They floated into the cloud, many animals came to greet them. They guided the people and steeds up high through the cloud until they were born into the night sky. Next to the full moon, they found freedom. The song of the whales melded with the cries of the people, forming a healing spell, subtle, yet powerful. Then they fell beneath the waves into the space, the source of the Grand Lakes. Ang felt numb as the whales carried him down into the dazzling city. The memories of what he had lost, weighing heavily on him. When he saw Brexcen, everything became a little lighter. The memories of what he’s found, and the friends he’s gained came into focus. This is a place he could call home.
“Thank goodness you are back,” Bassinee snatched the reluctant Vlux into a vice grip hug. “When you all did not return, I asked Clo-Whu for assistance.” The giant octopus, Isu, and Brek swam up behind Bassinee.
“It’s wonderful to see you all back safe.” Brek swam to Ang and hugged him. Ang had no feeling, physical or emotional; autonomously, he hugged Brek back. Brek pulled away and studied Ang’s face, then glanced behind him. “Looks like we also have many new guests. We haven’t finished repairs, but I’m sure we can make accommodations for everyone. You must be exhausted, come let’s get all of you some food and rest, then we can discuss the events.”
Clo-Whu, Isu, and Bassinee got to work. They set up temporary encampments and began tending to the refugees. Brek led them back to Bassinee’s estate.
“I apologize but there is something I must attend to,” said Aletha as she swam away. Everyone watched her leave, but no one objected. They continued their solemn parade. Once inside Brek placed them around a large sphere fire grill, where a chef prepared a lavish meal full of many kinds of fish fillet, hearty sea cucumber pie, and bubble kelp salad. Rux took a few pieces of fish fillets and quietly left. Vlux nibbled at her food unenthusiastically, Ang didn’t eat at all. Thramuny devoured the portions everyone else did not eat, Eio sucked down the kelp salad. Gron, who still had a healthy appetite fist, bumped Ang’s shoulder.
“Hey boy, you should eat. They’ll be plenty of time to think about what happened out there later.” Ang nibbled down a fish fillet. Once he finished Brek led him down a hall to a door.
“This is your room, Ang, my room is just across the hall. Whenever you’re ready to talk, I’ll be just over there.”
“Wait, Brek, Haxx, he.”
“Yeah, I noticed as soon as you got back. Your uncle Paouni, and Haxx are unaccounted for.” Brek swam next to Ang. “So what happened out there?”
“You want me to tell you the story?”
“We should have plenty of time now. Kiliyi told me some stuff already, but I would love to hear the story from you.”
Ang took a deep breath. “Well, after we popped out of the lake, the Koru fleet had us surrounded. Haxx had the crazy idea to board one of their ships, then he dove us under to ram another ship, ended up sinking both.”
Brek giggled. “Kiliyi didn’t tell me that part. What happened next?”
“Then one of those monsters came out, used that scream on us. I lost consciousness. When I woke up, they had us loaded onto a wagon. It smelled awful, I think someone was dead in there, the rest didn’t look far from it. We rode for what felt like forever in that stink until we got to their fortress. Then they dragged us through this hall. They had dwarfs and pixies chained up to walls, and I saw pieces of those Black Knights all around. Haxx screamed and fought the whole way.”
“It’s a good thing. Kiliyi told me that’s how Dungii was able to narrow down where you were,” said Brek.
“Yeah, we weren’t there long when I heard scuffling outside. I knew help was on the way. Then Thramuny, Dungii, and Kiliyi busted in to free us. And I couldn’t just leave all those people. I decided we should save everyone, but I don’t feel good about my sister’s biting all those people, some may have been innocent.”
“Yes, a few of whom you brought back had spider bites but nothing Bassinee couldn’t treat. I’m glad you saved all those people. We need all the allies we can get. Seems we will have no choice but to fight.”
“Did you find your parents, were they among the ones we freed?”
“No. No one has seen them yet, but you freed so many. I’m sure there somewhere. Please, continue your retelling.”
“Right, well then we gathered everyone and ran for the whale cloud. But they sent more of those monsters after us. That’s when my uncle and Haxx… they used some powerful magic, and my uncle… it looked like he.”
“Obnenio Colm Sceltdor”
“It’s most likely what Paouni and Haxx used. I’m not sure what the details are. I once overheard Haxx and Aletha argue about it. Haxx used the word forbidden, so obviously I had to know what it was. The only thing I caught is the name, and it’s somehow related to Elucidators. We’ll have to ask Aletha for more specifics.”
“But she swam off somewhere, she seemed really upset.”
“Well, she just lost her father. It has been some time since I last saw her. She loves answering questions, maybe we should go bother her.”
“You sure that’s a good idea?”
“We’ll find out.”
They made their way through the spires and spheres of the city. Despite the recent invasion. The pixie’s of Brexcen worked together with the refugees, graciously opening their homes, and sharing food and resources. The refugees helped with repairs and shared ideas for improvements. It reminded Ang of his own village. Finally, they made it to a crescent-shaped building, with a thin spire on top.
