Axis Moon

In the event of the end, the Unwinding, a sign will appear. It will light the world so that a chief N’Geenr might find their way to the Axis, and mend the sins of the world with the ritual of Rutin Mae-t’nans. Only those of up-most Skel can mend the world.

–The Manual, holy texts of the N’Geenr

Torturous, tearing, twisting. That was the sound, as if the sky itself was being torn apart, that rang through the night air like fire. Karin awoke with a start, hands clamped to her ears. Trying to drown out the horrendous screeching, she slid herself out of bed and stumbled out into the hall.

The hall was illuminated with a strange pale light unlike any Karin had seen before, and she squinted, unused to the light this time of night and stepped off the cold stone tiles onto the rug that lined the length of the hallway.

“Father!” She yelled, silent against the backdrop of the tortuous sound.

There was no answer. She tripped over a bump in the rug and fell against the course plaster walls of the hut. Quickly, she released her hands from her hand to steady herself then quickly clamped them back down again. The horrendous sound was still there, but it seemed to be dying down now.

“FathER!” She yelled again, almost shocked to hear herself over the quieting noise.

“Karin, come here…”

Her fathers voice sounded strange, something was wrong. Maybe father knew something about the light. As the sound faded away, her hands retreating slowly from her ears and she crept into her fathers bedroom.

“Father, what’s wrong, what’s going on?”

Her father was sat on the other side of the room in front of the window, staring out. He beckoned her over, but already she had seen what he was staring at. Outside the window, up in the sky was a huge white disc. She just gasped at it as she approached the window and sat down on the side on the side of the bed, not knowing what to say. As she stared alongside her father in the pale light of the disc, she noticed people leaving their houses to gather awestruck in the village square.

“Father, I’m… afraid…”

“So am I Karin. Lets join the others outside, the Elders will surely have an answer for us.” He smiled weakly as he grasped her hand and led her outside.

The light was brighter out in the square. The strange, pale light made the gathering of the villagers look like living statues, Karin thought. Everyone had gathered here and the night was a bustle of fears, conjectures and crying children. Karin promised to herself that she wouldn’t get upset, she just knew that Jol would have an answer.

Jol was training as an acolyte to the Elders and so he had been granted the privilege of reading the Manual. Sometimes, when everyone was asleep, he would let Karin into the temple and they would read it together and kiss and cuddle under the altar. She knew that if Jol had seen anything bad in there about this he would tell her, he just had to.

“Quiet! Quiet! The Elders have something to say!”

Silence quickly swept across the square as each head turned to face the Elders as they emerged from the temple. Karin stretched her neck, trying to see if she could see Jol anywhere in the crowd.

“Fellow N’Geenr, we bring grave news. Having studied the Manual we have found that the time for the end of our people is nigh. The glowing circle in the sky is known as the Axis Moon, and it is a sign of the coming of the Unwinding.”

Karin gasped. Were they really doomed? Why hadn’t Jol come to her, surely he must have known already? Maybe he hadn’t had wanted to upset her, but nothing could have prepared her for this.

“But isn’t there anything we can do?” A villager called out.

“No, there is nothing. We don’t have any among us that are Chief N’Geenr, only they can bring about salvation. Skel has grown thinner in each of us with each generation, now none of us are strong enough to ever achieve develop enough Skel to become a Chief N’Geenr. All we can do now is pray to our Pae for forgiveness and hope that he grants us safe passage to the Halls of Ret’ir-Met.”

Karin couldn’t bear listening to this, she wouldn’t accept it, not from them. If Jol told her they couldn’t be saved, it would be then, but not before. She let go of her fathers hand and ran through the crowd, tears welling up inside her.


“Let her go. This is going to be hard for all of us Mathis.”

It seemed like hours before Karin stopped running, but it had only been a few minutes. She had run to Jol’s hut, but when it came to entering, she faltered. What if he wasn’t there either? What if he had abandoned her in panic? She couldn’t cope with that. Karin slumped down against the white pottery-tiled wall and sighed. Why did this have to happen? She cried a bit before anger took her.

“Idiots! They’re all idiots!’ She cried to herself, “Why can’t they do do something? We do we all have to wait here to die!”

Karin thumped the wall, and then thumped it again, and again. Before long she was pounding at the wall in fury until her knuckles were raw and bleeding. Dejected and upset she walked into Jol’s hut to wash off her hands.

“The skylines look beautiful in this strange light don’t they?”

“Jol? Jol! Yo-your here!” Karin spun around to see Jol behind her.

He was standing there, leant against the wall in his usual cocky pose. His long blonde hair hung down over the left part of his face, just part his chin. He smiled his usual smile and his beautiful brown eyes illuminated his face, so much so that Karin could almost forgive his persistent stubble.

Karin ran up to him and hugged him. He felt warm in her arms and she smiled. Then she remembered she was angry at him and thumped him in the shoulder.

“No they don’t! I hate this light and that horrible thing up there! Why didn’t you tell me this would happen!?”

“Hey!” Jol grunted at her, rubbing his shoulder “I can’t see the future you know, if I had known this would happen in my lifetime I would have done something sooner.”

“So you did know it was going to happen! Why didn’t you tell me!”

“And worry you over nothing? This might not have happened for thousands of years! Look, I don’t have time for this, I’ve got to get going.”

“What? Where!? What are you going to do?”

“The Elders are wrong, I think they interpreted the Manual incorrectly. I think that I can save the N’Geenr, even though I’m not a Chief N’Geenr.”

“You mean, we aren’t doomed? I knew you wouldn’t give up Jol, I just knew it! So when do we go?”

“No we Karin, it could be dangerous. I shouldn’t even be going, only Chief N’Geenr are allowed to venture outside of the boundaries. If we went we’d be breaking the Protocol. If we should get caught, we’d both be burnt, I don’t want to put you at risk Karin.”

“But Jol!”

“But nothing Karin! Only I can do this. Look, if you want to help me, help me pack okay? I was trying to do this secretly until you showed up.”

Karin smiled sullenly and helped grab some food from the kitchen while Jol went into the bedroom to grab some clothes. As she tucked the morsels into Jol’s bag, she felt something. She reached for it and as she pulled it suddenly came loose and flew out of the bag onto the floor.

“My Pae, you stole the Protocols!” Karin gasped as she picked it up and flicked through it. “Jol! The Elders will burn you to pieces!”

Jol leaned round the canvas archway to the bedroom and frowned at her.

“I really wish you hadn’t have found that you know. Your more trouble than your worth sometimes.”

Jol smiled, walked over to Karin and kissed her. “I love you, you know?”

“I-I… love you too Jol.”

“Look, do you want to see what I’ve been working on?”

“Jol, I..”

Jol picked up the bag and pulled out another, smaller book.

“This is it. I was hoping that I would have had time to finish it so that the later generations could use it, but it looks like I’ll have to use it now.”

“What is it?”

“It’s a Manual Karin. I think that the Elders have been reading the Manual wrong, so I’ve been writing my own one, with my corrections, interpretations and my own Protocol. The Protocols are wrong Karin, we shouldn’t just give up because we aren’t allowed, even the Manual says: The task of all N’Geenr is to exceed to limits imposed on them by nature.”

“But Jol, the Protocol tells us how to live, you can’t take that away from the N’Geenr!”

“Wrong! Having studied them both I’ve come to a different conclusion. It’s the Manual that tells us how to live, the Protocols tell how how not to die. There is a difference. I think that long ago, the Protocol used to be for guiding us on how to be healthy and safe, but somewhere in the revisions and interpretations it got twisted to control us.”

“What are you going to do Jol?”

“I told you, I’m going to find the Axis, like the Manual says and find a way to save us.”

“Then I’m going with you.”

Jol rolled his eyes and hugged her again. “Look, I’ve already wasted too much time talking with you, there’s no more time to argue. I’m going right now.”

Jol leant down, grabbed his bag and slid the Manual back into it. He brushed himself down, slid the bag over his shoulder and began towards the door.

“You coming?”

Karin smiled. “Sure.”

Arm in arm they walked out the door.

_An N'Geenr must at all times follow the Protocol. To not do so could result in risk to all other N'Geenr. Those who put the N'Geenr at risk are evil and must be put to fire. Those who serve their fellow N'Geenr will receive the blessings of the Elders and will be blessed by Pae._ --Protocols, holy texts of the N'Geenr

“Let him go you bastards! Let him go! Jol! Jol! Oh Pae, don’t let them do this! Jol!”

Karin screamed and clawed at the two men who had grabbed Jol. They had just left the hut when suddenly three men had beset them and wrestled them to the ground. One of the men was holding Karins hands behind he back while the other two searched through Jol’s bag and beat him over and over again.

“Please, just leave him alone!”

“Have you found it?” The man beating Jol said with a final kick to the ribs.

The other man pulled the Protocols from Jol’s bag. “Yeah, the bastard has it alright.” He turned and looked at Jol in disgust “Right, your coming with us, the Elders want to see you.”

“NOOOO! Jol! Noooo, Pae, nooo! You bastards! You skel-less bastards!”

The man with the Protocols strode over and slapped Karin. Hard. She felt like she had been slapped with a slab of ice and her head spun.

“Leave… her… alone…” Jol spit out blood as he tried to lift himself from the ground. “She has… nothing… to do with this.”

“Oi! Watch it, we’re not here to slap little girls around, we’re here to capture the blasphemer, now look sharpish and and give me a hand with him.” The man holding Jol turned to Karin. “And you keep your mouth clean if you don’t want to burn with him.”

Karin just sobbed as she struggled against her captor. Why were the Elders doing this? Karin gave up fighting after she realised she couldn’t win and the men proceed to drag them into the village square.

In the square, a pyre had been set up and the villagers had gathered round it. In front of the pyre the Elders stood waiting.

Her captor spotted her father in the crowd and shouted out. “Hey Mathis, this one your littl’n isn’t she? You ought to teach her some manners.”

