Categories > Original > Fantasy > Monster

Day 4

by Togot 0 reviews

Tyler learns more about the Kannin

Category: Fantasy - Rating: R - Genres: Drama,Fantasy - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2019-08-11 - 7653 words

Tyler shook his head as he finished the book he was reading and tossed it onto the pile with the rest. He rubbed his eyes and took a deep breath, letting it out in an agitated sigh. Malenia had been right; all the books had been just as unhelpful. ‘Well that’s another dead end,’ he thought as he tried to clear his head. He leaned back in his chair, staring at the ceiling. He’d been reading since he’d woken up, and aside from Balla brining him his breakfast, he hadn’t been bothered by anyone.

‘Wonder what time it is?’ Tyler thought. He wished he had a window or a clock. Bing in such an isolated room gave Tyler no sense of time. He got up from his chair and stretched. He felt stiff and sore. He hadn’t exercised since he’d gotten to this world, so he decided to kill two birds with one stone.

He found no one waiting for him outside of his room, and he managed to find his way to the main hall without any trouble. He was surprised to find the sun still high in the sky. He had expected it to be late noon at the earliest, but this worked to. He headed out into the courtyard and made his way to the archway leading out of Haven. His senses were on high alert as he approached the short tunnel. He expected someone to stop him at any moment, but no one seemed to take any notice of him.

Tyler walked through the passageway, his footsteps echoing off the stone walls. ‘hell of a place for an ambush,’ he thought grimly, yet he emerged out the other side without incident. Tyler almost felt disappointed as he stepped out into the vast open field that awaited beyond Haven’s walls. From here, the ring of mountains seemed a lot closer than he had thought. There wasn’t much to see other than grass with a few trees scattered about, most likely non-indigenous to the area as Tyler couldn‘t imagine how the seeds could have gotten here naturally. It looked like the whole area was a bowl rimmed with short mountains, as if someone had scooped off the top of a big mountain and put a castle in the middle of it. It didn’t seem like a natural geographic formation, but then for all he knew the whole place had been shaped by magic.

There was something about the place that tickled a part of his brain, but he just didn’t know why.

He shook the thought out of his head and took a deep breath before he started stretching. His legs were very stiff, and he felt a few knots in his back that made him wince as he worked them out. The first lap was going to hurt, but a jog was just the thing to clear his head and help him find a solution to this mess. ‘A few laps around this place should be enough,’ he thought to himself.

“What is it you’re doing?” Malenia asked.

Tyler’s tensed, but didn’t spin around. Malenia’s arrival hadn’t been totally unexpected, though the tone of her voice seemed more curious than cross. He straightened up and looked at her. Sure enough, she was smiling at him with her head tilted slightly like a puzzled dog.

Tyler looked away to continue stretching and said, “I’m going to jog a few laps around the place.”

“Jog laps?” she said, as if tasting the words.

Tyler looked at her a moment with a mix of mild annoyance and disbelief. ‘They have no word for jogging?’ he thought. What he said was, “I’m going to run in a big circle around Haven until I get tired.”

Malenia raised her eyebrows and smiled with amusement. “You’re serious,” she said. Tyler gave her an annoyed look as an answer which only seemed to amuse her more.

“Would you answer another question?” She asked stepping closer. That made Tyler straighten up and face her. He tightened his grip his scabbard defensively, not liking it when Melanesia came to close. She sensed his tension and stopped, but Malenia’s eyes showed concern rather than disapproval. She leaned forward slightly, as if to get a closer look at Tyler and asked, “Is it normal for humans to change colors?”

“What?” Tyler asked, confused by the question.

“Your eye,” she said. “It has a very dark ring around it that wasn’t there when you first arrived. I started noticing it the other day, but now it’s quite pronounced.”

Tyler reached up and touched his face, but he already knew what she was referring to. His black eye. With everything he’d been through the last few days, he’d forgotten about his fight at school. His knuckles had already healed for the most part, and his face didn’t really hurt all that much, but it was probably pretty dark by now.

“It’s nothing to worry about,” he said. Malenia seemed to pout at his non-answer. She was actually giving him puppy dog eyes. Tyler realized that she was just trying different tactics to see what worked on him. ‘So it is a mask,’ he thought.

“Mask?” she asked, tilting her head.

Tyler cursed himself for forgetting. Scrambling his thoughts was going to take a lot of practice, but he needed to get into the habit of it quickly. “It’s just a black eye.” he said, changing the subject back to something he didn’t need to hide. “I got in a fight before I came here, and I got slugged pretty good in the face. It swells up, then it bruises like this. It should be back to normal in a few days.”

