I do make the names up. Thank you for showing interest.
Chapter 3 is going to take a while since finals are coming up.
Some notes before Chapter 3:
Ekuana’i and Ekuana’ian is changed to Ekuana and Ekuanan
Nazeki is changed to Voruda.
Chapter 3 – The Arrival of the Toa
"That’s what happened,” Era said to his friends. It had been almost a week since he returned from the Protectors’ meeting in Tanasa. Vizuna had given the order to relocate the entire region’s population to Lehuatlan. Era and his friends, Loana, Vekole, and Okala, were sitting in one of the city’s main squares. The city was enormous, consisting of many stone buildings, temples, a palace, and many more wooden huts. The palace was made of stone and is built on one of Rinoa’s largest hills. Murals cover its walls and carvings of vines wrap around it. Green banners with a yellow insignia swung slowly in the breeze. The insignia was a line with a serif scratched from the upper left to the lower right diagonally with a second line starting from the middle and ending with a serif on the upper right. Stone buildings cover the ground around the palace while wooden bridges and huts wrap around the trees, some suspended from their branches. Aqueducts separate the districts of the city and giant, thick walls surround its limits with sculptures of the mask of Rinoa’s destined “Toa” guardian and Rinoan scouts lined along the top watching the outskirts, some even looking through telescopes. Rinoans of Maverdon and the third city, Mizungol, have built temporary housing wherever they could or stayed with their relatives. Vizuna had a plan if the Kunoma ever successfully sieged Lehuatlan: There were many boats ready to evacuate the population and move to a safer part of the island or, if necessary, the Isle of Belheer, an isle a sizable distance from Rinoa’s coast. Lehuatlan stood strong at the peninsula of Rinoa, with Maverdon and Mizungol abandoned in Rinoa’s center and near the northern border respectively. Era and his friends were looking over the region from one of the city’s small, less populated plazas. All four were disturbed by the threat of losing their homes and their lives.
“This is a load of Maliu-crot,” Loana said, emphasizing his swear and pacing, “Why don’t the Protectors just off this bug already?”
“Apparently, they can’t predict where it would attack. They decided to be on the defensive,” Era replied. Vekole remains quiet as Okala speaks.
“I think they’re doing the right thing. If they got themselves killed, Atlarak’s only got us norma” –Era shoots Okala a look– “well, us non-Protectors to worry about. No offense to our own people, but a giant spider’s a bit much to handle.”
Vekole adds to Okala’s point, “Not to mention Okoto’s adept population has limited control over elemental power compared to the Protectors. Even with numbers, they might lose control.”
“I just think we should at least defend our own villages instead of abandon them. I mean, the entire region’s population is in a cage saying ‘come and get us’. The Kunoma would have a feast,” Loana says.
“It may not be the best solution, Loana, but no solution was desirable. It’s not like the Protectors wanted this,” Era said. Loana started to calm down. Vizuna was listening to the conversation from the other side of the plaza. He already received a message saying that it was time and that the other Protectors were already on their way. However, he wanted to tell Era about another message he just received from Nilkuu: he was lost.
“I think that’s enough discussion for now,” Vizuna told the group. The four were quiet, unable to say anything to reply. “Era, I heard from Nilkuu just now. He’s a little lost. I’m going to the Temple to meet with the others. Could you do me a favor and help Nilkuu get there?”
“Sure, I’ll be with him as soon as possible. Did he leave any leads?”
“Not much, but he said he passed Maverdon already.”
“I’ll do my best,” Era says, leaving the plaza for the city’s outer door. Vizuna looked back at the rest, all three trying to hide their fear.
“Don’t fret. If this works out, Atlarak won’t be a threat anymore.”
Era spent the evening looking for Nilkuu. He resorted to whistling, trying to get a response. He looked through most of the region south of Maverdon with no luck so far. However, when he whistled for the hundredth time, he got a response.
“Over here!” A voice yelled.
“I’ll be right there!” Era yelled back. He followed where the voice came from and saw Nilkuu sitting on a rock, his weapon propped against a tree. “Nilkuu?”
“That’d be me. I’m not used to regions other than my own.”
“Well, Rinoans are used to the dense jungle.”
