By Mykee Steen
Copyright 2017 Mykee Steen
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. No part of this book may be used to found a religion or any other organization that promotes a tribal schism among lifeforms.
For my brother Tom, who helped me plant the seed for this story and allowed me to prune it to my liking.
The Lay of Schinderling
1. Vlack sta Tinyonk
2. O Journeae Beginiks
3. Sta Prim Hovoos
4. Celote Schin
5. Ol Zhong sta Ish
6. Eville Huffut
7. Skeo Vishnish?
8. Don SchinGaerd
9. Ol Paschre, Ol Ling
10. Tradonik ift Taust?
11. Ol Tralith Fandanad
12. Eduligs sta Schul
13. Don Aziack
14. Dalzhong Slaod
15. Ol Boborik Vinod
16. Yonk sta Tin Flugal
17. A Merchant’s Account in Schinderlingslyvokiaslyvania
18. Beshende don Nihone
19. Maeylak Boborik
20. O Prim Luos
21. Vucas, Stunos, ta Sesand
23. Jan, Ol Krundek Eduligling
24. Mahzia Schulyun
25. Nakto Tse, Nakto Hamde
26. Plintres, Krun sta Gorasch
27. Machehoovos ta Woojwas
28. Yen Dat San Krun Gla sta Gunsas
29. Eret sta Ol Derso Schinderling?
30. Ol SchinGaerd Vlack
31. Kor San Erek Dashlong
32. Schulling Eville
About the Author
h1()=. The Lay of Schinderling
There came a time when Eville overpowered good
And war was waged where peace once stood
There was an attempt to restore order
But Eville crossed from the border
All you could hear was the painful cry
Of tortured creatures about to die
Upon this land darkness did fall
Yet Schinderling blood was spilled to save us all
In Europe there exists a small country by the name of Schinderlingslyvokiaslyvania (*Shin-dur-ling-sliv-ak-ee-ah-sliv-ane-ee-ah). It is told and widely believed in this land that the blood of the Schinderling family is not just royal, but also divine. Their creation story tells that some time before the S.S.S. Kingdom emerged as a nation there was a small clan that first carried the Schinderling name. Four brothers led this nomadic group, travelling and seeking justice by what they perceived to be natural and right in the world, and not by what any gods or kings told them to do.
In their travels looking for a place to rest for the night, the clan came upon a village that was under siege by a vehement monster. The four brothers engaged this mountainous creature and fought the beast to the outskirts of the village, suffering many serious injuries along the way. They kept striking the beast but it would not cease. Finally, they received assistance, but from an unknown source. A bright flash appeared and a figure fell from the stars. It took the form of something between a man and a bird, and then with a magnificent green staff of stone it gave the daemon one swift, heavy blow. The beast shattered into dust and rose to the skies. Afterwards, the mysterious hero turned to the four brothers, slit its own finger, and touched its bleeding extremity to a wound of each brother, making contact between their blood and its own.
Then it said, “I must not continue to make appearances in this world. I have now bequeathed unto you a tremendous power to abolish evil beings, much like the one you have just encountered. It is appropriate that you have the strength to match your courage. All of your children and the ones they share blood with will have this gift. Live well.”
With that, the incognito being shot back up into the sky, creating another flash of light, and returned from whence it came.
Though this makes for a great tale, much of the world thinks of it as arrogant banter to boost the egos of the Schinderlings. But the family has always been shrouded in mystery, keeping to their castle in their secluded land, ever causing the common person to wonder. Wonder that is, until recently.
Samoht and Leahcim Schinderling were running through the halls of their extensive home. Their caretakers tried to contain them, but they could not corral the five and ten-year-old princes playing a game of hide-and-go-seek within a castle so vast. Samoht, the elder brother, came running heavily around a corner and paused. He was just about to pull the curtain to a large outer window when yelling was suddenly heard down the hall. Samoht turned to listen to the raised voices. Leahcim jumped out of the curtain in an attempt to scare his brother, and was confused to see Samoht looking in the other direction. The five-year-old listened too.
The boys crept into the hallway beside the Schinderking’s Meeting Chamber and rested their hands on the ancient, stone doorway. From this vantage point, the two youngest heirs witnessed the argument between their mother and father. Mahlonik, the Schinderking, yelled through his thin accent. They spoke English, given that the boys’ mother, Jan, was American. Both were swarthy in appearance, but their mother’s skin was much darker, pointing to her upbringing on a Sioux reservation. They stared at each other with passion and pleading respectively, their pupils lost in the darkness of their irises amid the light of the fireplace.
“This is the only way to ensure the safety of my country. I have that responsibility!” Mahlonik screamed.
“Yes, but the production of these weapons will not ensure safety, it will invite danger.” said Jan.
“We have the right to defend ourselves… and attack if necessary.” The Schinderking said becoming more frustrated.
“I am your queen, Mahlonik, but I strongly advise against this. You already have a strong military. I know from my time as an ambassador to this country that the U.S. and U.K. will see this as an immense threat. Diplomacy with them will be more difficult than ever, this IS NOT WISE!!!”
The Schinderking slapped his wife across the face and she fell to the floor.
He spoke through his teeth, “I don’t need permission from another nation to run my own properly. If you are going to uphold your allegiance to those imperialists, you might as well depart from my soil!”
Jan stared at the floor watching the drops of blood and tears fall on the crimson carpet, becoming lost, like her love and respect for her husband. She stood, grabbed a staff from the pendent rack on the wall and swung upward, catching the Schinderking under his chin. He staggered back and fell on the table in the center of the great chamber. Mahlonik looked up at Jan surprised.
She spoke, “That is the best idea you’ve had in my time of knowing you. I [_am _]leaving, and I am taking what is [_mine _]with me!”
Jan was about to turn but stopped and faced Mahlonik again, suddenly quite collected, “For the sake of your people, I still urge you to heed my advice. Only small men must shout to the world that they are large.”
Jan walked to the archway where she caught sight of her sons. Her hand quickly shot up to her mouth where she stifled a gasp. She knew that what they just witnessed would be with them forever. She then knelt to their level and took their small, tan hands into her larger brown palms.
Jan tried to smile as she spoke,“Run along and pack your favorite things into your backpacks, okay boys? Daddy is making this country a bad place, and we are going to live where Mommy’s from.”
“You mean the Great Plains?” Samoht asked, excited but still stiff from shock.
Jan touched the sides of the boys’ faces, “Yes, now hurry along.”
The boys scurried down the hall and were soon gone around the corner. The Schinderking in a moment came out of the chamber and supported himself on the archway, still dizzy from the blow he received.
“You cannot take my children from me. “ Mahlonik said.
Jan turned back and her gaze looked beyond him. She lifted her chin, pointing down the hall with it. “I’m not taking them all.”
Mahlonik looked down the hall and saw his three other children from his previous marriage. Sanid, Viktis, and Craigor had been attracted by the commotion also, and now stood with curious pale faces in the dimly lit corridor. Sanid, the eldest who was well into her twenties, gripped her battle staff and looked on Jan suspiciously. The three of them never quite welcomed Jan into the place their own mother left open when she died. But Jan wouldn’t be a problem for them much longer.
In silence, Jan turned away from Mahlonik for the final time and disappeared into the network of hallways. Mahlonik wiped the blood from his face and stood up straight.
“You can’t take them!!! You mustn’t!!!” Mahlonik yelled, his voice ringing through the halls and slowly falling still among the stones.
11 years later a mansion floated in the sky above the Badlands of South Dakota. Jan had inherited the odd abode from her inventor father, and it suited her goal of her family’s anonymity. The house sat upon a large mass of rock and dirt that hovered due to a machine deep within the structure that used magnetism to oppose the force of gravity. A plethora of greens surrounded the home in an abundant garden, and many more plants filled the greenhouse connected to the house proper. The sunlight reflected off of the shiny metal side panels of the mansion, always telling passing airplanes of its presence. Despite the roaring wind at this height, voices could be heard from one of the lower levels in the kitchen area.
“Oh, come on!” said Leahcim.
“No, it would not be proper for me to let you do this!” said Jan.
“Mother, I don’t care about proper. No one is going to judge you for letting me go on a little trip around the globe.”
“Little?” Jan said.
“And besides, Mom. Since when did you ever care what people think of you?”
Jan looked at Leahcim with a stern frown, raising her voice, “Leahcim, I’m not having this conversation again. Just drop it. I’m not going to change my mind. I have too much going on right now to be worrying about you in places I can’t protect you!” Jan said as her phone rang. Jan’s dark eyes looked back up from her phone and she pointed her finger at her son who was a full head taller, “Drop it. I mean it.” Jan then took a deep breath and walked out of the kitchen to answer her phone.
Leahcim was perturbed by the phone call his mother had received. He was used to it by now, for her work as a U.S. Senator often followed her home, but this time it had given her an excuse to shut him down right when he felt he was about to reach her.
Leahcim grabbed an apple squeezing it as hard as he could, digging his light brown thumb into its green skin. A little juice now ran down his hand. Feeling warm in his head, Leahcim walked out of the kitchen going down the hallway that led to the main entrance of the mansion and took the circular staircase upward to the higher levels. After climbing two stories he turned down the hall that faced north and walked into the first room on the left. Even though he had been secluded, walking to the front door, or anywhere in the house for that matter, had provided him with enough exercise to make a cardio routine quite unnecessary.
He sat down at his desk and turned on his laptop, then reached in one of the drawers and pulled out the proposed itinerary for the upcoming trip. Leahcim had always dreamed of being able to travel and observe different ways of life. He spent most of his free time reading books about different countries and learning other languages. He was bilingual to begin with due to his S.S.S. roots; however, the language that originated there, known as Lingskeo, had not been widely spoken for a while. By the time Leahcim was born, the royal family predominantly spoke English because of trading and diplomatic reasons, and most of the country followed the Schinderking with full faith. One would have to venture into the more rural parts and find a village to encounter a person who still used Lingskeo as their first and only language. So Leahcim had only retained basic phrases and understanding of his native tongue. However, through study he became proficient in a few other European and Asian languages, and on the whole he could reconstruct his understanding of Lingskeo if need be.
Leahcim’s older brother, Samoht, would not be glad to hear their mother hadn’t been swayed in regards to the trip. Samoht had been inventing for years but he was barely making it through his engineering credits in college because his unorthodox ways of thinking were considered insane. He was seen as a bit of a mad scientist, but Leahcim knew his brother to be a true genius. With little progress through conventional schooling, Samoht decided to travel the world and observe how technology could and should be applied to better civilization. All Samoht wanted to do was introduce new technological ideas that would ensure the security and sustainability of mankind. So he planned a trip across the planet in hopes of finding something that could point him in the right direction. Samoht would be traveling through different countries, and since his own brother was a bit of a polyglot, he thought bringing Leahcim along would be a great idea.
Leahcim gladly accepted the invitation, but getting their mother to agree had proven to be the biggest odyssey of it all. Leahcim was beginning to think it wasn’t going to happen at all. But he knew that he had to stay hopeful, and if he pretended it was going to happen, it surely would.
He opened a browser on his computer and started to search the countries they wanted to pass through as well as the major cities. The duration of the trip was to be about six months, which is why school was part of the concern with his mother. Leahcim wasn’t worried though; he could travel for two years and begin college with people his own age, which he preferred to do.
Leahcim brought up a map of Europe, tracing the beginning of this quest. Their first stop would be London, England. He zoomed in closer to the mainland and caught sight of the borders that signified the territory of Schinderlingslyvokiaslyvania. He wasn’t sure if they would be passing through, and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to do so. Leahcim had mixed feelings about his homeland. He knew his father loved Samoht and him, but he was distant, literally. Leahcim had always used the excuse that his father was too busy running a country to worry about how he did on exams or to talk to him about the birds and the bees. Leachim didn’t take great interest in the S.S.S. Kingdom either. Aside from being a member of the royal family, there was nothing very exciting to note about the country. There wasn’t much that was unique about their culture aside from Lingskeo as a language and the many legends told about the Schinderling family, which to be honest, made it sound as if they were gods. Leahcim never liked thinking of himself as being better than other human beings. If the Schinderlings were ever truly deity-like, they had lost whatever made them so praiseworthy.
Leahcim felt a rumble and heard the familiar roar of his brother’s flying vehicle. It was an SUV that was given a few adjustments so it could really travel off-road. It ran on electricity gathered from solar and hydrogen energy. It flew with a simple collaboration of wings and propulsion, but Samoht was working on ways to make it more complex. Leahcim saw it as an example of how his brother was going to change technology for the better. Samoht called the machine Roke Ard, which translated from Lingskeo as “speed demon”.
The Roke Ard flew over the mansion and came back in a large arc, passing right through the view of the Sun. It approached the house decreasing in speed until it met the short runway stretching perpendicular to the front entrance of the house. The Roke Ard rolled to a stop and the wings folded into the metal frame. Samoht opened the driver’s side door and jumped out in his green jumpsuit that he always wore.
Leahcim had made his way outside and was standing at the runway, the wind wisping his short dark hair across his forehead.
“What did you learn today?” Leahcim asked.
“You kiddin’,Cimmy? I already know everything!” Samoht replied.
“Well, I bet you didn’t know I’m still not going to accompany you on your little quest.” said Leahcim.
“Well brother, I bet you didn’t know that one way or another I’m going to make you tag along.” Samoht said in a stance with an inflection that mocked Leahcim’s good posture and articulation.
“Alright Smart Aleck, it’s not like it’s difficult to convince Mother or anything.”
“No seriously, nice job! You’ve been doing well debating with the great politician. But what you have yet to learn, lil bro, is how I manage to get what I want from Mom. I am the favorite, true, but one needs finesse when talking with her. You need to pull at her heartstrings.” Samoht said as he slammed the vehicle’s door shut and walked closer to his younger brother, who was a few inches shorter than him.
Samoht then rubbed his big growling belly and stretched his back,“What’s for supper?”
Leahcim was placing silverware on the long table in the the dining room. It had been built to seat 12 people comfortably, but it had always just been the three of them. Leahcim was glad he didn’t have to set the whole table, but he had a sudden yearning for it to be full. To be able to talk with a multitude of people. He finished placing things in the proper way he had been taught when Jan entered with the main dish of food.
The two of them made eye contact for a moment and Jan spoke in a pleasant manner, “Leahcim, could you please grab the mashed potatoes from the kitchen?” She seemed reserved and slightly awkward. It had been the first time they had spoken since their discussion earlier.
“Sure…” Leahcim said, “It’s just about all I’m going to eat anyway.”
Leahcim brushed past Jan, not looking directly at her, fuming. Jan knew that Leahcim’s angst didn’t relate to his vegetarianism. She set the dish on the table and stared at one spot in the corner for a moment, thinking. As Leahcim came back in the room and set the mashed potatoes down Jan reached out, lightly grabbing his arm, “Thank you, dear. “ She said.
At the contact Leahcim looked over and down at his mother’s face. As he looked at her they shared a silent moment, and Leahcim’s slight frown lessened. But before she could tame his attitude too much Leahcim turned away and called for Samoht.
The call was soon followed by the sound of Samoht running heavily down the stairs all the way from the third level. As he was almost to the ground level Samoht leaped over the banister, making it creak as he forced his weight over it.
Upon hearing this Jan snapped out of her calmness and spoke freely with volume, putting some base into her voice, “SAMOHT! I TOLD YOU TO STOP JUMPING OVER THE RAILING! You’re going to break it one of these times and go tumbling into my China closet!”
As Samoht entered the dining room he ran to the table and pulled out Jan’s chair for her. Something he never did.
“I’m sorry, Mom. But you know, If I did break it I could just fix it. I did take Wood Shop.”
Jan kept a glare pointed in his direction as she sat down, trying not to encourage Samoht’s use of humor to escape repercussions. Though she did find the chair thing amusing. As they all took their seats Leahcim starting dishing up with the sides of potatoes and green beans. Samoht reached directly for the roast, but then paused. He glanced at Leahcim.
“Eh-em.” He coughed, “Uh, Leahcim, don’t you think perhaps we should say thanks?”
Leahcim stopped in the middle of what he was doing and glanced back, “…Yes. Mother, thank you for preparing this meal. We very much appreciate everything you do for us.” Leahcim spoke with no sarcasm and vitriol seemed to be absent from his voice.
Jan was relieved to hear Leahcim speaking in such a kind tone. Perhaps he is over it. She thought. Jan smiled and washed her sons with a loving expression. “Of course.” Jan spoke, “We certainly all have a lot to do, but that’s no excuse to not have a good meal. You’re welcome.”
Samoht then began filling his plate and reached for Jan’s to fill hers for her. Jan looked at her eldest surprised. As he handed it back she smiled, thinking he was still trying to make up for the banister incident. Soon they were all eating, utensils in hand. Samoht kept his eyes on his plate as he spoke, with just a little food in his mouth, “So, Mom. You still have an international outlet adapter, right? Because I have one, but Leahcim still needs one for our trip.”
At this Jan dropped her fork with a clank that filled the room. Her lips tightened and she stared at Samoht, “Not this again, Samoht. I am not going to debate you on this anymore.”
Leahcim chimed in, “You know, in order for it to be a debate there does have to be truth to both sides.”
“Leahcim.” Was all Jan could muster , exhausted by the subject.
“This is a chance of a lifetime, and I haven’t received much from life yet.” Leahcim said.
“What do you mean?” Jan asked, almost appalled.
“Mother, for the first five years of my life I was cooped up inside a castle under constant guard. Since we moved to America, it’s been the same, only now we live on a piece of real estate a quarter of a mile above the rest of the Earth. I have no friends. I mean, what parent in their right mind would let their child go play at someone’s house if they risked the possibility of falling to their death?!? Next month I will be graduating valedictorian of my class at the age of 16. You may say that I am a genius, but the reason for my extreme academic success is probably because of my social and physical isolation. I have done nothing but work, now please… let me have some fun.”
Leahcim continued, “I’m surprised you even let me attend public school, I mean-”
Jan interrupted him, “Okay! I understand I have sheltered you a bit. But you two don’t quite understand my responsibilities as your mother. I not only have to worry for your safety as my sons, but also as potential assassination attempts.”
Leahcim quickly retorted, “Mom, no one even cares about royalty anymore. Most people don’t think it’s even a real thing because so many royals are just figureheads.”
“Yes, no one cares in the U.S., but I don’t know if you have fully grasped your father’s position in the geo-political spectrum. I can’t have you running around out there, not with your family ties to the S.S.S. throne, which, mind you, does not have a parliament running things for it. It is the real deal.”
Samoht leaned on his elbows, “Well, you know, Mom, that at a certain age every Schinderling is expected to travel the world to take in new ideas and see what is out there. In a way, you’re holding us back from our tradition. Plus, usually one goes it alone. This way, we won’t be if we’re traveling together.”
Jan tilted her head, “Samoht, that custom is also meant to result in you bringing home a partner to join the royal family. Are you telling me you’re ready to get married?”
Samoht sunk back into his seat, he knew his point had been severely undermined.
But Leahcim did not give up, “Mom, at some point you have to let us go, right? Or do you expect us to just live here for the rest of our lives like a couple of deadbeat adult sons who live soley to serve you? Are we going to be allowed to choose our own vocations, or do you have that planned for us in a bubble too?”
“Leahcim…” Jan could feel him getting the upper ground now, “You two can be anything you want to be. I’ve always said that.”
Leahcim leaned forward with his eyebrows forming an arch on his forehead, creating a heavy pleading expression on his face, “Then let us be a couple of average young men for once. Let us have a little trip and come back a little more worldly.”
Jan looked down at her hands. She then gave a quick survey of her sons. “I think that perhaps I have let fear hold me back from giving you two certain experiences. I don’t doubt that it would be good for you to see more of the world. I just…I just want you two to be safe. But I don’t want to stifle your growth, and if this is part of it…” Jan then let out a heavy sigh, “…I will give my permission.”
Leahcim smiled widely, “YES! Thank the gods! No, thank you, Mother! THANK YOU!”
“But…Leahcim, you will be back by Fall to attend college. The one of your choice, of course. And Samoht, you’ll be changing your reservations to be under my maiden name.” She added.
Leahcim, elated, looked at Samoht and back at his mother, “I think we can manage that.” Leahcim’s smile was wider than his face could handle. Samoht nodded to assent to what his mother said and started eating again comfortably, now that the wait was over.
Jan poked at her food and began eating again as well, feeling happy she had finally placated her sons. But she couldn’t help the sensation in her gut that she had made a dire mistake.
It was a Sunday. Leahcim sat below the sign that read “Congratulations Graduate!” Leahcim watched the slideshow being projected on the wall. Each picture consisted of his mother, Samoht, and himself. No friends. The setting of the reception reflected that of the photos.
There were a few non-family members, but most of them were politicians that Jan knew, and a couple of teachers who were quite fond of Leahcim. The teachers didn’t stay long and the politicians hung around talking with Jan while taking full advantage of the free food and only occasionally uttering an empty “Congrats” in Leahcim’s direction. However, all of the people who came were quite generous with their gifts, and Leahcim was grateful, though he was not a materialistic person.
He also appreciated that the reception was taking place on the ground in an event center, even though that didn’t help the attendance at all. As for the family, it wasn’t surprising to Leahcim that it was just his mother and Samoht present. Jan’s side was never really spoken of to Samoht and Leahcim. Most of what they knew was that their grandfather, Jan’s dad, had built the quasi-futuristic mansion that they lived in and he invented the machine that made the land it rested on hover. Leahcim was disappointed to find the Schinderlings didn’t come, but he hadn’t expected them. Samoht walked over to him.
“This is an awesome party, the food is great!” he said.
“Yeah, it’s too bad no one is here to enjoy it.” Leahcim responded.
“Oh come on, at least your big brother came.”
Leahcim stared at the slideshow stoically.
Samoht continued, “Look, friends may come and go, but your family will always love and accept you.”
Leahcim turned from the slideshow to face Samoht, “Now, I know Mother told you to say that instead of her so it would sound less cliché.”
“Yeah…okay, she did.” Samoht said, he continued after shoving some cake in his mouth. “Do you know why you don’t have any friends?”
Leahcim sat there waiting for the punch line.
Samoht continued, “It’s because you haven’t given many people the chance to see your worth. Now, it’s not exactly your fault, and you have kicked ass academically, but now you’ll venture out there with me and find meaning, and maybe a new path. One where people will look to you for friendship.”
Leahcim smiled, moved by his brother’s sincerity. He then asked, “Do you think we’ll find the meaning for father’s absence from this fine, American tradition?”
“Hah! ‘You boys would be better off where you belong, in a country that values you for what you are!’” Samoht said, quoting their father’s repetitive words.
Leahcim laughed, “That man and his national pride…It would be nice to see him again, though, despite his inability to see meaning in our lives here.”
“Hah! Right! Hey, if you are yearning for the homeland…well, here you go.” Samoht said while handing Leahcim an itinerary.
Leahcim took it and saw the revision that had been made. The next stop after London would be SchinGaerd, the capital of Schinderlingslyvokiaslyvania.
Leahcim looked up and spoke in Lingskeo, “O journeae beginiks!”
Leahcim zipped up his large duffle bag and donned his backpack that would be fit for Atlas to carry. He went through his list five times to ensure he had the essentials, such as clothing for extreme weather conditions, a few emergency food items, a well-hidden knife, and a compass. They would be staying in some decent hotels, if not five star, but Leahcim just wanted to be prepared. He was quite fond of nature, so he was hoping to sleep on the hard ground, but convincing Samoht to do that might be harder than it was getting approval from his mother to travel.
Leahcim looked around his room for what would be the last time for a few months, according to plan, and closed the door loosely watching the sunrise out his window just as the yellow-orange was beginning to creep in. Leahcim walked down to the first floor and set his bags by the front door. Jan walked in from the dining room, appearing as if she were feeling a spectrum of emotions. Leahcim knew she was worried.
Leahcim tried to console her, “Mother, you don’t need to-”
“Do you have everything you need?!?” Jan interrupted quickly with an odd inflection. She took a breath and spoke more calmly, “…if you do need anything, don’t hesitate to ask, okay?”
“Yes, Mother. We’ll be fine, and our travels will be without obstacles.” Leahcim assured her.
Samoht lumbered in, “You packed finally?”
“Yes, and we are doing okay with time.” Leahcim said.
Jan spoke up, “Well, you had better go while you are still punctual…”
Leahcim attempted again to brighten her mood, “Hey, we have a set schedule so you will know where we are and we’ve had the appropriate vaccine shots. We have also arranged for a guide in every place we don’t know too well.”
Jan responded, “Oh, don’t think I’ll be sulking the whole time. These crazy animal rights activists have been keeping me quite busy. I’m fine, really Leahcim.”
Leahcim was confused, “What do you mean? Activists?”
Jan sighed, “Well, this one organization in particular has been very vocal in the past few years about how laboratories and zoos are exploiting animals for material gain and human entertainment. Then, last week all of the monkeys and apes in the tri-state area have gone missing from said laboratories and zoos. This activist group has extensive numbers mind you, but they swear to have had nothing to do with these abductions. But it’s not like they would admit to it, anyway.”
Samoht’s eyebrows raised, “What a heist!”
Jan continued, “Yes it was, but have no concern for me and I shall trust you boys to be okay.” She grabbed Samoht and Leahcim by their shoulders, pulling them down for a hug. Their taller frames dwarfed Jan, “I love you, my sons. Now, Samoht, you are Leahcim’s adult guardian for the trip, so look after him well. And ,Leahcim, do not translate the dumb things your brother says in the countries that are not familiar with English. Make sure he just doesn’t talk otherwise.” She added with sarcasm and a loving kiss to each of their cheeks.
Samoht sprang towards the door, “Thanks Mom! Let’s go Cimmy!”
Leahcim looked hard at their mother, “I love you! We’ll contact you every day, via phone, email, letter, etc.” He excitedly grabbed his bags and they were out the door.
Jan called out, “One more thing! Please don’t make your identity obvious to anyone…in…in Europe, I mean. I know your room reservations will be under my maiden name, but don’t talk about your ties to the S.S.S. Throne. The smallest detail could be overheard in public and give you away.”
Samoht and Leahcim looked at each other gravely, and then responded together, “Of course!”
They boarded the Roke Ard and shortly thereafter left the large floating rock that was their home. Jan’s brown eyes watched them take-off as the yellow rays of morning washed over her dark face. She gently held onto her long, straight, black hair, staring at the vehicle until it was no longer in view. “…be kind to them, World, be kind.” She said in a whispered fashion, with a tear appearing at the corner of her eye.
The Roke Ard flew with a swift and steady pace. It was a shame they couldn’t just take the innovative machine itself across the planet, but the most convenient aspect of it was its flight, and it would be impossible to get the clearance to fly in so many restricted air zones. Plus they were supposed to keep a low-profile.
Samoht turned to Leahcim briefly while handling the controls, “So, you miss home yet?”
“Are you kidding? That place is all I’ve ever known. Wow! The Sun looks so much brighter outside the walls of my tower.” Leahcim responded with a bit of sarcasm.
Samoht laughed, “This is going to be an awesome trip, I can tell already. I’m really glad you’re coming with me, Cimmy.”
“Please, as if you would go alone.” Leahcim said.
“Hey, I’ve got friends.”
“Yeah, and they’re taking up the empty seats in the back.”
“Psh, you’re one to talk, Rapunzel.”
“Oh, I’m not saying I’ve been the best with networking either, and I will not take offense to you comparing me with a female character. She was cunning, although I personally would have chopped off the rope made of my hair before allowing a full-grown adult to climb it.”
“Isn’t Rapunzel the one who lost her magic at midnight?”
Leahcim stared at Samoht somewhat astounded and offended, “May whatever deities exist have mercy on your less-than-well-read mind.” Leahcim turned away, then suddenly jerked back to face Samoht. “And what similarities do I have to Cinderella?”
Samoht just shrugged his shoulders.
Forty five minutes had passed since Leahcim and Samoht left their mother’s house. They had crossed the entire state of South Dakota in that time and were now nearing the city of Sioux Falls. The truth was that they could have been at the airport on the other end of the state in minutes, but Jan had advised Samoht to never fly his invention at high speeds so as to not abuse his privilege of having a private air vehicle. Samoht was now reluctantly piloting at a steady 100 mph, but itching to take off and try to reach Mach 1, which he knew the Roke Ard could handle. He had built it to do so. But his brother was in the car now, too, and he would never hear the end of it if Leahcim had one of his guilt trips and told their mother about it.
It was pretty cloudy out, and Samoht was trying to see where a good place would be to land. They were listening to some New Age music.
Samoht spoke up, “Ah, I can’t see the road. Good thing we’re not on it yet!” Samoht laughed, “I’ll circle around and find a runway to ground us. Cimmy, what is this crap we’re listening to, and why is it playing on my stereo?”
Leahcim responded, “It’s just some artist I recently discovered, she really…” Just then, Leahcim spotted other large masses in the clouds that were getting closer to the Roke Ard.
Samoht was confused by Leahcim abruptly stopping mid sentence, “What… she what?”
Leahcim’s eyes opened widely, “Uh…” He turned off the music and set it to the radio. A message was broadcasting on the channel that sounded like a person giving a warning to someone flying in a restricted air zone.
The voice said, “You are flying in a restricted air zone, please land immediately. If you do not comply, you will be shot down!”
Samoht didn’t quite catch on, “Why did you change the radio? I was just kidding. This isn’t even music, it’s one of those dumb podcasts.”
Leahcim yelled, “No it’s not! There are two fighter pilots pursuing us, we need to land, Samoht!”
Samoht responded, “We are nowhere near the army base, okay?”
Leahcim was becoming more frustrated and fearful, “Then where are we?!?”
Samoht looked at the GPS on the dashboard, “Oh, we’re above the airport…Oops!”
The pilot repeated again, “You are flying in a restricted air-”
Samoht turned off the radio, “Shut up! How am I going to evade you if I can’t focus?”
The Roke Ard took a dive out of the clouds as the jets passed over. They quickly circled but the Roke Ard was already 200 yards in the other direction. Samoht brought the roaring vessel around a building and flew meters above the traffic in the street. The fighter jets passed over once again since they could not fly so close to the ground. Samoht took the Roke Ard into a tunnel and folded the wings in just as it hit the pavement between two semi-trucks nearly scraping the one to the right. He pushed a button on the dashboard that sent a small amount of heat through wires embedded into the thin layer of liquid just under the Roke Ard’s skin. The result of this trick was that it changed the color of the vehicle’s body.
Leahcim was livid, “What the hell, Samoht?!? Why do you feel the need to flee from aircrafts that can fly at Mach 3 and have enough firepower to level a city block?!?”
Samoht smiled, “We escaped, didn’t we?”
“For now, but they will totally be able to identify this vehicle once we leave the tunnel!”
“Oh Brother, the things you have to learn. They’re not going to track the heat signature of this one car, which uses cooler burning energy, in 8 a.m. traffic. I set the body paint to a façade color, and the license plates don’t show while the Roke Ard is in flight.”
Leahcim wasn’t convinced, “What if they took pictures of our faces?”
Samoht grinned again, “Hah! Good luck to ‘em! The windows automatically tint on the outside when the wings expand to shield the passengers from UV rays. Also, they only saw the Roke Ard’s[_ _]ass, and they can kiss it!”
“This is not my idea of a vacation.” Leahcim said, not taking comfort in Samoht’s confidence.
“Relax, we won’t have the Roke Ard with us to make trouble on the rest of our trip.”
Leahcim breathed deeply, “Sadly, with you around, this chunk of metal isn’t needed to cause a maelstrom. Now hurry and find a parking space, we don’t want to miss our flight.”
The next day, the brothers arrived in the capital of England. After obtaining their bags and taking a train into the city proper, they stepped out onto the streets of London to wait for a taxi that would take them to their hotel. Leahcim studied the old structures mixed with the new. He peered off farther and caught sight of the well-known Big Ben. He tried to make out the time and started calculating what time it was back home.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Truly magnificent!”Leahcim said, grinning from ear to ear.
Samoht responded, “Sure is, I think the last time we were here, we were moving to America, and that was just to pass through this town. Hey, there’s our taxi!”
“How can you tell?” Leachim wondered with all of the taxis zooming up to Paddington Station.
“Because, I called for an electric taxi. I wanted to see how the Brits throw one together.” Samoht said.
Samoht knew his vehicles well, for soon enough a compact, silver taxi with a green leaf decal pulled up next to the boys. The driver got out and eagerly helped them with their luggage.
“Top of the mornin’ to ya! Let me put your bags in the trunk.” He said with a thick, Irish twang.
Samoht leaned over and whispered to Leahcim, “I didn’t expect St. Patrick to be welcoming us.”
Leahcim nudged Samoht in the gut, “Don’t be rude! And remember, this is the country that bore English, they can understand you just fine.”
Samoht put his hands up, signaling that he was just joking, “That’s why I whispered.”
The driver closed the trunk, “Alrighty then, shall we? Oh, my apologies, me name’s Ike, and I’ll be yer driver ta-day.”
Leahcim smiled and shook the driver’s hand, “Very well, I’m Le-” He paused, remembering what his mother told them about masking their identity. “I’m Lee, and this is my brother Samuel.”
Ike seemed taken aback, “Oh…yer Yankees, are ya? Oh splendid, but I wouldn’t let too many Brits know that, they’ll treat ya rude, they will.” He said while getting into the cab.
Leahcim and Samoht got in the back. Leahcim laughed a little at Ike’s remark, “I’m sure that’s just a generalization.”
Ike kept a straight face and said, “No, not really. I’d just tell people yer Canadian.”
Leahcim’s smile faded. He thought being a Schinderling was something to hide. Samoht opened his mouth and spoke toward Leahcim, “Ol olf skeo vishnish.”
He said a phrase in Lingskeo that roughly translated as ‘This idiot talks too much’. Leahcim gave Samoht another shove to close his mouth, and then he realized that few people outside the S.S.S. Kingdom even knew of Lingskeo, so some Irish cab driver wouldn’t understand nor recognize the language. Ike, however, cocked his head to one side as if he heard something that interested him.
“What tongue would that be?” Ike asked.
Leahcim quickly covered, “It’s… Yiddish…”
Ike looked concerned, then jokingly said, “Well, American and Jewish in Anglican England! Ya sure like being out of yer comfort zone!”
Ike pulled the car out into London traffic and glanced back at his passengers through the rearview mirror as they were whispering amongst themselves. He had a hard look on his face and he squinted his eyes as if he were pondering about something.
Though it was early in the morning, there wasn’t a spot that stood still in the city. People crowded the sidewalk, each car had only a few feet from the next vehicle, and the number of decibels that could be heard reminded Leahcim once again that he was not behind the great walls of his home.
Ike spoke frustrated, “Ugh, what’s the point of a road if yer not drivin’ on it? Do ya lads mind if I put on a little music while traffic is so slow?”
Samoht said, “No, we don’t mind at all. Hey, do you have anything New Age?”
“New what?” Ike asked.
Ike pushed the power button on the radio and a woman on a news station was broadcasting what sounded like an urgent message, “
has continued. Several simians have gone missing from the London Zoo just last night. This incident mimics a similar case that occurred last week in Wales. People are wondering why it is that only primates are vanishing, and what it is with all of th”
Ike changed the radio station, “Certainly odd, isn’t it? I don’t understand me-self what these crazies would want with all of those hair bags. Have ya boys heard of anything so peculiar?”
Leahcim responded after thinking a moment, “Actually, we have. The same thing has been happening back in the States.”
Ike didn’t seem surprised, “Well, I hope whatever lad took those things has a whole warehouse full of bananas. Nothin’ worse than a hungry monkey, heh, except for a hungry army of monkeys!”
Ike laughed hysterically. He turned the car off the main street and drove into a drop-off zone in front of a hotel, “Alrighty lads, we’re here. Once yer settled in, give me a call anytime to take ya somewhere.” He said while handing Samoht his business card. Ike then got out and unloaded their bags.
“Thank you, Ike, we’ll be sure to contact you.” Samoht said while handing Ike some money.
“You boys be careful now, London is more than it seems.” Ike said with a mischievous grin, then he got back in the car and drove away.
“Wow, I think we’ll be taking the bus from now on.” Samoht said.
“What do you mean? He was…nice.” Leahcim said.
“Yeah, if running your mouth so much you annoy the hell out of the people paying you is nice, then we clearly have some cultural differences.”
“Okay, maybe he wasn’t the most socially adept, but we need someone to take us around that knows this city.”
Samoht chuckled, “Yeah, that’s why we’ll get directions from a Brit, they can’t be half as annoying as Ike the Leprechaun.”
Leahcim scolded Samoht, “Quit being so offensive! We have had our fair share of discrimination for a number of reasons, lest you forget, and it will continue if you keep up your ignorant behavior.”
Samoht sighed and picked up his bags, “Alright Brother, but you need to be more alert. There is a reason that America seceded from England, and why the S.S.S. Kingdom has had five wars with them. They’re snooty.”
“Would you stop that?!” Leahcim projected in a whisper, “Don’t mention anything about ‘The Homeland’, and quit making generalizations about people you don’t understand!”
A woman in a fancy dress wearing pearls looked the boys over in their and shot them a dirty look as she passed them by in the lobby of the hotel. The brothers both saw this and Samoht felt that is point was proven.
He leaned over confidently and spoke, “See? Snooty.”
An alarm sounded. It was 9:00 a.m. the next morning. Samoht and Leahcim didn’t do much during their first day in London. They got settled in their hotel room and Samoht scouted the hotel a bit to check out any innovative technology, but he wasn’t impressed with what he found. They had talked briefly with Jan via video chat on the computer. She seemed to be comforted by how well their travels went thus far, but she was also visibly harboring some anxiety.
Samoht yawned and stopped the alarm, “Well, Lil Bro, you ready to take a tour at the Center for Conservation of Energy?”
Leahcim was still fatigued from jet-leg, “No, if it’s alright, I’d rather sleep in a bit.”
Samoht spoke, disappointed, “Okay, but this tour only runs today at ten o’clock, so I have to hurry. I’ll be back in two hours. Don’t leave the hotel until I get back, I’m your guardian angel or something like that, okay?”
Leahcim mumbled, “It is adult guardian and I’ve got it, now let me sleep.”
Samoht got ready in ten minutes and was out the door. Leahcim slept for about an hour longer and when he got up he was in a better state. He stood to look out the window. He saw a gloomy London on a very cloudy day. He knew that this kind of weather was depressing to other people, but for some reason it inspired him. Despite Samoht’s will, Leahcim decided to check out the nearby businesses with the intention of staying within a block’s distance from the hotel. When Leahcim was dressed and ate something, he walked cautiously to the hotel entrance in case Samoht was still nearby for some reason. He then stepped out onto the sidewalk and just stood there at first, watching people. He didn’t know if it was the weather or the custom, but nearly everyone just kept their heads down and had a lethargic demeanor.
Across the street and adjacent to the city block he was on, Leahcim spotted a bookstore. He always did enjoy a good read, especially the most obscure of novels. The store was partially underground and the little staircase that lead to it was lined with odd trinkets and old books that appeared they were for the taking. Once Leahcim stepped in the door, he caught the smell of sandalwood incense barely masking the musk of volumes of age-old paper.
“’Ello! Welcome to the Wizard Skull! ‘Ow are you today?” said a lanky, old man who’s hair and beard made him look like a wizard.
The assertive greeting surprised Leahcim, “Oh, I’m fine. Thank you.”
“You’re not from around ‘ere, are you?” asked the old man.
“No, I-” Leahcim was cut off.
“Well, I could tell, it’s the way you dress.” Then the old man chuckled at his joke, “Are you looking for anything in particular today? ‘Orror, Romance, Fiction, Fantasy?”
“No, I was just looking.”
“Oh, well one cannot only look while at the Wizard Skull, you are sure to find something.”
The man pointed his finger around the store and Leachim glanced at the bookshelves. When he looked back for the old man, he was clear across the store sitting with his feet up on the cashier counter. He was wearing his spectacles and reading a newspaper.
He looked over his paper for a second to say, “If you need assistance, I’ll be right ‘ere.”
Leahcim nodded his head in the man’s direction and took a step towards the books when his footstep made a loud creek on the wooden floor. He took another step. It happened again. He was wondering how in the world that old man could have moved so swiftly without making a noise when suddenly he saw something. It was a book titled Tales from the S.S.S. Kingdom.
Leahcim had no idea why this book was in this store. He opened it and saw some familiar stories from his childhood, along with creatures he had never heard about before, but they seemed to be prominent parts of his family’s history, well, mythological history. He thought it was too weird that this book was the first one he saw, but he had to have it.
He was about to turn around and take the book to the cashier when the old man was suddenly beside him again.
“Looking to learn more ‘bout the Family?” he asked.
Leahcim was startled, “Whoah, wha? The Family?”
“Yes, the Schinderling Family. That book ‘as everything from their origin to the current Schinderking. Some crazy stuff ‘appened with and around those folks, allegedly.” The old man said squinting his eyes.
“Oh, really?” Leahcim didn’t want to show that he knew anything about the subject, “I’m just a fan of mythology, so I thought I would get this.”
The old man looked at Leahcim with a sideways glance, “Well…let’s ring you up, what?”
“Okay.” Leahcim said.
“That’ll be 10 and a half pounds, mate.” said the man.
Leahcim pulled out some currency, “Now, what is half a pound here?”
“It’s one of those coins there.” The man responded, pointing gently at Leahcim’s palm.
Leahcim tried to grab the coin out of his change and dropped it on the floor. He bent down to get it and stood back up to find a very different old man.
“I bloody knew it! ‘Ow sad is that when a prince ‘as to buy a book about ‘is own country’s ‘istory from my bookstore! Don’t you ‘ave a royal library?” The old man said excitedly.
Leahcim was utterly confused, “What are you talking about?”
The old man pointed at Leahcim’s chest. He looked down to see that his necklace had flopped out of his shirt when he picked up the coin. It was a gift from his father when he was younger. It was a little golden symbol that was used for the “S” sound back before they started writing Lingskeo with Roman letters. Leahcim forgot this important detail and now realized that it screamed of his identity.
“Which one are you, then? Samoht or Leahcim? You lot are the only two that ever grew up outside the S.S.S. Kingdom. Do you realize what the world thinks of you?!? And ‘ere you are strolling ‘bout in public!”
Leahcim was extremely frightened, “Keep the change!”
He threw his money on the counter and fled the store before the old man could pull any wizardry to contain him. Leahcim was halfway down the street when the old man came out of his store yelling, “Can you believe it?!? A Schinderling prince right ‘ere in my bookstore!”
People were looking at Leahcim with a spectrum of reactions. They were pointing, waving, and a few older people were giving cold stares. Two shady looking men seemed to be following him. He ran around the block and entered the hotel through the convention center that was connected to it. He disappeared into a crowd there for an event and was quickly forgotten about in the mass of voices.
Leahcim got to his room and closed the door. He was panting and his heart was racing. He pulled his necklace off and looked at it for a moment before throwing it on his bed. Suddenly, there was a booming knock on the door. Leahcim jumped away.
“Come on, Cimmy! I forgot my key!”
It was Samoht. Leahcim opened the door.
Samoht observed Leahcim for a moment and said, “You left the building, didn’t you?”
“Why didn’t you just stay in the hotel?” Samoht asked.
Leahcim took his necklace from atop the comforter and hid it in his bag, “I’m sorry, I have a complex with being indoors for too long.” Leahcim said, “I didn’t mean to reveal our identity either, I guess I didn’t know how knowledgeable the British were about us.”
“Leahcim, prince or not, you could have been mugged or hit by a double-decker bus!” Samoht said.
“That wouldn’t happen. I’m smart. I know how to look out for myself.” Leahcim said.
“Yeah, but you don’t know how to look out for others that are not looking out for you!” Samoht said.
“Well, I apologize, once again. I’ll listen to you better from now on…”
“Hah! Nice one…. Just be safe, okay?”
“Now let’s get some food, I hear London nightlife is very prestigious. What do you think of Chinese?
Leahcim was wondering if Samoht was serious, “Don’t you want something more local? I mean, we’ll make it to Asia soon enough.”
“Well, I’m not in the mood for fish & chips. How about Italian?” Samoht asked.
Leahcim laughed at the question, “Sure.”
Samoht picked up the phone while looking at brochures of various restaurants. Leahcim turned on the television and flipped through the channels. He came upon a news station and couldn’t believe his eyes. The caption at the bottom of the screen said “ Tensions are on the rise between the U.K. and S.S.S. Kingdom.” The newscaster was talking about a recent diplomatic meeting that went over poorly.
She said, “The Schinderking will not permit the U.N. to search his country because he says there is no reason to search. British Intelligence has claimed that they have evidence that the S.S.S. Kingdom has been manufacturing much more in the past year and transparency would be better for everyone. Officials are hoping this does not spark another war, as the Schinderking is becoming more frustrated with the continued allegations. In related news, British citizens have reported the sighting of an S.S.S. Prince on the streets of London. Some believe that the Schinderking has sent one or many of his children to spy on Great Britain, and there is no way of knowing since they have been out of the public eye for-”
Leahcim turned off the television. Samoht apparently didn’t hear anything. Leahcim was shaking when Samoht asked, “You ready?”
“Yeah!” Leahcim jumped.
“What’s wrong?” Samoht asked.
“Nothing, you know how nervous I get when I am hungry.”
“No, you don’t. And that doesn’t make sense.” Samoht said confused.
“Is this place nearby?” Leahcim asked.
“Yeah, it’s two blocks over. We can walk there.”
Samoht and Leahcim left the hotel and walked eastbound down the street.
The Sun was setting and darkness spread over London. Samoht was leading the way with directions in hand.
Samoht said, “It should be right up here.”
He turned a corner to what he thought was a perpendicular street and Leahcim followed. They were now in an alleyway and Leahcim noticed the error.
Leahcim spoke up, “Samoht, remember what you said about being safe?”
Samoht responded while his head was down, “Yeah…?”
“Well, I don’t think walking through a dark alley in a metropolitan area is staying true to that.” Leahcim said.
Samoht was confused, “What are talking about?” He looked around and saw the dumpsters along with the lack of people, “Oh, well, let’s just keep going. The restaurant is over here and your big bro will keep you safe.”
A silhouette appeared from behind a dumpster and stepped into the dim light ahead of the boys. He was a greasy looking man and Leahcim thought he recognized him as one of his pursuers earlier.
The man said in a gruffy voice, “ ‘Ello boys. Lost, are ya?”
Samoht was big and tall, but this guy towered over both of the brothers.
Samoht responded, “Heh, must be.”
Samoht grabbed Leahcim to head the other direction, but another man stepped out of the darkness. He was shorter with red hair and a weaselly face.
He said, “Off to spend yor money, uh? Well, we know who you are, and we don’t like it. Yor enemies of this ‘ere fine country that we live in, and we’re much too patriotic to let spies ‘ave their way with our land. I bet your daddy, the Schinderking, will ‘and over a pretty pound to get you ‘ome safely, now wouldn’t ‘ee.”
Samoht took his place in front of Leahcim as the two men cornered the brothers against one side of the alley. The redhead pulled out a gun and the tall brute unsheathed a knife.
The redhead spoke again, “What do you say we give daddy a phone call, Walter?”
The tall one responded, “Sounds alright.”
Just then, a bright light poured over them from the brothers’ right, and a huge machine came hurling down the alleyway. Samoht took this chance to throw Leahcim into a dumpster and he jumped in with him. The two men started running away but the vehicle caught up to them and stopped just as it hit them with great force. This sent the men flying ahead of the vehicle and ended with the sound of a few bones breaking.
Samoht and Leahcim peered out of the dumpster. As their eyes readjusted to the darkness they saw that the machine was an old, red double-decker bus. The front door on the left opened and a figure stepped out.
“I gave ya my card for a reason. Ya should’ve called for a ride.”
Samoht and Leahcim couldn’t see very well, but the voice was unmistakable.
It was Ike.
“You look hungry lads, why don’t ya come on into my home and have a bite. I’ve got much better food than anything you’ll find in that dumpster.” Ike said with a grin.
Samoht and Leahcim were speechless. Needless to say, they weren’t fond of sitting in garbage, so they accepted Ike’s offer.
“What are you doing here?” Leahcim asked.
“Well, actions speak louder than words, Boy-o. And I think you got a pretty good idea of what I was doing here.” Ike said, “Now let’s move, I don’t want the authorities to find me next to some injured men on the street, again, haha!”
Ike jumped into his home, and the boys followed. There was a mass of clutter, but it also seemed somewhat organized. The makeshift kitchen area was neat, and it smelled as if Ike were baking something.
“You live in here?” Samoht asked.
“Well, it’s not the Green Isle, but it’s my little haven. Help yourselves to the fresh baked bread. I’ve also got tea on the stove.” Ike said.
Leahcim looked over to the stove and saw that two bungee cords held the tea pot in place. Ike must not have taken reckless driving seriously, but apparently he did his tea. Samoht and Leahcim sat down while Ike placed himself in the driver seat and drove the bus out of the alley, backing away from the two men who were still writhing in pain.
Leahcim asked, “So, Ike, why did you help us? Also, how did you find us?”
Samoht spoke, “I’ll tell you how! He was following us! What’s your story, man?”
Leahcim nudged Samoht, “Settle down, he saved us from those goons.”
Ike chimed in, “No reason to fight each other, you have plenty of enemies out there. However, don’t count me in that category. When I was in college, I studied abroad in Schinderlingslyvokiaslyvania. I was a history major specializing in warfare. I ended up discovering some unknown events that occurred during battles that your family fought in previous centuries. I found evidence for things that would make Irish folklore seem like reality. While looking at artifacts in your homeland, I rebuilt certain weapons that your armies used and I created a few of my own. My work came to your father’s attention, and I had a gig for a few years inventing and manufacturing weapons for him. I wanted to move back to the U.K., but I still wanted the money, so I took the position of being a spy for your father. However, it was your mother who tipped me off to your arrival in London.”
“Is the dangerous lifestyle of a spy really worth it?”
Ike responded, “Well, it’s worth the pay, and it’s a smart move on your father’s part. An Irishman is much less conspicuous than members of the royal family.” He turned to grin at the boys, hinting at their failure to stay incognito.
Ike said, “You should be more careful. When I heard you utter in your native tongue that I was an idiot who talked too much, I knew you’d be identified quickly. I did contact yer father, however, and we have secret arrangements for ya to travel to him tomorrow. He ordered that I send ya to him as soon as possible, and we must be discreet since he set up a blockade on all flights and trading with England for the time being.”
“There’s a blockade?” Leahcim asked, surprised.
“Oh yeah, boy-o. And the poor Brits have already tested it. An English plane from Poland was fired upon just the other day. News said it was full of civilians, too. I wouldn’t want my life in that pilot’s hands. Ignoring the sensitivity of airspace and the like.” Ike said.
“Did it go down?” Leahcim asked.
“No, if it did we’d be looking at a war already. But we might soon anyways.” Ike said, his voice still light but his jaw suddenly clenching.
Samoht seemed overwhelmed, “Okay, if you could just take us back to the hotel, we’ll get our stuff packed for tomorrow.”
Ike said, “I already grabbed yer bags earlier. The English government is searching yer room by now. Just some advice for the next time ya travel into a country and ya don’t want to give away your identity, use a false name.”
Samoht’s face scrunched in defense, “But I did!”
“Please, any baboon with a search engine knows that yer mother’s maiden name is Waterstone!”
At this, Samoht backed away, processing this truth, “It was our mom’s idea.”
Ike shot back, grinning, “Well, it appears that hiding something in plain sight doesn’t always work.”
Leahcim was grateful, “Thank you for what you’ve done, Ike. I can’t imagine what would have happened had you not showed up for us.”
Ike parked his bus in an open lot and turned off the headlights, “It’s no problem, I am getting paid for this, ya know. I’ve got extra cots upstairs and yer bags are in the back. Have a good night lads.”
He climbed the stairs and the brothers heard him plop onto a loud, springy mattress. Samoht had already helped himself to a loaf of bread. Leahcim sat with his brother and poured some tea, grabbing a piece of bread.
“This is certainly an odd situation we’re in.” Leahcim said.
“Naw, I’ve seen weirder.” Samoht said with a full mouth. His nonchalant behavior surprised Leahcim, but perhaps he was just focused on his food. One could never have a serious conversation with Samoht while he was eating. Leahcim drank his tea and as it ran down his esophagus, he imagined reality sinking in with it.