Karin’s father pushed his way through the crowd.

“Karin, are you okay? While you were gone, the Elders found out that someone had stolen the Protocol. They said that whoever did it must have angered Pae and that is why he has brought about the Unwinding.”

“Father! They’re gonna burn Jol!”

“That’s Jol up there!? Oh Pae! Karin, you mean he’s the blasphemer?”

“No! Yes. Don’t call him that!”

At that point the Elders called for silence.

“N’Geenr, we have found the cause of the Unwinding.” One of the Elders looked down at Jol, who was laid out, barely conscious on the floor before them. “This blasphemer broke the Protocol! Not only that, but he stole the Protocol itself! That which guides us and protects us! Such an affront to Pae could only result in our punishment, and Pae has descended on us all with his wrath for this ones vileness!”

The villagers gasped and the silence descended into a mass of shocked shouting and worried talking.

“But have no fear! We have retrieved the Protocol and now we shall punish this one by the very laws he sought to destroy! When we have cleansed ourselves of this vile one, Pae will be pleased and end the Unwinding!”

Karin panicked. “Father! That’s not true! Jol was trying to save us, He said the Protocol was wrong, we can’t let them do this!”

“Then it is true, he did bring the Unwinding.”


“Don’t you see girl, he was poisoning your mind with his evil lies, how could the Protocol be wrong. Just as he does this, the Unwinding happens, what more proof is needed of his treachery?”

“But he didn’t steal it until after the Unwinding! Father, I love him and he loves me, how can he be evil!?”

“Silence Karin, I’ll not hear any more of it. Jol shall burn for his sins and I hope he suffers for tainting my only daughter with his filthy lies. Pae will cleanse you in time Karin.”

Karin couldn’t breathe, she couldn’t believe what she had just heard. She looked at her father for a moment, unable to believe that he could say such things. But he could, and he had meant it, she could see it in his eyes. Sobbing uncontrollably she ran towards the pyre, unaware that the Elders had resumed there speech.

“…and the Protocol says: Those who put the N’Geenr at risk are evil and must be put to fire. So be it. Jol, betrayer and traitor to Pae and the N’Geenr, we sentence you to death by burning so that Pae will forgive us for your sins. Burn him!”

Karin pushed through the crowd as she ran to try and get to Jol. She burst from the front of the crowd to see Jol tied to the stake at the centre of the pyre.


Jol lifted his battered face and tried to smile at her. “Get away Karin, you have the book, just run, the task of saving us must fall to you now. I love you.”

Jol was suddenly engulfed in flames as the torch was set to the pyre. He didn’t even scream, he just cried.

“Nooooooo! Jol!” Karin yelled as she ran up onto the stage. An Elder tried to stop her from running into the flames and she lashed out at him, flinging the Protocols in his hands into the tragic inferno.

“Run Karin, ruuuuuun!” Jol croaked from the pyre before the pain drove him into unconsciousness.

Karin, tears in her eyes, compounded by the acrid smell of burning flesh, ran as fast as she could. No-one tried to stop her, everyone was still too shocked, having witnessed the destruction of the Protocols and hence any hope that Pae would forgive them. She kept on running, past the pottery-tiled huts, past the fences and gates, the field where the cattle were kept. Running and running away from that horrible vision, that horrible place, where Jol had been burnt alive for trying to help his people.

_The task of all N'Geenr is to exceed to limits imposed on them by nature. That is the essence of what it is to be an N'Geenr. When an N'Geenr puts their mind to the task and feels that dedication deep within their Skel, not even Pae can stop them. An N'Geenr's true power comes from their Skel, Pae only helps them on their journey._ --The Manual of Jol

Karin shivered uncontrollably. Dew glistened on the short grasses of the plains, sending tiny rainbows dancing between the blades. She had stopped to set up camp for the night, only to realise that she hadn’t any camping equipment. Jol had been carrying it and all she had with her was some spare clothes from Jol, some food supplies and a little water. And Jol’s book.

She had fallen asleep from sheer exhaustion, luckily having managed to cover herself up with some of her clothes. The sun was just coming up now and on the horizon she could still see the smoke from the village. She hugged Jol’s book and watched the sun come up. The burning ball of orange slowly rose, silhouetting the skylines that past it front of it, their jagged edges shiny like little teeth, making it look like the sun was slowly being eaten by a huge mouth in the sky.

“I wish you were here.” She whispered.

She had to go on and find the Axis. She had seriously considered going back, maybe they would understand. What if she couldn’t do it, and they were all going to die anyway, at least she could be with Jol sooner when they killed her too. She had thought about her father, and what he might be saying right now. Maybe he had been put to death by the Elders too. She tried to shrug off all the doubts, but they kept coming. Trying to keep herself busy, she brushed off her clothing and packed everything up again.

I’m not going to give up! Jol is relying on me. She said to herself. Where to go from here… I know, Jol’s book! He said it would help me. Karin opened the book and began reading. On the opening page there was a dedication.

“I dedicate this Manual to my love, Karin, so that our children’s children’s children will remember who inspired me to find the truth.”

Karin burst into tears and dropped the book as she hugged herself tight. If only she could hold in all the pain, but she couldn’t! Why? Why did this have to happen? The book had fallen face down, and she bent down to pick it up. On the page, was underlined a single sentence.

An N’Geenr’s true power comes from their Skel, Pae only helps them on their journey.

That’s it! Jol sent me a sign, but what does it mean? Pae will help me on my journey…

Karin reached back and untied her hair pendant, letting her long brown hair rush down her back. It had been given to her by Jol, he had said it was an amulet of Pae. Pae sometimes left them gifts in the earth when they were digging, and sometimes he left these amulets. They were very rare and special and Karin had been ecstatic when Jol had given her one. He had tied into her hair, as was the customary thing to do when proposing, and they had laughed about it because they were only 14 skylines old. Two skylines had passed since then and she had never taken it off until now.

It was very beautiful. A small metal circle with little patterns inside it. There was strange symbols carved all around it and on the back, but the most curious thing was the little arrow in the middle. It always seemed to be spinning under some unknown power, but now it had stopped. Confused, she shook it and waved it around, and suddenly it dawned on her. Wherever she moved it, it always pointed in the same direction. She tried spinning around and around and no matter what it always pointed the same way. She laughed with joy and shouted out to the sky.

“Thank you Pae! Oh thank you!”

Pae had decided to help her, maybe even all the way back when Jol had given her the pendant. Maybe it was some kind of plan all along. Regardless, now she had the power to try and grant Jol’s last wish, but before she left to follow Pae’s arrow, she wanted to do something.

Taking a knife from her tool-belt, she found the place where her hair was still bent from being tied with the pendant and began cutting. When she was finished, she wrapped up the hair and buried it, marking it with some large stones nearby.

“Goodbye Jol.” She said to the grave “I hope you can sleep easier now.”

She wiped a tear from her eye, bowed to the grave and then held Pae’s arrow before her and followed.

Karin had been walking for hours. There was nothing out here, nothing at all. The ground had begun to become hard and rocky now and the sun had reached its peak. The Axis Moon was still there, as large and round as it had been the first time she saw it but it had moved. It seemed to be moving along the first skyline, the one  that seemed the closest. Sometimes, on a clear day, it was almost as if you could touch it and you could see its large orderly teeth glistening in the sun. If it carries on following the skyline, it will eventually pass in front of the sun, Karin thought.

Karin walked on a bit more before she noticed something in the distance. Up ahead, the world seemed to descend into darkness for about a mile then become light again on the other side. She looked at Pae’s arrow for a moment to confirm she was going in the right direction, and headed off towards it.

When she got there, it looked worse than before. The whole area was under what Karin guessed must be the skylines shadow! The whole area was deadly quiet. Previously on her travels she had heard the buzzing of insects and smaller animals chattering away, but this place was utterly devoid of any signs of life. Cautiously, she put her hand into the darkness and was met with icy cold. It must be due to the lack of sunlight.

Peering into the darkness, Karin could barely make out a thing. Again she looked at Pae’s arrow, it still pointed across the expanse to the light on the other side. She took out some clothes and put them on for warmth and with a deep breath stepped into the darkness.

It was like being plunged into a ice-cold bath. The cold chilled her to the bone and within minutes she was shivering uncontrollably. Still the trekked onwards, following where Pae’s arrow led her. The air was so cold that her breath formed little clouds of steam and she found it harder and harder to take each breath. This must be the unmoving skyline, she thought, this place must have never felt the warmth of the sun. Before even minutes had past, her legs were beginning to feel stiff, movement was becoming more difficult, her thoughts sluggish. She was more than a quarter of the way in now and she was feeling numb all over. She barely noticed she had stumbled as she lost consciousness and everything, even the light on the other side, dissolved into blackness.

_It is foretold that a stranger will come, the N'Paek-tar, and that they shall watch over us and see that we do good. They will know our ways, but not be of us. If your Skel is strong, they will see and Pae will bless you, for they are the eyes of Pae. Those they deem weak of Skel, will be burned in the name of Pae._ --Protocols, holy texts of the N'Geenr

Karin felt as if she were made of lead. The last thing she remembered was collapsing under the skylines shadow. It was still cold, but it wasn’t as cold as before. Pushing against the ground, she slowly tried to lift herself up but she was feeling too weak. She opened her eyes and painfully, a faint light came through. She appeared to be in some kind of cave, the light coming from some kind of fire behind her. Life began returning to her limbs and soon she was able to roll over and see where the light was coming from. She had been right. A small fire had bee built at the entrance, or exit if you preferred to see it that way, to a cave. Next to the fire was her bag, it seemed that someone had bought her here, wherever here was. Maybe one of the villagers had gone after her and rescued her, maybe her father had come for her. Whatever had happened, she didn’t know where she was and what was going to happen next.