“Surprised as well, everywhere looks the same no matter where I look. How do you guys get around?”
“Well, not all trees are the same. We’ve memorized some key locations in the jungle since childhood.”
“Well, can you tell me where the Temple of Time is, then?”
“How about I lead you, since you might get lost again.” Era was a bit hesitant, but both he and Nilkuu knew he wasn’t wrong.
“Well then, lead on, navigator,” Nilkuu said, facetiously but with a slight sign of exhaustion. Era and Nilkuu started to walk to the Temple. Era knew the Temple was east of Maverdon and made sure Nilkuu was close by. Nilkuu suddenly asks, “What weapon is that?”
Era was surprised but his question, and asked, “my knife?”
“Yes, is it a specific type?” He seemed as good at conversations as Vizuna.
“Sort of. It’s a Keranag knife. The name means ‘swift claw’.”
“Really? Interesting. Is this your only weapon?”
“Well, I am practicing archery, but I have yet to aim under pressure.”
“Really, then what about that symbol?”
“The one on your armor, do you not know what it means? Or the writing, surely you know that, right?”
“Never learned to read,” Era said, surprising Nilkuu.
Nilkuu paused before continuing, “Well, that symbol is the Mark of Accuracy, a famous Rinoan symbol. The writing spells ‘Accuracy’ as well.”
“Yes. It comes from the Rinoan Principle of Faith. You know, Maverda was the first to realize the power of faith, not just in victory, but in her allies and soldiers. I hope I won’t bore you.”
“N-No, not at all,” Era said, almost stumbling over his words. Maybe learning more about Maverda, principles, and marks could help him.
“Well, you know the Three Virtues, right?”
“Of course, Unity, Duty, and Destiny.”
“Well, aspects of a virtue can be used to make a principle, which basically served to be part of our beliefs and held up morale during rough times. Maverda was one of the first to realize and establish a principle, as five others have done. She established the Principle of Faith from the virtues of Unity and Duty: trusting in others and trusting that the future will be bright. She used her faith to fight for a better future, for the sake of future generations if not for her own. To establish a bond with each Okotan, acknowledge differences and work together despite them, and the drive to do their job for the good of the island, from Unity and Duty, Maverda became a powerful and trusted Warrior of Faith. Along with her, five others established principles and became the island’s first Protectors: Hatharra of Valdan, Okotan of Courage, Irua of Aisotl, Okotan of Peace, Netau of Ekuana, Okotan of Purity, Esira of Kolvilith, Okotan of Creation, and Merath of Manatero, Okotan of Prosperity.”
Confused, Era asked, “Wait, Esira embodied Creation? You mean, like Ekimu?”
“A lot of Okotans ask that. Ekimu’s mask, the Mask of Creation, is a legendary mask. The two legendary masks were found by the Mask Makers and used to benefit and protect Okoto. However, these masks weren’t found for a while. In fact, Ekimu and his brother, Makuta, were the first bearers of such masks. Kolvilians still revere Esira as the embodiment of the Principle, and the idea of Creation was around longer than when we had the legendary mask, but Ekimu was known as a powerful being who had the power to create through more mystical means. To put it simply, Esira was known for the principle, Ekimu was known for the power.”
Era nodded, showing he understood. He still wanted to make sure, so he asked, “So how did Esira establish the Principle of Creation?”
“She helped build each city in Kolvilith, made many sculptures, always thought ahead before starting a work of art and was flexible with her plans. Some of these traits translated into combat as well, which brought about the skill, and soon the mark, of Strategy. Others either blindly followed a plan or deviated too much from a plan, and none were as proactive or attentive as she was. By the way, do you know where you’re going?”
Admittedly, Era wasn’t paying much attention, however he noticed a small stone pillar. He asked Nilkuu what it said and Nilkuu read it to Era: “One does not find time, only make it”. Era says, “So it’s a riddle?”
“Sort of, more like an inscription,” Nilkuu replies.
“Well, either way, we seem to be on the right track.”
“What is it with these stones and the quotes, anyways?”
“I heard from Vizuna that those who built the Temple of Time were powerful beings. The stones were dedicated to those deemed worthy by the Mask of Time.”
