XII – True Face Revealed
They stood looking at Sailem as he drew down his hood, each one of them tense and Isa had already reached for her dagger.
“There’s no need for that” said Sailem looking towards her as he let the hood lay on his shoulders, the wind blew his hair about his face “I mean none of you any harm, quite the opposite in fact.”
“Then why have you brought us out here in the middle of nowhere? What the hell is going on?” said Dakar.
“I’m sorry about all of this, I wish it didn’t have to come to this but what you guys saw up at the Sanctuary, what happened to Baruto…and what with Daygon, I had no other choice” said Sailem as he looked to each one of the group in turn.
“Sailem, what’s going on? What are you going to do with us?” said Dasha, her lip trembling as she couldn’t believe what was happening. First Baruto, then Lemekia and now this? Was she having a very long nightmare? She hoped at any moment she would wake up back in her room in Lemekia.
“I promise, on my body, I mean no harm. I promised your brother I’d get you all to safety…just not the way he thought it would be” said Sailem when he started to reach for his waist and they all tensed up only for him to pull a disk from his belt, which he held in his hand and raised up in the air for all to see.
“Do any of you know what this is?” said Sailem as he moved it so each one of them could get a clear view. It was a disk no bigger than the palm of his hand, a finger thick, a red heptagon gemstone lodged in the centre, running around the edges was a cursive writing in a language she couldn’t recognise and running on the edges of the disk, were several images but they were too abstract to understand.
Dasha had no clue what she was supposed to gather from this disk and she turned to the others for support, all of them with equally as blank expressions on their faces, except for Wex, who’s mouth was gaping open and he gasped.
“You…you’re a..” he said pointing at Sailem.
“What is it Big Brain? What the hell is going on here?” said Dakar as he looked from Sailem to Wexell.
“He’s…a Nephlin” said Wex, looking around the entire group and all eyes were back on Sailem.
“Very clever Wex” he said as he put away the disk with a smile which only made Wexell’s pride grow “Akello said you were a bright mind, brighter than I ever imagined, that’s for sure. It’s sad the rest of you didn’t recognise this immediately though I can’t blame any of you. Everyone used to recognise that Disk up until ten years ago, it was our calling card and what identified all those in my order.”
“It can’t be” said Isa shaking her head “The Nephlin have been gone for ten years now.”
“Yes, we have been gone, gone from under the sun but waiting and working patiently in the shadows” he proclaimed as he stepped forward and he clenched his fists.
“We’ve been around for five thousand years, it’ll take more than false accusations and wrongful imprisonments to destroy us.”
“Don’t step any closer” said Dasha as he was only a few steps from them now “You still haven’t explained why you’ve taken us here and if you really are a Nephlin…how do we know anything you’ve ever told us was the truth? Matter fact, you could have stolen that disk and used it to trick us.”
Sailem laughed out loud, clutching his sides as he did so and she glanced at the others, all of them unsure what to make of him.
“Oh Dasha” he said wiping his eye still chuckling “You really are your brother’s sister. Yes, who’s to say I didn’t just kill the original owner of this disk, keep it for myself and bring you all here under false pretence? A Magi and smart, you’ll do great things when your older.”
She shuffled on the spot, unsure what to feel after what he had just said.
“But no” he said turning serious in a flash “I truly have brought you all with me for your own safety and if you mistrust me, ask Daygon for yourself. I’ve been a constant visitor to Master Baruto’s for years now, he would recognise me and vouch for the truth in my words.”
They turned to the carriage and Dasha told one of them to get Daygon and try to wake him up and bring him out here. Isa offered to do so, cautiously stepping around Sailem and climbed into the back of the carriage.
“What you guys saw up there…no one your age should have had to encounter. I’m amazed that you all got out alive. Demons are ruthless creatures and relentless, when you told me what had happened, my heart leaped for joy. Joy that you all got out without as much as a scratch on any of you” he told them.
“So if your Nephlin” said Dakar “What have you been doing in our city all this time? And how do you know Baruto?”
“Well, the part about me coming from Omion is true. I was raised there and worked there as a Nephlin before I had to head east” he said “And I had to stay at Lemekia to look over and after Baruto, as well as one of our younger students, who you all had the pleasure to meet. Didn’t you all ever wonder, why it was an elderly man had an entire sanctuary to himself up in the mountains?”
They all didn’t have an answer and the question that they should have asked themselves seemed pretty obvious.
“It’s because he was a Nephlin himself” said Sailem.
“What?” said Dasha “He was a Nephlin?”
“Indeed though not many drew up that fact after the war ten years ago. You know how it is these days, even mentioning the Nephlin is enough to be seriously questioned, nobody wanted another reason to anger Decabia” he replied.
“And since he was in a high position of power, they allowed him to keep and remain in the sanctuary, as long as it was just himself and not used to harbour any ex-Nephlin. At first they mistrusted him, sending many people to check up on him but after a while he was left alone. It worked for our advantage, for we needed to keep him safe” he said, nodding towards Daygon as he climbed out the carriage behind Isa, looking about them, quite confused when he joined the group and his face light up.
“Master Hekriam” he said “I didn’t know you were joining us here…wait, where is here you guys?”
“Safe, that’s where we are Daygon” said Sailem.
“Hekriam?” said Dasha and she saw the man she had always seen until that day dissolve before her eyes “Sailem, that isn’t even your real name?”
“I had to change and forget many things these past few years, not just for my own safety” said Hekriam before he turned back to Daygon.