“You were in a fight with other humans?” Malenia asked, sounding surprised.

Tyler smiled. “What, you think a species with this many personality problems would get along well?”

“No,” she said. “But had I known you were injured, I would have had you tended to.”

“I can tend to myself, thanks,” said Tyler. He was a little annoyed at being doted over. Though there was one thing that he needed. “Well,” he said, looking at his sword. “If you really want to help, I guess I could use a belt.”

“A belt?” said Malenia.

Tyler just stared at her a moment. “Seriously?” he asked in disbelief. Malenia only stared at him blankly in response. Tyler sighed heavily and said, “That strap of leather I had around my waist when I arrived? That’s a belt. I kinda need a new one. So, I dunno, a strip of fabric about four feet long, finger width thick, and an inch across. Does that help any?”

Malenia thought a moment before extending her arms, one out tot eh side, and the other toward Tyler. He watched as Malenia’s sleeves uncoiled like a snake and slide across her arms into her outstretched, shaped to Tyler’s specifications. “Will this suffice?” she asked.

“Won’t that vanish if I touch it?” Tyler asked.

“I do not believe so,” said Malenia as she looked at her latest creation. “Clothing is often simply manipulated materials, not conjured.”

“Fair enough,” Tyler said as he accepted the gift. The belt felt like silk to him, and Tyler guessed that that was what made up the majority of Malenia’s wardrobe. He tied it snuggly around his waist and slipped his scabbard into it, twisting it around to the back to keep it out of the way for running.

Malenia watched him as if studying his every action. He wondered what she would do when he started running. Somehow he just couldn’t picture Malenia jogging beside him. The mental image almost made him laugh.

“You don‘t mind me running around on my own?” Tyler asked, eyeing Malenia to gauge her reaction.

“You are free to go where you wish,” she said. Her voice was pleasant and polite. “Haven is protected by barrier spells for a good distance, but do be careful. I cannot protect you if you go too far.”

“I can take care of myself,” Tyler said.

“As you wish,” said Malenia with a small bow and Tyler was, again, struck by how everything Malenia did seemed overdramatic. Were all kannin like this? He’d spoken directly to very few of them, but they hadn’t been so exaggerated.

He shook his head, putting the thought in his mental filling cabinet and started running. He was going faster than he should at the start, but you didn’t jog slowly away from someone. Malenia didn’t follow him, and when he was a ways away, he got into a steady rhythm. There wasn’t any kind of trail to follow, so Tyler just ran in a rough circle. It was the first time he felt any kind of real freedom since he’d gotten here. He was tempted to just keep running if only to see if Malenia would try to stop him, but decided against it. Better the devil he knew than whatever awaited him in beyond Haven‘s borders.

Even as he entertained the thought, he questioned whether it was far to refer to Malenia as the devil. She had been bending over backwards for him since he’d shown up. She had done nothing villainous or malicious as far as he knew, so why couldn’t he shake this feeling of unease whenever he was around her?

Tyler had no real answer. Maybe his gut was telling him something, or maybe he’d just seen one to many alien invasion movies and was being racist.

It wasn’t long before he was breathing hard and sweating. It was another bright, warm day, almost perfectly so. Was that magic to? How could he tell what was real and what was magic? Then again, wasn’t magic real? It affected things around him even if he himself was somehow immune. ‘Argh! Bad thought,’ Tyler thought to himself, and he shook it out of his head. ‘You’re not dealing with any pseudo philosophy crap. You have enough problems.’

He completed his first lap and found Malenia still standing there, watching him as he ran by. ‘Doesn’t she have anything better to do?’ he wondered, making sure to garble the thought. If she was in charge of this place, surely she had other duties to attend to that ranked higher on her priority list than watching him run in a circle. As he ran past her, she showed no sign of irritation or impatience. She simply smiled pleasantly as she watched him go by, as if this were the most interesting thing in the world.

Tyler ran past without a word, not breaking his stride. If she wanted to stand there and watch him run, he wasn’t going to stop her. He was tempted to glance back to see if she was still watching him, like a Nascar fan watching the cars go by, but he resisted the urge. Knowing his luck he’d trip over a rock or something, and he’d lost enough without adding his dignity to the casualty list.

