Jaser yawned deeply as he trotted through the underbrush, his eyes squinting through the bright midday sun. His little satchel full of herbs was swinging at his side, already nearly full. He pondered whether he'd be able to be home before the sun would set, making this a quick day for him.
"Ugh... I've been this way just two days ago, haven't I?", muttered the small Inci to himself.
He observed the ground carefully, making out the tracks of his previous passing. Yes, the
most useful herbs had just recently been harvested... He stopped short and bit his lip, contemplating. Did he want to go further? He was sure he didn't venture much beyond this point the last time,
so there should be plenty to harvest just a little bit away... On the other hand, he was getting quite far from the glade... However, he REALLY didn't want to have to backtrack and then go in a different direction. It would take ages! Mind made up, he scurried forward, intent on being home before dark. Nothing ever happened in broad daylight anyway, right?
Jaser triumphantly cut off the herb and put it away. He was finally done! Grinning he checked his equipment and made to take off so he would be home faster when a sudden noise made him flinch. Nervously he looked around the trees to his left, trying to make out what had... wheezed?
Surely no ghosts were out at this time of day? He tried to remember what his sister had said about wraiths and ghosts and shook his head. No, he was quite sure she had specifically said that they only came out at night. (Though it was still quite concerning that they primarily hunted violet
coloured Ucalim... He mustn't let his guard down!) Cautiously he crept closer to the trees and looked around them. Nothing. Had he imagined it? Another wheezing sound reached his
twitching ears and he started. It had sounded like a harsh breath! Jaser hesitated. He had a
bad feeling, and whatever was beyond the trees, it was potentially dangerous...
But it could also be hurt!
As stealthily as possible Jaser made his way forward, until he reached a tiny clearing. His breathing stopped as he saw what had made the sounds. Another Ucalim was lying on the ground, half propped up against a tree. He was badly wounded, deep scratches littering his body that screamed Atabey at the young boy. Blood was coating the other males face and body, his colouring undistinguishable underneath. But Jaser could make out the feathers adorning his clothing. He saw the rough spun clothes and the weapons lying a bit further away. And most importantly, the blood...
It was blue.
The young Inci stood still as a statue, his mind racing through all the stories, all the warnings. Caglayan. They hunted, they pillaged, they killed. He wanted to run, badly. Wanted to turn away and never look back, but his legs wouldn't obey him. And then the other looked up and their gazes met and "Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod", whispered the boy in horror. The water bird however hadn't heard and tried to reach for him.
"Ahh, hah, y-you! Inci, sing..." His breath was so laboured that Jaser nearly didn't understand his words, but he got the gist of it. Frantically he shook his head, taking a few steps back in horror. Desperately the other man tried to crawl after him, sobbing.
"Pl-please, anything... take, take it, pleaaase..." He fell forward, coughing up blood and curling in on himself. Jaser wanted to run. He needed to run! He willed his legs to move and hastily
began to move...
Towards the injured Ucalim.
Tears dripped down Jaser's face in fear, as his trembling hands started to assess the damage beneath him. He looked around and found a linen bag, only barely recognizable as such. Had the Caglayan stolen something and an Atabey had been sent to retrieve it? He shook his head, there was no time to think about this! Quickly the boy dove towards it and rifled through
the few things still inside. As soon as his fingers found cloth he returned to his patient's side, clumsily ripping it into strips to bandage the man. He dumped out his recently filled satchel to quickly put some of the herbs onto the cuts, no time to prepare a paste. They would have to do as they were.
He nervously kept an eye on the other's face, terrified of being attacked. But the water bird
had gone glassy eyed from the pain, his harsh breathing and occasional grunts of pain the
only signs of him still being conscious.
Jaser stared at the crude bandaging, messy because of his haste and fear. And he knew it wouldn't be enough. The Caglayan would die. Unless... But he couldn't! Sing for a Caglayan? Absolutely unthinkable! They hunted his clan! If their roles were reversed he knew the other wouldn't bat an eyelash and only help him if he was still capable of singing for him! But he would die. Jaser's heart rate sped up. Could he leave, knowing what would happen?
His throat felt parched as he began to hum. So quietly the other wouldn't have heard him anyway, no matter the state he was in. But quickly his voice became stronger, the familiar magic starting to pour out of him. A soft glow enveloped the man before him, closing cuts, soothing aches...
Slowly the Caglayan became more aware and breathed more easily. He watched Jaser as he sang, recovering rapidly. The young boy nearly stopped in fright when he noticed but remembered just in time to keep singing. His pitch changed slightly, the melody following suit and he hastily stood up as he saw the Caglayan realized he was becoming drowsy. A strong hand shot out and
caught him by the ankle, making Jaser nearly squeak. But he prevailed, the herbs for sleep he had mixed in with the healing ones were doing their job! The other man fought to keep his eyes open, groping at his hip for something. Clumsily he thrust a bag at Jaser before he succumbed,
sleeping deeply within seconds.
The small starling stood panting, cold sweat covering his whole body. He had done it! He quickly snatched his herb bag and turned to flee when he saw the small pouch resting before him. With a quick glance at the Caglayan he curiously opened it, his eyes widening as he saw that it was full of coins and jewelry. Had he...? Disbelief flooded the Inci. Surely he hadn't tried to pay him? His nervousness back in full force he stared at the sleeping male. Surely not... right? Sighing he looked back at the purse in his hands. Even if that had been his intent, he couldn't take a pouch full of money anyway. It was not only not right, how would he explain where he got it? He shook his head and went to return it to the water bird's side, as two small bracelets fell out. He stopped and looked at them, eyes widening. They were small and plain, but oh so pretty...
Finally, after some contemplation, Jaser took to the sky, his instincts screaming at him to finally get away from the dangerous man sleeping next to him. He flew at neck break speed, collapsing not far from his home besides a stream. Frantically he began washing the off the precious blood clinging to his body, not wasting even a second thinking about whether he shouldn't keep it.
That night, he would lie amidst his concerned siblings, not telling them what had happened. He would think anxiously about the man he had left in that clearing. He would clutch the bracelets to his chest, planning on hiding them in his herb satchel until the next Belig visit,
where he would "purchase" them.
He couldn’t forget what had happened, forget the mysterious Caglayan he had saved.
And he began to wonder.