When they boarded the ANTARES Kian decided to wear the same uniform as any member of the crew. He practiced a lot until he managed to fold properly his wings and keep them hidden. Usually he didn’t need them so he let them unfold only in intimacy with his love, Sheena. Since they were engaged, they had a flat of their own. It was here that in the evenings, when they were relaxing in each others arms, Kian opened his wings, using them like a white silk cloak that held them together embracing, caressing, love making.
For those who didn’t know him, Kian was just another young man, like anybody else. His field of research allowed him to move freely, watching and observing social behavior. Since the Nanukas were such recluses, he decided to unveil some of their secrets. Ever since he set foot on the planet he had a distinct feeling that he had a purpose here. On the other hand, there was something in the eyes of these gracious creatures, a hidden pain, some kind of defeat. Kian tried to gather some basic information about them but somehow things were not adding up.
Everybody treated him politely but the needed information tended to slip through conversations. It was like there was some dark secret hidden behind the polite and shiny image of this prosperous society. The Nanukas were even more unattainable. For a while Kian roamed the capital city and sat from time to time on a watching spot and kept drawing whatever caught his eyes. And while he was observing the people of Amanis, some of them kept an eye on him. There was a huge male tailing him from time to time. Surprisingly/or not?/ the guy was living in the house of the First Mayor.
Shawn and Gavin were curious about the far history of the Nanukas; they have found beautiful artifacts on the market and they were genuine. The problem was that no one knew where did those come from. The Nanukas hid the secret deep inside their mind. So the boys kept track of Kian’s discoveries and were spending long hours talking with him and Sheera. Then one such evening brought the long awaited breakthrough; Sheera was leafing Kian drawings, trying to set a pattern in the images. She wasn’t sure what she was looking for but she had a distinct feeling that there was something in those captured moments.
-There!-she exclaimed. I knew it! I saw this woman before; her face appears here and here and there and…
-Let me see-said Kian in a quiet voice. You’re right, my love; that old lady is almost everywhere. There are others who reappear from time to time but she’s the only one who can be found in all the locations. This puzzles me somehow because I don’t know how she can move so fast from one place to another. I’ve never seen natives using cars or any technical facilities in or out of the city.
-They move like ghosts-said Gavin jokingly.
-Well, you got a point; they move so silently and gracefully, they seem to glide-added Shawn.
-They also seem so fade into the background if you watch them too intently-picked up the thread of thoughts Kian.
Sheera listened to all of them; finally she decided to warn them.
-Boys, don’t get over excited. Don’t dig a stick in the beehive! It might be dangerous. We know almost nothing about these people so please, be careful. Kian?
The young angel was thoughtful; he decided to think it over. Sheera was right and they were supposed to prepare themselves for their final assignment. He chilled down his two friends and sent them home to sleep. He needed some time to think on his own and clear his mind. He kissed Sheera and went out for a walk around the First Mayor’s mansion.
The night was silent and the stars were dimmed by the mist spread across the place. One of the two small moons of the planet was slowly ascending in the skies. Its light created more confusion the ground; the mist thickened, the stars were hardly flickering and the light of the moon added just a ruddy shade to everything. The garden of the mansion was large and dark this time of the night. Even the cages where various creatures were kept were silent now. No animal reacted as Kian passed by. He wandered around, his mind emptied; just his senses were on full alert. This was an alien place after all.
The sudden flow of pain and despair was shocking. Taken by surprise, Kian gasped for air, choking, his senses shuddering under the attack. The headache hit like a lightning bolt and he fell to his knees. A few moments later commotion broke out; angry voices and flashlights were frantically hunting for something or somebody. Kian stood up and staggered. He felt weak and dizzy; he spotted a large tree surrounded by bushes and hid there. There was a rustle of leaves behind him and a dark shape brushed by him in a desperate hurry. There was a sharp moment of mental connection between them; Kian recognized the source of the overwhelming sensations and the creature became aware of his presence. He stopped for a moment, staring towards Kian. The angel hushed him away.
“Run-he whispered almost inaudibly. Don’t stop, run! Don’t let them catch you!”
The ghostly creature melted into the shadow. Kian waited another minute then he came out in the open of the garden. He looked confused to the pursuers, asking with a worried voice:
-What happened? I couldn’t sleep and I heard some shoutings…
-You should go back, Sir-the man answered. There’s a dangerous creature on the run.
-Thank you. I’ll do as you’ve said.
Kian turned towards his place when he heard a low growl. The bulky man was blocking his way home. Kian wasn’t intimidated; they both were the same height but Kian was slender, so he didn’t look that impressive. But he was strong enough and agile. He gave an impassive look to the man and asked:
-What do you want?
