Author's Notations: I shouldn't be doing this… really, I shouldn't
Disclaimer: I don't own nothing…
Introducing the Tactician… (yeah, that's her)
Thinking back, the woman, girl really, growled in frustration. Why did she take the igo set and not the water? Stupid, stupid, stupid! She already had her chess set; there was no need for the igo set. A tactician is a tactician is a tactician is a tactician. What's the point of having these games if she was never going to play another person again?
Idly picking up a knight, the young frustrated woman (girl) stared at it with intensity, willing it to give her answers to her current dilemma. The wooden horse stared back impassively as the little more than fifteen-year old girl frowned at it in admonishment. She then replaced the piece on another strategic location before running her hand through her unruly mane of brown hair. The lack of water and food must be driving her mad or at the least made her delusional. This led back to the question of why she DIDN'T take the WATER SKIN and FOOD in exchange for her IGO SET?
Keatona (pronounced key-tone-ah) was the youngest tactician in all of Elibe, as a matter of fact, the youngest in history. Quickly after graduating with full honors, she left to start her life out as a tactician. Unfortunately for her, she soon became penniless. It wasn't that her skills as a tactician weren't noteworthy, far from that. The fact of the matter was there was no work that required her specific skills. Her professors tried to tell her that, but no-o, she had to 'follow her instincts'. 'Instincts,' thought the young woman (girl) derisively. 'How the hell did I pass when the school couldn't beat that nonsense out of me?' She had to admit, her instincts were actually pretty good. They were what got her into the school in the first place.
Keatona had always been fascinated by chess. The movement of the tiny figurines had always caught her attention. The four year old girl watched as two other boys played, mesmerized by the marching pieces. The game soon ended and when they had everything set for another round they were called away by a third boy, who was screaming his head off at them. The two boys who were playing looked at each other, jumped out of their seats forgetting their chess set in the rush and followed the third boy, racing away from the park. Keatona moved over to the quietly waiting pieces, disappointed that they won't move again anytime soon.
Climbing onto one of the seats (and yes, Keatona did have to climb), the diminutive girl stared at the unmoving pieces, silently willing them to move on their own. When it became apparent that they won't, the small girl sighed, disappointed. Picking up a pawn, Keatona made the first move. Panicking, she looked around before running off. What the heck was she thinking? That was a game for the people from that building and the old people. Sighing to herself, Keatona ran off to find her gang. Little did she know that there was a woman standing off to the side who had watched her make her first move in the game of chess.
Her 'gang' was little more than a bunch of orphans that ran riot through the city, stealing food stuffs mostly. Keatona was proud of the fact that she was one of the best at the job, feeding the rest of his orphan-mates. She had always had a knack for seeing the movements of others, the eddies and tides of human and animal traffic. This combined with her soft footsteps and nimble fingers afforded her an edge when it came to… borrowing food from others without permission. She was good at the job, though she wasn't particularly happy with it. She was fascinated by chess though, the movement of the figurines, marching into battle, the whys of moving a certain piece where. It was mesmerizing, and she would never command a battalion like that. After all she was just an orphan girl. Who in their right mind would play with her?
The next day she came back. Strangely enough, the two boys who usually came to play weren't there. The chess pieces were still there, out in the open glade with a few trees there to provide shade. Keatona was perched on her usual tree, waiting for the two boys to come back. She had delivered the food to her orphan mates so that she could stay as long as she wanted.
Hours passed. Still the two boys did not show. Fidgeting a bit impatiently, Keatona wondered idly whether she should approach the table or not. There was a whisper of a reply that said yes. Looking around herself, the girl wondered if she was going crazy as she approached the game. Upon seeing it, she gasped. Someone had responded to her play, moving another pawn in reply.
Keatona wondered nervously about ghosts before dismissing the thought. Looking around herself, the girl tried to find evidence of someone coming here. Finding no sign, she climbed to her seat, as she now dubbed it, and prepared a reply.
Over the next few weeks, Keatona and her unseen opponent played their game. The game progressed slowly, the girl being unsure of herself and the opponent that she couldn't see. She knew how the pieces moved; having sharp eyes she saw how the boys had moved their pieces of war. There was one time when she had struggled over a tight spot that her adversary had put her in for so long that the young girl fell asleep at the board. When she woke up, she found a forest green cloak wrapped around her and a reply to her answer. From then on, she always wore that over-sized cloak, a link to her unknown companion.
In the end, Keatona lost her game of war but instead of feeling downtrodden, she was exhilarated. The feeling of having her pieces depend on her for their survival was weighty but exciting as well. She held in her hands her soldiers' lives.
The next day, a woman was sitting in the glade. Her eyes were closed and her black hair hung behind her in a low ponytail. Her mouth tilted upward in a serene smile. Before her was a raised kind of table with many lines crisscrossing it, forming tiny boxes. Looking up at the table, Keatona noticed that the chess set was gone. Pulling the cloak that was given to her tighter about herself, she warily watched the woman in the plain grey shift, wondering if she was going to play a different board game with someone. So, curiosity piqued, the girl pushed away her disappointment at not being able to play her unseen friend again in favor of learning a new board game.
