INCKLE VILKSUMER AND THE HAMMER
Inckle Vilksumer was building a thing of complex understanding in the back yard of his home in the corner lane the gamhnurts called Qesdaleenda when he heard a babble of voices coming from the front of the house.
“Inckle! Come on out here, you have got to hear this!” came the high-pitched voice of his mother, apparently excited over something.
Dropping his tools with a clatter and stretching his legs from a nearly two hour crouching position, Inckle made his way to the front room, half a mind on the thing he had been working at and the other wondering what it was that he had to hear that was so urgent.
The front door stood wide open and there just on the little porch was gathered about four nurts all from the nearby houses talking to Fiel Vilksumer. There was Trejeth Boint wearing his favorite hat, and then there was Inckle’s best friend Wully Redgate along with his brother and sister Untholio and Tesma. They lived close by, in a smaller section of the same neighborhood called Greenstick.
And they were all talking at once to their friend’s mother.
“’The hammer’ says he and Inckle must compete in the coming public game event,” said Wully, utterly flustered about it, the others did not look much happier either. Not that their friend was bad at game events but ‘The Hammer’ was by far the winner of all games.
He was so because of the quality he possessed, he was known to all as a brutal cheat and bully.
Inckle had earned a name for himself as an outstanding tiptoe walker and a fabulous word maker among other competitive game events ever since anyone could remember. Rough looking but with a heart of gold, eyes of a deep brown and a smile warmer than many a summer sun he, Inckle had a brilliant mind to match. He walked out to them with back straight wiping his brow on his sleeve.
Tesma seeing him approach smiled and cheered, “And here he comes, who could ever beat him!” “Beat me! In what?” and Inckle was right in their midst, arm around his mother’s chubby round shoulders.
“It appears as if you are going to be competing with Astra Deins dear,” said his mother as excited as ever. “You show him Incky pie, you show him!” and with that broke away from the group to return to cleaning chores.
Blushing at having been called his nickname in front of everybody present, Inckle started to question his friends.
“Did mother just say Astra Deins? I am to play with ‘the hammer’?"
His tone was of one in shock as he looked from one face to the other.
“She did say it Inck, your mother, she said and meant ‘the hammer’ but there is not a thing to be concerned over,” Wully replied while the rest chipped in with reassuring nods and yeses. “Do not worry, you will beat him anytime,” Untholio put in sounding enthusiastic.
“Who said anything about being worried?” said Inckle slapping his hands together and grinning. “I have waited long enough for a game with ‘the hammer’, I am not concerned and you know, you all should not be either. Come on friends, no nurt has ever been upset over a thing this silly.”
He was eyeing them now, a look that always made them laugh, “Where is that Gamhnurt spirit gone to?”
“But Inck,” interrupted Trejeth helplessly, “’The Hammer’ is a cheat and you stand to lose your good name in game should you lose to him.”
“I am hurt,” exclaimed Inckle, he looked it too. Downcast eyes, “I am completely insulted that you should think I am afraid, worried?” he slowly stared up at them, a glint in his eye and just a trace of a tiny smile.
“I should feel just a bit upset just now,” he said, “Except you know what, I am not really,” an air of mischief encircled the tiny group, “maybe that’s because I am about to chase you all on tiptoes!”
He laughed and scattered the group chasing them round each tiptoeing further from the catcher. Screams and jolly cursing, the friends played tiptoe and catch till everyone was huffing and puffing on the ground.
And the day wore on, after the second meal since awaking from a night’s rest, the two best friends went a-walking to the outskirts of their little neighborhood. The topic of conversation was ‘the hammer.’
“I will never understand why ‘the hammer’ has challenged to compete in game with you,” Wully said, his head shaking in incomprehension while Inckle muttered something about being fed up with such worrisome thoughts coming from not himself but his best friends. They were supposed to believe in him and be enthusiastic but instead, this.
“Want to come back to my house and have a try at the string cracker?” He asked hoping it would get Wully’s mind off the whole hammer situation. They had reached a tiny pond and sat by it.
“It is almost as if,” Wully said thoughtfully, “as if ‘the hammer’ holds a grudge against you, Inck,” the water rippled as he threw tiny pebbles.
“You tell me what reason he could have of holding a grudge and I will tell you, you are the smart one for getting all worried.”
Inckle, his feet in the water sat looking at the ripple maker by his side.
