Pan Post 28 continues the journey of Kara Pashna in the mini-arc Indra (Story Arc). Pashna, with Bernard the Clay-Pidgeon is ordered to journey to Apojiva Valleys by Kamal where he should meet with the god Pesu. As he nears Attallaj Valley, however, he has to retreat himself from a troop riding spectral unicorns. They leave him unhindered but as he draws closer to the valley he is kidnapped by a woman called Swati Ackbar. She is the wife of the Count of Ovai Minor, who is in revolt against Attallaj Valley. She requests that the kara heal her son, Teala, who she believes to be cursed by Pesu for her valley's revolution against the Duke of Attallaj. Pashna does so and is released on his way.
Pesu: Pt I
Rain slams down against the gelatinous bulb of Kara Pasha's head, soothing his skin after the longest walk from Penumbra. However this isn't the soft, gentle drizzle he'd been expecting. This is a torrential downpour from the sky, so thick he can barely see the land before him. The path underfoot, however, is clear enough. Bernard the Clay-Pidgeon gives a mournful hoot from his shoulder, complaining about the weather.
Kara Pashna: "Almost there..."
While the rain comforts his skin, it doesn't comfort his armour and that, in turn, causes far more discomfort to his body than the rain is able to soothe. He trudges ever onwards. Bernard had returned with a message urging Pashna to remain with Kamal and do as she commands. Kamal, however, believes that none should remain idle and sent him on his way, on his way to Apojiva Valleys. He had been disappointed to leave Litik Map behind but knew he had a higher calling than his own emotional ties.
As he continues he feels that the rain is lessening. The eternal downpour should give way to the eternal drizzle of the valleys once within their tall walls. He is headed toward Attallaj Valley, the valley where the god Pesu resides.
But, as the sound of the rain dims, much more terrifying sounds can be heard. Screams, howls, yells. Then the sounds of charging feet. Pashna risks leaving the path and runs for the closest hillside. As he tries to scramble up it, hoping to stay out of the local dissent, he sees the charging cavalry coming down the road from Attallaj Valley. The steeds are spectral unicorns. Transparent to the eyes and usually intangible to the touch, these horse-like creatures have long flowing manes of red which starkly contrast against their aethereal blue bodies. A single, grotesquely twisted horn extends from their foreheads. Upon their backs are technological seats that attach to the spectral forms through a spectral attractor - a faint green hue of light that zaps between the ghostly visage and the seating device. The seat is trapped in place unless switched off.
The riders are soldiers of Attallaj, their modern armour is coloured silver and the rain doesn't seem to hinder them half as much as it hinders Pashna. Upon their backs he spies crossbows and at their sides hang long swords for mounted ride-by strikes. The recent troubles of the Apojiva Valleys is evident before his own eyes. War is rare on Indra and yet, even here, it can rear its ugly head. Pashna doesn't conceal himself, he's confident enough in his position as Kara that he'd be accepted by the soldiers, and yet he'd rather not associate with a group that could get him into bother. Enough bother to keep him from his task. None of the soldiers take the time to ride over to him as they pass by and Pashna cautiously returns to the road.
Trouble averted, he continues on for Attallaj Valley. He expects that the Duke of Attallaj knows of Pashna's approach already as scouts would have seen him coming many miles ago. The closer to the valley he gets the more trees he starts to see and the better the cover from the rain it gets. He think he can even see some of the tallest buildings from this distance.
He doesn't reach the city.
Kara Pashna wakes up slowly. Then he jolts to wakefulness as he finds himself in alien surroundings. The room is lush, decorated with silk throws on every surface. Red silk drapes border the balcony doors, from which a gentle breeze blows in and brings the soft scent of morning rain. He finds that his armour has been removed and put on a stand beside the balcony, but his clothes still rest on his body. They're quite dry now and he suspects they've been forcefully dried by his captor. At least they didn't want him to catch a cold.
He pads across the room, his white feet appreciating the soft silk throws that have been scattered all over the floor. He steps onto the balcony, which is sheltered from the rain by a thick canopy above his head, and gazes down into the narrow street below. The roads are cobblestone and, despite the rain, busy with people. He knows he's still in the Apojiva Valleys but he is certain the town before him isn't in Attallaj Valley.
Woman: "Welcome to Ovai Minor, Kara."
Pashna spins at the sudden voice. The woman stands beside the door holding heated towels. She approaches him and holds them out for him to take.
Woman: "I hope you're not too disorientated."
Pashna: "I'm Kara Pashna. You know it's bad form to kidnap servants of gods..."
The woman holds up her hand in request for silence on the topic and he detects mention of gods offended her. She dabs his face with the warm towel and finds that it's scented with churchwood, a spicy but also flowery smell of the church trees from the Jaravinjia Isles.
Woman: "I'm Swati Ackbar and you, Kara, walked right into my... trap."
Pashna: "Apparently I need to be more careful..."
Swati: "Don't worry though, Kara, I don't intend to hurt you. I actually need your help."
Pashna: "In my experience asking for help, instead of kidnapping someone, is the better method."
Swati: "You were in enemy territory. I couldn't have a chat right in front of the gates of Attallaj Valley... and before you say you'd have come is summoned, you would have gone to Attallaj Valley before coming here and then you'd be bound to them. This was the only way to get you here quietly and with minimal fuss."
Pashna couldn't argue against the logic, however he cannot accept the action regardless of the circumstance. Yet he holds his tongue as he senses she is an impatient woman who wishes to get to business.
Pashna: "What is it you want?"
Swati: "I need you to bless my child."
Pashna: "You don't need a Kara for that, Ackbar."
Swati: "I do. Even a Kara may not be enough... but it's the only option I have right now. Please come and see him."
