Pain of Knowledge Commentary
"No matter what you think... you know, see, or hear, do not consider it truth."
That was the last thing all of them heard from Surlissa before sleep took them. Footnit tossed in her sleep, unable to get comfortable, but there really was nothing she could have done to be more comfortable. The Paholainen lurked all around them, enjoying the supposed sweet slumber each traveler had fallen into. They had been exhausted. Between their run-in with the verirotu and the heavy, clinging air of the swamps, the resting place was welcomed, even if uneasily. Surlissa had offered to take first watch, but unbeknownst to her companions, she stood at sentry, asleep. But even she didn't know that.
The Paholainen had done their job well.
Each traveler had at least one of these foul creatures wrapped around them. Each tossed, struggled, whimpered or cried while they slept. And that was perfectly fine for the Paholainen. It was their purpose, to haunt the dreams of travelers and feed on their pain, sadness, remorse, confusion... all that made nightmares the perfection that they were.
Footnit struggled to keep her tears in, for remembering the dead was not easy. But the Paholainen that wrapped around her already knew the perfect nightmare to give its victim. It had probed her mind, looking through the light and dark recesses, and teased out a memory that was too delicious to pass up.
The library was deserted, except for Footnit and Merinet. She looked up to her cousin with wide-eyed wonder. He was so smart, so learned, so good at sorting through the old tomes to learn. One day, when she was a big Hiiri, she would be just like him. She knew it. He looked at her from the corner of his eye, seeing her almost worship of him and laughed.
"Footnit, why must you stare at me so?"
Footnit smiled. "Because, Merinet, you are so perfect! I want to be just like you one day!"
Merinet shook his head, his laughter filling the whole library. "And why would you want to be like me? I am ugly, large and annoying. Even the elders proclaim such facts. Surely a pretty little Hiiri girl has better aspirations that to be like her ugly cousin?"
This was an old argument, but one that always lightened the mood. To be fair, what they were researching was obscure and not at all encouraging. "You always say that! It doesn't mean that you are! And, you are my cousin. That makes you beautiful by default!" Footnit's raised voice was followed by a huff which rustled the leaves of the tome under her chin.
"Oh, so I can only be beautiful because you are my cousin?" Merinet combed his claws through his very long fur. "I thought all this fur and trouble was perfect. You always say so..."
Footnit burst into giggles as Merinet's claws got caught in the many tangles his long fur often had. It was true that his fur was unusually long for one of their kind, but this was too much.
"Merinet, Digeni has summoned you. You must report immediately." A voice rang from the door, though the messenger could not be seen.
Footnit looked at her cousin. "Digeni? But... why would he need you?"
"I... I don't know, Footnit. It's unusual for the Strategem to summon anyone." He looked at Footnit, then hugged her. "We will study when I get back. YOU keep searching for the Lohikäärme. I know there have to be more references to them."
"Stay here and research. That is your job. If you want to take over for Great Uncle Moises, then you must be vigilant now." Merinet sighed. "I love you like a sister, know that. You mean everything, which is why I want you to be the best that the Hiiri have ever known."
The young Hiiri bowed her head. "I will do as you ask, Merinet."
Merinet grabbed Footnit and hugged her tightly, wrapping his long, bare tail around her to give her the extra squeeze she needed. "You will be great, one day, and the whole of Imhiset will tremble at your knowledge."
Chen Han growled as his own nightmare progressed, and Kennek cried out in anguish. Ravel lashed out with an arm while Surlissa's tail tightened around her. Footnit's breathing slowed, becoming choppy. The Paholainen sang... as they fed on their victims. Tears flowed down Footnit's face. She cried her cousin's name, reaching out as if to pull him close.
That was the last time she saw Merinet alive. She had watched him walk out of the library, never to return to their home, their town, their people again. His mission, she learned later, had been simple. Go out to the borderlands between the Kaarme and the Kotka and search for scrolls that were rumoured to be in the ruins. Scrolls that were vital to the history of the world. It wasn't the Kaarme who killed him. The Hiiri and the Kaarme were allies. No, the Kotka were the ones to blame.
