Kumi Kiyori’s clan are nomadic stargazers who follow the Morning, or Eastern Star (Sirius). They believe that the first of their kind came to Centauria directly from the stars eons ago. Their spiritual beliefs revolve around this regardless of what god(s) or goddess(es) they may choose to follow. With a strong belief in all things magical, some chose to follow the paths known to belong to the ancients of old, the mystics.
They are a strong and proud centaur who are generally peaceful but quickly aroused if the occasion warrants. An extremely clannish and loyal centaur they will fight to the death to protect each other. They live widely varied lifestyles and as a result the generations are tightly knit and bound to each other. This serves them well since quite often they live to see their one hundredth birthday and beyond.
Not only did their lifestyles vary their appearance did also. Many displayed beautiful wide wings that everyone believed was proof of their arrival on Terra from the stars. They often displayed the chameleon like ability to change the color of their coat. This arose from the need to escape their varied enemies who would hunt or trap them believing their hooves, when pulverized, had magical properties. This led to a deeply ingrained mistrust for humans even though they were believed by some to be part human themselves. The people of Kumi’s clan knew this to be a falsehood perpetuated by the envious humans themselves. They had always been, and were, fully centaur.
The migrations of the clans followed the same route every year, spending each season in a different region as the weather dictated. They lived varied lifestyles and the generations were tightly knit with each other. This served them well since quite often they would live to see their one hundredth birthday and beyond. Large extended families remained together for the whole of their lives unless amorous youngsters met someone they wanted to stay near to in one of the regions. A joyful reunion would occur each season when the clan would return to that area and look forward to seeing any new foal or filly that might have been born to the couple.
Kumi’s early childhood was happy and carefree. Watched over by not only her parents and extended family but the entire clan. This gave her free range to nurture her curious mind. She felt a deep affinity for nature and all the creatures who shared the planet. Her family often recounted the stories of the various creatures that would gather with her and one story in particular. So much so she could no longer recall if it was her memory or the memory of a retold story she had.
At the end of a long day an alarm went through the family, Kumi was missing. They searched the area until long after sundown and panic was beginning to build among them. Fortunately the moon was full and the skies were clear that night. Not wanting to waste any time they decided to spread out and young Jotum was sent to the east.
In the end it was Jotum who found her. Surrounded by animals her eyes locked on the bright harvest moon. He held out a hand for her to hold saying; “Everyone’s been looking for you Kumi, what are you doing out here so late?”
Kumi stamped a tiny hoof in anger and tossed her little head; “You scared away my friends Jotum, go away!” She turned to go in the opposite direction dragging her rag bear along the ground when Jotum jumped toward her and grabbed her arm.
Kumi screamed. A piercing scream that startled the crows at their roost and sent them cawing and circling above the trees. The wolves that had retreated to the forest edge now edged toward them. Heads lowered and ears pinned they emitted low growls keeping their eyes on Jotum. Kumi saw them approaching and began to giggle now happy that her friends were returning. As soon as the wolves saw that there was no threat they stopped their forward movement and relaxed just the tiniest bit. Jotum released the breath he had been holding and slowly let go of Kumi’s arm.
Meanwhile, the noise of the startled birds alerted the others who went galloping toward the sound not knowing what upset the birds. When they got to her she was hoisted up by her father who whispered promises of sweets when they got home while Jotum explained how he found her surrounded by animals with a small mouse in the palm of her hand. This story was a story her father would often repeat, so much so that Kumi was no longer sure if she remembered the event or only the telling of the story.
The freedoms she had enjoyed as a filly instilled a strong sense of independence and a love of freedom. This in turn brought with it a strong stubborn streak. While she was generally a well behaved child Kumi was very passionate about her beliefs and followed her own set of sensibilities. This tended to get her into trouble so she learned to keep her opinions to herself, sometimes. Most times she only confided in Jotum, but at other times she just couldn’t seem to stop herself from saying just what she thought.
As Kumi grew she spent most of her time alone with the animals afield or with the adults of the clan. Although she did maintain a close friendship with lifelong friend Jotum and each of their parents had hoped they would choose to mate, but they both had goals in life they felt they needed to meet first. Indeed, their interests were so far apart it seemed to them it would be an unlikely event.
