#52weeks52stories: Week 25
Word prompt: ash
Word count – 1200 words; Reading Time – 3:30 mins
Feu soared through the sky, the chill of early morning giving him energy and spurring him on.
He flew higher, touching the edge of the atmosphere where the air was the thinnest before swooping down to the clouds.
Stretching his wings wide, Feu closed his eyes, gliding along the blustery troposphere, wishing his brothers were at his side.
Moto and Kasai would challenge each other to races until exhaustion took them. Huŏ, the youngest, would pepper him with endless questions about their heritage.
But these were troubled times for the Kuen Kingdom. There was little time for fun and enjoyment or taking mates and raising families as long as their existence was threatened.
Guilt filled Feu’s mind and enveloped his body. He turned back, ashamed at the time he took for himself.
It was a luxury he couldn’t afford.
The humans were restless again and whenever that happened, his kind suffered.
Feu didn’t understand the small minds of men. The Ajidaar owned the earth and sky long before man existed. But since their arrival, there had been nothing but chaos and turmoil, strife, and death.
Through the ages, men would approach Clan Kuen in the name of friendship, but the clan would soon learn they only sought the help of the Ajidaar to dispense with a nastier adversary.
Once the clan restored peace and order to the land, humans would turn on them, proclaiming them their new enemy, saying the Ajidaar were too powerful to exist.
Feu’s kind was difficult to kill but it could be done.
Clan Kuen lost many lives over the centuries, hunted because of the ridiculous lies of men.
It wasn’t enough to kill the Ajidaar, but those who ruled over the masses created mythic legends that Kuen livers gave men the strength of gods, and their hearts were aphrodisiacs inciting hours of endless sexual pleasure.
Anger and grief burned in Feu’s chest at the number of clan members found down through the ages, killed and gutted because of a lie.
It was an awful end to life for any being, but heartbreaking for the proud, peaceful Kuen, who by nature were nonviolent.
No other species on the planet had ever challenged the Kuen, allowing them to live in peace.
Humans arrived without fanfare and the Kuen took little notice. Men appeared to have the same concerns as all other life forces. Survival and nurturing their families was their main priority.
Three hundred years passed and the mindset of humans shifted. They became arrogant and self-righteous, obsessed with accumulating wealth and power.
It disgusted the Kuen the way men treated each other. War, slavery, oppression, and deceit were the weapons of the ruling classes. Kuen regretted the loss of human life but it was not their place to tell others how to live.
And they remained silent.
Feu grimaced remembering how safe his clan believed they were. However, they soon learned the greed of men was insatiable.
The humans took more and more land, cutting down trees and clearing hundreds of acres to build castles and erect ridiculous monuments to themselves.
Unwilling to take human lives, Kuen retreated from Talvara, their lush green valley of meadows, hollows, and sweet water streams to the caves and peaks of Mt. Labha.
But possessing the land was still not enough for men. They craved dominance over every living thing… and pursued the Kuen.
Feu’s grandfather, Pitav, had enough. He called a meeting of the surrounding clans and the K’eyi Filageni from the north and the Kizil Jalin from the south answered the call. The Kemp Jvolayo in the east was already too weak and diminished to fight.
The Ajidaar vowed the Kemp Jvolayo would reclaim their strength in numbers and dignity. They would sacrifice no more clan lives to spare those who sought to enslave or exterminate them.
The next attack of men was met with the full force of the united Ajidaar.
Humans were devastated and barricaded themselves behind high stone walls for centuries, leaving Ajidaar in peace.
Now history was repeating itself.
Arrogant men once again sought to defeat and dominate the Ajidaar, the wisdom of their elders and fear of failure faded with the passage of time.
Feu’s clan called for war, but he wasn’t ready to risk Ajidaar lives.
Startled from his thoughts, Feu’s keen hearing picked up Moto’s battle roar from miles away.
Thrusting forward, Feu cleared the mountain range and saw the reason for his brother’s call to fight.
Humans had Huŏ trapped at the opening of his lair.
Coils of Juzum Sabagi layered Huŏ’s huge body, and the humans continued to throw more, intent on not allowing Huŏ to take flight.
Juzum Sabagi was the sticky vine of the kooh fruit and once it adhered to something, the only way to remove it was with the oil of the kunvara plant.
Struggling against the vine only made it worse.
Feu saw the resigned look in his little brother’s eyes as he slumped over and waited for death.
Above the mouth of the cave, men labored to roll large boulders into place to rain down on Huŏ until his hearts stopped.
Like Pitav centuries before, Feu had enough.
At seven-hundred-years of age, Huŏ was still a young-ling learning his way and staking his place in Ajidaar life.
Feu would not allow that life to end today.
Dipping low, he released his own battle roar as Moto and Kasai arrived from the opposite direction.
They saw their brother’s lower wings extend and followed suit. The trio circled each other once as their eyes took on the golden glow of battle.
A slight head tilt from Feu and they each knew their target.
Moto went for the trail of humans rushing from the village to celebrate and feast on Huŏ’s organs.
Kasai headed for the motley group above the lair still pushing boulders of death into position.
The mouth of the cave belonged to Feu. Those who dared violate and sabotage his brother’s home to take his life would lose theirs this day.
The Ajidaar battle roars filled the air as the brothers of the Kuen summoned the smoldering fire from the pits of their bellies.
Flying low, they opened their mouths wide and unleashed a scalding rain of fire incinerating everything in their path, leaving only a trail of ash.
Later, as clan members arrived with kunvara oil to free Huŏ, Feu sat on the peak above the lair surveying the devastation.
Charred ashes floated away on midday breezes and Feu’s mind was uneasy.
He should feel victorious. No Ajidaar were harmed and his brother still lived.
But more men would come. They always did, and death soon followed.
A single tear rolled down Feu’s scaly face, sizzling against his still hot skin.
He wept for the future of the Ajidaar knowing they would never again live in peace.
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