My previous night here in this room, gave solace. Tonight, I feel claustrophobic, and uneasy.
This morning I awoke tired, as though I hadn’t slept at all, and had not for days. I close my eyes on the sphere and awaken here, I close my eyes here and awaken there. My mind is always active, and I feel like my consciousness and subconsciousness have melded, and now there is no need for sleep.
Well, that’s just one of my theories anyway.
Our hunt for Czarina and Mikado had taken a detour. Once I had calmed down from my adrenaline-fueled chase in the previous day, I thought about how far ahead they were likely to be. I decided it would be better to locate the missing Diamond Gate before reuniting with my friends. At least then I would be able to tell them how to do the same.
Veek and I ate the last of our rations, which was barely enough to satiate us, let alone uplift us from our slumping lethargy. Regardless of our stomach’s state, we walked with furious intent, pounding our heavy feet into the soft leaf covered ground. It was an hour or two of silence, when Veek stopped abruptly to smell all around him. “She’s nearby.” He stated. “She? Can you smell Czarina?” I queried, my hopes raised high. “No.” He answered simply, enflaming my intrigue further.
But before I could ask for more information.
“Reks MOVE!” Veek barked, as he dashed ahead of me. I made chase, unable to catch up, but staying only just within sight of him. He stopped after a full minute at top speed. Seconds later I arrived to where I though he was, but he had disappeared. It was a gangly tree that I had mistaken him for. I hunched over and panted to regain some stamina before I went looking for him.
It was then that I was grabbed from behind. I was dragged into some rough bushes, my mouth covered, my nose free to smell the stink of the hand smothering me. From the stench I knew who had grabbed me, but I had no idea why. Veek whispered into my ear barely louder than a leaf blowing in the wind: “Don’t speak. Put your hand to the ground and watch the mist.”
I couldn’t even see the mist, and as I placed my hand down, I focused solely on calming myself, attempting to feel anything other than my beating heart.
I looked up, to witness the thick fog roll into the clearing, like a soft tsunami it consumed its path, and then I could feel it. THOOM… THOOM… THOOM… THOOM. “What is that?” I asked. My heartbeat rose once again. “That is the Night Mist.” I didn’t understand what he meant, but as I kept watching I saw a figure come through the blur. A gigantic figure, a fifty metre figure. I thought of how impossible that could have been, I was about to ask Veek how it could be but it was too late, he’d already sprinted past me into the milky atmosphere.
Following him was my only option, he obviously had a plan. I ran after him, following his footsteps exactly. A perfect straight line through the mist. I guess he thought we’d either hit the center and find the fifty metre man, or end up on the other side.
Veek slowed and I caught up to him, we stopped together. He listened into the wind and coerced me to his other side gently with his arm. He gripped my shirt, I felt his muscles clench tightly. Then a gust of warm wind started up into our faces, and with it came a giant foot, crashing down to the ground I had only a few seconds ago occupied. Veek stuck his arm out and clawed into the leg of the fifty metre man. He didn’t break stride, and we were taken for a ride on his leg. Veek threw me onto the man’s thigh and clambered his way upward. We slipped and struggled to make it just to his hip. Veek rested for a moment on the stable mid-section of the fifty metre man, his ragged belt made a good place for us to tie ourselves to.
“How is it possible for a fifty metre man to make the night mist?” I asked. Veek, with panting breath answered: “The lasts king’s orders were not only to carve out The Scar, but to hide one of the Diamond gates, so that even if someone did make it across the chasm, they would have no chance of breaching Sovereign City.”
My thoughts were buzzing “Are you telling me, the Night Mist, the last fifty metre man and the missing Diamond Gate are all one in the same?” Veek laughed at my stupefaction. “You Hûms are a bit slow, aren’t you? It is a fifty metre woman” I had no Idea “It doesn’t help when your being so enigmatic about everything.” I retorted.
“But seriously Veek, how do you know about her?” I queried. “My father…” He began in a solemn tone I had originally thought his kind was incapable of. “…He used to patrol the trees personally when I was a boy, the aging shadow was far more dangerous then. The scar was only deep enough for the fifty metre men to stand in, and the lands were plenty with predators and prey alike. One night, while, alone he spotted a twinkle in the distance. Curiosity caught him and he immediately satiated it. For all he knew it was a threat that had to be eliminated at once. But when he got closer he could see, it was no threat. She was crying as she walked, my father caught up to her, and from the trees he lept to her shoulder, to ask of her plight. She told him of her woes and what she had left behind to fulfil the king’s order. My father, for the first time in his life was sad for another…”
He paused for a long second to put his hand on his chest and look down to me.
