Call of Descent

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Chapter Thirty-Nine

“Hold up,” Reniko shouted, cursing under her breath as the pain of impact reverberated through her wing. She held her bokken aloft, gripping it tightly in anger. Dertrik was beside her in an instant touching her wing gingerly.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“Only my pride is hurt,” Reniko said sighing with frustration. “I can’t believe I keep hitting myself. This is pathetic. It feels like everything I have done for the past twelve years was done for nothing.” Reniko threw her bokken into the dirt, frustrated.

“How are your lessons in flight coming along?” Dertrik asked.

“About as poorly as this, Orric says I’m thinking too much about it. I haven’t a clue how to change that though. Even Engaging didn’t help. Sure, I can fly when his thoughts are with me, but on my own, I’m just as hopeless as usual.”

“What about Engaging?”

Reniko looked at Dertrik and sighed. “Well that is actually going well. Brium is a wonderful teacher.” Reniko thought back to her lessons with Brium. She had learned so much from him.

“About that question I had the other day?” Reniko asked Brium who had his eyes closed as he warmed himself in the afternoon sun.

“About forming words in your mind?”

“Yes,” Reniko said. She was sitting under the shade of a tree perched precariously on a boulder.

“Well, just form your thoughts into words,” Brium said.

Reniko sat in thought, silent. Brium chuckled and sighed.

“I think first, you must unlearn what you have learned.”

“That sounds difficult.”

“It’s as easy or as hard as you make it. All I’m asking is for you to look at the world upside down.”

“The words come when you have more control, don’t they.”

Brium opened his eyes and looked at Reniko. “How do you do that?”

Reniko looked at him confused. “Do what?”

“You echo my thoughts without Engaging.”

“You said look at it upside down, did you not.”

“I’ve never had a student able to do it so easily before.”

“I’ve never had trouble seeing things as another would.”

“Your empathy is incredible, Reniko. No wonder Engaging is no chore for you. Let’s try some focusing exercises, shall we.”

Reniko was broken out of her thoughts when she heard metal ringing as it was withdrawn from a scabbard.

“What are you doing?” Reniko asked as she was suddenly clutching Imako, which Dertrik had thrown to her.

“I think I have an idea as to what Orric meant, about thinking too much.”

“And you think real swords are going to help in this?”

Dertrik shrugged.

“Fight me, Reniko. Fight me like your life depends on it.” Dertrik didn’t give Reniko a chance to think about the comment, but instead advanced on her. Reniko reflexively let Imako fly in defense of Dertrik’s onslaught. They fought, Reniko quite awkwardly, as she tried to fend Dertrik off as well as trying to avoid slicing into her wings. She was sloppy and Dertrik could see it. He pressed her, forced her back, and suddenly he was upon her, his blade inches from her neck and Imako was parrying uselessly low. Frightened by the sudden contact with Dertrik’s blade, she reacted. A gust of wind blew dust into Dertrik’s eyes as Reniko lifted lightly off the ground, the movement of her wings forcing her backward. She settled onto the ground seconds later, now out of reach of Dertrik’s advancing blade. Dertrik was wiping the dust from his eyes.

“Now we’re getting somewhere,” he said.

Reniko looked at him abashedly. “Thinking too much suddenly makes a lot of sense.”

By the end of summer, Reniko felt confident in her flying ability. She spent most of her morning flying around the borders of Tordaskar, out by Ocean’s Wall, and the afternoons she spent with Dertrik, Malik, and Ryne training with the blade. Now that Reniko had figured out how to use her wings properly, no one could match her in skill. Rumeum’antra was her master. It was an art made for her kind and every one of them knew it.

Brium had released her from his watchful eye, telling her that she had learned all she was going to from him. However, Reniko kept up her mental training, as well as her physical. She spent most of her time in flight Engaged with either Brium or Orric; they both felt the same about her training, which was that she was using it to hide from other responsibilities. Reniko never admitted to it, but neither did she deny it. Whenever she found herself back at the castle, she was engaged with the King and Queen discussing tactical measures. She was in heavy contact with the rest of the Ravvon family that was spread around the world. Dertrik had brought with him Levanith devices that resembled the sphere Reniko had acquired in Reflaydun, the same device her mother had used to speak with her father in her memory.

