Friends and Foes

Friends and FoesNovember, 2007 – I completed my Journey in March of this year with Ke’ata’s assistance. The missing pages from Johan’s journal contained important information about returning what I’d taken. At the time I didn’t know why the pages had been ripped out, but I could tell they were freshly torn from their roots in the binder. Slade warned me to expect the unexpected, and I later discovered important information in The Cavern that allowed me to formulate a working theory about why the pages had been removed. I discussed this with Ke’ata and she agreed the Bahro war must have had something to do with it. The claw marks and scratches in the soil around my Relto further confirmed our suspicions. I would finally see these great animals myself at The Arch, along with hundreds of other explorers.

Ke’ata and I explored The City and Ages together, but I spent a great deal of time on my own. Although I fully recovered my health after years alone with no human contact, the psychological scars ran deep. I would return to places Slade and I explored together for days at a time. Ke’ata was not keen on this idea and I explained my need for solitude as a way to center my thoughts and clear my mind. I spent a lot of time in The City secretly watching the base jumpers and new arrivals, as well as exploring hard to reach places in The Ages. My years as a hunting guide honed my skills and I put them to good use.

Ke’ata made a trip back to Kansas and upon her return met a quiet young college student named Flynn. She invited him to our Bevin for a look around and we were introduced. Flynn was a man of few words. He would sit quietly to himself while Ke’ata babbled away with her usual limitless supply of verbal energy. Flynn was a computer science major at a university in Oklahoma, and after getting him to open up a bit, I learned his Journey was complete as well. Once Flynn began to speak, I found him to be as knowledgeable about D’ni history as Ke’ata. I liked his quiet manner and problem solving abilities. Ke’ata invited him to join our Bevin and that was the only time I saw him smile.

I had a lot of time to myself during the months Ke’ata was away. I grew more comfortable with being in The City and I slowly allowed myself to have contact with other explorers. I knew in the back of my mind Johan was still around. I picked up on bits and pieces of chit-chat as I walked cautiously around The City. Johan has developed quite a reputation for wild Bevin parties complete with loud music and pack-loads of booze. I took his journal in a desperate attempt to help save myself and in the process created an ongoing problem. There was a lot of talk around The Cavern about Johan and he was popular among the young explorers. I’m sure he discussed the theft of his journal more than once. I best not get careless and risk being taken by surprise.

I linked into a packed City one evening and bolted toward the rocks in my usual manner to avoid the crowds. As I ran past the stairs a young woman called out to me in a Spanish accent. I smiled and quickly waved but she followed me to the rocks. She was beaming with excitement as she asked endless questions. I could not get a word in edgewise. I smiled and listened as she told me all about herself. Ay’elen was here from South America where she taught school, but she wanted to live in the United States and decided to make a summer trip here to the desert Southwest. She’d heard stories in her native country about The Caverns and The Cleft. Her natural good-natured inquisitiveness were put to good use. She became one of The Called and had just arrived here in The City. We discussed The Journey and her dark eyes lit with excitement. Ay’elen would not be returning to South America.

I introduced Ay’elen to Ke’ata and Flynn. Ay’elen trembled with excitement as Ke’ata invited her to join our Bevin. I could tell from the tears welling up in her eyes that she’d found a true home and a new family. The site of it all made me feel like a child inside. We now had a small group of trusted friends. We quickly made plans to help Ay’elen complete her journey and did so within a few weeks. I never had children of my own on the surface, but I felt like a proud father as we all explored the ages together.

Flynn returned to our Bevin one evening acting strangely. Ke’ata looked at me and rolled her eyes but I knew in my gut something was wrong. It takes a while to get Flynn to open up, but when he did I was overcome with the urge to return to the surface and never come back. There had been a commotion in The City. A drunk and tattered old man was wandering about screaming at everyone to get out before “it’s too late”. Attempts to quieten him were met with physical threats. One of those in the group of onlookers was Johan himself. A sick feeling ran through my gut. My mind raced with scenarios of certain trouble and my heart pounded with anxiety. The old man fought off attempts to subdue him and ran off to the base of the cliff below the library and disappeared into the shadows. Flynn said everyone got a big laugh out of it and rejoined Johan’s entourage. Ke’ata’s face went white with shock and Ay’elen just stood there perplexed by this sudden turn of events.

I quickly linked to my Relto and sat there unnerved. I had put Slade to rest in my mind. There was no way he could have survived that fall. But what of his body? And what else did the old man scream aloud? Maybe I was getting myself worked up over nothing, but my instincts were always spot-on. Where had Slade been all this time? And why did he wait until now to show himself? As I sat there those old feelings from years past crept back into my mind. I tried to think logically and sort everything out. There was no use in trying.

I gazed out across the open sky and thought of the flying Bahro at Kerath’s Arch..

Published in: on December 23, 2007 at 9:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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