Sitting in a chair, looking out the window at the city she has called home for the past two decades, Teqqc waits for word from Uxxok while she gazes at the skyline of Lauin. She sighs as her gaze grazes upwards and she stares at the darkening sky.
‘The sky looks darker and darker every week. I sure hope Uxxok is okay,’ she thinks to herself.
She rises from the chair to stand closer to the window. She looks across the entire city to the tallest building in Lauin, the Steeple as it is officially named. But, she knows it as the Rain Drop.
She smiles at the memory of her greatest mentor informing her of how the building came to be. She remembers Iroko leading her to the building when she was no more than a teenager, her Oqoponh prowess becoming realized.
Iroko leads just a step ahead of Teqqc. They walk to the doors of the building but instead of entering, Iroko leads Teqqc away from the building about ten feet. Teqqc becomes perplexed.
“Master Iroko, I thought you were going to teach me about the Rain Drop?” Teqqc asks.
Iroko smiles. He glances at Teqqc, her goldenrod hair shining brilliantly in the sun. He grabs her shoulders, turns her around and says, “Brace yourself.”
Before Teqqc can question whether or not she heard Iroko correctly, she is suddenly flying through the air with Iroko’s hands on her hips for support. She feels her breath catch as she realizes she has ascended higher than the Rain Drop.
She wants to scream and tries to claw her way out of Iroko’s grip. She panics and cannot even focus enough to flash to safety. She does not even realize when they peak on their flight and begin to descend. Her stomach moves into her throat. Her cloak billows from the wind. Her eyes flutter involuntarily.
She hears a muffled voice behind her. She tries to yell out, but she looks down and sees the Rain Drop approaching quickly. She tries to scream again. She hears the muffled voice again. Panic sets in even deeper into her mind.
Suddenly, her aura is breached by a familiar presence. Her panic subsides somewhat.
Iroko speaks to her, ‘Relax, Teqqc. And, hold your breath when I tell to.’
Teqqc becomes entirely perplexed and even more scared. Her body giving in to gravity drastically with both her and Iroko connected. She tries to speak to Iroko through their connected auras but only hears, ‘Now! Hold your breath!’
Teqqc barely comprehends the words and reacts just in time before both her and Iroko breach the surface of a body of water that has come out of thin air. Teqqc feels her body bombarded by the rushing water trying to calm itself after the disturbance of Iroko and Teqqc.
Teqqc’s breath was blown out of her as soon she hit the water. She sucked in a lungful of water without thinking. She panics again. She tries to swim but flails about instead.
Suddenly, she feels an air current whipping about her. She feels herself being risen. She hears a muffled voice, “Relax and let yourself go.”
She thinks to herself, ‘I must be mad,’ as she allows herself lose control of her body and suddenly finds herself on top of an ice pad floating in a pool of water.
She looks about. She sees dark walls around her. She looks up to see a halo of blue sky smiling at her. She looks around and sees Iroko opposite her on an ice pad of his own.
Iroko makes some movements and freezes the water entirely, a jet stream forced upward after he has completed his movements. He walks to a lying Teqqc. He offers her his hand. He makes an air chair for Teqqc and himself.
He sits and waits for Teqqc to do the same. Teqqc finally regains control of herself and explodes at the old man.
“What was that?!” Teqqc blares.
Iroko merely laughs, old eyes twinkling beneath his wrinkles. He pats his beard and rubs his fading hairline. “Oh, so you mean to tell me that you did not enjoy that free fall? I found it rather exhilarating.”
Teqqc flushes with anger and confusion. Then, her sense finds her again. She rolls her eyes and then smacks her head with her palm.
“You planned all of this. You knew what was going to happen.”
“Of course I did. You think I would do anything to put the Oqoponh in harm’s way.”
Teqqc thinks back to their past few days of training with each other and hesitates to answer. She remembers Iroko throwing sharpened spears at her to provoke her ire. He threw them relentlessly until she could redirect ten spears in a row. She remembers him throwing boulders the size of houses at her trying to bring about her okit.
