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 18: TELEON
We celebrated a bit that night. This detour had been quite taxing, and by all rights and purposes we shouldn’t have had the energy to celebrate, but we did anyway. We ate food and sang into the night at the return of a friend. Chak was quiet for most of the night, but just before he went to bed he quietly said to Doctor Lee, “I forgive you too.” He didn’t wait for a response, but turned, gave Brew a huge hug, and then walked into his tent. I glanced around.
No one else noticed these little interactions, but I could tell that Chak was dealing with the idea that he might have been wrong about Umbra this entire time. He needed time to work it all out in his head, and I was happy that he was taking the time to do it. If we were lucky we might get back the jovial Chak I had met on my first day in the Syllogy. It was strange to me to think that it had been only five days ago that this whole adventure began.
I leaned against a rock and thought on this for a while. These Umbili had probably had a bigger influence on my life than anyone else, and it had all happened in the space of five days. It was while pondering this thought that I suddenly realized Pathena was there with us in this campsite and I had no idea how she had gotten there. I quickly stood up and walked over to her, blurting out the tactless and ill-formed sentence, “What are you here for how?”
She smiled at me sweetly and said, “Would you like another try at that?”
I swallowed and nodded. “Sorry,” I said, taking a breath. “How did you get here?”
“I think Shishu should answer that question,” she said.
With that we walked over to Shishu, who was talking with Thrump, Dr. Lee, Brew, and the slowly recovering Plink.
“Shishu, Nicholas wants to know how I got here. Do you want to fill him in?” said Pathena with a strangely confident swagger.
“I will do my best,” said Shishu. “I don’t know exactly where I lost you in our plan to save Pathena. I remember following you intently when you simply faded from sight. I then realized that I had not been following you for some time, and that Pathena was standing in front of me. I knew it was she because she did not treat me like a human who had been raised in The Settlement, but like one who had been placed there. She looked directly at me and asked me a question.”
“I’ve never been one to dislike Umbili, or Umbra,” she said. “You see, I was standing outside my master’s house taking inventory of the carpets we still hadn’t sold when Shishu approached me, and, strangely enough, I had been waiting for him. I think for you to understand this, I have to tell you something else.
“There’s a man who comes to The Settlement very often. His name is Teleon. He leads a small group of citizens there and teaches them philosophy. He also tells the citizens of The Settlement strange things and performs miracles. No one really knows where he comes from, or where he goes. Some say he was born in The Settlement and grew up there. Others say he’s a traveler of worlds. Some just say he’s crazy and wonders the wilderness. Not many really trust him or like him. He’s always visiting and speaking and eating with the poor people, and the slaves. He’s always kind to me. He has a way of grabbing your attention with just a look. It’s piercing and frightening and exciting and attractive all at the same time. Whatever you think of him, everyone agrees that when he shows up, things happen.
“Two months ago he came and told me that you would be coming for me. He said that an Umbra would come to my door, take me away, and bring me to you. He also told me that I had to remain faithful to my master until that time.
“That is why I was so worried when I saw you in the marketplace this morning. I knew that you had come in the wrong way, at the wrong time, and this man Teleon, he… he’s always right about these things,” she said abruptly.
Shishu interjected, “We’ve heard different stories of Teleon back in the City of the Syllogy, though all we really knew for sure was his name. He sounds like a boogie man in most of our stories, though I’ve wondered how much is accurate. They say he can kill with a glance and heal with a touch. There’s as much debate in the Umbili world about him as there is in The Settlement.”
“Right. Well, when Shishu showed up, I asked him if Teleon had sent him.” Pathena said, returning to the story.
“When she spoke to me, I told her that I didn’t know Teleon, but that I was your friend. She didn’t hesitate to go with me. The problem became that I did not know where you were. You had vanished and I did not know how long I had been following some shadow of you. So, I took Pathena out to the place where we had left Chak, Thrump, and the twins only to find that they were gone.”
“But Teleon was there,” said Pathena.
“What does Teleon look like?” I asked.
“He’s pretty ordinary looking actually. He has black hair and the deepest blue eyes ever,” she said.
I couldn’t believe it. It was the same man. The same man who had guided me to himself moments before Plink appeared, and, from the sound of it, he had showed up here in this rocky clearing just moments later. This was the man who was supposedly just a crazy person living in the wilderness. Who was this man? What was this man?
“He told us that we needed to go back into The Settlement and he gave us specific directions to where we could find Chak, Fwik, Fwish, and Thrump, who had been captured by Umbili. He told us how to rescue them and then gave us specific instructions to find you. He didn’t tell us about Brew though.”
Another poignant silence punctuated the conversation.
“He told me about Brew. He told me she would have a transformation. I guess I should have understood what that meant,” I said.
“When did he tell you this?” asked Shishu.
“Later,” I said. “Tell me this, where were we when you guys came to the rescue? What part of The Settlement? I was unconscious for so long during our escape that I don’t really know what happened.”
“You were only unconscious for a few moments. We were at the base of the canyon wall, in an ancient theater. It’s one of the less populated places in The Settlement. You passed out. We ran. The rest of the Umbili of Mendrax were caught in the rock slide.”
“There was a rock slide?” I asked.
Trump walked up and joined in the conversation. “Yeah, a pretty big one. I think it was from Brew’s makeover. It knocked out the other Umbili, except for this one apparently, and when the rocks started falling we started running.”
“You haven’t got a chance.” We all looked around. No one recognized the voice that had just spoken. We glanced back and forth at each other as if to ask ‘Was that you?’ but no one claimed it.
“Down here,” said the voice again.
It was the rival Umbili that had been knocked out by Brew. Apparently, he was awake. We looked down at him, and Thrump looked at the group and asked, “What do you say we get to know our new friend?” No one objected. He reached down and grabbed the dude by the back of the tunic and yanked him to his feet.