He came around the castle and saw the entrance to Haven come into view again when he felt a small pinch in his chest. It wasn’t as bad as what had happened at Master Kim’s, but it was a subtle warning from his body to take a break. He stopped where he was, breathing heavily with sweat dripping from his nose. He looked around again at his surroundings and wondered how the kannin got to Haven. He saw no roads leading out of this caldera. Tyler blinked as the word popped into his head. He looked around again and realized that that was what this place looked like, but who the hell would be dumb enough to build a castle inside a volcano?

“It’s not active.”

Tyler was so startled out of his thoughts that he actually cried out in surprise and jumped away from Malenia who had appeared yet again out of nowhere. “Would you stop doing that?” he shouted, and the pinch in his chest grew enough to make him wince, though he tried to cover it up. “I got enough problems without you giving me a heart attack.”

“My apologies, but I am unsure how to approach without alarming you.”

“Just don’t appear so damn close to me,” Tyler said as he caught his breath. Malenia seemed confused by the vague request, but Tyler wasn’t sure how to word it in a way that didn’t make him sound timid. He didn’t like anyone sneaking up on him without his knowledge, but Malenia could appear out of nowhere right behind him and there was nothing he could do about it.

“Look, if you need to pop up like that, at least do it out of arms reach.”

Malenia considered it a moment and bowed her head. “As you wish.” She stepped closer and looked intently at his face, her eyes narrowed as if confused. “How did you get wet?”

It took a moment for Tyler to realize what Malenia was referring to. “I’m sweating,” he said.
Malenia tilted her head slightly and asked, “Sweating? This word is not familiar to me.”

Tyler wondered if Malenia and the others panted like dogs when they got too hot. “It’s how my people regulate our body temperature,” he explained, adopting a lecturing tone. “We store liquid in pores under our skin, and when we get hot we secrete this liquid. When it evaporates, it takes some heat away with it, cooling us down. Also sweaty shirts can do wonders once you get into the shade.”

Malenia listened to his explanation with great interest and a queer smile. “Fascinating.”

Malenia’s intense gaze made Tyler shift uncomfortable. He had realized early on that Malenia seemed fixated on him. He understood that he was an alien, but her fascination seemed more personal than that. She kept spending time with him, but always in a casual way. She didn‘t question him the way humans would an alien were the situation reversed. She didn‘t try to drill him for information, seeming instead to prefer friendly conversation. He knew he wasn’t that interesting, even if he was an alien. She must have had a reason, but what was it? Was she hoping to learn some kind of secret from him?

Tyler’s greatest fear was that everything around him was a lie. It was well within the realm of possibility that his being there was Malenia’s doing all along, and that she was trying to learn everything she could about earth before invading, or summoning more humans here for some nefarious purpose, or perhaps he‘d simply seen too many Sci-Fi movies. After all, if she wanted information, she was a mind reader.

Malenia seemed to be thinking about something, and that made Tyler nervous. “Tyler,” she said tentatively, which increased Tyler’s apprehension. That tone of voice could only mean she was about to ask something that he wouldn’t want to do. “Seeing as you may be with us for some time, I think it might be wise for you to meet with someone.”

“Who?” Tyler asked, eyeing her suspiciously.

“One of my staff, no one who will harm you, but if you are injured, he may be the only one qualified to heal you.”

“What, you mean he’s a doctor?” Tyler asked.

“I’m afraid we have no word for that,” she said. “but he is intimately familiar with the internal workings of living creatures, and that knowledge makes him uniquely qualified to look after your well-being.”

Tyler really didn’t like the sound of that. Still, he had his sword and Malenia’s word he wouldn’t come to harm, for whatever it was worth. The pinch in his chest certainly seemed to agree that having someone informed about what was normal for a human could prove useful in the future. He sighed, defeated by his own logic. “Alright, but I need to stop by that little pond of yours first.”

Malenia tilted her head the way she always did when he said something that puzzled her. He was learning it was a quirk of hers. She led him back into the garden where Tyler rinsed off his face. It was dawning on him that kannin didn’t use basic human amenities like deodorant, toothpaste or soap. Either he needed to get home, or he needed to have a long talk with Malenia about the cost of keeping him here.

After his brief bath, Malenia led him back into Haven and down into a part of the castle he hadn’t been to yet. Tyler had been trying to make a mental map of the place, and if his guess was right, they were under the tower that held Malenia’s office. For some reason this part of the castle felt darker and colder, and there didn’t seem to be anyone around.

