Story Of A Young Fyros - part six and the end¶
As Natto had said, they often had to stop and choose another path. Several times, they turned back to avoid groups of gibbaï, who were easily spotted thanks to their midnight-blue fur. They could even make out a primitive red. He was a lot bigger than the others and his bristling hair made it look as though he was on fire.
"That one is called Gibbakya by the Zoraï. He leads the degenerates of the region. I've already had an encounter with him, believe me, we're better off getting out of here."
The primitive raised his head and began to snuffle around.
"Hurry, I think he's spotted us."
They walked for a long time without saying a word. Finally they saw the distinctive lilac of the diseased earth in the distance.
"I thought that you wanted to get as far away from the Goo as possible," said Eree.
"What you're seeing, even if they're the same colour as the Goo, are the tents of the Antikami tribe's camp. It's the traditional colour of the Zoraï. I don't know why they kept it if they hate their people so much. These madmen go so far as to mutilate their masks to challenge the Kami. They only keep the bare minimum, without that, they couldn't survive."
"What do you mean? It's only a mask, the Zoraï wear them to be close to the Kami."
Aedon had never had much to do with the Zoraï. He saw their masks as religious snobbery.
"Not at all!" replied the Matis. "The Zoraï mask is fixed to their soul by Kami magic. To remove it is to lose their vital essence. Just taking off little bits, even that's complete madness. The Antikami don't have any horns on their masks. What's left are the bits they couldn't take off. Hurry up, we're running late."
They approached the tents. They were immense, and had been made from rich, costly materials. The three companions advanced cautiously, Natto in the lead. Four Zoraï appeared at the corner of the first tent, blocking their way. Each one was armed with a long pike. Aedon glanced back. Four more Zoraï stood behind them, blocking their escape.
"Don't worry," said the Matis, "they've recognised me. The chief will be here soon."
Aedon and Eree didn't feel at all reassured. The Zoraï came closer, their threatening pikes at chest height.
"My name is Natto," he shouted. "I wish to talk to Pei-Jeng Luun."
"And here I am, my friend."
The four guards before them moved aside to make room for another Zoraï. Smaller than they, he nonetheless moved with confidence.
Behind his mask, his eyes didn't have the mystery of the other Zoraï that Aedon had already met. They were plain, almost empty.
"Welcome. Have you brought us some new diversions?" he asked.
"Yes, another favour for the Duke. I've brought the usual payment."
He pointed at Aedon and Eree.
"The Duke wants to be sure of their… loyalty."
He turned his gaze away from the two Fyros, who were of little importance in his eyes.
"How much have you brought us this time?" the head of the tribe asked.
"The usual amount: three hundred thousand dappers."
"The usual amount has doubled, my friend. The last mission cost the lives of seven members of my tribe."
The Matis didn't seem surprised.
"The Duke thought that you would want a little extra. He has therefore provided for another five hundred thousand dappers after the mission. And there is the small incentive of serving your own interests as well."
The head of the tribe looked at the Matis intently.
"Our interests? You'll have to explain, my friend."
"The mission is to attack a Zoraï procession and retrieve the precious Book of Revelations."
"What's the catch? The Duke has never been generous. Why this sudden change?" asked Pei-Jeng Luun.
"Let's just say that he's very keen to see this mission carried out successfully, as I'm sure you are. Consider it a bonus for your previous service."
"This is momentous news. We will strike at the heart of our enemies. Tonight we will throw a great party, tomorrow we will leave."
"No," said Natto dryly. "We must leave as soon as possible. We have to be at the Knot of Insanity gorge tomorrow at dusk for the attack."
"As you wish."
The head of the tribe turned towards a Zoraï beside him.
"Pingi, my daughter, you will head the tribe in my absence. I want thirty warriors ready to leave in an hour. In the meantime, you can rest in my tent," he said to Natto.
He invited them to follow him. The guards had already left to get ready.
Night had just fallen. The Zoraï tribe had marched at the double throughout the previous night and had arrived at the gorge in the afternoon. All but the look-outs had been able to rest.
The whole tribe was ready to fight. They had spread out around the gorge so as to leave no way out. They had been waiting for over an hour, with no sign of the procession. The two Fyros began to worry.
