Kascadia

If never growing old sounds appealing, consider the thought of possibly losing that privilege. When Shareef discovers Kascadia’s lifeblood water supply is threatened he must leave his homeland and venture beyond into unknown territories on a life changing journey.

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1. Chapter 1

Help! Help me! Hel…p!’

Descat’s cries echoed into the distance as he soared high into the sky. Suspended by a set of razor sharp talons hooked beneath his belt, he was dangling helplessly at the end of them like a puppet. He was being dragged from his homeland against his will and he was at the mercy of his captor, screaming as loud as he could and struggling with all of his might for release but he was rapidly disappearing from view.

It was a struggle for him to keep his eyes open as the sun rose and daylight rapidly replaced the darkness. Kascadia his homeland was somewhere far down below him. It was becoming further and further away, quickly fading into the distance and what lay ahead filled Descat with dread.

Had anyone seen him being dragged off into the sky? Had anyone heard his cries? He had no idea. All he knew with certainty was he was on his own now, struggling for his life and he was frightened, very frightened.

Descat had been rudely awoken from his deep sleep on that fateful night by a strange noise. He had been sleeping peacefully, alone in his room, when a noise had jolted him abruptly from his dreams. He had opened his eyes and for a moment or two he had stayed silent and motionless, completely disorientated. Had he been dreaming?

 He had sat up bolt upright in his bed and struggled to come to his senses, his ears straining hard to listen. He had heard the noise again and it was becoming much clearer and louder. He had not been dreaming.

 He needed to know what was making the noise. Curiosity and an inner dread had compelled him to investigate. In the darkness of the cave he had hurriedly grabbed his clothes and dressed as quickly as he could in the darkness. Feeling groggy he had rubbed the sleep from his eyes with his fists and squinted to get a better view. Darkness was his comfort zone it suited his eyes.

He had left the safety of his bedchamber and headed off in the direction of the disturbance, feeling apprehensive about what he might encounter. Butterflies danced in his stomach with the rush of adrenalin that pumped around his body. He had crept cautiously along following the direction of a loud scratching and tearing noise but suddenly the noise had changed to a distinct high-pitched piercing cry familiar to Descat. The hairs on his neck had prickled as the realisation of what was making the noise had hit him. He had moved in the direction of the commotion as quickly and silently as he could, sensing all was not well.

 A Shrill bird-like cawing sound had rung in the air but Descat had known it wasn’t the noise of birds. It was the sound of Repteags and Repteags were Kascadia’s enemies.

They were winged creatures covered in a dark green scaly leathery skin. They had heads that looked far too big for their slim bodies and pointed beak like mouths that when closed hid a double layer of razor sharp teeth. They had long powerful tails like a reptile. With one mighty swipe they could knock you flat on your back. Huge forked tongues slithered in and out of their mouths and their giant four toed feet with sharp talons for nails hung menacingly down in a curve. 

Descat had realised the Repteags were very close and he had squatted down trying to decide his next move. With the realisation of what lay ahead he had awoken fully now and had become more than a little bit worried. With daylight fast approaching he had known soon he wouldn’t be able to see too clearly and in his haste his protective glasses had been left behind.

His hand had instinctively felt for the star shaped pendant he always wore. He kept it out of sight, hidden beneath his tunic. He always felt less afraid when he touched it. He held it whenever he was worried or frightened and as he had sensed danger ahead of him he was both worried and frightened now. Holding the pendant gave him both strength and courage. He had been in desperate need of courage and he had hoped he wouldn’t need strength. The pendant had been a gift from his father. Both he and his brother had identical ones. They were the last things their father had given to them as he lay on his deathbed. Descat felt close to his father whenever he touched the pendant and he never took it off.

Descat had continued to follow in the direction of the noise and as he had got nearer to where the sound of the Repteags was coming from he had crouched as low as he could. As he had done so he had realised how a mouse felt when it was evading a cat. He too had felt as small and as timid as a mouse and he had known he was no match for a Repteags powerful body. They had finely tuned senses that homed in on their enemies and Descat needed to keep out of their sight. Repteags didn’t usually come this close, not at night time and although he had known the sun would soon begin to rise bringing with it the safety of daylight Descat had been more than a little curious to know why they had ventured so close.