“Is everything alright Daygon? I heard about Master Baruto, I can’t imagine the pain you must be feeling” he said as he put a hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“It’s…it’s okay” said Daygon looking at them with tear filled eyes but he smiled weakly “Master always told me that like a circle, we’ll come and go from this world but we always remain here, in some way. I’ll see him again one day.”
“I’m sure we will” said Hekriam before turning to the others.
“Daygon was Master Baruto’s personal pupil. We are training him in the ways and art of the Nephlin. You all saw the Demons back at the Sanctuary and mark my words, their threat is real, a threat which has been ignored and treated as myth for far too long.”
“The Demons are coming back into this world and we’ll need every able fighter we can to fight them back off as we did so five thousand years ago” he continued “The demise of my order is unfortunate timing. We need people now more than ever, to fight for our future, not a city’s future, not a provinces but humanity’s.”
“This is the reason I took you guys here” he told them “We’re heading towards a secret place, a place where the Nephlin have hid for ten years, working in the shadows, keeping vigilant from them and making sure this world stays protected.”
“This is why I need all of you there, so you can tell them yourselves what happened” he continued “You may be young but you all have no reason to lie and people in Urok knew Master Baruto well and many still respect his name and consider the man a brother.”
“We need your testimony. We need to tell the higher ups in Urok of the danger that they are blind too. If we don’t warn them soon and get prepared, this whole world as we know it, it will be gone.”
Dasha sat beside the crackling fire, tossing small pieces of tinder into the wood to keep it burning and she looked up to the star filled sky, the full moon hidden behind some clouds. The heavy snoring of Wulf had kept her from falling asleep though many more things kept her awake, her mind full of thoughts of Demons, Lemekia, Akello and what Sailem, or as she know had to get used to, Hekriam had told them.
They had not discussed the matter any further with him and they had divided themselves up, leaving him and Daygon to one side of the camp and they kept to the other.
What could they say or do? They were out here in the middle of nowhere, with no idea where the closest civilisation was. Even if they had wanted to run off, they most likely would have gotten lost in the desert never to be heard from again.
But as they’d eaten their meal earlier that night, under hushed tones, Dakar had voiced his opinion.
“Once I tell my father what this lunatic did to us, he’ll have his head” he whispered as he stuffed his face.
“I think he’s telling the truth” said Isa glancing over his shoulder were Daygon and Hekriam sat conversating between one another though they were too far to hear anything of what they were talking about. Isa was alone though for Dakar and Wex were furious of the predicament they were in. She was too though she didn’t chose to show it whereas Manny, well, no one knew what he thought for he hadn’t said a word on the topic, preferring to just simply eat, watch and listen.
‘He must be as scared as us. He fought those Demons single handedly and he lost his Master’ said Isa out loud.
“Isa, you’ve let yourself become blind” said Dakar.
“What do you mean?” she whispered back, lines forming on her forehead.
“You know exactly what I mean” he said and Dasha saw Isa go slightly red but was it because of the heat or something else.
“How can you guys be so calm?” he said flabbergasted “We’ve been abducted, no one knows we’re here and those two are Nephlin, you’ve all heard the reasons for why their order was ended, what they do, what kind of people they are…this is that Hekriam’s fault as much as it is that boy’s, Jay or something.”
“Daygon” said Isa and Dakar scoffed, not caring about the correct name.
“I don’t know” said Wex “Father always spoke highly of them and from what I’ve read, they did both right and wrong, just like any other order.”
“Great, I’m surrounded by Stockholm Syndromes” said Dakar as Wex tried to argue that didn’t mean he was excusing him but Dakar wasn’t having any of it.
He had gotten up and retired for the night, sleeping in a blanket that he wrapped himself with so only his hair poked through and buried himself inside it like a larvae though she had heard him sobbing at one point when she had passed by it when she needed to empty her bladder.
“What could we do anyway?” said Manny as he bite into an apple once he left “I say we ride this out and the first chance we get, we leg it.”
“But what if they’re telling the truth?” said Isa “We all saw those, those things, none of you can deny it. What if we’re their only chance, what if we’re Aludin’s only chance. They scared me more than any story I’ve heard about Decabia. What if we abandon them and these Demons do attack and we could have done something to stop it?”
“And that’s another reason not to get involved in all of this” said Manny “I’m not risking my butt against some Demons.”
“So what would you do runaway? You heard him and you all heard the legends of the Demons” said Isa her brow creasing.
“A better reason to leave sooner, so I don’t sink deeper and deeper into all of this and not get involved any further” he said licking his fingers.
“Idiot” she said and he was going to start giving her a piece of her mind when Wex put his arms between them.
“Wohoho, easy there” he said “Look…it’s been a rough, and very, very long day. Let’s get some sleep, we all need it and we have no choice but to stick with the two of them, for now. Let’s keep our eyes on them, if it starts to look bad for us, we won’t be caught unawares.”
Isa and Manny both stood up and walked in opposite directions, Wex looking at Dasha with a funny smile.
“Where did you find that guy?” he chuckled to himself as he sliced the skin off an orange.
“Stealing from Kirrina’s abandoned house” she said casually “But don’t tell anyone else that, I know I can trust you Wex.”
“Oh damn” said Wex looking to his right “I like him, though. Anyone that can annoy Dakar, that’s someone I can get along with.”
And now here she was, sitting by the fire trying to seek some sleep as she looked into the flames.
She lost herself looking within them, the flames dancing around and at one point, she thought she saw her brother within the flames, looking at her, his face stern before his mouth opened and he started yelling and she thought she could hear him.
She looked around her and looked back into the fire but he was gone and she finally lay down, resting her head under her hands as she closed her eyes and within a few moments, she finally won her battle against insomnia.