CONTINUE ONWARD

The pack had floated through the night down the river with the ever present threat of the horde who followed them down in hopes that one of the pack if not all of them could be plucked out of the river until the rapids took the pack faster than the demons could move. Ongaro pulled himself from the water upon the rise of the morning sun. Now that the sun was rising the demons would stop their pursuit and be called back. The sun was protection that would destroy the horde. The sun meant there was time to recharge before the pack pressed on. Ongaro slowly made his way to the bank of the river, as he exited he felt the weight and fatigue of his muscles from the battle that was mere hours ago. Feeling the warmth of the morning sun he dropped to his knees falling into the muddy shore. Be’loi and Eyah came up behind him emerging from the waters. It was now more than ever that the pack felt the seriousness of what they had to do and how dangerous it would be to do it. Be’loi looked up to the sky staring briefly at the rising sun, his eyes were deeply soddened river water and tear blended together.    

“We lost two brothers last night.” Be’loi said in a heavy voice. “Brothers that we had known longer than any family that we were born into. May Eyahvah welcome brothers Zutsi and Lemangra with open arms!” As Be’loi spoke Eyah was silent as usual but his eyes spoke volumes with the tears that flowed freely. Eyah raised his fist to the sky shaking it in remembrance of his brothers that had fallen the night before. 

“And now you know the magnitude of what is taking place.” Hu’Ru said, none of them were surprised by his appearance, they were all too tired. Hu’Ru sat cross legged levitating above the ground. Be’loi looked at Hu’Ru with exhausted eyes.   

“We failed at understanding this at first, but we only now understand after great loss!” Be’loi said sadly, his voice weighted with trouble. Hu’Ru had no emotion but spoke with understanding. 

“You all have a long journey ahead filled with peril, but it is for the greater good.” He waved his arm and various types of food appeared below where he hovered. “Eat and rest. By midday wake and you should be rested enough to carry on.” 

“But where are we to go?” Be’loi asked, he was tired and humbled from the nights events to be sure, Hu’Ru took notice of this.

“Follow the river south until you reach the Chanu Canyons as Elu instructed.” Hu’Ru replied. Be’loi lowered his head.

“Elu has fallen along with Lemangra and Zutsi.” Be’loi said in a deeply saddened voice. 

“Elu has not fallen, he has merely been displaced. He will rejoin the pack as you near the canyons I am certain.” Hu’Ru commented. Be’loi looked surprised. 

“Elu is alive? What do you mean by displaced?” He asked. Hu’Ru kept a calm face.

“A dark spell keeps him from coming to where you all are, I can not break the spell at the moment so I countered it to at least keep the pack from being tracked.” 

“We were being tracked?” Be’loi did not like this.

“Yes.” Hu’Ru said.

“And you can not break this evil spell?” 

“No, my magic needs to recharge. I had to escape the wrath of Boka last night, he is a powerful dark lord and it took all of my power to do so. All of the dark magic at work has drained my own magic. I barely recovered from the initial attack on Ki Citadel when my brother was slain. Each confrontation has weakened me since I have had no time to rest.”  

Ongaro was listening the entire time but he remained on all fours sunk in the mud on the embankment. As Be’loi talked with Hu’Ru Ongaro began to wonder if he was meant to do any of this. The guilt of what Lemangra said to him blaming him for what happened to Zutsi by the hands of Orgah. Ongaro did freeze up against the Sentinel, it was his first true encounter with such demonic power, that hesitation cost Zutsi his life and Ongaro had to live with that. He also struggled with the fact that Lemangra stayed behind choosing to die by Zutsi’s side. Like a sharp knife the guilty thoughts dug into his head, his fingers gripped the mud, he closed his eyes trying to fight the feelings off. 

“Ongaro will be departing with me, we will be heading north.” Hu’Ru said, Ongaro did not respond to his words. Be’loi however was surprised. 

“You seek to split the pack? This will only weaken us more!” Be’loi protested. Hu’Ru’s eyes darkened, his brow lowered, his face seemed to silently fume.  

“I have need of Ongaro and he shall go with me! Again you lose faith in the outcome of things! Do not question me further!” Hu’Ru’s raised voice shut down an already fatigued Be’loi who lowered his head in acknowledgement. Hu’Ru looked down at Ongaro who remained on all fours he was visibly broken. “Get up Ongaro of T’oku!” His voice was firm, he had no time to show pity. Ongaro slid back sitting on his feet, his body hunched over, his eyes fixed on the ground. 

