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Tearis, Etris Lunn
August 7, 2017
2:30PM

Eric studied the Tearil architecture as he bobbed past on the back of his steed. The buildings seemed to bubble out of the ground, intertwining with tendrils of blue and magenta vines, some almost buried underneath clusters of pale pink fruits. Little blue blades of grass grew between every cobblestone, each blade curling at the top, and here and there tall pink plants with streaks of yellow at the top grew like trees.

The lead Xzeejee tugged on the reigns of her beast and brought it to a halt. The other creatures skidded to a stop around them, and the leader called out something to the Tearils, speaking their language flawlessly. That was when it hit Eric – these Xzeejees were native to Tearis. Their people had lived here for generations, hiding in the wastes, occasionally trading with the Tearils.

The Xzeejee turned around and pushed Eric off the saddle. He fell, almost eagerly, to the safety of the firm ground. He landed on his hands and knees, looked up, and said, “Thank you.”

She just nodded at him.

“What’s your name?” he asked as he dusted himself off.

“Acsbetlaxzentir Prioon Affel Mi’er,” she responded in full.

“Um…”

“Prioon,” the Xzeejee repeated, almost as if she anticipated his questions.

“Prioon,” repeated Eric, nodding.

“Be safe,” Prioon said. She turned and looked at her comrades, barked a few orders, and they trotted away on their gorilla-like steeds, heading back the way they came, leaving Eric alone with the Tearils. Eric stared after Prioon and her group as they disappeared back down the road.

A group of five Tearils were standing in the field a few feet away – looking on and humming together in an odd, discordant melody. Eric looked around. Chis Losi’s palace had to be close by – he wondered if Maggie and Lilun had already made it there.

Eric waved as he approached the group of Tearils. They all smiled, but said nothing, their faces serene.

“Has anyone seen Maggie Verger?” Eric asked the five. “A little shorter than me, curly red hair… She should be wearing my black jacket.” Eric had enough experience with the Tearils on earth to know that what any of them had seen, the others would all know telepathically.

The Tearils continued to smile, humming quietly in unison. Finally, almost as an afterthought, one of them said, “We have not.”

Something was wrong.

“What about a female Xzeejee by the name of Lilun Baghret?”

“No,” the Tearils all sang.

“Can anyone at least take me to Etris Lunn?” Eric asked, agitated.

“They –“

“- are –“

“-coming.”

From behind, Eric heard a mechanical whine. Coming from his right, out of the crater, was a large, white wheel spinning up the crater's edge. Within seconds it came to a halt in front of them.

It was some kind of gyroscopic vehicle with a little pod in the center - that was the cockpit. A hole appeared on the side of the pod and a Tearil jumped out and approached Eric, smiling just like the others. It put a hand on the side of Eric’s face in the usual greeting and crooned, “Human: you bring news?”

Eric nodded, edging away from the Tearil’s touch. “I have some urgent news for Chis Losi - the BRI is moving the Valleys.”

The Tearil smiled and climbed back up into the cockpit. “Come along,” he called.

Eric climbed into the cramped pod while the driver caressed a white tablet that served as a control panel. The round door seemed to melt shut, and two spots on the walls faded until they were completely translucent, providing windows. The wheel lurched to life and careened backwards toward the city, bouncing down the outer walls of the crater. Eric shut his eyes. The motion was surprisingly smooth, but he’d had enough thrill-rides for one day.  

It wasn’t until he heard the Tearil chirp, “Here!” that Eric opened his eyes, loosened his jaw, and unclenched his fists. A hole opened on the side of the pod and Eric tumbled out of the cockpit. His stomach was still turning when he finally pulled himself up off the ground. “Chis Losi is in the statehouse,” said the Tearil, hopping to the ground beside him. It pointed to a building just ahead.

The statehouse looked to have been grown more than built – its walls were completely formed of the blue and pink vines Eric had seen growing up all around the farmhouses. Beneath the vines, Eric could see hints of pearlescent white walls. As he stepped inside, he saw a white light pouring in from the walls themselves. The few attendants standing inside the building almost blended in with the flawless whiteness all around – the shadows of their tunics and dresses were all that betrayed them.

