No one is moving. No one is saying a word. But I don’t think that there are words to say. The people standing in front of us with their weapons are supposed to be dead. All of them. But here they are. Alive and well. I notice Caius shifting slightly so that his body is in front of mine, but I take a step forward placing my hand on his arm.
The men that attacked us are looking at me in confusion. They still have their blades raised, but I can see the war raging in their eyes. Their icy blue eyes. Like mine. Their hair is stark white, matching the snow around us as well as the tribal markings on their bodies. And although they live in the mountains where the sun is scarce, their skin is brown, like mine.
Finally, someone speaks.
“Toloup ’ta kadgob?” The man on the left speaks first. His words are directed towards me. He’s tall and muscular. Obviously a warrior. His hair is cropped, and he has a symbol on his bare arm, wrapping form his shoulder down to his elbow that is covered in ice.
I slowly step around Caius, noticing that they keep their weapons raised as well. I blink in confusion, strangely enough, I know exactly what the man said to me. ‘Who are you’.
I know because it’s the exact same language they spoke in my memories. When I was a child. I’ve never known the language growing up. I never had to, and I had no idea that I even knew it. And judging from the expressions on the men around me faces, they don’t know the language. But I respond in the same tongue, as not to startle the Ikniri warriors.
“My name is Neytiri. I’ve been raised as a child by a woman that found me after the attack of the Dragonborn, and was taken by the people of the village to the Blood King. These men helped me to escape, and have pledged their loyalty to me.” I say. I notice all of the men looking at me in shock. The warriors exchange shocked glances, and the blades made of ice that once adorned the warriors' arms slowly dissipate, melting back into their skin.
The man that spoke to me steps forward, placing his arm against his stomach and lowering his upper body. The other does the same. They’re bowing. To me. I stare at them in shock, my eyes growing wide from their sudden change in stance.
They stand, holding their hands.
“Please. Follow us.” He says. I look to Caius,
“He wants us to follow him.” I say. Caius looks untrusting but nods his head. He places his sword back in its sheath, looking to the other men behind us and they all do the same. I look back to the warriors that are watching us with caution, responding in my native tongue.
“Lead the way.”
It’s eerie walking through the now desolate village. I look around me at things that were once more than just a pile of rubble. These people may be alive, but they are not thriving. I sense the guilt running through the men as they pass by the result of their work.
We pass by the center of the village, and I know it is because I recognize it. The large fire that was usually lit in the center is now a small fire. I keep my gaze forward, and the warriors leading us pause when we reach the entrance of a cave.
They stop walking and turn to us, and the one that’s been speaking points to the men behind me.
“They must stay here.” He says. I pause.
“Why?” I ask. Anger flashes across his features.
“This is no place for trash like them.” He growls out.
I look at Caius.
“He said you all have to stay here.” I say. Caius narrows his gaze.
“Like hell, we will.” He says taking a step forward. I hold my hand up, stopping him.
“I’ll be fine.” I say. “I think it’s best to just... respect their wishes. It’s the least you could do.” I say calmly. He looks between me and them.
“At least ask if you can take one of us.” He says warily.
“Why don’t you trust them? These are my people.” I say. He looks like he wants to say something, but his gaze narrows and he looks behind me. He reaches out to grab my arm and in seconds the warriors are making their way towards me, hissing at Caius.
I hold my hands up trying to stop the impending fight that is set to happen from the tension that has been thickening in the air the moment we set foot into this territory.
“You tell him he touches you again, we will saw his arm off and feed it to the dogs!” He hisses, keeping his eyes trained on Caius. I look back to Caius, placing my arms on his chest.
“Calm down.” I murmur. “Just... wait here,” I say.
“They’re my people, they won’t hurt me.” I try and reassure him. Carac steps around me, placing his hand on Caius’ shoulder.
“Don’t let your emotions get us all killed. We owe it to ourselves and everyone else to at least have understood what exactly is going on here... let her go.” He says. Caius steps back from me, dropping his gaze.
“Go.” He says. I step away from him, turning back to the warriors who are watching the exchange with interest. I nod my head at them, and they turn their backs on me leading me into the dark cavern.
I step forward, expecting the warriors to lead the way, but they only step aside, as if guarding the entrance.
“You’re not going with me...?” I ask. The one that hasn’t spoken yet speaks.
“This is a place only for you, my queen.” I freeze when I hear the words. Queen? Surely they don’t know about my marriage to Cassian. But I put on foot in front of the other, and make my way into the cavern.
Immediately darkness envelopes me. But I keep walking. I feel like this place was meant for me. I don’t feel like a stranger or an intruder. I keep walking, and a dim blue light illuminates in front of me. I keep walking. It’s as if something is calling to me at the end of this cavern.
The blue becomes a full-on light, and I finally reach the end of the cavern. The water is blue as if it’s being lit up from within. It reminds me of the waters Cassian and I swam in. It shines off the walls, and when I look at the walls I let out a soft gasp.
There are people. Frozen in blocks of ice. The ice is so smooth it looks like a diamond, and I can see the faces of the people. My mother. My father. My two brothers. Suspended in time. The ice they’re in a part of the mountains. Their eyes are closed. My legs give out, and I fall in a heap on the ground below them.
“Wha...?” I can’t get my words out.
“They fought nobly.” I jump, turning around. There’s an old woman standing next to me. I hadn’t even heard her come in. She’s an Ikniri, and the state of her skin gives off her age. Her eyes that should be a crystal blue are white, and I assume she’s losing her sight. She smiles softly at me.
“The King, The Queen, and their sons gave their lives for this tribe. We were relieved, and still worried when your body was never recovered. We knew it meant you got away, or they took you too.” She says. My eyes widen.
“You are the last living heir.” She finishes for me.
My mind is frazzled. An hour ago we were trudging through the snow, trying to figure out what would be the best course of action against Cassian. And now, some woman is telling me that I am the Queen to the ikniri that are alive, that only hours ago we believed were dead.
I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding. My chest is constricting, and each time I breathe out it burns and I have to take in another breath. I can’t breathe. I lean forward, placing one hand on the ground and the other on my chest, trying to catch my breath.
I feel hands on my back.
“Calm...” I hear a voice, but it isn’t the old woman's. It’s Cassian.
“Breathe, Neytiri.” There it is again. His voice. And I can do nothing but obey it. I breathe.
“Breathe.” Once again someone directs me, but I can hear the women voice. I look up and she’s standing over me with a worried expression. She smiles when she sees I’ve calmed down. She places her hand against my cheeks.
“I know it’s a lot to take in. But this is who you are. You have finally come home.” She says. Her smile drops.
“It seems your mind has been tampered with. By that madman, they call a king.” She says. Her eyes travel to the symbol on my face and she traces it with her finger. Giving a disappointed click of her tongue.
“Fate has a way of bringing even the most opposite of creatures together.” She grabs ahold of my hand, leading me to the edge of the water.
“Remember who you are. It’s time you came back to us.” My stomach drops and my body lurches forward as she pushes me into the water.
I know in my head, I should feel cold. Freezing. We’re in the mountains where there is ice and snow, and I am in the water. But I’m not. I feel... fine. At home. I can feel the chill, but it doesn’t bother me in the least. I revel in it.
I’m home. It’s as if everything has dropped away, and I know who I am. I’m free.