It’s done! This is a collabration project done between Kioku and I about her asura Kraami. Funny how a simple conversation can spark something big!
Broken Hearts and Scaly Things
It was easy. Honest! Kraami didn’t know what other asura were talking about when they said that raptors were hard to care for. Or, more to the point, that it would be hard for Kraami specifically. They only escaped that one time and only caused a few stitches to be sewn. In the white dreadlocked asura’s mind that was a pretty good track record.
Otherwise you just feed them and played with them. Well alright, maybe there was more to it than that, but that other stuff was Kozzak’s job. Kraami was only called upon to raptorsit when he had to leave the house. Even she could keep a few hatchlings from tearing apart his home.
There were four of them. Four little rambunctious babies of scales and feathers. The biggest was Roarsy with coal black feathers, he used his size to try to bully his siblings to have things done his way. Bitey was brown and and white and, while smaller than Roarsy, was infinitely more clever than his brother and could get into things no matter how out of place you set them. Clawson was dove grey and was the follower in his brothers’ antics.
But her favorite was the only female, Nippsie. Nippsie was covered with dark iridescent blue feathers and was the best behaved out of the raptors. She always watched whenever her or Kozzak were in the room, as if waiting for orders. When they were given she would obey, even if it was something as hard as waiting her turn at feeding time. And, despite her name, she never ever nipped anyone. Her brothers wouldn’t hesitate to test their fangs on a bare bit of skin, but the solitary female was always mindful about her teeth and claws.
“That’s cause boys are too rough huh?” Kraami cooed as she lifted the blue female up. That had to be the reason, it certainly wasn’t because Veer had found her when the raptors had first run off. Just because he was a ranger didn’t mean he knew more about raptors. “You’re just a little princess aren’t you Nippsie?”
Nippsie though didn’t seem too keen on being held. She started squirming like a drakehound puppy, forcing the white haired asura to put her down before she dropped her. That was progress at least. Kozzak could hold her no problem and Kraami was sure that there was some secret she just had to learn.
“I’m back!” Kozzak’s voice rang through the house, causing Kraami’s heart to beat a little faster. “Sorry that took so long,” he said as he rounded the corner into the raptor’s room, Shrieksy obediently at his heels. “Thanks for watching them.”
Kraami could feel her cheeks and the tips of her ears growing pink. “It was no problem at all. I just love watching them.”
Kozzak nodded and knelt down as the four raptors darted up to him, obviously expecting there to be food. “I won’t have to impose on you much longer.” He said while reaching into a bag. “They are old enough to go to new homes.”
Kraami’s ears drooped a little. She knew that this moment would come eventually. That was the point of the project after all. But she had hoped she had a little longer with the baby raptors. “Who are they going too?”
“I have some rangers already lined up for the males.” He gently swept his arm against the aforementioned males, separating them from their sister despite their croaks of protest. “But this one,” he said as he pulled out a bit of cloth, “Is going to someone special.” A blush started to spread on his features. He held out the cloth for Nippsie to smell and smiled when she wasn’t put off by it.
Kraami felt her heart leap into her throat. Someone special? Could he mean her? She had expressed interest in raising one of the raptors herself and Nippsie was her favorite. Kozzak going to set aside one of the raptors from the rangers just for her, that had to be it! And then he would tell her that he loved her and maybe ask her out of a date! And of course she would say yes and-
“Kraami? Are you feeling okay? You look a little dazed.”
Kraami was startled to see Kozzak giving her a concerned look. “Ah, nothing. It’s ah…I’m just a bit warm.” She tugged on her collar as if to prove her point.
He just nodded as he picked up Nippsie, who didn’t squirm, and the cloth. “Well, go get some water and then you might want to say your goodbyes, I’m going to be rehoming the raptors over the next few days.” He then turned to head into the kitchen, most likely to prepare a meal for the raptors.
Kraami got a sinking feeling in her chest. Saying goodbye. She never had a lot of practice with doing that, she usually just ended up leaving without a word. But this time it was the raptors that were leaving. She felt a little silly as she knelt by the males who had grown bored and started a game of rough housing.
“Hey, you guys be good for your new masters okay?” She said awkwardly as she watched them tumble and chase each other. “Eat your meat, not that I need to tell you that, and get lots of exercise so you end up big and strong.” She rubbed the back of her neck as she tried to think. “And maybe we’ll see each other again.” She dropped her voice into a whisper. “I think Kozzak wants to give me Nippsie, maybe we can all have a hunting day or something together. It would be just like the old days right?” Her mind started to fabricate a scene where she was in a field with a grown up Nippsie and her brothers grown up with their masters, all hunting…something. It didn’t matter what, just that they were all together. And Shrieksy and Kozzak would be there by her side. Yea, that’s the way it should be.
That mental image kept her afloat over the next few days. Kozzak didn’t need her help with rehoming the raptors, so she had a few days off to herself. She was currently wandering around the Creator’s Commons, soaking up the sunshine and dreaming about what sorts of things Kozzak and her would do on their date. Because he was totally going to ask her out when he gave her Nippsie. So she had better be prepared. Maybe a picnic with their raptors? Or maybe a trip to the Aquatarium! Just him and her alone with the fishes. The thought brought a blush to her face and ears.
