The Elders of HomThe Sepulcher: Cinder, Mana, Chigger and I approached the large wooden door set into the mysterious tower with a sense of hesitation. Two flights of stairs led up to it, one lit by a lantern, the other cowled in shadows. We decided on the lit staircase, for obvious reasons. The door was opened by a small Doomsayer, with eyes that belied her summers. She had a strange way of looking right through you, as if we were the ghosts! Inside, the Sepulcher, Chigger's description held true. Even her embellishments fell short of the ominous and dark corridors within. We followed as best we could a way inwards, but Chigger said everything was different somehow. Furniture, shelves, and all the rest of the apparatuses were in different positions, although you wouldn't be able to tell by the dust and cobwebs.
We came to a series of three arches, one leading up, one leading down, and the last with a door inset about a bodies length in. After a quick ‘ what to do next' session, we went up. We found ourselves ascending a spiral staircase, that opened into a large circular room, bubbling with liquids carrying a pungent smell. Large verandas formed half-moons from each window, circling the entire tower. A large sheet covered what looked to be a cage of enormous proportions, a slight breeze skirting its edges. Chigger went to take a peek as to what lay within.
" Do not uncover those things you would regret." came a voice from the shadows.
We all froze, our eyes fixed on whatever we were just looking at. Veruka the Wraith stepped from behind the cover, a slight growl escaping from behind her. " You seek to understand what it is that binds you." she said.
" Our friend is captured, and we suspect another is under the Horrors sway. We are lost as to what to do. We need your wisdom." said Cinder.
" Your anger strengthens the beast. Your division lends it power. Overcome your fears, strengthen your will, understand the dream and its aura will cease to affect you. So the Ancient Ones say ‘ Bend and you shall rule'. Is it a lie? You will find it to be true. Be true to yourself and all will go well with you." We stared at her, allowing her words to sink in.
" What are we to do though? We don't know what our next step is. How are we to be true to ourselves, if we don't know what our options are?" Cinder asked.
" Every thought, every action, every decision will lighten the path to your destiny. Take care in your choices, for now they are your choices. Don't ever forget that, or what I have told you. Don't deny who you are." Veruka's words held the weight of importance one would expect to find in a such a venerable old hag. She had seen things, I realized, that we could only imagine. I suddenly looked at her differently. I had respect.
" We'll try, but one more question." Cinder continued. " We were told by a mysterious Stranger that there is place north of Mortuary, near the Great Hill that holds a key to our current plight. We were told to go there on the coming full moon if we wanted to destroy the Jo'han and rescue our friend."
Veruka, in all her wisdom, looked mortified . . . even more than usual. Her death mask revealed hesitation on her part, which did little for lending me any confidence. A raven called into the night air, and Veruka regained her composure. " GO! Go and seek what destiny holds for you. Seek and understand."
It was plain that this was our cue to exit, so we left with haste, thankful to breathe the cool air over the stagnant fumes within the Sepulcher.
We discussed our next plan of action.
The Temple: Den Hades made us wait for about three hours before we could see her. Chigger and I, in the meantime, were bugging the heck out of each other in a childish fashion. Of course she took things too far and really ticked me off. I left everyone else, holding back my emotions, not wanting to let her have the satisfaction of knowing she won. I spent a few moments outside the Temple, until Mana came to comfort me. Cinder didn't do anything to stop her little sister. Not ever. Not when she trashed the Bin, or wrecked my table, or put me in a coma, or got all of us in trouble at the Hive, and then again with Slash. She was pulling us apart, as though when everything is cool, it's not exciting enough for her. Why was Chigger like that and why didn't Cinder care? I was becoming frustrated with my ideals. No one understood what I stood for. Who could understand that I had visions of a land without the Fatimas or the Z'Bri. That one day, humanity and all of its dreams would be real. We would control our own destiny and take it to great heights. Ah, forget it. No one understood. No one.
Well I missed the meeting with Den Hades, but apparently she freaked the life out of Chigger who went burning by us, tears cascading from her eyes.
Cinder apologized to me about Chigger's behavior. When I asked her about what Den Hades said, Cinder seemed distant. Like she had been opened up to something miraculous. Den Hades had taught her a Mantra. No. ‘THE MANTRA' of dreaming. That would have been something to hear, but Cinder said it was given to her under strict conditions. Personal conditions. Only those ready to really learn were told of it, and once again, it seemed that Cinder had become a prodigy of sorts.