She loved listening to the elders tell the stories of the nature goddess Anadana, and never tired of it. She often visited the old woman in the forest. Anuta, as she was called, had her eye on Kumi from the time she was a small filly when the family found her alone in the forest with the animals. Anuta especially liked the way Kumi was at home in the wilds and with the animals.
Anuta taught Kumi more and more of the druid’s path as she grew. Kumi eagerly soaked up the knowledge of the plants and animals but especially the tales of her ancestry among the stars. As much as anyone could she maintained a balance in all things. Respecting nature around her as well as the moon and stars high above. But, as with all things in life changes were coming.
News of resistance groups forming to combat the growing darkness in one of the realms reached the herd. The darkness, they said, had spread throughout the land and those who lived there were prepeared to fight to restore light to their realm. Jotum was eager and ready for battle and Kumi was determined that she would not be left behind. But, she was small and not really suited to battle. However, she managed to secure a position using her ability to communicate with the animals to direct them into positions where they could report the movement of Virtrollia’s minions.
After six days the battle was over, the darkness receded and the light had won. Soon stories of the heroes of the war, particularly those who fought at the battle of Mount Pellion began to circulate. It was a time of much rejoicing and celebrations. They learned that a new Queen had emerged, Julala. And that Houses were forming to safeguard the realm from future. Kumi wasted no time and sought out the leader of Roonwit and requested admittance. Jotum had his eyes on Glenstorm but felt obliged as he always had to remain close to and protect Kumi so he too joined.
The seasons came and went bringing Kumi’s nomadic herd through to visit. She was delighted to see them all and enjoyed hearing their tales of their travels but she remained in Centauria when they moved on. She had come to love her grove and later acquired a neighboring home when it came available. Her confidence was growing and she was more sure of her skills. She began to share the skills she had in tending plants and animals to others and practiced making potions until she could regularly produce results that were consistent from one batch to the next.
Chapter II: The Dryad Druid of the Glade
Jotum stood in the small clearing as Kumi paced back and forth in front of him. He occasionally glanced down at her through lidded eyes then quickly glanced away when she looked up. He hoped to not further inflame her temper, but he knew he couldn’t stop her from doing what she wanted.
“I AM going with you, Jotum.” Kumi said through clenched teeth as she stamped a hoof hard on the ground. She leaned toward Jotum looking up at him, her brows knit with determination. “I know these woods as well as any of you. Better than most of you! You know I’d be a good scout.“
Jotum grit his teeth making the muscle across his jaw bulge as he rubbed his face. Letting out a long slow breath he bought himself seconds as he gathered his thoughts. She did know the woods well and the animals, too. He thought back to their childhood when he found her as a tiny filly surrounded by the animals of the woods. There wasn’t any arguing with Kumi once her mind was made up but she was so small he thought. He quickly formed a plan to keep her safe.
“Alright Kumi.” Jotum said softly. “This is how you would contribute the most to our cause. Your ability to communicate with the animals combined with their stealth and size would make for a formidable spy network. They could watch for their movements and locate their camps. I’ll have the smallest armor brought to you and you must promise me that you will wear it. That you will not only wear it but you will remain where I leave you. In hiding. We can use your ability to communicate with the animals to gather knowledge of enemy movements and encampments.“
Kumi had first felt the giddiness of a debate won only to close her eyes and turn her face away as she realized she would not be at the front of the battle with her friend but would be left behind, yet again. Her hands clenched and opened as she tried to control her anger but as Jotum laid out his thoughts she began to see the wisdom of his plan. The shiny new curved blade hanging at her side might not taste blood but she could scout with the animals and serve in that way.
Jotum waited, thinking how best to convince her. “What of the animals Kumi. What if you are badly injured or worse yet dead. What of them if they all run to you giving away your position and the lot of you are found by the enemy. Would you have them killed along side you?”
Kumi closed her eyes as his message hit her heart in it’s weakest place. “You know I much prefer my leathers, but I’ll do it Jotum. I’ll wear the armor.”
And so the armor was delivered to Kumi, the smallest that could be found for there was no time to make a special suit for one of her size. The centaur who brought it to her helped her strap it on. She shifted with the weight of it sliding around her back because it was loose. The metal parts were already as close as they could be so punching additional holes in the straps wasn’t going to solve the problem.
Kumi groaned, “I can’t believe I agreed to wear this heavy metal.” But, agree she did; and she would live with it somehow.