It should have made her mad. But, Merinet had taught her well. Once upon a time, there had been a blissful peace among the Eight and all races had worked, traded, educated, and celebrated together. But something ruined it. Instead of being mad, Footnit locked herself either in her house or in the library, searching for what Merinet couldn't find. She would find a way to make his death mean something. She would find what he was looking for.
As Footnit struggled against the hold of her Paholainen, the creature looked up and towards its companion who was wrapped around Kennek, feeding blissfully of the Kotka's misery. A song was exchanged and lilting laughter followed, like the gentle striking of a xylophone. They knew something...
"What have I told you about daydreaming?"
Footnit looked up, blinking. "I am sorry, Uncle Moises. Today is-"
"-the anniversary of Merinet's death. This would be 10 years, correct?" Moises paced in front of the window, book in hand.
"Yes sir. Why have we not demanded retribution from the Kotka Dray that was responsible?" Footnit put down her quill and looked at her uncle, yearning in her eyes.
Moises paced a few more moments, then stopped, looking the now young adult in the eyes. "Because, Footnit, we do not know that they are responsible, without a shadow of a doubt. What have I taught you about certainty?"
"There is none unless you were there, or someone else was there to witness it. And even then," she paused, and sighed, "there is a small chance that even what you witnessed wasn't what really happened with certainty."
"Good, you listen sometimes."
Footnit rolled her eyes and stood up, stretching cramped muscles. "I always listen. You are just a bore a lot of the time and I look like I am asleep. I am really just reserving my attention and energy so I can outlast your lectures."
Brow raised, Moises stared at the young Hiiri. "I see. Perhaps then, my assignment for you this evening will help extend your ability to outlast my lectures."
She glared at her uncle. "But, you can't do that! This is the night of mourning, not just for Merinet, but for my own parents! I can understand making me work all day, but the night too, when I should be mourning and remembering!"
"Hit a nerve, did I? Your greatness will only begin when you decide to school yourself and see things for what they are, not what you want them to be. Mourn your parents, yes, but remember you have a duty!" Moises snapped the book shut and left the room. "You've yet to find the connections to the Lohikäärme I asked you to over three moons ago. I suggest you work harder!"
"I AM!" She stomped out of the house and out into the evening air. The sun was setting, and usually, she would appreciate the colourful sky. But, at this moment, she was angry with her uncle. "He wouldn't have spoken to me like this had Merinet still been alive."
Despite her displeasure, Footnit stayed up all night, after giving the proper time to mourning and remembrance. It wasn't that hard, for there was a shrine of sorts on the table in the kitchen. She never moved anything, all was as it was when her mother had left that night with her father to search for medicinal herbs. She had added her memories of Merinet to the table's display. She mourned every night, despite the philosophy that it was unhealthy. Unbeknownst to her, Moises stood outside her home, watching from the tangled garden. He saw the shadow of sadness that darkened her eyes, and there was nothing he could do to assuage her pain.
Months went by, and Footnit applied herself more and more. She would prove Uncle Moises wrong, she would be great, she would be what Merinet wanted her to be. No matter what her uncle threw at her, she met the challenge and surpassed it. She spent more and more time in the library, reading, researching, making connections. She haunted her uncle's home, falling asleep on his couch, at his table, on his floors, often with a half drunk cup of tea and bit of toast next to her. Moises always spread a quilt over his niece. She reminded him of himself at her age.
Months turned to a year, a year to three. Now, a full-fledged adult in her community, she worked alongside her uncle. Though, she was frequently left alone to work, as he was sent more and more away from her and their Dray. Then one day, he told her that he had a very important trip he had to take, and would be away for a long time. Though she objected, he said he had to. It was something he just had to do. She reluctantly let him go that morning, a horrible feeling in the pit of her stomach.
