Epilogue

Tinshu dropped the bundle of brushwood, and then stretched, looking out into the yard. This was the eleventh bundle he’d collected, and he wanted to make another trek before losing the evening light. As he lifted his haversack from his shoulder, his son’s coo caused him to pause. Tinshu stared over at his wife near the fire, adjusting the ankelba on her back, repositioning Sokev inside. The infant settled quickly, greedily sucking his thumb as A’rehn continued preparing their meal.

With the approach of the cold season, the leaves of the surrounding trees began to change, displaying an assortment of colors that enhanced the beauty of their home. It enhanced A’rehn’s beauty as well, appearing the perfect backdrop accentuating her every feature. A contented sigh escaped his lips considering his life now in comparison to what it had been five short years past.

Although innumerable changes had transpired since Tamesa’s reunification, their life in Tymbril was virtually unchanged. The solace and joy they experienced here insulated them from the realities beyond the woodland’s borders. They were aware of the developments in the lands, but their lives were disparate from those of Tamesa’s citizenry.

With that, he regarded A’rehn again. There was no greater miracle in his lifetime than the one standing before him.

“My laikah,” Tinshu said, enfolding her into his arms. He kissed the crown of Sokev’s head before doing the same to A’rehn’s cheek.

A’rehn turned, offering him a proper kiss. “Am I still your laikah?”

“There could be no other, but you’re so much more than that, A’rehn. You not only saved my life, you gave me life.”

She caressed his hands and then rested them on her rounding belly. “We gave life to each other, and now, we share it with our children.”

“A boy or a girl?” he asked, gently massaging her abdomen.

“That we won’t know until we do.” As she leaned in for another kiss, Orchid’s ludic squeal claimed their attention. They laughed aloud, watching the takahnu wriggling in her ardent embrace. Tinshu thought of the first time that he’d met one of the furry creatures and the convivial introduction it offered.

“Manyoya,” he said.

“What?”

“I remember when I first met Manyoya. Does this one have a name, too?”

“Orchid calls her Neema,” A’rehn said.

Tinshu shook his head. “I’ll never remember all of their names.”

“You don’t need to, Orchid will remember them for the both of us.”

“Speaking of my granddaughter,” Ishmael said, stepping into the yard. “She needs to wash for supper. Well, unless you’ve been distracted again, A’rehn.”

She laughed. “No, Baba. Orchid, go with Grand-Ba now and wash up. It’ll be supper time soon.”

Orchid giggled, kissing the takahnu before allowing it to scurry back up into the trees. She dusted off her dress and then rushed toward Ishmael. “You go, too, Grand-Ba?” she asked, hugging one of his legs.

“Wait for me inside, little one, and I’ll be along to help you wash.”

“K, Grand-Ba,” she said, toddling into the house.

He smiled, approaching A’rehn and Tinshu. “She’ll be climbing to the highest branches before long. Orchid has an exceptional energy that touches all who meet her.”

“Dorromo says the same,” Tinshu said. “Now that he’s chosen a successor, he and Hiram have considered relocating here.”

“Hiram perhaps, but Dorromo and I have a trek of our own to complete. I promised my brother I’d visit Xuxohné. It’s been far too long since I’ve returned home.”

“Xuxohné?” A’rehn asked. “Why haven’t you told me, Baba? You can’t leave Tymbril.”

He waved dismissively. “Blame it on an old man’s memory. Besides, Meshara and Jabari are coming to escort us. It’s past time that I returned, A’rehn. Tymbril will always be my home, but Xuxohné was my first. It is time.”

“Meshara?” Tinshu asked, glancing over at A’rehn. “How—” His words caught in his throat as soft tones wafted through the air. At first, they were intermittent: a short succession of notes delivered with evident timidity. There was no rhythm or melody, only discordant tones almost forming something distinguishable.

“Whe—where’s that coming from?” A’rehn said, wide-eyed. She peered around the clearing, slowly moving toward their home.

Ishmael’s brow creased as he closed his eyes, listening. The notes became more coherent, flowing in melodic refrains. He felt the moisture rimming his eyes, recognizing the melody.

“It can’t be,” Tinshu said. “How? Who?” He took A’rehn’s hand in his, following the sound. Each note appeared louder than the last, yet comforting and clear. “I—I know that piece, but—but how?”

A’rehn’s tears were irrepressible. “Laikah’s Awakening,” she breathed. “Darweshi composed it for Orchid. He—he—he played it when she was born. He—” She released Tinshu’s hand, running through the doors. “Darweshi!” A’rehn called out, rushing to his room. As she flung the curtains aside, she skidded to a stop and then staggered back again.

“A’rehn?” Tinshu said, steadying her stance.

She couldn’t force any words free as she pointed a trembling hand into the room.

“Orchid?” Tinshu’s voice cracked, drawing A’rehn into him. They watched in disbelief as Orchid continued to play the balafon. The music sent a warmth through each of them, filling an emptiness left since Darweshi’s passing.

“Her amulet,” A’rehn said. “It’s glowing.”

Ishmael set his donga aside, walking into the room. He smiled down at the little girl and then turned back to face them.