Early in her communications with the Ravvons, Xanthus, Tobias and Callum had had to relocate to Corbasin, since the threat of the Rük on Mo’an Delar was ever increasing. Reniko knew she would be unable to hide behind Ocean’s Wall forever. The Rük still crowded the borders around Tordaskar and whatever they were planning to do was on the horizon. Reniko realized soon enough that despite how intuitive she was in tactical manoeuvres, she despised it. Every moment she spent in communication with the Ravvons she thought increasingly more of finding the archives. She knew there was slim chance of finding something that would avert a war, not after hearing that the Levanith had raged a hundred years war with the Rük a thousand years ago, however, the more Reniko thought about it, the more she realized that they had even less going for them than the Levanith who had lost the first war all those years ago. She had the nagging feeling that if this did come to war, they would be fighting yet another losing battle. No one seemed to see this but her and so she kept silent, realizing that she would have to be the one to think of something else to save this world.

As autumn dawned, Reniko felt her time slipping away. That morning, she crept silently away and headed to Ocean’s Wall. She had always flown high above the darkened abyss, afraid to go down, worried not only by the wind patterns that swept through the ravine, but also of things she couldn’t see, like the bottom. After circling high above the ravine, she finally made her way slowly down into it, careful to keep aware of the air as she scanned the cliff wall for signs of an entrance. This is impossible, she thought after she had spent a good three hours soaring by endless amounts of rock, I could be completely in the wrong place. It could be years before I found the entrance. She was circling lower now, close to the never-ending darkness below when she decided that she should head back to Tordaskar before someone began to worry about her. With a few beats of her wings she found a thermal and began riding it up, still scanning the cliff face. She stopped, flapping her wings furiously, to keep the wind from carrying her away, when she noticed something glinting in the sunlight that had suddenly lit up the cliff side. She dove toward it, back winging as she came to her destination. She landed softly on a small ledge where a sandy coloured door stood closed. The sunlight had caught sight of the small access panel that was set on one of the nearby walls. Reniko wiped away the dust that had settled on top of it and noticed a palm scan underneath. Touching it softly with her fingertips, she saw the screen light up. She placed her palm on the screen and felt a slight tingle as her hand sunk into its surface. The door slid open hesitantly moments later and Reniko was left staring into a darkened corridor. Relieved, and extremely excited, she palmed the door shut and headed back to Tordaskar.

As she manoeuvered back up the cliff wall, a shadow passed over the sun. Halting her upward movement, she cast her gaze upwards. A cloud? She thought, unable to discern what else it could have been. Shrugging off her concern, and too excited to investigate, she proceeded up the cliff face and back to Tordaskar.

She was quite tired by the time she got back to the city walls and landed softly just outside them. Stretching her wings, and folding them, she proceeded to the training grounds.

Ryne was the only person there. He was cleaning up, clearing out the broken bokken and polishing the weaponry. Reniko greeted him.

“Ryne, where is everyone?”

“They all went back to the castle. You’ve been gone a long time. We were all getting worried about you.”

“I guess Orric hasn’t gotten here yet,” Reniko said.

“You presume correctly. Where have you been anyway?"

“Flying out by Ocean’s Wall. I found the entrance to the archives,” Reniko said excitedly.

“Flying by yourself out by Ocean’s Wall? Somehow that doesn’t seem like a smart thing to do,” Ryne said setting aside the sword and cloth he had been handling. “Come on, I’ll escort you back to the castle.” Reniko felt suddenly silly being scolded by Ryne and blushed.

