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The Searcher’s Quest

The undertaking was inherently dangerous so only the best and brightest were selected. Some returned with astonishing tales to tell, some never returned. So was the lot that befell the selected ones, the Searchers.

Searchers were village members that secretly journeyed to the outer zones. None really knew what perils awaited them there.

Over the past sixty Cycles, twenty Searchers had ventured forth. None had been successful. The mission was to discover a cure for the dreaded Sickness or to locate other supplies of Life Force. Their task was simply known as The Searcher’s Quest. If and when the quest was completed the people could be liberated from the grasp of an evil tyrant, The Leader.

***

Upon reaching the age of ascension on the Eighteenth Cycle a village member was given a secret tribal name and informed of his position within the tribe society. The elders had selected his tribal name, Jonas the Seeker.

Jonas was pleased with his name. Since early childhood he had been a seeker of knowledge. One of his dreams was to become a village scholar. To accomplish this he spent every available hour striving to learn the Story. With no reading or writing allowed, the Story was a verbal record of the history. The Story Holder was an honored position within the tribe.

However, all his plans changed at the conclusion of his ascension ceremony. Along with his name, the elders had also selected him to be the next ‘Searcher’. He was overjoyed at the honor.

Along with his other dreams, Jonas had secretly yearned to be like his father, Seth the Master. Seth had been the tribes greatest Searcher and had made five walkabouts. On one long walkabout he journeyed to the very edge of the uncharted zone. His last walkabout, the last by any Searcher, had been almost four Cycles ago. His plan had been to cross the Big River and enter the uncharted zone. Unfortunately, he never returned.

***

As the sun sneaked over the horizon Jonas resumed his journey. Walking along, his thoughts returned to a time almost ten days previous when he had made the decision to begin his quest. Perhaps it had been the fear and desperation etched on the faces the tribal members. It had started just before dawn.

The Enforcers entered the village just at daybreak and within minutes had pushed all the villagers out into the damp square. The lead Enforcer stepped up on the well housing. Without preamble he shouted.

“Citizens of Zone One, hear me. The Leader is very disappointed with your latest tribute. The food and grain production was fifteen percent less than last Period. That is completely unacceptable. The next Period ends in fourteen days. You will be expected to supply your normal quota, plus the fifteen percent short from last Period and a ten percent penalty.”

Loud groans and murmurs escaped from the chilled villagers. Due to the drought production was down, way down and hunger was ever present.

The lead enforcer continued. “As you all know, the Leader is a benevolent person. To show his kindness you will not be punished and will receive your normal Life Force ration. But understand, if you fail you then will have to decide who will or will not live. That is all, return to your duties, it is the time for work hours!”

In groups of twos and threes the villages stumbled back to their lodgings to gather their tools. Walking slowly, most had only one thing on their mind, Life Force. Without the Periodic Life Force ration they would die. The quota must be met!

Jonas had seen and heard enough. Within the hour his quest began.


***

Strolling along, Jonas let his mind shift from his current mission back to how the Story began. It had all started with the Flash. Flash survivors remembered seeing gigantic brilliant bursts lighting the sky as the invaders from space attacked. Then the sickness came!

For many Cycles people got very ill and scores died. No one seemed to know why the invaders never landed to complete Terra’s destruction. Some said they changed their minds, other said something miraculous happened and the invaders were defeated. In the end it didn’t matter. The damage was too great. Those with the means soon departed to the stars. But for those having no choice, within a few Cycles the ancients and all their wondrous technology was gone!

After about twenty-five Cycles the first Leader came with the Enforcers and the Life Force. That was over one-hundred Cycles ago. For the promise of loyalty and hard work the Leader would provide this life saving medicine to all. Most villages were happy to comply. Gradually over time people began to get better. Most believed the sickness could be prevented as long as they received the Periodic Life Force rations.

Along with better health and conditions came an increased workload. The villages were tasked to provide ever-increasing tributes. The burden had gotten almost to immense for the tribe to bear. That’s when the Searcher’s Quest began.


***

Almost three full days later Jonas stood on a high bluff overlooking a large river. It was at least as wide as his home village and had a very fast dangerous current. This had to be the Big River and the other side must to be the uncharted zone.

In the far distance on the other side of the river he could see what once must have been a great city. He headed in its general direction until darkness overtook him.

At first light he rapidly moved down to the river’s edge. He was truly astonished. On the far bank sat the large empty city. There were no signs of movement. The really amazing thing was the silence. Listening closely he could hear only an eerie hollow sound as the wind whistled through the tall deserted buildings.

To his right downstream was the ruin of a long bridge. Jonas edged forward for a better look. Suddenly the bank gave way beneath him and with a surprised shout he tumbled into the swift coldness of the powerful water.