They came to a small wooden door all alone in what felt like the dungeon. Malenia pushed it open without bothering to knock. It seemed they really didn’t understand the meaning of privacy. The room beyond was dimly lit and filled with shelves holding jars, bottles, and various other things that Tyler imagined belonged on a movie set for the mad scientist’s lair.

Malenia walked over to a desk hidden away in a corner where a male kannin was reading something. The clicking of Malenia’s claws on the stone floor made it impossible for the other kannin to not know she was there, yet he seemed to take no notice. Malenia stood in front of the desk for a long moment, and she looked rather annoyed.

Finally Tyler heard a tired sigh. “What is it now, Malenia?” The voice had a nasal tone to it which made Tyler think of an aristocrat who was used to talking down to others.

“I brought our new guest to see you,” said Malenia. She maintained her pleasant demeanor, but Tyler could tell she was irritated.

The man glanced over his book to look at Tyler. He was still in the dark, so Tyler couldn’t see him very well, but he did see the man go back to his reading. “I already examined it while it was sleeping.”

“What?” Tyler said with considerable surprise.

Malenia leaned forward, looming over the man while ignoring Tyler’s distress. “You will discuss his health with him,” She said in a low tone that made it clear that she wasn’t making it a request. “You had questions about his species, did you not? Well here are your answers. You will be in charge of maintaining his health while he stays with us.” The male looked up at her. “I’m holding you personally responsible for his well-being,” Malenia said smiling as she picked up a small carved stone from the man’s desk. “And should anything happen to him?” She crushed the rock to pebbles in her hand. “I shall be very displeased.”

The man lowered his head like a child expecting to be struck by an angry parent. “As you wish, headmistress,” he said in a far less arrogant tone.

“Excellent,” said Malenia as she straightened up, smiling brightly. She flashed her sharp teeth happily. “Tyler, come and meet Turell. I’m sure the two of you have much to discuss.”

Tyler stared at Malenia wide-eyed. He had no desire to come closer after what she had done to that rock. He didn‘t understand how he could keep forgetting that there was a reason Malenia could keep Deserae and Romat in line; she was scary as hell when she wanted to be. Malenia seemed to sense Tyler’s fear, and her smile appeared to wilt a slightly. “Well,” she said, lowering her gaze slightly. “I’ll give the two of you some…what was that word? Privacy?” and with that, she vanished right before Tyler’s eyes. There was no sound, no warning. She was just gone.

‘She catches on fast,’ Tyler thought. He’d only mentioned privacy once to her, yet she already seemed to the concept behind it. He looked back to Turell still not sure what to make of him.

Turell, for his part, seemed to be ignoring tyler. He stared at the space where Malenia had been with an odd mix of apathy and boredom. “That woman is just impossible to deal with,” he said with a sigh.

“Why?” Tyler asked with a mocking smile. “Cause she doesn‘t put up with your shit?” even as he said it, Tyler knew he was being a hypocrite. Malenia had put up with more from Tyler than any human authority figure would have. The fact that she had so little tolerance for it from her own people was yet further evidence that he was receiving special treatment for some reason.

“Oh quite the contrary,” Turell said with a grin that made Tyler very uncomfortable. Turell‘ like Deserae, had smaller pointy teeth like a cat, though Turell reminded Tyler more of a fox. “Any other kannin elder would have broken my arm for such insolence, not a stone.” he waved a hand casually, and the dust and pebbles floated off the floor to reform themselves into the stone that had been destroyed as if Turell had hit the rewind button on reality.

“I was referring to her passive aggressive approach to leadership. It’s difficult to follow someone who tries to refrain from harming others. It makes it easy to forget that she could follow through with her threats.”

“Are you seriously saying that you’d prefer it if she actually kicked the shit out of you for being an asshole?” Tyler asked, eyeing the reformed stone. It seemed a bizarre concept to him.

“That’s an… odd way of putting it,” said Turell tilting his head the same way Malenia did. “But yes. Kannin don’t work well together. It takes a strong leader to force those weaker to follow, but Malenia’s seems to think that she can instill loyalty through…kindness.” He said the word as if it left a bad taste in his mouth.

“Then why are you taking orders from her?” Tyler asked, thinking it the obvious question.

Turell smiled again and Tyler thought that it was a shit-eating grin if ever he‘d seen one. “My clan was destroyed, and she offered me protection. I think it was foolish of her, but that won’t stop me from taking advantage of her naiveté.”

