The Binding

Tari woke up, not easing out of sleep and slowly becoming aware, but abruptly like the snapping of a string, her body tense and mind seeking information. Her kyr-marks rolled in waves, dancing madly as they stretched and expanded off her skin, into the ground and air to confirm what her five senses already told her: no enemies, no battle. She knew, but it wasn’t until her marks became still on her body that she allowed herself to breathe, then she was able to take in the sensations she had initially ignored, sounds of her comrades laughing outside, the bubbling of something in a pot, fire crackling, and quiet chattering. It seemed like she was the last one to wake up, but instead of immediately going out to join them, she laid back on the soft bed, looking at the ceiling of her tent, but seeing the dream she had woken up from.

The last time she remembered dreaming, was almost a year ago, so she wanted to linger in it for as long as possible. In the dream, she was back on Marak, sitting in a nook by the window, with a book, but rather than reading, she was more interested in how the crisp rays of sunlight danced upon the black and white symbols on the page, making patterns within patterns, how those same rays, danced upon her skin, making it shimmer like bronze. The feeling she long most for from the dream, was the way the sun heated up one side of her body, nearly burning it while the other half, within the shade, was cool, almost cold. Tari sighed and gripped her blanket tightly, as the echoes of the dream began to fade. She tried to focus harder on the feeling of the burning sun, but the more she longed to hold on to it, the faster it slipped away, like water, out of her grasp, and gone, replaced by murky lukewarmness.

She sighed again, throwing her blanket off in annoyance, and getting up. The dream was great, but it had only made her more keenly aware of the fact that she was as far as she could be from Marak.

“Ah…I hate this place,” she whispered to herself, as she peeled off her clothes. They were wet not from sweat but form the unnatural humidity and mugginess of the binding. “I hate this place with the burning passion of Fuze,” she said moving to a corner of her large tent, where the cleansing station was.

She squeezed the clothes in her hand, and wrapping her marks around them, the marks, naturally black, began to glow a blindingly white, igniting the clothes, and burning them at a temperature so hot, that not even ashes remained. Tari giggled as she watched the plasma consume the clothes. She couldn’t burn down the binding itself, but she would take as much pleasure as she could, from imaging that as she burned the clothes, she was taking some small revenge on the place. She rubbed her hands together in satisfied glee, then becoming serious, she waved her hands over the glyphs on the cleaning station, a disc shaped piece of metal, two inches thick, attached to the wall, with a small nozzle at its center. The glyphs on the disc glowed a faint yellow, then as they tuned green, steam burst out of the nozzle, covering her in a membrane of moisture. The steam poured out for a couple minutes then, warm air followed after, drying her body, and completing the cleansing. Tari smiled, as the floral scent of the cleansing steam filled the room. One of the things that had kept her sane these last few years, was this scent, light, crisp, and clean, though she admitted that, despite the convince of cleansing stations, she still missed an actual bath.

She sighed again but deciding not to dwell on things she couldn’t change, she manipulated her kyr-marks to take on the shape of a simple shirt and leggings, then pulled kyr particles together into a soft but durable fabric of the same shape. Finally done getting ready, went to join her comrades.

“What’s the weather like today?” She asked as soon as she stepped out of the tent. There was always a moment, when stepping out, between her temperature-controlled tent and the thick warm air outside, where she had to brace herself against the strange feeling of the atmosphere. She knew that even spending ten more years there, wouldn’t get her used to what felt like the inside of an animal’s mouth.

“Hmm, let’s see,” Brel said coming over to her, and looking around. Then pointing exaggeratedly, he said, “Well over there is yellow murky, and there,” he pointed in another direction, “is orange murky combined with a hint of brown streaks.”

“Wow, that’s amazing,” Tari said clapping with false enthusiasm, then more seriously, “well, honestly, it’s definitely better than the purple and green mix we had yesterday.”

“Or the yellow and turquoise the day before that.”

“Exactly,” she said, and laughed loudly, in a way that was painfully mechanical, but bordered on hysteria. “This is wonderful,” she added, and sounded like she meant it.

Her four companions, stopped midway in their cooking, training, writing, and whatever else they were doing, to stare at her. Brel took a step back, watching as Tari whipped nonexistent tears from her eyes, her marks dancing frantically on her skin. Even as she straightened up, and regained her composure, they didn’t stop watching her.

“Are you okay?” Fee asked putting down the pad she was writing in, her blue hair, falling in wisps around her face.

“You seem a bit, tired,” Brel added, “Maybe you should get some more sleep.”

Tari shook her head and sighed at their concerned looks, letting out a hollow laugh. It had become their routine to joke about how much they loved the binding, and she had acted as she assumed was expected, but she saw none of the usual teasing, or lightheartedness in their tone or looks, which meant that she either really did seem unwell, or that they were too stressed to recognized the joke. It was probably a bit of both.

“I’m fine,” she said. “Really.”

“Are you sure, Fee said. “If you’re not okay, you have to let us know, we can’t have you losing your mind on us.”

Tari shot her a glare, then looked around, first, up into the sunless murky sky, already beginning to shift colors again, adding strange reddish hues into the mix, then down at the deep mauve stones that made up the desolate rocky terrain, and finally, she looked at her friends, and saw the strain and tiredness that painted their faces in deep shadows. She saw in them, what they probably say in her, that ten years of dimness, ten years of permanent twilight, ten years of a horrid sunless sky and its horrid colors was starting to take its toll on them all. It was no wonder they seemed concerned about her when she felt equally concerned for them.

How she had been able to keep her sanity this whole time? She wondered.

“Maybe you’ve actually lost your mind,” Silver said, turning away from her, and back to her cooking, satisfied that Tari wasn’t any crazier than she was the day before. She tasted the soup and smiled brightly.

“Maybe you should stay out of my mind,” Tari said, walking over, and kicking her lightly.

Silver made a sound which was intended to be a grunt, but which in her high hymn like voice, sounded more like sequels, then fell in exaggerated pain. Her twin brother Capricorn, joining in on the fun, leaped over from where he had been training to catch her.

 “It’s not my sister’s fault that you leave your mind completely defenseless,” he said cradling his twin’s head. “Keep your feet to yourself hooligan.” He added dramatically.

“You all have far too much energy in the morning.” Fee said stretching her back. She picked her notebook up, and started writing, offhandedly asking, “Have you heard anything from Rick, Tari?”

“Nope,” she said sitting down, Brel joined them around the food, and Silver started handing out large bowls of the transparent watery soup. “That good for nothing. He must be so happy to finally be out of here. Since he left, he hasn’t bothered to contact us once, except when he bought a new pair of shoes. Why in Marvel’s ankles would I care about his shoes?”

Capricorn laughed, “That’s so like him. Well he did say he would leave the final sealing to you, it’s unfortunate that the dark ones have been attacking more frequently. They’re not giving us any time… but more importantly,” He said, mischief creeping into his voice. “Should you really be calling your father a good for nothing?”

“And who exactly is my father?” Tari said, giving Capricorn a look of that dared him to continue.

 “Rick,” the remaining four said simultaneously, laughing obnoxiously as they did.

“Oh, here we go,” Fee said exasperated, though she smiled softly, as the dialogue they’d repeated at least a hundred times in the last month played out.

“I don’t remember agreeing to become his daughter,” Tari said laughing “he just say’s whatever he feels like.”

“Oh please. Just a few decades ago, you were always talking about how you wanted to make Rick proud, and how you loved him so much that…” the rest of Brel’s words were cut off by the pink sand thrown in his face.

“Ugh, you got sand in my soup,” he yelled, while the rest laughed at his expense.

“That’s because you say the most unnecessary things. All that happened when I was young and still thought he was the coolest man alive.”

“So, what you’re saying is that you don’t think he’s cool anymore?” Brel asked with obvious disbelief.

“No, he’s still cool, but I’ll never tell him that to his face, it goes right to his already over inflated ego… Besides Sol and Marviel are much cooler.” Tari said childishly.

“You’re all so immature, talking about who’s cool or not,” Fee said, putting down her already finished bowl of soup, and beginning to drink the remaining soup right from the pot.

“And your appetite is as baffling as always,” Tari said, putting her own bowl down.

They laughed and joked a bit more, then fell into silence for a while, each deep in their own thoughts. Tari looked off into the distance, the horizon, where the supple translucent shield walls of the binding, met the dark edge of the dark ones’s dimension. More specifically, she looked at the point, where a large rip in the bindings dimensional fabric was roughly held together by Silver’s energy shield and her rough Kyr stitching. The shimmering threshold seemed to hum and vibrate with life. Turning back to the group, she said, “But onto more serious things, what’s the plan for today. I really think it’s about time we find some way to finish the final sealing. I know we all just love being here, but I’m ready to go home.”

Silver nodded, “I hate to sour the mood, but no matter how much we try to have a good time, I really don’t think we should stay here for much longer.”

They grew grave at her words. They joked frequently about it, but they truly feared that it was only a matter of time before one of them would really lose their minds, and the last thing they wanted to deal with along with the dark ones, was a very powerful lunatic.

“I think we can finish it by the end of the week,” Fee said, using her fingers to clean out the last traces of soup in the pot. “The breech is almost closed, and the dark ones know that, that’s why their trying so hard… think about it, for the last ten years, we’ve been slowly chipping away at it, but now we’ve spent over two months since Rick left, trying to seal a hole that should take a day or two max.”

“Well, it’s difficult to hold them back with Rick gone,” Brel said, defensive of him and Capricorn, who were the main force fighting off attacks. “Tari now needs to focus on weaving the tear closed, but without her help, we can’t stop their hordes from trying to destroy what has already been fixed,” he said.

Tari sighed, taking their words more personally that they’d probably intended. She couldn’t help but think, as she was the one now filling Rick’s shoes, that if she had even half of his skills and power, she’d be able to help fight off the dark ones and weave the dimensional thread at the same time. She knew she couldn’t carry the same weight Rick did, no one expected her to, but the burden was heavy. Their ten years’ worth of effort, fending off an incessant invasion, could all be in vain if she made a wrong step.

Silver reached over, laying a comforting hand on her back. “Don’t look so down, Tari, it’s not your fault.”

“I know, but it’s all a bit frustrating, if Rick came back a hole that size could be closed in a couple hours, yet we’ve been here for months… and if all this nonsense with Iclax and Cajara weren’t going on, Alexil would be here as well, and there would be no issue.” Tari sighed.

Fee leaned forward, and Tari cringed inwardly, expecting come kind of rebuke. “The Head of The House of Lupaine has already been absent from the galaxy ten years,” she said quietly. “Tari, you know better than anyone that that should never happen, and unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about Alexil. As the next Head, it’s your duty to do this, and to do it flawlessly,” Fee said unsympathetically, causing Tari to roll her eyes in frustration, but Fee continued regardless, leaning back. “Anyway, I’ve been doing some thinking, and I know how we can get this finished in about seven days…honestly, I’m disappointed in myself that I didn’t think about it sooner”

“How?” Capricorn asked, gracefully throwing his head back and downing the rest of his soup, skepticism obvious in his voice.

“Like Brel said, we need Tari to focus on the actual sealing. She’s the only Marakian here. No one else can do that, so the rest of us need to hold the dark ones back…”

“sorry to cut in,” Brel said, “but that’s exactly what we’ve been doing, and the four of us can’t hold them back alone. Even when Rick was here, all five of us defended the breech while he closed it.” Brel said, rolling a small stone under his foot. “I thought you’d come up with something new.”

