This will be the last installment of the Dirithi story line for now. I am confident I will be adding several more chapters and adventures in this first novel and publishing it by the end of the year. Thank you all for your support and great feedback so far!
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Brutally cold minutes collected, then turned into endless, frigid hours which stretched into the hardest night of Jueneva’s life. The Abdi leatra da had chased the tribe from their mountain home out into its violent winds and pounding rains. As the night wore on, the temperatures dropped, the mighty storm’s torrents became showers of sleet and brief periods of hail.
Kei-orah, the tall, fierce warrior that had originally captured her only days ago, wrapped a thick, black fur shawl over her head and shoulders and personally led her the last steps to a wooden lean-to shelter. Since she had stepped out of the tribe’s flooded chamber and led Mealli back to them, she had gained some sort of new status.
it appeared the hasty lean-to had been a part of their backup plan or at least a backup plan to their backup plan! A slender woman, older than most of the tribe members, bent over a stone fire pit in the center of the shelter. She was working hard to strike a slick purple crystal in one hand against a white quartz-like rock in the other. A pile of pine branches sitting beneath her efforts was eventually rewarded a single spark. The tiny ember blossomed into life and a flower of flames soon followed.
Jueneva wearily scanned the group of storm survivors standing in a huddle around the pit. She counted eleven female warriors, two elderly women and three children, two were twin boys. None of the older males had made it through. Abdi leatra da had exacted a heavy toll on the tribe.
Hours later, she was awakened by sudden gusts of chill wind. Someone had pulled back the furs covering the opening and had left the enclosure of the lean-to. She stretched and rubbed at her sore cheeks. Time had been lost to her, she had no idea how long she’d been asleep. It was unsettling – she could not even recall lying down or falling asleep.
Outside, she heard the winds still blowing through the trees, however, they had lost much of their bluster as well as their rain.
“Appe ad Los reqas,” a voice called out from outside.
“Dominos soas peo prepa. Cafade!” Kei-orah commanded, her voice booming and stern.
Another voice, instantly familiar, called out, “Princess Jueneva, are you in there? Are you among these women?”
It was Boure! Her new-found friend and courtesan had somehow found them.
She leaped to her feet, wobbled a second, then bolted to the lean-to’s opening.
The morning light was minimal and shrouded deeply by Abdi leatra da’s blanketing storm clouds overhead, but the sight before her hit her hard and fast. Four of the female warriors surrounded a tall, skeletal figure with their long spears. The skeleton had little left of its form but on it’s old bones it wore a spiked iron helmet, a dented chest plate and a pair of rusted iron studded boots. It did, however, appear unarmed.
The creature rotated its head at the sound of her sudden appearance and stared with eyeless sockets.
“Ah, good! Good, you found shelter too! I was so sure you had perished in the storm,” it chattered at her. Its lower jawbone did not quite match up with the rest of the skull and the neck sat at an awkward angle. The voice though was definitely Boure.
“What- What happened to you?” she stammered and gawked back at the bony figure.
“Oh! Yes, sorry. Remember, before you left the ruins, I told you I would not be able to leave the compound to help you. That was not quite true. As you can see,” he spread out his thin arms, shrugging. “I can move freely and affect items within the castle in my normal spectral form. Out here, I can only do so by borrowing a form and manipulating it like a marionette on strings. It is rather confusing and took some time to find remains that were intact enough to survive out in these conditions. I don’t quite know why or how it all is supposed to work. Nonetheless, I am here. You are here. So, what happened to you, how did you come to find the Truevo?”
“You mean, them? The Revie-ati?”
The skull shook its head. “Revie-ati? That means ‘the foresaken’ in their tongue,” Boure corrected her. “Did they say that was their name?”
By this time, all of the surviving Truevo tribe members had joined them, standing quietly in the soft rain, watching the exchange. The armed guards around him had lowered their weapons.
Boure turned about slowly as he scanned them. He said, “Keos braya mo. Dafve leana don Jueneva Krayhn dosde mea Madde.”
Gasps and confusion as the tribe reacted to his words.
“You can speak their language? What did you say?”
“I thanked them, of course, for saving you, your highness.”
Jueneva paused a moment as an idea came to her. She glanced at Kei-orah, locking eyes with her. “Thank you, Buore. Please tell this one – I believe she’s their acting leader at this point – that I have truly appreciated her generosity. Thank them for saving me in the forest.”
Kei-orah snapped her gaze down to her feet upon hearing his translation. Her face twisted into a grimace of disbelief and shame.
“They did not know who I was, but had still taken me in,” Jueneva explained, embellishing the truth a bit.
“Is this Chaos or is it Fate? You managed to find one of the few existing allies to your family’s throne somehow in the middle of a horrific storm.” Boure then extended her words and wishes.
More gasps and confusion came from the tribe.
Kei-orah swallowed hard, shook her head then came to an obvious decision. She bowed, stepped forward, still keeping her eyes averted as she knelt before the young princess. “Omni dos va prima kel dor tima Truevo kon Couervere Domaica. Prestax losmo attcha meye.”
“She is re-establishing her tribe’s allegiance to the Coueryere family and their rightful rule. She is also willing to take full responsibility and any consequence you deem fit for any offense they may have caused since they did not recognize you.”
Jueneva extended her hand, lifting up the woman’s chin so she could look into her face. “Tell her, there is no offense or apology needed. It would be an honor to have their alliance. They are no longer to be Revie-ati. Indeed, Boure, they have lost almost everything in the storm. I want to invite the Truevo to live in the castle ruins with us if they would be approving.”
Even before he could finish her offer, the tribe members cheered and some broke into tears of relief or dances of joy.
“All I would ask is that with their fealty and servitude to the Throne, Kei-orah to act as my personal bodyguard and combat trainer.”
The fierce woman too proud for tears like her kin, briskly nodded her head in agreement.
“It would appear, your highness, that your hunt did in the end proved most beneficial.”
Jueneva couldn’t make out whether or not the skeleton was smiling, but she loved the sound of pride she heard in his words.