Tyler narrowed his eyes at the man. He didn’t have any real loyalty to Malenia himself, but this guy’s attitude really pissed him off. He’d have to remember to be a bit more civil to Malenia the next time he chatted with her, from what he was gleaning from Turell, being so nice was an unusual trait, and the last thing Tyler wanted to do was discourage it.

Tyler came closer, and Turell made a stool slide over to the other side of his desk with a wave of his hand. “So what now?” Tyler asked as he sat down slowly, not trusting the stool.

“Now?” Turell said. He folded his fingers together on his desk as he leaned forward and grinned at Tyler. When Malenia showed off her teeth, it felt like a friendly warning, but this was darker. Turell smiled as though he were thinking about terrible things, and enjoying it. The sight sent a shiver up Tyler’s spine. “Now we talk about what your insides look like.”


Tyler walked back to his room. He had spent hours talking with Turell, though it had felt more like an interrogation. The man had spent the entire time grilling Tyler about human anatomy, specifically anything that would affect Tyler’s health. He hadn’t made small talk, or offered Tyler something to drink or eat, in fact he hadn’t gotten up from his chair once the entire time. Didn’t kannin get stiff?

Turell had given very curt answers whenever Tyler had tried to ask about kannin, but he had gleaned a few things from the conversation. For one, kannin had no medicine, not even a word for it. Most could heal using magic, and those that couldn’t were healed by Turell because he was apparently good at it. They had no diseases, and Turell seemed truly puzzled by the very concept of a virus. He had seemed annoyed that he might be punished for something he couldn’t prevent. In fact he seemed to have little concern for the Tyler’s well-being beyond how it would affect him.

Tyler was also noticing that kannin just didn’t seem to be all that curious. Turell had never asked how humans learned to detect viruses, or about medicine once he learned he couldn’t use it to treat his only fulltime patient. Tyler thought back to Malenia talking about sound. She had no interest in how it worked so long as it worked, and Turell was demonstrating the same mindset. Tyler wondered if there was a way he could use that to his advantage.

They had gone over the basic things Tyler would require: toothbrush, bathroom with paper towels, a tub to bathe in, daily changes of clothes. Turell had listened and assured Tyler that his needs would be seen to, but Tyler wasn’t sure how much the kannin had really understood. The doctor’s interests had been perked when Tyler had spoken about basic first aid. In fact, he had maintained a very disturbing smile while Tyler had described the concept of stitches.

The clicking of claws on stone behind him alerted Tyler that he was being followed. ‘Almost forgot about her,’ he thought to himself, jumbling his thoughts. He was near the isolation wards where his room was now. Very few kannin ever came to this part of the castle, so it seemed as good a place as any to settle this matter. He rounded a corner and then turned to wait. He blanked his mind as much as he could to hide his presence as he heard the clicking get louder.

A shape appeared, and Tyler rushed forward, pinning the kannin against the wall with his left forearm across the enemy’s chest, and holding his stone knife to the throat with an inverted grip. “Come to finish me off?’ Tyler asked as he looked Alanna in the eye.

“I mean no harm,” she said. Her voice was surprisingly calm for someone who had a knife pressed against her jugular. Not that Tyler was even sure she had a jugular vein.

“Then why the hell are you following me?”

“Malenia wishes me to look after you while you are here.” She spoke very evenly, as if afraid that the wrong word or tone might provoke Tyler to strike.

“You’re joking,” said Tyler.

“I assure you,” Alanna said glancing down at Tyler’s weapon. “having a sharp object pressed to my neck does not put me in a humorous mood, nor do I find Malenia’s choice amusing.”

Tyler thought about it for a moment. If her story was a lie, it was a bad one. “You’re the last person in the world who should be anywhere near me. Why the hell would Malenia put you in charge of my safety?”

“Malenia often makes baffling choices,” said Alanna, and she sounded annoyed. “Perhaps she wished to make my punishment ironic.”

“Punishment?” Tyler asked. “What, is she trying to get me to kill you by making revenge as convenient as possible?”

“Revenge?” Alanna asked. It sounded as if the word was new to her.

“Oh now I know you’re fucking with me,” said Tyler, and he tightened his grip on the stone handle of his blade. “I’ve met Deserae , Romat, and Turell. There’s no way you guys don’t know what revenge is.”

“I only know that we have no word for it,” said Alanna, her voice was still calm and even.

“You hurt me, so I hurt you,” Tyler said. “That’s revenge.”

Alanna tried to tilt her head, but seemed to think better of it. “I haven‘t hurt you,” she said.

