Rise and Fall Chapter 2

Escape from the Fire 

Anthony DeLapi, Staff Writer

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To put it in simplest forms, Man has become evil. Man has put his own goals in front of others multiple times to infinity. Man has tortured, abused, and killed his enemies. Our savior, mortem, punished us for killing without reason. Now we must not kill without the clear intention in which the act is permitted and would be approved by mortem. The shamans will be the judges of our courts, and the exporters of mortem’s words. The shamans must be obeyed, for they are a part of mortem. In each city, a shaman must decide all brutal decisions, and if they can be carried out. The shaman’s relationship with mortem is like an apple tree. The tree is the foundation of life, and the apples spread the life throughout the world. The shaman, though not a king, should be respected as one.

Order 2: The Shaman must be respected, obeyed, and listened to, in all situations involving life and death.   

-The Forbidden Texts.

 

              The galloping of the horses on the rough molten ground left a chilled feeling in Sovereign Raza’s spine. Raza only met the Archers once before, and that was when half of them scolded him for coming up with ridiculous ideas. Yet the Archers allowed the Caverns to be made. Yet now the once-allowed peace is being turned into violent troops.  Yet, the Archers only said that they’ll come if there’s a problem. Now they’re here and is sure looks like there is a problem.

              The horses stopped galloping right at the front door at The Manor, and off the horses came off the Archers of the Last Khan. All the Archers wore the same clothing: war armor, made from metal, bone, and flesh, but each was designed specifically for the species wearing it. They all carried weapons of steel and fire in straps and harnesses wrapped on them. There were Five Archers, and each Archer was a different Reptile. There was Argon the Crocodile, Zinc the Iguana, Boro the Turtle, Radon the Chameleon, and Tungsten the Snake.  The Archers walked up to Raza on the steps of The Manor. They looked gray and stressed.

“Greetings Archers of the Last Khan. What brings you to the Caverns,” said Raza, while smiling nervously.

 Tungsten slithered up to the front of the pack and hissed, “Sssoldiersss.”

Zinc intervened, “The Council has decided upon your recommendations. Perhaps we should take this inside?”

Radon jumped in, “Yes, let us go inside for a talk, a chat, a diplomatic conversation. Perhaps over some broth or flies, with a side of blood red liquor?”

 Argon was getting impatient, “LETS STOP TALKING ABOUT IT, AND GET INSIDE ALREADY!”, he bellowed.

 Zinc put a hand on Argon’s tightened back, “Calm yourself Argon. There is no need to get frustrated.”

Boro then tapped on the floor with his cane, “Quite…. right… Let us…. go….. inside…we…will….discuss it… more.”

After the commotion, the Archers entered the Manor. As Raza was walking in front of them, leading them to the dining hall, he heard a strange noise. Clank, Clank, Clank. It sounded like wood smacking against the wall. Raza turned to see it was Boro’s cane was making the sounds. The cane, Raza realized, was made of a human forearm, with a bent hand as the grip. At that moment, Raza felt his worries rise.

Meanwhile in the Tavern, Mozak and Xenon were sitting down in a small table in the corner. Mozak was quietly sipping some soup, while Xenon chewed on some beef.

“The tablets are missing,” said Xenon, “and while they’re secretly hidden, the whole world is running crazy. As if hiding it secretly  brought more attention to the matter”.

“Why are these tablets important. Do they wield magical powers or some dark spirits,” Mozak asked?

 “No, they’re not magical,” Xenon said.

 “Then why are they so important?” Mozak questioned.

 Xenon took a sip from his glass, “The Tablets and the Texts are more than just writings. It is a power. Power of knowledge. These texts represent more than just guidelines, but the natural structure of society. When Mortem destroyed the world, these texts were made by people and beast passed down by generation to generation. Each time someone added something new to the texts, to help the recovery. At first it was just the basic requirements. Then the Shamans came in, and ever since the final writings, the texts have been in the hands of the Drake family. The Drakes knew that this power was important and protected it for all their lives. Now these riders have the texts, and no one knows who they are, or where they are. It’s a giant hunt and were all looking for the prize.”

Mozak was sitting in silence for a second then answered, “What could we do?”

