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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Many chapters contain brutal violence.

The Mantis Equilibrium - Book Two - 13. Chapter 13 - Journey Home

After only a very brief trip to Bluewood Village, our travelers are headed home.

With the winter sun already at its zenith, Dozi and the group from Teshon City with the addition of Ninyani turned their backs on Bluewood Village. They started the long journey south along the Pinewood path. The mountain air was cold but no wind blew against the travelers.

Ninyani left his home in Frostflower without any possessions save for the clothes on his back, but he did not require anything extra for the trip. His garments from the far north were more than sufficient against the weather, and Tchama’s frilly pink and yellow scarf was still around his neck. It was a lovely accent to his furs.

Over the long days of their trek back to the city, Ninyani complimented each of the four women on different articles of their clothing, and they all shared things with him. Dozi’s rainbow-striped knit cap with a flower pin caught his eye, and she let him wear it, happily accepting his thick fur hat in exchange. He was also enamored by Lahari’s periwinkle blue mittens, and she gave them to him. She borrowed an extra pair of gloves from her father.

Those initial fears that Ninyani felt at seeing Lahari’s physical appearance were replaced with a sense of wonder. She did not mind his probing questions about her unique body, and she answered everything he asked about her quills and her yellow eyes and her scaly blue skin. He learned about the black hole of energy that dwelt inside of her, and the ways its power had affected the different types of people who threatened or challenged her.

Ninyani spent part of the long days walking beside and talking with each member of the group. The mystic told him much about life in Teshon City, and he offered the boy a place to stay with him and his husband and daughter. He described the neighborhoods and different groups of people who made up the inhabitants of the city. The mystic also enthusiastically answered any questions Ninyani asked.

While Theolan walked beside the boy, he talked quite a lot about food. He told him of the produce markets and seasonal fairs. He went into detail about the plethora of snacks and treats at them, but also the live entertainment. Theolan described the singers, dancers, and sometimes even Shifts who would display their powers at the celebrations.

Ninyani was riveted by the details.

Neither he nor Ilya used their powers during the journey back down south. She and the others explained to him the dangers of using his abilities in public, and how revealing that he was a Shift would make him a target. They let him know that only in certain places was it safe for Shifts to show their abilities, and only ever among their own kind or with others who were accepting.

The boy had used his powers very few times, and not using them was easy for him.

Of the group, Tchama spent the most time walking beside Ninyani. The two of them developed a rapport that warmed the mystic’s heart. The way Tchama and Ninyani laughed and joked together was as if she was his big sister.

The pair discussed everything from fishing in the harbor waters around Teshon City, to how Ilya was gone some of the time on her trips into the mountains, and also about where each of their group lived in relation to everyone else. The two talked about Ninyani’s life and Frostflower, his chores, the other children, even the cruel old Shift who thought he was a god and lived among his worshipers. Ninyani avoided the topic of his mother.

While they walked, Tchama made jokes about the way her messy hair looked, and Ninyani giggled at how different his accent sounded from hers. He taught her a song that the village children used to sing together, and Tchama promised to take him to the Shift cafés in Gate Town and Shifton.

At one point, the two of them burst out laughing, when a whole group of chubby little chipmunks scampered across the path in front of them. The awkward critters panicked and disappeared back into the underbrush with frantic waddling steps.

Ninyani spent time getting to know everyone else, but the bond between him and Tchama was instantaneous. They even held hands for much of the journey.

On the third morning, the sun came out and warmed the travelers.

Ilya unbuttoned her jacket, and Ninyani’s eyes sparkled at the sight of the sweater that she was wearing underneath.

By the time the group finally arrived back in Teshon City, quite a few of Ninyani’s heavy furs were replaced by the four women’s more colorful garments, and there was a lightness in the boy’s step. Despite the horrors he experienced, over those several days of travel, he spent very little of his time in a state of misery. The mystic knew that someday Ninyani would need to deal with what he went through, but he saw a resilience in the boy that gave him hope.

The group was kind and generous to Ninyani, and he could not help but feel drawn to the people who saved him from the devastation of Frostflower. There were moments when his mother’s bloated and rotting corpse flashed into his mind and brought him to tears, but the comfort he received from Tchama in particular was like a balm to the child’s broken soul.

It was the middle of the afternoon of their fourth day of walking when they led Ninyani through the old Oselian gates, and the group entered Shifton. A few minutes later they were at the house where the mystic, Theolan, and Lahari all lived together.

Dozi nudged Tchama and Ilya, and she nodded her head in the opposite direction.

Tchama knelt down in front of Ninyani and asked him, “Will you be okay here?”

He looked up at the mystic and Theolan who both smiled at him with encouragement. “I’d like to stay,” Ninyani replied to Tchama,

She wrapped her arms around his little frame. “I think we three are going to head home,” she informed him. “Dozi and Ilya and I live just a little further into the city, in an area called the Spritehood. The mystic and Theolan used to live near our place. Anyway,” she continued, “all of us have had a long several days, so why don’t you get settled here with them, and we will come see how you’re doing tomorrow?”

Everyone said their goodbyes and Dozi, Ilya, and Tchama began the last little leg of their journey together.

When they were right around the corner from the secret basement that the three of them called home, Tchama stopped walking. “Wait a second,” she said, “let’s stop over at Auntie Peg’s place and tell her about Ninyani. I think he’s really going to like her.”