She had finally, after all this time, interpreted the codices that they had found in the Kaarme lands. Footnit's uncle had been gone for months, and she spent all her waking time studying so that the fearful thoughts of her uncle's condition couldn't overwhelmed her. She had found the connection to the Lohikäärme Uncle Moises had wanted her to find. What she learned blew her mind, and she had no one to share it with who would appreciate it like him.
The night, this one night, was heavy. A storm was approaching and Footnit knew her time was short. She had come across some family history Uncle Moises had tucked away in the Literary Anthology of the Kotka Divers. She tucked it into her bag before shelving the book. Lightning ripped through the sky, causing her to jump. Thunder rolled and she looked outside. Lightning flashed again, revealing a silhouette close to her home. She stood slowly and grabbed her reflective light. She had fashioned it to shine a beam ahead of her, using mirrors to focus the light. What was anyone doing outside on a night like this?
She slipped out of the library and headed quietly to her house. Whoever was out there had already, it seemed, slipped into her kitchen through the window. This was not something that happened in their Dray. Never. Yet, someone was breaking into her home. What in Imhiset would she have that someone would want?
"No... no...no... no, Uncle, don't go..." Footnit sobbed in her sleep. The Paholainen licked the tears off her cheeks, savouring them.
Keeping to the wall, Footnit made her way to the front of the house, trying not to call attention to herself. She ran through her checklist of families in the Dray, but none of them had anything against her. Something crashed inside and she growled. Whoever is in there is not taking care of her things. A light flickered in the dining room, candle light that was fickle and ever-moving. The codices!
She ran to her front door and reached for the doorknob. Before she could grab it, a haggard voice calls to her from the Strategem's rooms. "Footnit! Footnit. Oh dear Lyth..."
Footnit turned, only to see Moira running to her in tears. "What... what is wrong?"
"Someone is here who traveled with Moises. He's dead, Footnit. He's dead!"
Forgetting her home, Footnit sprinted to the Strategem's rooms, dropping her focus lantern in the process. No, no, no, no... not him too. Lyth, please, not him too. She burst through the door and saw a Hiiri, barely alive, but dying before her eyes. She didn't know this Hiiri, as he was of a different tribe.
"What... happened? Where are you from?"
"Are you Footnit?" The Hiiri spoke, and Footnit realised he was very young.
"Yes." She looked at him, tears already falling, blinding her.
"The scholar, Moises. He stood brave. He stood strong." The young Hiiri coughed and paused, obviously struggling to deliver the message. "He stood before the Kotka monster and begged for our lives. War is coming, killing. We just wanted to move to safety, cross lands..."
Footnit got him a glass of water and gave it to him, encouraging him to drink. After a sip, he shook his head. "I have little time. The Kotka monster refused and ordered our deaths. The Scholar stood and spoke with him, refusing to give in. I watched. He made the Kotka, high on his horse, look like a child!"
"The... Kotka wouldn't let you pass so that you could get to safety?"
The young man shook his head weakly. "His hatred for everyone but his own kind drove him to insanity. He cut everyone down, even Moises. I was left to spread the message of his hatred." He laid back, obviously seconds away from giving up his spirit. "War is coming, and the Kotka monster, on his horse, on his rich man lands, helped spread it."
"What did he look like?"
Moira looked at Footnit, oddly. That wasn't a question she imagined her friend asking.
"He was haughty. He had piercing eyes, much like one of the faster, hunter types. He was highborn. You could tell. I don't remember... colours. I am sorry."
Footnit knelt next to the young Hiiri male and hugged him as he slowly died. She cried into his fur, for him, for Moises, for her parents, for Merinet. Moira pulled her away and walked her home. When they got to the front door, in the keyhole, there was a ribbon, woven of Basilli silk, fashioned into a rainbow. Moira looked at Footnit in confusion, but all the Hiiri did was pull it from the keyhole and retreat inside.
The moon shone its light down through the ruined roof, illuminating the tears of frustration, pain, anguish and memory while the Paholainen gorged themselves on the pain they brought and intensified through the dreams of the travelers.
< Message edited by Eukara Vox -- 6/15/2014 18:23:06 >