She was so focused on thinking about Kozzak that she was surprised to suddenly see him across the Commons. The Eternal Alchemy works in mysterious ways after all! With a giggle she adjusted the goggles on her head and decided to go say hi, maybe even jump up to cover his eyes and guess who it was.
But she suddenly stopped when she saw he wasn’t alone. He was talking to someone who must have been a ranger, if the brown wolf sitting at her feet was any clue. She wore all brown leathers with a bow on her back, her short bob-cut hair was brown and even her skin was a light brown. While she had a pretty face with a freckled nose, Kraami thought she looked remarkably dull with all that brown. There was something else she didn’t like about her. Maybe it was the way Shrieksy was sitting with her head on the wolf as if it was the most natural thing in the world, or the way the ranger stood so close to Kozzak. But whatever it was, Kraami instantly hated her.
“Kozzak, are you sure this isn’t too soon for her?” The ranger said.
Kozzak just smiled, it seemed like he couldn’t take his eyes off her. “Of course not. She took your scent very quickly, she got possessive of that cloth you gave me. So now I think is a good time.”
Kraami hid around the corner of a nearby building so she could watch without being seen. She knew that she shouldn’t eavesdrop, but that talk of ‘her’ brought up a sick feeling in her stomach. Were they talking about Nippsie? No that couldn’t be right. Nippsie was going to be her’s!
The ranger nodded. “Okay, let me see her.”
Kraami watched in horror as Kozzak took out a sleeping curled up Nippsie out of the side pouch she had been resting in. The little raptor yawned a little and started to sniff the air. That’s when she turned her head towards the ranger in excitement. Even from the distance Kraami could hear Nippsie’ purr.
“Oh Kozzak!” The ranger gasped. “She’s absolutely beautiful!” She took the raptor from Kozzak and held her while supporting her hindlegs and letting her rest her head against her chest. There was no squirming at all. “Look at that those blue feathers. I think I’ll name her Azurite.”
Kraami clenched her jaw to hard she could have broken her teeth. ‘Her name is Nippsie!’ She wanted to scream. ‘Who are you to just rename her!?’
The ranger cooed over her new pet a few moments longer before looking up at Kozzak. “Thank you.” She said as she touched his arm. “This is so nice of you.”
Kozzak’s face turned pink. “Hey, you’re my girlfriend. It’s my job to do nice things for you.” He gently took her free hand in his, seeming a little nervous. “Actually, I’ve been wanting to ask you something.” He swallowed hard and looked her in the eyes. “You have been a wonder ever since you came into my life when I needed help with Shrieksy all those years ago. I love you very much and I can’t imagine my life without you.” He took a deep breath, his face turning even more red. “Zullu, would you marry me?”
The ranger to her credit did not drop her new pet. She could only stare in wide eyed astonishment, the hand Kozzak had held clasped over her mouth in shock, before making a high pitched squeal consisting nothing but the word yes over and over while embracing him with her free arm, her eyes wet with tears. Kozzak looked blissfully relieved as he drew her in for a kiss, which she eagerly returned.
Something inside Kraami shattered. In that one moment everything she had ever dreamed of, had hoped for, was dashed away like glass upon unforgiving stone.
She felt her chest tighten up painfully while at the same time she started shaking uncontrollably. Girlfriend? No, fiancee now. That couldn’t be right. There had to be some mistake. But he was kissing her. He had asked her to marry him. He said he loved her. Her. Not Kraami.
The tears ran down her face before she was aware of them. She couldn’t feel, she couldn’t think, all she could do was run. She ran blindly through the city, her long dreadlocks flying behind her like a flag. She didn’t notice the people she ran into, the merchant carts she knocked over, or the shouts of the gatekeepers as she ran through an asura gate without paying. None of that mattered compared to her crushed dreams and crushed heart.
Soren Draa was a lot quieter than Rata Sum, though Kraami never noticed as she ran through, her eyes still streaming tears. It wasn’t until she was out in the jungle that the stitch in her side became unbearable and she had to stop. She collapsed against a tree and kept sobbing.
She was so far gone that she didn’t even jump when she felt a wet nose touch her cheek. She wiped her eyes as she looked up into the face of a young sylvan hound, head cocked in concern. It took a minute of blank staring before she realized that she recognized this particular hound. But if this hound was here, that meant its master wasn’t far away.
Kraami scrambled to her feet and tried to straighten herself up just as another asura came through the bushes. A tall male with dark skin and dark hair but rather green eyes and black markings. It was Veer. She hoped that he would take his pet quickly and just leave her to mourn in peace.
“Well well, didn’t expect to see you out here.” Veer smirked when he saw Kraami. “Got lost walking out your front door?”
Normally a million biting comebacks would have come from her lips without a thought. But right now she struggled to say anything at all. “Just go away.” She finally said, her voice sounding raw.
“I-what?” Veer looked startled at the unusually straightforward response. He took an extra second to look her over and noted her red wet eyes and dishelven dreadlocks. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” She tried to say sharply, but the rawness in her throat made her voice break. “Just go away.”