“We have to find the texts first. We then can give them to the people of Ares. They’ll understand and respect the power just like the Drake F amily did. The Zakaz , though they aren’t evil, are mentally corrupt. They lived through so much pain that the only reasonable solution to them, is more pain. Likewise, we must find the riders,” said Xenon.

 Mozak replied, “Find the riders. Find the texts.”

 Xenon answered, “Exactly. Now we should probably start off by….” he was interrupted by Mozak. “Wait. I can’t go with you, I must stay here with my family. If I don’t, we’ll lose the home,” Mozak said anxiously.

“I understand that this is a very big decision to make. And I’m sorry if I’m preaching about the end of the world, but I need to leave tonight. And I can’t leave without your help at least,” Xenon said.

“Why? And why do you need my help?” Mozak said.

Xenon replied, “The Archers, from what I here, are planning to ride of to the West. That is where Ares is, the last hope of society. If the Zakaz get the Texts, and take Ares, the world is gone. And there won’t be any recovery this time. I need your help to retrieve something.”

 “What?” Mozak asked.

‘A long time ago, a friend of mine actually saw and touched the Tablets. She was changed ever since but didn’t say a word about its secrets to anyone, only the Drakes. Sadly, the Archers found her, and killed her. Boro, the over-sized turtle, crafted a cane out of her limbs. But what the Archers don’t know, are that the Shamans are connected in some way. We feel each other, so we can easily spread Mortem’s teachings together. I feel her inside that Manor, and a little bit on her remnants, the power of the Texts lay on them. If we can get the cane, and if I could examine it, then we could know where the Texts are”,  Xenon finished.

Mozak looked at Xenon, as if he lost his mind. “Are you telling me that you want to enter the highly guarded Manor, to steal the cane of Boro, who is a Archer I may add, who uses it to walk?!” Mozak voice raised.

 Xenon replied, “Oh no, not enter, sneak in. And I won’t steal Boro’s cane, no no, he needs it to walk. I’m just going to scan it, and we can leave immediately.”

 The concern didn’t leave Mozak’s face, “It still seems risky. How do we even plan to get inside?”

“Leave it all to me. Are you in Mozak?” Xenon asked.

“I still don’t get it. Why me? Why not someone else with higher prestige or importance? I’m just one peasant of the thousands that has no shine to him compared to the rest. Why me?” Mozak asked Xenon.

Xenon looked at Mozak with a small grin, “Because you fill out all of the requirements that are needed for my quest.”

Mozak sighed, he didn’t know what to think. He wondered why he is helping this person, who he just met that day? His tongue flickered at the mere thought of it. Maybe it was for a reward, that Mozak expected from Shamans. But Shamans aren’t gift-givers, so why is he helping Xenon? Maybe it was just the idea of helping in a great cause, or maybe it was to just get out of the house for once. Mozak didn’t know the exact reason why, but he knew one thing. He wanted to help out. Mozak replied, “Ok.”

Meanwhile, Raza and the Archers were eating in the dining hall. The table was made from a long black rock and was covered in a thin red table cloth. Silverware and cups filled the dinning landscape  and different types of meats and vegetables were spread across the table. The room was lightened by torches, and giant rectangular carved holes in the walls. It was the right place for a Zakaz banquet.

All the Zakaz ate quietly, except Argon, who attacked his food as if it were still alive.

Tungsten broke the silence, “We have been watching thisss place grow ever ssince you sstarted it. And I may ssay, it iss very nicce.”

 Argon lifted a drumstick in the air, “YES! AND THE FOOD HERE IS THE GREATEST OUT OF ALL THE WASTELANDS! I STILL DON’T KNOW HOW YOU DO IT!?”

Raza, “Thank you so much everyone. And I hope you all enjoy the progress were making here.”

Zinc replied, “We are most thankful for your work. With your help, our kind may have a chance a recovering too from the devastation. But times now are tough.”

Radon jumped in, “Oh yes indeed. We finally destroyed the Drake Empire, killed all of the people, burned the city to the ground, but we didn’t find the almighty texts.”

“YES! YES! WE MUST FIND THE TEXTS NOW!” Argon bellowed. Zinc raised his scaly hand to calm Argon down. Argon slunk back into his chair, embarrassed by his yelling.

