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!
Glizz was insistent that I attempt the jump. “Seriously. You’re not backing out. I’ll call the cabin and let them know you’re with me. Fwish and Fwik and I are good friends. They’ll be cool with it, and they’ll totally trip when I tell them!”
He threw his arm around me and we started walking toward the front entrance of the building I had intended to explore. I don’t think Glizz realized that his association with Fwish and Fwik made me feel less comfortable about jumping off of a building with him instead of more comfortable. I laughed nervously.
We entered the main lobby and saw a room covered in marble. It reminded me of the architecture at home in Athens. There were even long white columns every thirty feet or so lining the walls of the entry room. We made a beeline for four sets of metal doors—elevators, though I didn’t know that at the time. From my perspective, Glizz had pressed a magical circle on the wall, shoved me into a metal box behind the metal doors, then stood next to me as it shook ominously for about a minute. Needless to say, I was extremely tense when the doors opened to a long thin metal bridge that extended across the plaza to one of the other buildings, 2,000 feet in the air. I looked at Glizz, terror dripping off my face. He laughed.
“You’re gonna love it man! The worst part is the wait to jump. Actually the jump itself is pretty terrifying too, and then there’s the part where you jerk back up the first time. It’s ok, it’s gonna be awesome. Just come on.”
He started walking out on the bridge. I didn’t follow. I was frozen solid. He came back to the platform where I was standing and grabbed my hand, practically dragging me to the middle of the bridge where three other Umbili were waiting, one dude and two dades.
“Nicholas, we were so stoked when we heard you were doing this man!”
“Yeah, it’s like a huge honor. Are you psyched?”
“Can’t you tell he’s scared out of his wits?”
The dade nearest me on the bridge obviously understood how I actually felt. She took a few steps towards me and grabbed my hand and elbow. It was a securing feeling, and it relaxed me enough to walk with her to the platform where they were all standing.
“Look Nicholas, you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to,” she said, calmingly and almost in a whisper.
I looked into her eyes, she was sincere, and I remembered having met her at the party the night before as well, though I couldn’t remember her name.
“Glizz can come on a little strong, but if you want to just go back to the cabin and rejoin the group, you can do that.”
I swallowed and looked around the platform. I saw the other three Umbili smiling and nodding their heads excitedly. They obviously couldn’t hear what she was saying. I swallowed again, found my voice and said, “No. Glizz is right. I can do this. No problem!”
She smiled comfortingly and walked me over to where all of the equipment was. The other two Umbili set to work putting me in a harness and wrapping my feet together. I took off my breastplate, armguards, and sword and tucked the pouch with the seed tightly into my belt, wrapping the chain around the belt a few times. The one big rule was not to part with that seed, so it was the one I was determined to follow. Glizz shoved a helmet on my head and started to buckle the chinstrap, but I stopped him.
“Look, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it right. You didn’t wear a helmet, did you?”
“Well no,” he said, “but I’m not a human. You are. What if you get hurt?”
“What if I do?” I asked. This silenced any further rebuttal.
A moment later I had been given a quick spiel about what to do when I reached the bottom, and everyone was backing away from the edge; I was being positioned right on it. My heart was pounding. I couldn’t hear anything it was so loud. I focused everything I had on making myself jump. I counted mentally, slowing my breathing. Five. I looked down at my feet and made sure they were lined up properly. Four. I clenched my fists tightly. Three. I closed my eyes and took one giant breath. Two. Something hit me hard in the back and I was falling.
For the second time since I came to this city I was freefalling down a long way with nothing to comfort me but my own screams. My hair was all around me, and I couldn’t tell which way was up. Just then, I felt a tug on my feet and my head whipped downward. I was slowing down and nearing the bottom of the first drop. That’s when it happened. With horror, I felt the pouch with the seed slip out from under my belt. I looked at my waist and saw the pouch come loose, just as I shot back upwards again. The chain around my belt kept the pouch from leaving my body, and because of the momentum, the pouch was laying tightly against my stomach, but the chain was getting looser by the second. As I flew upward I reached up grappling for the pouch. It traveled closer and closer to my head as the chain unwound from my belt, but every time I made a grab for it, a small rotation in my ascent or a gust of wind would move it just out of reach.
I summoned all my concentration and reached toward my belt so that I could find the chain. I caught the chain in my left hand just as it came fully undone and just as I reached the height of my ascent. Both my body and the pouch lifted into the air and were weightless for a moment. In that split second, I slung the chain around my hand so that it wound across my palm three times until the pouch made contact with my fingers. The second it did, I squeezed and I had the seed safely in my hands. That’s when I started falling again.
Partly out of the joy of the free-fall, and partly out of my astonishment at the dexterity I just displayed, I let out a victory cry. I heard a few Umbili echo my cry and I looked down to see a group who had stopped to watch my jump. A few moments passed and I swung and twirled in the air while I waited for the large dude in the plaza to grab me and set me right side up.
I looked at the pouch in my hand. It was warm to touch. I draped the chain around my neck and got my bearings in the plaza. Just as I had found the correct building, Glizz came bursting out through the front door carrying all of the things I had left on the platform.
“Dude that was sick! Man, you’re crazy as Teleon!” He tossed me my armor, and I quickly strapped it on.
