Rat King

Tribals

haigmaal. Everyone here said you would die within a few days, but you did not. I did not know your name, so I named you after the great Beast King, Demitri. Unfortunately, the clothes I left for you are low in quality; my sewing is poor.

The markings you wear are from my family crest. If you see my father on your journey to Jahaal, tell him that we are fine. I know he is worried.

May your spirit watch over us and be welcomed by my ancestors.

Ai Swiftwind.

”Demitri… ” Rat said it aloud. It sounded pleasant to his ears. However, wearing the name of the Beast King while in the four Kingdoms was likely to get him in trouble. He didn remember his own name; everyone called him Rat for as long as he could remember. ”I can continue being Rat either… Dem will be good enough. ”

It took several minutes before he managed to climb down from what was meant to be his final resting place. ”How long was I here? Probably less than three days… ”

Absently mindedly, he rubbed the tattoos that adorned his forearms. Ai had taken care of him when his friends betrayed him for coin. Although he had nothing of value except for the black dagger, she made sure to leave that behind according to her beliefs.

”I have a debt, ” he considered those words while he limped in an ever-expanding circle around the scaffolding. Then, finally, he found a small trail leading from his thumal site. A few minutes after that, he found the tribal camp.

Dem stood at the edge of the abandoned camp. As someone raised in the streets of Thaigmaal, he knew nearly nothing about the tribals. But, from the stories he overheard at the inn, he knew they migrated across the desert during the end of summer rains.

Sitting on the ground, he drew a rough shape of the world as he knew it. The Caveressi Empire in the Northeast, the Dhrygal States to the South, and the Galieo Kingdom to the West. Objectively he understood that there were other kingdoms on other continents, but his exposure to them had been nonexistent.

”Haral sits in the middle, with Thaigmaal butting up against Caveressi. ” Dem stared at the map, aware that it was complete shit. ”I can go back to Thaigmaal… ”

****************

For one month out of the year, the desert that stretched across Haral turned green and teemed with life. A result of the torrential downpours of rains that occurred nearly every day during that month. The Tribal people followed the migrational herds, enjoying the bountiful journey from east to west.

Ai stood tall in her stirrups, her brown eyes keeping an eye on her section of the herd and for any would-be thieves from distant tribes. She had little to do during the day; most of their domestic animals were content to walk leisurely for five or six hours. Anything more than that, and they would refuse to budge. ”Hurry up and stop! I want to hunt. ”

”Ai! ” A familiar voice called her name. ”Don curse our herd with fatigue. ”

Ai held a finger to her lips, smiling slightly at Tamra, her childhood friend. ”Not so loud! If the elders hear you… ”

Tamra returned the smile, her plain face instantly becoming attractive. ”Nice to see you haven forgotten how to smile. ”

”Tam… ” Ai slipped off the side of her horse and reached inside the black saddlebag. She bent down next to her mounts left forefoot and picked it from the soft ground.

Tam watched as her friend used a small tool to clean the mud from her horses hoof. Although related distantly, the two girls looked alike enough to have been sisters. They shared the same long limbs, brown skin, and raven-colored hair. ”Youve mourned enough in this life, Ai. ”

”Agreed, ” Ai replied. Her father had died two years earlier, along with the man shed been betrothed to since birth. If she was being honest, she barely knew the latter. However, the death of her father still weighed heavily in her heart.

Her thoughts wandered to the night of Summers beginning. The boy had fallen out of the sky and bounced on the cobblestone streets of Thaigmaal. Despite limbs being twisted and broken, he struggled to rise to his feet three times before collapsing. Had her father been alive, hed have agreed; the kid was tough.

Without thought, she picked him off of the street and placed him in the back of her wagon. It had seemed like a destined event. It had happened on the day of her monthly supply run to Thaigmaal. But, unfortunately, it hadn ended well.

”You didn need to add to your burden by taking in that boy. ” Tam tried to protest when Ai approached her mount and started cleaning the hooves. Demitri had become the talk of the tribe for two reasons. First, his injuries should have killed him immediately. Secondly, his corruption was on the wrong forearm. ”Its too much, Ai. ”

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