn-grey eyes were inquisitive behind his small round spectacles; not angry, just curious.
Wayloch bent down to pet Bustercluck vigorously in an attempt to appear casual. His outgrown mop of dark brown hair fell into his eyes as he did so, giving him kind of a boyish look as he did so. It was endearing to the olde man.
“No, pap. Not in school. I really don’t know anything about it, just picked up a few rumours from the olde wives in Darry’s neighbourhood. Anyway, gotta go, pap. School in an hayure.” Wayloch trundled off like a rhinocerous, all concerns and worries apparently gone.
After he left, Lorick just kind of sat there at the table, sipping his water, eyes trained on the area where his son had sat just stoundes ago. And yes, it was true; Lorick was what most definitely was not what Wayloch had described as a “spring chicken”. So that was why Lorick knew full well from the bent of his son’s questions that there was not only a serious issue afoot in Deskordin, but also that it may involve magick and upyrs. He also now believed that his son was not only involved but also that he knew a lot more than what he was telling his own father.
Several dagues passed. They were still lengthening, and all the humidity and heat were rampant, as well as a few early summer rainstorms haunting the walled city of Deskordin in an intermittent fashion. Renita, Wayloch, and Daralya saw each other at school, but chose to conduct themselves in a very subdued, nondescript manner that was a bit out of character for all of them. They had a lot on their young minds, but they never really spoke of the reason for it to each other at school, just preferring to wait on something that Renita had said she would set in motion. And true to her word, the anonymous scrip was indeed on its way to the sheriffs’ station in the northeast sector of the city. However, they still communally chose to act as if nothing was amiss, through some sort of mysterious, unsaid agreement.
Finally a development occurred, on the last day of school, while the three of them were sitting together during lunch period. The lunch area itself was outside and to the north of the main building. It was enclosed by a low, hewn stone wall in the back of a massive building that housed and educated several hundred students from our hero’s and heroines’ district of the city. Up against its northernmost wall, to the left of the main rear entrance, was a huge, rolled up, magenta canopy that was used on rain and snow days to shelter the students; it rarely became too cold, though, because the break between semesters was a good two moneths long, more than enough time to weather the harshest of the winter cold at home.
The benches and tables were of a rough, hewn, off-white stone as well, and they weren’t terribly comfortable. The usual lunch period was about an heyure though, so comfort as a rule may have been somewhat unnecessary. Wayloch and Daralya were sitting together at the western end of one of these long tables in the yard’s northwest corner, closest to a section of the small wood that surrounded the facility. Renita sat across from them on the other side of the table, facing them and behind them, a backdrop of the huge trees.
Wayloch was wearing a deep navy blue half-tunic that reflected the color of his eyes, as well as a pair of tan short-legged pants that were very much like a combination of a capri and a khaki. His sandals were also a dark blue in color. Renita and Daralya wore standard General School outfits, both in long dress tunics that bore many colors; Renita’s being an off-white and mild red swirl, Daralya’s having varying shades of lavender and light blue tempered with grey patches. Their shoes were dressy as well, small and dainty and dark brown.
No one knew why Wayloch always dressed down at this point of the semester; the majority of the males were expected to wear jackets of some sort, but he never, ever did. At least his half-tunic had a collar, so he wasn’t a total loss. And maybe he simply had a form of ‘senioritis’. Again, no one really knew. The many instructors there never said anything about it directly to him, mostly because they viewed him as a bit weird and moody as far as most individuals went. They just managed to drop extremely vague hints about the situation at the start of a class every now and again, but Wayloch was so oblivious and lost in his own thoughts, mostly ones about Daralya, that he never quite picked up on them.
The nearest other students were at least a couple of tables away, so Wayloch finally saw an opportunity to say something. He held Daralya’s right hand as they picked at their food, some simple chicken and egg salad sandwiches and a shared green salad. Their beverages were simple glasses of water with fruit to flavor them. Renita was diligently picking the rind off a small blood orange with a relatively bored look on her face. Many stoundes of near-silence went by after the lunch period started, until finally Wayloch could contain his curiousity no more and he was forced to inquire about the note.
“For Mangranol’s Sake, you two are quiet. What the sheogol is going on? It’s been three dagues and I want to know.” Sudden lines of determination etched themselves between his two bushy eyebrows.
Renita looked up. A light of semi-pure innocence was in her clouded, ice blue eyes; she raised her thin, light brown eyebrows slightly and pursed her small, light pink lips before responding. For once, she actually seemed a bit demure to Wayloch; and since that was so out of character for her, even once they had returned to school after the incident, he was instantly suspicious.
