Skull had found his way to our camp at some point in the middle of the night, when I had finished my watch he was not back but when I woke at dawn he was asleep a few yards from our makeshift shelter. Cradix who had been up for a few hours on last watch, sat on a rock watching the valley. I stretched and tightened the belt on my tunic. The patch sewn leather did not quite fit around my broad shoulders and ample chest, but I made do. I joined him, I place a hand on his shoulder, and when he looked up at me I nodded in Skull’s direction.
Cradix shook his head and turned his attention back to the three fissures that lead into the valley. “He returned right after I took watch,” He whispered, “I told him he could sleep here with us, but in his own space, he has to make his own shelter and provide for himself.” I looked over at Skull he had a set of armor on and a crossbow next to him.
“You provided him with armor and tools I see,” He looked over at the dozing man, and nodded.
“It would have been unfair to not provide for him when we have the spare supplies.” I smiled down at the short man and messed his hair, before going to check on Kabr.
Kabr was still asleep but his skin was pink, and he was not sweating, I put the back of my hand against his forehead and smiled when he felt normal temperature. I lifted the collar of his tunic to look at the wound, all that was left was a scar, jagged and white against his tan skin. He opened his eyes and looked up at me, he smiled and stroked his hand down my cheek, “You know if you wanted my shirt off, you only have to ask.” I flinched back, I was used to him coming on to me but I was not so comfortable with him as to allow physical affection.
“I was checking your wound,” I retorted.
“Sorry,” He croaked, I handed him a water skin, he took a drink and sat up. “When do we leave for the beach?” He called to Cradix, who looked over his shoulder at us and up at the rising sun.
“Now is probably as good time a time as ever,” He called back, we joined him, Kabr was rubbing his scar under his tunic, trying to roll the joint to relax the damaged muscle. As we were entering the fissure leading back to the beach, Skull joined us. He kept his head down and his mouth shut, as we walked through the brush back to the beach, we climbed onto a large rock that had a good view of the entire beach. We sat with our backs to each other and our bows cocked and loaded on our laps.
It must have been another hour before we heard the snap and swoosh of leathery wings, we looked up as the Quetz topped the trees across the river. The Quetz was blue with a white belly and wings, its wings were so large they took a few seconds to complete a flap cycle. The great beast cast a large shadow over the river, frightening the coel within, as it passed overhead. We followed its slow progress from the trees to the beach, with our eyes; and jumped from the rock. We went to the Quetz once it touched down, the large metal platform saddle on its back held the pilot and two other men armed with rifles.
“How have they progressed so far in only a few days?” Kabr whispered to Cradix.
“They have been here for a month not a few days, they have had more time to progress.” Cradix said.
“What?” I asked in surprise.
“The Hosts sent them in first, I do not know why, but the entire Dino Knights organization has been here for much longer, we are the second tribe to arrive, the Divine and the Shadow will both arrive in a week.” Cradix said.
“How do you know this?” Skull demanded, Cradix shot him a narrow glance out of the corner of his eyes, Skull shrunk away.
“The Hosts spoke to me in a dream last night explaining everything.” I eyed Cradix he had received a vision from the Hosts, this was a rare gift that only a few on each Ark could perform. These people were often called Admins, they were the accepted leaders of the Ark, we already knew that he was our Admin, he had been for a long time, but he rarely mentioned visions or visits from the Hosts.
Ruin was one of the two men on the platform, he dropped down a rope ladder, we climbed up, the second man took our crossbows from us and told us to sit at the bench that had been built behind the pilot’s seat, they took two seats to either side of the bench. Our crossbows were placed in a storage bin, in the back corner. The platform shuddered and screeched as the great behemoth Quetz forced himself into the air.
The Quetz began to circle over the Hidden Valley, it screeched and protested as its handler turned it again and again, away from where it wanted to fly. I gasped as my world went dark and my neck was squeezed tightly, I coughed and choked, my heart pounded in my chest, I lifted my hands to my face but they were forcibly grabbed and put behind my back, I felt the metal of handcuffs slap around my wrists.
“Calm down Fang,” Cradix whispered, I slowed my breathing, and tried to calm my mind.
“Sorry about the blindfolds,” Ruin said, “But Mejo tends to be rather secretive when it comes to our base location.”
“I understand,” Cradix said, his voice was muffled, from behind his own hood.
I closed my eyes and tried to feel which direction we were headed, at first I felt the sun on my back and then again on my left. We were headed south west, a more hospitable location on the Ark than the area surrounded the Hidden Valley. The air felt warmer, and dryer as we moved inland, and after a time the salt returned to the air and the slight wet chill to the breeze against me arms. We were near the coast, the Quetz we rode screeched a few times, over the sound of the wind I could hear multiple other Quetz reply in their low frequency screeches.
The platform shuddered beneath us as the Quetz touched the ground, over the sound of crashing waves the sound of multiple different animals could be heard, shouting and hooting of Dino Knights going about their business. We were grabbed from behind and forced to stand, we were marched blindly down a ramp and onto sand. I was shoved along, stumbling against every pebble and exposed tree root, until the light filtering through my hood faded, the temperature cooled slightly and the floor beneath my feet felt hard like stone or wood. I was forced to kneel, I heard the others being forced to their knees as well.
My hood was abruptly removed, light blinded me, I gasped and doubled over trying to shield my eyes. The black faded away and when I looked up I saw Mejo sitting on a makeshift throne. He lounged sideways in the large chair with one leg over the side, a wine skin in his hands and a bowl of mejo berries on his lap.
“Do you know how I got my name?” Mejo asked, in a low voice, his voice was a light sound on the ears humming like the multitude of animals outside.
“No I cannot say that you ever told me that story,” Cradix growled back at him, I glanced over at him we had both heard the story before dozens of times, what was he playing at.
“See when I was first put on the Ark, the only food that I could find were mejo berries and dodos, dodos are delicious but they are nothing compared to the sweet fragrant succulence of a mejo berries. And when I was asked by someone else if I could share my mejo berries, and asked my name I informed him that I am the Mejo Man.” He said leaning forward and taking a swig of his wine, he stood and went to Cradix.
“And now you are Lord Mejo I hear,” He stated defiantly, I shook my head, what was he doing he and Mejo had been friends once, and here he was mocking him in his own home.
“I am, it is what happens when you build an empire like mine,” He said, he waved to one of his men, and Cradix’s cuffs were undone. Cradix stood to face the man, a head taller than him but just as large around the shoulders and legs, his hands were large compared to the rest of him, he held out his left hand for Cradix.
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