During daylight hours Repteags soared high in the sky, their eagle eyes detecting the movement of a beetle crawling along the ground. The slow quiet movement of a slithering snake, winding its way along, barely audible to the human ear was like music to them, a dinner bell signalling lunch. Repteags hunted for food by day and slept at night but on that fateful night they had taken both Descat and Kascadia by surprise.

Descat hadn’t known what to do. He had guessed the Repteags were hovering in the sky outside. Their loud screeching had signalled their presence to him. As the sun had risen he had been temporarily blinded but he had sensed they were out there, searching for easy prey, swooping and diving and daring to come nearer and nearer.

 One false move was all it had taken. Descat toppled over from his hunched position. He had moved a foot that had gone into the cramp, stumbled forward and knocked hard against a rock. The rock had fallen, making a loud crashing noise. He had lurched forward trying to correct his balance and had rolled right into sight, out of the open doorway that exited the caves. He had tumbled down the cut out stone steps and found himself in a heap half on one step and half on another. He had bumped his head and it hurt. That was all it had taken. The Repteags had been alerted and had turned sharply around sensing an easy meal. Descat disorientated by the fall had panicked. In that instant the Repteags had forced their way through the Skynet, which had been Descat’s only protection and one of them had hooked him from behind with its long talons, locking them under his belt, dragging him off through the hole in the net. Kascadia’s defence system had failed. A huge Skynet built to protect the Kascadian people had proved to be useless and its people were left feeling frightened and vulnerable.

 By day the Skynet had kept the Repteag’s out. Their failed attempts at clawing ferociously at the net and getting nowhere had seen their attacks lessen. By day some would return hoping to try their luck but attacks were now few and far between. By night no one knew when or where they might attack. Until now night attacks had also been rare but now it was a problem and it was a problem that needed serious thought.

Why had the Repteags started to hunt at night? As the sun set and the dark sky was lit by only the moon the Repteag’s always retreated, heading back to their own territory, to sleep off their last meal and gather strength to hunt again when the sun rose. Now they were hunting at night. Could this be a one off? Kascadia had never encountered this before.

The Skynet had been created to protect Kascadia by the founders of their land and until now it had been very effective. It was a huge web woven by hand from thread supplied by the Silver Lady Spider that inhabits the land of Kascadia. The spider grows inside a cocoon of thick silvery thread, when it matures it hatches from one end leaving the cocoon behind, providing an endless supply of thread that was woven to form Kascadia’s protective Skynet.

The woven Skynet was suspended above and around the land of Kascadia, keeping the Repteags out but allowing the rain and sunlight to come in. Moisture from the rain and the mist from the waterfall kept the net sticky. The stickiness stopped the Repteags in their tracks. Their feet stuck to the net as they landed on it, like flies landing on a toffee paper. They flapped their wings and desperately struggled to break free. Reluctantly they had to admit they were defeated and retreat into the sky with their tails between their legs. The odd one or two still tried their luck when they were particularly hungry but none had been successful until now.

The Skynet had lost its stickiness on the night of the Repteags nocturnal attack and the attack had been successful. But how had the Repteags known that? How had they discovered that the net wasn’t as effective at night? Were they intelligent too? Something had triggered the night attack. Now they had been successful once, they might want to try their luck again.

Shareef had been the one to witness Descat’s untimely departure. Hearing his brother’s cries in the night he had appeared on the scene in time to see a hole in the Skynet and a struggling Descat being lifted bodily through the hole by the clawed feet of a Repteag. He was kicking and screaming but his attempts at defending himself were useless. His cries had faded into the night and then there was silence.

 The memory stayed with Shareef. It hurt him deeply. Descat was his brother and he had been useless in his defence. Descat was never seen after that fateful day. He was taken to a far off place where Kascadian people dare not to venture. They feared the worst. He was no match for the Repteags. They only hoped his death would be quick. Kascadian people had only memories of death.

From that day onwards the protection of the people of Kascadia became vital. Shareef made it his business to put into place safety measures, measures that would warn of attack. No one would ever be taken again if he had anything to do with it. The memory of Descat’s departure had burned deep into Shareef’s mind and heart, although he was reluctant to let it show.