Half an hour later, the lady's smile turned a bit crooked and a whisper sounded in her mind.
Are you going to hide behind that tree all day or are you going to come down here so I can start teaching you a new game now?
Looking around herself and scared halfway to death, Keatona nearly fell out of her tree. Looking at the lady again after she searched the perimeter, she found the lady was looking right at her, an amused smile adorning her lips, her left brow raised.
Climbing out of the tree cautiously, Keatona carefully inched her way toward the woman, like a wary animal. The woman's once soft smile was now an outright smirk.
"Have a seat, Keatona," were the amused words that left the lady's lips. Keatona jumped in surprise at having been addressed by her name, which she was quite sure she didn't give. Who was this lady? Warily, the girl-child took a seat opposite the lady across the board, staunchly keeping her silence. If she didn't say anything, then the lady couldn't have her beaten for impertinence.
"My name is Feyona," the lady now known as Feyona continued, answering the unasked question. Staring wide-eyed, the young girl gaped in awe of this lady. What in all of Elibe was she? "I am a tactician." Well that answered that… "and I am most interested in you at the moment."
Gulping nervously, Keatona tried to apologize. "If dis'bout playin' duh chess game, 'm real sorry… I won'ts dos it 'gain."
Chuckling slightly, Feyona tried to smile disarmingly at the frightened girl. However the effect was far from disarming, as a matter of fact it was truly terrifying for the young girl. Keatona couldn't understand how a shadow could loom menacingly from behind the lady when the sun was above them and not behind her…
"My dear girl, I for one hope you can do that again and with ease at that," bubbled the lady. The shadow aura had disappeared and in its place was a cheerfully smiling woman. "Now let's begin your first lesson in igo…"
From then on, Keatona was apprenticed to the rather eccentric tactician Feyona. Their days were spent warring over board games (igo and chess were their preferences), poring over books (Keatona quickly grasped the concept of letters and words), and education in the fighter types and classes (the number of different ways and method to fight astounded the young girl). At night, Keatona would run off to her orphan friends, bringing food and drink.
In a few years, Keatona was formally introduced to the tacticians' guild. Her skills astounded the heads of the guild. The very idea that a seven year old would be able to match the most experienced members of the guild with ease was rather frightening.
However, being accepted into the tactician's guild was not 'all good'. Keatona would have to abide by guild rules, meaning living within the guild building. She had been within the building itself with Feyona chaperoning her for training, but had never spent the night there (except for that one time when they had found this really interesting book that they just couldn't put down, and it was oh so good and they just had to finish it that night…). But if she was officially a part of the Tacticians' guild, Keatona would be required to stay on guild grounds for the duration of her training with no visitors save other tacticians.
A rift had already formed between her and the others in the gang and it finally boiled over in a shouting match. Keatona had left, tears threatening to spill over her eyes. Her orphan-mates turned their backs to her as she fled from them. Both parties felt betrayed and lost. Keatona had cried herself to sleep that night, and the day after she entered the Tacticians' guild with many a glance behind her. She stayed there for seven years before graduating. Soon she took the guild's traveling initiate test and left after she passed. With the traveling-initiate's crest, she was free to move about outside of the Tacticians' guild house without a chaperone. Feyona had given the young tactician the first igo set she could call her own to celebrate.
Looking back, Keatona realized she should have read all the signs then. It was right in front of her face, why had she not seen it? She was a tactician; observation was a key component in her line of work. She had missed it and left her closest friend for nigh on eleven years to slip away to the abyss without her ever saying good-bye.
She received the letter at the inn she was staying in. it informed her without embellishment that her mentor, one Feyona la Toren, had passed away. The funeral had been two days ago. In shock, Keatona walked back to her room, stumbled into bed and lay there unblinking.
The next day, she was still lying on the bed, eyes opened with tears spilling over. Feyona had left her with everything she owned, along with a chess set made from the finest wood. It came with the letter. Keatona couldn't bear to spend any of her money, she still couldn't think of it as her own. She had quickly given the money away to charity.
Looking back, Keatona supposed she should've kept at least some of the money. She had quickly left village she was staying in, wandering around Elibe aimlessly. She hitched rides on merchant caravans when she could, offering her services as a tactician. Such rides were infrequent and short. The last one had demanded that she pay a fare since they had encountered relatively few bandits on the road, and when they found she was without money kicked her off in the plains. She tried to beg some water and food off of them and reminded them of how she had directed them in their battles (there were two incidents when they ran into bandits), saving their bacons. All she got in reply was the ultimatum that she either gives up one of her well-crafted games for the supplies. She refused to give up either one.
And now, here she was, stuck in the Sacae Plains, with no food and no water, just her board games to accompany her. Well, brilliant tactician that she is/was, Keatona was confident that she could get out of this situation alive. All she had to do was use that brilliant mind of hers.
A few hours later, Keatona was keeled over in a dead faint.
Author's Notation: please review… pretty please?