Chapter 1: Messages
Hidden deep in a maze of books on languages, dumbbells of varying sizes, and fighting posters a slapping sound repeated over and over. The hits were strong and brash but very powerful as they knocked the punching bag back and forth. A tanned arm with blue feathers punched and elbowed before following with a kick and a knee jab. The limbs had plenty of sweat and certainly toned, but not overly tough like a beefcake would be.
“Kahi, time for lunch!” a young boyish voice cut through the noise.
The hitting stopped and the feathery arm reached over to a towel and placed it over the head of a twenty-two-year-old tomgirl manu woman of thin build in a blue tank top and cargo pants. “Okay, Patariyaan, tell Aunty Low that I will up in a minute.”
Kahi threw down the towel onto an old safe. She grabbed a book laying on the safe and opened to a marked page. “Hmm, kya aap ek kriya ke saath sab kuchh badal sakate hain?” She stopped reading for a moment and looked toward an old faded picture of a gray manu man with blue feathers on his head. “Hmm, what do you think it means, father?” She let loose a little laugh and finally translated. “Can you change everything with a single action?” Closing the book she decided to answer the question with a smirk. “Not sure what you would say, but I would gladly say... no.”
“Come on, cuz, I told her now let’s go!” The boyish voice returned.
“Damn he’s fast.” Kahi placed the book down and grabbed a good shirt to put on and walked off to the door. She exited up through three flights of stairs and jumped at the last few steps.
“Cool, I wish mom let me do that!” A short pepper red-haired ghoda boy ran around Kahi as they made their way to the kitchen.
“Your mom would never forgive me if you got hurt and neither would your friend, Mutthee.”
“I could care less,” another ghoda kid walked by with a juice box in her hand. “Really, Dash would be the one most pissed off.”
“Yeah, sissy Dash would probably give you a black eye again.”
Kahi laughed, “What are you talking about? I was the one who gave her the black eye after she attempted to break my arm.”
“I thought she did break your arm.” Patariyaan pulled at the arm hoping for a reaction.
“Ahhh,” Kahi faked a scream of agony. “No, stop that hurts.”
Patariyaan retracted his move only to struggle away when Kahi snuck her other arm around and picked the small one up. The two laughed until they reached the kitchen. There a red manu woman of middle age with brown feathers was setting the table.
“Oh, boy, Toúvlo!”
The food was a grouping of vegetables around a small brick of food mush cut and cook to perfection. Though the blend was always unknown to all of them, it was the best they could afford, being barely three bronze coins at the shop. It all sat in the center of a long table with fifty chairs, each with their own plate.
“About time you get here.” Aunty Low stopped for a moment as the two got to their chairs. “Which slice do you want Kahi?”
“Hmm, the front end, of course. A small slice please.” Kahi took a seat at the far end.
“And what does my little one want.” Low rubbed Patariyaan’s head.
“Mom, I’m not so little anymore. I’m ten years old now.”
“Of course you are, Pata?” She kissed her son’s forehead. He frowned in annoyance and looked away.
“I told you, my full name sounds much better.” He leaned away and smiled.
“That’s true, but you’re not old enough to hold your father’s full name yet.”
“Kahi thinks I am!”
Hearing mentions of Patariyaan’s father brought such joy to Kahi as she watched them talk. She remembered back when her father would pick on her about such small things.
“So, Patariyaan. Which piece do you want?”
“The--” He was stopped as a rush of other ghoda kids ran into the room and rushed to their chairs. Much to his annoyance Mutthee was sitting right beside him now. “Oh, I’ll just go for what’s left.”
“Don’t worry, I have extra in the back.” Low handed Kahi a slice before moving to the others, one at a time, finally ending with Patariyaan and Mutthee being last.
“Really, you got paid extra today?” Kahi questioned.
“Actually, no… the shop snuck an extra one out for us.” Low looked away at her words. Kahi stopped her questioning at that. She didn’t want to push on how her aunt really got the extra piece. They’ve always had it tough and having such a large orphanage didn’t help the problem. Kahi and Dash could only get so much work done, leaving much of the rest up to Low. Wherever her aunt was getting this extra money she wasn’t going to press it.
