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!
Immediately, there was light, coming from glowing orbs like the ones Chak would put up at night in the camp. Each of the enemy Umbili had tossed one into the air at their leader’s words. It would have been blinding if our group hadn’t been prepared for battle. There was fighting all around me. Snarling felavis were flying all over.
Chak had engaged the leader who had spoken and they were exchanging earth-shattering blows. They both had met their perfect match, and within moments they were a whirling mass of colored light moving this way and that. Huge sounds were coming from their tussle, joining the cacophony that was the battle.
I drew my sword and grabbed Pathena’s hand, holding her behind me, but she had drawn a dagger of her own and was prepared to fight. We were back to back in the center of the fight, but few blows ever made their way through the wall that was Thrump, Plink, Brew and Shishu. They surrounded us with their backs facing inward creating a shield from the fight.
Thrump was taking on two Umbili and three Felavis all at once, swinging his huge arms through multiple foes in a single punch. At one point I saw him pick up one of the four-legged creatures by the hind legs and start using it as a bat and Skreech as a shield in his fight with his remaining opponents.
Brew and Shishu worked into a groove with each other. They were becoming tangible and intangible as they each fought an Umbili. They would go through each other to switch places in the wall around me and Pathena to confuse their respective foes. Once they had their opponents disarmed, dizzy and on the ground, Shishu immediately went to the aid of Plink who was doing her best in her wounded state to ward off a snarling Felavis as it snapped at her on the command of its Umbili trainer.
Plink had her hip weapon drawn and now that I had learned what a gun was I could tell that it was a type of gun with two large blades lining the outside of the barrel, making it an effective dagger as well. Periodically, in between slicing at the Felavis, she would expertly let off a shot, but the Umbili would usually dodge the fiery glowing bullets just in time. Once Shishu joined her it was a different story. He descended upon the Umbili controlling the Felavis, and within moments the dude was no more. The rope tied to his animal went slack and it leapt onto Plink, who flung herself backward to avoid a direct hit.
The Felavis careened over her and into our protective circle. Without a moment’s hesitation, before the Felavis could regain its footing, I stabbed with all my might at its eye. Pathena went for the body of the beast, and we swiftly ended the animal’s life.
On the back end of the shore I could make out Fwik and Fwish wielding their whips with skill and, surprisingly, Flye was helping them to contain the two Umbili they were fighting.
The battle raged on for a few minutes, but I soon realized that we were outnumbered. Whenever a small victory appeared in one part of the fight, another enemy Umbili would take its fallen companion’s place. I could tell that the group was tiring. Plink was on her knees, being fiercely protected by Shishu, Thrump was favoring one arm and was limping as he continued to battle through an absurd ratio of opponents. Fwik was also on the ground, his feet lying in the water of the river and looked to be unconscious while his sister’s whip flew less aggressively at her attackers.
I was about to call the battle off and go with this enemy group of Umbili when a bright white light flashed from overhead. It halted the fighting for a moment and everyone on the dam looked up. Again a light flashed in the sky, and for a reason unknown to me, the enemy retreated. The fighting stopped and I could see the remaining rival Umbili quickly find their feet, a look of utter terror in their eyes as they ran away from the metal spire. After they retreated a few yards from the battleground I began hearing little pops all around the river, and realized that they were disappearing left and right, using the maculaters to teleport away.
More pulses of bright light came from the top of the spire, but I saw the source of the light descending closer and closer to me. As it came into view I made out the form of Brew coming down from the top of the spire holding a little round ball. Doctor Lee flew in front of her, a look of triumph on his face.
The ball in Brew’s hand flashed again, and I knew it was the source of the light. She smiled as she landed gently on the ground.
“What was that?” I asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” she said, and winked, then she threw the ball up in the air and it travelled to the top of the metal spire and stayed lit there, steadily, instead of pulsing as it had.
“No, really. What was that?” I asked again.
“That’s a defense mechanism, to keep the followers of Mendrax from destroying the Higher-ups towers,” said Dr. Lee “I remembered Mendrax warning us about those little balls when we were being briefed on our counter mission, so when they showed up here I told Brew to accompany me to the top of the spire to retrieve it. It will keep them away from this place for a day at least, and probably keep them from attempting another attack while we are near one of the communication spires. Unfortunately since it’s been activated for defense that means we won’t be able to communicate to the Higher-ups on our whereabouts from this tower until it switches back in a day or two.”
“I wouldn’t be too sure of that,” said a confident voice. I turned toward it. The man with untidy black hair was standing near the base of the spire. He looked just as sure of himself as he had in the alleyway when our paths had first crossed. His eyes were captivating pools that glistened in the light of the spire. There was such sweetness and power behind those eyes.
“The Higher-up always know what you’re up to,” he said, smiling.
“Who are you?” I asked quickly, though I already knew the answer.
“My name is Teleon. You will get to know me better later Nicholas, but right now I need you to listen. I don’t have much time. I have messages for each of you.”
Most of the Umbili in the group were shocked to see the famed Teleon in person. Chak, however, looked angry.
“We don’t want any part with you Teleon. Leave us in peace and we won’t harm you,” he said slowly.
“Chak, Chak. Why have you strayed so far from me?” said Teleon calmly.
Chak was slightly taken aback.