“I am tired…” he said weakly. Hu’Ru laughed briefly.

“You are tired? We are all tired but we must keep going for the good of mankind! Quit sulking like a child and stand up! You are needed elsewhere!”  

“Needed elsewhere? I told you I am tired.” He said. Ongaro remained hunched over, he brought his hands between his legs intertwining his fingers. Hu’Ru broke from his cross legged position his feet touched the ground. His face showed disgust and anger as he stared at Ongaro. Be’loi made sure to back away from Ongaro as Hu’Ru approached him sensing his anger. Hu’Ru stood in front of Ongaro looking down at the broken man. 

“I would leave you here to die if I did not have need of you! We will take up this conversation elsewhere!” Hu’Ru reached down just as Ongaro looked up, he was about to protest but Hu’Ru’s hand touched his forehead then the two men vanished. Be’loi sighed heavily then looked at Eyah who had already started eating. Eyah stopped a moment looking up at Be’loi Eyah’s mouth chewing slowly. He grabbed a loaf of bread raising up in Be’loi’s direction. 

REALIZATION 

The wind blew touching the side of Onrago’s face causing him to wake. He was lying on a white marble floor out on a balcony. When his eyes opened he saw blue sky above him. The scent of water was on the air, he knew it all too well growing up in the sea side village of Bontu that was located in the north of T’oku. His village harvested most of their food and livelihood from the Dav’n Sea. Ongaro’s keen senses of living by the ocean told him the water that was below could not be the ocean, it smelled like fresh water. He could hear the gentle crashing of water of waves striking rock but not sand. He lay there taking in the peaceful moment. A flock of birds flew overhead calling out to one another. Upon noticing the birds were Lelo he realized that he must be in T’oku. The Lelo bird was mainly found in the kingdom of T’oku near the ocean or around vast bodies of water like the Lake of Eyahvah in the south, the Lelo bird was a national treasure of the kingdom. Admired for it’s beauty and fierce spirit. Sitting up slowly he rested his weight on his arms that were behind him, his shoulders shrugged his head cocked slightly back, his legs stretched out in front of him while taking in his surroundings. He faced an open room that was round with vaulted ceilings, he sat near the door entrance that was wide, four men standing side by side could easily walk through it together. An incredibly large circular bed sat at the center of the room white marble walls surrounded it, a round blue stain glassed window was directly above the bed on the ceiling, Ongaro just took notice of the white thin see through curtains that blew carelessly by the wind at the doorway. 

“You seem well rested now. This place has put your mind at ease as I thought it would.” Hu’Ru said, his voice came behind Ongaro who turned his head seeing the mage standing at the balcony’s edge both hands resting on solid gold railing that seemed to be in the chaotic design of the wind that gently blew his bright blue robe about. Hu’Ru kept his gaze out on the horizon. 

“I was at ease until I heard you speak.” Ongaro remarked. Hu’Ru decided not to be confrontational, at least not yet. 

“Do you know where we are?” Hu’Ru asked staring outward. Ongaro looked up at the sky seeing another flock of Lelo fly past before diving below. The environment did put him at ease, he might have spoken vindictively but his spirit had calmed some, the rest did him some good.

“I would not know for sure, but my educated guess would be the Lake Of Eyahvah. Lelo birds do not flock in such numbers near the ocean where they tend to pair off with their mate. But by the Lake Of Eyahvah as I child I have been there several times with my father and saw the Lelo flock in greater numbers.” He crunched forward resting his arms on his knees remaining seated on the floor. Hu’Ru smiled.

“You would be wrong of course on our location, we are further south of the Lake in the western part of Zhannu.” 

Hu’Ru’s comment caught Ongaro’s attention, he stood up walking over to where Hu’Ru stood looking outward. He quickly took notice that they were on a small island that was surrounded by a large body of water that stretched out as far as his eyes could see in all directions. 

“I had heard of a vast lake that the Lake Of Eyahvah’s waters flowed to via a tributary that was said to go into Zhannu. A smaller lake that paled in comparison to the Lake Of Eyavah but was none the less magnificent. My father said that no man had ever laid eyes on it though. I heard from others that the lake was cursed and this was why human eyes had never seen it.” 

“Half truths shrouded in folklore.” Hu’Ru said amused. “The lake was never named to add to the mystery of it all. Sure some came and discovered it, but those few who came to discover it had their memory wiped of it’s existence once human eyes detected it, then they were sent on their way oblivious. You see, my brother cast a spell on this island to protect it from mankind long ago. We had use for it. As for the land, the Keep we now stand in, well this is the island of Kappu.” 