“Well,” Fee said, slapping the back of his head. “If you let me finish, you’d hear the rest. The fact is, when Rick was here, only four of us were facing the dark ones, and with Rick gone, it’s down three when Tari is closing the hole. As you are well aware, Silver has been maintaining a shield around the entire place this whole time, so she hasn’t really been fighting at full strength. I think if she dropped the shield completely and helped us defend Tari could close the hole in less than a week.”

“Fee,” Capricorn said and shook his head “That’s seriously not you plan, is it? the breech makes the entire binding unstable. Silver’s shield is the only thing that has prevented this place from crashing in on us. Do you want to be crushed between two dimensions?”

The rest said nothing, but the bit of hope that had sparked, quickly died away.

“Listen to me. At the beginning, her shield was completely necessary, but that was ten years ago. The hole was almost the size of a planet for goodness sake, but now it’s not even as large as a standard hover car. Even if it’s just for a few hours at a time we’ll be able to give Tari the time she needs… do you want to spend another month or two here, hoping the dark ones will just let us be?” she said, raising her voice slightly.

They remained silent, each contemplating the idea, trying and failing to figure out any alternatives. Silver finally spoke up.

“I think it’s the best idea we’ve got, we’ve been here for months, and unfortunately, no one else has come up with anything,” she said looking around. “Let’s try it out first, and if I notice the binding starting to collapse, all I have to do is put the shield back up.”

“You make it sound so simple, like you can just create a dimension sized shield in two seconds, by just snapping your finger,” Capricorn said, turning to his sister. “who do you think you are, Great King Marviel?”

“And not just once, but potentially multiple times? Are actually you trying to kill yourself? Death might be better than this, but there are much easier ways to die,” Brel added.

Silver laughed quietly for a moment, “There’s definitely easier ways, but right now I’m not so eager for death,” she said standing up and smiling so brightly that for a moment Tari didn’t miss the absence of sunlight. “This is actually a great idea Fee, and you know what? I think we can be out of here in two days, maybe less,” she declared.

They all looked at her with equal parts of confusion and desperate hope. “Two days?” Tari asked.

“Two days.” She said. “Like you said, Tari, a hole this size can be closed in a matter of hours if Rick was here, but I know you’re capable of doing the same, so let’s drop the shield, fight hard for two days, then leave,” she finished, flicking her hand as though it were all as easy as brushing away some dust.

As Silver spoke, Tari couldn’t help the excitement creeping into her blood, and pounding through her veins and marks, from the confidence her fired had in her.  A smile slowly crept onto her face, and she got up, taking Silver’s hand. “Two days?” she said, then scoffed. “I’ll close it in one.” By now an infectious thrill had fully spread through Tari and silver, making them jump up and down wildly. Tari continued, her voice rising. “I’ll finally be able to go home,” she shrieked, jumping ten feet in the air, and dragging Silver up with her, creating a cloud of dust underneath them, they hovered together in the air, flying around in circles like drunk birds.

Fee looked at them with mild concern but said nothing, while Brel and Capricorn shook their heads slowly. They were definitely not sane anymore, and Brel was already planning a visit to Laurim for counseling the moment he got back to Nol.

“So that’s the plan then?” Capricorn asked, still uncertain. He was fine with fighting, but when he thought of the strain Silver would have to go through to put up the shield again if everything failed, he couldn’t get as excited as everyone else. He looked up to where she was floating gently, her hands and neck covered in bandages from where her own powers had burned and scared her, countless times, in the years she had maintained the shield. He also thought about Tari, splitting her Kyr-marks hundreds of times smaller than a strand of hair, trying to weave a dimension. He looked to her bowl of soup, abandoned on the ground, still full. She couldn’t even eat properly anymore.

“That’s the plan,” Silver said, landing lightly on the ground, while Tari continued to fly around, morphing her marks into shapes of mangled dark ones, and landmarks from home, unconcerned about the energy she was using up. “I’ll drop most of the shield, except for in a couple delicate spots. I’ll also completely remove the temporary shield over the breach, so Tari has complete freedom to manipulate it while we defend until its closed.” Silver concluded.

“Tari, Silver…I think you guys need to really consider the consequences of this plan. Even if it’s successful, how long do you think it will take you guys to recover from…”

“When do we start?” Brel asked, putting his arm around Capricorn’s neck, and covering his mouth.

“Right now,” Fee said, “While I’m still full, it seems I won’t be able to eat for at least two days straight.”

“For one day,” Tari said as she landed beside them. “If you beautiful Cajarans, and my always hungry Zentalian sister here,” she said putting an arm around Fee, “can defend without me, I will finish this in a day.”

“Such bravado from someone who was whining about not having Rick and Alexil’s help just a moment ago,” Fee said smiling.

Tari laughed. “That’s true, but that was before I heard you plan.”

They all smiled, and for the first time in years, they actually felt happy, now that they could see an end, even Capricorn couldn’t help but give into the feeling of joy and hope. The energy of their combined excitement was so palpable that small particles in the air were instantaneously combusting, creating sparkles around them.

“Alright, let’s calm down a bit. The last thing we want is to get so excited that we mess something up,” Capricorn said.

“You’d sound more convincing if you weren’t smiling like a maniac,” Brel said nudging him with his shoulder.

“Alright, shall we begin preparing?” Fee said clapping her hands softly.

They all settle down although not the level of seriousness they had earlier and began mentally preparing themselves for the difficult day ahead. Silver sat down, closing her eyes, preparing herself to take down the shield, Capricorn and Brel went to change into their combat suits, while Fee began making more mysterious notes on her pad. Tari grew still, focusing her eyes upwards, on an empty point where nothing but the murky sky could be seen, but which she knew by instinct was the direction of Marak. Her marks settled down on her skin, and she emptied her mind for a moment to focus only on the now distant, but ever-present pull from her planet. Subtly, she also felt the presence of Zental and Fee who was still scribbling in her notepad. Fee sensed her thoughts and looked up to share a smile. After a few minutes Brel and Capricorn returned fully dressed in their Cajaran nano-lyfol energy combat suits, and Silver opened her eyes slowly.

“I’m ready,” she said, smiling, and they began making their way to the edge of the binding.

# # #

They arrived in front of the breach in only a couple minutes, their base being specifically built nearby, so they could fend off any surprise dark one attack. While the others began taking their positions, and making final adjustments to their equipment, Tari stepped closer to the binding, examining to see if there were any changes since the night before. the binding’s thin membrane wall, shimmering iridescently, incorporeally fading in and out of sight, gave slightly under her touch, like the surface of water, pushed without breaking. Tari moved her hand to a spot where the torn dimensional fabric and the undamaged parts met and looked through to the other side. Looking through the tear, into the dimension of the dark ones, always made Tari incredibly uncomfortable, staring into a darkness where empty shadows were indistinguishable from the dark ones’s writhing bodies, staring back at her with the pressure of millions of hungry glares. She paused in her inspection, taking a moment to simply stand and glare back, grinning lightly, marks jumping sporadically, showing her own hunger that she tried to keep back. If she didn’t have to close the breach, she would have taking great satisfaction in personally cutting down the number of glares she felt on her in half, though, she sighed as she returned her focus to the binding. It was all a constant futility, as the same dark one she cut down today, could possibly be the same one, respawned after centuries, that she would have to cut down again.

She stroked the binding from the top of the tear, down  to where it met the ground, contrary to is smooth appearance, it felt fibrous under her hand, like the skin of a leaf, or a flower petal, it was a wonder that something that felt so delicate was strong enough to block out an entire dimension of monstrosities. She traced the tear again in the opposite direction, feeling each undulation under her touch, she could also feel the residue of the auras left behind by its original creators: Rick, Sol, and King Marviel. Again, she felt burdened by how unworthy she was, to add her own signature to the binding, but she smiled to herself, as she found that the sense of honor and pride, she felt was much stronger.

“Tari, are you ready?” Fee asked. Tari nodded, turning to look behind her. Fee had changed into a white two-piece suit, that included a long-sleeved shirt and leggings that fit snugly. On her feet, she wore thin strapped white Caliga sandals. Like marakians, zentalians did not wear armor into battle, but Tari couldn’t understand why they wore white of all colors. Then again, she thought, it wasn’t like the dark one’s bled.

In their combat suits and helms, Brel and Capricorn looked like grey statues, shimmering red and gold, as their powers flowed through the suits. Tari knew from experience that even high-powered laser blast from and Iclaxian battleship couldn’t pierce the shell of those suits when Brel and Capricorn wore them. Tari smiled, seeing that everyone was ready, the smile dropped when she saw what Silver was wearing. Dressed like she was about to go to a gala instead of engaging in battle, Silver wore a light blue dress, made with a thin billowing fabric, that stopped at her knees, and running shoes. She had definitely not been wearing that when they’d left their camp.

“Silver, did you just change?” Tari said, wondering why she had even brought such an impractical outfit into the binding.

“Yes, but I’m ready now,” she said, seriously.

“You did understand the plan, right? You’re not just creating a shield today, you’re actually fighting.”

“Oh, she knows,” Capricorn said, “She’s just choosing to be overconfident princess.” He still clearly had reservations about the entire plan, and Silver’s leisurely attitude was doing nothing to improve his mood.

“Capricorn, I’m being very serious right now,” she said adjusting the bandages on her hand. “you all know that nothing can touch me,” she said smiling softly, though her eyes shone like blue orbs of defiance.

They said nothing for a moment, until Brel whispered, “famous last words,” then pretended to clear his throat.

Silver rolled her eyes. “Let’s get started, I’m ready to drop the shield.”

Choosing to accept Silver’s fashion choices, they grew serious and moved into position. Brel, Fee and Capricorn, moved to stand directly in front of the breach, with Tari and Silver stood two steps behind them. In reaction to their movements, they all felt, like the rolling of thousands of marbles under their skin, the attention of the dark ones, turn fully towards them.

In a wave, the void behind the binding shifted, slowly lightening up as small spots of light began to fill the space, a horrid mimicry of a starry night sky, in the form of millions of bright, mad, yellow eyes opening up. Within minutes, the dark ones were throwing themselves at the wall of the binding, and breech, trying to rip it open with the force of their assault, there was no sound when they hit, only ripples in the binding’s wall and air pushed continually into a powerful breeze. In places where the Binding was undamaged, it held firm, but the tear, which they targeted with specific brutality, only remained unbreeched thanks to Silvers shield.

“Alright,” Fee sighed, moving ahead of Brel and Capricorn slightly, “Silver, drop main the shield.”

“Dropping the shield,” Silver said, then closed her eyes, her body starting to glow a bright blue, she looked up, feeling her powers that were spread across the binding dimension, and began pulling them back, as if folding a large silk cloth, small enough to fit into a small space beside her heart. To Tari, it felt like a filled cup, spilled over, its contents evaporating instantly, leaving behind only emptiness. It suddenly felt much colder, and she shivered slightly, not realizing how the constant presence of Silver’s power over the place had made it much more bearable.

Silver opened her eyes, breathing hard, but remained standing, her eyes, now having black streaks around the corners. “Main shield down,” she said clearly.

“Confirmed, drop the breach shield on mark,” Fee replied, then stretched a hand forward, open palmed, her pale skin glowed as her veins lit up in hard, bright purple lines, in front of her palm, a large purple wall of light formed the size of the breach. Behind her, Capricorn’s hands lit a bright red, and energy constructs of plasma, in the shape of long swords, slid out of his hands. Brel, remained still, but Tari saw the small sparks of his signature gold lightening, dancing on his shoulders and around his head. The three of them were a blazing sun, but the dark ones, though they hesitated slightly, continued to throw themselves at the breach.