“Oh okay, you never did do anything to make him hold it against you but,” he hesitated, “But what my friend?” asked Inckle, “You know there is no reason to hold a grudge, there is no grudge whatever. He just wants to get a bit of attention. Probably feels he has no friends.”
Inck trailed off staring away up a hill over which a white cloud hovered like a plaited crown.
“You say probably, I say for sure, he has no friends,” huffed Wully; sour faced and half laughing to himself. “Who would like him?” he asked.
“Now, you know all too well I believe that all of us are born to find a friend or two in life and be friends to those around us,” replied Inckle in earnest. “Astra I am certain he has friends at least one, he must.”
“Why, because half the folk in his neighborhood speak of him as of a great nurt?” Wully was standing, hands at his sides looking down at the sprawled figure of his friend eyes half closed and enjoying the sun. “He must own them for them to think him an ideal—"
He was cut half way by an unpleasant shock. He stood rooted even as Inckle remained sprawled as a gang of about thirteen nurts from the hammer’s neighborhood had trudged toward them unnoticed and was now standing, glaring at the talking fool.
“We hope you were not talking those no good words about our hero,” spoke one of the nurts sounding hurt to the point of crying but looking angry enough to strike a blow.
Wully trembled, “What ever gave you that impression?” he stammered and stared at Inck, pleading for help. Inckle opened an eye and smiled.
“Certainly we were talking of a tiny mouse that lives in his backyard,” he nodded toward his friend who had the look of a greatly pleased gamhnurt.
“Hmm is that true?” growled another of the gang’s member, “And what exactly about this mouse was he saying?” “Just that the tiny creature has been rallying a much too hard a strike on store of food and has all the other mice stealing for him.” Wully replied and he would have given a longer explanation except that he was not given the chance.
“We will not pretend to believe you, we do not,” interjected the first nurt scowling. “Have never heard of these mice and do not think much of what you say,” he continued while Wully exchanged a nervous glance with Inckle.
“The Hammer sent us to your neighborhood,” the second one continued to talk looking at Inckle disapprovingly,. “He wants you to be informed that the game challenge will start on the, let me see… on the third waking from the present one.” The rest of nurts were merely standing around observing nature and not in the least threatening, obviously brought along just to make an impression, for show.
“And will the third waking be as I see convenient?” Inckle questioned, now standing up.
“I am not sure I understand,” the nurt with the attitude had a mixed expression of confusion and irritation.
“Say if I choose not to sleep and prolong my day for seven meals and if he decides he would very much like to prolong his day with just one meal and then sleep it off, waking to a new day?” put in Inckle cunningly, “My third waking and his third waking would truly not be the third waking of convenience to neither,” he had a satisfied smile as he looked on at their faces, the others also being drawn in by the complicated reasoning.
“Look here, no trouble would be a smart idea now,” said one of the nurts who stood a little way back, a bit uncomfortably, “We are all of the same kind you and us, let us just play decent,” he caught the eye of one of the nurt’s up front and quieted down.
“Kermol, you stay silent. This is not for you to have your say,” he growled, then turning to Inckle, “He has a point though, no funny play, nothing indecent,” a pause, “You will do all meals like you have done and at the third waking, you will play the champion.”
“I hear you. I do not doubt we are any more different from each other than earth and stones,” he let it sink in, then, Inckle went on not waiting to see if the other got his meaning.
“Tell the hammer, yes, the hammer, I will see him at the third waking. We will meet on the Challenge Field and I will certainly not drag out the days any longer than needed.”
Wully nodded though he was not sure he had caught the whole meaning of what his friend had just said about stone and earth. He followed Inckle as the two left the group and headed in the direction they had come from, home. Hunger had announced itself by a rumble in the belly.
Inckle doubled over, he was laughing so hard once out of sight and ear reach and Wully not sure what was so funny, gave a half smile.
“What?” said Inckle Vilksumer catching the other’s expression, “You did not find that funny?” “I did.” Wully said a little too fast so that Inckle burst into a fresh string of cackles. “You have no idea what I said back there, do you? I have to tell you, though you maybe as dumb as you could ever be, I daresay you still have a mind waiting to be used.”
They were a few paces from the Vilksumer home. “I suspect that you will use it and when you do my friend, that will be a waking in your and your friends’ life that will be remembered as one of a great change.”
