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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 - 23. Chapter 23 - Photonova Gland

Tchama goes to check up on Ninyani.

“Making jewelry sounds like a lot of fun,” Tchama said to Auntie Peg. The two of them were at the front of her shop. “But I told Dozi and Ilya that I would join them with the resistance. Oh, and Peggy, you should be there too, since you’re a Messiah!”

Auntie Peg cringed and looked over at Ninyani with an expression of severe concern on her face. She was yet to tell him about her past, or that she was an ex-Messiah, and she worried about his reaction. However, the boy was unfamiliar with Messiahs, and the term meant nothing to him. He did not respond to Tchama’s words at all.

Tchama again kicked herself and made a guilty expression at Auntie Peg for letting yet another secret slip, but Auntie Peg mouthed the words It’s okay.

“I understand why you want me to be there,” she replied to Tchama, and she nodded at Ninyani, “but staying out of sight, is actually the course of action that he and I need to take. In fact, why don’t you stay here with us?” she offered, but she continued without letting Tchama reply. “I can also understand why you think it’s important to be in the resistance, but there are powerful individuals who are going to be facing off with the empowered. I worry that it’s going to be extremely dangerous for any humans.”

“But I just sent Dozi over there! She and Ilya!”

“The two of them know what they’re doing and what they are getting into. I won’t force you to stay here,” Auntie Peg said with a smile, “I just hope that you do.”

“We are making jewelry!” Ninyani called to Tchama from the other room.

“See,” Auntie Peg said, “I told you we’re already having fun. Why don’t you join us for just a little while? Make yourself a pair of earrings or a necklace, and then go on your way.”

Auntie Peg let out a sigh of relief as Tchama entered. She closed the door behind her, locked it, then added in a tone that sounded a little deflated for the normally-upbeat woman, “There will always be more violence.”

Auntie Peg smiled and continued in her normal voice. “Head into the kitchen with Ninyani. There’s wire for making the fastenings and some settings, and in front of him is a box with different types of stones and charms. I’ve only got two sets of tools for fine and detailed work, so we’ll need to share. Grab that chair and pull it over to the table. Have a seat beside Ninyani. Would you each like a cup of tea?”

“Yes, please,” Ninyani replied

“Thank you,” Tchama said, “that would be nice.”

A few minutes later they were sipping their warm beverages.

Tchama scoured the box of treasures and decided to make herself a new pair of earrings. She selected the posts she liked, picked out a pair of gemstones, and cut herself two pieces of wire. The minutes slowly slipped by as she formed one into a setting that would hold the first stone, but it was tedious work.

The three of them discussed the previous night’s fabulous event at length while working on their jeweler. Even though Tchama was at the fundraiser with Ninyani, he told her in great detail about the costumes and hair and makeup. He described the different performances and compared them to the folk dancing from his village. Ninyani spoke with fawning tones about the models who he thought were the most beautiful, shared lyrics from songs that stuck in his memory, and even described the way that he and Auntie Peg cheered for the show. The boy reminisced as if reliving his fondest memory, and not simply the night before.

Ninyani was already close with Tchama, and there was a special bond forming between Auntie Peg and the boy. He chatted to his little heart’s content and got choked up for only a moment when the conversation turned to his mother, but Auntie Peg was quick to redirect the discussion.

Ninyani asked about Lahari, and Auntie Peg told him about fascinating her abilities and where she used to live in the underground. Both Tchama and Ninyani were intrigued by Auntie Peg’s details.

Tchama and Lahari became good friends over the half-year that they had known each other, but she did not like talking about her life in the underground, before moving to Shifton with her fathers. Lahari was happy in her new life, and she did not care to relive her darker days, so Tchama knew very little about her time before they met.

Auntie Peg informed Ninyani and Tchama that she had been friends with the mystic and Theolan for over a decade, and the three of them were already close when Lahari hit puberty and her physical appearance began to change. She told them that Lahari was abused by her mother, and how her fathers helped her move into the underground.

