Kri continued to be quiet, closed, and unsettled for the following two days. She ran scenarios and explanations through her head constantly, struggling for words. Shinkir couldn't get more than a few short sentences out of her preoccupied friend. During their time with Kisday Kri would stare out the window, the occasional swivel of an ear betraying the fact that she was half-listening to the conversation.
And then Kisday followed through. They were lead from their room to the barn and outside. The sun was bright and high in the nearly cloudless sky. The air was crisp and dry, hinting towards the cold to come once fall gave way to winter. Kisday was there to greet them and fell in step next to Desta as they lead the Shabenay pair back behind the barn and the main building. Kri appeared passive, but her eyes were scanning the area aggressively as they passed behind the barn and a smaller white-washed wood building that was a little out of place. There was another large barn-like structure. As they walked the massive doors were swung open and a half dozen shadows melted into the sunlight.
Kri paused and stared. The three creatures were being lead by Kierr handlers, each one holding the line to the special halters. The creatures, Tsi, had their wings half-spread as they stepped forward. Short-muzzled domed skulls were place firmly on short, thick necks. Their large, triangular ears tipped this way and that, taking in the sounds of the day. They walked in an easy four-beat gait and their pronged tails swayed casually behind their compact bodies.
All three Tsi had dark points on ears, wings, tail, and legs, with a paler underbelly that spread up on their muzzles and crept towards their foreheads. The color varied between the three, from a rich, earthy brown of the lead Tsi, to a light, reddened tan, to a nearly greyed brown. They were quite impressive in the flesh, and the statues certainly didn't do them justice.
"Another passion of mine," Kisday noted.
Kri turned sharply and her ears flattened again. Kisday chuckled slightly and Kri stifled a growl that started to rise in her throat.
They turned to the right and towards a low, long, and wide arena that was covered on one end and open to the sky on the other. There was a pair of riders at the far end, small from the distance, working some of the tasa.
They approached the arena fence, which was made of evenly spaced white wooden posts with a single top rail. Kisday motioned to one of the Kierr who swung open the large double-gate. The little group entered and Kisday turned to face the Shabenay.
"You are free to move about the arena, my only request is that you keep to your larger forms."
As soon as they were given leave Shinkir melted into her Tsihr form and ran a half dozen tirms before spinning and looking back at Kri, questioning. Kri shook her head. Shinkir cocked her head to the side, her blue-and-green eyes showing concern; she stepped towards Kri, who shook her head again. At that Shinkir turned again at set off at a leisurely lope around the arena.
"You don't wish to stretch your legs, Kri?" Kisday questioned.
Kri leaned against the waist-high top rail and watched Shinkir run. There were a hundred things racing through her mind in response to Kisday's words, but none were appropriate so she remained silent. The Tynomai tried several times to initiate conversation, but he may as well have been talking to a wall.
They walked quietly back to Shinkir and Kri's room and the pair were left to their own devices for the rest of the day.
"Talk to me, Kri." Shinkir finally said as she swung her legs absently underneath the stool. “You’ve hardly spoken a sentence since we tried to escape.”
Kri sighed heavily and absently scratched the back of her neck. “What do you want me to say? There’s so many things jumbled about in my head. I just don’t know. I need out, I have to get out of here. I’m caged, trapped. We may be fed better, but this place is not much improved on the cage we traveled here in.”
“At least run with me.” Shinkir implored.
“The fewer forms they know of the better it will be when we do get out.”
“If you don’t use it you won’t be strong enough when we do make a run.” Shinkir pointed out.
Kri set her jaw a moment, digesting the thought.
“It’s not like you have to use a different for every time we run, Kri.”
Kri nodded concession.
Kri continued to be closed around Kisday, determined to give him no pleasure or acknowledgement, she did slowly open up to Shinkir again. The runs turned into a weekly affair. Kisday made it a point to be there and watch. Shinkir took the time to revel in the freedom of space and the occasional teasing of Kri into a game of tag or wrestling. Kri on the other hand used the opportunity to work out her pent-up aggressions.
Winter came, but no snow, it didn’t get cold enough for it. Kisday left and returned on business-related trips. Kri continued formulating plans of escape she made a half-dozen test-runs, but none proved plausible and, thankfully, she was only caught once. Kisday was unimpressed at Kri’s ingenuity and threatened action if she tried escaping again, insisting that it was for her own good to stay within Kistau’s walls.
Spring came and that melted into summer, which flowed again into fall. More than a year gone, trapped in the constraining walls of the Kistau estate.
“In a few days I have an old friend coming, whom I would like you to meet.” Kisday stated, clasping his hands before placing them on the table and rising from his chair. “She is the closest one can get to being an expert on the Shabenay without being one.”
