Thursday, February 4, 2016

The King's Challenge #200 and #201

The 200th episode ... and more!

TKC 200 and 201

It rains for two days. We plod on, making steady progress. At night we huddle together for warmth, although there is not much of it. Another day is spent in traversing a waterlogged landscape under an overcast sky. The wind has a bite; everyone soon shivers in clothes that refuse to dry out.

Kay glances up periodically and I know what he is thinking. We will not see the ships arrive if cloud hides the heavens from view. He does not like it. I do not either.

We have not mentioned that threat to the Messengers, because there may be Glonu among them. We have revealed the slavery system Arc operates under to explain why going there is not the best plan.

On the fifth day the plains burst into riotous colour. Under a blue sky, every seed and bulb waiting for the dryness to end erupts into flower. What a display! I am awed and humbled … and grateful beyond measure for this sign of incredible beauty. Life is definitely worth living. I am not alone in this. The children laugh again and whenever we stop they clamber down to create pretty posies, which they then clutch close as we travel onward. The adults smile more.

The plateau grows in height to the east, a decided dark line on the horizon ever higher. Now we are able to see where it begins to descend, and Kay corrects our course slightly to aim for that point.

On the sixth day the cliffs, boulders, scree slopes, and darkened holes of potential caves become obvious. We will be there by mid-morning on the morrow.

On that same sixth day, however, something changes and it has nothing to do with the landscape.

Kay has kept the Messengers close and therefore the sudden and strange gyrations among them cannot be ignored, hidden or remain unnoticed.

Seven men and one woman stiffen in their saddles, stretching upright as if their spines are being pulled into the atmosphere. Arms flail upwards as well, and heads roll back with a neck-snapping sound. Their horses begin to buck.

“Get back!” Kay shouts at those closest, and edges his mount to the side as well. He turns to find me and gestures me closer.

“What is this?” I whisper as I join him.

“The ships are here,” he states. “They are reacting to the Glonu call.”

By the stars! My mouth hangs open. Eyes wide, I watch them. Abruptly their heads return to a normal position … and then they look at us.

“Go!” Kay screams, swirling his hand in the air in the onward sign. “Head for the caves!”

A thunderous sound erupts as men and women urge their horses into full gallop.

“Siri, go!” Kay shouts.

I go, but I do not like it. Kay is on his own with seven Glonu now aware of their fate. A hundred paces removed, I halt my horse and look back.

Kay has drawn his sword and holds it ahead of him, while controlling his mounts with his other hand tight on the reins. He cannot do this alone! I am about to race back to his side when two men gallop past me. One is a Messenger – Hal, in fact – and the other is a young man I know as ‘Sleepy’. The women are always ragging him about his need for sleep; I do not know his real name.

They race to Kay’s side with weapons out.

It is ugly. Death in this manner is ugly. While the Glonu are still stiffened in their saddles, our three move in and slaughter them. Bodies topple to the wildflower earth, accusing in their stillness. Sleepy then rounds up the horses, his face without expression.

Closing in, I hear Kay say, “We must bury them or they will rise again.”

Hal slowly nods. “This is why you said nothing. They are Glonu? Of course they are and you needed to know that first.” He turns to look at me as I slide of my horse. “The ships have arrived?”

Standing amid death upon a field recently awakened to life, Kay and I stare at the Messenger.

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