A Surprising Ally

JP with mdman and Cindy

Wurm and Ch’Truta quickly put themselves together. The March to this point had been exhausting. It would have been good to rest. However, an invite came quickly to meet with the leader of the horde.

Ch’Truta was still questioning I’m his mind the spirits leading him to a woman as the leader. More of a girl. Very young. Did she, at such a young age, have wisdom enough to lead such a vast army?

Ch’Truta touched up the blackened paint on his face. The heron feathers, Ch’Truta kept tucked away until he had official business to represent the spirits, who had led him here. To her leadership.

What was so unique about her leadership. Wisdom? Charisma? Intelligence? It would take all to lead such a great horde. Ch’Truta knew more were answering the call.

Ch’Truta advised Wurm that appearance would be most important. It would be the first impression that this leader would register with this leader. They would have time to build upon that impression as the horde marched to toward their goal. The last items Ch’Truta attached was the belt of bear claws.

He grabbed his pouch and spear, joining the tough shell of a warrior in Wurm and allowed themselves to be led to the tent of the leader. They awaited outside, until the leader would be ready for them to enter.

Islana had arranged things, she had her advisors with her. Kaithak perched on her shoulder. The Skara knife was worn, as always, at her waist.

The petite young woman was growing more comfortable with her new role but still there were moments, slight glimpses, of uncertainty. The hope that her decisions would be the correct ones. Especially, when the other Sisters disagreed strongly with her.

The Sisters however were quiet about the decisions regarding the Bloodletters. Apparently, inviting the leaders was a good thing.

Their presence was announced and the two men were shown inside by a guard who bowed towards Islana then left.

"Welcome," Islana spoke to the Bloodletters after a moment. "Please, introduce yourselves."

She could clearly feel the magik coming from one of them. Which piqued her curiosity even more. What was his gift? Could he feel her magik as well? She might ask but not at the moment.

Ch’Truta stepped forward and slightly bowed before Islana. He perceived her as more striking than the Spirits allowed him to see. The bold green sea of her eyes offset the flowing red hair.

“I am Ch’Truta of the Ch’Ulla Brood of Still Valley. This is Wurm, Chief Commander of the Bloodletters.” Wurm followed Ch’Truta’s lead and bowed as he was introduced.

“The Bloodletters are fierce warriors,” Ch’Truta spoke, gazing into the sea of green. “They have come to join the horde and destroy this people from afar. I myself have been led here by the spirits of the swamp, to bring guidance and aid to promote the true leadership.”

Ch’Truta paused, feeling the power behind those eyes. “The spirits have led me to the Bloodletters, and now to serve your leadership as well.”

Ch’Truta was not used to humbling himself before one so young, much less a female. However, he trusted the spirits. So, Ch’Truta now knelt before Islana.

“If you wish,” Ch’Truta, “I will ensure your leadership as I have served Wurm’s leadership. He is now secure in his position among the Bloodletters. I cannot explain it; the spirits are with you.”

Out of all the places that Islana knew about, the Still Valley was one of the more mysterious of them. So to find someone from there kneeling in front of her certainly piqued her interest.

The redheaded leader turned to her advisors who seemed unsure. Not the same concerned look that the redhead had gotten so often from them, just a little questioning.

Islana knew that her trusted advisors had earned their positions, but she was curious as to what Ch'Truta could offer. There was time to figure it out.

"Please rise, Ch'Truta of the Ch'Ulla Brood." Islana's posture changed slightly and, for those that knew, it would be easy to see the change in her demeanor. It was still Islana but the Sisters were having their say.

First speaking to the leader near Ch'Truta. "Wurm, I welcome you and the Bloodletters to the Horde. I believe that the Bloodletters will be a great asset to our cause."

She glanced around the room, "Ch'Truta, I would like to speak to you a bit longer. Come walk with me."

In essence dismissing all but Ch'Truta and her guards.

Ch’Truta rose at her bidding. When the others were dismissed, Ch’Truta became more relaxed. For one so young, Islana had the presence, manner, and grace of one more mature.

He watched as the others departed, unconcerned, as the spirits had brought him to this place. They had never led Ch’Truta astray. They directed to where they wished him to be. Where he could be an influence.

Calmly he stood, tall and proud. He awaited for Islana to speak, but he did follow her request and walked toward her. His spear, Ch’Truta placed against the wall of the tent. He would not need it with the welcome they had received.

Ch'Truta was quite a bit taller than Islana but most people were. She stood and walked towards the opening of her tent and motioned that he follow her outside .

Outside was a sea of people. The Horde was so many by this point that there was no place, from even ground, to see it all. From where they stood the village Desdem could be seen in the distance.