“Drop breach shield now,” Fee said.

“Dropping breach shield,” she said, and immediately, the shield was dropped. “Breach shield down.”

The result was instantaneous. The dark ones began to push through the hole, their numbers in the tens of thousands, only to meet instant death against Fee’s wall of anti-matter. She spread her arms, expanding the wall, then leaped forward, forcing the dark ones back into the void, along with herself, followed by Capricorn and Brel. The three small, bright spots of light, purple, red, and gold, fought against tides of darkness, as they had been doing almost every day for the last ten years. The dark one’s fell by the thousand under their attacks, but where the thousand fell, two thousand rose to take their place. As they continued to fight, the three of them noted grimly, a large group of the dark ones, suddenly turned to Fee, attacking her specifically. They twisted their bodies tightly into needles, and threw themselves at her, attempting to get past her anti-matter wall, targeting her head and heart. She fended them off, with ease, though some of their attack hit her arms and legs.

“There is a wrag mother or father among them,” Capricorn said, sending the telepathic message to all five of them. It was obvious from the way they specifically attacked Fee, unlike him and Brel, whose energy-based powers often lost some efficiency against the dark ones, Fee’s anti-matter could not be consumed by the energy hungry creatures, so each touch of it was a guaranteed kill. Capricorn knew the regular dark ones had no way of knowing that, but a wrag mother of father, maybe millions of years old, could easily direct the rest with is knowledge and power.

“It doesn’t matter,” Fee answered back, “Unless it chooses to show itself, and fight personally, this is just a minor annoyance.” She finished, making a slicing motion with her hand, cutting through the next wave of dark ones like melted butter.

Capricorn and Brel, too, cut down wave after wave. Capricorn’s plasma swords, tearing dark one after dark one in two, then he stretched out his hand, and mimicking the dark one’s assault, he twisted his plasma constructs into thousands and needles, each as powerful as a small sun, and sent them hurling towards the dark ones. Brel danced among them like lightning between clouds, sending destruction wherever he landed, creating large gaps in the dark ones’s formations, with his explosions of lightning. So, they fought, none stop, while keeping alert for the monster they felt shifting among the hordes of mindless soldiers.

Within the Binding, Tari continued sealing the breach. She sat down a few feet in front of the hole, and keeping her hands on her knees, held them open, palm facing up. Her marks pulled themselves from the rest of her body, to concentrate in pools on her palms, then in fine threads, they rose up from her palms, and into the air, and onto the edge of the breach. With each strand that rose from her hand, Tari felt a small tug in the area around her stomach. She closed her eyes, as the battle ahead became too distracting. Focusing on her kyr-marks, she carefully split each band, thin enough to match the rest of the intricate and detailed weave of the rest of the binding. Each split felt like the ripping of an organ bit by bit, so that it didn’t hurt as it happened, but eventually she would realize half of her was in shreds, and the pain would come all at once. As each strand formed into the correct size, she immediately began weaving it into the binding, then once a patch, half the size of her palm was woven, she would collect kyr particles, to take the place of her marks, manipulating them into the unique material of dimensions, that was created by Rick, Sol, and Marviel. This was the easiest part, since she had the rest of the intact binding to uses as reference, but the weaving itself was a trial in patience, skill, and stamina. She continued the process, creating patch by patch, then she felt something brush past the area she was working on, and opened her eyes to see multiple dark ones pushing past the frontline, and into the breach.

Usually, this would be the point where she would have had to stop weaving, and start helping with the defense, to prevent any dark ones from making their way into the binding, and thereafter into Nol, though the binding wall on the other side, but this time, she simply smiled and closed her eyes, refocusing on her work, as Silver stepped in front of her. Silver stood immovable, as she forcefully smashed down and crushed dark ones between her shields. Not one passed her to reach Tari, or the other side of the binding.

# # #

They weren’t sure how long they’d been fighting at that point, but it was irrelevant. The hole was now half closed, and the sight the progress, gave them such hope that they grew immune of any pain or weariness they felt. Fee, Brel and Capricorn, gathered closer to the front of the breach, now that they had a much smaller hole to defend, they concentrated their attacks on the dark ones directly in front of them. Perhaps due to their weariness, which they ignored, or the hope they felt, clouding their judgment, they didn’t notice, until a large spear, snaked passed Fee’s shield, and knocked her back into the binding wall, noticing too late, she avoided it as best she could, so it barely missed her neck, but tore a deep gouge in her shoulder.  From the wound, like a fountain, her fuchsia blood spilled out, staining her white shirt, warm, and glistening from the zentalian crystals in her blood. She let out a scream, but quickly bit down on her lip, and using her other hand, took hold of the spear, sending veins of anti-matter along the length of it to the creature that had sent it. As the limb disintegrated, a loud primal scream erupted from the depths of the dark ones’s army, and they parted, to reveal the wrag mother in their midst.

Wrag mothers, unlike wrag fathers did not take on a humanoid of animalistic form, instead, they were large balls, the size of moons and planets, rippling with monstrous life, as they poured young dark ones out of their bodies, like smoke from a factory chimney. This one was on the small side, though the concentration of its darkness, and the thousands of large yellow eyes all over its body let them know that the monster was not to be underestimated. Sharp spears, and needles, protruded from its body, one still shrinking from Fee’s attack.

Kicht,” Brel cursed. “Fee, how are you doing?” He asked, not looking away from the wrag mother.

“Fine,” she said through gritted teeth. “You and Capricorn take care of the wrag mother. Silver and I will protect the breach,” she felt Tari reaching for her telepathically, but Fee interrupted whatever Tari had to say “We don’t need your help Tari, all you need to do now is focus on the breach. That’s the way you can be of best use to us right now,” she said, moving back into the binding.

The wrag mother screeched, and the dark ones renewed their assault. Capricorn and Brel, charged through them, aiming for the wrag mother, trusting that Fee and Silver would hold back the assault. They flew quickly, discharging lighting and plasma in their wake. As they approached the wrag mother, the concentration of dark ones grew thinner, but each one became stronger. They fought hard, slashing and cutting, sending energy blasts, and creating shields of fire, but each death was flowed by another birth from the wrag mother, though, the successive dark ones were becoming weaker, as their gestation period within the wrag mother was shortened.

“It’s a matter of patience,” Capricorn told Brel telepathically.

“I feel like we’ll be worn down long before that thing is exhausted,” Brel replied, laughing lightly, as he grabbed a charging dark one, and sent a powerful bolt of lightning through it, and the five others behind it.

“Yes, you look so tired,” Capricorn muttered, responding with his own blast of plasma. Red hot liquid death flowed from his hands, mowing down dark ones. Their progress was slow, but steady, and soon they were before the wrag mother, now struggling with each birth it attempted, many of its eyes dimming and shutting, the spikes on its body dropping slightly. Brel stretched out a finger, channeling lighting right at the creature’s center. Contrary to it weekend appearance though, the wrag mother, reacted quickly, extending one of its spears to meet the attack. It absorbed a bit of the energy, and batted the rest away, then three more spears followed, aiming for Brel. Capricorn moved forward, quickly extending his swords, and cutting down the spears, then he rolled, avoiding another spike, but missing one that grazed his leg.  Brel joined him, moving in on the creature, and surrounding it. The creature fought desperately, but it was a losing battle. For every hit that its spikes landed, more were cut down, and it could no longer focus on creating more dark ones to defend it. Capricorn pulled back, then he raised his hand up, Brel quickly moved away, as Capricorn brought the hand down, and in the shape of his fist, many times larger, a thick wall of plasma hit the wrag mother, and engulfed it in liquid fire.

It Screamed and thrashed, in formless agony, letting out a belt of pain, extending its spikes out suddenly, in blind fury, one catching Brel on the side of his head, knocking his helm off, another through his shoulder, while Capricorn got one though the leg. Cajaran’s did not bleed, but from each wound, energy spilled out profusely.  They pulled back, and sent more beams of power, towards the creature that refused to die, each blast of weaker that the last. They stayed together breathing hard, and barely dodging the mad attacks of the wrag mother.

Capricorn saw how the wound on Brel’s head spilt out his power into the empty void, how his gold eyes were diming to a pale yellow, and quickly pulled him closer, and farther back from the wrag mother. Brel tried to brush off his friend’s hands, but Capricorn didn’t let go.  Now, some of the dark ones were pulling away from the hole and coming to the aid of the wrag mother. With the wrag mother in front of them, and the horde behind them, Capricorn quickly created a shell of plasma around them, attempting to give them time to rest, though he knew it would not last long, as he did not have his sister’s skill for creating shields.

“He quickly thumbed his hands over the glyphs on his waist, and a thin strip fell into his hands, and after a second, it began to expand and unravel, into a sealing patch.

“Brel, hey Brel, look at me,” he said, pulling Brel’s head close and brushing away his hair. “Brel,” he yelled.

“Why the Kicht are you yelling, I’m not even unconscious,” Brel said snatching the patch from Capricorns hand’s, and fixing it to the wound himself. “what do we do now,” he asked, as he got some more patches and began covering some of his other wounds.

Capricorn, certain that Brel would be fine from his attitude, began doing the same, paying attention to the large wounds on his leg. A loud crack against his shield, startled him, and he saw the wrag mother, retracting a spear, and preparing to strike again.

“I think we came in too deep,” he said, looking to the thick army of dark ones that separated them from the binding wall. He could hardly see the purple and blue light of Fee and Silver’s powers.

“How long have we been going at this?” Brel asked.

Capricorn just shrugged, then flinched at another hit from the wrag mother.

“Ahh, were dead,” Brel said.

“You can die by yourself,” Capricorn said, placing his hand on the shield, and sending shafts of fire at the mass of dark ones.

“It’s healing,” Brel said, pointing at the wrag mother, as it began to absorb some of the dark ones into itself.

Capricorn’s heart dropped. He reached telepathically towards Fee, but felt no response, so he tried Silver.

“What’s going on,” he asked

“Capricorn how are you guys doing, I can’t see you anymore. Fee is too injured to keep fighting, and I’m out of the binding, but I’m not sure how Tari is doing. I can’t reach her telepathically,” she replied.

“Kicht,” He cursed.

“I…” then she was cut off.

Another strike against the shield, cracked it, and Capricorn groaned loudly.

“What’s going on?” Brel asked.

“I don’t know, she got cut off… but Fee is out, and she can’t contact Tari,” he said quickly, then they braced themselves, as another hit shattered the shield. “We’re retreating,” he yelled, and they started pulling back.

They began moving backwards, back to back, with Brel clearing the way back to the binding, while Capricorn fended off the attack of the wrag mother. As hard as they tried though, minutes passed, maybe hours, yet they did not seem any closer.

“This isn’t working, Capricorn,” Brel said, without a hint of humor in his voice. “We’re in trouble, I’m barely making sparks at this point.”

Capricorn said nothing but saw as his own plasma blasts were looking more like thin strips of fire. As if to make them painfully aware of their impending deaths, the wrag mother, now mostly recovered, let out a screech that Capricorn could have sworn sounded like laughter, and then charged at them.  Brel quickly turned to face the charge with Capricorn, together, creating a wall of compressed energy, that though protected them, broke under the first hit, and left their back open to the smaller attacks from the dark ones. Fortunately, their suits protected them from the smaller assaults, but as the wrag mother charge forward again, spears extended, eyes blazing hungrily, they boldly raised their hands again, forming a shield they knew would not be strong enough to protect them.

