One year before Jack was rescued. In fact, soon after he was left behind.
In the Ocean
“Woah there, Chang!” The giant jellyfish slowed to a halt. Siphokazi bent over the side and picked up a familiar straw hat.
“It’s definitely Dojima’s. He must be nearby.” Sure enough, within a few minutes they found him treading water.
“Took you long enough!” Dojima yelled. “I’m soaked to the bone! And this one’s been asleep the whole time. Kids these days!” He floated over to the jellyfish ungracefully, his cloak splayed out over the water making him look like a bearded oil slick.
“Did you see Jack?” Siphokazi called as they approached.
“No.” Dojima spluttered as he climbed aboard the Jellyfish (something he was not at all comfortable with) “But, I’ve got this one.”
He pulled Oblibli out of the water.
“By my whiskers!” Felix exclaimed.
“I know!” Dojima said as he put his hat back on. “She’s a bloody layabout!”
“Do you know who this is?” Felix said as he poked Oblibli incredulously.
“Her name’s Oblibli. I think she’s a wizard’s assistant or something.” Dojima said
“Assistant, you say?” Felix smiled smugly. “Well, we can get on with introductions later right now we’ve got to…”
Chang’s tentacles shot out of the water and grabbed each of them tightly.
“What’s the meaning of this”
“Chang, what’s wrong?” Felix said. But, before they could say another word Chang dived under the water. They struggled within his tentacular grip. The sinewy muscles were too strong for them to pry themselves free. Siphokazi noticed that Felix wasn’t struggling. Instead, he was looking up at the surface of the water. There was something like a wave approaching. A powerful wall of force. It shunted over their heads and they could feel the pressure of the blast as it passed just above them. It rapidly dissipated and the choppy ocean began to calm again. Chang let them go and surfaced.
“Thank you, Chang.” Felix said.
“What was that?”
“It would have been the end of us.”
“Glubglubblug!” Oblibli said.
“Whatever it was, it doesn’t bode well.” Siphokazi could see that Felix was disturbed. “Get comfortable. We must hurry to the Desert.”
In the Desert
Zev couldn’t breathe. She’d gulped the last bit of air that had made it into the hole with her. She strained her muscles but the sand was too heavy. There was a rustling underneath her. It was the sand worm trying to get to the surface. It squeezed past her with its hundreds of tiny legs. She felt the sand compact her face as the worm pushed from below. As it curved around her and moved onward she clutched it in a death grip. The worm didn’t seem to notice and carried on to the surface. She emerged right behind it and volcano-ed the sand out of her lungs. She gagged and gasped and shook the sand from her ears. All around her the sand worms were emerging. She saw a few people ambling around. Where were the others? She saw a hand in the sand waving about frantically. She dove for it and pulled on it hard. A young Nedja emerged.
“Help the others!” Zev said breathlessly. He seemed dazed but nodded nonetheless. There were dozens of people, some of them helping others, some of them half-buried in sand, some of them lying motionless. Zev spotted something unmistakably orange sticking out of the sand. She yanked on the clump of rectangular hair. After a few good pulls Beardface sprouted out of the sand.
“So, this is what carrots perceive?” Beardface said meaningfully between sand coughs.
“This is no time to be deep.” Zev said. “We’ve got to find Jean!”
“Jean!” Beardface yelled and jumped to his feet. He sprang into action, heaving person after person out of the sand. He cried “Jean!?” every time he pulled someone out and then flung them aside as he dashed for the next one. Zev hopped on top of a wandering sand worm for a better view. A red creature in the distance caught her eye.
“Peter!” she exclaimed. She called to Beardface and ran over. Peter was in terrible shape. The blast had blown him right out of the sky. His wings were shredded into pieces. But if we was in pain he wasn’t showing it. He was digging frantically in the sand. Beardface and Zev didn’t need more of a hint than that. The three dug and dug as if possessed. It wasn’t long before the sand they unearthed was stained blood red. They found Jean shivering, but it wasn’t cold. Her bandages were saturated and her vibrant violet E’ni was stained the same painful red colour. Peter took one look at her glazed eyes and unleashed a high-pitched squeal that rose to a note beyond hearing. Beardface and Zev hesitated. She looked so fragile as if touching her would only do her more harm. Beardface gingerly put his hands beneath her and Zev moved away the last bits of sand. She shook and groaned as he lifted her up slowly. Peter tried to flap his wings but they were in tatters. Jean reached towards him and he scurried over to her. She made strange sounds that neither Beardface nor Zev had ever heard before. Peter seemed to understand. She passed out a few moments later. Zev ran to the nearest sand worm and corralled it towards them.
