The Legend of Lu: Armageddon

Introducing a new addition to the CE LOG: Opining on the Apocalypse: The Legend of Lu: Armageddon, a work of allegorical religious science-fiction depicting the last days. The book will be serialized over the course of the next few months, at a chapter a week.

Prologue

Before time was time, before there was a before, before light or land or sea or tree, there was Unu, the One, from which and into which all is and was and ever shall be, so be it, let it be.  

From Unu first came the Lui, the Lights or Guardians. Of these there were an untold number of kinds, such was the majesty of Unu. The Guardians, at the good pleasure of Unu, brought forth through motion every body borne of matter. All form of air, water, earth and fire was made by the Guardians, and not anything of such form was made without them. Moved on in their work by the will of Unu, the Lights harmonized the World of Worlds into a chorus and melody and rhythm of beauty and majesty befitting honor and glory to Patlui, Father of Lights, so be it, let it be. 

But some Light Guardians rebelled against the order and music of the will of Unu and the Guardians, introducing chaos and discord into the World of Worlds, where movement is not in accord with Unu and the faithful Guardians. To reclaim the order lost by disobedience, the Lui held a council to propose a commander of the faithful Lights, to whom each would swear allegiance and fealty as to Unu. This General of the Guardians was anointed with Light and named Aequinum, Who is like Unu, because his will and that of Unu were so much alike, yet unlike because of the power, majesty and honor due to Unu, so be it, let it be. Thus, Aequinum quashed the rebellion, banishing the small but destructive band of fallen Guardians, the Caduclui, from Mundluc, World of Light, to the World of Dark, Mundater. 

Between Mundluc and Mundater was Mundhum, World of Earth, which was named after the most noble body of that World, Humunum, One Earth, blessed with will and power, like Unu and the Lui, yet formed from earth, and the other elemental forms, and so not unlimited in power and will but limited by the same earth and forms. Before the arrival of the Caduclui, to Mundhum, the Earth World was perfect. Earth, Water, Fire, and Air lived in harmony, respecting each other’s power and place: The trees swayed to the song of the breeze without cracking and breaking, the lion and lamb knew nothing of blood-thirst or fear, the Air did not take Water from Earth more than was needed, neither did Water ravage Earth, and Fire was friend of all. And most of all was this harmony of forms found in Humunum, who was Lord and Protector of them all. 

But out of hatred for the Lui, the leader of the Caduclui, Ferluc, Bringer of Light, now named Ferater, Bringer of Dark, seduced Humunum, with the deceptive hope that Humunum would be unlimited like the Lui, and even like unto Unu Oneself, blessed be One forever. Humunum fell from his height and sole governance of Mundhum, and as punishment for his grasping, Humunum became Humdumum, Divided One Earth, by which the One Earth became Two Earth, so as to learn humility for his pride, he now had to share his rule. Yet even out of this discordant transgression brought about by Ferater, the Lui blessed the dwellers of Mundhum with one of their own graces of nature, which enabled the them and their offspring, to care for Mundhum like the Lui care for Mundluc. 

This grace called Lu, Light, enabled the twins Humdumum to check and guard against the influence of Ferater and the Caduclui over Mundhum. This Lu, Ferater sought to subvert secretly, and plunge the blessed Humdumum into darkness with himself, cursed be he forever. 

Ferater succeeded in his scheme, and the Lu which Humdumum enjoyed for ages untold was eclipsed by the shadow of Ferater. As a result, Humdumum became Hum and Mul, the Undefined and Indefinite, no longer living in harmony and peace, but now in strife. The governance of the world soon fell to Ferater, usurped from them, who, being in strife with one another, and even in their own members, could not impart harmony to Mundhum. The elemental forms soon followed the eclipsing of Lu, striving against each unto each, bringing death into Mundhum, no longer guided and governed by Light.

Among the elemental forms and sons and daughters of Hum and Mul, Mundhum raged in tempests, famines, and wars, as well as turmoil, hunger, and fear. Want of warmth, comfort and friendship waxed during this evil epoch of Mundhum, such that the Lui at the command of Unu, sought to tame the elemental forms, so agitated by Ferater’s wicked rule, by setting Water over all of them, even over the decedents of Hum and Mul, who themselves had long passed into Munditer, the World Between.   

