The second floor of the building was dimly lit by candles that lined the narrow hallways. There were no windows to allow light
in, only doors that seemed to go on forever. They didn’t look at any of the first few rooms, Dayn simply indicated that
they were sleeping quarters. Taru was thankful that he was speaking as little as possible, and using the gestures of the Compound
when he could. He only showed her a few of the rooms, and Taru figured that most of the space here was devoted to sleeping
quarters and work areas for the leaders. The rooms he did show her were mostly for mage work, and filled with books and other
Taru was literate of course; it was a requirement of the Compound. That didn’t mean that she had to like it. Learning
to read and write had been an intense struggle for her. Part of it was due to the way that it was taught in the Compound,
their teaching philosophy was “learn it or else.” Her struggles with literacy worried her, because it looked like
a lot of learning about her abilities was going to be filled with reading. She moved around the small room that Dayn had allowed
her to enter. The books were all battered looking, and some were so old Taru couldn’t even bring herself to brush them
with her fingertips, in fear that they would crumble. She walked around the room and took in as much as she could, but didn’t
linger too long. She didn’t want to keep Dayn waiting. After a quick pass of the room, she smiled at him, and he led
her to the other three rooms she needed to know about.
The first was a library that while small was so filed with books it looked like it was about to overflow. The second was a
room filled with soft pallets and no windows. Dayn explained it was a meditation room for anyone in training. Taru didn’t
really know what that was, but she smiled and nodded at him. She would ask someone who could talk about that later. The last
room was filled with maps, all hand drawn, and littered with papers. Dayn explained it was their war room, a place where they
planned attacks and raid on Malaquent. He pointed to one of the maps, and Taru recognized the Compound immediately.
We’ll need to meet with you later to see if you can remember any changes that have been made to the Compound since
our last reconnaissance mission. We need as much information as we can get. Dayn explained as he pulled the door shut.
Taru followed and didn’t reply. She wanted nothing more then to put that whole period of her life out of her mind. Forcing
herself to remember details was not something she looked forward to, but she knew she owed these people her life, and as such
would do what she could to help. She followed Dayn around for the rest of the morning. He showed her all the various outbuildings
that were settled around the camp, and also took her to the human tent area. He didn’t push when she said she didn’t
want to go to the Cheveyo’s area, and when he saw her slowly tiring, he led her back to her room in the small building
that functioned as the infirmary.
When sleep came to Taru this time, the dream wasn’t the same as it had been for so long. While at first her mind cheered
this escape from the horror that had been haunting her, she soon realized that this was not really a reprieve. The scene blurred
in that way that dreams do, but the story it told didn’t need to be clear to bother Taru. It was the first day she had
met Blue Sky, the Cheveyo who was supposed to be her companion for the rest of her life. The silver-gray wolven creature looked
at her with pale blue eyes that matched her own. Where she had expected a friendly look in the sky blue eyes, she was instead
met by something that troubled her, the eyes narrowed and Taru could only see the expression as a glare.
“I did not ask for a mind talker.” Blue Sky growled. “You expect me to accept this insult?” He stalked
a short way away, and Raven Tail, the highest-ranking Cheveyo in the camp at the time, joined him. Taru knew they were speaking
about her, and she tried to listen in on their conversation, but either they spoke too low for her to hear or they were communicating
without words. She had been in the Compound for only two years at this point, but she had never seen anything to make her
think that she would be shunned by her Unit Mate on their first meeting. She waited quietly while the two creatures talked
about her. She knew she wasn’t the best in her group, but she didn’t understand why Blue Sky didn’t want
to be partnered with her. Unit Mates were supposed to be strongly bonded pairs, the Cheveyo looking out for the weak human.
Taru knew she wouldn't be able to protect herself in the field, but the large wolven creature would take care of her. Or so
“I see I have no choice in this matter, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like it. “ His blue eyes met
Taru’s, and she knew that her life would never be easy again. His hatred for his human partner was clear, and while
she didn’t yet understand it, that made little difference. He stalked over to Taru’s side and sat. His head reaching
her shoulder and he made sure to show her his sharp white teeth. Blue Sky was not much older then she was, but Cheveyos grew
much faster then humans, and he was already full-grown, where Taru still had much growing to do. “Cross me at all human
and you will regret it.”
Those words came to be truth many times over before the last night she spent in the Compound. As her mind wandered to that
night, she was jolted out of sleep by a knock on the door. Taking a deep breath to calm herself from the less then pleasant
memories of the past, she stretched and stood. Jaki’s smiling face greeted her when she opened the door to her room.
Jaki was a goof 6 inches taller then Taru, and had seemed even larger when Taru had been confined to bed with orders not to
leave. Sitting still was not something she did well, and while she knew it was for her own good, the month of forced bed rest
was mind numbingly boring. Jaki had tried to keep her entertained with stories of the daily happenings in the camp, like how
Rian had stolen Guna’s pants and thrown them in the stream, or how Sree was madly in love with Hali but wouldn’t
admit it to anyone, or even a story about how two of the cheveyos had gotten into a squabble over who got fist dibs on a hunting
Taru had listened politely to all these stories, but without real people to go along with the names and tales, it was hard
for her to stay engaged. She was mst interested in the storied about how Alye, Dayn, and Hawk had come to create this place.
She had been able to keep her mind from wandering when Jaki spoke of how Alye and Dayn had escaped from the Compound with
the help of Hawk, a Cheveyo that no one knew anything about. She was delighted by the stories of how the small band of rebels
created problems for Malaquent as much as possible, and how they had helped rescue so many from the Compound.