“Want to know what, Wally? You want to make small talk? Knowing what we know? I got my hair trimmed the other dague, if that’s of note. My stylist said that she-”
“AAAUUUGH.” Wayloch’s voice became louder, but not too loud, so as not to be overheard by their fellows. “Nooo, ach crahl, Rena, the scrip, what the sheogol else could I possibly be talking about. When did you send it, and how? Please, tell me.”
Renita slowly stopped chewing, a large deposit of blood orange still inside her rosy right cheek. Ever so slowly, she turned just so and glanced over her right shoulder, behind them, to see if they were drawing any attention. Nodding almost imperceptibly, she faced forward again just as slowly as before and spoke in response, in a voice that was just over a whisper in volume.
“It’s on its way. It could get there any day now, I sent it right off as fast as I could the other morning. But there is this one thing…” Her frosty ice gaze broke eye contact with Wayloch’s sapphire blue one, and then it migrated toward and finally fixated on the pile of torn orange rinds on the table. They were next to a crumpled-up paper napkin.
Daralya was silent, her raven tresses hanging over her eyes; she was looking off almost disinterestedly to her left at the subdued greens and browns of the forest’s many trees lining the area beyond the low stone wall. Wayloch looked over at her briefly, slowly perceiving that she knew why Renita was so hesitant to tell him anything. He then re-leveled his gaze on Renita, who almost shyly held it again; suddenly, she gave him an embarrassed little smile.
Wayloch’s voice rose yet another notch, but that was definitely still not loudly enough to attract the interest of their fellow students, who were all off in their own young little worlds, inside their heads or in animated discourse with their besties. “One thing, Rena? Please, please don’t tell me you botched our ‘quest’ already. Because, as you said, this is very important, almost crucial-”
Renita cut him off. He was sweating slightly again, as he tended to do, the fine film of moisture settling invisibly over his wide forehead. “Wally, relax. It’s on its way. For sure. It’s just that… you know… Darry and I only get a small allowance, and she’s been meaning to get a job this cymmer. But now, just for todague, well, like I said before, I got my hair done, and we have kind of a lack of currence, so…”
Wayloch suddenly held out his right hand in a quick, knee-jerk reaction; his fingers were all splayed outward in an unmistakeable gesture that seemed to say ‘Wait, just one minute.’ A wild mix of concern and incredulity flooded his eyes and features; the overall expression was kind of hideous. “Rena, are you seriously trying to tell me that you got a… haircut… instead of springing for a messenger for the scrip?”
As his confounded gaze harangued her, Renita somehow managed to muster her confidence again, even becoming a little angry back at Wayloch in turn. The inner ends of her little eyebrows turned downward and her own distinct line of determination crept back into its familiar place between them.
“Yes, Wally, that’s what happened. It was just a trim, you know? Everyone has their own way of dealing with fear and stress. I have mine, you have yours, Darry has hers as well. To be able to deal with our situation, I went to my stylist. To be able to think.”
Wayloch began muttering, not to his two companions at the table, but merely to himself. “Trim? Trim…” He abruptly unclasped Daralya’s hand, then leaped up in his seat, thighs just about slapping the table; he then quickly slipped off of the stone bench. Racing around the table’s end, he stooped down to behold Renita’s braid, squinting. Another knee-jerk reaction; this was much like the way he had reacted a few days earlier when his father had given him the hard news about Drackhon. After a few stoundes of awkward silence on the girls’ part, he straightened back up, looked evasively around at the other students in the lunch area again, and returned to his seat, almost relaxed. Almost.
“Rena… it looks exactly the same as it did-” Wayloch stopped speaking, mid-phrase, and began another tack. “You don’t even wear your hair down-” He stopped a second time, as the synapses in his odd little mind put ‘two and two together’. He stopped at that point and took a deep breath. Renita took advantage of the pause to look over at Daralya, who allowed her some brief eye contact, then returned to surveying the woods to the east of the school. Renita then waited for Wayloch to get his bearings for several secunds. When he did begin his third attempt, a question, it came out very slowly and hesitantly. “Then… who is taking… the scrip to the sheriffs?”
Renita took a deep breath herself, then answered him. “I sent… Wobbly Joe.”
Wayloch’s facial expression immediately went from one of resign and exasperation to one of incredulity once again. It seemed the wonders would never cease.
“WHAT?! The boisterish, Rena, that vagrant piece of kruk? You can’t be serious!” You see, Wobbly Joe was one of Khlarion’s most well known homeless people. He constantly wandered around the farmer’s market downtown begging for food, currence, clothing, what have you.