One son of Hum and Mul, Bonfilhum, Good Son of Hum, along with his wife, guided and guarded by the Lui, escaped the taming of the elemental forms by Water, through the secret skill of the Lui, who taught Bonfilhum the art and science of World Crossing, which enabled him and his family to escape the judgement, which turned Mundhum into Mundac, World of Water, and flee into the World of Air, Mundspir. 

After an age, Bonfilhum passed into Munditer, and his descendants lived long in Mundspir, but by and by some longed for the home of their father, Mundhum, and so pleaded with the Lui to loosen the hold Water had, and return them to a world of solidity. The Lui relented but made Bonfilhum’s descendants promise to love Light above all, even their beloved earth. The sons of Bonfilhum so promised, and so the Lui made the waters of Mundac to disperse by bringing Mundspir into collision with them. A mighty war of elemental forms ensued, between Water and Air, with neither wanting to relinquish their claim of the middle world of forms. Finally, the Lui parted Air and Water, and set Air above, and Water below, and Earth between. As a testament of their promise the Lui set a billion orbs of Fire above the other three, visible only when all other lights go out, to recall to the minds of the sons of Bonfilhum to always love and cherish above all things the invisible Lights that govern the World of Worlds. Yet the Lui also warned that, if ever Bonfilhum’s sons failed to keep this promise, Mundhum would be turned over to the reign of Fire. 

Many generations of the sons and daughters of Bonfilhum followed, and many kept their father’s first promise to the Lui, servants of Unu, blessed be the name forever. But many did not. Soon, evil and darkness crept back into Mundhum, since the Caduclui were gaining influence and numbers over to their cause, that of usurpation, domination, and destruction. The Lui held yet another council, with Aequinum as head, who would have declared open war upon Ferater and the Caduclui, even unto the end of Mundhum, yet Unu did not will it to come to pass.  

Unu surprised the council with a favor and grace to all worlds, which theretofore was permitted to be hidden from all, Aequinum and Ferater, and all Lui, Caduclui, and children of Bonfilhum: a true daughter, not of Bonfilhum, but through a preserving favor of Unu, a daughter of Humunum, whose formal elements were perfectly harmonized and in peace with the will of the Lui and Unu. She became Tulu, She Who Bore the Light, for of Tulu came Lu Himself, unmediated by the Lui, to fill with friendship and peace an ever darkening world bent on its own destruction. Nor did Lu come through Tulu by any son of Bonfilhum, but by Unu Oneself, blessed be the name forever. Thus Lu, son of Humunum was also son of Unu, a perfect harmony of Light and the formal elements, of the will of Unu and Humunum, a harmony of all in all.

Mundhum came under the reign of Lu, Lord of Light, Who held dominion over all the descendants of Bonfilhum. But Ferater waged war against Lu, bringing many into his own dark counsels, which plotted against the life of Lu. Knowing all, Lu was not unaware of Ferater and the Caduclui’s plan to destroy Him. Allowing their wicked scheme to come to pass, Lu passed out into Munditer for a time, but to the amazement of the faithful sons of Bonfilhum returned, not bound by the elemental forms, but transcended the confines of matter, space and time. Caduclui held no might against Him. Lu’s reign was secure, entrusting it as He did to His Viceroy, the sons of Bonfilhum, before He returned to the World of Light. The Viceroys exercised the might and wisdom of Lu over all of Mundhum, not through martial force but graceful truth. 

The sons of Bonfilhum, now spread throughout Mundhum, unified themselves in great cities of all excellence of science and art, improved and greatly blessed as they were by the reign of Lu’s Viceroy, and his officials spread throughout the world of Mundhum. Through their craft these advantages of nature and grace increased the sense of self worth and confidence of the inhabitants of Mundhum, such that some began to forget where all excellence hailed from, namely, the Lui, and the Lord of Light, Lu, and His Viceroy, and His vast hierarchy of officials in the service of Lu, called the Dome, in which all faithful to Lu were called and gathered and lived.   

