Total Wordcount: 22,627
Sometimes your characters behave in an entirely unexpected fashion. Such was the story today, when Mephistopheles took Rakoto (his student) to meet with the Hadinoina. But first, a bit of context. Rakoto is the son of the Queen. After his birth, he was basically handed over to a foster mother and Mephistopheles was appointed as his tutor. Mephi is no longer the Queen's advisor, btw, she kidna lost faith in him after he lied to her one too many times. Anyhow, Mephi has been (it turns out - it surprised me even!) visiting the Hadinoina when not tutoring the young prince, and teaching them a basic education.
So, firstly, the Hadinoina are the young kits left behind when their parents were put into labour camps or forced to join the military. Or orphaned by said military. The name means "orphans" and most probably are orphans, now. They are under-nourished, rarely see the sun, and live by begging, stealing and scavenging what the lemurs above them drop. Some are deformed due to the afore mentioned military and most have mange. One even has a mohawk.
Anyhow, Rakoto has been raised in the upper levels - he's never gone hungry except by choice and he's never been starved of the sunlight. His tutor provides a decent father figure (better than his real father) and he has his fostermother and not-sister as well. He's better adjusted than I actually intended him to be.
And it appears that he has developed a compassionate streak. He seems to be nothing like either his mother or his father.
He also now seems to be showing a distinct interest in the leader of the Haadinoina, a one-armed sifaka called "Eloise". She didn't exist until this morning when I spontaneously created her. Although I suspect the future might not be so rosy for her...
I am intrigued to see where this story arc might be going. Maybe Rakoto will decide to join the rebels instead of being kitnapped by them.
Or maybe both will happen.
Quite a long quote today. Rakoto meets Eloise and the other orphans.
There were perhaps fifty of them, some a year or two in age, others barely weaned. Tiny infants, with bulbous heads and clutching hands, clung to the fur of some of the older ones. All of them were skinny, their eyes large in their hollow faces. Most were balding, fur falling out in scruffy clumps. A sign of malnutrition or disease, Rakoto could not tell. His nostrils were too overwhelmed by the stench of them to make a proper identification. They were sick and they were dirty, and they were staring at him with open-eyed reverance. No, not at him, but at Mephistopheles.
They know him, Rakoto realised. He has been here before. He gulped as one came forward. A scrawny female sifaka with one arm severed at the elbow. She may have been beautiful, had she a proper diet and sunlight. But her fur was matted with twigs and leaves and her eyes large and haunted.
“This is Eloise,” Mephistopheles explained.
She smiled at Rakoto, her pose suggested submission, but she refused to lower her eyes. Instead, they bored into him, as though seeing deep into his soul. “Salama,” she said. “I am pleased to meet you.”
She came forward to touch his nose in greeting and he shied back. Mephistopheles pressed in behind him, so that he could back away no further. She smelt... not that terrible, actually. A little like damp and leaf-mould, of something lost and forgotten. But there was no sickness on her, nothing but a great and shadowing sorrow.
“Salama,” he replied. “I am known as Rakoto.”
“Salama Rakoto,” Eloise replied. “Welcome to our dank kingdom. It is not much, but it is home to us, and your presence allows us a ray of light we have not been granted. We are grateful that you have chosen to visit us here.”