Tungsten continued, “But you ssee our forcess are becoming bussy of late. We’re trying to fight back the beasts of the shadowss, and the goblinss of the mountainss. We need more ssoldiers for our future campaginss, if we are to continue our mission.”

Boro joined the conversation, “We must… find… the riders… They have… the texts… were… looking… for.”

Radon jumped in again, “Yes the texts. With the texts, we will be able to build our empire more cleanly. As if you can say, they are instructions to civilization.”

Raza, “I know times have been tough recently, but I worry that these Zakaz won’t be good to your cause. They haven’t had any military training, excluding the guards, and know only labor.”

Zinc replied, “That is no worry. We’ll find a way. And besides, we did have that one Zakaz from here who did amazing.”

Argon raised his head in response, “YES! YES! HE WAS FINE SOLDIER BEFORE HE DIED! HE DID GREAT SERVICE TO EVERYONE! BUT WHAT WAS HIS NAME AGAIN?”

“Mulog…Iron…,” Boro answered, “the…miner…to spy…under our…special…forces.”

Raza, “I knew Mulog didn’t come back from the expedition, but his family doesn’t know how he died? His son is now working in the mines.”

 “A sson?” Tungsten replied.

“He said he had no family from the papers. What did you do, sign off without looking at it?”, Zinc said agitated.

 Raza said alarmed, “No no, I would have definitely looked at it, but he told me he had direct orders from  you that everything should be secret.”

“LIAR! WE TOLD HIM TO TELL YOU WHAT HE WAS DOING, SO HIS FAMILY WOULD KNOW!” Argon said while pounding his fist on the table.

“Enough Argon”, Radon commanded, “I see there must have been a misunderstanding between all of us. Mulog has some shady history we see now, and maybe it was good for him not to come back from the mission. But he did his time and helped us greatly. But I now believe his family should be informed about his cause of death.”

 “How…so?” said Boro.

 “By betraying the one thing that makes us all humane, our hearts,” Radon explained. Zinc, “I agree. And I believe the family should now be put under watch. If the father is suspicious, then maybe his son will also be. All in favor?”

“Aye,” said all the Archers.

During the conversation, a quiet little Gecko maid came up to Boro. “Excuse me kind sir. Would you like me to clean your staff. It looks mighty dirty, and I could give it a good scrubbing?” the maid asked.

Boro looked happy by the gesture, “Why… of course… little one… But please… do… be… careful.”

The maid replied, “Oh I’ll be extremely careful. When I’m back it’ll sparkle like the stars.” The maid scurried off with Boro’s cane into the halls. Turning down one hall, the maid ran into a cloaked figure.

The maid took off his clothes. “Alright let’s hurry,” Mozak said.

 “Put your disguise back on!” Xenon whispered as loud as he could. Mozak quickly put back on his disguise, while Xenon scanned the cane. Xenon waved his hand over the cane, and out of the cane came bright blue sparks. Xenon grabbed the sparks, and they vanished into thin air.

 “Alright. Return this to Boro, and we’ll get out of here,” Xenon said. Mozak grabbed the cane and returned to the dining hall. When arriving, Mozak saw the Archers having an argument.

“We are NOT going to kill them,” Zinc commanded.

“WHY NOT! LIKE YOU SAID, THE SON CAN’T BE TRUSTED. MULOG IS DEAD, AND SO HIS SON SHOULD BE KILLED!” Argon yelled. Raza was sitting there in defeat.

 Tungsten blocked off Argon’s banter, “Enough Argon. We will not kill the boy. But we will interrogate him. Maybe the father ssomehow got to hiss sson before dying. Maybe he told him about what he ssaw.” Mozak was so confused, that he was literally frozen in place. What is happening? What did my father see?

 Raza tried to jump in too, “I do apologize for one of my citizen’s actions, and I will send the guards to get him at his home at once.” Mozak felt his heart stop.

“Thank you, Raza. But we will be in charge of this family’s interrogation. You will have no power in this situation,” Radon said. Raza silently shook his head in acceptance. Raza thought about what was happening now. This was out of his control, and the Archers are so close to shutting him down now. He knew the family a little bit, a bit odd in his opinion, but he knew he could do nothing now to help them.

