Chapter Fifty-Five – A new beginning
Sefani grew more like her beautiful mother with each passing day. Her gentleness and her happy laughter filled the air of their hillside home with infectious love. While Shaila and Tihke missed their son terribly, Sefani and her sweet nature helped to ease the pain they felt in their hearts. Because of her evil lineage, through Pashtek’s meddling, compounded by the relationship of her loving parents, she had latent powers that would soon see the light of day. Whether they were benign or malignant, I could not tell, dear reader. But I knew I would have to watch her progress carefully as she grew up.
Max returned two months after he and Melos departed. Shaila panicked when she saw him returning alone, but Max soon calmed her fears when he told them about the Nephile community and how young Melos was being schooled by them, and was steadily developing into a fine student. Anxious to see their son, Shaila and Tihke returned with Max to Marsaxlokk, leaving Talia, Goran, and Sefani behind in the peaceful surroundings of the hills above Victoria.
Over the next few years, Sefani grew into a beautiful sweet natured happy young woman, admired by the young Nephile males who often accompanied Max on his journey back to his friends. Word spread among the Nephile community about her and an invitation was made for her and her parents to visit Marsaxlokk. Talia and Goran missed their friends Tihke and Shaila, and it was time for Sefani to be with young people of her own age, so they decided to head south.
She was sad to leave the beautiful hills she had spent so many happy hours exploring, accompanied by the birds and animals she had played with, and nursed whenever they were sick. Sefani had a power within her for healing, which she put to good use on many occasions. Her gift first came to her parents’ attention when Goran cut his hand while sharpening a knife. Sefani demonstrated her power when she took her father’s hand gently in hers and closed her eyes in deep concentration. Talia and Goran stared in utter disbelief as the wound healed before their eyes, leaving no scar.
There was another side to her that rarely surfaced – violent uncontrollable anger. Talia had witnessed it when Sefani was much younger. A small bird caught by a feral cat was lying at death’s door. In her fury towards the cat, Sefani tore it apart with her bare hands. That was the only incident and was soon forgotten over the years. As they headed south, Talia remembered the incident once more and was frightened for her daughter’s safety among the Nephile, should her anger arise.
Their arrival in Marsaxlokk coincided with a festival honouring Hor, the great Nephile general and friend of Max and his brothers, who had perished with the thousands killed by Shu’s berserker army in Ur so long ago. The wide expanse of the old dried-up harbour below Marsaxlokk had been turned into a field for athletics and games for the festival, now that the crops had been harvested.
Goran encouraged his daughter to enter one of the races. She took her place among the dark haired young Nephile women on the starting line. A blast from a stag horn signalled the start of the race. Sefani’s flying golden tresses, olive skinned complexion, and tall athletic figure, made her stand out in the crowd of competitors as she effortlessly made her way through them before crossing the line in first place. As she stood there, head and shoulders above the admiring crowd of young Nephile males who had come to congratulate her, she heard a familiar voice. “Congratulations Sefani that was a fine win.” Sefani smiled as she spun round to see a tall handsome berserker youth staring back at her.
“Melos!” she cried, with tears of happiness flowing down her cheeks, as they hugged each other. He was no longer the foul tempered little boy who had cruelly tormented her in their childhood. His time here in Marsaxlokk, under the watchful eye of his mentor, Ausar, transformed him into a fine gentle young man. He proudly presented his ‘sister’ Sefani to Ausar, as they crossed the field where their reunited parents and Max sat in the shade of an awning, with Ausar’s wife Nekhbet and her daughter Het-Heru. In her excitement at seeing her beloved uncle, Sefani nearly knocked Max over when she set eyes on him, as she jumped into his arms. Sefani kissed everyone, she was so happy. Nothing could ever spoil the way she felt that day.
“Hello father; greetings mother.” A handsome young Nephile warrior in his early twenties joined the group. Het-Heru introduced Sefani to her brother, Geb. When Geb and Sefani met for the first time, and he saw her sweet smiling face and those hypnotically beautiful hazel-green eyes, his heart melted like some lovesick teenager. Over the next few months, the pair became inseparable as their love for one another grew. Geb’s mother took it upon herself to teach Sefani all there was to know about their society and history. Melos and Het-Heru often accompanied Sefani and Geb. Sometimes the four young lovers went with Max, hunting together whenever he grew restless. Even Max had found love there in the shape of Neit, widowed during the great battle, and her two adult children, her daughter Bast and son Nehket. Sefani was so completely happy, surrounded by so much love.
Goran spent hours in the great library reading about the Nephile and their endless search for safe havens away from the Drana, and now the berserkers. Ausar had led the remnants of the earthbound Nephile people here after the great battle, to one of the places his ancestors had first settled eons before humanity first appeared. In his research over the months, Goran found many references to this place. Time and time again, he came across one name that stuck in his mind—Atlan.
Hundreds of thousands of years ago, the first Nephile had come and cut themselves off from the wild, early human hybrids, living in peace, studying and arming in preparation for the inevitable Drana invasion. They named the place Atlan after a great Nephile warrior on their home world Cydon, who had fought many battles in defence of his people, five thousand years before they came here seeking sanctuary. In the time of the first flood on Earth, Atlan had been reduced to a few islands by the inundation, but because of the second flood, and the geological upheaval, it now stood proudly once more above the waves.
When Geb asked Talia for Sefani’s hand, in accordance with the Nephile tradition, both she and Goran were overjoyed. Sefani hugged her parents. Sefani and Geb strolled into the garden while their parents toasted the happy event. The young lovers were locked in their gentle embrace, when Melos and Het-Heru burst in to announce they were to be wed. So, a combined wedding was planned for the end of the month. however, there was one added complication: Neit and Max had decided to wed also.
The whole community got together in preparation for the wonderful triple event. Geb’s parents offered the use of the beautiful gardens of their home. Neit’s two children took over the massive task of feeding the hundreds who would attend.
The day of the triple wedding finally arrived. Max, Geb, and Melos stood by the dais, like all bridegrooms, nervously waiting for their brides to appear. Goran, Talia, Shaila, and Tihke sat opposite Ausar and Nekhbet. The crowd murmured happily to themselves, ready to witness the weddings. Then the three brides entered holding hands.
As they made their way through the crowd towards their eagerly awaiting lovers, a great blast from a hunting horn in a watchtower, sounded across Atlan. A young Nephile warrior burst into the garden with terrible news that would change everything, and not for the better dear reader. Meral and her cannibal berserkers had landed on the northern shores and were marching south!
Next time – Chapter Fifty-Six