“I’m not a dude, Glizz. I’m a human. Remember? And who pushed me up there?”
“Whatever man. I say you’re an honorary dude for stepping up and showing off. Here’s your stuff. I called the cabin but nobody was there. I guess they’re already on their way back here looking for you.”
They were out looking for me. “Chak is going to be really upset when he finds me.”
“Whatever dude. I’ll back you up if he gets on your case. That was sweet.”
I heard a scream, and this time it wasn’t one of excitement. It was fear. It was coming from just outside the plaza, upstream toward the cabins on the outskirts of the city. Glizz and I heard it at the same time, as did some of the other Umbili in the plaza, and we ran toward the source. As we reached the far end, I saw a small group of Umbili looking at the river further upstream. In the distance, a few boats were rushing toward us, three in total. One was much larger than the other two and it looked like it had a lot more passengers. The smaller boats were on either side of the larger, and there were dark shadows going back and forth between all three of them.
As they neared us I realized that the larger boat was the same one that had been packed in the backpack Chak carried, and the entire group was in it. The other two boats contained Umbra, but they were different than Shishu. Instead of a pasty, solid, whiteness, they were an inky, black from head to toe. I couldn’t see them fully since they had not unlocked my view of them for me, but because I knew where they were and could see their smoke, as I had seen Shishu’s in the beginning, they were nearly opaque. In essence they looked like half smoke half Umbra beasts and the effect was terrifying.
The Umbra were jumping between each of their two boats and swinging large clubs and daggers at the group with each pass. Thrump was standing in the middle of the boat, and making a grab for them as they jumped overhead. Periodically, one would land in the group’s boat, and when this happened, Fwik and Fwish would wrap them up in their whips and sling them out again. Every so often an Umbra would turn incorporeal quickly enough to avoid the whips and then Shishu would engage them. Chak was standing in the middle of the boat, back to back with Thrump. He was giving commands like a general doing his best to keep the troops organized. Flye was hunched in a tight ball directly between Chak and Thrump, trying to use their bodies as shields from the Umbra. Plink and Brew were stationed at opposite ends of the boat, fighting enthusiastically as they could, but they were doing little damage over all.
They came close enough that I could hear the commotion and I started running downstream so as to stay slightly ahead of the group. I looked back over my shoulder as I ran, and the cluster of boats inched closer and closer to me.
That’s when Thrump spotted me.
“Chak! Nicholas is on the shore,” he yelled, and pointed. In the moment that he stopped focusing on the Umbra, he took a hard blow to the head from one of the dark clubs they carried. It was powerful enough to send him over the edge into the water. The river was moving swiftly and he was separated from the group, but he was obviously an incredible swimmer because he reached the bank with ease. Then his real power was displayed. He charged downstream so quickly that he overtook the boats running along the bank and caught me in a matter of seconds. He grabbed me around the waist and leapt with all his might off the bank.
He came down squarely on his target, the Umbra boat nearest us, and it shattered on impact. It stayed intact just long enough for him to shift his weight toward our boat, and he slung me over the side into the boat where I laid sprawled on the center bench. I looked around. There were two Umbra in the boat with us and three outside of it. Thrump was holding onto the side of the boat, which was tilting toward him, and he had another Umbra around the neck, dragging it along through the water with his free hand.
“Chak, the orb!” shouted a female voice. It was Flye.
Chak looked at her, nodded, and rummaged through the sack, which was sitting in the center of the boat. I looked around through the fighting and saw that we had just passed through the plaza and were on the downstream side away from the cabins, which also meant that at any minute we would plummet over the side of the canyon, down the waterfall. I wasn’t sure what the plan was or if anyone else had even realized how close we were to the end of the river. Chak pulled out the Agnoscian Orb and tossed it to Flye who caught it nimbly. She turned it around in her hands, and I felt the water get rough.
“Chak the waterfall!” I shouted.
“I know!” he yelled back. “Hold on! Everyone! Hold on!”
The bow of the boat tilted down and the stern raised out of the water; we were teetering on the edge of the waterfall, about to tip over the side. Flye grabbed the side of the boat with her right hand and sunk her left into the orb. It glowed bright green. The moment it did, all six black Umbra, and Shishu, stopped fighting, arranged themselves around the outside edge of the boat, and that’s when we finally toppled over the lip of the waterfall. The boat flew off the edge of the waterfall, and spun upside down in the spray coming off the edge. Everyone was holding onto the sides so tightly that no one flew out, and then the spinning stopped. The boat was still falling, and rotating around, but the right side up stayed right side up as we descended down the canyon parallel to the waterfall.
I realized then that the Umbra were arresting the fall. They were slowing the boat down as much as they could, and keeping it as steady as they could as we descended. When we hit the bottom of the canyon there was still a nice big splash, and a bit of whiplash, but we had made it to the bottom of the canyon relatively unharmed. I looked out over the edge to see how Thrump had faired being outside of the boat for the fall. He was still holding on, and treading water next to the boat, but he was obviously exhausted. We drifted away from the base of the waterfall, the Umbra still gripping the sides of the boat, and ran aground one hundred yards away from the place where we had just cheated certain death.
Want to keep reading? Go to the next section! >>> “Chapter 10.”