“What does that mean?”
“I thought you would know,” Era says, noticing that Nilkuu looked a bit more worried. They passed more stone pillars with similar inscriptions, the last of them saying “Time is omniscient, time is neutral, time is created.” After this pillar, they saw a giant stone building. They both knew right away this was the right place. The building had glowing carvings and stood tall on top of a small hill. Approaching the entrance, which had glowing carvings of a mask with inscriptions above and below it, Era and Nilkuu met with the rest of the Protectors.
Nilkuu said, “Sorry, Vizuna, I’m not used to so much vegetation, you know?”
“I understand,” Vizuna says, “Now that we’re all here, we can proceed.” He looks to Era and says, “Era, you can accompany us, but we will need to leave you on the ground floor. I hope you’re okay with that.”
“I’ll be fine,” Era said, barely containing his excitement.
“Well then, shall we?” Vizuna says. Korgot and Nilkuu hold the door open for the Protectors and Era before closing them behind themselves. Era was astonished. Inside the building were many murals, most were of different Okotans wearing the same mask that was carved on the door. Suddenly, a giant mechanism caught Era’s eye. In the middle of the room was a giant pendulum swinging back and forth. The pendulum was a stone held by a rope and swung slightly from side to side, causing an echoed clack with each swing. The inside was almost entirely blue like the glowing carvings that decorated the building. The floor was tiled white except for the few mosaics on the floor. Vizuna nodded at Era, and while Era explored the building, the Protectors continued up a wide set of stairs to the top of the Temple.
On the roof of the temple was a circular altar. Six symbols surround the altar, each one different than the other. The Protectors approached the alter, lifted their arms, and pointed their palms towards the center, where a symbol was displayed. The symbol was a circle with a mark depicting a twisted rope within it. The Protectors closed their eyes, focused their energy, and said the Prophecy of Heroes:
“When times are dark and all hope seems lost, unite, chieftains of the island tribes. Tap into the power of time, and look to the skies” –The Protectors look up and light emits from the altar and their eyes— “The stars will answer your call and six comets will bring heroes from the depths of history to claim their lost masks and awaken the last Mask Maker. United, these heroes will ward against evil and protect the tribes and this island, fulfilling their true destiny.”
As the Protectors recite this passage, the symbols around the altar started to light up, then these symbols appeared on the altar, surrounding the center symbol. Then, dots appeared on these symbols, revealing them to represent constellations. The symbols glowed in six different colors depending on where it was on the altar. Each one had a cryptic meaning, their depictions unknown to anyone. Suddenly, the altar split into six pieces, opening to reveal a mask. It was the Mask of Time. The mask was orange, with four crests protruding from it. Era could feel its power from inside the Temple. The pendulum started to glow, revealing the same symbol from the center of the altar on it. Era decided to run outside. From there, he saw light coming from the roof of the Temple. A beacon shot into the night sky with a loud hum. The ground shook and Era could barely stand, almost tripping running it back inside.
After the Mask of Time returned inside the altar and the beacon dissipated, the Protectors returned to the ground floor where Era was. Era approached them. “Did it work?”
“We’ll have to wait and see,” Narmoto answered.
“Should we continue with the plan?” Kivoda asked Narmoto.
“Of course, return to your capitals at once.” Narmoto stopped Era before he could leave with Vizuna. In a serious tone that seemed out of place coming from Narmoto, he says, “Wait, I have something to ask you.”
“What is it?”
“Nilkuu has told me he’s been having some trouble defending Pojan. Most of his archers have been enslaved by Atlarak, and he was hoping he could use your help.”
“Why my help?”
“He told me about your mark. He believes you have more talent than you let on.”
“I’m not sure if I’m the right person. Maybe Vekol— “
“No time. Listen, Nilkuu told you about the principles, right?”
“Keep them in mind and follow them. You’ll do fine.”
“Do I not have a choice?”
“It’s up to you. You can go with Vizuna if you don’t want to, or go with Nilkuu if you do. I need to return to Tanasa.” Narmoto leaves as Era struggles to decide what to do.
He walks up to Vizuna and asks, “Vizuna, you heard him, right? What should I do?”