The dude looked pretty beat up. He looked almost as bad as Plink did when I first found her. She was healing remarkably quickly, and had even begun walking around on her own, if a bit shakily. This dude, however, looked like his face had been placed in a meat grinder. He was a slender Umbili and seemed like he would have been weak even if he hadn’t been beaten to a pulp earlier that day. His red rope belt shone in the darkness in a way that I hadn’t seen the gold ropes do, and he had a most unimpressed look plastered across his face.
“You don’t scare me,” he said. “I work for Mendrax voluntarily. Do you really think a few muscles will throw me into a state of panic?”
With that, Thrump swung the dude downward and slammed his face into the rocky ground. There was a loud bang when he did. He held the Umbili up again as before, but he was slightly limper.
“On second thought, how about you don’t hit me anymore and I cooperate with you in return?”
“Why don’t we just kill you?” asked Thrump.
“You can’t! You’re the good guys. You wouldn’t ever kill an Umbili without permission from the Higher-ups! I may be a Mendrax follower, but I’m still an Umbili.”
“Who’s to say we don’t have Higher-up permission to kill you?” said Plink, smoothly. Her voice dripped with confidence, and the darkness shielded her weakened body from sight, giving an ominous feeling to the statement.
“I don’t believe you,” said the dude, obviously scared now.
“And how confident are you in that disbelief?” said Fwik.
“Now, now, no need to fret. Don’t give us a reason to kill you and we won’t have to,” said Thrump calmingly.
I honestly couldn’t tell if this was all an act for the dude’s benefit or if they were serious. From what I knew of these Umbili, I didn’t believe they would kill this dude out of cold blood. Then again, I had seen them in action, and I didn’t know how confident I was in that belief.
“Let’s get to know each other a bit, and forget about all of this killing talk. I’m,” at this point Thrump made a huge thudding sound that resembled a herd of elephants and a rolling snare drum. “Since we have some non-Umbili members in our party I go by my human name, Thrump, around here. Who might you be?” His speech was so silky smooth that it was hard to say no to him. The effect was both soothing and terrifying.
“His name is,” the sound of twisting metal and old car brakes squealing greeted our ears and it was awful. Flye was the one who spoke. “He’s my brother.”
“What?” said everyone in the group at the same time.
“Oh hey sis, I didn’t see you there! I didn’t know you’d been picked to try and stop us. Long time no see!”
“You can just call him Skreech. It’s a lot more pleasant on the ears. What are you doing here?” she asked.
“Well, isn’t this fun? Little Flye and her friends are off to save the world. Isn’t it obvious what I’m doing here? We had to punish the beetle for his treachery. He didn’t deserve a quick and painless death; we had to make him suffer.” A truly disgusting smile crept onto Skreech’s face, helped by the swelling, drool, and red blood that leaked out of his wounds.
“What else is coming our way Skreech? What else does Mendrax have to try and stop us?” asked Flye. She sounded forceful and almost mean. I had never imagined this sort of tone could come out of the innocent timid form of Flye.
“Ah, now that would be telling wouldn’t it?” said Skreech.
Thrump raised him high as if to send him careening back to the ground again, but Skreech shrieked at the upward movement.
“Ok, ok. I’ll tell you. He has another two teams of Umbili, just like the team that stole the orb, another group of Umbra that he created himself, a pack of Felavis for scout missions, and some guard dogs at the front gate. Two pairs of Ostrogles circle his house at all times and one large tree frog is at the draw bridge. Then there’s his entire court and realm full of Umbili and other animals, not that you’ll make it that far anyway- please don’t hit me again.” He said all of this quickly and the pitch of his voice rose higher and higher as he made his way through the list.
“Is that all?” asked Thrump.
“Yes. I think so. I don’t know. Is it?” Skreech was becoming incoherent.
“This is a waste of time,” said Flye, and with that, she moved forward, and grabbed Skreech’s head with one hand. He suddenly became motionless and Flye was closing her eyes tightly as she held on to the top of her brother’s head. After a moment, she relinquished and Skreech was back to his disjointed self.
“They’re coming. We need to move. Now,” she said. It was still so strange to see Flye in this authoritative mode that we didn’t argue.
Thrump secured Skreech tightly to a nearby rock and went to wake Chak. The camp was taken down in minutes and we were suddenly racing through the darkness, back on the road toward the river. Plink was limping as she ran, but she, Shishu, and Brew surrounded me, Pathena, and Dr. Lee nonetheless. Thrump kept tight hold of Skreech, who had been gagged, and Chak and Flye led the group while the twins brought up the rear.
The team was incredibly tense, and the only sounds I could hear were the grunting of Umbili and the crunching of gravel as we moved swiftly down the road. The night was well and truly upon us as we rushed through the darkness. I had no idea how Flye or Chak could see where we were going.
Eventually – I can’t remember how long it took – we reached the river. I didn’t realize it until we were right in front of the large metal spike. We regrouped and talked over the plan.
“They’re right on our tail. We could hear them using one of Mendrax’s maculaters the whole way down here. They’ll be here any minute. We have to keep going,” said Fwik fervently.
“Actually, you don’t need to go anywhere. Just hand over the human boy, the seed, and the orb and you may all leave in peace.” It was a deep voice. We looked around and saw that the shore of the river was lined with Umbili, each holding a rope tied to a felavis. There was one Umbili standing just in front of the spire, alone in the center of the conference.
“Do you really think that’s an option?” said Chak.
“We tried,” said the dude in the center. “Kill them all, but spare the human.”
Want to keep reading? Go to the next section! >>> “Chapter 18. Part 2.”