The current was really fast. He had never been much of a swimmer and fought hard to return to the surface. In desperation he reached out and grabbed one of the metal cables. It was all he could do to hang on and several times almost lost his grip. Suddenly from the bank a rope landed across the cable in front of him. Looking about he saw a figure standing there in the bright sunlight. He couldn’t get a good look but could hear shouting.

“Hurry! Grab the rope and I’ll pull you in.”

Three minutes later his heaving thoroughly soaked body lay on the bank of the river. Another two minutes and he was able to get his breath back enough to sit up and thank his rescuer. Was he ever surprised? It was a young girl perhaps a Cycle or two younger than him and very pretty.

“Just what did you think you were doing,” she asked? “That was a pretty stupid thing to do.”

“Well, I was looking for a way across the water but I hadn’t planned on going for a swim, at least not yet.”

“You were going to cross the river? Are you crazy? Nobody crosses the river.”

Putting a touch of self-importance into his voice Jonas said. “Look, I am Jonas the Seeker and I’m a Searcher! I’ve come a long way taking almost thirteen days getting here. I spent the last two Periods studying and planning this walkabout.” Pointing across the water the he continued. “That has to be one of the cities of the ancients and there must be some wondrous things there for the taking.” He noticed that the girl was watching with a curious look. After a few seconds she spoke.

“You appear to be talking my language but I really don’t understand what you’re saying. What are Periods and walkabouts? What exactly is a Searcher and what are the ancients?”

It was his turn to stare at her. Didn’t she know anything? Maybe she was dense or something.

Tossing Jonas a rough cloth with which to dry she said. “Okay, why don’t we start over? My name is Talla. Tell me where you’re from and why you are here.”

For the next hour Jonas told her his story. At the end he told her of his fathers last walkabout and how he believed that his father had crossed the river to explore the city. His plan was to follow.

“You say your father crossed over to the city? I can probably explain why he never returned. Nobody, except one, that has crossed the river has ever returned. The one fortunate enough to return was my father. He and two other men were sent to explore the ruins. They had seen nothing alarming during the crossing and separated to explore. After a short time they were attacked by dozens of creatures more animal than human. The other two were quickly captured before my father even knew of the danger. He was barely able to fight his way back to the boat and escape. All the way back across the river he could hear their screams.” With a shudder she stopped talking.

“But why were they killed? Surely they meant no harm.”

My father believes that the weak, old and unknowing are used to provide sustenance for the young and strong. I’m sorry but if your father went there...”

She didn’t have to finish; Jonas realized what she meant. He just couldn’t or didn’t want to believe it.

***

A short time later she led Jonas to the camp of her people. Several minutes from the river they walked over a small rise. Jonas was amazed at what he saw there. Beautifully colored wagons pulled by marvelous horses. He stood in awe. Only Enforcers had horses! All around the campsite were large herds of cattle and sheep. He had never seen so many animals.

Talla said her people were called Gypsies or Travelers. They wandered up and down the land along the river. In the summer they would move north and when the cold winds came they moved south. It looked to be a simple happy life.

That evening during dinner Jonas was asked to retell his story. After he finished there was a few moments of silence. Finally Talla’s father, Rios, spoke.

“That’s an interesting story but I wasn’t able to understand all you were saying. First of all, it appears that your people’s existence depends on this Life Force. What exactly is it?”

Suddenly realization dawned on him! His pack had gone down the river with all his life force supply. He was going to die unless these nice folks would share with him.

However, now Jason was a little confused. “I’m not sure I understand. Life Force is the white powder, the medicine we must take every seven days to keep from getting the sickness. The Enforcers working for the Leader provide it. You may not call it Life Force but surely you have something like it? How do you all survive?”

After a few seconds Rios spoke. “We have nothing like what you are describing. Nothing in our medical books tells of this white powder needed to survive.
Jason was stunned! “Books, you have books. You can read and write?
Now Rios looked confused. “Yes, of course. Everyone in our community is taught to read and write. Your people don’t read or write?”
Jason sadly said, “No, my people not allowed learning to read or write. However, some of us secretly try to learn. It is just so hard without proper books.”
Rios nodded in sympathy, “That’s too bad.” After a moment he continued. “Anyway, we need nothing other than food and water to survive. We also know nothing of the sickness you are talking about.”

“But the Leader says that the sickness is everywhere and that we must not attempt to move to another location because of the shortage of Life Force. Yet, you and your people seem to move about at will. How can this be?”

Rios was silent in thought for a minute. “When was the last time someone from you village died from this sickness?”

Jonas had to think for a few seconds. He couldn’t remember anyone that had actually died from the sickness and said so.