Leahcim woke to the sound of a humming engine and the feeling that his body was moving without his own volition. He sat up and remembered that he and Samoht had to sleep in Ike’s bus. The Sun was just rising, illuminating the English countryside as a fog slithered away from the coming warmth.
Leahcim woke Samoht, “Hey, get up! We’re moving!”
Samoht looked at him through squinted eyes, “Yeah, we’re on a bus.”
“I’m going to find out where we’re going.” Leahcim said.
“You do that…” Samoht said as he turned over in his cot.
Leahcim started making his way toward the front staircase. He had to be wary of the swinging trinkets that were hung haphazardly about the ceiling as he grabbed onto the remaining seats for balance. He didn’t take but one step down the stairs before Ike noticed Leahcim was there.
“Top of the mornin’ to ya!” Ike said.
Leahcim descended the rest of the way, “Good morning, Ike. Where are we going?”
“Well since flights between here and the S.S.S. Kingdom are frozen, we have to get you out of this country first, and onto neutral ground, or…water, I should say, Ha ha!”
“You mean we’re taking a boat?” Leahcim asked.
“No, you’ll be traveling by air, just starting out of water.” Ike said.
By this point, Leahcim decided to just go with the flow. He turned around to go back up the stairs.
“Make sure you and Samoht get something to eat, you may need energy to burn.” Ike said with a laugh.
“Okay?” Leahcim responded before he ran up the stairs.
Samoht was already awake and dressed. He even had a muffin in his hand which he proceeded to eat.
“Where did you get that?” Leahcim asked.
“I snuck down the back stairs and grabbed it while you were talking with Lucky Charms.”
“Oh, did you grab me one?”
“Yeah, but I ate it.”
Just then, the bus jerked to the right. Clutter went flying and Ike was yelling, “Alright lads! Get ready! We didn’t quite leave London unnoticed!”
There were three military jeeps pursuing them. They sped around the corner that Ike had just taken. Ike floored the bus off-road through a thicket of tall grass and sped onto a beach. Sand went flying but it didn’t deter Ike’s bus from driving right along, nor the jeeps following them. They heard gunfire so they got down, but it wasn’t coming from their pursuers. Fiery projectiles were streaming from the back of the bus. Leahcim and Samoht ran downstairs to see who was driving. Ike was still holding the wheel. They looked to the back in confusion and saw two large guns on mounts firing independently. As the brothers turned to ask about the weapons, they saw nothing but dark blue ahead of them. Ike was driving them straight toward the water without slowing down.
Samoht yelled, “IKE! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!?”
Ike responded calmly and almost inaudible, “I’m taking ya home.”
The bus hit the water with immense force. The boys held on while Ike was laughing. As the water splashed outward and came back to where it was displaced the bus sunk lower and lower into the opaque liquid surrounding them.
Leahcim was frantic, “We have to get out! We’re going to drown!”
Ike stood from his seat and said, “No we won’t, not a drop of the sea will get in here.”
Samoht grabbed Ike by the collar of his shirt and towered over him, “How?!? This is a BUS!!!”
Ike calmly responded again, “Just listen…do ya hear water rushing in?”
The boys took a moment, looked at the floor, and at the windows. The only thing that changed was the lighting; the bus was somehow keeping the water out.
Ike said, “Do ya really think I’d so stupidly kill ya myself when I’m getting paid a fortune to keep ya alive?”
“I’d hope not.” Samoht said while releasing Ike, but still maintaining a stern expression.
Ike explained, “Just as I have a button to fire my rear defense guns, I have a button that’s seals every crevice in this vessel to make it airtight. I also have a button that does this.”
He pushed a yellow button on a panel that caused a series of yellow spheres to violently inflate outside around the middle section of the bus that connected the first and second floors. The vehicle rose from the depths and the sun crept in a bit more until the roof breached the surface of the sea. They were now far away from the coast.
Ike continued, “I’m sorry to have scared ya, but this was the only way to lose those Brits. And ya wouldn’t have believed what this bus could do anyway until I showed ya.”
“It’s alright, Ike, but telling your plan to someone could prevent a heart attack, or Samoht giving you a black eye.” Leahcim said.
Ike laughed, “Please, I’ve taken down brutes ya couldn’t imagine…..well, not yet at least.”
Ike’s last statement confused the brothers once again, but they were soon distracted by a large bulk of something moving in the water in front of the windshield.
“Ah!” Samoht yelled in surprise, “They’ve sent subs after us!”
Leahcim thought that perhaps Samoht’s guess was right, “What is that?!” he asked, hoping he was wrong.
“That’ll be yer ride.” Ike said.
“What, is Nessy gonna take us all the way to Schinderlingslyvokiaslyvania?” Samoht asked.
Ike looked at him, annoyed and not amused, “Good one, were ya waiting to use that ever since we got in the water? Oh, and Loch Ness is in Scotland.”
The machine’s lights flashed on and Ike waved to it through the windshield. He then led the brothers to the top floor and opened a hatch on the roof as the mysterious vehicle surfaced next to them. It looked like a modified version of the aircraft that their mother used to travel from their floating home to her office in the city. An obvious reason for this would be that Jan obtained the vehicle through her divorce with the Schinderking.
“Beautiful machine, isn’t it? I’d have one too if it didn’t give away me allegiance to yer father’s country and cause. Yer late uncle was the one who designed them, ya know. Well, it’s time ya lads parted ways with me, it’s been a pleasure meeting ya, and keeping ya alive!” Ike said laughing boastfully and shaking their hands while awkwardly slapping them each on the back.
A hatch opened atop the other vehicle and a masked pilot emerged. He was slender and dressed in a black skin-tight suit that seemed fit for swimming. The person threw what must have been a bag of coins to Ike and turned to address the brothers.
He said, “Ol valon yal lings. San dat flit?”
The first sentence expressed his honor to be transporting them since they were princes. The second was a query which directly translates as, “Shall we fly?”
“Yot, dat flit. (Yes, we fly!)” Samoht responded.
They boarded the vehicle which was much more luxurious than Ike’s bus and sat in cushioned seats. The pilot cranked the power and the craft jolted forward through the water, then he yanked something else on his controls and they were soon traveling above the sea instead of on it. Leahcim looked down to the now distant bus below them just as Ike was closing the hatch on the top. The red roof of his rig sunk back below the surface to do only what Ike knew.
The craft in which they were flying was nearing the mainland and soon they would be out of international airspace. The coast and border of Schinderlingslyvokiaslyvania was now visible. The pilot, whose name they learned was Fanda, spoke to them, “Mon tef blu, Ol Schinderling-“
Samoht cut him off, “Oh, English please. Our Lingskeo is a bit rusty.”
“Oh, yes, sorry. The Schinderking is quite excited to see you two. It has been a while since you have been home, right?” Fanda said.
“Yes, it has been some time now. You’ll have to fill us in on what’s new.” Leahcim said.
Leahcim always enjoyed hearing people of the S.S.S. Kingdom speak English. He thought they had the most interesting accent of all people, for they would tend to over enunciate and pronounce silent letters. It was probably rooted in their arrogance of thinking they speak the language best, which is not surprising since many will claim that English stems directly from Lingskeo, due to the grammar being essentially the same.
As they began to fly over the land a weird looking tank on a nearby hill appeared and turned its turret toward them. They heard a brief boom and something bright white streaked out from the gun, coming straight toward their vessel.
“Why are they shooting?!” Samoht yelled. The projectile came ten yards within the nose of their craft and suddenly veered off to the left. It exploded and the vibration shook the aircraft, but no damage was done.
Fanda calmly responded, “It’s simple protocol. The anti-aircraft guns are ordered to open fire on every flying object to cross the border. Only authorized personnel in approved aircrafts know the code to activate the projectile-disorienting device.”
“So they open fire on every aircraft? Even commercial flights?” Leahcim asked, still tense and probing to see if what Ike told them held any truth.
“Yes, if they are where they shouldn’t be.” Fanda responded, as if that was obvious.
“Well, that’s definitely a change.” Leahcim said.
A radio message came through a speaker next to Fanda, it said, “Istef yonna flit? (Where are you going?)” The voice said.
Fanda pushed the response button and said, “Yal flit don SchinGaerd. (I’m flying to SchinGaerd.)”
“Ol lings sta yonna?. (Are the princes with you?)”, the radio asked.
“Yot” Fanda said.
“Flit sta valon! (Fly with honor!)”
Samoht and Leahcim did fairly well listening and understanding the context of the conversation. However, their ability to speak themselves would probably need some time to recover. Leahcim was amazed by the use of the native tongue so frequently, since English had become so casual amongst these people for conversation.
Leahcim inquired, “So Fanda, may I ask a question?”
“Yot…uh, yes.”, Fanda said.
“What is with this sudden usage of Lingskeo? Is it a military thing?” Leahcim asked.
“Krun (No), the Schinderking has started a campaign for the royal family, and for all of Schinderlingslyvokiaslyvania to become more in touch with the old ways, in order to strengthen the nation’s unity, and this includes using Lingskeo again as the dominant language of the land.” Fanda said.
“Wow” Leahcim said as he looked down at the black forests and green pastures, “I no longer know this place…”
It took them only about ten minutes from the coastline to reach SchinGaerd, but this was due to the swiftness of flight.
Schinderlingslyvokiaslyvania was a long, narrow, sliver of a country in the northern mainland of Europe. The soil was rich, and a variety of fine vegetation and crops were able to sustain much biodiversity amongst the animals, but the land became more barren and rocky as one ventured up toward the mountains.
The mountain ranges to the east and the west that eventually met each other in the south were easily recognized as the natural borders separating the S.S.S. Kingdom from the rest of the world. These wall-like towers of rock and earth had kept the people here safe for centuries; that or their supposed magical prowess. Either way, the kingdom was thriving, despite the current and repeated altercation with Great Britain.
Geographically, SchinGaerd was the highest point in all of the S.S.S. Kingdom. It rested on a mountain at the end of a group that extended from the eastern range of mountains far into the center of the country. Now SchinGaerd was not a city itself, but merely the vast castle in which the Schinderking lived. It’s full name was Ol SchinGaerd Vlack, meaning ‘The SchinGaerd Castle.’ There was a city at the base of the mountain, however, and the name of this place was Dafnu, but the whole area was commonly referred to as SchinGaerd.
Fanda’s aircraft, which the boys learned was called a guston, slowed as it neared Ol SchinGaerd Vlack. The castle looked like a dark hand stretching towards the sky. Its hue matched that of the mountains, for the stones used in building the structure were local. There were many aging walls and new skyways that connected the towers. This was a perfect example of how they had kept up with the industrialized era while preserving aspects of old. A flag was visible from the highest spire, it was a crimson red with an abstract symbol presented in the middle in black; this was their nation’s flag. The black symbol was said to be a wing, but its meaning has never really been agreed upon, and the red is said to signify the spilled blood of their warrior ancestors who forged the country out of a wasteland.
The guston flew above the stronghold, hovered for a moment, then was swallowed by the high walls as it descended to a rest in one of the secluded courtyards. Fanda powered down the vehicle’s engines and opened a door on the right side that was much more accessible than the top hatch through which they had entered. Samoht and Leahcim stepped onto the bricks and looked about the almost familiar surroundings. Fanda appeared from the doorway, handing them their bags.
“Beshende vlom! (Welcome home!)” He said.
Leahcim and Samoht felt nostalgic, but not quite comfortable. Though they knew they had once lived here, they did not see it as a homecoming. The servants offered to handle their bags, the boys resisted. This utterly perplexed the servants and one pleaded, “Fer, yal blin. Ol valon don yal. (Please, I’ll help. The honor it gives me.)”
Leahcim was trying to make out what the others were saying, still surprised that they were speaking Lingskeo, when a familiar booming voice thundered across the courtyard in English.
“Let them handle your bags! Whilst you carry these!”
The SchinGaerd, which has yet another meaning, had come to welcome them. It was a group of people dressed in distinct uniforms that had formidable but unseen armor and they all carried unique staffs that were custom made for each individual. They were a very diverse group, both in appearance and skill, many of them having half of their heritage from other, far away lands. The best part was that they consisted of Samoht and Leahcim’s closest relatives. They were their siblings and cousins that still lived in the castle. It was tradition that the Schinderking’s children, siblings, and nieces and nephews make up the SchinGaerd, a special group of warriors that were the best, not because of training per se, but because they had “divine” blood in them. This was appropriate, too, for the root of SchinGaerd meant “Deity Force”. Yet something was off, since their cousin, Dogo, seemed to be leading the group when their oldest sister, Sanid, should have done so. The oldest of the Schinderking’s children always led the SchinGaerd when the Schinderking had no more siblings left, and unfortunately they had all passed away many years ago. Dogo stood out among the troupe and was easily recognized from a distance, since his own mother had been from Somalia. Upon getting no response, Dogo thought perhaps Samoht and Leahcim hadn’t heard him.
“I said, whilst you carry these.” Dogo said, while thrusting a staff toward Leahcim. Another member handed one over to Samoht.
“What?” Leahcim pondered.
“So long as you are of Schinderling blood, and within the walls of your homeland, you are SchinGaerd.” Dogo said.
“Kickass!” Samoht interjected, while grabbing his staff and awkwardly swinging it around.
“Wait, where are Sanid, Viktis, and Craigor?” Leahcim asked, nervous at the absence of his other siblings.
Dogo answered, “The other members of the SchinGaerd are in a meeting with the Schinderking. We shall take you to them.”
“Alright, let’s go say hi to Dad, Cimmy!” Samoht said.
“Okay…” Leahcim said, gripping his staff tightly and looking back to see that their bags and the servants had vanished.
“The SchinGaerd is honored and elated to have you here, and it brings great joy to the Schinderking to have his sons here in this time of…difficulty.” Dogo said.
“Difficulty? You mean…the war with Britain?” Leahcim asked.
“It’s not a war yet, but yes, regarding those damn Brits.” Dogo said.
Some of the other warriors opened a large wooden door that revealed a hallway furnished with crimson carpet, random chairs of the same color, and quotes of former Schinderkings on the walls written in Lingskeo. Samoht and Leahcim walked through the high stone archway. Leahcim turned and tried to speak with humor, “Well, at least if it does progress into a war, you shouldn’t have to lift a finger with those tanks washing everything that crosses the border in fire.”
Dogo didn’t get the joke, in fact, he and the other SchinGaerdians looked offended. Dogo responded passionately, “We train our commoners to do their duty, and they serve well, but lest you forget, there are matters that can only be handled by Ol SchinGaerd! I trust you remember your home well enough to find the Schinderking’s Meeting Chambre, and if not, it’s down the corridor to the right. Please excuse us, the full-time members of the SchinGaerd must attend to patrol. Beshende vlom-”
The door closed quickly and rattled the hinges. Leahcim wasn’t sure if this was due to the wind or Dogo’s current state of emotion. The brothers turned about and walked toward the end of the hall. The light bulbs in the ceiling were sufficient illumination for the corridor, but there were still candles lining the walls and on each table to assist. Leahcim read the quotes on the walls and noticed a poem sewn into a blanket among them. This one was in English, and Leahcim recognized it as the heroic song of their family. The source was unknown, but it was taken quite seriously and had been passed down orally in Lingskeo ever since the ancestral Schinderlings’ “Encounter with the Father of Ards.” Leahcim read through it:
There came a time when Eville overpowered good
And war was waged where peace once stood
An effort was made to restore order
Yet Eville did cross from the border
All you could hear was the painful cry
Of tortured creatures about to die
Upon this land darkness did fall
Until Schinderling blood was spilled to save us all
Leahcim looked on confused, he noticed the word “evil” had been misspelled twice. There was another blanket next to this one that had the same poem, only this one was written in the symbols that their ancestors used originally, and few could read these.
“Samoht, did you ever notice the way ‘evil’ is spelled in that poem?” Leahcim asked.
“No, but it was usually told to us orally, right? And that was in Lingskeo.” Samoht said.
“I find it strange that that error would occur twice.”
“Maybe that was translated into Old English.”
Leahcim pondered for a second, “No, that can’t be. The wordage is too modern, and if anything it would be Middle English, but the blanket can’t be that old. Also, if I recall, there was a word that sounded similar to ‘evil’ used when it was recited in Lingskeo.”
Samoht crossed his arms and looked at the blanket, “Maybe it’s one of those things you’re talking about all the time with language. A cog?”
“Oh, a cognate. Yeah, it could be, but why is it capitaliz-“
Two heavy doors burst open and a rush of air came out that almost extinguished the candles. Three figures appeared. It was Sanid, Viktis, and the Schinderking, their father, Malonik. Their sisters were wearing the traditional blue SchinGaerdian attire with accents of grey and black, and Malonik was wearing a flowing black inner robe with a metal chest plate, armor that wasn’t used as much shown, as well as an eccentric navy blue robe that accentuated his height and thinness, yet amongst all of this dress he wore no crown. Schinderkings never had.
“Beshende don ol lings! Ah, yal jonos! (Welcome to the princes. Ah, my children!)” Boomed the Schinderking’s voice.
“Hey Dad! How goes it?” Samoht said happily, giving him a hug.
“Hello father.” Leahcim said, doing the same.
Samoht and Leahcim were also greeted by hugs from Sanid and Viktis, “It is good to have you home, my brothers.” Sanid said, straight-backed and with a hard countenance, but genuine all the same.
“Yes, we’ll see you for dinner, but until then we have a few obligations.” Said Viktis as she affectionately squeezed her brother’s hands. Sanid and Viktis grabbed their staffs and walked separate ways down each side of the corridor.
“Dat skeo?” the Schinderking asked while holding up an arm to welcome the two into the Meeting Chamber, “I would like to know on what grounds I get to celebrate the homecoming of my two youngest.”
The Schinderking strode into the room, surprisingly swift and poise for a person his age. His long blue robe flowed magnificently over the carpet and looked like a tide receding as he walked to the other end of the grand table in the center of the chamber. He opened the curtains, which let in a view of the age old mountains appearing to stand guard over the plains that reached up to them. Malonik then took a seat in a large wooden-carved chair, probably made from a tree of the Hufutt Forest, since it’s wood was distinctly dark. He gestured for Leahcim and Samoht to sit with him.
“Well Father, we’re doing some travelling.” said Samoht.
“Hah! I see that, but what for?” Malonik said playfully and curious, while his mahogany eyes searched their faces for answers.
“I’m doing some research.” Samoht continued, “I’m looking at what people are using for technology these days. I’m looking for…things that can be improved.”
“Yes! That is great! My brilliant son, Samoht. You are quite right to do that. We need to keep up with the times, and it’s appropriate that such innovative ideas should come from the mind of a Schinderling. I hope you plan to share your newfound knowledge with your father’s kingdom, well, with your kingdom I should say.” said Malonik as he looked over to Leahcim, “Leahcim, you’ve been rather quiet, what is new for you? It’s been some time.”
Leahcim hadn’t been making eye contact with his father. He looked to him and hesitantly began, “I-I recently graduated high school. I don’t have much else to do now other than accompany Samoht, I suppose.”
“What? Don’t they usually finish school at age 18 in the U.S.? What are you now? 14?” Malonik asked.
“I’m 16” Leahcim responded, “and…I guess I just flew through what they had to offer.” He was a little uncomfortable that his father had missed the point of not attending his graduation or at least calling to congratulate him, but Leahcim now saw that Malonik had absolutely no clue about it.
“Well, isn’t it something to boost my ego. My sons are both geniuses, despite their disadvantaged lifestyle in the U.S.” Malonik said.
Samoht seemed somewhat unaffected by this statement but it had struck a nerve with Leahcim. He quickly shot back, “Actually, we live comfortable lives, Father. Mother takes very good care of us!”
The Schinderking suddenly had a very hard look on his face, and one of his eyebrows raised. He calmly continued as affection flooded his face, “Well, I wish that I had that opportunity to do so for you more, yal jonos.”
The elephant in the room seemed to be trumpeting away. Samoht and Leahcim were both well aware of what had caused their mother to leave and take them to the U.S. , even though they were young when it happened. Leahcim was about to explode even more and Samoht looked over to him concerned. Leahcim diverted his anger into changing the subject, “Where is Craigor, Father? We expected to see him here with you.”
Malonik was a little relieved at Leahcim’s new question. But as he processed the question, he seemed on edge again. His response seemed masked, “Craigor is travelling as well, he has…decided it’s time to find a partner. Have the two of you given that any thought? Why not kill two ards with one sword?” Malonik said.
It was tradition for Schinderlings to quest abroad and find a partner when they were ready. It was a way of preserving their once nomadic way of life, and bringing new knowledge from other places was highly valued. There was only one rule; their partner had to be a commoner. The Schinderlings had allowed marriages with other royal families before, and it had gotten messy. The customs of Schinderlingslyvokiaslyvania were quite different. All Schinderlings were expected to live in and uphold the kingdom, no exceptions. This is why many royals of other lands had become frustrated with the S.S.S. Kingdom, since they would never let any of their kin leave, and often many relationships failed due to this. But on the other hand some of those other royal families laid claim to and attempted to usurp the S.S.S. Kingdom, which is what stopped royal marriages altogether for the Schinderlings. This is why Malonik’s marriage to Jan was so stigmatized, because she was seen as one that had too much power to be a commoner, even though she was just an ambassador and hadn’t any royal status. People often whispered behind Mahlonik’s back that Samoht and Leahcim being raised outside the kingdom was his punishment for breaking this rule.
“No, I haven’t given it any thought, but I mean…..I don’t know…” Samoht said.
Leahcim chirped up, “I’m 16, Father, I’m not sure if I’m all the way through puberty yet.” He meant to make a joke, but he still felt uneasy with his father, and the humor was lost upon Malonik.
“Hmmm, all this catching up has caused quite the appetite in me.” Malonik said, “I’ll summon the SchinGaerd for a feast soon in honor of your homecoming. Until then, I trust you two can find your old rooms, otherwise the servants can-”
“No…we can handle it.” Leahcim quickly interrupted. He was still put off by the idea of the servants. Servants of the castle were actually well-paid; in fact, they were compensated much more than doctors were in this country. So to these people being a servant for the Schinderlings was out of their own volition and it was actually quite a prestigious socio-economic position. Leahcim, however, didn’t want them serving him, and he couldn’t remember if they had also bothered him when he was a child.
“Thanks Dad, we’ll see you in a bit.” Samoht said.
Leahcim and Samoht left the room together, as they did Leahcim glanced back towards Malonik. The Schinderking hadn’t moved from the table. Leahcim and he shared a moment of awkward eye contact just before the wall came between them as the brothers turned the corner.
Samoht and Leahcim practically found their childhood rooms on autopilot. It is interesting how people don’t forget certain things, Leahcim thought. As they reached the floor in the tower which only consisted of a hallway and their two rooms, Leahcim had to pause to take it in; this is where he spent the first five years of his life, and Samoht his ten. On the end opposite of the staircase which led to this place was a huge southward facing window that framed an overcast sky. Leahcim then had a flashback to when the Sun would completely fill the hallway. He also remembered the smell of the flowers that would be plucked and placed in vases on the tables that lined the walls. He didn’t recall their name at the time, but they were a purplish-blue and could only be found in the local foothills. Then he was brought back to reality with what could only be the odor of one of Samoht’s farts. Leahcim turned to Samoht, and Samoht didn’t look innocent, “Ah, that’s ghastly man!” Leahcim said.
Samoht responded, “Sorry, Cimmy.”
“Samoht, I feel somewhat uncomfortable here in the present.”
“Yeah, my college friends say there’s nothing natural about the gas I pass. I sincerely apologize, Cimmy. It’s pretty rank.”
“No, no, not that. What I mean is, being here in general. I can reminisce on how part of our childhood was spent here and how it was good, but I never imagined we would have such stark differences with our closest family. Even the little contact we’ve had has shown me how culturally strange I am here, not to mention the personal baggage. I…I just don’t know about being here, Samoht.”
“Oh, I see. It’s okay little bro. We kind of are two of a kind, you know? The only Schinderlings to grow up outside of the S.S.S. Kingdom since it emerged. But we’re not detrimental, Cimmy, we’re just different. And they can just deal with it.” Samoht leaned in and put his hand on Leahcim’s shoulder, “And look, I understand how you feel about Dad, I’m a little frustrated with him too, you know? Like with all that he expects of us. Sometimes I feel like crap not living up to it, but I’ve gotta be me, and that’s more of a mad-scientist than it is a prince of a sovereign power. He has made mistakes too, and yes, he is the reason we didn’t grow up here, but the past is the past. Plus, who wants to be one of those boring sheltered Schin-Knee-Guards anyway? I’m a Schinderlingslyvokiaslyvian-American with perspective, and that’s what counts.”
“Samoht, the way with which you go from toots to tutelage just amazes me.” Leahcim said and they both had a laugh.
Samoht breathed in, “Now, go get settled in a bit, we’ll be eating soon. I think the only thing we have missed out on here has been the feasts.”
Samoht opened his door and lumbered through the entrance. Leahcim walked towards the big window at the end of the hall and slowly turned the handle to his old room. As the door creaked open he could see his bags on the bed. It was clear that no one had used the room since they were last there, but the servants still didn’t slack off with keeping the place clean. He noticed a familiar smell, and looked to see that the purplish-blue flowers he was thinking of only a moment ago were sitting in a vase, freshly picked, on his nightstand. There was a card next to them written in English:
Do you remember these, Leahcim? You used to love them so much when you were little. In fact, you would even nibble on them. It’s a good thing they are not poisonous. I hope they remind you well of the old times.
Leahcim picked up the flowers and inhaled deeply. The potency of their scent did in fact bring back more memories, and he remembered their name. They were called Reaetim Nautis. In Lingskeo it meant “Gatherers”, but another meaning was “Those who return.”
Leahcim hadn’t been able to shower or change his clothing since they were in London, so he took advantage of his private bathroom and donned some clean clothes. He had an odd feeling in his stomach, but he wasn’t sure if he just needed to eat or if it was the upcoming dinner itself that was causing the anxiety. Leahcim didn’t remember if they were expected to dress up for this meal, but he was stubbornly sticking to his T-shirt and jeans regardless. He did, however, plan to carry his staff that was bestowed upon him from the SchinGaerd. Since they were all customized to fit the wielder, he wondered if this was a spare or if it had been made in his absence. He examined it closely, and found that it was extremely detailed, too much to be an extra. The hilt had a metal depiction of the face of an angered cat, it must have been a big cat, such as a lion or a tiger. On the other side was a metal reptile wrapping around the hilt. It was probably their idea of a dragon. It’s detailed scale texture served as gripping for the carrier. On the tiger’s side there was a blade made from a very dense alloy. It was about a foot long and very thin, but it would take much to even bend it. The dragon’s side was capped with a metallic ball of some sort. It was meant for heavy blows with little bloodshed. He held it up with one hand in the center. It was perfectly balanced; the blade and the ball were equal in weight.
“That was forged by a man that had not met you until recently.” Sanid had startled Leahcim. He didn’t realize he had left his door open, and that’s because he hadn’t. Strangely, in this land it was not taboo to open any door that wasn’t locked. Leahcim had forgotten this, and would not soon acclimate to finding it acceptable, but he knew Sanid didn’t mean to disturb him.
“Really? I’ve met so many people lately. Who is it?” Leahcim asked.
“He is of Ireland, a weapons specialist.” Sanid said.
Leahcim knew to whom she was referring, “Oh, Ike, I see. He is certainly a deep well.”
“Yes, well I was supposed to retrieve you for our feast.” Sanid said.
Leahcim was comforted to find Sanid was still wearing her battle gear, this meant the meal wasn’t formal, unless that was their idea of formal.
“Okay, I’m ready. I see you are bringing your weapon too. Do we have yet to kill our food?” He said. It was another swing and miss with humor.
“What an absurd idea, Leahcim. I think your traveling and insufficient sustenance have made you weary. Those Brits never did know how to properly take dinner. Come, we’ll gather Samoht as well and regain your strength along with wit.”
Leahcim didn’t care to explain that his previous statement was meant to be a joke, for she might perceive it to be even weirder that he was trying to be funny. He also realized how silly it was to say what he did given that he was a vegetarian.
They walked out of his room and found Samoht already standing in the hall. He was wearing a blazer over his jumpsuit that he must have had in his bag and Leahcim laughed out loud at him. Sanid noticed his attire and spoke approvingly, “Well, it is a bit Western, but I’m sure the Schinderking will appreciate the attempt to look nice.”
Leahcim thought the statement was funny, for one Sanid was speaking of their father as if he wasn’t related to them, and because something being too Western for them seemed silly, since they were a Western European nation. However, they still made this distinction many times between themselves and England, even Germany at times. Though they didn’t identify as Eastern European either; they were just Schinderlingslyvokiaslyvanian.
Sanid walked over to a table in the hall and grabbed a lantern to guide them. They had electricity, and the lights were on enough to see clearly, yet they still were dim enough for the lantern to shine significantly. Leahcim could only attribute this act to some tradition. They moved down the corridor with the little fire casting dancing shadows on the walls. They descended the winding staircase that was the only way to travel up and down their cylinder tower. Sanid began to sing in a mumble, it was barley audible but Leahcim could hear that it was Lingskeo. This act of hers reminded him that she would sing often, but she used to belt with no regard to whomever was listening, and now it seemed the younger uninhibited version of her was trying to get out. Perhaps it wasn’t proper for her to sing while in battle gear, for she should be able to hear if the wind changes directions, or so they would joke that their ancestors were capable of this. Yet other than the singing something appeared to be off with her, she was too formal, not affectionate enough to be the sister Leahcim remembered, however it had slipped through in the note she left, and perhaps that was the only way she could do so. Leahcim didn’t like how restricted things felt in this place, and perhaps his only experience had been as a child here, and perhaps more was expected of adults, but he knew that there were more details to learn about what was happening, and he was determined to find out where Craigor actually was.
They still moved through the castle, a walk that would seem ridiculous to them if they didn’t practically live in a castle in the States. It seemed almost dream-like, the little images Leahcim saw while walking about that sparked his memory and eventually started to rekindle the past in his mind. He turned his attention back to Sanid’s singing.
“What is that song, Sanid?” Leahcim asked.
“Oh, it’s nothing. Just an old children’s lullaby.”
“What is it called?” He asked.
“Ard Nakto.” Sanid answered, embarrassed.
“Yes, I know it’s odd, but I’ve never forgotten it. It’s about how one should behave otherwise the evil monkeys will take you to the dark forest. A children’s song, but I like the melody. You must think me strange.”
“No, not at all…it’s just…everywhere we go, there are references to …”
Samoht jumped in, “Oh please, Cimmy. So Sanid was singing about monkeys, it as nothing to do with those missing animals.”
“Missing animals?” Sanid asked, and Samoht took her question as him being right, but she continued, “If you are speaking of the mysterious disappearances of simians from zoos, I heard one in Germany has experienced the same theft.”
“Wait, what?” Samoht asked, and Leahcim looked to her astounded and confused.
“Yes, it’s rather weird. It’s ominous to think of what would be capable of kidnapping the creatures that are evil enough to snatch up children.” Sanid said.
“Sanid, you know monkeys don’t actually kidnap children, right?” Samoht asked.
“Well yes, Samoht, I’m not daft. But is it not ironic?” Sanid said with a little giggle that she quickly stifled. Before the conversation could continue they turned the corner into a well-lit chamber with huge tables lined up in a single line with an abundance of food sitting upon them.
The Schinderking was visible amongst his SchinGaerd. He of course was sitting at the head of the table and Viktis sat to his left with an empty seat next to her. There were two empty seats to his right, the closest to him being for Sanid. They would sit by rank, so Leahcim and Samoht would sit next to one of their sisters, and this meant the uneasy Dogo was to be beside Leahcim. Leahcim wasn’t comfortable with this, among many other things in this place, for he felt that Dogo at least should sit before him, and his cousin’s facial expressions seemed to show the same thoughts. Sanid, Samoht, and Leahcim moved to their seats. The Schinderking spoke with fervor, “It has been far too many years since I have last seen my sons, Samoht and Leahcim. It warms my heart so to see them home again…” Leahcim shifted uncomfortably in his seat, he did not view this place as home. Malonik continued, “Though they have been out of sight, and therefore outside of customs and traditions, please remember that they are indeed family, and the return of two Schinderlings in a time like this shall not be taken lightly, but rather as a blessing from the Jeaetus, who must clearly be watching us from the amongst the trees and mountains still today.”
Everyone at the table cheered, Samoht and Leahcim were less enthusiastic, but they but they played along with it. Jeaetus was plural for Jeaetu, these were kind of like Ards, daemons that is, however they were looked upon with much more positivity, and were apparently much more powerful. No religion had lasted too long in the S.S.S. Kingdom if it was popular, except for Alchemy, which only dominated for about a hundred years. Yet the royals as well as the common folk were surely superstitious, given the legends they would tell as actual history, but they only really invoked such thoughts when it was convenient for them. And even though the nation as a whole did subscribe to the most modern scientific ideas, they thought of their mythological figures as having abilities that that could change or escape the laws of science that humans were bound by. The more traditional Schinderlings would tell you that they themselves were not quite humans completely and go on to boast of their reality-bending abilities as well.
Once everyone had quieted down the servants brought out huge metal trays of food. There was a lot of meat from a lot of animals that Leahcim could not recognize in their current state. He searched about for some vegetarian options, and found a couple bowls of substances that were foreign to him, but they looked promising. It’s a good thing these people weren’t ones for saying grace before they ate, because Samoht started eating like he hadn’t had a meal in a week. The Schinderking noticed Samoht’s appetite and laughed with approval, “Yes! Haha! Eat, my boy! You weren’t just hungry to return home, correct? Ha!”
Even Sanid and Viktis had mounds of food that they were demolishing. Yet, Leahcim had a modest amount of food that he was calmly enjoying with no meat. Malonik noticed this and became concerned, “Leahcim, have your travels made you ill? Eat more!” he said.
“Oh, I’m fine, Father. I have food.” Leahcim said.
“Yes, but hardly any, and no meat. Come now, you didn’t come here to starve….” Malonik nudged a tray of meat towards Leahcim.
“Oh, no thanks, I-I don’t eat that.” Leahcim said, still calm.
“What, pork? Oh, I see, have some chicken then…” Malonik gestured for Sanid to grab another tray.
“No, I don’t eat meat. I’m…I’m a vegetarian. I can’t stand the thought of causing another animal’s death.” Leahcim said, annoyed now.
“Pardon? Ahaha! Well, I didn’t realize that growing up in America has made you so, well, so emotional.” Malonik said nonchalantly.
“Emotional?!” Leahcim repeated in anger, “I don’t see how eating differently makes me more emotional, and what’s bad about feeling something? I wish you would stop implying that Samoht and I are inherently disadvantaged because we were raised in another country.”
The various conversations around the table quieted down and the attention was on the head of the table now. Samoht looked up toward Leahcim and attempted to say in humor, “He didn’t say anything about me.” He was trying to get them to smile so they would settle down.
“Well, Leahcim, you are still my son, clearly. But, there is no denying that you two have missed a few things whilst coming into your adulthood.” The Schinderking said stern.
“Oh? Like what? Your ill-placed prejudices of other nations and ridiculous logic?” Leahcim exploded.
“Leahcim…” Samoht was tense now, trying to calm his brother.
“Perhaps we missed a few cultural things here and there and we are still family, as you said, but you certainly haven’t treated us as such. And because of this guess what you missed? My graduation from high school. In America that’s a big deal! Samoht’s graduation from college is coming up soon, but you have other things to focus on, don’t you? Like wasting resources and getting people killed all because you couldn’t maintain peace with Britain, which mind you, didn’t even do anything this time!” Leahcim was out of breath.
Samoht chimed in again under his breath, “…yeah…about that college thing.”
The Schinderking had kept his eyes on Leahcim this whole time in disbelief and now his face was red with embarrassment as well as anger, “Leahcim…I welcome you in after all these years, I show you my love and concern, and you return such opposite emotions and thoughts my way? I am truly hurt. I think an apology would be appropriate.”
The two were staring at each other, then Leahcim looked about the table. Every person was staring at him, including one old man with long white hair that he had not noticed before who was wearing a dark hooded robe; this person was not of the SchinGaerd. Leahcim looked down at his plate, “I’m sorry…”
Malonik looked pleased, “That’s much better, apology accep-”
Leahcim continued, “-I’m sorry that you can’t admit your faults which were initially the reason we were raised elsewhere, cut off from this family, and I’m sorry that you attempt with delusions to make us feel bad for it. You may be a good king, great even by this nation’s standards, which I know little of, but do not go so far to boast that you have been a good father.” Leahcim was now looking deep into Malonik’s eyes.
There was utter silence and shock, an appropriate response for witnessing the youngest Schinderling speak so harshly to the Schinderking. Leahcim stood and left the table in a storm. He knew this behavior would not be accepted, but it was good that he didn’t have a great reputation to uphold in the beginning. Samoht looked around anxiously, then grabbed his plate full of food and ran after Leahcim.
“Wait, Cimmy!” Samoht yelled.
Leahcim was already halfway down the hall, “Please Samoht, you can tell me how you disapprove of what I said tomorrow. I’m going to bed.”
“No, Cimmy. That was awesome!”
“Yeah. Stupid, but awesome!”
“Ugh!” Leahcim continued up the stairs in their tower and Samoht followed.
“I bet no one has spoken to him like that since before he was king.” Samoht said, excited.
“Yeah, probably more stupid than awesome then, huh? So what are we going to do now? Where are we going to go since I most likely got us kicked out of Ol SchinGaerd Vlack?” Leahcim asked.
“Well, given that most of the European nations are already beginning to take sides on the issue at hand, it would be too risky for us to be discovered in Europe…so, I suppose we should fast forward to Asia.” Samoht said, thoughtful.
“Sounds great!” Leahcim was cheered up suddenly by the thought of leaving this place. The two reached the top of the stairs and saw a figure standing in their hallway. It walked towards them and they froze with surprise. They both wished they hadn’t forgotten their staffs at the dinner table. As the form came into the light they could see it was the old man from the table. He stopped advancing and his long white hair swung forward, loose and untamed. He had a very serious look on his face.
“Beshende vlom yal lings. Uh, you prefer English right?” he asked. He must have had the thickest accent that they have ever heard from a Schinderlingslyvokiaslyvanian.
“That would be nice…” Samoht said, utterly confused.
“Okay, I must speak with you quickly regarding current events. It is true without a doubt that the Schinderking is preparing to mobilize for war. But he is focusing his energy and resources on the wrong enemy, you see. He no longer has an advisor and I can say nothing against his word because it would be treason, so I must tell you. You two have to restore the true power and prepare to face the oncoming threat.” The man said.
“Uh, who are you again?” Leahcim asked.
“Oh, yes, I suppose introductions should be done first. I am Alam Jeaetder, and I am the Cultural Preserver and Archivist for the Schinderking’s court.” Alam said.
“Oh, well I suppose you know us then?” Leahcim asked.
“Yes, since before you can remember. SamoHt and LeaHcim.” Alam said. He accentuated the “H” in each of their names, which must have been the proper way to pronounce them. He continued, “How interesting it is to think it will be you two who will do what needs to be done, but appropriate given your perspective and bravery thus far.”
“What do you mean?” Leahcim asked.
“While it is disrespectful to speak to one’s own father in such a way, it takes true valor for a young one as yourself to place a mirror in front of an authority like you have.” Alam said.
Samoht stepped between Leahcim and Alam, “Wait, let’s go back to what you were rambling on about before. What do you mean by ‘True Power’ and “Oncoming Threat’?”
“I can’t tell you.” Alam said.
“Why?” Samoht asked, frustrated.
“Because I don’t have all of the details. But what I can be sure of is that the British are not as dangerous as the Schinderking thinks and that when the real enemy rears it’s ugly head we will be crushed if the Schinderlings don’t harness and use what has been given to them so long ago.” Alam said.
Leahcim was curious, “Have you told the SchinGaerd, too?”
“No, they are too loyal to the Schinderking to listen, but you two on the other hand know that there is more to life than following a bad cause blindly. Now don’t prove me wrong.” Alam said.
“But you seem to know an awful lot about this so called ‘gift’ the Schinderlings have. Can you give us a hint?” Leahcim said.
“Do you still have that book of this country’s history?” Alam asked. Samoht looked to Leahcim confused and Leahcim’s eyes widened.
“Yes, but it’s a book of myths…and how did you know I had-”
“-Read it. Knowledge is power. And don’t worry…” Alam began to descend down the stairs, “…you will have assistance!”
“Wait! What about Craigor!?” Leahcim called after him, but the mysterious Alam had vanished.
“Heh! That was entertaining.” Samoht said.
“I have a strange feeling that he was being completely honest.” Leahcim said.
Samoht snorted, “I have a strange feeling he was being completely strange. Anyway, we’ll leave tomorrow if that works for you. I may not be the most peaceful soul, but I don’t want to be in a war zone. Good night, Cimmy!” Samoht entered his room with his plate of food.
“Good night.” Leahcim responded, looking around to see which shortcut Alam must have used to sneak up on them. However, there was only the staircase and the window at the other end of the hall. Leahcim noticed it was open slightly and went to shut it. He looked down to see what he could in the dark. It was a long way down to the stone floor of the courtyard below. He tilted his head in confusion and returned to his room. He pulled out the aforementioned book from his backpack and opened to the first page. The title read:
“The Four Brothers and their Encounter with the Father of Ards”
Leahcim had more questions than answers the next morning when he awoke. The conversation with Alam and reading the first legend of the Schinderlings in his book seemed to meld with his dreams, but it did happen, and he remembered no dreams. He had heard the story of how the Schinderlings had received their “magnificent power” from some random bird-person after fighting an evil monster many times before, but something was much more powerful about his experience reviewing the story the previous night. The imagery told of in the tale seemed to vividly manifest in his mind as he read through it, for now he could truly appreciate the story since he was older. Whatever the matter, he was excited to continue his travels with Samoht.
However, he still had to get past the awkward part of interacting with his other family members as he left the castle, and after the way he spoke to his father there would either be a lot of cold shoulders or heated comments. Leahcim tried to remember if he had locked his door or not, since he wasn’t fully clothed, because even the servants would burst into unlocked rooms if they had a task to complete. He quickly jumped out of his bed and donned some layers of garb; he could tell it was going to be another cold and grey day. He noticed he did in fact lock his door when he tried to open it, and it should have been a given that he would have done so with the mysterious Alam lurking around the place and materializing out of nowhere. Leahcim thought briefly of Alam’s little trick. He wondered if maybe there was a secret guild of old people that practiced Ninjitsu in order to keep the world safe from harm. He laughed at the idea.
Leahcim walked into the hall and over to Samoht’s room. He knocked, then he heard some heavy footsteps get louder until Samoht opened the door, “Jeaetah Flern! (Good Morning!)” Samoht said, more mocking Lingskeo than using it.
“Jeaetai Flern.” Leahcim said, correcting Samoht.
“Yeah, whatever. Are you ready to head out today?”
“Yeah, that is if we can. Do you think we can buy tickets at the Dafnu airport withthis short of notice?”
“Probably, and if we tell them who we are we won’t need to pay! Haa!”
“That’s not nice, Samoht.”
“Nice? Come on, Cimmy, with the price of travelling these days I think we can indulge upon the fringe benefits of being princes this one time. Actually, you know what? I bet Dad wouldn’t even let us fly on a public plane, so let’s ask Fanda to take us to Asia.”
“Well, I’m sure he’s doing important military things, but it’s worth a shot.” Leahcim said.
“But before we up an go, I want to get some breakfast, sound good?” Samoht was once again rubbing his belly.
“Yeah, I suppose, but how are we going to do so without running into Dad, Sanid, or Viktis?” Leahcim asked.
“You’re the one who has a problem with them, not me.” Samoht said.
“I don’t have a problem with our sisters, I just figured it would be awkward to talk with them-”
“-Why would it be awkward, Brother? Have we made you mad, too?” Viktis asked. She and Sanid were standing at the top of the staircase with perplexed looks on their faces. Leahcim had no idea why everyone was so stealthy, but it made sense with these two, since they were supposed to be.
Leahcim spoke to them, “Sanid. Viktis. I assumed you would be upset with me for how I spoke to our father.”
“Well, it was certainly uncustomary and rude, but we wish to still speak with you.” Sanid said.
“Yes, and so does father, I mean, the Schinderking.” Viktis corrected herself as if she had made the biggest mistake, “He wishes to tell you something.”
“What is it? Are we being exiled from the S.S.S. Kingdom?” Samoht asked, half-joking.
“No, quite the contrary, but he wants to speak with you in person.” Sanid said.
“Alright, alright! You know, you don’t need to be so formal, we’re family. So Dad wants to talk to us. You can just say that. Come on, Cimmy.” Samoht said.
Leahcim reluctantly followed Samoht and his sisters down the stairs. He figured he was already in deep trouble, but nothing worse could happen to him, aside from being more ostracized from this community. However, he figured if his father was to behead him, he was still an American citizen, and his other nation would avenge his death. If not, there would be hell to pay from his mother, and she alone was a sovereign force to be reckoned with; she always had been. Leahcim missed his mother very much at that moment.
They reached a room that was not the Schinderking’s Meeting Chamber, but rather his library. As they entered the room they saw Mahlonik dwarfed by high shelves of old and new books. The smell of the old pieces of paper filled the room, but it wasn’t overwhelming. Mahlonik was facing away from them, setting what sounded like ceramic items on a metal tray. He turned around and had a peaceful look on his face, one of thought, concern, and compassion. It was clear he hadn’t gotten enough sleep. He carried the tray to a coffee table in the center of the room. There were chairs for each one of them. He sat and looked up.
He said, “Please, sit with your father, and let us discuss things.”
Samoht lurched forward and sat heavily on one of the recliners, it protested a bit as he leaned back. His stomach growled, “Uh, could we get some food with this tea?”
“Of course, my son.” The Schinderking said. He waved to Sanid and she walked over to an intercom on the wall and quietly ordered some food in Lingskeo. Mahlonik looked to Leahcim, “Please, Leahcim, I beseech you to sit with us.”
Leahcim didn’t feel right about this approach, he had just yelled at his father the night before, and now he seemed to be strangely calm about it. Leahcim looked back at Mahlonik’s face, uneasy. Then he looked to Samoht and his sisters who were now sitting, their faces were welcoming. He would sit because of them.
“Yot, yal paschre.(Yes, my father.)” Leahcim said politely. He could respect his father, just barely, but he was far from liking him.
“So…” The Schinderking started, “I understand I have been hard on you two, quite distant, literally, and unfair. I apologize unreservedly.”
Leahcim was feeling a bit more validated at this point. Mahlonik continued, “…but you must understand, my boys, that it has been difficult for me to not have been able to have a hand in raising you. I have not shared my feelings before because I have been occupied with my duties as Schinderking. You see, I am currently on the brink of war, and I cannot sit idly as my troops bravely defend this country. I must be active, and involved.”
“Pardon, Father, but defend you from what? Who?” Leahcim asked.
“The British, the U.N., the U.S., and a number of other forces…” Mahlonik said passionately.
“But I don’t see any tanks or planes knocking on your door.” Leahcim said.
“Did British jeeps not chase you into the ocean?” Mahlonik asked, sure of the answer.
“Well, yes, but who knows what Ike has been up to that could have grabbed their attention!?” Leahcim said.
“Yeah, and Ike opened fire on them first…” Samoht said, helping.
“They were trying to apprehend you, and Ike was protecting you!” Mahlonik reiterated.
“They may have been attempting to catch us because they thought we were spies, but only because of things you have done. Plus, Ike [_is _]a spy!” Leahcim said, “Their chasing us may have been unreasonable but it should be no cause for trying to shoot down a commercial flight full of innocent people!”
At this Mahlonik’s spine straightened. He was angered now, his nostirls flared, “Leahcim, you have no idea what happened in that instance! Be wary that you were still in the U.K. when you heard that news so of course their media would paint me as the bad guy. That flight was a commercial flight, yes, but the heat signatures from our tank scanners showed that there were five people on that entire commercial airplane. Five! They arranged for that specific flight from Poland to the U.K. and sent spies into my airspace under the guise of an innocent civilian pilot’s mistake of flying too close. They are getting more creative and many cannot see it, but after centuries they are still attempting to infiltrate our country, culture, and wealth.” The Schinderking stated.
Leahcim was taken aback by these details. He suddenly felt this topic might be out of his realm of knowledge. Leahcim continued, determined, “They only wanted to know if you had weapons, can’t you just tell them you do and explain they are for your nation’s safety.”
“I have, Leahcim. But that’s not good enough. Before and after I’ve told them they thought I was up to no good, planning destruction, invasion. They hypocritically want to come into my country and set up camp so as to stop me from expanding, and I simply won’t have it! I am not one for imperialism; it’s just not the Schinderling way! This land was unoccupied when we claimed it and we have never asked for more. They think they are bigger and better than us and that they will crush us, but it will not happen, I won’t let it!” The Schinderking was out of breath, red in the face and frustrated.
Leahcim sat back with an eyebrow raised. He silently stared into his father’s mahogany eyes for a few moments and then looked to Samoht, Viktis, and Sanid. He wasn’t sure if his father was telling the truth, but he still felt wrong about all this preparation for carnage. Leahcim also recalled what Alam had said to help feel justified in his opinion of this situation. Leahcim spoke again, “Fine, you are king after all, not me. But I will have no part in this war. I support prosperity for this country, but not this. However, what does it matter? We have no executive power to go against you anyway.”
The servant opened the door without knocking and presented a tray of baked goods with various spreads. This servant left just as abruptly as they had entered and hadn’t been in the room for more than 10 seconds.
“No, you don’t, and for good reason. You have much to learn, my boys, and even your sisters do too. What you don’t grasp is that war can bring prosperity and peace by weeding out wickedness.” Mahlonik said, now in teacher mode.
“Perhaps, but it can still be approached peacefully.” Leahcim said, stern.
“Agreed, Cimmy.” Samoht said with a surprisingly defiant tone in their father’s direction, “I want no part of this war either, Dad. We’d like to continue our journey into Asia, far away from this mess.”
Mahlonik scoffed, “Asia? I have just as many enemies over there as I do in Europe! You don’t have to take part in defending our country, for I know you have not had the training to do so, but you will not be allowed to venture into Asia, nor anywhere else for that matter.”
Leahcim shot back, “Excuse me?!? ‘Not allowed?’, and what do you mean by ‘nor anywhere else?’ You can’t keep us from going back to the U.S., we are citizens there.”
“Yes, and you are not only citizens here as well, but royalty. There is nothing in store for you elsewhere, for this is where you belong. I, as Schinderking, am placing you under protective custody. There are a lot of thorns in my side that would love to kill you two just to get at me. I can’t let you leave when tensions are so high.”
Samoht’s face was now furled in frustration as he glared at Mahlonik, something Leahcim didn’t think was possible. Sanid and Viktis reacted with just as much discomfort upon hearing the news. But they could say nothing in protest, for they were prisoners of their own propriety. Samoht stood and raised his voice, “Who gives a shit about whether you think we should stay here or not?! We don’t want to! You can’t confine us here! That’s P.O.W.! And that’s illegal!”
“No! It’s protecting the only sons I have left!” Mahlonik said, his lower lip trembling, “And it’s only for now. You may leave when the trouble has ceased.”
“What?! Who knows how long this could last? If this sparks into a war it could take years. Especially with how stubborn you are!” Leahcim yelled.
“That’s enough! I will discuss no more of this with you! You are welcome to join the SchinGaerd if you wish, but as for your pacifism, I’ll not have it!” The Schinderking stood and having made his point, left the room in silence as his robes flowed behind him before he slammed the door.
The silence in the room was that of throbbing shock and disappointment. Viktis was quietly whimpering, she felt horrible. Sanid spoke with a shaky voice, “I-I apologize for this outrage, though it is not of my doing. We did not want to tell you ourselves though, for we felt the news too harsh. I am truly upset by this my brothers…”
“Ah! This is bullshit!” Samoht said in disbelief.
“He had better let us go, otherwise you can be damb sure I’m organizing a coup.” Leahcim said, not thinking.
Viktis gasped and looked up, “Leahcim, what a terrible thing to suggest!”
Leahcim tried to explain, “Viktis, I, I didn’t….It was…I was just expressing my anger.” He paced the room, looked out the window, then turned to his eldest sibling, “Sanid, is this in any way related to Craigor’s disappearance?”
“Yes…” Sanid responded.
“Where is he? What happened?” Samoht asked, just as if he had now realized the gravity of Craigor’s absence.
