The Kougra Klan: Part One
Riyita was enjoying the warmth of the sun's first modest
offering for weeks by taking an afternoon stroll through the woodland. It was
the end of spring, and the dappled light falling through the canopy of luscious
green trees made the air hazy and warm. There was a light, cool breeze sweeping
through the forest, which sent the delicate blossom raining down, dancing elegantly
to the ground. Riyita sighed and took in a deep breath of air, a half-hearted
smile washing over her face.
Riyita was a lonely Aisha; she had no brothers
or sisters, and lived alone. Her house was a small cottage near a village, situated
in a wooded area of Meridell. She filled up her large expanses of vacant time
by taking long walks through these woods, and cooking elaborate meals in her
kitchen even though there was no one but her to eat them. She tried her hardest
to make friends with other Aishas in the village but after so many years of
solitary existence she found she just couldn't socialise. Every time they saw
her they huddled together and whispered hushed gossip, shooting her disdainful
looks. She was the loner, the outcast, the one the local children were afraid
to go near. She was not only a very lonely Aisha, but a sad one too. She used
to live a wonderful life, until something had happened; something that had led
her to begging on the doorsteps of houses in the village she still hadn't been
accepted into. Something that haunted her every night.
The forest was even more silent than usual that
day. Not even the trees made their usual rustling sound. They just stood perfectly
still, as if they were asleep. Riyita was used to silence, the silence of loneliness;
yet even this seemed slightly strange. The blossom seemed to brush past her
fur as if it weren't really there at all. She felt like nothing was real, like
she was no more than a character in a book, following a script that was to lead
her to something immense. She closed her eyes. She could hear every sound; every
bird as it gently perched on the branch of a tree; every insect scuttling across
the petal-strewn forest floor; every... every... animal whining? The yellow
Aisha stopped dead in her tracks and opened her eyes.
She looked around. There was a stifled whining,
sobbing noise coming from somewhere.
"Perhaps it's just the wind blowing through the
trees," she muttered, trying to comfort herself with her own voice. She was
getting rather nervous. The noise came again, this timer louder, more drawn
out--more full of fear. It was no gust of wind. Slowly, Riyita advanced forward,
looking left and right. Suddenly, something caught her eye, a flash of golden
brown and beige amongst a bush nearby. She spun around to face it, and saw the
bush was rustling as something writhed around inside it. There was another cry.
"It's a... baby?" she muttered to herself. Bending
down and parting the leaves, she saw a tiny baby Kougra, a boy, wrapped loosely
in cloth and curled up in the bush. He looked up at her with his watery brown
eyes and cried. Riyita gathered the cloth around his tiny body and scooped him
"There, there... " she cooed, stroking the baby
and cuddling him close to her. He seemed to quieten down and nestle his head
into her fur. "Do you have a name?" she asked, holding him out in front of her.
"Eooowww!" he squeaked happily, kicking his rear
legs around in the air. Riyita laughed her first real laugh in a long time.
Her first real laugh since... Riyita shook her head, shaking that thought away
as it returned to haunt her again.
"I'll call you... Guanya," she said, stroking
his sandy orange nose as he writhed around in her arms and purred. "I guess
you like that name!"
Riyita walked briskly back home with Guanya tucked
beneath her coat, his little head poking out from behind and watching in wonder
as falling petals waltzed towards him and brushed against his cheeks.
When she reached her home Riyita placed the tiny
Kougra down on the floor; he was already struggling and kicking in her arms.
He landed on the floor with a thump and immediately scrambled off excitedly
into the cottage, darting behind the sofa and exploring every dusty, cobwebbed
corner. The Aisha folded her arms and smiled. Now she finally had a friend,
even if he was only a baby--someone to look after and feed; someone to keep
her company. Someone to take her mind off the past when the loneliness seemed
to swallow her up and drown her in its depressing coldness...
But not even having Guanya curled up on her lap,
nor hearing his soft breathing in rhythm with hers, stopped the memories from
coming back to Riyita that night. The dream came with the rising of the moon,
like dark ominous clouds sweeping across the sky, and she tossed and turned
as a familiar picture slowly formed before her eyes...
Riyita's eyes shot open. It was the middle of
the night and strong white moonlight shone through her open window and fell across
her bed. She blinked and abruptly sat up, holding her breath and staying perfectly
still. She was convinced she had just heard a very strange noise; a rumble, followed
by a loud crash, which had woken her from her sleep. But now the house seemed
held in the silence of the night once more. It was slightly eerie.
She looked across the moonlit room. Her brother,
a Kougra called Sampson, and her sister, an Acara called Bella, were still sound
asleep in their beds on either side of her; Bella was even muttering in her
sleep as usual. Yet something still seemed odd. She convinced herself that it
was probably a storm brewing--her acute second set of ears had always been sensitive
to even the slightest rumble.
Riyita's long ears twitched as she heard the
noise again, from somewhere not so distant; a shout, and the shattering of glass.
A warm orange light flashed outside her window for a second.
"That's no storm," the young Aisha said under
her breath, climbing out of bed. She padded across the wooden floorboards as
quietly as she could, so as not to wake up her siblings as she slipped out of
the room and down the stairs. She noticed her father's bedroom door was open
as she passed, and so slipped past discreetly. She softly opened the front door
of her small Neohome and peered out along the street. The end of the street
was lit up by a glowing orange light coming from around the corner, and a crackling
noise filled her ears. There was another crash, and a blood-curdling scream.
Not bothering to wake up her siblings nor her
father, she flung open the door all the way, left the house and began to run
down the street. She had to help whoever was in trouble, and she had to help
them now. Skidding around the corner, she met a horrifying sight.
