THE SLATE OF VALE PART 6
IN A STRANGE WORLD
Four hard face sat quietly as they watch Anadan’s map revolve round and round on a projected film. Each of them had a jotter and a pen on the desk before them. They were heavily armed in black and white uniforms and emblazoned on their left b—-t, was a silver snake in an eagle’s claw.
“This is our home” said the captain general standing away from the four. He had a long fading scar under his left eye; though the scar curved down to his left ear, his long dark hair fails to cover it. He stood before the screen with a long thin cane. His muscular body fitted into a brown uniform, which stands him out from the black and white of those sitting.
“But we are somewhere here” he continued. “Thousands of leagues away from our home, away from our city and from our world; History has it that our ancestors were once inhabitants of this world, but they had ran away to Anadan when a demon posed a threat.” He paused to look at the screen, checking to know if he had omitted something vital.
“We can’t risk flying overhead with this mighty plane, that’s why we need to dispatch ourselves if we are to get good results. Team squad AB, you and your men should take the west. Team squad C, you and your men should take the southern part. Captain Rex, you take yours north. You all know the mission, survey this world as far as you can. If you notice anything out of ordinary; return immediately. I repeat, return as soon as you can. We have five hours to spend” The captain general said looking at his reddish bracelet. “I have spent forty-five minutes briefing you on what to do, we would need two to travel back to our world, so you have less than two hours to scout this area and bring me reports. Good luck.” The general finished and walked out of the room without looking at either of the men.
You really are insane Zack. Rex muttered under his breath as he corrected something in his jotter. And this is a fruitless mission. It’s like sending a child to go fishing on sand. Rex could read the frustrated looks on each of the squad captain’s face. He didn’t blame them though; it had come to them as a surprise. Only few knew that Anadan wasn’t the real world. It was just a fragment of what was left from the power of the slate of vale.
“I can’t believe I signed in for this mission.” Tina frowned and raked her dreadlocks with her left hand. She was trying to hold the locks into a ponytail but it would not just stay true. She was the only woman in the group, with cheek bones that were almost out of her skin. Her muscles lined her black suite that she could hardly be called a woman at first sight.
“Not that we had a choice though, the general spat on my face when I told him I want out. He said I had sworn allegiance to my country and that it pays better to serve. Can you imagine?” Kelvin said. He was on his feet and was picking up his jotter.
“Come on guys,” A dark hair boy was saying, he was the only one no wearing the uneasy looks “this is the easiest mission so far, besides we have seen worse. I for one like adventures, I -” he was interrupted.
“- All the missions we have faced had been in Anadan. Never have we been in another dimension, the general usually sends us on missions as though we are pros, he should remember we are new Cadets.” Tina had finally managed to knot her hair but some locks still dangles in front of her eyes. “So Max, be careful what you wish for.” Tina finished. The boy she had interrupted stood calm not meeting her eyes, as though weighing her words.
“There should be no cause for alarm, we should stay safe and try not to wander far. Like the captain said, there might be demons here.” Rex said for the first time. The rest of the group nodded their heads in respect. Rex was the second in command and the oldest among them. His rank was way far from any of them, but he was friendly and should have been Captain General, if his position wasn’t usurped by Zack, the current general.
“See you guys in two hours’ time” Rex said as he stood up and walked out of the war plane. His robotic army called the keepers; were dressed neatly in white amour and were standing in an orderly formation, in front of the plane. The sun was at its zenith, and apart from the birds singing sweetly on the tree tops, and the rushing of tree leaves, when it catches the soft gentle wind, no noise was heard, not even the beeping sound from the keepers. Rex nodded his head as if pleased.
“Okay boys, let’s get this over with” Rex mounted his air bike and zoomed north. His army of twenty soared behind him. They didn’t need the air bike as they flew, the exhaust under their metallic feet was basically meant for flight.
The flight was only for minute but it seemed hours to Rex. The air was slapping his helmet but it was not enough to calm his nervousness. What would happen if they find life in this uninhabited world? Would the king order the people of Anadan to return here? What if the inhabitants of this world were flesh eaters, worst still, what if there were demons? Rex shook his head. There is no such thing as demons. Demons don’t exist. The beeping of his compass brought him back to consciousness and he started his descent.0
“There is something ahead; you guys would wait here while I scout the area.” Rex dismounted his bike. Though he was in his early forties, he had fought many battles in Anadan with these Keepers. In truth, Rex really hates working with them. His theory against them was the fact that they could not give suggestions, or advice, they were stupid machines. One only needs to change their C-cards – control cards – and they would follow any order one gives. They are good in combat though, but to Rex, they were as rude as their maker, Dr. Jakins.
Giving it a second thought, an enemy, if one existed here, might spot the constant beep from their visor and run away or attack him unaware, so Rex shut them down with the control switch on his belt and walked to the direction his compass was pointing.