Off to the right, the Sk’elep lazily opened one eye before returning to its nap. Kaithak, who hadn't left Islana's side much since the fire, still sat on her shoulder.

Islana looked over the vast landscape, before addressing Ch'Truta. "It is my understanding those from the Still Valley do not follow the ways of The Twins. Therefore, while I'm the leader - Sister Locust - you do not, likely, see me as a holy figure as many of the Ozanine do." The young woman noticeably did not say every Ozanine. "Why, then? Why are you so willing to follow me? How are you so certain that the spirits are with me?" Using his own words to ask her question.

Ch’Truta was slow to answer. He couldn’t explain how one so small and petite had corralled such a large group of people around her. She would be the least likely of leaders. Except for the power he felt when gazing into her eyes.

“I serve Uctilo'rhu,” Ch’Truta calmly spoke. “The Devourer in the Mist. He who comes in the Dark. God of the Still Valley. I am the one who brings the sacrifice to him for the security of my brood.”

Ch’Truta walked beside the young one with an older soul. He saw that, but couldn’t explain it either. He knew the spirits were ancient. Perhaps it was a special anointing upon her.

“In return,” Ch’Truta continued, “he granted me wisdom to gain knowledge of how to seek the ancient spirits of the swamp. It was they that directed me to you.”

Ch’Truta became deep in thought once more, then spoke again, “You must forgive me. I am not accustomed to following one so young. Or female.” He chuckled. “But I do trust the spirits, and they see your potential to lead us to victory. I sensed a source of power within you. It must be that our gods are in agreement that this foe must be defeated.”

A small smile crossed the young leader's lips, "Perhaps then we'll be blessed by all the Gods that belong in Arcadia and that the spirits are correct. " Not so subtly alluding to the idea that the Gods the Helians worshiped, the Pillars, didn't belong here.

"I suppose you do not know much about the ways of my people. Even more so, how I achieved this position." Islana decided to address the possible issue, after all, it wasn't like it was a secret. "Especially considering the fact I'm not Ozainine by birth.

Ch’Truta smiled. “It is rare that we of the swamp leave the swamplands. The spirits have told me these people bring change that will not be good for my people.”

He grasped his hands behind his back as they walked. “So, tell me your story. I am most interested in the pretty young woman who is graced with the power to lead a throng of warriors.”

"I suppose to tell you that story, I need to first start with the people that come from across the sea, the foreign invaders." Islana began. "They come from a land called Helias. That's where I was born." Describing Helias was perhaps better left for another time, so the redhead just went to the more important matters. "In Helian, most of the people have been taught to fear and be disgusted by magik. There is something there called the Inquisition. In the Inquisition there are people known as Arbitrators. The Arbitrators seek out and kill or torture then kill magik users. It is the belief that their Gods, known as the Pillars, want magik eliminated from every land." The woman continued to walk as she spoke. "My gift has always been a connection with animals. Which has always made me different from those I knew, being Helian it also made me a target. From the time I was very little I was taught to fear the Inquisition because of what they might do to me." There was some debate on what to say next. "There were many things that happened to me, which perhaps are best left for another time. Those things however led me to surviving, on my own, in the woods for a few years and then eventually to a ship that brought me here." She continued. "With the exception of a few people,that I connected with, I never felt very much like I was truly a part of Helian society." Islana knew her story was long. "The shortened form of what happened after I arrived in Arcadia is pretty much that I was almost sacrificed by a group of cult like worshippers, met some good people though that investigation and my rescue, with some of these people I ended up in Fang, got separated from that group because someone was after me and my friend that was with me. Got sold to a Odonine village in Fang as a slave. Got rescued by a woman named Shalia Nix, the Odonine call her the Voice of Winter." Alexis, Gonyaul, and Shaila had helped Islana in ways she chose not to discuss right now.

"I ended up heading to Gra'askt with Shalia and a diplomatic caravan. At one of the stops at an oasis, I got what's known as the calling. When the old Sister Locust dies, candidates to take her place get called by the Twins to take a pilgrimage across the desert, alone. Walking the path of the first Sister. The pilgrimage takes weeks. Eventually winding up in the capital of Gra'askt. The ones that survive do a mental pilgrimage of sorts, the one that makes it through that then goes on a final journey, where all the past Sisters become a part of them." She paused to judge his reaction.

"That's what happened to me. I have the other Sisters with me, always." Her green eyes glanced over the vast people among her. "All of them, the Horde, are willing to go into battle because they want to defend Arcadia, especially their part of it. Many of them follow me, because I was chosen to this position by the Twins and they also believe this. I feel very strongly that everything in my life has led me here. That heart and soul I am Ozainae."

