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16+ Language

The Many Gifts of Malia--Part 128: "The Sukalla"

by dragonfphoenix


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.

Its smile set off another reaction in me. The more I stared at the rat, the harder it became to tell what color its fur was. At first I’d thought it gray, but then it looked black, and the moment I looked away I thought it’d been brown. But when I glanced back, it appeared white, or tinged yellow, like the ivory claw it wielded.

“Hasda, what color is the rat?” I stared down its smile.

“Uh…” He knelt silently for a moment. “Which rat?”

“The one in the skull.” At this point, it had decided that our staring contest determined dominance. I wasn’t one to lose.

He hummed and shifted, but didn’t answer. Finally, he said, “That’s strange. I can’t tell.”

I let a little of my aura slip out, but the rat would not be cowed. Just as frustrating, my power didn’t seem to wrangle its coat into a single, meaningful color, either. I growled. “Like you can’t keep it straight?”

“And I can’t remember once I close my eyes.” He shook his head. “Is it an illusion?”

“Perhaps not.” I leaned closer to the rodent and bared my teeth. That finally made it flinch. “I’m not here to play games.”

Tugging at its whiskers, the rat king chirped and chattered for a bit. When it fell silent, it looked to Hasda.

“He said he’s satisfied,” Hasda translated. “And he has no fear of the consequences of ascension. Any risk is worth godhood.”

“Whatever magic it has now will likely interfere with anything I would try.” I folded my arms. “But for such a significant boon, the offering must carry similar significance.”

Angry chitters, accompanied by expressive waving, exploded from the rat.

“He’s insulted you scorn him and deem his current contributions so inconsequential.” Hasda shrugged. “He questions whether you can actually supply what he seeks. And he wonders why, if you are so powerful, you neglect me and refuse to provide help yourself.”

I laughed. “If it cannot parse such a simple thing, then it has no hope of ever reaching godhood. Let’s go, Hasda.”

It chattered some more, and I detected a hint of desperation in its expression.

Hasda frowned. “He said he’s been observing us. That he saw how the birds fell upon us, and no help came, yet you were there when the attack was over. And he’s gathered that we wouldn’t have accepted an audience with him if we didn’t need his help. The mice were a demonstration that he is capable of protecting us from the undead animals.”

“Simple security from reanimated creatures?” I shook my head. “Overcoming obstacles is a part of your Trial. Making it easier for you doesn’t merit me tossing godhood around carelessly.”

The rat tugged its whiskers again and chittered softly.

Hasda watched the five tangled rats pick strands of muscle from the bone. “He’s right, though,” he said, meeting the rat king’s eyes. “He hasn’t even offered me divinity, and he raised me. I’ve finished two other tasks for him, yet even if I complete this one, that’s not enough to become even a minor god.”

Scowling, the rat chattered furiously and smacked the skull.

Hasda shook his head. “I appreciate the help you’ve provided thus far, and I would further appreciate anything else your rats can do, but I can’t promise something I don’t even have. You’d have to convince him.”

I held up a hand. “A normal rat, I could perhaps be persuaded. But you’ve already risen above the standard plot of rodent life and seen the plane from a higher peak. As you are, you would need to not only escort Hasda to his destination, but heal his men.”

Chirping, the rat smoothed his whiskers repeatedly.

“He’s already searched the forest,” Hasda translated. “It is beyond his knowledge or ability to help with the poison that ails my men.”

“Time is wasting.” I sighed. “Here is my offer. Ensure Hasda reaches the Stitcher safely, and I will see that you receive the gift of human speech. If more than half his men arrive alive as well, then I will set you on the path to become a divine beast. Given your current status, you could achieve it.”

Nose twitching, the rat chittered.

“Is there no hope of becoming divine?” Hasda translated.

I crossed my arms and stared down at the rat king. “What need have you of being a deity? You’re already well above a mere rat.”

The rat spread its paws and squeaked and chattered for a good long while.

“The short version,” Hasda said, “is that the loss of Balphar and his pantheon has left the land unprotected. Vartikh wants to be divine so he can ensure the safety of his rats.”

“That’s easier done as a divine beast than a full deity.” I frowned at the rat’s glare. “Gods have more responsibilities than just protecting animals they care about. No god is without human eyes upon them. While mortals don’t necessitate a god, they enrich them. A god who forgoes followers, more often than not, gets lost to time.”

The rat pondered for a moment. Scrubbing its claws on its fur, it chattered softly, as if talking to the ivory claw. After it had satisfied itself polishing its toes, it cheeped at Hasda.

“Becoming a divine beast is his best option?” Hasda translated.

I nodded. “It has a head start already. With mentorship, perhaps it could complete the path faster. But there’s no guarantee that it will be able to reach its destination.” I sighed. “Divine beasts are finicky things. I can put the rat in the best position to transform itself, but it’s possible that the transition is even less probable than full divinity. But divine beasts are wild things, with no attachments. This…Vartikh could devote itself fully to warding its rodents, if that’s what it wished.”

The rat tugged at its whiskers. Finally, it nodded its head and chittered at Hasda.

“If that’s the best option—”

A barking cry interrupted Hasda.

Slinking under the leaves came a creature too bulky to be a jackal proper, especially given the three bushy tails bobbing from her behind. Golden brown fur was interrupted by a bright, white patch on her chest, and black fur competed for dominance on her sides and tails. Tall ears cupped sound above yellow, piercing eyes.

