Early in the morning Kian left the base, heading towards the city edge. He liked he majestic sight of the roaring waterfall and he hoped that all those thoughts summing up in his head would finally find a solution. He was running out of time and the breakthrough wasn’t at hand yet.
He left the small car in a remote spot and walked to the edge of the plateau. The sparkling mist enveloped him like an eerie cloak and for a moment time froze around him. He dived in the strange feeling, the tendrils of his mind searching for a sign, an echo to connect him to the life of the planet. At first he received nothing more then the muffled hum of the living surroundings; then, a grain of shimmering light emerged in front of his mind’s eyes. He quickly connected to it and opened his eyes. The feeling persisted. Someone was reaching out for help, someone lost and desperate. The young angel carefully looked around, following the twinkling sensation. He got his eyes on a thick cluster of bushes and trees; he stood still watching and sensing it. He decided to follow his instinct and headed towards the shrubbery.
He found a dim pathway and stepped on the ruffled grass. There was a soft rustle of leaves and Kian quickly turned. The creature was right in front of him, standing still, unable to move, paralyzed by fear.
It was a young Nanuka, a young male. His face was badly damaged; the skin has melted under the heat of a scorching fire. It had the same bluish shade but the eyes were entirely different. The right one was pitch black, its light burned out by the fire that has consumed the body. But the left eye was of the most perfect azure. The look in that eye was a mixture of fright, deep pain and hope.
Kian was shocked. He couldn’t take his eyes from that gaze. His heart ached as he reached out and touched the soul of the other through the remaining eye. A sensitive, emotional, intelligent being was trapped inside a body that held no more expressivity than a cage. The hurt reflected in that clear-blue mirror was shattering.
The young angel sighed; he has found the long lost Nanuka-Tah but he was badly damaged. He wasn’t able to help his race, at least not in his current condition. The Healer needed healing himself. It was up to Kian to do it. He decided to win his trust and find a way to ease his pain. He sat down, folding his legs under himself. He made a gesture towards the young Nanuka, inviting him to do the same.
The boy sat down slowly, his gaze fixed in Kian’s eyes. The young angel extended his hands, palms up and tilted his head. The Nanuka gazed at the hands then he slowly reached out and timidly touched them. He shied away from this new, unknown feeling and took his hands back but remained seated and alert.
Kian decided to take another step. He shifted to a half-erect position and slowly, very slowly tried to touch the Nanuka’s face. The blue eye followed his movement attentively, trying to decipher Kian’s intention.
The angel softly touched the tormented face, delicately running his fingers across the cheeks line while keeping eye contact with the boy. The air between them filled with electricity and for a moment Kian was overwhelmed by the strong feelings coming from the other. He gasped and the Nanuka cried out in a coarse voice.
He then sprang to his feet, running wildly towards the rim of the plateau. Kian jumped, trying to reach him and stop the tragedy. Instinctively, he unfolded his wings and caught the desperate youngster, lifting him in the air just seconds before he fell into the abyss. He held him close, flying over the misty depths until he noted that the dark forest opened up into a sunny meadow. Kian descended there and let the Nanuka rest on a heap of grass.
The boy watched him in bewilderment, shivering from exhaustion and excitement. Kian saw himself through the azure eye: a legendary creature, the winged one from their old beliefs, coming to restore the Nanuka’s self-confidence and hope…
He leaned over him whispering:
-Don’t be afraid, I’m your friend. I’m here to help you.
The boy bent and covered his face with both hands, uttering a sad and painful sound. Kian’s heart sank. He gently pushed away the hands, grabbed his shoulders and touched his forehead to the boy’s. The young angel shut his eyes and concentrated, trying to make a close contact with the unhappy creature. He felt him quivering under his palms but didn’t break up. On the contrary; he hesitantly raised his hands and placed them on Kian’s shoulders, his fingers barely touching the feathers of the wings.
Their mind closed in contact almost instantly. Kian’s mind was invaded by images of fire and smoke, people running and shouting, children crying, a strong blaze coming into his face, the sharp pain and the numbing fear…then, darkness.
“So this was the cause of the severe burns of the skin…”-thought Kian. He broke the contact to ask the boy:
-You were a small child then, isn’t it?
There was a nod.
-Where were your parents?
The Nanuka shook his head violently, veiling. Kian grabed him, helding him close soothingly.
-I’m sorry-he said in a low voice. I never meant to disturb you. Do you remember them?
The youngster’s shoulders sunk in sadness.
-I see-said Kian. Come on; let’s find a proper place for you. Don’t be afraid, I’ll protect you.
He held him by the waist and took a flight to the plateau. They descended next to the car and Kian let the young Nanuka in. He handed him a blanket, advising him to rest for a while. Kian was concerned about the safety of his protégée. He knew that the bulky guy was lurking somewhere, trying to get his hand on the fugitive and that he suspected Kian of offering help to him. There was a slight chance that he could hand over the boy to Eeria; it hanged by a thread but he just couldn’t sort out another option. He got into the car and turned back to the city, to the cluster of old trees. The Nanuka was sleeping peacefully in his seat; Kian gave him a warm look: he was just a frail and lost child. He turned back to the road and froze. There was another car tailing him closely. Kian speeded up and issued a call home. Sheera wasn’t there so he called Shawn.