-What are you doing here? I hate to find you always in my way…
-You’re the one snooping around me-said Kian calmly. Get off my way. I have nothing to say to you.
-I’ll be watching you. I’ll catch you and that crippled bastard and then you’ll meet your doom-the man sneered.
Kian shrug and took up the pace. He locked carefully the door and silently undressed. Sheera was sleeping, the book she’d been reading fallen on the floor. She was peacefully breathing, thick eyelashes batting erratically, following the dreams gathering under the eyelids…Kian gently kissed her, turned off the small lamp and cuddled near Sheera. She shifted in sleep, embracing him and nesting in the soft feathers of his wings. He shut his eyes holding her warm body closer. He sighed and plunged into the abyss of the dreams…
-You came late last night-said Sheera, sipping a hot morning drink.
-But I did come, didn’t I?-he asked, a playful smile on his lips.
-Be careful-she said, eyeing him worriedly. I know that twinkle in your eyes…
-I’ve promised and I won’t do anything stupid. I love you and I won’t jeopardize our love. Now quit worrying and let’s have a walk.
They soon left the camp and took a small car; they drove out of the capital, near the edge of the huge plateau that housed the main city. It was a breathtaking site: the plateau was rising steeply up to the sky, a rocky island in the middle of an ocean of thick greenery. The river that zigzagged through the capital left the city; far out its boundaries the large snake of water spread across the land, fingering the mossy rocks, foaming, bubbling, whirling only to fell in an eerie mist down the cliff into the deep, the sparkling veil of water droplets turning the daylight into endless rainbows.
The roar of the massive cascade was deafening. Kian drove the car to a dry spot where they could oversee the impressive landscape and they could even talk without shouting. They descended from the car and watched the whole scenery in amazement. Kian held Sheena by her shoulders, one wing protecting her from the excessive moist flowing in the air. She held him by the waist, pressing her cheek against his chest.
-It’s so beautiful-she murmured.
-It is. But there’s something hidden under all this beauty and it might be dark and dangerous. There’s a bulky guy at the Mayor’s who’s tailing me. I bumped into him last night when something or someone escaped from the enclosure. He wasn’t pleased at all to see me. We agreed on not liking each-other…
Kian related the entire story of the previous evening; he needed Sheera’s opinion for a clear perspective. She expressed her concern for his safety but she agreed that something felt wrong around them. Sheera trusted Kian’s intuition and insight; she was well aware that he wouldn’t stop to stand up for the defenseless ones. Life with Kian was never a dull one. She snuggled into his arms, hoping that this new challenge will finally turn out well. They turned back to their headquarters and spent the evening together. They went to bed early and made love on and on, remembering with each kiss, each passionate touch how lucky they were having each-other…Exhausted they fell asleep tangled in each-other’s arms and slept peacefully till the sun was high up.
Sheera was due to gather some of her friends from the Biology Lab and look out for some exotic flowers from the main market. Kian took his sketchbook and mingled in the crowd, keeping his senses on alert. In fact he was looking for the old lady from his previous drawings. He remembered that once, but only once he caught her eyes fixing him. He just looked up to meet those amber eyes watching him intently. It was like she was trying to decipher what was deep inside him. He stood her gaze for that split second, letting his mental guard down. She turned her head rapidly and disappeared into the crowd.
Kian hoped into a closer encounter; he had a distinct feeling that she wasn’t just an ordinary person. He kept a slow pace, looking around seemingly without a purpose. The sun was high up in the sky, heating up the surroundings. Intricate artesian fountains filled the air with shimmering mist, cooling down the atmosphere. The colorful public gardens filled with people. Kian spotted a small cluster of old trees; they resembled to the large oak trees he loved so much on Earth. It was probably a remnant of the native forest that once upon a time reigned here. A narrow pathway covered in spiky grass snickered trough the tall and broad tree trunks. The spot was silent and cool. Kian walked slowly, trailing his fingertips on the ragged bark.
He became aware of her presence almost instantly. Raising his eyes from the grassy ground, he saw her standing erect right in front of him. She was an old Nanuka, tall and dry like the trees surrounding them. Her face was wrinkled but her amber eyes were lively and her gaze was piercing.
Kian felt the touch of her mind; he spoke out loudly:
-I know you can speak my language. Who are you?
She touched her forehead with her palm.
“I can speak out loud but this is the only way to show you more than words can speak. Open your mind!”
-Tell me. I’m listening-he said.
“I know you: your deeds, your dreams and the haunting questions buried in your mind. You have noble intentions but you’re in danger.”