Yet, as the spears bore down on them and struck, they rebounded backwards, burning with blue light. Surprised Capricorn felt a shiver run down his spine, and turned back, to see, Silver, in her ridiculous dress, still pristine, cutting a wide path through the dark ones with her shield. Like the batting of a giant fan against flies, she flicked her hands, and pushed the horde back, crushing them under the force of her shields. Then behind her, moving through the cleared path, unhindered, on large black wings, Tari flew past them, creating a powerful gust as she did, and changed at the wrag mother.

Tari extended her hands, and her marks formed into a thousand blades of steel, twisting like snakes, striking the wrag mother. It screamed furiously, sending shockwaves that shook Tari’s bones, and rattled her teeth. She undid the kyr-marks that made up her wings, and dropped, avoiding a spear from the wrag mother, then as the spear started to retract, she wrapped her marks around it, allowing it to pull her closer to the creature. Once close enough she placed her hand on the creature’s body, thick like mud, and pulling her in like quicksand, she remained unphased. At the point where her hand touched, her mark began to leave her body, crawling and spreading over the wrag mother’s body. Tari stared into one of its eyes and smiled viciously. She felt the creature shudder as her marks invaded it and restricted its movements. She manipulated all her marks into the form of barbed wires and tightened them, until the only thing that dared to move on the creature, was its eyes, which shook in a mad fervor that its body could no longer express.

“Die,” Tari whispered, and with her marks, forced the creature’s eyes closed, as she shredded through it, and burned its pieces, leaving nothing behind.

The wrag mother passed silently, but the dark ones screamed an insane cry that thundered and echoed in their minds, yet they bodies were unmoving, in catatonic stillness. Tari did not know if they screamed out of grief, or anger, but they screamed and screamed, until she cut them all down as well. She felt no pity for the dark ones, as they were not so deep in the heart of their dimension that their deaths would be permanent. Unlike them, her and her friends did not have the luxury of reformation after death. Now that dark ones had been cleared away for the moment, Tari joined Silver, Capricorn and Brel, as they made their way back to the now fully intact binding.

# # #

The battle and sealing of the breach had lasted about three days, and after taking four more days to give themselves time to recover, and make sure the binding was fully secure, they were finally able to put their ten years in the binding behind them and return to Nol.

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The River

Rian moved quickly, flying passed small rings held in the air by thin poles fastened to the ground, deftly tying the thick braided string through each one. Behind her, Jeld her younger sister, placed small seedlings into the intertwined sections of the braided cord. Each seed, in a few months, would grow into long curtains of blue vines, with small pink, bulbus fruit, that she loved. When that time came, they would harvest the fruit, sending them off to their sister planet to be made into snacks, while the vines would be woven into fabric by her mother and the other weavers in the neighborhood. Till then though, the farmers of colony planet Gul, like her family, were kept busy planting the seeds and caring for them. Rian Passed another ring, flipping, and tying the knot around it in one motion, before moving speedily to the next hoop.

“Rian, why are you going so fast?” Jeld called behind her.

“Don’t even bother trying to keep up, take all the time in the world,” Rian said, teasing. “While your stuck planting seeds, I’ll be watching the new episode of ‘Born on Brinner’,” she said, as she tied off the last two rings. Without looking back, she immediately flew away, leaving her sister’s loud cries behind her. She flew across the blue fields of her family’s farm, that was adjoined with their neighbors, and went right to the edge of the forest. In the farthest corner, she saw, the distant small figure, of her dad checking on some of their other crops. She knew their mom would already be home preparing dinner, even though the workday wouldn’t be over for three more hours. Flying at full speed, it only took a minute to get to their house at the center of the field. As she drew closer to the house, she caught the familiar scent of her mom’s cooking, and smiled broadly. There was nothing she liked better than a homecooked meal while watching reality shows, but seeing as she was still supposed to be working, and that her mom had specifically told her to come back together with her sister, she would have to forgo the meal for later; ‘Born on Brinner’ called to her.

She approached the back door, then slowly and quietly landed. Careful not to make any sounds that would alert her mother that she’d returned, she opened the door with the upmost patience, and even though she’d made sure to oil the hinges that morning, she pulled it open one small increment at a time. Her heart beat faster, and she held her breath. The door opened without a sound, and she breathed in and out with deliberate slowness, before holding her breath once again. She peeked around the edge of the door, and saw her mother in the kitchen, cutting some vegetables. Then, she levitated her body slightly off the ground, and pulled herself in gently. she would not risk her mother hearing the sound of her foot steps on their carpet. In front of her, she could already see the edge of their holo-screen glinting alluringly. With her goal in sight, she moved forward confidently. She felt slightly uneasy but proceeded after checking once again to make sure her mum was in the kitchen. Suddenly she felt a warm hand tightly grip her shoulder, pushing her down till her levitating feet touched the ground. Her stomach dropped, and she glanced in the direction of the kitchen, to see that it was now empty save for a boiling pot.

“Oh, Rian, I wasn’t expecting you back for at least another couple hours…hmm.. I don’t see your sister, around,” her mom said sweetly, looking around with exaggerated motions. “Surely you didn’t leave her behind again?” She asked slightly tightening her grip on Rian’s shoulder.

Rian looked over her shoulder to see her mom’s overly kind smile, dripping with warmth that did not reach her eye, and laughed nervously, turning fully to face her mom. “Well, I finished my half of the work, early… you know she’s so slow,” she said shrugging her shoulders. “…and the show is about to start, it’s the season finale… I have to see if the girl from Deresh will win the money so she can pay for shuttle tickets for her family… It’s crucial that I see it… I have to,” she said hurriedly.

Her mother sighed and shook her head, glaring scornfully at the holo-screen. Ever since they’d purchased the it, her children had refused to do anything besides sit in front of the darned screen. They slacked off on their daily work, studies, and for weeks, had not even made time to go out and play with the neighborhood children like they used to enjoy doing so much. She released a pained sigh and was about to send the girl back to the fields, when they heard a sharp knock on the door. They both jump, slightly startled, and looked each other confused. No one they knew knocked like that, in fact, no one in the neighborhood knocked at all. The farming families were so close that they simply barged into each other’s houses. Whoever it was, knocked again, two sharp, impatient hits.

Her mother looked at the door for a moment, then went to open it. Rian followed cautiously behind her, guessing it may have been a visitor from Winfora, their parent planet. They occasionally sent people to check the productivity of the farmers, always wanting to make sure that enough crops were being produced for the planet to pay its taxes. She already felt irritated at the thought because, while the Winforans didn’t treat them badly, their overly formal and haughty behavior rubbed her the wrong way. She hoped they’d say whatever they had to quickly and leave, so she could go watch her show. As her mum reached the door, she raised a hand in front of Rian to stop her from following, and to protect her from the presence she was felt from the door. Her mother opened the door, and Rian peered from behind to see who was there.

She tilted her head, perplexed by the sight of the strange couple that stood there. They were not the Winforans she was expecting, though they were equally foreign. Instead of the yellow and blue skin that was typical of the people on Gul, their skin was a teal glossy rubber, striped with white lines, their eyes, white and green, absent of the orange ringed irises of Gulians. As strange as they looked though, their appearance was not alien to her. She only needed to look to her mother to see those same traits mirrored. Whoever they were, Rian guessed that they were probably related to her mother, and became immediately excited, bouncing on the balls of her feet. She’d always been curious about her mother’s side of the family, but when she’d asked question, they were usually ignored, or answered vaguely. Seeing that her mother was still glued to the spot, with a white knuckled grip on the door, and the strangers too, seemingly to be frozen in place, Rian took the chance as she could no longer hold back her excitement. She walked passed her mother, and approached the man and woman, with youthful boldness.

“Hello,” She said happily. “I’m Rian, are you my mum’s friends, or maybe my grandparents? I have…” the rest of her sentence was caught in her throat, as her mother grabbed clothes and roughly pulled her back.

“Rian be quiet and stay behind me,” she tried to say softly, but the fury was evident in her voice. Rian was shocked, and quickly did as she was told, sobering up immediately. She had never seen such a look of venom on her mum’s face, and it frightened her, though it was directed at the visitors, and not at her. She looked at the strangers again, all curiosity gone, and though their expressions did not change, they now looked to her like vicious creatures.

“What are you doing here?” Her mother asked, stepping closer to the couple, who were still unaffected by her reaction.

“Kel, what a frightening expression you have on your face, don’t you see your scaring you own child?” The two asked in unison, and their combined voices made Rian’s skin crawl. The sound was like a vibration through water, invasive, seeping into the skin and lingering, the way oil did.

“Do not speak with the Ral,” Kel said, “and I’ll ask again, what you are doing here?”

“Why not invite us in first,” the man said, and this time his voice was normal.

“You will not step foot in this house,” Kel said, and beneath her grip on the door, Rian saw the wood splintering and breaking. “You will say what you need to say right here, and then leave.”

They sighed in unison. “This is no way to welcome your aunt and uncle Kel, no way at all,” the woman said shaking her head. “But if you insist on behaving this way, then there’s nothing to be done. We came here to inform you that…”

The sound of a door shutting loudly, interrupted her. “Kel, can you believe this, Rian left Jeld alone again, and because she was rushing, Jeld planted half the seeds wrong. I think we need to get rid of that holo-screen,” her father’s voice said from the behind them, trailing off at the end. All eyes turned to him and Jeld who came in through the back door. “Oh, do we have guests?” he said and his voiced dropped lower as he saw the strangers, and sensed the tension in the air. Then he glanced from Kel to the two figures at the door, and quickly moved to join her. Jeld stayed beside Rian, holding on to her hand.

“What’s going on Kel?” he asked, immediately, taking her hand off the door before she did any more damage to it. As she let go, pieces of the wood fell away, creating a rough semicircle cut-out the size of a fist on the side of the door.

“Dald, it’s so good to see you again. I’m happy to see that your usual behavior of getting involved where you are not needed hasn’t changed one bit,” The man said smiling, but his eyes and tone were terrifying. Rian and Jeld gripped each other tighter.

“It is good to see you two as well, but I must say, I’m surprised by the sudden visit. From what I remember, you all cut ties with Kel after Rian was born fifteen years ago,” Her father said, his fists clenched tightly.

“Yes, and you must know that only the most dire circumstances would bring us to this place,” the woman said looking around with disgust. Rian wasn’t sure if it was directed at their house, or the entire planet. The woman then turned back to Kel. “Kel, I will get straight to it. You must have heard of the fossilizing disease that wreaked havoc on Orl, well, it briefly afflicted our planet as well, and unfortunately, your father and niece were stricken and died shortly after,” she said, then paused briefly to let the information sink in. “As you know, they served as the tether for your mother and brother who were in Ralkin’s River. As expected, without their tethers to reality, they lost their minds and bodies to The River, and soon passed away as well,” She said, as if she were talking about the color of dirt, and not the death of her family members.

No one spoke for a while, then almost mechanically, Kel spoke up in a dry voice that cut the air. “My brother is dead?”

“Yes, so you know what that means…” the man began to say.

“Kal is dead? When?”

“They died three months ago, and…”

“Kal died three months ago,” Kel said, and small green tears fell from her eyes. She didn’t bother wiping them, and Dald held her hand.

“Yes, Kel, but you’re missing the point here,” the man said unsympathetically. “With your mother and brother’s passing, you family’s place in Ralkin’s River is now empty, it has only been three months, but the imbalance is impossible to fix. The strain on the remaining six families is too much. And more importantly, next year is your family’s turn to take the head position.”

Kel remained silent, but she was shaking visibly. Rian couldn’t tell if it was from grief, anger, or some other emotion.