“This was supposed to provoke my fuhok?”
Iroko nods. “Ah, so you have been learning,” Iroko chuckles.
Teqqc’s face flushes red again. She tries to control her anger, but her free-flight is still well ingrained in her mind. She cannot forgive this mad man before her so quickly this time.
“Master Iroko, I realize your intentions, but why must you threaten my life everyday?”
Iroko chuckles again, “Ah, Oqoponh Teqqc, excellent question. Well, as you know, you are the Oqoponh. You have connections to all of the zoltind, but, they lie dormant within you. I am merely trying to-”
“I know, Master Iroko,” Teqqc says with impatience. “But, why must you endanger my life? Why can you not, I do not know, merely teach me the zoltind techniques like the Daijoks taught me sigo.”
Iroko takes on a dark look for a moment but then chuckles. “Ah, adolescent angst.” He chuckles again. “Young Oqoponh, what I am doing you do not understand now, but you will.”
“Will you please stop talking in riddles! My head is hurting from the past few days!”
Iroko chuckles again.
“And you are always chuckling why...”
Teqqc stops mid-sentence with her hands held high. Her sigo connection inflamed inside of her, but another force is emanating from her hands. She looks at them and sees a pulsating air wave radiating from her fists, a seismic energetic wave cascading from her knuckles, and a flurry of ice dancing across the back of her hand.
She stares at her hands, then at Iroko, then back at her hands.
“Ahaha!” Iroko exclaims, startling Teqqc. “So, your connections are no longer lying dormant, they are now running awake. Er, try to control them, Teqqc.”
Teqqc appears hesitant as she rises from her chair. Confusion runs amok on her face.
‘What am I supposed to do,’ she thinks to herself. She concentrates on her sigo aura inside of her and punches the air with her right hand. A stream of fire and seismic energy blows out from her, the walls rumbling when the stream collides with the solid object, the seismic energy transferring through the entirety of the building.
Teqqc’s eyes widen in astonishment. She punches her left hand and a stream of water and pulsating air fly toward the wall of the building. Her arms remain out as her eyes become even wider. The water around the large ice pad moves to fuel the water in the stream.
Teqqc smiles at her accomplishment. She looks at Iroko but is surprised to see a smirk on his face as well.
Iroko chuckles, “Excellent, now, try to shut them off,” he says with a knowing look in his eye.
Teqqc’s smirk drops instantly. “Shut them off?” she asks more to herself than Iroko. Iroko nods expectantly. Teqqc looks back to the two streams she is still firing at the wall.
She bites her lip. Nothing from her sigo aura alerts her to how to shut off the streams. Panic sets into her mind yet again. The panic leads to memories of her free-fall encompassing the entirety of her mind. Her panic grows exponentially. Her breath catches and feels as if she is going to black out.
Iroko watches Teqqc with interest and concern. He suddenly throws a powerful air current at Teqqc’s mind. He controls the air current to surround Teqqc’s body. The current grows to cover all of Teqqc except for her hands. Iroko then throws a vortex at Teqqc’s hands. He utilizes the vortex to direct the streams up and out of the Rain Drop.
He then pushes Teqqc with the air current to the ice pad and severs her connection to the streams with the vortex. He controls the vortex and the now captured zoltind forces inside of the vortex. He tips his head to Teqqc and then sends the vortex careening upward toward the halo above them.
He claps his hands and the vortex explodes, letting the water rain back to the water, the air escape, the fire extinguish, and the seismic energy to ring out. The raining water stops and Iroko offers his hand to Teqqc again.
Teqqc takes the old man’s hand and sits on the air chair Iroko has conjured for her. Iroko conjures his own air chair and sits as well. Teqqc observes Iroko and sees in his eyes that a lecture or worse is about to come. She groans and Iroko chuckles. Teqqc almost loses her temper again, but controls it.
Iroko appears impressed. “Ah, learned to control your temper already have we?”
Teqqc looks at Iroko suspiciously, “What are you talking about?”