Vizuna, who did hear their conversation, answered, “Well, what do you think?”
“I’m ask— “
“Era, before you say anything, some decisions must be made by you and you alone sometimes. I’ll say this much, some Rinoans and Valdanites have already volunteered to help the Kolvilians. The Kolvilians have their faith in them.”
Era’s mind was overflowing, what should he do? He considered what Vizuna said and focused on a certain word: faith. He remembered what Nilkuu said, how Maverda had faith that all would end well, how she fought for the future of her friends and family. He realized that Nilkuu was putting faith in him. Why him? Something filled Era’s heart with emotion, the same feeling he felt at Maverdon. This feeling, however, was calm and controlled. Clenching his fists, he ran towards Nilkuu, who was leaving. When Nilkuu turned to look at him, Era said, “Need a navigator?” Nilkuu smiled.
“So why are we back here?” Nilkuu asks. Era and Nilkuu returned to Lehuatlan after the summoning, and are waiting near a large hut with birds perched around it. The hut was built on a platform attached to a tree. Nilkuu was confused when Era started walking a different direction from the Temple of Time. Era kept quiet, even after they entered Lehuatlan. “I mean, no offense, the city is nice, but this isn’t the way to Kolvilith.”
“Hang on,” Era says. Another Rinoan walks near Era and the hut. Era says to the Rinoan, “This may take a while.”
“I have all day,” the Rinoan says, “Harvali, proficient in archaeology and Okotan history.” Harvali holds out her fist.
Bumping her fist, Era introduces himself, saying, “Era, proficient in wood carving and awkward interactions.”
Giggling, Harvali looked at the hut before asking, “You heading to Pojan as well?” Era looks at Nilkuu, and Harvali finally noticed him standing there. Stumbling over her words, she said, “Oh, uh, hi there. Sorry, I didn’t, I, uh— “
“It’s okay,” Nilkuu says, “Yes, we’re heading to Pojan. However,” –he turns to Era— “how are we getting there?”
“A Govi bird,” Era answers, “Of course, when I said navigator, I also meant flyer.”
“Ooohh, a first-time flyer,” Harvali said in a teasing manner. Nilkuu gave them both a stern look. Another Rinoan come out of the hut.
“Sorry about that, had to make sure the last two flew safely. So, I’m guessing you two are heading to Kolvilith as well?”
“Yes sir, the Protector of Stone needs a ride to Pojan,” Era says.
Harvali chimes in, “And I’ve been summoned there by the Kolvilian Guard.”
“Interesting. Luckily, I have two very experienced Govi birds for the both of you. Kiva and Ka have flown with the Govi Force for years. They can fly faster than the wind, and hit just as hard, too. Kiva’s the one with the green feathers over there, she’s a Kulo breed, a smaller, more agile bird. Ka’s the black and purple Nelui breed. A larger bird for two Okotans.”
“Me and Nilkuu will fly the Nelui, then. I’ll be the one flying,” Era said.
“Then you’ll have the Kulo. You’ll need some equipment since you’ll be flying without a second to accompany you,” The birdkeeper said. As the birdkeeper and Harvali went into the hut, Era approached the Nelui and reached out to pet it. Ka spread his wings and screamed to try and scare Era away. He flinched, but still inched closer to the bird.
“Careful,” Nilkuu said. Era looked back and nodded. “Have you flown one of those before?”
“Only one other time. Me and Okala flew one to Mizungol once. It wasn’t a smooth ride.”
“Well, that bodes poorly.”
“You could always fly while I take second.”
“No thanks, I’d rather stay the second. I have the better weapon.”
“That reminds me,” Era said, stepping away from Ka, “what kind of weapon is that?”
“My Orlith Staff? It’s a staff that allows me to channel my elemental energy.”
“Really? How so?”
“Well, if sand is gathered into the tubes, I can harden it into sandstones and fire them using compressed air. It’s currently loaded, so we’ll be safe so long as my aim is true. Alternatively, I can channel pure elemental energy through it, but it’ll drain me since I’m literally out of my element.”
“Compressed air? How does that work?”
