Chapter VII - "Words of Warning"
Titan had little regard for pomp and circumstance, but he deeply respected the extensive efforts which Leijimoto had infused into its preparation. But Leijimoto had been looking forward to the honorary celebration far more than had Titan. And although it was extremely satisfying for Titan to witness others smiling, laughing, and enjoying a well-deserved, carefree Sunsday... the valiant azure Zell felt the proverbial ‘invisible call’ to remain vigilant and focused. He was always the last to eat... last to drink... last to stop training (even if he instructed), and he was the very last Zell into the Soporichambers after nightfall. But Titan had always gravitated toward rendering aid and service long before he’d made his way to Taelondria--far prior to meeting Leijimoto and joining the Zell of Kessoshaero.
So, even as the wondrous celebration in his own honor surrounded him at every turn, he worried, knowing something was not right. Titan had pressing concerns which he felt required immediate (yet relatively private) audience with Chi-Zell Leijimoto.
Artemis continued to edify and inspire the crowd. His Spohs echoed both wisdom and instruction--precisely what everyone expected from their cherished wizard. And although Titan normally absorbed each bit of his sage counsel with sincere respect, this Sunsday, Titan whispered to Leiji. As he did, he produced a cylindrical device. This odd object was a holographic scroll--one with a dark warning.
“Leijimoto--my liege. Have you read it? His... threats?”
Leijimoto steadily surveyed the distant crowd. Here and there, he locked gazes with hopeful Amals within the crowd. Claws over fist (indicating ‘Chi-Foi’: honor), they smiled, and he lovingly echoed the gesture with his giddy patriarchal grin. Distracted, but not forgotten, he replied to his Amal and hero.
“Zi, Titan. I have indeed, Amal. Chi-Zell Artemis briefed me, Skysday.”
From afar, Leiji connected yet again with his loved ones in the crowd, claws over fist. Titan held the scroll aloft, finally thrusting it toward his great leader. The message was a dire warning; the very same congratulatory message which the ghostly Zen’th Zell Nitrozite had instructed Scarlassh to deliver...
“The young ones--our Bo Zell! NONE are safe, liege! We must--”
“Suuuusst. Titan, now is NOT the Time, great one. This is all for YOU, my Vas Amal...”
He politely rejected Titan’s insistence, holding up his left palm with gentle concern. Leijimoto subtly accepted the magical parchment, but shut and locked its subtle mechanics in short turn. The old patriarch removed his glasses and proceeded to carefully clean the gem-crafted lenses. Titan’s jaw slightly fell in abject shock. Normally, Leijimoto would have immediately addressed the problem. Something was different this Sunsday.
Cheers! The surrounding crowd was transfixed by Artemis as they laughed, agreed, and listened--entirely oblivious to the goings on with Elder and Titan. Leijimoto tucked aside his glasses. Titan was beside himself.
“Chi-Yong, Leiji. It is my Chi-Foi. But... my lord of Lords; our Bo Zell! We m--!”
Leiji clutched Titan’s shoulders with a serious but loving smile. The crowd cheered again as Artemis projected his lessons far and wide. Neither Leiji nor Titan heard, but Leiji stared deep into Titan’s wondering eyes. Titan stared back, and began to Jee: Leijimoto had longed for such a Sunsday. For celebration. It had been Epochs since Titan had seen him so vulnerable. Nitrozite and his conniving ambition was not the focus.
“They NEED this, my honorable Amal. I need this. And on this very Sunsday.”
Leiji paused to look up and away, but did not release his loving grip on Titan’s muscular frame. The time-weathered Zell stared deep into the Oos (‘sky’) as if he’d never once seen them...
“Kessoshaero’s morale was beyond repair, Amal. But Nae, now... what YOU’ve done... they’ve begun again. You have ignited every last Zell’s Cyur like Vas FLAM! Where otherwise, all were shattered and lost! Instead, now, once more, once again... I am the Plok Tach SUMM I once was! I’ll not forget this, your greatness. Nor shall THEY!”