They were eating with a mix of fashions. Low ate slow with a fork and mostly made sure everyone else got their slice down, Kahi held the slice in her hand while Patariyaan and FIst raced to see who would finish first.
Suddenly there was a knock at the door. “Huh, I thought, Dash said she would be arriving back from the Gear Factory tomorrow,” Patariyaan remarked. He quickly regretted asking as Mutthee loudly announced her victory halfway through his words.
“I thought that as well.” Low placed down her fork and was about to leave the table when Kahi waved her hand up.
“Don’t worry, I’ll check on it.” Kahi got up and walked over to the door while munching down her slice in a few final bits. The knock was repeated, this time louder. “Wow, not that patient are you--” Kahi opened it but stopped her annoyance. “Hello… a Kanonikós.”
Standing on the other side was a tall pale woman of a basic color with bold blue wings in brown leathery armor with a red dress, black thin pants, a roman style helmet, and a letter in her hand. “Oh, you look different from your picture,” she remarked while looking back at a letter.
As far as Kahi could tell there was no picture in the Kanonikós’s hand at all, just the envelope. One thing did catch Kahi’s eye, a strange symbol that looked very familiar. “A very lively yellow oak tree covered with green star-shaped leaves. The symbol from my father’s old safe?” She whispered to herself.
“Are you Hoʻokumu Koa?”
“No, I am Kahi Koa. His daughter.”
“So, you are not him...” Anger burned brightly on Alqamar’s face and without warning her wings pulled out and she jumped to the sky. Up in the sky, she screamed in anger, tossing out several words in multiple languages that made Kahi blush in shock and horror.
Patariyaan hearing only half of the gibberish thankfully got up and ran over to see who was at the door. He was confused to find Kahi staring upward while the door was just hanging open. “Hey, cousin, what are you looking at?”
“Apparently an angelic being with a very colorful language.”
Alqamar finally calmed down and landed, pulling her wings back into her flesh.
Patariyaan only saw the wings for a second yet it was enough to cheer him up instantly. Without any objection, he ran over and hugged Alqamar. “It’s a Kanonikós!”
Alqamar was caught off guard and was still filled with so much rage that her hand reached for a dagger. She lifted but stopped as she heard a small bit of laughter that came from the boy. It reminded her of the reason why she was down here. In the back her mind an old memory of a girl laughing echoed.
She stopped herself as Kahi pulled the child away. “I’m sorry,” She looked to Kahi’s fear and to her hand, sheathing the dagger. “The child just reminded me of someone.” She lifted the letter in her other hand and gave it to Kahi. “Do you know where your father is?
Kahi took the letter. “No,” She stopped at first but finished. “He left me here, many years ago.”
“Oh, he did.” Alqamar’s eyes dropped in disappointment. “Your father was supposed to present something to me when I arrived here with the letter. But it seems I will have to talk to my brother instead.”
“Is that it?” Kahi looked at the letter with confusion.
“This letter was meant for whoever is ready to read it.” She turned away. “Make sure you read it alone.” With that she took to the sky and left.
Deep under the roads of Dílosi Abbey lights flashed back and forth as many câinesc jumped and twisted to the fast beats of music. They danced through a large cave with a stand in the center where a makeshift stage laid. Many of them were filled with joy, while a select few getting a little too close.
Slowly crawling through the crowd a singular purple câinesc with blue-tipped curly hair going around his face. He wore a fancy burgundy blazer with blue gloves. He leaned back and forth, sniffing the scent of the women, especially the ones enjoying the party too much. Behind him, a white katzenartig in a gray soldier’s uniform with a red trim line followed with slight disappointment.
The purple câinesc grabbed a drink and gulped it down really fast before grabbing a sexy câinesc woman from another kissing her boldly. This action pissed off the câinesc man she was dancing with. The purple câinesc was quickly punched right in the face. “Don’t you touch my woman?”
“Oh, your woman?” The purple câinesc man pulled back and smiled nonetheless. “Because I could have sworn I was fucking this bitch last night.” The woman quickly slapped him for his words.
The white katzenartig stepped forward, but the purple câinesc waved at him.
“Calm down, Verfolger. I was just having fun. It is my party.”
On that the attacker pulled back in shock and quickly apologized, “I’m sorry, Lupan Noapte. I didn’t realize it was you.”
