Among the spacious plains of the Azim Steppe, herds of tamed mustangs are guided by the agile Noykin clan to the One River for drink and for trade. Little did they know that the Moks, a tribe communicating in sign language, hid among their ranks as one of their kind. However, this was not a malicious tactic, as the Moks merely used their invisibility as a shield. Their numbers were dwindling; though residing concealed in other tribes did not aid their expansion, passing down their art directly to their offspring kept their practice alive. It might even seem beneficial for the Moks to have their children depart from their current tribe to another, finding more in the fray. Perhaps it was out of fear of war or love of tradition that they typically did not move, even adopting different tribal cultures as their own. In the end, they've always had their way of life that has made them distinctly Moks.
For this purpose, a mated pair of Moks broke away from the main group at the trading post. Upon reaching the water, they dropped their guise as Noykin temporarily so that their son, Sali, could be exposed to his true heritage. As he practiced the names of the creatures inhabiting the One River with his hands, he had encountered an individual dinstinctly non-wavekin. As he would roam up the stream, tattered gher arts and charcoal caked the western side of the river. Though, most peculiarly; nested in a wicker basket that hardly guarded against the river current, an Au Ra infant lay moaning, with stray twine torn and bloodied. Upon further inspection, he noted a piece of bark was lodged between the strands; its crude etching spelling 'ILAKHA'.
Sali was a boy of only seven summers, yet he recognized that the child could not have been that old, given his mother was a midwife for Au Ra and horses alike. Thus, he lifted the makeshift cradle from the waters warmed by the Dawn Father's rays, carrying her back to his family before the rest of the tribe. However, neither recognized the swaddled girl. Sali's parents had desired another child recently, but the given circumstances implied it could not possibly be theirs. At least, not biologically. With nobody to claim the lone child, Ilakha was promptly declared Sali's younger sister.
For the next epoch, the siblings became best friends. In between Ilakha's zoological studies, Sali mentored her in the medical arts, including aetherial manipulation. He honed his skills as a conjurer for the purpose of defense and preservation of the Noykin tribe. He believed it served his own as well, due to his belief that silence alone cannot protect his people. Albeit he always taught Ilakha that calling upon nature's bounty enhance one's power holds no limits, reality had another lesson at hand. Considering the Noykin's prowess in procuring steeds, the roaming Buduga had sets their sights on them, direly in need of curing themselves. One evening, the Moks family set out on their usual routine at the One River, however all but one would return. After spending a period observing Sali's talents in the shadows, a trio of Buduga scouts attempted an abduction once they realized the family was separated. This hadn't stopped the siblings' parents from violently objecting, but to no avail. As his mother was slain before him, Sali harbored the river's waters to form a barricade between the scouts and the rest of his family. An eleven summer-old Ilakha's desperate attempts to join the battlefield were futile. Their father hoisted her over his back, leaving the girl to see only her adoptive brother's regretful gaze as her last mental image of him.
Though their father explained the concept for the Buduga's kidnapping to Ilakha, he still forbade her from approaching the river in any form of seclusion. This would be roughly the time that Ilakha would realize her duty to carry on the Moks tradition, being taught that she must have been descended from another Moks, as the Dusk Mother so willed it. Fate had decided her origin story, it seemed. Without reluctance, she still questioned, was this what nature had willed? Some way, she felt she kind find more answers looking towards wildlife than upon a shrine. When she merely discovered her journey as an infant in the river began far up north, her path of discovery had ended there. Her father grew stricter as to what resources she was exposed to, though it took time for Ilakha to realize it was not out of selfishness. Still, she felt encaged by his protective endeavors.
The next summer, the low air pressure around Onsal Hakair contributed to a monsoon swelling from the cooler Bay of Yanxia. The result was among one of the worst storms Ilakha had ever experienced, particularly when the Noykin migrated to the foot of the Tail Mountains to harvest from the forests there. It was late at night when it struck them, with the only available shelter nearby was that of a permanent Sagahl settlement. Seeing the beast tamers' plight, they graciously opened their doors. Still, the stables tightly packed their herd as even their lodgings became crammed with members of both tribes. To Ilakha, it appeared that only she had noticed the negligence of a colt that couldn't make it to the barn in time. Frightened of the looming thunder, he had darted off into the misty wood. With a combination of compassion and rebelliousness, the young Xaela managed to escape from one of the larger yurts she was grouped in. In time, her peers had noted her absence, yet by the time they realized this, Ilakha was already deep into the fog. Though she could barely make out a yalm in front of her through the downpour of rain, she took upon her brother's teachings of finding the answer in nature. To her dismay, it replied with a diseased elm tree uprooting from the ferocious winds upon her direction.