Wully smiled sheepishly, “That is all well even though I do not say I agree but what would be really nice is a bit of hot stew your mother has got cooking,”
Inckle smiled and began to quicken his step, hand holding his friend’s shoulder. “And also some string cracker sounds good,” as they entered both were delighted to see a bowl of stew waiting for each in his place.
Astra Deins had been living on his own most of his life. He had family but its members were always too occupied with tasks that somehow left him out and kept Astra away from them.
Never really being good at any of the things gamhnurts are good at, he had to find ways of being good at something so Astra taught himself the art of cheating. It took time and practice and time never was the issue and with plenty of it, he practiced wakinjgs together. At times even stretched out a waking so much that all the others around him and his neighborhood took meals and slept and had the count of seven wakings when he finally took a bite and closed his eyes to rest. That earned him the name ‘The Hammer’ because he was always at it, refining his first new found skill until it was perfected.
All the nurts in his neighborhood, the ones who like him were not good at nurt doings, stuck with Astra. Friends he called them, they did not argue.
The three wakings passed with little out of the ordinary for Inckle. He stretched not a day longer than necessary and did everything that was part of a day as usual. Though his friends were forever worried and some of the neighbors even tried to persuade him to find new ways to beat his opponent with the ever-nearing game event, Inckle paid little attention. Trejeth had got word from some of the folk responsible for holding public game events and entertainment that the penalty the loser would be awarded with if he lost to the other, was going to be a bit harsh. Either Inckle or ‘the hammer’ would have to live away from home, neighborhood and could never be part of a game challenge ever again.
A scary thought, Inckle wanted no part in thinking.
Tesma spent the afternoons with Inckle. It was a known fact that the two had a friendship very special and though neither had mentioned anything to their families, everyone, whether they were a part of the young friends’ lives or simply saw them together, knew that this friendship was headed toward a life time commitment.
Often the two friends had talked about their life together and how the absence of growing older made it perfect. They could be together forever. Everywhere beyond their land, living folk ‘men’ they were called, were losing a life long battle against an enemy which made them grow older and lose everything of beauty and youth, the enemy that brought about change in stone and wind, in man and tree.
“It is all far away,” said Tesma as she held the hand of her loved one.
“It might be just tales or if it is true we will not know of it, until it is too late.”
Inckle stood listening in thought before speaking. “The struggle they, whom we have not seen but who are much like us in many ways, are a part of, is not for certain to stay beyond our land’s border and if it should step within, the enemy,” he paused and gazed into her eyes, “The enemy, will take all away from us and we will vanish into nothing.”
Tesma’s eyes danced, she could not understand the seriousness of what Inckle was saying and as much as she was mature in her thinking, she still was very young, they all were.
“I would fight the enemy alongside you,” she said excited at the idea. “You then would be not just a champion at game but a hero at war!” She planted a kiss on his cheek.
“Tesma, I have to know,” Inckle said firmly and gently pulling her away. “If I lose this game challenge, will that change our life together and everything you have said,” he paused again looking into her eyes once more, “Will you take it all back?”
“You know I would never.” Tesma blurted out and her eyes were kind and serious. “Why do you speak of losing when you know it simply will not happen?”
Despair and anger were in her voice. To this, Inckle had no reply and he merely watched her heave a sigh and then they embraced.
It was the eve of the third waking, the last meal of the day waited to be taken.
Astra Deins sat at his table, a bowl of thick soup sitting in front and his entire family of friends around him. A different friend cooked each meal and that’s how every bite Astra ever ate was unlike the other. They were a group of six good for nothings who had little contact with their families. All cast aside and shun by the entire nurt society for being losers in variety doings.
Soup finished, Astra and the friends sat talking. Some playing string cracker, and doing a rather bad job of it and some discussing new ideas that would help the hammer win the coming game challenge.
“Hey Hammer! I have been thinking… ” said one of the friends glancing toward Astra. “This is what you have to do, put your foot this way so your toes appear to be taking the entire weight of your body.” He demonstrated his words and walked a straight line like on tiptoe. Everyone clapped.
Without realizing it, they were all prolonging the day and after a few more ideas presented themselves, sleep came to Astra. He dozed off and one by one, the others followed.
The third waking began bright. All the gamhnurts from the clustering neighborhoods throughout the land made their way to the Challenge Field. It was a center most place. A town of nothing but grains of stone, wind and a high rock which stood on one side of the place. The Field was where gamhnurts from every corner of Wyoungthed met on occasions of game and entertainment.