“This is Aletha’s home, though laboratory might be more appropriate.” Brek slowly opened the front door. “Aletha you home?”
“We're in here,” said a voice down the hall.
“Come on, Ang.” He followed Brek through, what looked like an experimental laboratory or rehabilitation zoo. Spheres containing various kinds of life forms, Ang had never seen before lined the walls. The organisms had tentacles, eyes, and amorphous shapes, some looked like shouldn’t be alive, and many had serious deformities or injuries. Fish with diverse colors and vertical strip patterns swam about. They had anglers with hand appendages, protruding from their foreheads, and busily, changed bandages, served food, and provided physical therapy. “Aletha is probably the second most prominent healer after Bassinee. But I think the only reason she isn’t the most prominent is because she prefers to use her talents on anything but pixie’s. She says our anatomy is boring.”
They swam past the creatures and nurse fish to a door that, after seeing the things in the previous room, could be mistaken for something living. Brek ran his finger along the door in a circle, slowly opening it. Within the large bedroom many more creatures in bubbles dotted the space and a few nurse fish, slightly larger and with a darker color scheme than in the previous room, swam about. Isu comforted a sobbing Aletha on top of a large half circle bubble bed.
“Oh, Ang,” said Aletha as she swam to him and held him in a motherly embrace. “I’ve been here sobbing, and yet I’ve given no thought to your ordeal. How are you, child?”
“Thanks Aletha, I’m doing alright, Brek’s been with me.”
“That’s wonderful. I love seeing you two get along. Brek deserves to have a good friend. And I know Brek will take care of those he cares about.”
“I’m glad most of you made it back. Sorry, I didn’t go up with you. I’m sure my cloak would have kept you from getting captured,” said Isu.
“Nonsense Isu, you were invaluable here. I don’t know how I would have gotten rid of the remaining knights without you,” said Brek.
“You both have an inquisitive look. You came here because you want to know more about the magic you saw, correct. Obnenio Colm Sceltdor, I’m sure you’ve heard that name mentioned before Brek,” smirked Aletha. “Well, in order to explain what that magic is, you first have to understand that this world called Obnenio by many is alive. Nenio are the offspring of Obnenio, most every continent and island of this world is actually a Nenio. Colm Sceltdor is the art of communicating with the Nenio. Most can do this on a very basic level. Any magic that influences the minds of others or somehow alters your surroundings is a form of Colm Sceltdor. Elucidators naturally excel at this, but at the cost of having much shorter life spans, until recently. Obnenio Colm Sceltdor is the art of communicating with Obnenio itself. We have attempted it many times, but it was Lysyntri who figured out how to do it. However, she felt the cost was too great, and after the first successful experiment halted any further research on it. Many who took part in the research, including my father Haxx kept working independently. I assisted Haxx with a few tests, but he gave up on it, and forbade me from studying it further.”
“So what exactly does it do?” asked Brek.
“It allows one to communicate with the world itself and ask it for aid. What kind of aid it provides or if it even wants to provide aid is up to Obnenio. Reaching the core of the world is very difficult you must extend your Imdrina channels well beyond their limits, and then further. The first step is to bring all your channels to the surface, then you must return your body to Obnenio, and ride an ethereal stream to the core. Another person can act as an anchor and help facilitate the connection.”
“That’s what I saw happen to my uncle, it looked like he sunk into the ground,” said Ang.
“The spell first turns you into an Elucidator once you start there is no going back,” said Brek.
“Correct once altered your channels can never be set back.”
“So I guess that means Obnenio answered my uncle, that’s good I suppose.” said Ang, a weary smile playing on his lips.
“Look at you, looking at things on the bright side.” Aletha embraced Ang. “That’s right I have something I need to show you this way.”
They walked into the large bedroom and down a short hall. At the end of the hall a bubble sat on an ornate pedestal. It contained a small beige puff ball, with a mushroom on top surrounded by an indusium veil.
“Dungii!?” exclaimed Ang.
“Yes, I surmise he overexerted himself and reverted to this state,” said Aletha.
“Will he come back?” asked Ang.
“Yes, I’m certain. I ran all the tests and there are definitely still signs of life. Almost two lives.”
“You mean Dungii has another creature living in him?”
“No more like a combination of at least two organisms. Chimeras are very rare but they do occur in our world. I have a few in the other room. Normally when a Chimera forms the creatures that compose it are at least both animals or plants. Mammals combine with mammals, birds with birds, plants with plants, and so on. Dungii completely subverts that. What is even more unusual is how complete Dungii’s fusion is. Often you just have the front end of one animal, stuck to the back end of another. With Dungii, it seems the original life forms that now compose him split apart and rearranged in a way that works best for both. Like they meant to do it.”
“Well, I always knew he was something special. I wanted to search for my mother as soon as possible, but I have to wait for Dungii.”
“Yes, that’s right. Paouni said your mother is in Kyxichen, or as we like to call it, The Land Behind the Sea,” said Aletha.
