I know I’ve been very AWOL. I’m going through a bit of selective writer’s block, but hopefully, that’ll be sorted out very soon and I’ll be back to writing posts.
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Alright, so we continue with the First Chapter of Fourth Day by my brother Remy. Here’s Sections IV & V.
Something happened to Nedeseh. It wasn’t anything fatal, at least not to his mind, but it forced him to acknowledge that there is no such thing as ‘being totally alone’. He was walking through the corridors of the ‘Half-Moon’ council when he saw the doors to their meeting room. They had always been told, outside of general meetings, not to approach there alone, but always with a senior member. He stood in front of the doors, thinking about knowing what was behind the warning. He then turned away and heard voices…voices that were not those of men, women, or the living. They seemed like the angry whispers of a creature defeated by hunger and death.
“This child was fortunate.”
“Perhaps it was wisdom beyond his active mind, under his awareness, that warned him?”
“No. I sense the ‘gap’ within him.”
He pretended to stare at the door in wonder, but a great fear built within him. He first saw a flicker, and then some flickers followed it. His mind made a necessary jump to realize he wasn’t seeing a flicker of his reality, but that he was literally burning his way into the next reality. He finally saw what Nda Waniko spoke about. The first Long-Shadow seemed to materialize out of nothing, but Nedeseh’s faculties quickly came together to point out why there was no such thing as an empty darkness. He realized that he had seen them when he first saw the stranger. They bore broken wings that seemed to fold and unfold restlessly from remorse or regret from a bad choice that eternity wouldn’t be enough for them to out-live.
“You see us finally, don’t you, child?” one of them said in what could be taken for surprise.
With courage he did not feel, he asked, “What is the ‘gap’ that you see in me?”
Then they came into full view as they ‘hovered’ to him.
“Your wings are broken, yet you do not touch the ground. Why? Is it a curse you bear?”
Nda Waniko suddenly appeared next to him and pulled him away from the Long-Shadows.
“Must you always taunt death and the forms she is subject to?”, he said in a quiet, angry voice.
Nedeseh looked at him with searching eyes and Nda Waniko withdrew from him by about three paces, but he kept up without moving. Nda Waniko ran and the boy still kept up with him.
“I…I see you, Nda. I can’t explain it. Too many things, too quickly, but I can see you.”
The Stranger suddenly grabbed Nedeseh and covered him with a deep darkness he could not run from. The darkness was so void and complete, he was afraid that he had just died. The stranger then reached for his hands. An eerie illumination revealed his face to the boy.
“Someday you will understand what you almost did.”
Nedeseh felt vulnerable and lost.
“What I almost did? He was running away from me. I saw something that called to me. Something…”
“You didn’t see something. You saw a thing. You called to it and he had to protect it from you.”
“What could it have been?”
“The last thread in his cord of life. It had to be frayed for him to have what you share with him.”
“Don’t you share it with us?”
The Stranger laughed gently.
“As far as scoldings go, this one doesn’t have the necessary impact on you.”
Nda Waniko joined them. He was upset. Very upset.
“You never did anything like this when you were his age, did you?”
The Stranger pulled Nda Waniko away from the boy in what seemed, in the darkness, like a continent away to the boy. The fear in him stopped. All that remained was to exercise patience. And he did that well.
“Well, did you?” Nda Waniko asked again in an angry voice.
The Stranger nodded in an way that showed his embarrassment.
“I did. He was protected from me as I have protected you. Forgive him. Had he known what he was doing, he probably would have restricted himself to a fledgling acolyte’s level for another generation.
“It is important that he doesn’t do so. It is most important. If he tries to fight what we both know he is becoming, he will destroy a necessary balance that has already started to ‘lean’ on him. He will destroy himself with fear. It seems he is stronger than I thought. The balance doesn’t hold any respect for age, but rather for ‘capacity’.”
Nda Waniko looked at the Stranger and called him by a name no one dared to.
“Nedeseh, I know you’re happy to see the boy. But I think his coming is too early. To make matters worse, I have identified his ‘anchor’ already.”
The Stranger paused then said to no one, “Respect for privacy is respect for yourself, boy.”
Nedeseh suddenly found himself back in the halls of the Half-Moon chambers. He could hear them discussing. Now he could see the Long-Shadows. But he wasn’t afraid; merely reminded that he still had a lot to learn. And that was what started his real journey.
Some nights later deep into the rainy season, the acolytes and older disciples were gathered again in an open field. The Ndas stood before them, illuminated with a glow from within. They were slightly tense but the acolytes couldn’t understand what was going on. The disciples did.
“Slavers have come again to raid the subjects of the kingdom we protect. As expected they have run to hide in the hill forests. It is our task to ‘discourage’ their incursions. Most of you have not killed before. I hope you do. It is important that you do not seek their death, but they can be ‘difficult’. They have often brought their own special guard to fight us off. They have always failed. But they get stronger and wiser with every encounter. We must keep the upper hand and have losses.”
Nda Yakubu said these words in a deep, grating voice. There was no mistaking of his meaning.
Nda Waniko suddenly appeared next to Nedeseh.
“You. Come with me.”
They were suddenly in a very dark place and surrounded by corpses suspended by chains.
“These are the true forms of the Long-Shadows. I sense they are employing the undead. We must do like-wise.”
He then turned to the corpse with the most chains and said, “Rise, Long-Shadow. Battle awaits you tireless warriors.”
The corpse shivered without warning, making an eerie jingling noise. It straightened up then fell back, just as a strange scream of anguish rose from within the cavernous prison. Then the first Long-Shadow arose, covered in a green flame that burned in angry emerald-green hues. Soon the place was fully lit in a blend of green and orange light and about seven Long-Shadows stood around them.
The first one possessed neither wings nor their dead, factual words. He seemed to care about what he said. His bearing seemed regal.
He walked up to the both of them. “This is the next Emptiness? I can see the gap in him. It is at home with him.
“Boy, my name is Etsu Bagidi. I was a king sworn to protect my people till the end of my life. I took on this form to extend it to the end of the world.
“Nda Waniko expects then to employ the services of the ‘sand sprites’. I can see you met with one.”
Nedeseh’s jaw was locked in fear. This thing said it was a king. Of his people. He had never even heard of him before.
“Wh… what is the gap that y…you speak of?” he half-stuttered.
“I will explain later. Now. Come.”
There was a loud roar and the green fire filled the room and when it died down, they stood at the top of a hill.
It was dawn and they met the wind blowing at full strength, when it suddenly died down to a literal whisper. Etsu Bagidi nodded as the whisper rose and fell as if in conversation.
“Tell the 3rd column to stand back.”
Nedeseh suddenly noticed there was a man’s shape that seemed to dance undecidedly between becoming more corporeal or simply fading into complete invisibility. It turned to look at him before not standing there at all. He couldn’t tell the moment it left.
“Nda Waniko, it seems they’re intent on engaging us rather than hunt for slaves. They have earth-giants with them. It might have to do with the defeat of their king’s son.”
Nda Waniko managed a humoured smile,”You think?”
The wind picked up into a howl until Nedeseh picked up a thin human laugh distinctly threading through it.
It was the Long-Shadow King’s laughter. The green flame burned fiercely around him in an impossibly healthy verdue green and it revealed a living shape like his human form.
“Is this the result of ‘cheating death’?”, Nedeseh asked himself, “Whatever this is, this is not life.”