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 16: DETOURS DETOURED, PASCAL WOULD BE PROUD
At first, every part of the plan was going off without a hitch. Flye was able to pinpoint exactly where Pathena was inside The Settlement, Dr. Lee found it and mapped out a route for me to follow to find her inside. Shishu and I made it into The Settlement just fine and headed toward the building that Pathena was in. Flye had told me that no one would be there when we arrived, so we just had to bust in, grab Pathena and get out. It would be as simple as that. All was going beautifully.
We were making our way through the city at a remarkably fast pace. I was leading the way, weaving in and out of people in the market place. I was struck by how large The Settlement was, both in size and population. The further into the city we went the more we realized that it just kept going. There were always more people, and we could always see the cliff edge opposite us ascending upwards, but we never got any closer to it. I would check over my shoulder periodically, and see Shishu gliding through people in his smoke state. No one paid him any notice.
We reached a point when we were supposed to turn left out of the marketplace. I glanced over my shoulder to ensure that Shishu could see me make the turn.
As I was turning my head back forward, I got the inexplicable urge to turn right instead of left. I can’t describe it any better than to say that my brain was telling me to turn left and every other part of me was telling me to turn right. Strangely enough, my brain lost, and I found myself walking right instead of left.
I looked back over my shoulder to see if Shishu saw me go the wrong way. He approached the corner, and took the left turn just as if he were following me on the path we had planned. This perplexed me because he looked like he was still following someone or something. His face was set ahead of him just as it had been when we had made our way through the crowd and he had been watching my movements intently, but now he was watching no one.
I wanted to shout at him to make him realize he was going the wrong way, which was really the right way but not the way I had gone, but two things stopped me. First of all, it would have linked me with the Umbra who had just made his way through the marketplace, and we wanted to avoid that as much as possible. But more than that, my voice wouldn’t let me call out to him. I realized this halfway through the thought. Even if I had attempted it, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do so. It was as if my body knew exactly what it was doing, but it wasn’t going to let me in on the plan.
Once I came to this conclusion, I gave up and decided to just do whatever my body told me to do. I walked up a short set of steps, and the crowd thinned. Another right turn, then another left and I found myself in a deserted little alleyway with one man standing in the middle of it facing me.
He was extremely ordinary looking, and I tried to walk past him, but my body decided to stop dead in front of him. I tried not to make eye contact with him, but my eyes decided to look directly into his. He was about my height with untidy black hair. He wore clothes similar to what I had seen Pathena wearing and he held his body with a relaxed confidence, but confidence that could easily go unnoticed. I almost want to say that his body conveyed that he didn’t care about anything around him, but not because he didn’t care, just because he couldn’t be surprised by anything. His eyes were blue, striking, and deep. It was his eyes that captivated me, and they gave me a sense of calmness that I shouldn’t have had considering that I had no control over my motor functions at the time.
We both simply stood there staring into each other’s eyes. It was tense, but not awkward at all. I kept trying to say something, but I could never get my voice to engage. Who was this mysterious, confident, calming man who stood before me? The question rang in my mind over and over again when he abruptly and intently turned around and walked to the end of the alleyway, turning out of sight. The moment I could no longer see him something large fell in front of me, and hit the ground with a loud thud.
I started, in control again, and looked down at the thing in front of me. It was a disheveled, exhausted, and broken Plink. Her eyes were closed and her clothes torn and ratty. Her hair had lost its mesmerizing luster and had bits of debris in it, like it might get from being dragged on the ground. The soft pink light that emanated from her skin was as dim as I had ever seen it, leaving her practically white. All of her weapons were gone, and, for the first time since I had known her, she looked truly frail.
I knelt down next to her limp body and tried desperately to wake her up. After a few seconds with no success I looked around the alley and up from where she had fallen. It was as if she had plummeted straight out of the sky.
I took a breath and looked for anything to give me a clue about what to do. I tried to look for the weird things, things I didn’t have on earth. I looked for invisible Umbili on the rooftops. I looked for trees that were colors other than just brown and green. I looked for white skies with blue clouds. I looked for lightning skin, and talking beetles. I searched for four legged animals with fangs and talons. I looked for the strangely calming man who had just left the alleyway, but he was nowhere to be found. I looked for what an Umbili might overlook, and buried in the wall next to me I found it.
A glassy black circle was set into the wall. I didn’t know what it was, but it looked out of place in the sandy, brown, brick surroundings. I darted over to it to get a closer look but couldn’t find anything else unusual about it other than the fact that it was there. It was just a black glassy button inserted into the rock of the wall, no bigger than my fist. I waved a hand in front of it. Nothing happened. I lined up directly in front of it and placed one eye dangerously close to the wall, peering into the blackness. Again nothing.
I suddenly knew what I should do with it and I walked back over to Plink, hoisted her onto my shoulder, and dragged her limp body over to the wall. With all the courage I could muster, I took a deep breath, and pressed my hand flat onto the black circle as firmly as I could. The moment my skin touched the smooth surface, complete darkness engulfed us both.
I woke up in a black room. Pitch black walls, a shiny black floor, and a high black ceiling gave me the odd sensation of being in outer space; in reality, I was in some sort of theater. A few black chairs were scattered around me on one half of the room and on the other half, a small stage. There were two doors on either side of the stage and a door behind all the chairs. Plink lay next to me in the same disheveled state she had been in the alleyway.
The truly frightening thing was what was on stage. Brew’s limp body was tied to a stake in the middle of the platform. She was held upright by a few taut ropes encircling her. Two Umbili stood on either side. Worst of all, her light was completely out and her body was turning a pasty gray. I didn’t see anyone else in the room.