“Where is the Land Behind the Sea, and how do we get there?”
“I know who can help answer that,” said Isu. “Thramuny has been staying with me. She is from Kyxichen. Here I’ll take you to her.”
“Thanks Isu, and thanks Aletha, please take care of Dungii.”
“You have nothing to worry about. I’ll inform you right away when he wakes up.”
“He is in the best place he could be,” said Brek. “Let’s go see Thramuny.”
They swam through the busy city. There were still a few cracks, scratches, and chips in the architecture, but the city still looked brilliant. Finally, they made it to a spire that appeared bland compared to the glowing city around it . One could easily overlook Isu’s home. They went inside to find Thramuny and Eio sparing. Thramuny brandishing her newly acquired weapon Boa.
“Isu you’re back, and you brought the friend boys,” said Thramuny.
Brek and Ang exchanged awkward but amused glances. “Were all just friends Thramuny. You’ve made a fast recovery, you look well,” said Brek.
“The food was toothsome, I appreciate it. Angdraoni, when are we going to look for your mother?”
“Actually, that’s why we’re here, you’re from Kyxichen aren’t you,” said Ang.
“Affirmative, I have not seen my family for a long time. Kyxichen is not like this land. Imdrina flows in abundance, and the living things are much larger and more dangerous. Death is certain and swift for those unfamiliar with the land.”
“Do you know how to get there?” asked Ang.
“No, but Eio can navigate.”
“Kyxichen, is a big place, how are you going to find your mother once you get there,” asked Isu.
“We just have to find an Imdrina signature that’s like mine, we’ll have to wait until Dungii wakes up before we can leave.”
“Eio, also has powerful senses. Additionally, if your mother is there, I’m sure my people would know about it. Once we find them, we can ask if they know her whereabouts. I will be here training, you should do the same.”
“I do need some to practice using my axe.”
“We should ask Clo-Whu for lessons while he’s here,” said Brek.
“I saw him just outside the gate,” said Isu.
“I’ll meet you there Brek I have to grab my axe.” Ang retrieved his axe and met with Brek and Clo-Whu outside the gate. Brek had his tendrils out, with Clo-Whu instructing him on how to infuse them with elemental energy.
“Ang, there you are.Clo-Whu says he would like to inspect your axe.”
Ang gives the axe to Clo-Whu, who curiously inspects it. He then starts rapidly changing colors, the blade of the axe matching him.
“Hue allows you to use the coloring technique. This is perfect. I don’t think you could ask for a better teacher on coloring than Clo-Whu,” said Brek.
Clo-Whu then turns and swings Hue, causing a crescent of energy to erupt from the blade.
“Looks like it also has a special attack. Similar to Splinter, or Sluice, though it seemed much more powerful when Paouni used it. Hue is probably picky about who wields it,” said Brek.
Clo-Whu gives Hue back to Ang, who gives it a swing, but nothing happens.
“It needs time to recharge, but while it charges, you can practice casting with coloring. I’ll continue to translate for Clo-Whu.”
Ang and Brek spent the next few days exploring the city and training with Clo-Whu. After this day's training session, they leisurely strolled back to Bassinee’s house.
“Hey, Brek I just wanted to say thank you for being with me the past couple days. There was no one else my age in my home village, so I’ve never really had someone to just hang out with.”
Brek smiled, more brightly than usual. “The same to you, Ang. You’re my first proper friend.”
“I’ve been wondering about that. You’re always so kind, and you seem to get along well with everyone. Why are you so lonely?”
“The other children don’t want to get near me. They think if they touch me they’ll die, or I’ll steal all their memories and secrets. Silly stuff like that.”
“Well, that’s their loss.” Ang’s smile matched Brek’s.
“Meep meep meep meep!”
“Dungii! You’re awake,” said Ang.
Dungii swam into Ang, tail wagging with delight. Aletha came up behind out of breath.
“Goodness, he’s fast. Well, as you can see, Dungii just woke up and immediately went to find you,” said Aletha.
“Perfect, let’s go tell Thramuny so we can start making preparations to leave,” said Ang.
They swam to Isu’s place to inform Thramuny and Eio, who were eager to depart. After a few hours, they met with everyone outside the gate.
“Clo-Whu says the whales often migrate near there and would be happy to carry you guys most of the way,” said Brek.
“Brek you should come with us,” said Ang.
“Unfortunately, I can’t leave. I have recently come to terms with the fact that I am the only one who knows how to play Crescendo.” He looked away, to hide the hurt.
“I understand, where’s Kiliyi?”
“She’s been with me and don’t think you’re leaving without me. You’ll need an Elucidator out there, and maybe we can recruit more strong fighters like Thramuny.” Vlux swam to the group, with Kiliyi on top of her head, wearing a sack as big as she.
“Yes, it will be good to have Vlux with us,” agreed Thramuny.
They said their goodbyes and hopped on the back of a whale. Making their way to Thramuny’s home, The Land Behind the Sea.