“Look we don’t want to have to hurt you, but we will,” he said, taking a battle stance. Flye, Pathena, and Shishu took steps forward in-between Chak and Teleon. Most of the rest of the group just watched confused and slightly dumbfounded. Teleon’s presence was not what any of them expected. From the stories, most of them had anticipated Teleon being completely out of his mind, or totally wild. The astonishment of seeing a man completely in control of his mental faculties, and saliva, left them silent and speechless.
That aside, we all wondered why Chak was so angry right now, and why he wanted to pick another fight when the battle had just ended. What had Teleon done?
“Chak, you’re forgiven. Stop hating yourself for your past hatred. Look forward,” said Teleon. That’s when we understood. Here was the man who embodied the truth that Chak had so long denied, the man who taught that Umbili and Umbra were equals.
Chak had changed his mind about Umbra, but he hadn’t forgiven himself for taking so long to do it. Teleon’s presence only cut deeper into his memories of disdain toward the race to which his partner now belonged. He still couldn’t let go of his hatred, but now that hatred was directed inward instead of out.
He started to run at Teleon. Shishu and Pathena stepped forward to interfere, but Teleon didn’t need their help. Teleon waved a hand at Chak and he was knocked backward onto his back. His body was rigid as Teleon approached. A tear was rolling down Chak’s face, which was contorted in pain and contrition.
“Chak, you know the truth now and you can’t change the past. I’ve brought you low now, but you will be lifted up before this is over. I’ve forgiven you, Shishu has forgiven you, now you must forgive yourself. Do you understand?”
The tension left Chak’s body and he began to weep quietly on the ground.
There was a long silence as Chak slowly regained his breath and an awkward tension in the group as we watched our leader brought low in his sorrows. He looked up at Teleon’s face. “I’m sorry,” he said resolutely, still gasping for breath. “There were so many thoughts. So many times when I…” he trailed off, then looked right in Teleon’s eyes, calmly, respectfully, reverently. “Thank you sir.” The words surprised everyone. To Chak, Teleon had been a common loon, not someone who gave orders or had authority and certainly not someone to call sir.
“You’re welcome. You may continue to lead. But do not forget why you lead: not that you may be remembered for your leadership, but that you may be forgotten for it.”
“I will,” said Chak, looking down again, still kneeling on the ground in front if him. “Thank you.”
Teleon turned away from Chak toward the rest of the group. He didn’t address their mixed expressions or even straighten out their misconceptions about him, he went straight to the messages.
“Doctor Cornelius Spencer Lee. You had betrayed us, you now no longer have. The past is not of consequence; your future is new. Do not fear what you cannot change. Love what is good, and hate what is evil.”
“I will sir. Thank you,” said Dr. Lee.
“Fwik and Fwish.”
The twins staggered forward, Fwik looking particularly shambolic and leaning on his sister to keep him upright.
“Your weakness is not in your gift for humor, but in your use of it. Stay true to who you are, but be sure that your duty precedes your personality.”
Fwik gave a weak laugh that was accompanied by a slight cough. “He said duty.” Fwish chuckled and held her brother more tightly.
“You should probably take that as a ‘yes sir,’” she said.
“Pathena, you are now a member of a new family. Nicholas has a mission to fulfill. These Umbili are here to help him fulfill that mission. You are to assist them in any way that you can.”
“Yes sir,” said Pathena.
“Flye, Brew, Plink, Shishu, and Thrump, your messages are all the same: well-done noble Umbili. Remain as you are and endure.” Brew and Thrump looked sheepish at this news. They had never given Teleon much consideration, but still they were being commended. Now, seeing his power first hand, they were almost ashamed to accept the praise from him. Flye and Plink merely beamed, and Shishu stood resolute as ever.
“ Nicholas and Pathena, I must speak with you each privately before I depart,” said Teleon.
I walked over to him and he turned alongside me.
“The measure of a man is not in what he has done in the past, but what he does in the present: in who he is, not who he was. Compare yourself only to perfection, realize the distance you have yet to travel, and the journey will be easy.”
“I cannot yet answer your questions Nicholas; my time is too short. But I promise that one day, soon, I will.” He made eye contact with Pathena and beckoned her forward with one hand. “Please leave us Nicholas.” He said curtly.
I walked back over to Fwik and assisted Fwish in lowering him onto a rock. No sooner had I finished and turned around than Teleon had addressed the entire group again. “Rest now and regain your strength. The journey is still ahead of you.”
With that Teleon gave us all the salute I had seen Flye perform once before. With his right hand he smoothly and briefly covered his eye, then his right ear, then tapped his chest twice with his middle finger. He then turned and walked up stream. He seemed to enjoy making me watch him walk away with questions swarming in my head.
I looked back at the group. Chak was straightening up now and had a rather regal look on his face, the face of one forgiven. The rest had various looks of awe, confusion, wonder, and hope. They were beaten down, but the messages from Teleon revitalized them. Everyone stood momentarily pondering the man who had just walked into oppressive wilderness as casually as one walks down a city street. I decided to ask the question that was on everyone’s mind.
“Is he a Higher-up?”
Everyone looked around at each other with the most meaningful of glances that can be mustered then set to work assembling the campsite without another word.
Want to keep reading? Go to the next section! >>> “Chapter 19. Part 1.”