Chapter Sixteen: Fork

I don’t understand. Not really. Things were intense, for sure. Though, I trusted Elikel. I gave myself to him, swearing all that I am to his service. Even then, something he told me sticks out to me. He said that I’d always be Kalarai’s, first and foremost.

There is absolutely no way that the Groyin made prior contact with the Aevocar. We would have known because they share all information regarding first contacts, as do we. Their policies of minimal intervention would not have applied to the Groyin, that’s for certain. So, knowing that, I… have to believe this Groyin is being honest. Kalarai, my beloved dominus, tried to place us all on a path of peace in his dying moments. Therefore, it is my duty to follow in his footsteps, regardless of Elikel.

I… know Elikel would likely kill me for just speaking with them, but… sometimes you have to do the right thing. That sometimes means going against the grain. It sometimes means standing up to your yarl.

And sometimes it means actively working against your kind. Knowing that you’re doing the right thing doesn’t necessarily make it any easier.

I sigh as I look down at the eggs, still seeing that infantile insect staring up at me, scared. I… hope it knew I didn’t want to harm it. I hope it had some sense of peace at the end.

The Groyin touches my shoulder and says something it its native tongue.

Say it slower?

It repeats it again, slowly. After a moment of letting it sink in, it responds. Be at peace.

I’m trying. I heave a sigh. You said there was another Camfurdian nearby?

Yes. Perhaps the other Camfurdian will be more… open… to you. I’ll still take you to him.

“Thank you.” I say slowly. Thank you.

It gives a subtle nod and turns away. Slowly, it leads me across the way to another sort of narrow doorway, not unlike the one I had been behind. It was clearly an improvised holding cell.

Be careful, friend. If he’s escaped, he is liable to lunge at the first possible chance. I am pretty sure I know who it is though. That bodes well for us.

I give a readied nod to the Groyin. It presses the button to open the door, light flooding into the dark room.

Kenlyi is there, still trapped as I had been earlier. His eyes are closed.

“Kenlyi? Can you hear me? It’s me.” I approach him cautiously. My instincts would have me unbind him, but I know I am putting myself and my Groyin friend at risk were I to do so.

“Janil?!” He blinks groggily and studies me.

“Yes, it’s me.” I nod to him, but he keeps looking me over as if he’s trying to convince himself that I’m real.

“How did you get here?! I saw them take you first! I tried getting back to you but I was overwhelmed.” He pauses, anxiously awaiting a response.

I shake my head. “Kenlyi, they’re… not the mindless savages I thought they were.”

“Janil…” He stares at me, his eyes serious. “What have you done?”

“I’m going to let you down, Ken. I need you to trust me.” My heart races, feeling as if it could pound out of my chest. I start to tear at the substance holding his limbs to the wall.

“Janil, did they get to you? What did they do? Tell me, or I’ll…-”

“Kalarai told them about the Aevocar. He told them they could help bring peace, end this war. Ken… you know Eli crossed the line. There’s no honor or glory in killing children, destroying eggs.”

I… can’t believe the words coming out of my mouth. It’s exactly what I was thinking before being goaded into action. Still, I never thought I would speak out against a senior Alim, let alone my own yarl, my own dominus.

A conflicted look washes over Kenlyi’s face. He gives a reluctant nod. “You’re… not wrong, but Janil, it isn’t our place to question him. Especially you! He’s your yarl!”

“That… doesn’t make him infallible. He was possessed by vengeance.” Finally, I finish tearing away the last of the thick, tacky substance, freeing a hand. We work together to extricate his other limbs.

“Janil, they’ll kill you for talking like this. Hell, I ought to, but…”

“But you can’t, can you? You… know that I’m right. Kenlyi, we can make a difference. We can end this war, just not in the way Eli and the others expect.”

I pause for a little bit, giving the words time to sink in.

“The Aevocar, huh? Kalarai wanted to bring them in to make peace, huh?” He asks plainly.

“I think so. If the Aevocar will advocate for the Groyin, our people will have to respect that, otherwise they’d risk war with the Aevocar, too. I can’t see the council’s being willing to go that far, especially seeing the losses we’ve taken here. That said, if we work together…” I gently bite my lip, hoping for the best.

“We could forge one hell of an alliance. Janil, you know this would be outright shaming Elikel, right? You’d be exiled, regardless of anything, if not worse.” Kenlyi sighs and shakes his head.

“Kenlyi, sometimes you just have to do the right thing, even if it costs you everything. I’d rather die knowing that I did the right thing than to have to live with the guilt and private shame of the way things were going down. I… want to make Kala proud.” I can feel the tears starting to well up in my eyes.

“I’ll help, Janil.” He says as he wraps his arms around me, squeezing me tight. I rest my head on his shoulder.

Unusual footsteps cue my Groyin friend entering at last. Thank you, Kenlyi. The more help we have, the better our chances of reaching the Aevocar are. We just want peace.

Kenlyi releases me and then starts to stretch out stuff muscles. He nods. I’ll follow Janil’s lead. We… really ought to see if we can learn your language, or if you can learn ours. I… hate telepathy.

That’s… unusual. Why the aversion to telepathy? The Groyin asks the two of us.

I shake my head. It’s an inherent feeling. There’s just something that feels… wrong about it. We use it when we have to, clearly, but I’ve never known a Camfurdian that didn’t feel like they needed to bathe after prolonged telepathy.

Kenlyi gives an amused laugh at the bathing comment. There’s less chance of deceit with speech. When you speak with your voice, you know all will hear. All that understand will know, and there’s no denying that. With telepathy, you don’t have that. It can be used in so many more manipulative ways.

Your people inherently distrust telepathy? That… is unusual. We tend to feel that the speaking with the mind is far more intimate, more trustworthy. The Groyin shakes its head.

Part of it boils down to that we… tend to be very reserved people. Not as much emotion transmits telepathically, and we can sometimes have a hard time reading emotions. Our telepathic empathy is not as developed as other species. I give a small shrug.

That makes more sense in context then. Perhaps… in time, you can overcome this. Regardless, we will try to learn your language, and we will try teaching ours. So much of our knowledge is transmitted through our hive mind, and that is why telepathy is our primary means of communication. Still, even it is normally taught simply by imparting the knowledge. I… do not know if we could teach you in that way. Your minds are so different that I am not sure you could integrate, nor would you want to. The Groyin pauses for a moment and looks at us seriously. We will not force anything upon either of you.

Excuse us for using speech for a moment, my friend. I look back at Kenlyi. “We can make this work. It’s going to be hard, but we can do this.”

“It’s going to have us both exiled, Janil. But… you’re right. It’s the right thing to do. We have to track down the Aevocar.” To my surprise, Kenlyi extends his hand to me. Any pretense of Camfurdian hierarchy or order seems to have disappeared. I take his hand and squeeze.

I smile at him, then back at the Groyin. “We’re in this together.”