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!
“What just happened?” asked Chak, the newly reformed Umbra.
“You died,” I said nonchalantly.
It looked like he was in shock. “I died, and now I’m—” he stopped mid-sentence and looked at his fingers.
“Are you gonna be okay with this?” I said, smiling.
He looked at me tensely for a moment, then a smile peaked through and a faint glimmer touched the corner of his eye. “Yes, I’m going to be fine with this,” he said, flexing his new fingers.
“I’m glad to hear it,” I said. My tone was the caliber of cool that only Teleon could beat. That’s when I remembered. Teleon. I looked over at the base of the tree. His body was still there, as was the pool of his blood.
Chak remembered at the same time I did and was by his side in a flash. Pathena joined him. I walked up slowly.
It’s hard to describe the anguish that Chak and Pathena were experiencing. They were both crying. These weren’t cries of mere sadness; they were moans of despair. Somewhere inside of Chak and Pathena an integral part of who they are ripped open and there was nothing I could do or say to heal the wound. I knew the truth. I knew that Teleon had planned this from the beginning. I knew that in another world, another realm, another dimension, Teleon was alive and well! But Chak and Pathena couldn’t know those things, and they didn’t know of my own failings that were all part of that plan. Tears of my own began to flow.
The pain that Chak and Pathena were experiencing brought forth a sort of bittersweet pity. If only they knew! If only they knew just how powerful Teleon really is, they wouldn’t cry. I cried. I cried not because of my own pain, but because of the pain of those I loved, and because it hurt to be loved so much by Teleon. I wanted to tell them about the white room, but I knew they wouldn’t understand. They would just say I was in shock, or hallucinating. The proof was right here. Teleon’s body was on the ground, lifeless. Dead.
I gained composure first. “Come on. We have to find the rest of the group. Chak, can you carry Teleon?” I looked into Chak’s eyes. There was the veiled Umbra hint were destitution. He sniffed, then took a vast deep breath and said, “It would be an honor.”
He hoisted Teleon’s limp body over his shoulder and I led us through the garden. I didn’t know how I knew, but my body guided us through the crystal plants. Left, right, two more lefts, up a little hill, right, through two small trees, and we were standing at the base of the spiral staircase. It was the same one we had fallen down to arrive in the garden. I started climbing, but Pathena grabbed my hand on the second step.
“Nicholas, we can’t climb those stairs. Look up! It could be more than a hundred stories!” she said.
“Trust me.” I started up and counted the steps as I did. It only took twelve to reach the blue room again. None of us knew why, but that’s how it happened.
As we ascended into the blue room, I saw the rest of the group. They were sitting quietly in a few of the couches that made up the décor of the room. Much of the furniture was overturned, there were broken pieces of glass on the floor, and in one corner was a pile of bodies that had obviously been collected from the battle.
I did a quick head-count and realized why everyone was so somber.
“Where are Thrump, Flye, and Fwish?” I asked.
Everyone looked at me and I saw evidence of tears in many of the eyes in the room.
“Nicholas?” said Plink incredulously. “You’re alive?”
I felt around my own body and face comically. “I am?” I said. Then miming realization, “I am!”
Everyone laughed and came to give me a hug in turn. Dr. Lee, whom I hadn’t seen since making it into the mansion, flew in front of me, buzzing excitedly.
“Nicholas, you must relate to us the nature of your excursion!” he said.
“I will Doc, I will, but, where are Thrump, Flye and Fwish?” I repeated. The sickening realization that they hadn’t made it through the fight hit me.
“Oh, they are examining the outer corridors searching for the most effectual course of departure.”
“Translation?” I asked Plink worried.
“They’re looking for the best exit,” she said. A wave of relief hit me. They were alive! She continued, “It turns out that this mansion has a bit of a scrambling mechanism that makes it hard to navigate.”
“Teleon?” I heard the question come from the back of the group, fear and trembling drenching the word. Chak had just emerged through the hole, and Brew had seen whom he was carrying. The rest of the group saw it too, and an even quieter silence than the one I had just broken entered the room.
“What happened?” Shishu asked, finally.
“I have to tell you everything from the beginning. Why don’t we all sit down while we wait for the other three to come back and I’ll tell you what’s happened since we separated,” I said as calmly as I could. There were already tears flowing in the room, but the group had enough composure to agree. They pulled some of the furniture into a circle and I started telling them everything that had happened.
I told them of how I had witnessed Flye’s struggle with her brother, and Skreech’s ultimate demise. They nodded, indicating that Flye had already told them about her fight. They all agreed that she was coping with Screech’s death well, given the circumstances. I explained how I fell into the garden and Chak and Pathena went after me.
