Seven

Seven

A Chapter by Natasha Reams

    Jace paced anxiously outside the wooden hut of the Shyrian shaman. Sitting on the wooden platform that supported the hut next to him were Alb and Zev. Neither seemed quite as worried or anxious as Jace felt. All he could think about was Saiyani lying unconscious with the Shyrian shaman.

    A scouting party had brought her to the clan’s village two days ago. Apparently the party that had found the three men the day before that hadn’t bothered to look inside the ship’s wreckage for other survivors. It hadn’t been until the next day that Jace woke and managed to tell them of the fourth crew member. Alb, Zev, and Jace had been forced to sit and recover from their own minor injuries while Saiyani remained unconscious. Jace had caught a glimpse of her as they had brought her to the shaman: her breathing had been labored and something similar to sweat had coated her snow-white scales. Vis or not, those were not encouraging signs.

    Suddenly the large jungle-leaf flap acting as a door to the shaman’s hut was pushed aside. The shaman, a white-furred Shyrian with black and gray spots, exited the hut to face the men. Zev stood quickly, but Jace was the first to speak.

    “How is she?” His throat felt rough and dry even three days after the crash.

    “Resting,” The shaman’s own voice was naturally rough. He also spoke in broken Standard speech, making him hard to understand at times.

    Zev placed a fistover his heart in the traditional Shyrian greeting. “Do you know when she’ll wake up?”

    The shaman shook his head, “Know not what pains her. Wing and leg are mended, but not healing. Strange liquid escapes from her scales. Can’t know why.”

    Jace’s fists clenched. Why were they wasting time then? Saiyani needed a real medical center if these felines couldn’t treat her. Supposedly there was a spaceport not far from the village. He would have to get her there and fast.

    Alb’s hand suddenly came down on his shoulder, “Cool those engines, Jace.”

    He frowned at his old friend, “What do you mean?”

    Alb just laughed. “I’ve known you long enough to tell when you’re getting worked up. Cool off and let Zev look at the girl. He has taken a lot of notes, you know?”

    Zev gave Jace an encouraging smile, “I promise to do what I can captain. And if that’s not enough then we’ll get her somewhere that can do better.”

    Jace took a deep breath as he closed his eyes. Once again he’d allowed himself to get emotional and ahead of himself. How many times had he done that since meeting this Vis? He wondered vaguely how many more mistakes he might make.

    Alb explained about Zev being a doctor to the shaman while he and Jace entered the hut. Due to the hot jungle air Shyrian huts were built to allow plenty of airflow. Long thin planks of jungle timber made the walls with barely half an inch of space between them. Hardened mud filled the gaps except for several inches along the top and bottom. Overhead, massive jungle leaves created a conical roof with just enough space between the leaves to let a breeze blow through. The floor was the same as the platform on which the hut stood: pale planks tied together side by side to create a flat surface. Inside, however, the wood was covered with colorful beaded mats.

    Saiyani lay in the center of the hut on a thicker beaded mat that the Shyrians used as beds. She looked no better than she had when the scouts had brought her in. There was more of the liquid that Jace had thought to be sweat; on closer inspection, though, it looked similar to the blood sample Zev had showed him back on the Dawnbreaker. Inwardly he winced at the memory. So many fellow Vech soldiers he’d failed to save. They shouldn’t have had to die like that….

    Zev knelt beside Saiyani and began examining her body thoroughly. Her left leg and wing were bound with a silken cloth the Shyrians made from the jungle leaves. Whatever injuries lay underneath must have been the only physical ones the shaman thought he could treat. Other than a strong incense of jungle herbs, it seemed like the shaman had barely done a thing.

    “Interesting…,” Zev muttered as he inspected a droplet of the liquid from Saiyani’s scales.

    “What is it?” It was hard to hide the disgust in Jace’s tone.

    “Blood,” Zev replied so simply it could have been normal. “It is exactly like the sample I tested back on the ship.”

    Jace’s eyes widened with worry. “She’s sweating blood?”

    Zev glanced back at him with a scholarly expression. “Well, from what she explained to me, blood isn’t as vital to the Vis as it is to other lifeforms. Her lifeforce is the Core she spoke of. I’m not sure why blood would be pouring out from under her scales though….”

    “So blood doesn’t mean she’s dying?”

    He sighed, “Honestly, I don’t know, captain. I asked her many questions on Alb’s ship and took many notes, but I was only scratching the surface. I don’t know as much about Vis biology as I would like to at the moment.”

    Jace kept his mouth shut rather than lose his temper. He knew Zev was a genius, but he was right: Vis were a completely different story. Up until he had met Saiyani, Jace had only heard about them through legends. Unfortunately none of those legends mentioned what to do when a Vis started sweating blood.

