Adrift: BkSy 05: Arden Sc 01. Ishra’s Path

Brigit’s Flame May Word Sprint
Prompt – Vision Quest
WC: 1,311
Ishra’s Path is a different kind of backstory to my novel Adrift. Arden is a major character in the story and one you have not heard from yet. As you will gather quickly, Arden s not from around here. Please enjoy.

“Among my people, and here I am referring to my species – not all Kobailin, it is a common practice to bring about something similar to this Vision Quest you mentioned.”
Arden waved a six-fingered hand at the wall interface. He plucked his way through menus until the screen filled with a moss hung landscape, where black pools reflected a blueish light and the dusk of a distant aquamarine star. Three bipedal creatures slid onto the screen.
“On Kobai, we have three dominant species. I am of the Khol’nara species and my race is Yl’nura. The significance from the other races is simply one of altitude. We like to climb and tend to stick to parts of the world where the trees are tallest and the water falls from great heights. The other races mingle with us in our regions, but they do not have the specialized grip to their extremities, the extra digits for climbing –” Arden held up a hand and a bare foot to demonstrate the agility of his digits and the fine, puckery surface of his palms and souls. “They also experience torpor in the colder temperatures of our region, where an Yl’nura would only experience that strange ennui in extreme dry, heat.
“The other species on our planet are the Nyck’ck’nara and the Wuld.” The image of an amphibian-esque biped with large mouth and mottled skin receded to be replaced first, with an image of a jewel-skinned lizard man – then a squatty merman with too many sharp teeth.
“The Khol’nara, and the Yl’nura in particular, consider the transition from child to adult to occur around our twenty-fifth year. Therefore, our neophyte years begin at twenty-four. As neophytes, we leave the family home and travel to other parts of our world. Wait, I’m not telling this in the right order.
“One thing that is unique to our species is that we are born with a gland to produce toxins. It is a vestigial organ which we don’t really need, but the secretions from a mature gland can kill, maim, or severely sicken the Nyck’ck’nara and the Wuld.
“Thousands of years ago, we discovered that the gland could be surgically removed with very little change to our daily life and immediate health. Since this discovery, it has become part of our tradition to stop taking measures to block the toxic secretions at the start of our twenty-fourth year. We spend a year in this natural state our biology intended in order to make the transition into adulthood with all of the knowledge and presence within ourselves that our ancestors had. It is a time for reflection on the dreams of Bast and Nemet – our Celestial Caretakers. It is also a time to reflect on the history of the Khol’nara and its many tribes. We spend time exploring the unchanging, natural spaces of our precious Kobai. Lastly, we go within to study ourselves.
“At the close of our neophyte year we are expected to Choose. There is the obvious choice of whether to have the gland removed, but we also Choose our life’s path.
“Prior to the choosing ceremony, we ingest our own toxic secretion for a week and spend that time in isolation. The Yl’nura of my region use an ancient tree that is far taller than any other which grows in the forest. One quarter of the way to the top is a small abandoned village. There are many artifacts here to help a neophyte remember the past of their people. And there is a clearing in the boughs and broad, flat leaves where a neophyte might see Bast in the day and Nemet at night. Ishra too, has been known to make an appearance in the night sky. Many of those to whom Ishra appears Choose to wander, and to keep their gland. Ishra is the Caretaker of the wild, the adventurous, and the mad ones who do not fit.”

“Before my own choosing – on the night of my deepest connection to myself and my people, I saw Ishra beckoning from across the black void. They flashed at me distinctly and I felt a buzz begin in my head that spoke to my primal self. This buzz caused pain, so I thrummed to counter it – opening my mind to the diminishing light of Nemet’s passing. Nemet, not Ishra has always been my ally, my connection to the divinity of Kobai.
“I remember It was as struggle to maintain my rhythm. I sang the songs of ancients to steel myself against the images that Ishra sent, but still I was bombarded for hours with memories of the faces of people I had glimpsed in my neophyte’s journey through the port cities. My mind was filled, not with the faces of my ancestors or my tribe – not even those of other species of the Kobailin. Ishra made me see the visitors and traders who traveled to our beloved world from places where Bast was a distant glint among billions and Nemet could not hold sway over the night.
“In my unwilling mind I saw the worlds I suppose they came from – alien landscapes; wastelands and wildlands dotted with pioneer settlements; cities of stone; and stations clinging to worlds by orbit alone. I also saw long stretches of empty space where no pattern of light, save one, matched my familiar night sky. On those lonely paths, it was Ishra – Caretaker of wanderers – which connected me to home.
“I felt fear. The power of the seeing hurt my head, but the images were clear. For so many years I had imagined my ceremonial revelation would lead me to choose the path of my father. To farm the Gloss. To stay close to home, wed another Yl’nura, be the father of many little farmers and Gloss herders. In my fear I considered choosing that anyway, despite the vision. It was not an absolute imperative for a revelation to be described in full to the elders. I could tell them it was a standard ecstasy of home and oneness with Kobai and do what I had intended from the first – be a farmer. Stay home.
“As Bast edged into view — as Ishra slipped away to follow the night, the stars blazed with a passion that stole the very breath from me. The sight prickled my skin and stung my nose with urgent tears. I felt the pull of Ishra. And I felt Bast push me to follow. As the revelation ended, the stars fluttered and my view was filled with Dawn Moths who emerge sightless from their bindings when Bast recedes for the night. They mate while Namet’s passes, lay their eggs under Ishra’s indifferent light, then fly into Bast’s arms to die with the morning.
“On that morning my plans of being a farmer followed the moths into the dawn. I told the elders of my vision with regret. They confirmed what I knew had been revealed. Then they asked if I would follow Ishra’s sending or if I would choose my own path. I surprised myself when I said the only path I knew was the one Ishra had lighted for me.
“My family accepted my Choosing with more willingness than I expected. In celebration of my twenty-sixth year, my father presented me with the journey voucher to Esuar where our space-faring vessels are cultivated. The elders had secured my education at the pilot’s school on Esuar. My third mother gave me a new instrument to share my memories through. And my sister gave me her tears and these goggles.
“It is due to Ishra that I am a pilot out here in the black. It is only due to them, that I am here with you embarking on a stranger journey that I ever could have dreamt of under Nemet’s watchful eye.”