Winds of Aerathiea

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Chapter 24: Meet Telami

Liam looked around and said, “Well one thing is for certain, we will definitely be breaking camp. If this thing smells this bad now, imagine what it will smell like once it bakes in the sun for a while!”

“Yeah and that won’t take very long in this heat and humidity,” replied Ethan.

I beg your pardons, sirs, but might I say thank you from the bottom of my callus?

Everyone blinked and turned to the little man they had forgotten.

Also, might I implore you for a cup of water? Being chased for miles through the jungles of Bronis Yar can make one more than a little thirsty!

It took another couple of blinks for everyone to come to their senses. Mark and Daniel began to raise their guns.

Please, no need for that. I am no threat; just water. Zak motioned for them to lower their weapons.

“Someone get this person some water,” Zak barked, squatting down to make eye contact with the little man. A water bottle was thrust into his hand. Zak opened it and handed it to the queer little dwarven man still panting and leaning up against some crates.

Thank you again. He downed the liter of water in two gulps. Too bad it isn’t whiskey, but it will do. Everyone chuckled.

“Wait,” said Liam, “How did you do that?”

Do what? said the little man. At that moment, everyone noticed that his mouth had not moved. What did I do? the little man looked down at himself, bewildered.

“How did you talk to us when you were drinking and how are you talking to us without your lips moving and how are you talking to us in English?”

English, what’s that? Another one if you will? he handed the plastic bottle back to Zak and traded it for a full one.

“The language we are speaking,” said Ethan, squatting down with Zak and peering at the little person. “If you are speaking it, you must know what it is.”

The little man looked straight at Ethan. Without his lips moving, everyone heard Who says I am speaking?

Everyone looked at each other. It was true. The little man had not opened his mouth or moved his lips. Liam was looking at the creature’s pointed ears. He the first to speak, “What are you? A dwarf? A gnome?”

Dear boy,” the being began, gathering himself up as tall has he could, which wasn’t saying much. “We do not call ourselves Gnomen. In my clan, we prefer Grommon Nipori. Collectively, we are the Gromoni. You call us that, please. There may be other clans that belly down to the Nilor to be called Gnomen, but not this Grommon, no sir!

Liam was peering at the diminutive being. A gnarled, oldish-looking man, Liam thought to himself, he looks like a goblin from Harry Potter! Wrinkled brown skin and a frock of silver hair made him look more like a frazzled little Tibetan monk than anything else. A little monk wearing a dirty frock coat and garish green leggings.

What are you called? the little man addressed Liam.

“My name is Liam. Liam Waite.”

It is very nice to meet you, Liam Liam Waite. My name is Nach Imori Telami. You may call me Telami. Thank you for saving my life. I would have not made more than a little snack for a Hrok, but it’s fitting I suppose. A little Grommon for a little Hrok beast.

Liam responded. “First, just call me Liam. Second, that thing was little?”

Surely, you know that was just an adolescent Hrok? It hadn’t even grown its crown yet! Telami looked at them all very quizzically.

You must be from somewhere very far away, indeed. You do not know what a Hrok is…

“Liam, take him inside and get him cleaned up or something while we break camp and try to salvage some of this stuff.”

Liam snapped out of it and held out his hand to the little man.

Visibly relieved that he wasn’t going to be left behind, Telami took Liam’s hand and they ascended the short flight of stairs into the launch. The others followed quickly behind. Finding a blanket, Ethan draped it over Telami’s shoulders as he sat down on one of the other bench seats near the front.

Liam asked, “Getting back to words, how are you talking? Is this telepathy? Can you read my thoughts?”

Mark Simmons was visibly upset and had been keeping his distance. Suddenly, he blurted “Keep that thing away from me!” He fingered the crucifix around his neck and slowly backed out of the launch, eyes darting rapidly. “First Bigfoot and then demons. I can tell you exactly where we are!” he suddenly shouted and ran out of the launch.

Zak jumped up. “Dammit! Daniel, go after him!” Daniel dashed out of the launch in hot pursuit. The others returned their attention to the caricature of a man facing them.

Dismissing the ruckus, Telami said, you truly do not know? The diminutive man looked at each of them in puzzlement. His eyes narrowed. Where are you from?

