“Get up you lazy hounds!!” Rhino’s voice booms through the air, shocking the still slumbering Pentad awake.
Rhino glares at the Pentad spread out on the ground from the previous night’s festivities. His anger fumes as he sends seismic waves through the ground to jolt the Pentad into standing positions.
He sees that even in the light of day and his booming actions, the Pentad still is dazed from the previous night. He curses inwardly as he then points directly at Hawk, “Get your Pentad in line, Hawk. You will meet me at the Benches on the other side of the Injhihato in no less than one hour. Any questions?”
Hawk raises his hand, wincing as he readies himself for Rhino’s tongue lashing.
“Follow this path through the Injhihato,” Rhino states gesturing towards a path of black rock that leads throughout the Injhihato, “and you will come upon five Benches arranged in a star. That is where you will find me. Do not be late,” Rhino finishes as he storms away, his okit sending seismic waves through the ground with every stomping step.
Hawk glances at his Pentad around him. He knows he must appear just as they for he feels utterly exhausted. He thinks back to the previous night and cannot remember when he fell asleep. He brushes off the dirt on his tunic and trousers where he says, “Well, we got an hour. Might as well change. Didn’t Firose say there’d be more clothes and some leather armor in our bed chambers today?”
Santhemum nods as she is the first to awaken fully and begins to lead the Pentad to their bed chambers. The Pentad follow Santhemum slowly across the Central Complex of the Injhihato. They enter through the entryway next to the Gallery and ascend the five staircases that leads to their bed chambers.
Inside the chambers, they find new tunics, trousers, socks, boots, and armor awaiting them on their respective beds. Hawk changes quickly, Rhino’s tongue-lashing fresh on his mind. He dons his leather armor and is pleasantly surprised to see the armor fits perfectly.
He gazes at the others to see Santhemum donning a new silver arm band. He sees Fox strapping his dagger to his hip with a new sheathe. He sees Pork flexing his hands in a new pair of gloves. And he sees Desert tying a new crimson scarf around his face.
Hawk glances at the window to see the sun has risen fully in the sky. He curses, yelling, “We gotta go! Rhino’s waiting for us!”
The Pentad tears out of their bed chambers and sprints down the stairs. They run as hard as they can, but with the exhaustion of the previous night still weighing down their bodies, they do not arrive at the Benches until nearly after fifteen minutes past Rhino’s requested time.
Bent over, holding their knees, gasping for breath, the Pentad stands before the okit Daijok as he glares at them with anger surging through his aura.
“All right, Pentad,” Rhino begins, “though I am pleased to see that you are in fact in the requested place, you failed to arrive at the requested time. There is a most wonderful exercise we call, ‘The Edge,’ here. Follow the signs that say Oxvo. The beginning is there,” Rhino concludes as he points to the starting sign just to the left of the Benches.
“Run it,” is all Rhino says before he plops down on a Bench overlooking the Central Complex of the Injhihato.
When Rhino sees that the Pentad has yet to begin, he explodes, seismic energy tearing gashes into the ground around him, “I instructed you to run, Pentad! Perhaps you were not informed that I am the Daijok of discipline as well. And from what I have recently witnessed, you all must be taught a most invaluable lesson in discipline, and soon! Now, run!”
The Pentad gasps at Rhino’s outburst, but sprints in the direction of the starting sign. The Pentad begins on a fast pace, but after their initial adrenaline fades away, they slow to a brisk walk.
They find themselves often on the edge of the massive cliff that separates Munda Luna from the ocean to the west. They find themselves running through streams, up and down hills, through brief woods, and even through a majestic water fall that empties into a lake that drains into a stream they already ran through previously. They realize the waterfall is the halfway mark of the Edge Run.
The Pentad, gasping for breath, their entire bodies aching, finally arrives back at the Benches where they see the final sign saying, ‘End Edge Run.’
They double over in complete misery after having run through even more woods, streams, and hills. They see Rhino rise from his Bench where he gazes at the sky where the sun has begun to dip toward the horizon.
“Very slow, Pentad, very slow,” Rhino says. “You must not only have mental discipline, but physical discipline as well. Run another. Now.”
The Pentad gape at the command, but know better than to argue with the Daijok and take off on their second Edge Run of the day.
The Pentad again begins fast initially, but the toll of the first Edge Run weighs upon their bodies to the point where they can barely move their foot in front of the other. Hawk continues to lead his Pentad through the Edge, but sees them in a line falling back with every step.
He sees Desert and Santhemum staying only a few feet a part and just a few yards behind him. He sees Fox behind them a few yards. And behind Fox, he sees Pork stumbling over flat ground.
Hawk curses to himself as he continues to persevere through another Edge Run. He witnesses numerous Rniti training in the rings scattered throughout the Injhihato. He sees the future to where he and his Pentad train in those very same rings.
He glances back to his Pentad after they pass the waterfall for the second time. He yells to them, “Halfway done, everyone.”
The Pentad just shakes their head in disbelief.
The sun sets to hang an hour before touching the horizon where the Pentad finally passes the end sign of the Edge. They collapse to the ground. Their bodies aching with the exertion.
Rhino rise, frowns, and says, “Well, you ran that one even slower. And I believe that is due to the fact that you valued the festivities of last night as more important than the future. Run another Edge.”
The Pentad groans in silent protest as they each rise slowly to their feet. They trudge to the starting sign and begin their third Edge Run.