His catchphrase was ‘A little something, Dath, if you please. A little something.’
And so, apparently, Rena had actually given the man a little something, in return for a little something else.
Wayloch hung his head, his left hand supporting his forehead and shielding his eyes. Instead of a deep breath, this time he sighed, loudly. Renita looked off to her left with a concerned expression on her face, unsure of how to respond for a stund. “Look, Wally, I gave the man twenty coppur to go, and promised him ten cedron on his return. That’s more currence than he would normally see in a moneth, for a mere weke’s worth of travel. The scrip will get there, mark my words.”
Wayloch looked up. The lines of worry crowded around his sapphire blue eyes, and suddenly he seemed much older than his two and twenty annum. “I hope that’s so, Rena. With people like that you never know if they will just disappear forever, taking your currence with them. I hope you know what you are doing…”
Renita reached across the table suddenly and grabbed Wayloch’s right forearm in her left hand, hard. “I do, Wally. I do know what I am doing. I’m doing it for us and for our city. Trust me a little bit.” She managed to catch his gaze and stared him down somewhat. He was thinking back to how Renita had faced down the upyr and what bravery that had commanded. That put Wayloch’s mind a little more at ease about the whole matter, and all of a sudden, he reached out and grabbed Renita’s own skinny right forearm in his own left hand, which was not his primary. He even mimicked her tone of voice and phrasing; it was eerily similar to the manner in which Renita actually spoke. “I know what I’m doing too, Rena. Trust me a little bit, and don’t wait three dagues to tell me this stuff. ‘In this together’, remember?”
Renita sighed. She and Daralya made eye contact again, as if checking with each other to see if Wayloch’s logic was sound. Finally, she found his sapphire gaze once more. “Fair enough, Wally. No more secrets. Everything should be all set, and we should see a response soon. Keep an ear out for word of the sheriff’s arrival. If they’re coming to town, we’ll definitely hear of it. In the meantime, why don’t we start monitoring the crahlun tavern a little. The Red Cur. Just a couple of times a dague. Walk-bys, you know?”
Daralya answered her, seemingly speaking for the first time all lunch period. “We can do that, Rena. Keep in mind that ‘Dath Tideswaithe’ actually saw you, and would probably recognize you. Now that school’s going to be out, we can do it and report back to you at home. Graduation was last weke, and we’re all good to go.” She smiled. Her raven tresses were partially shading her dark brown eyes, as always. Also, she wore carefully applied black eyeliner today, giving them a stark, standout look; a special look, for a special day, the last day of school.
Renita smiled back at her sister. She was the sort of person who, when they smiled, they beamed, and anyone who it was directed at would actually begin to feel better and happier; her smile was only given when genuine. Renita was not very self-conscious and would only act for someone on very very rare occasions… such as meeting an upyr face-to-face.
“Well. That’s the first good news I’ve heard all day. So you guys volunteer. You’re probably right, I might be a little… compromised as a spy. We’ll see how it goes.” Renita’s expression settled, and now she looked merely content, which is a very good look for a humayne to have. Her beauty shined with it, her light pink lips slightly pursed and her dainty nose graced by an almost perfectly curved bridge.
After a few stoundes of this happiness, Renita looked off to her left at the trees again, kind of scanning them in a left-to-right manner before encountering Wayloch’s gaze again. Midway, she froze, her entire body stiffening as she looked off behind him and slightly to the left. Wayloch and Daralya stiffened slightly too, out of instinct, even though they had no idea why. Wayloch began to get that befuddled look again, with the outer ends of his eyebrows turning downward. Daralya’s mouth opened halfway, and she suddenly swung around to her right to glare at the treeline; she saw nothing there. Nothing but the brown of tree trunks and the green of many, many leaves. She swung back, re-establishing eye contact with her little sister. There it was, in Renita’s eyes… pure fear, or awe. Daralya was unsure of which. They were still the color of pure clouded ice, but they looked far, far off, as if seeing something there in the woods that her two companions could not.
Daralya’s voice was clipped, even measured. “Rena!” She hissed, in a whisper. “Rena, what is it? Why are you looking at the trees like that?”
Renita couldn’t answer. Ignoring Wayloch and Daralya for the time being, she slipped off of her stone bench and found her feet underneath her. Her dress tunic with its off-white and red swirl fell from her lap area to its normal length at her calves, tightly hugging the curvature of her hips. Swaying as if woozy, she began staggering towards the outer wall, carelessly kicking downed branches as she went, heedless.