Shuffling along on her bottom, she pulled herself past the fire and peered out of the cave entrance. Outside the cave was thousands of lights shining in the darkness. They seemed to span the wall of the inside of some huge ravine, each one maybe a cave like hers. She could make out light reflecting of walkways all over the inside of the ravine, interconnecting every cave with another. Pathways criss-crossed across the expanse in a  seemingly random fashion, connecting both side of the ravine together. From somewhere below, a strange hum emanated, accompanied by a rhythmic clunking sound. All in all, it was a strange place, this weird twilight world of interlaced pathways, glowing lights and strange noises. It can’t have been the N’Geenr that rescued me, no-one knows of such a place as this. That means… Her train of thought was interrupted when she caught sight of a person approaching.

A head stuck itself round into the cave entrance.

“N’Paek-tor wake!” the man grinned at her.

The man was unlike anyone she had ever seen. His hair was long and matted so that it stuck together in thick, brown clumps that hung over his jutting forehead. His eyebrows where thick and bushy as was the beard that hung from his large square chin. His grin was the weirdest thing of all, his grin and his eyes. His bottom teeth seemed too large for his face, and they jutted upwards out of his mouth, making him look like some kind of strange horse. And his eyes, his eyes where big and black, like his pupils had expanded to fill his whole eye.  As he stepped completely into the cave entrance, she saw that he stooped over. He was muscular, from what she could tell from the bulges under the coarse hair that lightly covered his body. He wore no clothes except for a pair of simple trousers that covered him right down to his bare feet. The trousers were adorned with strange tools and pieces of metal that Karin didn’t recognise. Whatever this person was, he was not an N’Geenr.

The man tilted his head quizzically, as if her surprise or lack of response was intriguing, and thumped his chest.


Karin eyed him, slightly confused and slowly pressed her fist to her own chest. “Karin.”

The man gave a puzzled look and pointed at her. “N’Paek-tor!”

“No, Karin, I’m Karin. Ka-rin.”

“N’Paek-tor! N’Paek-tor Ka-rin!” He pointed at Karin. He smiled at her and then pointed at himself. “Ja-N’tor Firdlass!”

“Your name is Firdlass?”

“Firdlass!” Firdlass thumped himself as he waved his head from side to side.

Firdlass hopped next to Karin and pulled Jol’s Manual out from a pocket in his trousers.

“Hey! That’s mine, give it back!”

Firdlass held the book out of her reach and opened it. He began pointing at words in it. “N’Geenr!” He pulled a kind of twisted frown with his face and stuck out his tongue as he pointed at the word. He flicked a few pages through and pressed another word. “N’Paek-tor” He said and then gave the book to Karin and poked her. “N’Paek-tor!”

Karin looked up at Firdlass’ face, her own painted with a mixture of curiosity and confusion and began reading the passage he had pointed out.

It is foretold that a stranger will come, the N’Paek-tar, and that they shall watch over us and see that we do good. They will know our ways, but not be of us. If your Skel is strong, they will see and Pae will bless you, for they are the eyes of Pae. Those they deem weak of Skel, will be burned in the name of Pae.

The passage was quoted as being taken from the Protocols.

“You think I, Karin” She pointed at herself. “am an N’Paek-tor?”

“N’Paek-tor Kar-in!” Firdlass screamed with delight and he danced around the fire. Karin couldn’t help but giggle at him, he did look very funny indeed. Firdlass stopped dancing and eyed her with a look that she could swear was “What do you think is so funny?” and ran outside onto the walkways and called out.

“Kar-in, N’Paek-tor Kar-in! N’Paek-tor Y’Torc Skel Paei!”

Karin recognised most of the words, they sounded N’Geenr, Old N’Geenr, like Jol had taught her so she could read the Manual. Some of the words were strange though, slightly distorted versions of what she remembered. She thought he was saying: “Karin, Karin the Eyes of Pae! The Eyes of Pae have come to see our Skels for Pae.” They think I’m some kind of messenger from Pae!

“I’m not an N’Paek-tor, Firdlass! I’m just an N’Geenr!”

Firdlass spun around and looked at her, head tilted. He grinned and grabbed her hand, gesturing to her to follow him. Karin took Firdlass’ hand and followed him out onto the walkways. The walkways had filled with other Ja-N’tor and as Firdlass pushed through them, pulling her though afterwards, she could feel them examining her, reaching out to touch her as she went past. They were walking down a sloped walkway now, and she was descending further into the ravine that was the Ja-N’tors home. It was getting warmer as well, something she hadn’t expected due to the skyline’s shadow, and the strange clunking noises were becoming louder.

Eventually, they reached the floor of the ravine. All around them, the walls where adorned with torches and a brightly lit tunnel careered off into the rockface. The walls themselves where covered with paintings and little bits of writing in what looked like Old N’Geenr. Firdlass pulled her over to what seemed to be the place where the pictures begun and pointed at the pictures.

“Y’Tor, N’Paek-tor Kar-in.” He pointed to his eyes and then to the wall.

“You want me to look at the wall?”

Firdlass flexed his head forwards and pointed from his eyes to the wall again. Karin looked at the pictures on the wall. Going from left to right, the symbol for Bos, the devil was drawn in a great black circle that had the symbol for Rutin, meaning everything, the whole world, drawn around its circumference. The next part of the image showed Bos creating a brother, represented by the symbol for Pae. Karin realised then that it was the story of creation, the Winding, drawn out across the walls as pictures and symbols. Karin began to read the wall, and decided to look in Jol’s book to see if he had written anything about the Winding.

Bos created the world in utter darkness and emptiness, and from that darkness created a brother, Pae. Pae disliked the darkness, and so from the fabric of darkness he wound light and the land. Bos was angered by his brothers changes, and so he plagued the land with horrible statues, mocking the form of his brother. Pae, unfazed by his brothers jealous actions, took the statues and gave them life, creating the N’Geenr. Bos grew ever more jealous and tried to seize control of the N’Geenr by sealing Pae away from them, so that they could no longer feel his warmth. The N’Geenr revolted against Bos and the power of their devotion and Bos in a fit of rage left the world, never to return.

Something was different though, the walls had different information about the creation. According to the walls, Bos created the N’Geenr, the Ja-N’tor and another race called the Mae-N’Ja, the Masters. Pae didn’t create them at all. Bos gave the N’Geenr the tools to make the world and the to the Ja-N’tor he bestowed the the duty of maintaining the world. The Mae-N’Ja where closest to Bos, and they were Bos’ messengers. It then went on to tell that the N’Geenr began to shun Bos and ignore him, instead worshipping Pae. Bos became angry at the betrayal and abandoned the world, taking his tools with him. The other races became angry at the N’Geenr and there was a war. Using the last remaining tools of Bos’, the N’Geenr crafted a weapon that would make the races forget about the betrayal, but Bos had cursed the tools he had left behind and all the races forgot everything. The N’Geenr forgot the most and lost much of their Skel. The Ja-N’tor did not suffer as much, their devotion to their task of maintaining the world protected them from the curse. The Mae-N’Ja, cut off from Bos’ messages, were weakened and suffered badly from the curse. They went mad and their Skels were destroyed.

Karin stopped reading the wall. She was shocked. Surely this couldn’t be true, Pae created the world and everything in it. Pae granted them gifts. The Ja-N’tor must be jealous of the N’Geenr for they had Pae’s favour and so they wrote these lies. Karin shook her head. She couldn’t believe the Ja-N’tor would be like that, which meant that they were either wrong, or that all her teachings had been lies. The memories of her teachings rushed through her mind, and the more she remembered, the more she realised that the teachings of the walls must be right. Until she had awoken here, she had never considered that other beings might exist outside the village.

The revelation was too much to take in and she collapsed to her knees, the weight of her new knowledge to heavy to carry. Karin looked at the Ja-N’tor watching her. She felt sick that they thought she was someone she wasn’t. What would they do if they found out she was N’Geenr, would they hate her, would they kill her? At this point, she didn’t care any more. Her ancestors had ruined the world and betrayed everyone, she didn’t deserve mercy.

Karin thought of the Old N’Geenr, and tried to think of a way to tell them the truth.

“I’m not an N’Paek-tor! Mae-N’Paek-tor Karin! I’m an N’Geenr! N’Geenr Karin!” She shouted out, pointing at herself.

Firdlass jumped in front of her and looked into her eyes.

“Firdlassi N’Paek-tor Karin. Firdlass Mae-Y’tor N’Geenr Karin, Firdlass Y’tor N’Paek-tor Karin.”

Karin smiled at him. For me, Karin is the Eyes Of God. I don’t see Karin the N’Geenr, I see Karin the Eyes Of God, she translated. Why is he saying these things, does he really believe I’m the Eyes Of God, even though I am an N’Geenr?

The other Ja-N’tor didn’t seem to agree, they had begun to look threatening and angry. Firdlass grabbed Karin’s hand and walked her towards the entrance to the tunnel she had seen. The other Ja-N’tor were closing in one them as they approached the entrance and Firdlass looked at her as if to say “Get running to run.”. He nodded and suddenly they were running down the tunnel.

Karin could feel the air getting warmer and the clunking noises getting louder as they ran through the tunnel. Behind her, she could here the yelling of the Ja-N’tor that weren’t so forgiving of her N’Geenr blood. They had the right to know. I couldn’t lie to them after all Firdlass has done for me.

She could see the cavern at the other end of the tunnel. It was awash with orange light, like the light from a fire. As they burst into the chamber, Firdlass grabbed Karin and swung her onto his back, and Karin barely noticed, she was awestruck. The chamber was massive, it could have easily been as large as her village. Half of the floor of the chamber was taken of my a lake of liquid fire over which was suspended huge wheels with jagged edges, just like the edges of the skylines. Some of the wheels interconnected with other wheels and they turned each other, rotating on huge pillars that shot out of the walls and the ground. Like the ravine, the walls of this place where covered in ladders and walkways.

