It is I who is to blame. AYOH, the land of my ancestors, burns. Screams of my subjects still assail my ears. Their ghosts continue to ride the late night air. I am haunted by their unyielding reach.
I can see the fear in Ennea’s face through my tear-filled eyes. She cradles Alyakim, our daughter. Between us, wrapped in the hide of the Great Olaffub are the few possessions we had time to gather. My spear and knife lie easily within reach.
Since the moon first awoke, Eoz, my faithful servant, and I have paddled. Its yellow globe travels to its resting place under the sky. Our journey is guided by THRON, the brightest star in the heavens. Behind us, the night is clear and crisp, the water still. Ahead, a strange mist rises like a wall; I can hear its energy within.
I have travelled in this direction because of stories my father, Suesdama, related to me in my youth and also from the teachings of the Wise Men. The survival of our bloodline depends on me. It may be our only hope.
The spirit of my father lies strong within me. I wear his ring.
Why had I not listened to the Wise Men of my kingdom? Their tubes with glass at either end had seen IT coming. But, IT’s Ambassador, Ikkin, had already spun his sorcery. I began to see conspiracies where there were none. Ikkin’s tongue and mind, well oiled in deceit, had blinded me and I did not seek counsel, where I always have, with the Wise Men of my realm.
The army of IT arrived without mercy. Their machinery of war was like nothing ever seen before. And, like a scythe through a wheat field, their armies laid waste to the land.
The suns Gorbut and Siotra passed over head 30 times before the city walls fell. Traitors within our ranks betrayed us.
Pleas from the living and the dying torment me. They have become nightmares haunting my existence, tearing my heart and soul apart.
I must save what I can.
The boat cleaves the low lying thick curtain of mist.
To ward off the chill, I wrapped myself in a blanket my wife, Eanne, had made for me. I cannot help but feel a growing foreboding as the icy coldness of the mist digs its tentacles in deeper. And I dare myself to confront the shadow-ghosts in its midst.
Above, THRON remained visible to reassuringly point the way.
My troubled thoughts consume me; I am unaware that time has slipped into another dimension.
The water became angry. I fell back in the canoe as its speed picked up. “Eanne!” I shouted, alarmed for her safety. But she had already prepared. Noticing the increased energy of the water, she had secured herself and Alyakim and our meager belongings in the boat.
Like a mother bear protecting her cubs, the water’s fury pounced upon us. It scooped in, clawing at us, trying to rip us from the bowels of our boat. Eoz and I struggled to keep our boat afloat and away from smashing against the menacing rocky shoreline. The roar was deafening. Focused, we did not feel the pain our efforts must have inflicted. I have no idea how long this lasted. For us, time had become immeasurable.
Without warning, our canoe shot out of the mist and into surreal tranquility. Nothing moved but us. We floated upon an oasis of quietude.
Once Eanne assured me that all was well, Eoz and I laid our paddles across the canoe and rested.
The water gently lapped against our hull. Its regularity was soothing and hypnotizing. Unaware that we had fallen asleep, our boat drifted.
When we awoke, night’s curtain was beginning to draw open to the day. In one horizon the brow of the sun, Gorbut, painted the sky in rainbow while in the other, Siotra had not yet awakened.
I was troubled.
“Is there something wrong, Neas?” my wife, Ennea, asked. She held our child closer to her bosum.
“THORN should be there,” I replied, pointing to its region in the sky. “It has gone…disappeared.”
“Master! Land!” Eoz yelled. His voice echoed many times before it fell into an eerie silence.
Dipping our paddles into the water, we moved tentatively forward.
Gold colored pebbles below the water’s surface scratched against our hull as we slid into shore. Eoz and I immediately jumped into the water and pulled the canoe onto higher ground.
Eoz deposited Ennea and Alyakim onto the sandy portion of the shore and watched as Neas and his family advanced to the edge of the jewel-toned arboretum that stretched full up the slope in front of them. Ensuring that our boat was secured, Eoz lingered awhile, attracted by the gold colored stone. Crouching down, he scooped some into his hand to examine them. It was then he realized they were shells not stones. An odor of putrefied flesh simmered above his collection. The longer he held them the more offensive the smell. He tried to wash them off. Some shells fell away while the others closest to his skin resisted, fixed in place by fleshy extrusions. Their size expanded as they began to crawl up his arm.
“MASTER! HELP ME!” he screamed.
Knife drawn, I turned back. Reaching across the divide that separated sand from stone, I pulled Eoz across to me. The flesh eating shells fell away and became rocks at his feet. Magically, Eoz’s bloodied arm transitioned to normal.
“What is this place?” Eoz whispered, examining his arm and hand in disbelief.
Considering what had just occurred, I could find nothing reassuring to say to Eoz. I too was thunderstruck. My teachings had not prepared me for this.
“Listen,” I said.
“I wish I could. My heart is still pounding heavily in my ears.” replied Eoz.
“There is no sound. It’s as if nature has been swallowed up.” I grasped my spear tightly and moved in front of my child and wife. Turning to Eanne, I said: “Stay behind me. Eoz will protect you. We must move carefully forward.”
I had barely begun my upward climb when an arrow slammed into the tree beside me. Then another arrow implanted itself at the very edge of my toe.
“I have come in peace. I am the son of Suedama. I seek Aidan.” My voice echoed and repeated several times before diminishing to the silence of infinity.