The armor wasn’t made for Kumi and the upper body portion which was built for a larger male torso, nearly swallowed her. She laid that portion and the helmet against a nearby tree as soon as she was alone. She wasn’t worried about any reflection the moon may make on it because the wolves and stoats standing on alert would know if anyone was approaching. The wait and the search for people darkened by Vitrollia began.
Messages were exchanged between the animals and Kumi by means of mental images that strung together like moving portraits. For her message carriers back to Jotum she had chosen kestrels. Vitrollia’s forces would be looking for ravens, the usual means of sending messages. These tiny falcons were aerial masters and their size would make them even harder to hit. Kumi knew them to be intelligent problem solvers and they would faithfully deliver the messages she would tie to one of their legs.
Kumi froze as one of the stoats gave his clicking warning sound. Something or someone was near. The wolves with their superior sense of scent gave the first mental pictures of what was nearby. Trolls! Then she saw what she feared most. Jotum’s towhead, his unmistakable form, in the direct path that the trolls were headed. She dropped to the ground and penned a quick note which she then tied to a kestrel’s leg. She gave the little sparrow falcon her request by visualizing Jotum in her mind and then the bird flying toward him. The little kestrel immediately lept into the air wings beating almost silently as it wove it’s way through the branches.
The trolls however begin to turn toward Kumi and the group of animals hiding in the grove, then before she can reach out to stop him the black wolf charges out of the grove directly toward the trolls. He growls and behaves as though he might attack but then turns and runs in a direction that would lead them away from both Kumi as well as Jotum’s group of centaurs. Trolls never could resist a chase and they all began to run after the wolf who had miscalculated how close he should get to them before turning. Or did he? One of the trolls pulled back his throwing arm and let loose the spear he was holding. It found it’s mark.
The little group huddled in the grove knew nothing of the event, at least not immediately. But later, after the 6th day of the great battle when the Light won Kumi and her band of animals made their way out of the grove. It was then that she found the black wolf with a spear through his side. He had given his life to save her, the animals and Jotum’s group of centaurs. She would later make the grove in which they all had hidden while sending out reports by way of kestrels a safe haven for wolves.
Not far from where the black had fallen she came across the druid, dryad Anuta. The very druid who had taught her so much now stood frozen as if stone. When Kumi touched her she was cold and hard as stone. Kumi had no idea if Anuta could hear her or not but she spoke aloud anyway.
“Anuta, I vow I will discover the magic that did this to you and I will bring you back to me. To all of us.”
As Kumi rises from the ground she looks around the grove and the animals gathered there. Right then she makes the decision that she will no longer migrate with the herd, but she will stay in the grove. The wolves who assisted during the battle would have a sanctuary there, including the stoats who served as sentinels.
Chapter III: Kumi’s Awakening
Something was wrong. Very wrong. But Kumi couldn’t put her finger on it. For weeks now she had been experiencing a nagging sensation that just wouldn’t let up. But where was it, what was it or who was it? She sensed no visions of trouble coming from the wolves or stoats of anyone stalking around the area, yet the feeling persisted. What could it be? The potions she had been testing were of a temporary nature and she hadn’t experienced any negative side effects…. yet there was that feeling. Was this one of the side effects, of feeling doom when there was none? Kumi made a mental note to visit the friends she had dispensed various potions to and see how they were feeling she never wanted to harm any of them. But, she had something else she needed to do first.
She rubbed her face and pulled her hair back as she ambled down the road deep in thought. Her world appeared more vibrant, more sparkly than it had before. That surely wasn’t a sign of anything being off, why would it appear so beautiful yet cause such feelings? She thought about the frogs she knew of that existed deep in the forest. They were quite beautiful but most deadly to touch. “Is that what this is?” she shouted into cool evening air. There was no answer of course, only the songs of the birds and cicadas. She needed respite from this uncomfortable feeling.
Her destination was the druid’s grove. Specifically to the spot where the dryad, Anuta, now stood. She had been Kumi’s mentor and was turned to stone during the 6 day battle. Kumi missed her mentor even more during times like these. Anuta had guided her through her lessons in the druidic arts and helped her sort through what is and what was. The gentle dryad druid now stood silent, caught frozen in time. So far none of Kumi’s potions had reversed the sickness, or spell, that held Anuta in stone.