“He disagreed with the Schinderking about this altercation with Britain as well. He left in a rage, and we have not seen or heard from him in months. We are not sure if he is hiding in the Hufut Forest or if he is on the other side of the world. It hurts me to say we are not sure if he is even…alive.” Sanid said.
“Great! Not only is our father kidnapping us, but he is a liar, too!” Leahcim said.
Viktis stopped crying and took a deep breath in. She stood and spoke with a sudden confidence, “Do not worry, my brothers, I have a plan to help you escape.”
They all gathered in closer to listen to Viktis as she went through each step.
Que Shan walked the mighty and high halls of Ol SchinGaerd Vlack. It had only been built 10 years prior. They had finished it when she was still a child, when she was still just an heir to the throne. However, now she was Schinderking, and her new responsibilities were beginning to weigh on her. Que Shan’s father and previous Schinderking, Scholoth, had ordered the new castle to be built, for he was tired of the one on the northern coast and wanted one that was more secluded and better protected.
There had been a vast number of attacks via the water from English Crusaders. They wanted the S.S.S. Kingdom to convert to Christianity, and when they were refused, the English missionaries resorted to ransacking the smaller villages near the old castle. Although, none of them would admit they had done anything, and would blame the brutal acts on the Vikings. However, Scholoth knew better, for the S.S.S. had actually become quite amicable with the Norse. Scholoth ordered for the new castle to be built, and in the meantime he traveled into Asia to find a commoner to marry and bring back home with him. His adventure took him as far as Peking, the capital of China at the time, and this is where he found Que Shan’s mother, Fang Mai Shan. Que Shan grew up with multiple languages under her command, with the native tongues of both her parents as well as the abhorred, bastardized offshoot of Lingskeo that would become known as English.
Just upon hearing the news that Ol SchinGaerd Vlack was finished, Scholoth planned to move his wife and young daughter to their newer and much safer home. But the move wasn’t completed in time. Que Shan’s mother was a peasant to begin with, but somehow after giving birth to her daughter, a fierce strength awoke in her and she became one known for her skills in battle. But despite her way with weapons, she was engulfed in flames as she engaged invaders in a burning segment of the old castle. It was the English that did this, Que Shan had no doubt about it. She was always conscious of the reason her mother met her fate, and thus hungered for revenge her whole life. Even though Que Shan was exceptionally deadly in combat, the force to be reckoned with was her strategic mind. Scholoth, heartbroken from the loss of his wife, slacked in maintaining a close command on the northern border. As a result, the Crusaders came in heavily armed and occupied the northern region of Schinderlingslyvokiaslyvania. They attempted to bully the “Slyvs” ,as they called the locals, into their religion and ultimately into English control.
This angered Que Shan to no end, and she urged Scholoth to take action, but he was too disturbed and in despair. Once Que Shan had turned 17, Scholoth gave up the throne to her, which was highly unorthodox due to her age, but it was his choice as Schinderking and no one challenged this.
Que Shan, just having been the ruler for over a year, was approaching their “infestation” very differently than her father. She entered the Meeting Chamber where an ambassador from England, Paul LeBlanc, had come to speak with the Schinderking. He was a weasely little man, dressed well, and clearly had profited from exploiting others.
Que Shan addressed him with a voice that was deeper and more gravely than most women, “Beshende.”
He turned to her, “Yit, yel flanks. (Yes, my thanks.)” or so he meant to say.
His Lingskeo was rough, Que Shan decided to proceed in English, for she could probably speak it better than him anyway, “Shall we speak of the matters at hand, Paul LeBlanc?”
Que Shan had a sour feeling in her mouth as she said this name, for it carried an unsavory meaning in her culture.
“Ah, yes, but if I may correct you it is Sir Paul LeBlanc, for I have been knighted, you see.” Paul said.
“Of course….” Que Shan was already becoming annoyed with this man.
Paul continued looking around with a confused face, “And mustn’t we wait for the Schinderking before we discuss matters?
“I am the Schinderking!” Affirmed Que Shan. She crossed her arms and began fingering the hilt of her blade under her arm. She could have a dagger through his throat in seconds, but she would be peaceful, for the time being.
“Oh, yes, my apologies.” Paul then had a smirk on his face like Que Shan had said something embarrassing, “Well, hitherto we hath suffered a few altercations amongst our people.” Paul said.
“You mean how your crusaders have occupied our land decided to terrorize my people?” Que Shan said.
“Oh, my, we…we are doing no such thing, I promise you. We just wish share the word of our Lord. We wish for you all to have salvation.” Paul said.
“Salvation? From what? You folk are the ones from which we require salvation. We don’t need your Lord, for we have our own rich culture and beliefs, for those who do believe anything, and I will not issue a required, unified institution of faith like you have done. It is unfair and an insulting hindrance to the people.” Que Shan said.
“But, your Highness, I implore you to understand, your false gods are an insult to the one true God. You are sinners in the eyes of the Lord.” Paul said.
Que Shan laughed at the ridiculousness she heard him utter, “Sin? What does this word mean? Gods? We need no gods, including yours. Now speak no more of your “Lord” here or the Ards will awaken in rage and chase you from this land!”
“Very well,” Paul said, “But you have been warned.”
“So have you, now make haste back to your country before the Ards get a taste of your unwanted blood.” Que Shan said, laughing with her words.
Paul LeBlanc left quickly in his carriage heading to the North. Que Shan watched through her window high and distant from the trail as the light colored horses pulled the Englishman into the darkness that was the Huffut Forest. One of the SchinGaerdians approached her from behind, “Dat sonodo, yal Schinderling. Dat flit nisk? (We are ready, my Schinderking. Shall we leave now?)
Que Shan grinned menacingly, “Yot…”
Many hours later and many kilometers north, camps of Englishmen sat about fires. Most were armed, some were knights, and all were cruel. They had kidnapped many children from the villages and agreed to release them once they had read their book called the Bible. But these children could not because they were not educated to read English, and the missionaries hadn’t made a Bible in Lingskeo. The parents of these children tried to retrieve them but to no avail. Either they were maimed, kidnapped themselves, or killed. The Christian knights felt no remorse for harming these folk, because they were all “heathens”, and if they died it was their own fault, because they had rejected Christ. The Englishmen sat there in the night burping, their guts full of ale and foods that they had stolen from the locals.
One big, burly man with a large belly laughed, “Can you believe the spirits that these Slyvs speak of? Ha! They are apparently demons from the waist up and women from the waist down. Oh, and they wear dresses of ladies, too, and if you ask them why, they have no answer! Hahaha! These pagans, they are ridiculous.”
Another man with a black mustache added, “Yes! They call them Ards, I believe. The best part is they think their king has some domain over these beasts and can invoke them to win battles!”
Paul LeBlanc sat amongst them, joining in the merriment, “And what is this of their Woman-King? How can a woman be a king? She can’t, I tell you. Why not just call her a proper queen? No wonder their forces are so weak, they are so utterly confused about how to build a civilisation.”
The burly man stood, “I have to piss!” He lumbered over past one of the tents and saw one of the children escaping. He ran over and grabbed the child.
“No, you don’t! Not until you have converted.”
“Krun!” said the child, “Yal flit! Yal flit!”
The child kicked the burly man in the groin and took to the forest. The burly man was about to pursue the child when something in a dress fell from the trees and landed between them. It was a confusing and menacing sight. The flickers of light from the fire momentarily illuminated the creature’s face. It had blue skin on its face and arms with mad curly dark hair protruding from its head. The feet looked to be lighter, more like the skin of a Northern European. It was wearing a pink dress with lace that hung awkwardly from the being’s broad, masculine shoulders. It was staring at the burly man from a blue face with hungry, devastating eyes. The burly man noticed his leg was wet. He no longer had to piss. He started to back up so as to run when the creature leapt into the air. It seemed to float for a moment before a strong leg flew from under the dress and hit the burly man on his chest. The force was amazing; the impact cracked his ribs before he went flying into the fire behind him. The other Englishmen started from their positions and grabbed their weapons. They were only five strong, and would need to contact the men around other fires for help, but they could already hear the screams elsewhere of their countrymen. The burly man lay unconscious as a few flames still danced around his body. The Englishmen were now surrounded by four figures in the dark. They couldn’t quite see the creatures’ eyes, but they knew they were looking straight into them. A rather tall figure stepped forward in a green dress. As its head was dimly lit by the dying fire, they could see the face of a boar on this humanoid body. This creature was grunting and squealing, which made the invaders even more uncomfortable. The man with the mustache swung his sword at the Boar-headed one, but this beast caught the blade in its bare hand. It proceeded to snap the blade off, drop it on the ground and lick the blood from its palm. It made a noise that sounded like something between human and boar and with a fist struck the mustached man hard in the stomach. The mustached man immediately coughed up blood and tumbled into the nearest tent. At this, the other men ran only to be subdued by the creatures waiting in the darkness. Paul LeBlanc ran the opposite direction, thinking himself clever, when the blue-faced creature grabbed him at the throat and looked deep into his eyes with its own of pitch black, like those of a shark.
It whispered, through unnaturally sharp teeth, “Dat zhong…Ol zhong erk dat zhong! (Our Land…the land is our land!)”
Paul LeBlanc was frantic, “Yot! Yes! Oh please, Lord, don’t kill me-”
The blue one growled and shouted, lifting Paul LeBlanc above its head. Paul LeBlanc screamed as the blue one lowered the Englishman close enough to bite into his side. It then lifted him again and threw him to the ground. The blue one spat the blood through its teeth onto its owner. Paul LeBlanc had passed out.
The missionaries woke aboard their ships far off the coast just as the Sun was coming up. Most of them had survived, by the grace of the Ards, but their dead were still among them, rolling stiffly on the shifting decks of their boats. The Englishmen set sail for home as soon as they got their bearings straight.
Que Shan stood in her Meeting Chamber. Two members of the SchinGaerd entered the room, both carrying women’s dresses in their arms. They placed the dresses back in a chest that held all of Que Shan’s feminine garb. They were all gifts from royalty of other countries, still trying to woo her despite the Schinderling custom of only marrying commoners. Que Shan never wore these dresses, but she had found a good use for them. The SchinGaerdian with dark curly hair was wiping blue ink from his face and hands with a cloth. The other man was very tall, and had neatly folded the green dress he carried.
The curly haired one thought to himself and spoke in English as he mimicked Paul LeBlanc’s voice, “Twas bloody awful!”
They all laughed and the two men left the chamber. Que Shan looked out her window facing the North and grinned; her strategy had worked and her people were liberated and safe. Christianity never had the fortune of reaching Schinderlingslyvokiaslyvanian soil again.
Leahcim woke the next morning and lay still, staring at the ceiling as memories of the previous day flooded back into his consciousness. His father’s news of keeping Samoht and himself “safe” within the S.S.S. Kingdom, Viktis’ plan to help them escape, the things they all did in secret to prepare for it, and Leahcim’s late-night reading of another Schinderling epic. The story he read was about Que Shan, a previous Schinderking, who was supposedly one of his ancestors, but it was hard to tell which people were fabricated since the only historical records the Schinderlings kept were their myths. Leahcim was struggling to grasp how reading these stories would give him the answers he needed about what was going on in this place. He also didn’t know if he quite understood the moral of Que Shan’s epic. Scare the hell out of those who oppose you? Leahcim wished he could discuss the stories with someone, but Samoht wouldn’t sit in one place for too long unless he’s eating or building something, and there wasn’t much time left for him to pick his sisters’ brains on their knowledge of Schinderling folklore. Leahcim also wasn’t confident that anyone would understand what he was trying to get at. In fact, he wasn’t sure himself.
There was a light knock on the door. Leahcim knew it was Samoht, for he was the only other person who grew up in a culture in which this was normal. Leahcim sprung out of his bed fully clothed and stuffed his book into his backpack. He had been ready to leave well before he fell asleep the previous night. Leahcim opened the door for Samoht.
“Hey Cimmy, you ready?” Samoht whispered.
“Most definitely.” Leahcim said.
“Okay, we have to proceed quietly, but we can’t be late.”
“I know, let’s go…”
The brothers neared the staircase and peered over the banister. They could see that a few servants were bustling about, but no one that would question their activity. They moved down the stairs and looked at the three possible corridors.
“Where is it again?” asked Samoht.
“I don’t know, I didn’t grow up here.” Leahcim said, anxiety riding his voice.
“Neither did I.”
“Yeah, but you were older when we moved, you should know.” Leahcim affirmed.
Samoht looked about and with determination chose the left hallway. Leahcim followed hesitantly. They were crossing two large doors when they suddenly heard Dogo laugh on the other side of them. Samoht turned to look Leahcim in the eyes. The brothers froze for a moment and then leapt next to the wall on either side of the doors just before they burst open. Dogo strode in with another SchinGaerdian cousin of theirs of fair hair and skin named Fenal. The two troopers moved forward as they jabbered in Lingskeo. Leahcim looked around his door to find Samoht peeking around his with his eyes on their cousins. Dogo and Fenal crossed into another section of the hall in front of them. Samoht held up his watch and shot out a magnet on a wire that hit the knob on the door in the arch between them and Dogo. Samoht yanked on his watch and the door slammed shut.
“Why did you do that?” Leahcim said.
“To give us cover so we could escape.” Samoht said, as if it were a given.
“Really? You don’t think doors slamming by themselves isn’t going to alert them?”
“Oh. Uh, well, let’s just go so I didn’t do it in vain.”
They started hurrying down the hall when they heard the door Samoht had just shut reopen. Dogo and Fenal looked around but didn’t see the brothers, for they were hiding behind massive busts of previous Schinderkings. Dogo looked to the two exterior doors and yelled at Fenal in Lingskeo about remembering to close them and that it must have been a strong draft. They continued their patrol shortly after.
“You see?” Samoht said.
“Completely unnecessary, Samoht.”
Samoht shot back in a proud and childish manner, “Whatever, I totally saved our asses.”
“No, what you’re doing is wasting our time with your spy gadgets. Come on, we’ve got to hurry.”
They proceeded down the hall further until they came upon a couple large doors that opened to one of the courtyards.
“You sure this is the right one? Samoht asked.
“I don’t know, let me just check the peep hole to see if they’re outside.” Leahcim said sarcastically, pointing at the solid wooden mass of the door.
A door on the opposite side of the hall from them swung open as a servant with a tray of food stepped out. Samoht and Leahcim both started and they stood in awkward fight or flight poses as the servant looked upon them confused, then he smiled.
“Yonnas hagadru, yal lings? (Are you hungry, my princes?)” The servant asked.
Samoht sighed, then he reached toward the tray in excitement, “Yot! Flinks! (Yes! Thanks!)”
The servant smiled again and walked off.
“Are you two ready?” came a voice from behind.
“ ‘Oly Shit!” said Samoht in surprise with food in his mouth. Viktis was standing at an arch in the hallway near them.
“My goodness, I really need to attend this school of sneaking up on people that you all seem to have graduated from…” Leahcim said.
“What? What do you mean, ‘you all?’” asked Viktis.
“Uh, nothing, let’s get the hell out of here.” Leahcim said.
Samoht mumbled with his mouth full of a biscuit, “Yeah, where is Sanid?”
“She awaits us in the courtyard.” Answered Viktis, “Now, since Sanid and I have exterior patrol, we should be able to take you safely into the forest via the tank, but you will have to make your way from there on foot to Poland.”
“Sounds good, let’s do this.” Samoht said, eager.
“Good, let me check to see that it is clear.” Viktis said.
Viktis opened the door a crack while the brothers stood out of the way. She immediately closed it with a grave look on her face, “Dogo seems to have stopped to speak with Sanid.”
“Dammit Dogo! Could you just kindly F-off for once?!” Samoht said in frustration.
“He will no doubt think it suspicious if he sees you two enter the patrol vehicle with us. I’ll approach him from the right of the tank to distract him while you get in on the other side.” Viktis said.
“Okay.” Leahcim agreed.
“Got it.” Samoht said.
Viktis strode out with her staff in hand and began twirling it in a manner that showed her control and years of experience with it. She then extended it in Dogo’s direction with a gesture of challenge.
Viktis got a running start and leapt onto the side of the tank to get an advantage over Dogo’s taller stature. Her staff came down hard on his and forced him back a couple of steps. She spun and moved liked a hummingbird. Dogo was surprised.
The tank looked like a low sitting van with a turret atop it. Each side had a sliding door. Samoht and Leahcim made their way to the left door and slowly opened to keep the noise down. They tumbled in and shut it the same way.
“Sanid, we’re in.” Samoht said in a projected whisper.
Sanid tilted her head to see her brothers from the top hatch where she had been watching the skirmish between Viktis and Dogo, “Viktis, dat flit!”
Viktis climbed onto the tank swiftly, entered the hatch, and closed it in one fluid motion.
“Let us move quickly, Sanid. Dogo is going to find out soon enough that Samoht and Leahcim have left SchinGaerd.” Viktis said in a panic.
“Very well, then we shall be swift.” Sanid said as she powered the tank forward with the controls.
The hulking mass of the vehicle left the courtyard entrance and sped across a bridge leading to a dirt path into the forest. The tank’s engine was quiet, as it didn’t run on fossil fuel, but its four enormous wheels seemed to loudly displace gravel as they ventured past the trees. Leahcim was still upset at how their father viewed politics, but he at least admired that the S.S.S. Kingdom had been independent from using oil or coal as energy for some time now. And even though this came from the Schinderking’s paranoia about relying on other nations as well, it was something to take pride in. Leahcim didn’t think social issues should be left to the wayside in place of environmentalism, but he also felt humans wouldn’t have much time to figure them out if they didn’t have a planet to live on.
“Okay, brothers, we can only take you this far into the forest.” Sanid said.
The tank hummed as it drove to the side of the road and stopped.
“I wish we could escort you further, but this way it looks like you just were able to sneak out of the castle yourselves.” said Sanid.
“It’s okay, I’m sure we can make it on foot to the border.” Leahcim said.
“Remember, it’s only about four kilometers east from this point. I would advise staying close to the top of the mountains so you can cover the ground quicker, but stay far enough below the treeline to remain hidden. There is only one tank positioned on the mountain at the border where you will be crossing. Once you see it, move far north or south from it and proceed into Poland. You shouldn’t be detected on foot and there is no fence to cross, you just need to get to the bottom of the other side of the mountain range.” Viktis said.
“Alright, we should be good. Ready Cimmy?” Samoht asked.
“Yes.” Leahcim said as he looked to his sisters. Many emotions were now surfacing on his face and he continued with a quiver, “…thank you so much for helping us. I…I really wish we could have spent more time together…I”
“The feeling is mutual, dear brother, but we can share sentiments in letters and phone calls. You must leave now.” Sanid said with a strain.
Sanid and Viktis were both beginning to tear up. Samoht and Leahcim hugged their sisters each with an almost ferocious familial love and quickly darted for the trees.
Once they were out of earshot, Sanid said, “
“” Viktis said, turning to reenter the vehicle. Their tank moved like a sports car back to the castle.
Samoht and Leahcim had swiftly made their way through the forest, almost as if they did grow up in this land. Leahcim was surprised at Samoht’s swiftness. He was big, but he could move when he wanted to.
“How much farther?” Samoht asked.
“I’m no expert, but I think just about a hundred more yards. It looks like we’ve been staying on track.” Leahcim said looking at his compass.
“Good, let’s just—” Samoht stopped and listened.
“…Just, what?” Leahcim asked.
Samoht’s eyes were fixed in front of them, “Let’s take it easy, the tank is just up ahead.”
Leahcim focused where he was looking and saw the same shape of the tank that they rode out of the castle, but this one had camouflage that made it seem part of the foliage. It actually hid it well, and could easily trick the naked eye.
“My goodness, that really snuck up on us.” Leahcim said
“Yeah, let’s not do the same to it.” Samoht said.
They made their way a bit of a distance away from the tank so they could sneak around it. But as they started to move past it, they noticed a cliff on the other side of them.
“Oh, fu-phooey!” Samoht said looking down. “I think we came up on the wrong side of the tank.”
“It’s okay, there is still room enough to walk. Let’s just push past it slowly, Samoht.” Leahcim encouraged.
“Yeah, I know. I just wish we had the Roke Ard.” Samoht said upset.
“I’m not sure it would do much good. That thing would blast it right out of the sky.” Leahcim said.
“Oh, whatever, I’m like Han Solo when I’m in that thing-”
As they bickered in playful whispers, the turret atop the tank began turning toward them. They heard the machinery and hid behind two trees.
“Maybe we shouldn’t be talking just yet.” Leahcim whispered.
Samoht nodded at the suggestion. He looked around the tree and saw the turret doing a 360. He motioned to Leahcim to continue. The cliff was drawing them closer to the tank, but they reached the edge of the trees which stretched to a clearing that visibly extended down the mountainside they needed to go by. The problem was that they were now about forty feet from the sentinel.
“Oh fuh, what are we gonna do?” Samoht whispered.
“I don’t know. Maybe you can use your magnet thing?” Leahcim said.
Samoht looked at Leahcim angered.
“What?” Leahcim said, “I’m serious.”
“No, we need something big, like a—-”
Just then a huge fireball shot out from the trees on the other side of the tank. The turret turned in that direction and the tank repositioned itself. Another fireball shot straight up like the one before, but now a little to the right.
Samoht turned to Leahcim as he took off, “…like that! Let’s zoom!”
They made it to where the mountain descended into Poland and looked back from behind a boulder as they were in a lower position. They could see a figure in a dark cloak running about the trees. The figure occasionally paused, and threw a little bag into the air that exploded into a fireball like the ones they saw before. The person’s hood fell back and revealed Alam’s long, pale hair. Even though he was running about and seemed preoccupied distracting the tank, he looked right at the brothers and pointed sternly toward the bottom of the mountain. This pause was long enough for the tank to find him. It shot out a net that wrestled Alam to the ground. The brothers ran down the mountain quickly. At a certain point they both tripped into the river at the bottom and with a short swim they reached Poland. They both laid at the bank for a moment, catching their breath, completely soaked. Leahcim reached in his bag to make sure his book was still dry. Luckily he had placed right in the center of all his clothes.
“I know that Alam guy just saved us, but he’s still kind of creepy.” Samoht said.
“Let’s just be glad we escaped, alive.” Leahcim said.
“Yeah, hey, do you think we’ll be grounded for this?” Samoht laughed.
Leahcim laughed too, relieved that they made it, “Not likely. Come on, let’s get cleaned up.”
Leahcim brushed wet sand off his hands and reached out to help his brother stand.
Samoht and Leahcim were now in an airport in Poland. They weren’t sure of the city’s name, for neither read Polish, but it didn’t matter since they wouldn’t be there for long. Leahcim sat in one of the seats near the entrance looking at his book on the Schinderling’s history. Samoht appeared from behind a group of people and came toward Leahcim with two cinnamon buns. To Leahcim’s surprise, they weren’t both for Samoht.
Samoht plopped down next to Leahcim and made a face like the plastic seat wasn’t being very friendly to him.
“So I stopped by an internet cafe and sent Mom an email.” Samoht said.
“I have my laptop, you know.” Leahcim said, pointing to his bag.
“Oh, I thought it would’ve been fried from the water.”
“No, I checked. It’s fine. Wait…you just needed an excuse to get food, right?”
Samoht smiled and nodded. “Yeah, so when I sent the message to Mom I kinda downplayed what happened back at Dad’s, but she’s totally gonna know about the UK once Ike reports to her. Here you are, Cimmy.” Samoht said, handing one of the treats.
“Nice of you to think of me…” Leahcim said.
“Well, I thought a warm morsel of grub might be nice after escaping imprisonment from our homeland and plunging into a cold river.” Samoht said in one breath before shoving his baked good into his face.
“Oh, the S.S.S. Kingdom is hardly our home, Samoht. Even without the impending war and Dad’s ego, it’s not where we truly grew up.” Leahcim said.
“You do have a point there, Cimmy. It’s crazy, you know. I always held that place with such pride because not many can claim to be princes like us. But after seeing the way Dad was acting, and what he did, I guess it was just nostalgia that made me so fond of it.”
“I know, I just can’t….I worry for Sanid and Viktis. Do you think Dad will hurt them?”
“Nah! They’re tough birds, Cimmy. I mean, they’re older than us and they’ve been dealing with him their entire lives. Even for their transgression of helping us escape, they won’t be dealt with too severely. So a couple princesses helped a couple of princes in leave the country, big deal! It’s not like we’re criminals there or anything.”
“This is true. But what of Alam?” Leahcim asked.
“Well, I don’t know. Can’t speak for him…” Samoht said gravely.
“Huh…well whatever happens to him; let’s not let his sacrifice be in vain. We have to get the hell out of Europe.” Leahcim said.
“Yeah, but …damn, I really wanted to go to the Geneva Convention.”
“I know. We’ll just have to jump forward to our first stop in Asia like we talked about.”
“Yeah, you’re right. It won’t be long ‘til Dad starts tearing down Poland and Germany looking for us.” Samoht opened his folder and laughed a little, “Heh. Get ready for some more monkey business.”
“Why? What do you mean?” Leahcim said, wondering what Samoht could have found in his itinerary.
“Our next stop is Lopburi, Thailand. Home of the Monkey Festival.” Samoht said.
Footsteps echoed through a long corridor of Ol SchinGaerd Vlack as two SchinGaerdians escorted Alam to the Schinderking’s Meeting Chambre, where Mahlonik awaited him. The troops shoved Alam through the archway and he fell before the Schinderking.
“<My daughters, you two have saddened me deeply. I fear that since you haven’t traveled yet outside the kingdom you have little perspective of what you must protect. You will not be confined to your rooms, for every Schinderling must be armed in times of peril. However, I am stripping you of your commanding titles over the SchinGaerd. You will help the servants with their work until I decide otherwise. It is my hope that this will teach you some humility so you may appreciate the extreme privilege you have forsaken as princesses of the Schinderling throne. Sanid, in your stead, Dogo will take command of the SchinGaerdians.” Mahlonik said, confident in his decision.
Sanid looked in horror and surprise into her father’s face and Viktis stared at the ground as tears streamed down her face. Dogo stepped forward and bowed to the Schinderking.
“” Dogo said, as he turned to grin at Sanid and Viktis.
Samoht and Leahcim were able to get off their plane only twenty minutes after it touched down outside of Lopburi, Thailand. The Sun was just rising but it was already quite warm and stuffy in the airport. The brothers walked to claim their baggage as they weaved through the crowds.
“So, Cimmy. How much Thai do you speak?” Samoht asked.
“Uh, well, I’ve only touched on it a bit, but I’ve studied some Sanskrit, and they have some of the same words. But I think enough of the population might speak Mandarin.” Leahcim said.
“Huh, well I’m sure we’ll be fine.”
“Samoht, why did you want to come here?” Leahcim asked.
“Oh, well I read somewhere that they were introducing a new water-sanitation system that is friendlier to the environment. I wanted to see just how sustainable it actually is.”
They reached the baggage claim and a light alerted them to the moving conveyor belt which started to spit out luggage.
“Did you read anything in that book?” Samoht asked.
“That book on the Schinderling’s history, you’ve been reading it non-stop. Anything interesting in it?”
“Oh, well yeah…” Leahcim wasn’t sure how to continue. “It seems like a lot of fables, you know.”
“Yeah, I wonder if there are any non-fictional sources of our family’s history.” Samoht said as he grabbed his bag. Leahcim cocked his head to the side and thought for a second, then grabbed his duffel bag from the conveyor belt.
“Well…what if it were true? The lineage, at least?” Leahcim searched.
“What?! Cimmy, I remember those stories from when we were kids, and trust me, those were characters meant to keep us in line, kinda like Santa Claus. They aren’t our ancestors.” Samoht tossed his bag over his shoulder.
The two of them started walking toward the exit and soon were on the streets of Lopburi. There were many cars zooming about, and just as many bicycles and mopeds. Leahcim had done some light reading about Lopburi’s massive Macaque monkey population; they were thought of highly by some but were also a great nuisance to many business owners. However, even though it was said they pervaded most of the urban area, Leahcim saw none, at least not yet.
They walked along the street as Samoht tried to figure out what the taxis looked like while simultaneously trying to find a hotel on the map.
“Dang it, I can’t tell if any hotels are within walking distance or not. How far is a kilometer? I wish I would’ve learned this as a kid. Thanks a lot America!” Samoht rambled to himself.
Leahcim looked off into the distance and saw some dark reddish ruins peeking up over the modern buildings, “Hey, Samoht. How about we go over there?”
“What, to the ruins? Well, if that’s what their hotels look like, I guess I ought to lower my expectations for the water sanitation system.” Samoht said.
“Come on!” Leahcim commanded as he darted toward the old temples.
The Samoht chased after his younger brother across the street and nearly every vehicle about them seemed to honk at their presence. Leahcim passed through a short and narrow alley that led right to the field where the ruins stood. Samoht came through the alley hot on Leahcim’s trails and knocked over some rubbish lying about as he emerged. Leahcim was in awe of the temples and the greenery around them. The urban setting quickly dissolved into the stillness of nature.
Samoht was already panting, “What the hell, Leahcim? You can’t just take off like that, especially in a place like this. Why do you—-”
Leahcim held up his hand to silence Samoht. They stared ahead as a group of people, some looking rather sullen and others hopeful, carried massive trays of fruit toward the largest structure among the ruins.
“What, are they making an offering of some sort?” Samoht asked.
“Uh, yeah, in a way. I read that the locals see the monkeys as good luck. It has to do with some Buddhist-Hindu tradition of honoring Hanuman, a monkey god.” Leahcim spewed the information while still watching the crowd as they set the trays near the foot of the temple.
“Monkeys? What monkeys?” Samoht aksed.
“That’s what I’m wondering, too.” Leahcim said, now turning to look Samoht in the eyes.
“Oh..come on, you don’t think this has anything to do with that other stuff we heard about, do you?”
“Samoht, think about it. Everywhere we’ve gone, there have been missing monkeys and apes from zoos. You don’t think it’s a little weird that Lopburi, a major tourist hot-spot due to its monkey population, is void of them?”
“Well….uh…..maybe.” Samoht admitted.
They started walking toward the crowd that was gathering around the temple. Some of the people started saying prayers and kneeled before the old towers. One old lady was sobbing as she mumbled some words repeatedly.
Leahcim approached one of the younger folk, “
The person turned to look at them and took in their appearances before he responded, “Your accent, you speak English?”
“Yes, yes we do…” Leahcim said relieved.
“OH! And you are American!” the person said.
“Uh, no, Canadian!” Samoht interjected.
Leahcim looked at Samoht perplexed.
“What? I’m just being safe!” Samoht said, defensive.
“Okay. Welcome to Thailand.” The person said.
“Thank you. What’s going on here? Where are the monkeys?” Leahcim asked.
“Yes. Lopburi is usually blessed to have the monkeys, but they have left us. We have always brought food to feed them, but now it goes to the bugs. Some of the elders believe that Hanuman has called them to fight a great evil, and they are praying to Hanuman to let them come home safely. But I know the truth, I know they have not left. The monkeys were, taken…” the person trailed off, as if disturbed by a memory.
“Taken?” Samoht said, now serious.
“Yes. They came in the night, they had….traps. The monkeys were not afraid of them, because they don’t fear people. But they started to fear, and many ran to the jungle, but it was too late, because many have been taken….or as you say, kidnapped?”
“Do you know what they looked like?” Leahcim probed.
“Not really. It was dark when I saw them. They drove large trucks that they put the monkeys in. I heard them speak English, too, but from different places. Some American, some British, maybe some were Australian. I have a good hear for that.” The young man said trying to smile, but it was clear he was very upset.
“I bet you do….Listen, thank you for telling us about this, we hope your monkeys are okay.” Leahcim said.
“Perhaps you can talk with your American neighbors? The Thai government is not thinking this is serious, but I know people have done this, not gods and not nature.” The young man said firmly.
Samoht and Leahcim looked at each other not knowing what to say. Finally Samoht spoke up, “We’ll see what we can do. Have a nice day.”
The young man turned away and walked over to his familiars.
“Wow, this is some heavy stuff…I mean, I’m not usually that alarmed when a few animals go missing, but the way he described it seemed, legit… ” Samoht said.
“So now you finally believe there is something fishy going on?” Leahcim asked.
“Well, definitely, I mean it’s one thing when a few apes escape a zoo, but these monkeys were a part of the natural order here, right?”
“Yeah” Leahcim affirmed.
“For something to disturb them to the point of fleeing to the jungle seems note-worthy to me.”
Suddenly, all of the prayers and movement among the crowd stopped. They all were staring in one direction toward the trees. Samoht and Leahcim looked too, and found that they were all looking intently at a small gray figure walking slowly toward them on all fours. As it got closer, they could see it was one of the Macaque monkeys. It looked rather old, had a slight limp, and was missing one eye. It paused for a moment when it registered that there were people nearby. Then, after a moment it continued walking to them. No one had moved, and everyone watched as the old monkey approached the offerings of fruit. Once it got to the them it grabbed a green fruit. It looked at all the people, as if searching for something, and turned to walk back toward the jungle. The old lady began sobbing again and reached toward the monkey as if beckoning it to come back. The monkey stopped and turned to face the people again and sat at that spot as it began to open its fruit.
“Well, if only you spoke monkey, huh Leahcim?” Samoht said.
“What?” Leahcim wasn’t following.
“If only you spoke monkey. I bet that little one could tell us a lot about what’s been happening around here.” Samoht clarified.
Just then, the monkey looked behind it and started running back toward the people. As the monkey was rushing toward the temple, a blur of orange and black burst from the bushes. Everyone started screaming and running in all directions when they realized that it was a tiger.
“Oh shit, Cimmy! We gotta go!” Samoht grabbed Leahcim and started pulling him. Leahcim looked back at the action and saw the tiger pounce on the monkey. The old primate screeched as the tiger revealed its teeth.
“NO!!!!” Leahcim called out as he lurched back toward the attack. He looked down for a split second and quickly threw a baseball-sized rock at the tiger. There was a distinct moment of silence as the rock soared and violently knocked the tiger right on the skull. The giant cat roared and jumped back in surprise as the old monkey used this advantage to quickly dart and jump onto the temple far out of reach.
“Cimmy, what did you do that for?” Samoht was furious.
“That monkey, it was helpless! I had to do it!” Leahcim yelled.
“Yeah, well I think you just did the tiger a favor. You just super-sized its meal!”
The tiger recovered and was staring at Leahcim and Samoht, who were now the only people in the field with the large predator. There were about 100 yards between them and the beast. The tiger roared and Samoht grabbed Leahcim once again as he dragged his brother into the trees.
“Where are we going?” Leahcim asked while running.
“We’re closer to the jungle, we’ll never get to the city til we shake the cat!” Samoht was already going in between trees and bursting through bushes all the while maintaining a grasp on Leahcim’s arm. They heard the roars of the tiger as it crashed through the jungle behind them, but luckily they were keeping a safe distance, even though it wouldn’t be for long. They saw a small clearing ahead that looked like a rice field with a house on it.
“Come on, let’s go for that shelter!” Samoht commanded.
They went for the clearing when suddenly they heard a hiss followed by a cobra erecting itself in their path. The hooded serpent furiously stood its ground and seemed very intent on striking. They froze and kept their eyes on the cobra, but they could still hear the tiger turning the jungle over behind them.
“Seriously?” Samoht said through clenched teeth.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, Samoht…” Leahcim sounded as if he were about to cry, but was too scared to carry through.
The cobra reared back, preparing to strike, and just as the snake shot at them, a figure dressed in light-orange garb spun out of the bushes and grabbed the serpent by its tail. The snake was pulled out of biting range and the person continued to spin quickly as they held the snake with both hands stretching it out like a cane. The tiger emerged and jumped at them as the person flung the cobra in its direction. The two collided mid-air, and as they landed the tiger stood on its hind legs and the cobra rose to face the cat. They each took in the view of the other and made defensive sounds. For a moment the two seemed to be posing for a painting. The cobra dizzily sprung at the tiger and the big cat quickly swatted the snake to the side, before it took off into the jungle. The snake rose once again, disoriented and no longer threatened, retracting its hood as it slithered into the foliage.
The figure turned to the brothers, who were astounded at what they just witnessed. This person didn’t look Thai, but rather Indian. His garb seemed to be the same orange color as a Buddhist monk, but the style was very different, like it was influenced by many cultures. He raised his right eyebrow at them, above which was a black tattoo of curvy lines with dots at the end of each; a symbol that looked like an abstract tree bearing fruit. He smiled and spoke with impeccable British English, “Greetings Samoht and Leahcim, I see you have met the locals. My name is Vivek.”
Vivek offered his hand out to them to shake. Leahcim, still full of adrenaline, reached hesitantly to take his hand in greeting and noticed that as he did, a bracelet of dark green beads on Vivek’s wrist began to glow and emanate a piercing green light that was quite bright, even under the rising sun.
Vivek’s eyes opened so wide at the sight of his bracelet they seemed like they were going to pop out.
“So I see it’s true….” Vivek said.
Once Samoht and Leahcim were able to get over their shock of the cobra-tiger situation, they felt comfortable enough to start questioning this orange-robed, Tarzan-like person.
“That, that was crazy awesome! How did you do that!?” asked Samoht.
“The bracelet? I assure you, that was all you. You see, the two of you-” Vivek attempted.
“No, the tiger and the cobra and the spinning. That…You saved us!” Samoht was so overjoyedl that he hugged Vivek and lifted him off the ground. As he did, Leahcim noticed that Vivek’s bracelet shone brightly again.
“Vivek, it’s very nice to meet you. Thank you for rescuing us. We’ve had a few close calls recently but I really thought we were goners just then. What…what was that you were saying about the bracelet? And…and how do you know our names?”
Samoht finally set their savior down and Vivek addressed Leahcim, “Well, perhaps now is not the right time, given all of the excitement you’ve just witnessed. Why don’t you come to my home, we can give you lodging and good food. It’s far too dangerous out here in the jungle, what with the predators and such.”
“Wait, we?” Samoht inquired.
Vivek turned back toward Samoht with a welcoming smile, “Yes. I think it’s time you met The Family.”
Vivek led the brothers through the jungle as if he had every tree, rock, and vine memorized. They were slightly anxious following someone into the wilderness that they had just met, but seeing the way he could handle himself, they thought it would be foolish to part from him.
They had been trekking for about an hour, but the time seemed to fly. However, the duration of walking without food or water was beginning to weigh on them. Samoht’s stomach growled loudly and Leahcim noticed he was feeling dehydrated. But Vivek was not deterred one bit, this seemed to be a part of his daily routine.
Samoht spoke up, “Hey, Vivek, where’s that lodging you were talking ‘about earlier, and more importantly, uh, the food?”
“Yes, I’m rather thirsty, too. I think we need to stop for a moment.” Leahcim added.
“Oh, sorry. Pardon my rudeness.” Vivek said. He handed Leahcim a cantine that was hidden in his robes. He continued addressing Samoht, “As for the food and lodging, we have just arrived.” He raised his hand and pointed upward.
Before them was a small mountain which had a castle-esque/temple-like building protruding from the side. This structure was unlike anything Leahcim had ever seen in the tourist books of Thailand. At first glance, the building could be easily looked over, for it seemed to be giving in to the vegetation growing around it, but it still exuded a strong man-made form. As they walked up the mountainside the brothers could see the place in more detail. It appeared to consist of a mixed influence of many cultures, much like Vivek’s attire, for to the left a spire that one would see on a mosque shot high above the walls, while a more stout European castle watchtower sat to the right. Just over the wall they could see large dragon statues peering at them, sitting on what could be assumed to be a gigantic pagoda.
“Ah, we are here.” Vivek said, “Shall we head in?”
Leahcim looked about the front wall, it stretched to at least three stories tall, and there was no entrance to be found, “Sure, but how do we get in?” he asked.
“Hm?” Vivek appeared to be waiting for them to move, “Oh, yes, I forgot….haha. Do you see that mountain across from this one?”
Leahcim and Samoht looked away from the fortress in the direction Vivek pointed. They heard a slight whoosh of air and turned to see Vivek was gone.
“Wha…what the hell?” Samoht pondered.
They then heard Vivek speak from atop the wall, “Well, this ladder was made from the bamboo trees of that mountain.”
Vivek then swung a bamboo ladder over the wall and slid it down to them.
Samoht looked up very suspicious, “That’s nice…. how the hell did you get up there without it?”
Leahcim looked up as well, expecting an answer. Vivek seemed like he didn’t hear the question, “Come now, we have much food prepared for you.”
Samoht mumbled as he started climbing the ladder, “Why’s there gotta be weird shit everywhere we go? Huh? Everywhere. Listen Leahcim, I’m only climbing this because I’m really, really hungry.”
Leahcim laughed a little, “I know.”
Samoht continued, “As soon as something really freaky happens, we split, okay?”
“That seems to be the precedent.” Leahcim followed Samoht up the bamboo, hoping it would hold their weight, but mostly Samoht’s.
As Vivek led the brothers down the stone steps from the wall they came upon an expansive courtyard that seemed too huge for the walls that surrounded it. Upon seeing the buildings closer, they could tell that many architects from many eras had been through this place. Among the green vegetation and dark stone structures, more of Vivek’s people stood out in their similar orange robes. Upon seeing the brothers, all of the others stopped moving and looked intently at them, neither threatened nor welcoming.
Vivek turned around, “Welcome to Leuxd khxng lok!”
The brothers didn’t catch what he said. Samoht looked to Leahcim to translate, but he just shrugged.
“Welcome to what?!?” Samoht burst out.
“Well, this place has many names, perhaps another you can pronounce is Dalzhong slaod.”Vivek said. Leahcim knew this term from somewhere, but he couldn’t quite remember. It sounded like Old-Lingskeo, but Leahcim assumed it must have been from an Asian language stock that shared a common root with the tongue of their nomadic ancestors. Nonetheless, he vaguely understood its meaning.
“…Earth’s blood?” Leahcim asked.
“Yes, or more intended, ‘That which helps the Earth live’, so to speak.” Vivek corrected.
“Hmmm. That’s an awful bold statement.” Samoht said.
“Well, it is our purpose, and more importantly, the purpose of this place is to help us realize what that means and how it shall be carried out.”
“So it’s a cult.” Samoht blurted out again. Leahcim elbowed Samoht for the fortieth time since they left home.
“No, I certainly hope not. Any religious views among us are diverse and private. We work together based on truths. Truths that, some people like you may find hard to believe without evidence.” Vivek said.
Samoht was flustered, “Okay, this is getting a little too esoteric for me. During our whole trip, people have been speaking in riddles, whispering about conspiracies and what not. I want some straight answers, Vivek. How did you find us in the jungle, how did you know our names, how did you handle that snake getting bit, and how the HELL did you scale a three story wall in one second?!?!?”
Vivek looked deep into Samoht’s eyes, letting the anger thrown at him roll off his back, “I am sorry this makes you uncomfortable, Samoht. But the information we will be imparting upon you will not be taken well on an empty stomach.”
Samoht took a deep breath and exhaled, “Fine, but if you weirdos poison my food or my brother’s I’m going H.A.M. on all y’all! Ya hear?”
Vivek smiled, “Yes, my friend.”
Leahcim looked away from the two speaking and saw a couple of old men, one a dark Asian and the other a Caucasian of some sort, sitting at a table playing a board game. He walked over to them to see one was moving alabaster pieces that were concentrated around a taller white piece in the center of the board of squares, while the other was operating twice as many dark granite pieces that seemed to have started on the edges of the board. Each of the men had one piece of their opponents sitting just off the board, which told Leahcim that they must have started the game with an unequal number of pieces. Vivek observed Leahcim’s interest in the game and walked up next to him.
“It’s called Hnefatafl. It is the precursor to chess which was played often in Northern Europe during the Viking Age. A game of strategy.” Vivek said, admiringly as he watched the old men play.
“But the sides are uneven…” Leahcim thought aloud.
“Hence, a game of strategy. Yes, the attacking pieces do outnumber the king piece and his guard, but the king’s guard has certain advantages in the nature of capturing the attackers. All the alabaster team has to do is get the king to one of the corner squares, while the attackers must surround the king on all four sides to win. It seems unequal, unfair, and perhaps cruel at first, but that’s why it’s a great metaphor for life. Each one of us has strengths and weaknesses where one may find the opposite in others. It’s all about how we come to realize this, reconcile with it, and push forward with what we have that allows us to survive.” Vivek said.
Samoht cocked his head to the side, “All that from a board game?”
“You’ll be surprised what you’ll learn and where you’ll learn it from…” Vivek responded, “Shall we go inside to eat?”
Vivek started up the steps into the large pagoda before them and Samoht followed right on his heels.
“You keep mentioning food but I haven’t seen any. I’m starting to think this is actually a cult and all we have waiting for us inside are dark robes and Kool-Aid.” Samoht said. Vivek turned back quizzically, clearly not understanding the reference.
Leahcim followed as well but paused for a moment on the steps to look back at the old men playing the game. One of them saw people were gathering to eat and with a light touch to the other’s hand said that they could continue later, but they were not speaking English nor any Asian language that Leahcim knew. What he heard was a variation of Lingskeo, and he now knew what Vivek was referring to when he had said The Family.
As Samoht and Leahcim sat on the floor of the massive pagoda, they saw large murals on the walls and ceiling that seemed to depict characters Leahcim strangely found himself familiar with. One in particular depicted a Buddha/Krishna-like being with bird wings. He or she had a greenish blue skin and four arms of which each hand was reaching out to touch a wound on four separate warriors. Perhaps they fit archetypes of most mythological stories, but having just read some Schinderling tales, Leahcim secretly knew that these paintings had to be more specific, he just didn’t know how to accept it.
The brothers were served rice with various sauces, but no meat. Leahcim felt very comfortable with this and based on what he thought he knew about people in orange robes, he felt he already understood why a group like this would prepare food in such a way. After letting his mind wander a bit in the paintings and the cuisine, he felt it was urgent that he talk about what he had heard outside with Samoht.
“Samoht, when we were walking in from the courtyard, I heard the old men outside speak Lingskeo.” Leahcim said.
“What? No way. With all the languages you have in your head you were probably just confused.” Samoht offered.
“No, I’m sure of it. What does ‘Dat flit don grupick’ sound like to you?” Leahcim pushed.
“It sounds like you saw two old men coming in for food when everyone else was just after Vivek had told us we were going to eat.” Samoht said.
“You don’t believe me, do you?” Leahcim said.
“No, we’re in the middle of Thailand, Cimmy. They don’t speak Lingskeo here.” Samoht said.
“I swear, I’m not making this up!” Leahcim said, upset.
“Alright, alright. We’ll put this to the test.” Samoht turned away from Leahcim and yelled across the hall so everyone could hear him, “HALOCK!”
Immediately every head in the room turned to them shocked and disgusted. They saw Vivek on the other side of the room smirking, and he started moving toward them, sensing they were starting to catch on to certain details about this place. Halock was a common swear word in Lingskeo going back centuries. It was basically a mix of any swear words one could think of, but mostly it communicated the act of throwing dung in someone’s face.
One of the men in the room faced Samoht and said in strangely accented Lingskeo, “
Samoht’s face got really red as he realized what this meant. Leahcim smiled having been proven right, despite it upsetting their hosts.
Vivek was now beside them, “I see you must have discovered that this place has an interesting history?”
“Interesting? I just told this room I was going to shove poop in their face in a language that shouldn’t be known by anyone outside of the S.S.S. Kingdom.” Samoht said in a tone that seemed like he was trying to blame it on Vivek.
Vivek sat beside them and was handed a bowl of rice by one of his companions. He spoke, “You see, Samoht and Leahcim, some time ago when the Schinderlings were still nomadic, they would set up camps in certain areas they traveled to frequently. This was one of them. Eventually enough people came to trade here that they built a fortress to protect the possessions being exchanged and offer lodging to various merchants that passed through. Once the Schinderlings established their kingdom in the West, this place was charged with being a sort of academy that gathered intelligence for the Schinderking. Over the years we became self-sustaining and while officially this estate is still under S.S.S. rule, we have had no contact from them for a number of years. Except for Alam, of course, he informed us that you were coming.”
“Wait, does this mean we went through hell to get out of the S.S.S. just to stumble into one of its territories on the other side of the globe?” Samoht asked, upset, “I’m not gonna be anyone’s prisoner, not my dad’s, and especially not some robe-wearing-freaks in the jungle. Come on, Cimmy!”
Samoht began to get up but Leahcim pulled him back to his seat, “Chill out, Samoht. They are not going to hurt us, and we are finally getting answers.”
“Yes, do not worry, Samoht. You two are free to go whenever you please, but we would like to share some knowledge with you first.” Vivek said.
“Well…” Samoht’s eyebrows were raised, “Let’s hear it then.”
“You see, Leachim and Samoht.” Vivek began, “You two have-”
Just then a gong sounded and someone began playing a singing bowl as three women entered the hall. They walked in side by side with one in the lead. She had long, white hair and many years of wisdom poured forth from inside her dark eyes as she searched the room. She held something with care in her hands which was wrapped in the finest of cloths. Once she caught sight of the brothers, she smiled warmly and approached them in a graceful manner. The two other women beside her kept looking eagerly to the brothers and whatever the white-haired woman had in her hands, but their faces did not seem as welcoming.
The white-haired woman spoke, “Greetings Samoht and Leahcim Schinderling. We appreciate your presence. My name is Bok Thi. The two beside me are Achara and Maliwan.” Bok said.
“Hiya there!” Samoht said, “Are you the one who taught Vivek how to fight tigers and snakes?”
Maliwan, a crabby-looking little woman, glanced at Samoht and said something to Achara in Thai and everyone but Samoht and Leahcim laughed.
“Hey, what’d she say?” Samoht asked.
Bok smiled and answered, “She says she is glad to hear we have a joker among us.”
Leahcim spoke to Bok Thi, “We really appreciate everything, Bok. Everything from Vivek saving us in the jungle to you welcoming us in and the food.”
“It is no problem.” Said Bok Thi, “Now, I have a very precious stone in my hands that we offer to our guests who come here. Would you like to hold it?”
Samoht sighed, having no idea where this was going, “Yeah, sure, when in Thailand, right?”
Bok Thi unfolded the cloth to reveal a large, translucent green gem. As she handed it to Samoht it began to glow, much like Vivek’s bracelet did in the forest when they got very close to him. All of the people in the room gasped at the sight. Leahcim then carefully picked it up from the cloth and as the skin of his fingers touched the gem, a piercing light shot from the stone and filled the room. Most people had to look away. Suddenly Leahcim felt good, like he was in the right place; it was like he had meaning. He felt every atom in his body awaken with energy, an energy that made trivial things fall away and impossible things seem like mere challenges. Leahcim set the stone back down in the cloth and exhaled deeply. He looked over to Samoht and saw on his brother’s face that he must have had a similar experience. Bok Thi, Maliwan, Achara, and Vivek all shared approving looks.
Samoht looked at everyone’s reaction and asked, “I’m guessing this doesn’t happen to all of your guests?”
After the event with the glowing gem, the robed folk went into another room to discuss something privately upon Bok Thi’s request. In the meantime, Samoht and Leahcim were left to wait in the large hall of the pagoda. They did have more questions now, of course, because the fact that a green rock lit up when they touched it only confused them further. In a way it disturbed them, too.
“I don’t get it!” Samoht exclaimed.
“What?” Leahcim wondered.
“Why did it shine brighter for you?”
“I’m not sure. Maybe because I made contact with it? You didn’t touch it directly with your skin. But it still shone in your hands regardless.”
“Oh, I guess that makes sense.” Samoht seemed satisfied for a moment, then his head jerked to the side and he blurted out again, “Wait! No it doesn’t! Why the hell does that rock glow when we touch it?!?”
“I’m not sure, but something tells me I might know, I-I just don’t know if I’m prepared to entertain the idea.”
“Well, we’ve got nothing else to do while they talk about us in the other room. Run it by me.”
“You’ll think me crazy.”
“Nah, I already do. Now come on, spit it out, Cimmy.”
“Well, I’ve been reading that book of Schinderling Folklore, right? And, the first story is about this flying creature that met four of our ancestors, and it-”
Samoht cut his brother off, “ Okay, nevermind. I thought we were going to entertain realistic ideas, but whatever.”
“Well, how do you explain it then?” Leahcim was upset he didn’t get to share his thoughts.
“I think they drugged our food and it was a hallucination.”
“But it also happened before in the jungle with Vivek’s bracelet. We hadn’t eaten any of their food at that time.”
