Echoes of Dark Reflections
Part Four – Nasty Business
Niati knelt down beside the distraught Abasan, tentatively touching his arm, unsure as to the reaction it would receive. When nothing occurred, she pulled him back up from where he lay and took hold of his face in her hands. The man refused to look at her, tear-filled eyes desperately looking aside, anywhere but at her.
“Look at me,” she said firmly. Reluctantly he did so, but a deep shame and horror lurked in his eyes. “You did not mean it,” she told him. “None of us meant what we did. Not really.”
“But I said the words,” he protested. “I struck you. I can not forget that, or forgive myself.”
Nhaqosa approached the pair, squatting down alongside them. A giant white-furred hand rested on Abasan’s shoulder. “This place twisted us all up, my friend. It could not break the loyalty you had for me, though. Never forget that.”
“They were my father’s words, all over again,” Abasan said with terrible bitterness.
“What were?’ Niati asked him.
“The words I spoke. My people, they are a backward, barbaric culture. We are taught from birth that women are creatures of shadows, who house no true thoughts and feelings. They are kept segregated, good only to be servants and for the begetting of sons. It is seen as a sign of weakness to love a woman.”
“Yet you did, didn’t you,” Niati said with sudden insight into the turmoil that Abasan was undergoing.
“Yes,” he admitted. “My sister. She did something that my father considered an affront to his honour, so he took her out, bound her to a tree and whipped her until she died.” Fresh tears welled up in his eyes as cruel memories resurfaced. “Do you know how long it takes someone to die that way? It is slow and agonising as your flesh is scourged from your body until your bones are exposed, leaving a terrible, bloody mess. The men of the tribe watched on, spitting at her and hurling abuse as she slowly died. And I, I was made to watch on.” He lowered his head again as Niati’s face soften in sorrow. “That night I took a knife and cut my own father’s throat. My only regret is that it was over too fast for him. He did not suffer as my sister had suffered. The others could not understand why I would kill my father over a mere woman, and so they sold me into the fighting pits to die.”
“I am sorry,” Niati told him, leaning her head against his. “I am so sorry.”
“It was not you speaking before, Abasan,” Nhaqosa told him, giving his shoulder a gentle squeeze. “You must remember that. For now, though, I need your help. The exit has gone.”
Nhaqosa gave a shrug of his broad shoulders. “That I have no idea of. It is just gone.”
“It isn’t covered over and we could break our way through is it?” Niati asked.
“Possibly, but I do not know. I really do not know. There is something around here, playing with us, and I mean to find out who or what it is and then make them pay.”
Nhaqosa paced slowly around the chamber, inspecting ever part of the wall closely, in great detail, with Lakach following close behind. The rest of the band sat in the chamber, a muted tone to any conversations that took place. The events that had transpired earlier had shaken normally imperturbable confidences
“Nasty business this, boss,” Lakach noted, speaking softly so only Nhaqosa could hear him.
Nhaqosa nodded. He halted in his step, while peering closely at one section of wall. “It is,” he agreed. “Ah, I have got you now,” he added with a hint of satisfaction.
“What is it, boss?”
Nhaqosa ran his hand slowly down the smooth face of the crystal wall before him. “There is a crack here. Only tiny, but it exists. And where there is a crack, it can be expanded upon. We may just have found a way out of here. Stand back,” he warned.
Lakach scurried away as Nhaqosa unlimbered his heavy maul, the head formed of a cylinder of green stone into which patterns and symbols had been carved. He shrugged his shoulders, loosening his muscles, before bracing his legs on their cloven hooves. Taking a deep breath, he wound up then maul and then swung it with all his tremendous power into the wall where the barely visible crack extended.
The wall shuddered as the maul thundered into it. A web of tiny cracks extended out across it, centred on the point of impact where the maul had hit. Time and again Nhaqosa hammered the maul into the wall, a steady, rhythmic battering.
The wall groaned under the impact of the blows, almost as if alive, while tiny shards of crystal flaked off. After a good few dozen blows into the wall, a loud rumbling erupted and it shattered, cascading to the floor like a waterfall of frozen water pouring down a cliff. It crashed to the ground, while a moment of triumph sang through Nhaqosa, snatched away in an instant as all plunged into total, absolute dark.
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