“Can’t you just find another family to take their place, I’m sure there are many who would go to any lengths to become one of The Seven Families,” her father said.

“An outsider like you shouldn’t act so sure of anything,” the man said. “The Seven Families carry an ancient mandate. Unless the entire line is completely wiped out, a new family cannot be chosen. It is a shame that now my precious sister’s line has been tainted by your filthy alien blood,” the man said wit more passion that he’d displayed so far, looking as if he would charge at her father.

“That is beside the point,” the woman said, placing restraining hand on the man’s arm. “Kel, I’m sure you understand what must be done,” she said, then looked at Rian and Jeld. “Fortunately, it seems that both your daughters have more than enough power to become your tether, despite their mixed blood. The older one might be slightly stronger though.”

Hearing the mention of her daughters, Kel shook herself out of her stupor. “What exactly are you implying aunt Yil?”

“I am not implying anything, I am telling you that you, and one of your daughters, must return with us to Ralhada today or at the latest tomorrow night. We are short on time, I had to leave The River to make this trip. We have taken a great risk, and blow to our pride, to come bring you back, but we cannot afford to allow Ralkin to be born.”

“Just like that, you want me to return. No apologies or anything, just ‘comback now because we need you?’ Are you kidding?” Kel said letting of a hysterical laugh. “My brother, the only reason I would ever return to that planet died three months ago, and I’m just hearing of it now, because you had no choice but to tell me. Then you want me to uproot my entire family overnight?”

“Kel,” Her uncle said in frustration. “There will be no apologies because none are necessary. You chose of your own accord to go against traditions. You should have expected the consequences. Yes, we tried other options, and none worked, so we had to come to you. And, to make one thing clear, we do not need your entire family. You and one of your children is enough.” As he spoke, he hit his fist against his palm, over and over again. “You know you can not refuse, so let us stop the games.”

“I think that’s enough,” Deld said stepping forward. “You cannot come to our home and treat us this way. We are not on Ralhada, and Kel owes you nothing. Certainly, our daughters owe you nothing.”

“This is not about some petty family dispute,” the woman, Yil said calmly. “If the River is not maintained, Ralkin will hatch, and half of Nol will be flooded by his celestial waters. You cannot understand the stakes Deld, because you are not Ralhadan,” her aunt said, trying to mediate. “It is sudden, but you know there is no other way,” she said to Kel.

Kel closed her eyes, and sighed. The sound spread through the house like vibrations through water, and the feelings of dread and resignation lingered and soaked into the walls. Kel felt like the ice of Fralor had seeped into her body and stilled her heart, as she pushed back all her emotions and made way for duty. Like her aunt and uncle said, there was no choice in the matter. Since she was born, the mandate of her family had been instilled in her and written in her mind, body and soul. It was a miracle that she had been able to break away to marry Deld, but she always knew there would be no permanent escape as the waters of Ralkin were already mixed into her blood. She sighed again, and when she opened her eyes, they were distant and cold.

Sensing the change in their mother, Jeld gripped Rian’s hand so tightly that Rian thought her fingers would fall off. Their father had a look of intense agony on his face. “Kel you don’t have to do this,” he said.

“We will leave tomorrow morning,” she said, then turned to her daughters, and tried to smile. “Rian, you’ll be coming with me, okay?”

“Kel! You have to think this through, your talking about separating our family,” her father said, but his words were ignored. Kel simply continued to look at Rian, waiting.

Rian looked into her mum’s tense eyes and knew that she was on the verge of breaking apart. She still didn’t fully understand what was going on, but in that moment, she knew what her mother was expecting. Calling on a sense of responsibility she’d hardly exhibited in her fifteen years of life, she threw on the biggest smile she could make, and pulled her had out of her sister’s grip.

“Well, I’ve always been curious about your home world, anyway… I guess I finally get some answers,” she said, not knowing if she sounded believable or not, but the slight relief in her mother’s eyes were evident, and the tension in her body eased a bit.

“Good, you don’t need to pack much. Just take the bag you use when we go camping and pack a few necessities.” She then turned to face her aunt and uncle who had begun smiling like witches the moment she’d agreed. “you can leave now, comeback tomorrow morning, and we’ll be ready,” she said, then slammed the door shut before they could reply.

“Hurry up and go pack Rian, let Jeld help you… I need to finish making dinner,” she said, then went into the kitchen. Rian quickly ran to her room, to pack, leaving Jeld and their farther stunned.

# # #

That night, they ate dinner in silence, afterwards, the sound of their parents arguing and Jeld’s hushed tears, kept Rian up through the night. Not that she would have been able to sleep anyway, as she was high strung from the mixture of fear and excitement coursing through her body.

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Furious Victory

Nights on Fintar were dim and hazy, the dimness inevitable, because despite the fact that the planet had two moons, they were so weak and small, that even together, they could not push light through the thin sheet of clouds covering the skies. The Haziness was a blight, induced by industry and societal decline. A permeant fog covered the planet from thousands of smoking factory chimneys, and hundreds of thousands of tired souls lazing around, sluggish with minds impaired and permanently damaged from the thick blue clouds of Shuki vines that they smoked from their pipes. The trees of the planet that were once bright pink and flourishing, had been tainted a dirty purple by years of pollution. The stone and dirt streets were bare, as grass had long since died off, and so as people walked back home at night from their various factory jobs, the younger generations still had the small spring in their step from the thought of going home after a long day’s work. But the older jaded generation, thudded their boots together in a monotonous tone of weariness and complacency.

Ailim too walked home with the group. Her head facing the ground, and her hands deep in the pockets of her uniform. Beside her, the others were doing the same, and while her steps had the small spring of the rest of her generation, hers were especially liberated, as they were fueled by anticipation for the following day, although, she made sure to keep the excitement contained, and her eyes never strayed from the stone ground. At night, Ailim, like most people, never looked up, because to look up meant to risk making eye contact with one of the people of the night. The night was still young, so many of them had not yet creeped out of their dens. But as more people reached their homes, and the group got smaller, in the pit of Ailim’s stomach, as tangible as an organ, the fear of darkness that was bred in all Fintarians, throbbed painfully. With each neighborhood they passed, individuals would allow themselves a small moment to rejoice and let out a sigh of relief as they crossed their thresholds and entered their brightly lit homes. The others would huddle closer, and trudge more determinedly.

After an hour, more, of fearful walking, the large group had been reduced to Ailim and her three neighbors, who lived the furthest from the brightly lit central district. Usually, when they left together for work in the mornings, they would at least give each other comforting smiles, and sometimes, even chat as they began their long walk to the factories. But at night, their forced silence was filled with the whisperings of the people of the night. Ailim shivered, and the whispering got denser as the moons continued to rise and the darkness deepened, allowing more voices to be added to the cacophony. Ailim felt like their lips were right behind her neck, and they may very well have been, but she would never look up to find out. Two more of her neighbors arrived at their homes, and quickly entered, shutting and bolting the doors behind them. It was just her and her cousin Jio left and they walked faster as the clouds thickened, blocking even more of the already pitiful moonlight. Suddenly, above the steady whispers of the people of the night, a loud cry rose like the rapturous sound of an animal that was descending upon its prey, while enduring the pain of being preyed upon itself. Ailim and Jio would have frozen, if they hadn’t been trained since they were children never to freeze in fear. Ailim chanted the mantra of her childhood in her head ‘Keeping moving, keep moving, keep moving until you are indoors and inside the light’, and she kept going, but her hands deep in her pocket began to shake.

She continued to speed up her pace, now almost jogging, but she didn’t seem to be getting home any faster, it felt like that was no end to the road, and Jio, who had never once beat her in a race, continued to pull ahead of her, not looking back. She continued struggling to move faster, but she only got slower, till she found it nearly impossible to place one foot in front of the other. Cold sweat began to drip from her face as she realized what was going on.

“No, no, no,” She whispered to herself, speaking for the first time that night, “No, not me.”

Ailim fought against whatever it was that was slowing her feet down, and she stared hard at them to see what was restraining her, but there was nothing. Her feet simply refused to move properly. She had heard that the people of the night attacked the mind, but she felt nothing out of place in her head, there was no fog, or external presence. She was only aware of her own panicked thoughts, and that she was now barely shuffling forward. The whispering continued, and her chest constricted. She clenched her fists, and bit down hard on her lips, causing blood to rush out. The pain loosened the force affecting her mind, and she was able to move again, but it didn’t last long. The pain quickly subsided, and she was still again. Ailim could feel their eyes on her, a collection of thick slimy gazes, that traveled all over her body, and the feeling intensified as she felt them draw nearer. Still she did not look up.

Ailim was rooted to the spot as powers that she could not understand took control of her body. She shut her eyes. She was already so close to home. So may nights she had walked the path without any incident, so many times when even if she was caught, there wouldn’t have been much at stake. But tonight, just one night before she would be of the planet, almost as if the planet knew she would soon be free, as if it couldn’t bear to let even one potential victim escape. She cursed, as the despair of her situation threatened to overwhelm. She screamed. She screamed and strained against the invisible binding that held her, and in response, the whispering grew to a loud chant. For three years, her family had been saving up to move them off the planet. For three years, they had forbidden themselves from indulging in even the smallest luxuries. They had eaten the cheapest gruel, and moved to one of the furthest districts, all to save up for a new start.

Yet, ‘one day before all their efforts paid off…’ she thought, then shook her head vigorously, despite her restrained mobility. She shook her head madly, until any thoughts of giving up where swept from her mind. She screamed louder, gained a bit of control over her feet, and took a step forward. The insane chanting increased and drowned her mind with images of purple shadows and blue smoke swirling and intertwining in the twisted rhythm of the monsters. Ailim griped her head and pulled at her hair removing it in chucks. With each sharp burst of pain, and clump of hair falling to the floor, she took one more step. Now she could feel them on her, touching her pulling her, try to force her to give into the trance, but she fought them. She would not fall, not when she was so close.

She knew that for as long as Fintar had existed, the people of the night had existed with it, evolving and growing as the people did. At first, they had only been thieves of trinkets and forgotten things, but with each new factory built, and each new layer of fog covering Fintar’s moons, their deeds became more sinister. People soon come to accept their ‘taking’ as the norm on Fintar.

‘When you are chosen, go silently’ was the whispered plea printed on Fintar’s coins and engraved in the people’s hearts. ‘When you are chosen, go silently,’ Ailim thought as she ripped out another chunk of her hair and screamed as she took one more step forward. She continued, blindly moving forward with pain. She pulled and pulled until finally she had no more hair to pull out. She could feel her limbs freezing up again, and in desperation, she gripped a finger with one hand and began to twist it backwards, the bones bent, and were about to give, when suddenly everything was silent and still.

She felt a solid weight drop on her shoulder, and although he eyes were still tightly shut, the heavy, haggard breathing was unmistakably that of a person’s. She stood motionless, her hand still tightly gripping and twisting the finger, but she bent it no further. Her breathing calmed, and her heart stopped pounding in her ears, then slowly she opened her eyes, and looked up to meet a familiar pair of yellow irises. Her father gripped her shoulder tightly, and next to him her mother stood shaking. They were both crying and pale with fright. She silently took the image of them in, comparing it to what she knew in her memories.

“Are you real?” she asked, tasting the blood of her torn up throat, as she spoke in a voice so raw and hoarse that the words were barley understandable.

“I am real,” her father said, hugging her tightly. “I am real.”

She could feel his heartbeat pounding furiously, and he was drenched in so much sweat that his clothes were dripping from it. Still Ailim didn’t not fully believe that they were her parents, until she was engulfed in a scent that was uniquely her father’s; a combination of dust and sugary sweats. An unmistakable scent the she’d know as long as she’d lived.

