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 19- R & R
We stayed at the campsite on the river for two days. It was a wonderful time of recuperation. Plink, Fwik, and Thrump had received the most debilitating wounds from The Battle at Settlement Dam, as it would later come to be known, but due to their Umbili regenerative powers they were almost at full strength at the end of our respite.
Plink had a few deep pink bruises on her face and arms that had yet to be healed, but they just added to her beauty instead of distracting from it. She refused to let anyone help her, with the exception of Shishu, and she trained hard to regain her strength. She kept saying over and over again, “pain is a choice.” I half believed her by the end of the two days because she was walking without a limp and throwing punches without a problem. At one point in a sparring session with Chak she knocked him to the ground with an impressive shoulder dip and left hook that I thought would have brought her to her knees with agony, but she simply smiled after her take down and helped Chak back up to his feet.
Thrump also trained hard to regain his strength, but not quite as diligently as Plink. I think his natural strength and presence gave him a bit of an edge. He didn’t have as much to prove in the I-can-beat-anyone-in-a-fight arena as Plink did.
Fwik on the other hand took a different approach to working on recovery in that he didn’t. He simply played practical jokes on everyone for two days and kept track of how many small injuries, inconveniences, and embarrassing moments he caused for the group as a whole and had Fwish keep a tally of them in the sand announcing his total every hour. Needless to say, we were all ready to tie him up and leave him there when we packed up camp at the end of two days.
Chak was back to how I remembered meeting him just outside the Syllogy; he was the dude who had given me my first tour of this new world. He was fun-loving and easy to get along with and he was having actual conversations with Shishu, asking his advice on the journey and becoming more and more curious about what it was like to be an Umbra.
“What’s it feel like to run? I mean compared to what it was like as an Umbili?” I overheard him ask.
“It’s much the same only smoother. All actions feel as though they have a buffer zone, or cushion of air around them,” explained Shishu.
What about your partnership? How did that change when you became an Umbra?” asked Chak.
Shishu hesitated. “Well I think it would be better for you to hear the Umbili side of that story before hearing the Umbra side,” he said. “Plink, come here. Chak has some questions for you.”
My mouth dropped. “What?” I shouted.
Chak and Shishu looked at me; they didn’t realize I had been listening in on the conversation.
“What’s wrong Nicholas?” asked Chak.
My mouth was still hanging open.
“You two are partners?” I asked loudly at Shishu and Plink.
“Yes. I thought you had already realized this fact. You saw me rescue Plink as we escaped The Settlement. You saw me go to her aid in our battle. Did you not understand it then? By the Higher-ups, Nicholas I thought you were a reasoner.” Shishu sounded like he was about to burst into laughter.
“I just, I thought you said that Plink’s partner was on a mission for the Higher-ups,” I said.
“I am,” said Shishu.
I thought back to the conversation about partnerships that Shishu, Thrump and I had shared. He didn’t trust me with the news that he and Plink were partners back then. My mind raced as I processed the information.
“So you two are partners?” I asked again, making sure I wasn’t dreaming.
“Yes, we are,” said Shishu again, and this time he did laugh. It was the first time I had ever heard him laugh.
There was a certain lightness to the group of fresh Teleon converts who inhabited the camp. Chak’s humility before Teleon had been impactful for us. We saw a dude who knew what it was to be brought low before others, but it made us respect him more in the end.
Pathena and I also reconnected. I asked her what Teleon had told her in private and she said it didn’t matter. After pestering her a few times about it I realized she wouldn’t be spilling the beans, so I left it alone.
She explained to me how she had arrived in the Syllogy, and to be honest, it didn’t make any sense to me. She told me how her relationship with the man in flowing black cloth had changed. She admitted that she had been blinded to the truth of his trade by infatuation for a time. That was the time I remembered best. But quickly the infatuation with a man who seemed to set her free became fear of a man who truly had her captive.
He had locked her up the night I was in Athens for training. She had no recollection of ever joining him. She didn’t remember ever becoming one of the slaver’s accomplices, or fighting with me and the farmer in Megara. She said she was his prisoner for a few days, but then woke up one day in The Settlement, and some woman was her master. She assumed that she had been sedated and sold, but as she lived in The Settlement for a while she realized that she was no longer on earth. The talk of things like Umbili, Umbra, and the fact that it was nothing like fifteenth century BC Athens clued her in to the fact that something strange had happened to her which she wouldn’t be able to explain. She had gone through confusion, and depression, and relentless doubt about reality, but eventually came to a point of acceptance with the world around her. She told me that she had been living in The Settlement for four years when Shishu finally showed up at her door. I was baffled and confused.
As for Flye, she seemed to have a regression during the two-day break. Having her brother around had caused Flye to retreat into herself. Skreech had been chained to the spire for the entire two days, and something was definitely wrong with him. He was in a state of constant pain and moaning. It was probably a combination of the multiple beatings and the fact that he had been physically restrained from fleeing from the Higher-up’s white light. When he did speak it was jumbled and slightly incoherent.
I could tell that a few Umbili in the group truly hated having Skreech around and were ready to be rid of him.
“We can’t kill him.” Plink was whispering, but fairly loudly, with Chak, Thrump, and Brew. “You don’t realize how worried she is. It’s not just a matter of one more Umbili enemy dead or not. This is Flye’s brother, kith and kin. He might have betrayed the true Umbili way of life but that doesn’t stop him from being her brother.”
“As far as I’m concerned it does. We can’t afford to run the risk of having him here,” said Brew, a lightly veiled contempt for Skreech apparent in her tone.
“I have to agree with Brew. Enlisting with Mendrax is grounds for execution. Besides, look at the dude. He’ll be dead soon anyway, or at least his life won’t be worth living. And how do we know it’s not all just an act, and he’s biding his time for us to get complacent with him?” said Thrump.
“I’m sorry, but I have to agree with Plink. Maybe it’s just from my most recent experience, but I don’t want to put Flye through that if I don’t have to. We can’t kill him, at least not until she wants to do it,” said Chak.
“But he’s an unnecessary risk,” said Thrump. “He’s not even sorry for what he’s done or the trouble he’s caused. He’s ready to do whatever he can to get back to Mendrax and continue in his service!” said Thrump.
“I don’t care. It’s not an unnecessary risk. It is completely necessary for the sake of our friend,” said Chak.
“Thank you Chak. I won’t forget this,” said Plink. “I know it will be tough Thrump, but just remember, you’re doing this for Flye. Take a look at her next mealtime. You can tell she’s worried and it’s because she thinks we’re going to kill her brother. How can we expect her to trust us if we go around offing her family?” asked Plink.
“What are we supposed to do with him in the long term?” said Thrump.
“I don’t know, but we can’t kill him,” said Chak.
Thrump sighed. “Fine,” he said, obviously trying to calm his nerves. “But you’re going to have to keep track of him. I’ll trade you. Backpack for Skreech.”
“Fair enough. He’ll stay chained to me in tow, and we’ll sedate him too so he doesn’t get any ideas of escaping.”
“I guess I’m satisfied with that,” said Thrump.
“Oh good. I can’t wait to tell Flye. She’ll be happy to hear this,” said Plink.
There were other memorable conversations in those two days, but one in particular is worth sharing. It was between Pathena and me. She had conveniently skipped confronting the issue for a while, but I was getting annoyed by her avoidance, so during lunch one day I asked her straight out.
“Do you love me?”
Want to keep reading? Go to the next section! >>> “Chapter 19. Part 2.”