Samoht thought on this for a moment, “Okay…but I don’t like this, Cimmy. I mean, a person who can jump like a flea and handle deadly animals like rubber chickens. A rock that glows when certain people touch it, it, it all sounds so….”
“Mythological?” Leahcim offered.
“Yes, and certainly not logical. I mean, I have been enveloped with science my whole life. I’ve been working to push the limits with the capabilities of our technology, but whenever one of my inventions would work, it made sense. This doesn’t.”
Leahcim noticed his brother was genuinely becoming uncomfortable, which one could always tell when Samoht wasn’t cracking jokes. Leahcim spoke, “I’m sure it does make sense, Samoht. Perhaps the truth of the world is just not what we thought it was.”
Samoht smiled at Leahcim’s profound observation, he hadn’t really realized how much his brother seemed to grow already from their journey. As they shared a moment of silence, Bok Thi, the two other women, and Vivek suddenly opened the doors and walked with purpose toward the brothers. They seemed to have an air of urgency.
Bok Thi came close enough within the personal space of Leahcim and Samoht that it seemed as if they had known each other for a long time. She smiled in a comforting manner towards the brothers and spoke, “I think it is time you two started training to hone your potential abilities.”
“Wow,” Samoht released a bunch of air from his lips, “That’s awful forward of you.”
Leahcim ignored Samoht’s take on the conversation and stayed serious. He was ready to get some answers, “What do you mean by training? Like combat?”
“Yeah, and what makes our potential so important?” Samoht had jumped on the serious bandwagon, for now at least.
Bok Thi took a moment to figure out how to properly respond, “To answer your question, Leahcim, yes. If the events to come could be solved with philosophy and years of knowledge, then this academy would be fit to do so, but unfortunately the world right now doesn’t need scholars as much as it requires…heroes.” Bok Thi was visibly uncomfortable using that word, as if she felt she might lose them, but she couldn’t manage to think of another term.
Samoht spoke up suddenly, “Well, I’m flattered, lady, but I think the only heroic thing I’ll do in my life will be inventing something useful. And Leahcim here, well, he just might be the next Rosetta Stone. Listen, I know what is expected of us for hailing from the S.S.S. Kingdom, but we are not warriors.”
“No, I know you are not. But with some guidance I believe you two can be more than fighters, you can be-”
“Heroes…” Leahcim said, listening deeply to Bok Thi’s words.
“Yes, exactly. But also necessary leaders.” Bok Thi was relieved she was being received by someone.
“Okay, and now for the age-old question. ‘Why us?’ What makes us so special?” Samoht asked.
Bok Thi responded, “The reason we all reacted the way we did when the green gem shone was because we don’t see that often. In fact, none of us have seen such an occurrence in our lifetimes. You see, we have many of those green gems here; they have been collected for centuries from all over the Earth. They hold a concentrated energy that awakens incredible abilities in people, both physical and mental. Many of us have learned to use these energies over the years but we must always have a piece of the material in our possession in order to use it. The reason that the gems glow in close proximity to you is because the gems awaken one another when they are close.”
“But what does that have to do with us? Are you saying these gems are inside us?” Leahcim inquired.
“In a way, yes. You see, some time ago something happened in your heritage that fused the energy of the gems with your family’s blood. A popular explanation is that of a supernatural being bequeathing the gift to your ancestors. Whatever the true happening may have been, ever since a certain period the members of your family have been said to accomplish amazing feats of human possibility. We feel that it is right that you two find a way to do this as well.”
“Wait,” Samoht was actually entertaining this idea as truth now, but still remained skeptical as always, “If it is in our family then why haven’t we seen our father, siblings, or cousins harness this power?”
Bok Thi answered quickly as if she had been prepared for this one, “We have noticed in certain gems that if they are not used for an extended period of time the power becomes dormant and more difficult to access. It is still very much there, just latent.”
Samoht considered this for a moment and looked to Leahcim, his little brother seemed trusting, perhaps too trusting. He had promised their mother he would keep his sibling safe. Samoht looked back up at Bok Thi, “So give us one good reason we should stick around and get involved in this thing.”
Bok Thi took a deep breath in and almost looked sad, “Unfortunately, I cannot. However, the recent absence of so many domestic and wild animals signifies that a chord of great dissonance has been struck in the world. We don’t know what is coming, but if there was something you could do in your life, something that could really make an impact, and only you could do it, would you really want to let that opportunity pass due to uncertainty of the outcome?”
Samoht gave Bok Thi and her compatriots another hard look. They all seemed genuine in their faith in Leahcim and himself, even the crabby lady Maliwan to Bok Thi’s right. Samoht also couldn’t deny what he witnessed with the gems, and what they apparently allowed Vivek to do. Samoht suddenly felt the need to show the little guy up. You just wait ‘til we find out what I can do, Vivek. Samoht thought and smirked. He looked back to Bok Thi again, “You’re sure one hell of an orator, Mam. What should we do now?”
Bok Thi smiled, empowered by Samoht’s acceptance, “Now, I must consult my advisor to see what path each of you must take.”
Samoht spoke, “I thought [_you _]were The HBC.”
Leahcim looked to Samoht bewildered, and Samoht looked to Bok Thi’s side expecting to find her advisor. All he found was a countenance on Maliwan that said, ‘What are you looking at?’ Samoht guessed they were about to meet yet another person of this secret order, and he was hoping they wouldn’t be any more eccentric than those he had already met.
Bok Thi led Samoht and Leahcim down a long hallway deeper into the network of bungalows. Their hosts stopped and turned towards the brothers once they reached a large stone bench.
Bok Thi spoke, “My advisor is shy, he works best if he can meet with you individually. So Samoht, we will have to ask you to wait while Leahcim goes in first.”
Leahcim was hesitant, but accepting, “Uh, okay. Very well then-”
“Whoa, no, no dice. I’m staying with my brother. I hope you can understand if I don’t totally trust you guys.” Samoht said.
Bok Thi calmly took a tiny stick out from her styled hair which she let fall over her shoulders. The stick looked very delicate and had intricate, curving designs carved into it, “This, Samoht, belonged to my mother and her mother before her. It was made by an expert craftsman from a 500-year-old tree. There are only five of them in the world. It is so fragile that one could break it from sneezing too hard. I would be a fool to give this to the wrong person. But for your trust, I am letting you hold on to it for collateral while my advisor meets with your brother. Is this okay?”
Samoht looked at her and placed his hand out with the palm up, “Well, I certainly don’t take you for a fool.”
Bok Thi smiled and beckoned Leahcim, “Wonderful. Shall we?”
Bok Thi opened a large door to an external courtyard that seemed fairly bare and absent of plants save for a single tree. The open space had a few soccer balls lying about and flat dirt surroundings which told Leahcim that this was a space for movement, and due to the lack of small vegetation growing upon the ground it must have meant it was used a lot by a great number of people. He looked up and saw a tire swing hanging from the lone tree. It appeared to be a curious item since many of the people in this place were elderly. Perhaps they took in new people to the order at quite a young age, but Leahcim assumed that it must be a recreational area and upon Vivek’s explanation the tire swing might also have some deep, enlightening purpose.
Leahcim suddenly heard a loud movement from beyond the tree. Something very heavy was shuffling about and coming nearer. He looked back for Bok Thi again but found that she had closed the door to the space from the inside. He looked up to find the her and the other two women standing on an enclosure on the second story of the building. Leahcim felt his stomach sink with dread.
He saw a mass of gray moving on the other side of a wooden fence and he just about put it together before he actually saw the animal. Leahcim stood in awe as an adult male elephant came into his sight and started walking straight for him. He could tell the creature was domestic due to the items that had been strapped to his body, but domestic was a word that didn’t carry much weight where a six-ton mammal was concerned. Leahcim didn’t move an inch, and watched intently. The elephant wore a fancy headdress with a green jewel inside it and had various items attached to his sides, as if the creature used tools for different projects. The one that caught Leachim’s eye especially was what looked like a large club fashioned from a tree trunk that sat in an enormous holster to the being’s left side. The elephant seemed to lower his head slightly and turn it to one side almost as if he were getting a good look at Leahcim. He then raised his trunk to touch a green stone sitting inside the headdress and lowered the massive appendage upon Leahcim’s shoulder and wrapped it around so it was resting on his neck. Leahcim hadn’t moved at all, nervous of what startling the animal might cause, and now he was straining under the weight of the trunk, even though it might not have actually been resting completely on him. The green stone shimmered slightly, which meant it must have been one of their special gems, and the elephant looked up in the stone’s direction for a moment. The large being exhaled through his trunk and Leahcim felt a gargantuan rush of air pass over his shirt. It seemed like the elephant was the one who had just relaxed, and it put Leahcim at ease, for he felt like he was with a trusted friend. He was also utterly amazed at how sentient the elephant seemed to be. The creature then lifted his trunk from Leahcim’s shoulders and turned away. He grabbed a soccer ball that was sitting upon the ground and tossed it into one of four barrels sitting against the wall of the courtyard. Each of the bins was a different color and had writing on it in strange characters. Leahcim couldn’t tell what they said, but each one definitely said something different. The elephant then walked toward the fence from where he had emerged. Leahcim heard the door open behind him and saw Vivek waiting for him.
“Be sure to not mention anything to Samoht. It has to be a surprise in order for the advisor to get a good reading, okay?” Vivek said.
“Yeah, sure…” Leahcim responded, still astounded at what had happened.
Vivek and Leahcim walked into the hallway where Samoht was waiting. Leahcim’s big brother handed him Bok Thi’s heirloom, “You survived! What is he like?”
Leahcim thought Samoht’s choice of words were funny given the reality of what happened. He then looked to Vivek and received a calm but tense look. Leahcim responded to Samoht, “… uh, polite, with a strong presence.”
“Cool, shall we, Vivek?” Samoht said as he followed Vivek to the door.
As the door closed behind Samoht, Vivek looked to Leahcim, “Since you have already had your session, you may join Bok Thi on the balcony.”
“Oh, good. Then I can make sure Samoht minds his manners.” Leahcim walked up a narrow set of stone steps and saw Bok Thi turn to greet him. Leahcim nodded to her and the other women, “That was certainly unexpected.”
“I hope you are not upset. I know the first time meeting Vinod can be stressful for most.” Bok Thi said, searching his face.
“Vinod.” Leahcim repeated, mostly as a way to remember the name, “No, it’s fine. It was quite an experience, though. What was with the part about the soccer ball?”
Bok Thi looked at Leahcim for a moment, not sure how to proceed, “I think we should see what Vinod thinks of Samoht before we discuss this.”
Leahcim forgot momentarily that his brother was about to have the shock of his life, and looked down to see Samoht sitting in the tire swing as he waited. His older brother noticed him on the balcony. Samoht called to him, “Oh, hi-ya there!”
On the other side of Bok Thi Leahcim could hear Maliwan mumble disapproving sentences in her native tongue. As Leahcim saw Vinod come out from behind the fence he wondered if Samoht was actually boisterous enough for an elephant to sneak up on him.
“Why do you look so nervous, Cimmy?” Samoht yelled as he jumped down from the swing and walked around the tree, “It’s just some old fart with a cane, righ-”
Samoht found himself face to trunk with Vinod. He screamed an inaudible guttural sound and took off toward the doorway out of the courtyard, “What the shit, what the shit! Let me out! Vivek, there’s another wild animal you need to take care of!”
Vinod wrapped his trunk around Samoht’s waist in a seemingly calm manner and pulled him away from the door. This made Samoht freak out even more. He kept flailing but Vinod continued to pull him out farther into the courtyard. Finally, Samoht planted his feet and leaned away from the pull of the trunk. Vinod made a sound of struggle through his nostrils as he tried to pull Samoht further, but it was to no avail. Leahcim wasn’t sure he understood, but as he looked over to the women beside him he saw their jaws drop. Vinod continued to yank at Samoht, but he wasn’t budging at all. Samoht was standing his ground against the force of an elephant. Leahcim watched as his brother realized this himself. Samoht, suddenly more courageous, defiantly hit Vinod’s trunk with both of his fists to free himself. Leahcim heard one of the women interject something that he assumed was an expletive. Vinod stopped pulling and silently looked Samoht right in the eyes.
“Oh dear,” Bok Thi said, “He shouldn’t have struck Vinod like that.”
“Why?” Leahcim asked.
“Vinod will see that as a challenge. Now he is going to test Samoht as a warrior. ”
Vinod released Samoht and rumbled out a roar of distaste. His trunk quickly found the giant club strapped to his left and pulled it out of its holster to swing it just over Samoht’s head. Samoht ducked and rolled out of the way. The tree-club must have weighed a few hundred pounds, but Vinod swung it like a slugger. Each time the club went through the air it made a terrifying whoosh. Each swing was followed by an aggressive trumpeting out of Vinod’s trunk.
Leahcim looked to the women concerned, “Please, we have to stop him! Samoht doesn’t know how to fight, let alone against an elephant!”
Bok Thi seemed concerned but accepting of the situation, “I’m afraid he’ll have to, Leahcim. Don’t worry, Vinod won’t kill him……intentionally.”
“Intentionall…” Leahcim mouthed, “Screw it!” He yelled as he took off down the stairs to help Samoht.
Samoht now found himself next to the door banging on it for Vivek to open it again. But Vinod was close behind him and swung his monstrous club hard. Samoht moved out of the way but the door was not missed. The wood of the door and frame reverberated heavily and gave in to the force of the club. This rendered the passage way useless, for the arch crumbled to form a barricade. Leahcim got to the bottom of the stairs just as this happened and covered his face to block the grit and dust that flew at him. He wasn’t sure how he was going to help his brother, but now he wouldn’t be able to find out.
Samoht now went for cover behind the tree. He ran past the tire swing and frantically swung it toward Vinod. as the tire swing went up it passed Vinod’s head just as he was raising the club again to swing. The tire swing came down perfectly around the club and as Vinod brought down his club at Samoht the weapon lurched back and came down on Vinod’s own head. He dropped the tree-club to the ground with a huge thump and stood in a daze for a second, still eyeing Samoht. Then Vinod picked up his club again and Samoht tensed, waiting for the inevitable, but Vinod simply replaced his club into its holster. The big gray hulk then turned around and picked up a soccer ball which he proceeded to throw into the green barrel to the right of the one where he had thrown the ball for Leahcim. Vinod then walked away as if nothing had occurred and left Samoht to himself in the courtyard.
Leahcim finally made his way through the debris of the smashed doorway and sighed, seeing Samoht still alive and that Vinod had stopped his onslaught.
Samoht sat roughly on the dirt, exhausted, and noticed Leahcim, “Jeez, I thought you said he was polite!”
Vivek managed to clear the debris from the archway and the brothers were able to freely come back into the pagoda. Bok Thi and her associates beckoned Samoht and Leahcim to come inside so they could discuss what had transpired. As they sat on cushions around a low table, Leahcim thought that Samoht was surprisingly calm about an elephant having just attacked him, but perhaps he was starting to become accustomed to all of the weird stuff that had been happening during their travels. In fact, in comparison to the other events that had occurred, it was probably a walk in the park for Samoht by now.
“I am deeply sorry for what happened with Vinod, Samoht. It was not our intention to put you in danger.” Bok Thi said as Vivek brought out some green tea in a purple clay pot with matching cups.
Samoht’s eyebrows raised, “Not your intention? You put us in a closed space with a wild animal and didn’t warn us beforehand.”
There it was, thought Leahcim, the sass that he had expected. Leahcim was actually comforted by Samoht’s discomfort, for it showed his brother hadn’t snapped from all the stress. Vivek’s head turned quickly to Samoht at his comment, “Vinod is not wild, Samoht.”
“Wild, passionate. Same difference. I bet you don’t let Vinod hold your little hair pin, do ya, Bok?” Samoht said. Vivek frowned as he distributed the purple clay cups and began to pour what smelled like jasmine tea. He seemed to be upset that Samoht didn’t understand the point of the encounter.
“I know it can be frightening at first, but he wasn’t trying to hurt you straightaway, Samoht. You challenged him when you struck his trunk.” Bok Thi explained.
“Yeah, because he grabbed me and was trying to drag me away!” Samoht retorted.
“Only because you turned your back to him. Vinod demands more respect than that.” Bok Thi said.
Samoht half-smiled and turned his head to the side, “Well, I’m sorry I hurt the big lug’s feelings. Why do you have an elephant sitting around here anyways?”
Bok Thi looked as if she were recollecting a fond memory, “ Vinod wandered out of the jungle as a baby many years ago. We thought that he was simply lost so we didn’t engage him for fear of upsetting his parents once they found him. But they never came. For three days he stood outside our walls looking up at the people in the watchtowers, like he was waiting for an audience with us, almost as if he was meant to be here. On the third night there was a big storm with pouring rain and we could tell he was getting weak from hunger. However, he never made a sound to call to his mother, he just stood there, patient. We couldn’t bear to leave him out any longer so we let him in and he suddenly seemed so happy and rejuvenated. It’s strange, but I could read those emotions so easily from him. The next morning we heard about the poaching of a group of elephants that had occurred earlier in the week. Vinod was the only one who had escaped. Over the years he became a part of our family.”
Bok Thi looked out a window and continued, “One evening, when Vinod was about 15 years old, a group of thieves found us and attempted to penetrate our fortress. We are most of us nonviolent, so when they made it over our walls they started to have their way with our possessions, but they also found Vinod waiting for them. He picked up a small tree that had fallen over in a passing storm and fought the intruders off like they were flies. Though I’m not one for fighting myself, it was a glorious sight to see him defend us in such a way.”
Leahcim’s focus was transfixed on Bok Thi, “That’s a remarkable story. But why is he your advisor?”
“It is terribly detrimental to only think in human-centric terms. When one has a connection to nature, like mine to Vinod, one learns to communicate and truly listen in a multitude of ways. Then one discovers that the truth one finds is objective truth, and not just speculation.” Bok Thi said.
“So that’s what all that jazz was about with meeting Dumbo? He looks at people, maybe attacks them, plays a little soccer, and somehow that answers the mysteries of the world?” Samoht wasn’t having it.
Leahcim followed Samoht’s questions quickly, “Yes, what was that about with the balls and the barrels. He seemed to choose different ones for each of us.”
Bok Thi smiled, “That is what we wish to bring up to you. You see, the writing on each barrel is the name of a colleague of ours. Vinod’s intuition and insight help us decide who we will send you to in order to train.”
Samoht repeated, “Send us?!?”
“Yes, you must hone your skills. It’s true that the gem essence in your blood gives you immense power, but not unless you work to harness it.” Bok Thi said.
“I don’t know, lady, didn’t you see me handle myself against that multi-ton tantrum?” Samoht said, pleased with his accomplishment.
Bok Thi suddenly seemed very passionate, “Oh, but that act pales in comparison to what the Schinderling Warriors were once capable of. Perhaps you don’t understand this, but your ancestors sparked many great tales of the world from their deeds while they were in the peak of their strength and understanding of their abilities.”
“Okay…” said Leahcim, “But why must we be sent to different people? Vinod clearly didn’t choose the same person for each of us to go see.”
Bok Thi responded, “Precisely. Vinod must have sensed different strengths in each of you. Though the path you two will follow may be the same, the manifestation of your gifts, whatever they may be, will certainly not be uniform. It is better to have you learn from people who can tailor to your needs of improvement specifically. Which is why he chose Professor Wonton for Samoht and Grandmaster Texan for you, Leahcim.”
At this Vivek nearly dropped the tray he was carrying back to the kitchen and turned quickly around, “Grandmaster Texan? How can we be so cruel so as to send Leahcim to train with someone like him? Especially in a country that doesn’t have universal healthcare?!?”
Samoht and Leahcim shared a confused glance, but Samoht’s look quickly turned into a smile, “Wait, Grandmaster Texan and Professor Wonton? What’s with the goofy names?”
Bok Thi responded, “Having ties to our order can be dangerous for an individual at times, which is why some of us take on an alias to distance our selves from our relatives. I’m sure you two can understand how people are often judged by the actions of a family member.”
Leahcim nodded to this but was more interested in Vivek’s concern for his apparent future trainer, “What is with this Grandmaster? Why is Vivek so worried?”
Vivek was still directing his passion toward Bok Thi, “We can’t let this happen. Vinod must have made a mistake, Grandmaster Texan is an awful match for Leahcim,” Vivek got closer to her and lowered his voice, “-he will tear the boy apart.”
Bok Thi did not make eye-contact with Vivek, she simply half-smiled and stood, confident in the decision, “Perhaps that is why it must be this way, Vivek. These wonderful gentlemen before us are inexperienced and greatly ignorant of the major powers at work; they need the guidance that Vinod has suggested for them. Yes, Leahcim is a kind and fragile soul, and thus he needs the strength that only the Grandmaster can show him.” She turned to Vivek, “The path less traveled promises the most growth.”
Vivek reluctantly accepted this and with concern looked into Leahcim’s eyes. But then he smiled and the tension melted away as he regained his usual, calm, and mostly unemotional demeanor.
Samoht raised his hand like a big child in class, “Is there any concern over the stranger you’ll be sending me to?”
At this Maliwan and Anchara, who had been silent observers to the conversation, giggled a little. Maliwan addressed Samoht, “No, I think you will fit right in where you are going.” The two women then laughed more boisterously.
Leahcim couldn’t believe that within a span of two days his brother and he had escaped a country in turmoil in which they were royalty under “protective” custody, traveled to another continent, had close encounters with nearly all of the dangerous animals in Thailand, discovered that much rang true in the stories of the book he had been reading, and now they were preparing to travel again. Only this time they were going to part ways, both going to a place they had never been before. However, Leahcim would at least be in the U.S. again, which would considerably lighten the blow when they finally made contact with their mother. Samoht would be going to Japan and Leahcim would be meeting his “teacher” in Texas. There didn’t seem to be a hurry with their hosts, for they prepared a fine breakfast with potent earthy green tea for them just as the sun was rising. Samoht and Leahcim were already packed and ready to board another plane at a moment’s notice; mostly because they had little to carry. Leahcim wondered how long their trek through the forest would be for them to get to the airport.
While they waited Leahcim inquired about the board game he had seen the two elder men playing. Vivek decided to take him and Samoht out to the table to teach them. Leahcim was severly intrigued. They played many times so Leahcim could have his try as both the attacker and the defender. He seemed to have a natural knack for it, and though Samoht didn’t play he kept suggesting strategic ideas to Leahcim, probably because he wanted to see Vivek finally beat at something. However, it was effortless for Vivek, he must have been playing it for years. Leahcim thought he had the upper hand a few times, for none of his pieces were captured and nearly half of Vivek’s were off the board. Yet somehow Vivek either found a way to capture Leahcim’s king or take his own king to the four corners when he was defending. Leahcim realized an important lesson in this; sometimes it takes dire sacrifices to reach a goal. He wondered what sacrifices were ahead for his brother and him.
Bok Thi entered the garden alone to join them. They weren’t used to seeing her without the other two women flanking her sides. It was like they were three inseparable good witches of the East, but Anchara and Maliwan must have had other duties to attend to at the time.
Bok Thi addressed them, “The boat is ready for you all.”
Samoht asked, “The boat?”
“Yes, it will take us into Lopburi so you may catch your flight out of here.” Vivek answered.
“Wait, if there’s a boat, why the hell did we walk through the jungle the other day?” Samoht probed.
“The river we’ll be taking only flows toward Lopburi. We are upstream.” Vivek said, matter of factly.
They left the fortress known as Dalzhong Slaod and walked down a short pathway to the river at the bottom of the small mountain. The boat they were to take had no motor, and would be just big enough for three people to sit comfortably. Leahcim took it that Bok Thi would not be coming with.
She put her hand on Leahcim’s shoulder, “Travel safely, my friends. We will be in touch if you need us.”
Samoht heaved their bags into the boat and responded, “Yeah, I’ll be sure to send a pigeon your way if I have any questions.”
Once again Samoht’s sarcasm was lost on these people who deal in truth and almost alarmingly blunt conversations.
They boarded the boat and Vivek started steering them downstream. Leahcim looked back and waved goodbye to Bok Thi. She stood there unmoving in her peaceful grandeur. Leahcim’s wave was acknowledged with a deep sincere bow and a look of hope on Bok Thi’s face. Though he had just met her, Leahcim was sad that they had to leave so quickly, just as they had left behind their mother back home and their sisters under the control of a deluded king.
They reached Lopburi in a little over half an hour. Vivek tied the boat to a small dock and walked them to the airport, since their last visit was too brief to become acquainted with the city. Their orange-robed friend stopped before the doors to the building and extended his right hand to them, a surprisingly familiar gesture for someone from such an obscure organization. He shook Leahcim’s hand last and held it a little longer, making strong eye-contact with him. He said, “Leahcim, I do not wish to alarm you, but Grandmaster Texan is for lack of a better description…..intense. You are young, and his ways are old. While it is good to be open to his teachings, you must remember to keep your own council.”
Leahcim looked back intensely curious, “How do you know so much about him, Vivek?”
“Because he was [_my _]master.” he answered.
“Aw! Come on!” Samoht interjected, “So Leahcim’s going to learn all that cool stuff you can do and I’m going to some weirdo in Japan that’s going to teach me how to meditate?”
“Oh, don’t worry, Samoht. You will learn much more than that.” Vivek said smiling. He continued, “But this is where I must leave you. I wish you two the best of luck, but I trust you won’t need it.” He turned away but quickly came back once more, having forgotten something, “Oh and I must remember to give you this!” Vivek handed Samoht a card.
“What’s this?” Samoht asked.
“It’s my email address if you two need it. So you don’t have to send your pigeon.” Vivek laughed lightly, winking, and strolled away.
“What, you think they have that elephant run on a giant wheel so they can have electricity?” Samoht asked Leahcim.
Leahcim responded, “No, probably the solar panels on the pagoda.”
“You didn’t see them?”
“Cimmy, Cimmy, quit it.”
“Come on, let’s find our flight,” Leahcim said, turning away with a laugh.
As they later boarded their plane, Leahcim felt a sense of something strong about him. Not good, not bad. Just powerful. The details were still pretty vague on these mentors they were to meet and what would be expected of them later. However, whatever Leahcim intended to encounter on this journey, he felt that he had found it. Although, something told him they were just scraping the top, and that it was a deep, deep iceberg of a discovery.
I write this record with limited schooling in the conventional sense, but many lessons learned in my travels. Especially upon that path which hath led me through the S.S.S. Kingdom. That mountain-fenced land whose dark forests gain little illumination from daylight, and require much bravery and all the skepticism in the world to forgo belief in the rumored beasts that live within.
I was traveling with a band of Gypsies, who in any other land I would not trust farther than I could throw one, but they had a wagon which I thought would make my trip swifter and they claimed to know the area very well. I had little on my person save for a reasonable amount of gold, a fine necklace with a translucent green stone in it that I had bought for a handsome sum in a peculiar trading post deep in the jungles of the Orient, and a wealth of small jars full of spice I had obtained whilst in the land of India. I only took little samples of a score of spices at first so I could see what would sell best back in England, and then I would revise and increase my inventory henceforth. I at first tried to trade a little spice for my passage with the Gypsies, but they would have none of it. My guess is that they knew I had gold with me, or that I would have to rethink my prospect of selling these spices since not even these Romany would throw them into their humble soups. In the case that they knew I had valuables, I wore my green necklace about my neck but still kept it under my shirt, so as to halt any sleight of hand tricks they may try, as was their reputation.
We embarked upon the road northward through the lush black trees that the locals called Huffut, which in Lingskeo meant “dark.” However, their connotation implied a darkness of evil, rather than that of colour. Either way, it was aptly named.
The patriarch of the small clan decided to tell me frightening ghost stories about this land in his labored English. He described a group of creatures with porcelain-white skin and sharp teeth that were fearsome hunters. I’m not sure how civilized they were supposed to be, but the Gypsy told that they carried massive hooks on long chains. They once lived on the coast and were a seafaring folk who used their large hooks to catch monstrous fish. Having scraped the sea empty of the their prey, they moved southward into the Huffut Forest to find a new way of life, as the sea monsters were the staple of their diet. The Gypsy man implied that their new source of food was mostly large animals, which sometimes included men. I could tell the damned ruffian was simply trying to take advantage of my ignorance of this region, for he smiled and laughed about his last comment suggesting they actually ate human flesh.
As we continued up the path, I attempted to keep up with the Gypsies and their one wagon hauled by a mule, but the collective weight of my spices was getting the better of me. I thought surely when I acquired enough wealth from trading I would need to invest in my own ship and crew. I asked the leader if I could stow my bag in the wagon, but he assured me it was too full of other items. I thought they would jump at the chance to have my possessions under their control, but I was stuck bearing the weight of my profession. Twice now the Gypsies seemed to have an interest in keeping their distance from my cargo. At the time I thought to keep this in mind, for even if the spices failed to sell well as an edible product, I could market them as a Gypsy repellent.
I inched up closer to the wagon’s side to gain some cover from the wind rushing to the West. And though the wind was strong, I began to hear the most peculiar procession of clanging metal. I looked to the straps where the mule was hitched to the wagon, but found no explanation of what I had been hearing. Suddenly the wind slowed and the trees became so still they appeared absent of life. I knew enough from my travels that this most likely meant something had scared the small animals away, which I would have attributed to a brewing storm if the wind hadn’t lessened and the Sun wasn’t shining the best it could through the light-dampening canopy of the charcoal trees.
Our whole troupe stopped to assess the change in ambiance when I heard the metal again, and this time I knew it was not from our party. I looked back to see one of the eldest sons of the clan standing perplexed by the same sound I was. Then I saw a long thick chain hanging behind him from far up in the canopy. This apparatus was surely too big to not notice as we passed it, and it hung right in the middle of the road. I knew something was about to happen, and I knew it would be unfortunate. The chain swung forward and revealed from behind the young man’s back a three-pronged hook worthy of catching a crocodile. The hook positioned itself right between his torso and his left arm. This all happened too quickly for me to properly warn him. All I was able to manage was a concerned look and a pointed finger to the apparatus before the poor fellow was yanked up into the trees in an horrifyingly quick manner. Whatever had caught the young man, certainly had not only the strength of doing so, but also the skill.
The following occurred with the same manner of blurred frenzy. The other Gypsies noticed this first abduction, and between their praying to whatever gods they believed in and pointing at me in disgust as they scowled at the patriarch, they were all taken one by one in a matter of seconds. I was left alone. I ran to the back of the wagon and attempted to gain cover by hiding betwixt the rear wheels. Surely they could not hook me from here, I had thought. And they could not, but that didn’t deter them.
Next I heard a chain descend again. It must have been pulled up in the attempt to retrieve the mule from the ground, but the animal was still in its harness. The front of the wagon lifted briefly and I could hear the flesh tear from the beast as the poor animal came crashing back down to the dirt. The mule whined from the lacerations caused and now struggled to stand with a broken leg whilst it was tangled in its straps. Next came audible yelling from one being to another of no language I had heard before, and I had heard all the known tongues spoken in front of me. Then came a clear thump, as if something had landed in front of the maimed beast of burden. I looked forward from where I sat and saw two legs, human-like legs, wrapped in primitive skin boots. The being reached down in my line of vision with a hand whiter than bone which grasped a crude dagger. The barbarian then proceeded to end the tortured mule’s braying by jabbing the dagger into its neck.
Had I not emptied my bowels just an hour before, I certainly would have soiled myself where I sat. But suddenly a rush of bravery filled my being and I decided to make my escape. I ran out from under the wagon and went for the trees, but one of those monstrous hooks quickly caught me by the right side of my jacket and I was yanked to face my pursuer before landing hard upon the dirt road. My belongings fell out of my bag and my spice jars were strewn all about. I looked up and saw the most frightening bone white face I’ve ever seen that has come close to looking like a man without actually being one. The man-thing flared its teeth which were sharper than a set you would see a hound sporting. By the grace of God I somehow found a jar with my hand and instinctively threw it at the being’s face. The glass shattered and the man-thing screamed with pain. It could have been the glass but methinks twas from the spice being of the hotter persuasion. I learned early in India to not accidentally smear curry into one’s eyes. As my assailant attempted to regain its sight, I managed to rip the hook out of my jacket and dash once again. But in my fleeing I heard another one of those dreadful things land upon the ground. Another hook came for me, but this time it caught me on my left and unfortunately penetrated my skin just below my ribs, which gave these monstrosities a rather large portion of my body to move at their command. Oh! it still pains my side to recount this tale! The chain rang from being pulled tight and I was once again off my feet, and moving toward God knows what against my own volition.
The creature who had received a free sample of my curry was now recovered, and I could do naught but cry out in fear and pain as the man-things dragged me toward them. They seemed to enjoy the prospect of slowly retrieving me by the chain along the ground, for they certainly could have easily walked over to me and taken my life much quicker. And one should believe I am most grateful for their sick ways of practising this style of hunting leisurely, for otherwise I might not have lived to see what came next.
As I was about ten paces away from the beasts, I looked away and started grasping for anything I could to grab onto in order to slow their retrieval of me further. As I was making what I had thought to be my last struggle for survival the two creatures seemed human enough to share a laugh at my expense, but suddenly there was a third voice present, and this voice uttered a verse in a language I recognized as Lingskeo. I looked up to see an actual man standing just a step behind my predators. He had long hair braided and wrapped around his neck like a scarf, a complexion closer to that of my own, and wore garb of red, blue, and green. In his right hand he held what looked to be a war-hammer made completely out of lead. I know metals, as any merchant should. He spoke again to the creatures, now it seemed, taunting them. I had thought the man-things were barbaric enough, but their reaction to this single warrior proved them to be the wildest of beasts. The creature who killed the mule used the same dagger as before to swing at the man. The warrior raised his hammer and deflected the blade, but his weapon was capable of greater things, for as he did so I could hear a distinctive crack and could see that the man-thing that attacked him was not only disarmed, but now its hand was contorted in a gruesome manner. My savior now spun, lowering himself to the ground as he did so and forced the attacker’s legs out from under it. Within an instant the warrior’s hammer came down on the man-thing’s head and made a loud sort of [_POCK _]sound as it forced its way through the creature’s skull and met a rock on the other side.
With one of the villains destroyed, the other dropped its chain, thus its control over me, and screeched an indescribable sound of pain as if its own head had just been smashed. The hammer-wielding warrior now lifted his weapon, spun it effortlessly with his strong hand, and held it pointed at his new adversary in a practised and poised manner. The man-thing now unsheathed two daggers that nearly qualified as swords and jumped into the air spinning like a flying maple seed. This parry that they shared now gave me the chance to have a try at taking the hook out of my side. I didn’t think anything too important had been punctured, but it mincing hurt and I was bleeding rather profusely. I also thought that bleeding out would at least give me more of a chance at survival ere the man-thing was once again able to regain control of the chain. As I looked down I noticed, aside from my wound, that there was a distinct green glow emanating from within my shirt. I nearly fainted worrying about what awful spirit had a hold of me now, but I pulled my shirt from my chest and saw that my necklace was the source. Though remarkable as it was, I couldn’t pontificate upon what had caused this mysterious illumination whilst a large claw of iron rested deep within my side. I somehow found the strength to pull at the hook and ignore my twitching body as it was finally taken out by my blood-ridden hands. I don’t recall whether or not I actually screamed from the pain, but it wouldn’t have been heard over the clashing of the two not ten yards before me.
The hammer-man now parried upward knocking the white creature backward. The man-thing raised its blades again but the warrior swung swiftly across his opponent’s front and the metal of which those blades consisted simply exploded into thousands of pieces. It was strange, but I could almost feel the green gem on my person vibrate as he did so. The man-thing, now disarmed like its repulsive friend, attempted to run away and passed me on foot eerily fast. The warrior twisted the hilt of his hammer, reared back, and expertly threw his weapon toward the fleeing monster. The hammer flew over my head and stopped at that of the man-thing’s. The hammer and the beast, now both inanimate objects, fell upon the ground at the same time.
I looked to my savior and expressed my utmost gratitude, “Dear Heaven! Thank the Saints you’ve come to my aid!”
He looked at me, seemingly addressing my foreign speech, and answered me in my own tongue, “I’m no Saint, Englishman. Merely a Schinderling.” He then added with a smile, “…but they do say we hath performed more miracles than your Katholik demi-gods.”
I was confused by what he meant, but thanked him again and asked what manner of beast those peculiar milk-coloured things might be. He answered after a sigh, “They are called the LeBlancer. They are not exactly wolves like you might find in your land, but they do like to hunt.” he continued as he walked over to retrieve his weapon, “…Thus, I must hunt them, for I can’t afford to have my countrymen subjected to cannibalism.”
I repeated in a question, “Cannibalism? Surely you mean a different word?”
“No, I do not. The LeBlancer are a peculiar breed, no doubt, but perhaps the most disturbing fact is that one cannot rule them out of mankind. Come now, let’s dress your wound and get you on your way before my father, the Schinderking, finds out I just assisted an Englishman.”
The Schinderling prince laughed deeply and now raised his hammer to rest it over his shoulders. I could see now that the tool of war that was surely lead before was now pure marble. I sought to get my eyes checked afterward, and upon learning they were in tip-top shape concluded that among other myths being true, alchemy was known and practised by the folks of that land.
A strange country and tale indeed, but one I am glad to have lived to tell.
As Dr. Ernesto Ochoa watched another truck back up into the remotely located warehouse, he wasn’t sure what exactly he had gotten himself into; but he knew they had to be committing a few federal offenses. However, the pay was unbelievably good, better than any he could get from a research grant, and without the annoyance of having to beg a foundation or the government for it. Though the goons running about this place were clearly criminals, he knew that they wouldn’t hurt him, for he was the only one qualified for the task at hand. Plus his mysterious boss, who arrogantly preferred the title Overlord Avala, would severely reprimand them for disturbing the doctor’s work, which was valued much more than the lives of these henchmen. He didn’t understand the name. Dr. Ochoa thought perhaps the guy really liked role-playing games. Either way, the man definitely had a lot of disposable income and influence among the underground.
The men opened the doors to the semi trailer and a storm of angry and frightened sounds flooded the high ceilings of the warehouse. There must have been twelve different species of apes and monkeys in that truck, and they were all vocally claiming it as their territory. The fork-lift came forward and without the least bit regard for the animals’ comfort started unloading the giant cubed metal cages of primates out of the trailer.
Dr. Ochoa shouted at the fork-lift operator, “Be careful! We do want them alive!”
The operator ignored him but started lifting the crates out slower. Out of Dr. Ochoa’s periphery appeared Sanjun, the mysterious middleman that communicated messages to the doctor directly from Avala.
“I trust things are going well?” Sanjun said, in his smooth authoritative voice.
“Yes, if they can just not treat the specimen like sand bags.” Dr. Ochoa responded.
“No, I mean with the ones you’ve already worked on, Doctor.”
“Oh, yes, well. You see, it’s been very difficult. Even though a great number of these creatures have been living in captivity, many of them are not used to socializing with humans. So, it’s been very hard to give them instructions as we see fit. However, if I can get them to reproduce, I can acclimate them much easier from infancy.”
Sanjun looked to the truck a moment, then said, “Very well. Get it done. And do away with the current adults who do not cooperate.”
Dr. Ochoa was surprised, “What do you mean? Euthanasia?”
“Whatever it takes, Doctor. Besides, it may be better considering this update from Overlord Avala.” Sanjun said as he handed Dr. Ochoa a folder.
The doctor looked at the sheets and quickly realized what was expected of him, “Wait, I was called on to work with the social behavior of these animals, not make genetic modifications on them.”
“Come now, we know you much better than that. Can you do it?!?” Sanjun inquired aggressively.
Dr. Ochoa was taken aback, but responded, “Yes…yes, I can. But I will need a proper laboratory in a sterile location. And the help of more scientists instead of greasy criminals looking to make a quick buck.”
Sanjun was satisfied with the answer, “Don’t worry. Doctor. You will have what you need.” He spun quickly on his heel and disappeared abruptly.
Dr. Ochoa looked down at the plans again realizing the reality of his new challenge and glanced up to see a chimpanzee staring sadly through the metal mesh of a crate into his eyes.
Samoht and Leahcim landed in Tokyo just a few hours after leaving Thailand. Leahcim had a long lay-over and Samoht’s instructions were to wait for Professor Wonton to find him, so he decided to stick around with his brother a bit. Leahcim had been reading more of his book and was wondering if it was worth it to delve further into the fables of which it consisted, for the last one he had read was strange. Leahcim didn’t come across many examples of mythological accounts about a country that were written by foreigners in an objective manner. This made the merchant’s tale carry more weight.
Meanwhile, Samoht sat impatiently next to his silent, studious, younger brother. He couldn’t wait to get out of the airport. Not only would the food be better, since it wouldn’t be a bunch of chain restaurants with overpriced junk, but Japan was a hotspot for innovative technology. It seemed that there were more inventions here per capita than anywhere else. Samoht wondered what the key factor was that allowed this country’s people to be so free to invent. He was probably most intrigued with discovering that aspect of their society.
Samoht was glad that even though they were going into yet another situation in which they would meet more weird people, Leahcim would be safe back stateside. His little brother was eager to see the world, but perhaps this was too much all at once, what with all the running, hiding, and fighting elephants. Samoht felt like he should have just taken Leahcim to Amsterdam to drink and party for a week. But a vacation like that would have been wasted on him, since Leahcim was captivated by much deeper things, more important things. Samoht knew that everything that happened to them was quite a shock for Leahcim, because even Samoht was overwhelmed despite his nonchalant demeanor. However, he knew that Leahcim possessed a certain poise that allowed him to accept things as they were. Samoht on the other hand, had to control things, and if he couldn’t, he would build something that could.
The time waiting for Leahcim’s flight neither passed quickly nor slowly, it just passed. They explored a bit, sat down at a makeshift restaurant, and watched the world in human form move about them. Samoht wanted to think of something to say to Leahcim, something that would be encouraging and show that he would miss his little brother, but he was never one for serious conversations. However, he tried, “Listen, Cimmy. I know you’ll be back in the U.S. and closer to Mom, but if you need anything, you just give me a call, okay?”
Leahcim seemed surprised by the sudden concern, “Oh, of course. Thanks, Samoht.”
“No problem. I’m sorry that our little trip had to end so quickly, too.”
“It’s alright. I mean, I wanted excitement, and I got it. I guess princes can’t just go about the world and deny that they have any ties to a whole myriad of history and opinions, right?”
Samoht laughed, “Yeah.” He had forgotten that their royalty was a real thing, like the two of them most often did. It only seemed legitimate when they were back in the S.S.S. Kingdom, but it was incredibly naïve of them to assume that they could just wander the globe freely, especially when their father was such a controversial king. Samoht added, “Mother was right.”
They heard a voice on the P.A. System, “Now boarding for Flight 213. Tokyo to Dallas.”
Leahcim grabbed his stuff in seconds, “Oh, that’s us!” He stood and started walking quickly toward the terminal, then paused and slowly turned smiling with a touch of sadness, “I forgot…that you aren’t coming with…”
Samoht put his hand on Leahcim’s shoulder, then quickly pulled him in for a hug. Samoht wasn’t the type that hugged, it had probably been years since he last hugged Leahcim. His younger sibling noticed, but said nothing. Samoht stood back holding Leahcim’s shoulders still, “If you need anything, Cimmy. You just call me.”
“Yeah.” Leahcim said, then started walking away and held up his boarding pass, “Flit sta valon.”
Samoht smiled and watched Leahcim get in line. Then something changed, Samoht felt a shift in the energy in the space. As far as he knew, he wasn’t empathic, but he didn’t need to be, for all of the people around him suddenly became much quieter and were looking in Samoht’s direction. He hoped that his dad hadn’t started some trouble with the Yakuza who might have now spotted him. Samoht took a step back and bumped into someone very large. Larger than himself. Then he turned to see the tallest, widest man he had ever seen wearing a black T-shirt with a pug on it.
The man looked down at a sheet of paper, then looked at Samoht happily, “Ah, you must be my new pupil.” He held up his paper and Samoht could see he had printed out a photo of him which was wrinkled from being handled so much. Vivek must have sent a snapshot to this guy via his revolutionary usage of email. The boulder of a man continued with a bubbly personality, “Konichiwa, Samoht san. I am Professor Wonton. Welcome to Japan!”
There once was a treaty between two feuding clans. It was a feast for peace. The Schinderlings hosted the feast in their castle and the LeBlancer Clan catered the food and ale. The ale had magical qualities that the LeBlancer infused into it, as they were often associated with magical doings. It wasn’t known if the truce came about genuinely, or if the Schinderlings had a vested interest in being allied with or learning from these mysterious and often hated folk. There had been much blood spilled between the two groups, and no one at this point was innocent, but miraculously, perhaps more miraculous than either side’s alleged abilities, the two had finally come to meet with good intentions.
The LeBlancer told the Schinderlings that so long as they left a few drops in their cups, the ale would refill itself. Many Schinderlings were intrigued with this and thought it was very generous of the LeBlancer, many except the Schinderking, Pringash. He did not trust the LeBlancer still even though he called for this peace feast, so he did not drink the ale. However, he had a good excuse, for he did not drink ale to begin with; he thought it was irresponsible for a Schinderking to do. Yet as to not seem rude, he still drank a cider that resembled the ale, and secretly refilled his cup under his table. And so the two families drank and things seemed merry. There were laughs, stories, and foods shared. The frightening subhuman faces of the LeBlancer smiled and nodded to the Schinderlings, and the great warriors returned the polite gestures. The cups of ale refilled quickly, but the SchinGaerd drank from them again before the ale could reach the brim. Then one of the SchinGaerdians leaned over to tell another a story and the Schinderking observed the cup from which the other had just been drinking.
The SchinGaerdian’s cup refilled itself to the top, but it did not stop. The Schinderking saw the ale quiver and move until it rose above the brim and ran over onto the table. Pringash yelled at the top of his lungs for the SchinGaerd to stop drinking. The SchinGaerdians ceased all talking. Trusting their Schinderking, the warriors became suspicious of the LeBlancer. As a rule of peace, their weapons were left on a rack outside the feast hall, but the SchinGaerdians were well versed in hand-to-hand combat and clenched their fists ready to strike the LeBlancer.
However, they all had consumed too much ale, and it began to expand in their stomachs. The SchinGaerdians burped loudly and bent over in pain. Many fell to the floor and struggled to breath, for the expanding ale had moved up their throats and started to fill their lungs. The people on the floor were like fountains of ale, for it had filled their bodies and began to gush from their mouths, noses, and ears. The Schinderking and his mate, Fredian, who had also not drank the ale under Pringash’s direction, leapt angrily and agilely over their table and charged for the weapon rack.
Three LeBlancer attempted to stop the Schinderking but he sent his momentum into his palm, and that palm sent one of the LeBlancer’s noses into its skull, and subsequently the skull crashed into the stone arch behind it. The Schinderking then slapped another in the back of the neck so hard it fell unconscious. Fredian dispatched the third simultaneously with a violent punch to the throat. Pringash grabbed two staffs and pushed the LeBlancer trying to escape back into the feast hall. The Schinderking threw a staff to Fredian and told him to close the door. Fredian did so and secured the double doors to the hall with his staff. He spotted one LeBlancer getting away and with a steady hand threw the sharp end of another staff into its head which pinned it against the stone wall at the end of the corridor.
Meanwhile within the hall the Schinderking killed all of the LeBlancer present with details too gruesome to record. Many SchinGaerdians fell that day and did not rise again. But the Schinderking slew so many LeBlancer that evening that it is said to be the reason one never sees them around anymore. In any case, it is one unfortunate instance in which suspicion saved a nation.
Leahcim considered not reading the book about his fatherland anymore. It was a lot to process. The stories were supposed to be mythology, not historical accounts, and he had felt that they were simply the former, but according to what he saw and learned in Thailand he sensed the tallness of the tales shrink as each day passed. His plane touched down in Houston less than a day after seeing Samoht last, and though fond of travel, Leahcim was actually grateful that he wouldn’t be in another flying machine for some time.
Jan was flying down so she could escort Leahcim personally to Grandmaster Texan’s ranch. It would be great to see his mother again. Leachim was truly eager in the beginning to leave what he saw as his stagnate home, but the love of one’s mother is beyond compare, especially when your father recently attempted to put you under castle-arrest.
Leahcim found his mother in baggage claim with his luggage already in her hands. Either she wanted to leave the public place as quickly as she could, or she wanted to help the most she could since she hadn’t been able to accompany Leahcim during the trip. He was her baby after all. Jan walked briskly up to Leahcim and blurted out in one breath, “Hello dear, how was the flight? You feeling okay? Come, I think I parked the car illegally.” She then turned and started walking away.
“Hi, Mom. I’ve missed you.”
Jan then turned, sighed a little at seeing her son in a healthy state, and dropped the bags to hug Leahcim tight, “I’ve missed you more, Huggabear.”
Leahcim smiled at hearing this. The two of them had an inside joke that Huggabear was his Dakota name. Leahcim grabbed for his bags before Jan could pick them up again. She squeezed his hand and looked away as she said, “Well, I shouldn’t be getting a parking ticket while I’m still in office. It’ll be in all the papers tomorrow.” She then took off hastily toward the doors. Leahcim could hear quivering in her voice.
Jan had rented a car to drive Leahcim to the ranch. Leahcim thought it was quite extraneous for her to fly down and do so, but it’s not like public transit in the South would suffice in carrying him to his destination. But of course he was very grateful to see her and on top of that to see her concern for him since he had lately been through so many threatening experiences. Jan didn’t quite understand what had happened in their journeys that compelled Leahcim and his brother to suddenly seek out spiritual/martial arts masters, but Leahcim was fairly forthright with what they had seen. However, he did decide to leave out certain details about just how much danger they were in at times to calm her nerves. Yet Leahcim was completely open about their father’s plan to “protect” them. This Jan understood all too well, and expressed her relief at how they were able to escape their father’s clutches, as she put it. She also was glad to hear that there was still hope for Sanid and Viktis, since Samoht and Leahcim wouldn’t have been able to leave if it weren’t for them. Leahcim hoped they weren’t punished too badly. It was rather interesting for him to hear his mother speak of the Schinderlings. Her stories of how much of a brat Dogo was and other details of the royalty were simply old family gossip to her. Leahcim thought of how amazing it was that two people that are so different could have ever come together to create his brother and himself. In the present moment he couldn’t imagine his parents together.
Jan was obviously suspicious of this “training” that Leahcim was seeking, but oddly trusting, as if she knew more than she was letting on. However, he couldn’t tell. When your parent is a politician, they tend to be good at putting on a show. But something must have changed in her, for she initially wasn’t for letting Leahcim travel alone with Samoht across the globe, and now she was allowing him to stay with a complete stranger with a vague understanding of what it was all for. But she did have her questions.
Jan spoke, “So this sifu comes highly recommended?”
Leahcim answered, “Yeah! You seem..oddly okay with this, Mom.”
“Well, after Ike’s reports of the UK, I don’t think it’ll hurt for you and Samoht to learn some self-defense.”
They had escaped the metropolitan surroundings of Houston and now found themselves cruising steadily down gravel roads, leaving enormous snakes of dust behind them in the air.
The radio wasn’t on, and Jan seemed to be taking in the sights, “It’s so nice to go for a drive.” She said loudly, since the windows were down, “I don’t think I’ve driven a car anywhere for at least a few years. When you work for the government, they treat you like such a commodity. The only reason they let me operate my own aircraft is because I go straight from our floating rock to the roof of my office building. We put people on such high pedestals for their titles, with such little regard to their actions. I think that’s why our country is lacking real direction.”
Leahcim looked at his mother and given her comment definitely couldn’t imagine her as the queen of a sovereign nation such as the S.S.S.
Leahcim remembered he had a map, “Oh, speaking of directions, I’ve got the route all mapped ou—”
“Don’t worry, I’ve got it, hon.”
Jan seemed to be finding her way there with ease, “But, Mom. How do you know the way?”
“I looked up the directions before I came to get you. You know you got your expansive memory from somewhere, right?”
Leahcim decided not to question it further, “Of course. Thanks again, Mom.”
“Of course, dear. I’m glad I was able to find the time. I’ve been so busy drafting a new bill.”
“Oh, the disappearances of all those zoo animals. We’ve figured they have been transporting them in plain sight, so it will just intensify law enforcement’s ability to search freight vehicles, such as semi-trucks and trains. I shouldn’t actually be telling you about this, but since you will be secluded out here in the middle of nowhere, I think my secret is safe with you. Transparency is good in lawmaking, but some will see this as my ‘communist’ agenda influencing public policy. As if those who say those sorts of things actually understand what communism means.” She looked at him and winked from under her sunglasses.