“Simply put, some sand particles are saved to make a mini-sandstorm inside the main cylinder of the staff. The particles should scrape across the edges and generate heat, which expands the air inside. I keep the sandstones still so pressure builds until I fire them.”
“So, some aspects of air are involved?”
“Some elements can be used in a way to elicit aspects from other elements, that’s what connects them to each other.”
The birdkeeper and Harvali returned from the hut. The birdkeeper approached Era and Ka with instructions, “Okay, some things you need to know before you go. The skies are a bit dangerous to fly in. I already gave some safety equipment and a weapon to Harvali over there,” he gestures to Harvali, who’s carrying a staff and wearing extra armor, “I assume this Protector will be your second?”
“Yes, he already has a weapon,” Era says as Nilkuu holds his staff up.
“Okay, other than that, everything should be fine. Ka won’t let you get hit, but he’s a little stubborn, so be patient.”
“Got it.” The birdkeeper went back to his hut while Era and Nilkuu mount up. Harvali and Kiva have already taken flight, Kiva flapping his wings and staying over the platform. Era yelled to Harvali, “Go on ahead, Nelui birds need more space to takeoff.” Harvali nods and flies off. “Okay, Ka, let’s make this trip fast, buddy.” Ka screeches approvingly.
On the edge of the platform, Ka spreads his wings and concentrates. A green glow shines beneath his wings. A gust builds and Ka raises his wings. Era and Nilkuu hold on tight to the saddle strapped on Ka’s back. A Rinoan with two lightstones who has been guiding Ka raises both lightstones. Ka lowers himself and the gust gets stronger. Era yells, barely being heard by Nilkuu, “How about that, Protector? A bird that makes his own wind beneath his wings!” The Rinoan swings his lightstones down and Ka bursts into flight, causing Era and Nilkuu to almost lose their grip. Nilkuu screams as Ka steadies his wings. Although Ka was going at an amazing speed, it seemed like the trip would still take a while. Okoto below looked as if it was barely moving.
Era and Nilkuu have been flying for a while now. The sun was rising, and Nilkuu got over his fear of heights for the moment. Era has been trying to stay awake the whole trip, sometimes taking short naps before suddenly waking up. He finally resorted to holding his breath when he felt tired hoping the lack of air would make his heart beat faster and keep him awake, careful not to deprive himself of air since they were so high up. Suddenly, something flew by Ka, startling him. Era looked back at Nilkuu, who held his staff and was ready to fire.
“What was that?” Era asked.
“Nothing good,” Nilkuu answered. Ka tried to steady himself when something flew by him again, this time from above.
“See it that time?”
“Yeah, I did.”
“Was it a flying serpent?”
“It’s not Tanasa, I’ll tell you that. It had bat wings.”
“Wait, what?” Another one flew by, almost hitting Ka’s wing.
“They’re trying to—“ One of the creatures suddenly attacked Nilkuu before he could finish. With his back against Ka’s back, Nilkuu saw the creature’s head for a split second before hitting it back with his staff. “They have Kovo on them,” he yelled.
“Are you serious?” Era yelled back. Another one of the creatures hovers near Era. The creature had a terrifying set of sharp teeth and bat wings with claws on them. Its tail was split into two wire-like shapes before converging on a claw. Quickly, Era created a gust in his hand and blasted the creature with it, pushing it back and making it lose altitude before recovering. Two others were catching up to Ka when Nilkuu took a chance: he aimed the tubes of his staff and fired all six sandstones at once. With a loud boom, one of the creatures had their spider knocked off while the other’s wing was wounded. With only one still trailing them, Era gathered more wind. The creature was biting at Ka’s feet when Era outstretched his right arm, hitting the creature again. Hearing a second thud, Era looked back. A giant wasp with four claws, four wings, and two Kovo over its eyes was hit by the creature. It was gaining on them when Era asked, “What is that!?”
“Looks like a Vispex. By the looks of it, it also has a couple of Kovo on it.”
“How do Kovo even get on these things!?”
“They probably catch them while resting, or they drop onto them.” Nilkuu readied himself, pointing his staff towards the Vispex. He focuses as the yellow crystal blades on his staff start to glow. Bolts of energy flashed on Nilkuu’s arm and his staff and a beam of energy fired through the barrel of the staff, hitting the Vispex but not hindering it. Nilkuu started to breathe heavily and held tight as Era patted Ka.