Touched, Titan gawked. Timing and irony aligned as Artemis completed his own speech, and the crowd’s crescendo of cheers came to a gorgeously triumphant, sustained roar. Ironic, perhaps, that “the crowd roared” was a phrase well-known by humans, but indeed... when a Zell cheered, it was a roar nearly by default! Ironic too that the Zell could have easily been bellowing their responses to Leiji’s heartfelt evocation to Titan... in lieu of Artemis’ invocations. That is--had they heard any such wavelengths of inspiration...
The cheering continued as Leiji stared at his azure hero. Titan briefly put aside thoughts of duty. He detected tears welling in Leiji’s old, war-torn eyes, and felt some of his own. Elder Leijimoto had served Kessoshaero for every Epoch. He was a seasoned warrior, but also endlessly quested to provide hope and harmony to all--especially upon this Sunsday. But, he’d grown old, as all Zell and creatures do. He desired peace.
The cheering subsided. Leiji chuckled as he let go of Titan’s broad shoulders, noting how his claws barely compared to Titan’s. Yet the azure hero’s similarly caring, gentle nature proved to be an amazing juxtaposition to his robust strength. Something which many others never noticed nor acknowledged.
Titan would make a genuine and worthy successor for the role of command. Of course, Leiji wanted to reveal this ‘passing of the guard’ to his hero at a much later date. And now was not that Time. All things were to come to be when the moments were right. When Ziwalos ordained it. And thus, Leijimoto dared not ruin such a wonderful reveal. Especially not upon such a grand Sunsday.
And it was a perfect Sunsday.
The crowd’s chants dulled into a buzzing hum of subdued conversations--vibrations. Sounds which ironically mimicked the trilling wings of Ys Zell, but of course, Link was the only Ys Zell amongst them all.
Artemis beckoned for Leiji to fly up and over, front and center, intent for him to begin the magnificent celebrations. Elder Leijimoto’s duties called, and yet, all he truly wanted was to Spohs more with Titan. To smoke, drink, eat, laugh, and to recount old triumphs with his finest Amal. But now was not the moment for that, either. If Nitrozite’s warning message would wait until after the festivities, so could further conversation.
Leiji looked to the crowd, then back to Titan. He smiled with zeal as he giddily draped his glasses back over his fierce blue eyes and slicked his white hair. Excited as any leader could be, he leaped upward and away!
As Leiji ascended, Titan had seen into his heart with better understanding and reverence than ever before. He now knew what it meant to truly enjoy a Sunsday. To appreciate not duty, nor call of work--Nae: to cherish life and family.
Roars erupted as Leijimoto soared. Time had been well spent with Titan. With a toothy grin, the stalwart leader waved at his loved ones--excited as a Bo Zell--and engaged with his subjects as he approached. Artemis stepped away as Chi-Zell Leijimoto hovered above the center circle of the Courtyard of Courage.
Silence resonated. The sun gleamed. The winds were fair, and the gleaming oceans effervesced! Ahhhh--not just ‘a’ perfect Sunsday. The perfect Sunsday!
Leijimoto stepped forward, took flight, and soaked in the moment. He rallied his subjects with a loud, air-crackling bellow into the distance. They cheered, howling roars of love and smiles of ivory! Fondly, he reflected. The Zell scanned them all, listening to the overwhelming cries of elation. His thoughts were almost as if truly Spohs and truly ‘heard’:
“Althe’aya. All the hundreds of Epochs... but this... THIS is my best memory, tomorrow and forever. My golden angel... I miss you dearly. But this Sunsday, I feel you are WITH me. You are mine, and I am yours. I send to you celestial Chi-Foi and Vas Taeuusah-ay, my Taeuyeli. Althe’aya: I shall remember you for all of Ziwalos... tomorrow, and also forever!”
Leijimoto removed his glasses once more. The flare from the sun still seemed to refract through his Jee (‘eyes’) as he addressed the dozens upon dozens of Kessoshaero. But removing his lenses helped. Besides, Leiji enjoyed peering into the Jee, Cyur, and Eyayeli of his subjects...
