Entrance to Atalen ya Doaka
June 3rd, 2008
The Plaza of the Morning was empty. Normally it was bustling with activities such as students rushing for class and professors strolling from here to there.
But this time, it was empty.
He stood on hot gravel and dust, barefoot. His feet felt as if they were asleep --as if there were ants crawling around the insides of his skin. Some of the ants were very hot, some intensely cold, some were heavy and pressed against the inside of his skin. Some hurt --they just HURT. Some were so pleasant to feel that they send shudders through his skin and up his spine. His head felt a bit lopsided as if he were about to topple over.
A sudden gust of wind came and blew the hospital gown from behind, billowing it in front of him and exposing more than just his backside and almost toppling him over. But as there was no one there, he ignored it. He had a difficult time distinguishing the pains of the sharp rocks in the dirt, from the ants inside his feet.
Near his right side, there was a door to the cafeteria that he had never used. It was probably a service door. Most students came in at the other end. This one was close to the entrance of the school itself. Close, but could he make it?
His feet were burning, so he hurried, stumbling to the entrance. As he pulled the curtain to the sidehe nearly fell in. The pounding in his head was starting to hurt. He held onto the wall and steadied himself. He heard noises of people and walked toward them. He saw that nearly all of them were women and girls.
He pulled the hospital gown back around his backside and held it with his left hand. His grip on the stone wall began to weaken just as his need for it grew stronger. “Help me,” he called as he began to slide down to the floor. He fell in a tangle of limbs and folds of his hospital gown.
They rolled him over and straightened out his limbs and gown. “Who is he?” cried a first-year student. “He’s having seizures,” cried another. “Get someone!” cried a third.
“It’s Davic!” said Sarah, the head of the cafeteria, as she knelt down and put her hands under his head. “Get Locminé and Valencia!” she called as Davic’s shudders jerked his head from her hands and slammed his forehead into the stonework of the wall. She pulled part of the robe from his shoulder and pressed it into the gash he’d made.
“Head wounds bleed so much!” said Valencia as she appeared out of the crowd and knelt down beside Sarah. She pulled a slender crystal from the inside of her robe and ran it across Davic’s brow. She frowned at the golden display above his head. She then pressed it into the wound and drew fish and shells with his blood in a tight circle around it. “That part was easy,” she said, watching the wound heal without a scar.
Sarah sat on the floor and moved Davic’s trembling and shaking body on her lap. “Can you help him, Diana?”
Valencia exhaled through her nose and ran the crystal across his brow again. “Something is short circuiting the neurons of his brain.” She pointed her finger in the air at a cluster of little men that looked like aliens with multiple tentacles. She shook her head again. “I’m not sure what it is.”
A sudden noise of stamping sandaled feet and muttering male voices led Sarah to guess that the other half of the school had come back. She looked up and saw Ian and a Destroying Angle carrying a body.
“No!” The word caught in her throat. “No!” She held tightly onto Davic as she watched them carry her the limp form of her boss --her friend-- down the tight hallway. Valencia jumped up and followed them. The men all tramped past her, one carelessly kicking her thigh. They all passed, all but one.
The younger DA knelt beside her. “Hello, Sarah,” he said softly. “Is this Davic?”
She nodded. “You’re Mark Hambone,” she said, stroking Davic’s hair. “You like lemonade.”
“Matt Hamblin, ma’am,” he said. “What’s wrong with him?” He looked at the rolled back eyes, the drooling saliva, the shaking, grasping hands and the twitching feet.
“Some kind of neural damage.”
“He looks like he’s having a grand mal. Mind if I try something?”
Sarah was at wits end. The mage who normally saw to medical needs had already gone to look after Johnson. She lifted her shoulders and frowned slightly.
Matt nodded and reached inside his duster drawing out a small vial of a pale yellow fluid. He uncorked it and poured a single drop into Davic’s hair.
“What is that?” she asked, startled.
“It’s just olive oil.” He then placed his hands on Davic’s head and began what sounded like a prayer. Oh, yes, she thought. He’s a missionary!
The prayer began to mention blessings to specific brain parts and their functioning. With each new part mentioned, a flash of mana shot from Matt’s hands through Davic’s body.
“I bless you that the brain stem will send it’s messages to the body in a normal and controlled fashion. I bless the myelin sheath over the nerves...” He continued with all the scientific names of the parts of the brain, then the spinal cord, then the nervous system as a whole. “I bless your memory centers to hold and report your memories so that you may analyze them to resolve them and the damage done to you...”
After a few minutes of such, he closed as in prayer and lifted his hands off Davic, who suddenly stopped trembling, went limp, then moved as if waking up.
Davic opened his eyes and looked straight into Sarah’s. “Sarah!” he smiled and she hugged him so tight that he began to cough. She let go and wiped her tears from his face.