Today there was order in the way of gathering. Unlike all previous game challenges and other public events, this was strictly organized. A gate of heavy wood bars stood at the borders of the town so as to mark an entry gate and there posted were a few official gamhnurts from the Public Event and Entertainment Committee instructing the folks coming in, though not very pleasantly, just how and where to stand. The gamhnurts pouring in evidently did not like this order but thought better than to complain and get sent back home. There were some of course who spoke out and forfeited their chance at attending the challenge.
There was a stranger among the throng of nurts from a place nowhere in or near Wyoungthed. Though he had entered and was well inside the field, somewhere third on the first row, he stepped back. Not wanting to attract any attention to himself, as he was always known to do.
The stranger looked like a nurt only a little shorter than the average nurt height and a lot broader. He had none of the straight hair features that the gamhnurts had but then again, it was hard to be certain as his head wore really short deep gold hair. Eyes an ocean of blue and a face that said he was friendly and aloof at the same time. The rest of him could not been seen because it remained hidden, hidden under a garment of long length and all that could be seen below the hem were tiny tips of his shoes, a shiny pair. The stranger was an illusion, the image never stayed the same.
He walked with eyes seeing just ahead of his step, held in a clenched fist an object crudely shaped. It was a face with many eyes, some in pairs and some solely staring outward through a tiny broken glass window the cracks of which breathed passing seconds in the timeless world.
“Two hours into the third waking,” muttered the stranger glancing at the Challenge Field from a distance. “Still no sign of neither champion.”
Then slowly looking from side to side and after making certain he wasn't being observed, he began talking softly as if telling a secret to everyone yet none.
“Wyoungthed beneath my feet
A timeless land you breathe,
While the world about you
Fights to remain,
Forever young and untouched
Young and strong, your people
And your soil,
Will not for always stay.
Inckle Vilksumer - Earth protector
Close draws The Hour!"
The moment he finished his say, there was a sort of restlessness among the gathered gamhnurts and though several caught sight of the stranger none thought anything out of the ordinary about him.
Shortly after the crowd had settled down, the champions entered the field from an unseen gate. Head held high, ‘The Hammer’ made his way to the point where the game challenge would commence and stood arrogantly looking from face to face of a few gamhnurts. Those who returned his stare happened to be Inckle’s supporters and their stares could not have been colder. A few even pointed to the champion and whispered insults. Inckle Vilksumer entered the field and all quieted. He smiled at some known faces, Wully, Tesma and Untholio clapped and cheered harder than all, Inckle acknowledged them with a wave.
The stranger glanced at the object in his hand, in just minutes; things were to get very interesting.
The heart of the crowded gamhnurts pounded as all waited with bated breaths. Inckle and Astra regarded each other. Inckle considered talking to his opponent a word of courtesy. He almost did when a loud clang sounded from the high rock and a loud voice began reciting the rules of the challenge.
It was just like Trejeth had said, this time the rules were to be reinforced and while the gamhnurt on the rock made each rule clear, each of the champions’ friends had an image in their mind’s eye of what it would be like if their champion lost.
The final rule recently added up, shocked some of the nurts and gladdened some. The nurt from the high rock recited it in his musical voice. The surrounding echoed with the words. “Earth protector and Stone lover, one among you will lose here this waking and it is the Committee’s decision that,” a slight pause to catch the breath, “after studying and revising the rules thoroughly, the lesser champion must venture beyond the borders of Wyoungthed to the lands of men. Also bring one man or more to stand on this soil and learn all there is know about us Gamhnurts.”
The figure on the high rock looked down about him, another slight pause, then, in a non-musical tone, “This rule is a law as of now. The champions step to the foot of this high rock upon which I here stand and begin your tiptoe climb to the top when I signal to commence.”
There were protests from the gamhnurt crowd for they did not like what they had heard but all that happened was that the champions began to move toward the rock, both thinking of the task ahead.