“Come now, you must admit that you have quite the temper, especially for a sigo.”
Teqqc looks away and down. She knows he is right but does not want to admit it.
Iroko chuckles, “Very well then, I will take your silence as your admittance. Now, Teqqc, can you tell me why you were unable to control those two streams of zoltind force?”
Teqqc looks at Iroko with a blank stare. “No,” she says reluctantly.
“Did you not lose your temper?”
“And you are a sigo, are you not?”
“And we have spent the past few days becoming acquainted with the okit, ire, and fuhok, correct?”
“Ah, that is why you were able to summon all of the connections. And not control them.”
Teqqc looks at Iroko dumbfounded, “What?”
Iroko chuckles. “You are a sigo, and a very ill-tempered sigo at that. Your aura is littered with you losing your temper. To appease your anger, you conjured your sigo, causing your aura to be imprinted to spontaneously combust in flame, causing you to shoot out streams of fire, am I correct?”
Teqqc says nothing, feeling probed for an unknown reason. She squirms in her air chair slightly.
“Ah, I see. Very well, so, I spent the past few days forcing you to acquaint yourself with the other three zoltind forces and trying my best to make you lose your temper so that when you finally did combust, you shot all of the zoltind forces rather than just sigo, even though I am rather confident that you felt sigo surging through your body, am I correct?”
Teqqc gapes widely.
“I shall take that as a yes. I awakened in you what was lying dormant. But, you were not able to control the forces for one very simple reason, you let yourself become clouded by panic, exhilaration, and surprise. Though you are the Oqoponh and you can easily learn a variety of fighting and all of the connections, does not necessarily mean you will learn to easily control the emotions that surge through your body while using all of the zoltind forces.”
Teqqc’s head begins to swim.
Iroko chuckles watching Teqqc rub her temples. “Which brings me to my point of putting you through near-death experiences everyday. I was merely trying to panic you because I feel that is your biggest weakness, I feel I am correct?”
Teqqc just stares at Iroko, “How do you know so much about me? Did you enter my aura without my knowledge?”
Iroko chuckles, “Oh, no, nothing like that. You are still merely a child in my eye, you wear your aura on your sleeve. I can read auras like a book. And so, the reason why I have been so at-ease about everything, including the free-fall into the Rain Drop, and the reason why I have been chuckling, and so resilient to all of your badgering and resistance. To show you that even in very stressful situations of all kinds, you, Teqqc, as the Oqoponh, must remain level-headed and ready to tackle any challenge that may arise.”
Teqqc gapes even wider. She closes her mouth. She shakes her head, “All of this, the past few days, the insane exercises, all of it, was to teach me this one lesson?”
“The most important lesson the Oqoponh should learn? Of course. To control yourself is the most difficult goal anyone could ever hope to achieve, but for the Oqoponh it is a must to control yourself. As you know, each zoltind force is paired with various emotions, okit is stubbornness, ire is clarity, fuhok is fluidity, and sigo is aggressiveness. Every respective zoltok learns to control these paired forces and emotions but the Oqoponh must learn to control them all.”
“And that is why I could not control the two streams,” Teqqc finally answers Iroko’s first question.
Iroko claps and smiles broadly, “Excellent! Teqqc, you are well on your way to becoming quite the Oqoponh.”
“Really? From answering one question?” Teqqc asks incredulously.
Iroko nods, “Yes, of course. Every great being begins with a root sprouting from a seed. You are no different and neither is the Rain Drop. Take a look at this Rain Drop, and the volume of water we are floating upon.”
Teqqc becomes perplexed, “What does the Rain Drop have to do with anything?”
Iroko chuckles, a hearty chuckle that Teqqc now hears as pleasant rather than irritating. Iroko chuckling is just whom he is. Teqqc smiles at the chuckling now.
“Do you know why they call this building the Rain Drop?”
Teqqc shakes her head. “This is the first time I have ever been to Lauin.”