They walked the streets of the city together. Reniko was glad of his company. She was still not used to the stares she got from the citizens of Tordaskar. Even though they had been told that she was not an immortal goddess, being a Levanith was hardly any better. She had a feeling that Ryne and Zanith hadn’t really cleared up the misunderstanding at all, but created another, that she was in fact a higher power than the King himself. While she tried to ignore this position that she had been forced into, the citizens were a constant reminder that everyone else viewed it to be true. She was thankful for the safety of the castle walls that guarded her from reverent eyes.

Rimca was the first person that Ryne and Reniko encountered when they stepped into the courtyard. She looked flustered and worried. When she spotted Ryne with Reniko she visibly relaxed.

“Mistress, where have you been? Everyone has been very worried about you,” Rimca said rushing to Reniko’s side, glancing over her to make sure she was all right. Reniko frowned, she hated that Rimca had taken to calling her mistress, despite Reniko’s protests.

“I’m fine Rimca, and stop calling me that,” Reniko said, walking toward the castle while Ryne and Rimca came behind.

Rimca ignored Reniko’s protests and instead asked her question again. “Where were you?”

“I was flying, like I do every morning,” Reniko said somewhat irritated by the lack of freedom that she had been feeling since she had awoken as Levanith. She missed the days when people had been less concerned with her whereabouts. She had spent the first few days arguing with Dertrik about flying alone and had finally had to assert her authority to gain that little semblance of freedom.

“Flying is one thing, but you’ve been gone most of the day. We were just about to go to the Teoko and see if they could find out where you were.”

Reniko sighed, not really wanting to tell Rimca where she had been, knowing that a lecture would be forthcoming. “I was out at Ocean’s Wall. I found the entrance to the archives. I told Orric as soon as I found them.”

“Ocean’s Wall?” Rimca said exasperated.

“Don’t start,” Reniko said.

Rimca looked at Ryne and he shrugged. “I think being scolded once about it is enough,” he whispered to Rimca who grinned in response.

“Does anyone know where Malik and Dertrik are?” Reniko asked turning to look back at her entourage. She collided with something at the same time.

“Right here,” Dertrik said rubbing his head.

Reniko turned around and laughed. “Sorry Dare, let me help you up.” She said reaching out her hand and helping Dertrik to his feet. Malik stood by the wall trying to keep from laughing himself.

“Where have you been, Lyss?” Malik asked, his concern the only one that didn’t aggravate Reniko.

“I was out at Ocean’s Wall,” Reniko said and halted Malik before he could say anything. “I found the entrance to the archives. I apologize for going there alone, but it’s done now, so can you please leave me alone?”

“We’re just concerned about your safety, Renny,” Dertrik said.

“Well your concern is making me want to be reckless with my safety,” Reniko replied.

The four of them stood by abashedly. “We have been a little over protective as of late,” Rimca finally said.

“So who’s coming with me?” Reniko asked.

“Going? Now?” Dertrik questioned.

Reniko looked at him and frowned. “Don’t tell me. I have a conference with the rest of the Ravvon family,” Reniko said and sighed, “first thing tomorrow?”

“I won’t complain about that,” Malik said.

“I expect you all to come,” Reniko said as she headed off with Dertrik and Rimca to the conference room.

Reniko flew to the practice grounds early the next morning. She stood by and watched as Ryne and Dertrik instructed a group of guards in the rudiments of Rumeum’antra. She did not envy the job that the Ravvons had taken up. Training an army seemed almost as arduous as leading them. Malik joined her an hour later and they both watched from the sidelines. After another few minutes, Reniko became restless.

“Want to go a few rounds,” Reniko asked Malik.

He shrugged. “As long as you go easy on me.”

Reniko pushed him playfully and smirked. She took to the air and a few minutes later had returned with Imako and another sword for Malik. Malik looked at her curiously.

“Don’t think you’re ready for real combat?” she asked, “I could go get some bokkens if you prefer. It was Malik’s turn to smirk and he just grabbed the offered blade from Reniko and took his opening stance.

“Ready when you are?” Malik said.

“You ought to know by now I prefer not to take the opening move,” Reniko said.

