If you haven't read Outlaw King 3: Ten Thousand Devils or you just don't remember the Ketek family, they're the descendants of the former King, Zereld. When Normand Kaliburn (the hero of Ed Brigham's books The Fiddle and the Fire) was a little boy, the kingdom of Ain was ruled by a tyrannical despot named Zereld Ketek, a Tekyrian.
The petite, slender Tekyr are a long-lived race, each one capable--like the tortoises of Earth--of living hundreds of years. They're referred to in scientific circles as "amphibifelids", and laymen call them the racial epithet "catfish", because they exhibit both amphibian and feline qualities--smoothly micro-scaled skin and velvet fur; the capacity to breathe underwater; a lithe, athletic, catlike frame; webbed toes. They have no nose, respirating through a row of seven pores along their collarbone that also serve as oxygenation gills when submerged. They also possess the ability to quickly heal from injuries, and their blood is often stolen illegally to sell on the black market as a miracle cure.
Unlike humans, the Tekyr grow stronger, taller, and more agile with age; when a Tekyrian reaches about three hundred years of age, their capacity for healing becomes almost instantaneous.
Unfortunately, reaching this advanced age has the potential to drive the individual mad,
It was at this point that Captain Jude of the Kingsguard decided to dethrone Zereld. The immortal King had grown too powerful and lived in luxury with his son Prince Naro as the kingdom withered underneath him, both from taxes and attacks from the Wilders in the colonies. Crime was rampant and poverty had evolved into an epidemic.
In a stunning battle in the throne room of the Weatherhead, Jude and his men managed to kill Zereld. But at the moment of the deathblow, Naro escaped with his own infant son Ky through a door in time and space opened with a mysterious magic fiddle. This door led him into the jail cell of Joseph Kaliburn, the father of the boy Normand who would one day succeed Jude as the Outlaw King of Ain.
Joseph paid for his freedom with a map to the treasure of his former employer, the pirate Captain Conrad Zant. Prince Naro fled into the islands to find this treasure and rebuild his life, eventually becoming the lord of the pirate territory of Finback Fathoms, where he would father two other Tekyr children: the sweet, introspective Kojot and the clever rogue Kel.
Ky stood tall and eyed the pink-red, fluffy baby in the bassinet. An ear twitched faintly, and his stoma opened as he exhaled in a rude noise. The child glanced to his father. “It looks,” he commented, “like it needs to go back inside for a while more.”
Prince Naro’s brows arched up. Kids. The things they said. “She is your sister. Her name is Kojot. She will stay in the nursery and you shall move to your own room. You’re a young man now.”
Ky seemed to relax a bit. A young man. His Own Room. He wondered how long it would be until he was ruler of all. He suspected not long. He wasn’t sure how old old was, but figured Father and Mother had to be old (the nursemaid said not to talk about such things).
“I want to be king,” whined Kojot.
“You can’t,” Ky replied, lifting his chin.
“Because you’re a girl,” Ky sneered, “And I’m going to be King. Besides, you’re weak and sickly and you’ll probably die any day now.”
Kojot snorted. “I’m not gonna die.”
“Going to. Not gonna,” Ky corrected absently. “We’re Ketek. Not slaves. At least get that right!”
Kojot stuck her tongue out at Ky, stood on tip-toe and bared fangs before quipping that Ky should go engage in adult activities with a dead fish. She had the joy of seeing Ky look stunned at the vulgarity (she’d overheard it the last time they’d watched a match at the fighting pits), before the older Tekyr flew at her.
The nurse found them fighting, biting and kicking and snarling in a most impolite fashion. Kojot did not find it fair at all that she was sent to her room and scolded much more so than Ky was.
Kojot was crying, the child’s neck-stoma whistling, her face deeply purple with her sorrow and anger. The tree lizard she’d ‘saved’ the night before was a bloody pulp of reptile parts, its six legs splayed this way and that.
Ky glanced to the nurse and shrugged. “It had an accident. I told her you can’t keep them inside…”
It was the first of many suspicious deaths of Kojot’s pets.
“We have a brother!” Kojot gushed, pointing to the baby.
Ky maintained an expression of polite indifference. “So it would seem.”
“He’s adorable,” Kojot said, grinning.
Ky hoped and prayed to the Wolf that the new baby would die. Kojot could be an annoyance. But she was a female. And sometimes entertaining when upset. The boy? …that was different. He pursed his lips as he eyed the infant, made some polite talk with their Lady Mother, and excused himself with a bow, silently wondering what he had done to be cursed with such a fecund mother. He wondered if this new baby was a punishment, and a replacement for his Glorious Self.
Ky glanced at his sister. “No one will believe you,” he said with a smile. “Now. Go wash up and make yourself presentable. No one wants to see you sobbing like a baby over something stupid.” For good measure he gave the clockwork toy another kick, sending it spinning and crashing into a wall. Gears and springs sproinged and clattered, and the wind-up Pohtir’s legs splayed awkwardly.
A horn broke off. The rider was askew. “You weren’t supposed to play with it anyway," said Ky. "It was too fragile for someone as young as you anyway; so of course you broke it.”
Kojot’s ears fell back. Her mouth fell open. “…But… but… you….”
Ky’s eyes gleamed. “No, dear sister. You. You broke the gift because you couldn’t resist playing with it. Of course it was an accident and you didn’t mean it, but such things cannot go unpunished. You’re a Lady. Act like it.”
The Tekyr girl whistled in a breath. Closed her mouth. Looked away from her brother.
“Besides. You don’t want to wake the baby. Mother needs her sleep.”
She left the den, silent and pale.
Sometimes she pretended Ky was not, in fact, her brother. This never made it true; their relation could be seen at a glance in their features, how they ate and folded their hands together when deep in contemplation; and in their tempers, and how they both had their mother’s skill of knowing just what to say to make someone they’d deemed an enemy flinch.
Their Lady Mother did not mince words when riled.
Kojot was dressed fashionably, but with a decided bent towards both comfort and utility: an apron over the imported skirts that were said to be the rage in Ain, so as not to get paint upon them.
One hand was swathed with a bandage. An "accident". She was so clumsy. The words came easy now…though Kel had glanced at her as she told Mother the story, not old enough to understand why she lied, why she didn’t bother to tell the truth. One must carefully pick their battles, and Ky was Father’s Favorite….
But there were nice, new and expensive paints in the jars near her easel.
Ky watched her paint. “You do have a talent,” he admitted quietly, before walking away.
Diplomacy, Kojot thought, was the art of keeping Ky from killing Kel. Using words to turn her elder brother’s anger from the youngest. Taking the brunt of it for herself. The lessons and reading came in handy more often than she would like to admit. Learning the names and shipping lanes? That was less practical, and didn’t have the excitement of hearing travelers tell tales of adventure. Gunslingers and Grievers and Wilders, oh MY!
She chewed on the end of a paintbrush, leaving tiny marks along the length of wood. Wondered if there would be a fight in the pits worth watching, or a trader coming in with new books. She glanced skyward.
And then screamed like a little girl when Kel surprised her with a hug from behind.
It was dreadfully unfair that he was already taller than her and now old enough it felt awkward calling him ‘little’ brother. No longer a baby. Growing up.
They were all growing up. Sometimes it seemed to take forever, and other times it seemed too fast. “I was painting,” she told Kel, trying to sound irritated for the surprise.
He smirked. “Sorry, Ko,” he said as he released her. His ears flicked back then fore as he asked, worried, “I didn’t ruin it, did I?”
“No, you didn’t.” She was thankful. The hug had only resulted in her squeal and a dropped brush.
“Can you paint something more cheerful sometime?” he asked.