“Ok, buddy, I need you to do me a favor.” Ka, acting as if he read Era’s mind, circled around and flapped his wings hard, creating a huge gust and catching the Vispex off balance. Returning to his original course, Ka kept steady as Nilkuu regained his bearings and aimed at the Vispex again, channeling his energy. Another beam of energy hits the Vispex, this time knocking off both Kovo and causing the Vispex to fall.
Nilkuu sat back up, struggling to catch his breath. “First, the Naiyat, now this. This is bad.”
“Taking a guess, the Naiyat were the bat-winged serpents.”
“Yeah, ever noticed something?”
“The Kovo are taking over the wildlife. You think Atlarak planned this?”
“He definitely doesn’t want anything taking the skies, that’s for sure.”
“Don’t compliment him please.”
“Just saying, it’s annoying.”
Era, Nilkuu, and Ka reached Kolvilith and was approaching Pojan. For a desert city, it was pretty, at least to Era. The city was built from a giant curved mesa. Inside the curve of the mesa, a tall stone wall surrounds a large area with buildings bunched close together. There were buildings lining the walls and the cliff, and inside the cliff was a palace accompanied by more housing. A few domes could be seen and a structure sits in the middle of the city. The structure was another dome with a statue of a scorpion on it. Pillars surrounded the entire mesa. Ka landed on a circular stone platform in the city’s landing area. Different Govi birds were seen there, including Kiva.
Nilkuu told Era, “Okay, from here, we need to walk to the Vila Tribe’s fort village.”
“Walk? Doesn’t Pojan have an abundance of mounts that people can take?”
“Kerageli, and they were allocated to the fort tribes as cavalry. Currently, they’re just reserves.”
“How many were moved to the forts?”
“All of them.” Nilkuu then started walking towards the entrance of the city. Era followed, and the two made their way to the fort-village.
When they entered through the first wall of the fort-village, Era was surprised to see that most of the Kolvilians had an insignia on their chest. The insignia consisted of three lines, the two at each end had a serif that faced the middle line, which was the longest and had an arrow on top of it.
Era asked, “So, which village are these Kolvilians from?”
“Their own. These Kolvilians are from the Vila Tribe, one of the Kolvilian fort-tribes spread across the Ketari Desert.”
“I thought Kolvilith only had four villages.”
“Well, four cooperatively established villages. These villages are the homes of a certain tribe. We call them ‘fort-tribes’ because they live in fortified villages.”
“Sounds like tree-speak.”
“Yeah, I slip into it sometimes, but being in Maverdon for so long, I’ve lost it overtime. Ironic since Maverdon is the centermost village of Rinoa. It’s basically saying two related words to mean one word.”
“So, what’s with same-etched symbols on chest of Sand-Walkers? And what of swift-running mounts and sting-bug armor? And why be bare-clothed when battle-march approach? Something like that, that’s a thicker version of tree-speak. It’s toned down these days for obvious reasons.”
“It’s fun to speak that way and watch people’s expressions fall into confusion. So—“
“The symbol resembles a scorpion. The fort-village tribes believe the scorpion grants great speed in battle. The Vila are known to be the best cavalry troops, but reinforcements from the Hamora and Shalli tribes came here to help. Fort-tribes also like to wear bone armor made from the exoskeletons of Kopinoma. Again, scorpions. Most of the troops barely wear clothing because it’s hot, for one, and we’re not Valdanites, and besides, warriors from these tribes are adepts as well, so they could make their own armor from stone if need be.”
“Nilkuu,” one Kolvilian says. The Kolvilian was wearing bone armor that was plated at the chest and lower arms. A circular piece of hardened leather was on top of the chest with the same symbol and another piece at the waist. There were inlaid gems in each piece of armor, straps of fabric hung from the waist and the Kolvilian’s mask had crests that were curved back and two slits on each side of the face. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but as the Rinoan said, ‘battle-march’ approaches.”