“It’s okay,” Lupan pulled out a few silver coins. “Let’s just forget it happened. I was clearly mistaken.”
The câinesc man and woman smiled at the money before apologizing again and turning back to the party. Lupan gave a small wink to the woman before turning away. Verfolger looked to these actions with surprise, before slowly breaking into laughter. “Now I see, you knew she was a hooker the moment you saw her.”
“Of course. I know the scent of nearly every hooker on this stádia.” Lupan turned toward the center of the party and kept walking. “Thought I might help her score big with that câinesc man in return for the lovely moment she treated me ‘three weeks ago’.”
“So, not last night?”
“Of course not. I was dreaming of your sister.” Lupan snickered before taking another drink. “Speaking of which, do you think your sister will show up this time?”
“I think she is still pissed at you.”
“Damn, sweetest woman I’ve been with. I don’t think I will ever find a replacement.”
“You could go visit Lily.”
“You know that bitch would never touch me.”
“True, just saying it’s her birthday tomorrow as well.”
“Don’t remind me. Being born on the same day as that banshee is terrible enough, I don’t want to spend a birthday with her.” Lupan waved his hand around. “Look all I want to do right now is to have fun with these câinesc.”
“Riiight? Sometimes, I don’t think you want any other woman than my sister.” Verfolger stopped at the stairway to the center stage, while Lupan continued onward. “Either way, knock them dead.”
“What kind of freakin genius would I be if I didn’t?” Lupan placed the drink down and raised up his gloves. On the gloves were the same type of ischýs lines from the altar. He pressed his fingers at the center of his gloves, the music slowed and the volume lowered. “Hello, incredible people in this lovely fucking stádia.” His voice traveled far despite him not yelling. The crowd cheered back. “I am Lupan Noapte! And tomorrow it’s my birthday! Twenty-five and finally at proper drinking age!” He lowered his voice with some laughter, “Though, that legal stuff has always been a bit of a suggestive term to me. I’ve been drinking since I gained the legal right to fuck.” The crowds cheered louder. “And to that notion, let make this party so epic that you will be telling your grandchildren about it for years.”
They all lifted their hands and cheered to their loudest volumes. Lupan smirked and turned to Verfolger, “Come on, let’s have some fun.”
“I think I’ll stay down here.”
“Suit yourself!” With that final word, Lupan jumped backward and laid in the arms of the crowds. He closed his eyes and just listened to the music and the feeling of all the hands pushing him higher and higher. This was truly a blissful moment, a rarity for him lately and one he would rather enjoy to the best of his abilities.
He even let his mind wander at one moment. Traces of a certain shape became clear in his mind. A girl with big goofy glasses and an overly thick sweater--
Without warning the music stopped. Lupan found his thoughts fading and himself falling to the ground. The bang to the head snapped his eyes open. He looked to his gloves with confusion, pressing the nodes over and over.
“Well, well. Lupan. Why am I not surprised to find a mutt like you among criminals?” A voice spoke up through the silence.
“Wait?” Lupan’s eyes raced up to a white katzenartig man with brown tipped ears in bold armor with bladed tips, “Huh, hello Centaurea.”
“It’s Captain now,” Centaurea spoke up with a bit of snarkiness in his voice before reaching his hand out.
“Really? You got a promotion since I left the Corps... Twice.” Lupan slowly took the hand. “What’s the great captain want then?”
“There has been a murder…”
Lupan’s face fell and his teeth gritted. “And you’re here why? I would have thought someone upstanding and rather sexy like your adopted sister would love a case like this.”
“Actually, she wants us to handle the case. All three of us,” Centaurea got tired of holding his hand and pulled him up. “We’ve got until the end of tomorrow. She apparently has a plan.”
“Great…” Lupan deadpanned but waved Verfolger over all the same. Once they were together, Centaurea waved his own hand and the soldiers behind him placed down their weapons and arrested the rest.
The Athánatos Citadel, the sunlight for all, lowered its height, and the great light and heat it brought fade over the many stádia. Soon it was so far down that it was beyond what the eye could see. The species of all took this time to rest. Some of them slept, others broke free of work and few even settled down for the darkness was coming.
Inside a small room were many beds lying right next to each other Kahi laid down in silence.