“I have a feeling that is why you always win,” Malik said, but advanced on her nonetheless. Reniko just smiled. They both fought aggressively, Malik a little tentative now that he was holding an actual weapon against Reniko. Reniko had good control, having used real blades in most of her training with Dertrik. After a few minutes of heavy fighting, both of them were perspiring.

“You’re holding back,” Malik said when their blades had locked, their face inches from each other.

“You said go easy on you,” Reniko said teasingly.

“I take it back,” Malik said jeeringly.

Reniko grinned and they pulled apart. “I have to admit, I do have an unfair advantage over you, Mal,” Reniko replied.

“Quite a few actually,” he said and shrugged. Reniko tossed a glare back and advanced. She was a flurry of motion having enacted the whole extent of her skill. Her wings gave her a formidable advantage as she used them to leap over Malik’s blows. As she came down after she had avoided yet another of Malik’s advances she felt a hand grab her from behind and suddenly she was down on the ground, Malik standing over her, his sword at her neck. Dertrik looked over her fallen frame as well and sighed, he being the culprit to her sudden descent.

“A little overconfident are we?” he said and glanced at Malik, “next time we take her on together.” Malik laughed and pulled his blade away from Reniko.

“That was not fair,” Reniko huffed.

“Oh don’t be a sore loser,” Dertrik said helping Reniko to her feet, “you were the one that wasn’t paying attention to what was going on behind you. Malik won fair and square.” Reniko glared at Dertrik and glanced at Malik who was trying to keep from smiling.

“You knew he was there,” Reniko said. Malik just shrugged and Reniko advanced on him angrily.

“Hey, don’t get mad at me,” Malik said as Reniko came inches from his face. He tensed, afraid what she was going to do. Reniko laughed and held him close kissing, him gingerly on his lips.

“Dertrik always seems to be reminding me that I still have a lot to learn,” she whispered as she parted from Malik. “Don’t tell him I said so.”

“Are we ready to go?” Dertrik asked. Rimca had come into the clearing shortly after Malik and Reniko had begun their spar, which had also caused an interruption of Ryne and Dertrik’s class. All three of them stood, waiting for Reniko and Malik to say something.

Reniko tossed Imako to Dertrik, “Can you put that back for me, I just want to check and make sure I have everything we are going to need.” Dertrik nodded and headed back to the storage shed while Reniko went over and grabbed the belt she had laid to one side during their spar. She checked the pouches, making sure she still had her torch as well as making sure that the sphere from Reflaydun was secure. After the lightning bolt had struck it, she had not been able to get it to function, but she owed it to the hologram to try and get a linkup established with the archives. Sure that she had everything, she secured the belt around her waist. Rimca walked over to her and looked at her disapprovingly.

“What?” Reniko asked and realized that Rimca was unhappy with her wardrobe. “You try flying in a skirt.” Reniko said and tossed her backpack to Rimca. “Can you carry that, it’s kind of impractical for me to have that since I can’t wear it, but it has things that we need.”

“Fine,” Rimca said putting the pack onto her back.

Dertrik came back and Reniko looked around the assembled group.

“Now all we have to do is wait for Orric and Brium to get here,” Reniko said. A shadow past over them and Orric landed in the now deserted clearing, Brium close behind.

“Thanks for coming,” Reniko said. The four passengers spilt into two groups. Dertrik and Malik climbed onto Orric and Rimca and Ryne stationed themselves on Brium. Both Dertrik and Ryne looked uneasy about flying, which was the reason that Reniko had made sure that both of them were riding with a more experienced flyer. All of them secure, Reniko took to the air followed shortly by Orric and Brium.

Once they were all a comfortable distance into their flight, Reniko veered back and came up by Orric’s head.

“The entrance is too small for you and Brium, you don’t mind waiting topside do you?” she asked.

“Of course not, Lyss, the sun will keep me and Brium company just fine. Besides, you’re adept enough now to give us updates on your progress.”

Reniko smiled and took point once again. She kept glancing back behind her as they flew, she couldn’t help feeling strange with Orric and Brium behind her. They were like small airplanes flying behind her; it felt almost comical having them follow her like this.