Without a moments thought, Firdlass jumped onto a ladder and began climbing. Ja-N’tor that were working in the room watched with confusion as he pushed his way past them on the walkways as he ran, climbing ever higher. The crowd of Ja-N’tor that were chasing them called up to the workers, obviously trying to inform them of what was happening. Is this how we get to the surface? Karin wondered.

Karin could see another tunnel now, it was about another 100 meters above them. Firdlass climbed onto the last ladder before the tunnel entrance but Karin suddenly felt something grab her from behind, pulling her and Firdlass falling to the floor. Lifting herself back up from the floor, she saw that Firdlass and another Ja-N’tor were stood facing each other on the large, square section of the walkway.

“Firslass.” Firdlass growled at the other Ja-N’tor.

“Firdlass.” the Ja-N’tor called Firslass growled in reply.

The two Ja-N’tor dived at each other and began trying to wrestle the other to the ground. They were screaming furiously at each other, and Karin couldn’t even begin to translate what they were screaming, but she could guess they were  probably some kind of obscenities. Karin slowly took her knife out from her bag. The Ja’N’tor that were climbing after them were beginning to catch up so she began cutting the ropes of the ladder to the walkway they were on. Within a few minutes she cut the cords and the ladder went sailing down to the lower level.

Firdlass was losing the battle. Firslass had managed to grab him by the neck and was slowly crushing him to death.

“Karin… Y’c! Y’c!” Croaked Firdlass as he struggled against Firslass.

“I wont leave you Firdlass!”

Karin gasped as the other Ja’N’tor forced Firdlass to the floor. He had him pinned completely accept for an arm which Firdlass was repeatedly beating against his assailant.

“Firdlass!” Karin called out. “Go for the knife!”

Karin slid the knife across the walkway and Firdlass tried reaching for it. He managed to grab it and plunged it into the back of the Ja-N’tor over and over again, sending streams of blood streaming down his arm and over the walkway. The other Ja-N’tor cried out before collapsing to the side of Firdlass in a spasm of pain. Karin ran over and tugged at Firdlass’ arm, the blood in his hair felt sticky in her hand.

“Come on! We have to get out of here now!”

Firdlass nodded, tucked the knife into his tool-belt and lifted Karin onto his back again, but faltered. Karin jumped off him and started climbing the ladder herself, smiling back at Firdlass. Firdlass looked up at her and followed.

The tunnel went up at a steep slant and the air was becoming chilly. Oh no! We are going to come out under the shadow! Firdlass squeezed past her and ran ahead to a hatch. He strained at the hatch before he forced it up. A wave of cold hit them and they climbed out into the darkness beyond. Karen had lost all sense of direction, and so she didn’t know what side of the shadow they were nearest, but regardless they ran towards the light at the end of the expanse. They were nearer to the light then she had been from her side of the expanse when she had collapsed, so hopefully they could make it! The icy air bit at their skin and soon she was shivering as badly as she was when she had first entered the shadow. Firdlass held onto her hand and carried on running, eventually having to drag her as she couldn’t run due to the shivering. Eventually, they burst out from under the shadow and collapsed in the light of day. They laid there, breathing heavily for a moment as basking in the warmth of the sun.

When Karin had recovered enough to be carried, Firdlass put her on his back again and ran as far away from the shadow as go could. When it was only a distant line on the horizon did he listen to Karin’s protests and they stopped to make camp.

_The past is a dangerous thing. All things are built on the foundation of memory, and sometimes the past is too weak to bare the load of the future. We can't change the past to support the ever growing weight of the future, but we can change to future to rely less on the past._ --The Manual, holy texts of the N'Geenr

Karin woke up slowly, feeling the softness of the bed-linen against her and the warmth of the sun beaming through the window of her hut. She rolled over and hugged her husband.

“I love you Jol.”

Jol stirred and turned around, his eyes opening slowly to stare straight into hers.

“This isn’t real Karin.” Jol smiled at her “This is only a dream.”

“The only dream here is you Jol, my dream come true.”

Jol grinned and rolled his eyes. “Come on, lets get up, I want to make you breakfast.”

Jol pushed away the covers of their bed and slid his feet to the floor. He stood up and Karin just laid there, watching the sunlight highlighting the perfect contours of his naked body. Jol turned around and raised an eyebrow at her.

“Hey you, the peep show is over, I thought we were getting up.” He laughed, stooping slightly to pull on some trousers.

Karin giggled and provocatively pulled the covers down her body, exposing herself to him and giving him an inviting look.

“Your going to get cold like that.”

“Then you’d better come and warm me up then, hadn’t you?” Karin winked.

Jol stifled a laugh and threw her a robe. “There you go. I’ll see you in the kitchen.”

Karin pouted as she watched Jol stride out of the doorway. Tease! She sat on the edge of the bed and brushed her hair in the mirror. She had had her first grey streaks come through, beautiful silvers lines permeating a river of golden brown to the spot between her shoulders. She looked older, but she had aged well and she thought she looked quite good in her 30th skyline. When she was finished, she slid on her robe and walked into the kitchen.

Jol was at the kitchen counter, cutting some melon into slices.

“There is juice on the table, I’ll be there in a second.”

Karin took a seat at the breakfast table and poured herself a glass of juice. Jol shortly joined her and slid a plate of melon slices across the table to her.

“Karin, we need to talk about something.”

“What is it Jol?” Karin asked between munches on melon.

“This really is just a dream, and I have something to tell you.”

“Really Jol, now your just being silly, stop it.”

“Karin!” Jol stood up and slammed his hand on the table. “Just listen to me, okay?”


“Your thinking about giving up aren’t you? You don’t think the N’Geenr deserve to be saved.”

“What are you talking about Jol? Your scaring me!”

Jol walked around the table and took her hand. “Come on, let me show you something.”

Karin took as hand and followed him outside. It was night time, and the village was gathered in the square around a burning pyre. In the sky hovered a huge white disc, casting and eerie light over everything.

“The Axis Moon…” Karin said, not quite sure how she knew what the huge disc was called.

Jol carried on walking through the crowd, towards the pyre, and Karin followed him. The people, the crowd, they all were strange, their faces blurry and ill-defined, they voices muffled and distorted. It was like time had slowed down around them.

They were standing in front of the pyre now, side by side. Karin looked to Jol, afraid.

“Look, in the flames, go closer.”

Karin approached the flames, there should have been immense heat, but she didn’t feel it at all. In the flames, she saw Jol, his flesh crisping, blackened curls dropping off and disintegrating in the heat. She turned around, unable to watch, hoping she might she the other Jol behind her still but she only saw herself, blurry and incandescent as the others, running towards the Elders. She watched as she hit out at them, the painful memories resurfacing again. The Protocols fell from the Elders hand and fell into the fire. Karin, though she didn’t know why, reached into the fire and picked up the book. The pages crisped and curled to ashes in her hands, but she felt no pain. Slowly the paper fell away accept for one small piece, on it there was written a message.

It is written that an N’Geenrs purpose is to develop themselves, to find the answers to every question, to better everything that can be bettered. In reality, this can be simplified to one simple thing; an N’Geenr must find the truth.

Karin turned around to look at the villagers. They were crying, screaming with hopelessness, the Protocols destroyed, their only salvation lost. Many collapsed to the ground, unable to cope. The two other Elders on the stage by the pyre shook uncontrollably and with a burst of co-joined rage they pushed the Elder who had held the Protocols into the flames.

Karin realised what she had to do. Her people were suffering for a lie, a lie that had been believed for so long. They weren’t to blame for the actions of their ancestors, or her ancestors. She had to perform her true purpose as an N’Geenr, the one the first N’Geenr had forgotten. Find the truth. If she could save the N’Geenr, then they would see the truth of the world.

She turned again, and the Jol who was her husband was there.

“Why did you have to die, Jol?”

“Sometimes things happen. Just know that I’m proud of you. I love you Karin and I’ll always be with you. Now close your eyes.”

Karin closed her eyes, silently crying as she felt Jol’s lips touch hers and fell into his embrace. She kept falling and falling and falling…


Karin opened her eyes. As her vision cleared, she saw Firdlass’ face looking over her, and felt his hand on her forehead.

“Karin okay?” he grinned as he sat back and watched her rub the sleep from her eyes.

“Errr.. yes, I’m fine. Hey, wait a minute, you can speak my language?”

Firdlass avoided her gaze and swayed back and forth.

“Firdlass! You can understand me can’t you!”

Firdlass shot her a guilty look and scratched at the caked-on blood of the Ja-N’tor that was on his arm.

“Uhuh, Firdlass know N’Geenr words. Firdlass errr… skel-Y’torp Karin. That why Firdlass know Karin N’Paek-tor even if N’Geenr.”

“You what?” Karin tried to translate. “You looked in my Skel? What do you mean?”

Firdlass shrugged and laid himself on his back. “Dunno. Firdlass N’Skel-T’tor. Firdlass see Karin’s Skel.”

“You learnt New N’Geenr by reading my Skel! That’s amazing Firdlass!”

Firdlass sat up and grinned. “Karin not hate Firdlass?”

“No, of course not! Wait, what else did you see in there?” Karin frowned.

“Firdlass no see more. Man not let me. Anyway, not nice see Skel without Karin say okay.”

“What man? What are you talking about?” she pressed, but Firdlass wouldn’t answer, he didn’t want to talk about it.

Karin sat down with Firdlass and they ate a meal from the small amount of rations they had. They were running low and would need to get more soon. While she was eating, she thought to herself. So, Firdlass is a N’Skel-T’tor, a skel-seer. Are all Ja-N’tor like that?

“No Karin. Firdlass not like other Ja-N’tor.”



Karin rolled her eyes. “Well, never mind, just ask next time. Is that why you came with me, why you helped me? You could have just killed me and nothing would have changed for you.”

