...She lay helpless, a crumbled heap of shattered bones and leaking vitals, a worthless warrior incapable of rising to fight beside her people. Her oppressor let out a heinous cackle, crushing her spine beneath its heel and forcing her to watch carnage ravage her home and her life.
Desperation and rage twisted inside her, churning and swelling until she could feel nothing but the adrenaline and the blind will to protect what she loved. The ground beneath her quaked and cracked until a force burst forth from within her, cratering the floor and spiralling her oppressor…
She snapped awake. Khaliel’s feathered tail lay across her and the protective creature encircled her looking up at Aggar and Zimyen standing over them. Ceccamun noticed a handful of others staring in their direction from afar.
“You’re thrashin’round in your dreams again and…whatever’s goin’ on with you, others can feel it – the ‘pyrs too.”
Ceccamun and Khaliel, following Aggar and Zimyen, had taken refuge in one of the specialized support pods designed to assist in ensuring etenpyr remained calm. The interior simulated the world above ground with artificial sunlight, wind, and ambient sound; even so, the pods only served as first-aid to a problem that would grow ever dire with time. The etenpyr, though often making their nest in caves, were known to grow increasingly anxious, exhibiting claustrophobic behavior, when contained for extended stretches.
The wailing storm ravaged Eten Viyo’s weather dome, kicking up dust and grime and sand and stone and tossing it against the barrier into the night. The barriers’ energy was fading and the city needed to be protected; the Spire was withdrawn and blast shields enclosed the city locking it and the citizens within the crater, underground until the storm passed.
Aggar sat down in front of her and Zimyen curled up behind him. “Probably best you don’t sleep here.”
Cec twisted her mouth and nodded, sitting up and absently petting Khaliel’s tail as she waited for the pounding in her chest and the lingering dread on her mind to pass. “I hear ya.” She trailed and watched Aggar cross his arms and close his eyes; whether he was still going to get his sleep or not, it was apparent that he did not wish to talk to her any more than necessary. She spent the passing hours in silence, listening to the simulated environment and pondering what the storm meant for her coming adventure.
“The second sun rises.” A brief chime proceeded the message to come. An even and metallic feminine tone echoed from the PA system. “The storm has yet to pass. Riders experiencing difficulties maintaining control of their etenpyr should seek a Minder immediately for assistance.”
Ceccamun flittered out of her fragile drifting. She had fought sleep for the majority of the night but eventually it crept up on her and she rocked back and forth unintentionally, nodding off time and time again, fidgeting and fighting slumber while others enjoyed the much-needed. She had mixed feeling about the morning what had finally come.
Slowly, she rose to her feet, Khaliel’s tail falling from her legs. The yawning beast rose her head and stirred a yawn out of her sleep deprived master.
“Mornin’, Khaly.” Ceccamun tousled the reptiles vibrant plume and was met with a gentle besaddened sigh. She frowned, “it’ll be okay,” attempting to reassure her companion thought truthfully the reality of it all was beginning to creep on her.
With her foot, she reached out and nudged Aggar’s own. Once tenderly, calling his name, and then a second time with vigor until he opened his eyes. His sharp brow and roguish gaze instantly set to a glare at the sight of her.
“What, not gone yet?” He closed his eyes again
Zimyen stood abruptly, his tail whipping out and shoving Aggar over and forward nearly smacking his face on the floor. He barely managed to catch himself on his arms.
“Oh, don’tcha worry, I was jus’ on my way,” Ceccamun retorted with a snarl, petting Zimyen’s snout as he took to her side.
She sighed and looked down at her friend and he sat there, legs and arms crossed, mouth twisted in what was bordering on a pout. After a moment his glare fell to the wayside and he stared at the floor.
And when he would not say anything or do anything more, “we’re waiting, ya know.”
“For what?” He did not bother to look up.
“For you ta stop bein’ a baby’n’get in on this team hug.” And she, Khaliel, and Zimyen stared at him, urging, until resistance melted away and he grumbled to his feet and into the embrace of his family.
“One last big team hug for The ZACK Attack.” She muttered, reminiscing. Aggar groaned and she chuckled. It really was a horrible team name but it was their horrible team name – even if Aggar refused to acknowledge it.
A hearty harrumph caught their attention and pulled their gaze to where both Akmoya and Kerimoya stood just a few meters away. The two adolescents pushed away from each other under the scrutiny of Akmoya’s glaring eye but Ceccamun did her best to ignore his sullen gaze. She rushed over and dove into Kerimoya’s warm embrace.
“Y’all came to say goodbye?” She turned to Akmoya and wrapped her arms around his neck as he crouched to meet her.
“We came ta wish ya luck, Moon.” Akmoya reassured.
“Right…” The young girl trailed, stepping back and passing a glance around to her friends – her family – their smiling yet somber faces. She began to well up again but shook it off and exhaled a heavy sigh, “I should have never agreed to this.”
“Stuff that,” Kerimoya spouted and gently knocked the young warrior over the head with her staff. “And what’d I tell ya’bout poutin’? We ain’t goin’ nowhere, so you just focus makin’ it back, ya hear?”
Ceccamun nodded her head then passed her eyes to Aggar again who was standing silently with Zimyen at his side and methodically stroking the creatures feathered head. Cec twisted her mouth then stepped over to him and pulled him aside. His face twisted with confusion and mild concern.
“I guess, I don’t know, I don’t want us to part on a stupid fight.”
“Well, you could just tell me.”
“I was getting there.” She huffed. “Look, it’s a little much to explain, honest, but I ain’t joinin’ the Kaizragoons. I’m goin’ into the Oasis.” His confusion only double. I continued, “there’s a hermit there, the Kaizar thinks, who’s unlocked the lost power of our ancestors. He thinks — “
Aggar held up his hands to interrupt, “yer tryin’a tell me the Kaizar is sendin’ you into the deep wilds in search of a fable?” She nodded slowly and he went on. “And yer doing this willingly? Alone?” She nodded again. “You’re kriffin’ crazy. You’ll die.” He stressed.
“Thanks fer the support.” She rolled her eyes.
“It’s a stupid idea. Sorry if I ain’t keen on lettin’ ya run off and get yerself killed.”
It was what had begun to go through her mind but hearing him say it, hearing him bicker and chastise, only served to fill her with a spiteful urge to prove him wrong.
“It’s already decided. I am going. The least you could do is pretend to support me.”
“Oh, sure, my apologies: Good luck with yer death quest, Cec. Don’t forget to ask the kind creatures who murder ya to send back somethin’ nice for us to remember you by.
Ceccamun gritted her teeth and turned away from the criticizing boy. So much for not ending on a stupid fight. She did her best to contain herself, and ignore the eyes she was getting for the short scene Aggar had made. She offered each of the others another hug and placed a special request with Khaliel to take care of Zimyen and make sure Aggar did not do anything rash.
The young girl reluctantly said her goodbyes and waved farewell. She had managed to keep it together up until she stepped out into the darkened streets of Eten Viyo. The heavy pod door shut and sealed behind her and left her standing in the eerie echoing of a city sealed in a hollow bunker.