“They should definitely meet,” Ilya agreed.

“Why don’t we wait till morning?” Dozi suggested.

“It’s two blocks away,” Tchama whined.

Dozi rolled her eyes and said, “Fine! Let’s go see her.”

Rounding a few blocks led them to the front of Peggy’s Potions. The door was locked. A note informed them why.

Sorry for the inconvenience, but the shop is closed right now.

Please come back again soon, or if you need me immediately,

I am at the Sunwood clinic at the corner of Harbor Ave. and Teshon Blvd.

Have a great day!

“Okay, let’s head home,” Dozi declared.

“Shouldn’t we go to the clinic?” Tchama recommended, but Ilya replied.

“I’ve been close enough to the blood corruption,” she said, “and haven’t you? I could really do without seeing the patients who are suffering from it.”

“We are all exhausted,” Dozi added. “Why don’t we go home and get clean, maybe even have a bath, and then, if you still want to go find Auntie Peg, we can talk about it afterward. But I’m hungry. I stink. I would love to be home after this crazy whirlwind vacation we just went on. What was it, a week? Eight days? I’ve lost track.”

“Dozi’s right,” Ilya agreed, and Tchama conceded.

Several minutes later, they slipped behind the old fan cage and ducked into the hidden entrance of the basement.

“Turn on the boiler,” Dozi instructed Tchama. “I’ll get the tap, and Ilya, will you spread out our travel clothes so that they air out before we wash them?”

“A bath is going to feel so magical after all that hiking,” Tchama replied, as she got on her hands and knees and reached under the huge metal barrel they used as a bathtub. She cranked on the flame.

Dozi walked over to the wall and turned on the faucet. The water only came out cold, but she always appreciated that running water was accessible in her basement.

During the previous summer, when Tchama was welcomed to move in with Dozi and Ilya, she devised a way for the three of them to enjoy hot baths. She knew of several old metal barrels that were coated in a protective sealant developed by the Oselians. The trio managed to get one onto a cart, and they wheeled it back to their home. It almost did not fit through the hidden door, and getting it down the stairs was precarious, but their giant bathtub quickly became a treasured part of their home.

After Dozi first moved into the secret cellar, she tapped into an old natural gas line and fashioned a makeshift stove. She simply repeated the process and ran more tubing along the wall to the space under the giant barrel.

Ilya turned out to be a talented woodworker, and she built a base for the bottom of the inside of the barrel that supported three wooden lounge chairs and a footrest, all of which she also built from scratch. The base and footrest kept their feet off of the primary heat source underneath the tub. She also carved three small paddles, and the women used them to circulate the hot water up from the bottom.

Their first few baths ended up getting too hot, and Dozi added a shutoff valve for the gas that they could reach without getting out of the tub. She also happened to have in her possession an old thermometer that she found in an Oselian warehouse by the Stone Warf. Even though the tub took a little while to fill and heat, the bath was worth it every time.

The three women peeled off their heavy outer layers and helped Ilya spread out their rank clothes. She came back from her trips into the mountains with fresh herbs, and they regularly made cleansing rinses from them. They spritzed their garments and wiped down the dirtiest and smelliest parts of their bodies before the bath was full.

None of them spoke. They were all exhausted from the journey.

After a while, they started to check the thermometer. Once the water was at a nice warm temperature, they climbed over the lip of the tub. The three always sat in the same chairs. They often talked and laughed, sharing the details of their days and discussing the markets where Dozi sold her mushrooms. However, that night, the silence lingered, only punctuated by quiet sighs of contentment from each of them.

Eventually, the water was hot enough that they turned off the flame, and the three sat soaking for quite a while. It soothed their muscles and purified their bodies.

One by one, as each was ready, they climbed back out of the tub. They dried themselves and dressed, and Dozi unwrapped a meat pie for each of them. They ate, and even though it was still early evening, the three were soon asleep.

Up the stairs, outside their basement home, the quiet city streets were suddenly filled with the ringing of the Teshon City warning bells

Something has happened...

Copyright © 2023 Adam Andrews Johnson; All Rights Reserved.
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Thank you for sticking with my crazy story!

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

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  • Site Moderator

Ninyani is an outgoing boy. He will get along well in this new environment.

From the sound of the bells it seems the Messiah's rage has begun.

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What a wonderfully descriptive trip of the way home and how they blended together happily and easily. Ninyani became part of the group. Tchama and Ninyani became especially close friends. I like how the exchanged colorful clothes with Ninyani. It was a simple way to become closer.

When they recached their home, the group split into two parts and retired in separate living places. Warning city sounds happened later. The friends might be caught up in attacks from the Messiahs. We will find out soon.  They can wreck severe unexpected damage on the Messiah's if their friends are threatened , I bet.

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Dozi, Ilya, and Tchama may well have been better served going to see Aunt Peg.  They might have gotten a warning of what has happened while the group was gone and been more prepared for what could be coming.  

I am so happy that Ninyani was able to bond with this group.  I hope that he is able to grow with them in wisdom and love.  His powers will mark him as dangerous by some once they are known; but let's hope he gets to big young for a little while longer.  They men and Lahari will do what they can to protect him and nurture him; as will his other new found friends.

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Let's hope that Ninyani is and remains safe and it sounds like the Messiah's are about to reveal their ugly selves, one can only hope it backfires and they are put down quickly...

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