“Firdlass want change. Ja-N’tor not like Firdlass Skel-T’tor. Firdlass not welcome by Ja-N’tor of the shadow. Maybe other Ja-N’tor might welcome Firdlass, but Firdlass not know them or where they are.”

“Firdlass, I wont lie to you. I’m travelling to a place called the Axis. I don’t know what’s there, or even if I will make it, but I’m doing to save the N’Geenr and everyone else. And more than that, I’m doing it for Jol. Now I know you don’t think well of the N’Geenr, and that in the past we ruined the world, but this isn’t about the N’Geenr any more, its about everyone. Firdlass, you don’t have to come with me any more, but I would be honoured to continue sharing your company. If you come with me, you’d be more than welcome.”

Firdlass stroked his chin. “Firdlass thought Karin would never ask.”

Firdlass stood up and thumped his chest. “Firdlass help Karin find Axis! Firdlass help save Ja-N’tor, N’Geenr and Mae-N’Ja!”

“Okay, then its settled.” Karin nodded at him and grinned. “Firdlass, before we go on I just want to know something, why were you up in the shadow anyway?”

“Firdlass was leaving the Ja-N’tor. Then Firdlass found you and saw Karin-skel. Firdlass thought that maybe if Ja-N’tor saw that Karin was N’Paek-tor and with Firdlass, Ja-N’tor might change better and like Firdlass. Guess Firdlass wrong.”

Karin smiled. “I’m sorry I didn’t make everything better Firdlass, but when this is all over, you can stay with me if you like. We’re friends now, okay?”

Firdlass smiled and covered Karin’s hands with his own.

“Firdlass and Karin go find Axis now?”

“Okay, lets go.” Krin nodded, the fire of determination burning in her eyes.

Karin pulled out Pae’s Arrow and it pointed away from the shadow, out towards the horizon.

“Firdlass, this is great! We came out on the other side of the shadow! We don’t have to go through it again!”

Firdlass grinned and picked up Karin, swinging her on to his back. “Which way Karin.”

Karin looked at Pae’s Arrow and pointed. “That way.”

_N'Geenr P'Geen Mae-Geenk-skel. P'Ba Bos P'brok (N'Geenr)k-(Ja-Geen-ja). Mae-Geenk-skel P'log Ja-Geen + rutinp-nan. Rutinp Skels-nan + Rutinp Skel-Mae-P'Tor. _ --the cave paintings of the Ja-N'tor

They had travelled another day so far and now they had run out of food. On the upside, the landscape had taken a break from the grassy plains and had unfolded into vast hilly terrain. Pae’s arrow was pointing towards a break in the hills that from this distance, looked like it might be a valley. Karin sure hoped it was, she was not looking forwards to having to climb up and down all those hills.

She let out a sigh.

“Firdlass hungry.”

“Me too. You don’t where we can find any food do you?” She asked hopefully.

“Firdlass get food from ground. With Ja-N’tor, Firdlass eat Rutink-Mae-geen.”

Karin thought for a bit over the translation. Destroyers of Everything, of earth, of all. Ewwww!

“You ate worms?” Karin blurted.

Firdlass tapped his head, indicating he wanted to read her Skel, and she nodded. At first, she had been disturbed by it, but over the last day of travel she had come to accept it. Her teachings only said that Skel was a sacred and private thing. Never did it say that her Ja-Skel, her memories and knowledge, should not be shared if she so chose. Was it not an N’Geenr’s purpose to improve? And if she could improve Firdlass’ understanding of her language by letting him Skel-Y’tor, then all the better.

Firdlass frowned a bit and then shook his head.

“No, Rutink-Mae-geen not worms. Bigger, hard shell worms. Ja-N’tor use Rutink-Mae-geen to make tunnels.”

“They sound scary.”

“Hungry…” Firdlass moaned, rubbing his stomach.

“Oh! I’m sorry, all this talk about…” Her stomach grumbled. “Lets head into the valley and see if we can catch any animals.”

Clutching their stomachs they began over the first of the hills. As they crested the hill, a marvellous vista spread out before them. The valley stood out the most, made more verdant by the presence of a river. As they got closer, descending and then rising again, the valley opened out, exposing an expansive lake. It was like a mirror. Clouds shimmered across the surface, passing across the skylines that appeared as if below the surface. It was as if the sky had fallen and settled in the basin of the valley. The picturesque view was only spoiled by a large object rising from the centre of the lake. Around the lake, they could see herds of animals milling around, gathering to drink. Excited at the prospects of food, they hurried down the last hill and into the valley.

As they got closer to the lake, they could make out the strange object. It was a huge, black, triangular piece of metal, jutting up at a strange angle, glinting in the evening sun. Waves gently lapped against its surface and the whole effect made it look like some kind of giant animal was submerged below the surface. The animals still hadn’t noticed them as they approached.

Karin had never seen these animals before, it was yet another new thing she had learnt since leaving the sheltered life of her village. The animals where large hairy beasts, much larger than the Grass Eaters she knew back home. These also had a single huge horn on their foreheads, unlike the Grass Eaters, and looked like they could be very lethal if used aggressively. The animals looked very peaceful though, their shaggy manes drooping down to the floor, making it look like they had no legs at all. They were almost comical and she had to stifle a laugh when one of the younger ones tripped on its own hair.

She was glad she had left now, or she would have never had of learned of these things and would have been ignorant of the world until she died. When she got back, she would tell all the others of what see had seen and they would expand and explore the world, discovering and learning new things. It was a nice dream, but one that she didn’t really expect to come true. Changing years of tradition and law would just happen overnight, at least not for the majority. Snapping out of her little fantasy, she suddenly realised that she had never been hunting before, and that neither her nor Firdlass would know how to catch one of these things.

“How do we catch one?” Karin whispered to Firdlass. “I’ve never been hunting before.”

“Firdlass not know. Guess get one same way as get Rutink Mae-geen.” Firdlass winked at her and began creeping closer towards the animals, Karin’s knife in his hand.

Karin positioned her self behind a well-placed rock and watched as Firdlass worked his magic. Firdlass was stooped low to the ground, walking on all fours, his hands fists on the earth. His long hair dragged in the dirt, hiding his face as he crept closer and closer to one of the animals that had strayed towards them, about a 150 meters from the lake. When he was within 10 meters of one he stopped deadly still, waiting. The animal came closer, 8 meters, 5 meters, 3 meters until it was almost nuzzling him and then he pounced! He jumped on top of the animal and before it had a chance to realise what was happening, he had gripped its back with his legs, his arms wrapped round its neck, trying to wrestle it to the ground. The thing bucked and snorted, jumping and running, trying to knock  him off desperately in an attempt to escape his grip but Firdlass kept on gripping, tighter and tighter. Eventually, when it began to tire, Firdlass managed to steer it away from the herd and towards Karin. Karin could see that he still had the knife in his hand pressed up against its throat. With a sudden, jerking action, Firdlass slid the knife and the animals throat split wide open, spilling out blood all down its greyish-blue mane, staining the grass red and Karin had to put a hand to her mouth to stop herself from throwing up. The animal staggered for a moment and then collapsed, just as Firdlass rolled off of it onto the grasses.

“Easy (Mae-Ja)-nan. No shell.” Firdlass grinned, beckoning Karin over with a hand.

Karin shook her head uneasily, climbed onto the rock and sat on it. She had known what had to be done, but still, seeing it running towards her, staring into its eyes and then seeing what Firdlass had done, she was a little upset.

While Firdlass finished cutting up the meat and skinning the beast, she gathered some sticks and tinder-brush and set about making a small cooking fire. It was beginning to get dark, and soon they were cooking and eating the meat in the light of the fire. Firdlass went over to the lake and cleaned the skin before leaving it to smoke over the fire on a make-shift frame. They sat in silence under the stars, eating the animal meat, listening the the lapping of the waves on the shore of the lake and the occasional braying and snorting of the herds that had since moved away from them towards the other side of the lake. The meat was good, if a little chewy. It tasted vaguely of the Grass Eaters, but more earthy and salty. When they had eaten their fill, Karin hung the rest of the meat up to smoke on the frame Firdlass had made and they both went to sleep.

In the morning, they got up and checked on the skins and the meat they had left smoking. They put the skins in the bag and eat some of the meat before storing it in the bag as well. They had enough smoked meat to last them at least another week now, maybe more if they rationed it carefully.

“Still dark” Firdlass yawned, slightly confused.

Karin stretched and looked around. Yes, it was dark. It didn’t feel like night time though, it felt like it should be morning. Remembering back to the unmoving skyline, a thought came to her. _Maybe the Axis Moon was high enough to start blocking the sun now? Maybe it blocks out the morning sun now.


“I’m sure it will get light soon Firdlass. I think the Axis Moon is blocking out the morning sun.”

Firdlass tilted his head in his inquisitive way and then nodded. “Okay. We go now?”

“Sure.” Karin said as she checked Pae’s Arrow. She frowned slightly, looking up at the lake and back at the arrow again. “Firdlass, lets go down to the lake first.”

They headed towards the lake, and as they got closer, Karin couldn’t ignore it any longer, the Arrow seemed to be pointing at the object in the centre of the lake. She began walking away from the object, directly opposite the direction Pae’s Arrow pointed. When she got about 100 meters away, the Arrow jerked slightly and pointed in a slightly different direction. Meanwhile, Firdlass was sat on the lake shore, watching her with a tilted head, a perplexed look on his face.

Lets try something, Karin thought. She began walking around the edge of the lake, maintaining her distance from the object. The Arrow kept pointing the same direction even though she had rotated about quarter of the way round. She took a step forwards and the Arrow suddenly flicked round to point at the object in the centre of the lake again. This is bad. Something must be messing with Pae’s power, like it did at the village.. This is different though, this makes Pae’s Arrow lie, the village just made Pae’s Arrow lost. What does this mean?