The Tearils standing in the atrium gestured to a winding staircase at the side of the room built of spiraling white branches. Eric slowly began to ascend the stairs. They felt sturdy, but there was something so alien about them that Eric had to check each step, one at a time, making sure not to lose them in the blankness all around him.

He came to an archway composed of two bough-like tendrils interlocking together high above his head. He stepped into a much larger room where several Tearils congregated, murmuring to each other in melodic whispers. Somewhere up above there was a low hum, which grew in pitch to a whistle and then faded back to a low whine. The ceiling opened up from the center, uncoiling, and Eric watched as a few thick blue tendrils sunk down to the floor in a triple-helix. A glowing orb, as wide as Eric was tall, appeared in the hole and glided down the helix to the floor.

The tendril-helix withdrew while the bubble melted away into the ground. Standing in its place was Chis Losi. Chis was unmistakable amongst the other Tearils – he was the only one who showed age. He was old, and there were lines at the corners of his eyes from years of smiling. There were also deep circles beneath his eyes – a characteristic of mourning unknown to most Tearils.

He walked up to Eric and put a hand on the side of Eric’s face. For once, Eric didn’t move away. Eric had seen Chis before, down in the BRI, and that was the kind of effect Chis had on people: he put them at ease.

“I’m Eric Blake,” said Eric. “I used to work under Benson.”

“I know," said Chis. "I’ve heard you have news about Benson." Losi’s voice was different from the rest of the Tearils. It was deep, cracked, and uniquely his. “You say he’s moved the West?”

Eric nodded and pulled some papers, along with his tablet, out of his satchel. He handed the papers to Chis and pointed at one of the graphs. “You can see the energy-spike here, last May… And he’s displaced Xzeejees. Brought them all down to the Hole. He's doing something to them... Not sure what.”

Chis looked grim, but didn’t look infuriated as Eric had hoped. He knew that the Xzeejees and Tearils were usually strong allies and had fought on the same side in the last war, and he’d hoped that Chis would be more than a little concerned for their safety. “While Benson’s attitude towards xenopolitics is regrettable," said Chis, "we have no control over his decisions. We are very interested in how he was able to move the Valley without catastrophe, however. Do you know how he did it?”

“I don’t," said Eric. "That’s not why I’m here.” He pulled the documents from Chis’s hands. “I saw him kill some Tearils. They were trying to escape – to warn you.” Chis remained expressionless. “Don’t you care?”

Chis almost shrugged. “Again, Benson’s judgment may be regrettable, but I am not his keeper. We have our own problems here on Tearis.”

“You want to talk problems?” said Eric. “Benson's messing around with a machine from Echtectular and he’s experimenting on Tearils. That spells one thing to me – ‘Teur. Benson wants to bring back the ‘Teur.” Eric took a few steps forward, close enough to Chis that he could feel his breath on his face. “Does that ring a bell? ‘Teur? Do you remember them?”

Chis slowly closed his eyes and sighed, turning away from Eric and walking to a nearby window. “Being capable of something and taking the proper actions to pursue that course are two entirely different things, Eric Blake. Need I remind you that William Benson, his entire family, and the Research Institute owe their existence to Tearil technology. To Etris Lunn, in particular. He is in no position to take actions in the West near us without our knowledge and consent. Nor do I believe he is capable.” Chis sighed. “I really do wish you knew how he did it. We could compare techniques and make our own technology so much more efficient.”

“Look, Losi,” Eric stepped in front of Chis. “Benson’s planning something big. I don’t know what, or exactly why, but… shouldn’t you at least send somebody to look into it?”

Losi shook his head. “Our Lady of War is silent.”

“Who?”

“Our Lady of War.”

“What the hell does that even mean?”

“That we do not face war.”

“But he’s working with the ‘Teur!”

“The Valleys leading to Echtectular were all sealed over four decades ago. Every last one of them. No ‘Teur has been able to breach that space in that span of time. Benson is not capable of working with them.”

“But he can move the Valleys!” Eric clenched his fists. “If Benson can move the West, what’s to stop him from working with the ‘Teur?”

Chis laughed. “The ‘Teur never work with anyone. They just kill them.”

“You can tell your Lady of War to go fuck herself,” Eric seethed, and turned back down the stairs. He wished Lilun was here. Or Maggie. Where the hell was Maggie?

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