The ‘Jee’ were the eyes. The ‘Cyur’ was the heart. And as for ‘Eyayeli’... the closest explanation of this was the spirit and the soul. But, it also signified ‘hope’. It was something most humans could not truly understand.
“ZELL AMALS! Chi-Yong Ta Suust. Normally, I would Spohs at length. But... this Sunsday is so perfect, so flawless... I lack the Spohs to do it justice, and so, better to award it six moments of Suust. Chi-Foi to you all, Zell Amals. I appreciate you. I Jee you all. Your dedication. Your courage! Your Eyayeli. I have endless Taeuusah-ay for Kessoshaero; and may the Vas Oos watch over us all. CHI-FOI, and VAS RES: this Sunsday... is... OOOUUURRRRSSS!!”
Claws over fists. Echoes of “Chi-Foi!” , “Eyayeli-ha!” and “Vas Res!” resonated everywhere. The air was filled with roaring howls, zealous applause, and thunderous chants of morale! The perfect Sunsday, indeed.
Far and away--back inside the now nearly empty Castle Kessoshaero--there within the grand hall where the Table of Twelve proudly stood--Ziwalos churned. The ivory and gold mechanism steamed, smoked, and suddenly clicked. As if Timing was instantly wrong upon this Sunsday, the six arms of the clock misaligned. Three and three. A broken tempo.
Violetta’s towering crystalline statue (which she’d unveiled to honor Titan) unveiled something all on its own! In what only humans might have defined as a ‘Trojan Dragon’, the glassy monument shattered open! Out of the jagged Jhaeoos fissures spilled a literal flood of undead, dark grey and mud brown Ys Zell! The deadly drones immediately dashed about in chaotic, relentless patterns of attack. Panic at Kessoshaero ensued.
That wasn’t all. Hidden Bone and Ghost Dragons (‘Zen’th Zell’) struck from both shadows and foliage far in the distance! Partially invisible, the phantoms fired off volleys of bone arrows from secret vantage points. It was impossible to pinpoint the dozen attackers. The forest was vast; the greenery, thick. Dissenters also poisoned the mix, which made it difficult to make distinctions during the sudden maelstrom of violence! Immediately, many Zell spouted adrenaline-spiked assessments of blame--mostly directed at Violetta.
“Dissension!! Violetta, this was YOUR doing! DISSENSION!!”
“She’s set a trap!”
Violetta desperately looked about, wide-eyed, noting only fear, anger, and mistrust coming from those whom she considered to be her family.
“What?! Never! I am no traitor. How DARE you!”
Dupree’ wasn’t concerned about pinning blame onto any Zell other than those assailing them at that very moment. Most of the threats were from the undead Ys Zell, but the incoming ‘sniper fire’ wasn’t easy to track, either. Dozens upon dozens were struck from the left and right, and some attacked one another! Unfettered by the wild chaos, the valiant Zell of prayers and honor drew his jagged-edged sword.
“Not only Zen’th Zell; spies in our very ranks! Althe’aya, protect us!”
It was hard for anyone to know if Dupree’s invocation to the long dead Zell of gold would be heard, but without further ado, the armored Zell flew into battle. Others continued to assail Violetta with heated Spohs:
“Violetta, how could you?!”
“You’ll pay for this!”
“She’s doomed us all...”
“Death will be upon YOU as well, cursed Princess!!”
“The Princesses’ gift was a TRAP!”
Violetta’s eyes welled, wide as the two moons. Panicking, fear and sadness overtook her.
“Nae, Nae! I... I am innocent! I--I... I... aaaaaaarrrggh!!!”
Paralyzed, Violetta shrieked, retreating in instinctive cowardice. Her Zell servants immediately escorted her to the Sky Chariot, chanting “Protect the Princess!”. They launched into the clouds with haphazard abandon, nearly crashing moments after takeoff. But the decadent carriage and its precious contents soon soared off... leaving the Zell of Kessoshaero behind.