“Ah, I see. It is an interesting factoid, if I do say so myself. Now, you must understand that Lauin is a very rainy place. Half the days of the year it rains. We just so happen to sojourn here during the dry spell.
“The rains come during only half the year however, the spring and summer months. In the fall, like now, and the winter, the rains mysteriously vanish. The aquifer underneath Lauin is very shallow and people used to empty it quickly, normally within a month of the rains stopping.
“Now, Lauin is only a day’s ride from Karacrross and their magnificent wells, but only a few hours ride from the plains where many agriculturists work. Most reside in Lauin, but must have a home in Karacrross when the water runs dry.
“But, many people could not afford the trip to Karacrross or even the lifestyle in Karacrross. So, because the Lauinians provided all of the food to Karacrross as well as themselves, they struck a deal. Karacrross would provide Lauin with water during the dry spell.
“But, as you can imagine, this became monstrously expensive for both Karacrross to export water as well as Lauin to import water. But alas, this became the tradition for nearly two centuries until the Oqoponh of the period had an ingenious idea- construct a tower that captured some of the rain during the wet spells.
“That tower was deemed the Rain Drop because it collected the rains during the and dropped out all the water Lauin needed at the bottom into underground wells. The Oqoponh of that time was Vonieaj. She was known as the Genius Oqoponh, and the Rain Drop gives testament to that legacy.
“And so, to conclude, every great being begins as a root sprouting from a seed. The Rain Drop began as a few rain drops being collected and now look at it providing water for an entire city for half the year every year.
“I see greatness in you, Teqqc, so yes, answering one question correctly is your first root sprouting from your seed to that greatness,” Iroko concludes with a twinkle in his eye.
Teqqc closes her mouth not realizing she opened it. “That is amazing, Master Iroko.”
Iroko smiles, “Yes, it is. The Rain Drop is the reason why I made Lauin my home. But now, you realize what we must do next, right?”
Teqqc groans as she can only guess, “We have to jump into the Rain Drop again do we not?”
Iroko laughs heartily, “Ah, now you are thinking like me, but alas, no. We must eat, I am famished.”
Teqqc smiles at the memory. She hears someone behind her. She turns and sees Uxxok sitting on the couch next to the chair she was sitting in. Her spirits rise when she sees him. She breaks from the window and throws her arms around him.
Uxxok laughs as he pushes her away. “Come now, Teqqc, you act as if I had gone off to war.”
Teqqc pouts and slaps him in his shoulder, “The way you appeared in my home last time, do you expect me to think any different?”
Uxxok nods, “Well, you got me there. What were you looking at?”
Teqqc looks out the window to the Rain Drop, “Oh, nothing really. How long have you been here?”
“Only a few minutes, but long enough to realize you were reliving a memory. Was it a good one?”
“Well, you were there, so-”
Uxxok and Teqqc laugh together.
“Well, how was the meeting with the Daijoks?” Uxxok asks.
Teqqc’s smile fades. “Not well. You were right, Uxxok. They have been withholding information from me.”
Uxxok merely nods.
Teqqc continues, “They apparently found new information regarding this power.”
Uxxok sits up straighter as Teqqc recounts the entire confrontation with the Daijoks. When she is done, she reclines into the couch and Uxxok rises. He begins to pace.
“So, they now know why this power is so dangerous.”
Uxxok smiles at Teqqc, “You missed what they were hiding, Teqqc.”
Teqqc rises from the couch, she points a finger at Uxxok, “What are you saying, Uxxok?”
“I am meaning that they withheld information before your very eyes. They only told you what they did to appease you. You said Vaiqon never let you read the book, just told you what was in it.”
“Right, that is was made in Mt. Titan, where that vicious darkness spawned from.”
“Teqqc...” Uxxok says patting her shoulder, “darkness spawns from Mt. Titan all the time. Any one that can sense aura can sense that. I sense it everyday. You do too but being the Oqoponh you barely notice it.”
“What are you talking about,” Teqqc says with a quiver in her voice.