Ethan replied, “I am from Montana…” He added, “in the United States.” Telami looked from person to person. There was no reaction from the little man. “And I can tell by your reaction that you have never heard of the United States?” Telami just shook his head.

Let me start. I am a Grommon and even though you look Nilori, you do not act like a Nilor. You saved my life. It’s debatable whether any Nilor would ever do that for a lowly Grommon. None of you have that arrogant look- like you are in the room with something you find uncomfortable or detestable, so I have to assume you really do not know, and that is actually more troubling to me. Telami gave a big sniff. You don’t smell like Nilori either.

“You aren’t kidding,” Ethan replied “It’s awfully troubling to us to be attacked by giants, get caught up in the largest storm we have ever seen, separated from our ship, knocked unconscious, wake up here and then be attacked by dinosaurs and then sitting here talking to the Keebler Elf! None of this is making any sense!”

Ignoring Ethan’s outburst. Zak addressed Telami “Why is it troubling, Keebler?”

By the gods, you put me in a strange predicament. Here I was, I finally got up the courage to flee my Nilori captors and here you come plunging out of the sky, practically in front of me. His hand reached out to touch the inside of the launch as if to ensure to himself that it was real. I saw your vessel plummet to the ground when I was still in the forest. I was curious. I had never seen anything so queer. I would get salvage rights of course in another province. Though there are some rumors of far off tribes making similar flying machines, but they are just legends! By the gods and all that is holy, you shouldn’t exist! He looked again at their uncomprehending stares. And since you do exist, you probably have no idea of the danger you are in! Very troubling, indeed.”

Daniel popped his head back in. “He’s gone, sir. He’s way past the tree line and for me to follow on foot would be suicide.”

He’s right you know. If you are truly not from here, this place is not safe at all.” Telami looked concerned. “He won’t last very long out there. There is still a Hrok mother out there and I don’t care where you are from, I’m sure you understand what I mean.”

“Perfectly. Damn, Ok, let’s pack up the gear and go after him.” With that, Zak jumped out of the launch to break camp. Telami glanced apprehensively at the sky and jumped out onto the spongy ground like nothing had ever happened.

They quickly got everything stowed back into the compartments under the launch and locked or tied it down the best that they could. In the meanwhile, Zak went through a quick preflight check and Liam got Telami a seat by the window and adjusted the straps to hopefully secure him better.

“I’m going to switch us to prop. We can’t go quite as fast, but it will raise less attention and it will be more conservative on power.” Zak yelled aft.

“Have you ever flown before?” Liam asked Telami.

Like a bird? No… wait… you mean this is an airship? Where are the gortawurm bladders? He craned his thin little neck up to see as best he could out the window. He looked all around. “Where are the propellers?” There was a sound of motors whirring and a big kathunk that shook the boat. Oh! there they are! What strange looking propellers.

There was another couple of thunks as the exterior doors were secured and Daniel, Jackson, and Ethan came rushing in. Simultaneously, an alarm sounded on the dash.

Jackson jumped into a seat. “Get this crate moving Zak, I think mom has come visiting and she doesn’t like how we treated junior.”

Zak just nodded. He revved the engines right as there was a terrific lurch from the side that pushed the entire launch sideways.

The Grommon let out a high-pitched squeal of terror has he could almost smell the pissed off momma dinosaur, so close to the other side of the deceptively thin wall.

Ethan yelled. “Get her in the air! Doc, if there is any time your armor would fail us, please let it NOT be now!”

Zak punched the throttles and eventually everyone’s guts rebounded back into place as the Hrok just missed a second attack and went barreling through the place where the Becky Thatcher had just been. They looked down as the confused dinosaur just gazed up at them and bellowed.

Ethan sat up front with Zak with the binoculars, actively looking for any sign of Simmons. The rest of them huddled around a visibly shaken Telami. The brown in his face was a deathly shade paler and he appeared to be in shock.

“Hey, sir… Nacho,” said Daniel, snapping his fingers to get the Grommon’s attention.

Jackson said, “Show some respect Mr. Pewter, Telami is our guest. Turning to the Grommon, “How do you do that? You were explaining it earlier.”

How do I do what?