Hardly a stone’s throw away, just as Leijimoto attempted to re-position his glasses upon his blue Jee, he was hit! Leiji’s bifocals tumbled to the ground, as several bony arrows struck, protruding from Leijimoto’s scales.
Elder Chi-Zell Leijimoto stumbled, wobbling. His perfect Sunsday was ruined, but it would take more than bone and marrow to kill such a heroic warrior. Dazed, he hesitated, but soon began a systematic search for his uniquely designed glasses.
Icy warrior that he was, Llewelyn took immediate action, barking three precise orders. Incoming attacks would be easier to assess from up high.
“Defend the Crown! Protect Leijimoto! To the OOS!!”
A dozen Zell echoed his command, yelling “Oos” (‘sky’) in ZellSpohs. This was one of the ways of the Zell: echoing to acknowledge an order (or even a prayer). An ironic similarity to methods of militarily-educated humans. Perhaps the two forms of life were not as dissimilar as initially imagined, but there was still so much which humans did not understand.
Intent to protect Leiji, Titan was interrupted by multiple assaults. More so than any other--as if he were a favored target. Some ivory shards protruded from the powerful Zell’s steel-scaled exterior, but none fazed the great azure. He deflected some incoming projectiles aside. Titan scanned about, attempting to identify the sources of the sniper-style arrows. But, Nae--nothing--no visuals. He grimaced in frustration.
The chaos of Zell was relentless. Some took to the skies, others stomped across the forest floor, while others swooped around tree branches. Dissenters were few, but still hard to catch, and the Zen’th Zell were nowhere to be seen! Only shadows...
Elder Leijimoto absently, shakily retrieved his glasses. Time froze for him as Ziwalos sputtered. Leiji was exhausted. Epochs of Vas Tach (‘great war’) had run their due course. His muscles ached and his digits creaked. He stared in abject horror at the disastrous Courtyard of Courage. Magnificent tables of food, glorious drinks, gifts, decorations and more were ruined. Titan’s triumph had warped into tragedy.
The perfect Sunsday. Decimated. Lost...
As Titan fended off more bony arrows whipping through the trees, he could only chance occasional glances at Leiji--who still seemed almost frozen in Time. Leijimoto drifted, barely walking. His eyes were vacant, but longingly focused onto something (or someone?) deep into the horizon. Something unseen, perhaps...
It made no sense to Titan! Leiji was not heavily nor critically wounded: why did he stare and balk? A single moment of Suust later, Titan began to understand. He could almost taste the lament which Leijimoto was beginning to experience. A spirit on the edge--the Dark Edge. The Very Precipice.
Bone arrows, spikes, spells of hellacious energy and more whizzed past Leiji from every angle--barely missing! Leiji barely reacted. Others sheared tiny bits of his meager cloak clean away. Titan swallowed. His mentor now moved at what seemed to be an underwater pace. The azure hero bellowed a shrill cry to his old Amal:
Leijimoto’s reaction was also delayed. The old warrior absently pivoted. Slowly, he gazed upward at Titan’s broken statue, the disaster of broken junk about the Courtyard... crushed flowers... shattered lights--all in chaotic disarray. He solemnly whispered to himself: “All were shattered and broken”. His face grew pale. This Sunsday’s tragedy took a terrible toll upon him. Leiji had longed for a Sunsday of respite from Vas Tach. He’d required it for too long. As did everyone at Kessoshaero. A Sunsday of triumph over tragedy.
But this Sunsday was no longer that day.
Exhaustion of the soul set in. A tear rolled down Leiji’s left eye. Then another from his right, much larger than the previous silky drop.
Titan continued to fend off incoming fire as the remaining army of Kessoshaero increased the ‘radius of scope’, searching for their unknown, unseen assailants far and wide. The battles had spread over monumental distances, which left Titan and Leiji almost entirely isolated from their Zell Amals.