“Karin!” Firdlass called out, interrupting her from her train of thought. He was excited and momentarily lapsed back into Old N’Geenr. “Y’Torc! Y’Torc! Come look! Come look!”

Karin had barely noticed, but the day had slowly been getting lighter. She walked over to Firdlass who was beckoning her to come watch the sunrise with him. As the sun began to shine over the tops of the hills into the valley, Karin noticed that the object seemed to be reacting to the light.

“Firdlass, look!”

Firdlass turned to see what Karin was staring at. The huge black object in the lake was shimmering, like when heat rises through the air and creates a haze in the desert. The water around its edge was beginning to boil and steam was beginning to rise all around it.

“What’s going on?!”

“Bad, feel very bad. F’nan. F’(Mae-Ja)-nan-skelp.”

The shimmering seemed to be expanding out away from the object like a ripple in the air. It was as if the air was water and the object was a stone that had been dropped in, the waves of shimmering air kept advancing, and Karin was almost too afraid to move.

“Karin! Karin go now with Firdlass!”

Without a moments further thought, Firdlass swung Karin onto his back and began to run back towards their camp as fast as he could. He could sense the shimmering  catching up with him, his sense of foreboding growing, his sense of urgency beating in the back of his head. Something about that force screamed at him through his Skel. It was very, very bad.

Firdlass decided to look back for a second and his eyes were met by the wall of shimmering air as it passed through him and Karin. He felt dizzy, his Skel felt wrong, like it had been broken and then put back as if nothing had happened. The world spun around him and as he collapsed to the ground, he saw people coming from the direction of the lake. They must have come down from the hills as I was running away, so I didn’t see them, he thought.

He rolled over and checked on Karin. She was unconscious but still breathing. What was that thing and has happened to me and Karin? Firdlass barely got time for another thought, as the people ran up and jumped on him. They were naked, drooling wildly and swinging their arms madly at him, beating down on him constantly. He tried to reach out with his Skel, try and find out what they wanted, try and find something he could use to explain to them that he and Karin weren’t their enemies. He tried, but nothing happened, the shimmering must have done something to him, or to them, maybe both. Eventually, Firdlass succumbed to the crushing weight of the strange people as they piled on him madly, their eyes glazed and their saliva flowing freely as he sank into unconsciousness.

“Don’t let her forget.”

Firdlass sat up and looked around. He was in a tunnel, its was completely pitch black accepts for a light shining at the end. He tried to get to his feet but couldn’t. He watched helplessly as a man walked in front of the light. Firdlass couldn’t see his face, the light was too bright and it made the man appear as if he was a shadow.

“Don’t let her forget. You were chosen for a reason Firdlass. Don’t forget, never forget…”

Firdlass felt heavy all of a sudden and fell back against the floor, the sharp shock to the back of his head making him close his eyes in pain. When he opened them again he was staring up at rock. Had that man been a dream? He didn’t know, but it seemed likely, he felt like he had just woken up. As consciousness returned, pain did also. His chest and arms stung, and when he examined them he saw that tufts of his hair had been torn away and that he was covered in bruises. He tried reaching out with his Skel, but again like before he couldn’t pick up anything. Firdlass sat up and began to examine wherever it was he was. It was a cave but the entrance had been barred with rocks and thick pieces of wood, essentially creating a cell. He was a prisoner. He stood up and was about to walk over to the barrier when he heard a whimpering behind him.

Karin screamed and began clawing away at the air and kicking the ground in a desperate attempt to cower further back into the cave but there was nowhere to go. She was trapped! She didn’t know how she had got here, but she had awoken to find her self in this strange room. At first she thought it must be some kind of joke, but the boys couldn’t have come up with something like this. She had begun to venture out towards the barrier when she had seen it. This great, big hairy thing laid out on the ground. Maybe it had kidnapped her from the village and had taken her back to its lair, maybe it was going to eat her! Petrified, she had clamped her hands over her mouth to stop herself from screaming and tried to slowly creep over to the barrier. If she was quiet enough, maybe it wouldn’t notice her trying to escape. She had gotten about half way when suddenly it moved and in panic she backed away into the farthest corner she could find away from it. It had begun to pat itself, grooming or cleaning itself perhaps. She watched its hands move over itself and then stifled a gasp as she saw it touch its left arm. The arm was covered in dried blood, but she couldn’t see any cuts. That means it must be somebodies elses blood… Oh, Pae, no! Father, it must have killed father trying to take me away! Oh, Pae, no! The creature then sat up and began looking around, it must be looking for her, she wasn’t in the same place she had left it. Shivering with fright, she backed further away into the corner and hoped it would somehow miss her. Suddenly it stood up and she couldn’t help but whimper at the thought of what it might do to her, and what it had done to her father.

Firdlass turned around towards the whimper and there, further back in a dark corner of the cave, was Karin. She was awake and Firdlass didn’t need to Skel-Y’tor to see that see she petrified. He shot her a friendly grin and went over to comfort her. As he approached, he noticed something was wrong, she wasn’t just afraid, she was afraid of him!

“Karin, why scared of Firdlass?” He said softly, deeply concerned.

“S-Stay away from me! Y-y-you m-m-monster!” Karin screamed as she made a mad dash for the barrier. “Help me! Somebody help me! Heeeeeeelp!”

Firdlass couldn’t believe what was happening. Why is she so scared of me? He tried approaching her, arms open in a display of friendship. He bowed his head and grinned.

“Karin, Firdlass Karin friend.” He said, sadness in his voice.

Karin shook the barrier frantically, but no-one was coming. She spun around, and there was the creature, teeth bared and arms outstretched, ready to pounce. Then it spoke. It had spoke before, but she had been panicking too much to notice. It said her name, some strange word and then her name again followed by the word ‘friend’. She stopped shaking at the barrier and looked at the monster for a second. It stood there, its head swaying slightly from left to right. It eyes where completely black, but even in those dark pools, she didn’t sense any hostility. Her eyes coursed down its body and then she noticed it was wearing some trousers. Why would a monster wear trousers?

Her thoughts were interrupted as the beast suddenly made a leap for her, its face suddenly twisting into a mask of rage, but it was too late. The barrier suddenly gave way and she was pulled through by some unknown force before the creature could grab her.

“Karin! Karin!” Firdlass yelled as she was taken away by the weird, naked strangers.

Firdlass thumped the wall with a hairy fist and slumped down against the barrier. The man in his dream, if it had been a dream, had tried to warn him. She wasn’t afraid of him, she was afraid of a monster she had never seen before. She had forgotten him!

_When an N'Geenr forgets their place before Pae, and shuns their duties, when an N'Geenr fails to atone before passing; they will be condemned to an endless circle of pain. Their Skel shall weaken and they shall know nothing of their lives except skel-less suffering for all eternity._ --Protocols, holy texts of the N'Geenr

Firdlass was distraught. He had never expected anything like this to happen. He wished he knew what to do, but he didn’t, he was totally helpless. Karin had forgotten him, how long would it be before he forgot her too? Whatever that shimmering was, it had effected them both and, Firdlass surmised, eventually he would forget things too.

Discontent with just sitting around moping, he decided to do something. Looking at the barrier, we tried to gauge its strength, see if it can any weak points. In total, the barrier must have been about twice his height across, and about 1.5 times his height, all made up of large, heavy rocks and pieces of wood. He could see through the gaps into a tunnel beyond, one end of which lead outside, he presumed, and the other went further back into the hillside. If he got out of here, he wouldn’t know which way Karin had been taken, but chances are it would have been deeper into their home. Regardless, he would have to search both, and it would be more practical to settle on searching the one leading back into the hill. On further inspection, the barrier didn’t look all that sturdy, and Firdlass didn’t really believe that these slobbering wrecks of a people really had the capability of making a sturdy construction. It was sturdy enough though, and as push as he might, it would barely budge. He began testing it all along its length, from left to right, and then back again, and the strength was about the same all over. Then he had a thought, the part where they pulled Karin through must be weaker, if it has a door or something like that in it. He found the place and could make out through the gaps that indeed this was some kind of door. It had been barricaded with rocks and more wood which acted to keep it closed, but Firdlass thought he might be able to force it if he applied enough force. He walked back to the very back of the cave, in preparation for a running jump.

Karin had been full of joy as the people, people that looked like her, had rescued her out from the cave, but that illusion had soon faded. These people were not like her, not like her at all. They hooted and screeched at her as she was dragged deeper and deeper into the caves, and as they got deeper she noticed that the natural light source was slowly being replaced by some kind of glowing moss that lined the walls and ceiling of the tunnels. She had stopped struggling, it was useless. Whenever she tried to get away she would be set upon by 5 or more of these people and she didn’t stand a chance. She averted her eyes from them, not wanting to look at their naked bodies as if seeing her captors bare flesh somehow lessened her. At least I’m not trapped with that beast. She didn’t really believe that though, something about the strange creature reminded her of someone, and she had doubt as to whether it really would have hurt her. It didn’t matter now though, that was over. She only hoped that somehow these people would let her go and she could get back to the village, wherever that was from here, wherever here was. She sighed at the hopelessness of it all.

She had tried talking to these people, but they didn’t seem able to understand her. In fact whenever she had tried to communicate with them, the had become aggressive and hostile, and only the actions of her ‘guards’ these 4 huge, brutish looking men had stopped the other people that seemed to be milling around aimlessly from hurting her. As she had been being escorted down these tunnels, she seen many of these strange people. They acted like animals, many of them walked about on all fours, some just sat around, staring into nothingness, many seemed to be fighting with each other for no reason she could comprehend. She had been scared when they had passed one just repeatedly banging his head against a wall. He had turned as she passed and lunged at her, his face all bloody and deformed from what must have been hours of this self-abuse. One of the guards had grabbed him and pummelled him so badly, Karin couldn’t bare to watch, and as they left, she could hear the faint sound of someone choking on blood.

