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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 - 3. Chapter 3 - Memories

Reunited with friends!

After the vast devastation of the underground one year prior, very few Biological Shifts were willing to remain beneath. Most moved to Gatetown, and in particular, the Shifton region that was safest for Shifts. A neighborhood watch was formed to help keep the inhabitants of Gate Town safe from those who would hunt them.

Gate Town was always the most welcoming part of Teshon City, but the inhabitants of Shifton were now wary of outsiders. There used to be an unsaid understanding, if Shifts stayed among their own kind and kept their powers secret, they would be safe.

Everything was now different.

Biological Shifts were out; they were out of the underground and living in the tight-knit community of Shifton. There was no denying that Shifts were part of society.

When the Biological Shifts first arrived in Gate Town, they did not expect to be welcomed. However, their Shift cousins and many allies who already dwelt in Shifton were accepted and embraced their new unusual neighbors.

It was not uncommon to see Biological Shifts with animal-like qualities or characteristics. Many grew thick coats of fur or hair all over their bodies. Some were scaly like reptiles, and still others possessed appearances that were unique unto themselves.

Along with Biological Shifts becoming part of society, there was a new boldness in a majority of the Shifts who had been living in secret. Seeing their physiologically different kin living out and proud in Teshon City, with the sun shining down on them, Shifts all over Gate Town began to use their incredible abilities out in the open.

Everything was different.


Dozi awoke in the darkness. She yawned, stretched, and rolled over to try and steal a little more sleep. Rustling noises indicated that she was not the only one beginning to rise, and she begrudgingly opened her eyes.

First, she saw the familiar pair of shadows sit up together in the dark, then she heard their voices. The two whispered to each other, and their words were no more than quiet hissing syllables as they reached Dozi’s ears.

Dozi liked sleeping in, and she was not ready to face the day, especially not this particular day. She was very fond of the little group that she cultivated over her first year and a half in Teshon City. The strays she gathered were a family.

“Good morning,” Dozi mumbled to the other two. She pushed herself up and lit a few candles.

Ilya gave her a bleary smile.

Tchama blew her a kiss.

“Are you two ready for breakfast?” Dozi asked them. “We are supposed to head to the mystic’s this morning.” She looked at Tchama. “I know you didn’t know her, but you are still welcome to come with us, and Lahari just adores you, so that’s enough of an excuse.”

“Thanks,” Tchama mumbled with a toothy grin.

She and Ilya rose and made their way into the kitchen. They whispered in sleepy tones to one another, as they began to poke around in the cupboards.

Dozi turned her back towards them and began to dress in her layered and bulky clothes. Most mornings, she woke up in a positive mood. She loved her life in the city and had grown quite close with those who she now considered family.

On this day, however, her upbeat feelings were overshadowed by the date.

It was already a cold winter, and Dozi dressed in several layers, taking her time. She allowed herself to experience the feelings that were washing over her, but she did not expect the emotions to be as strong as they were. When she was dressed, Dozi stood alone in the main part of her basement home for a moment, replaying those few memories; there were not many, but they were strong.

She listened to the other two young women clanging around with a few pots and pans, then the smell of bacon snapped Dozi’s attention away from her thoughts, and she joined the other two in their kitchen.

They enjoyed several rashers and one hard-boiled egg each. Dozi sprinkled hers with salt. Ilya dipped her egg in hot sauce, and Tchama wrapped hers in one of the strips of bacon. When they finished eating, the three crept out through the hidden entrance behind the old industrial fan cage.

The late dawn of early winter was slowly breaking over the sleepy city, and a brisk wind blew in off the waters of Teshon Harbor. The three women headed inland, away from the tip of the peninsula where the mystic’s shop used to be. He now lived in a small house with his daughter and his husband in Shifton.

Dozi, Ilya, and Tchama walked beneath the Messiah temple on their way across town. After the rescue battle one year ago, the uppermost pavilion’s roof ended up collapsing. There was also a cave-in below the tower that caused the massive doors to sink partway below the street level. The structure now seemed much less impressive.

The three young women continued along, and before long, they entered Gate Town. They stopped at a bakery and a bell rang as they opened the door.

A man called out, “G’morning!” He gave them a little wave with a floury hand and continued kneading the dough on the counter in front of him.

“Prinkleberry or plain?” Tchama asked Ilya and Dozi.