I looked around. The Umbili were completely still. If it weren’t for the fact that they were breathing I would have thought they were statues. I decided to test the limits of my freedom and stood up. Neither of the Umbili in the room acted. I started to walk around Plink to put her body in a more comfortable position. Again, they did nothing. As I walked I felt a throbbing in my head and realized that I had been knocked unconscious by something when I had touched the black circle.
After I situated Plink, I checked the stage again and then headed toward the door at the back of the theater to see if I could open it. Just as I reached for the handle something hard hit me in the face, and I realized my mistake. There were Umbili in the room who had not unlocked my view of them.
As I sat up, my head reeling from the blow, I looked at the door and tried to focus on the wall around where I thought one of them was standing. The outline of a dude who looked a lot like Chak came into view. I glanced around the room and saw the faint outlines of a few others, one standing next to Plink where I had left her, and another on each door in the room, bringing the grand total up to six opposing Umbili in the room with me, three dudes and three dades.
I thought longingly of my armor and sword that I had left in the backpack with Chak. I reached down to my belt and found that my pistol had been removed at some point while I was unconscious, but to my amazement, the time seed was still draped around my neck, nestled inside the leather pouch just like always. I thought for a moment about the situation. What should I do? What could I do? There were six Umbili, immensely stronger than me, keeping me with two disabled allies. I had no idea where or when we were. The only asset I had was the seed hanging around my neck.
I decided the best course of action was to talk.
I pulled the seed out of its pouch and held it in front of me.
“So why didn’t you take this from me?” I yelled as confidently as I could to the room at large. No response.
“What? Were you scared to touch it?”
Again, no response.
“Big strong Mendrax can’t even give you enough courage to touch a little seed. Sounds like quite a leader.” I was trying to evoke some sort of reaction, anything that I could try and capitalize on.
“I guess your morning star isn’t really reigning supreme is he?” Finally I hit pay dirt. All six of the Umbili in the room hissed loudly like snakes, and the four whom I couldn’t see suddenly unlocked my full view of them. The dade guarding Brew on the stage began chanting just as the four legged animal had done in the clearing.
“Mendrax will reign supreme. The morning star has risen and its light will blot out the sun.” She did this so monotonously and quietly that it just filled the room with a slight murmur more than anything else.
“So why did you leave me alive?” I shouted. “Why not just kill me? Kill us all like you killed Brew! It would end the threat right here, right now! What do you need me alive for?”
The Umbili at the doors took a few steps closer to me and the one guarding Plink reached down and grabbed her. I flinched slightly but tried not to show my fear.
“Why not me?!” I wailed. “Speak up! What do you need me for? If you don’t tell me I’ll… I’ll–” I raised the seed high above my head and as I did the Umbili by the back door froze. In fact, everything in the room froze. The chanting stopped. There was absolute silence. It was as if time itself had momentarily halted and I was the only one who could see it happening.
Then I heard a voice. It was a calm voice speaking just as loudly as one might when having a conversation in a quiet living room. I can’t explain why but I knew without a doubt that the voice belonged to the extremely confident man from the alleyway.
“Nicholas, you will have only a short time to complete the following. Go and drag Plink to the door behind you and sit her just next to it in a chair. Once you have done that, go onto the stage and retrieve the Agnoscian Orb, which the dade is keeping concealed behind Brew, and retrieve your pistol from the dude. Untie the ropes keeping Brew tied to the pole. She is about to undergo a transformation. Once these tasks are complete, return to where you are now and blink your eyes three times.” The voice stopped.
“Who are you? What kind of transformation?” I asked. The voice didn’t respond.
“Why should I trust you?”
“Why shouldn’t you?” the voice said, and I could tell by the way he asked the question that it was the last time he would speak.
I paused for just a moment. Who or whatever this voice was, his reasoning was correct. I had nothing to lose by doing what he said and the possibility of gaining something if I did. If he was on the opposing side, then I would be no worse off than I already was, but if he was on my side, I might have the chance to get out of this situation.
I was convinced quickly and set to work. I put the seed back in its pouch around my neck, placed Plink by the back door, grabbed the Agnoscian Orb and my pistol, and untied the ropes holding Brew in place. She slid down the post slightly but the frozen Umbili grasping her on either side prevented her from falling to the floor. When that was done I returned to my position, orb and pistol in hand, and blinked slowly and intentionally three times.
The moment I opened my eyes after the third blink, the room exploded with light. It was sudden and blinding and a loud thunderclap accompanied it followed by a loud ringing sound, which knocked all the Umbili in the room to the floor. Strangely enough, I was in complete control of my footing. The light was coming from Brew. She no longer needed to be held in place; she rose slightly up the post and her body began to stretch in every direction. The light was so bright that I had to shade my eyes so I couldn’t see exactly what was happening.
The ringing continued and a few seconds into the transformation I felt something lift me off my feet. Before I knew what was happening I had been hoisted over the familiar shoulder of Thrump. The back door had been opened and Thrump, Chak, Flye, Fwik, Fwish, Shishu, Dr. Lee, and Pathena had rushed in, grabbed Plink and me and started making their way out. I barely got a glimpse of Shishu cradling Plink in his arms, and Chak looking back at Brew’s shining body before passing out for the second time that day.
The last thought on my mind as I faded into blackness was the simple and comforting phrase, “My friends!”
Want to keep reading? Go to the next section! >>> “Chapter 17.”