Chapter 4 (darkliquid original)

It is foretold that a stranger will come, the N'Paek-tar, and that they shall watch over us and see that we do good. They will know our ways, but not be of us. If your Skel is strong, they will see and Pae will bless you, for they are the eyes of Pae. Those they deem weak of Skel, will be burned in the name of Pae.
--Protocols, holy texts of the N'Geenr


Karin felt as if she were made of lead. The last thing she remembered was collapsing under the skylines shadow. It was still cold, but it wasn't as cold as before. Pushing against the ground, she slowly tried to lift herself up but she was feeling too weak. She opened her eyes and painfully, a faint light came through. She appeared to be in some kind of cave, the light coming from some kind of fire behind her. Life began returning to her limbs and soon she was able to roll over and see where the light was coming from. She had been right. A small fire had bee built at the entrance, or exit if you preferred to see it that way, to a cave. Next to the fire was her bag, it seemed that someone had bought her here, wherever here was. Maybe one of the villagers had gone after her and rescued her, maybe her father had come for her. Whatever had happened, she didn't know where she was and what was going to happen next.

Shuffling along on her bottom, she pulled herself past the fire and peered out of the cave entrance. Outside the cave was thousands of lights shining in the darkness. They seemed to span the wall of the inside of some huge ravine, each one maybe a cave like hers. She could make out light reflecting of walkways all over the inside of the ravine, interconnecting every cave with another. Pathways criss-crossed across the expanse in a  seemingly random fashion, connecting both side of the ravine together. From somewhere below, a strange hum emanated, accompanied by a rhythmic clunking sound. All in all, it was a strange place, this weird twilight world of interlaced pathways, glowing lights and strange noises. It can't have been the N'Geenr that rescued me, no-one knows of such a place as this. That means... Her train of thought was interrupted when she caught sight of a person approaching.

A head stuck itself round into the cave entrance.

“N'Paek-tor wake!” the man grinned at her.

The man was unlike anyone she had ever seen. His hair was long and matted so that it stuck together in thick, brown clumps that hung over his jutting forehead. His eyebrows where thick and bushy as was the beard that hung from his large square chin. His grin was the weirdest thing of all, his grin and his eyes. His bottom teeth seemed too large for his face, and they jutted upwards out of his mouth, making him look like some kind of strange horse. And his eyes, his eyes where big and black, like his pupils had expanded to fill his whole eye.  As he stepped completely into the cave entrance, she saw that he stooped over. He was muscular, from what she could tell from the bulges under the coarse hair that lightly covered his body. He wore no clothes except for a pair of simple trousers that covered him right down to his bare feet. The trousers were adorned with strange tools and pieces of metal that Karin didn't recognise. Whatever this person was, he was not an N'Geenr.

The man tilted his head quizzically, as if her surprise or lack of response was intriguing, and thumped his chest.


Karin eyed him, slightly confused and slowly pressed her fist to her own chest. “Karin.”

The man gave a puzzled look and pointed at her. “N'Paek-tor!”

“No, Karin, I'm Karin. Ka-rin.”

“N'Paek-tor! N'Paek-tor Ka-rin!” He pointed at Karin. He smiled at her and then pointed at himself. “Ja-N'tor Firdlass!”

“Your name is Firdlass?”

“Firdlass!” Firdlass thumped himself as he waved his head from side to side.

Firdlass hopped next to Karin and pulled Jol's Manual out from a pocket in his trousers.

“Hey! That's mine, give it back!”

Firdlass held the book out of her reach and opened it. He began pointing at words in it. “N'Geenr!” He pulled a kind of twisted frown with his face and stuck out his tongue as he pointed at the word. He flicked a few pages through and pressed another word. “N'Paek-tor” He said and then gave the book to Karin and poked her. “N'Paek-tor!”

Karin looked up at Firdlass' face, her own painted with a mixture of curiosity and confusion and began reading the passage he had pointed out.

It is foretold that a stranger will come, the N'Paek-tar, and that they shall watch over us and see that we do good. They will know our ways, but not be of us. If your Skel is strong, they will see and Pae will bless you, for they are the eyes of Pae. Those they deem weak of Skel, will be burned in the name of Pae.

The passage was quoted as being taken from the Protocols.

“You think I, Karin” She pointed at herself. “am an N'Paek-tor?”

“N'Paek-tor Kar-in!” Firdlass screamed with delight and he danced around the fire. Karin couldn't help but giggle at him, he did look very funny indeed. Firdlass stopped dancing and eyed her with a look that she could swear was “What do you think is so funny?” and ran outside onto the walkways and called out.

“Kar-in, N'Paek-tor Kar-in! N'Paek-tor Y'Torc Skel Paei!”