Shareef called an urgent meeting gathering together all of Kascadia’s people. He put on a brave face, hiding the emptiness he felt inside and he described with a heavy painful heart and a lump in his throat the event of his brother’s departure. Descat’s disappearance was a shock to all of them. They couldn’t believe it. Their safety had never been threatened before. Now they had lost a dear friend and were all worried a repeat performance might occur again. They didn’t mourn their loss, they didn’t know how to. They had never lost anyone not for many years. They stood in disbelief. They were speechless and in shock. A deathly hush surrounded them. What were they to do?

They needed a new defence system and quickly. One that would safeguard the people of Kascadia and give them back the reassurance that they were truly protected again. This was an emergency and no one would sleep safe in their beds until a solution was found. A watch would have to be manned, from nightfall until daybreak until new safety measures could be installed.

Kascadia was the only place its inhabitants had ever known. It was their home. A lush blanket of green fertile land abundant with plants of all colours and sizes. Everything they needed for survival was here. It was a beautiful place, paradise. A vast flowing waterfall cascaded its deluge of water over a cliff edge. Slowly the water wound its way forming a natural stream of crystal clear water at the cliffs foot. Along its banks fruit and berries thrived on its fertile land, providing a near endless supply of good nutritional food.

A huge assortment of colourful flowers, some with heads as big as footballs, gave off a sweet perfume that filled the air. Fish swam in the pure water that gathered at the foot of the waterfall. Behind the waterfall, set into the rock was a network of caves where they had made their home. This was Kascadia, home to one hundred and twenty people all with one thing in common. They were all the same age. They were all fourteen years old. Fourteen in appearance but appearances were deceptive. Hidden behind bright youthful faces and bodies was their secret. The secret that only Kascadian people knew. Their mothers and fathers had discovered the secret but it had sadly been of no use to them.

Their parents had been forced from their homeland, many years ago. Forced to flee for their lives. Dumas an evil Dictator and leader of the Arovian people, hungry for total power and with a desire to create his own super race had forced them to leave their homes. Staying meant living by his word. To stay they would be forced to sit a test of intelligence and strength. Those who passed the test would become eligible to join the new Super Race and would be ultimately answerable to Dumas. Those who failed the test or refused to take it would become outcasts to this new society, fit only to become slaves. They were doomed to be enslaved to families who had previously been their neighbours and friends. These people showed no compassion, brainwashed by the ways of Dumas and his quest to build a race of people he could mould to think, act and live in his shadow.

Those who failed the test or refused to participate became outcasts. The few who were lucky enough to evade imprisonment or slavery escaped in small groups. They gathered together their belongings, as much as they could carry, loading them onto makeshift wooden carts. Taking it in turn to pull the carts they set off in search of freedom and a place to build a new home, free from the evil dictator, a home to be ruled by a democracy.

Their journey took them far far away from their beloved homeland. They foraged for food along the way, eating roots and berries and as they journeyed on they recalled a story told to all children. ‘Follow the rainbow. Find the pot of gold at the end of it.’ It was an old tale but it was the only thing that kept them going. They were searching for their pot of gold. No one had ever found the end of a rainbow or its beginning. It was a dream. It was the only dream they had and they clung to it. They journeyed on in search of their pot of gold.

Along the way many became sick and died. It was a struggle. With little food, little sleep and miles of dry barren land and the carts to pull along, their strength was soon sapped. The weaker ones lost their lives and were buried along the way.

It was becoming hopeless. They hadn’t seen any rainbows. They weren’t sure if they were going in the right direction. They were weary, hungry and now completely downhearted.

They came to a joint decision. The next place they came upon that looked remotely suitable for sustaining life was to become their new home. This would be their journeys end.

Darkness was falling and they made camp by a stream. They huddled together to keep warm, they were exhausted, and they soon fell asleep. When morning came and they awoke they couldn’t believe their eyes. Further along the stream from where they had made camp was a beautiful waterfall, cascading an endless flow of foaming water into the stream below. As the sun rose and shone, its golden rays filtered through the spray of water-particles thrown into the air by the waterfall and a beautiful rainbow appeared and hung in the sky, smiling its colours of joy. They had found their rainbow and its pot of gold was before them. In its beauty and richness Kascadia became their new home.

Kascadia was a beautiful setting for a home, better than anything the Arovian people had ever dreamt of finding. Its fast flowing waterfall and fertile land provided   plenty of food to feed its inhabitants. This was a truly wonderful land.