The old leader barely heard Titan’s second call, nor any other sounds. His mind (‘Mea’) was attuned elsewhere. He vacantly turned his gaze upward to the heavens where the sun shone bright. Another bone razor cut through the air (mere claw-lengths from his throat!) but nothing hit. Nae, nothing yet.
And so, Titan could wait no more. He would not let his best Amal, fatherly mentor, and sole inspiration in all of Taelondria fall to some dishonorably fired, stray bolt of bone! He would not let anyone fall if it was within his power. Leiji would not fall upon this Sunsday. Titan rocketed forth with a thunderous howl, fiercely charging at his revered Lord... and he tackled him!
As if Timing was of the essence, had the great azure not taken action at that very moment, Leiji would surely have been riddled by at least three lethal spears. But neither Zell was struck as they rolled: they were alive.
Titan cradled Leijimoto, protecting him. The next volley of assaults were easily absorbed by Titan’s defenses and thick indigo scales--he was only lightly wounded. Leiji still clutched his glasses and vacantly whispered...
“My lord! Please!”
“You were right, Titan...”
“My lord? I... right about what? Please...”
Titan was almost begging for him to give the order. Another bolt streaked by. It was clear to him, though: Leiji had never dreamed he’d have to proclaim an order for Vas Tach on the very Sunsday of any honorary ceremony. Leijimoto had grown tired of Vas Tach (‘great war’). He wanted no more of any of it, but all other methods of negotiations had failed. There was clearly no choice, but the choice had to be decreed.
Chi-Zell Leijimoto slowly replaced his glasses. He stared off, watching both Zell and Zen’th, far in the horizon.
“You were right. Like with the humans... Epochs before Ziwalos. Nae, there can be no EyaySuust.”
Titan’s heart sank deep into a place which none could truly comprehend. He then knew what Leiji most desired this Sunsday, and every tomorrow after. ‘EyaySuust’ was impossible for a human to understand, but the closest explanation could be: ‘peace’. A sense of harmony and respect for Life; and for the Universe’s existence which the simple and banal word ‘peace’ could never denote with any true level of accuracy.
So, that Sunsday of EyaySuust could never be. The Zen’th Zell were twisted. Broken. Their Eyayeli: absent.
“Leiji. Please--my Vas Amal--the ORDER.”
It was Time. There was nothing else which could be done. No more negotiations, no Spohs of a truce nor some agreement in which the two vastly different societies could live in harmony. The Zen’th Zell only desired to consume, dominate, and to enslave all. Just as they had begun to subjugate the Ys Zell. It would not end there.
Leijimoto took a monumentally deep breath, and nodded. And then another. He breathed faster and faster, channeling his adrenaline into anger. His mood transformed. His deepest disappointment with Nitrozite and the Zen’th Zell brewed... but it had already festered for Epochs. The Zell of Kessoshaero had endured their enemies and shown compassion for far too long. Leijimoto’s desire for justice and victory swelled, resonating deep from within his vocal chords. He bellowed his command, unleashed as never before!
“TA... RUS... TAAAAAAAACH!!”
Inside Kessoshaero... upon the wall behind the Table of Twelve... Ziwalos sped forth. Six--three and three.
Leijimoto’s thunderous war cry penetrated the souls of all upon the battlefield, echoing amidst every tree and lake. The guttural sound waves reverberated far over ocean and through every particle of dust. Leijimoto’s order was echoed by dozens:
Howling into the wind, Titan and Leijimoto erupted into breakneck flight, engaging every Zen’th Zell in range with no regard for their own lives. Primal instincts rose to the surface, and although this rage brought them great strength and haste... their compassion was equivalently lessened. Empathy had long since dissipated far into the furthest reaches of the sun, moons and Vas Oos...
Titan and Leijimoto exacted fearsome, brutal assaults upon their foes. Their howling snarls struck fear into their undead enemies, penetrating not only bone, but the very remnants of their Eyayeli. Dashing and streaking like two meteors, Leiji and Titan plunged directly into the explosive Armageddon at Kessoshaero, folding themselves further and further into the invisible fabrics of Vas Tach...
This Sunsday had only begun.