Origins - Taveah

Chapter 1 ~ The Road Ahead

It was twilight when Taveah Ikao was born in the Kael monastery of Ound Kaar. By midnight, her mother was dead. That she lived long enough to name Taveah is something she’s always cherished: “My mother gave me two great gifts: My life and my name.”

Still, it is rare for one of the hearty and formerly immortal Kael to die in childbirth. While some in the monastery took this as an ill omen Taveah’s father Navann would hear none of it. “My beloved wife gave this child everything that was within her to give. My daughter is all the stronger for it.”

The community placated Navann in his grief, but Taveah was a sickly baby and many whispered that she’d soon be joining her mother. Weeks came and went; then months; then years passed and it never happened. Certainly she was often ill – sometimes coming within a breath of death – but always she survived. Ound Kaar stopped placating Navaan and started believing him; perhaps Taveah really had inherited her mother’s spirit. “Or, at the very least,” remarked one Kael, “she’s inherited her stubbornness!”

To cultivate his daughter’s health Navann took her on long wilderness excursions as soon as she could walk. Taveah’s strength increased and her lungs became strong. Navann was a scholar, committed to preserving the ancient esoteric knowledge of the Kael and – though his specialty was elsewhere – he taught Taveah all he knew about the wild. Very soon she was running and playing with the other children, hardly the worse for wear. Watching his daughter prosper, Navann became fond of a Huunen saying: “A rocky start smooths the road ahead.”

But he’d done much more than secure Taveah’s future health. The hikes piqued her considerable curiosity: “Nature is an interwoven tapestry, and everywhere I looked I saw Order and Law. In the forests and mountains it was not some unreachable virtue but simple reality.”

While Navaan continued to school Taveah in the art, music, and philosophy of the Kael Empire, Taveah gradually spent more and more of her free time alone in the wilds. She kept journals and sketchbooks of her “discoveries” (though none would’ve been new to the academies of Shilund) and her father encouraged her pursuits. “You have a fox’s wit and an eagle’s eye, dear Taveah…” She’d smile, and he’d add: “…and a wolf’s grin!”

It was the spring of her 13th year when she came across the saddest thing she’d ever seen in her young life. While exploring she heard a noise like a dog’s yelp. Curious as ever, she warily crept up the hillside and found a Fakesh standing over a mortally wounded wolf. He’d apparently shot it with a crossbow and tracked it to its lair. As the hunter was about to stab it’s heart with a dagger, the wolf’s three cubs came spilling from the lair, mewling at their dying mother.

“Ah,” the Fakesh said. “A mother, eh? Well, not for long. These won’t grow up to trouble me!”

He grabbed two of the cubs by the scruff of the neck and slit their throats. Taveah felt rage kindle in her breast, and before she knew what was happening she launched herself at the hunter. Already half a head taller than he, she pulled at his neck and clawed at his eyes. Still, he was strong and he was able to throw her away from him.

“Stupid girl!” He spat, wiping the blood from his wounded eye. “You’ll pay for that!”

But he was barely able to take a step before the she-wolf was upon him. He fell, and the wolf used the last of her strength to crush his windpipe as Taveah watched in grim and dark satisfaction.

There was one cub remaining. She took him in and nursed him with milk stolen from Ound Kaar’s larder. Skarn has been at her side ever since.

For many happy years her studies flourished. Some of the adult Kael in the monastery looked down upon her activities (“It’s much too dirty out there for a Kael!”), and the other children often blatantly insulted her. It didn’t matter, though. THEY didn’t matter.

As she grew older she started combining her own findings with her father’s knowledge. They would talk for long hours into the night on subjects ranging from the medicinal value of needleweed to optics. They even collaborated on a codex of experiments of their own devising. It remains tragically unfinished.

It was winter of her 15th year when she returned from one of her long outings to find Ound Kaar deserted. All of the Kael who’d lived within were gone, including her father. Plates for the evening meal had been left out, but there was no sign of battle. It was as if they’d simply vanished.

Years pass…

Chapter 2 ~ Hunter’s Heart

Taveah Ikao, was tired. An afterglow smeared across the sky was all that remained of the sun, and she’d been hiking since before dawn’s fingers touched the clouds. Well, she mused at the sun. At least I outlasted you.

Her legs were tired; in fact, her thighs ached terribly and her calves twitched from exhaustion. This bit of woodland was filled with troublesome terrain. Twice she’d nearly lost her footing scaling something that wasn’t so much a hill as a small mountain. Taveah had also been forced to carry Skarn much of the way (he didn’t do well on shifting soil), and resolved to cut his rations in half. Of course, his mournful look and pathetic whimpering during lunchtime had ended that promise. Still, the day was over and she would rest easy knowing she’d done her best. Besides, she’d made at least twenty miles, and that wasn’t bad in trackless wilds.

Her vantage point for the beautiful sunset was the summit of the region’s tallest hill. Here she felt like an eagle surveying her vast sylvan kingdom. The wind was cool and damp, thick with an alpine scent that made Taveah smile. The hill’s crown was warded by tall cedar trees and the ground beneath her boots was cushioned with dry evergreen needles. It would make a perfect campsite. Her timely arrival was only a small bit of luck in an otherwise luckless day, but she would gladly take it. She’d have to build the fire in hurry; after the harvest moon the sunset brought quick cold, especially in these northern climes.

She looked at Skarn, who was panting by her side. “Ready for dinner, boy?”

He looked at her with his bright yellow eyes and barked happily, then licked his chops for affect. She laughed and took off her pack — which was light — and began to prepare their evening meal. Not much preparation was required, truth be told. She had hardtack, which she boiled in water so as not to break her teeth, and a little smoked meat. She’d bought the meat in the last Fdhar village they’d visited, at least six weeks past. It was almost gone.

Taveah was an expert hunter, but she hadn’t been putting her skills to much use lately. She told herself it was to spare the arrows, which weren’t easy to make, and that was partly true. They were venturing north into unexplored territory. Only rumors whispered of what beasts roamed there, and the rumors weren’t good. Arrows would be useful, and the more she had the better. Still, fresh meat (along with an almost cyclopedic knowledge of herbalism) was what kept her healthy out here for… How long had it been? She wasn’t sure. More than ten years, but less than fifteen. Without meat, she would whither. She knew this, but part of her didn’t care. Part of her, in fact, welcomed it, though she wouldn’t admit this to herself.

Taveah was tired, but deep in her hunter’s heart she knew it wasn’t the sort of tired that a night on soft needles would cure. She’d traveled though woodland, scrubland, desert, frost, and marsh. She’d learned the secrets of the wild. She’d seen wonders that would make the most stouthearted warrior weak. But it all felt hollow. The love for nature she’d possessed as a child was gone; evaporated under the blazing sun of adversity. Now it was just an obstacle, and one she was tired of fighting. She had searched the world for sign of her father, and she’d found nothing, and now that nothing was eating at her soul.

The simple, childish truth was that Taveah, daughter of Navaan, wanted to go home. But home was gone — had been for a very long time — and the more she searched the more lost it felt. Sitting before her dying fire, hot tears sprung to Taveah’s mercurial eyes. For the first time since returning to her monastery home and finding it — and her — utterly abandoned, she wept.

The next morning, Taveah packed up her camp, and set out. But instead of putting the rising sun to her right, she put it to her left. She was headed back south. Back to civilization. After thirteen years of searching, Taveah Ikao had given up.

Origins - Taveah

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