 

Tonight Shareef was taking his turn on the night patrol he had instigated as a precaution to put everyone’s minds at rest and help them sleep easy in their beds at night. Since that night when the Repteags had attacked and grabbed his brother he had sworn he would protect Kascadia. The Repteags had not returned at night since their last victory when they had stolen Descat and few had been seen by day. They were unpredictable now, which worried Shareef more.

 Passing by the low hung branches of a Rednut Tree and feeling thirsty, Shareef plucked a fruit from a branch and turned to listen to a stuttering Mirlo, who wasn’t proving to be of much help on tonight’s watch.

‘It’s too quiet. I don’t like it.’ Mirlo stuttered.

‘Don’t be silly. What do you mean too quiet?’ Shareef had split open the pod, pierced its bursting sac and was gulping down the pink sweet fluid, quenching his thirst and talking between gulps.

‘If the Repteags were about we’d soon know about it, everyone knows the distinctive sound they make.’ Shareef wiped his mouth with his hand and tried to put Mirlo’s mind at rest but he was jumpy and nervous, more than usual. What use was he going to be if the Repteags did appear? He was likely to run and hide. Mirlo wasn’t the bravest of people. He was frightened of almost everything. He couldn’t bear to catch the jumping fish that swam in the pool at the foot of the waterfall.

 It was the boys’ task to catch the fish. To lure them they used a sweet sticky jelly made by the Abeela beetle, a beetle that made its home beneath the bark of a tree. They smothered the sticky jelly onto a piece of rope and dangled it above the water. The fish were attracted to the smell and leapt out of the water only to be caught in an awaiting net. Mirlo hated this task. Slimy wriggling fish he was afraid of them. He certainly couldn’t kill them. The girls were more capable of completing the task than Mirlo and they teased and made fun of him. His face would go redder and redder until it matched the colour of his hair and all of his freckles would appear to join up as one. Spiders freaked him out too.

‘It’s a full moon tonight. Not a cloud in the sky, we’ll easily see any approaching danger.’ Shareef tried to put Mirlo, whose eyes were constantly searching all around him, at ease. He could hardly stand still. He was hopping around like his feet were on fire and if he wasn’t careful his unsteady legs would make him topple over and fall. He was making Shareef really nervous.

‘I wish it was m morning. I wish we could find a w way of warning of d danger at night. I can’t k keep doing this. It’s m making me ill.’ Mirlo was unusually pale. His highly coloured freckled skin seemed to have lost its glow.

‘Look. Go back to your chamber. I’ll keep watch on my own,’ Shareef stooped and picked up a large colourful shell, ‘if I think I need help I’ll blow on this shell to sound the alarm, you must come right away.’ Shareef was eager to get rid of Mirlo. He wasn’t much use to him in the state he was in.

Mirlo didn’t need telling twice. He limped off to his chamber before Shareef could finish what he was saying.

Suddenly from out of the shadows of the night Lileth appeared.

            ‘Where’s he off to in such a rush?’ She asked.

            ‘Lileth you startled me.’ Shareef physically jumped. Now he was as nervous as Mirlo. It was rubbing off on him. He was pleased Mirlo had gone. ‘He’s gone to his chamber. I might as well do the watch alone. He’s so jumpy he’s frightened of his own shadow. It’s easier without him. What are you doing out here so late? I mean apart from making me jump.’

            ‘I couldn’t sleep. When I close my eyes I see pictures of Descat. I have visions of him being dragged through the net, dangling helpless. He disappears into the night and I wake up in a cold sweat. I’m frightened to sleep.’ Lileth was usually a confident person who could deal with anything life threw at her. Life hadn’t thrown anything remotely like this at her in, too many years to remember. Life was usually perfect. Now it was spoilt and no one knew how to cope with it and tears were trickling down her perfect complexion.

            ‘I know it’s hard.’ Shareef tried to comfort her. He put his arm around Lileth’s shoulder and put on his bravest face, hiding the hurt that grabbed his heart and twisted it with such force that at times it almost forced its way right out of his chest. ‘You were close to Descat, nearly as close as I his brother. I too find it hard to sleep, which is why it is no hardship to me to man the watch. At least it makes me feel useful. I don’t want anyone else to suffer the loss of someone close to them. I will prevent it from happening again.’ Shareef was resolute. He was strong and positive and if he said he was going to do something he did it. Failure wasn’t an option.