A great council of the inhabits of the Dome was called. Officials whose governance was spread throughout Mundhum were summoned to answer the challenge of the wayward sons of Bonfilhum, who at that time were infiltrating the ranks of the Viceroy of Lu, threatening to change the sacred norms and guides of peace and truth. These they did through crafts and cunning schemes developed by Ferater and other accursed Caduclui, bent on the destruction and overthrow of the Dome of Lu. However, unbeknownst to a vast majority of the Dwellers of the Dome and faithful followers of Lu, the Luisians, a servant of Ferater had already made his way to the top of the ranks of the Dome, to the place of the Viceroy himself. 

Headed by an anti-viceroy, the council convened would do untold damage to the sacred norms and guiding lights of peace and unity and order, thereby plunging Mundhum into a second age of darkness, to echo the first, under the reign of the same Ferater. As with the first, Mundhum fell to usurpation, domination and destruction, as the faithless followers of Ferater swelled in number to cover all lands in darkness and disorder and death. The true Luisians, those who remembered and trusted to the norms and guides of Lu and His Viceroy, soon found themselves quite alone and separated and isolated throughout Mundhum. Those officials of the Dome who swore allegiance to the anti-viceroy, neither abjuring his heinous manipulations of the norms and guides, nor holding fast to the sure rule of previous Viceroys, fell themselves into darkness and out of grace with Lu. 

Since the convening and concluding of the false council, two full generations passed and a third was beginning when the Mother of Lu, Tulu, began her work again in Mundhum, from where she reigned in light in the land of light, Mundluc, working in the hearts of the faithful sons of Bonfilhum, who still clung to her Son’s Viceroy’s decrees. She was raising up for herself and her Son an army of faithful followers who would do war with the wayward races of Mundhum before the coming flood of Fire. 

Vastly outnumbered, unknown and outcast, these faithful to Lu carried the seed of truth, to germinate into a new civilization, after the coming chastisement of Lu. They belonged to the secret order of the Servants of Tulu, known as the Tulusians, who, having bound themselves to her Son’s Viceroy’s decrees, ancient norms and guides, became to a world ever enveloping itself in darkness brands of borrowed light, to brighten a world bent on its own destruction.                             

I

A Walk in the Park

The sun rose over the desert valley plain, tracked and checkered in intersecting lines of metallic railways which gleamed in the light. The railcars were already busy zooming from one destination to another with clockwork consistency, when the bell towers peeled out their melodious call to Meditation, Care and Cooperation, the MC2 as inhabitants of Metro City referred to it, at the sounding of which denizens were expected to stop what they were doing immediately, and greet a neighbor and offer assistance or a handshake. The MC2 tolled three times daily: dawn, noon, and dusk, to the overwhelming disgruntlement of the majority.      

A young man of sixteen, sturdily built, well groomed and properly attired in the Metro Academy uniform––white trousers, white blouse, and blue buttons running down the front, and blue cap, was at the time of the tolling of the MC2 gazing out the window of the railcar, watching housetops whiz past in rapid succession. 

“May I be of some assistance?” said a soft, inviting voice from across the aisle. The young man turned abruptly toward the young woman who spoke. Her hair was the first thing he noticed: Jet black and beautifully contrasted against the blue and white uniform. Her eyes were a light blue, distant and yet sincere. Her cheeks were lily white, which was quite unseen in the desert valley. He tried to speak the customary reply, but somehow an attempt at the ritual seemed a sacrilege before such beauty. 

“You’re not from here, are you?” was all he could get out. Somewhat taken aback by the unorthodox reply, the young lady blushed a bit, which was all the more apparent by her fair complexion. 

“I just moved here from the Coastland. I’m Marie.”

“I’m Daniel, but you can call me Dan.” 

“Well, Dan, I believe I asked you a question. Are you going to answer it?” Marie said, in a half-rebuking, half-joking tone.

“You can. After classes, meet me at Green Grove, where the tree specimens are. You know which stop that is, right, the third to last on this line.” Dan said, in rather bold and straightforward fashion, which was not his custom. To his amazement, Marie consented and saluted him before disembarking at Women’s Wing of the Academy Complex. 