Three hours later, the small party had made it to the edge of Ocean’s Wall. Reniko went down into the ravine to scout the area once again and a few minutes later she landed on the cliff edge where the rest of the company was waiting.

“This entrance was built strictly for Levanith use. I brought my rock climbing equipment with us, but I don’t know if the ropes are going to be long enough,” Reniko said as she returned. Rimca gave Reniko her pack and Reniko unpacked the coils of rope that were within. She disappeared down the cliff face again with the rope and a few tools, leaving her companions waiting once again. When she returned a half an hour later, she looked more confident.

“There are a couple of ledges you’ll have to land on and switch ropes, but other than that, it should be smooth sailing,” Reniko said. She handed Dertrik her harness and he helped get Rimca into it and showed her how to use the apparatus. Rimca looked a little flustered and nervous as Dertrik helped her hook onto the rope hanging over the cliff.

“Did I ever tell you that I hate heights?” Rimca whispered. She was shaking slightly.

“After all that flying we did on Orric?” Reniko said.

Rimca nodded her head. “It’s not like I had a choice.”

“You seemed fine to me. But, if you don’t want to do this, you don’t have to.”

Rimca looked down the ravine and took a deep breath and rappelled down the rope. Reniko smiled at her courage and got ready to follow her down the ravine, but stopped and looked behind her into the forest instead. She watched the yellow and orange leaves falling from the smaller deciduous trees like rain, Orric noticed her sudden preoccupation.

“Something troubling you, Lyss?” he asked staring into the forest as well.

Reniko shook her head. “It’s nothing. Just thought I heard something.”

“We’ll keep a watchful eye out,” Brium said.

Reniko nodded, still staring into the bushes trying to filter passed all the falling leaves. She saw something moving, something big, but she doubted herself, there were just too many leaves in the way. Turning back to Ocean’s Wall, she jump off the ledge and took flight watching Rimca as she landed on the first ledge and hooked onto the second rope. When Rimca had safely landed on the ledge that concealed the doorway, Reniko landed beside her and palmed the door open. Taking the harness from Rimca, she headed back up the cliff face.

Malik was next and he made it safely down the cliff face landing on the last ledge to wait with Rimca as Reniko took the harness up once more. When she handed the harness to Ryne he shook his head in protest.

“I think I’ll wait up here with Orric and Brium,” he replied. Reniko looked at Dertrik and he was shaking his head as well.

“Why did you two come all this way if you were not planning on coming down?” Reniko asked.

“Still a little bit overprotective,” Dertrik said with a smirk. “Go on, Rimca and Malik are waiting for you. Orric and Brium will keep us informed.” Reniko flew down toward the archive entrance, the harness clutched firmly in her hands. When she had landed and left the harness on the ground, Rimca looked at her puzzled.

“They’re not coming?” Rimca asked.

Reniko shook her head. “I guess the older you get, the less adventurous you become.”

“That’s not entirely true,” Rimca said.

“Well for humans then, not Le’a’to.”

The three of them moved deeper into the passageway. Reniko pulled her torch from her belt and switched it on.

“If there was a passageway back at the castle, you do realize that it’s going to take us the better part of two days to get to these archives.”

“I was thinking about that,” Reniko said as she scanned a nearby wall with her torch. “It seemed a little impractical.” She found what she was looking for, a computer console set into the wall. She touched the surface and the panel illuminated. “It’s all in Levanith,” Reniko said and spoke a command, “display information in Vespian.” Reniko felt the wall shutter slightly and felt a tingling as a beam of light washed over her.

“Security clearance confirmed,” a voice said in Vespian and the screen flickered and the words changed from Levanith to Vespian.

Reniko scanned through the processes and Malik and Rimca watched as the lights in the passageway flickered on.

“Just as I thought,” Reniko said in triumph as she pushed a series of buttons, which was accompanied by a rather large noise as the ceiling a few feet down the passageway creaked open and dropped down a circular craft that settled a few inches above the ground, hovering in place. “That should get us where we need no problem,” Reniko said as she walked over and sat on one of the empty seats on the craft. Rimca looked open mouthed at Malik who just shrugged and joined Reniko on the craft. Rimca followed a little more hesitantly.

