The Fate of the Lost City of Geraptiku: Part Five
The first two things the young Lutari became aware of were the sound of large raindrops falling on a straw roof, and still the searing pain in his shoulder.
He opened his eyes, and looked up at the roof the rain was pounding on. Glancing around, he saw that he was lying on a couch in front of a cozy fireplace. There were clothes drying on the mantle, and he recognized some of them as his own. He could hear pots and pans clanking, and some voices too, from the half-closed door behind the couch. His fur felt clammy; it must have been soaked in the rain.
November tried to collect his thoughts as to what happened, and where he was. But his mind was as fuzzy as a ball of yarn. He laid down his head, and heard footsteps approaching. A figure came through the doorway. The light from the fire cast a shadow on the wall, showing the figure to have a very large head.
"Oh, good, you're awake," a voice said behind him. "How are you feeling?"
It was only Jhuidah the Island Faerie who came walking round the couch. The shadow came from her hair. She was holding a steaming bowl of soup, as November smelled it was.
"Jhuidah... I'm so glad it's you. I can't remember anything. What happened?" November asked her with a raw throat.
"You were found lying at the bottom of the stairwell to the Deserted Tomb in Geraptiku, during the tropical storm," she answered. "Did you have an accident?"
November recalled images of the Tomb crumbling to dust around him, and remembered hitting the wall in order to escape.
"Yes... Something like that," he replied. Thinking about it gave him a headache. "I hurt my shoulder badly."
"Here, have some pea soup; it'll make you feel better," Jhuidah said, handing him the bowl. November accepted it, and took a sip. The thick, hot substance slightly burnt his tongue, but he could soon feel the soothing effect of the warmth in his stomach. Jhuidah took the bowl away, and November started to doze off again.
When he opened his eyes again, another two of them, bright green, were looking at him with great interest. November shot up, startled, but dizzily collapsed with his head on the cushion shortly after.
"Oh, I'm sorry, did I scare you?"
The eyes belonged to a Pink Aisha with at least as much hair as Jhuidah. It was tied in a headband, cascading down her back in large curls. Her voice sounded old, like that of a storyteller. She sat down on a chair near the fire. Jhuidah was just entering the room, with a jar of some kind in her hands.
"Ah, I see you've met November," she said, then turned to him. "This is Megan. She was the one who found you in Geraptiku, then brought you here."
"Excuse me for staring at you like that. I thought you looked familiar, but it was nothing," Megan said to him.
Jhuidah gave Megan the jar. "This is healing balm I made. November bruised his shoulder, so could you apply some of that while I get some bandages?" she asked her, but did not wait for a reply and walked back into the kitchen.
Megan said nothing, and instead handed the jar of balm to November. He took some of the balm and rubbed it on his right shoulder. The pain slowly started to die away. Meanwhile, Megan took a long, slightly tattered looking cloak that was drying above the fireplace, and from inside it she took a small book bounded in red leather.
"I found this lying next to you in front of the Tomb. I think it's meant for you," Megan said solemnly. She laid the book on the chair, then shrouded herself into her cloak and disappeared through the door, into the downpour. As the door fell shut, the mist in his mind seemed to lift. But among the memories he regained was also the horrifying truth of past events that hadn't fully dawned on him until now.
The events flashed before his eyes. The hidden chamber in the Tomb, the telepathic world of Nevada, their walk on the island, Geraptiku's fate as shown to him, pulling himself back into the real world, awakening the citizens, and escaping the crumbling Tomb.
November realized what had happened now. His escape from Nevada's world had caused something to break between the worlds; that was why the Tomb was falling apart. The two of them had awakened the citizens in their prisons of glass; he had heard their joint voices of their minds in their chant for freedom. But as the capsules were melting away, giving way to their now conscious inhabitants, he tore himself away from their fight to save himself, and left them trapped again inside the room, only now they were fully aware.
Only seconds had passed since the door fell shut, and November blanked out. It was all too much to bear. With his mind only a blur, he picked up the small red book Megan had left him, and opened it on the first page. There was one sentence written there. The words were in a language he had never seen before, but as his eyes went over them, a voice in his head said the words to him in a soft, but reassuring voice.
Everything is all right.