“I won’t tell a soul, I promise. But you know, it’s rather strange how everywhere Samoht and I went, people seemed to be having the same issues. Even in Thailand there was an absence of monkeys. One local informed us that he witnessed some of the abductions. He said he heard English-speakers with different accents and saw them hauling the animals away in vans.”
Jan took this in,” Well, I haven’t heard much of anything outside the States, but I guess it doesn’t surprise me that such a big operation would be international. I figured this was just some animal lovers messing around stateside, but we haven’t been talking with other nations about it since each respective country is probably just concluding it’s the work of local activists. Thanks for the heads-up, Leahcim.”
“Of course.” Leahcim responded.
Jan turned off the main gravel road and came onto a long driveway that lead past a free standing arch made from dark lumber. A sign hung from it displaying Chinese characters which Leahcim’s quick glance told him it said something along the lines of “Protected Texan Land.” There was a massive herd of cattle which was startled from their abrupt entry upon the ranch. They ran off into one direction and once a majority of them moved a large wooden structure became visible in the distance. The driveway curved to the right for to the left there ran a small but fervent crik. They came upon the house within a minute.
Jan turned off the car and stepped out, with Leahcim following close behind. His mother looked about, clearly ready to make an intimidating impression on whoever would be hosting her son for however long, and walked straight to the front door and knocked hard, not in a menacing manner but loud enough that someone in the large house surely would hear it. After a few minutes of no response, Jan walked down the steps from the porch, but there was no one else to be found. All one could hear was the distant mooing of the cattle and Jan’s high heels turning about on the gravel as she searched the property.
Leahcim spoke up, “Maybe he’s out doing errands?”
Jan looked at her son, “He better not be. If someone travels out to the Badlands to see us, you had better bet we would be home.”
Then they heard what was unmistakably the cocking of a shotgun.
“Ya mind telling me why you’re on my land?” They heard from one of the most gruffy, thickest Southern accents one could expect to encounter.
They turned around and saw a man in his forties or fifties holding the aforementioned gun. The barrel wasn’t directly pointed at them but close enough. He wore the usual rancher’s attire with cowboy boots and appeared to be of Asian heritage. Leahcim threw up his hands and quickly responded, “My name is Leahcim Schinderling. I was sent here by Bok Thi.”
The man cocked his head to the side, studying them, and as he did so a small tattoo near his Adam’s apple became visible. Below that he wore a bolo tie with a stone that had a greenish hue to it. Leahcim recognized immediately what this was. The man responded, “And how do I know she sent you?”
Leahcim responded, “Do you want to see what happens if I hold your bolo tie in my hand?”
The man’s eyes widened slightly, the way one’s might when another finds out one’s secret. He lowered his gun and placed it against a fence post. Then he took off his hat and approached them with his hand out, “I apologize for the harsh welcome. You can reckon how one has to be wary of the people that come to your home when you live in a sparsely populated area.”
“All too well.” Leahcim said grinning as he knowingly glanced at his mother.
Jan reached forward and took the man’s hand, “Hello, Grandmaster, I’m Senator Jan Schinderling.”
Leahcim almost forgot how odd it was that his mother had kept the last name of their father, especially since if there were a woman that would take back her maiden name after a divorce, it would be her. But when asked about the topic she just said that it would be easier for her boys if their mother had the same name as them.
“Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Senator. I’m a big fan of your politics.” Grandmaster Texan said in response to Jan.
Jan smiled and bowed her head slightly in modesty. Her phone rang and she pulled it out quickly, “Please excuse me one moment.” She walked over near the fence for privacy.
Then the Grandmaster turned to Leahcim. He reached out and once their hands met to shake a slight shimmer came from the Grandmaster’s bolo tie. He noticed this and looked up with a smile that mostly climbed one side of his face, “Well, I’’ll be…”
Jan walked up and said to Leahcim, “Listen, hon, I just got a call saying I need to be back sooner that expected so I’m going to have to take off. Will you be okay?”
“Yeah, just let me grab my stuff from the car.” Leahcim said.
Jan helped him get his bag quickly and hugged him so tightly he almost couldn’t breathe. “You just stay strong, okay? I don’t know exactly what all this training is about but I trust you, you’re a smart kid. And know that you can always call me.”
“Of course, Mom. Thank you.” Leahcim said.
Jan turned away before it was too obvious she was about to cry and walked briskly to the car. Grandmaster Texan shouted, “Take a right at the end of my driveway and keep going til you hit the highway. If you take that north you’ll get to the airport a lot faster!”
Jan waved at hearing it and quickly drove off. Leahcim stood there awkwardly, not knowing what to talk about with his new teacher. Then he thought of an important question.
“So, do I call you Grandmaster Texan, or do you prefer a different title?”
Grandmaster Texan looked at him, “You don’t work for 35 years earning a title just to throw it away. Grandmaster is just fine. Take your stuff inside and I’ll show you around.”
The Grandmaster then grabbed the shotgun from the fence post and Leahcim froze. GM Texan noticed his body language and spoke, “Relax, it’s not even loaded. See?” He then cocked it open and showed there were no shells inside it.
Leahcim smirked a bit, “That’s smart, that way it just scares them and no one gets hurt, right?”
GM Texan’s face was still, “No, it’s to give me an excuse to hurt those who react the wrong way. But I wouldn’t use a gun anyway; if you want something to split someone’s hide you better be able to throw it yourself. I know better ways of taking care of fools, and I suppose Bok Thi thinks for some reason it would be good for you to know, too, huh?” He tossed the shotgun and it landed perfectly in a wine barrel with no lid.
Leahcim was silent. GM Texan continued, “Well, this should be interesting. I’ve never actually trained one of you before.”
Leahcim’s eyebrows furled, “What do you mean by that?”
“One of you.” Texan repeated. “You know, with the stones in your blood and what not. A Schinderling.”
At this point Samoht definitely felt as though he were in some strange comic book. A really weird manga at that. The big sumo guy who was carrying around a picture of Samoht at the airport was now driving him to wherever and whatever the human giant called home. Traffic was insane, and it wouldn’t have been so bad if there weren’t so many people gawking at the two of them in Professor Wonton’s tiny electric car. Samoht didn’t understand why such a large man had such a small car, and on top of that how they both fit into the thing. The pedestrians and other folks in traffic must have been just as incredulous, because they couldn’t stop looking.
Without Leahcim around to ask so many questions and hold up a conversation, it was pretty silent in the car. This made Samoht a little uneasy, but, Professor Wonton seemed like the happy-go-lucky person that patiently enjoyed moments like this in traffic. Samoht decided to break the silence, “So, how do you know the Secret Order of Mountain People that live in a castle which technically belongs to my father’s kingdom?”
A loaded question, Samoht thought, but why not get the ball rolling. Wonton turned his head slightly and his already present smile grew a bit more, “Ah, school.”
Samoht waited, but nothing else came out. Come on, he thought, that question was worth at least a two minute explanation. The silence grew again, so Samoht probed further, “Which school?”
“Oh, yes! Details. That’s so very rude of me, sorry. I attended university in Thailand, upon which a chance encounter brought me to meet the Dalzhong Slaod Academy, as some may call it.” Wonton said.
“Chance encounter?” Samoht asked.
“See, I studied botany in college. An expedition in the jungle led me to the area near their fortress. It was there where I found a rare type of flower never before discovered in the field of science. What I did not know was how poignant and powerful this flower was. Well, with one big sniff I inhaled a massive amount of the flower’s scent and went into a deep sleep. The other students ran into the city to get help, since, let’s be honest, they couldn’t carry me, but someone else found me before they returned. When I woke I was in a great stone room with strange architecture and only vaguely remembered a fast moving person ahead of me in orange robes and the sensation of what felt like an elephant trunk suspending me in the air. I surely would have died from dehydration if the good people of the mountain didn’t find me.”
“So you know Vivek and Vinod as well.” Samoht said.
“Yes, we’re great friends now. Anyway, after I woke I tried to leave immediately to find my colleagues, but I was still weak from the flower’s effect on my system. As I healed and regained my strength, I spent time with the people there, learned their philosophies, their history, their purpose, and I suppose I became one of them. I eventually returned to Japan, of course, but I have offered my services to them in dire times of need.” Wonton said calmly with just a touch of grim.
“Yeah, that’s the thing I don’t get. You seem like such a peaceful person, how can they have sent me to learn combat from you?” Samoht said.
“Hmmm, combat?” Wonton asked, confused.
“Yes, isn’t that why I’m here?” Samoht said, now becoming confused again.
“Combat is an art of moving bodies. I suppose I could teach you that. However, for what is expected of you, Samoht, one musn’t only move bodies, but souls.”
In about twenty minutes they finally reached Wonton’s home, which at first appeared to be an apartment building, but upon entering it Samoht learned the entire building belonged to his mentor. It had a dojo-esque feel to it, given that there was a lot of free space on the main floor. Wonton walked ahead to find something and left Samoht alone in the room for a moment. Samoht’s eyes looked along the wooden frames and noticed a picture on a wall to the side and went closer. It was his host save for a sash around his nether regions that had a white rope design around it. Below, the caption for the photo said in English, “Masa ‘One-Ton’ Uzima wins yokozuna title.’
“Oh…Professor One…Ton…” Samoht said quietly to himself, realizing it wasn’t Wonton.
Professor One-Ton returned from the other room, “Samoht, shall I show you your quarters?”
Samoht turned and asked, “Professor…One-Ton, what exactly am I hear to learn?”
“Why sumo, of course. Among other things.” One-Ton said, confused that Samoht didn’t know already.
“Huh. Way to type-cast, Vinod.” Samoht said under his breath.
Leahcim woke the next morning to the sound of a cowbell ringing not too far out his window and the moaning of the creature that wore it. As he breathed in his first conscious breaths of the day the smell of the wooden infrastructure pervaded his nose. Surprisingly enough, this had been the best he had slept since leaving home, despite Grandmaster Texan’s seemingly unwelcoming demeanor. Leahcim arose out of bed and after dressing and brushing his teeth in the bathroom across the hall from his guest room, he found the kitchen, where no one awaited him. He sat down at a large table that seemed to be made out of a slab from a redwood tree with the bark still intact at the rim. He wasn’t quite hungry yet, so he sat silently taking in the details of the house. GM Texan certainly had a taste for wooden décor and all things that would be associated with a ranch. Leahcim was hoping his host wouldn’t offer him any of his homegrown steak, for GM Texan didn’t appear to be one from whom you want to deny what’s offered.
Grandmaster Texan jarringly opened a large sliding door and closed it quickly behind himself. As he did so a pail in his hand sloshed and milk splashed over its rim onto the floor. He walked to the counter in his kitchen and tracked in mud and manure as the milk splashed more onto the floor mixing altogether. He looked up at Leahcim as if he had already known he was there, “Well, you’re sure quiet. Good morning.”
“Eh em, good morning, Grandmaster.” Leahcim said roughly since he hadn’t spoken yet that day.
GM Texan lifted the pale and set it on the counter, “You a fan of milk?”
“Yes, I do like it.” Leahcim said.
“Good, cuz it’s you’re breakfast.” GM Texan said.
Leahcim was a bit confused when his host simply grabbed a bowl, for he thought he was just going to be drinking milk, but he was relieved when GM Texan reached for a box of cereal as well. He brought the items to the table and slid them to Leahcim. The pail once again splashed and Leahcim could now smell a funk coming from the milk, not to mention the reek of the manure had also reached him by now. Leahcim started to pour his cereal and looked up, “Will you be eating, too, Grandmaster?”
“Naw, I’ve had mine. Go on ahead, we’ve got some work ta get to ta-day.” GM Texan responded.
Leahcim looked into the pale and noticed some cream floating at the top along with a few pieces of what could have been dirt, or something else. “Well, thank you.” He said.
GM Texan simply nodded and looked out the window silently. Leahcim poured cereal into the bowl and awkwardly tipped the pail to pour it as well. A piece of the thick cream fell on the rim of the bowl and sat there only momentarily before sliding into the bowl itself. He looked down at what he had created and it didn’t look appetizing. However, Leahcim wasn’t one to be rude, so he scooped some up with his rather large spoon and tried it. The milk was warmer than the inside of his mouth and didn’t taste like he expected it to, even knowing it had just come out of a cow. He gulped it down and noticed GM Texan was now watching him intently, “So, how do you like it?” The Grandmaster asked.
“It’s…” Leahcim didn’t know how to be polite about it, but he decided to be honest, “It’s a bit warm.”
GM Texan froze for a moment staring at Leahcim’s face, no movement. Then his lips quivered and he burst out laughing, “Hahaha! A bit warm? My Gawd, you’re going to be more work than I thought. Hahaha!”
“I beg your pardon?” Leahcim didn’t like being laughed at, especially for something he didn’t understand.
“Please, tell me the truth, did you like it?” GM Texan asked.
“Well…it’s not exactly what I had in mind…” Leahcim said, still uncomfortable.
“How do you expect to act honestly if you can’t speak honestly? You didn’t like it, that was as clear as the Morning Sun. And now after I saw you almost throw up on my table, it’s still ‘not exactly what you had in mind?’ You’re too polite, Leahcim. Manners may get you far in the spheres of politics and royalty, but there come times when you must assert yourself, your entire self. Now, I’ll ask you again, what did you think of my milk?”
Leahcim was a bit puzzled, but now felt the freedom to answer truthfully, “To be honest, Grandmaster, it was disgusting.”
GM Texan suddenly smiled, “Okay, I can work with that. I can tell you right now, the way you talk won’t be intimidating anyone anytime soon, so I’d better just focus on teaching you how to fight.” He then walked to his fridge and pulled out a half-gallon carton with a picture of a white liquid on the side, “Here, use this coconut milk. It’s a lot healthier for you and I didn’t purposely throw any dirt into it. When you’re done eating, meet me outside.” he said as he set the carton next to Leahcim and grabbed the pail from the table, exiting through the sliding door.
Leahcim picked up the carton and his eyebrows furled as he looked out after GM Texan, trying to understand what that whole moment was all about. He could see now that it was a test, and he perhaps was starting to realize why Vivek had been so worked up about him coming to study with the Grandmaster. The old man was crazy and seemingly mean-spirited. And somehow Leahcim was supposed to learn profound things from him. He knew that one way or another, this experience was intended to change him greatly, and he wasn’t sure he would like what he would become.
Samoht had stayed up a little too late the night before looking out his bedroom window at the skyline of Tokyo. The majesty of all the technology around him enlivened him and inspired him to invent, but he wasn’t sure how much time he would get to do that with what he had been sent here for. However, that night he tinkered for about an hour with the spare parts of metal and wires he had brought along in his bag. He had managed to find a way to power his flying SUV with solar energy, and that was thanks to the efficiency of his homemade solar panels that each only took up about 4” in diameter. He had to make them so small because the Roke Ard required a lot of power and only had so much surface area. It hadn’t occurred to him until recently that he should employ these same panels to power smaller appliances. It’s funny how something designed for one thing can be perfect for something else. Now he had adjusted some panels so he could connect them to his watch in order to power it better. It went dead every time he used its magnetic-grappling hook feature and he hadn’t been able to tell the time since he was at Ol SchinGaerd Vlack.
Samoht awoke the next morning to Professors One-Ton’s gentle knocking on his door. His generous host said that he had breakfast ready for him downstairs, and that his wife was the best of cooks. Samoht didn’t need much convincing of that claim, judging by the size of the Professor. He went downstairs to join One-Ton for breakfast and awkwardly sat himself at a low table with no chairs.
“Good Morning, Samoht! I hope you are well-rested.” One-Ton said.
“Uh, yeah, I’m okay.” Samoht shifted a little uncomfortable on his pillow-seat, “Jeez, with all your technological advances in this country you think you would have figured out how to build a chair by now.”
The Professor found this very funny, and laughed deeply. A door off to the right of Samoht slid open and what could have only been One-Ton’s wife strode out with the food. She was a burly woman with curves. She also had a look on her face that reminded Samoht of the two grumpy ladies at Bok Thi’s side, and he felt he was sensing a motif.
One-ton acknowledged her presence and gestured toward his guest, “Eunjee, this is Samoht. Samoht, this is my wife Eunjee.”
She looked at Samoht unimpressed, “Yeah, I see him. Another big boy to feed.” Eunjee then pointed her finger in Samoht’s face, “Listen, I’m not slaving away in the kitchen any more than I have to. You are going to eat what I make, how much I make, and when I make it.”
“Nice to meet you too, Eunjee!” Samoht said very smug, not caring to impress someone who introduced herself that way.
Eunjee sat next to One-Ton and they ate in silence, with the occasional smiling glance of One-Ton from one to the other to see if they were enjoying their food. After they were all finished the table was cleared and One-Ton stood by the doorway into the hall waiting for Samoht as if this was a routine they had already been through many times. Samoht followed him into the dojo he had passed through the night before and took in its feeling. It was a very different place during the day. Natural light crept in from almost all directions, including the ceiling, oddly enough, giving that it was the ground floor in a multi-story building.
“So, what am I learning today, Professor?” Samoht asked, nonchalantly.
One-Ton’s serene face simply pointed to the front of the building and subsequently to the rear, “Listen…and look.”
Huge sliding doors stood in between them and the large front windows of the building next to the street where people passed by, overwhelming the sidewalk. To the rear of the building Samoht could now see massive glass sliding doors which led to a decent sized backyard that very much looked like a Zen garden, from what he knew. The noise that came in from the street faded quickly into the stillness of the greenery behind the building. One-Ton spoke up, “You are now in a space between two worlds. That of the loud, bustling city, and that of the calm unmoving garden. Take a moment to truly understand the difference. These worlds exist inside you, and you must be able to go to each place respectively when it most suits you.”
“Yeah, I gotcha. I go to the city when I need new parts and I go to a secluded place when everyone is annoying me.” Samoht said, thinking he was actually getting the point.
For the first time One-Ton looked displeased, “No, Samoht. You must find these places in your being. Be aware of their differences. One can overthrow the balance of the other if you don’t control them. So you must keep them separated, yet use them together.”
“So….is this on the final, or…”
One-Ton with a determined look on his face walked to the front doors of the building and opened them, bringing in a great amount of decibels from the people and cars outside. He then walked over to the wall and pressed a button which turned on the radio. It blasted through speakers from all directions at Samoht in the center of the ring and One-Ton turned up the volume until it was vibrating the room. Samoht had to cover his ears because it became so explosive.
“Whoah, man, turn that down!” Samoht yelled, but One-Ton stood patient and calm, since he wasn’t in the crossfires of the speakers. “Hey, I said turn it down!” Samoht tried again.
One-Ton abruptly turned off the radio, closed the front door and also slid the interior wooden doors shut, cutting them off from the sounds of the street entirely. Instantly the dojo fell silent.
“What the hell was that about? My ear drums could have busted!” Samoht said.
One-Ton said nothing and walked past him into the ring and sat, not answering.
“Come, on, what was that about?” Samoht asked again.
Still no answer, just a calm determined countenance on the Professor.
“Hey…” Samoht said. He didn’t like not being answered, and he stood awkwardly for about two minutes, not knowing what the hell was going on. Then Samoht realized what happened. Those were examples. He spoke again, “Oh…. I see now.”
One-Ton looked up and made eye-contact with him again, “Good. You must go to these places in yourself and take control of them. Otherwise someone else will for you. They will command your body, your mind, and your will. Then you will have no place to go.”
Leahcim finished his real breakfast within ten minutes, which was much more pleasant, and went outside in search of the Grandmaster. He started walking toward the barn and as his foot steps crunched loudly on the gravel he became aware of this sound, but he felt the presence of something else too, even though he only heard his own feet moving. He turned quickly to find GM Texan standing there with two pails.
Leahcim was shocked, “I didn’t hear you coming.”
“That’s because you weren’t supposed to, but you did pick up on my presence, huh? Well that’s a good start. It means you’re fairly aware of your surroundings. Can’t do much without that skill. Walk with me.” GM Texan responded.
As they walked toward the barn, Leahcim wanted to know more about the terms of his stay, “So, is there a certain style of combat you will be teaching me?”
GM Texan’s eyes squinted against the sunlight, “Well, I could teach you Kung Fu, I guess. And really any other form you can think of. But that won’t do you much good.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because in a real fight it doesn’t matter what stances you memorized or punches and kicks you practiced. If you get too caught up in one style of fighting you may get your ass handed to ya if you encounter someone who not only plays dirty, but plays by a different set of rules entirely. In the end you’ll have to be flexible and use what you’ve got, and when you’ve got it. Danger likes to improvise.”
“So what will I be learning, then?”
GM Texan looked at Leahcim with a sideways glance, “Well, first you’ll be learning how to milk cows.”
“Milking cows. It is a good way to build strength and reflexes in your hands.” GM Texan said.
“Okay, then.” Leahcim said, slightly relieved but still confused.
They entered the barn where two cows stood in their respective stalls. GM Texan handed Leahcim a pail and grabbed a short stool for him as well and placed it next to the cow he would be milking.
“Alright,” GM Texan said, “The secret is to do it without hesitation. She may occasionally squirm or kick but you just keep milking away. She’ll learn to trust you eventually. Keep going till you fill the pale.”
Leahcim sat down and looked at the creature’s udders. They jiggled slightly as the cow adjusted her feet and Leahcim was kind of disgusted with the network of veins protruding from the bulbous form. GM Texan stood for a second and went to start milking the other cow.
“Just grab hold of them and start squeezing. But think of it more like a massage for her.” GM Texan said from one stall over.
Leahcim decided to make conversation to lessen the awkwardness of what he was doing, “I’ve heard that cows need to be pregnant in order to be milked. Did this naturally occur out on the pasture or did you artificially inseminate them to harvest the milk? Well, I guess you don’t drink it yourself, since to have coconut milk in your fridge. But do you sell to local markets or something?”
Leahcim kept milking for about ten seconds and didn’t hear an answer. He then looked up and saw that GM Texan wasn’t sitting behind his cow anymore, he had disappeared. Leahcim had had enough of this by now, “Grandmaster?!” he said.
He listened again and only heard the breathing of the two cows in the barn and the wind blowing around the structure. Suddenly a firm hand grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and he was thrown into the closed doors at the back of the barn. The doors burst open as his body forced the lock loose. His adrenaline spiked and his stomach churned from the tumultuous movement. He looked back into the dark barn to see what had done this and only saw a silhouette lit from the light coming in the open door on the other side. As the figure stepped into the sunlight Leahcim froze from shock. Grandmaster Texan was standing there with a long stick of bamboo and a crazed look in his eye. He appeared to wish to inflict harm on Leahcim.
“GET UP!” GM Texan yelled.
“Wha-why-what are you doing!?” Leahcim nervously uttered the words.
GM Texan didn’t answer, he just swung his stick hard down toward Leahcim’s head. Leahcim held up his hand to block it and the stick snapped back quickly after hitting it, leaving a welt on his knuckle. It stung horribly and Leahcim instinctively jumped to his feet. GM Texan came at him again from the side and caught Leahcim on the rib, stinging that spot as well. He attemped to turn and run but GM Texan sped toward him and caught him on his back, now tearing his shirt.
“Grandmaster, please stop!” Leahcim yelled.
GM Texan swung again and again, hitting Leahcim every time. Leahcim now began to dive and jump back and occasionally he’d hear the stick make a menacing whish as it passed only centimeters from his body.
“Stop it! Please!” Leahcim screamed again, but to no avail.
GM Texan continued his onslaught. Leahcim knew he couldn’t just run, but he couldn’t handle much more of this. Why is he doing this? he thought. Leahcim raised his forearms to block the stick and succeeded in deflecting the blows, even though he felt a burning sensation in each of his arms. Finally GM Texan jumped and the stick came down hard where Leahcim’s neck met his shoulders. This pain seemed to shoot through his nervous system and reverberated down his spine. He now for some reason felt like his body was ten degrees warmer than it should have been. GM Texan jumped up again and swung the stick straight for the young man’s head. Leahcim had reached his threshold. His consciousness awakened into a higher level, because the stick and GM Texan’s descending form seemed to slow down as Leahcim was able to take in all the details.
“I SAID STOP!!!!!” Leahcim growled as his hand shot up and grabbed the stick.
In a matter of milliseconds his grip tightened on the bamboo so intensely that it snapped and Leahcim’s other hand formed a fist that punched GM Texan right in the chest. The old man gave out an [_Oof _]as he flew backward about five yards and landed on his feet, before buckling to his knees.
“Gotdam.” GM Texan wheezed, “I knew this would be interesting.”
Leahcim was still on the defense, “Why the hell did you just do that!?”
“Ta knock the polite outta ya, Your Highness.” GM Texan now stood, “I had to catch you off guard, to see your potential and what I can teach you.”
“Well, did it have to be like that?” Leahcim asked angrily.
“Yes. Now you know what a real conflict feels like. What it’s like to defend yourself without having your brother there to fight your battles. And now I know a little more about how much you can take.”
Leahcim furled his eyebrows, not understanding, “So what, I can get hit with a stick. What does that tell you?”
GM Texan smiled, “This bamboo is the same kind they use in Singapore to lash criminals. On any other person, if I had hit them as hard as I did you, their skin would have broken and I would have cut them up like minced garlic. I don’t see a drop of blood on ya, kid.”
Leahcim looked down at his hand that received the first blow. The welt that was there had subsided and now there was just a slight red mark that was quickly receding as well.
“First lesson: You’re not built like the rest of us. Bok Thi said your family’s powers have been dormant for a few generations, but her gem musta activated your Schinderling-stone-blood and the results are manifesting. But don’t get cocky. You [_can _]still get hurt, you can definitely still die, and you got a long road ahead of you with learning how to drive this thing.” GM Texan said and starting walking toward the house, then he turned back briefly to add one more thing, “Oh, and you owe me a bamboo stick. They don’t exactly grow on trees around here.”
Six months had passed since Samoht first came to One-Ton’s house. He had grown to like the food, the city of Tokyo, and the culture of the country, at least the little that he could glean from the immediate area around One-Ton’s tower. On the other hand, the extensive training was not getting easier. Each day had progressively become more challenging, and slowly the layers of Professor One-Ton’s personality had peeled back to reveal a very disciplined man, one that was able to reach Samoht and teach him something new. A task not easily completed.
Samoht now sat in One-Ton’s Zen garden. It was surprisingly well secluded from the noise of the city, even though it was open to the sky above. Samoht wondered if One-Ton was resourceful enough to have designed and built it himself, or if he had a friend with whom Samoht could talk shop. He thought of many things like this when the Professor made him meditate in the garden, but mostly he used this “free” time to contemplate his inventions, even though One-Ton had told him to concentrate on his being. Whatever the hell that meant. However, Samoht saw his inventions as extensions of himself, his mark on the world, so it wasn’t like he wasn’t doing his job.
He wasn’t used to sitting still and being quiet, unless of course he was eating. Most of the time when he would ponder about his mechanisms he was always doing something else at the same time, like playing video games or building a separate machine. But now he realized that meditating gave him a sense of clarity he had never felt before, and ironically for the sake of science Samoht intended to continue this practice when he left Japan.
Professor One-Ton now strode out into the garden, “How are you feeling, Samoht?
“Well, my muscles are definitely still a little sore from carrying all those bricks into the dojo yesterday. So, it’s nice to sit still for a while.” Samoht replied.
“Oh…well I’m afraid I’ll have to change that.” One-Ton said.
“What? My sore muscles? No offense Professor, but I’d rather not get a massage from you.” Samoht said. He joked less often with his mentor now, but couldn’t resist sometimes.
“No, Samoht. I’m referring to your current state of stillness.” One-Ton smiled, with his old happy-go-lucky attitude making a joke himself in that he knew what was coming next when Samoht could only guess. “ Come on, follow me.”
Once they reached the inside of the dojo Samoht could tell something was different. The ring was now divided by a wall of red brick. It consisted of the exact same ones One-Ton had Samoht carry in the day before. The Professor turned to Samoht, “Now, this lesson may exhaust your strength as well as your mind, so you must pace yourself. But all the while remain open to possibilities. Understood?”
“Yes, Professor.” Samoht said.
“Good.” One-Ton said and walked around the wall to the other side where he was out of sight. “Find a way to get to me.”
“I assume it has to be through the wall, right?” Samoht asked.
“Yes, Samoht. Through the wall.”
“I can’t just calmly stroll around it while meditating on my being and—”
“—Through the wall, Samoht.” One-ton said, definitely.
Samoht walked up to the bricks and felt their texture and density. He tested the structure for weaknesses, to see if this was some parlor trick to teach him some lesson about trusting himself. There were no tricks, this was a real wall. Samoht leaned against it, “Any suggestions?!?”
One-Ton responded, “There is no right way, Samoht. But you could charge it.”
“Yes, that is what I said.”
“But I’ll break something.”
“Yes, hopefully the wall.”
“No, I mean a bone or something.”
“Will you, Samoht? Or have you been taught that is what will happen?”
“Well I’m pretty sure—”
“Before you answer, let me ask another question. Do you remember that day in the courtyard with Vinod?”
“Then my last thing to say on the matter is that the same force you used to stop him from moving you can be used to move other things.”
Samoht took this in, then he mosied back a distance away from the wall and turned back toward it. He took a deep breath and released it, “One-Two-Three.” Samoht took off at a run and quickly came into contact with the wall. His shoulder hit first, then the rest of his body. Then he bounced off the wall and landed on the floor, suddenly feeling an excruciating pain in his shoulder. “Ahhhhhhhh! FU-”
Abruptly a segment of the wall vibrated and exploded into red and brown dust which spread throughout the room. One-Ton appeared and the cloud cleared to show a man-sized hole in the wall behind him, “What happened?” asked the Professor.
“I threw my shoulder out!” Samoht yelled at him angrily, not able to control his emotions.
“Samoht, you should know better. Sumos use their hands, not their shoulders.” One-Ton pulled Samoht up to his feet and without warning quickly popped Samoht’s arm back into its socket. He screamed again. Once he calmed down he looked at the hole among the bricks and noticed that the Professor’s jade-like gem earrings he always wore had been glowing and now started to fade, “ So, that wasn’t me, was it?” Samoht asked.
“No, but would you like to learn how you can do that?”
“Good, then I shall teach you. But you must realize that not even I can do the things you will be able to once you’ve learned these methods. I trust that once I’ve taught you what I plan to, you will be able to move that wall like a sheet of paper, and you will even be able to stop an on coming bus as if you were made of brick yourself.” One-Ton said, confident.
Samoht looked at his mentor, making circles with his arm to release tension,“Well, let’s hope I won’t need to do that anytime soon.”
Leahcim stood up from his bed and stretched as far as he could toward the ceiling in his room. He threw on a cotton T-shirt and though it was flexible, he could start to feel the sleeves tighten around his arms. He had been through a lot of physical trials over the past few months, and now his build was showing the results. Perhaps one of the major contributors to his physique was the way that the Grandmaster was teaching the art of sword-fighting to Leahcim. At first GM Texan had him start with a light stick in order to learn the fundamental movements, and each week Leahcim had to use one that was heavier until gradually he reached the point at which he was basically fencing with a wooden sword the weight of a log. He wasn’t ambidextrous, but GM Texan had taught Leahcim how to use both hands equally. Despite all his progress, they hadn’t used real swords yet. However, the Grandmaster had given Leahcim enough splinters to teach him how to avoid being struck.
Leahcim now walked into the hall and kitchen with a poise and confidence he couldn’t have imagined himself embodying previously. It was scary here at first, and each subsequent day got even more frightening, but he survived every one of them. He wasn’t afraid, and the Grandmaster hadn’t killed him yet.
His mentor now sat at the table reading the local paper where he had initially tricked Leahcim into consuming dirty milk from a pail. Upon the table sat a purple clay tea pot with a slight stream of steam emanating from the spout. The average person would not have noticed the steam with the naked eye, but Leahcim now saw the world differently, and due to GM Texan’s little surprises here and there, he wasn’t likely to miss anything. GM Texan set his cup on the table and folded his newspaper to look at his pupil, “Well howdy-do, Prince. Please, join me.” he said as he pointed to another tea cup set aside for Leahcim.
“Good morning, Grandmaster. Is this jasmine tea?” Leahcim said.
“Why yes. You can smell that all the way from over there? Your senses have improved.” GM Texan said.
“Perhaps. I know the scent. My mother grows it in her greenhouse and I would drink it often when I was up late studying for school.” Leahcim said.
“Well help yourself.” The Grandmaster said.
Leahcim reached for the pot and poured himself a cup. The cup with no handle absorbed the heat quickly. Leahcim then tried to pick it up but pulled away, “Oh, it’s still too hot. Did you just put the water in?”
“Yeah, not too long ago.” GM Texan said.
“Well, maybe I’ll get some food while I let it cool.”
“No, have some tea.”
“Grandmaster, it’s too hot, I don’t want to burn my hand or my tongue.”
At that GM Texan grabbed the tea pot by the handle and poured himself another cup. He grabbed his cup without flinching from the heat. Leachim thought that despite all of his training here perhaps the Grandmaster just had coarser hands than him. His teacher spoke, “ I like to drink my tea hot. Really hot. So hot it scalds my flesh if I rush it. That way, I’m forced to take my time; savor it. Appreciate it and be present with it. Our lives are like giant cups of tea, and we must be wary, awake, and take our time to properly consume them in a way that is best for us.”
At this, Leahcim saw the purpose of this and slowly reached for his cup of tea.
Afterward, GM Texan picked up a tool belt from his front porch and led Leahcim out to one of the pastures far away from the house. As they approached the gateway that opened up into the clearing, the Grandmaster grabbed a dirty poncho off the fence, threw it over his shoulder, and strode out a distance. He didn’t quite say Leahcim should follow, but the young man knew he was supposed to. GM Texan then paused, looked at the dirt, kicked it a little with his boot, and tossed the poncho onto the ground with a thump that sent dust flying in all directions. He then kneeled down, took some nails from his pocket, unsheathed the hammer, and started wailing away at it in order to secure it to the dirt.
“May I ask what this is for?” Leahcim asked, not expecting an answer.
“After all this time, you can’t just trust me?” GM Texan said with a quick glance and a snarky smile toward his mentee.
“Right, I forgot, I’m quite mistaken to be wary of you.” Leahcim said, shooting back a grin. He maintained his polite demeanor, but he had become more comfortable using sarcasm to combat the Grandmaster’s attitude.
“This little exercise may just be one of your best teachers.” GM Texan said. “It’s really quite simple. You just stand on this poncho and don’t move off of it until I tell you to. Clear?”
Leahcim gave him another sideways suspicious look, “Sure, it seems easy enough.”
“Oh I didn’t say easy, I said simple.” GM Texan quickly shot back as he gathered his things and started walking away cooly. “Just stay put, ya hear?!?”
“Yeah!” Leahcim yelled back, now that his teacher was already past the gate. His surroundings were quiet, almost too quiet. Then Leahcim listened and heard the small creek running just 200 feet away. He heard the wind make it’s random yet specific sounds as it passed over the solid objects that sparsely occupied the field. He closed his eyes and enjoyed the peace. Perhaps this was the point of the exercise, to be calm, to trust that GM Texan would leave him alone for once so Leahcim could be with himself. He inhaled deeply through his nose, to warm the cool, crisp air that signaled the first salvo of a chilly day.
It was nice for Leahcim to find this peace outside of just sleeping. After each day he was so exhausted he slept deep, straight through to morning with no dreams. His consciousness and subconsciousness had been existing entirely in this realm of GM Texan’s ranch for months now, and it was all that was real at the moment.
He thought of his trip with Samoht, of what his mother was doing right now. She might be gardening alone in the expansive greenhouse and that soon she would be harvesting the edible herbs and vegetables that had been growing there. Then out of nowhere, these fond memories devolved into a sense of dread. Leahcim could feel something obscure, a force coming closer through his mind’s eye, but he could not define it. In the the distance Leahcim heard what sounded like a dog growling ferociously for a few seconds. Does the Grandmaster have a dog? Leahcim hadn’t seen one on the property. He thought nothing more of it but soon noticed the moaning of the cattle had become louder. Perhaps the wind had shifted and he could hear them better now, but no, it was still blowing in the same direction. He felt the ground rumble through his feet.
He opened his eyes and saw a wall of cattle running very quickly towards him. He looked to where they might be getting to, but could see they were sprinting sporadically as if evading a threat. But what was certain was that they were about twenty feet from being a threat to Leahcim. He searched for where to go and quickly decided on the fence fifty paces away. As he went for it they got very close and tried very clumsily to avoid him, but he was not their main concern. They were frantic and brushed past him fast, knocking him away from the fence, then toward it, then back again, then almost down to the dirt. He knew whatever happened he had to stay on his feet . He failed.
One two thousand-pound beast butted Leahcim with his horned head and sent the young man to his hands and knees, but he was very close to the fence now. He took a chance and rolled the rest of the way and hit the post hard, not seeing where to stop. He still had to get up. He jumped with all his might and landed awkwardly on top of the fence post balancing with his feet on the barbwire. The cattle continued to run, still frightened, and their trepidation teetered off as they reached a hill in the distance.
“You didn’t stay on the poncho!” GM Texan said suddenly behind Leahcim, on the opposite side of the fence.
“Yeah, because they just started stampeding toward me out of nowhere. What was I supposed to do, just stand my grou—?” Leahcim quickly got it. This was planned.
GM Texan just stared at him, then he spoke, “Go review your swordsmanship basics. I’ll get the herd in position and we’ll try again.
“Yes, Grandmaster.” Leahcim said as he jumped off the fence and landed very poised after having fumbled about like an idiot. He was upset that he didn’t see what was happening earlier, he should have known. But how could I have known? Leahcim thought. The logical thing was to avoid a herd about to bulldoze me, right? No. I must do what GM Texan tells me, even if it seems illogical. Leahcim didn’t come here to react the way everyone else would, he came here to learn, to use his supposed inherent advantage over other human beings as a tool. But what is my advantage? Was it purely a physical trial to figure out how to stand your ground amongst a stampede or was there something else to it, a way of problem solving that only he could stumble upon? It must be both Leahcim decided, for there were plenty of people in this world that knew how to use the little green gems to do extraordinary things; he had seen it. And as much as he didn’t like it, he might have to accept that there is something superior about him, about his brother, their bloodline, and that they would have to wield that power wisely and share it the best they could.
Leahcim took up a wooden sword, reviewed the stances he was taught, then he looked to the weapon rack and laid down the stick in order to pick up an old Chinese saber. He went back to the stances, then got bored with them and made some of his own. Then he went with his instincts and moved about with the sword as he felt he should, getting a sense of how it worked with his body. He felt very in control, though this was the first time he had handled a metal sword. He moved some more, almost dancing as he thrust, swung, parried, and spun, all with a sense of peace, not malice.
“This ain’t a dance studio!” GM Texan’s abrupt voice shattered Leahcim’s meditation.
“OH!” Leahcim stopped and brought the sword down. It then reflected sunlight harshly into the Grandmaster’s face and the old man winced. Leahcim moved it behind his back. He felt ashamed, he knew he shouldn’t have been handling it and now he might be punished. The sword very well could be a thousand years old and never intended to be used, let alone by a novice. “I’m very sorry, Grandmaster, I—”
“You’re about to put my great-grandfather’s sword down very carefully, I know.” GM Texan said, stern.
“Of course, I’m very sorry…” Leahcim safely sheathed and replaced the saber where it belonged.
“Now c’mon, I’ve got the herd ready.” GM Texan said. As Leahcim passed him timidly while keeping his distance, GM Texan looked back to the sword, then at Leahcim walking briskly to the pasture. The Grandmaster smiled genuinely, impressed, though the look would be wiped from his face long before his mentee saw it.
One-Ton walked into the dojo to find Samoht standing among many piles of red-brick dust. It had been clear he had been building many little walls just so he could smash them with his new found technique. The student turned to see One-Ton and smiled from ear to ear, “I’m loving this. It should really be impossible, but somehow I’m able to do it. I’m just trying to wrap my head around the physics of it.”
One-Ton looked to the ground, knelt down on his haunches, and picked up some pulverized brick dust with his wide hand, “What is there to figure out, Samoht? You hit an object, and it breaks. This is the nature of things.”
“Well, don’t you think that’s oversimplifying it? I mean, these are bricks! And I’m turning them into chalk powder!” Samoht said, still excited.
“Perhaps it is you, pupil, who have the simple understanding of it. You seem very comfortable with it, showing you need to grow. I hope you do realize that you’ve not been sent here to become a demolitionist. You will be encountering walls one day that, sure, you may certainly be able to hit, and some may even turn to dust, but they will be able to hit back.” One-Ton said, with one of his looks he always had when he was about to reveal some new lesson.
“Yeah, I know that, Professor One-Ton, but who can stand up to this method of fighting?” Samoht said.
“Fighting? When is the last time we fought?” One-Ton asked.
“You mean over a sugar bun or something?”
“Samoht.” One-Ton said, authoritatively.
“We…we haven’t.” Samoht said, realizing it for himself just then. He had just been learning moves and stances.
“Then it’s time I test your plethora of knowledge.” One-Ton said as he jumped freakishly high into the air, nearly grazing the ceiling and landed hard in the ring of the dojo. This vibrated the ground violently and sent a gush of air from One-Ton’s body to the walls taking all of the brick remains with it. Samoht had to brace himself from this force alone. Now with the ring clear, One-Ton stood with a determined face, one that Samoht hadn’t seen before but was certain it was one former sumo opponents of One-Ton had seen. The yokozuna’s ear rings glowed so brightly they illuminated the rest of One-Ton’s ear lobes and his side burns.
“Shit.” Was all Samoht could say as One-Ton charged him. Samoht braced himself again since he figured One-Ton would push him back, but as the fierce sumo reached him he hugged Samoht and sent him in another direction. Upwards. Samoht felt surprised and nauseous from being tossed like an infant into the air. He came down hard and landed on his side, not having expected to go in either direction so quickly.
“Come now, Samoht, you can land better than that, surely. Let’s try again.” One-Ton said with a menacing and gleeful expression before he grabbed Samoht by the ankle and threw him up and over to the front entrance of the dojo where he hit the large soundproof doors. The hinges clanged and fought to hold the doors in place. Samoht had never been thrown about like this before, but he was already sick of it, “Alright One-Ton, you wanna see a sumo? I’ll give you one!”
Samoht charged his teacher and wrapped his arms around him, forcing him backward. Or so he thought. One-Ton quickly turned Samoht’s own momentum against himself and by guiding his student’s shoulders with his hands, allowed the robust pupil to fall face first into a wooden bench at the edge of the ring, which of course, Samoht’s mass broke in half.
One-Ton giggled his giggle of amusement and mocked, “Samoht, you insult me. I haven’t been teaching you to simply fall when a fight arises, have I?”
Samoht pulled a sliver out of his forehead and glared at One-Ton. His jaw tightened, his muscles tensed, and he sprang up quite agile for his size, ramming One-Ton hard with all of his body. At first, Samoht thought that One-Ton was making a ghostly quick retreat from the blow, but as his eyes focused he saw a frightened look on his master’s face as he flew backward. Seeing the massive man soar through the air as such seemed so unnatural, but One-Ton surely flew, and right into a solid wall. The force from this collision was so great it shattered the glass of the trophy case on that wall and vibrated to also shatter the glass doors to the garden. But it didn’t stop there, the tremor seemed to make the whole building move slightly as things in the walls and beyond the ceiling made noises that were not supposed to do so. They could hear the distinct sound of enamelware hitting the tiled floor in the kitchen. One-Ton lay on his side, reeling from the impact, but still breathing. Samoht was afraid he had severely hurt him, “One-Ton, are you—?”
“Okay?” One-Ton wheezed, “Not really, but if I didn’t know how to use these earrings I’d be dead. What a power you have.” He said smiling again, despite him still recovering.
“I’m so sorry, you know I’d never…I got carried away, I didn’t realize what I could do.” Samoht was trying to say something to make him feel better. To make himself feel better, too.
“Ah, but Samoht. That is why you came here. I had to coax it out, but that was the point, my friend.”
“Well, I’ll pay for the damages. I know you put some work into this place—“
“Meh.” One-Ton smiled, breathing normally now, “Necessary losses. We all have to sacrifice something in time, I’m lucky in training you it’s only a few bricks and glass.”
Just then, Eunjee burst in through the door holding a large pot. It looked like whatever was in the pot was now all over her. She began yelling at One-Ton in Japanese, not even looking at Samoht. Samoht had learned some Japanese while being here, but he was no Leahcim. He did, however, understand the phrase ‘big lumbering idiot’, but he wasn’t sure if Eunjee was directing it at him, the Professor, or the both of them. She then threw her pot on the floor angrily and stormed out.
One-Ton giggled his giggle again and grinned, “Well, a few bricks and glass…. and perhaps my marriage.”
Leahcim threw the poncho on the ground and nailed it into the dirt to secure it. He knew the procedure of the stampede exercise well now. They had tried it a few more times since the first. It must have been pretty important, perhaps even the capstone of what the Grandmaster was trying to achieve with Leahcim, because all other training had fallen to the wayside in the meantime. Leahcim stood with his legs shoulder width apart upon the poncho and raised a cow bell above his head. He then rang it thunderously to let GM Texan all the way in the next field know he was ready. He didn’t see the old man acknowledge anything, he simply heard a shotgun fire and crack through the still air before the now familiar rumble beneath his feet began. He wondered why he hadn’t heard the shotgun the first time the stampede surprised him, and he figured whatever it was GM Texan had done to scare them before was saved for special occasions, since now he resorted to the loud firearm.
The wall of gentle minded beasts appeared quickly before Leahcim and almost seemed to not notice him at all as the first few avoided him. However, as their numbers thickened into the space where Leahcim stood, they had no qualms with moving through his bubble. Leahcim, now awakened and more agile than ever due to GM Texan’s mentorship, dodged the massive animals. He calmly but quickly slid to one side or the other, very poised and in control, as he kindly but firmly guided each of the cattle’s heads away from him with his hands as they entered his space. Then one surly black bull charged straight for Leahcim.
This was a full-grown Texas longhorn, and he wasn’t about to move aside for anyone. Even if he had, one of his horns would still gouge some part of the young man. Leahcim saw the bull coming and had an idea. Without even being able to think it through his body went into action. As the bull’s head was at arms length, Leahcim firmly grabbed the horns with his now rough hands and there was movement. But Leahcim didn’t move the bull, he moved himself. He pulled with all his might and catapulted himself over the beast doing a forward flip. He landed hard but steady on the ground exactly where he had been before. Eventually they all passed as suddenly as they had come. This was the first time Leahcim had managed to not get knocked violently aside by one of the frightened four-legged animals. He stood now confident because he was sure he had accomplished the goal. GM Texan walked up and it took all of Leahcim’s strength to not gloat about his victory, but he did smile and say, “They didn’t force me from my spot.”
Leahcim waited for the Grandmaster not to applaud him, but acknowledge his success. However, the old man simply looked disappointed and shook his head as he pointed to Leahcim’s feet. Leahcim now looked down and saw that only one of his feet was still on the poncho, the other stood in the dirt.
“Sure, maybe they didn’t force you from the spot. Perhaps it was all of that fancy footwork you’re so fond of.” GM Texan said.
“Well, how am I supposed to do this without moving around to accommodate them? In no physics book that I’ve ever read have I learned of two objects that can occupy the same space at the same time.” Leahcim said, frustrated.
GM Texan turned around and started off. He said aloud facing away from Leahcim, “We’ll try again tomorrow. Can’t stress ‘em out too much from spookin’ ‘em all the damn time.”
The dinner that evening was a quiet one for the most part, as a great number of them had been. GM Texan never talked of himself, but he sure liked to tell Leahcim how much he knew about him. For Leahcim, eating meals with the Grandmaster had been one of the most comfortable things to do around the seemingly wise, intimidating figure. Despite his big ranch full of cattle, GM Texan never prepared any animals to eat, so Leahcim never had to awkwardly turn it down. He wasn’t sure of the old man’s reasons for eating this way, though it seemed to be a parallel reflected back at Bok Thi’s academy. In any matter, Leahcim didn’t mind that it was never discussed nor did he care if it would be. He was simply grateful for it to not to be a centerpiece for drama for once in his life.
GM Texan silently put his dishes in the sink and began preparing some tea he made with ginger. Once it was ready he brought it to the table with two porcelain mugs and poured some for himself before walking out onto the dimly lit front porch. Evenings were quiet there, as they are when one is out in the middle of the country with someone who is not a conversationalist. Leahcim could see that GM Texan had seated himself at the top of the stairs, sitting cross-legged on the floor of the porch. Most nights Leahcim took the hint and gave the Grandmaster his space by retreating to his room, but this time he watched. He was trying to figure out what a person like GM Texan thought about, or didn’t think about, in order to find peace and meditate. Leahcim shut off the main light in the dining room and inched toward a window near the front porch.
The stars shone and penetrated the window as they lit his face, especially the light reflected off the Moon. He glanced over to where GM Texan was again and saw the man was in a trance, breathing calmly but deeply. Leahcim could faintly see GM Texan rubbing something between his thumb and fingers. As it began to glow green, Leahcim realized it was the man’s bolo tie. This was not surprising, but what Leahcim saw next was. As the Grandmaster continued his meditation, a small bluish-white light appeared in the center on the back of the old man’s neck. This light was the size of a pencil eraser at first, almost so small Leahcim thought he imagined it, or that it was a random reflection off of a mirror, but it grew. The light, emanating from beneath GM Texan’s skin, expanded to about two inches in diameter. Against the backdrop of the night sky, it looked almost as if a star, a very bright one, was shining through the Grandmaster’s neck. Leahcim got closer to see, for he still was mesmerized.
“That’s incredible…” Leahcim blurted out.
Startled, the Grandmaster quickly turned to face Leahcim and was suddenly on his feet. Leahcim could now see the light was emanating from the front of GM Texan’s neck as well, right out of his Adam’s apple. He stopped rubbing his bolo tie and at once the bluish-white light retreated back into the old man.
“What is that?” Leahcim asked.
“It was me opening a portal of energy by pooling it in my throat.” GM Texan said casually.
“I’ve never heard of anything like that in my life. It’s hard to believe that could even occur, I mean…”
“Well, what do your books tell you?”
“Excuse me?” Leahcim frowned.
“Surely you can’t entertain this as true if you didn’t read about it.”
“Well, it wouldn’t matter because I just saw it for myself.”
GM Texan’s eyes squinted, “That’s how I suggest you treat all books.” The Grandmaster then opened the screen door with a slight creak and passed Leahcim without saying anything else.
Leahcim was dumbfounded. He stayed up for several more hours sitting on his bed thinking about it before he was able to fall asleep. How could someone do that? Leahcim thought. [_Clearly the Grandmaster had used the green gem to do it, but how? And what for? And if someone simply holding one of those stones could do something like that, like the things that Vivek had done as well, what could be possible for Samoht and me who have this energy running through our veins? _]Leahcim closed his eyes and opened his mind to the possibilities as he fell into unconsciousness.
The next morning Leahcim was invigorated. He woke from the deepest, best sleep he had had for some time, perhaps ever. His senses were alive and he saw, smelled, and tasted things anew as he ate breakfast.
The Grandmaster had begun rounding up the cattle already and nearly had them in place when he saw Leahcim walk confidently out to the pasture with the poncho over his shoulder. GM Texan smiled to himself silently but was still skeptical that the boy would accomplish anything today. Either way, he loaded his shotgun with shells of red plastic and metal as he heard his mentee ring the cowbell in the distance.
CRACK! The shotgun had been fired. Leahcim was ready. He breathed deeply, just as he had seen GM Texan do, and he closed his eyes as the ground began to shake once again. With each breath Leahcim felt stronger and stronger. Then as he breathed in deeply he felt a surge of something shoot through him, from his tail-bone to the crown of his head. He breathed in again. Awareness filled his body and the same feeling that awakened down his spine now came into his forearms, which, by his will or another, began to rise as they reached outward. They almost burned with a warmth never known to him before. The ground still shook as the cows came roaring toward him. However, he would not move from his spot. He felt more solid than a tree in his place connected to the ground, yet independent from everything. Rumble. He breathed. Rumble. His arms were burning. Rumble. He would not move. Then, at once the shaking dirt fell silent. Leahcim could still hear the cattle, but they weren’t getting any closer. He opened his eyes to see that the cattle had stopped short of twenty feet from him. They wouldn’t come any closer, and some appeared to want to go in the other direction.