The guards stopped and Karin, each shoulder held by the large hand of a guard, was brought to a halt. They had reached what was obviously a special chamber. The light now was solely coming from the moss, and everything seemed to have a slight bluish-grey tint to it, making the whole chamber feel a lot bigger than it actually was. She heard a loud grunt from the chamber, and the guard escorted her in.

Firdlass crouched down low, ready to sprint as hard as he could against towards the barrier. If he could jump at just the right moment, he could land feet first right on the door and hopefully push the rocks on the other side loose enough to be able to push the door open. He took a moment to compose himself and then ran at the door, jumped and sailed through the air, crashing his feet into the door with such force, that the wood beneath his bare feet cracked under the pressure. He felt it give way beneath him and he quickly jumped back. There the door stood, cracked horizontally across the middle. It was slightly ajar now. He didn’t have much time, obviously someone must have heard him so he had to act now. He pushed. Dust and fragments of rock were falling from the ceiling around the top of the barrier door and as he pushed, he felt the rocks behind the door giving way inch by inch. With a final grunt of determination, he pushed again and the door slid open just enough for him to squeeze through. He was free! He looked around desperately for something he could use as a weapon. These people worked by smothering their prey, and so he needed something to keep them at a distance. Looking around, he noticed a large piece of wood hanging from above the doorway, one end splintered to a large jagged point, it was perfect. Hearing the mad, laughing noises of these people coming towards him, he quickly yanked the piece of wood from its securing in the cave rock and brandished it before him. Come on, N’Mae-Skel!

Firdlass leapt into the air as the first of the people that he named the N’Mae-Skel came at him, bringing down the makeshift club onto its head with a sickening crunch. It fell to the ground lifeless and Firdlass jumped over it, heading further into the cave and into the fray. If he could just keep himself in the air, they would have less chance of being able to jump on him and crush him. He brought round his club with an almighty swing, caving in the side of the head of a N’Mae-Skel that  tried to jump him from the side. If there was one thing Ja-N’tor were good at, it was climbing, and Firdlass used that fully to his advantage. He jumped against the walls, gripping onto small outcroppings of rock with flexible toes, beating confused N’Mae-Skel as they jumped at him, wildly flaying their arms, before jumping back down and onto the other wall. He had left the brutally battered remains of at least 6 N’Mae-Skel behind him now, and the others had learnt they had no chance of winning now that Firdlass was unleashed in their home and they ran, screaming at his approach, the occasional slow one tasting the sharp end of the club as Firdlass impaled them without mercy or remorse.

“Karin! Karin! Where Karin? Kaaaariiiiin!” Firdlass roared, adrenaline and rage running through him more than he had ever felt before, even when wrestling with Rutink-Mae-geen.

Karin was led into the chamber. In front of her, sat a very large, muscular man on what she presumed must be some kind of throne. The ‘throne’ was made of various pieces of metal and trash which seemed to have been collected from the surrounding parts of the chamber. The whole chamber was full of strange mechanisms, bits of metal and other materials. It was a short of glorified trash pile. Karin, had never realised so much stuff could just be left around like this, unused. The bald, muscular man on the throne jutted a chin toward Karin and grunted at the guards, who promptly left.

When the guard had left, the man jumped down from his throne, a staff similarly made of junk clasped in his hands as he approached her, shuffling from one leg to the other in a strange zigzagging fashion. As he approached, Karin noticed that unlike the other people she had seen so far, this man was just bald, he wasn’t completely hairless. His eyebrows were still there, as was his armpit hair. Karin dare not look any further than that, she didn’t want to provoke him or give him and signal he might interpret the wrong way.

The man slowly circled her in his strange zigzag fashion, sniffing her occasionally and touching her with a probing finger. She didn’t know what to do and so she just stood there, frozen, hoping that the man would leave her alone. The man had come full circle and was facing her again. He looked down at her, a horrible grin on his face, showing his hideous, decaying teeth.

“W-What d-do you want?” Karin shuddered.

As soon as she uttered the words, the man glared at her and his hand came swinging round slapping her in the face, sending her to the ground. She clutched her face, and began trying to back away from him, pushing herself along the floor with her legs. The man snarled at her and ran up, kicking her in the side over and over again, screeching at the top of his lungs.

Huddled up in pain, trying desperately to protect herself from the torrent of blows raining down on her, Karin curled into a ball, protecting her head and face. Eventually, through the ringing in her ears, she heard a grunt. The beast of a man that had been beating her had gotten bored. Her head was ringing and she was aching all over, at least in the places that hadn’t already gone numb. She dared not move in case she invoked another attack. Instead, she just laid there, silently crying to herself through tightly shut eyes.

The rage was in Firdlass now. It was boiling deep in his very Skel. He was in a Skel-For, the burning heat of his rage erupting from his Skel and spilling out in the hot fury of battle. None could stand in his way as he travelled, unchallenged by the now cowering and awestruck N’Mae-skel, towards what he had gathered was some kind of important place. He has searched high and low, reaching out with his Skel for Karin, and still nothing. Something deeper though, something inside him was telling him he was on the right path. The man, the N’Skel that he saw in Karin’s mind and in his dreams, the man was guiding him, fuelling his Skel-For, bringing him closer to saving Karin.

The tunnel was opening out now. Glowing moss covered the walls and ceiling, the cold blue-grey light reflecting Firdlass’ malice and intent. He would destroy anyone who harmed Karin, destroy them utterly and absolutely. He was close. The tunnel ahead opened out into a large chamber. That must be where she is! Firdlass yelled out as he charged forwards, his bloody club swinging through the air to take care of the 2 guards that ran to challenge him.

The where large men, muscular and well built. Even so, they were no match for Firdlass, gripped in the fury of a Skel-For. Firdlass leapt into the air as a guard swung for him, bringing the sharp end of the club in line with his feet as he ploughed feet first into the guard’s chest. The club splintered through the guard’s chest, blood erupting into the air as the body fell to the ground, Firdlass standing on it’s chest. Breathing heavily, glaring at the other guard through his drooping brow stained with sweat and blood, Firdlass pulled the remains of the club from the corpses chest. The other guard could barely look at Firdlass, he just turned and ran gibbering incoherently with the horror of what he had just seen. The bloodied stump of wood held tightly in his right hand, Firdlass walked into the chamber.

It was barely a second. Barely a second before he saw Karin, laid out, cowering on the ground, a huge man, obviously the N’Mae-Skels leader, stooped over her. The man had turned towards the entrance to see what the noise had been and his eyes met with Firdlass’. Firdlass looked back to Karin again, and then to the man. Karin laid on the floor, barely conscious, the clothes on her lower half torn away, the man stood large and erect. Already, in the split seconds it took to realise what he had interrupted, he had killed this man a thousand times in his mind and now the Skel-For burned even deeper at the sheer hatred of what he had witnessed. This man wouldn’t even have the opportunity to repent. For… this…, he could barely think it, for raping Karin, you… will… die!

Firdlass roared, he ran, livid towards the man. He reached out with everything he could muster, he reached out with his Skel, fuelling his power with the Skel-For, reaching out harder and harder, further and further against the invisible barrier that seemed to encompass this cursed land. The air began to visibly ripple in front of him as he charged ahead and the man, gripped in fear turned and ran but it was too late.

Firdlass was closing in. He could barely see the man any more, the rippling in the air was so intense. At the moment he brought round his club the strike, the rippling reached it’s apex and shot forwards, into the back of the running man. At was like all Firdlass’ hatred, all the fury and rage he had within him and manifested itself as a wave pain. The wave hit and the man dropped, screaming to the floor, clawing at himself, trying to rip out an invisible attacker from within himself. His skin began to split, as if thousand of tiny insects were biting and tearing at him all over his body and the man writhed in agony. Defenceless in his agony on the floor, he could also scream more as Firdlass pummelled him over and over again with the bloodied stump of wood that served as his weapon.

For the first few minutes, Karin had thought the worst. The man had torn away her clothing and his intent was obvious. She knew she would stand no chance against him, especially after the beating he had given her, but she had been prepared for the worst. As he was lowering himself onto her, she was going to kick him where it would hurt the most and try and run, if she could. It turned out she hadn’t had to. From out side the chamber had been a noise, the sound of men dying and running in fear and before she had realised what was going on, the man was no longer above her.

She had opened her eyes and seen the hairy beast-man that had been locked up her, chasing her assailant. He let out a roar of such rage that Karin closed her eyes in shock before she saw something unlike anything she had even imagined. The beast-man was wrapped in a shimmering field, the air itself seemed to be trying to escape the hate emanating from him. And it sure was hate, she didn’t know how, but she could feel it, even on the other side of the chamber. The hate wasn’t all she could feel. Something about it told her that the beast-man, whoever, whatever it was, was here for her, to protect her. Gripped in a strange combination of awe and fear, she could do nothing but watch as the man was crippled under the wave of hatred coming from the beast-man. She watched as the beast-man pummelled his opponent over and over again. His bloodied stump of wood shattered with the force of his blows, and he threw it away and carried on, fist following fist. Karin just gawked as the beast-man stood up, bloody strands of matted hair hanging down from his fists. The man he had beaten lay, barely recognisable even as human any more, on the ground before him in a widening pool of blood. Firdlass turned to face her. Their eyes met. She screamed.

_The Skel, even if lost, exists in the hopes and memories of friends and loved ones._ --The Manual of Jol

Firdlass ushered the guards out of the chamber. He still didn’t trust them, but they seemed to be loyal to him now. His murder of their leader had seemed to earn him their leadership. He supposed they just followed the strongest, and he had proven himself just that.

Karin had screamed when he had approached her. It was no surprise really. She had witnessed him beating a man to death, with clubs and with… something else. Firdlass didn’t know quite what had happened, all he knew is that he had wanted to protect Karin, he still wanted to protect her, and seeing her like that, that N’Mae-Skel over her, it had awoken something within him. He just wished that he could could somehow reach her, bring her back from beyond whatever place her memories had fled to.

