Flame and Shadow

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Chapter 53

I hadn’t realized that I liked kids so much. But playing with Arihi showed me just how much I wanted a family of my own. When I spent time with Meda and her daughter, I began to notice the similarities between us. She explained that she used to have markings that covered much of her body that she was ashamed to let people see. We also both came from dark pasts that we’d rather not share with people. This young woman was now living the life that I dreamed of having. I could tell that she and Devon were still very much in love, and they had a beautiful simple life and family that they shared.

I expected to feel jealous, but I didn’t somehow. I was very happy for her. It inspired me to not give up on my own dream. My resolve was renewed to keep trying to do the best I possibly could. Then, maybe Milo would love me someday, and we could have a life like this.

After we had played with Arihi for a while, Milo and Devon returned to the rest of us. Devon immediately went over to Meda and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. He then picked up his daughter. Milo approached Sera and I, and removed the page of the Book of Prophecy from his pocket.

“Are you ready for the next one, Hal?” He asked me.

I nodded. This was where I would start being the best I could be. Milo would be able to see my devotion and love, and maybe he’d eventually fall for me.

I assumed the same position; me kneeling on the ground with the blank page before me. Then, I placed the palm of my hand in the center of the weathered paper and focused my energy on it. Just like last time, I was overwhelmed with a surge of power flowing back from the prophecy. It hurt with searing pain for an instant, then everything went white…

“Tabal! I told you, it’s time!” My father shouted.

About two years had passed since the time shown in the last vivid flashback. I stood helplessly by as Tabal defiantly faced our father. The man had taken the Book of Prophecy from its storage place, and held it threateningly. He demanded that my sister reveal the words of the prophecy to him.

“No.” She refused. “I’m the keeper of the prophecy, and I need to know more information. What if the world isn’t ready for it to be revealed yet?”

This set Father’s anger ablaze.

WE are the keepers of the prophecy! This whole society! And I’m the chief! I decide when is the proper time! You are only the pitiful vessel for the words! Nothing more! That’s the only reason I brought you into this world! Now is the time! The Shadowy One has appeared. Now is the time for us to fulfill our destiny. And you’re not going to stand in the way!”

He began to move menacingly toward my sister, who stood her ground. Finally, I scampered in between them.

“Father, stop! Don’t do anything bad to her! She’s just trying to be careful!”

With a shove of his strong hand, he sent me tumbling to the side. My father turned his head to glare at me.

“You! You stay out of it! It’s your fault your mother died! If you didn’t exist, she’d still be here! You mean nothing!”

Every time he said that, my heart broke again. I never asked to be born, and I certainly never wanted to kill anyone, especially my own mother. I struggled not to cry. Tabal was still in a bad situation.

“You little brat! Stop resisting! The time has come!”

With that, he grabbed my sister’s wrist. As though partially convinced, she only half-resisted his movement as he forced her hand onto an open page of the book. There was a flash of light from the tome, and Tabal screamed in pain. After a moment, she staggered backward a couple of steps, a look of pure horror on her face.

“I saw it…Hal…Hal…”

There we go!” Our father sarcastically praised. “That wasn’t so hard, was it? Now reveal the rest of them!”

My sister stumbled over to me, and kneeled beside me.

“Hal…” She whispered. “Run…”


But there was not time to explain. Tabal grabbed my hand, and sprinted out of the room.

“WHAT?! Where are you going?!” Father roared. “Get back here!”

My sister didn’t vary her course. She led me as fast as we could go out of the society’s headquarters, and into the open air. It was summer now, and even Northern Ontario shed its snowy coat for a while. I was too breathless from running to ask any questions like; “where are we going?”, so we ran on for I don’t know how long. Eventually we made it to a patch of woods.

Tabal finally stopped, and leaned forward with her hands on her knees, breathing heavily. I collapsed to the ground in exhaustion.

“What…happened?” I attempted to ask, but it only came out as gasps.

My sister dropped to her knees beside me, and grabbed both of my hands in hers.

“When I touched that book, I saw something unspeakably horrible. I don’t even know how to describe it to you, I’m not even sure I understand what it means. Just believe me when I say: We cannot let father have the words to the prophecy.”

I nodded.

“I believe you.”

“We can’t go back, but I promise you this: I’ll keep you safe, no matter what. As long as I’m alive, I’ll protect you.”

“I know you will.”

The world began to fade back into view and, just like last time, I found that virtually no time had passed. Everyone was around the page of the prophecy, staring at me with great concern.

“I’m OK.” I breathed. “I’m fine, it’s just… a little weird whenever I do one of these.”

“Um, Hal, it looks like some of your markings are gone, or maybe a little thinner.” Sera pointed out.

“Oh, I guess that makes sense, since these are markings stolen from the book. They must be going back onto the page.” I suggested.

“Whoa…” Meda let out as we all watched, enthralled, at the image that was forming out of the supernatural ink.

In a few seconds, the movement had stopped. Another image had formed, but this one was nowhere nearly as well-defined as the depiction of the Skypyramid. It appeared as little more than a squiggly line passing through some kind of outline.

“What does it mean?” Milo wondered aloud.

“Hm…you know…I know that shape from somewhere.” Devon considered. “Meda, do you…”

“Yeah… it looks like a river or something. I just can’t remember where it is…”

Devon snapped his fingers.

“Ooh! Just a second!”

He ran into the house, and began rummaging around.

I looked at Milo for a moment.

“Um, should we follow him?”

“Wait, I think he’s coming back.”

The young adventure veteran came dashing back outside, and slid to the ground next to the enigmatic image.

“I’ve got it! Right here!”