GM Texan came sprinting down the other side of the fence to see what had happened and dirt flew from his boots as he also halted himself quickly. The Grandmaster’s jaw dropped and Leahcim was sure he was the first to ever see that look on the man’s face.
Leahcim looked down and saw, but he did not understand. Both of his bare forearms were emanating a light from beneath the skin just like GM Texan had through his neck. However, Leahcim’s color was different. The light coming from his arms was a deep, strong green, much like, in fact, just like that of the gems.
“Gotdam!” GM Texan shouted in a whisper, incredulous.
Jan sat in her government-issued car waiting for the driver to walk around to the front. She had made it safely to the car from her flying guston that she required to get to and from her home, and now looked at a newspaper in her lap. The headline said “Ex-Queen Senator Drafts Bill that Will Invade Privacy of Citizens.” That’s certainly a long statement for having no truth in it. How ridiculous. Jan thought.
The bill was not intended for nor would it allow the invasion of citizens’ privacy. It only applied to large commercial vehicles that could possibility be used for smuggling live animals in large numbers. Besides, they still had to vote on it. But she wasn’t surprised by this reaction. The conservative right, and unaware people in general, always seemed to find a way to strike fear into the public in an attempt to hurt her career. From slandering her third-party affiliation to raising suspicions about her past as a member of foreign royalty, she had always had the press spinning tales about her as an advocate for making the U.S. into a totalitarian dictatorship. When if they would have done their research, the democratic involvement of the Schinderlingslyvokianslyvanian people was at its highest ever in its long history during her time there.
But she had remained resolute, and luckily support from the general public for the Green Party had grown immensely since the beginning of her career. In fact, it was people of color such as herself that ran on the Green Party ticket who really seemed to resonate with and motivate minorities to vote differently. And now, she was no longer the lone Green Ranger in the Senate. However, out of all of her work, this current bill to increase surveillance was the easiest to twist and make it seem like it was indeed some type of tyranny aimed at limiting peoples’ rights.
It had been a long few months since Jan and a few others had drafted the bill, and now she was heading to Congress to convince the other representatives to vote for it. Tensions were high, and with so many people misunderstanding the proposed bill and its purpose, Jan’s security had to be intensified. Her voice was strong, but stronger was her ability to reason with other people, no matter their party or preconceived views. Given the chance to present her speech today, the bill would be voted on, and it would pass.
The lightly armored limousine took off from the helicopter pad where her guston had touched down. Two other cars accompanied them. One lead them out of the landing enclosure and the other followed closely behind. Jan always dreaded coming to D.C. more than her usual trips to her office in South Dakota. Back home she was able to fly directly to work and land on the top of her office building. However, here one was not often allowed to fly their private airship so close to the White House, even if you were a politician. So she had to be driven. This made her nervous of course because she had always been highly publicized, and even if the media didn’t know where she was, her security did. And there were always moles. Security weren’t paid very well, but they might be if they let certain groups know the whereabouts of a specific female politician who may have banned the unnecessary and abusive use of non-renewable resources subsequently affecting the revenue of certain businesses. Yes, she certainly had a lot of people watching her, for many reasons, but she would use it on this day to stop whatever shifty business that was occurring with the thousands of apes and monkeys that had gone missing. She wasn’t an animal rights person per se, but whatever was going on with all of these creatures had to be wrong.
The sky was overcast, and a few drops had begun to fall on the window beside her.[_ Good._] She thought. This might give them some extra cover, or so she hoped.
Sanjun gripped his steering wheel tightly. His gloves made noise as he shifted and re-gripped it again. His orders were simple. Kill Senator Jan Schinderling. It wouldn’t be easy, but Sanjun knew of Overlord Avala’s true power, despite his flowery name, and to refuse him would be more difficult than committing an assassination. Sanjun was quick and smart, and very deadly. He would do it.
His phone vibrated and he looked at the screen to see the text message. His informant who was working on the security team had just notified him that the convoy escorting the targeted senator was now en route. From Dr. Ochoa to government security, people in this country were very easy to bribe. Perhaps they should take better care of their citizens. Sanjun thought. But of course the ability to invoke corruption made his work run much more smoothly.
Sanjun turned to the henchman sitting in the backseat, “Get ready. We’re moving.”
The light gray sedan they rode in peeled out of the parking lot of a local donut shop and moved in the direction of the convoy.
Sanjun spoke again, “You are only going to have one shot before everything hits the fan, so put those marksman skills to use.”
“Won’t need to much with this.” The henchman said, loading the rocket launcher that sat in his lap, “But I copy.”
Jan looked out her window now instead of reading the paper. She could never fully trust another when they operated a vehicle. She always felt the need to drive herself, and when she couldn’t she watched diligently. She didn’t allow people to do things for her often, but the circumstances currently demanded so. The driver was also a member of security, so she wasn’t exactly a sitting duck inside the car. He seemed to be one of the good ones, in his mid twenties, so his noble nature he picked up in training was still intact. Ren was his name. He looked at everything through dark eyes that squinted in a fiercely focused manner, despite his round and friendly face. Jan sensed that he was of Hawaiian descent, and she felt an odd kinship with him given they both hailed from people that had been conquered by the US government. The irony that they both served that very government was not lost on her. Regardless of her thoughts, Jan was still alert, and she would remain so up until they reached the Senate. However, she would still be searching the crowd as she gave her speech.
Jan then thought of Samoht and Leahcim. Oh, how long has it been? She wringed her hands at how much she missed them. Both of them had been very good about sending the occasional email, but they couldn’t tell her much about what was going on. Samoht was an adult so he could do as he pleased, but most people would have probably reacted adversely to Jan allowing her 16-year-old son live with some guy in Texas to “train”. However, the sad thing was even though she wouldn’t get much out of her boys if she prodded, she knew why they were where they were. And she knew it was necessary. Jan had learned a great many things back in Europe, but most of all was the responsibility that power required. And while most mothers would be at ease, Jan feared her sons were powerful beyond belief. It was only a matter of time before they realized it, and the world soon after.
Time seemed to have stopped as she thought of her boys. Now Jan awakened from her deep thoughts and became present again with her surroundings just as she noticed that to her left a white, football-sized object spitting out fire behind it came screeching toward her car.
The limo jerked to the right, tilted on its side, came down hard, slid onto the sidewalk due to hydroplaning in the rain, and halted abruptly. The blast was mostly deflected by the armor of the car, and the windows cracked, but they did not give in. The projectile was intended to kill her and they would be coming to finish the job. Jan knew this, and she reached quickly for something hidden under her seat.
Sanjun, hooked a U-turn after the blast and came back to the scene in a matter of seconds. His informant was in the first car on the convoy and had driven purposely into a street light during the explosion like they had agreed. This way his informant had an excuse to not interfere and could collect his reward later, alive. The second car, behind the limo, had agents that still needed to be dispatched. Sanjun hopped out of his car and clipped them at first with his Uzi as they got out and attempted to engage the assassins. The other henchman, who had shot the rocket, ran up behind them and put them to rest with his gun. After this they quickly moved to the limo where the main target was.
Checkmate! Sanjun yelled in his mind as he opened the door and sprayed the inside of the cab with bullets. Then he looked in. It was empty, and the door on the other side of the limo was open. Shit.
Before he could fully react he heard two tiny but swift footsteps pat the roof of the car before he saw the image of Senator Jan Schinderling flying through the air at him and coming down hard and fast with a staff of some kind. First she hit him on the top of the head, which sent him sprawling backward. Damn. That hurt. He looked up and saw the staff was of a peculiar design. It had large metal balls on either end and the hilt had an intricate pattern that couldn’t be deciphered from afar. Good. A trophy. He thought. Sanjun felt warm and wet liquid gathering atop his head as he pulled his Uzi up to shoot but Jan reacted silver quick with a devastating strike to Sanjun’s hand with the end of her staff. The gun flew away and his hand instantly contorted, cracked, and shot pain back to his brain. Dammit! The bitch broke my hand!
Then Sanjun’s henchman shot at Jan, and missed. Marksman my ass! The henchman came closer and steadied his gun to try again, but it was too late. Jan crouched low and spun, twisting the handle of her spear as she went, which extended a blade from one of the metal balls. This blade quickly caught the henchman across the knees, which sent him downward, crying in agony. Sanjun took this moment to run. It was all he could do. As he did he heard Jan say, “Put down your gun.”
Sanjun reached his car and looked back. The henchman on the ground raised his gun again and shot. But again Jan was too quick. She slid to the side, dipped her blade low, and brought it up strong. This took the gun away from the man, as well as his hand. He cried aloud again, probably now more from shock than pain, and he passed out.
Sanjun fumbled for his keys.
Jan stood over one of the men who had attacked her. She wasn’t proud to have maimed someone for life, but the bastard deserved it. However, she knew it would sit with her for some time. Jan heard commotion behind her and saw her driver, Ren, trying to stand up using the limo as support. He had his gun out, ready to help defend her, but he seemed very disoriented. Jan ran to him, “Shows over. Relax. I took the two of them on but one ran off. I had to do this to the other.” she said as she pointed to the one-handed man laying face up on the pavement.
“Brutal.” Ren said, a little too loud. His eardrums had been damaged in the explosion, “I thought one of the Ten Key Values of the Green Party was nonviolence.”
She responded breathing hard, “Yes, but perhaps you forget that for a number of years I was the queen of a glorified war-clan. If you didn’t know how to fight, they didn’t know what you were doing there.”
Jan walked into the street a bit to see how everyone else fared. She looked to the car that was behind them. Then turned to the first car and yelled to Ren, “Well, unfortunately it looks like they got Thane and Meyers, but I’m not sure about-”
“Senator!” Was all Ren was able to screech before Jan heard the rev of an engine behind her getting closer. The gray car from which the rocket had come was now peeling away toward Jan. She was quick, but not quick enough. The car hit her hard, much harder than would be necessary to kill someone and she went flying and tumbling over the vehicle before she landed like a bag of rocks on the cement. Her head hit the pavement the hardest.
Ren quickly aimed his gun at the driver and emptied the round it contained. The bullets got the assailant, for Ren was in fact a real marksman, and with no living operator the gray car swerved and crashed into a black iron fence across the street.
Ren quickly went to the senator and tried to figure out how to help her without touching or moving her body. He felt helpless, but Jan was truly helpless as she lay unconscious in a pool of her own blood while the distant sirens blared through the streets of D.C., coming closer and closer.
Leahcim sat at the large dining room table of redwood with his bare arm stretched outward as Grandmaster Texan dabbed a brush in a tiny, shallow bowl of dark inky liquid.
“So, why do I need this painted on my skin?” Leahcim asked.
“The energy you manifested in your arms was raw power.” The Grandmaster said as he loosened his bolo tie with one hand, and pulled down his collar to expose a small tattoo in the center of the Adam’s apple on his neck, the very spot from where his bluish-white light had emanated, “What you did today, it was a nice trick; it’s nothing any of us normal folk can do on our own. And since you’re a novice, I think it’d be best if you had something clear to focus on as you harness it.”
Leahcim noticed that the Grandmaster’s tattoo looked like the ones that Vivek had on his head and wrist. “So, you’re giving me a tattoo? I’m pretty sure I’m not old enough and I don’t think I want one anyway..”
“Relax.” GM Texan said, dabbing the brush in the blackness of the bowl again and returning it to Leahcim’s arm, “This is just a special henna I made. The symbols will stay on long enough for you to practice with them and then they’ll fade away.”
Leahcim felt the cold, wet touch of the brush and looked down at the first symbol, “Where are they from? I don’t recognize the characters.”
“That’s because they’re not used to communicate among men.” GM Texan said, wetting the brush yet again and signaling Leahcim to hand over his other arm. The Grandmaster continued, “They are simple yet abstract symbols that allow us to commune with realms intangible. Or some hippie stuff like that. I learned them from Bok Thi’s academy. They have been using them since the first humans found those green rocks. I’m not sure if Bok Thi or her tribe could really give a definitive answer of their origin either, but they sure as hell work. Why do you think I got one put on my neck?”
“What does your’s mean?” Leahcim inquired.
GM Texan leaned in and grinned, “It means ‘this isn’t my first rodeo and stop asking so many damn questions.’”
“Come on, I’m letting you put them on my arm, I’m entitled to know.” Leahcim pushed back.
“Most of them are symbols for animals, plants, or other things of nature. They represent certain qualities and strengths we have. Mine is a coyote.” GM Texan said, a little embarrassed to have unveiled the mystery.
“A coyote?” Leahcim asked.
“Yes, they are honest animals. They howl the truth.” GM Texan said.
“Well, you certainly don’t mind saying what you think.”
“Saying what I know. The truth.” GM Texan insisted.
“And what exactly do mine mean?” Leahcim asked.
“The one of your left arm is a tiger,” The Grandmaster said as he took a swig of water, “and that other one is a dragon.”
“Dragon?!?” Leahcim spouted. “I thought you said these were symbols from nature, not mythology.”
GM Texan just stared at his pupil like Leahcim was the one that had said something odd. Then he just shrugged and smiled in one corner of his mouth as he drank some more water.
Leahcim spoke again, “Okay, well, how do I use them? And what qualities of mine are they intended to hone?”
“It’s not actually the symbols that do the work as much as the work the mind does as a result of thinking of the symbols. They’re really just there to remind you what and how to think. For instance, the tiger on your left represents your calm, collected and poised manner of accomplishing things. And the dragon is the explosive fire that occasionally comes out of you when you are pushed too far. Like when I beat the hell out of you with that bamboo stick.” The Grandmaster laughed, “You need to work on these two aspects more so you can come to a quick decision and take action while keeping your feet on the ground. That make sense?” GM Texan asked.
“Yeah, kind of.” Leahcim said.
“Alright, well you need to sit here a while to let those tats dry properly. Wanna watch some TV?”
“Sure. I guess I haven’t in a while.” Leahcim said and he looked down at his arms to see the finished symbols. They were both only about the size of a fifty cent coin with purposely placed dots. They still looked like plants bearing fruit such as Leahcim had first observed with Vivek’s, but upon knowing what they represented, Leahcim could start to make out the supposed animals they were meant to be. They were very neat, and the Grandmaster had to have had a lot of practice with them. If one were to draw a line around the border of them on Leahcim’s respective arms, each glyph in its entirety would have fit perfectly within a circle.
GM Texan turned on the television and walked into the kitchen to put a kettle on the burner. The TV screen sprang to the light and sound of a news-station.
From a helicopter’s point of view the program showed cars strewn about a street around a limo and footage of ambulances arriving on the scene. The newscaster spoke, “-ensued in the streets of D.C. as paramedics came to rush Senator Jan Schinderling and injured bodyguards to the nearest hospital. Sources have confirmed that there was indeed an attempt on the senator’s life. She is currently under medical treatment and remains in critical condition. Some are saying that this was related to the—”
At that moment all sound cut out from Leahcim’s focus and without even thinking of doing it he stood and quickly grabbed the telephone.
Professor One-Ton and Samoht sat out in the Zen garden behind the dojo. The air was calm save for the laughter of the two hefty gentlemen. Their merriment was heightened by the sake they had been drinking. It took a lot to get both of them tipsy due to their respective weights, but they had been out there drinking for some time now. Samoht didn’t think he and the Professor could have become so close, but on the occasions that he wasn’t training Samoht, One-Ton had proven to be a very open and thoughtful friend. It was nearly 2 a.m. in Japan.
“No, no, no…” said Samoht, with his eyes glazed over, “You have to have another with me…it’s no excuse that you don’t have European ancestry like me…your people invented this stuff, now come on.”
One-Ton accepted another round of sake with flushed cheeks, “Very well. Teehee. Speaking of inventions, what are you always working on up in your room in your free time? Eunjee is always complaining about the smell of burnt wires or something.”
“Can’t tell you…can’t have you stealing my ideas and pat-onen-ening, patoning them, now can I?” said Samoht grinning and twiddling his hands in a muahaha fashion.
“Oh, come now, Samoht. I show you the secrets of the universe and this is how you repay me?” said One-Ton, reaching out to plead his case.
“Okay, well, I can start by building you guys some real chairs!” Samoht yelled.
At this they both bellowed with laughter. Inside the dojo Samoht’s phone vibrated and rang as its little blue screen lit up the part of the desk it sat on in the dark room. It kept ringing but they could not hear it out in the garden. Finally an irritated Eunjee walked into the room in her bathrobe and mumbled to herself in Korean, “
She heard a worried voice on the other line and responded “No, it’s not him. This is Eunjee. Who is this?”
Eunjee listened. Then she sobered up from her tiredness a bit as she listened more. She spoke again quickly with a different tone, “You hold on sweetie, I’ll get him right now.” Eunjee put the phone to her chest in a heart-felt manner and looked at Samoht through the glass a moment before opening the door.
“Samoht! Your brother is on the line. It’s very important.” Eunjee called to him.
Samoht noticed she sounded different. She had called to him instead of yelling at him. And this time she addressed him in English instead of talking about him in Japanese or Korean right in front of his face.
Samoht walked over to her to take the phone and One-Ton followed his movement with a concerned look first to him, then to Eunjee. She didn’t need to say much.
“Samoht here.” he said, “Leahcim?……wait, wait, slow down. What now….?” Samoht’s eyes dilated and his stomach sunk. “Okay, Cimmy, I’ll meet you there. I’m getting on a plane right now. Okay, I love you too, be careful.” Samoht hung up the phone and as a tear of disbelief formed at the corner of his eye his stomach churned and tightened. He buckled to his knees and threw up in one of the Professor’s beautifully maintained rosemary bushes.
The Schinderking sat in his private library, the very one in which he had had words with his sons before they had run away; all three of them. When he had heard the awful news about Jan he told his subjects he needed a few moments to himself. Mahlonik stood and approached the window, then he turned to his bookshelves and fidgeted with the bound volumes of paper and ink. He had read them all many times, but searched for one that would give him solace for how he felt, for why he even felt as low as he did. Then he realized what it was. Could it be? How could I feel so distraught over Jan? He had not thought of her for a long time, and when he did there was much animosity. But now, he just felt like he had stepped out of the anger he had held toward her for so long. He had loved her, and though her opinions irked him to no end, he never wished an ill fate for her. He then breathed in slowly and exhaled in gratitude that he had realized and admitted to himself the truth. This being an old Schinderlingslyvokianslyvanian practice that worked for him, he breathed in again, and exhaled in gratitude that his sons had escaped, for they would be able to be there for Jan now.
A knock came from the door.
Dogo came in and addressed his Schinderking and uncle, “
His heart suddenly felt softer to this moment despite his previous disdain for the Brits. He now realized that for the good of his name, his people, and his children that he would do his best to stop any needless violence. Mahlonik then left his study to face an old situation with new feeling.
When Grandmaster Texan had received the news of his pupil’s mother he acted quickly and was the most tender in his speech that Leahcim had ever witnessed. Within twenty minutes of Leahcim hanging up the phone with his brother, he had packed his bags and they were tearing down GM Texan’s long gravel driveway in his stick-shift pick-up truck. As they left the property Leahcim looked back to see the sign he had seen when he first arrived at this place. Having spent some time reading the newspapers in Mandarin that the Grandmaster had sitting around his house, Leahcim could now read the sign properly. It actually said “Texan Cattle Sanctuary”.
Leahcim couldn’t fully appreciate this knowledge due to his current emotional state. It could have taken only thirty minutes to get to the airport, but to Leahcim it felt like hours. Worry and fear played scenarios in his head over and over and he was numb to his senses for some time. Finally they had reached the airport, but before Leahcim could jump out in his state of autopilot the Grandmaster grabbed his arm and brought him back to reality.
“Now listen, son. I’m very sorry to hear what has happened. Regardless, I reckon that this may be setting off a series of events that will stop you from returning to train. But I just want you to know that I’m still here to teach you when you need me.”
Leahcim looked to his mentor and his eyes nearly filled with tears from appreciation. He shook the Grandmaster’s right hand with both of his own and said, “Thank you!” before he jumped out of the truck and searched for the next flight to D.C. in haste.
Samoht touched down in D.C. fourteen hours later. Luckily, he hadn’t had much time to think about the current events since he slept nearly the whole way. In a blur he exited the plane, met up with the agent in the airport that was assigned to protect him, and was escorted to the hospital where his mother was. Samoht found his brother in the waiting room and seemed to reawaken to reality. Without words the brothers embraced each other and Samoht’s mighty bear-hug cracked his little sibling’s back.
“How is she?” Samoht asked quickly.
“She seems to be okay. They’re doing another assessment of her injuries now.” Leahcim said.
“Have you seen her?” Samoht asked.
“Yes, but she wasn’t awake. Breathing, but not awake yet. Dammit, Samoht, they hit her with a car!” Leahcim said with angry passion rising in his gut.
“Hey, don’t worry. Remember the rest of the story, right? She fought off a couple of armed goons before that. She wouldn’t give up without a fight, literally, and her fight’s not over yet, Cimmy.” Samoht said squeezing Leahcim’s shoulder in reassurance, though needing some himself. He noticed his little brother had grown a little taller, his frame was filled out and much stronger looking, and he appeared more full of life, despite the current situation.
“Yeah, I sure hope that’s so.” Leahcim responded and sat down to calm himself. Samoht joined him and they sat in silence for a moment. A doctor of about thirty years with long curly hair came into the waiting room and looked at her clipboard before speaking, “Leah …Kim? Leah Kim?”
“Oh, it’s Lee-a-sim. And this is my brother Samoht.” Leahcim said.
“Oh sorry. I’m bad with names. I’m Dr. Tsao. We have really good news about your mother. She has just woken up. She is starting to speak cognitive sentences again. We told her that you were here and she wants to see you.” Dr. Tsao said.
“Wow. Just like that? She woke up and is fine?” Samoht asked as they now followed her to the room where their mother waited.
“Well, she's not 100% just yet, but certainly better than we expected. I mean, with the impact she suffered from being hit by a vehicle at full-speed and landing on the back of her head against concrete, we thought she might've looked like a rag-doll when she came in. But remarkably somehow she stayed together. And even if it were common for someone to survive such an incident, we wouldn't have expected her to wake from a coma so quickly.” Dr. Tsao said.
“A coma?! I thought she was just sleeping from the medication.” Leahcim exclaimed.
“No, she definitely suffered a concussion from hitting her head. But now, after further examination, it’s seemed to have healed to a point where it were as if she didn’t even hit it that hard, more like she just bruised it. Like I said, truly remarkable.” the doctor said as she opened the door to the room for the boys. They walked through the doorway and Dr. Tsao smiled to them, “I’ll be out here at the desk if you need me.”
Samoht and Leahcim walked in to find their mother watching the news on the television. She looked over cooly to them and then became overwhelmed with joy, “Oh, my boys!!!” They both came in to hug her at the same time. She held each of their faces in her tiny hands and just silently looked into their eyes.
“Mom, we’re so glad you’re awake, and apparently not a rag-doll!” Samoht said.
“I know, dear. I’m not sure how that happened. But you’ve got a strong momma bear here.”
Leahcim pulled a chair closer to her bed and sat, “I’m surprised, but also very grateful. I mean, a car? And they shot at you?”
“Well, Leahcim, I wouldn’t really call it shooting at me. Just a couple of cheap hitmen with no aim.”
Samoht spoke, “Mom, how can you be so calm about it? They tried to kill you!”
“I know, I know.” Jan said a little more serious. “But the point is they didn’t, and I’m alright. Imagine the message that’ll send!”
Just then the TV got a little louder and one of the conservative talk show hosts blared onto the screen. “Can we really trust someone who carries a sword around with them? Can we really trust Jan Schinderling as a leader when she thinks we live in medieval times?”
Jan sighed, “Oh brother. Can’t these idiots get anything right? It’s a staff, not a sword.”
Leahcim looked from the TV to his mother, “So, why were you carrying a weapon like that, Mom? You had your guards, right?”
“Yeah, and no offense to them but they didn’t do me much good, did they? Not til the end, at least. Listen, I know me fighting probably surprised you more than the attack itself, but I guess carrying the staff was my little insurance policy. You know I can’t trust anyone else to do anything for me, why would I with my safety? Besides, I took an oath to carry the staff given to me so long as I was a Schinderling. And I never did change my name back to Waterstone, did I?” Jan said with a little laugh. Samoht and Leahcim smiled.
“Well, at least we’re here with you now, and we won’t let anything happen to you.” Samhot said.
“On the contrary, boys. I am not going to let anything happen to you.” Jan said. “You two and special agents Ren and Overgaard are going back to the house until things calm down.”
Leahcim spoke quickly, “Oh come on, Mom. Don’t be ridiculous, you need us here to—”
Jan cut him off, “No, I don’t need you here. And I don’t care what you’ve learned with your respective ‘masters’ of whatever. I know you didn’t learn to disobey your mother! Now march on over to the air car and get home to safety.”
Samoht and Leahcim were silent for a moment and both looked at the floor. Their father may have been a king with an iron fist, but their mother’s words were more sovereign than any state. They agreed, but reluctantly. Leahcim tried, more tenderly, “Are you sure, Mother?”
“Are you kidding? I’m more hurt that I didn’t get to make my speech yesterday than from the assassination attempt. And that’s something only I can work out.” Jan said with a smile. She reached up to them again for another hug before agent Ren and a green-eyed white man with a shaven bald head entered to escort the boys out.
When they reached the guston on the helicopter pad it seemed to sit there in the cold like a patient steed. It usually made Leahcim think of his mother, but now he got flashbacks to England and Fanad piloting them to Ol SchinGaerd Vlack. That experience had made him see what was once a sentimental vehicle that carried him to school now as a war machine. The stress of the situation only made it worse. They approached the metal hulk and their escorts seemed to stand there dumbfounded, waiting for either Samoht or Leahcim to act.
“What’s the matter?” Samhot probed. “They didn’t cover these in flight school?”
“No, not exactly.” said Overgaard.
“Not a problem, I based the Roke Ard’s controls off of this here beast.” Samoht said confidently.
“You based [_what _]off of it?” asked Overgaard.
“Uh, nevermind, just get in.” Samhot said as he unlocked the side door and opened it vertically with it’s automatic hinge. The vehicle needed only a few moments to warm up before it rose and shot off toward South Dakota, fading from the vantage point of the helicopter pad within a minute.
Agents Ren and Overgaard were visibly relieved to have landed on solid ground, though they both verbally muttered discomfort about that ground being the rock on which the boys’ house stood several hundred feet in the air. Samoht found this slightly amusing since they were supposed to be escorting and protecting his brother and himself. Samoht also made an educated guess that their training was nothing like that which he had been learning from One-Ton.
Agent Overgaard continued to compensate his fear of heights with questions about their home as they exited the vehicle in the orange-red light of the sunset over the Badlands. “So I’ve seen a few things, but how exactly does this thing stay up?”
Samoht looked to him, “Magnets.”
Overgaard uttered a brief “Oh” like it had been an obvious answer, but he still looked flummoxed. Samoht giggled internally at how something that seemed so pedestrian to him was mind-blowing to another. Overgaard hadn’t grown up with it in his life, so Samoht was understanding and extrapolated, “The Earth not only pulls with the force of gravity, but also gives slight pushes here and there to magnets of the same charge. The large metal plates below this heap of rock and dirt are man-made magnets designed to locate and capitalize on those in the ground that push constantly. Thus achieving lift.” Samoht said, proud of his maternal grandfather’s work.
“Oh.” Overgaard said again. “Ever think of selling this idea to the government?”
Leahcim chimed in as they walked towards the front door of the house, “Please, even with our mom and her friends in power, the government couldn’t be payed to adopt this technology. Many have deemed it as ‘unstable.’ Besides, too many people are set in their ways and apathetic or fearful of things that might actually help our society, but I digress…” Leahcim put the key in the slot and started to open the door but Ren caught his hand and Leahcim looked up into the man’s eyes.
“Wait, I’ve got to check first. Who knows what they could have set up in there. I’ve got to make a full sweep of the house first.” Ren said.
“You sure? It’s a pretty big house.” Samoht said.
Ren just stared back insistently. Leahcim stood aside to let the agent do his job. Overgaard called to Ren, “Stay on your radio, Ren. I’ll wait here with the boys.”
Samoht scoffed under his breath, “Boys, heh, I’m 21.” He then looked over to the Roke Ard. He was very surprised that it was there, but he figured his mom would have retrieved it. Jan was the only other person that knew how to fly it, and it wasn’t smart to leave a sophisticated piece of tech like that in a public airport. Samoht walked closer and saw a piece of paper tucked under the left windshield wiper. It waved in the breeze that was always rushing over the platform of their ‘yard.’ Samoht pulled it out and read the message written in neat cursive.
It read, This had many a ticket on it when I got to it at the airport. You owe me. Love, Mom
Samoht’s eyes welled up with tears as he thought of his mother’s selfless kindness. She was so busy, but still managed to do things like pick up after Samoht and Leahcim. She didn’t deserve to be attacked.
Overgaard’s radio carried on the wind in earshot of Samoht, “House is clear. You may come in.” Ren’s voice said. Overgaard opened the door and led Leahcim in. Samoht followed closely and folded the note from his mother, putting it in his pocket.
Dr. Ochoa walked out of his temporary office and into the rusty smell of the warehouse floor. His work was practically done and he had definitely earned the money promised him. He just didn’t now how to ask for it. He stepped onto the second story catwalk over the floor full of noise and tried not to look down through the grated metal he walked upon. This always made him nervous. He overheard a couple of the henchmen talking.
“Yeah, they say they saw the senator’s private air-car-thing flying back to her home in the Badlands. Means the jobs not done. So we gotta send a team over and finish it.” one said.
The other nodded his head, “What happened to Sanjun?”
“Fucker got himself killed.” the first said.
“Dumbass. That means that cocky bastard is leaving me to clean up the mess? Alright, I’ll get some men together and we’ll—”
“No, not men.” the first one pointed down to what was making most of the noise on the factory floor.
“Seriously? Are they ready?” asked the second.
The first replied. “They better be, cuz the boss sure is. It doesn’t have to be the best of them. Just a vicious group.” he then caught sight of the doctor watching. “You need something, Ochoa?”
“No, I’m just going to my office.” Dr. Ochoa said nervously, but trying to conceal his emotions. He turned around promptly and kept his eyes down, though it frightened him to see the floor so far below. He entered the room allotted to him and swiftly closed the door. He then covered his mouth in distress. Have I really aided someway in the assassination of a political figure? Dr. Ochoa mentally kicked himself for getting involved. He should have known this whole black market operation had less than savory intentions. He started to pack his things quickly and wipe some hard-drives. Screw the money, he thought, what good is it if I’m in federal prison?!? The doctor then heard the mail slot on is door creak open. He turned and saw a thick envelope slide through the slot and plop onto the floor. Through the muddied window of the door he could only barely make out the shape of a head. A head on a very short and hairy body. Chills went up his spine. A moment later his phone rang on a desk, moving so it touched an empty glass beaker, which it then vibrated furiously.
Ochoa anwered his phone.
“Dr. Ochoa, so nice to speak with you.” a voice said in proficient but oddly accented English.
The doctor had never spoken with or seen this person before, but he knew exactly who it was.
It had been said that Avala had some sort of skin disorder that prevented him from having pigment and made him very sensitive to light. This was the apparent reason few saw him, and seldom if they did.
“Yes, you must be Mr. Avala.”
“Overlord Avala.” Avala’s mouth seemed to be working hard to speak as he did.
“Right, of course, Overlord.”
Dr. Ochoa wasn’t sure what to do. He felt like assenting to calling the person that title solidified his membership in a dangerous cult. He was so set on leaving but now he wouldn’t be unnoticed.
“Well, Doctor, “ Avala spoke casually, as if the the two of them already had a rapport, “I wanted to express my gratitude for your hard work. Did you receive the envelope?”
Dr. Ochoa pulled up the thick envelope from the floor. It was clearly filled with a ridiculous amount of cash. Dr. Ochoa held it with a shaky hand.
“Thank you, sir.” Dr. Ochoa said, just barely above a whisper.
“No, thank you!” Avala said, pausing for a moment, then he continued, “You know, these creatures, they are so smart. So useful. But the greatest thing is they don’t have the confusion humans have. I think any cause of the past was destined to fail by sheer virtue of the recruitment of men. Too many silly ideas get in the way. Fear, doubt…..guilt.”
At this Dr. Ochoa’s spine straightened.
Avala spoke again, “I certainly hope none of these things are bothering you, Good Doctor. Are they?”
Dr. Ochoa reached out and steadied himself on the counter beside him, “No. Not at all, sir.”
“Smashing. I shan’t keep you from it.” Avala hung up the phone.
Dr. Ochoa walked to a window of his office and looked into the space of the factory. Across the way he could see other offices. The blinds of one seemed to be pried open just a tad for a moment as if someone was looking through them. Ochoa’s stomach churned as he felt eyes on him that he could not see. The next moment the blinds snapped shut. The doctor sat in a chair and bent over a waste basket, feeling as though he was going to be sick.
Leahcim made some sandwiches for the agents in order to be hospitable and Samoht watched Leahcim’s hands as he prepared the food, expecting one for himself. Leahcim picked up on this for it was something his brother did all the time. Leahcim simply grinned and shook his head as he pushed the loaf of bread across the kitchen island toward Samoht, upon which he took the hint and started assembling his own meal. Once Samoht had made a sandwich, he started talking while eating simultaneously, “So, how is this going to work with you guys when we go to bed? Is one of you gonna stay up all night or will you take shifts?”
Ren finished chewing and swallowed, “Don’t worry, we’ve got it figured out. You’ll be safe.”
Samoht looked slyly at Leahcim, and back at Ren, “Oh, I’m not worried. I just want to know how you plan it with two guys.”
Overgaard spoke sarcasticlly, now getting the hang of Samoht’s humor, “Well, who said anything about two guys. The four of us will all take turns taking watch.”
Ren spoke on the same topic, but maintained a serious tone, “Nah, your mother knows her stuff. She said two guards would be good enough. And I can’t say I’m surprised given this fortress you all live in.”
“She sure coulda used more than two out on that street.” Overgaard said, getting too comfortable.
Ren stared at Overgaard, and the latter agent retreated slightly, even though he was 10 years Ren’s senior. Overgaard retracted his statement, “But you…you sure handled it well yourself, Ren.”
Ren kept his eyes on Overgaard, then he looked to their two responsibilities, then he decided to leave the room to save face professionally. “I’m going to do an interior and exterior patrol.” He said, laying his half-eaten sandwich down. Leahcim watched Ren’s face as he left. He appeared to be recalling memories and trying to shake them off at the same time.
“What’s got his goat?” Samoht asked with is mouth still full, not looking up.
Overgaard looked to Leahcim and shrugged a little shrug, showing either it wasn’t best to mention it or that he was obligated to not do so.
After they had eaten Leahcim started the dishes and finished them promptly. Ren stood nearby in the dining room and looked into the darkness of the greenhouse that was adjoined with the main house. With the direction the house was currently facing, one could see the moonlight shining in from the top of the transparent glass roof. Overgaard had decided to do another sweep of the premises and Samoht had disappeared. But seeing as Ren didn’t notice, Leahcim knew exactly where he had gone. He dried his hands on a towel and hung it up on the stove handle before opening the door from the kitchen to the basement. In the bowels of the rock on which their house sat lived the power source that made everything possible, from the electricity they used for the house to that which magnetized the behemoth metal plates which held the whole thing up. The generator fittingly enough was a large magnet itself that spun from the force applied on it from a bowl shaped magnet beneath it. The resulting action was fairly quiet compared to the average combustion engine, but the 10 meter wide machine still hummed a deep drone from the turbine that oscillated in the center between spinning fast and super fast.
This was the common place Samoht went think and find inspiration. Most times he was annoyed when Leahcim came downstairs to find him, but now as he stood there behind the safety railing meant to keep people away from the generator, he acknowledged Leahcim kindly and waved him over. They both watched the magnificent machine work.
“It’s pretty awesome how well she’s recovered, Cimmy. Don’t you think? I bet she’ll be ready to come home tomorrow.” Samoht said, calmed by the droning noise.
“Yeah, I’m quite amazed at how she’s fared.” Leahcim said, then his face shifted and he continued, “But, aren’t you wondering how?”
“Sure, but it doesn’t matter so much, does it?” Samoht said.
“Well, I guess, I’d just like to know how. I mean, I get that she received such great training. That doesn’t surprise me given she lived as royalty in the S.S.S. longer than we ever did. But she withstood a car hitting her and what should have been a fatal concussion. It makes me think of something Grandmaster Texan said. ‘You’re not built like the rest of us.’ But Mom isn’t a direct descendant of the Schinderling lineage, right?”
“Yeah, she’s not, so what?” Samoht asked.
“So in the story of how our family supposedly received their above-human abilities, the mysterious being that gave the four brothers their powers said that it would also be given to their offspring and all they shared blood with. I think this means Mom gained her abilities from giving birth to us.”
“Whoa, okay. But babies don’t actually share blood directly with their mothers in the womb. Besides, even if we did transfer the power through our umbilical cords while we were developing, she hasn’t been receiving the training we have to activate the long forgotten power, right?” Samoht said.
“Yeah, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t begin with our training. Listen, when I touched that gem back in Thailand I felt something awaken in me. The very energy that I’ve been trained to hone with the Grandmaster. And Bok Thi said that the gems often illuminate and activate others around them. So I think Mom surviving has to do with me making contact with her post-Thailand and before the assassination attempt. I think my awakened blood activated the latent power that she held. I think our proximity to others like us makes us stronger somehow.”
“Okay, so Mom got the latent power from us and then it was activated by being near you when she picked you up in Dallas?” Samoht said.
Samoht thought about this. Just last year he would have denounced all that Leahcim was spewing as hokum, but he yielded to weird now, “That doesn’t sound too crazy given everything else. What are you getting at?”
“I think there are some other important details in that book of mythology I’ve been reading of which we should consider the plausibility.” Leahcim said.
“Great. Like what? Dragons?” Samoht said. Leahcim paused uncomfortably and looked at his right arm. Samoht had suddenly thought of something and continued, “Wait, if we weren’t ‘awakened’ as you put it until we reached Asia, does that mean that Dad and the others don’t have the potential to do what we can?”
Leahcim considered this, “Yeah, I think so. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad given his temper.”
Samoht laughed. Leahcim stood up straight and began to walk away, “I’m kind of thirsty, you want anything?” Samoht declined and simply said, “Naw, I’m just going to stay down here for a bit longer.”
“Okay” Leahcim climbed the stairs under the dim motion-censored lights and opened the door to the brightness of the kitchen. There he found Ren, who was startled, relieved, then disappointed.
“Where the hell did you go? Where’s Samoht?” Ren said.
“Just in the basement. He’s still down there. Don’t worry, this is the only entrance to it.” Leahcim said.
Ren was still stern, then he relaxed, “Okay, we’ll I guess you know this labyrinth better than me. But you guys got to let us know where you are so we can stay close.”
“Okay. Sorry.” Leahcim said, filling a small glass of water and drinking it. “I’d like to grab something in my room. Can you come with me?” Leahcim said.
“Alright.” Ren said, glad Leahcim wasn’t the joker Samoht was.
“Can I ask you about what happened in D.C., Ren?” Leahcim inquired.
“You can say or ask what you want, but I’m not sure if I have the clearance to tell you anything.”
“You were there, weren’t you?” Leahcim looked straight at Ren’s face, who said yes without saying anything.
“I was driving her car and passed out when the rocket hit. I woke up in time to get one of the guys, but if I had come to quicker and was more alert I would’ve been able to stop her from getting hit.” Ren said, trying his best to maintain a calm countenance.
“I think she’ll be fine, Ren. Something tells me there’s no reason to worry.” Leahcim said, now the one who wasn’t divulging details.
“Well, I promised it wouldn’t happen again. And when she asked me herself to watch over you guys, I agreed just like that. I’ve got your backs, okay?” Ren said, trying to reassure Leahcim.
“Okay, thank you.” Leahcim said, almost wanting to put his hand on Ren’s shoulder to calm the man’s nerves.
As they began to climb the stairs Ren looked up them like it was a chore he was already sick of, “Christ. You guys have enough stairs? It is just the three of you that live here, right?”
“Well, our grandfather was very into regaining the independence that the European settlers took away from his ancestors, my ancestors too I guess, so he built this whole…thing in order to do it. The reason it is so vast and self-sustaining is because he meant for his whole reservation to live here in solidarity, separate from the U.S. government. However, the people from the rez weren’t very keen on living a quarter mile up in the sky and when he persisted of talk about a new nation they condemned him for being out of touch with the land and trying to solve their problems with technology, just like the White Man. Regardless, all of the earth he used he got from the reservation’s property so once he powered this thing up he claimed it was a sovereign nation independent of U.S. control. They weren’t too worried until they found out just what this thing was and that it could move. They weren’t sure how to treat it, but after inspecting for weapons and realizing it was just a giant, weird, harmless house that floated, they agreed to let him keep it if he chained it to one spot here in the Badlands, away from people. He still asserted its sovereignty though, and it’s still on the list of unrecognized micronations across the globe. However, once he passed away our mother inherited it and has made no more claims of independence.” Leahcim said, trying to get every detail right.
Ren responded, “Wow, so what was its name? The small nation, I mean.”
Leahcim looked at him, “To be honest, I have no idea. Our mother doesn’t bring it up too much. I guess she had enough adversity to overcome in her political career than to bring up what she calls her ‘separatist father.’” Leahcim and Ren shared a light chuckle. When they were half way up the first flight of winding stairs the doorbell rang. They both looked at each other.
Ren spoke, “It’s just Overgaard. He was just doing an exterior check.”
Sure enough, Overgaard stepped in through the wide doorway and let in a cool rush of air from the obscurity of night. Overgaard straightened his jacket and rubbed his arms to warm them, and looked up to Leahcim and Ren, “All clear outside again, although I think you should consider puttin’ in a railing or something out there. It’s kind of freaky in the dark.”
Ren responded, “Let’s be serious, Overgaard.” Then he grinned, “A former Seal can’t handle a simple perimeter check with no railings? I don’t believe those aircraft carriers you were on were childproof.”
Leahcim wasn’t sure he could see it that well, but he noticed something long and dark reach around the door frame from outside.
Overgaard shouted up, “Yeah, well they still had nets to catch us if we-” Overgaard was cut off by an arm grabbing his right leg. It pulled him down to the ground and out the door quickly, but he caught the frame with his strong hands. “Shit!” Was all Leahcim heard before Ren raced down the steps to help Overgaard. The agent on the ground couldn’t let go of the door frame to grab his gun because it took all his strength, but Ren came up swiftly and shot into the dark at the assailant. The flash of the gun briefly illuminated a few shapes moving outside the door like a strobe light, but too quickly to make anything out. A strange howl came from the source of the attack and it let go. Ren hoisted Overgaard into the house and slammed the door shut, locking it almost simultaneously. He had a crazy look in his face.
Ren spoke, “Leahcim! Get down to the basement, quick! Overgaard, all the window shutters are closed, right?”
“Yeah. Awshit.” Overgaard said as he looked at his leg which was now mangled and bloody. “It bit me, whatever the hell it was it bit me.”
“Buck up, dammit. I need you to help me blast it full of holes if it can get in.” He looked up to Leahcim who was now half way down the stairs, “Can they get in?”
Leahcim glided down the stairs but paused to answer. “Well, unless they can climb, they shouldn’t have much luck, although the greenhouse is a ground level entrance and it’s all glass.” Ren was now in the center of the lobby with his gun ready to shoot. A horrible cackle came from beyond the front door, almost like a herd of hyenas, and it carried somehow upward, as if it were beginning to float over the house. Overgaard now used the door to stand up and limped away from it toward Ren. Overgaard spoke, “I say we get the boys into the kitchen. We can use that island-counter to block any firepower they’ve got.”
Ren retorted in a hiss, “No, that room has three entrances that all connect to the same rooms. We could get boxed in too easily. Leahcim! Get to the basement!!!” Leahcim shook himself out of his stunned pose on the stairs and started coming down them again. Then a rough and monstrous crack swung the front door wide open. In a matter of milliseconds, something soared in not touching the ground and wrapped itself around Overgaard’s head. All he could do was squirm violently before the quick, dark mass did a front flip and landed in front of Overgaard. The figure extended two massive, feathery wings and revealed itself to be one disgustingly aggressive looking chimpanzee with Overgaard’s head in its mouth. Overgaard’s headless body stood towering over the chimp before crashing down limp on the carpet. Ren yelled, “GET BACK!!!” and he started firing his pistol off at the intruder.
Leahcim said under his breath incredulously, “The apes.” and took off down the stairs again. He was almost to the bottom when a crash of glass and wood in the dining room materialized as another air bound simian gliding into the main lobby and landed in front of Leahcim. He looked at the creature for a moment and searched its face. The creature seemed very aware and sure of what it was doing, but not like it was going to talk things out. It unsheathed two daggers and lunged at Leahcim, but the young man jumped backward out of reach before tripping up the stairs. The attacker lunged again but Leahcim met it with a solid foot to the face that sent the howling creature rolling down to the bottom. Leahcim jumped the banister and sprinted for the basement door. Ren still fired off rounds at Overgaard’s killer who was evading the gunshots with deadly efficiency. Leahcim reached the basement door and opened it, “SAMOHT WE’RE BEING ATTACKED!” He looked back and saw that more of the crazed animals had made it through the front door and were sniffing the air and scanning everything with their eyes. A few of them caught sight of Leahcim, and the others charged Ren. Though his mind told him to run or hide, everything in Leahcim’s body told him to sprint forward and assist Ren.
Ren was soon tackled and hit ferociously by a couple apes, but Leahcim quickly tipped his mother’s antique brass coat-rack and brandished it as a weapon. He swung the heavy blunt bottom of it over Ren’s body and sent the two apes flying into the next room. The chimp who killed Overgaard jumped into the air, spread its wings and grabbed the coat-rack Leahcim was holding with its feet. The force of the action lifted Leahcim off the ground, and the beast tried to flap furiously to keep ascending, but it could not carry all the weight. They both began to fall, but the chimp grabbed the banister above the archway and swung Leahcim into the hallway toward the kitchen.
The trajectory of Leahcim’s fall was quickly changed to a swinging arc upward. He hit the ceiling and came down fast but was able to land on his feet. The same chimp did a back-flip off the second-story and landed on his feet as well. The beast’s wings folded inward tightly until they weren’t visible anymore. His eyes were set on Leahcim. However, another chimp, the one Leahcim had kicked down the stairs, quickly charged him and jumped doing a sophisticated summer-salt before drop kicking Leahcim in the chest which sent him flying into the kitchen. Leahcim quickly got back up and braced himself for more. The same chimp charged again with its two short swords in its hands and just before Leahcim needed to react the basement door flew open. One of the swords went straight into the door and all Leahcim could see was Samoht’s large hand shoot out and hit the chimp’s face hard. There was an audible crack and the chimp fell to the ground.
“Jeez, that’s what One-Ton taught you?” Leahcim asked, out of breath.
“Yes…among other things.” Samoht said.
“Oh, Ren!” Leahcim said running forward again. Samoht followed him quickly and the brothers fell into sync. Leahcim once again lifted the coat-rack and started swatting apes that were getting too close to Ren. Leahcim looked to Ren, then to Samoht and nodded his head toward the basement door. Samoht quickly took the hint and grabbed the exhausted agent by the shoulders before dragging him into the kitchen. Ren protested “No, what are you doing?!”
Samoht set Ren on the steps to the basement, “Sorry, just saving your life.” he said as he slammed the basement door closed. The apes were now driving Leahcim back and Samoht looked up to truly take in what was happening. “So, apes, huh?”
Leahcim responded, “Yeah, I guess we know what happened to them now, right?”
Samoht looked about and tensed up as he assessed the situation, “Right now, I’m more concerned about what’s going to happen to us.”
A few of the apes now crashed through the side rooms, knocking over furniture and circling around to block the boys in the kitchen from all sides. Leahcim noticed Overgaard’s killer was staying back and observing. The others looked to him briefly, and he gestured in what Leahcim recognized as American Sign Language. This chimp, who it appeared was the leader, was signing to the others roughly “Kill all, remember, kill all.”
Leahcim and Samoht stood back to back and watched the apes swarm about them. They were all on the ground now with their wings folded in, completely unseen save for the texture of dark feathers that belnded in perfectly with their hair. They probably were preparing for close combat.
Leahcim spoke, “Samoht, whatever has been done to them, they’re definitely smart. That one over there is using sign language to communicate with the others. Let’s not underestimate them.”
“What’d he sign?” Samoht asked.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Leahcim said.
“Uh, no…I don’t know sign language.” Samoht said just as one of the apes jumped at them. Leahcim swung the coat-rack across the island and hit it, but the long metal beam hit a cabinet and got stuck. Leahcim knew this wouldn’t work in this close space. He quickly turned and Samoht sensed his movements, changing places with him, trying to stay back to back. Leahcim picked up the two short words that were dropped by the ape Samoht knocked out.
“What are you doing?” Samoht asked.
“Arming myself. I suggest you do it too.” Leahcim said.
Samoht looked about the kitchen, “You know, One-Ton didn’t really show me how to use weapons. Just my hands.”
“So use them.”
“I would, but some of these things have knives, Cimmy! I don’t think it’s a good idea to get too close.”
Their banter excited the apes more and a rather stout chimpanzee ran through the doorway from the dining room, taking hold of Samoht’s forearms. The creature tried to pull him down and Samoht struggled to stay up. As this happened Leahcim looked to see how he could help but was rushed from the other side. Leahcim was able to swing his swords and cut at a chimp to discourage it but was soon tackled onto the kitchen island by another. Leahcim’s current attacker stood over him and began to beat on him. The creature’s screams and hot breath came at Leahcim’s face in an unpleasant and disorienting manner. Leahcim curled his feet up to his chest and shot both legs up hitting the ape hard in the groin and sending the animal off the counter.
Yet out of the horde another chimp wrapped his rough hands around Leahcim’s neck and threw him through the archway into the dining room. The young man landed on the long dinner table and slid across it to the end pushing a bowl of fruit off the edge. He quickly stood and adjusted his neck. If that had been done to a regular person it surely would have snapped their spine. Leahcim now really saw what the Grandmaster had meant, but it didn’t make it feel any better. Leahcim breathed in, and breathed out, keeping his eyes on the figures shifting about the room. There were three of them circling him but he felt the presence of a fourth watching from the joint living room.
Samoht yelled and Leahcim saw him swing the ape that was trying to subdue him. Samoht hit the creature against the refrigerator and then flung him in the other direction. The creature let go and shot through the window over the sink. Samoht then punched another in the throat which caused it to stop screaming and lifted the ape above his head. He made eye contact briefly with Leahcim, “IF WE GET SEPARATED, JUST YELL ‘ALIVE!’”
“WHAT? WHY?” Leahcim called back.
“SO WE BOTH KNOW THE OTHER IS ALIVE!”
Before Leahcim could agree the three apes in the room jumped on the table and began to swing and jab with their respective weapons. Leahcim parried and cut at the animals. They knew how to hold their weapons but they didn’t know how to block very well. So as they swung Leahcim guided their attacks away with sharp metal clangs and quickly sliced at their skin. One ape received an unsavory slice across its calf muscle and fell off the table whimpering. The others jumped back and circled.
Samoht now threw the ape he held above him at some of the ones attacking him from the back entrance to the kitchen and he charged the party that came from the lobby. He yelled and stomped, making grunting noises. It sounded like one of his fits in his workshop, only now he was bulldozing hyper-intelligent armed chimps.
Leahim now had two to deal with, but he didn’t forget the other watching from a distance. The two came at him again, from the front and the back. Leahcim jumped, spun, and extended his swords outward. Another clang rang through the air as his swords met theirs. They both rolled backward, and then returned yet again. One got very close and sliced at the side of Leahcim’s neck. He quickly guided the blade away and cut the attacker across its own neck, drawing the blood and life of the animal. Leahcim then turned to meet the final attacker and as the ape lifted his swords Leahcim sliced upward between the ape’s arms, cutting the ape on the wrists. The animal dropped his swords on the table and Leahcim without thinking drove his own two blades deep into the creature’s chest. The chimp winced with a gasp that was disturbingly similar to that of a human, and almost as if it were waking from a dream, the chimp looked up sadly into Leahcim’s eyes, like it had no idea why he had done such a thing. The chimp collapsed. Leahcim looked down at the animal and felt his stomach sink. Then, with a flash of hair and feathers, Leahcim was lifted off the table and thrown into the greenhouse, shattering glass and clay pots along the way.