“I will have to think and research on this more,” Rios said. “It is time for rest; we shall speak more of it tomorrow.”

The meeting broke up and everyone moved to bed down. Talla was kind enough to make Jonas a resting place under one of the supply wagons. As he prepared to sleep he realized that that he had not had a Life Force ration in almost eight days. The Sickness would surely start soon and the travelers had no Life Force. He was going to die!

The next morning he awoke with an odd feeling. After several attempts to rise he fell back on his bedding. He was sweating profusely and could not concentrate. Talla found him a few minutes later. She attempted to give him to give him water but he could not swallow. As he slipped into the blackness the last thing he remembered was her beautiful face filled with worry.

***

When Jonas opened his eyes he could see the bright sun shinning and a cool breeze washed across him. It took a few seconds for him to understand where he was. Suddenly, with much joy he realized that he was alive. Expending considerable effort he attempted to sit up. He immediately heard a shout; it was Talla.

“Father, come quick, he’s awake,” she said.

Within seconds Rios came over. “Well,” he smiled, “Welcome back. You had us worried for awhile.”

Looking back and forth between father and daughter Jonas simply stared. He couldn’t comprehend what was happening. Rios realized his predicament and started to speak again.

“Jonas, you are going to be fine. You can thank Talla for that. She has been by your side caring for you these three days and nights. Let me explain. The morning of the first day Talla found you burning with fever and bathed in sweat. For the last three days she stayed by your side, keeping a cool cloth on your forehead and bathing you as necessary. Finally at night of the third day the fever broke. This is morning of the fourth day.

Jonas was alive, very weak but alive. He couldn’t believe it! After Rios finished he waited a few seconds then attempted to talk. “I don’t know what to think. I have had no Life Force for over twelve days. By all knowledge I should be dead. What type of miracle is this?

“There is no miracle,” said Rios. “By your own accounts you should have been dead at least two days ago. However, in the last three days you were able to purge yourself of the effects of your Life Force. It would appear that Life Force is really not a medicine. Instead of curing this sickness you talk of, it keeps you subservient to your so-called Leader. In our travels we have heard of people becoming dependent on strong medicines. Sometimes the medicine is worse than the cure.”

“What are you saying? Am I no longer in the need of the Life Force? If that is true then I have accomplished my quest and my people can be saved. We can be free of the Leader and the Enforcers. I must return to my village right away!”

“Yes, with time and patience your people should also be able to rid themselves of this evil. However, you are very weak and will need at least a week to regain enough strength for your travels. Rest now and we will speak more later.”

***

Seven days rest and good food had done wonders for him. Jonas was healthier than he had ever been in his young eighteen-year life. He was loading the pack that Rios had provided when Talla approached.

“Jonas, I know you have to leave but I want you to know that I would very much like you to stay.”

Looking fondly at her dark eyes and slightly upturned nose he nodded. “Yes, I too would like to stay but my people must be brought out of the darkness. Once their dependence on Life Force is gone I would hope to see you again; if you will wait for me?”

She nodded and smiled but before she was able to speak Rios approached.

“Jonas, tomorrow we start for the south. As you can tell there is coolness to the morning air. Once you have returned home and help rid your people of the Life Force dependence you are welcome to join us.”

“I am afraid it will take many days to cleanse all my people. Unfortunately we will only be able to cure one or two at a time. Any more would arouse the suspicion of the Enforcers and we would be severely punished. Once we have completed the cure, all that wish to leave will slip away and I will lead them here. Perhaps we can meet again?”

“Yes, we will be back this way next year when the warm wind blows. If you and any of your people wish to join us then come here. We will find you.” Shaking Jonas’ hand he turned away.

Looking toward the resting place of the sun and home Jonas took Talla’s hand. “I must go now for I have many days travel before I am home. Once my people have been cured I will return for you.”
***

After walking a short distance he turned for one last look. The morning sun limited his vision but he was sure he could see Talla standing hand raised in a silent wave. Turing back to the mountains and home Jonas felt happiness like never before. He now had the means to save his people plus he had a beautiful young woman waiting for his return. Could life be any better?

He was confident that all his family and friends would soon feel the breath of happiness that only true freedom can bestow. Thanks to Talla and her people his village would no longer held in the powerful grip of deception of a self appointed Leader and the dependence on his evil Life Force.

He wasn’t sure if those who chose to depart for the stars all those cycles ago would ever return. It didn’t really matter. Within the next few cycles, his people would be free. Free to move about as they chose since they would no longer be ruled by a tyrant’s hand. Yes, upon his return the Searcher’s Quest would finally be over.

Impressum

Tag der Veröffentlichung: 16.07.2011

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