The Kami of the Lost Souls - part three and the end¶
"Your plan is quite… unusual."
Mithus Xalon scrunched his eyes and thought. His face had a bluish tinge, colored by the glowing cube that lighted the inside of the tent. In Lipsen's mind, the Kuilde chief was practically a guardian of the Karavan, a being of masterfully restrained power. Sitting across from him, the young Tryker could barely conceal her anxiety. The Fyros truly impressed her.
"But it might work, and the stakes are far too great for me to commit the error of excessive caution."
Lipsen felt an immense wave of pride well up inside. She was going to show the whole tribe what she could do!
"Do you think you can do it alone?" Xalon asked, getting to his feet.
"Yes," she replied, nodding and rising as well. "A whole army of warriors would do me no good in this plan." Although she was smaller than the Fyros, she felt confident in speaking so boldly to him.
"That is not what I was thinking of," answered the Kuilde chief with a smile, as he opened a carved wooden box on the floor beside him. "The blessings of the Goddess are a kind of assistance that one cannot refuse."
The Kuilde chief held out a small object to the young huntress. It was a crystal with a rounded shape, as clear the water in the lakes of Aeden Aqueous, with its iridescent reflections.
"This is a teleportation crystal," the leader said, handing it to her. "Break the crystal and you will be transported to a safe place." Lipsen bowed before the Fyros and thanked him respectfully.
"Now I must prepare the tribal fighters, in case the Company of the Eternal Tree decides to lend its assistance to the Recoverers." He smiled softly again and laid a hand on her shoulder. "May the light shine on the perilous path that you have chosen, child of Jena." Lipsen nodded again, smiled, then left the tent.
In the late afternoon, the sun's rays could barely pierce through the clouds. Lipsen left the village carrying a large sack that contained all that she would need. She had to hurry to reach the abandoned camp before nightfall.
The moon was ensconced in the middle of the sky when the Zoraï saw the tents. A light drizzle was forming droplets of water on his tan-ko armor, like night-time dew. The Recoverer entered the camp, drew out of his bag the amber vase that he had taken from the foot of the sacrificial pillar and approached the yurt with hesitant steps.
"Revered Kami of the Lost Souls, I have brought you this object as an offering, so it may be returned to nature in accordance with our customs."
He placed the vase before the entrance to the tent. A few minutes passed. Emboldened, the homin leaned towards the leather curtain in order to lift it.
Suddenly, a plant-like hand shot forth from inside the yurt to seize the offering. The recycler leapt up, crying out in surprise. Then a voice came from within the tent.
"With this sacrifice, you shall receive the favor of the spirits. Your name is known to the Kamis, Fa Gai-Guan!"
The Zoraï recognized the strange voice of the Kami of the Lost Souls and fell to his knees, then prostrated himself on the ground.
"Glory be to Ma-Duk, glory be to his Disciples!" he shouted with fervor.
"You have faith," came the quiet reply. "A sacred mission you are worthy of accomplishing. Do you accept?"
Fa Gai-Guan lifted his head. He put his hand on his chest before speaking.
"Yes! I am at your service, O Guardian of Atys!"
"A greater sacrifice, the tormented souls demand," intoned the Kami. "Only then will they be granted rest. There are impious relics held by your tribe. Let Liangi Do-Vi, the Recoverers' chief, bring them here before dawn. My messenger you shall be, Fa Gai-Guan! Go. Now!"
The homin jumped to his feet then flew like the wind to the Northeast. He seemed to be filled with a fervent zeal and nothing could have stood in his way.
After a few moments, in the tent, Lipsen slipped the amber vase into her sack with a chuckle; everything had gone exactly as planned. She carefully removed her tashok gloves. The camouflage of moss and twigs had convinced the awestruck young Zoraï, but now she now had a few hours to perfect her disguise, before the other Recoverers returned with her "disciple."
The young Tryker feverishly set about her work.
Darkness still swallowed the first tentative rays of sunlight when the Recoverers turned up again at the camp. They came in a large group, guided by Fa Gai-Guan. In the midst of the warriors marched Liangi Do-Vi. His bald head looked like a threatening skull decorated with mortuary paintings. He brandished an imposing kanka mace. Two homins followed him closely, each one carrying a closed willow basket.