-Shawn! Listen to me! I’m on my way back to the city but there’s somebody following me. Take Gavin and keep Sheera safe. She might be in danger! I’ll call you later…
Before Shawn could utter even a sound the line went dead. Kian arrived to the old park. He shook the Nanuka:
-Wake up and follow me quickly! Don’t look back!
He took the confused youngster by the hand and stormed into the park. He split his focus in two directions: one to make a mind-call to Eeria, the other to keep track of their pursuers.
“Eeria! Come on, come on! I need you NOW!”-he was so desperate, he almost shouted out.
The footsteps behind them were closing dangerously and Kian heard the angry growl coming from the bulky man leading the hunters. The Nanuka was numbed by fear hearing the feral growl. It was a sound that had haunted him since his early childhood…Suddenly they found themselves facing the secret tree but Eeria was nowhere to see. Kian took a desperate measure; he held the boy close and shut his eyes, trying to remember the inside of the tree. The black vortex sipped both of them and in a fraction of a second they disappeared from the park. Kian tentatively opened his eyes and relaxed. They were in front of a door that looked familiar. It opened and Eeria looked at them with eyes rounded in dismay.
-How did you get here?-she asked in a small voice.
-I’ll tell you later just let us in. We’ve been chased by the Mayor’s men. We need a safe haven fore him-said Kian and gently pushed the boy into the room.
-Don’t be afraid, she’s a friend and she’s your race. She will protect you-he said as the boy tried to hide behind him.
Eeria was stunned; her eyes filled with tears and she was trembling as she watched the young Nanuka.
-Goddess of Earth! The lost child, our Nanuka-Tah…where have you found him?!-exclaimed her.
Kian told her about the fugitive creature and their encounter out of the city. He skipped the way they’ve got inside the secret labyrinth.
-He’s badly damaged and very frighten. I don’t think he has a name…does he?
-His name is Arctis-said Eeria. Arctis, do you remember your name?-she asked, turning to the boy.
Arctis gave a small nod.
-I don’t think he can speak properly; I’m afraid that his vocal chords are damaged too.
-I’ll give him some food and a proper bed to sleep. Come with me, Arctis. You’ll see Kian later…
She took the young boy in another section of the hidden house; she fed him and tucked him in bed, coaxing the troubled youngster. He fell asleep almost instantly. Eeria closed the door and returned to Kian. She found him resting with eyes shut, looking very tired. She took out a small bottle filled with a golden, oily liquid. She filled a small cup and handed it to the young angel.
-Drink it; you’ll feel better after that. You look drained and you’re in pain. Am I right?
Kian bowed slightly; he took a sip from the cup, tasting it carefully. It was sweet but energizing. It tasted like honey and cinnamon, with a touch of something pleasant but alien to his taste. Eeria was right; both the fatigue and the headache were slowly subsiding. He saw the question in her eyes:
-Ask me-he said. Something is bothering you…
She watched him in silence, trying to read him.
-He said that you have wings-she started, cautiously.
-I have-answered Kian. But I keep them folded and hidden.
-And you have other…talents to-she added.
-I have indeed but it’s my choice not to use them. They drain me completely sometimes and I can’t afford that.
She listened carefully then she said:
-You have to learn to use them properly. You tend to play everything, even your life on one card. We are at a crossroad now. The Nanuka-Tah needs mending and I’m afraid you’re the only one who can do it.
-I know-sighed Kian –and I’m more than willing to do it. But I have two problems: I have no idea where to start and the last time I did something like this I ended up “sleeping” 500 years.
Eeria agreed. She needed time to search for some answers and solutions. It was getting late. She tapped on another wall and a Nanuka appeared at her call. He bowed towards Kian and waited for Eeria to give him a mission.
-Take our friend home safely-she said. Kian, be careful! You made some powerful enemies! I’ll get to you when the time will come.
-I’ll be waiting. Take care of the boy-he said and left with his new guide.
They arrived at another door that led to the Mayor’s garden. Kian said good bye to the Nanuka and took a shortcut to his own private quarters. The sun was setting slowly, the shadows crawling out one after the other from cracks and crevasses. The air filled with chill and the stars were lighting up their shimmering candles. The base’s dimmed lights wavered while the mist started to snake along the temporary buildings.
Kian easily found his home and quickly entered. He knew Sheera was waiting for him and hoped that Shawn and Gavin were there to. They were all gathered in the living room when he entered. The young men were talking in muffled voiced while Sheera was leafing through a book with impatient gestures.
-Hy!-he said in a low voice, trying not to startle them.
-Kian! Where were you?!
They looked worried. Sheera’s eyes were filling with tears and the boys looked confused. Kian embraced them all and gently wiped her tears. He sat them down and filled them up about the happenings. They listened in silence, intently. Shawn spoke first:
-We wanted to show you an artifact that we got only recently. Look, there’s an Angel depicted on it.
The piece of pottery was delicate and colorful; it was decorated with an intricate design with a clear representation of an Angel in the middle of it. Kian was astonished; what were the Angels doing here, far away from their home planet? And why was Eeria interested in his wings? The four young friends spent the evening examining thoroughly the gathered information. The sense of mystery filled the air. Where would all this end up?