She helped him lean forward. He lifted his knees to move. Matt reached down and tugged the hospital robe to cover Davic more modestly.
They helped him set up and pulled his gown behind him. “Hold here,” Sarah told him. He complied.
Davic then seemed to notice Matt. “You were in Germany last week.”
“At the museum. Yes, I saw you and Ian a month ago. I’m Matt Hamblin and you must be Davic. How’d you escape?”
Davic suddenly began to lean away from Sarah, the stones of the wall snagging and ripping his gown. Sarah caught one arm and Matt the other.
“Are you dizzy?” she asked him.
“I’m okay now,” he said. “I just had two memories fighting for attention and they conflicted. I think we have a mole.”
“How’s your head, Davvy?” asked Sarah.
“Much better. What did you do?” he addressed his question to the DA who was still kneeling on the hard sandstone floor.
“I reset some of your messed up neurons. Someone really did a number on you.”
“Yeah, Jolene LeDuc --and Retta.”
“HoMattik!” came a voice followed by syllables of a language Sarah didn’t understand. She looked around and saw the other --older-- DA come with an intensity that she would not want to cross. He came and stood over Matt.
“Come,” he said.
“Grant,” said the younger, pointing at the the limp form in the hospital gown sitting on the floor in front of him. “This is Davic McKay. He just escaped from LeDuc. Though, I’m not sure how. He has information that could help us. And so do I.”
Matt sat, stunned, in the huge kiva. It had been reconfigured into a classroom when the Great House was restored. Johnson had used it as his, for the only class he taught. And now he lay there where they laid his lifeless body.
Matt looked sadly at the wizened old face, lit by a small light from a white, ceramic duck figurine, painted with black geometric figures. He had only met this gentleman twice, at another funeral for another old mentor and at a planning session. What a difference these two men had made on his life, one directly and one indirectly. How opposite they were in personalities.
“There are too many deaths,” he thought. He bowed his head and gave his respects to the dead, former leader of the largest collection of Mages in the Western World.
A hand took his arm and led him to a ladder in the north-central part of the room and bid him climb.
“Up, Matty,” whispered Grant. “We have urgent business.”
“We just got here,” he protested.
“I know. Come.”
The two left as quietly as they could, but the poles the ladder was built of bounced off the hole in the roof and made a rhythmic pounding. Step after step he climbed, following the Archangel out to the roof. The sun was low in the sky and a long shadow, from the wall bisecting the school, spread across their feet and legs.
“Why did you take me from the viewing so early?” he asked.
“We have an urgent meeting of all the Mages.” They descended from the roof and walked toward the dorm rooms at the back of the plaza. Rather than enter, they crossed through a doorway in the wall separating the two major plazas into the one he’d seen from the rooftop and headed straight for another --smaller-- kiva. They descended the roof ladder and sat on the two remaining cushions in the circle of mages facing an older, wrinkled, woman in the Institute’s version of professorial robes.
“Greetings, my fellow Manamancers, mages from most of the world around,” said the frail woman. Matt didn’t recognize her, but he knew so few from this school. She, too, had a spotlight of sorts spilling a pool of soft light around her as she sat on a pillow at the end of the kiva. Her light came from a ceramic quail or partridge or some other sort of fat desert bird.
“I am Marie Locminé, acting-Chancellor of the Institute of Manamancy, since Keith Johnson’s death.” Her French accent seemed very strong and only the fact that Matt spoke that language made it comprehensible to him. Her emotions were only barely in check. Sometimes as she spoke, Matt could hear her voice rise. She would pause from time to time and bow her head to control her voice.
“I have asked you all here,” she continued, slowly, “to discuss our futures.” She looked from Wapau who replaced Bomodo, to Brownwyn of the Gaian Alliance, to Archangel Grant, to Sean McBane, to Fridleif Skjoldsson, and to Paulo who had replaced Étuaté. There were others, but she had already eyed the major players. That is until she noticed Ivan, the last of the Rutul Mages, Junior’s distant cousin.
She eyed him the longest.
“I would like to introduce to you, Davic McKay, graduating this year, one of my best students. He was held captive for two days and a half by our mutual enemy, Eric LeDuc, and has some interesting things to tell us. Davic.” She raised her arm with her open palm pointing.
Matt saw that Davic was still dressed in his hospital gown, though someone had thrown a school uniform cloak over it. Apparently, the cloak is what makes it a uniform and what was under was not so important.
Davic was sitting next to his professor and she ceded the spotlight to him. The little ceramic quail floated gently to the side until the pool of light fell around the student.
“Yes,” he began. “I was held by LeDuc’s daughter, Jolene, in what I now guess to be Hovenweep, a minor Anasazi site across the border into Utah from Yalen né Siana. She was trying to get information out of me with the help of my former girlfriend, Retta.”
