Chapter 11 - Crystals

Sarby felt sick after being force fed a Higher Being. He wouldn’t be able to look anyone in the eye the same way again. He knew he needed food after Awakening, he could feel his body on the brink of collapse, but why did the food have to be that?


He was approaching his village, still straddled on Hyanga’s back. Star waddled behind them on the rocky trail as the familiar hills and mounds of mud passed by from the Elnoa’s childhood. Insects buzzed around, relaxing in the filth.


“I can’t believe you guys live like this,” Star said.


Sarby did his best to glare. How did they have the right to speak like that when they take no issue eating others similar to them? Sliding down mud hills and digging through them seemed an absurd amount tamer. As they drew closer, mud forts appeared. Using sticks for triangular structures, many Elnoa children created their own fake homes, where they would meet with all their friends to gossip and play and hide from the adults. Sarby saw many of the kids hiding—with their small half crescent horns—and peeking out at the unfamiliar species as they rode by. This was no doubt their first time seeing an Elnoa escorted like this.


“Looks like we’re making a name for ourselves already just by walking through,” Hyanga said.


Star looked back and forth. “We may be made into local legends, Hyanga.”


“Wouldn’t that be something.”


The entrance to the cave sat on an indent of land, and the group started their decline toward the dark opening. Sparkles of light twinkled from the deep recesses in clusters every few minutes. Elnoas sprinkled out of their cave city in large numbers, appearing as insects in the distance.


“We come in peace!” Star exclaimed. “I believe we have found one of your children! A green Elnoa with a large crescent horn!” Star’s voice echoed across the land as they made their approach.


The pack of Elnoa stood for a moment not saying a word until two from the crowd struggled their way through, and once out of the throng of Elnoa, hurried into a jog out of the cave. Sarby’s eyesight was weak and could not make out any details, but he knew from the instant they hollered back that his parents were heading out to meet him.


“Hopefully our plan works out,” Hyanga grunted.


“Quiet,” Star scolded.


The light taps on the gravel path grew louder. “What has happened to him?!” Sarby’s mother said.


“Seems he ‘Awakened’ as you lot call it, found him lying in the grass, unable to move.” Star glanced over at Sarby who still lay immobile. “He still can’t move.”


“Awakened?!” his father gasped. “No, not Sarby. We’ve been so careful not to let anyone Awaken in such a long time.” His father looked at his mother with painstaking eyes. “What do we do?”


“There’s no question in my mind. You know what we have to do. It’s the law. Let’s just not think about what must come after.” His mother’s voice whimpered. “May you follow us inside? Alfon and I have not the strength to carry him all the way ourselves, and I doubt the others would want to help now.” She looked at the trailing path, never once looking Sarby in the eyes.


“That’s no problem. Say, do you mind if we speak with some of your tribal leaders? We’ve been traveling for days and need help with something,” Star said.


“Oh, yes, that’s fine. I’m sure I can arrange that.” His mother left Alfon behind and walked back to the cave.


Alfon walked up close to Hyanga and Sarby. “Whatever they try to do to you for punishment, I will protect you.” He then turned around to follow his wife.


Hyanga picked up the pace for the few hills they had left to traverse while Star flew up in the sky above Sarby, seeming to have a short, but pleasant soar. After a couple minutes of walking, they reached the cave. Gasps surrounded Sarby as members of his tribe looked upon him, some in horror, and a few in amazement. He could make out only brief words that some were saying. And all of them seemed filled with sorrow.


The Tribal Leaders sent the crowd away and escorted the two strange species that led Sarby home through the caves. Crystals of varying hues of reds, blues, and greens hung from the rocky ceiling and walls. The walls were lined with indents and colorful drawings that indicated directions for specific corners of the maze-like environment. Sarby felt at peace once again, regardless of the outcome of what was to follow. He only needed familiarity after losing what made him feel most comfortable. Still what would they all think if they found out he not only Awakened, but ate a Higher?


Countless thoughts raced. How were Tynun, Neyr, and Guile doing? And even though he only just met Cylor, he felt almost the worst for him. He seemed to be such a shy creature and closed off from everything.


After many twists and turns in the colorfully dim lit fortitude, they finally arrived at the Crystal Caverns. Compared to the rest of the cave, it was so bright within that it might as well have been outdoors. Sarby had only ever been inside here one other time.


It was when he was only five years old, the age when Elnoas grew their horn and tail, or rather when they started tearing out of the skin. To ease the pain, all children would be brought here and the Tribal Leaders and parents would collect the residue that dripped off of the ceiling crystals. The Crystal Cavern housed the largest crystals in size and abundance in the whole cave, and they possessed different properties than the common crystal that lined the walls.


Once the liquid crystal was collected, it would then be distributed over the head and back of the Elnoa to ease the pain and help them recover quicker. The tail horn induced the least amount of pain, but the three horns atop of each one’s head, caused everyone to writhe in pain. Sarby remembered hoping at age five that anything would bring him out of the intense pain, even death. But then his parents came over with a hollowed out rock full of liquid crystal and rubbed it onto his bleeding head and back. Within five minutes, all the pain had disappeared and the horns grew with no problem. After that, once a week, the Tribal Leaders gathered enough for him to rub on the irritated skin.


But what was that going to do this time if they attempted it? It took a bit of time for the crystals to produce liquid, surely they had children who needed it more. Would they just cover him in it as much as they could, little by little, until his body heals up?


The tribal leaders sent a few of their own to rush and grab bowls to collect the residue with. They picked Sarby up off of Hyanga’s back and laid him on a cloth in the center of the cavern. Elnoas rushed all over, shouting to one another. Even when he was five he didn’t remember such a display of chaos over collecting the liquid. What made them so manic now? His Awakening was over.



Then he heard it. A clanging sound, as if someone was destroying crystals. Sarby’s father walked over to his side. “It’s going to be just fine. We’ll fix you up.”


Another loud bashing, and the sound of crashing. Hollers echoed over the large room, and Sarby looked at his mother who stood a fair distance away. She couldn’t look Sarby in the eyes, and he felt tears begin to well up. He didn’t realize just how taboo Awakening was. But even if he were given the choice not to, he would do it all over again.


“We’ve managed to get enough crystal residue to heal you, Sarby.” Gaan, the Tribal Chief said. “But, just know once you’re back to normal, we will be making an example of you. To think you ruined our eighty-seven year streak of no awakenings. Truly pitiful. Some may even suggest killing you, but we are more humane than that. Whatever the reason was that you did such a thing, it cannot be accepted. You know that.”


Even for the purpose of saving others? Sarby thought. He had always figured it was just a figure of speech that it was unforgivable. For he had come up with many reasons why it could be justifiable, even in childhood.