    Why? His tortured thoughts wreaked havoc on him while he stared into her scaled face. Why did I tell her to come with us? She probably would have been better off staying on that planet with her own people. There had been no good reason for her to leave with him. And now, because he had encouraged her to pursue that vision, she might die on him. Forget what might happen to the galaxy if she died before stopping that vision; what would he do is she died because of him?

    “Captain?” Zev brought his thoughts back to the hut. “Come over here and help me. I need to see something.”

 

*****

 

    Soreness spread throughout my body. It was difficult to pinpoint the source, but it seemed like my wing and leg hurt the most. Then there was the constant tugging in my abdomen. Deeper than the abdomen, actually… It felt closer to my Core. Like there was a black hole inside me sucking at the last of my strength.

    “C-co…,” I could barely get my jaw to move. If someone was nearby, though, they needed to know how to help. Zev, I called out to him mentally as if that would bring him to my side. Help me!

    A voice spoke nearby, but I had already lost consciousness again. It was too hard staying awake with that tugging in my Core. I knew what was happening to me, of course. All Vis were made aware of the consequences of drawing too much of the Breath from our Cores. It was certain death unless there was enough of whatever element we controlled was close enough for our bodies to absorb it. For me that meant being something cold, preferably icy. At this point, though, I could only hope that Zev would figure it out.

    The next time I started to rouse I was able to open my eyes. A cool wind had passed by and given me just enough energy to look around. I was lying in some sort of hut, staring at a roof made of large leaves. Someone said my name and drew my attention towards the hut’s doorway. My vision was still blurry, though, so I could not tell who it was until they rushed up to kneel next to me. Jace hovered over me with a deep frown.

    “Saiyani?” He sounded so worried. “Can you hear me? Please, tell us how to help you!”

    “Jace…,” I smiled weakly. “Core…. My Core.”

    He looked confused and I realized I had spoken in my natural language. It was too hard to focus enough to speak Standard. That was it then. If I could not tell them that I needed someplace cold to recover, I could not be helped. Leaving home, my vision, my people… I had done so much for nothing. Perhaps, at the very least, another Vis would find the darkness and stop it.

    “What is wrong with her?” A new voice spoke from further away.

    Jace looked back towards the door and his eyes hardened. I frowned, too weak to turn my head and look. Then an alien stepped into view behind Jace. It looked like the female that had found me outside of Alb’s ship.

    “I don’t know,” Jace turned back to me coldly. “She said something, but I think it was in her language.”

    The female knelt down on the other side of me. I managed to mutter ‘Core’ again without it helping much. Both her and Jace just stared at me. If only I could produce a bit of ice or snow as a sign. Unfortunately, I knew any attempt to draw from my Core could kill me instantly.

    Just then another gust of wind flowed through the hut. It felt so cool and soothing! I breathed in deeply as a tiny bit of strength entered my Core.

    The female looked at me curiously, “Did that wind just soothe her?”

    Jace shrugged, “She thrives in the cold. Too much heat will weaken her.”

    My eyes lit up briefly. Attempting to lift a hand towards him, I stared intently at Jace.

    “I think she agrees with you,” The female looked the Jace expectantly.

    His eyes widened in understanding. Immediately he called out for Zev. I smiled and felt myself slip away when another breeze did not come to strengthen me.

   

*****

 

    “Saiyani?” Jace tried to rouse her urgently. “Fringe!”

    “Calm yourself, Vech,” The orange-colored Shyrian rose calmly. “We know what she needs now. She will recover.”

    Zev hurried into the hut and immediately knelt beside Saiyani. “What happened?”

    “We need somewhere cold,” Jace explained while also trying to control his emotions. This Vis had an uncanny ability to keep his brain from working properly. “It has to do with her Core, I think.”

    Zev’s eyes brightened, “Oh, of course! She spent too much of the energy produced by her Core, and now it’s not functioning. A cold environment could jump start it.”

    “I know a place,” The Shyrian spoke. Her voice was both calm and rough at the same time. Almost as if she were purring and growling simultaneously.

    “Who are you?” Jace asked warily. “Why help us?”

    The female’s chin lifted indignantly, “I am Sh’Kena. My father has declared you and your crew friends on the clan. Because of that I must help you as best I can.”

    Without further argument Jace and Zev listened as she told them of the coldest place on Shyria. North of the clan’s village was a set of cliffs with a waterfall flowing over them. At the base of the cliffs, on the jungle floor, was a large pond with a cave behind it. Due to the massive trees with their branches and leaves the surface of the planet got practically no sunlight. The air would be thicker due to the large amounts of oxygen produced by the jungle, but it would be considerably colder than the humid heat in the treetops.

    Sh’Kena left as soon as the two Vechs agreed to move Saiyani to that cave. Scouts and guards would be required to reach it: Shyria’s surface was eternally dark and full of predators. Hence why the Shyrians lived in treetop villages. Sh’Kena’s clan was particularly ingenious as they had built their wooden platforms and huts, with rope bridges connecting them, inside the largest tree on Shyria.