As they made their way, Inckle realized that the game challenge was to be played not in the usual way on the field, on level ground but rather it was going to be a tiptoe climb to the top of the high rock. Shocked, he grasped the entire meaning of what was about to happen. He looked toward Astra but he did not seem too troubled, possibly he wasn’t even thinking, just walking. A lot was different in this game event and Inckle Vilksumer reviewed it all in his mind. It was clear now the challenge would not be played across the field, it was in a climb and that did not scare him, neither did the fact that one of the two would have to face defeat and should he lose, he would be banished, an outcast. It was a social rule and he accepted it hard as it might be but who said he would lose anyway. There was however a disturbing additional factor. It was the mention of men. It was a strange thing that a law in the gamhnurts’ laws of socializing, men should be mentioned. Considering the troubled world outside Wyoungthed… His thoughts were broken as ‘the hammer’ called and waved out to his friends who waved back shouting encouragement. Inckle did the same noticing Wully and Tesma and the rest of his neighbors and friends. His mother too, she had come… They all clapped and cheered.
A few steps from the high rock they halted. The Gamhnurt atop peered down at them, silence fell. The illusory character glanced at the face in his hands. He was unnoticed as he silently dissolved into a wind leaving a gap between two nurts where he stood. None noticed and then the voice of the nurt announced the challenge to a start as he made his way down to ground level. Inckle was positioned to face one side of the rock and the hammer the opposite. Whoever reached the top first, would win. Just as soon as the two were in place, a clang sounded from the hands of the nurt who’d spoken, and in whose hands were a metal rod and a tin. The game challenge began.
No commentator to relate what was happening, no points as such just a silent crowd watching in anticipation, praying and hoping each in turn for their hero.
In the meanwhile on the rock, the game was intense and on either side the players showed immense courage. Astra found he could use the trick his friend had shown him the night before even better here on this rock climb than he would have on the ground. He was gaining quickly on Inckle who was half way up and fast nearing the top. Everyone who knew Inckle, also knew that the challenge was being played fair by him and that brought admiration to their hearts with every tiptoe step he took. The Hammer was cheating, yet putting on a terrific show. Wully and Untholio broke the tense silence around them by passing nasty loud comments on the hammer’s every step.
“Oi Hammer! Think you can do it? A challenge never can be won by a cheat!” Wully said loud enough so that the words were heard by a large part of the crowd and many voiced agreement through slogans. “Inckle! The fair Champion!” and “Win Inckle Win!
Those who weren't on Inckle’s side, voiced slogans to ‘the hammer’ and with each Inckle slogan, there came a “Hammer! Hammer! Hammer him down!”
From the high rock, all this din was like a river of words, flowing alongside the sudden wind that had started to blow.
Inckle was a step away from winning now and the roar of words swept over him, he knew he could easily win; the hammer on the other side of the climb was four steps behind. Then, for no apparent reason, Inckle paused to look about him from that high spot. He saw the entire Wyoungthed all lovely and timeless and lands beyond its borders… And suddenly the illusory character with the face of time in its hands crossed his line of sight and receded into lands afar. Inckle felt a sense of loss and pity. He had paused and now the top of Astra’s head was visible on the opposite side of the high rock. The crowd was silent as all watched what was happening. Half of the hammer’s body could now be seen and Inckle still did not move. More and more of the hammer came into view, Inckle as if snapping out of a dream, turned and saw Astra who had just one more tiptoe step to go and he, Inckle effortlessly tiptoed up the one and a half step to come level with him. Now the two champions could see eye to eye, both were exhausted. A gasp went up from the crowd. Were they both going to win? Just a single final tiptoe step and it would end either way.
Both pairs of eyes locked into an unwavering stare and stayed fixed upon each other. Both had the spirit of challenge but one pair also showed a deep loneliness and desire to win at the same time. The eyes belonged to ‘the hammer’ and Inckle felt the hidden pain in them.
Without warning Inckle loosened his tiptoe step and slipped. He slipped a short way down clinging to the rock with his hands. Astra seeing what had happened took the chance and stepped to the top. Inckle let go and fell the rest of the way to the ground.
The crowd cheered, someone screamed, a gamhnurt lady, and Astra, he stood high, the champion.
Feet ran in all directions. Some climbing the rock to embrace and admire the winner, others ran away from the place, through the gate. These were the ones on Inckle Vilksumer’s side, they were the nurts who had believed in him and he had lost. Among them were Tesma and Fiel (Inckle’s mother) who stumbled on through the gate and toward home in blinding tears. Wully and Untholio stayed back along with Trejeth and wound their way to where their friend lay fallen, nearly trampled by running feet faceless in their eagerness.
