Bonus Scene: Warrior of the World

*This scene was originally published as a Kobo exclusive bonus scene in the back of Warrior of the World, and is part of THe Chronicles of Dasnaria. May contain spoilers for those who haven't read the series*



I barely glanced over as Kajala called my name. Whatever strange not-storm had just blasted through—sending birds scattering in all directions—had upset the elephant calves, too. With their mothers off working with Ochieng and Ivariel, the babies had all run to me. Good, because we’d been training them to do that. Bad, because playing surrogate mom, auntie, and bull-protector to a dozen panicked calves who each weighed twice as much as I did wasn’t easy.

“Come help me,” I called to her, unwinding a tightening trunk from my neck. “La, Wushta, all is well. Calm down.”

“Did you feel that?” Kajala demanded, but angled herself through the crowding calves, letting them sniff her hands with their questing and anxious trunks.

“The ground shook, and I felt that. I saw the birds take off like a flash flood is coming down the river, though it’s the wrong season. Wushta! Enough already.” The young male wanted to take shelter under my legs, but threatened to knock me over in the process.

Kajala made an impatient sound. “You’re always so…”

“Wise?” I filled in and she made a face at me. Still a teenager, Kajala seethed with impatience to be and do more. With her father’s dark eyes and her mother’s fair skin, Kajala had blossomed into a striking young woman—and caused Ochieng and Ivariel no end of trouble.

“Practical and placid!” Kajala shot back, as if that were the worst insult in the world. Given that I’d devoted myself to Danu’s clear-eyed calm, striving to please Ivariel, my only teacher, I received that as a compliment. Kajala huffed in annoyance. “La, Wushta, come to auntie K, that’s it. I’ll hold your trunk.”

“All right, what was I meant to feel?” I asked, humoring her. Violet, Capa, Efe, and some of the other matriarchs came our way, to my vast relief, moving briskly and calling to the babies—who ran to their mothers and aunties with trunks high. In the last years since Ochieng and Ivariel had taken over as heads of the D’tiembo clan, they’d focused on increasing the elephant tribe. It cost us in resources—feeding elephants wasn’t cheap—but they insisted we’d need them. With a strange prickle of premonition, not something I’d ever experienced before, I wondered if they hadn’t somehow anticipated this very event.

“Magic.” Kajala hissed the word, infusing it with meaning. “Father says that was a wave of magic returning to the world. Don’t claim you didn’t feel it.”

“What did you feel?” I asked, scanning the area for other trouble. Now that they could huddle in the strong forest of the legs of the matriarchs, the elephant babies had calmed. More of the elephant tribe kept arriving, the juniors and others who’d been out training and working. That meant the D’tiembos were also returning home—to assess and repair damages, then to discuss.

“Tingles, for sure.” Kajala nodded, deep golden braids catching the sun. I sometimes envied her that color. True children of foreign Ivariel, Kajala and her siblings all enjoyed hair in shades of gold, standing out like exotic blossoms amid the rest of us. “But it doesn’t matter exactly what I felt, Mother says this is the sign! We’re going to travel to where she came from, to meet her family and help them. It’s going to be amazing. I’m finally leaving dreary Nyambura. Aren’t you happy for me, Ayela?”

Her words struck like a knife to my heart. For so long we’d held our breath, waiting for the day that Ivariel would leave us. Ochieng, in particular, had lived in dread of it, gradually relaxing as the days passed and she remained. When Ivariel had grown heavy with child and then Kajala was born, I’d suffered such a mix of feelings. Jealousy, because Ivariel had her daughter to lavish attention upon. Relief, because making children with Ochieng meant she had more reasons to stay. Love, for the girl who felt more like a sister to me than a cousin. And terrible insecurity that Kajala, with Ivariel’s blood, would grow up to outshine me.

None of those feelings had diminished over time. Now I feared the time had come—and not only would Ivariel leave, they all would. And leave me behind.

I turned and ran to find Ivariel, ignoring Kajala’s confused and impatient cries for explanation.

Ivariel stood in the training yard still, deep in conversation with Ochieng. He saw me coming and directed her attention to me with a nod. He kissed her, lifted a hand to me, and strode off to check on more arriving elephants and family. Ivariel smiled at me, a puzzled twist to it.

“Ayela—were the babies hurt?”

“No, they ran right to me and they’re all fine.” I wasn’t at all out of breath, which pleased me as such a short run, even with my heart so high and full, shouldn’t wind a warrior of Danu. I hadn’t studied with a real temple, but I still strove to be the best warrior I could be. “Kajala says you’re leaving.”

Ivariel raised a brow, her expression cool. Over the years in the Nyamburan sun, she’d lost the white pallor she’d had when she arrived, and tanned to a light gold, which only contrasted more with her ivory eyebrows and lashes, framing her eyes of deepest blue. She’d grown her hair long again, and wore it bound in two braids at her temples, the rest falling like a sheet of water to her waist. I knew Kaja, the warrior who’d trained Ivariel, had worn her hair that way. They’d named Kajala for her, something else I desperately wished could be mine instead. But I’d already had a name, and a mother, when Ivariel came.

“We’re not leaving any time soon. We barely mentioned the possibility,” Ivariel commented, wry disgust in her tone for her impetuous eldest child. “You know better than to listen to Kajala’s gossip.”

I shook that off, even though she was right. “I want to come with you. When you do go.”

Ivariel frowned slightly. “Ayela, I—”

“If you don’t bring me with you, I’ll follow,” I declared, drawing on all the obstinate will the family chided me for. “You know I will.”

She studied me. “We have time to discuss this.”

“That’s fine,” I said. “But when you go, I go with you.”