Zev the Unruly: The Master of Throwing Knives had been raised to be a princess of Nose Island. She left all that behind to become a master. Zev was one of the first people Jean met on her travels outside of desert territory. They traveled together for quite some time and became good friends. It was Zev that had suggested to Jean that she should meet Rosebush. The rest was history. Now she was giving the party advice on how best to masquerade as a Djulok. Jean could hardly contain her excitement at being reunited with her friend.
“So, if you say ‘the E’ni are sand pigs’ every now and then you should be…”
“How did you get here, Zev?” Jean asked unable to contain herself.
“Okay, short version. Got to Flockboast, too many bad memories, left. Went north to desert territory with Jacques. Heard about the King of Jul. Couldn’t resist. Heard about a giant worm. What else could I do? Tracked it down. Impersonated a Djulok. Here I am. We’re heading to the King now. Boom Bam.”
“Woah! Nice!” Jean said.
“Whatever did you mean when you said you could not resist the King?” Beardface said with a raised eyebrow. Zev’s eyes flashed.
“Oh, Beardy! Don’t you know my life’s ambition!?” She laughed.
“To dismantle all monarchies.” Jean whispered.
“To dismantle all… Jean!? What the…? You totally stole my…”
“Oi! Who’s making that racket!” said a disgruntled Djulok out of sight.
“These E’ni are sand pigs!” Zev bellowed.
“Huh, must have been nothing.” said the Djulok calmly.
“What of Jacques?” Beardface asked.
“Left him back at E’j. Didn’t really tell him where I was going. Should be alright though.” Zev said nonchalantly. “But, never mind that. I thought I might see you. I recognised a few of the E’ni prisoners. A few that looked just like you.”
“My family! Where are they?” Jean said.
“Come with me.” Zev said.
On their way to the prison a whistling instrument sounded. Djuloks from all over the worm gathered around them and started forming lines. Zev gestured that they should join in. Jean, Beardface, Zev, Peter and Gregor (all adorned in Djulok attire) were standing in line with several dozen other Djuloks. The Djulok commander appeared and started inspecting them one by one. He fiddled with their helmets and straightened their goggles before stopping at Jean.
“Djokstrap!” barked the commander. “I’m rather sure you were a man before.”
“These… E’ni are sand pigs!” Jean said.
“That they are Djokstrap.” He moved on to Beardface.
“That beard is longer than regulation!” he barked.
“It… it belonged to a travelling Mountish giant. I killed it and… I’m wearing its face as a trophy.” Beardface improv-ed. The commander paused.
“Disgusting. No wonder we Djuloks are the bottom of the heap. Three cheers for team last place!” The commander roared. Everyone joined in loudly and proudly and then went silent. He passed Zev, who he’d evidently interrogated before, and moved at the pace of one who didn’t want to interrogate her again. He stopped at Peter and Gregor.
“What the…? Surely you can’t seriously think we’d fall for this?” the commander woofed. Peter and Gregor looked at each other.
“You’re only wearing one shoe! This is a disgrace. What did I do to end up as a Djulok.”
“You were born, Sir.” said a Djulok from the side.
“Right you are!” said the commander. “Sometimes I wonder if these E’ni might be on the right track with the whole – your birth doesn’t determine your fate – thing. If I think about it our system would seem to keep the power in the hands of the powerful and perpetuate a cycle of oppression for centuries to come.” There was some mumbling among the ranks.
“I heard the E’set E’ni get to keep whatever they catch. They don’t have to ship off the best fish to the Nedja like we do.” piped up a random Djulok.
“I’ve got a cousin who’s an E’ko E’ni. He says they can live wherever they like.” said another.
“I met an E’ni once and she didn’t have a single scar!” yelled yet another. Several people gasped in astonishment.
“Get this! I saw an E’ni who didn’t know what a sand worm was. He’d never so much as seen a pile of steaming sand shi…”
“What’s all this!?” spat the commander. “This is treason. If the Nedja heard about this they’d squeal to the Fooj who’d squeal to the Jul’Dori who’d slit our throats and eat our children. Well, maybe not. They’re fussy eaters and our children are probably as disgusting as we are. But, think before you speak, Djuloks. Think of the life we’d be leaving behind. Think of what we have. We’re… the lowest class. We’re… forced to farm, fish and labour for the others. We’re… treated as second-class citizens and dare I say it slaves by our superiors who earned their rank by no means other than the fact that they were born that way… hmm.”
“We’ve got nice goggles though!” said one of the Djuloks.
“Aye. That we do. But, who made those goggles?” the commander asked.
“We did!” the Djuloks shouted in unison.
“Aye. We evidently aren’t worthless. So, should we really be at the bottom?”
“No!” the Djuloks shouted in unison.
“So, what should we do?”
“Cast off our chains and join our E’ni cousins by freeing them from the prison we ourselves threw them in! Following that we’ll rebel against the King and bring down this ill-fated monarchy/caste system!” the Djuloks shouted, rather impressively, in unison.
“Aye! Then let’s free them, brothers and sisters!” the commander shouted. The Djuloks broke ranks and stormed the prison cheering all the while. They just about tore it apart. Jean ran into the mass in search of her family.
“Well, I dare say that went a trifle smoother than I would have expected.” Beardface said. Zev stomped her foot in frustration.
“I had a whole prison break planned!” she said angrily.
Peter and Gregor looked at each other. They shared a grave look. For though they’d had good fortune the Insectines knew that terrible tidings would come. They figured that being this high, this close to the sky just about guaranteed that goodness would prevail. But, it would not be that way for long. They looked fondly on their friend Jean as she was reunited with her family. They burst out of their Djulok disguises and stretched their wings. The brothers watched the sunset together as the giant worm slowed to a halt. As the last rays of light vanished the worm froze solid as a rock. Its glowing yellow eyes dimmed. From a distance it would have appeared to be a lone mountain in the desert. Lone but not lonely, for friends were reunited and prejudices were forgotten on this mountain at least for this night.