As the railcar began again, Dan looked back out his window, and watched Marie on the platform quickly becoming smaller and smaller, returning his gaze and gently waving goodbye.     

After a long succession of classes, Dan boarded the railcar that evening, as the sun was waning down over the western mountain range, the tops of which, though it was summer, were all heavily snow capped. Metro Valley ran four hundred miles north to south, with two great ranges of vast peaks on either, and ten miles between. Dan learned in his Geological History class that the Valley was thought to be the site of an ancient, massive river, which had dried up some time during the Light Wars at least ten thousand years ago, back when Light Weapons were known and used.    

“DING, DING, DING,” announced the next stop for Green Grove, which was only one of a handful of green patches of earth in all of Metro Valley. The grove and gardens, and indeed all of the Metro Valley, were fed by water pumped in from the coastland region a hundred miles west over the mountains. The grove was a living museum of horticulture and forestry by the designers, but simply a place to get away from it all before returning to the lonely orphanage barracks for the night. It was Dan’s sanctuary, for there surveillance was not allowed by city ordinance, and MC2 calls were only faintly heard and hardly ever heeded.

Dan disembarked onto the platform. The heat of the day had made the metal flooring panels pleasantly warm, as compared with the increasingly chilly desert air of evening. The car continued on its clockwork course with a low hum accelerating into a high whistle as it sped away down the line. 

Descending a stair from the platform, Dan made his way into the grove through a high gate, and proceeded to the tree specimens area, along a sidewalk illuminated by little blue lights hidden in shrubbery and flowers alongside. 

As he made his way casually to the the tree park, he noticed from afar that Marie had already preceded him and was seated herself at one of the benches, but was seemingly anxious. Dan could see her looking behind herself and at her wristwatch. He saluted her twenty paces away, but she did not seem to notice him as yet. Twilight was settling heavy on the distant, western peaks in soft purple hues, against which the bridge was becoming a colossus silhouette, dotted with a hundred pinpoint eyes peering into the oncoming night. Dan had descended into Green Grove at dusk many a time before, as it were almost routine, yet this night felt different. Was it the danger of letting a stranger in to his little world? Was it the unknown of woman that made him feel uneasy? Whatever it was, the night felt to Dan ominous and uncertain. He quickened his pace. 

Presently he greeted Marie audibly, who had now fixed her eyes on him and stood up at the same time. 

“You came! I’m glad!” Dan said, not hiding his enthusiasm to see her again. Another railcar briefly stopped to offload passengers, and was off again just as fast, which made Marie’s eyes dart from Dan to the platform not far off.

“What is it? It is just a railcar. They come rather more frequently than I would like. But they are gone soon enough.”

“Quiet,” Marie said in a very low tone, tangibly frightened. “They will hear us. I must speak quickly. Quick, now, walk by my side here,” Marie put her arm into Dan’s and motioned for them to walk, side-by-side, down the illuminated path into the trees. As they did so, Dan could sense how tense she was, and ever so often looked up at the platform and the intermittent cars coming and going. 

“Are you going to tell me what this is about? Why are you so anxious?” Dan tried to get out, but she made him know they still weren’t safe somehow, so he kept his peace. 

They walked on about five minutes into winding park path. The trees were ominously lit, he thought, with the electric blue lights of the path, and the eyes of the long, snake-like bridge curling around them. Dan was starting to sense the fear as well. 

“Now we may talk, but only briefly and as low as I am now. What do you know of this Academy that you attend?” she asked, like one who knew the question before it was asked.

“Little, other than that it is a preparatory academy for young men and woman, for service in the Dome. Adolescents are selected at an early age for their Potentials, and I was screened, and selected, and I have been attending courses there since I was fourteen, about two years,” Dan said, without ceremony. 

“Yes, but what does the Academy say of itself?” she inquired again.

“That it is in the service of the One, and that all are obliged under obedience to submit to the Dome’s orders and decrees,” Dan said, now rather perplexed at such simple-minded questions. 