The horror that could be read from his face slowly cleared away. His thoughts were beginning to flow back, and he realized that the voice was that of Nevada. Instantly knowing that this was a message to him, he calmed down, and started to turn the pages. As his eyes went over the strange characters, the voice of Nevada started again.
This is a log I, Princess Nevada of Geraptiku, will keep when the time has come for our people to be awakened, so that the fate of our city will be known to the world.
November noticed that there was a date written under it. The numbers said nothing to him. Was it so far back he couldn't realize how long it had been? He continued reading.
Something has awakened me. I sense that an activated magical object has come in the Tomb. My best guess is that it belongs to one of the shamans in neighboring villages. I had hoped that one of them would come look for us when everyone disappeared overnight. But I wasn't sure whether the disaster had reached the others too...
This was dated the day that he found the Ancestral Charm dropped by a scavenging Lizark.
I'm fairly sure now that the item I can sense is Cesar's Ancestral Charm. If we're lucky, he managed to escape in time, and come back to free us. But it's been days now that the Charm has been in, or nearby the Tomb now. Although my body is still asleep, my consciousness slowly drains my body's energy. I don't know if I can hold out very long.
November realized that Nevada must have sensed his presence while he wore the Charm, but he never realized that the one he found belonged to Cesar. It must have been agonizing for her to know that someone capable of rescue was so close, yet so far away.
Someone has entered the chamber! It's crystal clear to me now; this is Cesar's Charm, but it's definitely not Cesar himself. Who can this be? What did he come here for? Can he be trusted? I can't do much in this state, so I will have to connect with the person in spirit.
I can only assume the worst has happened to Cesar, but it can't matter right now. I hope this stranger is aware of Geraptiku's fate. That will help us in the return. In the meantime, I'm going to have to drain his energy to stay focused. I have limited time.
Apparently they both had a secret to keep from each other. Nevada already knew about the death of Cesar, he now realized. But he was partially aware of the limited energy they both had too. It was like he had to struggle for each moment to stay awake.
The person who entered was a young Lutari named November. I managed to connect with him. At first he seemed to panic about what was happening, but I was able to calm him down. Apparently, he came upon this chamber by accident but judging by his nervousness, I guess that he came to the Tomb in search for treasure. I'm normally not one to show prejudice, but somewhere I feared that a treasure hunter might not care for the fate of a civilization that vanished who knows how long ago. But he seems to be trustworthy. I sense he has his heart in the right place.
He couldn't blame her for thinking this way about him. After all, of all the people who could have found the chamber it was him; a bold adventurer looking to plunder the Tomb's riches.
I asked him to show me the island as he remembered it to see how long we've been gone. I hardly recognized the surroundings, and I couldn't possibly guess how long it's been. It could be fifty years, hundred years, maybe even more. Matters are much worse than I thought; I don't know if anyone at all remembers what happened to our city all these years ago, and the chances of finding someone with the skills to perform the awakening spell. I don't know how the rest of the citizens - or myself, for that matter - are going to cope with that if we return.
No, I must not think like that. This adventurer seems strong-willed, and I think he's capable of learning from me. We will return eventually, and then Geraptiku will be rebuilt, even if it takes another hundred years. I must have confidence.
November could imagine how she must have felt. With her city in ruins, their people asleep for a century, coming back into this world seemed impossible. Back when they were exploring the simulated island, she seemed so careless. He thought she should have told him more about their state.
The young adventurer had to know about the history of the city, so I used the subconscious memories of all the citizens to show him what happened. He seemed to take it well, and agreed to help in awakening the rest of the people.
I taught him in using the magical properties of the Charm. he was quickly able to harness its power. It seems that he is more capable than I thought. It is only a rough energy outburst, though, and I have to refine the power myself. A spell like this requires a lot of endurance, but he seems fit enough. However, the continued consciousness of both our sleeping bodies in taking its toll. November may not feel it, but I do. I wish I could teach him better how to channel the energy, but I have to let him go soon, or we can both die.
November now understood why she had seemed so rushed at the end. The magic apparently took a lot out of her. He feared to read further, thinking that every page could be the last.
Something happened. November managed to snap out of the connection, but I sense something has broken in the process. I stand connected to the Tomb, and felt the very structure of it shake. We have to break the spell quickly, or all will be lost.