There was something odd about her, beyond her bulk and duplicate tails, but it wasn’t quite divine. Although she had an aura, it lacked the weight of something greater. A weird limbo that I couldn’t quite place. As Hasda and I shuffled away from her, I held my hand ready to summon my Sword.

When she saw the rat king, she growled.

“She’s been searching for him,” Hasda translated.

As soon as he spoke, her eyes snapped onto his. “You can understand me?”

It was weird hearing words come out of that canine mouth. My Sword, shortened to keep out of sight, slipped into my palm. “And you can talk.”

“Naturally.” She shot me a condescending look, then wrinkled her nose as if scenting something sour. “You stink, god.” Sneezing, she shook her head. “Too much blood.”

Susurrations trickled from the walls as rats revealed hideaways they’d concealed themselves in. At least two dozen rats, browns and blacks, clung to the dirt interior. The throne room, already cramped, was becoming positively crowded.

I shifted, getting my feet under me, as awkward as it was. “Who are you? You’re not native to Curnerein, and you’re not divine. Yet you can smell not only my aura but my history.”

“It’s the nose.” She sneezed again. “As for who I am, an exchange of identities would seem in order, would it not? Given that you are also foreign on this soil. And your…” Her eyes narrowed. Then she yelped, jumping back. “Tuzshu? Again? It has been so long since you walked the earth.” Her tails wagged furiously. “But where is your djinn? And your nirarin?”

“Paeden.” Revealing my Sword, I leveled it at her. “I knew I recognized that feeling. But I’m surprised Marudak would make a woman an Apkalla.”

“Ignorant fool.” She practically barked the words. “Sukalla are neither Paeden nor male. That bastard usurper would never.”

Hasda hissed through his teeth. The rats, which had been slowly encroaching, froze. Glaring at the jackal, Hasda said, “I don’t know what you did to offend the rats, but please leave. We have unfinished business of our own, and you can handle yours when we’re done.”

“Forgiveness, tuzshu.” The jackal ducked her head. From her crouch, she gave the rat king a hungry smile. “He will answer for killing my jackals. At your pleasure, I’ll retire until your business has concluded. Now that I’ve found him, he won’t escape me.”

The rat king’s chittering radiated pure panic.

Cackling, the jackal pinned him with her eyes. “They need not fear me, only you. I will have your head before the day is through.”

“Maybe not.” Hasda looked at me. “Will the rats honor their agreement if their king is gone?”

I shrugged. “You’d know better than I. But I wouldn’t count on them if they lose such a leader.”

With a laugh the jackal crawled back up the ledge. “Don’t trust the rat, tuzshu. He sits in the skull of the last one who made a pact with him.” And with that, she slipped out of the cave.


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Fri Jun 28, 2024 3:35 pm
EllieMae wrote a review...



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Hello friend, Ellie back once again to leave a quick review for you :D Let's jump right into the review!

I let a little of my aura slip out, but the rat would not be cowed. Just as frustrating, my power didn’t seem to wrangle its coat into a single, meaningful color, either. I growled. “Like you can’t keep it straight?”

“And I can’t remember once I close my eyes.” He shook his head. “Is it an illusion?”


I loved the imagery you use, assigning some characteristics to non-human things. I loved the sentence 'wrangle its coat' and how you used the word 'growled' to describe how a person made a sound. Your questions that your characters ask are also very straightforward and the dialogue is easy to follow along with. I feel like this would make a great TV show too :)

“Ignorant fool.” She practically barked the words. “Sukalla are neither Paeden nor male. That bastard usurper would never.”

Hasda hissed through his teeth. The rats, which had been slowly encroaching, froze. Glaring at the jackal, Hasda said, “I don’t know what you did to offend the rats, but please leave. We have unfinished business of our own, and you can handle yours when we’re done.”


I love the way your characters talk, using phrases like 'ignorant fool'. It feels vert demanding and elegant, sort of. I like it so much. And I love the variety of describing works you use to describe noises of expression, like growling and hissing. This really helps me hear the scene so much better.

Overall, lovely job with this and I appreciate you posting your novel here and I am grateful to read it!

Your friend,
Ellie

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Tue Jun 25, 2024 1:02 am
Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review!

I didn't think this story would lead us into the realm of animal politics, but here we are. Compared to the rat king, the jackal seems much more trustworthy. I'm curious if Hasda and Charax will heed her warnings. (I really like where you ended this part, too, by the way; it's so full of drama!)

I really enjoyed the characterization of the jackal in this part; I hope she's a character we get to see more of. She seems quite intelligent, and honestly, her issue with the rat king seems very well founded. Since she's so set on offing him, though, I'm guessing that the deal between the rat king and Hasda/Charax will probably be ruined; I am curious if she'll become an ally of theirs. She doesn't seem the type to be tied down to one side, though.

Specifics

"Tuzshu? Again? It has been so long since you walked the earth.” Her tails wagged furiously. “But where is your djinn? And your nirarin?”


Once upon a time, I knew what those words meant. If I'm recalling correctly a tuzshu is a warrior/djinn fusion thing, right? Would appreciate a reminder of nirarin and also Apkalla if possible; it seems like Sukalla is a variant of the latter, and I'd probably have more predictions regarding what exactly this jackal is if I could remember what it was.

Overall: nice job! I enjoyed the arising conflict between the rat king and the jackal, and I look forward to continuing! Until next time!





Daddy Long Legs are more closely related to crabs than spiders and somehow the idea of crablike creatures with spider legs that have escaped the entrappings of the primordial sea and now crawl over land and can walk up and down walls and ceilings creeps me more than I can adequately describe.
— Snoink