Not knowing what to do, he had left her where she was and had headed out of the cavern. He was met by scared, curious faces. The people had slowly been coming out of hiding and some had seen what he had done. He had been prepared to fight to the death to stop them from breaking through and hurting Karin, but luckily, had wasn’t required. Instead, it seemed that in killing their leader he had become his replacement. First of all, cautiously and full of mistrust, he walked through the crowd of people. They backed away, some smeared with blood as Firdlass passed them, his hair painting them with dark red smears if they couldn’t back out of his way in time. He had walked onwards, unbarred until he had found his way out of the caves and had walked down to the lake to wash himself off.

Karin didn’t know why she had screamed. Somehow, she had come to trust the strange beast-man, but even so, seeing that face, blood dripping from his fur, it was too much. She had calmed down though when he had left. It was just that in that one instance, while she witnessed his frenzied bludgeoning, all she could feel was an intense hatred emanating from him. She could actually feel the intensity of his hate and rage, and anything like that, a hate so strong, frightened her. And that thing he did, that weird force in the air, it was something he did, what was it?

She had tied together her torn clothing, covering herself up as best she could. The beast-man, Firdlass, she remember him saying, had posted some guards, for her protection she guessed. They had bought her some hides for her, and so with a little fiddling, she managed to get her bruised fingers to tie them together into a kind of makeshift shawl. Warm now, she still shivered. The bruises and the pain of the beatings were beginning to surface and now she felt stiff, like she was turning to stone. Creeping to the throne, she sat down to think things through. The last thing she remembered, before waking up in that cell with the beast-man, was going to sleep in her bed back at the village. What had happened in that time being sleeping and waking? She hadn’t even seen the sky since she had woken up. She must be underground, in a cave somewhere. What would happen to her? She must be outside the village boundaries, there were certainly no caves anywhere near the village, and with out permission! Only a Chief N’Geenr could leave the village boundaries. They’d understand, she was kidnapped, she didn’t mean to, they wouldn’t punish her would they? Had she been kidnapped though? This beast-man, Firdlass, seemed to know her, at least he knew her name. He wanted to protect her too, there was more to this than there appeared. She didn’t understand. I just want to go home!

Firdlass splashed cold water against himself in the eerie light of the great disc in the sky, the Axis Moon as Karin had taken to calling it. He didn’t understand much about it, the sky as whole was mostly a mystery to him, but he knew that this Axis Moon was bad. As he bought his face up from the waters surface, he looked at the black shape in the middle of the lake. It felt cold, still, like a dead thing. Even worse, it felt like it spread that feeling all around it. Whatever it had done, it had hurt Karin, it hadn’t touched her, but somehow, that shimmering wall it created had touched her Skel, and harmed her Ja-Skel.

“Mae-Geenk-skel.” Firdlass muttered to himself as he scrubbed the filth of the N’Mae-Skels from his matted hair.

Whatever the black obelisk was, Mae-Geenk-skel or not, he decided to investigate it closer before the sun came back. It might do whatever it had done again, and he had no idea how that would effect them if they were subjected a second time. On that note, he dived into the water and swam through the moonlit lake towards the object. As he got closer, he felt like he was getting sleepy, like his Skel was becoming numb. His senses seemed dull and the pain from before, when that wave had hit him, seemed to be beginning to surface once again. He felt sick, but he was determined to find out what it was, what it had done to Karin and getting it to fix it if he could. A little further and his foot hit something smooth and flat and cold. It was high enough in the water to walk on, so he stood up and walked along it to the obelisk jutting from the water. It seemed like the two were connected, and when he reached the obelisk, his thoughts were confirmed. The two surfaces met and they seemed to be comprised of the same substance, joining seamlessly with each others as if they were part of an immense, contiguous block of dark, smooth matter. Even above water, the surface of the obelisk felt just as cold and as smooth as that beneath. It felt unnatural. Mae-Rutinl. He tried reaching out with his Skel, but he was met with that cold, dead feeling and pain upon pain each time he tried. He could feel the dead feeling inside of him. This place was a bad place.

Firdlass decided that there was nothing to be learned from the obelisk, so he began to swim around it, finding out how far the surface of it went under water. After swimming around at a radius of several meters, the surface continued to curve down under the water, like a sphere. He would have to swim underwater to discover more. Luckily, he was a strong swimmer, his home, now far away from here, was one of those that could only be reached via an underground lake, and so like all of his group, he had learned the skill from a young age. Taking a deep breath, he dived down and glided around the side of spherical structure. It was several attempts diving at different positions before he found something. An entrance of some kind maybe, an alcove that dipped into the curved body of the structure. With a final deep breath, Firdlass dived down, swimming into the alcove into a small tunnel which lead up, into the structure. Just as is breath was about to give out, he broke the waters surface and was met by something he had never seen before.

Firdlass emerged into an eerily lit corridor. The walls were made of the same cold, dead material as the outside but this time there was something different about it. Along the surfaces of the corridor – the walls, the ceiling, even the floor – there were thin, straight, glowing lines. Firdlass pressed his fingers against them but couldn’t feel the indentations in the walls. Dropping to all fours, Firdlass looked closely at the lines on the floor. Upon closer inspection, they seemed to pulse as if they were alive. Perhaps they had skel? Maybe they were creature in the rock, like  Rutink-Mae-geen. The swim, and the constant draining feeling this bad place seemed to emit made Firdlass hungry, so he reached out with his skel to try and draw out the Rutink-Mae-geen. Immediately, he was hit by a force he couldn’t describe and he cried out.

“F’(Mae-Ja)-nan! Fornan! Fornan!”

The waves of pain washed over him and he withdrew, but still the pain blossomed in his mind like a white hot sun. Eventually it began to subside and he was left quivering on the floor.

_Unauthorised access is prohibited._ --Protocols, holy texts of the N'Geenr

Firdlass lifted himself up from the strangely patterned floor as the ringing in his head began to subside. This place still felt wrong and something about it hurt is skel. It was a bad place.

He crawled slowly down the corridor, following the pulsing patterns in the floors and walls. The eerie light cast weird shadows and cast everything in a strange blue light that hurt Firdlass’ eyes but he pressed on. There were no branches to the corridor but it continued at an angle, spiraling down in a secession of corners until he reached a strange room. What he saw frightened him.

The room seemed to be a large hemisphere, the floors and even the walls were caked in rotted organic matter, as if someone had thrown up violently a long time ago, something that Firdlass strongly suspected was the case. The skeletons to several people littered the room, some in grisly grapples while others lay slumped over glowing protrusions from the walls, skulls cracked open. The skeletons where clothed in a black matte fabric that reminded Firdlass of the walls but their skin and flesh had long decayed, mostly having fell from their bones long ago to be added to the furry, papery mould that now coated the floor of the room.

Firdlass suddenly came to realise that the throbbing in his head had gone, in this room it seemed like he was protected from whatever made this place feel so bad. Pushing one of the skeletons aside, Firdlass looked at the glowing panel on the wall. It had writing on it, but he did not recognise the language.

Solar charging 47% complete. Next Mental-erasure blast in 1 revolutions.

What did it mean? He pressed at the panel and the words changed, but he couldn’t tell what they said. Frustrated he hit the panel again and again and with each slam the words changed until a sound began to emanate from the wall and suddenly Firdlass’ head was flooded with noise. Screaming he fell away from the wall but it was too late and the noise wouldn’t stop. Blinded by the pain he slipped on the mess and fell flat onto the floor.

Mental interface established. You are not an authorised user defence systems will engage in 5 seconds.

The voice echoed in his mind, smoothly replacing the pain as if it had never been there. Firdlass tried to reply with his Skel.

Me Firdlass, Karin hurt, need to stop bad place, bad wave.

The voice didn’t seem to care, it ignored him and then 5 secons later it spoke to him again.

Defence systems are now active. Error. Defense systems are non-functional. Directive omega is now in effect. Self-destruct in 5 seconds.

Firdlass didn’t think that sounded very good. Panicking, he grabbed one of the bodies by it clothing and pulled it with him as he ran back through the corridor. Hopefully the body might have something that could help Karin.

He dived into the water and as he did he felt a rumble as he swam with all his might. He felt a shockwave come through the water behind him and felt himself being pushed and flung up as part of an enormous wave. Something bad had happened.

Firdlass and his grisly cargo were hurled onto the shore of the lake as the wave that carried them came crashing down, the body hitting the ground with sickening crack as it’s dessicated husk split from the force of the impact.

He turned around, shocked but unhurt and saw a pillar of smoke rising from the lake, the waters where the spire had been boiling viciously. The place no longer had the dead feeling, that horrible sense of Mae-geen-skel was gone.

Desperation seized him then, a deep concern for Karin echoing in his thoughts. Grabbing the broken body and ran towards the caves. When he got there, the N’Mae-skels seemed tired, they milled around as if in a daze. Perhaps it was something to with the spire, Firdlass wondered.

Not a single one of the N’Mae-skels stood in his way as he made his way to the cavern he had left Karin in but when he got there, she was gone.

Karin felt like she had suddenly woken up, like a great weight had been lifted off of her mind. She thought of the beast man, Firdlass, and how he had protected her and realised that she knew him, rmembered him, but vaguely, like a name on the tip of the tongue. She knew he was a friend and she was worried about him.

She approached the guards, she wanted to leave, to find this Firdlass in the hope that seeing him might trigger her memories. She hoped they would let her through. The guards barely reacted to her at all, they seemed dazed and confused as if they were striggling to understand where they were and what was going on. Karin took the opportunity to slip out of the cavern and into the tunnels beyond.

Still afraid of the strange pale-skinned men and woman, she avoided the main tunnels, heading further and further until she finally reached the bright light of day. In the distance there was smoke rising from the lake and Firdlass was nowhere to be seen.