The events were progressing further to the eventual disaster. November turned the page, his hands shaking.
His greatest fear was that the next page was blank. This was not the case. His second greatest fear was that the page would be filled with outcries of despair of the trapped citizens, cursing his selfishness. This was not the case either. Instead, he read, and heard the voices of every citizen of Geraptiku speak to him:
We broke the spell, but it went wrong. November could supply the magical energy needed to awaken our people. We are now all conscious minds in sleeping bodies, like Nevada first was. However, the tear in the spiritual fabric of the Tomb caused the chamber to collapse on itself. November escaped the room while we were still chanting, and our connection was broken. Our capsules stopped melting away, trapping us, but also protecting us. When the foundation of the Tomb collapsed on us, the pods protected our bodies, and now we can survive, and live on. All of our minds are connected now, and we will rebuild our city in the spiritual realm.
Thank you, November, our saviour, for returning us our lives in a way better than we could wish for. You will live forever in our memories.
An immense feeling of peace overcame him. His fears were completely unfounded, and he felt that all his questions were answered.
Or are they?
As November looked up from the book for the first time, he tried to follow up his memories to the point the book stopped. The last thing he remembered was Cesar's ghost approaching him, and after that he woke up at Jhuidah’s house. Then she told him that Megan found him in front of the Tomb, with this book beside him.
Just as he was arranging his memories, trying to fill in the blank spot, he found one last page before the back cover. The words that were on it were in the same language, although they were not written in ink; it seemed they were stained on it with water, or something like it, and with great precision. As his eyes went over them, Cesar began to speak to him.
I UNDERSTAND NOW. I HOPE YOU DO TOO.
And November did understand. With satisfaction in his mind and peace in his heart, he fell into a long, dreamless sleep.
November was standing in front of the Tomb's door again, but now with different intentions. With a torch in his hand, he walked through the corridors confidently. After some time of searching, he saw the carving that indicated the citizens' resting place, and went around the corner. He found himself before an impassable pile of rubble, just like the days before. He knew that there would be no use in digging, so instead he unpacked his backpack, taking out a small folding chair, a stand for his torch, and a packet of Magic Ghost Marshmallows. They were not for him, of course. He took his chair, and sat down before what used to be a doorway.
He closed his eyes, and started to listen. Initially, he couldn't hear anything but the regular sounds of an abandoned stone tomb. But after a while, when he got his presence noticed, whispers started coming. That's what he had been waiting for. After carefully trying to connect with the whispers, he could hear them, and speak to them.
He asked for the news. Nevada told him that Eric's mind was developing greatly, and did not seem to be limited to his young body. After a long and intense link, Boris and Marian their minds had been able to merge. This deep connection was very interesting, and the effects were that a whole new person would be created, which, in time, could stand on its own. The Ancestral Charm November left had been proven to be a reliable source of energy for the flourishing minds of the people of Geraptiku, and was expected to last almost indefinitely.
Roald's initial mistake was forgiven, because in the end no one had lost anything. Cesar's mind, although without a body, was frequently connected to the rest of the citizens like November was now. But everyone knew they owed it to November, and every single time he would come Roald would thank him from the ground of his heart. However, November knew that his actions had essentially the same effect as Roald's, so he would let Roald know that he should not be thanked. That changed nothing, though.
Keng's imagination was growing boundlessly in this new world full of possibilities, and she frequently constructed incredible worlds that blew all the others' minds. Karin, Nevada and Roald could explain their views about what caused the disaster, but none came to an answer. This did cause that all the secrets that existed here were all shared and understood. No one had any reason to keep secrets from others any more, and in time, the notion was completely forgotten.
When November came out of the trance a few hours later, the marshmallows were gone. He returned home, and wrote down everything he learned in the small, red book that had grown thicker and thicker. He spent his days trying to spread the word of Geraptiku's fate, and eventually became known as the storyteller of Geraptiku. Most people had trouble believing him, but that didn't matter at all.
One day, when looking for his connection spot in the Tomb, he did find the treasure chamber many people had sought so many times. He found Cesar right next to it, but he glided away respectfully. November explored the chamber, and it turned out that it had everything he once dreamed it to hold. Although he knew the citizens would think he had the right for it, he took nothing but a necklace like the one Roald wore, and never took it off again.