Samoht, now in the living room, screamed at the invaders to intimidate them, but mostly because he was severely freaked out by it all and didn’t know how to calm his nerves. He waited for them to attack, and when they did he swung and punched like a lumbering giant among their shorter statures. They did fancy flips and screamed excitement, but only rarely went in for the kill. Now two jumped on either side of Samoht and pulled at both of his arms, attempting to bring him down to their level. They yanked him low and his knee began to buckle. A third ape now ran at his lowered head ferociously with a knife and Samoht yelled in protest before head-butting the knife-wielder unconscious and quickly stood up straight, lifting the two hundred-pound apes along with him. He slammed them together with a fierce clap and as they hit each other they wailed and disbanded. A heavier chimp with glass sticking out of his skin now ran at Samoht. This must have been the one he threw out the kitchen window. Shit. The chimp jumped and drove all of its body into Samoht making him stumble backward into a display case full of China. The delicate cups and plates rattled and several fell to break on the floor. Samoht looked angrily back at the ape.
“What the hell’s the matter with you! You’re not the one who’s going to pay for THAT!” Samoht yelled as he lifted the heavy chimp up and slammed it down hard. “How am I going to explain this to my mother?!?” The chimp looked at him surprised and confused as the other two apes leaped at Samoht. He grabbed the heavy chimp by the legs and swung his body in a full circle hitting the others in the head. One flipped and hit the ground and the other went flying into the main lobby. Samoht released the chimp’s legs and stood back hesitantly, but the heavy one was far too disoriented to act now. Samoht looked up to where he had last seen Leahcim and yelled, “ALIVE!”
Leahcim lay sprawled out in a heap of cracked clay, potting soil, and tangled plants. Having just been plunged into the dark greenhouse from the well lit dining room, his eyes hadn’t adjusted yet, and he was close to blind. He felt a few cuts from the glass, but it was nothing compared to what GM Texan did to him. Leahcim was certain the one pensive chimp had thrown him into the obscured glass structure, but the creature hadn’t come for him yet. Leahcim thought on it as he quickly got to his feet but stayed low, now with only one sword in his possession. Is the chimp scared, or just thinking things through? He had watched the whole time Leahcim fought the others, but didn’t act. He was taking note, observing Leahcim’s movements. What are these animals’ stake in this? He thought that surely they were being controlled, but that one had shown some real initiative. Leahcim couldn’t come to a reasonable conclusion, and he wouldn’t have time to, for now his pupils had dilated fully and he could see his attacker’s form above him on a shelf.
The chimp leaped and brought all of his weight down on Leahcim. He tried to lift his sword but the chimp swatted it aside and took the young man down. The ape choked Leahcim with his hand-like feet as he pulled out a bowie knife. The chimp sat on his victim calmly but intently. Leahcim tried to pull the apes legs off his neck but the creature was far too strong. Leahcim breathed in deep and exhaled. The chimp raised the knife and aimed it. Leahcim breathed in and exhaled. The chimp drove the knife down at the victim’s forehead. Leahcim breathed in and shot his arms up. The knife was stopped, but not before going through Leahcim’s left hand. Leahcim exhaled and grunted from the pain. His forearms now glowed a luminescent green from the points where his tattoos were. With the chimp distracted by the display, Leahcim yanked the knife out of his hand and slashed at the chimp’s chest. The animal jumped off him and Leahcim rose quickly so as to not let him escape. The chimp attempted to retreat but Leahcim threw the long bowie knife at the attacker’s head. The knife flashed past the side of the chimps head but neatly cut off his right ear. The ape now screamed in agony and turned back to Leahcim. The chimp’s stare was still fierce and smart, but not like before. He looked lost, and he raised his hand to feel the blood coming out of where the ear used to be. Leahcim just watched now, and the chimp didn’t seem intent on attacking him again, but he was still frustrated. The chimp then screamed again and tipped over some pots and shelves, running back into the dining room. Leahcim then heard his brother’s voice from the living room, “ALIVE!”
Leahcim quickly ran to Samoht. But before either of them could speak they saw the one Leahcim had just been fighting run swiftly out the front door. All of the other apes that saw this and followed. Within seconds all of the chimps that were still alive fled out the front door as well, like prisoners escaping a long sentence. The brothers went to the front door cautiously.
Samoht looked after them, “What was that all about? Did they have to catch a show all of a sudden?”
“No, I guess, something just compelled the leader to leave, and the others followed suit.” Leahcim said, in wonderment, still not wrapping his head around it all. They slowly walked back through the rooms where everything had happened. The only chimps that remained were the ones Leahcim killed in the dining room. Samoht saw their bodies, “Jeez, Cimmy. Nice going. You took them out like a samurai!”
Leahcim didn’t take this as a compliment, and just nodded uncomfortably. Then they heard a loud bang and crack from the kitchen. They both ran in and found Ren at the top of the steps to the basement. He jerked his gun up in reaction to them, then lowered it. “What the hell, you two!” He said, admonishing them. “What the hell was that about?!?”
Samoht and Leahcim shared a quick glance, unsure of how to proceed.
Over 300 hundred miles east of the floating house, something rumbled and droned quietly over the city of Minneapolis. At 3:00am, the blimp-sized mass lowered over the abandoned Metrodome and penetrated its roof, unnoticed due to early morning darkness and the shroud of an overcast sky. Metal shifted and the flying craft left a few things behind before it disappeared back into the opaque abyss above the city.
At 6:00am engines roared to life from within the Metrodome and a dozen buses crashed through the garage doors, peeling out onto the streets. They drove recklessly, not adhering to stop lights nor the people screaming at the bus stops to be picked up. One bus turned a corner and hit the car of a woman driving to work. As she came to and looked up from her deflated airbag, she couldn’t believe what she saw operating the bus. The bus kept moving forward and pushed her car aside. As the buses got closer to the center of downtown windows opened on their sides to reveal cannons that jutted out menacingly. Out of the quiet of morning trumpeted the thunderous blasts of heavy firepower and the excited screams of about two hundred simians.
It was now about 7:00am. Light from the East was just starting to pour into the house. Now that several of the windows were broken, a strong cross breeze surged through the house. Samoht, Leahcim, and Ren sat around the island in the kitchen. Leahcim handed their bodyguard some ice wrapped in a rag. Ren put it to his head where he had been hit and thrashed by the attackers, “So, they must not have gotten any hits in on you guys.” Ren said, questionably looking them over.
Leahcim looked down at his left hand, which now had healed to the point of a severe scar. It should have still been bleeding profusely. “No, we managed just fine.”
“Yeah…and that’s what I’d like to know more about.” Ren said, as Samoht went to the TV on the counter and turned it on. “How do two young men such as yourselves with no military training whatsoever handle a freak show like that and have the gall to lock an agent in the basement when it’s all going down. Leahcim, you saw how that thing took Overgaard’s head off.”
Leahcim looked fleetingly at Ren and spoke, “I know, but Ren, Samoht and I aren’t exactly like-”
“Whoah! Check this out! It’s on every news station.” Samoht said.
The current channel they watched showed the scene of downtown Minneapolis with towers of billowing smoke rising out of it. The headline read “Terrorist Attack in Minneapolis’ Business District.”’ The news reporter’s voice came on over the footage, “It seems some small band of criminals have driven a number of buses into the downtown area and began opening fire with sophisticated weaponry. People are fleeing the city in droves. Some have even said they saw wild gorillas running through the shopping centers. The National Guard is currently sending in some armed forces to investigate since the local police force quickly found they were no match for this attack. We advise anyone in the Twin Cities to vacate safely, and if you find yourselves stuck in the downtown area, please barricade yourselves in a secure location.”
Samoht looked to Leahcim and furled his eyebrows. His younger brother nodded. Samoht sighed and grabbed his keys off the counter.
Ren tracked Samoht’s movements and yelled, “Excuse me, what do you think you’re doing?”
Samoht answered, “I don’t know, but there’s a possibility it’s the right thing.”
Ren stood and grabbed Samoht’s arm, “No, the right thing is for you two to stay in, away from any mess out there and let me protect you. To let me do my JOB!” He grabbed the keys out of Samoht’s hand and put them in his pocket. Samoht got really close to Ren and stood over him. It was about to get ugly when Leahcim yelled “STOP!”
Samoht looked to his brother. He knew it wouldn’t be right to break Ren’s arm and take the keys back, but he sure wanted to, and he sure could. Samoht looked back at Ren and said calmly, “You’re absolutely right, Agent Ren. I apologize. I’ll make us some tea. Leahcim, you want some?”
“Yes, thanks.” Leahcim said, perplexed. Samoht doesn’t drink tea, he thought, nor is he the courteous fellow to offer it to others.
Ren settled back into his seat and applied his ice again. Within a few minutes the water was ready and Samoht prepared the tea. Leahcim could see he wasn’t using tea bags but brewing it in a pot with loose leaves. Perhaps he learned that in Japan.
Samoht stood there with a cup in his hand but didn’t drink it yet. Ren accepted a cup and took a little sip, he seemed more relaxed instantly, “Thank you for not making it hard for me, boys. I know you two want to go on your adventures, and you may have survived that attack last night, but fighting’s not all it’s cracked up to be..” Ren took another, bigger sip of his tea, “…there are real consequences to it, I mean, Overgaard, the poor guy, is lying headless at your front door…” Ren’s speech became labored and he seemed to be succumbing to a long run without sleep. Leahcim looked on puzzled and poured himself a cup. Just before he took a sip himself Samoht knocked it out of Leahcim’s hand and the porcelain cup broke against the floor, spilling the red liquid on the linoleum. Ren looked on confused for a moment, then he fell asleep with his head on the counter like a narcoleptic. Leahcim looked to Samoht. Samoht shrugged.
“Just a nice little flower One Ton gave me. Can you believe it was strong enough to knock that big sumo out? I took a little with me so I could sleep on the plane, then I grabbed some more in case I needed it for something creative. Like this!” Samoht said, smiling as he reached in Ren’s pocket to retrieve his keys.
“Does drugging a federal agent count as a felony?” Leahcim asked.
“Hell do I know? Besides, I didn’t drug him. It’s an herb. So I herbed him, big deal. Now, shall we?” Samoht said as he twirled the car keys about his finger and walked toward the front door.
“Semantics sure can make you seem innocent.” Leahcim muttered as he followed Samoht and picked up the two swords he had wielded previously. He then paused for a moment to look at one of the apes he killed. Leahcim ran his fingers over the eyelids of the dead creature to close them. He then took the belt from the fallen ape so he could sheath his swords and move his hands freely, “Please let me not have to use these again.” Leahcim whispered to himself over the first sentient animal he had ever slain. The engine of Samoht’s vehicle could be heard coming to life from outside the front door, and Leahcim stood to jog briskly toward it.
Ren had called for help to assess the situation and provide more protection. Three military helicopters now flew toward the floating home. However, the Roke Ard sprang from the runway and tore right past them eastbound through the sky.
Leahcim gripped the handle of the door tightly as he and his brother raced through the air to the city of Minneapolis. Samoht looked over and noticed this, “You alright? You’ve flown in this beast several times and now you’re nervous?”
“No, it’s not the flying, Samoht. I’m just nervous in general. What are we going to find there? I mean you saw what came knocking on our own door. What could be out there terrorizing the public?”
“Aw, don’t worry. It’s probably just been blown out of proportion. Probably just a bunch of suburbanites that’ve never seen exotic animals before and freaked out.” Samoht said.
“You make it sound like a joke, Samoht. But those chimps sent to our house were assassins. They were smart, trained, armed by humans, and they were genetically modified.”
“Say what? What do you mean?”
“The wings? The leader especially was flying all over. How do you think they got up there to begin with?”
“I don’t know, we have those chains that anchor the house to the ground.”
“And what about when they ran away?”
“I figured they just jumped off the edge of the rock, kamikazee style. They didn’t have wings, Cimmy. You may have just seen them move really quick.”
“OH, okay, I’m seeing things? Well, you’ll see when we get there.”
“I’ll bet you ten dollars they don’t.” Samoht said. Leahcim just stayed silent. Samoht continued, “I’ll take that as ‘challenge accepted.’ Besides, even if they did have wings, which they don’t, we can take care of them. Just like we did back home.”
“I’m not so proud of that.”
“C’mon, Cimmy, it’s not like you killed a person. They’re just animals.”
“Exactly, Samoht. They are just animals. Animals that were doing someone else’s bidding. Acting out motives that weren’t their own and not out of their own volition. I saw it in their faces. Somehow they are being controlled. I’m not sure how, but it seems to wear off if they experience extreme pain. I think we need to remember that they are just puppets in a much bigger game. We need to keep in mind that their lives matter and act in accordance with that.”
“So wings and mind-control? And Mom says I dropped out of college for no good reason.”
Samhot kicked the throttle as the skyline of the city came into view. Two Apache helicopters suddenly noticed them and pursued the Roke Ard in vain.
General Pederson stood in his military uniform overseeing the operations of his crew in a mobile command station just outside the city. His team was surveying the current onslaught on downtown Minneapolis and communicating with troops that were now entering the area. He authorized one fireteam to enter the hot zone in an armed humvee to assess the threat. Was this just some strange scare by a bunch of kids from that Occupy thing?, the general thought, ithcing his reddish greying mustache atop white skin, Or should we be worried? The voice of one soldier in a headset brought General Pederson’s attention back to the room.
“You are clear to go, Sergeant! Let us know what is going on in there.”
General Pederson could only hear the slight muttering from the headset of the operator. Then suddenly static screeched from the headset and the operator quickly took them off.
General Pederson wanted answers, “What happened? Ask them what happened!”
“Sir, yes, sir. Hello? What happened out there, Sergeant?!? Sergeant….? Lieutenant? Lieutenant, what happened?” There was a long silence, “ ……Oh, wait, what?”
General Pederson couldn’t stand the anticipation, “Well….?” He inquired, his mustache twitching,
The operator looked at the general, “Sir, he said they came under fire, the jeep flipped and the others in the squad were pulled from the jeep, Sir.”
“Pulled from the jeep? By what?”
“Sir, he said by gorillas, Sir.” The operator stared at the general, waiting for a command.
Another soldier approached the general and addressed him, “Sir, permission to speak, Sir.”
General Pederson looked to the other soldier, “Granted.”
“Sir, two Apaches doing a perimeter on the city have sighted a UFO entering the area. They couldn’t quite catch up to it, but I ran its description through the system and it’s the same one that was sighted and lost near Sioux Falls, SD, nearly a year ago, Sir.” The soldier said, also waiting for a response.
“Jesus Christ. Do they know where it’s heading?” General Pederson rubbed his forehead.
“Sir, they said straight for downtown, Sir.”
“Alright, tell those Apaches to catch up to that damn thing and see where it goes. If it lands, I want to know. If they can’t reach it by radio, tell them to make it land, by all means necessary. And call HQ. Tell them we need all full serviced tanks within a fifty mile radius here, yesterday!”
“Sir, yes, Sir!”
General Pederson rubbed his forehead again, but this time with a handkerchief. It was starting to get very warm in the mobile command station.
Samoht and Leahcim took in the sight of the city, and stayed silent as they heard the occasional cannon fire. The Roke Ard swerved around billows of smoke rising from the streets and circled around the main towers of the downtown area. The radar on the dashboard beeped and blinked, telling Samoht they were being pursued. Leahcim noticed this, and got a bad feeling of deja vu, “What is that? More jets?”
“Nah, don’t worry, Cimmy. Just a couple of choppers. I’ve got this.” Samoht arced his vehicle backward now going around the IDS Tower, and dove very low very quickly, flying just above the pavement of the streets. Samoht then found a place that wasn’t cluttered with rubble or abandoned cars and as they were a few feet off the ground, he switched off the flight mode, making them drop vertically onto the street as the wings of the craft folded inward. The Roke Ard bounced and squeaked but held together and rode forward until it stopped at an intersection.
“I really wish you wouldn’t do that!” Leahcim said.
“What? I didn’t have much runway. Besides, I’ve been meaning to test my suspension.”
“I’m serious. It’s bad enough we don’t know what’s going on out here. I don’t need you acting like a cowboy.” Leahcim said.
“C’mon on, why would I do that? I’m Indian.” said Samoht, smiling. Leahcim stared back at him. Samoht spoke, “I’m sorry, Bro. Don’t worry, I’m focused. I haven’t forgotten what these A-holes did to Mom’s China closet.” Samoht looked up through the windshield at the towers and down the street. It seemed very quiet where they were. Not an ape nor a human in sight. Samoht exhaled, “Jeez, where do we begin?”
Suddenly from the right of the Roke Ard a coach bus came zooming across the intersection and they both followed it with their eyes as they saw chimps running about it inside and large cannons protruding from the windows. One fired and a blur of massive fire went right over the Roke Ard, missing it, but still causing a tremor to shake the vehicle. The bus continued speeding down the perpendicular street and silence fell on them again. Samoht looked to Leahcim, “Well that’s as good a place to start as any.” Samoht slammed his foot on the pedal and they pursued the bus, not knowing what they were going to do when they caught up to it.
The bus sped forward with no regard to anything it its path. Police cars that had been shot up and left in the middle of the street were flung aside as the large six-wheeled machine tore past them. The cannons on either side of the bus fired indiscriminately at buildings. Explosions roared from inside offices and small shops, and Samoht did his best to swerve away from the fire, glass, and debris as they tried to catch up to the terrorizers. The bus then jumped the curb and took a tight right, scraping the corner of a building as it struggled to turn. The Roke Ard sped after and Samoht hit the gas as they took the right as well, which caused their vehicle to fish-tail, but they stayed the course. One chimp leaning out the side of the bus noticed the Roke Ard and started screaming. Another chimp poked her head out to look, popped back in, and then popped back out with a machine gun in her hands. She leaned far out of the window while holding on to the bus with her strong feet and began to fire at them. The bullets bounced off the hood and one cracked the windshield before ricocheting into a street sign. The bus now took a left and the projectiles briefly stopped.
“These ones have guns!” Samoht exclaimed.
“And? I didn’t expect the Roke Ard to be a tank, but please tell me your crazy, paranoid mind somehow made this thing bullet-proof.” Leahcim said, trying to duck.
“No, but it is a little stronger due to having to stay together in strong winds. I have an idea. Grab that bag in the backseat.”
Leahcim reached for the bag and brought it to the front. He looked into it and found dozens of small metal spheres. “Samoht, what are these?”
“Bombs.” Samoht said, cooly.
“Excuse me?!? You’ve been flying and driving us around recklessly with bombs in the backseat? Where…why do you have these?”
“Well, long story short my idea for a small hydrogen reactor didn’t quite work out. They just explode.” Samoht said.
Leahcim just stared back, “ Then why do you have so many?”
“You know me, I like things that go boom! And I was going to play a joke on those professors back at the university who called me crazy.” Samoht said. A spray of bullets hit the hood and roof of the Roke Ard again. Samoht looked back to his brother, “Oh, c’mon, don’t act like they’re not useful in this situation!”
Leahcim carefully set the bag at his feet, “Okay, so what should we do with these then?”
“I’ll get you as close as I can, you activate the bomb, then you just stick it next to the engine of the bus with the magnetic side of the bomb’s case, okay?” Samoht said, keeping his eyes on the road and jerking the vehicle back and forth to avoid bullets and debris.
“Alright, how long will I have after I turn these on before they blow?” Leahcim asked, starting to sweat from having the bag between his feet.
“Uh, anywhere from five to thirty seconds.” Samoht said.
“That’s not very helpful, Samoht!”
“They weren’t intended to be bombs, Cimmy! But we gotta work with them! Ready?!!” Samoht floored the pedal and the Roke Ard sped up behind the bus. They got close enough on the tail of the bus that the chimp firing the machine gun could no longer get a shot, so the onslaught of bullets had ceased, but they didn’t expect the hiatus to last long. Leahcim grabbed one sphere from the bag and opened the moon-roof above him. He then crouched on his seat and began to climb out onto the roof. The Roke Ard jerked to the left and Leahcim screamed, “What was that?!”
Samoht yelled back, “I’m sorry, do want me to crash?”
Leahcim held on and readjusted himself to walk out onto the hood, mumbling to himself, “No, but you sure seem to have wanted to before.” Leahcim’s swords hanging from his belt now rubbed against the hood as he crouched low trying to maintain balance.
Samoht’s voice was a distant roar from inside the cab, “Ready?!?”
Leahcim just held up his left thumb to his brother. Samoht tailgated the bus and with little to hold onto Leahcim lurched forward. He activated the tiny hydrogen reactor and stuck it right on the panel to access the bus’s engine. He then jumped back and braced himself. Samoht slowed down a bit but maintained pursuit. Nothing happened. Wind blew fiercely in Leahcim’s face as he looked back at Samoht. His older brother just shrugged and mouthed “Five to thirty seconds.” Leahcim looked back to the bus and saw that now a chimp was standing toward the back on the roof, looking right at him, and holding the same gun that was assaulting them earlier. The chimp’s teeth showed as the creature lifted the gun up to aim. At this distance that gun would surely rip Leahcim apart. He was about to turn and clamor back into the vehicle before a bright bluish-white light flashed briefly and ended in a thunderous bang. The chimp fell backward, then forward off of the bus, pieces of the bomb’s casing flew in every which direction and a few went straight into Leahcim’s leg. The bus’s engine began to smoke and fight with itself as parts stopped moving while other parts moved where they shouldn’t.
The bus was moving fast but it took a corner right next to the Central Library, which caused its momentum to slow, not to mention pieces of the vehicle began to fall out and drag underneath it. The Roke Ard drove past it and Leahcim could see the manic chimp driving it perplexed as he jumped up and down trying to make the machine speed up. He saw Leahcim and quickly turned the wheel in an attempt to ram the Roke Ard, but the smaller vehicle escaped the attempt and the bus, despite its slowing speed, made the turn too abruptly onto the curb and began to tip. The right side of the bus came down hard on the sidewalk and it slid into the large glass windows of the library, knocking over a few bookshelves before coming to a halt.
Leahcim jumped back into the cab and Samoht drove them ahead, then made a quick U-turn and stopped in the middle of a quiet intersection. They looked upon their work. Injured chimps began to crawl out, but didn’t seem intent on attacking them still. Samoht squinted at them, “That wasn’t so hard, right? I wonder how many more we have to-” Just then another bus tearing down Hennepin Avenue T-boned the Roke Ard at nearly fifty miles an hour. The sudden shattering of glass was followed by the whining of bending metal as the Roke Ard folded to one side and was sent spinning onto the sidewalk. The bus that had done this kept speeding ahead and shot a cannon into the library. Eventually the bus turned right and disappeared.
Samoht and Leahcim were conscious the whole time, but paused out of shock. Realizing his arm was pinned in between some twisted metal, Samoht finally looked to his brother “Alive?”
Leahcim stared ahead, “Yeah, alive….oh shit!” Leahcim grabbed the bag at his feet and tossed them out through the moon-roof.
“Hey, why’d you do that?” Samoht’s speech was a little slurred momentarily.
“Hello! Bombs?!” Leahcim said.
“Yeah, but now they have them.” Samoht said like a child on laughing gas and pointed at the confused chimps climbing out of the bus they had stopped. Most of them seemed to be getting their bearings straight or were just utterly lost when another chimp came sprinting on all fours from around the corner. She ran angrily with a cause and looked to the others that had been in the crash. Leahcim watched intently. The angry chimp signed to them and they struggled to sign any coherent thoughts to her. She then pounded her fists on the pavement and looked to the Roke Ard. Her eyes met Leahcim’s. The chimp began to run at them and a couple of the other chimps followed.
“C’mon, Samoht, we have to move!” Leahcim said.
“Uh, little stuck here.” Samoht said. Leahcim saw his brother’s situation.
“It’s okay, we’ll get you out. Hold on!” Leahcim said as he jumped out through the moon-roof onto the hood of the SUV. He unsheathed his swords and prepared himself mentally. It’s only in defense, he said to himself. Only if they attack. My brother is in trouble. I have to protect him.
The chimp got closer until she was about twenty feet away, where the bag of hydrogen bombs sat on the pavement. The other chimps stopped behind her as she noticed the bag. She looked at Leahcim as she lifted the bag and peered into it. She then looked back at the tipped bus, and back again at Leahim, then to Samoht stuck in the cab. The chimp reached into the bag and twisted one of the metal spheres to activate it. She then raised her arm as if she were about to throw it and BOOM! The bomb exploded in her hand and vaporized most of her arm before she fell over unconscious. The other chimps all retreated from the blast and ran haphazardly back to the bus.
“Guess that one was a two-seconder.” Samoht said , muffled from inside the cab.
Leahcim looked back and shook his head. That poor animal, he thought, just doing some else’s bidding. Leahcim walked to the driver’s side door and tried to pulled it open, “I can’t get it, Samoht, it’s jammed.”
“I know, right on my f-ing arm. Stand back.” Samoht rocked to the right then to the left and took the door off as he forced his way out of the vehicle. The door was still wrapped around his arm and for a moment looked like a make-shift shield before he tore it off with his other hand like it was a simple bandage.
Leahcim looked around for any immediate danger, then to the one-armed chimp, then to his brother, “Do you have any more of that sleepy flower?”
“Yeah, why?” Samoht said, rubbing his left arm.
“Because so long as I can help it, I’m not ending another life.” Leahcim said intent, with his hand out.
Samoht reached into several pockets in his jacket and pulled out six small plastic bags full of the dried flower. He handed them over to Leahcim, “Here’s half of what I’ve got on me. So…what do we do now?”
Leahcim stuffed the bags in his pockets and looked around. Cannons boomed somewhere in the streets but remained distant. Leahcim’s hands rested on the hilts of his two swords, “Well, whatever the goal is here these buses seem to be a key part of it. I say we stop the buses, and perhaps we’ll find out what exactly is happening here.”
“Alright, how many more of them you think we’ve gotta stop?” Samoht said as the roaring of one large engine tore around a corner just a block north of them and came hurling in their direction. Both of the brothers jumped out of the way and took cover behind the Roke Ard. The bus drove past them quickly and cannons shot haphazardly into the library and another office building adjacent to it. The bus had a massive dent on the lower left front of it, and Leahcim discovered that this must be the one that had hit them earlier. After the bus passed Leahcim stood quickly and started walking after it to observe it. It made a right turn just a few blocks down. Leahcim looked to Samoht, “Okay, it seems like they are following a set circle. This is the same trajectory it came through when it forced us off the road. I’ll take this one.”
Leahcim took off at a sprint and Samoht called after him, “Wait! About the flower, a little goes a long way. I only used a teaspoon for Ren and he’s probably still out!”
Leachim nodded his assent to what Samoht said and was off. Samoht glanced back at the damaged and bent Roke Ard and put his hand on it, “I’m sorry, Baby, we’ll get you fixed up. I know, I know, they deserve more than just a nap for what they did to you.”
One of the lost chimps from the overturned bus was staring at Samoht in bewilderment. “What?!??” He yelled at the animal who simply looked past him and swiftly retreated into the library. Samoht knew this wasn’t simply from him screaming, because he did plenty of that when he was fighting them back at the house. Maybe they became more timid when their mind control wore off? He didn’t have time to think on it, for now he heard the metal rattling of a mutli-ton vehicle speeding at him from behind. Samoht turned and seeing the crazed face of the chimp behind the wheel jumped and rolled out of the way. The driver seeing him, drove up on the curb to try to hit him. Samoht was halfway up and out of the way when the bus clipped him and sent him flying into the windshield of a sedan in a parking lot just ten feet away. Samoht could hear the chattering laughter of the chimps as they continued on their path of mayhem. He worked his way out of the car he had landed on and stood looking after the bus, “And Leahcim wants to play nice?” He clenched his fists and ran after them. Then he saw the vehicle take a turn and remembered what his brother said. “Oh, I’ll get you when you come back around, you cheeky bastards.”
Samoht leaned a little to crack his back. The pain from being thrown into the car just now started to fade out of his lower back and butt. He wasn’t sure if he would still have a huge bruise or not, but it was certainly remarkable how quickly he recovered from such a devastating collision. He then thought to his training with One-Ton when once his master had struck him in the face whilst teaching him hand to hand combat. Samoht’s head had reeled for a moment from the pain and his vision blurred but everything straightened out in about ten seconds. When he stood back up and faced One-Ton again, the man had a very surprised look on his face, like he had witnessed someone walking on water. Samoht was now understanding his mentor’s reaction, and he now recalled his words about Samoht’s potential durability. Samoht remembered his encounter with Vinod. He then took a deep breath in and stretched from side to side. Alright, let’s see if I can do this. At least I won’t be out long when the bus hits me, right?
Samoht walked out into the middle of the street and waited. The humming of the bus was soon heard again and was now circling back to him. It turned the corner about five blocks away, and Samoht could barely see it without the occasional blasts of fire shooting out its sides. Samoht took his stance and planted his feet, just as his sumo instructor had taught him, and he remembered One-Ton’s words in his head, “…you may even be able to stop an on-coming bus.” Jeez, Samoht thought, what are the odds?
The bus kept powering forward and now at four blocks away hit a truck that was in the street. The truck flew aside. Samoht’s eyes widened. He stood up straight and paced, “Nope! Maybe another day, One-Ton!” He said out loud as he walked over to the sedan he landed on. He opened the driver’s side door and put his foot on the brake as he forced the lever into neutral. Samoht then pushed the small car out into the street to face the approaching bus. Samoht stood behind the car and returned to his stance, now with his hands resting on the rear blinkers of the sedan. The driver of the bus saw the new obstacle and sped up in excitement. Samoht remained, determined, but whispered under his breath, “…hope this works.” He looked at the mass speeding at him for another moment. “Ah, fuck it!” Samoht now pushed the car forward with all his might and yelled as he charged the bus head on.
The bus was now only twenty feet away, and Samoht was willingly closing the gap quickly. First everything was really loud, from the combustion powering the engine to the laughter of the chimps inside. Then it was much louder. The bus smashed full force into the sedan, crushing it like a can, but the head of the bus also buckled. Glass shattered as the windows were forced into odd shapes and chimps were suddenly screaming as they flew toward the front. The rear tires nearly cleared the ground as the back of the bus lifted slightly and jolted to the left. Then everything was quiet.
Samoht had blacked out. But he soon woke to the sensation of being enveloped by metal. He could tell he was standing, but he couldn’t move. The sedan and part of the bus had wrapped around him, but they did not move him. Samoht did feel like he had done a belly flop from 60 feet up, but he was in one piece. Only a marginal bit of light came through the wreckage, so Samoht knew he was buried deep, but he tried shifting back and forth to get free. He was stuck. Really? Twice in one day?
Samoht got a few of the pieces to bend away from him and eventually was able to crawl out the back of what used to be the sedan. He took a couple paces back and stood in astonishment at the scene. “One-Ton would be proud.” Samoht said to himself. He walked closer to the bus and saw that many of the chimps had been impaled by pieces of metal here and there. A couple had even landed 50 feet ahead and weren’t moving at all. Samoht winced, “…ooohh, but Leahcim wouldn’t.”
There was some rustling from the bus so Samoht walked closer. A chimp now stood dazed, and looked over to Samoht. He started grunting and puffing his cheeks up as he handled one of the large cannons protruding from the side of the vehicle. He attempted to aim it at Samoht and fired. Samoht was quick to get out of range but had no place to find cover, so he made a fast decision to get right under the cannon. Shots boomed past him and shattered the pavement only a few feet away, but the chimp couldn’t shoot any closer than that. The ape worked the cannon a bit more, trying to push it down to aim closer. Finally it pushed it so hard that the cannon detached and fell over the side of the vehicle onto the ground. The mouth of the weapon was now pointing right at Samoht so he moved aside. Then he heard two solid feet land right behind him and found the chimp was becoming more brazen. He now brandished a dagger and made to leap at Samoht but in a blast of fire and light the ape disappeared and Samoht stumbled backward from a compression wave that also shook the bus. The detached cannon had misfired on its own.
“And that’s why we don’t play with guns.” Samoht tried to shake his head to regain his hearing after so many close-range explosions. He now picked up his bag of hydrogen bombs and half stumbled, half moseyed to find more trouble.
Leahcim sprinted the best he could to catch the bus that had thrown them off the road, but he could only run so fast. He hadn’t practiced running back at the ranch, and it wasn’t going to stop this bus anyway. He lost the ape-operated vehicle around a corner and soon saw an option. This is where it would be turning around. Good. Leahcim now ran into an office building leading straight toward the street just one block over. He sprang up the steps to the second story and came to the other side of the block, finding a skyway running over the street. He had planned for this. They were all over this city. Leahcim ran out into the center of it and saw the bus coming fast. They had no idea he was up here. Good. He crouched low and prepared to jump through the glass onto the bus. He clenched and unclenched his fists. He closed his eyes to calm himself and listened for the bus to pass. As soon as he heard it rumble underneath him he sprang toward the glass expecting it to shatter, but it didn’t. Leahcim was now falling fast, but with a big sheet of plexiglass in front of him. He landed on the roof and slid, thanks to the large makeshift sled beneath him, but finally managed to grab hold of one of the roof hatches. The plexiglass was still caught underneath his body and slid but he couldn’t quite wiggle it out without falling off himself. Air rushed over the bus roof and pressed Leahcim down while pushing at him to slide off the back.
The hatch Leahcim held onto now shifted and started to open which made him lose his grip. He quickly unsheathed a sword and stabbed it into the roof to stop as a curious but suspicious chimp poked his head out. The chimp lifted a semi-automatic rifle out and awkwardly handled it as he pointed it at the young man. Leahcim quickly grabbed the plexiglass from underneath himself and swung it sideways catching the gun and knocking it over the side of the bus. The chimp, now furious crawled out more and came at him simply with his hands and teeth. Leahcim swung the sheet of glass again but this time it caught too much air and acted like a parachute as it lifted him off his feet just as they were approaching another skyway. The chimp missed the boy as he lunged and fell right off the bus. Leahcim however went straight into the skyway, and this time the glass did shatter. Leahcim landed and leaped again all at once and busted through the other side of the skyway landing on the roof of the bus again and grabbed his sword which was still in the roof. “Okay” he said to himself. How many more are in there? The bus still fired into the buildings on either side, making the masonry crumble even more, and took a sharp right which almost threw Leahcim from the bus.
Leahcim held on and prepared himself. He didn’t know what he was going to encounter in the bus, but he still felt responsible for these beings’ lives. He hoped he could handle this. Leahcim reached in his jacket pocket and opened the small plastic bag containing the sleeping flower. He pinched a bit between his forefinger and thumb and took a breath. No more apes came out from the roof hatch, but there were definitely some left. Things would be getting violent very soon, but they didn’t need to get deadly. A couple of the cannons fired again, causing Leahcim to twitch in surprise. He feared keeping death at bay may just be a pipedream. Nonetheless he took his sword out from the metal roof and dropped down the hatch into the darkness of the bus.
He landed hard on his feet and ten heads turned to him, all surprised and suddenly ferocious. The first came from behind but Leahcim shoved the herb into his nostrils and the ape fell a second afterward. The others noticed this and looked at Leahcim more cautious but still crouched and determined. That’s all they understand, Leahcim thought. Me against them. Them against me. Leahcim reached into his pockets as more charged him with knives, short swords and their hands. They were very quick, but Leahcim remained quicker. Few got their hands near him before he put them to sleep with the flower, and the ones that did were disarmed as he pushed their weapons aside like he had the cattle back on the ranch. Now there were only three, four including the driver, but that one wasn’t paying attention. Leahcim’s hands shot out toward two of their faces as they tried to surround him and they fell. When he finally looked to the last the ape he had a gun pointed at Leahcim’s chest and he held the thing well, like he knew what to do. BANG! The chimp fired but Leahcim swatted it upward and away from his face. The bullet passed Leahcim’s head but shot right past his ear and now his eardrum rang from the loud noise in the small space. Luckily it had disoriented them all, so when Leahcim was focused again he was able to aim himself. He flicked a bit of the flower right at the ape’s face and it flew into his mouth. The chimp tasted it for a moment and collapsed peacefully. Leahcim finally walked up behind the driver-chimp and gently put some herb over her face. When the chimp went limp Leahcim pulled the animal out of the seat and sat down. He calmly pulled over and hit the brakes, put the vehicle in park, and turned the engine off. Leahcim then opened the front door and exited, keeping his eyes out for any chimps that may reawaken.
“See Samoht,” he whispered, “We don’t have to go around blowing everything up all the time.”
Leahcim then heard heavy shuffling around the corner and readied himself for a new horde of apes. Samoht ran into the intersection and upon seeing Leahcim stopped. “Hey you got one!”
Leahcim nodded, “You okay? What are you running from?”
“I don’t run, Cimmy, that’s the problem itself. I was looking for you…or another bus to stop.”
Just then a loud and hot streak boomed over their heads and shattered the windshield of the bus Leahcim had just parked.
“Looks like you’ve found one.” Leahcim said.
They watched the bus for a moment and noticed it took a left. They instinctively started to pursue it but Leahcim put his hand out and stopped Samoht as he heard the vehicle coming back toward them. The bus came into sight again and in a few moments disappeared around the corner it had just taken thirty seconds before. It was staying close.
“What, you think they’re lookin’ for us now?” Samoht asked.
Leahcim listened for the bus, it was coming back again. “No, I think they are circling that one building for some reason. I think they are protecting whatever is going on in there. We may have found the focus of this whole operation.”
“What is that building? A bank?”
“I’m not sure, but I think we’re responsible for finding out.”
“I don’t think so Leahcim. We’ve helped enough, let’s just let the military come in and take care of the rest.You were at the house when they showed up. These things are vicious. And smart. I’m not about to walk into a mutli-story tower full of them.”
“Helped enough?” Leahcim repeated, “Don’t you think whatever it is in there, we’re more apt to handle it? I don’t see the military pulling their weight here, but I’ve seen Grandmaster Texan and Vivek do some amazing things. And that was with a simple gem. Whatever that power is, we wield it tenfold. All of those legends may just be stories, but I’m starting to see how the rumors got started. I think we’re just scratching the surface of what the two of us can do, and I don’t plan to sit on my privilege like some prince disconnected from the real world. I aim to serve this world that I’m a part of. Samoht, if we give up now we let down Bok Thi, One-Ton, the Grandmaster, and…and Mom. Don’t you want to find out why someone would come after her? ” Leahcim said, stern.
Samoht looked straight at his brother, tense. He thought on what had just happened with the sedan and the bus, “Okay, so what do we do?”
“I say we stop that last bus and go check out what’s going on in that tower. But I’m not sure I have enough flower to do what I did with the last one.”
Samoht looked toward the building, “Well, I’m not sure I can do what I just did again and keep going.”
“How did you stop the last one?”
Samoht looked uncomfortable and slightly freaked out remembering the gravity of it, “I’ll… I’ll tell you later.” Samoht looked to the bag he held. “Why not just blow it to high hell?”
Leahcim looked to the bag and responded, “I don’t know if we can get close enough on foot without getting blasted with a cannon or run over. They have to be going fifty miles an hour.”
Samoht looked to the bus Leahcim had parked, “I’ve got an idea. Let’s go, Cimmy!”
Leahcim followed curious and cautious as they stepped over unconscious apes and entered the bus. Samoht started the engine, revved it, and peeled away as quickly as he could.
Leahcim kept his eyes out for the other bus, “What’s the idea then?”
“We’re gonna ram ‘em!” Samoht yelled.
“C’mon, Cimmy! Easy solution for a hard problem. Just like all those bogus tests in college.”
“Yeah? And just how did that college thing work out?”
Samoht ignored his brother and sped up even more. The other bus was coming quick, they could hear it, but it didn’t know they were coming. In a matter of seconds the other bus whilst firing its many cannons materialized and Samoht rammed the front right side of it. The ape-bus was quickly pinned against the corner of the building it was protecting and came to a halt. But with no windshield Leahcim kept moving and flew out the front of their own bus. Samoht was stopped by the driver’s wheel. He now searched for his brother, and found a mailbox had broken his fall. Leahcim struggled to stand and slipped on all of the envelopes that were strewn about his feet.
Samoht called out, “Alive?!?”
Leahcim just looked up at his brother angrily. A chimp jumped through the open window on Samoht’s left and began mauling him. Samoht held the chimp’s face away with his left hand and quickly pulled out some flower and punched it into the attacker’s face. The chimp loosened his grip and fell out of the bus. Samoht looked back to Leahcim, “At least I did that right, right?”
The brothers walked briskly to the entrance doors and paused before entering. Some of the chimps from the last bus began stirring about and jumped out onto the street. A couple spotted the brothers and began firing guns at them. They ran around the corner for cover. A large wooden desk fell onto the sidewalk right next to them and exploded into slivers. They looked up and saw that apes were throwing office items, big and small, out the windows.
“Jeez, can’t we get a break?” Samoht said. The apes from the bus were now getting closer to them. Samoht activated one of his hydrogen bombs and threw it into the open around the corner. He grabbed Leahcim’s arm and pulled him along. The reactor exploded and shattered all of the windows nearby. The chimps on the street screamed. Leahcim looked at Samoht upset.
“What? It’s called a diversion.” Samoht pleaded his case.
“Let’s just get in there while we have the chance.” Leahcim said.
They entered the entrance doors and Samoht closed and sealed them with a chain that was laying nearby. It was quiet in the lobby, dead quiet.
Samoht walked up and grabbed Leahcim’s shoulder, “Let’s get one thing straight before we continue, Leahcim. I don’t care what kind of peace-loving bullshit you have in your head, if we’re risking our lives out here, we have to be able to take others if necessary for the greater good.”
“Who said we’re in a war? These are confused animals—”
“Exactly, animals! Not humans! We’ve been fighting them and they are dangerous. How many times have they tried shootin’ you or cuttin’ you up?”
Leahcim looked at Samoht, “I just think there is a better way of handling this-”
“Maybe, but this isn’t some circus. These things are armed and crazy and feral….” Samoht said.
“Can humans not be the same way? There [_are _]people behind this.” Leahcim said.
“I…that’s not the same, and….until we find those people in charge we have to keep ourselves safe, okay? By any means. We almost lost Mom and I’m not going to lose my little brother, okay?”
Leahcim hugged Samoht, “You won’t. We’re stronger now. Maybe not invulnerable…” Samoht glanced to the side awkwardly, Leahcim continued, “…but we’re very strong now, and intelligent enough to proceed with this investigation calmly and justly.”
Samoht closed his eyes and breathed in threw his nose like One-Ton had taught him. His mentor had said that in moments when you think you don’t have time to be calm, that’s when you should be it most. And that in those times a single conscious breath was a mediation that could help clear the mind of ego and fear. Samoht exhaled and patted his brother’s back firmly, “Alright, let’s keep moving.”
They walked quickly again and Samoht pushed the button for the elevator. Leahcim grabbed Samoht’s arm and sighed as he guided him to the staircase. Leahcim paused and listened before opening the door. It didn’t seem occupied. They walked up to the second floor and slowly peeked in. The entire office had been flipped and torn apart, but there were no apes to be found. Leahcim looked back to Samoht and pointed upward, then he put his finger to his lips. They continued to the third floor and could hear movement. Samoht and Leahcim started to open the door and peeked through the crack. Papers flew and metal cabinets tipped over and crashed. But Leahcim noticed the bodies doing this were different. They were smaller and more colourful. There were capuchins, macaque, and other small monkeys running about the rooms. They were looking for something.
Leahcim stood and turned to Samoht, “They’re just monkeys. They seem to be searching for something.”
Samoht looked in and whispered, “So the chimps are muscle and these monkeys gather intel?”
“Yeah, I guess so. Let’s move in.”
Leahcim started to open the door more and suddenly a squeal came from one private office. All heads turned to it so they did not notice the two humans present. A macaque monkey ran out of the office with a small portable safe. The little critter could barely carry the thing but rolled it about and called out excited. Out of nowhere a chimp ran up and tore the safe from the macaque’s hands to look at it. The chimp then started for the staircase and all the monkeys gathered to follow the chimp with the safe.
Samoht stepped into the room and spoke over his shoulder to Leahcim, “We can take ‘em. This chimp is a scrawny one.”
Upon seeing Samoht, the chimp with the safe pulled a handgun out and fired at him. Samhot yelled and pushed Leahcim back into the stairway. “Whoah! Get back, get back, get back!”
The chimp and the gaggle of monkeys following leaped across the shaft of the staircase to the other side to bypass the brothers and ran frantically upward. Leahcim and Samoht ran after them but within moments the creatures were a good four stories ahead of them.
The brothers were now on the fourth floor, “Shoot!” Leahcim said. Then he had an idea. “Come on, we’ll be taking your elevator after all!”
Leahcim kicked the door in into the fourth floor and they pushed the button to go up on all the elevators. Within seconds an elevator opened and Samoht approached the panel with a small tool that looked like a pocket knife. He flipped it open and shoved a small metal rod in the elevator override slot. He turned it and they shot upward.
“Where did you get one of those?” Leahcim asked, only half focused on the conversation.
“Made it. Based it off of the janitor’s keys at school after they let me borrow them once.”
“And why do you have it?” Leahcim asked.
“Well, I wasn’t going to ask permission to use the freight elevator every time I needed to move heavy items into my shop. Plus I like to do my work discreetly. Besides, it’s helping us now, isn’t it?”
The elevator showed they were at the very top and dinged to confirm it. The doors opened and the animals were below them, but nearly to the top.
Samoht looked smug, “Ha! We beat them.”
He stepped out as the chimp with the safe swiftly swung around the corner of the railing with his feet and hit Samoht upside the head with the safe. The large cocky Samoht stumbled backwards and Leahcim caught him.
Samoht shook his head and took after them again. “He’s lucky I’m me, cuz that’s not how we treat ordinary people. C’mon! They’re getting away!”
The chimp and monkeys forced the roof access door open and sunlight poured in, blinding the brothers for a moment. Leahcim ran ahead and got out onto the roof first, only to meet the large fists of an adult silverback gorilla. Leahcim took a heavy blow and rolled back. Samoht came screaming from the stairs and tackled the gorilla, but the gorilla was swift as he was strong. Samoht was swatted backward but stood and held his ground. The gorilla now showed his teeth, the hair raised on his back like little icy trees in winter, and he stood to his full seven feet. The mighty beast bellowed and charged Samoht. Leahcim looked to the chimp and monkeys and saw they were huddled together in one corner of the roof, watching the commotion. Samoht caught the gorilla’s fists and held them away, all the while not moving an inch. The gorilla pulled and pushed, but Samoht wouldn’t budge. However, it was taking all of Samoht’s concentration. Finally the gorilla lunged his face further and sunk his teeth into Samoht’s shoulder, forcing him to collapse and cry out in horror. The gorilla raised his head, his teeth now red, and beat on Samoht.
“Leahcim!!!!” Was all Samoht could yell amidst it all. Leahcim tried to think quick. He reached into his pockets for more flower, but he was all out. His jaw clenched and he unsheathed his swords, stepping forward. Leahcim ran up and slashed the gorilla’s white back. The animal cried out and jumped forward over Samoht.
But it wasn’t over. The gorilla now circled and stared Leahcim down, intent to kill. Leahcim was hoping the pain would wake the creature from his trance, but whether it did or not, all he knew now was that he had just been cut with swords, and Leahcim held them. The gorilla charged the young man and Leahcim jumped to get an advantage. However, the gorilla grabbed his legs and slammed him hard against the rocky roof. Leahcim was then tossed to the edge like a scrap of meat and struggled to get back up. The gorilla ran to finish the job and just as Leahcim got his footing he prepared to take another hard hit. The massive ape now stood to his full height again in a rage and just before he came down on Leahcim a menacing swish was heard as the gorilla’s head fell to Leahcim’s boots before the body did the same. Leahcim looked up shocked and saw Samoht holding one of the swords. Leahcim’s older brother glanced down at him with a complicated look. It was full of contempt and disappointment, but also crazed and shocked by his own act.
At that moment the chopping of a helicopter grew louder until it lifted itself above the roof, just a few yards away from the edge where Leahcim stood. Samoht still held the sword up high. The apache helicopter’s machine gun opened fire and hit Samoht’s right arm. He dropped the sword and rolled to take cover. Leahcim hopped over to join him and they hid behind a large air vent. Samoht looked at his arm. It was black and burnt where the large bullet had hit him.
“Fu—, that really hurt.” Samoht said. “Worse than that gorilla biting me. Jeez, does the army need to kill rhinos now or what?”
Leahcim looked back for the apache, “Let’s not worry about that now. They must think we’re involved in this. They wouldn’t just open fire on civilians.”
“Yeah, I guess it didn’t look too good for me to be holding a sword over your head. If only they showed up just a moment earlier, we—”
“Oh no, Samoht. They’re circling the building.”
The apache floated and eased its way around the roof, continuously facing the building. The chimp and the monkeys now screamed at the apache and instigated it to open fire again. Leahcim and Samoht ducked even further down to not get hit. Then they heard a strange explosion and the apache struggling to stay up. Leahcim looked up at it and saw a streak of fire take out the main propeller of the apache. The military helicopter now fell instantly and could be heard scraping the side of the building as it went down. Samoht and Leahcim tried to see what did this but couldn’t find anything.
Then, from the canvas of a massive dark raincloud, an odd and round vehicle lightly hummed forward and hovered near the edge of the roof. It was smooth, silver-colored, and looked like a small, flattened blimp with no gondola. The thing had no wings or propellers, and no visible windows. A small side door became apparent as it opened.
The animals on the roof yelled and ran forward. The monkeys jumped across the gap with ease and landed inside the vessel. The chimp ran forth and tried to leap with the safe in his hands, but with the extra weight he began to plummet. However, his slightly hunched back bristled fiercely and broke outward, unfurling two extensive feathery wings. Samoht’s jaw dropped. The chimp flapped once very hard and made it into the platform of the UFO, folding his wings inward to sit tightly against his back. The door closed quickly to meld with the smooth artifice of the vessel and the airship began breathing out what looked like exhaust. Though Leahcim could now see that it was dark mist, like that of the cloud it had come from. It created its own rainclouds for cover.
Samoht, still surprised, silently reached into his pocket, pulled out a roughly folded ten dollar bill and shoved it into Leahcim’s jacket pocket. Leahcim looked back thinking Have you utterly lost it?
Samoht explained, “You won the bet.”
“Yeah, well they got away and now we have even more questions.” Leahcim said.
“You feel like getting off this roof? I feel like getting off this roof.” Samoht said.
They made their way back into the freshly abandoned building and took the elevator down with Samoht’s special key. On their way to the main floor it was rather silent. Leahcim felt there was something to address. “Samoht, I’m sorry about the gorilla. I should have done better….I….I just couldn’t kill it. Not after what happened back at the house.”
“Hey, we took care of that big lug, right? It was mauling me pretty bad, though. I thought he might’ve ripped some of my shoulder out…” Samoht noticed this made Leahcim feel more guilty, “But hey, we got ‘em. And maybe in the future, we won’t have to kill them the same….ah, neutralize them the same way.”
The door dinged, opened and Samoht pulled his key out as they exited the small moving room. The brothers stepped outside and were met immediately with ten armed soldiers and a humvee staring them down. Samoht threw his hands up, “Whoah, no need to shoot me again today. Alright? But nice of you to finally show up.”
“Put your weapons down!” One of them shouted.
Samoht looked at his bare, open palms and spoke, “Uh I don’t have—”
“Shut up! Put your goddamn weapons down! NOW!”
Leahcim realized they were talking to him. He still had his swords. Leahcim slowly undid the belt that held the sheathed swords and let it drop to the ground. A couple soldiers approached sticking their guns in Samoht and Leahcim’s faces before walking behind them to handcuff them.
“Uh didn’t you see what we did? We were helping. We took out four of those buses.” Samoht said.
The soldier calling the shots stepped forward and got right in Samoht’s face, “What we did see was you running around with a bunch of monkeys on the roof who have been leveling the city since this morning.”
Leahcim bowed his head to appear supplicating and addressed the commander, “Sir, if I may, we were only trying to help bring a stop to this mess. Only a few days ago our own mother was—”
“Hey!” The commander interrupted, “Did I ask you to talk? Just who do you think you are anyway?”
Samoht couldn’t fight back a smirk on his face as he said, “Ever heard of the name Schinderling?”
A five-foot tall figure moved hastily down a dark hallway with a small safe in one arm. His long toe-nails scratched the granite tiles as he hustled past the various empty offices. His breathing was labored, and his nostrils flared at the scents around him. Finally, he reached wooden double-doors and raised his extremely long arm to force one open. The sunlight shining from inside the office poured into the hallway briefly before the doors closed behind the figure. His scarred face now searched the room.