The rain was pouring down sideways, hammering into her horns so that her spatial recognition was hindered. The only sign that she recognized of her apparent savior was the phantom glimmer of orange above her, just as she found herself on the ground beside the fallen tree. From a place unknown, warmth fell over her. Within herself, newfound strength emerged. She rose to follow the light; whether it'd guide her to the beginning or the end of her life, she was unsure. Just seeing the foal's visage faintly illuminated by the buttery glow floating before her provided her with enough answers. Everything else faded into white. Then, Ilakha had awoken to dawn's light dappling through worn burlap curtains. At her bedside, she was attended by her father and several relieved friends. She knew then her morning routine would be rougher than usual, but it was worth seeing the colt standing in the open field, gleaming with morning dew. Its bay coat shined even better in the Dawn Father's rays.
From that day onward, the colt fell into Ilakha's permanent care, now bearing the name 'Nayaga'. Regardless, she never felt satisfied with her display of resilience, hoping that her father sees what drives her forward. His lectures on her lack of maturity burrowed deep into her mind, to the point of engulfing her. Now, she didn't even care for her image. She wanted to let Nayaga know that she'd never fail him; that was her responsibility. All of his equipment, she'd made from scratch. His feed comprised of recipes she had concocted herself. She even forged a delicately prepared first-aid kit that treated Au Ra as well as horses. Soon, the shrubbery of the Steppe grew crisp and brown. Ilakha's aether rode the autumn breeze as she sat among the field, her progress of wheat gathering gradually slowing as she grew lost in thought. At this, she argued with herself before she came to answer her own questions; her answer was that her father saw her as perfectly capable, just as Sali was. In her father's mind, it contributed to the fact that he was taken away from them. Not so much 'not being strong enough'. Batu halted to see Ilakha's own expression. Expectedly, it was meak. When Batu continued - excessive strength can be a weakness, trying to pull the weight of other upon your shoulders, allowing your own wounds to fester - Ilakha's scarring became more visible. She couldn't hide her hurt at her mother and brother's loss anymore, and she knew it was the same for her father. She spent moons trying to map out a rehearsed declaration in her mind, even discussing her plans with her roommates on the plains. A majority of it was apologizing. Sometimes, she looked back to ponder if she spent too long simply... pondering.
The Azim Steppe greeted Heavensturn with three ilms of snow, which was replenished every few suns. Though Ilakha tried to reconsile during the time of new beginnings, her father became oddly distant. Abnormally frailer, at that. He overdressed indoors and only really spoke among the tribe's elders. Namely, she realized, the medical mentors. She wasn't even sure if she should have felt lucky her father confronted her first, given how he acted about his condition. Bone tumors are usually benign, he declared. Especially those in the jaw are rare. It really could be anything, he would say. They lacked sufficient funds to consult a Doman chirurgeon for an accurate diagnosis, however her father decided to turn to traditional medicine, if not conjury. Ilakha was consoled by her fellow students, stating that this was the time her father needed her the most. Nevertheless, she agreed; in the form of riding her father's horse out to the nearest Kha tradepost she could scout. To herself, she wasn't strong enough to do anything remotely productive. She needed her own tome.
Ilakha spent several suns shoveling through whatever library the Kha would give her access to. As she thumbed through the pages, nothing appeared noticeably potent. Nothing of a language she could understand. Soon, it had dawned upon her, what of something that an aetherial construct could understand? The results of her search were scant, but Ilakha sought to make the most of it. Of course, if there were to be any more obstacles, it would be in pricing. Initially, the trader made a demand for her father's own steed in exchange for the aetherial tome. That was already an impossible ask, and Ilakha knew she couldn't strip her inventory bare, lest she fail to make her trip back. Albeit, there was one thing that she deemed below a necessity, even if it held great sentimental value to her; her mother's quartz pendant. Still, she quickly realized it would not hold the same value to the merchant as it does to herself. Therefor, she decided to make it that way. Through an explanation of slightly altered history and otherwise pure story-telling, Ilakha managed to exchange the "haunted" trinket for the tome.