“Well, Theolan does prefer the prinkleberry,” Ilya commented.

“But the plain one looks particularly good today,” Dozi added.

The baker chimed in, “Them prinkleberries are at the absolute peak of ripeness! If’n you all like’m, now’s the time to be enjoying’m.”

The three looked at each other and Tchama nodded. “Done!” she declared to the man with a bright smile. “We’ll take the cake with prinkleberries, please.”

He wiped his hands on his apron, carefully removed the desert from the display case, and placed it into a box.

Dozi gave the man more than the amount listed, and he smiled wide at her as they left.

“Have a nice morning!” he called after them.

The three turned down a street and Tchama shifted her gaze back out towards Teshon Harbor.

“Dark clouds are gathering,” she commented.

The two others looked at the sky.

“Looks like rain,” Ilya replied.

“It’s about time,” Dozi added.

The winter rains were still yet to fall on the city.

As they passed an alleyway, a door swung open and four drunken men came shambled out. Their eyes landed on the young women and they stumbled over.

One of them put his arm around Ilya’s shoulders and looked up at the tall woman. He mumbled, “Never had me a girl azzz big azzz you before. How big are ya, girl?” He turned to his companions. “Hey, fellas, how big izzz she?”

Ilya was taller than all of them.

Two of the belligerent men trapped Dozi between them. She was mortified, and the stink of their breath made her recoil, but she was firmly stuck.

The final man tried to lean in and kiss Tchama’s cheek, but she pushed herself away from him.

“Watch it!” she snapped. “Why don’t you just leave us alone?!”

“We don’ t’ink we will,” he slurred at her. “We t’ink you’s t’ree should come with us. We’s been partying all night long, ain’t we boys? And we’s ain’t finished yet, is we?”

The inebriated quartet laughed lecherously at the three young women, and Dozi tried again to shake the two men from her.

She urged the group towards the mystic’s home. Their destination was at the far end of the street and still many blocks away.

“Where d’ya think yer goin’ off to?” said one of the men at her side, and he grabbed her arm.

The other one asked, “What’s yer name, girlie, huh? You can call me uncle.” He stuck out his tongue and waggled it very close to Dozi’s face.

The man who tried to kiss Tchama snatched her wrist, and the cake wobbled in her grip.

“Stop!” she cried. “You’re gonna make me drop it!”

He guffawed at her and knocked the box from her hands, sending it flying across the street.

“No!” Tchama yelled, and she wrenched her forearm out of his fingers. She ran to the fallen box and knelt beside it.

The men cackled like hyenas. They pulled Dozi and Ilya over so they could leer down at Tchama, and Ilya suddenly found herself in the same situation that Dozi was trying to escape. There was still a drunk man firmly stuck to one side of her, but then the man who knocked the cake to the ground wrapped his arm around Ilya’s waist. She and Dozi were each sandwiched between two men.

Tchama lifted the cake box’s lid.

The decadent treat inside was smashed.

Then, right behind all of them, a voice yelled very loudly, “Good morning!

The inebriated men jumped with a start, and Dozi and Ilya managed to slip from their grips. Everyone spun around as the voice spoke again.

“Oh, dear, did that lovely cake fall to the ground?”

It was the mystic and his husband. They wedged themselves between the men and women, and both of them took their time giving Dozi, Ilya, and Tchama long hugs.

The mystic then turned to look at the men. He was shorter than all four of them, but he stared up with a defiant smile.

Dozi could tell that the expression did not reach his eyes.

“Isn’t that just a shame,” the mystic said in a voice that was thick with sarcasm. “Looks like there was a terrible accident. I wonder if it’s salvageable. Come along, girls!” he called out. “Thank you, gentlemen,” he added in a droll monotone, “for all your help. We can take it from here,” and the four befuddled drunkards were left standing in the street.

A moment later, Dozi, Ilya, and Tchama entered the mystic and Theolan’s home.

“Lock the door,” he said in a serious tone, and his husband secured the house. “We are done dealing with those fools.”

However, the handle rattled and fists pounded against the outside of the door.

Hey, girls!” hollered one of the men. “We weren’t done with you yet! Let us in!”

From upstairs, a familiar voice called out, “I’ve got this!” and Lahari descended. She unlocked the door, opened it to the men, and the very unique woman stepped into their midst.

The four of them staggered back in shock, but she grabbed one by his face.