They found him half sitting half on his side and pulled him to his feet. Except for a few scratches and mud covering his clothes and skin, their friend looked unhurt. Inckle looked Wully straight in the eye and knew that what he needed to see, Wully would not show, understanding. How could anyone understand when what he had seen and felt nobody else had? He had lost a game challenge and now, this, was probably the last time he would ever get the chance to stand so close to his friends. He had lost them too, the best friends he loved so much. Wully was saying something but Inckle could not hear a word, his mind kept running through all that had happened and then Tesma’s lovely face came before his eyes and a bitter pain in his heart made him cry. He had brought about the terrible change in his life and he had done so out of pity and pain, now, he hurt but none would sympathize with him.
“Inckle!” it was Wully and he was crouching down and shouting. Inckle realized he himself had sunk down. “Are you all right? You do not look badly hurt. How – what happened?” His friend was looking concerned and the other two too bent low. In a voice barely over a whisper in the tumult of voices around them, came the reply.
“I lost. I have failed to bring honour to ‘the earth protectors’,” a moment of voiceless speech where three pairs of eyes looked upon the fourth having heard every word. Untholio tried to pull the half kneeling half sleeping figure of his friend up but Inckle just continued to whisper. However in the effort to help him stand neither of the friends heard right what was said.
“I understand him now, Astra is alone. He only has himself. I fe –” his words faded as the crowd around them suddenly quieted, stopped what they were doing and stared. Toward the fallen champion, a small group of nurts was striding. They were dressed in serious colors, dark shades of blue and brown sweaters with matching baggies and stockings. The friends had a vague impression that these might be the officials responsible for the game event, in fact, for all social entertainment. The group of five nurts neared the base of the high rock and stopped a few paces away from the huddled friends. Wully and his two companions stepped aside while Inckle stayed where he was.
One of the nurts spoke to the figure of the half kneeling, half fallen nurt in a hard voice.
“Stand Inckle Vilksumer Earth Protector! On the high rock your feet may have failed you, on level ground though, they shall not falter. Stand and be gone!”
Shakily, Inckle got to his feet and looked at the group in front of him.
“I am Duilo Nacckle Stone Lover, the head of Ministry and I henceforth say to you, Inckle Vilksumer Earth Protector, born of the dirt and child son of Fiel Earth Protector,” Wully felt a sadness stir in him, he wanted to protest and beg a second chance, this was his friend. Inckle just stared and Wully held back the protests. The social rule would not change if one nurt demanded it to. He and Untholio shrank back against the rock but Trejeth stepped in front and addressed the head of Ministry.
“I request you on the behalf of all Earth Protectors to reconsider--” “Reconsider?” he was cut short by a cruel sneer from Nacckle.
“This is not a mere game to ‘reconsider’ the rules son.” Trejeth felt the nurt grow in strength and height, towering over him like a sky high pillar but of course that was not happening. Rather it was Trejeth who appeared to diminish because of the way he had been addressed. He drew all courage he could muster and began talking again.
“Who ever decided to have a game challenge in all seriousness of the word when for wakings by the hundred we have been having friendly playing?”
The group of nurts glared at him and finally at Inckle who stood rooted between the two groups.
“The Ministry does not have to answer queries from someone like you,” said one of the officials standing at the rear, “And we will by the soil not answer petty questions,” joined in Nacckle now rage flashing in his eyes.
“Step aside you Earth Protector, step aside before I rip apart the little decency you Earth Protectors have left. And as head of the Ministry, I have power to do that.”
Trejeth quailed, his courage vanishing and was shoved aside by a large hand or so it seemed to his eyes. Stumbling over from the hard push, he nearly fell toward the two brothers but Untholio caught him and stood his friend between himself and Wully.
Inckle faced Duilo Nacckle. He felt no longer sad at the punishment and its consequences. He did not feel anything, his fate had been his choice and he now faced a life of – he did not allow himself to think the worst but took a slow step forward, then another and another until he was close enough to hear the head official breathe.
“Be--” Nacckle opened his mouth but was cut short by Inckle Vilksumer this time. His hand raised, Inckle spoke, “I, Inckle Vilksumer Earth Protector hereby take upon my prize. I will walk and be gone!”
Then turning to his friends and addressing them as well as the other Earth Protectors who would listen, he said in a voice barely above a whisper, “I will be gone. Farewell but I trust we will meet again.” And with that, he strode away and as he crossed the threshold of the gate, he could hear the wind that had picked up once again. He headed far toward the borders of Wyoungthed another Astra Deins.