“We’ve got to meet up with the E’ni.” Zev said.
“If they’ve been struck as we have by that foul blast, I fear their predicament will be much the same.” Beardface said.
“We can’t just hang around.” Zev said.
While she tried to determine the best way to fasten Jean to the sand worm a deep and distant rumbling resounded. It was a loudness that vibrated your internal organs and untied your shoelaces.
“Oh, what next?” Zev said.
“Fear not, for this rumble comes to our aid.” Beardface said.
Peter and Gregor were children. Beardface and Zev didn’t know that. They figured it out when a full grown Insectine landed in front of them.
“Aaaaaaaaaah!” said pretty much everyone within view of the giant creature. Beardface and Zev stayed very still as Peter conversed with the huge being. It was halfway between the size of a Giant Sand Worm and a Land Whale. It seemed to gather the gist of the situation quickly. It reached a huge leg down and delicately lifted Beardface, Zev, Peter and Jean onto its head. Then in a huge sweeping motion it lifted everyone in the close vicinity onto its back, including the sand worms. Then it blasted off west, towards the E’ni.
In the Air
It didn’t take long for them to find the E’ni. Gregor came flying over and landed on the Giant Insectine’s head. He looked on Peter’s tattered wings with disdain but Peter was too busy spinning web bandages to pay him any mind. Gregor just about jumped out of his chitin when he saw the state Jean was in. Beardface had gone to the Insectine’s back to look for anyone with healing knowledge. Zev was right at the front of the creature’s head looking at the E’ni below. They dotted the landscape haphazardly. The blast had blown their ranks apart and scattered them into the wind. The Giant Insectine peered downwards upon the battered E’ni and sang a low note that shook the mandibles of those closest. Then one by one hundreds of Peter and Gregor-sized Insectine started detaching from the Giant one’s underbelly. They broke away and started diving towards the surface. They plucked the E’ni off the ground until there wasn’t one left and the sky was full of flying Insectine and squealing E’ni.
In the Mountain City E’j
A building teetered precariously in the wind. The blast had shattered its foundations. With each passing moment it drew nearer to collapse. A strong gust of wind whipped around the mountain and caught its broadside. It was enough. There was a crack and then many more and the building started to fall forward. There were screams as those below it tried to dash for safety. But the building was falling so fast. Then time stopped, or at least it appeared to as the building froze in midair.
“Run!” cried Jacques the Scarred. His whip was wrapped around the tattered building. It wouldn’t hold for long. Long enough for innocents to get out of the way, mind you. When he saw the last person dash, Jacques let go. It landed with a crash and broke apart upon the face of the mountain. Jacques caught his breath and nursed his shoulder which felt like it had been wrenched out of its socket. His back still hurt from where he’d landed on the rocks when the blast hit. He didn’t have time to wonder what it was since more cracks and yells in the distance demanded his attention. He wrapped his whip around one of the trees and swung towards the commotion.
He ended up swinging to where the mountains met the coast. A number of buildings had been blown clear into the sea. There were dozens of E’set E’ni fishing boats launching into the sea to come to the rescue. Jacques watched as a large building caved in on itself and started to roll down the mountain. He flew along the mountains towards it. Although it hadn’t been particularly large it had been high up. It toppled over and crashed into a lower building and was starting a rock slide. The debris would land on the coast and crush the rescue boats. He shot out his whip and caught a massive chunk of debris. He flipped it over and swung it into the ocean. But, it wasn’t enough. There was too much debris and it was growing in size as it crashed down the mountain side. He stood in front of the incoming wave, not knowing what to do. There was a large building, only partly damaged by the blast beside him. It was sturdy. It would hold if he would. He started lashing his whip at its foundations. With each strike they disintegrated a bit more, a bit more. When he was satisfied he wrapped his whip around the top of the building and pulled with all his might. The building crashed down in the path of the rock slide. The first few chunks of debris hit it and didn’t make a dent. But then the first building impacted, knocking it back to the cliff edge. Jacques dove behind the building and put his hands to it. As the debris rained down on the building it was nudged closer and closer to the edge. Some E’ni saw what he was doing and joined him. They pushed and pushed as the weight increased. Jacques could feel his entire body groaning under the weight of the debris. The pain in his back was becoming especially sharp. He could feel blood running down his skin.