Lahari’s yellow eyes were glowing in the early morning sunlight, and the black spines that grew out all over her body were raised like a wicked halo.

The man squeaked a small noise that may not have been loud, but there was no mistaking its meaning. Fear, anguish, isolation, torment, woe, suffering, misery, terror, and the crushing empty void, were all conveyed in his pathetic whimper.

Lahari pushed him and he crashed into his drinking companions. She did not say a word, as the men stumbled over each other and could not get themselves from the scaly blue-skinned woman fast enough. They lumbered away, unharmed, and disappeared down an alley.

Lahari closed the door and turned to face everyone with a satisfied grin. Many of her expressions were indistinguishable behind her unique visage, but her smile was bright.

“I guess I’m glad you didn’t do what I was expecting,” Ilya commented to her.

“What do you mean?” Lahari asked.

“Well, as you opened the door, I thought, she’s going to kill them.”

Lahari smiled again. “Threatening them seemed like enough.” She stepped up to Tchama and wrapped an arm around her.

Once they were calm, Theolan asked the others, “Can you believe it’s already the anniversary? It’s been an entire year.”

“This morning,” the mystic added, “I told Lahari that when you three arrived, I just knew I was going to burst into tears, but that chaos out front distracted me. Let’s start over,” he suggested. “It’s so wonderful to see you all! Let’s have some proper hugs,” and each of them embraced the others.

He turned to Tchama. “Now, why don’t we take a look at the damage? What do you say, my dear?”

“It’s ruined!” she whined, as they all gathered around the kitchen table, and Tchama opened the box.

Juices from the red berries were streaked and speckled all over the pristine white frosting and spongy vanilla cake, both of which were mangled. The prinkleberries that had decorated the top and were hidden as layers within, now made the cake look like the bloody scene of a murder.

“I think this looks absolutely delicious!” the mystic said with a beaming smile.

Tchama pouted. “It was so pretty,” she replied.

He tapped her on the nose. “Not to worry, my dear, we will still enjoy it! Of that, you can be sure!”

Tchama then asked him and Theolan, “You don’t mind that I came along for the party, too, right, even though I didn’t know her?”

Theolan replied, “Tchama, we love that you are here! You’ve become a very special member of this family, and it feels like you’ve been with us for a lot longer than just since this past summer. You’re one of us.”

Lahari then stated quietly, “I try not to think about her too much,” and everyone else fell silent. She continued. “Remembering Agrell makes my heart hurt. I miss her,” and that was all it took.

Tears began to flow. The five shared memories, and even though Tchama never met Agrell, her eyes also welled up at the outpouring of emotion from the others. They laughed and cried, and when they were ready for it, each of them enjoyed a chunk of the mangled prinkleberry cake. It was most delicious.

Dozi, Ilya, and Tchama stayed with the mystic, his husband, and Lahari for that entire day. They celebrated the one-year anniversary of the death of their friend, each sharing their impressions of the special person who they knew for mere days. Agrell impacted them so profoundly.

Theolan and the mystic prepared a home-cooked supper, during which plans were made as a group. With the winter sun beginning to set, the three women headed home again. They arrived at their secret basement without incident.

The following morning, after a good night’s sleep, they were back at the mystic’s again.

“I cannot believe you all convinced me to do this,” Dozi declared to the others. “I have not once wanted to go back since arriving in Teshon.”

“But don’t you miss your old friends and family?” Tchama asked her.

Dozi rolled her eyes. “Of course I do, but I expected my life to be so full that I never needed to return home. And it is,” she added. She looked around at each of them and mumbled, “Can’t believe you’re making me do this.”

“We aren’t making you do anything,” Theolan replied. “We really don’t have to do it if you are seriously opposed to the idea.”

“No, it’s not that,” Dozi replied in a dejected tone. “I just don’t have any desire to go back to that old tired village. I spent my entire childhood looking forward to when I could leave.”

“But this is going to be fun!” Tchama declared with enthusiasm.

“Yeah,” Theolan concurred, “I’m also looking forward to this. I think it’ll be good for all of us to get away from the city for a while.”

With packs on their backs, and bundled against the elements, the six of them left through the Oselian gates and made their way beyond the Teshon City outskirts to Bloodwater Crossing. The bridge over the Lonely River was old but sturdy, and it spanned the short distance with the raging torrent below.