Pashna: "I have no choice. Your name is familiar to me though. I think you are related to the Count of Ovai Minor, right?"
Swati: "He's my husband."
Pashna nods. Some parts of the world practice monogamous marriage, a practice Pashna has long found unusual when he first met such people. In either case the entire government of the Apojiva Valleys is a strange one and an example of how power corrupts even the most noble of hearts.
Pashna: "I don't want to be drawn into your war of secession..."
Swati: "You won't. No one ever need know you were even here. Follow me, please."
She saunters from the room in a manor that Pashna thinks is too casual for the circumstances. However he supposes she is in the position of power and is comfortable with that position. He follows her from the room, glancing at his armour as he goes. It might be ceremonial but it offers more protection than his clothing. He hesitates. Then follows, leaving his possessions behind.
He's wearing loose garments of black, all usually hidden beneath the armour. Swati Ackbar, however, is wearing loose, silk robes with elegant patterns embroidered into them. He sees that the embroidered pattern depicts charging spectral unicorns and great ferns. Her robe is tied with one big sash of red, while the robe is black. The black and red is a sign of royalty in the Apojiva Valleys, though he didn't know spouses could claim the colours through marriage. He notices that her features make her somewhat attractive but her bulb is especially plump and lovely to look at. He imagines it would be pleasing to the touch.
The passage is narrow, a common feature of Apojiva architecture Pashna comes to believe, and hanging on the walls are more silken drapes. This time they have crests and banner signs that he doesn't understand. The walk is short, evidently he was placed for quick access to his supposed destination. The end door leads him to his quarry and he's ushered into the room by his 'host'.'
The room is luscious and filled with ornaments for a child. He admires it all with a sudden sense of nostalgia as he thinks back to his own childhood. He was, of course, born very far away from the Apojiva Valleys and yet it seems a child's room is always a child's room regardless of culture. Hanging from a frame around the four-poster bed are light orbs, now dimmed by the presence of sunlight but still lit up by the ever-continuous microcosm of life going on inside each orb.
He sees a boy lying in the bed. He is very, very sickly. His bulb is shrivelled and lacks the water it should have. His skin is grey and sallow. Pock marks adorn his face and Pashna can't help but recoil from the sight of the disease.
Pashna: "The doctors?"
Swati: "It's a punishment, Kara. The disease came on suddenly. A result of our war for freedom. Pesu... Pesu has done this."
Pashna: "And you would have me sully myself by undoing the work of a god?"
Swati: "Only you can. Does my son deserve this fate? This is an act of maliciousness."
Pashna: "Perhaps mercy may be found..."
He does fear retribution or rebuke from Pesu, but he finds his heart cannot abide the suffering of an innocent child who is being punished for the crimes of his elders. Pashna nears the boy and he looks up at him with desperate appeal. Pashna guesses the boy has already been told that he's here to fix him.
Pashna: "What's his name?"
Pashna smiles reassuringly as he sits himself on the bed.
Pashna: "Hello Teala. I'm here to help you."
He places his hand upon Teala's head. The feeling of such dry skin is unnatural to Pashna and he almost swipes his hand back in revulsion. He resists for the boy's sake. He's suffered enough without seeing his saviour disgusted with him. Pashna exerts himself and feels a light tremor in his chest. The healing energy of a kara is much sought after across all of Indra and Pashna is willing to use it. His data-mould searches through diseases that match the boy's symptoms while the other half of his mind focuses on exerting his energy. He feels his own soul leap through his hand and, with the grace of Jitarayara, perhaps he can stem the illness. Only Pesu can stop his efforts and Pesu will know...
The disease appears in his mind and he finds the primary areas of the body that are severely affected. The very cells of his body are first. The biggest task and the most crucial. Everything needs to store water but an Indran more than most. He seeks the cells with his mind and, after checking with the data-mould, he targets the osmolytes with rejuvenation. He glances at Swati.
She leaves the room and he continues. The pock marks are akin to any tumour and must be annihilated. The mutated cells restored, the boy's own white blood cells are sent to deal with the tumours until they begin to fade away. Swati returns with water and begins to pour little by little into the mouth of Teala.
Pashna: "Pour some onto his skin."
She does so and already he senses wellness returning to the child. His eyes look more expressively and excitedly as he feels it too. He redirects more water into Teala's plasma, insisting that the water cross the entire body quickly even if in small doses. Once there's enough in every organ to ensure they're stable and away from imminent failure, regular drinks of water would ensure the boy's long-term recovery.
Swati Ackbar points down the long path. They're standing at the gate to her valley and looking down a road that will take him back to Attallaj Valley. Swati takes his hand and kisses it.
Swati: "Thank you. I understand the hassle this may cause you. I hope you are spared repercussions."
Pashna's lips chew for a second.
Pashna: "So do I. But I hope Teala gets better more."
Swati: "Pesu didn't interfere, did he? Is that a good sign?"
Pashna: "Perhaps. Or it's a sign that he intends to punish me in his stead..."
Swati: "Teala will forever remember what you did for him. I know he will be the most devout ruler the Apojiva Valleys have ever had. I hope we can win our secession so that he can live a peaceful life."
Pashna: "I don't understand the governance of your lands but I think Teala would make a fine ruler if he remembers his devotion to the gods."
Pashna looks up at the dark clouds above from which the rain falls. Most of it is caught by the mountain peaks on either side of the valley, casting him in the, now familiar, drizzle. He carries a light orb attached to a pole, rested upon his shoulder. Normally he refuses to travel by night but this night he thinks he ought not delay considering his prolonged absence. He starts to walk but stops and looks back.
Pashna: "Try not to go round kidnapping people in future, eh?"
Swati: "I make no promises!"