This is a continuation of a story begun in the post “Chapter 1. Part 1.” If you enjoy it, please like and share it with others!
CHAPTER 13: DOUBLE STANDARDS
Chak came running moments after my scream. He saw me on my knees next to the remains of the tent and came to the same realizations I had. The white light inside of his skin burned more brightly than I had ever seen it. He tore through the tent fabric like it was tissue paper. I could spot the moment he saw Brew’s blood. There was a momentary lapse in his rage, which was followed by a wail of agony. Thrump, Shishu, and Flye quickly joined the scene. They assessed it quickly and helped Chak away from the tent.
“Come on Chak. We have to figure out what happened.”
“Don’t worry. I’m sure they’re fine.”
“Brew and Plink are tough. They can handle themselves.”
The usual comforting phrases were being tossed around. We regrouped around the dying embers of the fire and found Fwik and Fwish, curled up into two little balls; sound asleep in a patch of grass. The sight of this caused Chak to fly back into a rage. He picked up both Umbili by the hair just as he had done last night and slammed the two of them together. It made a loud sound like a thunderclap. The twins awoke when he had picked them up and were now yowling in pain. Chak threw them to the ground hard.
Fwik rolled over and reached for his whip and like lightning it was wrapped around Chak’s arm. This was the wrong thing for Fwik to do, because Chak grasped the whip with both hands and yanked it upward. Fwik didn’t have enough sense to let go until it was too late and he was suddenly flying straight up into the air. In this time, Fwish had gotten back on her feet and she was running around underneath her brother, arms outstretched, yelling, “I gotcha! I gotcha bro.” Fwik barreled back to the ground and just as his sister was about to grab him in her arms, Chak delivered a solid fist to his stomach and knocked his entire body out of the way of Fwish’s grasp. He flew sideways for a few seconds before landing hard on the dirt road, skidding to a halt in a heap.
All of this happened in a matter of seconds. It was so quick that everyone else was more stunned by the grace with which Chak was beating the twins to a pulp than they were motivated to stop it. Thrump was the first one to come to himself and he stood between Fwish and the advancing Chak.
“Chak. Calm down. You have to calm down. We need to talk—”
“I don’t want to talk! It’s their fault!” Chak was crying as he yelled these words at Thrump. He tried to get around the giant, but Thrump’s tree-like arms steadfastly prohibited him from reaching Fwish.
“Listen. You can beat them up later. First we have to figure out what happened.” Fwish made an indignant noise at this remark.
“I know what happened! They fell asleep on the watch and when they did, Brew was kidnapped!”
“Chak, don’t make me hit you. Just calm down, alright?” said Thrump in his slow soothing tone.
Chak took a deep breath. His light faded back to its usual intensity. When it did, Thrump stepped out of the way.
“Alright. Fwik, get your sorry little self over here,” Thrump yelled over his shoulder. Fwik staggered to his feet and moved as quickly as he could back over to Thrump. “What’s the last thing you remember?” Thrump asked him.
“Well, it’s hard to say. At the beginning of our watch we played Wakazo for about an hour.”
“What’s Wakazo?” I asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” muttered Flye under her breath.
“Of course, I won about seven games in a row,” continued Fwik.
“Three,” said Fwish through a well-placed cough, and started laughing, but an angry glance from Chak quieted her.
“And then Fwish and I sort of decided that we didn’t both need to be up, just one of us, so we were going to take turns sleeping. It was really, really boring out here.”
“And we didn’t have anything to do!” Fwish added.
“Keeping watch might have been on the to-do list,” said Thrump.
“Yeah, well we were gonna tag team it an hour at a time,” said Fwik, “and it worked for one whole shift. Fwish went to sleep first, then I put her hand in a dish of warm water,” he started laughing, “and she,” another glance from Chak cut him short. “She woke up,” he said.
“And then Fwik got his turn to sleep, and I woke him up after an hour. It was really gelling. Of course somebody fell asleep when he wasn’t supposed to.”
“I was trying to come up with a substitute for cinnamon to put in your,” another look from Chak, “but I sort of nodded off and I guess…” He trailed off at the end of his sentence.
“So you have no idea what it was that took them?” Thrump asked.
They shook their heads in unison.
The sun was peaking over the horizon now and there was light spilling into the canyon. When it did it was more obvious where the two dades had been taken. The tent had been scattered into so many pieces, that a sparse trail of tent fragments littered the road and a few of them were on the left side of the river, the way that led off into the desert and canyon wall. Chak noticed this quickly in the light. We spent about thirty minutes searching the camp for more clues as to where they went, or who took them. There was a bit more of Brew’s blood on the outside of mine and Chak’s tent. There was also the startling discovery of Plink’s crossbow discarded on the bank of the river. That’s when Shishu discovered the most horrific news.
“Chak!” he said, holding the backpack that rested every night outside of Chak’s tent. “The orb. It’s gone.”
Chak froze where he stood, considering what Shishu had just said. The Agnoscian Orb had been taken with Plink and Brew.