Karin recognised most of the words, they sounded N'Geenr, Old N'Geenr, like Jol had taught her so she could read the Manual. Some of the words were strange though, slightly distorted versions of what she remembered. She thought he was saying: “Karin, Karin the Eyes of Pae! The Eyes of Pae have come to see our Skels for Pae.” They think I'm some kind of messenger from Pae!

“I'm not an N'Paek-tor, Firdlass! I'm just an N'Geenr!”

Firdlass spun around and looked at her, head tilted. He grinned and grabbed her hand, gesturing to her to follow him. Karin took Firdlass' hand and followed him out onto the walkways. The walkways had filled with other Ja-N'tor and as Firdlass pushed through them, pulling her though afterwards, she could feel them examining her, reaching out to touch her as she went past. They were walking down a sloped walkway now, and she was descending further into the ravine that was the Ja-N'tors home. It was getting warmer as well, something she hadn't expected due to the skyline's shadow, and the strange clunking noises were becoming louder.

Eventually, they reached the floor of the ravine. All around them, the walls where adorned with torches and a brightly lit tunnel careered off into the rockface. The walls themselves where covered with paintings and little bits of writing in what looked like Old N'Geenr. Firdlass pulled her over to what seemed to be the place where the pictures begun and pointed at the pictures.

“Y'Tor, N'Paek-tor Kar-in.” He pointed to his eyes and then to the wall.

“You want me to look at the wall?”

Firdlass flexed his head forwards and pointed from his eyes to the wall again. Karin looked at the pictures on the wall. Going from left to right, the symbol for Bos, the devil was drawn in a great black circle that had the symbol for Rutin, meaning everything, the whole world, drawn around its circumference. The next part of the image showed Bos creating a brother, represented by the symbol for Pae. Karin realised then that it was the story of creation, the Winding, drawn out across the walls as pictures and symbols. Karin began to read the wall, and decided to look in Jol's book to see if he had written anything about the Winding.

Bos created the world in utter darkness and emptiness, and from that darkness created a brother, Pae. Pae disliked the darkness, and so from the fabric of darkness he wound light and the land. Bos was angered by his brothers changes, and so he plagued the land with horrible statues, mocking the form of his brother. Pae, unfazed by his brothers jealous actions, took the statues and gave them life, creating the N'Geenr. Bos grew ever more jealous and tried to seize control of the N'Geenr by sealing Pae away from them, so that they could no longer feel his warmth. The N'Geenr revolted against Bos and the power of their devotion and Bos in a fit of rage left the world, never to return.

Something was different though, the walls had different information about the creation. According to the walls, Bos created the N'Geenr, the Ja-N'tor and another race called the Mae-N'Ja, the Masters. Pae didn't create them at all. Bos gave the N'Geenr the tools to make the world and the to the Ja-N'tor he bestowed the the duty of maintaining the world. The Mae-N'Ja where closest to Bos, and they were Bos' messengers. It then went on to tell that the N'Geenr began to shun Bos and ignore him, instead worshipping Pae. Bos became angry at the betrayal and abandoned the world, taking his tools with him. The other races became angry at the N'Geenr and there was a war. Using the last remaining tools of Bos', the N'Geenr crafted a weapon that would make the races forget about the betrayal, but Bos had cursed the tools he had left behind and all the races forgot everything. The N'Geenr forgot the most and lost much of their Skel. The Ja-N'tor did not suffer as much, their devotion to their task of maintaining the world protected them from the curse. The Mae-N'Ja, cut off from Bos' messages, were weakened and suffered badly from the curse. They went mad and their Skels were destroyed.

Karin stopped reading the wall. She was shocked. Surely this couldn't be true, Pae created the world and everything in it. Pae granted them gifts. The Ja-N'tor must be jealous of the N'Geenr for they had Pae's favour and so they wrote these lies. Karin shook her head. She couldn't believe the Ja-N'tor would be like that, which meant that they were either wrong, or that all her teachings had been lies. The memories of her teachings rushed through her mind, and the more she remembered, the more she realised that the teachings of the walls must be right. Until she had awoken here, she had never considered that other beings might exist outside the village.

The revelation was too much to take in and she collapsed to her knees, the weight of her new knowledge to heavy to carry. Karin looked at the Ja-N'tor watching her. She felt sick that they thought she was someone she wasn't. What would they do if they found out she was N'Geenr, would they hate her, would they kill her? At this point, she didn't care any more. Her ancestors had ruined the world and betrayed everyone, she didn't deserve mercy.

Karin thought of the Old N'Geenr, and tried to think of a way to tell them the truth.

“I'm not an N'Paek-tor! Mae-N'Paek-tor Karin! I'm an N'Geenr! N'Geenr Karin!” She shouted out, pointing at herself.

Firdlass jumped in front of her and looked into her eyes.

“Firdlassi N'Paek-tor Karin. Firdlass Mae-Y'tor N'Geenr Karin, Firdlass Y'tor N'Paek-tor Karin.”

