Untold Stories from the World of Myrrah: Darag in Portoreayl – Part 2
The warding stones fascinated Darag. They held back the seething mass of the tropical forest, keeping roots, leaves, and animals from crossing into the city. That was what everyone said they did. Darag could not fathom how. Stones place a hundred feet part should not be able to keep out life.
He’d found the warding stones because he missed the forest of his home after the week spent exploring Portoreayl. No matter the restlessness that had drove him from his home when such a desire was uncommon to his soul bound people, after a week of stone buildings instead of towering trees Darag missed being surrounded by more than potted shrubs. But the warding stones made him hesitate.
There were paths and gates in and out of the city, heading into the dusty foothills above its expanse. But there were none that walked the shoreline or into the jungle that overran the two peninsulas stretching into the sea to the south. He didn’t want dry dust, but the chaos of entangled forest life that reminded him of his home. Maybe if he could sit along the shore of this forest he could find what he liked, or what had driven him from the one he called home.
It wasn’t until he watched a bird fly between two of the stones that Darag grew confident enough to try to cross. He was far from home and family, a stranger who worse, looked strange. The cities of the Archipelago of Bellaia were not a place he wanted to be injured, especially over something as silly as a desire to sit under a tree. Taking comfort that the bird had entered the city so he should be able to return as well, Darag stepped across the invisible line between stone city and growing forest.
His skin tingled, but that was the extent of any effect he felt. Whether other local creatures felt something worse, Darag couldn’t be sure. He stepped back onto the stone pavers of the city before fears grew. Pressure on his lungs, but that was all. The warding stones did something even if he could not say what or understand how. For all the power he possessed, the stones were beyond him.
The forest he understood. The plants were different than those in his northern forest, but they responded to his power as he walked amid their rampant chaos. Ferns turned their leaves so he could see where to step, saplings bent away to allow him to pass. This was the power of the Kith.
Soulbound to a tree at birth, any Kith could affect and alter plants to some degree, be they living or dead. Some Kith were better at weaving, others built ships or wooden wares, some grew plants. For Darag, all three, anything he thought of, came as naturally as breathing. For a Kith, he was skilled. And also odd. He knew of no one else save his mentor Laith Lus who had left the forest. Being soulbound did not usually come with a desire to wander. And it would certainly limit how much time he could stay away.
The pull to return northward grew stronger every day. When he gazed idly at the city, he’d realize he stood facing northward. His dreams were of his tree, unprotected and unwatched in the forest of his home. Part of him wanted to return, but he still didn’t know what had pushed him to leave when his mother and sister had begged him not to go. When his friends had shifted away as if afraid they too would suddenly yearn for something outside of their world.
Only Laith Lus had understood and assured his family that such things were once not so uncommon. The war of the orders almost nine hundred years before when the new Church of Four Orders had demanded the Kith join, and then fought to force them, kept the Kith from traveling. Laith Lus, the oldest of the Kith living, remembered the war and knew of the times before the Kith remained only in their forest and allowed no one to pass.
The Kith had won that fight. They did not belong in the Church because their powers were not like those of the other Elementals. They did not control earth, air, water, or fire. Because they controlled dead plants, the Church called them Earth Elementals, insisting that the strange ability to control living plants stemmed from their spirit connection to trees. The Kith didn’t care what the Church thought. So a war had been fought.
Just as a small battle waged in Darag: return home without knowing why of all of his people he’d wanted to leave, or stay and resist the urge to stand before the tree linked to him to be assured it was healthy and safe, to feel its roots at ease in the soil of his people. Those were his choices and they’d begun to consume his thoughts. He no longer saw the uniqueness of the city. He thought only of stay or go?
Head too full of too little, Darag leaned with closed eyes against a tree along the shore. Its roots sheltered him. It wasn’t the same as being home, but it eased the struggle in his soul. Maybe enough to release the clouds in his mind.
“Why is your skin tattooed like that?”
On the shore stood a boy of about twelve, barefoot and wearing the remnants of pants that would be far too short for him even if the cuffs hadn’t frayed to mid-calf.
“Why are you outside of the city?” Darag countered.
The boy blushed, downcast glance darting toward Portoreayl. “You’re outside too,” he pointed out. Darag laughed. “So why did you tattoo your skin like tree bark?”
It was an easy theory to adopt, far easier than the truth of his people or power. But Darag had not been able to hide who he was from his family. He didn’t feel like hiding it from a stranger either.
“My skin isn’t tattooed. I was born this way far from here.”