“Why do you think it descends, Kahi?” Patariyaan questioned as he looked outside with a soft smile.
“From what I read of my father’s note, the Athánatos Citadel leaves the Kentrikós Wall to give light to the prisons of Niflheim. He said it was a kindness for those less fortunate.” Kahi kept looking at the letter.
“Where is Niflheim again?”
“At the very bottom of it all. Beyond the darkness of the dead zone and spiraling of the great matter reefs...” Kahi started to mumble the rest. Really, her mind was on the letter in her hand.
“Can you two stop?” Mutthee complained. “I would like to get some sleep.”
“No, I want to hear more,” Patariyaan snapped back.
“You always do.”
“But, one of the angelic beings from up there came here of all place and I just--”
“No, she’s right,” Kahi finally answered. “You all need to get some sleep for tomorrow’s chores.”
“Fine,” Patariyaan huffed before turning away from the window and lying back down. He turned to Kahi and saw her still looking at the letter. He scooted closer and whispered, “Are you going to ever read that?”
“Shush,” Mutthee snapped again.
Kahi laughed a little before putting the letter down. Actually, she was tempted many times to open the letter, but she was simply too afraid. So many things were left unsaid when her father left. He left so long ago that she could barely even remember his voice let alone know what he was thinking when he left her in the orphanage. Kahi’s mind raced on so many possible answers, but she dare not open the letter. What if he was hurt? What if he was dead? What if he found a new family? That last thought had crossed her mind once or twice over the years, but this was the first time it brought a tear to her eye.
She couldn’t take the chance. If anything she needed to ignore the letter and continue to live on this stádia, this family needed her after all. Watching over and teaching these young souls to grow into good adults brought her happiness. It felt good, but it also… felt like it wasn’t her calling.
Finally taking a deep breath, she pulled over the letter and closed her eyes. The sounds of ripping first brought forth more fear than ever before, but soon calmness poured over as she slowly opened her eyes.
Inside was a train ticket and paper with gold outline. She was quite confused as outside from the outline the page was completely blank. She flipped the page over, hoping to find something but again nothing, the page was completely bare, at first.
Kahi’s eyes went wide and she dropped the page at the sight of a single word appearing. She took a moment to catch her breath before picking it up again. The first word was now gone and more writing had appeared
Please be careful. You father was always careful when I called upon his help.
Kahi wiped her eyes in confusion. Was this page reacting to her.
You are the only one close enough to read this, right?
It questioned her now. This was just getting crazier and crazier. But in all respects it was given to her by one of the Kanonikós. Such angelic beings were always believed by many to be direct messages from Odium, the leader of the six gods above all.
I am not Odium.
Kahi’s thoughts came to a complete halt. The word Odium had just barely come to her mind and the page answered by saying it wasn’t Odium, as if it was reading her mind.
You can trust me, I know where your father is. All you have to do is follow my words.
She brought the page closer and read more words. The more she read, the more her eyes widened. She dare not speak the words of the letter aloud, but it was very clear this needed to be answered.
She got out of her bed, then stopped and looked back over the kids as they all slept. Slight doubt clouded her mind at that moment.
“What are you doing?” Patariyaan whispered once more.
Kahi turned around and spoke softly, “I’m just going for a walk.”
“No,” Patariyaan could always see when Kahi was lying.
“...Yeah, I’m going to go do something important. Tell Low I’ll stay out of trouble and come home soon.”
“Hmm, okay.” On that Patariyaan opened the window and smiled, “Go now. And have fun.”
“Of course,” On that Kahi’s fears faded and she rushed over to the closet. She was now in such a hyper mood suddenly that she started to flip over some of the beds to prevent crashing into them. She grabbed some clothes and flipped back finally reaching the window. She opened the window and padded Patariyaan on the head. “Thanks,”
“No problem.” Patariyaan quickly hugged her. “Just give that uncle of mine a big hug for me.”
“I will.” With that final word she hopped through the window and ran off to the train station. The closer she got the more a single thought crossed her mind more than ever. It made the fears fade and her hope grow even stronger. “I won’t fail you father.”
Back on Dílosi Abbey, a group of hooded figures gathered down an alley. They quickly surrounded a katzenartig with knives and chains ready.