            ‘Do you think he’s still alive?’ Lileth asked, sniffing and drying her tears on her tunic sleeve.

            ‘I don’t know. We have only heard of what lies beyond Kascadia. We have no idea where the Repteags took him. What we do know is they wanted him for food. I can’t see how he could escape from them and if he did how could he survive? He isn’t good in bright light and he didn’t have his protective glasses, they are still in his chamber.’

Shareef tried to comfort Lileth. He needed comfort himself but he wouldn’t let it show. He had to stay strong. Lilith’s tears began to dry up as they sat cuddled together. They talked about Descat. Lileth did most of the talking and Shareef listened.

            ‘Do you remember when Descat was a small child and he wandered off by the stream to watch the jumping fish. He stood on a rock and tried his best to catch a fish as it leapt out of the water. Then he bent too far and fell in. He couldn’t swim then. Remember you jumped in after him and dragged him out.’ Lileth was smiling as she recalled the memory. For a moment she forgot their loss and giggled.

            ‘Yes I remember.’ Shareef laughed at the memory. ‘Mother made me teach him to swim after that ordeal. He never could keep out of trouble. He didn’t have his dark glasses on and the sun was very bright when he reached for the fish he had no idea how far away they really were. He never could judge distances, not then, not ever.’ Shareef paused to reflect on the antics his brother used to get up to. He had always been inquisitive but his poor eyesight meant he usually ended up in trouble. He hated wearing his dark glasses but bright sunlight made his vision worse.

            Shareef abruptly came back to his senses and remembered he was Shareef and Shareef wasn’t a person who revealed his feelings easily to anyone. That was a sign of weakness and he wasn’t weak, he was strong. He had to be stronger now, because he wasn’t sure what the future held. He changed in an instant. One minute he was fondly reflecting on his childhood, the next it was as if he was as cold as ice, a tap that switched on and off quite easily. She hated it when he shut himself off like that. It was as if he had a split personality and she liked one half better than the other.

            They talked and kept watch until the sun rose and shone its warm powerful rays through the Skynet. Shareef kept up his stony exterior but Lileth knew deep down he was hurting and she only wished he would let her in to help heal the hurt.

 People began to stir and as others took over the day watch, Shareef and Lileth returned to their chambers to find the sleep that seemed to be eluding both of them. To sleep hopefully without the bad dreams.

            Soon the place was alive with chatter as people busied about doing their daily chores. The girls had cleaning to do, fruit to pick and bread to make. The boys had fish to catch, Silver Lady cocoons to collect and the bark of the trees that were home to the Abeela Beetles had to be chiselled to collect the sticky jelly. They were all tasks that were done without complaint. They helped each other and when all of their tasks were done they were free to swim in the clear waters or read books that told of their ancestors past lives and relax in each other’s company. It was an easy life, no stress, no hassle, nothing much to do but they were never bored, they entertained themselves.

            When Shareef awoke from his well-earned sleep he didn’t know if it was night or day or if he had been asleep for a long or short time. He had in fact only slept for a short time, enough to recharge his batteries and to give him the strength to face the day ahead and any new challenges that may come his way. He hoped as each day passed, the pain of losing his brother that he kept well hidden would lessen.

            The chamber where Shareef slept had no windows. His room was a cave. It was one of the many that buried their way into the rock face next to the waterfall. This was where the Arovian people had made their home when they had discovered Kascadia. A network of caves that seemed to go on forever was naturally cut away into the rock and these caves provided a home that was warm in the winter and cool in the summer, although the temperatures for both in Kascadia were similar. It was always warm by day and cool by night.

            These caves had been a haven of safety until the Repteags had realised there were people living inside them, that meant food to them and they had planned an attack one night that had been successful. They had dared to venture into the caves through the large entrance that was an open invitation to visitors who knew of its whereabouts. There was no closed door to keep them out. This entrance was unprotected. They hadn’t needed to add any protection to it until now when the Skynet had failed. This was the only place they could have picked off Descat.  He would have believed the Skynet would have protected him. He wasn’t to have known its dryness had stopped the net from being sticky and the Repteags could tear a hole in it. That hole had been repaired now but they needed more protection.