A monstrous fire raged along the Neohomes of
the next street, sweeping along the row with growing intensity. The colossal
flames reached up high into the dark night sky with their flickering hands,
turning the air muggy and laden with ashes. Several huge, hulking Kougras dressed
all in black paraded the street with burning torches in their hands, smashing
windows and doors with their own sheer strength. Two of them were dragging a
Kacheek from her doorway as she kicked and screamed, the flames flickering before
her eyes. They let go, and one pushed her out into the street while the other
roared in a terrifying voice that he never wanted to see her in this village,
ever again. Tears pouring down her face, she turned and ran off in the direction
of the woods. Riyita clamped a paw over her mouth. She wanted to run but her
legs seemed frozen to her spot at the end of the destroyed street.
There was another shriek as a young Kougra, desperately
trying to hold onto her mother's paw, was snatched away and bundled into a sack,
before being carried off beyond the fire. Her mother collapsed in the doorway,
crying and pounding her fists on the ground. The young yellow Aisha could hardly
believe what she was seeing.
"What have we got here?" a voice snarled from
behind Riyita. She spun around to see a huge Kougra, scars embedded in his face
and a black bandanna wrapped around his head, sneering at her. "A little Aisha,
Riyita could do nothing but gape, her voice seeming
to swallow itself and her legs shaking too much to take one step. The Kougra
reached out a huge paw to grab one of her shoulders, but suddenly yelped and
"What is that?" he barked, stumbling to and fro
and trying the slap his own back. He turned and Riyita saw her father clinging
onto his back, covering his face with his paws so he couldn't see.
"Run, Riyita!" he screamed to her, desperation
entwined in his words and plastered over his face. "Get your brother and sister,
and never come back!"
"Father!" she gasped.
"Just do it, Riyita!"
The young Aisha didn't waste any time. Looking
back once more at her struggling father, she moved her quaking legs and dashed
down the corner and back down her street. As she ducked into the hall of her
Neohome, slammed the door and slid the latch firmly across, tears begun to cascade
from her eyes. She pressed her back against the door for a minute and begun
to gasp back her sobs.
"Riyita?" Her older brother, Sampson, appeared
at the top of the stairs, yawning. "What's wrong? What's going on?" he asked
nervously. Riyita wiped her swollen eyes and looked up.
"Get Bella, Sam. We have to leave. We have to
leave now!" she replied in a shaky voice.
"Why? Where are we going? What is going on?"
Sampson demanded, descending further down the stairs. Riyita gasped back some
more sobs so she could reply.
"The village. It's being attacked, and... and
burnt... we don't have much time! Please, Sam!" she said hurriedly.
Though he looked stunned, Sam nodded, and ran
back up the stairs. He returned with little Bella in his arms, rubbing her eyes
"It's too early! Where are we going?" she moaned.
Riyita looked at her innocent little sister and her eyes filled with tears again.
How could these monsters do this to people like them? To her little sister,
and all the other children in the village? She found her paws forming fists
"On... on an adventure, Bella," she replied,
trying to sound as calm as she could though the fear was twisting around inside
her stomach as if there were a thousand Tonus charging around there. Sampson
rushed down the stairs, almost falling on his way, and Riyita flung open the
door so all three could hear the crackling of the fire, even louder now. They
stepped out of the doorway, wide-eyed and fearful.
The gang of Kougras had now made their way to
the end of Riyita's street, and the first house had gone up in flames, while
the Kougras battered at its windows are doors with planks of wood from the rubble.
One suddenly turned his head, and with a shout pointed at Riyita and her siblings.
Bandanna-clad heads turned towards them, looking at them for a second, and then
they all began to run, the hunger for power in their eyes burning as fiercely
as the flames that engulfed the houses.
"Get the Kougra!" one of them hollered, making
a beeline towards Sampson.
"Run!" Riyita screamed. They turned and ran down
the street, panting and gasping, their hearts thumping so fast they felt as
if they were about to collapse. But the huge Kougras were faster, and Riyita
heard their pounding footsteps closing in on her and her brother. She turned
as she ran to look at Sampson, who was staggering along slowly with Bella weighing
him down, his eyes closed in determination.
"Sam!" she bellowed as two Kougras finally closed
in on him, one grabbing Bella from his arms and the other grasping him from
behind as he struggled. The Kougra got Sampson's arms behind his back, and then
bound them tightly with a black cloth. The young Kougra thrust his shoulders
forward and tried to escape, but his efforts were in vain and he knew he had
to give up the fight. His body went limp and his face sunk, as the realisation
set in that these was no way he was going to escape.
"Keep running, Riyita!" he yelled. But she couldn't.
She could go without her brother and sister.
"The Acara's too young. Leave her outside the
pound," demanded the Kougra who held Sampson captive in a gruff, emotionless
voice. The other nodded and carried a screaming Bella off around the corner.
Riyita reached out a paw to her sister, but she knew it was no use and it dropped
back to her side. Her tears were so heavy now she could hardly see through her
blurry and puffy eyes.
"Please, no..." she said, not caring who it was
to, only wishing none of this was happening, wondering what she had done to
deserve her whole family being split apart.
"You'd better run," snarled the Kougra, turning
his cold, impassive green eyes towards Riyita. She stared back at him, almost
pleading with him, but he only turned and began to hustle Sampson away. "Run,
and never come back to this place."
Those words echoed in her mind, and everything
else; the roaring of the fires, the screams and the crashes, seemed to fade
away into the night as she ran, never looking back. And even as she ran, feet
pounding heavily against the ground, her surroundings seemed to fade into blackness,
because nothing else matters when you've lost everyone close to you...
To be continued...