Kri gave him an incredulous look, she had finally returned to her Human form some months before, figuring she might as well enjoy it while she could. Kisday continued undaunted. “We will meet in the library the day she’s due to arrive.”
The day came and Kri and Shinkir were lead to an unfamiliar part of the estate’s main building. They walked down the hall that cut through the central part of the building. The walls were slick and white with the exception of the intricate band of carving that ran waist-high down the hall.
Desta opened the large double doors that revealed a massive room lined with bookshelves that surrounded half a dozen tables. A stairway lead up to a second level walkway that wrapped around the shelves and then to a second stair and a third level.
“Mr. Kisday will be with you shortly.” With that she bowed out, taking the Kierr with her.
Kri stared after them, jaw slackened and a look of complete disbelief on her face. It didn’t last long; she cast her glance around the room and started prowling around the perimeter.
Shinkir watched a moment, and then asked, “What are you doing?”
“Do you think I’d waste a chance to find a way to get out of here?” There were no other doors on the base level, Kri was halfway up the stair when the heavy handles of the double doors clicked and pushed inward. She paused, left hand lightly gripping the banister.
Tsumajh Kisday entered, dwarfed by the one who stood beside him. The Zach Amrea was nearly twice the height of the diminutive Tynomai. The large, blunt head ended in a curved beak and sat squarely on the powerful s-curve of its neck. The dinosaur’s head was tilted down towards Kisday, speaking in a deep, rumbling and good-humored tone.
“And here they are, Kri, Shinkir, come here, I would like you to meet Omat Zashier, she knows more of the Shabenay than anyone alive, apart from the Shabenay themselves, of course.”
“You give me too much credit, Tsumajh,” Omat replied before looking up and taking in the pair. Shinkir was curious; Kri was livid.
“I was wondering how long it would take,” Kri began as she descended the stair. “Not only do you keep us here for your own pleasure, but at the first chance you wish to show us off.”
“What’s she talking about, Tsumajh?” Omat questioned, slight suspicion underlying her tone.
“The mighty Kisday, keeper, protector, and tamer of the Shabenay! Are you going to ask us to perform a trick now?”
“Kri,” Shinkir warned.
“You said my stay would be easier if I just spoke my mind, but it’s not like you would listen, let alone like what I have to say.” As she moved to pass Shinkir, the elder Shabenay grabbed Kri’s arm.
“Kri,” Shinkir whispered, “it’s not worth it.”
Gold-brown eyes flashed defiance, Kri looked to Kisday again. “You’re lucky I have control.” She snorted and shouldered away from the three of them before seating herself at the nearest table.
Omat’s whole manner had changed during Kri’s brief rant. Before she was relaxed and good-humored, now she was rigid and tense. “We need to talk, Tsumajh,” Omat stated stiffly before backing out of the doorway and turning around. Kisday looked flustered, he spoke a word to Desta and the slim Tynomai woman with the ever-present Kierr entered the library before the doors snapped shut behind Kisday.
“Omat!” Tsumajh called, hurrying down the hall after the brooding Amrea. “Omat, wait, you don’t understand.”
“Tsumajh Kisday!” Omat boomed, turning sharply to face him. “I spent the last 40 years learning of the Shabenay and gaining their trust. You are jeopardizing everything I have worked for. They can’t be caged, they aren’t show pieces or animals.”
“I’m protecting them, Omat,” Tsumajh defended, “the world isn’t safe for them, of all people you should know that.”
“The world isn’t safe for them now, sure, but they have survived for the last 2000 years, I’m sure they will manage a few more until we can convince others that they aren’t to be feared.”
“By then the old lines, their language and history might be lost.” He countered.
“This is insane Kisday!” Omat boomed again, pacing the wide hallway. “Do you have any idea what they could do to you? The Shabenay may not be the violent race often portrayed, but if you bottle them up here as you plan you are asking for death!”
“Omat, my friend, everything will be under control.” Kisday spoke reassuringly. “I have the best private force on Roomir, I can take care of this.”
“They’re people too, Tsumajh, they will be resentful and they will find a way.” She snorted and strode the width of the hall again. “I can’t believe you would even dream of this. How can you even propose to contain a Shabenay, let alone two, TWO!”
“It’s not as if I’m trying to hold the likes of Timky, Omat. They are young, easily handled.”
Omat shook her mighty head; she turned again, this time to look mournfully at her old friend. Her voice dropped o a softer, more intimate tone. “If you insist on keeping them, I can no longer help you.”
“But why?” Kisday choked out.
“I’m tying to learn of them, Tsumajh, study them, even befriend them, what you have done, and are doing is against all that I am working towards.”
Kisday looked panicked. “Tell me Kri’s line at least, you saw the Mark, I need to know that much at least.”
“If she won’t tell you, then I have no right.” Omat replied.
“So she is Shabenay-born! I knew it, but shy would she not claim it?”