The air was sweet and refreshing.
Silence hung like a heavy wet blanket upon the forest.
When the voice spoke, it carried wisdom and strength.
“I know who you are. And why you have come. Our Teachers told us of your coming long before you were born. Our past, present and future are now joined as one. Turn and observe the mist on the lake. You have not come alone.”
Warriors of IT emerged in three strange, long craft. They hovered above the water’s surface. Suddenly, the water below them bubbled to frenzy then rose and separated. When the water began to settle the craft were gone. Only frothy burps marked their grave-site until its surface shone like glass again.
“More will arrive soon. You must follow me.”
“But, where are you?” I asked.
Giggling erupted around us. But I saw nothing. It sounded like mischievous children at play.
“WE encircle you but, I am here.”
A figure wrapped in a hooded skin stepped out several paces ahead of me and waved us forward. “You must hurry. Time is of the essence.”
Could it be? I thought
Cautiously, our spears at the ready, Eoz and I moved forward. Eanne with Alyakim remained at my back.
When the hood dropped back, the large hazel eyes that met us were warm, inviting and filled with strength and determination. I detected not a hint of malice from her. At her midriff she wore a wide black leather belt; its buckle was the largest and strangest looking buckle I had ever seen.
She pointed to two slots on the buckle. “Neas insert your father’s ring into this slot and turn to the right.”
“How do you know my name?” To say I was astonished that she knew my name did not do justice to my present state of mind especially when I noticed she wore a ring similar to mine. “Who are you?”
Briefly, her gaze cut through me. I sensed her power. She was examining my soul. Our minds were locked in battle until she let go.
Finally, she said: “Patience is a virtue. All will be known in its proper time.” Then she continued in earnest. “We must leave this location immediately.”
I became convinced she had a window into the future.
She inserted her ring into the slot on her buckle and waited for me to do the same in the other slot. “Neas, it is time. Trust your instincts.”
I inserted my ring and turned it to the right as she had instructed and watched as she turned hers to the left.
“Hold hands tightly and breathe in unison with me,” she instructed.
“Where are we going?” I asked
“To the Land of WE,” she replied.
In the blink of an eye, my world transformed.
Aidan: The Revelation
Lightheaded and confused, I steadied myself. My hand was wet against the mountain’s surface. I refreshed my palate from the cool rivulets of sweetly welcomed tears that flowed down the craggy mountain face and encouraged Ennea and Eoz to quench their thirst too. The watery courses formed numerous ephemeral shallow pools along the base of the cliff before stretching out along self-imposed, predetermined tentacular channels. Like miniature waterfalls the assorted sizes of clear fluid cascaded into the valley to nourish its terraced slopes. The deeply eroded and what would have been impassable crevices that scarred our pathway were spanned by wooden bridges. Several young women led the way while the one who transported us to this location attended to Ennea and my crying daughter, Alyakim. “Who are you?” I asked. But she did not answer.
“Alyakim is hungry,” Ennea said. “I must feed her.”
“We must keep moving,” the young woman said.
“Surely, we can make time for my wife to bare her breast to feed my daughter,” I replied.
Her hazel eyes fixed on me then gazed at the sky. In a language I had never heard before, she shouted, “Bub coola alaki, nowa, et swata.” And the others in her group stopped in their place and sat. “It can only be for a few minutes,” she said to me. Then she pointed to the sky. “We must be in Hanidam la Maalas before the smaller, second sun reaches its zenith.”
She must have noticed my puzzled expression because she said, “In your language it means City of Peace.”
I did not ask her why we had to be in Hanidam la Maalas before the appointed time because I could see that she had entered a pensive state. I glanced at Eoz. His face reflected the dubiety I felt within me. When Alyakim became quiet with sleep our journey proceeded apace. Ennea had trouble keeping pace. I, alongside Eoz, fell back to support her. Eoz lifted the Great Olaffub hide from her shoulders while I carried Alyakim. Our spears were now the only items Ennea needed to carry.
The air grew warmer and more humid as we descended. Then I stopped in awe. Spread out below me was the site of their grand metropolis. Constructed in a series of nested concentric circles, each was ringed with bricked walls. The city was teaming with people.
Again, I asked the young women who led us, “Who are you? What is your name.”
She motioned to her team to continue and strode back to me. Her gaze like piercing arrows. “I am Htebazile, daughter of Aidan, son of your father, Suedama.” Her arm swept across the spectacular city of Hanidam la Maalas from north to south as she continued to speak. “Your great-grandfather, Disabba, envisioned the idea while your grandfather, Cibara, brought it to fruition.” She peered up at the sky. “Hurray. We have little time left.”
Dumbstruck, I was unable to move. I watched Htebazile disappear into the thicket ahead. I barely heard Eoz’s plea. My mind had taken flight to another time and place when as a child I sat at my father’s feet and had listened to stories I did not understand. “Explorers we all are,” he had said, “who return to see where they had started for the first time.” A voice, earnest in its intent, reached in and pulled me out and into the present by its exhortations.
“Master, we must go,” Eoz pleaded, extending his hand.
Alyakim moved restlessly in my arms and I held her tighter, while I followed Eoz and Ennea. Htebazile had waited beyond the thicket to escort us into the grand city. Not without anxiety, I followed her lead and wondered what the future had in store for us.