They had remained on the cliff top, Natto beside them. Once the attack began, Aedon knew he would have to act fast and kill the Matis. Although he liked him, he knew that Natto was too loyal to the Duke to let them live.
Aedon could just make out two of the tribe's look-outs. They had returned to report to Luun. It only took a few moments. The chief turned to Natto and quickly signed to him.
"They're coming. Just ten guards and two chariots, they'll be here shortly. Ten guards? Impossible! Why are they protecting such an important convoy with only ten guards?" said Natto, worried.
He suspects, thought Aedon. It's almost time.
A few minutes passed in total silence. Aedon could no longer see the Zoraï below them at all. Then, little by little, torch-light transformed the gorge. The rocks were turned from dark black to orange.
The first Zoraï guards were visible, each one holding a torch. There really were only ten guards. They surrounded two chariots pulled by mektoubs.
The guards were heavily armed and looked closely at every little crevice in the gorge.
They quickly reached the ambush point. The Antikami silently moved under cover to get into attack position.
Just as the tribe was about to launch the attack, a blue light appeared in the first chariot. All the Antikami stopped, taken aback. The roof of the carriage exploded. A Zoraï magician was in the middle. Magic particles were still running down the length of his amplifiers. Around him, another three Zoraï also stood up. Then the second chariot exploded. In this one stood a Fyros magician. Four other Fyros had already jumped down from the chariot during the explosion. Aedon had never seen them before, but he knew they were Burnt Faces, the elite guard. They ran towards the Antikami, who were still dazed by the effect of the surprise. The first fell quickly from a sword blow.
Pei-Jeng Luun pulled himself together and ordered the attack. Unfortunately for the Antikami, the Kamists were too organised. The Zoraï warriors fiercely protected the chariots from which the magicians cast their incantations. The tribe's marksmen were the primary targets of the fast Fyros warriors.
Aedon didn't see the rest of the fight. He had been so astonished that he'd forgotten about Natto. With a violent back-hand, the Matis drove him to the ground. Eree tried to attack the warrior from behind, but he blocked her hand and her dagger fell into the gorge. With her other hand, Eree tried to hit him, but the Matis was much faster than she. He broke her left wrist with disconcerting ease. She let go a cry of pain before being thrown to the ground.
Natto turned back towards Aedon who was getting to his feet.
"I trusted you, traitors," he roared.
He had unsheathed his sword.
"We remained loyal to our people, and to homins."
Aedon did the same with his weapon.
"Remained loyal to homins? You've been manipulated and controlled like puppets!"
He made a first attack. Aedon knew that he couldn't beat the Matis' strength and dodged it. The blade missed him by a few centimetres.
"Why look for conflict at any price? The people are at peace and the Duke looks for war."
Now he attacked. He aimed a quick blow at the Matis' neck. But the warrior was experienced. He blocked the attack and put out his hand to take the hilt of Aedon' sword. Brute strength won out and Natto sent the Fyros to the ground with a blow from his shoulder.
"The people will never be at peace! Face it!"
The tip of his blade touched Aedon' throat, who felt the blood begin to flow down his neck.
"Miserable servant of the demons, you should have picked on someone your own size."
A rock hit him right in the face, crushing his nose in a crunch of broken bones. Aedon turned his head. Eree was on her feet, holding her arm, and grimacing in pain.
Natto grunted. He had let go of his sword and was clutching his face. Aedon didn't wait any longer and kicked the Matis violently in the chest. He was caught off guard by the violence of the unexpected blow. He took a couple of steps back and his foot hit the cliff-edge. He disappeared with a horrifying scream.
Aedon stood back up and approached the gorge. Natto was at the bottom. One of the Zoraï warriors approached him with a torch.
The Matis' body was deformed like a dislocated puppet and his blood stained the rocks below him.
The Zoraï looked up and signalled to the two Fyros to come down.
The Kamists hadn't suffered a single loss. Only one Antikami had been taken alive. The rest of the tribe had been destroyed. The magicians healed the two Fyros' wounds and put them into one of the chariots.
"We're going back to Zora. Mabreka wants to thank you, you've done a good job. The journey will take some time, rest while you can."