Chapter Fifty-Nine – A Celestial Encounter
With the first warm breeze from the east, spring finally arrived. Migratory birds flew north from Africa. Plants burst through the soil searching for the warmth of the sun, and Goran and Max stood looking at the boat they had built together since Tihke lost interest. Melos had returned to Marsaxlokk not able to face saying goodbye on the day when Sefani would leave. He sought solace in the arms of his wife Het-Heru, in his parents’ home in Marsaxlokk.
Max returned to Marsaxlokk many times during the winter in search of material to construct the boat, staying with Neit’s daughter, Bast. She always greeted him with warmth and loving affection, making him welcome during his brief visits. Despite the considerable age difference between them, Bast and Max grew closer over the winter and now that spring was here, they decided to wed. Bast was two months pregnant and looking forward to the day when their child would enter the world.
The boat was provisioned and launched. Goran held his sweet daughter in his arms for the last time, with tears flowing down his handsome face. He embraced Nehket, charging him with the protection of his precious daughter, neither of them knowing Sefani had a life stirring inside her. She had pleaded with her beloved uncle Max to come with them, but the wonderful news that his lover Bast was expecting a child silenced her plea. So she hugged him for the last time and climbed aboard the boat, waving a tearful farewell to them both, as Nehket headed out to sea. The boat worked its way around the western coast of Atlan, with Goran and Max following its progress until it disappeared from sight. Goran remained alone on the hill above ancient Victoria, never returning south, but always welcoming the visits by Max, Melos, Tihke, and their families. When Bast learned her brother had gone with Sefani she wept for them both. The arrival of her son Set soon drove away the sorrow of her loss.
The way south through the choppy springtime waters around the western edge of Atlan, almost proved fatal for Sefani and Nehket when the tiny boat was swamped by rogue waves. For two months, the tiny craft battled its way against wind and tide, never far from the rocky shore of Atlan. Eventually they were able to turn south west and away from the dangerous shoals and reefs. By the time they first caught site of the snow-capped peaks of Ain Beida in the Atlas Mountains dear reader, Sefani was close to giving birth. The tiny boat eventually surfed ashore on the eastern side of Cape Bon on the north-eastern coast of this island.
Until Sefani’s time came and the pair was blessed with a beautiful baby daughter of their own, who they named Talia in loving memory of Sefani’s mother, they lived in the ruins of a long forgotten town on the coast. Nehket was able to fish and cultivate some of the vegetable crops growing wild in the old gardens of the town. They stayed there for five years until little Talia was strong enough for the arduous journey through the mountain foothills.
In my mind, I watched their progress as they steadily drew near to me, still convinced that Sefani was the one I now waited for. But the other event in my long life was drawing near also, the return of my home planet on its long three thousand million year journey through space. When it had first arrived near my old home world millions of years ago, dear reader, a meteor was diverted by the giant planet’s path, and I was plucked from my dying home world, cut off from my evil kind. I was safe on my new planet. Over the many centuries of its journey through the cosmos, its environment altered my make-up and nurtured me until it released me here to await its return.
It has now entered the outer reaches of the solar system close to Neptune. In a matter of months, it will be close enough for me to return to my home in the stars, where this time I sense it will spend the rest of its existence circling round the star Mintaka in the belt of stars in the constellation of Orion, never to wander again through the cosmos. If I miss this opportunity, dear reader, I will be trapped here with you on Earth until my time runs out. I must take the one I seek with me to prevent the evil spreading. I know my planet will alter her, turning her into a benign force for good. But I digress dear reader, forgive me.
Sefani, Nehket, and little Talia struggled towards where I live, for many weeks. With the increased altitude came the decrease in temperature to below freezing. This was when I became aware that Talia had powers far stronger than her mother. They sheltered in a cave away from the ferocious icy winds. Nehket found some wood and tried desperately to light it by striking his sword with a piece of flint. Seeing the disappointment in her father’s face, little Talia stared angrily at the wood and it burst into flame. Sefani and Nehket were horrified, as was I, by the demonstration from the little girl. Here was the one I had been waiting for so long to arrive, not her mother! They are all with me now, here in my cave, as we wait for my planet to arrive. Sefani and Nehket are both distressed by the thought of losing their daughter, but believe it is for the best. I shall have to stop for the moment. I sense another approaching, dear reader…
Melos stumbled into the cave and looked with shocked surprise at Sefani and Nehket seated beside the fire; he had expected her to be alone! On a ledge on one side of the cave, he saw a little girl talking to a tall red-eyed albino creature – myself; he was horrified when he first saw me. “Uncle Onet, how long before we go home?” she asked me.
“Not long, my child,” I replied. “Soon you’ll be safe from harm and away from all the violence that this world thrives on.” I turned to look at Melos. “Welcome, have you come to say farewell to Talia?”
Melos stood dumbfounded by the resignation in the eyes of Sefani and Nehket. “How can you let this abomination take your daughter, Sefani? What is he, some kind of god? Why would any parent let their child be taken like this?” Melos grew angrier by the second. He yelled at me. “Leave her, you freak, she’s not going with you!” Drawing his sword, he angrily seized little Talia and pushed her behind him. Melos’ terrifying berserker cry filled the cave as he leapt at me. My body emitted its pungent odour. I overcame my fear, and despite my great age and near blindness, I managed to dodge the young warrior.
“Don’t do this, Melos, you are mistaken,” I cried, as I tried to reason with him. “I have been waiting eons for this evil child to arrive. I must rid the cosmos of that evil by taking her with me to my home in the stars.”