We spent the next two weeks taking part in Rituals at the Temple. They strengthened our minds and gave us a deeper understanding of what it meant to be a Dreamer. We learned of metaphors, and symbology, and the often unseen but ever constant tug of the Goddess Creator. It was amazing. We learned how to symbiotically dream with one another, and feel their essence mingle with ours. The secrets we learned and are continuing to practice are worth a lifetime of respect. I feel different. I see different. I think I'm growing up!
The Shelter: Mari-Anne Melina heard our plea for a way through our ever present hardships with empathy and love. I really liked her for some reason. More than because she helped save our lives, and more than just her good homestyle cooking. I felt she played the role of the mother I never had. I never knew my mother, she died during my childbirth, but if I did know her, I would have wanted her to be just like Mari-Anne Melina.
Mari-Anne told us that we were divided in spirit. That we constantly fell through the cracks of our weaknesses instead of building on our stengths. She advised us to uncover a symbol for ourselves. One that represented us as a unit . . . as a Cell. We discussed the matter for quite some time and decided that whatever we came up with, we would scar it on our right hands.
The symbol we found that best represented us, is an ancient one. It looks like this:
It means Holding Together. It belongs to ‘ The House of the Receptive' and is pronounced ‘Pi'. It is strong under the Lunar mansion and its power number is 8. Very fitting in all aspects. I knew this was going to be a great symbol for us.Following Mari-Anne's advice we honored it as a holy symbol. Our importance for it is what was going to give it power, in turn it returning that power to us. We were to treat it as a living entity, so we bow to the enscription we made of it at the Bin every morning. It exists within our meditations at the Temple, and we look to it in times of anger and frustration, knowing that each of us is scarred with it on our right hands. Yes, Mari-Anne Melina is a wonderful woman.
Mek's Training Hall: We walked in while Mek was teaching some combat theories to the Jackers that were, we thought, going to acompany him on his next foray into Z'Bri lands. " The strength of the warrior lies not in numbers, nor in what is expected. The true warrior must have confidence in his actions, resolve in his attack, and reliance upon his training, experience and skill. A thousand untrained whelps are no stronger than a single spiritual warrior." He glanced over to us. " Now, train the special maneuvers I have taught you until they are natural and flowing. Begin!" Mek strolled over to us with the grace of muscles that did his bidding.
" What brings you to the Jackers?" He asked.
" Slash has been captured." We responded.
Mek seemed upset with the news. " By a Jo'han." We continued.
Okay, NOW Mek seemed upset with the news. He looked back at the training youth and called for a warrior named Jared. Jared took center stage, and Mek approached him, tossing a staff to his opponent. The sparring match was amazing. Now, don't get me wrong, Jared was a very exacting and supple fighter, but definitely no match for Mek.
" Get a healer for him." Mek commanded as he came back towards us."I don't do rescue missions!"
" What do you mean?" I asked.
" With the amount of people that I have seen dragged into the shadows, pulled from their sleep and captured through treachery, I would be spending all my time and resources rescuing people rather than doing something better. Like making certain it can't happen again. I kill Z'Bri. The less Z'Bri the less hostages, but I can't go back for those lost along the way. Not now, not ever." We looked at him, understanding his reasons, but there's no way I was going to let that stop me from rescuing Slash. She deserved it. She would have done the same for us.
"If I were you I would leave it alone, but judging by your faces that isn't an option. Listen, the Z'Bri are twisted, and the Jo'hans are Z'Bri renegades. Who knows what they're capable of. Even if you get Slash back, are you willing to pay the price? Will she be the person you knew and grew up with? You'll have to deal with the consequences. If anything, at least understand that!" He sighed. " I'll tell you what I know of the Z'Bri." Mek went on to explain to us about the Houses and the ability we call Sundering. He told us of Atmosphere and the taint. We listened intently to his words, piecing together so much of what had happened to us. Now we knew what we were fighting. We were fighting a Sangis!
He also told us how to prepare, stating that a calm mind equals a focused body, the vehicle of destruction against our enemy.
We learned a lot from Mek that day. He's not the gronk we assumed he was.
Slash suddenly didn't seem that far away.