“…Our people Reks, The Varm, we do not feel as you do. Our hearts are not built for it, we dwindle, we grey and we die if we lose control of our emotions. If we love too long, cry too deep or even hate without restraint, we will die faster. As the seasons passed I watched my father languish with every returned excursion. He lost his place as Khan to Beta’s father. I was swollen with anger, seeing him age himself in secret with an outsider. So, I confronted him and he told me. He told me of her, of the King’s order and the Diamond Gate. And he said something that changed me forever. He said he couldn’t let her walk alone, he said: ‘none of what we do matters if it is all for the self.’ My father kept returning to her, kept regaling her with tales of fiction and fact, until he was too weak to move. He’s the reason I’ve helped you thus far Reks, he’s the reason we’re both here, and the reason I will regain my position as Khan of The Varm.”
I was moved by Veek’s story, as sad as it was, it gave me more of a purpose. Another person I could help. I got the feeling Veek’s father and the older generation of The Varm had a connection to the Fifty metre men. As though they were entwined in their histories, perhaps The Varm were the faithful companions, or, I think more likely it was the other way around.
Veek sighed, and I swear I seen a hair by his ear grey before my eyes. He must have reminisced too deeply on his father. After he sighed, he stretched his arms out, and gave me the impression he was ready to move again. We looked upwards, the mist was still around us. The fifty metre woman’s body was warm and we could see some vines dangling from above. I think they must have caught onto her as she passed by, and they’ve long since taken root on her heated exterior, gaining moisture from the mist.
We climbed up. The vines thickened as we ascended, and when we reached her back, we could easily tell the difference between her back and the Diamond Gate. It was tightly bound to her back, save for a small arch just above her shoulders. That is what we had to aim for. I had to pass through it.
Determination plagued my thoughts as I stared up to the gradually clearing vison of the Diamond Gate’s opening. I scoped every avenue of my ascent and leaped up, mirroring Veek’s moves earlier, fluidly clawing and leaping and before long I was through the threshold. I had made it, I reached Veek on her shoulder, and something strange happened. We could feel the fifty metre woman slow, almost to a halt. I looked to Veek, he too was confused.
The woman appeared to be sniffing at the air. Something about our presence must have reminded her of something. I didn’t realize at first but when Veek climbed over to her ear to whisper something I could not hear, I could tell that his scent; his pungent sweat-wet hair, that cut into my nostrils receptors, represented something different to the fifty metre woman. It represented an escape from her torment, it represented a friend.
I climbed closer to hear them talk. Veek was halfway through telling her of who he was. I caught him saying “My father told you stories” It was then we heard her speak, probably for the first time in decades to another being. “It is you, the child from the tales.” She said. From which I gathered that all the fables Veek’s father had told her, were of him. He must have poured all his pent-up love for Veek into those stories. As I watched Veek absorb this new information I witnessed a large streak of hair on his back turn white. His father’s love struck him unaware; years after his passing, he was able to send his feelings through the most unlikely of conduits.
A hum of sorrow escaped the woman’s cracked lips, as Veek let out a wailing howl in remembrance. I climbed close enough to ask her for her name. “I, I am, Noora…” She said “…Are you the Varm’s companion?” She asked me. “Yes, I am Reks, and Veek and I are going to end your suffering, so you can return to your people.” She sobbed into her giant hands. “My people are gone, forgotten, lost to The Scar. You should kill me if you aim to end my suffering.”
Veek stood up with purpose “No! They are not lost, I have seen another, in the scar. Caldera Kaiser still remains.” Noora stopped and shuddered with pain. I think she was fighting against her oath. “K…Kaiser!” She roared. I had the notion they knew each other, but it was hard to tell how. “He ran away to hide in The Scar the day I was sworn… NO… Cursed to my task. This is his burden I carry.” Her body heat radiated with ferocity. “Reks and Varmint, please! Pass through my gate and on through the rest. Become the next King and speak the words that will free me. I can’t confront Kaiser until the words are spoken. You must hurry.”
The mist thickened as her body temperature rose. “I will hold him to his word Noora, I swear in my father’s name.” Veek said, and then he picked me up and ran with me along Noora’s outstretched arm. She held off her first step until we had leapt from her fingertips. I watched her fade into the fog as we fell down to the floor.
Veek’s strong legs ploughed into the dense fallen foliage on the floor, landing us safely. He placed me down and we kept going in the direction we jumped from Noora’s arm. It wasn’t long of running before we made it to the Diamond gate. After this one we would be staring at Sovereign City walls. Staring at my goal.
We didn’t talk much after passing through the Diamond Gate. While our motives were still the same our perception of those who we fight for has altered. What Noora told us of Caldera Kaiser hasn’t only thrown our impressions of him in question, but of all the people we have encountered too. Well I can really only speak for myself on this, as my opinion of Veek has even been skewed, and if his view of me wasn’t changed it would be folly.
In that moment I couldn’t trust anyone but myself. We both stopped, weak and tired from running, we sat and silently looked at each other in deep thought. It was strange, I felt no inclination to speak, but there was an aura of animosity in the air, like an unresolved altercation the two of us had, but neither of us knew about.
I don’t remember falling asleep. I am here in my tiny room, and my neck is sore. I must be sleeping crooked. I hope tomorrow I can resolve whatever tension is between Veek and me. So we can complete the Sovereign Stride together.