Tyler growled in frustration and said, “You make me angry, so hurt you, you hurt someone I care about, so I hurt you. Is any of this sinking in? You brought me here and tried to kill me! Hell, I killed four of your friends. Are you seriously telling me that doesn‘t piss you off?”

“We tried to kill you to hide what we had done from Malenia,” Alanna said flatly. “Killing you now won’t accomplish that goal, and you killed the others to protect your own life. Why would that anger me? Killing you won’t bring them back, nor would I risk Malenia’s wrath again even if it would.” She spoke in a cold, dispassionate tone, as if she were simply stating obvious facts, but Tyler found it difficult to believe.

“You’re saying you have no problem with me?”

“I certainly don’t enjoy the idea of being around you,” she said, and her voice made her dislike for him very clear. “But I have no desire to kill you. I simply do not wish to be killed by you.”

‘How the hell did I end up being the asshole here?’ Tyler wondered. He slowly let Alanna go, taking a step back. Alanna took a breath, no doubt relieved to have the knife away from her. The two of them stood in awkward silence for a moment, each staring at each other. In the light, Tyler realized that Alanna wasn’t solid black like Deserae. Her fur had mixes of dark blue and purple. They weren’t spots, or stripes, just patches here and there that faded into the surrounding black in a way that reminded Tyler of petroleum in water. Her features were similar to a feline, but she didn’t look like a leopard like Deserae. Her fur was longer, as was her hair, and Tyler realized for the first time that kannin didn‘t seem to have whiskers of any kind.

Alanna stood patiently, taking no aggressive action, and Tyler felt the fight drain out of him. He wasn’t relaxed, but he accepted that Alanna didn’t want to fight him. Trying to break the silence, Tyler said, “So, Malenia said you don’t know how to send me back.” He’d meant it as a question, but Alanna just stared at him as if expecting more. “What exactly were you trying to summon here if you didn’t know about ear…my world?”

“We weren’t sure what the spell would summon,” she said, and she looked away from him. She was clearly unhappy about how things had turned out. “Termall was the only one who actually knew the spell. The rest of us were simply there to supply additional power.
“Not buying it,” Tyler said. “You must have had some idea what you would get out of the deal, or you wouldn’t have risked pissing Malenia off.”

Alanna looked back at Tyler as if examining him more closely. “Very astute,” she said. “Termall told us that he believed the spell would call forth something that would grant us great power, something strong enough the threaten Malenia‘s own. Why else would she forbid the spell unless she considered it a threat?”

“If it was a threat, why keep it around at all?” Tyler asked.

“Because no kannin, not even Malenia, would throw away power.” There was something about the way Alanna said that that made Tyler suspicious. He thought about how well Malenia had been treating him, how she’d been doting on him. Was that all he was to her: power? Was she keeping him around until she could decide how to use him? If that was the case, there was no way she’d ever send him home.

“Alanna, tell me the truth; you owe me at least that much. Is what Malenia said true? Is there no way to send me home?”

The girl seemed hesitant to answer, but she said, “What she told you about the difficulties in sending someone to a place you do not know was true. As to whether or not she can overcome that obstacle, I cannot say. Teleportation is a very difficult spell to master.”
It wasn’t really an answer, but it was something for Tyler to keep in mind.

“If you thought you might be summoning something dangerous, why didn’t you take any precautions?” he asked.

“We did,” she said flatly. “We spent months preparing for this, setting up barrier spells around the room to hide it from Malenia’s sight, shielding our minds, gathering our strength. We put every kind of barrier around the summoning circle that we knew, but you walked through them as if they weren’t there.”

‘That actually makes sense,’ Tyler thought. They had been caught completely off guard by him because magic couldn’t affect him directly, barrier spells included. “So what you’re saying is that I killed the only person who might have been able to send me home.”

Alanna nodded, though Tyler hadn’t really meant it as a question this time.

“That’s…that’s just great,” Tyler said, shaking his head and turning away. He started to walk away, no longer caring about Alanna, but when she continued to follow him he stopped.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“As I said, Malenia has tasked me with your care.”

“Which means?”

“That I am to watch over you and be at your disposal whenever you are not in the presence of one of the masters or Malenia herself.”

Tyler didn’t like the thought of Alanna knowing where he slept, even if she was telling the truth. “Well I’m just going back to my room, so you can call it a day,” he said with a dismissive wave of his hand.

“I already know where your room is,” Alanna said flatly. Her expression remained neutral, almost bored as she said it.