“Quit your wool gathering,” Jaki said with a smile as she pushed past Taru into the bedroom. She managed to move
very gracefully, even with the foot that was turned at almost 90 degrees. “I’m surprised you get anything done
with how often your head is in the clouds.” Jaki knew that Taru wouldn’t reply to her jabs, but she continued
to try and bring the much shyer girl out of her shell. Jaki wasn’t that much older then Taru, but she had been rescued
over 4 years ago by Hawk. Jaki’s gift was in healing, but it wasn’t powerful enough t be of use to Demerita and
the leaders of th Compound, and so she had been taken out of the compound to be killed. She had no family to go back to, and
Malaquent was not going to waste money on keeping her alive.
Taru had been horrified when she had been told this, she knew that Malaquent, and the leaders of the Compound in particular,
were not good people, but she didn’t think that they would be killing people just because they could. She had to admit
that some of the conditioning that had been drilled into her was making it hard for her to see everything that the Compound
had done wrong. If you were told something for so long it sometimes became true to you, 10 years was more then enough time
for some of the lies to stick. Taru waited for Jaki to ask her something she had to reply to. Jaki had quickly that involving
Taru in a conversation was something of an art, and Taru made no attempts to make it easy either.
“Did you have a nice morning with Dayn?” Jaki asked. She had found that the best way to get a response was to
ask a yes or no question. Taru almost always answered those. When Taru did nod, Jaki launched into a story about her first
day at the camp, and Taru let her mind wander once again. She did like Jaki, but she had never met anyone who liked to talk
as much as she did. She guessed that it was good that Jaki liked to talk, because it took some of the burden of conversation
off of her. They were a pretty good match Taru had to admit, one who liked to talk too much and one who didn’t talk
at all. Jaki didn’t even pause when she saw Taru’s smile, she figured that when the other girl wanted to share
she would find a way.
“Well come on, it’s almost time for dinner, you slept most of the afternoon away. You can sit with Hali and me.
Hali likes to talk a lot too, so you should like her.” She headed out the door, and Taru figured it was easier to follow
then fight with Jaki over this. Dinner was a noisy affair, and Taru found she did like Hali, mostly because like Jaki had
said, she liked to talk, and didn’t seem to be bothered by Taru’s lack of communication. Hali was blind and was
in fact the first truth seer Taru had ever met. She had heard of them in the compound of course, but groups were pretty segregated,
and those with gifts like Hali’s were not allowed near the less important ones like Taru. Hali tried to explain her
gift, but all Taru got was that people couldn’t lie around her.
The day had taken more out of her then she would admit, but Jaki must have noticed, and drug her back to the infirmary soon
after dinner had ended. She tried to stay awake for a while longer, but soon her eyes ached from the strain of keeping them
open, and she could no longer contain the massive yawns that escaped ever other breath. Her fear of sleep was unfounded because
as she collapsed into bed, Taru had the first night of sleep without nightmares since she had come to the rebel’s camp.
The peace didn’t last long however.
The next few weeks progressed much like the first day for Taru. She got used to the life of the camp, and even made a small
group of friends, including Hali and Jaki. It was odd that even after 10 years in the compound, Taru had actually only met
a few other people with disabilities and gifts that were different from her own. She was at first in awe of the varied abilities
that everyone seemed to have, and then after a while she began to wonder if her abilities would ever come close to theirs.
They all had such wonderful control over their varied gifts; it made Taru feel like an untrained child. The curriculum of
the compound was very strict, and the teachers there refused to teach any more then was necessary. Taru had slight control
over air and fire elements, and could communicate mentally, but not receive like Alye and Dayn could. However most of the
rebels here could do amazing things, like Hali with her truth seeing, and Shet with his mage gift. Taru wondered if she would
ever be able to repay these people for saving her life.
It was after another month that Jaki told her that Dayn wanted to have her start physical training with Hawk. Taru had been
dreading this day since she first learned that a Cheveyo named Hawk taught all fighting and physical training. She was better
around the wolven creatures, but still they made her skin crawl with fear if she was left alone with one too long. Jaki had
told her that lessons with Hawk would never be one on one, but Taru was still nervous about this first meeting. The four lines
caused by her unit mate’s claws would forever scar her face, and her clothing even now hid other scars. She knew that
she was fully healed, and that putting it off would just make it worse, but that didn’t mean she had to like it.
She felt the fear creeping up on her even more as Jaki lead her to the area designated for training and learning fighting
skills. By the time they approached the sandy area, Taru was almost physically shaking from fear. When the huge white Cheveyo
stepped out from behind the small shed the housed the practice weapons, if she had been able she would have squeaked. He padded
silently up to her and Jaki and looked her in the eye. She lost the first battle of wills and broke his gaze rather quickly.
He grunted a bit at her action, and looked at Jaki.
“You can leave us Jaki, for this first time I want to work with Taru alone.” Taru could see that he was grinning
in that canine way, his tongue lolling out of the side of his open jaws, and she couldn’t help but back up a pace at
the sight. She pleaded with Jaki with her eyes, not to leave her with this creature, but she just smiled and nodded to Hawk.
“Sure thing, I’ll be back in an hour to pick you up Taru, have a fun time!” With that she skipped off, leaving
Taru to pray that the ground would swallow her whole instead of leaving her to what she knew would be a slow and painful death.
Onto Chapter 3