Jace and his companions had marveled at the sight when they were being brought into the village from the crash. The name of the tree in the Shyrian language translated to Ancestor’s Home. Its diameter was roughly two hundred meters and the height was about five or six hundred. According to Shyrian legend, Ancestor’s Home was the first tree ever to grow on the planet. Every other tree in the jungle grew from that one massive tree’s seeds.

At millions of years old, the tree itself had started to die long ago. The legend said a hero from Sh’Kena’s tribe had ventured inside the tree to save it from dying, and the rest of the jungle along with it. Following a hidden tunnel into the center of the tree, the hero found what became known as the Heart Seed. Supposedly the hero had ordered the clan to hollow out the inside of the tree with the Heart Seed protected by a single column of wood in the center. Then they built their village on platforms along the inner wall of the tree with the rope bridges connecting them. The hero then decreed no Shyrian would ever go near the central column where the Heart Seed was kept locked away for protection.

Seeing just the outside of the massive tree, Jace hadn’t thought much about the legend. Upon entering through a gateway built halfway up the tree his view changed dramatically. Hundreds of half-circle platforms jutted out from the inner wall circling the entire tree. They spanned up and down the inside for at least a hundred meters. The rope bridges connected any platform at the same height, while ladders and slides led to and from higher and lower platforms. Each individual platform held either two small huts or one larger hut. A particularly large platform carried a wooden longhouse that acted as the chieftain’s home.

Also, just like in the legend, a single column of aged wood rose the entire height of the tree. There were no holes or gaps to indicate whether the column was hollow or not. Still a strange power seemed to radiate from somewhere in the column. The sensation had been enough to make Jace question how much of the old legend had been fact.

Sh’Kena had instructed Jace, Zev, and Alb to use a makeshift stretcher to carry Saiyani to the village gate. It took all three men and the old shaman to lift her and slide her onto the stretcher of thick vines and sticks. With Zev and Alb in the back and Jace in the front, they managed to lift the stretcher and carry their Vis companion through the village.

As they went crowds of Shyrians gathered just as they had when Saiyani had been brought to the shaman. Furred faces in every color and pattern gazed with wonder in their golden, slitted eyes. Jace ignored every pair of eyes as his muscles strained to keep the stretcher aloft. Once he glanced back at Saiyani, hoping to see her conscious again. She slept soundly while her opaque blood continued to flow from underneath her scales.

Sh’Kena and a party of eleven other Shyrians, all armed with bows and swords, met the men at the gate. Two groups of four were told to go and clear the way to the waterfall. The whole party would then meet up on the cliffs before descending to the jungle floor. As the two groups took off outside, Jace noticed they traveled by leaping from branch to branch. Shyrians with their sharp claws on both hands and feet made excellent climbers. Two Vechs and a Nacrian were at an obvious disadvantage.

“How exactly are we going to carry this stretcher to the cliffs?” He asked dubiously.

The orange feline turned to him in all seriousness. “We will not.”

A loud buzzing filled the air. It started low and distant, growing swiftly louder and closer. Then a pair of massive flying insects appeared just beyond the gate. Each had six spindly legs and a set of clear, intricately patterned wings. Two bulbous black spheres acted as their eyes. Their long, thin bodies were mostly black with a few patches of bright blue, green, and orange. Both were equal in length to the height of two Nacrians, making them quite intimidating.

“These are called Anthras,” Sh’Kena explained with no hint of emotion. One of the insects landed on the large branch which extended out from the base of the village gate. It skittered on its twig-like legs to nuzzle affectionately against Sh’Kena.

Zev drew close to the affectionate critter with a curious gleam in his eyes. “Interesting! How do they grow so big?”

“All things in the jungle grow to this size,” She gave the three outsiders a hard look. “We will be the smallest creatures out there.”

With that she assigned the other three Shyrians to secure Saiyani’s stretcher to the back of one of the Anthras. The creature, on Sh’Kena’s command, flattened itself against the branch while the stretcher was lifted up and onto its back. One of the scouts then mounted just behind the large head of the Anthras and took off flying to the north. Jace watched stone-faced, though his stomach felt twisted in knots.

The last two scouts mounted the other Anthras and took off quickly after the first. With just Sh’Kena left to guide them, the men began the journey to the cliffs.

 




© 2017 Natasha Reams



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Added on May 30, 2017
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Author

Natasha Reams
Natasha Reams

Anderson, AK



About
Hi, thanks for reading my stuff in advance. I LOVE with wolves, and supernatural romances are my favorite books. I have two dogs (one of which is named Samwise Gamgee so I'm pretty nerdy) and I used t.. more..

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