“The Four released the waters. The continents disappeared under the wrath of the floor. The heretics fought for survival. The Four showed no mercy.”
(Invictus Orb 7:2)
Sections of the walls going up the stairs were missing revealing the raw granite behind the carefully constructed stairwell. Mortar and bricks lay across parts of the stairs making the trek up the stairs difficult for Marθia and Johan. The evidence of earthquakes was everywhere. This section of the passages looked to be the oldest and least maintained. Except for the light coming from Johan’s transistor, there was no other source of lighting in the long stairwell.
“Okay, it’s my turn, I’m starting to question the point of all this,” Marθia said sweating and lay against the wall. They had stopped to take a break.
Johan held his shirt in his hand. His naked torso gleamed with sweat. He looked at the section of fallen wall they would have to crawl over.
“Let it go,” Johan said sarcastically.
Marθia started laughing. After a moment, Johan joined her. The absurdity of it all hit them.
“What are we really doing?” Marθia finally asked through the laughter.
“You’ve got me,” Johan said wiping away a tear.
Marθia stood up to stand next to Johan. “Do you think Wendy, Hazel, and Patre are dead?”
Johan nodded, “if the tsunami didn’t get them,” he paused and looked at her, “then whatever that weapon was did.”
“I really did like her, you know.”
“I know,” Johan said.
“I know she was unorthodox but her she did want the greater good for her people.”
“It doesn’t matter now.”
“You are right,” Marθia said, “none of it matters now.”
Marθia and Johan turned abruptly towards the darkness beyond the collapsed wall. The light from the holographic arrow did not reach very far. The soft thumps of light footsteps echoed down the stairwell. As if by command the holographic light intensified. As if grew brighter the shadows fled from the debris and up the stairwell. A couple of steps before the debris a girl took one last step in the light.
The girl was extremely skinny, emaciated. Her light brown hair was knotted and stringy. One of her hands was wrapped up with a dirty rag. The brown stains on the rag was dried blood. She had the tan complexion of the Southerners. Her eyes shown yellowish against the light of the hologram.
The transistor’s metallic voice cut through the silence, “she is why you are here.”
They continued to stare at each other.
Johan and Marθia blinked simultaneously. The transistor’s voice rang through their mind. No sound was produced when it called the girl’s name.
Johan took a step back. Marθia extended her hand and grabbed Johan stopping him from turning around. She tugged at his arm. Telling him to stay in place. He had dropped his shirt.
≪Navî Reed cross the debris≫
The girl took a step onto the rubble. He knobby knees bent and she half crawled half walked between over the debris.
≪There is one following me≫ the girl paused halfway ≪I don’t know, where but here is following me≫
The girl continued forward.
≪I know, call to him≫
Marθia extended her free arm. The girl took it and jumped to the step next to her.
≪Torak, come forward, I know you have kept following me≫
The voice seemed bigger in Johan’s head. She was covering a large distance.
≪Navî, it is time≫
Navî nodded unconsciously and looked down the flight of steps.
≪Will he make it≫
≪Torak Compress will make it≫
Marθia still held the little girl’s hand. She must have been 8 at the most.
Without warning, the metallic voice rang in their ears again, “The girl needs sustenance. We will return now.”
The holographic arrow switched directions instantaneously.
The girl shifted her weight and was holding onto Marθia heavily.
Marθia asked, “are you okay?”
“Yes,” said Navî, “but I’m weak.”
Johan moved towards the girl. “Here, do you want me to—.” Before he could complete his sentence the girl fell on his arms. He lifted her into his arms and they started down the stairs. It took them the better part of an hour to climb the steps down. They did so in silence.
When they reached the bottom the stairwell and Navî finally spoke, “Thank you, I am Navî Reed of the Southern Isle. My father was Edmund Reed and my mother was Atelí garça was my mother. They were the—.”
Johan completed her sentence, “the Templars of the South. But it is forbidden.”
Marθia shook her, “it was, was, forbidden. None of that matters. How did your parents die?”
“They were lost at sea. A command came down from the capital and they left on the next available ship.” Navî said slowly, methodically.
Johan frowned, “How did you make it down here?”
“Through Duré’s Temple,” Navî felt her throat tighten. She gasped for air.
“Are you okay?” Marθia asked.
Navî shook her head violently. She started sobbing. Her head sunk into Johan’s chest.
Johan and Marθia looked at each other. The girl was clearly in some form of shock.
“Alldata, how much longer?” Marθia asked.
“In another hour you will be at the reflection point from there it should only be a couple of minutes.”
Johan started forward. He scoffed, “whatever that means. I guess we have an hour or so to go.”
Marθia nodded. “Do you need to rest? Is she getting heavy?”
“No I’m fine.”
The girl continued to cry. She whimpered softly.
Marθia matched Johan’s pace and placed a hand on the girl’s shoulder. “It is going to be alright, young one.”
The girl began to sob again. Marθia fell silent. Johan walked on. The girl weighed little but, still, Johan’s arms were aching. Navî finally fell silent. Her breathing normalized and soon after she fell asleep in exhaustion.
As they reached the iridescent blue light the transistor’s metallic voice pierced through the silence, “you are at the reflection point.” Navî woke up with a shudder at the sound of the transistor’s voice. The metallic voice continued, “once you reach the resting point there will be food and a place to sleep.” They passed trough the shimmering light and the make-up of the passage changed. They were in the antiseptic white hallways with blue lights.
Marθia caught Navî looking at her, “listen, little one, all that. The Southern Isle. Avanna. Indigo Isle. All that is done. We are here now. All that is done.”
Navî looked her straight in the eye, “No, it is not.” Her eyes started shimmering.
≪Is it time≫
Johan almost dropped the girl. The voices were back in his head. He could see the area where they had stopped for the test. The vomit was gone. The cupboard with the food was opened. Across from the cupboard, four beds had extended from the wall; all about knee high. They ran the length of the hallway starting from the cupboard and extending in the direction they were coming from.
Johan placed the girl on the bed closest to the cupboard. “Time for what?” He voiced.
Navî looked at Johan and, without another word, she swung her legs over the bed laying down. She closed her eyes and her breathing became rythmic.
Footsteps in the distance made Johan and Marθia look up. A man walked towards them.
“I am Torak Compress.” The man said across the distance, “this child is in my care.”