“She is so cold,” her mother said taking her hand, looking at the trail of hair that lead to them, the patches remaining on her daughter’s head, and struggled to keep from screaming in fury and pain from her powerlessness and inability to protect her daughter. “Let us go quickly before they decide to take us all,” she said.

They huddle close together with Ailim between them, and ran home, keeping their heads down. Ailim was surprised by how quickly they reached the house. It took only a minute. The whole time, she was only a few steps from home, yet she felt like she had suffered for an eternity to move a single foot forward. Once they were safely inside the house, all the adrenalin and desperation that had kept her going burnt out, and she became unresponsive in her parent’s arms, as they laid her on the chair and covered her in blankets. They didn’t ask any questions about what it was like or if she was okay. Her mother just held her hand, and feed her warm tea, while her father rubbed her feet.

“You are so strong,” her mother whispered over and over again.

Finally, after a few hours, and after the warmth and light had soaked into her body, Ailim spoke. “They could have taken you too,” She said, cautiously sitting up and looking at her mother then at her father who moved to take her other hand.

“Then we will have all gone to together,” Her mother said resolutely.

“That’s madness,” Ailim said, but smiled softly. She than raised a hand to stroke her now bald head. While she had been lying down, her father had cleaned up few remaining strands of her hair.

“It will grow back,” He said, looking down to hide his tears.

She squeezed his hand. “I know,” she said, then she looked into her mother’s eyes, and she knew that despite the fact the she was now bald, or that she might suffer from nightmares and trauma for the rest of her life, the intense look in her mother’s eyes were mirrored in hers. It was not a look of sadness or pain, but one of furious victory.

“I survived,” she said emboldened, and her mother gripped her hand tighter. “I fought them and survived,’ she said, then rubbed her head again. “My hair will grow back. It will grow back long and clean, and it will never be stained by Fintar’s foul air again.”

Her mother nodded, and though he could not stop his tears, her father smiled broadly. “we’ve won,” he said.

The most precious victories are often those that are hard won.

Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think. Also check out for more content. I shold be adding a painting for this story and last week’s story tonight or tomorrow.

In the presence of divinity

Flour flew into the air, creating a white cloud that covered everyone on the left side of the palace kitchen head to toe in flour, and hung in the air like a thick fog, the kitchen staff, looking like vengeful phantoms from the realm of spirits, directed their furious glares at the only clean occupant in the room.

“What in Sol’s slumber is wrong with you?” Screeched the head cook Bethra, flour falling from her hair as she marched forward and grabbed Lipil by the collar.

Lipil squirmed frantically in her strong hold, whimpering as she pulled harder, the buttons of his cooking jacket popping in his struggle to get away. “It was an accident,” he pleaded.

“Accident? Accident,” she said in outrage, her orange skin taking on a red glow. “Just like when you mistook pepper for salt, or wine for vinegar? Or when you spilled the pot of soup?” She bellowed, growing redder as she remembered all the ‘accidents’ Lipil had caused in just the last week. “Not only are you incapable of reading, but you also have two left feet,” she said throwing him down.

“I’m sorry, I’ll clean it up,” Lipil said, sitting on the floor, with his head down and hands on his knees.

Bethra watched the pathetic display but did not allow it to move her. Kneeling for forgiveness had simply become habit to him. “Just get out,” she said quietly.

“No, it’s okay, I’ll clean it,” he said passionately, already using his hands to wipe the spot in front of him.

“Lipil, I said get out,” Bethra said exasperated.

“No, Ms. Bethra I insist, I must make up for this failure,” Lipil said, then stood and went to get a broom.

Bethra sighed and was about to tell him once again to forget it, but before the words could leave her lips, Lipil tripped. He fell on the floor, throwing the settled flour into the air once again, and everyone watched with their mouths agape as the broom flew out of his hands, and landed in a large pot of fire-fish stew they’d been letting boil down for the last nine hours.

The uproar was instantaneous. All the cooking staff began yelling and cursing profusely, Lipil, looking up from where he fell on the floor, turned as pale as the flour that now covered his face. Bethra picked him off the floor and shook him violently.

“What’s wrong with you? I told you to leave it…I told you…” she said breathing hard “What is wrong with you?”

Lipil shook his head, and started crying, causing the flour on his face to thicken. “Nothing’s wrong with me Ms. Bethra, except that I must be cursed. You wouldn’t understand,” he said pushing a way from her. His whole body shaking with sobs. “I’m not even meant to be here… I was meant to be an artist…art is the only thing I’m good at,” he said dropping to the floor, as if he’d suddenly been yanked down by the hand of calamity, his whole demeanor showing defeat.

“I don’t give two craps about what you were meant to be, you are here now. The least you can do is not become a hindrance. Now, for the last time, get out of here… and don’t come back until you’ve gotten your act together,” Bethra said unsympathetically. “The only reason I even let you keep working here is because I feel sorry for your poor mother,” she added quietly.

Lipil couldn’t say anything at the mention of his mother. He got up, and slowly left the kitchen with his head bowed, leaving flour footprints behind him. He took the nearest servants’ door outside and looked up at the sky, too blue, and the sun too bright. It hurt his eyes to look at them, so he turned towards the forest behind the palace, so dark and thick that getting lost would be an easy feat, never returning would be easier. He wiped the tears from his eyes, but they continued to fall, making a disgusting dough on his face as they mixed with the flour. Giving up on his face, he sat in front of the forest looking into the darkness for comfort, until he stopped crying. It had been two months since he had begun working as a kitchen assistant in the palace, for two months, and he hadn’t improved a bit since the first day, if anything, he’d gotten worse at the job and even more depressed. It was no wonder that Bethra was frustrated with him, when he was fed up with himself.

He sighed loudly, roughly peeling off the dough on his hands, then stood up suddenly, and started pacing, feeling restless after thinking about his job, the pacing doing nothing to calm his soul, he turned, running desperately and blindly into the forest. His breath came out in quick, agonized bursts, his sides hurt, his knees were straining. At some point his shoes had come off, but he kept running deeper into the forest, even as branches hit his face and rocks scratched his bare feet. The physical pain felt much better than the ambiguous, amoeba like pain worming around in his chest. He continued to run, even as he wasn’t able breath anymore, his vison blurred and darkened, his body tilting. Not caring where he was going, or seeing the path in front of him, he forced one foot in front of the other, until he tripped on a log and fell painfully. He rolled over, holding his stomach tightly, curling into a ball on the ground, his body spasming with coughs. He remained curled up until his breathing settled, then he laid on his back, and looked up at the canopy of trees. The forest glowed green from the sunlight, and for what felt like the hundredth time that day, tears welled up in his eyes.

“I’ll just die here and disappear, then everyone would be happier,” he said miserably, collecting fists full of dirt and throwing them.

“Are you okay?” A gentle voice said above him. Lipil screamed and jumped to his feet, almost colliding with the man looking down at him.

“Who are you? how long have you been there?” He said looking at the man suspiciously. It would have just been his luck if he suddenly met some crazy person, or killer while alone in the forest. He stepped back, and cautiously appraised the man, trying to gauge what kind of person he was. From the man’s face, it was difficult to guess his exact age. His was built tall and muscular, a body that looked like it had grown accustomed to battle, though he had an easy air about him, so Lipil’s initial guess was that the man was in his early 3000s. Then, looking at his eyes, shining a dazzling gold, and holding a look of such wisdom and power, as well as concern, Lipil reconsidered, think the man must have been at least 10,000 years old.

His age would have been a good indicator of who he was, after all, all the guests currently visiting the castle were over 5,000 years old. Lipil didn’t want to accidentally insult one of the king’s guests by being to familiar. Even if the man wasn’t a crazy killer, he could still get Lipil punished for disrespect if he was a noble. Still unsure, Lipil looked at his clothes. He was dressed simply, but he did not act like a commoner, avoiding direct eye contact, or being overly cautious, like Lipil was being. What was stranger though, was that the man felt oddly familiar, like a face he may have seen in passing a few times. With that thought, Lipil concluded that the man was probably one of King Derlin’s guests that usually wander around the halls of the palace, and that he was in no danger of being assaulted.

The man didn’t say anything, but he was still giving Lipil concerned looks. “How long have you been her sir? Did you hear everything I said?” Lipil asked again, this time making sure to be more respectful.

“Well you tripped over my leg,” the man said pointing to his leg where there was now a noticeable white patch of flour.

“Oh,” Lipil said meekly, sliding back to the ground. “Sorry. It seems everywhere I go, I only bring calamity.”

“You don’t say?” The man said sitting on the ground next to him “Why don’t you tell me why you feel that way?”

Lipil looked the man up and down. He noticed that while the man’s clothes were styled simply, there was gold woven into the seams. He must have been quite wealthy, Lipil thought, so he couldn’t comprehend why the man was this deep in the forest, sitting next to him and asking about his feelings. And even less comprehensibly, and maybe because of how strange the situation was, or because he was so tired, Lipil began telling the man his story.

“I work in the palace kitchen now, but before that, I was a painter. My family’s not well of you know?” He said unconsciously pulling his sleeves and dusting flour of his body. “We’re not well off, but my mum… she worked really hard to get me lessons, and thanks to that, I became an apprentice at a pretty popular workshop, things were starting to look up. I was even about to have my first show,” Lipil said, his eyes lighting up as he recalled the moment he still consider to be the apex of his life, then remembering what happened after, his voice fell. “then one day we found a note on the door.” Lipil let out a hollow laugh.

“My father, he wasn’t around much to begin with, but he left a note saying that he had to leave town cause his gambling debts had gotten to be too much… don’t you find it ridiculous,” he said glancing up at the man. “My mum told be to keep up with my art, but two months ago she fainted cause she’d been overworking try to make enough to take care of us and pay off my dad’s loans… I had to quit painting and get a job.”

“So that’s why you work in the kitchen?”

“Yeh, but I’m so clumsy, and I hate it there… things would be easier if I just disappeared,” Lipil said weakly, partly serious, but also hoping the man would refute his statement.

“True it would be much easier for you if you disappeared, but then you’d be doing exactly the same thing your father did. Disappearing when things get tough. What would happen to your mother if you suddenly left as well?” The man asked. his voice was so calming, that Lipil didn’t realize when he’d started leaning on the man’s shoulder.

“I can’t leave my mom,” Lipil said sighing.

“Exactly, you can’t. So, don’t speak about disappearing anymore,” The man said, then paused for a bit, hesitantly. “You know, when I was younger, my family had a … Um… well, let us call it a business,” the man said. “When my father died, my older brother was next in line to take over the business, and because of that, for a long time, I lived a pretty carefree life. Unfortunately, though, my brother passed away from an illness, and I was left to take over a position I had no interest in. So, what do you think I did?”

Lipil glanced at the man. He was looking into the distance, with a small smile on his face. Lipil thought he was definitely a man who knew the weight of responsibility. “You took on the position and did you best even though it wasn’t what you’d planned.” Lipil answered. He thought he already knew where the story was going, but was startled when the man burst out laughing. His laughter was deep and loud; it sent vibrations through Lipil’s small body. The man laughed so hard, that he whipped tears from his eyes.

“Ha… If only,” the man said through his laughter before settling down and sighing. “No, I ran away. I ran away as fast as possible. I stole some money from the business and went to live with my friends on Marak for a few years.”

“you’re kidding… then what’s the point of this story. Are you telling me to run away?”