“What is this Dome you speak of,” Marie asked, this time with an air of superiority not unwarranted.

Dome is home, mother, father, brother, sister, friend: Dome is life. Dome is death. Dome is all. Dome is One. Dome is God,” Dan said, quoting verbatim the chant-meditation he was instructed to recite upon waking every day and retiring every night by his instructors at the Academy. 

“It seems this is going to be harder than I thought,” Marie said to herself. “Okay, do you remember your history, about the Light Wars of 43989, of the third age of Dry Land?” Marie asked, somewhat exasperated. “Look up, if you can, and see the stars. Remember now?”

“Oh, yea, the decedents of Goodman wanted to return to the Earth and the gods burned up the waters over the earth so they could again, right?” Dan said, somewhat impressed by his recollection of Ancient History class. 

“Yes, that is about right. Well, the ‘gods’ as you call them returned men back to the land under the condition that they would keep the promises their faithful father Goodman did, otherwise, the gods would burn them up!” Marie replied, visibly uneasy about casually talking about such matters. “And do you recall who was in charge of keeping such promises to the gods” Marie questioned further.

“I am a little shaky on that point, who?” Dan asked.

“The Officers of the Dome, and World-Light’s vicar, of course!” Marie almost shouted under her breath. The wood into which the path had wound was now emerging into a clearing where a venerable specimen was not prominently displayed, somewhat out of the way in a corner as it were. It was not very big, rather gnarly and careworn for a tree. The limbs were stout but brittle looking, as if it had seen a thousand moons eclipsed in its day. The foliage was, by the electric blue hue of the path, glossy and, in a word very charming to behold. The effect the tree made on Dan was singular and almost sentimental, like the feeling one gets looking at pictures of a childhood home, where anyone else would see only an ordinary house.

Marie motioned to stop, and she seemed to mutter something beneath her breath as her head was slowly bowed. Then she beckoned Dan to bow his head, and they both approached, arm-in-arm, in front of the tree. 

“Wood from this tree,” she began, clearing her the emotion from her throat, “was hewn to make a fire to burn World-Light, as a hypocritical holocaust to Dark-Bearer,” she said. “There was good reason why you felt drawn to Green Grove. The most sacred artifact of the ancient world was here waiting for you.”

“Impossible! This can’t be that tree! Why, the Dome officials would have exalted this Grove and made this an epicenter of meditation and contemplation!” Dan shouted, forgetting himself and his sworn quietude.

“Don’t you see, Dan? What now occupies the Dome represents everything opposed to Goodman and World-Light. Can you see the stars now? No! Because Metro City lighting has obscured them! Can you see and really feel the sun? No! Because Metro City keeps everyone inside, comfortable and blind! Could you see this sacred and venerable Tree before tonight? No! because a thousand other specimens and points of interest were planted all around it to obscure it like the stars are hidden by these electric illuminations. Can you see…” Marie’s voice dropped off, and she quickly turned behind us. Distant on the path, toward the platform, through the park rapidly moving lights were silently approaching them. 

“Quick, get down,” Marie whispered, making them drop down behind a refuse-recycle receptacle. “They’re coming.”

Dan could almost hear his heart beating, but for the winding, whistling hum of the railcars overhead. Before he could ask who was coming, a blinding blast of light emitted from one of the smaller lights running down the path, which hit the Tree and burst into a billion red, yellow, and blue sparks. Shielding their eyes and faces from the light and heat, Marie and Dan only heard and felt the percussion of the light shot against the Tree, which sounded like a railcar had collided against another head-on. 

“Quick now, follow me,” Marie, who had recovered from the explosion first, grabbed Dan’s arm, and they fled away off the path toward the western wall of Green Grove, out of the lights of the path. As Dan turned back and got a glimpse of where the light shot hit, he saw the old Tree still stood still, just as it always had, and perhaps just as it always will.          

Passing out into the dark night, the city lights reflected a feeble gleam on the desert floor, which made the distance to the mountain range’s foot hills seem to increase. Marie half guessed Dan’s thoughts, looking back into his face from where she led on ahead. 