“Overlord Avala….” He struggled to get the words out, for his vocal chords were new, “…we have obtained the objective in the city. But there are two….mmeehn…pppeople who tried to stop us. Intel has identified them as Schinderling princes, and they are the sons of the target Senator Jan Schinderling. They were also at the house when the team arrived and killed a couple of my kin. They will be a problem, Overlord. Shall we pursue them?”
The one he was speaking to turned from the window at the other side of a long table. Though the room was full of light, only this person’s mouth was visible under a hood.
The shrouded figure spoke in a slow but affluent drawl that suggested they also were new to the language being used, “Ah, so these Schinderlings seem to keep coming out to play. Many may not believe the myths, but they sure seem to about themselves. Do not worry about chasing them down, my dear Pongo. Their power is mostly influential, and it has a source.”
The cloaked being strode over to take the small safe from Pongo. The figure then ripped open the small safe in a feat of impressive strength and simply poured the contents onto the table. A few small green gems glimmered in the sunlight. The being set the empty safe on the table and continued speaking, “Now that we’ve seen how this trial in Minneapolis has played out, I believe you and your Aerial Simian brethren have much potential. I promise you, that even though these want-to-be gods may be thorns in my side currently, we will rip them from the ground and salt their roots so that they shall shrivel up into oblivion.”
“Very good, Overlord Avala. Hor….hhhow shall we continue?” Pongo asked scrunching his face as he struggled to speak clearly.
The one called Avala towered over the orangutan and stroked his ginger head, “Pongo, ready the first fleet. It looks like the forecast for the S.S.S. Kingdom is cloudy with a chance of annihilation.” The hooded person said as a slight grin from bone-white lips revealed very sharp, inhuman teeth.
Alam sat on the cold, stone bench in the damp dungeon below Ol SchinGaerd Vlack. He had been there for far too much time now, longer than he cared to track. They allowed him to keep his books and instruments, but at least one guard was present to keep an eye on him and prevent any explosives that he might attempt to make. The guard now present looked out the small window in Alam’s cell, and then behind him through the window of the dungeon door. He was bored and didn’t care to conceal it. Alam was reading a book written in the symbols of Old Lingskeo, and looked up thoughtfully.
The dungeon door opened loudly with an unapologetic squeak and a new guard walked in. The one that had been standing there sighed with relief and quickly scaled the steps back to the castle proper. The new guard, whose name was Fenal, spied Alam through the bars with disgust, <“Any mischief today, Traitor?”>
Alam’s eyes found the young man,
Fenal struck the metal bars with his staff to intimidate Alam, <”Quit speaking in riddles. You think you have magic in your words? You think you are a wizard? You shan’t enchant me.>”
Alam whispered, <”I know, only your blind faith to follow a bad cause can do that.”>
Fenal struck the bars again and Alam laughed slightly as he looked forward and returned his gaze to his old book of tales.
A Schinderlingslyvokiaslyvanian tank sat on a cliff overlooking the beach that ran across the north of the land and met the sea. A storm was brewing over the waters and was approaching the country. If only tanks could keep bad weather away, the operator thought. She then activated the turret to search the sky for any aircraft. Luckily, they didn’t have to fire at everything since the Schinderking opened up trade and travel with the outside world again, but they still had to be vigilant. So now the occasional commercial flight went overhead toward the United Republic of Scandinavia or a guston flew past doing a perimeter check with no trouble. The turret lowered at the sight of a mass approaching on the water, but with a closer look this was merely a local sailor coming back ashore. A cloud now formed thicker behind the tank over the land. It was odd, the way it formed by itself, like it had gotten here before the rest of the storm. The operator looked at the weather gage on her control panel and found there was no drop in temperature nor a change in barometric pressure, which was certainly an anomaly amongst the darkening sky.
Then she noticed something weirder. The sensors were not picking up any craft near her, but the operator could hear a soft humming just outside the shell of her war vehicle. She turned the turret toward the small cloud where she thought the humming was coming from. Nothing. Not on the sensors nor visually through the camera. She thought it best to check with the naked eye. The operator climbed to the top hatch and popped it open. She now heard the humming even clearer. Was it a truck nearby?
Now a smoothly shaped vessel dropped from the obscurity of the lone cloud. The operator gasped at this and didn’t know what to make of it. It didn’t seem threatening, it just floated there, like it was observing her. She couldn’t ignore though that it shouldn’t be in their airspace without her knowing about it, so she closed the hatch and dropped back to the control seat. Just as she landed she felt a tremendous tremor shake the tank. They opened fire. The operator raised her cannon to fire but the tank was hit again. This time with something more powerful. It knocked the tank aside and forced the cannon away from the air vessel. The operator now opened her communication link to the collective military channel as she tried to aim at the airship again.
Another blast hit underneath her tank and shook it, but no operational damage was done. The operator finally raised the cannon and got a visual on the craft. It wasn’t even moving. This would be an easy fix, she thought. The operator pointed the cannon to open fire. But then as she heated the cannon to fire she heard what sounded like gravel sliding. The ground started to shift below the tank and forced the hulk of metal to tilt. She must have been pushed to the edge of the cliff. She finally fired just as the ground gave way. Tank 45 rolled frighteningly fast down the steep incline to the beach and stopped with a violent crash.
The sailor still on the water heard the blast and looked up to see a massive rock-slide under a streak of fire that shot past a smooth silver oblong shape in the air. It looked to the sailor like a submarine in the sky. The thing in the air now turned and flew swiftly inland as gargantuan black clouds rolled over the land almost as if they were following it. The sailor could hear no thunder nor rain, but merely a distinct, faint chorus of humming somewhere above him.
Mahlonik, the Schinderking, sat in his library and read one of his favorite books of poetry. He hadn’t had any time to do thing such a thing for many years, and after coming to an agreement and making amends with the current Rulers of Britain, or Parliament as they called themselves, Mahlonik had decided to relax for a day and abstain from political matters.
As he read over the familiar lines he thought of how fortunate Alam was for this sort of thing to be his occupation; being the cultural preserver of their nation. Alam.[_ Now that’s an interesting thought_], Mahlonik pondered. He had completely forgotten about the old man. The Schinderking stood and walked to the door. He opened it into the hallway and the SchinGaerd sentry passing by quickly stopped and stood rigid upon seeing him.
At that moment Dogo came running around the corner and formally but urgently addressed Mahlonik. “
Mahlonik’s face reddened and he exhaled through his nose like he was trying to shoot fire from it, “
Dogo replied, “”
Mahlonik reached back into his library and grabbed his staff. He then promptly followed Dogo to the command room and Revo, forgetting his previous assignment, followed closely after. Once they reached the screens that electronically showed the small country they could see many unrecognizable blips flying over the land. They were barely showing up on the screen.
Fanad, the best pilot among them and expert of aircraft turned to his king, “
The Schinderking looked at the blips a moment, his face tightened, “
The SchinGaerd all screamed in unison, “Yot, Schinderling!!!”
Fanad ran out the door and toward the courtyard where his guston awaited him. Dogo stood next to Mahlonik and the elder man turned to his nephew, “
Dogo ran from the room and left Mahlonik alone staring at the screens. The Schinderking squinted his eyes as the airships inched closer and closer to where he was on the map. He couldn’t quite lay his finger on it, but something seemed eerily familiar about these ships to him.
The plethora of airships flew less subtly now. They were visible to the naked eye but the tanks struggled to get a good shot at them through the dark trees of the Hufut Forest. Large splinters of wood and foliage flew into the air as the tanks opened fire, but the strange silver ships kept moving ever so quickly toward Ol SchinGaerd Vlack.
A fleet of five gustons now flew from Dafnu to meet the invaders. It was a small but powerful flock that the S.S.S. had, and they always managed to keep surveillance over the land, but their ability to defend it was now to be tested. Suddenly a much smaller silver oblong ship apart from the main invading convoy dropped down from above the guston fleet, breaking up the defender’s formation. The small silver ship shot fiery streaks in all directions and hit a guston’s left engine. The small S.S.S. aircraft struggled to stay up and coasted down to the ground. The four other gustons regrouped and pursued the silver ship. They all fired upon it as it retreated to the other larger invading airships. As Fanad got closer in the leading guston, he noticed the small silver craft was starting to emit a fog from its sides. Fanad fired nano-missiles directly where the mist was coming out of and the other gustons followed suit. This set off a chain reaction and little explosions began to shake and buckle the small silver ships exterior. Soon it stopped humming and plummeted downward to the forest, cracking trees in half as it fell all the way to the ground. There was a brief cheer over the communication channel before Fanad looked up and took in the sight of the other seven visible ships. Fanad spoke into his helmet, “
The larger oblong ships had already begun shooting streaks of fire by the time Fanad and his fleet turned back.
The glass of the window in Alam’s cell shivered as the sound of explosions carried toward the castle. Alam could now see the ships in the distance and great dread came over him. He rushed to his stack of books and instruments and opened a small box among them. His old delicate fingers now touched a shard of green stone. Alam began whispering some personal words of power in Old Lingskeo. His breath patted the stone as he spoke. His guard Fenal yelled to him, “
Alam ignored him and continued his recitations. Revo burst into the room and grabbed Fenal by the shoulder, “
Alam’s green stone began to glow and soon cast out the darkness from between his hands.
Revo yanked at him again, “<We are not sure, but they are getting close to the castle.”
Fenal looked back in disgust, “
Revo turned and ran up the stairs, and Fenal narrowed his eyes as he slammed the door to the dungeon shut. Alam yelled again as he threw the stone at them, “Krun!!!!! Yonna san….!!”
The green stone hit the door with a clink and fell onto the cold floor. Its bright light began to dim and retreated back into itself. Alam gripped the bars of his cellar with all the might his old arms could muster and yanked at them in vain. Finally, with tears rolling down his face, Alam collapsed, “”
Something made a massive impact somewhere in the castle and sent a violent tremor throughout the foundation, but Alam did not react to it.
Mahlonik opened the curtains in his war room to see the airships. Countless projectiles shot from the gustons and tanks surrounding the castle but the silver ships kept their course. Finally, as the airships got close enough for Mahlonik’s eyes to make them out fully, he gasped. It was true that his SchinGaerdians had never seen these things before, but they were familiar to Mahlonik, “
Sanid and Viktis rushed into the room, “
The airships hummed closer, now taking direct hits from the SchinGaerdian defense but remained unwavering in the sky. The airships themselves stopped their occasional firing completely and sat floating level with the high towers of Ol SchinGaerd Vlack.
An odd frequency came through on the radio, calling to the Schinderking’s controls. Mahlonik spoke into the communication channel to his army, “
Dogo retorted quickly, “
Viktis turned her head, keeping her eyes on the ships, “
Another grunt and chuckle came through the radio, this time from just one creature. Then with an eerie voice it spoke, “Osh? Osh, osh, osh, oshoshoshoshosh. Ohhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaahaaaaaaaa!” The radio link broke off after the voice carried into a frightening laughter and other voices around it joined in. Now one of the airships opened up on its sides, like it was slowly raising its wings. Mahlonik, Sanid, and Viktis stared dumbfounded at this as a haphazard mass of dark bodies jumped from the openings. These bodies only fell for a moment before each of them seemed to grow in size as they unfurled massive wings. Now the beings glided toward the castle.
Mahlonik screamed, “
The gustons and tanks continued their onslaught of metal and fire, but by this time many of the flying creatures had reached the castle. Dogo stood in the front courtyard watching the gliding figures before shooting a few down from his anti-aircraft station. Soon too many surrounded Dogo and he ran toward the double doors entering the castle. Dogo tried to slam the doors, but the winged-apes overwhelmed his strength and pushed into the anteroom. Dogo raised his staff and twisted it to reveal its blade at the end. Hungry eyes stared him down as dark rough hands unsheathed daggers and swords.
Fenal and Revo ran up behind Dogo and prepared themselves. The apes rushed the three SchinGaerdians. Dogo quickly stabbed two and they were trampled by the crowd of other apes as the three humans were forced backwards. Revo and Fenal closed the interior double doors just as Dogo dispatched another. The three SchinGaerdians now had a moment to collect themselves, but the wooden doors soon began to creak and bend and crack as the demonic screams grew louder and louder on the other side.
Revo looked worried, “
Dogo quickly shot an angry look to his cousin, “
Revo whimpered, “
Fenal hit Revo on the shoulder, “
Revo tried to stay still but he lost control. He began running toward the dungeon leaving Dogo and Fenal behind at the door. Revo shouted “”
The doors now began to buckle even more and opened slightly, “
Revo almost reached the dungeon door when a gorilla burst through the high-arched window to his left. Revo lifted his staff against the enormous, dark, angel-like thing, but the gorilla swung a large hammer across the young warriors face, knocking him out while breaking his neck. The gorilla then huffed and heaved his hammer over his shoulder as he ran further into the castle.
Fenal and Dogo spun, swerved, stabbed, and bludgeoned, but soon had to run again. In their fleeing they only had a split second to acknowledge Revo’s body on the floor before it was swarmed over with the mass of hellbent apes.
Viktis listened to the screams ringing throughout the great halls of the castle. “
All at once a gorilla with a large hammer crashed around the corner from the left end of the hall and tore up the carpet as he charged them. The great beast lifted his hammer and roared showing his teeth. Sanid without a word stepped forward with her left foot and flexed her mighty right bicep as she threw her staff like a javelin toward him. The sharp blade quietly impaled the ape’s heart and the gorilla was suddenly pole-vaulted over the staff as it caught on the ground. The great ape tumbled and his mouth gasped for breath before he died. Sanid walked over to reclaim her staff and Mahlonik and Viktis came to join her. Sanid said not a word but glanced back. They looked past her as they inched forward down the hall. The Schinderking could hear crashes and booming as he was sure his beautiful home was being carelessly treaded upon and dismantled. Soon the crashing came to meet them as Dogo and Fenal ran around the same corner and were followed by a river of frantic chimpanzees.
The Schinderking stepped forward determined and with his tall stature swung over Dogo’s head at the width of the hallway, decapitating several apes and cutting many of them open. Sanid jumped in next and cut a few down, then Viktis did the same. The three of them did this for a few moments as Dogo caught his breath and joined in as well. They were holding them back, but the apes were too many.
One jumped and glided clear over them in the space of the high ceiling and knocked Dogo back. This weakened their defense and they had to retreat a bit. Dogo dispatched the ape with the blunt end of his staff and looked to the exterior door.
“” Dogo yelled before he ran out into the courtyard.
Half disappointed and half in disbelief, Mahlonik acknowledged his nephew running from the fight all the while keeping his eyes on the crazed little creatures before them. Another tried to jump over them but Sanid quickly thrust her staff upward and stabbed the beast. However this left her front open and one chimp dropkicked her, sending her tumbling backward. Mahlonik and Vikits covered her, but they lost more ground. They were now in front of the open war room doors. Suddenly they could hear the humming of one of their tanks and as Sanid stood they saw a massive gun pointing into the hall right at them. “
All was still for a moment and Sanid peeked her head out into the hall. The whole lot of apes were now pieces of char. Sanid looked to the tank Dogo manned when it was abruptly fired upon and exploded into several chunks of shrapnel. Sanid stared in shock for a moment. “
Before long the metal doors began to rattle from the mass growing outside it. The Schinderking stood back and looked to his daughters, who were both staring forward at the door, ready to give their lives for him. Mahlonik dropped his staff and sighed. He reached out his arms to Sanid and Viktis and they came to him tenderly.
“” The Schinderking said.
Viktis spoke, “
Mahlonik interupted her gently, “<-Father, you may call me Father…>”
Viktis looked up at him and kept her countenance though she was afraid, “
Sanid knocked her staff on the hard floor and looked to Mahlonik as she said with defiance, “
In that moment Mahlonik felt guilty, like a monster for keeping them here and leading them to doom. But then he was grateful. Grateful that his wonderful daughters had broken his law to free his younger sons, and that they would not meet their end here this day. He was also grateful that Craigor was not there, for he would make a great Schinderking. Mahlonik now looked into the eyes of each of his daughters and his own began to water. His voice trembled, “Ayf! Yal elken yonnas, yal lings, yal jonos! (Oh! I love you, my princesses, my daughters.)” Just then they saw a missile hurling toward them through the grand window of the chamber that exploded into a brightness equal to the Sun. First came the compression as the glass broke and shot inward, then they felt the heat of the horrible weapon, and finally all before the eyes of the Schinderlings of Ol SchinGaerd Vlack faded ever so quickly into black.
Samoht and Leahcim sat at a plain aluminum table in a plain cement room with a large mirror that was plainly a 2-way mirror. They sat silently, not knowing what would happen now that they had been apprehended by the military. Leahcim’s hands warmed the metal they touched on the table. Not knowing how long he sat as such, he moved them on the table and suddenly it felt wet before his skin registered it was simply cold. The commander that had yelled at them before when they were seized now walked into the room and sat opposite of them.
They were both nervous. Leahcim looked intently and respectfully forward while Samoht shifted in his seat, which was too small and rigid for his liking. Samoht had an air of defiance in his glare toward the commander, as was his nature to anything authoritative or orthodox.
The commander spoke, “So…Schinderling. That’s not a very common name here in the U.S.”
“It’s not common anywhere.” Samoht muttered, not caring.
“But it’s well known.” The commander continued, “Have you any idea the kind of trouble you two could start by claiming that name as your alias? In the situation we found you in? With all that ruckus you put together downtown with your little circus?”
Leahcim was profoundly perplexed, “But we are Schinderlings. I am Leahcim and he is Samoht. We are Senator Jan Schinderling’s sons. Don’t you have records on us?”
The commander spoke, “Yeah, but considering you had no I.D. on you I’m going to have to assume you’re not who you say you are until the records surface. Secondly, I know about Senator Jan and her little floating tree house in the Badlands. Her boys are a couple of recluses. She didn’t raise a couple of hard-headed fools who would cause a mess like you did.”
Samoht leaned back and jested, “Well, we weren’t [_raised _]that way. Just sorta happened.”
Leahcim ignoring his brother’s snarkiness once again continued, “We told you, sir. We were trying to help. We DID help. We stopped several of those armed buses and we chased a few of those animals to the roof of the building where they jumped in that aircraft and got away. We had every chance to join them. But we didn’t.”
The commander squinted his eyes, “I see. So you don’t run things. You got left behind and now you’re trying to get out. Who do you work for?!”
Just then the door to the room opened quickly and an older man with a reddish grey mustache rushed in throwing a couple of folders on the table. A picture of Leahcim slid out of one of them as it landed. “Godammit, Gary! I told you to not to come in here until we could identify them. Senator Jan Schinderling is here and she will be pissed if you questioned them unfairly. We don’t need her riding our ass in another hearing in Congress!” He clearly outranked the commander given the metals on his jacket. General Pederson stood over the soldier who had been interrogating them.
Gary, the commander, now looking like a kid who got caught stealing a cookie, abruptly stood and saluted, “Sir, I apologize, sir! Sir, I just wanted to put some fear into them and get to the bottom of this thing ASAP, Sir!”
General Pederson responded, “We can’t question them like this! They have diplomatic immunity! A very important detail you missed, Commander!”
Leahcim raised his hand to ask a question, “Excuse me, diplomatic immunity? Because we’re princes?”
General Pederson turned to Leahcim, “Well, you’re a prince, yes, but he’s now a king.” He said pointing to Samoht. Pederson then turned back to Gary, “Of a sovereign state!”
Samoht stood up, suddenly very sobered from his rebellious act. “Wait! What do you mean?”
A million things started running through both of the brother’s heads before General Pederson answered him, “Please follow me. Your mother would like to speak with you about it herself.”
Samoht and Leahcim walked out into a lobby where they saw natural light for the first time in many hours. Jan was standing there chewing a soldier out who wouldn’t let her past to see her sons. Agent Ren was sitting next to her keeping a watchful eye out the window and down the entrance hall. He looked like a stray cat that had been out against the elements for too long. Jan’s eyes fell from the soldier barring her way and upon her boys. She suddenly calmed the storm that was her fury and stared at them for a moment, then she rushed forward and hugged them. Samoht and Leahcim were partly surprised to see their mother recovered so quickly from when they last saw her. Jan still had a bandage on her head but they could have guessed it wasn’t needed.
“Samoht, Leahcim. There is some bad news from the S.S.S. Kingdom. Your father has been….someone bombed the castle and now you two are the only royal… the only Schinderlings left.” Jan did her best, but her voice trembled for the hurt her sons must have felt. She was not glad to hear of Mahlonik’s demise, and she was heartbroken to hear of the loss of Sanid, Vikits, and Craigor, the latter whom she along with most of the world believed had been in the melee. Samoht said nothing, he just clenched his jaw and stared at the wall, not blinking. Leahcim felt the words hit him like a battering ram. The shock of it held any tears at bay, but Leahcim did feel a swell of something rising in his stomach, Jan continued, “Samoht, that makes you the—”
“-How do you know they’re dead?” Samoht blurted out, sounding defensive.
Jan searched her son’s face, “Samoht, some locals reported to German authorities what happened to the castle. They said it had been—”
Samoht stepped closer to Jan, held out his hand, and said in a dry, croaky voice, “Mother, may I have your keys?”
Jan’s eyes widened and she tried to reason with him, “Samoht, I don’t think this is the best time. You just need a moment to—”
“Mother…please.” Samoht pleaded, more painful than demanding.
Jan held out her keys. Ren rose uncomfortably and stood to meet Samoht, “Listen, I can let what happened before slide in light of the situation, but I think you need to think about your safety.” Ren said.
Samoht’s eyes looked at Ren full of fire and the agent sat back down, seeing this was not the trickster who drugged him earlier. Samoht started to walk out and Leahcim followed knowing nonverbally that Samoht expected him to come. In a matter of minutes the two of them boarded their mothers aircraft and were flying to the East Coast. Once they reached the Atlantic Ocean, Samoht hit a gear that sent them hurling over the seas at an ungodly speed.
Their guston came upon the bay of Schinderlingslyvokiaslyvania and they both jolted forward in their seats as Samoht slowed the craft over the beach. Without fully seeing the details they could feel the energy of the land was grim. Leahcim looked down and saw a tank in a large crater of sand. They flew forward and their visibility was soon obscured by pillars of smoke rising from the Hufut Forest. The country looked just like the skyline of Minneapolis had when they first arrived there. Samoht’s eyes didn’t blink and he directed the guston through the smoke toward the South.
Leahcim saw how tough it was for Samoht to fly through this, “Samoht, maybe we should land and…”
“Leahcim. I will soon. When we reach SchinGaerd.”
Leahcim just sat back and stared at the smoke, scared they might encounter something in the air. Soon the smoke thinned out and they could see farther. The city of Dafnu sat quiet and sad, but Ol SchinGaerd Vlack looked much, much worse. The once powerful fortress now looked like a broken hand rather than a strong one reaching for the sky. If it hadn’t been for the fire rising from it burning what little flammable material there was left and for the fresh scorch marks on the stones, one would think they were looking on ancient ruins. Samoht circled the castle closely, looking down at it and within moments he had to look away. He couldn’t find a safe and clear place to land among the many courtyards, because they were now all filled with fallen stones, deconstructed war machines and most probably bodies. Their guston glided toward Dafnu and they landed just outside the town on a patch of flat grass next to the road that went up the mountain to the castle.
Samoht powered down the vehicle and rushed outside before Leahcim could even unbuckle.
Samoht started walking swiftly up the road and Leahcim ran after him. He had never seen Samoht like this before. But there was nothing he could do or say that would slow his brother down. All he could do was follow him until Samoht found or did what he needed to do. Leahcim knew what this was, and he knew he was responsible for it too. But he wasn’t sure if he could, and he probably wouldn’t have if Samoht wasn’t pushing forward so hard. Samoht suddenly paused, sighed, and making a weird noise of desperation he began running up the road. Leahcim sped up too. Within ten minutes they reached the castle. There was still some way to go around the path to reach the main entrance but Samoht quickly saw an opening in a demolished wall leading into a tower and went straight for it.
Once in the tower they began climbing the circular stairs. Their was a strong smell about the halls. Leahcim covered his face, “What is that smell?”
Samoht kept moving but assessed it in a monotone voice, “It’s like sulfur, but that’s not quite it. I can’t really tell. It smells like a whole bunch of chemicals mixed together, or-”
There was then a rumble. The walls and stairs about them began to shake.
Leahcim looked up, “It feels like an earthquake, but, were not on a fault line.”
“That’s because the ground beneath is giving way. C’mon!” Samoht grabbed his brother and forced him ahead. The tower they were in was built right on the edge of a cliff, and recently its foundation must have been badly loosened. They ran up the stairs looking for the next archway leading into the castle, but the floors were far apart. Soon the stairs tilted slightly, and just as they came to an archway the tower broke free from the castle proper and the hallway before them seemed to jump away from them.
“Run for the next archway!” Samoht yelled and they continued up. The tower was falling steadily for there was still a little support underneath it but it was about to tumult quickly. They ran up, getting disoriented from the shaking, tilting, and circuitous nature of the stairs. Finally another archway became visible but it was sliding against large stones of the outer wall. Samoht grabbed Leahcim to steady him or himself, “Wait for it.”
The archway then slid to the opening of a hallway and Samoht pushed Leahcim into it while still holding on and they both tripped forward. They landed, rolled and crashed into a table, breaking it into pieces.
Samoht stood abruptly and continued down the hall, determined and as if they had not just hopped from a falling building into another. Leahcim was about to call to Samoht but was disoriented by the smell of the halls. He knew now what that odor was, though this was the first time he actually experienced it. It was in fact chemicals from the bombs, but it was also the reeking stench of death. They turned a corner and found a plethora of dead apes piled in the hall. They walked further slowly, warily keeping an eye out for survivoring apes. Soon they felt a large draft coming in from a blown out window behind them and out an open door to a courtyard where a scorched and dismantled tank lay. Samoht then found the doorway to the Meeting Chamber and rested his hand on the archway, like he had so many years ago with Leahcim while they eavesdropped on their parents. One of the metal doors was still closed, which blocked their view of the inside of the room. Leahcim put his hand on Samoht’s shoulder and they walked in together.
Broken glass crunched below them as they went. They saw before them a room that looked like everything in it had been painted black. Once the shapes of the bodies jumped out from the darkness of it all Leahcim fell to his knees and vomited. Samoht remained standing and walked toward them. Though they had been twisted and petrified by extreme heat, he could see the staffs of Viktis and Sanid lying next to them, and on the finger of the one in the middle was clearly the large ring that the Schinderking wore. Samoht walked into the hall and tore a tapestry down from the wall. Leahcim looked up just as Samoht covered their bodies with it. Samoht then walked toward the window and looked out. Leahcim was no longer shocked and now could feel his own grief. Tears started to run warmly down Leahcim’s cheeks, he sobbed. The sounds of it must have triggered Samoht, because he suddenly punched through the stone wall making the window frame crumble, he then turned and ran through a pillar and finally punched another wall. Stones fell onto him but he remained unharmed.
Then just next to Leacim it sounded like a large plank of wood cracked and a slab of floor stone fell open like a trapdoor. Samoht and Leahcim suddenly looked to it curiously. This was not a result of the damage, this was a function of the castle. Leahcim searched Samoht’s face and looked into the trapdoor. The slab had metal hinges that allowed it to open and hang, swinging. Leahcim, not knowing what else to do, jumped down into it.
Samoht ran up, “Wait, you don’t know what’s down there. And now’s not the time to go exploring the unstable foundations of this castle.”
“I know, but we have to look. Someone might have found refuge down here. If so, we have to retrieve them.”
Samoht sighed, “Leahcim, if Dad didn’t then…” Samoht looked down at Leahcim in the darkness. His younger brother’s eyes looked hurt. If this would make his brother feel better in the hopes of saving someone, even for a few minutes, then Samoht had to comply. “Here, take my flashlight and move over.” Samoht landed heavily next to Leahcim, who now had the small flashlight illuminating the space. Above them, right under the floor of the chamber, a large plank was connected to an apparatus that rotated on a large gear to move the plank aside in order for the trapdoor to open, though now the apparatus was obsolete since the plank broke.
Leahcim found a door, a very short one, and opened it. “Hello! Is anyone down here? You can come out now!”
The small door opened to a massive chamber from which an odd odor came. It was full of many things: huge wooden chests, armor, swords and other weapons were neatly packed away.
“This must have been shut for hundreds of years.” Leahcim said.
“This is just a bunch of junk. We should go, Cimmy.”
“Hold on.” Leahcim then spotted something on a table by itself. It sat as if on display upon a lush crimson cushion. It was a mallet made of lead. The head of it was nothing fancy but the hilt had some fantastic symbols on it, running in a circle around the handle. Something about it drew Leahcim to it. It seemed very familiar yet altogether alien. In either case, he grabbed it and felt its weight in his hands.
“What are you doing?” Samoht asked.
“If we run into anymore trouble, I want to be able to defend myself without stabbing something to death. I don’t think swords are for me.” Leahcim said.
“Fair enough.” Samoht looked back toward the way out and started for it, he then stopped right below the opening in the floor, “Dammit, Dad! Why couldn’t you just…why didn’t you know about this!”
“Samoht, what is it?” Leahcim asked, fearful of his brother’s frantic state.
“Look at this place down here! Nothing was touched! Nothing. It’s…nothing… nothing can be done now.” Samoht took a deep breath and continued. “As stubborn as he was he never would have kept them in the line of fire purposely. He clearly didn’t know about this room.”
Once the brothers climbed out of the trapdoor, they gazed again at the tapestry that covered their family members and spent a few more moments of silence with them. Samoht turned suddenly and walked out. Leahcim turned too and solemnly followed with the hammer swinging in his hand. As they walked through the desolate halls Samoht seemed to be burdened with another task given that his quiet determination returned. They had come to see for sure what was claimed, but what could they do in the moment? With no information, Leahcim wondered where Samoht was directing his energy. He understood why Samoht was acting this way, but Leahcim himself wasn’t as angry, he was just truly sad. The kind of sad that makes one feel like an ant at the base of a mountain; low and minuscule and altogether helpless. But Samoht was fueled by a rage, one Leahcim was afraid to see manifest.
Samoht pushed two large and broken doors apart near the main entrance and walked swiftly through the anteroom into the front courtyard. There they found one of the tanks still in one piece, with the top hatch open as if it had been abandoned or someone had been taken from it. Samoht got inside to find it was empty either way and activated the engine. Leahcim got in as well and Samoht drove them quickly toward the guston at the base of the mountain. As they got out and headed for the aircraft they noticed a crowd had gathered near it on the road.
A number of Dafnu residents looked on them curiously with dirty, worry-stricken faces that seemed to search for something. A woman with short, cropped black hair stood with two children behind her. Her skin looked olive toned, but might have just been sullied in the siege. The woman stepped forward, her light blue eyes popping out from the darkness of her face and hair. She was apprehensive, but her character clearly consisted of strength and intelligence. The children behind her ran to a very old man with a cane and cried. The woman turned back to them speaking in affluent Lingskeo, “
Samoht looked at her, then to all the people gathered, and past them to the town that had gotten a huge blow of the battle, “I’m not sure I can…”
The woman looked confused and responded in English, “You don’t speak Lingskeo to me, though you fly a guston and drive one of our tanks.” She suddenly became suspicious and stepped back, “ You are not a part of the SchinGaerd?”
Samoht seemed overwhelmed and stayed silent. Leahcim stepped forward to speak, “I’m afraid that technically, we are all that is left.”
The woman’s eyes widened and she bowed, “Forgive me. I did not recognize you two, but I do now. My name is Arak Kondu. I am the Schinderking’s ambassador to the U.S. I came home to visit when…this happened. You are Samoht and Leahcim. Are our allies bringing help?”
Samoht suddenly looked up and spoke in Lingskeo, pausing occasionally, but finding his words, “
Arak looked on and was visibly relieved. Her children ran to her and grabbed her hands, looking at Samoht and Leahcim with sets of green and blue eyes.
Leahcim stepped closer to speak with Arak, “Take some adults up to the castle and scavenge the valuables you can. But make sure to wear breathing masks and don’t take any of the food, because it might be contaminated. I know it may take a lot more than money to rebuild but it should help.”
Arak reached to grab Leahcim’s shoulder but did not touch him, “You can’t expect us to take from the Schinderking’s treasury.”
Leahcim saw that Samoht was now in the guston waiting for him, “Yes, I can. You have more of a right to it than we do. That wealth is meant to uphold this nation, so that is what you will do with it, okay Arak? And while we are gone we’re appointing you to be in charge.”
Arak now seemed overwhelmed, her knees wobbled, “I will do what is asked of me. And we will give your family a proper funeral.”
Leahcim’s brown eyes looked intensely into Arak’s blue irises, trying to find an anchor in reality. Everything felt so surreal now. He spoke softly, “…Yal flinks.”
Leahcim then turned, hammer in hand, and boarded the guston. Samoht looked out at the people gathered once more and engaged the thrusters. The guston rose vertically and hovered a moment before tilting forward and shooting toward the North.
Below Ol SchinGaerd Vlack at the base of its outer foundation a pile of rocks started to move and an old hand reached forth from the cold mass. The hand grabbed a handful of dirt and rocks and pulled to reveal a sleeve. Soon Alam emerged, climbing and crawling from the pile the best that he could at his age. He stood on the shifting stones and took a moment to gain his footing before taking in the sight of the castle above him. At the sight of it Alam began to weep, not only from sadness but from guilt. For somewhere deep down he knew that no one else from the castle had survived. But he, the one deemed as a traitor, had the fortune of being put in a cell, one that as it detached and fell from the castle protected him from heavy debris and spared his life. His eyes continued to fill up with tears until they blurred his vision, then he blinked to clear them as he heard something in the direction of Dafnu. As Alam looked down from the mountain he saw a guston rise into the air. This one was different, it was not the color of the SchinGaerdian fleet. In a moment it flew swiftly away and Alam knew who was in it. He soon felt a little relieved, for he knew then that what he had done to help those princes escape was right, and now they would do what they needed to do. Alam saw something stand out among the gray stones. A green gem. He picked it up, put it in his pocket, and started walking down the path to Dafnu so he could do what he needed to do.
Back in the city of Washington, in the District of Columbia, Samoht and Leahcim arrived at the Schinderlingslyvokiaslyvanian Embassy along with Jan and Ren. The building was a good size, with four stories and many offices, but few people actually worked there. There were few S.S.S. citizens that ever left the country, and if they did, they returned shortly thereafter. However, about a dozen people from the tiny land lived quiet obscure lives stateside. Upon hearing the news of their country many wanted to flee immediately, but they stayed to perform their duties. They expected to see Arak Kondu exit the guston upon the roof of the embassy, but at the sight of Samoht and Leahcim, their resolve became even stronger.
Samoht had called for a press release, and with the excitement of the attack on the S.S.S. Kingdom as well as there being many questions about who the successor of the notorious Mahlonik could be, people flooded the capital and swarmed around the embassy. News helicopters hovered as close as they dared while military helicopters watched them and yelled through megaphones at the photographers that were taking photos from roofs adjacent to the embassy.
Samoht was not able to focus until they got inside the building. He was escorted to a large office where a suit waited for him. He turned to his mother once he saw it, “I’m not going to wear that. I’m not a damn politician.”
Jan grabbed the suit and held it up to him, “No, maybe you’re not, but we want those out there who are responsible for this to know you are serious.”
Samoht clenched his jaw and his face got red, “I’ll show them I’m serious!!!”
Leahcim leaned against the door frame and noticed that everyone working at the embassy was in the hall listening. He politely nodded to them and closed the door, leaving Ren to guard it as the Schinderlingslyvokiaslyvanians stared at him anxiously.
Jan noticed the door had closed and set the suit aside. She then walked up to Samoht and grabbed his shoulders. His head drooped sadly as she made contact with him and Jan stared into his eyes, “Samoht. I am so, so sorry that this happened. But you need to take control of this thing before it takes control of you.” She then reached out to Leahcim to join them and both the brothers hugged their mother. Jan continued, “You need to remember the First Proverb of the Schinderlings. ‘The people who think they have an enemy are enemies unto themselves.’ Remember, my boys. Justice. Not revenge. That is how we solve this. That is how we overcome.”
Samoht then stood to his full height. He often joked and made comments like he didn’t listen, but Samoht was smart, and not just with technology. He felt and thought deeply, though the few who knew him well had even seen this. However, it began to show now, for when Samoht felt a responsibility to do something he applied himself, fully and truly. Samoht looked at the suit provided, then down at his green jumpsuit that he always wore, “Okay, but I’m still not wearing no monkey suit.”
Jan walked over to a wardrobe near the wall and opened it, “Well, if memory serves me right…” She then reached into it and pulled out a large, blue formal robe, “you may not have to.”
Samoht donned the blue robe over his jumpsuit, which instantly transformed his utilitarian look into one that was sharp, powerful, and respectable. He strolled out of the office and down the hall. Ren stood back and thought the robe odd, but the people of the embassy were made proud at this sight. Something devastating had just happened to them, and now before them stood the symbol of the solution. Samoht’s face was hard and determined, thinking of what to say. When they got to the first floor they walked through the front hall of marble and opened the main doors to a lightning storm of flash photography and a thunderous orchestra of voices on the street.
Samoht walked right to the podium at the top of the stairs and looked out into the crowd. Jan, Leahcim, Ren, and the people of the embassy flanked Samoht.
Samoht stood confident, and looked directly into the camera in front of him, “My name is Samoht Schinderling and I am the new Schinderking of Schinderlingslyvokiaslyvania. I stand before you, grieving the loss of….” Samoht quickly dropped the formality, “-I don’t know what sick freaks would attack my mother’s life and take those of my father, siblings, and cousins, and I don’t know why, but this whole charade is going to end soon. I know someone is behind these flying ape-things, and whoever they may be, they made the worst mistake of the century, and they will meet the consequences of their actions!” Samoht then turned away and left the podium, disappearing into the S.S.S. Embassy. He kept his voice steady during his whole speech but as Leahcim followed him into the offices he could see the tears running down his brother’s cheeks. Samoht was now a king, a vengeful one at that, and Leahcim would be with him every step of the way until they solved the problem that had been placed before them.
But Leahcim could see Samoht needed a few moments to himself, as he hadn’t had for much time. So as Samoht retreated to the large office he was given, Leahcim found one that wasn’t in use and closed the door once he was inside. He sat down to collect his thoughts, or stop thinking altogether, and listened to the silence. He was so frustrated. So angry. He always heard his mother’s wise words growing up and they rang true but it was another thing to live them. Knowing his mother was right, but still wanting to feel his hatred, Leahcim closed his eyes and began to breath deeply and search for an answer of how to proceed.
His body surged with something, like adrenaline, but much stronger. His heart beat faster and his forearms began to burn. Soon they felt very strange, like they had separated from his body and reconnected. Leahcim knew something weird was occurring and when he opened his eyes he thought he might be hallucinating. His left arm had transformed into a thick, muscular limb with a paw at the end. It was covered in orange, white, and black-striped fur. But it was not as odd as his right arm, which nearly made him faint as he looked at it. This limb was now a long, bluish-green, scaled serpentine form that ended in a large reptilian head. This head had long yellow whiskers and looked as if it was sleeping.
Leahcim breathed in slowly and noticed that the reptilian head’s nostrils expanded as he did so and he could feel the air coming into it like a breeze on his hand. He now tried to move it, which at first was as difficult as when one wakes up and finds their arm is still asleep, but soon the neck twisted and turned as the face of the reptilian head pointed toward Leahcim’s own. He then willed it to move again and the eyelids opened, revealing two frightening eyeballs much bigger than his own with two amazing dark green irises that changed to yellow as the pupils dilated to focus and adjust to the light. This was the strangest part, because as the reptilian head’s eyes focused on Leahcim he suddenly saw his own face react. He was observing the head through his own eyes but could see himself through the reptilian head’s eyes. It made no sense to him, but he had double vision, and his brain was processing two visuals at once. Soon he closed his human eyes but still saw himself through his “hand.” Leahcim began to meditate to calm down and tried to think of his arms as simple arms again. After a few moments of this the view he had of himself blurred and faded. Leahcim then opened his eyes and looked down at his arms, which were now normal again. The tattoos on each forearm still glowed slightly green, “Grandmaster Texan…” Leahcim said aloud in a whisper, “…what the fuck did you do to me?”
The door to the office then opened and Jan popped her head in. When she saw Leahcim she sighed, “There you are. Would you like something to eat, dear? I can imagine you’ve been too busy to remember.”
Leahcim looked down at his arms again, “Yeah, I should probably eat something.”
Jan picked up on his strange demeanor, “What were you doing in here?”
Leahcim responded, “I just needed a moment to…myself.”
Jan tried to smile and put her arm around Leahcim as they walked into the common room. Though he could have done it himself, Jan placed a bagel on a plate and handed it to Leahcim in a motherly fashion. She then grabbed a cup and asked him, “Would you like some milk?”
Leahcim thought for a moment and recalled his experience at GM Texan’s ranch. “No, thank you. I think I’m going vegan.”
Just then one of the people of the embassy ran up to them speaking in that peculiar accent that only hailed from the S.S.S. Kingdom, “Pardon me for interrupting, but someone just revealed footage of the airships that attacked us. They’re showing it on the news.”
Jan and Leahcim followed the person to the television where everyone save for Samoht was standing there watching. The shaky but clear footage showed silvery-gray masses descending from dark clouds and firing toward the ground. Gustons flew about them and they exchanged projectiles until one of each side fell from the sky. Jan looked on these with amazement and shuddered. She knew what these were, because she had seen them before. Leahcim saw them and spoke, “That’s just like the one that we saw from the tower in Minneapolis.”
Jan shot him a frightened look. Ren came closer to the two of them and spoke, “They kinda look like alien spacecrafts, don’t they?”
Jan grabbed Leahcim’s arm and pulled him as Ren noticed and followed.
“No, not alien. We have to speak with Samoht.” Jan said.
The three of them rushed to what was now Samoht’s office and found him looking at a large map of the world on the desk. As they approached they could see he had drawn a thick line with marker connecting Minneapolis and Schinderlingslyvokiaslyvania. He also drew circles around many other points on the globe. Samoht looked up annoyed, like he had been on the verge of solving something. Leahcim was the last to enter the room and closed the door behind him.
Jan spoke, “Samoht, I recognize those airships.”
“What do you mean, Mom?” Samoht said, now eager for more information on them.
“I know them. Well, I’ve seen the blueprints for them before. They were designed by your father’s military council. He commissioned them to be made to defend the S.S.S. Kingdom. It was the reason he and I had our falling out.” Jan said.
Samoht leaned back in his chair shocked, “And now they were used to level the land they came from. Why didn’t he have them made?”
Jan leaned on the desk and looked back and forth to both her sons, “I’m not sure. After he and I…disagreed, I left with you two as soon as possible. I don’t know if he simply didn’t have the resources to build them or if he finally took my advice to not do so.”
There was then a knock on the door. They were all so enveloped in the new discovery only Leahcim reacted to it and quickly went to the door. Upon opening it he found an unexpected sight. Ike was standing there holding a mallet made completely of wood. On top of being shocked to see the Irishman, Leahcim saw the item he held looked just like his hammer, but it wasn’t made of lead. It reminded him that he had left his in the office downstairs.
But before he could think on this further Ike said, “So, it looks like you found the Alchemy Hammer.”
Leahcim responded, “The Alchemy what-?”
“-but yer going to need to learn how to use it.” Ike said as he twisted a movable ring on the hilt. The hammer suddenly changed from wood to pure gold. He then turned it again and it changed back to lead. Ike then handed it back to Leahcim and the young man nearly dropped it in amazement at what he had seen.
All of this was in the hallway out of sight of the other three in the room, but Ike now walked into their view, “And to answer yer question, Mahlonik didn’t have the resources to build them. If he did listen to you more, Jan, we’d all be much better off.”
Samoht stood glaring at Ike, “Oh great. What are you doing here?”
Ike looked Samoht up and down and spoke in a respectful manner, despite the general goofiness of his character, “I’ve come to help you, Schinderking. I served your father for the money but I’ll serve you for a much better reason; we have to take down those airships. I’m not sure what else other than sword-bearing apes this army has but those ships alone could conquer many nations. When Jan was queen she may have seen the blueprints for them back at Ol SchinGaerd Vlack but I was the one who designed them.”
Samoht looked from Ike to Jan, and she nodded to assent this was true. Ike continued, “They could only be made with a special alloy that was light enough to fly and strong enough to withstand immense speed and the onslaught of fire power. But the good news is even though I don’t know who got their hands on the plans or who is running things, I do know there is only one company that can manufacture the alloy in the amount sufficient enough to build these machines. I’m sure it was purchased under a false name but it is a good place to start.” Ike dropped a folder on Samoht’s desk with the logo of Roinyo, Inc., a well-known manufacturer.
“Ike, how did you get these files?” Samoht asked.
“I’m a spy, remember?” Ike said, smiling.
Samoht walked around the table and reached his hand out to Ike, “You may be as crazy as they come, but I appreciate your help, Ike.”
“No worries” Ike said, as he pulled out another folder in his bag, “and ya might want to take a look at this.” Samoht opened it and revealed blueprints of the airships. Samoht looked up and before he could ask Ike spoke again, “I always keep a copy of my designs for myself. But the only other authorized copy is held in secret at Ol SchinGaerd Vlack, or was, rather.”
“Someone got a hold of it.” Samoht said, suddenly thinking of something.
Ike looked around the room and back at Samoht, “Aye, and some time ago.”
Samoht picked the Roinyo papers up and handed them to Jan, “Mom, I need copies of these made.”
Jan took them, “You’ve got it. And I’m going to take a few to show Congress. We’ll request Roinyo to give us official records and ask the FBI to aid in researching this name they were purchased under.”
Jan left the room quickly and Ren was close on her heals. Samoht turned to Ike, “You know how to fly a guston?”
“That I do.”
Samoht threw Ike the keys, “Good, you’ll be bringing it back for my mother once Leahcim and I are dropped off.”
Ike nodded and strode from the room, going quickly for the roof. Leahcim looked back in confusion, “What are we doing, Samoht? And I hate to bring it up but do you think perhaps we should mention that Craigor wasn’t at the castle when it was attacked?”
Samoht put his hand on Leahcim’s shoulder, “That’s why I wanted to talk with you privately. I sense Craigor has something to do with this.”
“Do you mean…”
“I don’t know, but we can’t just sit around wondering. You and I are going home to fix up the Roke Ard and then we’re gonna get out there to put an end to this. And either way we’re going to find Craigor. You were right, this is our purpose, and we will follow through with it.”
Samoht reached out his right hand. Leahcim looked down at it and stared back into Samoht’s face. Leahcim then shifted his hammer from his right hand to his left and grasped Samoht’s tightly. Leahcim’s jaw clenched and he spoke in Lingskeo, “
The warehouse that was once full of caged apes was now full of the same creatures, but they were moving about freely, armed with battle gear. They operated forklifts and moved crates of weapons and supplies, loading the oblong silver ships that had just been finished and sat silently waiting to be awakened and flown through the skies. A few humans were left, and as odd as they thought the sight of it was, these henchmen were promised good pay if they kept quiet and continued to work. Two henchmen stood near a crate looking at everything.
They both had criminal records and troubled pasts. One was an ex-navy seal and the other a member of a biker gang. A couple chimps walked by them with boxes and in a moment they stopped walking. The whole warehouse was suddenly silent. Every machine stopped moving and the two chimps with boxes set them down softly. Soon all that was heard was the high-pitched clicking of shoe heels on the flat cement floor. Someone was approaching, and they were no chimp. The apes stepped aside and made way for the navy-blue hooded and cloaked figure that stood tall above the apes save for the gorillas. The figure spoke, “It’s a shame we lost Sanjun in the way we did.”
The ex-seal stood up straight at the sight of the hooded person, “It is, Overlord Eveela.”
The hooded person winced, “Overlord A-val-a. But lucky for me I don’t need him anymore. And Sanjun was much more useful than you.”
Now a few apes pushed the last remaining humans into the circle that they had formed around the ex-seal and the biker.
The biker stepped forward, “What’s this about? Huh? We’ve been working for you for a long time now. And we’ve been doing our job!”
The Overlord raised his hand and the apes beside him drew their swords.
“You have, yes. You know, chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas are beautiful animals. Strong, quite smart, and exceedingly loyal to and protective of their own.” The hooded figure pointed to a chimp beside him that was missing an ear and continued, “Moko here led an attack on my enemies. He lost an ear, got disoriented, but he came back to me. The serum Ochoa made to control them seems to weaken when they feel pain, but that can be fixed; improved. The loyalty of man, however, is fickle and dependent upon silly things. Things my Aerial Simian children care nothing about.”
One of the humans yelled out, “But we didn’t do anything to betray you, Overlord Avala. We’re not here just for the money. We believe in your cause.”
The Overlord smiled, “Yes, but for how long? I’m going to have to do some hideous and horrible things to get what I want, and I’m not sure you lot can stomach it. And if you can, I’m not sure you’ll stay loyal. In my experience fear and wealth hold humans in line, and while I have plenty of both to hand out I just can’t afford to allow the possibility of any of you becoming weak links in my chain. Thank you for your service, you’ve been truly great.”
With that the hooded figure gestured and the apes covered the humans in the circle. Whether it was by sword, hammer, teeth, or strong hands, the henchmen were soon dead and their screams were crowded out by the roaring of the apes that were no longer mere apes, but Overlord Avala’s Army of Aerial Simians.
Dr. Ochoa watched from the catwalk and turned away thinking for the hundredth time he should just risk it and flee, especially now that they were killing off men. As he looked up again the hooded and cloaked figure stood before him on the catwalk. Dr. Ochoa stumbled backward at his sudden appearance and was paralyzed with fear.
“Don’t worry, Ochoa. I’m not going to kill you. I do need you, for my children don’t possess your intelligence…” The Overlord turned away and faced the Aerial Simians on the floor, “…yet. MY CHILDREN! BOARD THE SHIPS AND MAKE HASTE! SOON BEGINS OUR CAMPAIGN TO TAKE THIS REALM FOR OUR OWN!!!!!”
Outside on the river a person drove a garbage-barge. He heard the roars and humming of machinery coming from the warehouse labeled Eville Construction next to the water. For many months now the barge driver had been hearing strange noises come from that structure and wondered at what was being manufactured inside. The person asked his boss thinking it odd that a company called “Evil Construction” made so many frightening sounds. His boss assured it was just a mere coincidence and that it was actually pronounced “Avala.” But little did the barge driver know that the entire time it had been the makings of war, a war that humankind had never seen the likes of before and could never imagine until a few weeks later when the whole world would come to know it.
There come times when armies rise seemingly out of thin air, when battles take place in the clouds of that air, and when entire nations fall. There come times when a boy remembers he is a prince, when that prince becomes a king, and when that king becomes focused on taking actions against those who caused the very circumstances that gave him the throne. This is one of those times. Samoht and Leahcim shall instate a reign that goes beyond borders, ethnicities, and language. You can see now as they step onto the battlefield that they are truly kings. The two are an army unto themselves, and they will be where wickedness stops. So stand as you are able, witness their greatness, and join the fight to aid them or by all the ards and jeaetus get the hell out of their way.
h1()=. About the Author
Mykee Steen is tea connoisseur and cyclist who writes books and makes films.
The Schinderlings follows Samoht and Leahcim, who happen to be modern-day princes, as they venture out to navigate various countries, politics, and the supposed mythology from which they stem.The brothers up until now have managed to live low-key lives in the U.S. under their protective mother, but once they get to Europe the air seems to pulse with the awareness of their royalty. Samoht and Leahcim try to stay incognito but are soon recognized, forcing them to flee to the small nation where their father is king. Nostalgia has little time to take hold as the prejudiced attitudes of their father come to light and impending war is sparked. Not wanting anything to do with their royal duties, Samoht and Leahcim leave to distance themselves from their father's power. However, the young men soon stumble upon a group of wisdom seekers who fervently believe in the tales that tell of the god-like nature of the Schinderlings’ bloodline. Amidst building tensions between their father's kingdom and the outside world, the long-running and confusing disappearance of thousands of animals points to a disturbance that will affect the entire globe. This motivates the brothers to seek out unusual mentors who promise not only make them great heroes, but necessary leaders. Samoht and Leahcim are soon catapulted into the cross-hairs of a complex network of danger. But if it is their place to intervene, then how can two people of their status do so without causing more harm?