“Have any of you ever been to Ilin?” the mystic asked as they approached a sign for the ruins.

“I did once,” Dozi replied, “when a group from our village came down to the city for supplies. The old fort is kind of pretty.”

“It’s weird that none of us have ever visited it, even though it’s so close to town.”

“There’s not much to it,” Dozi added.

The mystic replied, “Why don’t we go see them? The ruins can be the first sightseeing stop of our trip.”

“Well, there’s not much to sightsee for the rest of the journey to Bluewood,” Dozi informed them, “so enjoy this.”

They came to the minor trail that branched off the Pinewood Path, and the group followed it. After a very short walk, they came to the old castle, but then they were stopped.

“That’ll be one copper coin each to visit the ruins.”

Several people stepped out onto the path in front and behind the travelers.

“Highway robbery, is it?” the mystic asked in a chipper tone of voice. His response took everyone by surprise. “I have exactly what you’re looking for here in my bag,” he added, and he flipped it open. “Look, let me show you,” and he tilted his satchel, as he stepped toward the people in front of him.

A jingling sound made them lean forward.

Out of the mystic’s bag launched a small purple orb of thin glass. It shattered against one of the robber’s jaws and sent a shimmering cloud around the others’ faces. They coughed and clutched their throats before falling unconscious to the path.

The mystic turned on the people behind him, and he removed two more glass spheres. He smiled. “Take your friends and go,” he said in a jolly voice. “Take them, or else things are just going to get worse.”

The remaining thieves hesitated, looked at their unconscious companions, and they decided to let their would-be targets go on their way.

With the ruins of Ilin in view, the travelers turned their backs on it and returned the way they came.

When they were back on the Pinewood Path, Dozi said, “Maybe this is a bad idea and we should just turn back. I wish Agrell were still around for moments like that.”

“Not to worry, we’re not helpless,” the mystic informed her.

“Yeah,” Lahari added, “if it came to it, I could have disintegrated all of them.” Her voice was slightly muffled by the thick scarf that helped keep her face hidden.

“Yikes,” her father replied, still grinning, and he continued. “That was exciting for a moment, but I suspect we won’t be seeing many people, if any, until we reach Bluewood.”

“You’re probably right about that,” Dozi agreed. “I didn’t see anyone on the entire journey when I moved away.”

Tchama pulled her jacket tight against the cold, and asked, “Remind me again why we decided to do this now; why didn’t we wait till summer?”

Lahari pulled the scarf away from her face and answered. “I wouldn’t have been able to make the journey with you.” Every inch of her unique skin and every one of her unusual spines was hidden under the layers of winter clothes. Dark snow goggles concealed her yellow eyes and helped to keep her secrets secret.

For a while, the group walked along the Pinewood path in silence.

“Some of this is going to be a little bit of a hike,” Dozi warned the others, as they approach the first rise of the foothills that led toward the mountains.

For a few hours, they climbed, until the sun began to slide down toward the horizon. The group found a spot off the path to make their camp, and as Ilya assembled two thick tents that would protect them against the elements through the night, the others collected firewood.

Ilya liked living with Dozi and Tchama in the hidden basement home, but venturing into the wilderness to enjoy some solitude had become an important part of Ilya’s life. Even though she did not need any protection against the elements because of the powers provided by her photonova gland, she took to using a tent for the comfort it provided while she was in nature.

By the time the others returned from the nearby forest with the firewood, their sleeping arrangements for the night were already assembled. The group lit a fire and cooked stuffed sweet potatoes that the mystic prepared for each of them before they left the city. They were all exhausted from their long day of hiking, and they ate in silence.

Darkness soon covered the land, and even with the fire burning, it was a cold night. One by one they made their way into the tents and eventually, they were all asleep.

The journey took a further two days of hiking, and their travels brought them high into the forested mountains. On that third evening, with the sun setting behind them, they reached Bluewood Village.

Torches were burning at the entrance to the town, and as the group approached, they were greeted by a watchman.

“The night’s getting dark,” he called out, “and you lot have traveled a long way. Welcome to Bluewood. Can I point you towards the tavern?”

Dozi stepped up to him and pulled her scarf down. “It’s me,” she said, as if that clarified everything, and it actually seemed to do just that.

Dozi!” the man cried, and he wrapped his arms around her. “I truly thought you would never come back to visit us! Your mother and father are going to be so excited,” he declared, but then his face fell, and he looked worried. “Oh, they’re not here,” he told her.