There was a flash behind him. Suddenly extra pairs of hands appeared next to his.
“Siphokazi!?” Jacques shouted.
“Correct.” Siphokazi said.
“Let’s put a stop to this rock slide shall we!” Felix said as he jumped over Jacques’s head and towards the rocks. There was a brief moment where Felix was just a blur. When he went back into focus and landed on Dojima’s head the huge debris had been reduced to pebbles.
Jacques and the others let go of the collapsed building.
“Felix!” Jacques cried. “We’ve got to… uh… we’ve got to help those that got blown into the sea!” He was breathless and faint.
“On the contrary.” Felix said as Dojima approached with him atop his hat. “The sea is the only place where it is safe anymore.”
“I don’t understand.” Jacques said. As if in answer, the earth started to shake and rumble and chunks of wreckage fell down towards them. It was as if the mountain itself was coming apart.
“I’ll explain everything when we get a chance but for now we must help everyone get to the sea.”
“There’s no need.” Oblibli said. “Allow me.” Her eyes flashed green.
See the light, see through the dark
Make the blurry appear stark
Vision of each everything
On this quest I will embark
When she finished the incantation her eyes grew in size and began to glow.
“I need to see everyone.” Oblibli said and then her eyes darted around at an insane speed. Jacques became dizzy just by looking at her.
“Focus!” Siphokazi cried. “More comes!” So, while Oblibli focused on the people below, the others destroyed and deflected the incoming debris.
“My bō wasn’t made for this!” Dojima grumbled as he shattered a wall.
“Nor was my spear.” Siphokazi said as she sliced a table in twain.
“Her eyes are unsettling.” Jacques said, gazing back at Oblibli.
“Look out!” Felix cried. A huge rock slide was approaching and it didn’t look friendly or rather it did. But when a rock slide is in the mood for a hug its time to reconsider your relationshi…
“I see them!” Oblibli whispered and the she spake:
I would travel with haste
That exceeds the taste
Of the quick-footed
And the past paced
Bang! The entire city of E’j lit up like a fireworks display as each and every person was teleported away. Where is away, you ask? About 10 metres above the ocean. They all remained silent as they hovered in mid air for a moment.
“You couldn’t have teleported us a little lower?” Dojima said. And then the entire population of E’j give or take a few people and a cat belly-flopped into the ocean.
In a New World
The Insectine flew off into the distance. The E’ni were busying themselves strapping boats and buildings together, forming make-shift rafts out of the flotsam. Felix, Beardface, Zev, Dojima, Jacques, Siphokazi, Oblibli and Chang looked on the ruins of the Mountain city of E’j. Jean was sleeping peacefully in a pool of what was probably healin waters.
“What does all of this mean?” Jacques asked.
“A new age. None can say what it will hold for us.” Beardface said.
“We can be certain of what will become of the Land. Under Immolon’s reign none will be safe. Death and destruction will spread like fire. The Land will be wiped clean.” Oblibli said.
“Then we’ll have to find a new home.” Zev said nonchalantly.
“It seems the E’ni have already begun building.” Siphokazi noted.
“The askits never relent.” Felix said to himself, then he turned to the others. “Friends. The Oceans have opened their arms wide to welcome us while the Land prepares for a winter where nothing will survive. I will bring others to the Sea before Immolon’s foul destruction claims them. I will protect them with all my strength. If they fall I will raise them. If Immolon claims them I will claim them back. I will need your help. I cannot make it alone.”
“Make what?” Siphokazi said, feeding him the cue.
“A New World.”
“What of our Quest? What of Valiant?” Jacques asked.
“The Weapon Age is over.” Felix said.
“Hey!” Jean coughed. The others rushed to her.
“Jean, are you alright!?” Beardface said anxiously. The exhausted Jean looked at him tiredly and pointed upwards.
“Why’s the moon so big?”