“This is incredible!” she said as she stepped onto the craft looking down at her feet to see that the craft was, in fact, still hovering over the ground. Reniko grabbed her and sat her down just as the device started forward. Rimca nearly tumbled off.

“Yes, very,” Reniko said smiling.

“A lot like Reflaydun,” Malik said.

Rimca looked at him incredulously. “I can’t imagine a whole city with devices like this. It must have been amazing to see.”

“More so for me than Reniko, I imagine,” Malik said.

“I have to admit, Earth isn’t too far from where the Levanith were in some areas, but in others… it’s beyond my comprehension.”

The three of them chatted about Earth until the craft came to a stop. The whole trip had only taken them half of an hour. This impressed Rimca as well.

“It took us an eighth of the time to get back to Tordaskar this way than by flying. That’s amazing.”

Reniko smiled, she couldn’t help but think of her car back home. She had always thought that getting around Vespen was very slow no matter if they were walking, riding or flying. It was nice to be able to travel on something fast again; she hadn’t realized how much she had missed the speed. Reniko looked around the corridor they were in and noticed a closed door at the end of it. She got off the hovercraft and made her way over to the door where another panel was inset in the wall. She touched the surface of the panel and waited for it to light up, relieved when it did. Putting her hand on the surface, she watched as the door slid open. Stepping into the soft-lit room she stumbled back Malik catching her in his arms.

“Something wrong?” Malik asked.

“I’ve been here before,” Reniko said looking around the room. She saw the computer access panel in the centre of the room, a level higher than the floor they stood on. Hibernation chambers spotted the walls. Reniko saw two missing ones. Two? She thought and pushed the thought aside as she stepped deeper into the room. She saw the shaft that she and her mother had used to come down here from Tordaskar, it was destroyed, a heap of rubble filling the spot where it had been. She walked gingerly into the room, memories flooding her mind. She saw her mother and her grandmother, both talking to each other, as they filtered through information on the holographic image that floated above the computer console. She could see her mother standing outside her hibernation chamber. The memory flooded her mind and ended abruptly as she was frozen for a thousand years in a deep sleep. She awoke from her memories when Malik laid a hand on her shoulder. She realized that she had walked over to the spot where her mother had stood outside her prison and there were tears streaking down her face. She wiped them away and turned back to her companions.

“There is nothing in here that we need. I think it’s the next room over,” Reniko said fighting back the painful memories. She tried to forget that this was the place that had changed her life forever. I never would have met Malik, if my mother had not sent me, a thousand years separated us. Malik said nothing, only followed Reniko as she wandered to the other side of the room and palmed open another door. This next room was perfectly preserved. The room was awash with a soft blue light that was being emitted from the walls. Seven consoles sat in the centre of the room for access to the computer mainframe that surrounded them.

“These consoles should give you access to whatever information we need. Take a seat and start browsing. If you think of it like a book then it should be easy to navigate through. Whatever you touch should come up. If it doesn’t, a spoken command should do the trick.” Reniko said.

“We’ll watch you for a few minutes anyway,” Rimca suggested and they followed Reniko as she went to a nearby console and interfaced with it. A holographic image was displayed in the air above the console, all the information encoded in Levanith.

“Translate all data into Vespian,” Reniko spoke.

“Unable to comply,” a voice sounded from the computer in Levanith.

Reniko furrowed her brow. “Did anyone else understand that?” Reniko asked. Malik and Rimca both shook their heads. Must have heard that a lot when I was little. Reniko thought and shrugged.

“Translate all available data into Vespian,” Reniko retranslated.

“One moment please,” the computer said now in Vespian. A few minutes later Reniko saw data scrolling past her in Vespian.

“There isn’t very much here that can be translated from Levanith to Vespian,” Reniko sighed. “Why don’t you two start cycling through what we have and I’ll see if I can interface the computers at Reflaydun with the ones here.”