“That. Right there. How do you talk without talking?”

You truly do not know? Telami shook his head Very well, I will tell you, though it feels like I am teaching nursery school.

“You’ve mentioned Nilor many times. Who are they?”

The look Telami gave next was total and utter disbelief.

You. The Nilor are the main people of Aerathiea. You are the Nilor. People like you. Who else would they be? Maybe I am dreaming all of this. Yes, that’s it. Those mushrooms I put in the stew last night. I must have gotten some on my fingers and inadvertently ingested it. Or maybe it was powerful enough to seep through the skin? I don’t know. Okay, I’ll play along, He said in his unique way of communicating. He continued, Nilor are people that live here that physically look like you. They don’t dress or act like you, but If you are not Nilor, you would pass for one in any village or city in Aerathiea.

Telami took a deep breath.

I am Grommon. There are many versions, clans and groups of both Nilor and Grommon with different customs from many different lands. This place is called Aerathiea which means ‘All that there is.’ Which is why I’m confused. I’m sure you can understand that. I am a scholar of history going back thousands of Morae and what I am surmising is very dangerous indeed. In fact, it chills me to core and scares me deeper than that Hrok back there.

“Why is there anything about us that scares you so much? We just saved your ass from that Hrok and its mother.”

And again, I thank you for that, but you see I’m scared for two reasons. First, if you are not from here, then you are from ‘outside’ and its drilled into children for hundreds of Morae that it’s blasphemous to even consider ‘outside’. I’m afraid of you, but I am much more afraid for you.

“Outside of what?” Jackson said looking into the distance where he could make out the storm as they drew nearer.

Outside of our world, Aerathiea of course. There is not supposed to be anything outside. Aerathiea is the all that there is. How can ‘Everything in existence’ even have an ‘outside’? Don’t you see? There isn’t supposed to be anywhere for you to come from. Telami got his resolve and his color back, but there was a lot of concern written in his face.

“So, if there is nothing else, what do you think of when you look up at the stars at night?” Liam asked.

Jackson interjected. “Liam, think. The sun has not moved since we arrived here. I’m beginning to think there IS no night here.” He looked at the moon, now clearly past its earlier conjunction with the sun and moving away at a visible rate. He then looked at the storm. “Call me the craziest bastard on earth, but I think I have figured it out and it goes beyond anything I would have ever expected.

“What’s that?”

“Simply that we are no longer on the Earth. We are currently in the Earth.”

“What?” The voices from everyone in the cabin rose in unison.

“We are inside the Earth. The reason these people have no idea or concept of stars or night is they have never seen or experienced it before. How would you explain color to a blind person?”

“Well, even if that’s true, they still would have been in the dark at some point, either inside or in the jungle… somewhere.”

“Sure, but it would never be the same as night time. There is something almost magical about night and they would never know stars or a sunrise or sunset.”

Telami looked back and forth between the three that sat with him. What I can sense from your moko is something truly wondrous. I would love to see this sunrise or sunset someday.

“If we ever get out of here, it would be my pleasure to show you,” said Liam.

They all looked out the window with a new wonderment as Dr. Peck’s words sunk in: They were inside the earth! There was a totally different civilization here!

“Wow, I don’t even know what question to ask first,” said Daniel. “I’ll let you guys take the lead.” Daniel sat back against the seat and gazed out the window.

Ethan’s attention was now split between watching out the windshield for any signs of Mark Simmons and listening to the unfolding revelations in the back. The launch could hover and bank easier on prop power than jets and they were covering a lot of ground without any success.

Liam took the lead. “It’s still bothering me how you can understand what we are saying and talk to us with moving your lips”

I will be speaking with you conversationally very soon. I just have to learn more and listen more first. Grommon brains seems to be adept at languages, inference, and empathy. We cannot read what you think, but when you begin to speak, your brain has to think of what to say. That is what all Grommon and in fact, all Fey hear. Be wary, though, most Fey can hear far more than just the intended speech. They pretend to be polite, but they know. Do not try to cross them if you ever encounter one. I don’t know why, but every Grommon is born with the ability. It makes us very good at sensing danger, translating languages and being guides and interpreters for businesses charters and noblemen. Telami thought for a second and brightened up. I know! You are lost, I have been a guide for many people for many times. I can be your guide now!