“I haven’t finished the story yet,” The man said smiling. “So, after I stayed on Marak for ten years, living my life in the easiest way possible, I went back home to see how the business was doing… well actually, I’d run out of money, so I was going to get some more.” Somehow as he said this, he still looked dignified even though he was obviously embarrassed.

“When I got back,” the man continued “I couldn’t believe how bad things had gotten, the pla…um, I mean business was on the verge of failing. Worst of all, all the employees where suffering with the effort of trying to maintain a business whose owner had abandoned it.”

The man sighed and ran his hand through his hair. The sun was setting, and it it’s orange light, Lipil could see age creeping into the man’s features. “I felt so pathetic… and I could go on and on about what happened after, but to make a long story short, I begged the employees for forgiveness, took up the post I’d abandoned, and began rebuilding the business.”

“How’s the company doing now?”

“Well, I retired a long time ago, and my son took over…” The man said, then was silent, and for a while did not even seem to be breathing, tension evident in his body. From the heaviness of his silence, Lipil guessed that company may not have been faring too well under his son. “I thought my intention was to help you by telling this story, but now it seems like I just filled you ears with my own concerns.”

For the first time that day, Lipil smiled. “Well that’s true, but, although I can’t say exactly why, I definitely feel better,” he said.

“Well, that’s good to hear,” the man said standing up, then he offered his had to Lipil and pulled him too. Lipil knew he was short on the side, but the man towered over him by at least two feet, and while he was sitting and listing to the man’s refined voice, he forgotten about the man’s muscular build. As hard as he tried, he couldn’t imagine the man sitting behind a desk managing a company’s finances, when he looked like he could pull out a sword to start slashing enemy soldiers at any minute.

The man placed his large hands on Lipil’s shoulder and looked right into his eyes. “Tell me you name,” he said in a voice that while still kind, had an edge of authority.

“Lipil Halin,” Lipil said in a small voice.

“Lipil… you’ve runaway, and now you want to disappear, but I think it’s too early for that… I’ve lived a very long time, and I know what the eyes of people with no hope look like, you do not have those eyes,” he said confidently, and his words seemed to dig into Lipil’s spirit, forcefully lift it up. “There is still determination in you. Survive thing passing storm, because when you come out of it, you will be better for going through it than those who didn’t.”

Lipil simply nodded, not knowing what to say. The man took Lipil’s hand and held it between his palms. Lipil shivered, as he was made aware of the how chilly the temperature had gotten by the intensity of the heat radiating from the man’s hands. “Alright Lipil, you’ve come quite deep into the forest, but if you go straight that way, you’ll get to the front of the palace in about twenty minutes. Now go,” he said, then added, “Also, whenever you end up having your first show, as a painter, and I know you will, be sure to send me an invitation. You can consider me your first collector,” he said, smiling broadly.

Lipil wanted to ask the man his name, or how he could contact him, but the man’s words felt like an order, and Lipil was compelled to follow. He walked away in the direction the man said, looking back a few times to wave at him, until the trees blocked him from sight.

Just like the man said, he arrived in front of the palace shortly, and began walking back to the kitchen, his thoughts more positive than they had been in a while. Yes, this was all just a passing storm, he would go back to the kitchen, apologize to Bethra, and ask for a second… tenth chance. As he walked, with confident strides and his chin up, something he saw made him stumble.

A group of servants were standing around one of the many sculptures of the previous and most beloved ruler of Dreakar, Great King Marviel. They were throwing bronze coins in the fountain, but that wasn’t what made Lipil stumble. The light was fading to evening, but as he stared at the countenance of the Great King’s regal face, he let out a sound between a gasp and a screech.

“Impossible!” he yelled, running towards the fountain, ignoring the strange looks people were giving him as he walked right into the water. There was no doubt about it, this was the face of the man he’d been talking to.

“Impossible, impossible,” he muttered and sat right in the fountain. He didn’t even notice as the cold water seeped into his clothes and soaked his body. He was in shock and filled with fear. If anyone found out that the Great King of Dreakar— the God king himself, the longest ruling king on any planet, the oldest living mortal being in Nol— had sat on the floor telling him some story, what would they do to him? Lipil didn’t think he could be any more shocked but found that the next level beyond his stunned silence, was mad laughter. The story, the company. The King was talking about the throne of Dreakar.

After sitting in the fountain for a while, going from silence to laughter to terror, then laughter again, he noticed a crowd had gathered around him. He looked around at the mixture of concerned and angry faces, then slowly got up and out of the fountain. “Please go on with your business, there’s nothing to see here, nothing at all, I dropped something, that’s all.”

“What do you mean nothing to see, have you gone mad Lipil?” A loud familiar voice yelled. Bethra pushed her way to the front of the crowd and covered him in a blanket. “Do you know how long we’ve been looking for you, then some stable girl comes to tell me your sitting in a fountain and laughing…”

Each of her words were accompanied with hard rubbing as she tried to dry him off. When she realized the towel was useless, she dropped it, and put here palm on his head. He felt heat radiate from her palms and begin to warm his body, and his clothes dried quickly from the hot air she sent blowing through them. When she was satisfied that he was dry, she sent glares to everyone watching them, then pulled him away in the direction of the kitchen. They walked in silence for a while.

“Lipil, say something,” she said, looking at him with concern that she’d never shown before.

“I meet a god today,” he said breathlessly. Bethra stopped and turned to him with a suspicious look.

“Marviel’s fire! Have you really gone mad?” She said taking a step back.

Lipil laughed at the curse, earning him another look. “I’m okay, seriously. I’ll work harder from today, I swear on the God King’s name, seriously,” he said. Bethra still looked concerned, but she continued walking.

“You know,” Lipil continued “I met someone who wants to become a collector of my paintings, I guess I just got a little shocked by it.”

Bethra sighed. “All right, I’ll buy it, if that’s what you say, but just know that I will definitely be keeping an eye on you. No way I’m having a crazy person in my kitchen. You were bad enough when you were sane.”

Lipil giggled to himself as they passed another monument dedicated to Great King Marviel. Maybe he had gone mad he thought. After all, how could the mind of a mere mortal like him remain intact after being the presence of divinity. They passed yet another statue, and he laughed again. He’d never noticed just how many statues of King Marviel there were around the palace.

Instead of going to the kitchens, Bethra lead hm right to his room, giving him a few more suspicious looks before she left.

That night, as he laid in bed, he couldn’t help looking forward to the next day, as his future seemed suddenly filled with possibilities.

Have you ever met someone famous, but didn’t know who they were until afterwards? I haven’t, actually I haven’t met anyone famous before, but I assume it must feel surreal. In the Nol galaxy, anyone would give half their life’s saving to meet, for a minute, the person Lipil meets by chance in this story. 

Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think. Also you can check out for more content.

Wall of Light

As Salia walked through the busy plaza, she could tell why the planet boasted itself as one of Nol’s prime shopping spots. Around her, various tourists, like herself, were looking around at the gorgeous stone buildings, decorated with pastel colored flowers, and adored with metallic ornamentation along the window sills. Instead of a simple paved road, the ground was a large mosaic of a light floral design. Salia wondered how the design remained perfectly intact, and without damage despite the vast number of people walking the streets daily. After being on Wuhan for two weeks, she had already visited some of its other cities, but she concluded that she liked this one best. The city reminded her of the one time she had traveled off Cajara: when her team spent one day on Brinner after visiting for a match. Although Wuhan was much less flamboyant, there was a similar feeling of excitement in the air. Something was happening everywhere she looked. Performances, floating kinetic sculptures, and she laughed as she saw that even recruiters from academies had small stands set up to attract prospective students. As she walked past them, she accepted one of the flyers they offered her.

Ever since she left home, she’d been wondering what her next step would be, and one of the things she had considered, was going to an academy. She’d never had the chance to get more of an education, since she chose to compleltely focus on ril after basic schooling. Now, though, she was questioning the decision. She was walking past a jewelry store, still reading the flyer, when a neckless in the show window caught her attention. When she entered the store, she was immediately engulfed in the crisp smell of cleanliness, and a light flowery perfume. She couldn’t help but compare Wuhan to Gralt, the first planet she’d arrived at after leaving her home. The planet had an extremely hot climate that may have been bearable, if not for the fact that it rained constantly. The rain made it so humid that Salia felt like she should have been swimming instead of walking. To top it off, all the buildings on Gralt were made from the planet’s unique lipo cactus bricks. The bricks released a sickly-sweet smell, which she was told warded off the planet’s carnivorous insets. The natives tried to convince her that she’d get used to the smell within a week, but Salia withstood it for two days before she booked a ticket off the planet. She laughed lightly at the memory, then walked closer to see the necklace that had caught her attention, taking another deep breath as she did.

The necklace was a delicately crafted metal chain, with a silver circular pendant that had an intricate arabesque relief sculpted onto it. Salia felt her chest tighten. It was just the kind of thing her mother would love. Even a month after leaving home, Salia still felt intense guilt whenever she thought about her mother. Although, no matter how strong those feelings were, she knew she wouldn’t return yet. So as she had sat in each shuttle taking her further and further away from her parents, she had decided that at every planet she visited, until she saw them again, she would pick up something for them; some sort of souvenir. She hoped that they would aid in her apology whenever she returned home. Even as she was leaving Gralt, she purchased some small insect-shell holo-com cases that were being sold in the ITS. Salia sighed and picked up the necklace. Then she reluctantly began browsing, for a ring for her dad, when she noticed a purple glow was suddenly cast over her. She looked around and found the source immediately. A young dreakarian couple had moved near her, their stunning purple and blue wings immediately drew her eyes. But what was even more fascinating was the glow coming from the woman’s stomach. Salia had learned of the dreakarian pre-birth glow as a child in basic education, but she never expected she would see it in real life, especially one so strong. The entire shop was cast in the purple glow. She watched as the woman gently rubbed her stomach and the man placed his hand over hers. Salia turned away blushing, not wanting to be caught staring, but she peeked at them again, and hid a small smile.

She looked around the store a bit more before purchasing the necklace and a pair of cufflinks, then she left after stealing one more glance of the couple. Seeing the couple filled her with so much excitement, that she skipped down the street. Back home, she had lived in the countryside, and although Cajara attracted many tourists, most stayed in the city, so she had never seen many off-worlders. Then, when she was able to move to the city thanks to ril, her coach and family hardly let her leave the training facility and dorms. The only time she was able to see anything foreign was from a distance during matches. But now, in a just a couple weeks, she had seen, Winforans, Iclaxians, Lyfolians, and now, even the pre-birth glow of a Dreakarian. She jumped up, and spun, grinning from ear to ear.

She looked around trying to figure out where to go next. Then across the street, she spotted an auto-server store, and deciding that she wanted to check out some of the new models, she began walking towards it. Halfway across the street, she started to feel heavier. With each step, she found it harder to move and breath. She clenched her fists and struggled to lift her foot up. It felt like the entire area was suddenly becoming pressurized, or that the gravity of the planet had somehow doubled. She looked around to see if others were feeling the same and noticed that all the bustily had come to a standstill. The discomfort continued to grow steadily. Sweat began dripping down her face, and she felt hot bile rise up in her throat. People around her were mummering, and she heard a few retching sounds, yet it all felt distant. Everything was being filtered through ear muffs and grey tinted glasses. She felt dizzy and found it difficult to keep herself standing as she stumbled side to side in her attempt to move forward. Beside her, a man tipped forward, and tried to catch himself, but instead, he fainted from the effort. As he fell, the single second seemed to extend for minutes, and Salia caught every moment in detail. She saw his expression morph from confusion, to shock, then a blank stare as his body went limp. The man hit the ground, and bounced once, then world exploded in front of Salia.

