Heroes of the Habitarium: Part Two
"Where did he go?" whispered Kendra. Her face had gone pale with shock
"I don't know," said Colston, wide-eyed.
"He just... disappeared," muttered Brett. "There wasn't even a flash of light. It was like he just... poof. Evaporated or something. Like the Blue Beasts. No. No, with the Blue Beasts."
"That's impossible," scoffed Kendra, regaining her usual composure, "Petpetpets don't just disappear."
They stood for a moment in silence, still a little stunned and not entirely sure what to do next.
"We'd better find Marin," Colston finally said. Kendra and Brett nodded in agreement, and the three started to make their way back to the center of the village, battered and bruised from battle. Colston took the lead, limping. Brett fell in step behind him, holding his side. And Kendra followed the both of them, looking back over her shoulder every few seconds, hoping that Kei would somehow reappear.
They walked in silence past piles of rubble that had once been their barracks, past now dead trees, flowers and grass, and past the torn up field where they had practiced battling only that morning.
And then, limping and wincing, they reached the center of the village. Most of the villagers had already gathered amongst the debris. They were looking up towards a makeshift stage, waiting for the council to gather. Kendra, Colston, and Brett pushed through the crowd in search of Marin.
They found her after a few minutes. She was looking no better than the three of them. A bandage was wrapped around her head and her arms and legs were covered in scrapes and bruises. When she saw them, the stern look on her face disappeared and was replaced with one of relief.
"I was worried about you," she breathed, and then, after a moment's hesitation, "Where's Kei?"
"We're not really sure," Colston allowed.
"You see—" started Brett.
"We need to talk to you alone," interrupted Kendra, hurrying things along. Marin nodded, and then she led them out of the crowd. They walked until they were sure they wouldn't be overheard by the rest of villagers and then stopped.
"Now tell me what's going on," Marin demanded.
"Well," started Colston, "Brett and I were fighting a Beast and Kendra was fighting one on her own. We were trying to finish it off quickly so we could go help her..."
"That was when I saw Kei run by," interjected Brett. "He went over to help Kendra, so we started fighting harder because we knew she would be covering her own back and Kei's. So after that, I wasn't really paying attention to them. All my attention was on the Beasts we were fighting..."
"Kei and I were fighting a Blue Beast," Kendra continued, "I told him to stay out of my way, but he wouldn't. We had only been fighting for a few minutes when the humming started. I told him not to, but he jumped on the Beast's back and wouldn't let go. And then he was gone. Along with the Blue Beasts. But we don't really know what happened."
"Or where he went," Colston added.
Marin took a step back.
"They've taken him," she said hollowly. And then, after a deep breath, she turned to Kendra, Colston, and Brett. "We must inform the Council."
They made their way back through the crowd of petpetpets and up towards the stage. Marin led them behind it, to where the council had gathered.
"We would like to make a formal request to address the Council," said Marin. Seven sets of eyebrows swiveled to her face in surprise.
"It is very rare of you to address the council in such a formal manner," said a dour looking Larnikin.
"Especially at a time such as this," added the youngest member of the council, a petite little Mootix. Her face was filled with concern.
"Kei disappeared!" blurted Brett.
"Young Kei was taken by the Great Light?" asked an old Larnikin slowly, trying to clarify the situation.
"He was taken by a Blue Beast," replied Marin quietly. The council fell silent.
"Are you certain?" asked the Elder after a moment.
"These three witnessed it. They said there was no flash of light," Marin replied.
"He was on its back, and the Beasts started to hum," Kendra said, "and then, when the humming stopped, the Beasts were gone. And Kei was gone too."
The Elder sighed and look at the other council members, who were shifting around nervously.
"This has happened before, hasn't it?" accused Colston suspiciously. Some of the council members averted their eyes.
"Yes, it has happened before," admitted the Elder. "Long ago."
Kendra, Marin, Colston, and Brett waited expectantly. But the Elder did not continue.