“Its nothing to fret over, Teqqc, you have much too much responsibility already as the Oqoponh, that is why the Daijoks did not want to worry you. But unlike them, I believe you should know everything the Rniti know because we are seen as peacekeepers of Munda Luna after all.”
“You sound like Iroko, Uxxok.”
Uxxok stares at Teqqc, “What?”
Teqqc looks away bashfully, “That is whom I was thinking about. Iroko taught me so much. He talked like to you do. He believed the Oqoponh was a savior to the people. He seemed glad to help me.”
“But Iroko only taught you ire?” Uxxok asks incredulously. “You certainly could not have known him that long.”
“Oh, he taught me much more than just ire. He taught me how to be the Oqoponh. Yes, most Oqoponh’s had the Daijoks of the Rniti train them, but Iroko was the greatest mind the Rniti had ever known. He lived long enough to train me and the three Oqoponh before me. He knew zoltind better than anyone. He knew the Rniti better than anyone. Yet, he was never a Rniti himself.”
“Right, apparently, he passed the tests, but halfway through his training at the Injhihato, he left. Disappeared. Never to be seen again until he volunteered to train the existing Oqoponh. The Daijoks of the time were skeptical, but once he showcased his skills, the Daijoks were more than willing to have someone as great a mind as Iroko train the Oqoponh.”
Teqqc looks at Uxxok with surprise on her face, “I am impressed, Uxxok. How did you know all that?”
Uxxok smiles, “The underground knows all secrets. It takes a matter of the right person to coerce them out of their hiding.”
Teqqc nods, “And I take it you are that person?”
Uxxok nods, “Of course. Who else could have tracked down that aura.”
Teqqc gapes and stares at Uxxok, “You found that fiend?!”
Uxxok smiles, but then it fades, “Well, actually, no.” Teqqc noticeably deflates. “But I found a commanding lead that could lead us right to the fiend.”
Teqqc looks at Uxxok questioningly.
“Apparently, not only were scholars being murdered for their knowledge, but people also have been disappearing by the handful all over Munda Luna as well. And, Coas has been receiving much more ships than usual this time of year.”
Teqqc tries to piece the puzzle together before Uxxok does it for her and says, “I believe there is some kind of slave trade occurring and that fiend must be behind it.”
“Why would Ragefier need slaves?”
“Ragefier is a dark, twisted man. He would do whatever need be to obtain whatever sick goals he has for himself.”
“Right, but why jump to the conclusion of a slave trade?”
“No one in Coas has been able to see inside the cargo of the ships, just accept the label on the side of the crates as livestock. And, all of the missing people are men. Hearty, strong men.”
“It sounds as if Ragefier is breeding an army, not using them as slaves.”
“Caravans have been seen taking off into the east toward the mountains with loads full of pick-axes and shovels. The same place the livestock cargo is also being shipped.”
Teqqc gasps, “Coas has the fastest road into the mountains.”
“Exactly. For all those towns and villages along the way that make their living off of the Titan River which spawns from Mt. Titan itself.”
“All roads lead back to Mt. Titan.”
“Unfortunately. And the Daijoks know what is there.”
Teqqc suddenly feels her anger rip through her aura anew.
“I’m gonna kill the Daijoks.”
Uxxok grabs Teqqc, feels her anger overwhelming her and filters in his own happiness. Memories of her filter through him and he channels the happiness into her aura. Teqqc’s anger dissipates and looks into Uxxok’s eyes.
“I am sorry, Uxxok. I have always had a temper. I never quite knew how to control it.”
“No matter, Teqqc. I have learned how to control my anger. If I had not, I would be dead long ago.”
Teqqc looks at Uxxok with fear.
“Because I would have attacked the Daijoks myself and most likely lost.”
Teqqc smiles and then laughs heartily. She embraces with Uxxok and breaks away all the while still laughing.
“Oh, Uxxok, if you could have seen the Daijoks’ faces today...”
Uxxok smiles as Teqqc walks to the couch and sits down. She pats the seat next to her and he happily obliges.