            Their ancestors had devised the Skynet, which had given them good protection until now. It covered the land they lived in, letting everything live and breathe and flourish within its safety and keeping the Repteags out until now.

            Shareef swung his legs out of his bed and threw back the brightly coloured blanket that had been covering him. He stretched his arms above his head and breathed in deeply, gradually trying to focus his eyes. His bed was on a ledge of rock cut into the cave wall and it was a haven of comfortable warm blankets, blankets that had been woven from the thread of another beetle native to Kascadia.

             His feet landed on one of the many patterned rugs scattered around the floor. They gave the cave a homely feel. The rugs had been made by the girls as they had chatted together and whiled away their hours.

            He rubbed his large hands through his shiny brown hair. It glistened with honey highlights from days out in the bright sunshine. He fastened it at the nape of his neck with a bright cloth, pulling it tight, stretching the skin around his ears and forehead and showing off his good looks. He was the total opposite in looks to Descat. They didn’t look like brothers at all. Compared to Shareef’s dark skin and hair Descat’s skin was almost white. His eyes were slate grey. His hair was white. He was nothing like Shareef.

In the darkness of the cave, knowing his way by touch Shareef walked over to a wooden box and lifted its lid. He reached inside the box and pulled out a container that immediately began to fill the cave with light. He pulled out more of them and placed them around the room. The cave immediately came out of darkness and Shareef could see where everything was.

 This was another natural wonder of Kascadia. Hundreds of small bugs filled the containers and together they gave off enough bright light to light a cave. These bugs were in plentiful supply. They lived deep in the network of caves in a cave that had become known as the Sunshine Room. The light in here never faded, as new bugs were born replacing the older ones who died after their one-week lifespan had ended. It was so bright anyone who entered the Sunshine Room needed to wear protective glasses to protect their eyes. Descat had never ventured into this cave it was all too painful for his sensitive eyes.

Every week the glowing containers that were beginning to fade were emptied and refilled. The caves were always alive with light until it was time to sleep and then darkness fell as the containers were put away into boxes until morning.

            The brilliant light in the cave revealed how attractive Shareef really was. His nose was the right size, not too big, not too small. His eyes were as round as saucers and a deep muddy brown. His body was muscular and fit and his smooth tanned skin glowed in the light. His body was perfect.

 He squinted as his eyes became accustomed to the bright light. As they became fully open they came to rest on a purple coloured bag. It was tied tightly at its neck and was lying on a wooden table that had been made from a tree trunk beside his bed. His father had given him the bag. It was Shareef’s most prized possession. His father had given both Shareef and Descat identical bags, inside which were pendants. The pendants were clear crystal stars adorned with multi-coloured semi-precious stones that circled the star. Occasionally Shareef opened his bag and looked at the pendant, admiring its beauty but he never wore it. Descat however always wore his. Their father once told them in times of trouble the star could give them the help they needed. Shareef had taken the star from its bag and looked at it when Descat had been abruptly taken from him but it hadn’t helped him. Perhaps his father had been wrong and they were pendants that did absolutely nothing. He only hoped Descat’s had helped him to survive. How he wished his father was here now to shoulder the burden that lay heavy on his shoulders. No father, no mother or brother. He suddenly felt alone. His family were all gone.

 He pulled himself together. He couldn’t allow himself time to wallow in self-pity. It wasn’t in his nature. He was strong, the dependable one. Only he knew how he felt inside and it had to stay that way.

            Shareef had never known any other home than this set of caves. His mother and father had brought Shareef and his brother Descat into the world long ago but their parents were both dead now and had been for some time. They had told them stories about their past lives in Arovia of how they had fled fearing they would be killed for not conforming and how they had discovered a new place to live, a place where people could be equal and where everyone had a say in how they lived. Shareef had listened and lingered on every word they had spoken and often he read the diary his mother had kept for all of her life. The diary where her closest secrets were documented, secrets she had kept to herself until her deathbed when she had revealed something to Shareef that had shocked him. It had rocked his world, altered everything. He wasn’t who he thought he was any more. He had been sworn to secrecy for now. His mother told him when the time was right to tell the secret he would know and he would know he had not betrayed her trust.

