[18:14] One of the first things Serademar found out when the groups split was that those who had assumed Rakashei had simply sought a way to politely withdraw from a quest that brought him perilously close to the Nayabaru and would aimlessly meander the forest to be able to meet the minimum requirements of his task were quite mistaken.
As they broke away from the rest of the group, Rakashei went into greater detail about the plans he had. He was going to head toward the warmer latitudes, toward the nearest coastal stretch. It would take them a while, not least of all because the path was not perfectly well-known to a ragtag group of kavkema that had spent their entire lives on the Idiishi rise.
But, so Rakashei argued, if they wanted to find organised kavkema – the shards of Shy͡ilun, Dynash, Za'alseki, or anything else that might be able to make an actual difference – they had to leave the influence of the twin deserts and look for help near the coast.
It meant a dangerous cultural shift. Not all kavkema acknowledged Tarnish in the same way. It was entirely possible they would come across hostile brethren that had come into contact with too much sunlight, the further they strayed from their geographical home. It was possible, Rakashei reasoned, they may have to fight their own.
"Do I have your backing if it comes to that?" he asked Serademar.
[21:16] Seradamar inclined his head. "When creatures become too light-touched, surely they are no longer kavkem, but corrupted. And, well, there have been plenty of squabbles amongst those who we already consider our friends. I will be ready when such time comes." Seradamar's head bobbed slightly, pondering the situation as it stood. "I am no warrior, as you know, but such as I am, this will I provide."
[22:01] "Let's hope it doesn't come to that," Rakashei added, relieved that the notion itself wasn't offensive to his friend.
[22:02] Meanwhile, he led Serademar through the forest, tracing a path Serademar knew from his way out toward the arid plane. There was a chance it would take them days to encounter other kavkema – whether it was then too late to bring them back was a different question that would need to be addressed as time passed, but for now, Rakashei had other interests.
"What do you think of Nadani's plan? Do you think we can help the visitors?" A pause. "Should help the visitors?"
[22:10] "I... do not know." Uncharacteristically frank, perhaps, but honest. "The creatures... visitors... seem to be of some intelligence, though exactly whether that makes them friendly or not is yet to be seen. They seemed..." He was briefly bereft of words, trying to express such a concept as his feelings in words that seemed wholly inadequate. "...excessively underinformed, perhaps? The communication
with them, I'm not convinced that Nadani truly had a conversation with them." Another pause as they moved through the somewhat familiar route. "As for the plan... well, we have all experienced worse outcomes than what is proposed from far more hastily prepared plans. At least this one has the advantage of thought and some measure of knowledge. Should we help?" Another pause, longer this time.
"...Would you wish to be prisoner of Nayabaru?"
[22:19] Rakashei visibly bristled. "Not even Nayabaru wish to be prisoners of Nayabaru," he reasoned. He had no idea if it was true, but it seemed as though it could hardly be otherwise.
"Gehki is a prisoner of the Nayabaru," he continued, his voice steady now as he advanced through the landscape. "Yet we don't seem to be rescuing him, even though his captors are most likely less well equipped than whatever had claimed the visitors, if they truly are of importance." He blinked a few times, tiredly, but pressed on.
Then: "What did you mean, just now, when you said 'underinformed'?"
[22:22] "It was as though they had not even a rudimentary understanding of this place. I mean, they tried to ask what the purpose of our shadecloth was, as though it was not perfectly apparent. Nor were they in any way disturbed by the approach of the Nayabaru, which anyone should have been. It is as though they had no knowledge of anything at all."
[22:31] Rakashei's mind translated the reveal into a simple insight: Easy pickings. He shuddered, although it was a gesture lost in the rest of his motion, too subtle to see. No wonder Nadani was so concerned. If these visitors had no idea what they were dealing with...
"Where do you think they came from?" he asked, hesitantly. "Maybe their home world protects them from the Tarnish?" he mused, unconvinced by his own suggestion. The Tarnish was a fundamental force of nature. The idea that it wasn't universal seemed strange.
[22:32] But then, they had no prior tales of these visitors, so perhaps the teachings of Taaravahr – the Shape Of The World, of Thumak, of Yrargyra, of Maenona – were a glimpse into something vaster than just Nekenalos. If the early generations thought Thumak had interest in Nekenalos and lay claim to it, perhaps there was something to it?
Perhaps his metaphysical touch, the Tarnish, was restricted to this world, regardless how counter-intuitive it seemed. Surely the place where the visitors came from had light. Surely- "They did... have eyes?" Aka asked, cautious still.
[22:54] "As far as I could perceive, yes. The creatures certainly were capable of following our movements and mimicking some of them."
[23:00] So they did know sunlight. That left the theory that the sunlight was not necessarily always Tarnish – or that they were somehow unaware of the Tarnish, in which case they must have almost certainly been corrupted already. He grimaced. "If they had already succumbed to the Tarnish," he mused, slowing a little. "From before their visit. Would you... have noticed?"
[23:06] "I'm... not sure... how we could tell? Without knowing them before they were touched by the Tarnish, or being able to communicate beyond the most rudimetary methods, it would be like seeing inside the ground without digging first."
[23:12] And even if they had been Tarnished – it might not make a difference. They might still need to be rescued, still be worth rescuing. Serademar was right – there really was no way to tell what effects the Tarnish had on them if it were to take root. Just because neither Nayabaru nor kavkema had any natural defense against the Tarnish did not guarantee that the visitors were equally vulnerable.
"Do you think we have a chance?" he asked, then clarified: "Not... us two in particular. The group. Athechelt and Nadani, possibly with any assistance we may find. Do we have a chance?"
[23:39] "There is always that chance. Was it Detelach that declared, 'The end comes only when those that struggled cease'? Or am I misremembering that ancient bit?" Seradamar picked up his pace, focused on the path ahead once more. "So, yes, we have a chance."
[23:46] Rakashei hadn't heard of that proverb, though it was easy to recognise it as a kavkem thought. It wasn't exactly a call to struggle, though, and all these antics they were going through seemed more like struggle than not. His feathers puffed as he quietly dismissed his concern as irrelevant – what Era had meant to convey was secondary to the conclusion. "Then let's hope you're right."