“I understood about half of what you just said,” Malik said. Rimca sighed and pulled him away.

“Start reading, Mal,” Rimca translated and the two of them flitted off to their own console leaving Reniko alone at hers.

Reniko pulled out the sphere from her pouch and set it in a slot located on the console. Nothing happened.

“Complete a preliminary analysis of data sphere,” Reniko said.

“Analysis complete,” the computer said a few minutes later.

“Please display results,” Reniko said and was confronted with an onslaught of data. Sighing she began reading from the top looking for anything that looked relevant. A half an hour later she ran into some translatable data. The power cell on the sphere was completely fried.

“Initiate external power linkup,” Reniko said. Instantly the sphere came to life, the hologram in Reflaydun hovering above it.

“Greetings Reniko. I see you have finally come into your own,” the hologram greeted.

Reniko gave the hologram an annoyed look, which it could not translate.

“I’m in the Tordaskar archives. Think you can re-establish that link now?” Reniko asked.

“Yes, I’ll just need use of this console for two standard hours.”

“Great. While you’re at it, do you think you can get us more translation access to these restricted files?”

The hologram was silent for a moment and then it spoke. “I can translate in the following languages.” The hologram displayed a list of available languages on the screen and Reniko scanned through them, most of them were foreign to her, but near the bottom she saw a few Earth based languages and pointed to one.

“English is good,” Reniko replied.

“You can now access all files you wish in the chosen language,” the hologram replied.

“Thanks,” Reniko said as she wandered over to another console that was free.

An hour later, her eyes were glazed. She pushed away from the screen that was before her and looked back at Rimca and Malik who were now at separate consoles.

“Anything useful?” Reniko asked.

“Everything that has been translated to Vespian is pretty much useless,” Malik said, Rimca agreed.

“Do you now any earth based languages?” Reniko asked.

“I know a bit of Latin,” Rimca replied. Malik shook his head.

“Ask it to translate the restricted files into Latin,” Reniko replied.

Rimca did as she was told and hit the console in frustration. “It won’t let me.” Reniko looked down at the tattoo on the back of her hand and back at Malik.

“Malik could you help her out?” Reniko asked waving her tattooed hand in the air. Malik nodded and ran over to Rimca’s console to give her the access she needed. Reniko turned back to her own console with a sigh. This is worse than school, Reniko thought as she scanned through a new series of files. I really wish that this stupid console had a search engine. I guess they didn’t want their restricted files easy to navigate. Reniko watched another series of files scroll passed on her console, and finally registering the words she had seen, she sat up in her chair and scrolled back. This could be interesting, She thought as she accessed a file called ‘Rük ruling structure’.

Brium I think I may have found something. Something big, she engaged Brium excitedly as she read over the file that she had opened.

“Malik I think I may have found something,” Reniko said, still keeping her link with Brium open as she had not yet received a response.

“Really? That’s a relief. I was going crazy over here looking at all these words flashing by on the screen.”

“Have you ever encountered a black Rük?” Reniko asked and paused. Brium, are you there? Getting no response she furrowed her brow.

“What’s the matter Reniko?”

“It’s Brium, I –” Reniko didn’t finish her thought for in an instant, she felt unheard of pain, and suddenly she felt death. She screamed, clutching her head, and fell to the ground throwing up. She passed out moments later, leaving a terrified pair behind.

She woke up a few minutes later and looked up at Malik who was clutching her protectively in his arms.

“Lyss, what happened? Please tell me you’re okay,” he said. His body was shaking with worry. Rimca was at his side looking just as concerned. Reniko burst into tears.

“Oh god, no. Brium… Brium is dead,” Reniko said through sobs.

“Dead?” Rimca questioned. “By what. By whom?”

Reniko looked at her. “I don’t know. But it was so sudden.”

“You were Engaged with him when he died?” Malik asked staggered by the implication.