The Zoraïs gathered in front of the yurt. Fa Gai-Guan got down on his knees and spoke.
"Your will has been done, O Kami of the Lost Souls! This very night, we have brought to you the most powerful Liangi Do-Vi, supreme guide of our tribe. Praised be his name!"
The Recoverers' chief stepped forward.
"Spirit of Nature," he prayed aloud, "grant us the privilege of beholding you with our eyes. Then our hearts will be filled with your presence." He spoke with calm assurance and just a touch of cynicism. His prudent attitude was in contrast to the mystical exaltation of Fa Gai-Guan; he wanted to see this mysterious Kami with his own eyes before giving up his precious cargo.
The moment of truth had arrived.
A form leaped forth from the tent, slamming back the flap with a loud snap! The Zoraïs, startled, stepped back. Despite his small size, the Kami of the Lost Souls made an impressive spectacle. He crouched, like the salamander spirits of the desert, his moss-covered body bristling all over with branches. His head resembled a fish of the forest oceans. Huge autumnal ferns adorned his back, like sylvan wings.
"Good you have been, to respond to my command," cried the Kami, in a high-pitched voice. "A sacrifice for the lost souls! Did you bring the objects taken from our enemies?"
The two porters with the baskets moved forward and laid their precious cargo on the ground, then stepped back, bowing all the while.
"Here are the Kuilde relics," Liangi said. "Just from their appearance, there can be no doubt that they are from the Karavan." The Recoverer reached into a basket and displayed two metallic cubes covered with strange inscriptions.
"These sacrilegious objects to nature shall be returned!" exclaimed the Kami, adding, "And so, by this offering, the homins who have died here may return to their long path to the happiness of Ma-Duk!"
The Kami accompanied his words with strange signs that only he understood, then spoke again.
"Now go you must!" it said, pointing back the way they had come. "The living are unbearable company for the dead. May the Great Life Giver bless you!"
Rather then turning and leaving, Liangi Do-Vi laid his hand on one of the cubes. "O Guardian of Atys, we would like to watch the sacrifice. By bringing you these relics, have we not earned this privilege?" The Kami jerked with surprise and gave him a look that seemed to say, "Who is this homin to challenge my authority?"
Under her plant-covered helmet, Lipsen was sweating and not from the heat. This damn Zorai seemed determined not to leave and she could feel her costume starting to come apart at the seams, just a little bit. If she didn't get them out of here fast, it might come apart and then the fat would be in the fire. Her fat, their fire.
No choice, she thought; time to kick it up a notch.
"For your accomplishments, you shall be rewarded," she croaked approvingly, then hardened her voice into a command. "But the offering must be made by me alone. So it is demanded by the spirits of this place. Now go!"
The Recoverers looked at one another, troubled, but their chief held his ground.
"We have always served the Great Life Giver loyally," he stated, standing his ground. "The sap of my tribe has been spilled to obtain these relics. We deserve to be present. We do not fear either the dead or the living!"
The Kami remained silent. He seemed to be thinking, then finally spoke again.
"Loyal servants, you have proved yourselves. I shall grant you this favor. Stand back, homins, lest the recovery take your life!" he cried, waving his arms.
The Zoraïs quickly took a few steps backward as the Kami approached the cubes, murmuring incomprehensible words. In his right hand, crystalline particles shimmered, sparkling with rainbow colors.
Liangi Do-Vi's eyes narrowed; where had he had seen lights like this before? It seemed familiar… Yes! In the hands of Karavan followers! He instinctively jumped towards the relics…
Too late. Scooping up the sacred relics against his chest, the Kami of the Lost Souls crushed the crystal and disappeared in a gale of laughter as bright as the rising sun.
Lipsen Be'Laury was invited to join the Kuilde at the end of the autumn. Over the years, she became the tribe's greatest huntress, the stuff of legends.
Nowadays, she ranges throughout the northern parts of the forests of Nexus, tracking wild beasts to help feed her clan. She avoids wandering towards the south and has never, ever, returned to the abandoned camp.
Maybe she won't return out of fear of meeting a real Kami of the Lost Souls.