Melos lost his footing and his sword flew across the floor of the cave. He leapt to his feet and dived at me as I tried to get my hands on little Talia, when she ran crying to her parents. I took Melos by surprise. For one so old and lightly built, I still have some strength, left dear reader. I grappled with Melos, who in his frenzied state, was trying to choke me to death. I realized the evil I sought was not Talia, it was Melos after all! In my desperation, I frantically searched around with my one remaining free hand on the ledge, where I was fighting for my life. Eventually I found what I was looking for and plunged it into Melos’ neck. He screamed as the fluid from the stasis injector flooded through his body. I rolled away and angrily watched Melos being encased in its solid transparent cocoon. Nehket and Sefani hugged little Talia, wide eyed with fear while I raged, succumbing to my long dormant Khaz fury. I wandered out of the cave into the snowstorm, ashamed for letting my own evil rise once more to the surface. Returning to where Talia sat crying and clinging to her mother’s neck in fear, I said, “I’m sorry Talia, forgive me. I was wrong about you. You’re not the one I seek, Melos is. I felt it when we fought.”
“Don’t you hurt my mother and father,” she blurted out to me, through her pursed lips, while her eyes filled with angry childish tears. She dropped down to the ground and stared angrily at a rock near me, causing it to melt. I dropped to my knees in front of the child. My head sank to my chest as I sat back on my haunches, sobbing over what had happened. Talia ran over to me, a loving little girl once more, hugging my ancient Khaz body, kissing my large head with all the natural tenderness she had inherited from her mother. Nehket looked at Melos, entombed but alive, in the stasis cocoon.
Sefani and Talia helped me rise to my feet. I was exhausted by all the sudden physical violence, as they guided me back to the ledge. “I will tell you all that I know about the evil that I have been waiting to appear for so many centuries, and about your history and those who lived before you,” I said, as I closed my clouded red eyes. “But first I must rest.” Sefani and Nehket lay in each other’s arms in the warmth of the fire that night with little Talia nestled safe between them.
It is morning now, dear reader, and I am refreshed from another night’s sleep. Talia and her parents still continue to share this cave with me. Two months have gone by since the time when my violent fight for survival with Melos took place. My planet draws nearer; it is now only a short distance away between Mars and the moon. I have spent the intervening months filling in all the gaps for Sefani and her family. I’m sorry, please forgive me, I tend to get ahead of myself sometimes. Of course, you do not know what I’m talking about, so let us continue.
Sefani naturally had many questions for me. She wanted to return to Atlan and their families, but I counselled against it, telling her that to return would only provoke the Atlantians. So reluctantly, she and her family decided to make their home here on this great island, just below the snowline in the lush high pastures of these mountains. Another life is about to begin next winter. Little Talia will soon have a baby sister. I never disclosed to them how I knew, preferring instead to let them be surprised when the happy time came.
Melos had followed Sefani after stealing a boat, deserting Het-Heru and their child, wanting to be close to Sefani, not knowing that she and Nehket were together or that they had a child. Since those violent moments when we grappled with each other, I feel the evil around me growing more intensely each day now, dear reader.
Melos’ grandfather Seti’s DNA had been altered long ago by Hesket when Seti and his brothers were under his influence aboard Shu’s great ship Kalki, which is why I am satisfied that Melos is the one. When Pashtek and Meral reached Earth and began their scanning search for Brak, Lek, and Tuluk, Pashtek never sensed me because I had been changed by the planet I now wait for. While it’s true I am of Khaz origin, my DNA has been radically altered. Of the three hybrids created by Pashtek, Banab was the closest to my new form, but he still retained the Khaz evil, which unfortunately was enhanced by Pashtek’s meddling. Like me, Banab was undetectable by our Khaz brothers and myself. I only knew of his presence from the thoughts of Pashtek and Meral.
Unless I return to my planet when it passes in the next few weeks, I feel I will revert back to my old Khaz ways once more. When I grew angry in the struggle with Melos, I knew the early stages had already begun, which is why I said earlier, that my time is short, dear reader!
When Goran was born, I feared that he may be the evil one at first. The intervening years have been times of confusion for me as you will understand now from reading this sad saga. I told Sefani why I must take Melos with me, since I realized that when Hesket interfered with his grandfather Seti’s DNA, he had unknowingly sown the evil seed for Melos to be born. Also that now would be my last chance to return to my planet, because it would never pass this way again. Forgive me if I repeat myself dear reader; my great age sometimes muddles my mind.
I told her how I was marooned here on Earth, three thousand million years ago; when the planet left me here on my own, while it continued its journey through the cosmos. It came as a shock to Sefani and Nehket when I explained about the sudden appearance of sentient bipeds like her here on this planet, and how they had spread from here through the cosmos over the millennia, not the way Shu had so firmly believed when she was released on Kallorn by Hoetep. You see, dear reader, I was lonely here on my prison. I craved companionship, so I created creatures from my own altered DNA, simply for that reason. At first, they led peaceful lives wandering this virgin planet, harming nothing, gathering plants and fruits for food. In those early years, I often joined them on their peaceful journeys, enjoying their friendship and the bounty that grew here. Unfortunately, like all living things, they evolved into completely different beings, plagued with all the angry Khaz emotions that lay dormant inside me.
I grew afraid of what I had created and hid here in this cave, away from what my former peaceful children had now become. I deeply regret my foolishness, dear reader. It is too late to reverse my mistake; I shall return to my home leaving you all to your destinies. Goodbye. Please forgive me if you can…
Next time – The Final Chapter