“I’ll get the warriors ready. Era, this is the grand elder of Kolvilith, Almata Jalkan. Jalkan, this is the Rinoan warrior.”
“Nice to meet you, adept,” Jalkan said, his voice deep and stern.
“Nice to meet you, Almata, I rarely get to meet elders,” Era said.
“Why, are they distant?”
“No, but the other three are.”
“Just like Manatero. Well, in Kolvilith, we visit the villages regularly, usually for some sporting event or to catch up with local talk. Do your elders wear armor?”
“They wear robes.”
“Aww, that’s no fun. Elders don’t always have to look ancient. Kolvilian elders like sporting bone armor to show their feats of battle. It inspires people.”
“I see that. Are those really Kopinoma bones?”
“Let me tell you a secret,” Jalkan said as Era leaned in as well as Nilkuu just to play along, “It just comes from one Kopinoma. Saying it’s from many is an exaggeration.” Era let out a chuckle before Jalkan walked up the hill, gesturing for Nilkuu and Era to follow.
Nilkuu pulls Era aside for a moment saying, “Do. Not. Tell him I got lost. He will never let me live it down.” Era made a gesture, flicking his index finger across his neck, and Nilkuu nodded. The two followed Jalkan to his hut on top of the hill, having to go through two more walls to get there. Era admired the Kolvilian architecture and future-proofing.
Inside the hut, Jalkan and two Vila warriors were sitting. Nilkuu and Era sat as Jalkan began to speak.
“I’ll be honest, Nilkuu, we’re in a deep pit of quicksand. The Kunoma are surrounding us as we speak. When they’ll attack, I don’t know, but I’ve done my best to make sure they do not reach Pojan.”
Nilkuu responds, “I appreciate all you do, Jalkan. Thank you.”
“Adept, what’s your name?”
“Era”, Era says, not prepared for the conversation to turn to him.
“Have you heard of the element of Air, Era?”
“I see, so the Rinoans still keep the tradition alive. Good, the two elements are learning to coexist.”
“Era, Rinoans have been going through an identity crisis of sorts for years. Once people of Air, Rinoans are now known as people of Jungle. I believe your elders have something to do with it.”
“What do you mean?”
“How many elders have you heard of?”
“Does Rinoa have five elders?”
“No, the elder of Mizungol was assassinated and replaced by another.”
“Around a half-century ago, from what I’ve heard, why?”
“Are you aware of the Rinoan Civil War?”
Nilkuu speaks before Era could respond, “Jalkan, with all due respect, what does this have to do with anything?”
“The boy should know, Nilkuu. The Protectors know, the elders of the other five regions know, even some Rinoans know. He should know as well, just in case.”
“Know what?” Era asked.
“Your people were truly people of Air before that elder took over. After his acceptance, he forced the notion that Rinoans were people of Jungle. Some agreed while others refused. Some saw Air as a weak element, not fit to be among the rest. Others thought that Jungle would uproot Rinoan tradition and culture. One thing led to another and suddenly it all crumbled. So many Rinoans lost in Marka for such a silly conflict. Most of the other elders and the Almata pushed for both to be accepted, but the faith of the Rinoans to their cause was too strong for our words to reach them. But you, you symbolize hope, Era, hope that Air and Jungle can coexist as a new, more peaceful tradition of Rinoa.”
“Jalkan, this doesn’t relate to the battle that approaches,” Nilkuu said, being careful not to offend Jalkan.
“On the contrary, the fort-tribes and the people of the Kolvilith cities are starting to have a conflict of their own, I’m afraid. The fort-tribes feel they aren’t acknowledged or appreciated enough and want to break off from the rest of the Stone tribes as a new group of Sand tribes. I feel tensions are growing between the four cities and the fort-tribes. I need you, Era, to show that the fort-tribes are being acknowledged. I have troops from Pojan to accompany you.”
“Wait, I’m leading them?” Era said.
“Yes, I want you to show how well Kolvilians can fight together, no matter the tribe they hail from.” Suddenly, a loud boom shakes the hut. All five run out and see a line of smoke. “What is that?”
“Should I go check, elder?” One of the guards asks.
“You may, hurry and be careful.”
“I’ll go with you,” Nilkuu said.