“Don’t worry. We’ll make it to the hills by sunup,” she said. Dan only nodded, and trotted along, half dazed and wondering whether the past half hour was a dream or real. The night air was refreshingly cool, but Dan was getting thirsty, his throat dry from all the running and excitement. But he figured, if Marie could handle it all without refreshment, he ought to. 

Emboldened by this thought, and sensing the mental fog rising from his head, Dan asked to slow the pace to get some things settled. 

“Sure. What do you want to know?” Marie said, obligingly. 

“For starters, where are we going? And why are we running? And who are we running from anyway! What was that blast of light! And who are you!” Dan uttered in a breathless torrent of helplessness and ignorance. 

“One thing at a time, Dan,” Marie replied calmly. “We are heading to our secret cave in the mountains, which members of the Order gather and report on their doings and progress. We dare not gather in the City.”

“Okay, but I think that just introduced ten more questions. Please proceed,” Dan said, flummoxed. 

“Get down! Here!” Marie shouted in a whisper, and pulled Dan’s hand toward a desert shrub. A bright shaft of pale yellow light streamed across the desert floor from where they had began, from the walls of the Green Grove, now about three miles behind them. The light was scanning back and forth in an ominously slow, searching manner, which made Dan’s neck hairs stand on end. 

“What’s that!” Dan asked under his breath. 

“That is the answer to your second and third questions,” Marie said. “That is a search party after me. It seems they traced my movements through audio and video surveillance, or through spies, and guessed who I was and what I was doing in the City.”

“Wait a second. Who are you? You said you just moved here from the coast, but then you said you had a secret cave in the mountains! Which is it?” Dan said, now somewhat suspicious. 

“I have just arrived from the coastland. I am an operative commander there, and was relocated here. One thing at a time, Dan. It is much to take in. Perhaps we can rest now, now that that search light has been turned out. I don’t think they know we came this far or are going toward the mountains,” Marie said, sitting down on the ground, motioning to Dan to do the same. 

“Okay, so who is chasing us and why?” Dan asked. 

“They are the officials of the Dome, in the service of darkness. They are chasing me because I have been in the City to recruit soldiers for the Lady of Light’s army,” Marie said.  

“How did your recruiting go?” Dan asked.

“Not well. I had only a handful I was to make contact with, and of those only one turned out to be receptive and open to the truth,” Marie said, visibly saddened by the accounting. 

“And what are these recruits asked to do? Do they get weapons?’ Dan asked, not abashed at his boyishness poking through. 

“The recruits are asked to do what they have always professed to do, be good and believe, and get others to do the same. There are weapons, but we would rather not it came to that, though it probably will in the end,” Marie’s grief sharpened a pitch at this last thought.

Dan just sat there, not knowing what to say, and feeling a little silly for asking about weapons. The night air was chilling off even more now, and both started to shiver. 

“I think it is best we start off again toward the cave,” Marie said, standing up, and brushing off the dust from her white uniform. 

Marie led the way with a quickened pace, but Dan’s legs were rejuvenated from the brief rest, though his mind was labored and grappling with Marie’s words and what it all meant. Her pace prevented him any more questions presently, though he had so many more. 

The two journeyed on through the night in silence and in brief stops here and there, until, at last, the first light of the morning was beginning to glow dimly along the eastern range, outlining their peaks and contours.   

“Do you see between those two peaks, that a line falls down between them? That line terminates at the base of the mountains. There is where our path to the cave begins. It is marked by boulders strewn about apparently at random, but if followed leads to safety and truth,” Marie said, looking up and gesturing for Dan to do the same. 

“Yes, I see it,” Dan said. 

“Good. I must ensure you get their. It is almost morning. They will have searched the City this night and realized I did not return but took my chances in the desert. They will be out at first light in search of me. I must ensure they find me and not you,” Marie said determinately. 

“What on earth are you saying, Marie!” Dan said, frightened. 

“You are more important than you know, Dan. If you are captured or killed, more will be lost than you can possibly imagine. You asked me who I was, but the better question should have been, who are you? Follow the path, and you will get your answer,” and with that Marie turned back and ran the way they had come. And, as Dan looked on half amazed, she disappeared in the distance. He motioned to run after her, but heeding her wisdom, and wanting answers, he let her go.