Dozi scoffed and repeated his words in an incredulous tone. “Not here? Why are they not here? Where are they?”

“There’s been three attacks,” the watchmen stated. “Three children have been taken.”

The mystic spoke up with his voice full of concern. “Taken? Taken by whom?” he asked.

“It’s not a who,” Dozi answered. “It’s a what,” and she turned back to the man. “Was my brother taken?”

He shook his head. “No, but a boy was snatched this evening, and your parents are out helping to try and find him.”

“Let’s get settled at the pub,” Dozi recommended to the others, “then I can tell you all about it.”

They left the watchman at his post and Dozi led the group to the inn. Several enthusiastic individuals in the tavern were surprised to see Dozi and greeted her as the group entered. All of them insisted on also greeting each of her fellow travelers. Lahari stayed bundled for the salutations, but it was not long before the group from Teshon City was in a private suite.

Once they were behind a closed door and she was free to disrobe, the unique Biological Shift woman stripped off everything. The rest of the group could not help but watch her. She flexed and stretched, and her quills moved in mesmerizing patterns across her scaly blue skin. She was quite a sight to behold, and her father beamed at her.

Theolan wrapped his arms around the mystic and said to his husband, “Your daughter is quite beautiful.”

Lahari glanced over at the pair with a spiny-faced smile. “Thanks, dads,” she replied.

“Now, listen,” Ilya interjected, and all eyes turned to her. “I think I should fly up before it’s too dark, and see if I can spot the missing kids.”

“It’s already too dark,” Dozi replied.

“No,” Ilya retorted, “I’m going to fly up and see what I can see.”

Dozi rolled her eyes. “Fine! Do what you want. You’re almost as noble as Agrell.”

“Aww,” Theolan said, and he repeated Dozi in a soft voice, “Agrell.”

“I’m going,” Ilya declared.

“We’ll head down to the tavern and bring food back to the room,” the mystic told her. “We will be here.”

Everyone but Lahari left and returned to the first floor. Ilya went outside, as the others entered the pub.

A few minutes later, they were back in the room with Lahari, but before it arrived there was a knock on the door.

Ilya called out, “It’s me!”

They let her in, and she looked frightened.

“Something’s on fire!” she declared.

“What do you mean?” the mystic asked.

“In the opposite direction of Teshon City, there is a huge column of smoke stretching up towards the sky.”

“Opposite of Teshon City is north,” Dozi replied in a dismissive tone. “That’s the highlands. There isn’t anything up there. There’s nothing to the north.”

“Well, something’s on fire!” Ilya implored. “It’s too dark to tell what it is, but I want to fly to it and see what’s happening.”

“No!” Dozi replied. “Please, don’t do this.”

“You know she’s going to,” Lahari responded.

Theolan then recommended to Ilya, “Have a little food with us before you go. It should be here any minute.”

“No, I’m going now. Just give me another one of those dried fruit and nut bars that you made for us to snack on during the journey, and I’ll be fine.”

The rest of them realized that there was no changing her mind, and Theolan handed her the snack.

When the door closed behind her again, the mystic asked, “Now, Dozi, what happened to the children from your village?”

“Yes, please, tell us,” Theolan implored. “What took the children?”

Dozi turned to the others with a serious expression. “The last time one came down from the shadow peaks, I just was a child. It ended up taking seven children back then. I was one of the lucky ones.”

“But what is this monster?” Tchama asked. “What is it, Dozi?”

Dozi took a breath. “It’s an icewyrm.”

What has been happening in Bluewood Village?
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

It's nice to have a remembrance for Agrell.

It seems this impromptu journey to Dozi's village came at the right time for them to help.

The fire Ilya is compelled to investigate is another mystery. How will it connect with our companions?

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Dozi and her friends remembered Agrell and took a long walking trip to Dozi's village, She was welcomed. Lahari who is kept hidden under many clothes can protect them, if needed.

Life is not simple or safe. The village was preyed upon by a vile creature, an icewyrm, who kidnapped children. Villagers are out looking.

Illya, who can fly, is returning to the skies in the dark to checkout a large fire. It is very mysterious. Is there a fire monster on the lose?

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Will our intrepid band be able to stop the creature taking the children?  What is causing the fire well to the north?

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