            When he read the diaries he felt the closeness to his mother he had shared when she was alive and it was a feeling he liked, especially now Descat had gone and he was alone now. It reminded him of how very special he was to her. He remembered hanging on to her apron as she cooked over a stove. She would lift him into her arms and let him sample whatever she was cooking. She would blow on it to cool it down and then spoon it into his mouth. He remembered her warm smile and the millions of hugs she gave him. He missed her.

            He was hungry. It had been a while since he had last eaten. He had a healthy appetite but thoughts of his brother kept coming back to him and he felt guilty eating when he didn’t know if Descat would ever eat again. He pushed it from his mind. He needed to keep his strength for whatever lay ahead.

            He left his chamber and made his way to a place where food was always available. Kascadia was a commune. Everything was shared. The girls took it in turns to prepare food and the boys supplied the ingredients. Sometimes they switched around but the girls were better cooks. The boys were impatient and made bread that was always flat and heavy and hard to chew. Impatient for the yeast to do its work their bread always came out flat. The girl’s bread rose beautifully, into huge crusty cobs that went down a treat smothered in the jelly produced by the Abeela’s.

 In the centre of the dining cave was a huge oven fuelled by wood. A high chimney funnelled its smoke away, keeping the air breathable. This was the hottest of the caves and on cool evenings people congregated here to sip hot tea, made from another plant that grew in Kascadia and inhale the aroma of food being prepared. People ate when they wanted to. There were no set meal times during the day. Pans of freshly prepared food were always available, as was cooked fish, bread and fruit. The evening meal was different. Everyone sat down to eat in sittings between six o’clock and eight o’clock, alternating times. If anything was to be discussed then it was done after the evening meal.

Shareef found himself eating alone, until Lileth arrived. They shared crusty bread cobs smothered in Abeela jelly and drank Rednut juice. They had no tasks to carry out today. Everyone had days allotted to them where they were free to do as they liked. Today it was their day. It was as well for both had had little sleep.

‘Have you thought of any ideas to warn us of the Repteags?’ Lileth enquired. She knew deep in her heart that if anyone could find a way Shareef would.

‘I was thinking we need some kind of early warning system. We need to know the Repteags are there and we need to know quickly. What we need is a noise that will warn of their attack. A kind of alarm.’

‘A noise like an alarm.’ Lileth scratched her head in thought. ‘I know. What if we make something that will rattle loudly and tie it to the Skynet.’ A smile began to form across Lileth’s face, she was eager to help.

‘That’s a good idea but what can we use?’ Shareef watched as Lileth’s smile lit her face and her rosebud mouth elongated across her face.

‘Leave it to me. I’ll have a word with the girls and we’ll see what we come up with.’ She turned and walked away. Her tunic tied at the waist accentuated her curves and Shareef stared after her as she glided along. Her long legs were laced to the knee with leather thongs that were the fastenings for her canvas footwear. Her body went in at all of the right places and was the envy of less developed girls. Shareef felt his heart flutter for a moment.

It looked like they were finally getting somewhere. Mirlo would be pleased. No more late night watches if they could come up with a quick solution. Talking of Mirlo he suddenly appeared with a worried look upon his face.

‘What’s the matter with you? Is your shadow following you again?’ Shareef laughed. It was cruel, taunting Mirlo this way but he was gullible and easily wound up.

‘No and I’m not f frightened of my own shadow. I don’t know where you got that idea from.’ Mirlo had a look of hurt upon his face. He stuttered, ‘I don’t know if it’s my imagination or n not but the pool at the foot of the w waterfall, it it looks as if it’s going down.’

‘What do you mean going down?’ Shareef asked, thinking here we go again, Mirlo’s panicking at nothing.

‘I mean what I say. It’s not as d deep.’ He was still stuttering. He did when he was worried.

‘You must be imagining it. How can it possibly go down? The waterfall flows into it. It never goes down.’ Shareef was adamant as he spoke and unperturbed by Mirlo’s outcry. He had bigger things to worry about. People’s lives were at risk. He turned and walked away from Mirlo taking little heed of his words.

Mirlo wasn’t the brightest person in Kascadia but he was pretty sure the water level was dropping. Why? He didn’t know. He wasn’t the fool everyone thought he was, he was intelligent but no one ever listened long enough to hear what he had to say. No one ever took him seriously and today was no different, not even Shareef believed him.

 

 

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