Va’il and Kelin ran as fast as they could towards the maroon, passing their other friends along the way. Kelin stopped for a moment to tell the three of them that the orb had been retrieved, and then continued running.
“We going to follow them?” Pete asked while huffing.
“I need a nap,” Zeick said as he lay on his back. Geon looked at the two of them, sighed, and then walked in the direction Va’il had run. He too was in pain, but he wouldn’t stop moving.
“You got an idea, Va’il?” Kelin asked as they ran.
“They want the orb, right? Then I will give them the orb!” Va’il said.
As they rounded a corner, there waiting for them was the full mob of rampaging maroon. The entire royal guard stood between the maroon and the boys. Va’il recognized Var struggling with his lance stuck in a sandy body. When Var couldn’t pull it out, he retreated and took up a giant shield. He didn’t realize that a few feet behind him was Va’il standing with his arms outstretched. The necklace dangled from his right hand.
“They aren’t reacting at all,” Va’il said.
“Why would they? They don’t have the same senses as us, Va’il. Think. How do the maroon communicate?” Kelin asked thoughtfully.
“Resonance,” the boys said in unison. Though they said that, they didn’t understand the full meaning. But Va’il had an idea nonetheless.
“I’ll make it up to you, Kelin, but do you think you can help me get past the royal guard? They aren’t just going to let me through. I have an idea. Springboard to Var, to the maroon.” As Va’il spoke, the maroon pushed against the guard. Var hadn’t yet gone to the front, but the sight that appeared made him rush even quicker.
The feeling of something hitting his shoulders startled Var. He looked up as Va’il flew over the heads of the other soldiers and onto one of the maroon. Behind Var, Kelin was standing up. He had been on his knees. There was a dirty footprint on his back.
“You will make this up to me. I won’t live for that kind of humiliation,” Kelin said with a toothy grin.
Va’il almost fell off the small maroon. The feeling of solid sand under his feet was strange. Before he lost too much momentum, he had jumped onto another maroon. He jumped as another maroon tried to hit him. Va’il took the opportunity to jump onto that maroon’s shoulder. The various maroon were progressively larger, and almost seemed like steps to Va’il. He had the necklace around his neck, and every so often he grabbed at the orb with his left hand. He jumped onto a building as the maroon he was on crashed into it. As the building collapsed, Va’il jumped to the next house. Three more maroon were in between Va’il and the largest maroon of them all, one the size of three houses. He didn’t hesitate to jump onto the first one, then leap to the second. He crashed into the side of that maroon’s head. The soft sand started to suck him in. Va’il moved again, and managed to free himself without trouble. The hand of another maroon tried swatting him, but it hit the head of the maroon he was on. As the sandy arm melted into the other maroon, Va’il jumped on it and made his way up. The slow maroon soon had the young boy on its head.
The largest maroon was Va’il’s target. It wasn’t any smarter than its companions. It too tried swatting Va’il. It missed, and bent down with the momentum of its arm. Va’il took the chance and took a final leap onto the head of the maroon below him. He fell and started sliding down the maroon’s back. Without thinking, he extended his left arm and every claw on it. The claws dragged against the sand for a while, but they eventually stopped. Va’il’s arm ached, and a couple of claws had snapped, but he paid no heed. He kicked off his boots, and using the claws on all four appendages, he scrambled up the maroon’s back. He just barely managed to make it to the maroon’s head as the maroon stood straight. The maroon shook its head left and right, but the slow motions were nothing to Va’il. The claws on his feet were firmly planted in the Maroon’s head.
“You want this? It’s yours!” Va’il shouted as he pulled the orb off his neck, breaking the necklace. The large maroon stopped all movement. Va’il held the orb tightly in his right hand, and then with all his force he punched the maroon’s head below him. He let go of the orb inside the sandy body, then quickly ran off the creature.
The large maroon had stopped moving entirely. As the sandy body closed the hole formed by Va’il’s arm, the other maroon stopped moving as well. Then the large maroon made an enormous sound. The buildings in the area shook from the vibrations caused. Va’il felt his bones vibrate in response. He put his hands on his ears while trying to keep still. He couldn’t keep his balance and fell to the ground. Then the sound stopped.
The sight was amazing. The maroon exited Rising far faster than they had arrived. They moved quickly in the direction that the largest maroon led them. Va’il could hardly believe the sight as the creatures were soon out of sight. He was still panting heavily from the ordeal, yet there weren’t any maroon left. The only thing they left was the destruction they had caused. Va’il lay on his back and stared up at the sunny day. He laughed.
“You, you are the crazy one,” Pete said while slapping Va’il on the back. Tears of joy fell off the emotional swine’s face.
“Va’il, no, Master Va’il,” Geon said respectfully.
“Please stop, you’ll just give this sand-brain a big head,” Kelin said.
The boys, who had gathered at Pete’s house after the whole ordeal, laughed happily while enjoying sweet bread. They were alone, as Pete’s family had earlier fled. Pete’s house was still safe, so it was only a matter of time before anyone returned.
“So, what do you think you’ll be rewarded with?” Zeick asked slyly.
“Rewarded?” Va’il asked.
“You just saved Rising. You should be rewarded,” Zeick explained.
“No one saw exactly what he did,” Kelin said, “I should know. I was the closest. After Va’il got past the second maroon, the guards were overwhelmed. They didn’t even mention Va’il afterwards. They were too confused about why the maroon stopped. I wouldn’t even know if Va’il hadn’t explained.”
“Then, shouldn’t we tell them?” Zeick asked.
“No. It’s fine. It’s not something I want recognition for. Not right now, especially. Should we be celebrating when so many of us are mourning?” Va’il asked quietly. The realization that several places in Rising had been destroyed, and that Fidel had died, sobered the children.
“Sometimes, history just needs to be recorded. Thank you, Va’il. Your deeds will at least make it back to my people. I will surely tell them all when I return,” Geon said.
“It’s been a pleasure, Geon,” Pete said respectfully.
“Thank you. Never had I met swine before. I enjoy your kind quite a bit. Especially your mother. But I still would rather be a small human, so I’ll have to soon miss her cooking. I’ll look forward to visiting again,” Geon said as stood.
“Wait, are you going, now?” Va’il asked. He was stunned at the sudden development.
“Yes,” Geon replied, “I have many things to do.”
“Can’t you at least spend another night? The battle just ended, you can’t leave right away!” Pete said.
“Dear friends. You have so much you need to do. Families, friends, people who are still in need and worried. I have things to do as well. You’ll understand what it means to have duties that you have to do, even when you would rather not, in time. I just happen to have encountered those responsibilities earlier in life,” Geon said seriously.
“Ah. He’s homesick and wants to see his mom as soon as possible,” Kelin said. Geon lost his serious look and couldn’t help but laugh. He tried to keep up his cool demeanor as he walked out of the shack. With that, he ended his adventures with Va’il’s group.
“I think you were square on,” Zeick said in disbelief.
“He should have stayed. This is too sudden,” Va’il muttered.
“It’s all right. That’s just the kind of guy he is. I still can’t figure him out. People, so full of surprising twists,” Kelin said. Secretly, he was filled with respect for and impressed by Geon.
“Being a mother’s boy isn’t so bad,” Va’il said with a laugh. The other three fell into riotous laughter as they thought of Va’il’s relationship with Mai’ou.