“What does it mean, Baba?” A’rehn asked. “What’s happening to Orchid?”

“As it was written, my daughter, so shall it be. This is a new beginning that emerged from the appearance of an end. One to three…three to one.

A’rehn’s mouth gaped as her eyes darted back and forth, recalling the words of the passage.

“We…we were the three. Dorromo discovered Darweshi at the prayers springs in Otéa…in hallowed ground, and…and Tinshu and I traveled the pellucid path.” She gasped, clutching Tinshu tighter. “Darweshi’s music and sacrifice…his sacrifice.”

“With the three, we’ve been blessed with one,” Ishmael said, stroking Orchid’s curls. “Darweshi had his path to walk just as you did. Your amulets merged to form one. Three to one.”

Orchid smiled, looking up at her parents. “No cry, momma, I pway foe you. You feel when I pway.”

Ishmael nodded. “We feel your presence, my son. What you truly were and are lives on in us. He is not gone, my daughter, Darweshi transcended his mortal form to breathe life into her. Only joy remains.”

“Darweshi died so that Orchid could live?” Tinshu said, struggling to speak the words.

Orchid smiled again, continuing her song.

Ishmael outstretched his arms. “Our physical tether to the mortal world is transitory. What we truly are forever remains. We are eternal, because energy is eternal, creating, and nurturing new life. Darweshi is yet with us, and I feel his love just as I did when he sat where Orchid stands now.

“What you sought, could not truly be found,” Ishmael said. “The essence within you created that which was needed. You, A’rehn, Tinshu and Darweshi, each of my children was an element of the whole. Without the three, there could not be one.” Ishmael paused. “As Orchid breathed her first breath, the Tamesian hemispheres began to merge.”

“Rectifying what man had done,” A’rehn said, astonished. “No, Baba. How can I live knowing what Darweshi sacrificed for me?”

“Darweshi willingly gave of himself and is free from the afflictions of his mortal form. His essence flows all around us, A’rehn. This he did not only for his family, but also for the whole of Tamesa. With his sacrifice, the Zayzahrin was reborn.”

Ishmael smiled. “Orchid is the Zayzahrin.”

1 Tamesa T

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Appendix

Dahomey

Tymbril

Ishmael Kassan First Warden – Former Xuxoh Clan Chieftain
A’rehn Kassan Warden – Xuxoh Clan – Ishmael’s Daughter
Darweshi Kassan Xuxoh Clan – Ishmael’s Son
Brianna Harada Darweshi’s best friend

Amaziah

Yusra Njeri Imperatrix of Dahomey
Diniad Njeri Former Imperator of Dahomey
Qatai Njeri Princeps of Dahomey
Nyzohtee Njeri Imperial Advisor – Sibyl Aswahne Clan
Ohon Banduo Imperial Advisor
Wairu Zenawi Constabulary Commander
Ruy McNaire Advisor to the Imperatrix
Laigh Zatohn Advisor to the Imperatrix
Algria Champoux Shop owner and Ecumenic Spy
Aluin Damasso Soaring Falcon owner
Corann Mercenary hired by Algria
Kirwyn Mercenary hired by Algria
Bressal Mercenary hired by Algria
Artyom Vreda Apothecary from Harmahndria- Ruy’s uncle

Xuxohné

Hannibal Kassan Xuxoh Chieftain
Jabari Kassan Xuxoh Sentinel
Meshara I’eyn Xuxoh Sentinel

Otéa

Mahjyree Dorromo Sotükan head priest
Zrahtre Urdion Sotükan associate priest
Badru Mahjyree attendant
Zosar Njeri Former Mahjyree

Vocabulary

   
Mahjyree Head priest – Sotükan Brotherhood
Zrahtre Associate priest – Sotükan Brotherhood
Fedruhns Dahomey currency
Takahnu Sacred creatures to the Sotükan
Xusarta Scrolls Ancient scrolls from the first Sotükans
Imperial Guard Dahomey’s elite armed forces
Constabulary Dahomey’s city guard
K’uhmbay Mist-born creature conjured through the Mists
Nyeshetari Nether creatures from the null
Shélaanah Cursed – in Ladislasian
Heriohnta Blessing – in Ladislasian
Heriohnta srheen lezrahn Blessed are the Mists – in Ladislasian

Mogaryn

Peshakim The organized rebellion against the Ecumenic Order in Mogaryn.
Chucatl Flying beasts conjured by Herid and his priests.
Vashj’thal Mystically enhanced holy guardsmen of the Ecumenic Order.
Herid Mhau Imperator of Mogaryn and the head of the Ecumenic Order.
High Cleric Colpa High Priest of the Ecumenic Order and Herid’s second in command.
Nubando Artiach Chief Assessor and assassin.
Jairyn Valqèurïm A young priest in the Ecumenic Order.
Hiram Shakar Commander and founder of the Peshakim.
Odis Aldry Peshakim captain and close friend of Hiram.
Emen Peshakim lieutenant
Bori Gardhal Owner of the Empty Keg, and organizer of the shadow group in Bethilar.
High Cleric Colpa High Priest of the Ecumenic Order and Herid’s second in command.