Ongaro looked down at the water that crashed against the rocks below. “And you or your brother did not give this Keep or the lake a name?”

“No, to be honest other endeavors caught our attention at the time that were more important. Maybe you could name the lake, and this Keep?” Hu’Ru looked over at Ongaro laughing. Ongaro did not laugh and studied Hu’Ru’s face to see if he was really serious before looking back out on the horizon. Hu’Ru continued to speak. “This Keep is protected by magic and has strong defenses against dark magic, but in the next few hours that magic will fail.” 

“Why is that?” Ongaro asked. 

“Because I must go into a deep sleep that will help recharge my magic. The magic that protects this Keep will be needed to help that process along. In one full days time you and I will set foot in T’oku. I will confront Boka and attempt to give you time to get Pu’sotep the high priest of the temple of Eyahvah out of the kingdom before it is flooded.” 

Ongaro’s eyes squinted, he fought down the sadness of hearing that the kingdom of his birth would be destroyed. “There is nothing you can do in all of your power to protect the kingdom from destruction?” 

“The people had the power to stop what will happen to them for some time. But they have lost faith in the Father Of Creation. Those that have remained vigilant in their faith have already been alerted to leave the kingdom and they have.” 

“And why has this priest Pu’sotep not been escorted out of the city? I am sure that you could have easily whisked him away.”  

“Because we all must be tested now. I am no exception. And we have jobs that we have been given. This is not so hard to understand Ongaro of Bontu.” Hu’Ru paused realizing something. “Your village is far from the Palace Of Kings, and the statue of Luma, or the statue of Re that was built out in the valley. Bontu will be spared along with many other villages in T’oku, but the palace must fall! From the palace all the way to the Lake Of Eyahvah will be under a watery grave, and it will take five hundred years for the water to recede. Then the land will be cleansed and be claimed by sand.” 

“Cleansed? So there is great evil there?” 

“More than you realize, but you will sense it once we enter the city.”

Ongaro lowered his head. “I don’t know if I am ready. I failed my brother Zutsi and Lemangra when they needed me most.” 

Hu’Ru shook his head in disappointment. “You have no choice but to be ready! You call yourself Kulu, yet you let insecurities creep into your mind! Have you forgotten what is at stake? Clear your mind and prepare! For after our conversation I will go and rest, at which point the Keep as well and myself will be defenseless, the spell that keeps me hidden from evil will be lifted. Boka will sense this and he will have an assassin come in an attempt to slay me, I have foreseen it in a vision.” 

Ongaro turned his body to Hu’Ru who kept his gaze outward. 

“An assassin? A General like the one Elu encountered will come to Kappu island?” 

“I did not say a General, I said an assassin! A dark warrior as equally skilled as you or any Kulu! Boka saw how useful the true Kulu were to the cause of Eyahvah in the early days of their inception. So he created his own demented version of warriors and recruited them from mankind. Just as a true Kulu had been touched by light magic, a Jintu has been touched by dark magic. And unlike the Kulu who have been wiped out by the horde leaving only a few, the Jintu’s numbers are slowly rising.” 

Ongaro took a moment to digest what was being said before speaking. “Boka, I have only heard this name spoken from my father as he read the Holy Text to me when I was a boy. The Book Of Sorrows if I recall. Would this Boka be the same from the Holy Text?” 

“Yes… One in the same. The half blood bastard son of Ev, the mother of us all.” 

“Which means Boka’s father is the Nameless One!” Ongaro said in realization. 

“And now you see the source of Boka’s great power. His power is even greater than my own, it would take the power of my brother Ta’Ru and I both to be even stand a chance, yet I do not question rising against him alone! We are here to serve the greater good, do not forget your oath!” 

Ongaro lowered his head in reflection, Hu’Ru turned walking away from him. “I go to rest now.” A table appeared out of thin air beside Ongaro, various delicious foods sat upon it. “Eat and thereafter meditate and prepare. Tonight your skill will be greatly tested when the Jintu comes to Kappu Island. For both our sakes I hope that you do not fail!” Hu’Ru disappeared. Ongaro turned seeing that Hu’Ru had gone. He reached down plucking grapes from a batch on the table then tossed them him into his mouth. He looked out onto the surface of the lake watching the Lelo diving for fish. So much to think about. He would eat then practice his combat forms before meditating. He looked up at the sun seeing that he had six hours before the sun would fall. 

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