-I know-murmured Kian-but something’s driving me and I can’t rest before I fulfill this unknown duty.
“I have a lot to tell you but we’re not safe here. Follow me.”
She then turned, Kian falling on her steps behind. They stopped in front of the largest tree. She placed her hand on the trunk and pushed gently. A secret door opened and they both entered in a deep hollow with numerous stairs descending into the ground. They walked for almost an hour, changing direction from time to time, climbing and descending endless rows of stairs dimly lit by a bluish light. They finally stopped in front of a door and she let him in.
It was a comfortable, sunny room viewing a steep mountain slope covered by the same dark forest. The room was furnished with wooden chairs, bed and table. Everything was clean and simple but well designed. Kian sat down next to his host, his translucent blue-grey eyes watching her intently.
“We are an ancient race that lived in close connection with Nature. She gave us everything we needed: she fed us, she lodged us, healed and protected us. The planet was large enough for even two intelligent species to thrive here, so we welcomed the humans.
They’ve built cities, traded with us for goods and things were going smoothly. More and more humans moved in and started a good life. There were some small frictions but they were easily smoothed. Unfortunately a bigger load of wealth doesn’t make you wiser. Wealth brings power and power brings in greed and hunger for even more power.
The Nanukas were part of the nature and we weren’t driven by the hunger for wealth. The humans are paradoxical creatures. They tend to aim high, they put in all the energy, they can be selfless, heroic, epic-then again they can be ruthless, greedy, cruel, unforgiving…Humans still amaze us and scare us as well.
But the source of our tragedy was the discovery of a large amount of stellarite in the depth of our sacred ground, the Nova Crater. The Earth was crying out for this precious metal and the merchants were eager to provide it. It was a great opportunity and an even bigger challenge. Our leaders proved to be reluctant to disturb the crater. For us that particular place was the Healing Spot and each spring our people traveled there to undergo the ritual of healing and rebirth. The place itself radiated some kind of power that cleansed and rebuilt the body and soul. The ritual was lead by the Nanuka-Tah.”
Kian listened in deep fascination the old lady’s recollection; it reminded him of his own race and of the human race, back on Earth. His venerable host, Eeria took out a transparent carafe filled with a deep red fluid and put it on the table along with two glasses. She filled them each and handed one to Kian.
“It’s made of fruits and flowers that grow in our land only. It’s for trust and friendship. I hope you’ll like it.”
The air filled with the spicy scent of the red liquid. Kian took a sip; it tasted like wine but the fragrance was rich and pleasant.
-It’s very good; thank you. I’m honored by your trust and friendship-he said. Please, tell me about the Nanuka-Tah and the conflict about the stellarite.
Eeria took another sip of her wine and continued:
“The merchants were angered by our refusal to let them into the Crater. They decided to push us off the land and take the stellarite. They hired mercenaries to attack the Colonies. We were living in the main Colony. They came by night, they set the whole place on fire, killing people and scattering everybody. That night they killed the old Nanuka-Tah and took away the young one. He was only a small child and he was never found.
For our race this was the hardest blow. We couldn’t perform the Healing ritual anymore so we became weaker with each day…”
-Isn’t there a chance to have a new Nanuka-Tah? – asked Kian after a while.
“They are very rare. They are born with certain abilities and they look slightly different then the rest of us: they have bright-blue eyes instead of amber. Without him we’re dying out; that’s why you don’t see children here. Only a few were born since the war with the merchants and many of them died before age…”
A deep silence set in Kian’s mind. He was deeply disturbed by the tragedy of this peaceful and kind race. There was still a question lingering in his mind. He looked in Eeria’s eyes.
-You are a wise woman. Tell me please, why have you chosen me to confide?
She took some time to think before answering. She searched inside him; he could feel her gently tapping the meanders of his mind. He relaxed and opened to her. She finally retrieved her touch and spoke in a low, warm voice.
-I was watching you because I felt that you are special. You’re gifted, open minded and considerate. There’s much more about you but I can’t tell you until I’m quite sure. If you’ll need me, come to the same spot. I’ll be there for you. Now let me lead you back; it’s getting late and I know there’s someone worrying about you-added Eeria with a smile.
Kian’s cheeks reddened a little but thanked her for the pleasant afternoon. He had a lot to think about. The sun was setting in a symphony of crimson and gold when the young angel got home. He found Sheera sitting on the rug in the middle of the room, trying to sort out a big pile of colorful, spicy scented flowers. He warmly kissed her, got himself into some casual clothes and sat down to help her out. In less then an hour the work was done/selection, registration, information fed into the main computer/ so the two lovers indulged themselves in cooking dinner together and enjoying each-other’s company.