He quickly flipped through the huge book he had brought with him, which turned out to be some kind of Atlas.

“There, see?”

Devon poked his finger down onto a two-page spread of South America.

“That’s the Amazon River!” Sera exclaimed.

“What next?” Milo despaired. “The Amazon is thousands of miles long?! You can’t just go to the river and actually expect to find something. What are the odds that we’d actually end up at the spot where the prophecy wanted us to go?”

“The same as the odds that we ended up finding a page in an office near the top of a modern skyscraper.” I responded, full of faith.

“She’s right.” Sera agreed.

“You know, it seems like, somehow, the prophecy isn’t telling you where to go to find stuff, but it’s telling you where you already found it.” Meda conjectured.

Everyone was silent for a moment following that deep thought.

“I don’t know how, but, that seems right. I had the same feeling.” I supported Meda’s idea.

I folded up the page of prophecy, and put it in my skirt pocket with the first one.

“Alright then. I guess the next item of business it to decide how the heck we’re getting down to the Amazon River!” Sera brought us back to the logistics of the situation.

“I don’t know.” Milo admitted. “We don’t have any money left for a ticket on an airplane.”

I seriously considered saying that we didn’t have time for a fast train, but decided against it.

Devon and Meda exchanged a glance for an instant, then Devon spoke up.

“You know, during our adventure, Meda used a sword that belonged to a Japanese nobleman. His cousin, whom he had spared in a duel, took over the estate after his death, and searched out their family’s symbol. Eventually, he tracked it to us, and offered to buy it. I tried to just give it to him, because it belonged to his family anyway, but he insisted that we get a reward, and he gave us an enormous amount of money. We didn’t want to just live off of it and not work for our living, so I decided to put it aside for college for Arihi someday. However, I think we can spare a little.”

“Woo hoo! Thanks a lot!” Sera shouted, but Milo hesitated.

“Thanks, but we don’t want to take anything away from your daughter.”

“Oh, it’s OK.” Meda smiled and waved her hand. “She just might have to go to Yale rather than Princeton!”

“That’s awesome you two! Thanks!” I offered my sincere gratitude.

“You’re welcome! I only wish we could do more!” Meda replied.

“I assume you’re wanting to leave right away?” Devon asked.

Milo nodded.

“Ideally, as soon as possible, yes.”

“Alright. I’ll take you to the airport. Just let me grab some of the money…”

This family was incredible. Not only were they willing to open up their home to complete strangers, but they helped us decipher the image, offered us money to help on our trip, and even dropped everything they were doing to take us on the next step without receiving anything in return. Why would anyone do that?

A very short time later, Devon emerged from the house.

“Alright Arihi! Say goodbye to your new friends!”

“Aw…OK.” The girl reluctantly agreed. “Good bye.”

Sera kneeled down and touched their noses together.

“Goodbye Arihi. You’ll be a good girl, right?”

“Uh huh!” She nodded enthusiastically. “Hey, I’ll see you again, right?”

Sera laughed.

“Maybe you will! You just might!”

Devon disappeared into the garage. Then the door slowly opened, revealing a gleaming 1969 Chevy Camaro. It was painted a robin’s egg blue, with twin white stripes running down the length of it.

“Whaddaya think? I restored it myself!” He stated proudly. “Hop in!”

The three of us climbed into the classic car and said our final goodbyes to Meda and Arihi.

“I’ll be right back!” Devon called.

“OK, be careful!” Meda replied.

“I love you!”

“I love you too!”

With a macho salute, Devon hit the gas, and the small ranch house disappeared into the distance.

After an exhilarating ride, we arrived at a minor airport in a town north of the Persichs’ house.

“I couldn’t take you to a big airport. If the guys you’re running from know anything, they’d be able to track you with security there.” Devon explained. “Plus, I know a guy who’d be willing to take you wherever you need to go.”

Devon parked the Camaro, and we all got out. The young man led us across the concrete surface toward a small building. This airport really was out of the way. There were only a few planes, and only a small shack of a control tower, which was connected to the pilot’s lounge. As we approached the lounge, a slightly balding middle aged man hurried toward Devon.

“Hey, Phil! Long time no see!”

“Howdy man! Lookin’ good!” Phil heartily grabbed him in a big hug.

“Oof, thanks! So are you!”

After brushing himself off, Devon continued.

“Say, Phil, I was wondering if you could do us a favor…”

Once again, I was impressed. Devon managed to convince the pilot (with the help of a hefty sum of money) to take us down to the Amazon River immediately. Although we didn’t have an exact destination in mind, he claimed his plane could get us there with only a couple stops for fuel. That sounded fine to us.

While Phil made preparation to his small single-wing aircraft, Devon bid us an extended farewell.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come with us?” Sera asked hopefully.

Devon winced.

“I really, really do. This whole ancient prophecy adventure thing is exactly what I like, but I can’t. I have a family now, and I can’t risk dying and leaving them alone. I love them, more than anything else in the world. They need me, and I need them. So I’m afraid I’m gonna have to pass on this one.”

Milo nodded.

“I understand. Thank you for everything.”

“I’m happy to help. Here, take some more money. You’ll never know when you might need it.”

He handed Milo several more bills.

“If I read on the news that some major crisis was barely averted, saving the planet, I’ll know I have you to thank!”

I was sad to see him go as his classic car sped off back toward his home. Even when it felt like the entire world was full of cell-centered violent cavemen, there still existed some amazing people. Shortly, the pilot returned to inform us that our flight would soon be departing. It wasn’t long before we were leaving the ground; following the path laid before us by the Book of Prophecy. I prayed that this mission would have as positive results as the last one…

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