Omat snorted in disgust. “When you come to your senses and let them go, send word. Until then, I will no longer have any contact with you. Good day, Mr. Kisday.” She left, her form retreating down the hall and, for once, Kisday was speechless.
In the library Omat was clearly heard. The Amrea’s powerful voice traveled far, even through the thick wood doors.
Kri grinned up at Shinkir, “I like her. When we get out I’ll have to find her.”
“It’s not just because she’s the only one around here apart from you who has talked back to Kisday, is it?” Shinkir asked.
“I count it as a plus.” Kri replied.
The pair’s attention was diverted when one of the doors opened again, it was Kisday, he beckoned for Desta, spoke a few short words, and was gone again. For the first time Desta showed an emotion other than passive acceptance. Her brow was slightly furrowed in something very near to concern when she turned back to Kri and Shinkir. With a soft shake of her head Desta’s expression returned to the schooled appearance the pair were familiar with.
“Mr. Kisday says you may stay in the library as long as you like, dinner will be served in your room.” Desta spoke softly to the guards, who nodded. Two moved up the stair, one stopped on the second level, and the second halted at the third, presumably at doors there. Desta bowed out of the room, leaving the Shabenay in the capable hands of the Kierr guards.
“I assume that means we have free reign in here.” Kri noted before getting out of her chair. She strolled over to the nearest shelves and scanned the titles. The languages were mixed, from the familiar Common Tongue to the less so, such as S’na’ri, and the Frineir language, there were two sets of symbols she did not recognize at all and assumed they must belong to the Amrea and Tynomai.
“What do they say?” Shinkir questioned.
“You don’t read Common Tongue?”
“A little, but still not as well as Maylehin or the Shamien’s language.” Shinkir admitted.
“The Shamien write too?” Kri asked.
“They’re a lot smarter than the rest of Kashian gives them credit for.” Replied Shinkir, slightly amused.
“You must know two of the most useless languages when it comes to surviving outside the Sha.” Kri remarked with a small laugh. “We’re going to have to fix that.”
“You could start now.” Suggested Shinkir.
They wandered through the shelves; Kri translated the book titles she could, sounding out the letters carefully. Everything on the first level primarily concerned animals and plants throughout Kashian, ordered by the continents they were most commonly found on.
The second level held information concerning the races, from the Amrea to the Tynomai, including the Shamien and Shabenay. The pair leafed through a few. Shinkir snorted and laughed at some of the information offered for the Shamien. Books on the Shabenay were scant on accurate information, most of it offering hints on how to repel them with charms or how to detect them.
The last level was filled with various histories, some covering the full span of known history, others focusing on a specific time or age. Shinkir was quick to notice that there was a lack of information concerning Kirashtyn’s reign, or any of his guards for that matter.
They spent more than two Kuts exploring the pages and titles within the library before hunger set in and the light from the windows began to dim.
They didn’t see Kisday again for more than a week. As a result Shinkir and Kri spent most of their time confined to the room. In response, Kri doubled her efforts of escape. It would be much easier for her to get out than Shinkir; that much was clear. Shinkir had only five forms, the smallest being the Tsihr, which didn’t leave many options for sneaking out. From Kri’s calculations, she would have to get out first and clear the way before coming back and freeing Shinkir.
Shortly after things started moving back into normalcy around mid-winter Kri made another test-run. She had made it to the wall and was heading back before her absence was noticed. When she was spotted she made a mad dash for the wall, not in the hopes of escape, but for appearances. If they were going to catch her, it wouldn’t be anywhere near her chosen routes.
She groaned and slowly shook her head.
“You’re not very grateful, Kri.” It was Kisday.
Blinking Kri looked up, she was still in her mitchel form; they had managed to haul her into Kisday’s study. The normally collected Tynomai stood rigidly next to his chair, glaring down at Kri. The young Shabenay lay her head back down and sighed heavily.
“This is the third time, Kri. The first time I figured I must not be doing my part, that I was lacking in my duties to you and Shinkir, that you didn’t feel safe or welcomed here. The second time, that I knew didn’t concern me, you even left Shinkir behind. This time, “ he stepped away from the chair and bent to look her square in the eye, “you had warning not to do it again, but attempted it anyway.
“I am forgiving, but I’m not stupid, Kri. I have no choice, but to follow through.” He stood and walked away; he stopped before the window that looked over the estate. “For the next year you will be working for the Kistau Estate. You are no longer an honored guest, but a worker. If you serve well you can return, if not, you will work harder.
“Do you have anything to say for yourself?” He questioned, looking back at Kri.
She met his eyes, she growled softly before sitting up on her haunches and turning her back to him.
Kri has to be one of my more fun, but harder characters to write for. You'd think it'd be easier since she a reflexion of myself.
Next up, Part Ten, the last and final part.