Just as I reached the part about the golden tree, Thrump, Flye, and Fwish appeared in the doorway. Flye saw me first and ran forward grabbing me up in a huge hug. I was surprised by the amount of strength she had in her little body.
“I knew you’d find a way,” she said.
“Oh really?” I asked.
“I had a flash of myself hugging you when we first entered this room. It was faint, but enough,” she said.
Fwish ran up and taught me how to high-five, then proceeded to teach me what “down-low-too-slow” was.
Thrump, however, had caught sight of Teleon’s body, and he was staring at it silently. Fwik and Flye sensed the tone in the room and soon came to the same realization. I told them that I was in the middle of explaining what happened. They quietly joined the group and listened patiently. Flye was holding on to Teleon’s limp hand throughout the whole story.
I came to the part where Teleon had frozen the whole room and didn’t know how to continue. How could I tell this whole group that I hadn’t been able to water the seed? How could I tell them that it was my failure that caused Teleon’s death? In the end, I didn’t tell them everything. I told them that I tried to water the seed, but couldn’t, and that Teleon had knocked me out of Chak’s way and sacrificed himself. It was awkward, but they didn’t’ seem to notice. Then I told them how I had passed out and was about to tell them about my experience in the white room, but something stopped me. I didn’t actually hear a voice, but I got the clear impression that my conversation with Teleon was not to be shared. I finished the story by telling them of Chak’s transformation into an Umbra and then climbing up the spiral staircase to find them all sitting there, crying.
“That’s because we thought you all were dead,” said Brew. “We were continuing the battle, when all of the remaining Umbili sort of blew away. It must have been the same time that Mendrax shattered and blew away. We assumed it meant you had successfully planted the seed, but we also thought that meant the three of you were lost. Thrump took charge and sat us all down to talk about what to do. That’s when we decided to send them out to find an exit, and the rest of us waited here.”
“I see,” I said quietly. Another awkward silence penetrated the group, punctuated only by the sniffs of those still in tears.
Plink broke the silence this time.
“I suppose we should bury the bodies of our fallen comrade, and our fallen enemies,” she said. Her voice was stony, but also regal. There was power behind her words.
There wasn’t a need for discussion. I helped Flye carry her brother and between the rest of the group we managed to get all of the dead outside, led by Thrump who had found the best exit. The huge tree frog and the ostrogles were nowhere to be seen as we left the mansion. It was apparent that after Mendrax was gone they knew it and had followed suit.
It was well into the morning by that time, and the sunlight was warm and soft on our skin. We decided to dig each of the fallen an individual grave, attempting to show as much respect as possible to our enemies as well as our friends. Dr. Lee recognized a few of the dead Umbili from his time in Mendrax’s mansion and I recognized the leader of the group of Umbili who had cornered us at the river. Flye said a few words about her brother, and Brew said some touching words forgiving those who had kidnapped her.
While Flye said her goodbyes to her brother, a thought occurred to me, which I whispered to Plink, “Why don’t all Umbili become Umbra when they die? It happened to Chak and Brew, but why not Skreech or these other enemies?”
“An Umbili only becomes an Umbra when he dies a death of honor before the Higher-ups, and the Higher-ups are the ones who transform Umbili into Umbra. It’s a very supernatural procedure,” she whispered back.
We buried Teleon last. No one knew what to say when we had finally covered him with earth. Thrump had placed a simple white stone at the head of his grave, but there was nothing written on it.
We sat in meek silence for what seemed like hours. Again, I was at a loss for how to feel. I knew that everyone in the group was in deep pain over Teleon’s loss, but I was also at peace with it. I knew, from my experience in the white room, that this was Teleon’s plan.
After an eternity, Fwik started singing. This time it wasn’t a chant or a string of rhyming lines, it was a real Umbili song. It started out soft and low. A single note pulsed and filled the air. A whistle joined the pulsing note, and flitted around it, like a songbird looking for a place to land. When it did land, the note and the whistle combined and complimented each other. Fwish joined in and so did Plink. Finally a full choir of creation was dancing in the music. Every Umbili emotion, every human thought, and every created thing had a place in this song.
When the chorus finally faded and Fwik’s low pulsing note was all that remained, my throat was dry and quaking. I had just enough strength in it to utter the words, “Goodbye our true morning star, we hope your light strengthens the sun and guides us home well.”
Want to keep reading? Go to the next section! >>> “Chapter 29.”