Avi spent the first night, after the attack, unsure of how to react to the prisoner. He was still alive by the following night, an unusual occurrence, after the prisoners she had previously seen on the ship. By the next morning, her curiosity was beginning to grow. He was a strange being, she recalled what she could remember of him, from the moments she had been the one keeping him prisoner. Black eyes and sharp teeth. He reminded her of the legends of vampires, she had heard of as a child. He was no vampire, however, that she was sure of.
It was not long before she found herself wandering into the brig. The man ordered to guard the prisoner gave her an uncomfortable look, but she paid it no mind. Many of the crew found her odd. It was also possible they were concerned that Philip would be angry if he found her alone with the prisoner. She was not there to speak with him, however. She already knew she did not understand the language he spoke. She moved up to the bars and sat down.
His black eyes were watching her. They had been on her the moment she came into the room. For a long while they sat and stared at each other. She said nothing and he did not look away. Eventually, he moved up to the bars, giving an unthreatening motion to the guard as he straightened up. He lifted a bandaged hand that she recognized as the one she had stabbed. He held it up to the bar and made several sounds that she could not understand. He almost immediately moved back from her and sat down once again. Eyes never once leaving her own.
Avi, instead, broke the gaze to look down at a little pouch she had started to carry around. She had picked it out while collecting clothes she considered to be her smuggling clothing. She reached into and pulled out a half shell. It shimmered in the light of the brig, polished by her own hand. She slowly moved it through the bars and set it down. The guard, once again, was growing anxious.
He looked at the shell, then the guard, and then Avi again before moving to pick up the shell. He lifted it up and moved part of it into his mouth, biting it, as one would to check if a coin was real. He lowered it, looked at Avi, and said another strange word.
She could not help but smile softly as she watched him pocket the shell. She then stood and headed back out of the brig without a word.
An apology, that was what her gift was. She did not have the words to speak her feelings so this was the best way. Avi sat in her cabin once more, thinking over the interaction. When he had showed the hand, which she had wounded, she felt her guilt increase. She knew she had been protecting the crew, but she did not feel good about injuring this creature. She never felt good when she hurt someone. She had killed some of the previous crew, when they had been attacking her, but they had just been following orders. This creature, perhaps, had thought he was protecting his own. Or, he could have just been following orders. She had not killed him, though. She had not intended on killing him when she attacked, she had just wanted to protect the crew. None of the others had been on the ship to do so.
The one she injured was still alive, in the brig. She could not tell if he held a grudge with her for injuring him or not. Though, her apology gift had seemed to go over well with him. She pulled the pouch onto her lap and rummaged through it. Her birds had brought her a bunch of small rocks and shells that she had been polishing. She had added a few of her own findings to this collection, as well. Perhaps, in a few hours she would return and give another gift of good intentions to him. This time she would attempt to speak with him, attempt to understand. They were not too different after all, she was a bird woman while he was more like a fish man.
Avi returned to the brig with no difficulty, she was often left alone to roam the ship, and she did not mind. She approached the cell the fish-man was in and gave him a small smile. She did not know how she would communicate with him. She had listened to Cullen attempt to interrogate him,but the responses were impossible to understand.
He was watching her, much like the last time she had visited, his eyes never looking away from her. She stared back at him, trying to come up with a way to ask her questions. She did not know if he could even understand her.
“My name is Avinnia,” she offered up.
“Or Avi, if it is easier,” she continued but there was still silence.
She let out a defeated sigh and lowered herself down, rather carelessly, to a sit. I wish he could understand me, she thought. She leaned her brow against the bars of the cell and stared back at him. He seemed to sit up a little straighter, continuing to watch her. There must be some way.
He started to move forward, suddenly, but nonthreatening. Avi sat up to watch him, Little Tip ruffling up his feathers and chirping in her ear.
“Hush, Tip,” she ordered. If I could figure out what to call him at least, she thought as she turned her attention back to the prisoner.
You may call me whatever you wish, though among my brothers, I would be known as Kharrakh Ker-Avinnia.
Avi stood up, startled by the words lingering in her head, in a voice that was not her own. “Did you-” she began to ask. Your name is Kharrakh? You can hear me? He did not answer these questions but he seemed more attentive to her than he had moments earlier.
Where are you from? The thought came faster than she realized what was happening.
My home is not the same as this place. We have only called it Mu, he responded in the same manner.
Mu? Not the same as here. She hesitated between questions, processing what she was hearing. He was from another world, perhaps like the world they had passed through in the crossway. Perhaps. She needed to know more.
Why did you leave? Why come here? She looked at him as she thought her questions.
My brothers have long ached to return to Avalon, and take our place as its rightful rulers. The door was finally open; we merely passed through it.
A door, that answered her question about the crossway. They were either from Vandagen or from beyond, like how Christmas Island had a door to Odessa. Either way, he must know more.
We are similar, though I have feathers; do you know anything about what I am?
I know of your kind, yes, and have gazed upon your sisters before, though I am not permitted to speak of them.
Sisters? There were more like her? Somewhere in this world or another. Where did you see them? There was no answer. Please, I have never seen another like me. What are they called? Where do they live? What are they like? But all of her questions fell into the empty silence that he refused to break.
Reluctantly, she returned to the rest of her questions, Do you trust me?
I do not understand the question, was his simple answer.
Do you trust what I say and do? She hoped that would clarify what she meant, unsure of how to explain to him.
My trust is irrelevant. You have asserted your might over me, I am now Ker to your Okraik.
Avi’s face contorted in confusion. You are what to my what? I do not know these words. Can you explain them to me?
You are my battle-master. My blood and my blades are yours to command, until you or I am bested by another again.
This was because she beat him in battle, she realized. He viewed her as his better, no one had ever viewed her like that before. She needed to know more about what this meant.
Would you aid us if I asked?
If you commanded it.
If we offered, would you stay with us?
If you commanded it, he repeated.
Will there be a way I could contact you when we let you go?
In my home, there was a way for an Okraik to speak to their Ker over great distances. I do not know of such a power in this world.
That was important, perhaps this new way of communicating could do it, or perhaps she could find another way. One of her companions might know something. Or someone in one of the cities, perhaps a scholar.
One last question lingered in her mind. This fish-man, this Kharrakh, had said she was his battle-master. That his blood and blades were her’s to command.
As your Okraik, would you fight to protect me?