Wood paneled halls studded with doors and filled with people rolled past as Ean searched for Kaim. He was next on the list of people Ean had to talk to. According to Ean’s father, Kaim had urged him to send Danya away. Begged him.
He had also provided the stacks of folders on the King’s desk. All of them on massacres caused by Garagrans.
And now he was nowhere to be found.
Ean was just about to fetch a tracking Kirtak to run him down when he passed an open training room and heard the familiar whistle and thud of wing-strikes hitting sandbags. He looked in and found Kaim slamming a full-height punching bag around on its rotating hangar, spinning and dodging as the bag moved, and repeatedly landing blows with the wrists of his wings that would have caved in a person’s chest. Sometimes he followed up with normal kicks and punches, but mostly it was just the wings.
Ean knocked on the frame of the door and Kaim spun around. When he saw who it was he gave a nod and a flip of his tail feathers and then went back to beating the bag. Ean watched for a moment, then moved closer, careful to stay out of range. He’d gotten hit in the head by Kaim once on accident and woken up half-a-mark later with a concussion. It wasn’t an experience he cared to repeat.
Especially not today.
Ahttah… help me reach my friend.
Ean waited at safe range, marvelling once again at the sheer power packed into a Shinalilt’s flight limbs, for a good quarter mark. Finally he decided that Kaim wasn’t going to stop boxing without being ordered to.
“We need to talk, Kaim.”
Kaim stopped in mid-swing and turned around, leaving the punching bag swaying and squeaking behind him. He set his eyes on Ean and waited.
“You told my father to deport Danya,” Ean said.
“You knew I was against that,” Ean said.
Kaim nodded again.
“I figured you’d let it go once your father put his foot down,” Kaim replied. “I guess I was wrong.”
Ean was pretty sure he heard hostility in that last part.
Kaim reached back and put a hand on the squeaking bag to still it, but his eyes stayed on Ean.
“I know you lost your aunt to that Garagran attack…” Ean started.
“Stop, Ean,” Kaim said. “Don’t even go there.”
Ean eyed him. What was going on?
“Would you rather I just send you away to work on the border for awhile? Because right now that’s looking like my best option. You’re working against me pretty hard.”
“What’s so funny?”
“I’m not working against you, Ean. I’m working for our country. For all the people in it. You’re the one who’s making the wrong call.”
“You think you’re protecting people.”
“Of course I do! She’s a Garagran! She’s not safe!”
“I’m not safe.”
Kaim laughed again.
“You know what I mean, Ean.”
“You don’t know what I mean, Kaim. Danya could kill a few hundred? Maybe a thousand? Maybe more.” Ean paused for effect, though he wasn’t quite sure this was the best tactic. “I know how to blow the dam. It would take a lot of explosives, but I have access to all that. I could get it all shaped and stored where I want it, then just push it out in the middle of the night. Bring the whole thing down. Kill a few hundred thousand. I’m dangerous.”
Kaim gave him a cold stare.
“This isn’t some theoretical engineering problem,” Kaim said. “And this,” he waved his hand between the two of them, “Isn’t something you can fix with the right bunch of words. Or a joke. Or an argument. It’s real. The fact that Garagrans kill people is real. And the fact that you brought one to the capitol of our country, where it’s surrounded by hundreds of thousands of our people…is real.”
“What is your problem with her? Why do you only see a threat?”
“My problem?” Kaim advanced a step and raised his voice. “My problem!? My problem is that that thing is a Garagran. That’s all. If you had read the small mountain of material I pulled out on them, you might actually understand. They aren’t like other humans. Do you know where their power comes from? Do you?”
“Of course I do,” Ean replied. “I also know where Alleji come from.”
Kaim stopped at that and turned away.
“You know I’m right,” Ean said.
Kaim said nothing.
“Kaim, you lost someone close to you. It was a terrible thing, but now it’s affecting…”
Kaim spun around.
“Of course it’s affecting my judgement! That’s what evil does! It wakes you up and let’s you see what the world is like! It lets you see that people are fragile, and that evil monsters can take them away from you in an instant if you let them! Losing Peranni is why I joined the military in the first place. Why I was training for the border guards when you met me. Of course it’s affecting my judgement. It let me see clearly what I needed to do with my life. Protect people!”
“Danya’s a person, too.”
“No. She’s a monster. You haven’t seen them like I have. I was there, Ean. I was there in all the blood, and the fire, and the death. I watched what that monster did to Kwentifar with my own eyes. And I watched it kill my aunt.”
“You never told me that. I just knew she died there.”
“I didn’t want to talk about it. I still don’t. But I was there, too. I was just seven at the time. Peranni got me from my parents and took me to see the city while she did some shopping. When the Garagran came we didn’t know what was happening. Just that suddenly there were fires everywhere and smoke in the air. And then we saw something big and black thundering through the skies and laughing and we knew it was a Garagran.” He paused. “And then it saw me. I heard it say, ‘Ayinkel’. Peranni heard it too. She grabbed me and ran through the alleys. When it came after us, she hid me in a trashbin under an overhang, grabbed a bag of apples lying on a stack of crates, and ran away as fast as she could pretending she still had me.”
“It tore her to pieces in the street while I watched. One limb at a time while she was still alive, asking where I was until she died. And I did nothing, because I was too small and she told me to stay.”
Yahsaw…Yahsaw, please heal him. I don’t know what to say.
“After that I swore I would join the military and stop the next Garagran. I also did research whenever I could. Do you know what I found? Stories from all over the world of Garagrans doing the same kind of thing, again and again, just because they can. It’s what they are. And now you’re married to one.”
“I’m sorry, Kaim.”
“You should be.”
“I’m sorry you had to suffer that. I’m sorry it happened. This whole incident has to to be a terrible reminder for you.”
Kaim shook his head.
“I don’t care about me, Ean. I just don’t want it to happen again. And as long as you keep that thing here, I’m certain it will.”
“I’m not sending her away, Kaim. Not until she does something to justify it.”
“Yeah, that’s what I expected.” Kaim turned back to the bag and began doing punch combos on it. “I’ll be around when it tries to eat you.”
Ean took that as a demand for him to leave. As he walked out he heard the combos intensifying behind him, bringing in kicks and then wings again. The last one he heard before he turned down another hall was a three-hit combo from Kaim’s wings that shook the walls.