“The details of the stories are hers to tell,” Auntie Peg said. “Lahari has experienced some serious traumas, but she is an incredibly strong young woman. Can I get either of you some more tea?” she offered.

The trio talked about Ninyani’s childhood in Frostflower.

Auntie Peg shared about growing up in a cult and how she escaped as an adult.

Tchama talked about being brought to Teshon City as a child, but she was not interested in telling them much about that.

Eventually, an hour ticked away, and Tchama was finally attaching the first earring post to the wire setting that she fashioned. She placed it onto the tabletop and stretched her arms overhead. After a sigh, she asked Ninyani, “What do you think of the city so far? I know you’ve only seen a little of Teshon, but how do you feel living here?”

However, Auntie Peg interrupted where the conversation was going, and her expression became serious. She asked Ninyani in a quiet voice, “May I see the lovely necklace that you’re making?”

The boy nodded and handed it to her with a proud smile, but Auntie Peg looked concerned.

“Where did you get this?” she asked in an unsettled voice.

Tchama turned to her. “What is it? That’s not one of your crystals?” She pointed at the case full of stones.

Auntie Peg stared at the gem in her hand and replied with certainty in her voice.

“This is a mantis gland.”

Tchama looked both startled and alarmed.

“What’s that?” Ninyani asked. He was oblivious of the object in his possession and its significance.

“You don’t know?” Auntie Peg responded.

The boy shook his head.

Auntie Peg looked over at Tchama and then back at Ninyani. “Well,” she began, “as a matter of fact, you have one of these yourself, inside of you. Your photonova, or mantis gland, is what gives you your abilities over hot and cold. This crystal came from a Shift, someone like you or Ilya or Lahari. Where did you find it?”

Ninyani dropped his head in shame, and he looked as if a dark cloud formed over him. He did not reply, but Auntie Peg took his little hand.

“It’s okay, honey,” she said in a gentle tone. “Whenever you’re ready to tell us where this came from, we will be ready to listen. However,” she went on, “I don’t think, despite how pretty it is, that this gemstone will make for the best necklace.” She extended it back to Ninyani, but he was reluctant to take it.

“Let me explain,” she continued. “This is what some people are after. This is the very special part of all Shifts, the thing that some others would be willing to kill a person to get.” She urged, “You need to keep it secret,” and she placed it back in his hand.

Ninyani looked down at the crystal and asked, “I’ve got one of these inside of me?”

Auntie Peg nodded. “All Shifts have them. You’ve got one of those pretty little gemstones living right in the center of your head.”

“I do?” he asked in a voice full of wonder.

“Yes, indeed you do,” Auntie Peg replied. She reached out and touched the boy on his forehead. “Right in that little melon of yours, but if someone learns that you’re a Shift, or finds out that you’ve got a loose mantis gland in your possession…” she trailed off before continuing.

Auntie Peg pointed at the sparkling gem in his palm. “Mantis glands are one of the most expensive items in the world, and they are jealously sought after. There’s a chance someone might try to take it from you.” She placed her hand on his shoulder. “I don’t mean to frighten or upset you, but there are people out there who would do bad things just to steal it,” she reiterated. “So, as lovely as that necklace is, I really feel that it would be best if you kept the gland hidden. You can use as many of the gems and stones from my collection as you’d like.”

Ninyani gave the two women each a serious expression. He removed the photonova gland from the setting that he was making for it, tucked the gemstone back into his coin bag, and stuck it in his pocket.

“Why don’t you see if any of these spark your fancy?” Auntie Peg offered, and she slid the box of decorative stones in front of him.

Ninyani got back to work, but Auntie Peg and Tchama made eye contact. They did not share with Ninyani the unspoken understanding that passed between them.

The three talked very little over the following hour, but eventually, Tchama finished the second earring and she laid the matching set onto the table in front of her.

“Finally! That took forever,” she stated.

“It just requires a little practice,” Auntie Peg replied, “and a little patience.”

Ninyani yawned and rubbed his eyes. “I’m not done,” he said, “but I’m getting sleepy.” He placed his unfinished necklace beside Tchama’s earrings and shuffled over to the couch Auntie Peg set up for him the night before as a spare bed.