Dan turned back to the rising mountain range, and found the path leading down it again in the growing glow of morning light. Afraid for Marie, weary of mind, thirsty to death, Dan’s spirit was failing and falling within him as he looked upon the path he still had to traverse. 

As he began to climb the rough terrain, Dan thought about what Marie had said before she left him. Who are you? Oddly enough, that question never occurred to Dan to ask himself. At the orphanage he did what he was told. At the Academy, he took orders without question. He was comfortable at the orphanage, and well provided for with all his necessities; at the Academy, he was pleasantly amused and fulfilled with his studies, and with the exercises and sports, and, though he was somewhat of an outcast cadet, being without a family, he was sociable when called upon, and not quarrelsome. But to ask who are you never crossed his mind, perhaps for want of imagination, perhaps contentment, Dan didn’t know. But the question lay before him now like a mountainside, and he wasn’t sure which was more difficult, climbing the mountain on the verge of collapse, or finding the answer to his question. 

After a half hour of climbing in the increasingly brighter light, Dan looked back for the first time to see below him the desert floor far below, stretching out toward the distant Metro City skyline. The sun had not yet crested over the eastern peaks, but was close to it, and throwing its rays westward over the valley, which was filling in red-orange hues. The western range burned with the first fire of the dawning sun, and Dan was heartened by the sight, and resolved to quicken his pace toward the cave.

As he ascended, he observed here and there massive boulders with strange rune script hewn into them, patterned as like a design within a message. One script on one rock was particularly striking in the rising sun, which made the characters sparkle and accentuate their curves and angles. To Dan’s amazement, as he stood there next to the rock and rested, and gazed upon the surface moving his eyes over the unintelligible writing or drawing, he began to understand, or at least he thought he understood. It was directions, or a map, or both, Dan did not know which. The rock communicated the location of the cave with images in his mind formed by sounds like musical notes. He heeded their direction and proceeded with assurance he was on the right path. 

“I sure hope I can get a drink when I get there,” Dan said aloud, surprising himself by the sound, for the mountainside and lower foothills had been still and silent all morning and, except for the crunching and shifting of pebbles and dirt beneath his feet, he heard nothing besides. He carried on, his throat now parched beyond endurance, and presently throbbed with pain from the dryness; yet he carried on up the path.

Boulders with markings like the ones below where now less prevalent, but consistently led the way up. The mountainside was starting to warm up now, as the light of the sun was cresting over the ridge top. The heat became an unwelcome and smothering blanket, which Dan wished to throw off. 

“How far? Directions didn’t show,” Dan remarked to himself, now somewhat stumbling than walking. He lumbered on, leaning on one boulder for a second, then stumbling forward to the next. Presently he tripped over a rock and fell down to the ground and lay there a while. As he did so, Dan looked out again over the valley far below. It was now nearly in the full light of the sun, the earth-red floor reflecting back the yellow light of day. He noticed the glittering metallic rail lines in the distant City, which slashed through the background western range in streaks of silver white light. Then Dan’s gaze fixed on another sight. A formation of what appeared to be gliders was racing out from Metro City, into the desert plains.

“Marie! Marie!” Dan shouted, which echoed throughout and down the mountainside. Dan managed to lunge up to his feet and steady himself on a boulder and looked again down to the fast approaching search party. “Nowhere to hide, nowhere,” Dan uttered beneath his breath as he desperately looked down upon the situation. The gliders changed formation now from an arrow line to that like a pack of dogs circling their prey. “They found her!” Dan shouted again with terror. In a frenzy of emotion, he leapt forward from where he was resting against a boulder and tripped again and, striking his skull against a rock, blacked out. 

The formation of gliders finally encircled their prey, and, as they began to close in, all of a sudden a bright flash of brilliant red, yellow and blue light filled the region of the desert floor where Marie had been just moments before. Dan still lay unconscious and bleeding on the mountainside, as the sun slowly and silently wheeled overhead.    

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