Tungsten then broke Raza’s thinking with his statement, “Raza, you will take uss now to the home,” Raza agreed.

“Miss,” Boro asked? Mozak was standing frozen the whole time.

“Miss,” Boro asked again?Mozak broke from his trance to see Boro standing straight at him during the conversation. Mozak felt his heart was about to pop out of his chest by this discovery.

“I’m so sorry sir. Here is your cane, I cleaned it to the best of my ability,” Mozak said in his maid voice.

“Yes…it looks… very nice now… Thank you…,”Boro said. Mozak nodded and walked away. When he turned the corner, he was sprinting to Xenon.

“We have to hurry. The Archers are coming for my family. We need to go now!” Mozak said while sprinting with Xenon down the hall.

“Ok. I know where we can take them, but do you think they can handle the walk?” Xenon asked.

“I think it will be better for them, rather to be interrogated by those Archers,” Mozak said while running.

The Archers and Raza were walking to the front door. Mozak and Xenon were running down the opposite halls to the front door. They were both heading to the same exit.  As Mozak and Xenon saw them, they froze. They didn’t see them, and they climbed out one of the hole windows. Mozak and Xenon snuck through the bushes and ran down the streets to the house.

As the Archers walked down the steps to the horses, Tungsten smelt something. Something familiar. Something evil. He smelt the air all around, and when he realized what he was smelling, he stopped in his tracks.

“What is wrong Tungsten?” said Zinc. Tungsten shocked face turned to anger.

“SSHAMAN!” Tungsten hissed.

“WHAT?!” Argon roared.

 “I ssmell him, he’s going to the house,” Tungsten said furiously.

“Call the guards Raza. All of them!” Radon commanded.

“QUICKLY! TO THE HOUSE! BURN IT DOWN!” Argon said as he jumped onto his horse and rode off. While the rest of the Archers and the guards got on their horses, Boro looked at his cane.

“Come on Boro!” said Zinc. Boro examined his cane very carefully, and then he realized something.

 “He.. didn’t…. clean … my cane. The boy… forgot,” Boro said.

“What boy?”  said Radon.

Boro looked up to his Archer comrades, “Mozak.”

Mozak and Xenon were running as fast as they could to the house, but they heard a horse scream behind them. It was Argon, he was getting closer to them by the minute. He had his weapon aiming right at them, a jagged spear with poison tips. Argon rode faster on the horse, he was furious. “Intruders. Slime. How dare he come back after what they did to us, and why would the son betray his kind. Like father like son,” Argon thought in his head, as he got closer to Xenon and Mozak.

Mozak was scared, but he knew if he stopped running, he, Xenon, and his whole family would perish. Xenon was thinking the same thing, only that it was on a larger scale to him. Xenon knew that if he died their hope is gone, but if Mozak died their hope would also be gone. Then he realized something. What about the family? Xenon was disgusted by the mere thought of it, sacrificing another life for his own, but in the fate of the world, would it be worth it?

Xenon decided what he must do; he must lure the Archers away from the home so Mozak could get his family. He would then distract the Archers and get out of there anyway way he could. He could then meet with Mozak outside the Caverns.

 Xenon yelled to Mozak, “Keep going!”

Mozak was confused, “What?”

Xenon yelled again as he stopped, “Don’t stop! Get your family out of here! I’ll meet you outside!” Xenon then began to run right toward Argon’s path. Mozak, both scared and confused, ran as fast as he could to the house.

Argon was surprised by Xenon’s change of course but continued forward. As Argon was about to pierce Xenon in the chest, Xenon blocked it with a magical shield. The impact threw Argon off his horse, and Xenon to the ground. Argon got back up, he grabbed his spear, and began to swing at Xenon. Xenon dodged the attacks, while fighting back the best he could with his fists and power. Xenon zapped Argon with his electric hands, but that only enraged Argon. Argon continued to mow through Xenon’s attacks, until Argon was able to cut Xenon right down the shoulder. The cut was thin, but bleeding quickly. Xenon felt his skin burn; there was poison on that spear. Xenon did the only thing left he could do, he fled. Xenon through dust at Argon, which became thick as fog. Xenon ran as fast as he could to the giant rocky walls of the Cavern. He jumped up onto a rock, and ran into the dark abyss, to escape into the night. When Argon regained his sight, Xenon was gone. Argon was about to scream, but he noticed Mozak still running to the house. Then the Archers were coming up now too.

