Juniper’s Journals: The Stranger

Entry 12

Well, continuing on the recent vein, Cinder decided to lay the mother of all mother’s on us.

” Why don’t you ask Bastion, whether his master has any more secrets in store for us or not . . . his Z’Bri Lord!” she said.

We picked up our collective jaws from the floor at this point, completely shocked by her scathing statement. She continued to glare at Bastion with eyes that could make Baba Yaga cringe. Silence pervaded the room with a thickness, much like the Great River’s ice-flows in Winter. I stepped in between the two.

” Cinder are you crazy? What are you talking about?” I said in Bastion’s defense.

” He was the one who told us about the Hive, he was the one that carried our defiled bodies from its horrors, he was the one that didn’t take the Ritual at the Shelter, and he is the only one who has come out of all of our hardships, without even a hair out of place.”

Again, our jaw muscles got a workout and were creating some nasty dents in the floor.

Bastion spoke. ” I know I have appeared to be unaffected by everything, but why would I have helped you . . . all of you, in the darkest times? I did it because I can’t deny who I am, Fallen or not. I was trained and brought up as a Magdalite, and I honestly care. Really, really care! Why are you attacking me like this.” ( “I love you.” what was written all over his face, but he didn’t say it. )

” Then take the healing ritual, go speak to Mari-Anne Melina and tell her we need you to take the ritual.” Tears were welling up in Cinder’s eyes, and she broke past us into the other room.

I didn’t know what to say, the whole affair was beyond me.

Chigger took Bastion by the hand and told him they should go speak to Mari-Anne. Sometimes Chigger can have a bigger heart than any of us. I thought about the exchange between the two, Cinder and Bastion, and wondered if it was anything more than a lovers spat. But what Cinder said held some truth. Looking back on past events, Bastion did come clean out of the whole Z’Bri Hive thing! Why? Because he was a Magdalite, rather than a Dahlian like the rest of us? Did he have a stronger will, or a horseshoe up his butt, or did he have dealings with the Z’Bri? I barely noticed Bastion and Chigger leaving as I pondered these things. Perhaps I should look over my Journal; for clues that might hold some truth! No, I can’t second guess my friends. Bastion rescued us many a time, and quite often was the only one who kept a level head. Why were we questioning our blessings? What had we become? The Bin is tense again, Cinder is in the other room, I am sitting on the stupid table, and Mana maintains her ever vigilante silence. Maybe she’s luckier than the rest of us. Cinder needs to get a grip, they should have never gone back to the Hive.

Bastion and Chigger came back and said Mari-Anne Melina didn’t want to perform the Ritual without necessary cause because of its dangers. We were to watch over each other, and look for signs of the taint. Anyways, the Ritual needed to held on a full moon and that was at least twenty days away. We had time. Or did we?

They also told us that they encountered a cloaked Stranger on the way to the Shelter. He came from the shadows and kept a safe distance. He told them that secrets to rescuing Slash and a way to defeat Eshlazi were to be witnessed north of Mortuary on the next full moon!

Yea, Like that was a good idea. Some wacko hanging out in dark alleys and telling us, Fallen, to go into the heart of Tribal territory with a price on our heads from the whole Clinic thing, at night, under the full moon, with a bunch of dead people seemed like a real keen idea! That fell to the wayside pretty quick.

They also said they were ‘ambushed’ by four Fallen Agnite Jackers calling themselves ” Demons of Righteous Knowledge”. There’s got to be a punch-line in there somewhere.

They said these kids tried calling a time-out when Chigger punctured one of their sides with her lawn darts. Apparently they had mistaken us for Jo’han sympathizers or something. They let them live, and said they could come along on our next Skyrealm raid if they salvaged a few chairs that would go with our table. Leave it to Chigger to make sure she gains something from nothing. Now we had a bunch of kids doing the mundane stuff for us and we could get onto some serious business, like Junks!

Junks was great as usual, except Cinder and Bastion went off to a side room for a while. I had a funny feeling when they left, but ignored it. I should try not to do that. Funny feelings equal bad news and that’s exactly what happened. In the mean time, we hung out with a couple of girls that we ran into at the Shelter a few weeks back named Danelle and Meg of the River Dreamers Cell. I think Meg likes Bastion, that’s why Cinder took him off to the side rooms, but Danelle is strangely quiet, but very cute. She was a Magdalite, and well, I’ve always been curious. A couple of swigs of Rust later, Cinder came back. Bastion had left!

She had thought maybe he had come back to see us, but when we said we thought he was with her, we became worried. We asked Barber, he didn’t know! We raced back to the Bin and all of his things were gone. Shit! I knew it. I cast a sidewards glance at Cinder, but she didn’t notice. We brain stormed where he could have gone and we all came to the same conclusion. The Hive!

Damn that place. No matter how we seek to escape it, it comes back to haunt us, luring us in like insects to sweet nectar. Trapped is what we are. I didn’t voice my opinion, but somehow I felt it. We weren’t free, we were animals in a maze that all led to the same god awful place. We gathered our things and left for Bazaar. Nothing is ever easy for us.

On our way to the bridge, Meg came up to us and asked if we had seen Bastion. We told Meg he might have gone to Bazaar, specifically near the Sunken City, but didn’t mention the Hive. She offered herself as guide to take us there upon one of her canoes. Oooh, water ways of Vimary at night, on a inherently unstable ship. Good idea. We said yes!

Meg and Danelle each commanded ( is that the word ) a canoe, Meg, Cinder, and Chigger in one, Danelle, Mana, and myself in another. Under different circumstances, it would have been a dream come true. Me, two girls, nighttime. Errhemm, back to the story.

The Sunken City by water is a magnificent and eery thing. We navigated our way through the buildings, knowing dozens of lost stories lay beneath the water. We were very quiet, as TeraSheban look-outs guard the more common paths, but we managed to slip through undetected. We docked and hid the canoes and the two River Dreamers guided us through many hanging bridges and platforms to the edge of the Sunken City. Praises to solid ground!

The time it took us compared to regular travel was cut by half, however. There’s no way Bastion could have beaten us here. Meg and Danelle took their leave of us and wished us luck. I noticed a pause in Meg before she left, but I don’t think anyone else noticed.

Here was the plan. Under no circumstances were we going to enter the Hive. If we saw Bastion, we were to persuade him to return, but wouldn’t put up a fight. We were not going to rescue Slash either, baited or not. And so we waited. And waited. No Bastion.

That’s when the Stranger showed up again. He told us, again, that our destinies lay in the hills north of Mortuary, on the night of the full moon. We told him to you know what. He left without a sound and we were left with a great big empty feeling. Cinder then came up with the best idea any of us had for a long time. We were lost, confused and desperate. It was time for us to swallow our pride, suck in our egos, and stoop to a new level.

We were going to speak to the Elders.

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