That’s the connection, Ch’Truta thought. Running a hand through his beard, causing wind blown sand to fall from it (he hated the dry desert), Ch’Truta spoke, “The spirits of the sisters within you, may be why the spirits of the swamp sent me to you. I am of the opinion, these people whom we March against, would not condone our connections to the spirit world. They would like to change our ways.”

Ch’Truta became more solemn. “If you have anyone challenge your authority, I will protect it.” Ch’Truta patted his pouch, which contained the various poisons he had gathered from the swamp and the desert trek. “If they choose not to follow you, it is best they not remain with the horde. It only takes one bad paw paw to cause the rot to spread through the entire batch.”

Despite Islana's time now spent on the sands, she still wasn't as used to the heat as she would have liked. She turned to continue the walk more in the direction of her tent but at a slower pace.

"I'm afraid you are correct. The Helians want to destroy what Arcadia is and those who belong here. They have almost wiped out magik from existence in Helias. They won't just change the ways of Arcadia but destroy it." That was Islana's own thoughts about these things. She was after all the one that knew Helians best.

She looked at the man beside her, when he vowed to protect her. "The first sister was Odonine, from Fang. Every Sister since then has been Ozainae, until me. I come a foreign land, the people that want to conquer this land. I have a type of magik, none of these people have seen before. I have only been The Sister for a short time, not long enough to prove myself to them. There are going to be those that question my authority. I expect it. I do not want my people to feel they cannot express their opinions." She hoped Ch'Truta understood that she refused to be a heavy handed leader. "However, attempts on my life or talk of treason are another matter and those are things I need taken care of. My advisors have earned their place. I know I can trust them explicitly. I want to give you an opportunity to do the same."

They had arrived back at her tent, and she ushered Ch'Truta inside and gave the guards orders to leave. The guards hesitated but did as asked. She put Kaithak in his nesting area or tried but he wouldn't leave her shoulder.

The young leader motioned towards the falcon, "This is Kaithak. He has been with me a long time." Taking a breath, as her eyes wandered down to her arm that was still working on healing itself. "Several days ago, I was attacked, my pavilion was set on fire when I was sleeping. Kaithak was in the tent with me and has been a little weary of not being by my side since."

To be honest she wasn't sure how important that Ch'Truta knew that part, maybe it was just to explain her connection with the falcon. "The fact that Kaithak seems to accept you, speaks volumes to me. For that reason and as a chance to prove yourself, I have a task for you. If you want to turn it down, you can, but now would be the time to do so."

Ch’Trutha walked along, actively listening to Islana. He would nod his head in agreement, encouraging her to keep on speaking. Ch’Truta acknowledged that for one so short, Islana had a certain grace about her.

Looking at the wound upon her arm, Ch’Truta boldly spoke, “I have a balm that will bring healing to your wound.”

He looked toward the hawk, grateful of the avian’s approval. Reaching into the pouch opposite to the one carrying the poisons, Ch’Truta brought forth mud from the swamp. Encouraging Islana to trust him, Ch’Truta applied the mud directly to the wound. He pulled out clean rags, gently wrapping them about the wound, securing it by tying a knot.

“You should see improvement within a day,” Ch’Truta affirmed to Islana.

Now that he has attended to Islana’s immediate needs, Ch’Truta knelt before her once again, not only to acknowledge his service to her, but to see more eye-to-eye with her as well. “Now,” he asked, how may I show my loyalty to you?”

Watching as Ch'Truta helped her arm, "Thank you. The healer worked for hours on it but there was only so much they could do. The rest was mostly changing the bandages and waiting."

Islana had gotten more used to people bowing and kneeling in her presence. So while acknowledging the gesture, it wasn't nearly as strange to her as it had once been. "As you can probably guess, my advisors and guards are fairly well known throughout the Horde. You however are not. I need you to find out if there is any talk of attempts on my life. Or any talk of which I should be concerned. I'd like to know of those I should be the most concerned with." It took her a moment to think of how to handle the potential problem. "Don't do anything, once you get this information but report it back to me. You being an outsider might help you get information, it might also prove problematic towards that end. Do you think you can achieve that task?"

Glad that he could be of service to Islana, Ch’Truta declared, “It will be my honor.”

Truly it would. He had never before met one as Islana. Yes, she was beautiful. Yes, she was young. And yes, a woman. However, she housed the spirits of this before within her. Ch’Truta only visited with the swamp spirits. Truly, Islana is meant to lead this horde.

Islana smiled and gave a nod. "Rise then and start your assignment. I'll be interested in what you find out." With that she showed the man out.

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