"And?" asked Kendra.
"That is all," replied a wise looking Pinchit with finality. "We know nothing else. We hardly know anything about the Blue Beasts at all. This... disappearing... is just one more thing we don't understand about them."
The youngest council member looked down uncomfortably.
"Do you know something else?" Kendra pressed.
The Mootix nodded.
A few council members openly glared at her.
"Spill it," demanded Colston.
"Well—" she stuttered. She looked around, unsure.
"It's alright," the Elder told her. Then he turned to Colston, Kendra, Marin, and Brett, "But you should know that nothing she says has ever been proven. It is myth. It is legend, not fact."
The four nodded silently.
"A long time ago," the Mootix started, "when the village was still young and vulnerable, a petpetpet wandered here, starving and exhausted. Relieved to find shelter, he collapsed in front of the first house he came across, hoping that he would not be left to die. Thankfully, a kind young Mootix named Rose lived in the house, and she took him in, and she gave him, food, water, and shelter.
"As she nursed him back to health, the two petpetpets fell in love. Once he could speak, he told her his name was Rahm. And once he regained his strength, the two were married. He gave up his wandering life and became our village's first warrior. And for a time, its only warrior.
"Handmade spear in claw, he singlehandedly drove off raiders and invaders. No matter how many times the village was attacked, no matter how skilled the enemies' soldiers were, no matter how many soldiers the raiding villages sent, he defeated them.
"As the village grew and as Rahm grew older, he started training more warriors to protect the village. He passed on his skills, his morals, and his love for his village. Without him, our village and its petpetpets would probably not be here today.
"But then, one day, the first Blue Beasts appeared with no warning. Rahm and the village had never faced anything like them. Try as they might, they could not suppress the surge of the creatures. Rahm was powerless against them, and could do nothing to stop the Blue Beasts as they destroyed his entire village. And then, he heard his wife scream out in pain. He ran back to his house, only to find her lying lifeless under the rubble.
"Enraged, he charged the nearest Beast with all his strength and pushed it to the ground. He leapt on top of it, kicking and stabbing it with his dagger, tears streaming down his face. And then, without warning, he was gone. Spear and all."
"No one knows what happened to him," added one of the other council members.
"If he even existed," snorted the dour looking Larnikin.
"Don't interrupt me," chided the Mootix, "As I was saying, no one knows exactly what happened to him—until he returned months later, half blind and half mad, clothes tattered and spear missing, raving about being 'taken into the darkness.'"
Brett and Colston exchanged nervous glances. Kendra stared off into the distance, her eyes glazed over. Marin took a step forward. "Is it possible that the story is true?" she asked.
"It is possible," the Elder replied, "But not likely. Myths and legends often hold a grain of truth, sometimes more, but not always. It could be pure fantasy."
"But it's all we've got," said Kendra resolutely, "It will have to do."
"We have to try to find Kei. To save him," said Colston.
"What kind of petpetpets—no—what kind of friends would we be if we just abandoned him?" asked Brett, more to himself than to anyone else.
"Go," the Elder said addressing the young warriors. "Go, find Kei, and bring him home."
"What about me, sir?" asked Marin.
"We need you here," the Elder sighed, "The entire village has been destroyed. We will need all the help we can get to make repairs. And if we get attacked when four of our best soldiers are missing, it could be catastrophic."
"Colston, Kendra, Brett," she said, turning to them, "I wish you luck."
"Take this," said the Elder, handing Kendra a folded, worn piece of paper, "It is a map of the entire Habitarium. I do not know where your quest will take you, but with this, you will always know how to get back home."
"And take these," Marin added, pulling three small objects from a pouch on her belt, "They are whistles. If you get separated, use them to call out to each other. The sound will carry much farther than your voices alone." She handed one to each of them.
"Thank you," said Kendra sincerely.
The Elder looked at them for a moment, eyes shining. "Good luck."
To be continued...