Warning

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Faida took The Raik to her island before a reply could even be sent to the Seriks. Her traps had all been sprung during their last encounter, and she wanted to set up new ones in case the meeting turned bloody. If the meeting should take place. More than a few councils would be required to convince the chiefs to agree to such a meeting. Yet, it was four chiefs with their finest warriors pitted against one man and his rabble. Their pride would make the decision in the end, Faida knew.

Thus she set her men to work. It was more exhilarating than usual because she had a Menoen with her. His tribe worshipped Memna, Goddess of Knowledge, and was made of men eager to learn of their world and experiment with what they found. It made their warriors more innovative and the new traps he introduced to the Vezhul were more than welcome.

A week passed before she received word from Kor'ik, indicating that the meeting was set. Faida immediately ordered The Raik back into the open water. She would not make the mistake that the Seriks did of trapping her ship within the water caves. They had been easy to burn during the last attack, and she would not have them think the same of The Raik.

Mere days later, she welcomed the Janye to the island. They were not surprised to find her there, for they were aware of her connection to Kor'ik. Yet, Chief J'lai did not seem to find her as impressive as the tales of her made out. Until she led him to the portion of the island she had had cleared for his visit.

"There are two safe trails for your men to walk, Chief J'lai. The one we have just traversed that will take you back to the water caves, and this one here. This will lead you to a place designated for this meeting to take place. I must ask you not to travel beyond either of these paths, for you will no longer be able to pass safely."

"Is that a threat?" he demanded.

Faida shook her head. "No, it is a warning. I do not expect that the Seriks have honorable intentions with this meeting. Therefore, I have set up surprises for them all over the island. As they would most likely attempt to kill you while you sleep, I felt it my duty to protect the camps heavily and allow no one not of your tribe to follow you here. I am here to protect you, Chief J'lai."

His expression became considering. "I thought you a Daughter of Ne'Hatma."

Faida smiled before replying, "A hunter does not set traps that they think will go unfilled."

She'd had much the same conversation with the Vezhul when they arrived, with her uncle looking at her with admiration and skepticism. What he heard of their victories often came from his son, but he had never seen one of the battles for himself. He was right to be wary of her fame.

The Menoens seemed more eager to investigate the traps than they were worried over their intended purpose. She'd left her Menoen advisor to explain the mechanisms to his fellow tribesmen. As long as he did not reveal the location, she did not mind the tribe knowing how lethal their intent.

Faida did not inform the Tre'diens of her surprises, but they were warned to keep to the paths. As they had first allied with the Seriks, she felt they deserved none of the same consideration. In her mind, they were still a threat.

A day after the arrival of the Tre'diens, she received word from The Raik that the Seriks would soon arrive. The time had arrived and she felt both unprepared and impatient. As with all of the arriving tribes, The Raik was responsible for herding the Seriks to their designated landing spot. Faida had not been kind, as she forced the ships to the same beach where she had burned their last boats and slaughtered the men on the shore as they came to defend their already fallen comrades.

Chief Zekiir did not seem to notice as he strode across the beach towards her and her warriors. His eyes were wide with surprise, while his entire body radiated the wariness of a being waiting to be attacked. It was clear that he had not expected to see her, much less without an indication of which tribe she stood with. This was another maneuver he had not expected and she smiled at him.

"Chief Zekiir, welcome to the Isle of Death. You may follow me to your camp."

"My men and I will stay with our ships."

Her expression did not shift as she announced, "If you do not follow my orders, you will have no more ships."

She raised one hand, a single finger in the air. The Serik chief whipped around to stare at The Raik as she blockaded his boats. Then they all watched the sight of a single arrow glide through the air before plummeting to the beach, well past the furthest ship.

When his glare returned to her, she held up her hand towards the jungle beyond the sand. "Follow me," she insisted, turning her back on the Seriks. Her warriors fell into step around the Seriks, herding them along. As they walked, she called over her shoulder, "Stay to the path I have marked for you, or you will be lost to us."

"Who are you?" Chief Zekiir demanded.

"I am a Daughter of Ne'Hatma, Chief Zekiir. And I am her mistress here." She turned her face to study his sharp features. "You would do well to remember by whose hand this island earned its name. Though you may have called for this meeting, it is not you who will see that it is done in good faith."

"Do you claim dominion here, then? Are you not of another tribe?"

"Yes, I claim dominion here. And anywhere else the Goddess wills. I am of one tribe, and all tribes, for I am Parnoan. You destroyed the Fes'il, thus you destroyed one of my people. But we are many, and we will have our retribution."

His chin jerked upward and he returned his gaze to the path. "The Seriks are also Parnoan. Would you condemn them also?"

Faida shrugged. "It will be as the Gods will it. And as their chiefs make it. For the sake of your entire tribe, Chief Zekiir, I hope your intentions here are honorable."

They walked the rest of the way in silence as she led them to the remnants of a Fes'il village. It had been the first to see the bloodlust of Seriks and she had chosen it specifically for the chief. She wanted him aware of what had been lost in this place, and to whom the blame for that was put upon. Let him bed down with the ghosts of his victims as she must endure the whispers of her own.

"You have a night to rest. At first light, take this path to the end. You will meet the other Chiefs then." With that, Faida and her warriors faded into the night, taunting the Seriks. She was the only one to use the path. They had been warned not to deviate, and she did not intend to grieve if their own pride found them dead.

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