And then there was the darkness.… the time of Vitrolia. No one knew for certain what had became of her. Was she dead or did she escape into the wilds? And more importantly if she lives was she gathering minions once again. People had begun disappearing prior to this last round of fighting and the Ranger had nearly died. Kumi hoped it wasn’t anything like this again. No, not so soon after the last battle. There had been so much loss already.
Kumi thought back to when she had increased her runs over the tree covered roads of Centauria. Back to when the strange feelings had begun. She never saw anything while she was out and it did temporarily make her feel better as she inhaled the fresh air and listened to the songs of the birds. It also served to tire her out so that she could sleep. And while she was able to fall asleep she didn’t think she slept properly because she would wake tired. While dreaming hadn’t ever bothered her before it seemed they were much more vivid and real lately and causing her to not sleep properly she thought.
But she did enjoy the dreams and she thought they might be the result of her use of her experimental potions. She always tried them on herself first before offering them to others to be sure they didn’t have any harmful side effects. Could this feeling be one?
She considered strengthening her sleep potion thinking perhaps it would cause her to sleep more deeply and therefore not dream. But she worried about the dosage and whether it would cause her to be drowsy the next day which would be just as bad. Kumi really needed Anuta’s guidance.
Kumi stared up at Anuta’s frozen face and it was at this point, while she was lost in her own weariness and despair that Kumi reached out and placed both hands on the cold stone that was once her mentor. Before she could completely form the words “Oh Anuta………” her world went pure white for just an instant. The air crackled and sparkled all around her but it wasn’t lightening. There had been no thunder. The sparkles stayed and floated dancing all around her. It was as though she was seeing all the sprites that she knew existed around them always. Then she distinctly heard Anuta’s voice “Look to yourself, child.”
Kumi gasped. “Anuta! Oh how good to hear your voice again.” Oh wait… how odd, she had heard her voice, but she hadn’t heard it as she would have heard it through her ears. This was different. This was as though it came from the back of her mind, from deep inside. She threw her hands to her face…. It was then that she realized she could no longer feel them… or see them. In fact she could no longer see herself at all. And… she’s floating above the ground?
All she could see all around her was that sparkly bright dust. It was at that moment she realized she was also quite light, weightless even. What? She was floating? She looked to her hands again and all she could see was that dust. Sparkly shiny dust. “Whaaaaaaat? I’m invisible? Is this a dream?” Oh that strange sensation again of hearing her own voice from the back of her mind rather than her ears. Panic began to set in and she reminded herself of Anuta’s words she had heard only moments ago. Kumi took a deep breath and tried to still the panic she felt. “Look to yourself.” Anuta had said.
“Look to myself? ….. Look to myself…… My self…. I am a centaur. I am a druid. I was taught by the dryad Anuta herself. My clan are nomads but I chose Centauria as my home.” As Kumi recited facts which she believed to be true to herself the sparkly dust began to stop expanding and began to swhirl like a sparkly whirl pool. The dust began to condense and to take form. Slowly her various body parts took shape and became visible in the manner she had always believed them to be. A centaur.
Relief flooded through Kumi as she examined herself. Hooves! She was so very proud of them. She loved the sound of her hooves as she galloped down the road. And the sound of a whole herd of centaurs could frighten even the fieriest of warriors. She began a shake from her chest and the ripples spread over her strong back and rump to her long flowing tail. It felt so good she wrapped her arms around herself.
“Hands! Ahh, to have hands again!” she cried. “Oh!” Kumi’s hands went straight to her ears. Her ears! She could hear properly again. She spent a moment taking all this in then looked up into the face of Anuta standing so silently and recalled the moment she had placed her hands against the cold stone figure and then everything that had transpired since. “What was that?” she asked the silent Anuta.
It took her a while but things began to make sense, in a different way, the more she thought about it. The belief of her clan that they had come from the stars and the stories she had heard since she was a small filly. She had looked like sparkly dust just now, is that what that was? Star dust? And then there was the fact that they remained staunch nomads even though they could have stayed, as she did, in Centauria. Had they been hiding in plain sight as centaurs so that no one would guess their true nature. But why? Why would they hide. What was out there? Kumi let out an audible sigh as she looked upward to the stars.
Then she realized that nagging feeling was back.