‘Fuck!’ Tyler thought angrily to himself. He had forgotten to shield his mind again, though if what Alanna said was true, he hadn’t revealed anything important, but it was still a mistake on his part.

“You’re not planning to watch me sleep are you?”

“I am at your disposal until you dismiss me,” she said, keeping her tone formal.

Tyler thought about it for a minute. He was tempted to just send her away and be done with it, but this did give him an opportunity. Despite several conversations with Malenia, Tyler didn’t know very much about this world, and Turell hadn’t been very forthcoming either. If Alanna had to answer, he might as well take advantage of it.

“Alright, fine,” he said, walking down the hall and waving for her to follow. Although he was jumbling most of his thoughts, he did allow one to slip through on purpose. ‘But God help you if this is a trick.’

The two walked in silence back to Tyler’s room. He opened his door and invited her in. She entered without a word, acting more like a prisoner than an assistant, if that was even the word for it. Tyler closed the door and offered Alanna a seat which she accepted. Tyler noticed that his dinner was waiting for him on the table next to his books, and it seemed as good a first question as any.

“Where does this food come from,” he asked. “I mean, I didn‘t exactly spot any farm animals outside.”

“I do not know what farm means,” said Alanna, “but kannin obtain food through various means depending on how strong they are. The youngest and weakest hunt whatever they can find, often choosing to feed on the tomen.”

“Tomen?” Tyler said, making it a question.

“Another species,” she explained. “They are sentient, though only somewhat intelligent. They eat only plants and are very timid. They make for easy prey.”

“Sentient,” said Tyler. “You mean they’re people, not animals?”

“I suppose,” she said, sounding disinterested in the distinction. “They can speak and build crude shelters, but they cannot use magic and have no means of defending themselves against us.”

Tyler looked at the hunk of meat sitting on his plate. He remembered what Malenia had said about Romat. She‘d assured him that what he was eating hadn‘t been a kannin, saying that it was a running beast, but to hear Alanna speak, it didn‘t seem like kannin saw a difference. Malenia had also said that the young ones hunted them for food. “Please tell me that’s not one of their legs.”

“Unlikely,” said Alanna. “Malenia has an aversion to harming the creatures, and since she’s likely the one preparing your food, I highly doubt she would choose them as a food source for you.”

‘Thank god,’ Tyler thought. He had enough on his plate without adding that to his conscience. “Ok,” he said, trying to hide the tension he had felt a moment ago. “How else do Kannin get food. You said there were several ways, and I‘d kinda like to know what I‘m eating.”

Alanna took a closer look at Tyler’s dinner. “If I had to guess, I’d say that this was one of the four-legged beasts common in this area, and no, it’s not a person.”

“So how does Malenia get them? I can’t imagine her as the hunter/gatherer type.”

“Of course not” said Alanna, and Tyler was surprised to note the hint of irritation in her voice. “Kannin as strong as Malenia don’t even need to eat at all if they do not wish to, and even if they do, they can simply conjure up a snack with magic, but given your…unique situation, she likely summoned one up and killed it for you.”

That made sense enough, at least the summoned the creatures up part. Not having to eat or using magic to make food on the other hand. “You mean you use energy to cast a spell to summon food out of the fucking ether to eat to give you energy?” Tyler said. “That makes no fucking sense at all!”

“Why not?” Alanna asked. From her tone it seemed to be a stupid question for Tyler to ask.
“Because of entropy,” Tyler said as if it were obvious. “How can she spend energy to create food which gives her more energy than she used to make it? Or for that matter, how the hell can she just not eat?”

Alanna remained calm as she said, “Magic, of course.”

Tyler let out an aggravated sigh. All this business with magic was driving him crazy. The rules of physics he knew and understood just didn’t seem to apply to this place. Still, it had to be handy being able to create your own food.

“Ok, different question,” he said while rubbing his eyes. “What exactly is this place. What’s Haven?”

“Haven is Malenia‘s clan,” she said.

“And you‘re part of Malenia‘s clan?”

Alanna nodded and said, “Everyone within haven is part of Malenia’s clan.”

“So are you guys all related, or is this a group you choose to join?”

“Most clans are related. Often an elder takes a mate and makes a clan of their offspring. Occasionally taking in those they capture from other clans helps to strengthen their own.” Alanna made a cup appear in her hand from nowhere and took a drink, reminding Tyler that he hadn’t touched his own dinner yet. Tyler made a mental note that Alanna probably wasn’t strong enough to just not eat yet, though he wasn’t sure how significant that was.