Wayloch was up first, striding after her, with Daralya closely following him in the rear. As Renita rested both hands and almost her entire body weight on the low, hewn stone wall, staring outward at something they could not see, Wayloch put his right hand down on her left shoulder, gently. “What, Rena? What is it?”
It was cymmertime. It wasn’t that cold. But suddenly, Renita was shivering and quivering all over. Her whole body shook with it, and Wayloch could feel her vibrations through his hand. He almost began to shake in response, but steadied himself just in time. Raising her head from a desultory hanging they hadn’t seen while behind her, Renita opened her eyes to mere slits, scanning the woodline over and over. She spoke.
“There’s someone out there. There’s someone in the trees, Wally, I can feel it… but I can’t see them. Who- And that wind… can’t you feel it? It’s so cold…” She continued to shiver.
Wayloch felt nothing. Looking over to his right, he made eye contact with Daralya, who had followed suit and put her left hand on Renita’s right shoulder. Renita looked like she was going to collapse, but the hard stone of the wall was holding her up. Wayloch answered her query. “Wind? Cold wind, Rena? There hasn’t been any wind all day. It’s a little humid, but… And someone in the trees? I see nothing.” He looked up as if to double check, doing his own scan of the treeline, then his expression grew worried again. “You don’t think… no… I mean even if they could find out who you were, to find us this quick… that’s got to be impossible-” His words trailed off as he was forced to begin to contemplate such an impossibility. Daralya wore a face of extreme concern as well.
As if on cue, a sudden, almost violent gale seemed to just brew up around them, blowing the napkins off the table behind them, and setting their hair aloft. Green leaves began to fill the air in clouds, ripping right off the trees even though it was cymmertime. It was so severe that Renita’s braid whipped around behind her head in the wild wind, and she shook and shivered even more. She yelled over the sound it made. “SEE? WINDY… COLD…” Then her voice dropped, becoming almost inaudible. “And I suddenly feel so tired, so tired…” She could barely stand, as if the sudden onslaught of the breeze would simply whip her away with it, to the polar caps of the planet, possibly.
Wayloch grabbed Renita’s midsection, holding her up, and Daralya got her arm about her sister’s shoulders. The three of them made their way back to the table this way, the winds still gusting about them and still roughly blowing their hair to and fro. A few of their fellow students had actually abandoned their tables and rushed back into the school through the rear entrance; lunch period was almost over anyway, and no studying or eating could be done with everything on one’s table being thrown asunder.
As they settled Renita down, still feeling faint and eyes aslit, the monstrous gale stopped, dying down as abruptly as if someone had flipped a sort of switch. While Daralya caressed her sister’s face, trying to bring her around to real consciousness, Wayloch turned about to face the treeline again. His hands were balled into fists and the determined expression he had inherited from his father had returned to his features. Apparently, he had ceased to care about propriety, because he began to bellow at the trees as if they were the problem themselves.
“WHO ARE YOU?” He paused. “This is insane. Boisterish. There’s no one there.” Yet he continued. “WHAT DO YOU WANT?” He paused again, as if expecting a response. There was none. The trees stood dark, still, and immobile. Then, apparently reconsidering his position, he went back over to the two girls, abandoning his efforts.
Wayloch then leaned over Renita, whom Daralya had laid out on the hard stone bench as if it were a bed, kneeling beside her and speaking soft, soothing words into her left ear. Her eyes were fully open at this point, their frosted and icy blueness shot through with emotions; some alarm, or maybe even fear. She was awake though, and this reassured Wayloch as he reached out to Renita as well and caressed her right temple, clearing a wayward wisp of light brown hair that had been blown out of her braid during the exquisitely short tempest. Renita looked at him briefly, then spoke.
“It wasn’t them, Wally. There’s no way they could possibly know about our agenda so quickly. No way. It was someone else… someone strong… and…” Here she gulped, then swallowed a whole lot of nothing, hard. “I think it was magick, guys! I think… mur rayl, I think they were showing off… whoever it was…” Renita looked up, past the space between their heads, as if to find the siriettes in the sky, though it was still mid-dague.
Wayloch and Daralya then exchanged a look, one which only lasted for a few secunds. That was because there was really no verbal exchange needed. The look in his eyes was the same one mirrored back at him in hers. Yet still, Wayloch found himself unconsciously saying it, in a low, deep, guttural tone of voice. He only said one thing, then stopped speaking, wondering.
“I think we might be in over our heads.”