He walked stealthy, avoiding twigs and dry leaves so that he won’t give himself away. The deeper he went the denser the forest and the colder or warmer it became. It was like moving from a cold temperature to a warm temperature and back again. Rex pulled out his gun smoothly when he saw something moved. He raked his gray hair and laugh off the sweat that had lined his brow when he saw the animal.
“Just a deer” he relaxed and stuck back his shocker gun on his belt. He could have shot the doe for the fun of it, but he observed that the doe was pregnant and refrains from the thought. The funny thing there was that the doe was staring at him, as if daring him to shoot. Rex smiled at her. Women both in human and animal wore the same pride, especially when they are pregnant.
Rex looked down at his compass and cursed; it was turning endlessly in all direction, and pointing to none. Rex angrily hit his palms on it and the compass broke to his disappointment. He stood in the middle of nowhere with confusion swerving around him like tiny water droplets suspended in the air. What was he to do? Going back would have been the best idea but he couldn’t trace his way back to the keepers.
What will I do now? Rex asked himself as he tried to wander back the way he had come. He staggered randomly in all direction, sometimes running, sometime walking and sometimes stopping to catch his breath. He didn’t want to think of the fact that he was lost, or of the fact that the captain general would fly back to Anadan without him once two hours’ elapses.
“D–n” Rex whined in pain as he pulled out a thorn from his arm. The thorns here were like nothing in Anadan. The leaves and grasses were strange as well, with leaves so broad like a plate that it was impossible to see through the other end. Even though the tall trees had broad canopy leaves, he was surprise to see that the grass below were as green as the tall trees themselves. Rex added pressure to the wound on his arm, just above his wrist, below his elbow. The wound wasn’t deep but it was bleeding pretty badly. He was confused and totally downcast, going forward or backward the four cardinal points met on his head.
Rex lifted his head and felt chilled inside. The doe he had seen earlier was back again, staring at him more intently. It was odd. There might be demons here. His brain tried to warn him. It was as if the doe was trying to tell him something, as if it was telling him that he shouldn’t be afraid. It was comforting to Rex, which made him follow the doe like a sacrificial lamb.
The doe walked slowly, but precisely as if it knew exactly what it was doing. Rex’s heart was racing with fear, a part of him was telling him to run away from the doe; as far as he could. But he couldn’t. It was as if something was pulling him. An unseen force; urging him to move on, urging his feet to have minds of their own, even though he tried to stop them. It was a long walk and the moment Rex thought they won’t stop, they came out in an open and a stone throw from the point Rex stood, was a mighty flowing river.
Rex smiled and laughed, what was the point of bringing him to a river when he knows nothing about this place. He nodded a thank you to the doe and was surprised that the doe nodded back before it disappeared into the tick forest. Something about its golden eyes reminded Rex about a lost friend, but he knocked the thought out of his head.
Standing alone in the middle of nowhere Rex decided to plan his next move. He would follow the trail of the river and prays it leads him to a better destination, to a place if he is lucky, where people would hopefully inhabit. He was about to move when he heard someone laughed.
Rex turned immediately and sprinted to the direction. He looked over the dune in front of him, but could only see green vegetation, water and white sands. The laughter hadn’t ceased though, it was fervent and lovely and was coming from the other part, where the river had meander into the forest. Rex walked carefully and leaned behind a tree with a giraffe neck, to catch the sight of what was going on. All his life, the few stories in Anadan said that Anadan was the only surviving human race after the plague of darkness, centuries ago. But standing here in this unknown forest, all those stories were washed away from his mind. If these ladies bathing are not mermaids, then a new story would be written and his name would be on the front cover.
Rex smiled to himself and watched with much interest. As he studied them, he realized that they weren’t actually bathing. They seemed to be performing some kind of ritual procession. They were all ladies. Some among them carried a bowl filled with unknown fluid, others with huge peacock feathers. They were all dressed in fine clothes, but in their mist, one stood out in terms of clothing and movement.
Rex fought the urge of taking pictures with his camera. The figure wore a silver bottled neck gown. Her transparent robe was decorated with crimson colored butterfly, which seemed alive when the rays of the sun cast its radiance on it. The only place visible on her body was her face and wrist; even her feet were covered by a red embroder, making her movement to be more of gliding than walking. Her face was as pale as the moon, her eyes, as bright as the scale of a fish, and her lips were as red as the crimson butterfly on her robe. She was standing away from the other five ladies, who were inside the river with their clothes on and were chanting.
The procession led away from the river into the forest. Rex at that instant recovered from his shock and sprinted after them with all his might. The pain on his arm was forgotten. The only thought that fog his mind was the beautiful lady.
I will give the whole world just to see her one more time, just to behold her beauty again. Rex ran after the ladies. As though enchanted, he forgot he needed to find his way back to the others before two hours’ elapses.