She was thrown back, but she managed to create a weak force field around herself, so she didn’t lose consciousness when she hit the ground. She lay dazed for a few moments, before getting up shakily. Once she stood up straight, she immediately doubled over and threw up. Despite her force field, her body ached, and the plaza was filling up with smoke from whatever had exploded, so she could only see a few feet in front of her; a disturbing hissing sound filled the air further disorienting her. Salia shook her head to clear her thoughts and began staggering forward. Above the steady sound of hissing, a loud crack, like the splitting of rock, resounded throughout the plaza, and the hissing grew more urgent. As Salia became more aware, she realized that what she initially thought was smoke filling the air, was actually steam. The hot white vapors continued to pour out of the source of the explosion, becoming denser as she moved closer. The loud cracking sounds continued, but they were becoming smaller and more frequent. It was like the sound of a hundred of drops of water falling into hot oil.

Almost at the source of the explosion, pushing through the commotion of people running and stumbling about, Salia slowly inched closer filled with trepidation and curiosity. The hissing and cracking had stopped now, and the steam was slowly dissipating. Finally, Salia was able to get a clear view of what had caused the disturbance. What she had expected to see was a burning hover-car, or some individual who had lost control of his powers, but instead, the pit of horror that filled her sight, shocked her into stillness. At the place where the auto-sever shop had stood, was a crater the size of a car, and inside it, were putrid yellow egg sacks of various sizes. The cracking sounds had come from the eggs hatching and pouring forth vile horrors. Salia could still see smaller eggs trembling and hatching, releasing small clouds of steam as they did.

The little masses that came out from the eggs, popped and grew, sprouting wings, legs, and tentacles spontaneously. She hoped she was dreaming, but it was a scene so strange and horrible that she knew that even her worst nightmares could never conjure it up. She thought to move backwards, but her legs shook violently, and didn’t budge. Around her, people were exhibiting various degrees of horror. Some were stunned into stillness and silence like herself, while other began running immediately, shoving anyone in their way; a few people were recording the scene. Those who could fly took off, and some with powers, were frantically firing whatever they could into the hole: fire, plasma, water, all had no effect as their powers simply bounced of or rolled over the powerful forcefield protecting the crater. From the corner of her eyes, she noticed the dreakarian couple. The two, more composed that the rest, acted quickly.

Despite the situation, Salia registered the fact that in her lifetime, she was able to witness a dreakarian shift forms. Their bodies grew and morphed into that of a creature with a large barreled chest, longneck, and a tail. Their wings grew over ten times their original size, and hair sprouted all over their bodies, matching the color of their wings. The man shielded his pregnant wife, whose belly now shone like a miniature sun, as she flew off quickly. He followed close behind, but before leaving, he picked up as many people as he could fit his animal hands and flew them to safety, letting out a loud roar as he took off.

Up until that moment, Salia had watched everything in a shocked daze, but the roar shook her and a few others out of their shock and back to reality. The sounds coming out from the crater had become horrendous. Bones could be heard snapping, popping, dislocating, and reattaching; the sound was overlaid with various fluids flowing and dripping, and accompanied by crunching and wet chewing. Salia closed her eyes and didn’t dare look inside again from fear that she would pass out from disgust or die from shock. She quickly turned around and began pushing through the crowd to get away.

“Everyone, move!” She screamed at those nearest to her, shaking people that were frozen in fear. “Move quickly, there are graule in the hole.”

Others were doing the same thing, and she was relieved to see that the Planetary Defense Division (PDD) had already arrived on the scene and were moving people to safe zones. The PDD were making their way to the hole using high altitude hover-vehicles. When the lead vehicle arrived above the hole, its headlights were turned to full power, and the defense team were descending slowly into the hole. Then without warning, a large yellow tentacle shot up and wrapped around the vehicle, shaking it back and forth, sending members of the defense team flying. The meaty appendage had sharp spinal bones growing out of it that the smaller creatures held onto. The tentacle snapped the hover-vehicle in half, and shook violently, sending the smaller creatures sailing trough windows and landing on people. Other graule where now crawling, jumping, or flying out of the hole, attacking anyone nearby.

The remaining defense vehicles began firing laser blasts into the whole, which although broke through the force field, were no match for the graules’ rapid regeneration. Other defense officers were still trying to move people away from the scene. Salia lifted herself into the air above the masses of people, and began quickly flying away, while sending bolts of energy at the smaller graule chasing her and other people. She was almost at one of the PDD vehicles, when she felt a force slam into her body. She was pushed down by an invisible wall, and when she felt static energy crawling all over her skin, she knew she had been caught in the psychic field of a powerful creature. It took all her energy to prevent herself from being crushed to the ground. She could see beneath her, people laid out on their backs and struggling. Others had passed out with their moving chests the only indication that they were still alive, and, a few, she saw were still, un-moving bodies in puddles of liquid.

Salia kept trying to rise against the force, to no avail. Sweat gushed out of her body soaking her clothes, and her chest rose and fell with exertion. She knew that if she could fly out of the creature’s area of influence, she would be fine, but as her body was pushed lower to the ground, her hopes sank. Whatever was growing at the bottom of that crater was only getting stronger. Salia began to doubt if there would even be a safe place to run to. She’d read of graule that could single handedly crush entire cities, and now there were multiple of the frightful creatures swarming all over the place. Even as she was being crushed, she saw the large tentacle still waving around, threatening anything that dared approach the hole, and the smaller graule were still picking at immobile people. Salia gasped, as she felt her chest contracting. Suddenly, she heard a sharp cry that ran through her body and dug from the depths of her soul, an instinctual terror that she didn’t know existed within her. She went limp and was slammed to the ground on top the people already fallen there. The roar rang out again and shook her bones. At some point she had begun to cry and didn’t even know it. Form the position she’d landed in, she could see the hole clearly, or more precisely the creatures rising out from it.

Two dark forms rose out of the hole in hellish brilliance. Explosions were ringing out from random locations, and the sky filled with black rapidly moving clouds. One of the creatures, Salia knew was a leviathan. It was this creature that swung its spinal tentacles, destroying vehicles and taking chunks out of buildings with each hit. Its red eyes seemed to call forth promises of pain and death. The other creature spread its dark blue velvety wings each the length of two cars, adored by the occasional crimson feather. If it wasn’t a harbinger of destruction, Salia may have thought it was beautiful. Its long muscular tail thinned to a tip covered in golden feathers, and its head shone from the concentration of its psychic power. Salia recognized the creature as a sufin and lost the will to even attempt to scream. From the basic graule studies she’d had in school, she knew that to face a Leviathan meant death was near, but to see a sufin was to see the face of death.

Salia stared into its golden eyes and felt nothing. Her heart that had been racing the entire time had settled, and her body had gone limp. She could no longer feel any fear. All her physical, mental, and emotional faculties had gone numb. The only thing she was aware of were the eyes of the sufin, and the calm that had overtaken her. She could see that others had stopped struggling as well, faced against a sufin, there could be no other option but to willing submit themselves its hunger. Salia was almost willing, and she thought off-handedly that if she could move, she may have even run and offered herself up. A serene smile came over her face, and she felt herself relax completely. Then like the snapping of a string, all her sensations flooded back into her, with the thundering sound of what looked like a large spear slamming through one of the sufin’s wings. The spear then dissolved into thin black threads that wrapped around the sufin’s body, pulling it up towards the figure hovering in the sky.

The numbness in her mind began to subside, but the energy in the air grew more tumults and volatile. She cried tears of joy and had never been so thankful to feel terror before. She stood up, and dusted herself off, then jumped down form the pile of debris and bodies she was on. She kept shaking her head, as though she could physically dislodge any lingering influence the sufin had over her. Salia had never considered herself as weak minded, but now she doubted herself, seeing how easily she had fallen into the sufin’s siren trance. She shuddered, when she thought that just a few seconds ago she had considered offering herself to the creature. The hair on her body stood up, and she looked to the sky as another wave of psychic power washed over the area, accompanied by another figure. By the luminous purple glow surrounding him, she knew he must have been a zentalian. The zentalian changed at the Leviathan that was now emerging out of the hole to assist the sufin that had been caught by the other figure. Sending small beams of anti-matter, the zentalian destroyed the leviathan’s tentacles one by one. The other figure was still battling the sufin. As the sufin sent radiant burst of energy, the figure wrapped the black marks into a wall that blocked the blast. The zentalian, used his psychic force to pull the leviathan into the air, destroying it bit by bit, as its regenerative abilities struggled to keep up with the damage being done to it. Soon the sky was filled with battle, and the regrouped PDD teams stared firing on the smaller creatures.

Salia was aware that people were beginning to run away again, now that they were free from the sufin, but Salia remained transfixed on the raging battle. The PDD teams were quickly ushering people away from the area, and a man wearing a white psych-block helmet pulled her up and began pulling her away.

“Are you okay?” He asked, holding on to her arm. She nodded absentmindedly, still straining to watch the battle.

The zentalian and marakian moved in perfect coordination, slowly and steadily beating back the attacks of the sufin and leviathan. Salia froze, despite the officer’s urging, completely entranced by the ease and grace with which the two figures combated the monsters. No movements were wasted. She was suddenly reminded her childhood, when she used to watch the top ril players on the sports channel. It was those easy maneuvers that they had made as they closed in on a goal that made her decide to become a ril player. She felt a tugging in her heart towards the direction of the fight. The defense officer was attempting to forcefully pull her, but she remained rooted in the spot, and she clenched her fist over her chest. She could tell that the battle was coming to a close, she could feel it in every fiber of her being. Three more seconds. Two. One.

The marakian suddenly spurted wings and moved forward with a thundering force that ripped through the air and shattered any windows that weren’t already broken. The marks on her body leaped and swirled the air, then followed her finger and surged in the direction of the two beasts. The marks poured off her body like water from a broken dam, willful and wild. They wrapped around the weakened creatures, locking them in place, then in a show of utmost trust, the marakian remained locked with the creatures, as the zentalian, fired hundreds of beams of anti-matter in quick succession. Not one missed its mark, and the creatures were completely disintegrated without harming a single part of the marakian. The two made quick work of some of the remaining graule that were giving the PDD trouble, then disappeared as suddenly as they had arrived, through a bright wall of light that Salia guessed was some kind of teleportation power.

It took a few moments, and some more efforts from the PDD, but soon, the tension and static in the air finally settled. Sirens still blared, and people were screaming and crying, but a solemnness had descended on the area, making it seem quiet. Calmness slowly returned, but Salia’s heart beat faster than she could manage to deal with standing, so she sat on the floor. By this time, the officer that was with her was calling for medical support, but she ignored him. She couldn’t be bothered to tell him that the blood she could feel rushing through her veins and beating behind her skull and chest were not from any injury or ailment, but from excitement and anticipation. She looked up to where the two figures had disappeared, and although She didn’t know how, she told herself that she would get to the place behind that wall of light.

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Brief Break Notice

Hello everyone,

I just wanted to let everyone who has been reading my stories know that I’m really glad you enjoy these visions from the Nol galaxy. I plan to keep expanding this world, and these characters. In fact, there’s so much I have planned, that I wish I could clone myself so I could work on multiple things at once… sadly I can’t, which is why I will be taking a brief break from posting weekly. Right now, things are getting quite hectic for me with work and health, and it’s becoming really difficult to keep up with writing and editing a new story each week. But I’ll definitely be back soon with much better content and a much healthier mindset.

Thank you 🙂