Karin smiled at him. For me, Karin is the Eyes Of God. I don't see Karin the N'Geenr, I see Karin the Eyes Of God, she translated. Why is he saying these things, does he really believe I'm the Eyes Of God, even though I am an N'Geenr?

The other Ja-N'tor didn't seem to agree, they had begun to look threatening and angry. Firdlass grabbed Karin's hand and walked her towards the entrance to the tunnel she had seen. The other Ja-N'tor were closing in one them as they approached the entrance and Firdlass looked at her as if to say “Get running to run.”. He nodded and suddenly they were running down the tunnel.

* * * * *

Karin could feel the air getting warmer and the clunking noises getting louder as they ran through the tunnel. Behind her, she could here the yelling of the Ja-N'tor that weren't so forgiving of her N'Geenr blood. They had the right to know. I couldn't lie to them after all Firdlass has done for me.

She could see the cavern at the other end of the tunnel. It was awash with orange light, like the light from a fire. As they burst into the chamber, Firdlass grabbed Karin and swung her onto his back, and Karin barely noticed, she was awestruck. The chamber was massive, it could have easily been as large as her village. Half of the floor of the chamber was taken of my a lake of liquid fire over which was suspended huge wheels with jagged edges, just like the edges of the skylines. Some of the wheels interconnected with other wheels and they turned each other, rotating on huge pillars that shot out of the walls and the ground. Like the ravine, the walls of this place where covered in ladders and walkways.

Without a moments thought, Firdlass jumped onto a ladder and began climbing. Ja-N'tor that were working in the room watched with confusion as he pushed his way past them on the walkways as he ran, climbing ever higher. The crowd of Ja-N'tor that were chasing them called up to the workers, obviously trying to inform them of what was happening. Is this how we get to the surface? Karin wondered.

Karin could see another tunnel now, it was about another 100 meters above them. Firdlass climbed onto the last ladder before the tunnel entrance but Karin suddenly felt something grab her from behind, pulling her and Firdlass falling to the floor. Lifting herself back up from the floor, she saw that Firdlass and another Ja-N'tor were stood facing each other on the large, square section of the walkway.

“Firslass.” Firdlass growled at the other Ja-N'tor.

“Firdlass.” the Ja-N'tor called Firslass growled in reply.

The two Ja-N'tor dived at each other and began trying to wrestle the other to the ground. They were screaming furiously at each other, and Karin couldn't even begin to translate what they were screaming, but she could guess they were  probably some kind of obscenities. Karin slowly took her knife out from her bag. The Ja'N'tor that were climbing after them were beginning to catch up so she began cutting the ropes of the ladder to the walkway they were on. Within a few minutes she cut the cords and the ladder went sailing down to the lower level.

Firdlass was losing the battle. Firslass had managed to grab him by the neck and was slowly crushing him to death.

“Karin... Y'c! Y'c!” Croaked Firdlass as he struggled against Firslass.

“I wont leave you Firdlass!”

Karin gasped as the other Ja'N'tor forced Firdlass to the floor. He had him pinned completely accept for an arm which Firdlass was repeatedly beating against his assailant.

“Firdlass!” Karin called out. “Go for the knife!”

Karin slid the knife across the walkway and Firdlass tried reaching for it. He managed to grab it and plunged it into the back of the Ja-N'tor over and over again, sending streams of blood streaming down his arm and over the walkway. The other Ja-N'tor cried out before collapsing to the side of Firdlass in a spasm of pain. Karin ran over and tugged at Firdlass' arm, the blood in his hair felt sticky in her hand.

“Come on! We have to get out of here now!”

Firdlass nodded, tucked the knife into his tool-belt and lifted Karin onto his back again, but faltered. Karin jumped off him and started climbing the ladder herself, smiling back at Firdlass. Firdlass looked up at her and followed.

The tunnel went up at a steep slant and the air was becoming chilly. Oh no! We are going to come out under the shadow! Firdlass squeezed past her and ran ahead to a hatch. He strained at the hatch before he forced it up. A wave of cold hit them and they climbed out into the darkness beyond. Karen had lost all sense of direction, and so she didn't know what side of the shadow they were nearest, but regardless they ran towards the light at the end of the expanse. They were nearer to the light then she had been from her side of the expanse when she had collapsed, so hopefully they could make it! The icy air bit at their skin and soon she was shivering as badly as she was when she had first entered the shadow. Firdlass held onto her hand and carried on running, eventually having to drag her as she couldn't run due to the shivering. Eventually, they burst out from under the shadow and collapsed in the light of day. They laid there, breathing heavily for a moment as basking in the warmth of the sun.

When Karin had recovered enough to be carried, Firdlass put her on his back again and ran as far away from the shadow as go could. When it was only a distant line on the horizon did he listen to Karin's protests and they stopped to make camp.

The End

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