Now having acquired her much-needed tool, Ilakha made it back to the Noykin camp with ease, also taking with her construct's reassurance that her late mother would understand her actions. As they arrived, this didn't stop Ilakha from wondering if it was truly worth it. They soon discovered that Ilakha's father was now bedridden, brought down by the strenuous task of searching for his adopted daughter. Rushing to his side, Ilakha had even offered the codex in her possession as an apology before she worked to return his lost energy. With what he had left, he shared his thoughts to Ilakha in the Moks language. Silence exchanged more emotion than spoken word ever could have, as the Qestir tribe would live by. If only he had given Ilakha more opportunities to explore her true heritage, wherever it was, he signed. He felt he held her back, and only further failed her as he couldn't even live on to see her reach adulthood. Ilakha vehemently signed back; he alone rescued her and cared for her after the Buduga's assault. He protected her, knowing other tribes may have violently rejected her, if not spirit her away into a horrid life. He did what he could - what anyone could have. He needn't have taken her in or even still considered her his child. He still taught her his language and his arts. There was no way she could truly repay him for that. However, he reassured her, there is. She had lived her life with unconditional respect for all living things. Regardless of what kind of people her true parents were, she only need to keep her passion alive. Ilakha only protested in that he, his wife, and their son were her true family - those were words he was content enough to depart Hydaelyn on. To have Ilakha's voice break the silence as he drifted off, calling him 'father' - that was all he needed. There was never a need for any apologies.
The following evening, her father was cremated. His ashes were spread back onto the plain where the mustangs roam, right where foliage was starting to peak out from the snow. For Ilakha, this sight stood as a reminder to honor her father's wishes and keep his art alive; to aid whatever wounded wildlife she found in her path of self-discovery. Although, it was the world around her that captured her interest most of all. Three years later, she still follows the Noykin clan as they roam, bringing their herds to different pastures for grazing while the trade among other tribes. Visiting foreign villages for knowledge and friendship alike became Ilakha's lifeblood, regardless if she found possible relatives with the same fluid coursing through their veins. By using Moks sign language, she never halted her goal in finding Sali, carrying on her adoptive family's legacy.
Though good-natured, she takes her work very seriously and sees no problem with interjecting in a situation where someone is put in harm's way. For her gentle demeanor, she harbors a strong intolerance for discrimination, especially based on emotions alone. She avidly defends her protection of beasts not regarded as "conventionally cute", for the sake of preserving their place in their respective ecosystems.
A quiet girl under the guise of appearing bashful; she is actually quite approachable, particularly towards those affiliated with individuals outside of the Five Races. However, she's very critical of culture, regardless of tradition. Nonetheless, she goes to great lengths to understand others, beyond even lingual barriers.
Typically keeping to herself, she oft-consults the opinion of the spirits through divination when making difficult decisions as opposed to others, determined to prove her capability. Meanwhile, in search of other Moks, she's begun subconsciously using sign language while she speaks verbally, hoping the other understands. To most others, she simply appears rather animated.
Notes & Trivia
- She is with mild nearsightedness that is easily cured with spectacles. Even at her age, her hands and legs are already covered in a variety of faint scars given to her by sundry animal patients. Her most severe to date is her inability to move the little finger of her left hand; the tendon was torn by force from the bite of a monitor lizard, as she was attempting to administer fluids.
- She is an eager follower of Nhaama, though she has in interest in Oschon the Wanderer of the Eorzean pantheon, particularly after studying His relation to faeries from imported tomes. Harbors respect and fondness for His lover, Menphina. Namely, due to her belief that She has a connection to the Dusk Mother, Nhaama.
- Along with a bay Steppe horse, she possesses a juvenile Othardian eagle owl named Gughlug, of whom she trains for the ancient Noykin art of falconry.
- As a child, her glasses were prescribed and created by a traveling Doman opthamologist, seeking to escape Garlean occupation by heading up north. She scant remembers his name, much less his face; only that he was not Au Ra.