She got up from the table and helped him remove his bulky sweater, then she tucked him in with a pillow and a blanket and turned off the light. She returned to the kitchen with Tchama and closed the door.

“Where do you think he got that mantis gland?” Tchama asked.

“Maybe it was some sort of heirloom from his village,” Auntie Peg guessed. “He said his people thought of Shifts as gods. Maybe it was some sort of precious artifact that they were keeping.”

“What could you do with that?” Tchama asked. “I know you’re not a Demifae like the mystic, but you’re in the healing arts, so you must have some uses for a mantis gland, don’t you?”

Auntie Peg took a deep breath and adjusted her corset. “I’m not going to take it from him. It’s the last remnant of whatever life he used to have. I’ll talk with him more about it tomorrow, and maybe he will want it to be used to help heal people, but I’m not going to force him or even encourage him to do anything with it. If he makes the decision on his own, I will explain to him about it at that point. Also, I don’t think we should mention to anyone that he has it, not even Dozi or the mystic or anyone. The fewer the people who know about it, the better.”

She turned and selected a bottle of wine from a wrack on the wall. “Would you like a glass?” she offered.

Tchama looked torn. “Dozi has been supporting the resistance in Gate Town for a couple hours already,” she stated. “I really want to get over there and be a part of it, make some difference. The more people that show up, the more powerful the statement will be against the Messiahs.”

“Please,” Auntie Peg said in a gentle tone, “it will be violent. I really think you should stay here with us. I’ve got a big bed, you can sleep with me.”

Tchama looked startled by the offer and blurted out, “I can’t sleep with you!”

“Oh, honey, no!” Auntie Peg replied in surprise, and she burst out laughing, but she tried to subdue it so as not to wake Ninyani. “No, no, no, not like that. Honey, I don’t have those kinds of feelings for women. I was just offering you a place to sleep.” Auntie Peg smiled. “Tchama, you are totally safe with me.”

“Erm, sorry, yeah, I know that,” Tchama replied with a sheepish smile, but she felt reassured of her trust in Auntie Peg. “I don’t know why I thought that. Sorry,” she repeated. “Anyway, I just really want to go be a part of the movement.”

“I won’t stop you from going,” Auntie Peg replied, “but I’m worried about any of you humans who get involved in a confrontation between such overpowered beings.”

“I’m not going to fight,” Tchama reassured Auntie Peg. “I just want to be part of the crowd.”

“Alright,” Auntie Peg conceded, as she poured herself a glass of wine, “please, be careful!” she implored. She took a sip and sighed. “Well, bundle up, it’s a cold night.”

Auntie Peg’s face wore an expression of concern, but Tchama smiled and headed out the door.

Alone again, Auntie Peg creaked open the door to the dark room where Ninyani was peacefully sleeping, and her eyes moved over to his silhouette in the darkness

A mantis gland in Ninyani's possession, what will become of it?

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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Ninyani's Mantis gland prize finally comes to light.

There are still things we don't know about Mantis glands. We know they cause mutations if a Messiah eats more than one, but what would happen if they underwent a Demifae ceremony? What would happen to a shift? If a Shift or Demifae ate one, what happens?

I don't think Tchama going to this protest is very wise.

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Somehow I get the sinking feeling that Ninyani will need to use his mantis gland in healing Tchama as a result of her being hurt at the protest/faceoff...

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So, Ninyani having the mantis gland from Bulog has come to light.  At some point someone is going to have to sit down and have a serious discussion with Ninyani about his past and his abilities and how and when to use them.  

I do worry that Tchama going to the protest to protect Gate Town is a mistake.  Aunt Peg, unlike the three little idiots, understands that it is often those with less power and the innocent that are hurt when those with powers clash.  

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The messiahs are on a rampage, Beings are going to be hurt.

The mantis gland could be a blessing for good or evil for ninyani. I bet we find out soon what it effect will be. She has a lot to learn--fast.

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