“Yes, oh god, yes,” Reniko said sobbing. She stood up and headed for the doorway. “We have to go back. I can’t Engage Orric. I don’t know what’s happened to them.” Dertrik, Ryne, Orric hang on, I‘m coming.

“Reniko wait, we don’t know what’s out there. What if it’s the Rük?” Rimca said

“Jekkah! Jekkah must be here,” Malik said. He was seething now with as much emotion as Reniko. He grabbed Reniko’s hand and they both ran out of the archives together, Rimca chasing after them with protest.

Thirty minutes later they stood at the edge of the ledge looking up toward the forest surrounding Tordaskar.

“I don’t hear anything,” Reniko said her heart pounding in her chest. She leapt off the ledge and took flight. Rimca tried to grab her to call her back, but it was to no avail. Malik had the same idea as Reniko and soon he was back in the harness and on his way back up the ropes toward the forest. Rimca was left standing on the ledge unable to do a thing.

Reniko reached the top of the cliff a few minutes later. The grove above was silent and void of life. Brium’s still body was lying exactly where it had been when Reniko, Malik and Rimca had left. The sight of it brought tears back to Reniko’s eyes. I felt him die. She went to his side and touched his still warm body. She was crying over his still frame when she heard movement in the brush behind Brium. She looked up, but all she saw was yellow and orange leaves floating to the ground. She almost realized too late that she wasn’t in fact looking at leaves but at the scaly hide of a Teoko, Jekkah. Reniko half ran, half flew, to the edge of the cliff and dove off just narrowly avoiding Jekkah’s outstretched hand.

“What a transformation,” Jekkah said turning back to Reniko who was flying erratically, not sure where to go to avoid encountering Jekkah. “Not an earthling at all, but Levanith. What an interesting turn this has taken.” Reniko didn’t respond, just flew, scanning her surroundings as she went. She nearly halted when she saw Malik climbing back up the cliff wall. He was glancing in her direction and suddenly he was glancing up. Reniko hadn’t been the only one that had noticed Malik’s precarious position. Jekkah was clinging to the rocks just above Malik.

“Think you can save him?” Jekkah asked, flashing Reniko a malicious grin.

“No,” Reniko shouted lunging toward Malik as Jekkah cut the rope that Malik was suspended from. Malik let out a startled cry as the tension broke and he was falling down into the ravine below. Reniko sped after him, reaching out to Malik’s outstretched hand. She grasped his hand with both of hers, and felt his weight snap into her hands, her wings straining to hold them both aloft. The strain was excruciating, but she refused to let go. Rapidly, she beat her wings, gaining altitude slowly. She had since lost track of Jekkah, too concerned with saving Malik to track the path of that venomous creature.

“Malik, whatever happens don’t let go,” Reniko said, the weight taking a toll on her. She beat steadily upward, slowly and with much strain. Looking up at the cliff side, she saw the forest floor just above her, and with all the reserve she could muster, she beat her wings toward her goal, dropping Malik solidly on the ground and dropping beside him moments later, panting from the effort.

“Where’s Jekkah?” Malik asked.

“Right here,” a voice said as a yellow, clawed hand sent Malik flying across the cliff edge; his body settling to the ground after it had hit a nearby tree. Reniko made to react but suddenly felt her body pinned to the ground, Jekkah’s claws digging into the dirt all around her.

“Not so fast, Lyss,” Jekkah spat and grinned menacingly. “Not so hard to catch after all.”

Reniko struggled under Jekkah’s grasp only to alight Jekkah’s cold laughter.

“Why bother? Your strength is no match for my own.”

“What do you want?” Reniko asked finally giving up her useless struggle.

“It’s not what I want, now is it? It’s what Trokar wants, and he happens to want you,” Jekkah said and turned to stare into the woods. “Is that not right, Milord?”

Reniko looked in the direction of Jekkah’s gaze, her eyes falling upon a horrid sight. Five Rük were coming out from the forest. The one in the lead was a threatening sight. He loomed near ten feet tall, a good foot taller than all the others, and his skin was an engulfing pitch black.

Malik, have you ever seen a black Rük?

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