The Pentad walks together throughout much of the third Edge Run. A group of Rniti walking towards the Gallery passes the Pentad. One of the Rniti remembers seeing the Ummkoniyos before and laughs.
He gestures towards the Pentad, “Do you all remember the Edge? How brutal.”
Hawk hears the Rniti and turns to say, “The first was. The third, murder.”
Each of the Rniti in the group stop and gape as they watch the Pentad disappear behind a hill.
The sun dips deep below the horizon to be completely obscured, the Pentad finally reaches the end of their third edge run. They collapse to the ground holding themselves in fetal positions.
Rhino nods as if pleased with the Pentad’s performance.
“Pentad,” Rhino says standing over them, “you have performed adequately today. Now is the time for me to teach you of Rniti discipline. What is the one aspect of being a Rniti that you must always embody?”
When the Pentad can do nothing but gasp for breath, Rhino explodes, “Well, if you are just going to disrespect me by merely laying there, perhaps tomorrow you will enjoy another Edge Run! Yes, in fact, that will be your first exercise tomorrow. Be gone to your bed chambers.”
The Pentad slowly rise again and just as they step to trudge away, Rhinos says, “Oh, and Pentad, remember that the way you finished that last Edge Run is the key to the answer to my question. Enjoy your rest.”
The Pentad can only scratch their heads as they trudge off to their bed chambers.
‘Uxxok has gone off by himself,’ Teqqc says telepathically through the connected auras to Vaiqon, Rhino, Shark, and Vulcan.
‘What?! How could he just leave you?!’ Vaiqon exclaims dramatically.
‘Relax, Vaiqon, I can handle myself,’ Teqqc says with a touch of annoyance.
‘I realize this, Oqoponh, but-’ Vaiqon says.
‘But nothing. I am the Oqoponh, thank you for reminding me. But even so, I still cannot track this blasted aura!’
‘The aura that has similar traits with Ragefier?’ Vulcan asks.
‘Is there any other aura I would be talking about?’ Teqqc snaps.
‘Wait, why did Uxxok leave?’ Shark asks concerned.
Teqqc is quiet for a moment, ‘He actually left two days ago.’
‘And you did not inform us of this?’ Vaiqon says, shocked.
‘Look,’ Teqqc begins, clearly agitated as her frustration filters through the connections, ‘I can take care of myself, Vaiqon. And I did not inform you because I felt it unnecessary and irrelevant at that time. Now, however, I am slightly worried because I cannot even detect Uxxok’s aura.’
‘If he has gone to the underground, he probably is shading it,’ Rhino suggests.
‘No, even if he was, I could still feel it. Uxxok has quite a staple to his aura. He is angry, all the time,’ Teqqc announces.
‘We all are, are we not?’ Vulcan says characteristically.
Teqqc says nothing.
‘Nevermind Vulcan, Teqqc, have you discovered anything in your research?’ Vaiqon asks.
‘No,’ is Teqqc’s quick answer. ‘The only good thing that has happened the past few days is that no one else has been murdered, and I owe that to sending my contacts to every library across Munda Luna as an extra line of protection.’
‘That is not necessarily good news,’ Vulcan says.
The other three Daijoks glare at him. Vulcan holds his ground though as he says, ‘What? Maybe no one else has been murdered because the fiend has gathered all the information it needs to accomplish whatever it wants to do.’
Teqqc’s shoulders fall and her depressed feelings echo through the connections.
‘I am sorry to worry you, Teqqc,’ Vulcan says. ‘But I am afraid I cannot overlook that daunting possibility.’
‘I have already thought of that, Vulcan,’ Teqqc says. ’I had just gotten rid of that thought, but thank you for implanting it back in my mind.
Vulcan says nothing more.
‘The reason why I do not wish to dwell on that thought,’ Teqqc begins, ‘is because of the one thing I did find.’ Teqqc then reads the passage Uxxok found. She finishes and waits patiently.
‘I am sorry, I do not see what is so foreboding about that passage,’ Shark says.
Teqqc sighs to herself, ‘You do not see what this is talking about?’
‘Clearly, Shark does not, and neither do I,’ Rhino says.
‘It is saying that this power out there is what that fiend is searching for. I believe this power is what corrupted the Thousand Nightmares,’ Teqqc says emphatically.
‘This is nothing, Teqqc,’ Vulcan says.
Teqqc tries to rebuttal but Vaiqon stops her, ‘We have heard this legend before, Teqqc, and it is merely that and that alone. Legend. Nothing more. Besides, how does this passage relate to what is happening to the land’s scholars?’
Teqqc cannot believe the ignorance of the Daijoks’ words. ‘Why else would scholars with knowledge of the ancient past be tortured and then killed? What information could they possibly give besides ancient legends? Certainly not war strategy!’
‘Teqqc,’ Shark says, ‘most of the scholars in Munda Luna study the past to prevent future wars. Strategies are in fact something scholars could be very knowledgeable about.’
Teqqc’s anger explodes through the connections just as she severs her aura from theirs. She looks about the dim room with just a single candle lit for illumination as she looks among the book with the passage, the paper with the scholar’s last words, and the stained floor where the scholar’s body bled.
She shivers as she feels another aura attempt to contact her. Fearing the Daijoks are trying to reconcile and not wishing to hear a word of it, she shoves a wall into the request.
She looks to the corner of the office, conjures a mattress from the air and falls upon it with her eyes forced closed.