The Little Revolutionary
A long time ago in a galaxy far,
Kordáuba jai Chadal—whose name had meant the noble one—had never flinched. He was a stocky man with dark scales and a thick jawline who ran three kilometers every morning. Three kilometers. To his son, Sheelal, Appa was the strongest person in the world. He was strong enough that he never wept.
The night that it had happened, Sheelal had tried to enter his father's bedroom, even though it was forbidden in the Amidral religion for children to enter their parents' rooms after dark. When he didn't find his father there, he had bolted to his third-mother's room, but Shurga had been fast asleep.
When he had failed to find either of his parents, he had gone outside to find Appa sobbing bitterly at the side of his house, maskless and alone. Sheelal hadn't been sure what to do except to ask, "Where's Ama?"
Appa had only proceeded to weep more thoroughly. A jolt of terror had rocketed through Sheelal. "Is she gone?"
It had been six months since Ama had been torn away from her family, and Sheelal was still not over it. The Yam'rii had taken her from him. They were bad creatures who caused blood to wash the streets of Advar.
One night, Appa swooped Sheelal onto his shoulders, and they went up to the rock where they used to stargaze. The older Kaleesh touched his son's chin, which sported two tiny humps—the beginnings of tusks. "We need to talk."
To Sheelal, that sentence meant he had to bury all his emotions—all the immense love he had for his father; all the grief from Ama's death; all the hatred he had for the Yam'rii—and be a man. It meant he needed to live up to the honorable calling as a future tribal leader. As a khan.
"Do you remember when we got the report that the Qymaili had been massacred?" his father asked.
"The pretty people in the south? On Grendaju?"
"Exactly. The Yam'rii came in and killed all of them."
"Those are just rumors," Appa chuckled. "That was the first you heard of the Yam'rii, wasn't it?"
"They're bad bugs."
Appa nodded sadly, bringing his son in close. "The Yam'rii have been around since the time of your birth, son. Perhaps a few months before." A sigh. "They started on the south pole with the holiest tribe on Kalee—the Abesmites, ted khundetge. There are no more Abesmites left on Kalee. They are an extinct race."
"And they just killed the Qymaili?"
"When you were about to turn eight, we got the report. Someone thought they saw a girl your age evade the wreckage, but it's impossible, unless she's gifted like you are."
"Are we going to find her someday?"
"No. I don't believe the rumors, and you shouldn't either. Instead," Appa said, a gentle smile returning from beneath his mask, "I'm offering you the chance of your lifetime. Not many children your age get to do this, son, but I am inviting you to be my page."
At this Sheelal's face lit up. He was happiest when pleasing Appa. And pages got to go on all sorts of adventures—from retrieving slugthrower ammunition in the heat of a battle to protecting the khans from harm. He could travel to the farthest reaches of Kalee and see more of the world than ever before.
And maybe—just maybe—look into the legend about the last of the Qymaili.
He frowned. "But I'm small, Appa. The guns are bigger than me."
"But sometimes warriors are not the biggest in size. Look at our people. We are smaller than the human travelers, yet we are more warlike and dangerous than they are."
"I'm not dangerous," Sheelal protested.
"You'll have to be, if you want to survive in this world. The Yam'rii took Anselt as a slave. They took many of our people and put them on Grendaju in place of the Qymaili." A sigh. "In these times, strength prevails. The rules have changed."
"I hate the Yam'rii. Teach me."
"Good. We'll channel that hatred into something useful tomorrow. But for now, we must go to sleep."
Chadal's son hit the targets with stunning accuracy. Granted—Sheelal hadn't been prepared for the ricochet from the slugthrower rifle and had landed flat on his back the first few times, but it was a surprise that he was able to focus given his age and emotional state.
As Chadal watched Sheelal hold his breath, his small body taut as he took aim with the rifle that was bigger than he was, he smiled. The pride and joy of every Kaleesh parent was having a child who could do some form of combat—whether it be slugthrower-sniping, Lig-sword stabbing, shoni-spear throwing, or another form of fighting.
He only hoped he could tame his son's fiery emotions in a way that would be destructive to enemies and not the ones he loved. Righteous anger used properly could be a valuable tool—it had kept the Kaleesh forces in the south from surrendering as they were mown down by the grotesque, mantis-like Yam'rii. But anger turned on those who didn't deserve it could destroy someone.
His greatest fear was Sheelal becoming consumed with his anger and losing his mind. He loved his son too deeply to want to allow him offworld, but Anselt would have told him to lighten up a bit about it.
"Appa!" his son cried out suddenly, toppling on his back. The butt of the rifle slammed into his belly, and he made a sound like he was going to puke. Chadal swooped in and caught the rifle, wrangling it off of Sheelal.
But before he could start tickling the sweet little boy—the only part of his Anselt that remained—the gong shouted. An attack was underway.
Even his son knew what was coming. Leaping to his feet, he dragged the gun onto his own slender shoulders, leaping on booted feet toward the house to get his headscarf and armor. He got there a step ahead of his dad.
Revolutionaries come in different sizes, Chadal thought as he strapped on his own armor. His son's gleaming gold eyes flashed in the sunlight of Iminec and they gathered the militia. Someday, with his son in his place, Kalee would finally be free.