“What are we going to do?” Shishu asked.
“What do you mean what are we going to do?” Chak yelled. “We’re going to go after them!”
“Oh, so now that it’s your partner in trouble, it’s a no brainer that we’ll be going to save them,” Thrump said.
“It’s not just the fact that Brew’s there. We have to get the Agnoscian Orb too. We can’t just go on without it. Brew is also our chef. How are we supposed to eat without someone who knows how to cook?”
“I can cook!” interjected Flye.
“I can too,” said Fwik.
Everyone stopped momentarily and looked at him.
“What?” he asked. “I’m not allowed to like cooking?”
“That’s not the point,” said Chak. “The point is we have to go and get them.”
“But how?” asked Thrump. “We don’t even know where they are.”
“They have to be at The Settlement.”
“You’re assuming they’re at The Settlement.”
“It’s a reasonable assumption. Name any other place on this line that they might be. The Settlement is the only town between Mendrax’s realm and The City of Falling water, and Mendrax’s realm is that way,” Chak said pointing downstream. “The trail goes that way,” he said pointing down the road to the left. “Right in the direction of The Settlement. I’ll bet you whoever took them stayed on the road the whole time.”
“We can’t just go off on a wild goose chase. We have to have some idea of what we’re getting ourselves into. We have to at least know what section of The Settlement they’re in. We also need to know how we’re going to get in. You know they’re not the most friendly to Umbili in most parts of that place. We’ll need a spy inside, or at least a distraction to get us in the gate.” Thrump was working through every obstacle that would meet them as it came to him.
“What’s The Settlement?” I asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” said Chak.
“No. Tell me, right now. If we’re going to be going to this place, I want to know what it is. What do you mean they don’t like Umbili there?”
Chak sighed. “The Settlement is supposedly the town that the first human established. You remember the story of the human who blew away the Umbra? The legends say he set up a town here in the Wilderness of the Syllogy on the spot where he blew away the Umbra. I personally don’t believe it was actually the first human, but somehow a human town was built. It rests at the base of the cliff at the end of the road. That’s what the road was built for, so that the humans could easily get wood from the forest,” he gestured to the forest on the other side of the river, “for building their city. Umbili don’t go there because the humans who live there are so hostile to any creatures not like them. Talking animals don’t go there, the Umbili don’t go there, the Umbra definitely don’t go there, but we need to go there!”
Doctor Lee buzzed into view. “I am just as upset at the situation as you are Chak. I care very much for Brew. But you do need to calm down. I believe you are omitting a valuable resource that we have at our disposal.”
“What are you talking about?” Thrump asked.
“As Chak has rightly stated, talking animals, Umbili, and Umbra never enter The Settlement because of the hostility they are met with. But our group is made up of one more species than the ones mentioned.”
Shishu understood what he meant first. “Of course. Nicholas.”
“I still don’t get it,” said Chak.
“Nicholas is human,” said Shishu. “He can pretend that he belongs. He can subtly ask questions and find if Brew and Plink are there.”
Everyone considered this thought for a moment.
“Sounds like a good plan to me!” said Fwik.
“Me too!” echoed Fwish.
“I- I don’t know about this,” said Thrump.
“What do you mean you don’t know about this? This is the only plan we’ve got!” Chak said, clearly anxious to do something.
“Weren’t you the one hesitant to put Nicholas into danger when he had to blow away the Umbra? Why are you so sure this time that we should hurl him into hostile territory alone? Are you really so selfish that your partner is more important to you than the orders of the Higher-ups? More important than the Syllogy itself?” Thrump sounded angry.
“Weren’t you the one who out-voted me when it came to Nicholas blowing away the Umbra? Why are you so sure this time that we shouldn’t let him try?” Chak retorted.
“I’m not saying we shouldn’t do something I’m just saying I don’t think this is the best plan. Our very existence depends on keeping this young man safe until we reach Mendrax’s realm, and throwing him unaccompanied into The Settlement is downright irresponsible.”
“But it wasn’t downright irresponsible when he might blow himself away?”
“We were there to intervene if something had gone wrong. Here, we will be out of the picture. He will be completely on his own. There’s no way of keeping him—”
“I can’t lose her Thrump! I can’t lose her.”
“I’m not asking you to, I’m just saying we need a better plan. This one has too many risks.”
Doctor Lee cleared his throat as loudly as a beetle could.
“Might I make another observation? The fact that I talk is only obvious if I actually do so. Nicholas himself was confused by my ability and ready to attribute it to anything but me when we first met. Might I accompany him into The Settlement? I could travel quickly between our group and him to carry messages back and forth, and alert you Umbili should something go awry and Nicholas become… compromised… as it were.”
“Doc. You’re a genius,” said Chak.
“I didn’t get the honorary title for nothing,” said Doctor Lee. “Never fear. Dr. Cornelius Spencer Lee is on the job.”
Want to keep reading? Go to the next section! >>> “Chapter 14.”