“We could use a guide. That is for sure. Who are the Fey?” asked Liam.

The Fey are the magical people that are smaller in stature than the Nilor or the Dranoki. I’m guessing you don’t know what they are either? Everyone around Telami slowly shook their heads. Just be careful. Some say the Fey are not from this place and they are very mysterious and can do things that defy explanation.

“But you said you were a type of Fey”? Inquired Liam.

We are, but Grommon do not share their magical talents. Other than a few tricks like inner speech, Grommon are completely ordinary.

“Ok, then who are these Dranoki?” continued Liam.

Dranoki are not to be messed with! Telami shouted out loud in a squeaky little voice.

“I think I liked his inner voice better, Ethan wise cracked. “At least he’s starting to talk now.”

I’m sorry, but when I start to transition, sometimes it just blurts out. Telami said sheepishly. Nilor and Dranoki live together in most of the larger cities of Aerathiea. Grommon that are stout of heart will sometimes live there too, but generally away from the Dranoki and would never wander into a Dranoki enclave without backup or protection of some kind.

“So there is bad blood between your two races?” surmised Jackson.

Telami replied, More like species, but yes. The Dranoki were at war with everyone for centuries.

“Wow, what could make two groups of people hate each other so much?” asked Liam.

First off, they are not People, at least not in the way I think you expect. They are lizards. Reptile people, closer to that Hrok than to people like you and me. Secondly, they don’t hate us. Quite the contrary.

Liam continued to press. “Then why are you fighting.”

The diminutive little man let out a huge sigh. It was obvious that this troubled him greatly. He blurted out loud, “Because they find us delicious”. Everyone started at that revelation.

Jackson had been lost in thought for the last couple of minutes. How do you explain an asteroid to someone that doesn’t even know what space is? He said out loud, “Telami, I believe we came through a giant hole, torn in the ground, between our two worlds. About two years ago we had a catastrophe in our world that tore up the earth and killed many millions of people and apparently ripped a hole between our world and yours.” When Jackson got on a roll, he really got on a roll. Aware of the language barrier, he chose his words carefully, “I’m guessing that something pretty bad happened here also?”

Telami was beginning to try and use speech. Haltingly, he said, “I think I know exactly what you mean. I don’t know how long a year is, but eight morae and five remot ago, yes, I think the analogies, if not exact, are close to your year and month.” He continued, “there was a terrible uplifting of ground. I heard it was like a…” Telami searched for the right word. “What do you call a mountain of fire?”

Liam answered first. “A volcano?”

Telami searched his inner voice for the right words. Satisfied, he continued, “Yes. That’s what I mean, but much bigger, much bigger. The mountain emerged under the Toriki Plain and filled the entire sky. Then it wrenched itself free of the ground and kept right on going up. It even took the city of Yar Imprella with it into the sky. I have a cousin that went to go see. He says that now, all that is left is an immense hole straight down to the Abyss that is continually spewing fire and smoke to this day.

Soon after this happened, there was a terrible war here. If you know where to look you can see the ruins of more villages in the forests.

Fascinated, Ethan interrupted. “A war? after a disaster like that?”

Telami continued, “Aye, Yar Imprella was a progressive city that dared to defy the Empire and its stinking Casteen Warlords. They had an odd blend of machines and magic. It was supposed to be a city of wonders- a city that understood technology like this,” Telami swept his hand around the cabin, “There were even rumors that they could talk with other people and other lands beyond the Abyss... “Telami eyed the crew of the Becky Thatcher curiously. He continued, haltingly, searching for the words. “It is said that they dared cross the Church and they have paid dearly for their blasphemy…” His inner voice trailed off. The tears leaked down his face.

“The war was fought because the neighboring villages that depended on trade with Yar Imprella were cut off. They were desperate for even basic supplies and since the rumors were strong that somehow the Church or the gods had made an example of their capital, the other villages sued for reparations. Of course, Castalan just ignored them. The towns had no choice but to go to war.

Telami’s voice took on a deeper, more somber tone. He finished, “In the end, it didn’t matter. The Empire of Castalan dealt with them the way they would anyone else.”

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