Alanna took a long sip before she continued. “Haven is different. Very few of us are related, and nearly all of us are from destroyed clans.”

“Destroyed by what?” Tyler asked as he sat down at his table and picked up his own cup.

“Stronger clans.”

“So you guys war with each other,” said Tyler. It made sense. They certainly seemed like the violent sort.

“What is war?” Alanna asked.

Tyler stared at Alanna dumbfounded. How did he answer that? Did they really have no word for war? She’d just said that their clans destroyed each other, so they had to at least have battles, unless one group just rolled over for the other, and he doubted that.

“War is a battle on a much larger scale,” he said, hoping that it would answer her question. She seemed to think it over a moment, and then simply accepted it without any follow up questions. ‘They really aren’t curious,’ he thought. He yawned, and asked, “You know what time it is?” When the girl tilted her head in confusion, Tyler put his down on the table in frustration. “Is it dark outside yet?”

“Yes, I believe so.”

“Then I need some sleep,” Tyler said, his fatigue showing in his voice. “I’ll see you tomorrow…maybe.”

“As you wish,” Alanna stood and walked to the door.

“Alanna,” Tyler said in a much softer voice as the girl reached the door. She turned and looked at him, though he didn’t raise his head or look at her.

Tyler hesitated a moment before raising his head to meet her gaze. He swallowed and asked in little more than a whisper. “Those people I killed. What…what were their names?”

“Termall, Manna, Lessett, and Bissau.” Alanna said the names of her friends with cold detachment. Tyler had a good guess which one Termall had been; the first he had killed, but he tried to put the names to the other faces etched in his mind.

Alanna’s eyes remained locked unflinchingly on Tyler as she listed off the people he’d killed, but he couldn’t tell if she was judgmental or indifferent. Tyler repeated the names in his head over and over again, committing them to memory. He had never killed anyone before, and even though they hadn’t been human, even though they’d been trying to kill him, he felt guilty for what he’d done.

He looked away from her and said, “Thank you. That’ll be all.” Alanna left the room without another word, leaving Tyler alone with his dinner, but he found he no longer had an appetite.


Tyler was alone in the dark room again, standing in a small round prison of light. Standing around him were four cloaked figures, towering over him in judgment. Tyler’s eyes were drawn down to the floor. Blood began to flow out from under the robes of his captors, pooling around Tyler’s feet. He looked up at the figures and saw that their robes were spackled with shining crimson. They raised blood-caked hands in unison, pointing their clawed fingers at Tyler.


Their voices echoed in unison like a thunderclap. Tyler covered his ears, but pulled his hands away when he felt something wet. He stared at the red pools in his palms. Tyler’s hands trembled as he dropped to his knees, curling into a ball.

“Murderer!” the voices bellowed again. Tyler looked up at them and saw that their hoods were gone. The faces of the four kannin he had killed stared at him, each frozen as he remembered them in the moment of their deaths. Their eyes wide with fear as life drained out of them. All of them pleading for him to spare their lives, begging him not to kill them.

Tyler heard those please in his head as jumbled whispers, small and frightened like those of a child. “Please don’t kill me. I’m sorry. Let me go. Show mercy. Don’t murder me.”

Tyler lowered his head, trying to shake the voices out. “I’m not a murder,” he said. “You attacked me. You tried to kill me!”

“You killed us!” yelled the voices. Tyler curled up more as if he had just been struck.

“No,” he said feebly again and again until someone grabbed him and yanked him to his feet.

Tyler found himself staring in Alanna’s furious face, her eyes as hot glowing coals. She snarled at him, baring her sharp teeth, screaming him a shrill voice, “You killed them!”

“No!” Tyler screamed as he sat up in bed and threw a punch at the empty air in front of him. He sat in darkness, breathing heavily as cold sweat tricked down his bare back.

‘Just a dream,’ he thought, though it was little comfort. His right hand began trembling uncontrollably until Tyler had to take hold of it with his left to make it stop. He hugged his shaking hand to his chest and sat with his knees tucked up. He felt like a helpless child, alone and scared surrounded by monsters. He hated that feeling.

His nightmare was still fresh in his memory. The grotesque faces still condemning him. He closed his eyes and pushed the memories to the back of his mind, back where they belonged.

After several minutes, Tyler’s hand stopped trembling, and he felt a little better, but he wondered how long that would last.
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