“The wizard can wait. The traitor must be dealt with,” Argon said to himself as he got back onto his horse and rode with the Archers to catch the son.

Mozak was still running, not realizing that all the Archers were getting closer to him.

 He began to scream to the house, “Get out! Run!” but there was no response. Maybe he was too far, or nobody was listening, but Mozak felt his words said nothing in this situation. The words were as thin and light as air, even though he was screaming them. The words would have no effect. Mozak was conflicted on his actions at that moment. Then, out of blink of an eye, something flew right over Mozak right at the house. The object exploded, and the house was engulfed in flame. Mozak stopped, he froze, then without a second to think, and with the Archers coming right at him, he jumped into the lava. But before he could fall in, he grabbed at jagged rock, and remained hidden. Mozak saw the Archers looking over where he jumped and walked away. Everything happened so fast, and Mozak had no idea how to react.

Mozak was still quiet, as he slowly peeked his head over to see what happened. His house was destroyed, and the culprit was a Fire-Sword in Zinc’s hand. Some Guards came down and watered down the fire. Mozak knew he couldn’t do anything now, he needed to escape. He climbed the edges of the cliff until he reached the dark walls of the Cavern. Once there, Mozak saw burnt corpses being dragged out of the house. Mozak, still shocked, kept going. Finally, he reached the entrance to the outer world. Mozak never been really outside the Caverns before, but he didn’t feel any worry, he was still frozen.

As Mozak got outside, he realized it was already night. The dark sky was lit by a single white moon, that glowed throughout the land. Mozak saw the world better know, better than what he saw in the Caverns. The land was rocky and full of sand. In the West, there was a large mountain, surrounded by tall trees. To the East, there was a vast Desert, and a glimpse of a sea in the distance. As Mozak took this all in, he didn’t realize that Xenon was standing right beside him.

“Where is your family?”  Xenon asked.

Mozak looked surprised to see Xenon standing beside him, and then realized his arm was bleeding. “Are you okay? You’re bleeding?” Mozak asked.

“No”, Xenon said, “the spear was poisoned. I need to heal it, or I will die. Come, we must go to my hideout. It isn’t far from here.” They went down the rocky slope into the vast landscape, when Mozak remembered something.

 “Where is your family?” repeated multiple times in Mozak’s head, started to break him down step by step.

 Xenon then asked again concerned now, “Mozak. Where is your family?” Mozak now realized what happened, he was not frozen anymore. He began to tear up and started to fall as he began to cry. Xenon, seeing this, immediately went over to him and hugged him.

 “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” Xenon said as he soothed Mozak in his arms, rocking him back and forth. Xenon was right though, a sacrifice was made for their escape, but was it worth it? They now continued down the slope more quietly now, as they walked along the valley.

The Archers returned to The Manor, steaming with rage.

“RAZA!” Argon screamed.

Raza came in running. “What’s wrong, you weren’t able to get them?” Raza asked.

Tungsten hissed at Raza, “Yesss. Razza, we didn’t get either the sson or the Sshaman. We are very dissssapointed in you.”

“Oh I’m so sorry, please! I didn’t know the Shaman was here, or I would’ve had him killed immediately,” Raza pleaded.

Zinc jumped in now, “Exactly. It seems one of your Guards, allowed a Shaman to enter the Caverns. Which would be understandable, but the Guard knew. He knew it was a Shaman! And that can’t go by so easily. First Mulog’s suspicious activity, then your Colony’s failing efforts, and now pure-blooded Shaman on the grounds! AND ESCAPED! I believe the Council has come up with a conclusion to our inspection.”

 Radon concluded, “Yes. Sovereign Raza, you are now under-arrest, and your Colony’s passive attributes are now over. The Colony is now under the direct control of the Archers, and your Guard will be beheaded for his crimes.” The Guards then grabbed Raza and took him away to the Prison in the Waste Lands. Raza was scarred, but not shocked. Somehow, he knew something like this might happen. It would only be a matter of time

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