The Fates of Nixia
Shortly before the
lifting of the Armaya
I had never known a life without the Company. They were my regimen, my protectors and
brethren. Most of all, they were
family. My life was theirs as much as
they were mine. So it was for all of us,
especially the Ataman. The Ataman
guided the Company through the desert wastes.
Not in any particular direction, but rather into the future. Towards the currents that lay out of reach
beyond the Armaya. Walking us, or me specifically, towards me
He taught all of us the Annals and Code of the Company.
I am told that I am nearly 22 years old now, but I am not
completely certain of that. How does one
count the days when all of the days are the same? We trudge through the sands with parched lips
cursed to never find running water. Bah! That water could run is a myth. I was sure of it. Water evaporates in our land, water could
never run, and there was nothing beyond the desert.
Water is life and my job, as with many of us, was to find it
and bring it back to the company.
Skulking in the shadow of the desert nights, I searched for the
signs. Some nights were easier than
others, but more often than not, I would come back empty handed only to try
again the next night because giving up was not an option. Giving up was betrayal, death, and
sacrificing your water to the Company.
That was a rule that was never spoken but understood by all.
When I found the water signs, they would invariably lead me
to encampments of people who did not belong to the Company of Roses. Some of these encampments would contain the
dying; those whom the desert would soon consume. They were the easy ones. The ones whom I could easily breach to gain
their water according to the techniques I had learned.
Some were not so easy.
While I tended to avoid the healthy ones, the desert can be a harsh
master, especially when we had not found water in many days. Occasionally, I had to cross the line to
acquire the water. It was not my job to
explain how I found the water, but it was my job to bring it back. Such is the way of the Shadow Walkers,
whether for the purpose of acquiring water or something else entirely.
Water is Life
Long before the
lifting of the removal of the Armaya
I still remember when my parents, Joren and Xanthia, were
caught in that cursed Stygian sand storm while my adolescence was still dawning. I kneeled at their bodies within the circle
formed by the rest of the Company and cried.
They had not properly protected themselves in time; the storm had come
too fast. The sands had filled their
lungs and shredded their skin bare.
“Do not leave me!” I cried.
Coughing up sand, Joren responded, “Don’t you dare waste
your water over me!” And then he fell
into coughing fits. I looked over to Xanthia’s
still body. Joren continued softly, “You
know what you must do. The water is
life.” He coughed a few more times,
“Dear sweet little Nixia, help our water flow through the company.” His eyes closed and his coughing ceased.
The surrounding circle of the Company was silent. I wiped my tears with my finger and sucked on
them to keep them from going to waste and then screamed up into the sky,
“Nooooooo!” The Company continued its
Regaining my composure, I pulled out my implements and began
to cut into my mother and father’s bodies to properly prepare them for water
extraction. It took all I had to keep
from crying through the process, but eventually I had filled two skins. I drank from each and then passed them to the
Ataman who was still silent. “Water is Life”, I said. He nodded at me, took a drink form the skins and
spoke, “Water is Life”. Then he passed the
skins around the circle who reiterated the mantra. When all had had their drink, the group
parted and that was it.
Long before the
lifting of the Armaya
I felt guilty and angry at myself after my parent’s
deaths. I felt responsible, but no
matter how I played out the events, I don’t know how I could have saved
them. The fates were cruel. When I was younger Xanthia, my mother, used to tell me that I was special. She said that I was the 7th generation
of daughters descended from Morilei and that I was destined for something
special, that the Shadow Walkers’ skills that were passed down from generation
to generation to me were meant to be used to prevent some sort of great
And that was what I felt most guilty about; assuming that mother
would always be alive long enough to tell me more about my destiny. I don’t know much about Morilei or my purpose
in life, beyond the Company and I’m not sure I ever will. What use is it if I can never leave the
desert? Sure that will not happen in my lifetime. How long has the Company been walking? Hell, I don’t know even know who my
grandmother was, nor whether she was in the Company or not. When had my lineage joined? I’ll probably never know.
What little Xanthia had told me about my Destiny, was always
told in private. I don’t believe anyone
else in the Company knows about it.
The Walk’s End
The day the Armaya was
The day the Company stumbled upon the stream was a day of
disbelief and relief. I nearly gorged
myself on the river’s water which tasted so different than the water we had
been drinking. It was quite literally liberating. Morale had never been this high throughout
the company. As the water filled me, my
joy turned to dread. I realized that I
was free, but not really. The certainty
of the Desert Walk was no longer and I now faced the uncertainty of my
Destiny. My stomach twisted and at that
moment lost all of the water I had just drunk.
My head was spinning and I realized that my journey was just beginning.
Over the course of the next several days, many of the
Company had started to part ways to learn about the world in general. Most of us were still sworn to the Company
and would one day rejoin, but first the men and women of the long march needed
to rest. I chose to explore the world
to see what I could learn about Morilei and my Destiny.