He held onto the coarse decoration at the corner of the hand-woven pillow and wobbled slightly, his eyes glazing for a bit. Matt stood and went quickly to his side. “You okay there?” he whispered, propping him up.
“What is wrong with him?” asked Bronwyn. “What did they do to him?” shouted another. The noise level of the kiva rose.
“I’m alright, Max,” he said, quietly.
“It’s Matt, Davic, Matt!”
Professor Locminé held on to one of Davic’s upper arms and Matt the other.
“She wanted information about the Motu, how to get in and how to access the vast resources underneath. I think I told them some things. I’m not quite sure what, though.” He paused and fell toward Matt. The professor nearly lost her grip on him. But Matt managed to catch him just before he hit the floor.
Matt looked up. “I used a healing override on him about a half hour ago. Physically he is alright, but his memories are still an unsorted mess.”
“What did they do to him?” someone called again.
“Crystals,” Davic was mumbling; his words were very unclear.
“Crystals? Moving the Moon?” asked Matt of the room at large. “What does this mean?”
The professor gasped. “He was studying the Rapanuians and their rongorongo. One of the tablets was about a time that an ariki was deposed by a mage who moved the moon to scare the islanders into supporting him.”
“Help!” said Davic, trying to sit back up. Matt pulled him back to an upright position and held him there. “LeDuc thinks he can do the same thing and threaten the mages of the world into supporting him.”
There were gasps and even the sound of a few pounded fists.
“That’s how I got out,” he said.
“How Davic?” asked Matt. “How did you escape?”
“I taught Retta a Rapanuian chant and said it would move the moon.” He laughed a bit. “When she sang it, all the mana crystals in the room exploded and the excess mana hit her like a bomb!”
“Smart kid! said Sean smiling, in the dark recesses of the kiva.
“I almost didn’t make it out of there.” He wobbled again. “I climbed the ladder out of the pit and made a portal to here. I could hardly walk and then I fell over in the cafeteria.” His eyes unfocused so he closed them.
“That’s where Sarah and I found him.” said Matt, laying Davic back down.
The room was silent. All of the wise and powerful leaders had been killed. No one seemed to want to talk.
Suddenly, Matt lifted his gaze from his now unconscious friend, his eyes wide and his look inward. “What is it, young Elder Hamblin?” asked Sean McBane.
“My dad was a trekkie in college. He wasn’t so adamant after I was born, but I saw every form of Star Trek imaginable! I just thought of one episode in particular.”
He paused and looked around. Some were interested, some were annoyed. One, a woman in the back, was particularly hostile. “What does this have to do with our situation?”
“I was thinking of the episode of the alternate Earth that destroyed all its adults but left the kids alive to grow to amazingly long lives.”
“Again, what does this have to do with us?”
“Kirk finds a girl about to go into puberty and they want to ask her what was going on. She says something like this: “It’s a game? I don’t know the rules. You need to know the rules to play a game.’”
The woman just stared at Matt so he continued. “The reason we’re losing so bad is because we’re not playing the same game as LeDuc. We’re playing football or chess. Or something structured.”
“And he’s playing...” she looked again intently.
“He’s bullfighting...” said Matt. The noise rose again, so Matt had to shout. “And we’re the bull!”
“What do you mean we’re the bull!” shouted several of the mages.
“How is a bullfight fought?” asked Matt and seeing no answers, plowed ahead. “The matador flaps a cape that the bull is incapable of ignoring. He sees this cape as his enemy. He charges and is surprised as the little man flicks the cape away. Several times he does this then the little man pricks the bull with a small spear, which causes the bull to bleed. The more passes the bull makes the more he gets stuck and the more he bleeds. The more he bleeds the angrier and angrier he gets and this is important, the weaker he gets. The man uses little energy and the bull uses so much that at a certain point, the man stabs a sword into the bull’s heart and it dies. The man gets the cheers of the crowd and a following of fans. The bull is carted off as dog meat.”
Matt gazed at the crowded room of mages. “With each assassination, we flounder about helpless and hopeless. We react, never anticipating that it was the little man that waved the cape, and not the cape waving the little man. If the bull can figure out that one fact, he will swing toward the man, goring and tossing him in the air. Then and only then, will that cape stop waving.”
“So what do we do, Hamblin?” said Grant.
“LeDuc has only one thing to do to win this war. We are one step from being thoroughly dominated. But, we know where and what he will do. And we know he has a spy here at this school that has been reporting for the last year and a half on what is going on here.”
He looked from his unconscious friend to the leaders of mages and said: “We make two plans. We feed the false one to the spy who carries it to LeDuc and then we wait on the Motu for him to show up.”
They all agreed with him and gave voice to their approval.