The ranger reached his hand out for her shoulder. “No seriously, what’s wrong?”
Kraami swatted his hand away. “Why would you care anyways? You don’t even like me.”
Veer raised an eyebrow. “You’re annoying and trying at times, but that doesn’t mean I dislike you. So come on, what’s going on?”
Kraami turned away sharply, intending on storming away from the other asura. But she didn’t have the inner strength. The image of Kozzak and his new fiancee played over again in her mind and she just fell to her knees in tears.
“It’s not fair!” She pounded her fist into the dirt. “I liked him, why couldn’t he just like me back? It would have been so much easier!” She sobbed.
Veer knelt down next to her, his hand on her shoulder in an attempt to be comforting. “Who are you talking about?”
“Kozzak!” She yelled, looking up at the ranger. “But he’s in love with someone else, some stupid ranger. Why her? Why couldn’t he like me instead?”
This was all news to Veer and he had to think back on all the asuran rangers he was acquainted with. “You mean Zullu? I think you are a few years too late, they have been together for a long time.”
She choked on a fresh sob. “But…but I like him!”
Veer breathed out his nose. “But I think she loves him. And he her. Sorry, I know it hurts but you are being awfully selfish thinking only of what you want in this.”
Kraami pulled her knees up to her chest as more tears streamed down her face. “No you don’t. You don’t know what I’m feeling. No one does!”
Veer got himself more comfortable next to her while Loras lounged behind them. “That is where you are wrong. I don’t know what world you are living in, but in this one unrequited love is something almost everyone has to go through in their lives.” He took a breath. “Even me.”
Kraami didn’t believe him, but a sense of curiosity broke through her grief. “Really.” She said flatly.
Veer scooted a little closer to her and put an arm around her shoulders, with the other hand he reached for his flask and handed it to her. “Here, I think you need a drink. And yes, I have a friend that I like a lot. But they aren’t ready for something more serious with me.”
Kraami eyed the flask for a moment before taking it from him and having a sip. The alcohol burned and hurt her throat, but the taste made her feel a little better. “So what do you do?”
Veer shrugged. “Maybe someday they will be ready, but until then I am content to just being friends with them.”
Kraami took another swig from the flask and wiped her eyes. “So what, you want me to just be friends with Kozzak and be happy that he’s getting married and everything?”
Veer nodded. “Yes, because it’s better than not being in his life at all.” The ranger then did a double take. “He’s getting married to Zullu?”
Kraami felt the tears build up in her eyes again. “He gave her Nippsie, the one you found. I thought he was going to give her to me, but he gave her to Zullu- or whatever her name is. And then he asked her to marry him.” She sniffled as she started to cry again.
Veer whistled. “Proposed with a raptor, can’t accuse him of being unromantic I guess.”
“They are going to raise their raptors together, and get married, and have lots of progeny.” Kraami cried, physically unable to take another drink from Veer’s flask. “And…and I won’t! Cause I’m just a little girl. A stupid little girl. That’s all he saw me as!” She buried her face into her knees and sobbed.
Veer took the flask from her nerveless fingers and rubbed her back for a few minutes. For a long time the only sound was Kraami and her grief. But eventually even she got tired.
“What am I going to do?” She asked hoarsely, finally looking up, her face and eyes red and wet.
“Take it one day at a time, just like everyone else.” He sighed as he continued to rub her back. “You’re not used to disappointments are you.”
Kraami ignored the latter statement. “And I’m supposed to be just friends with him, and be happy about that? I don’t know if I can. I really like him.”
“The alternative would be to never see him ever again, do you want to do that?”
Kraami shook her head. She had another thought, to just tell Kozzak how she felt. But the idea withered immediately in her brain. She had been too scared to confess before and what would she expect to happen now? For him to just leave Zullu? She saw the way he looked at her, it was so different from how he looked at Kraami. No, something inside her, something that sounded more grown up, said that nothing good would come from saying how she felt. “I guess I can try to just be friends.” She finally said.
Veer gave her shoulder a squeeze. “It’s a start. And the pain will fade eventually.”
Now she knew he was lying to her. “I think I want to go home now.”
Veer nodded and helped her to her feet. “Why don’t I walk you back, at least to the gate.”
Kraami was about to refuse but then suddenly remembered something. “Oh no. I must have run through the gate without paying.” She wilted, as if today could get even worse. She didn’t want to deal with any of that.
“I have some spare silver, I’ll deal with the attendants.” Veer said as he tapped his thigh to signal to Loras that it was time to go.
Kraami stared at him in surprise. “You would do that? Really?”
“Why not?” He said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
She tried to find something to say, but her mind was too fuzzy to think clearly. She decided that in the end it didn’t really matter. As long as she got home without hassle, that’s all she wanted. To go home and curl up in bed and eat a pound of chocolate or something. So she just nodded and trudged out of the underbrush.
“Um, Soren Draa is this way.” Veer pointed in the opposite direction.
“Whatever.” She said a little lifelessly as she changed direction to follow the ranger. Her pride didn’t matter at this point. Nothing did.
But when Loras nuzzled her hand, her mouth twitched into a smile.