Morning light filtered through the trees, the dew from the night beginning to evaporate back towards the sun wherever it's rays touched the jungle floor. The piercing call of a toko bird echoed between the giant trunks, signaling that morning was breaking throughout the land. As the temperature rose, life seemed to spring forth from every corner, sounds and the fresh smell of leaves filled the air. In a clearing, a large kutu stag began grazing, his white coat dappled with shadows from the canopy above. He shook his head, sweeping his enormous antlers from side to side, freeing a few bits of the tangled vines that hung above him like a crown. The bits of dew that lingered on the grasses was not enough to quench the thirst from the night. A nearby stream could be heard trickling merrily along, and the beast ambled in the direction of the sound, unaware of the hunters waiting by the bank.
Hidden in the lush bushes covering the opposite bank, several warriors crouched silently. For generations, the Tolvikkar tribe has thrived within the jungle's tangled undergrowth, adapting and growing with the untamable landscape. The humidity in this dense undergrowth was stifling, and beads of sweat glistened on their bronze skin. Intensely intricate tribal designs were tattooed across their shoulders, chests and backs. The younger men had considerably less tattoos, and were positioned further from the stream. Around twelve of them all together were gathered, silently hunched, clutching their weapons. Waiting. Nearest the water crouched the largest of them. A formidable man, the number of tattoos adorning his body neared the thousands. His back and arms riddled also with scars from numerous battles and hunts. His jaw tightened and he raised one finger. A signal to his men. Their quarry was nearing the trap.
The kutu stepped out of the brush onto the rocky shore, oblivious to the perfectly camouflaged predators that lurked only a few steps away. The warriors flexed their muscles, preparing to attack. Suddenly a sound emerged from the brush behind the stag. The animal's head snapped up, staring intently at the sound. Something was running towards the stream. The warriors in the brush held their breath, hoping their prey would not flee. The creature possessed a remarkable speed for something of it's size, and following it was impossible. Whatever was running towards them was getting closer, and soon a crack rang out as it broke a branch. This sound set the stag off, ears laid back it spun, leaping back into the cover of the overgrowth. For a moment, you could hear it crashing through the tangle. Then, the only sound remaining was a soft pat-pat-pat, the footsteps that ruined their hunt. Recognizing it as the sound of a child running full-tilt towards them, the chieftain stood, waving his hand, and signaling to his men that the hunt had ended. As they relaxed, standing and stretching, a small boy stumbled into the clearing and splashed across the stream.
The boy ran directly up to their leader, panting, a look of urgency in his eyes. The man had been angry that their meal had been stolen by this child. He knew not to venture into the jungle while a hunt was underway. However the look on the child's face moved his heart from anger to concern, what had happened back at the village?
"Tenkii, why have you run all the way out here? You have chased away a fine kutu."
The boy hunched over, resting his hands on his knees as he caught his breath.
"I am sorry for frightening it. I was told to find you Chieftain Jiiku! Mama Zarkaya is having the baby now!"
All thoughts of the kutu fled from Jiiku's mind. Concern and unrest furrowed his brow. His dear Zarkaya was already forty old, and this was likely the last child she would bear him. His heart ached for a son to hone into a mighty warrior, however she had given him three daughters. Would he finally have the son he wanted so badly? He quickly pushed all doubt from his mind. This time, this time he would receive his child with great joy and feasting. Turning to his men, he called off any additional hunts for the day.
"We return. We go home to meet my son!"
They hooted happily and gathered their supplies. Jiiku scooped up the child messenger and carried him back to the village on his shoulders. A son to teach and train. A son to one day, gain leadership of the Tolvikkar.
There would be great feasting this night.
As the men neared the village, Jiiku lowered the boy from his shoulders. He walked towards his tent, anticipation catching in his throat. Child birthing was the only time where he required permission to enter his tent. He awkwardly called out, "Zarkaya, can I enter?"
His wife's voice called out weakly, "Yes Jiiku
He quickly pushed aside the leather flap and moved into the cool of the dark. "
she has been here for a few moments now."
Pain clouded his mind and he froze in his tracks. Another daughter. In the privacy of his home he let his voice waiver. "Zarkaya. I do not have a son?"
He could almost feel the sadness pressing down on them in the room.
"I will not
have a son."
Zarkaya spoke softly, as if to a child, "My dear Jiiku, it is not our place to decide this. It is
as it is, and nothing can be changed. You have grown to love our other daughters, and I know you will learn to accept this child as well. Please, do not trouble your mind with what could have been."
The man sighed heavily. The words he had spoken before still hung heavy in his mind. He would never have a son.
Unwilling to let these emotions take hold of his heart, he turned back towards the entrance. "Well then. I shall accept what has been given me. Let me see this child so that we may name her." He tied back the flap, sunlight flooding in. Jiiku lowered himself onto the ground next to his wife as she adjusted the child so he could see. As their eyes adjusted to the light they saw the soft round face of a beautiful baby girl. She sighed in her sleep, a tiny grin pulling at her lips. A soft gasp escaped both parent's as the sun hit her hair. They had never seen hair this color. Browns and reds lit up like fire as the light glinted off her messy halo. Their eyes met in confusion. Zarkaya whispered in awe, "What is this hair?" Jiiku squinted at the child, wonder filling his eyes. "I do not know. It flickers like a flame would in the breeze." For a moment, they quietly pondered this strange infant before them. They both wondered in silence, could this be a sign?
Jiiku whispered, softly touching the wavy fluff, "She has made us ask questions and wonder,. She will be called Zhaili, the child full of wonder."
They had no way of knowing, that in the mountains far to the south, there was another being gazing wonderingly at their daughter's hair. Deep within a cavern below Mount Dakar, an enormous dragon had been sleeping peacefully when suddenly he was awakened by an unseen force. Something of great importance was about to happen. Icarcius hefted himself to his feet and shuffled to a shelf carved into the side of the cave.
On it sat a beautiful sphere, glowing with it's own aura of importance. The glasslike shell swam, and became translucent, letting it's light shine brighter. Within the orb, beautiful shades of green swirled quietly, an entire universe seemed to be contained within the space. Shooting stars flashed past, and in the distance, stars could be seen flickering in and out of existence. The orb seemed to throb with life itself.
Icarcius reached out, gently scooping the ball into his gigantic claws. He leaned close, searching within the orb for the reason he had been awoken. The view shifted, sending colors flying across it's surface as it centered in on a small, island covered planet, this planet, Thuldrekkin. The lands of dragons. The image shifted again, zooming in on the jungles just north of the cave where he sat. Colors swirled brightly as the view dove down through the clouds and trees, now he could see a clearing full of tents. He knew this to be the home of the Tolvikkar tribe of jungle warriors. Slowly, the view shifted towards the largest tent, entering the shadows, revealing a man and a woman, gazing wonderingly at an infant. As the image came to rest on the child's face, Icarcius caught his breath. This child gushed with incredible energy, overwhelming bright true life that he had not seen in a long time. The ability granted him by his birth orb was that of premonitions, and as clouded as her future was so early in her life, he knew she was destined for unbelievable greatness.
At the same moment as Zarkaya, the ancient being sighed quietly, "Zhaili."