The Archives of the Heroes: Series One - Foundation.

This is the story of two brothers growing up in our Universe. They manage to find themselves all kinds of trouble and adventures while travelling from galaxy to galaxy with their father.
Or, in some cases, by themselves.

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19. Episode Five: Lost on Home.

 

It was growing dark, and Yulean was venturing further into the jungle.

'Where are you taking us?' Strongh asked, beginning to worry. 'And can I walk? I don't like being over your shoulder.'

Yulean promptly dropped the boy and continued walking.

Strongh cried it out in pain but otherwise did not complain. He picked himself up and followed after his rescuer.

'Aren't we going away from your city?'

Yulean nodded. 'We have to. We will not make it to the city by nightfall, and those men will be awake by now. We have to hide – they will not expect us to have gone in this direction.'

Strongh grimaced. 'I think they will somehow. It's something I probably would have done.'

Yulean did not seem particularly concerned by this.

'We have to find a safe place to sleep. Otherwise we may be eaten.'

'By what exactly?'

'Not exactly. Many things – we could be eaten by many things. And then, of course, there is the acid rain. It is very dangerous out here.'

'Oh good. Hey, why don't we stay the night?! What a brilliant idea!'

'Yes. That is why I came up with it.'

Strongh rolled his eyes in frustration.

'Well,' he began again, 'I think we should make a run for it. Keep going through the night to get to your city.'

Yulean only laughed. 'Are you going to carry your brother? Because I'm going this way, whether you like it or not.'

'Fine!' Strongh cried. 'I'll carry him!'

Yulean frowned and turned abruptly to the boy – about his height. 'And what are you going to do?!' He cried. 'You cannot even fight of six men, how will you be able to fight of prides of lions and flocks of sheep?!'

Strongh blinked. 'Sheep?'

'Yes! We are the only planet in the universe that got lucky enough to get man-eating sheep!'

There was silence for a while.

'I suppose I see your point. I mean, if there are man-eating sheep...' He looked up, and Yulean frowned instantly.

'You don't believe me.'

'Not really, no. Man eating sheep? I'm pretty sure if that were true Liart would tell me about it.'

'Maybe Liart does not know. He doesn't know everything, does he?'

'Of course he doesn't, but man-eating sheep?! You could have at least picked something believable!'

'Fine! There is still the acid rain, the lions, tigers, the howler monkeys...'

'And what do they do?'

'They make you deaf!'

'I could think of worse things...'

'But then you cannot hear the tigers creeping up on you!'

Strongh frowned. He hadn't thought of that.

There was a small groan, and Liart's eyelids fluttered.

'He's awake.' Yulean concluded, lying the boy gently on the ground. Liart promptly opened his eyes.

He panicked immediately.

'Strongh! Where are we!? What happened?! Who is this?'

'I am Yulean.' The man introduced himself. 'Spelt Y-U-L-E-A-N. We are deeper in the jungle, because we cannot risk those men finding us. We will never reach the city by nightfall.'

Liart frowned. 'But if we go further into the forest, we'll never be able to get back safely. We'll just keep going deeper and deeper into the jungle.'

Yulean was finally speechless.

'I did not think of that.' He admitted. 'But it is alright. We'll go round. They will not expect us to do that.'

'That's exactly what they'll expect!' Strongh screamed. 'The only thing they won't expect of us is to fly of into the next galaxy!'

'But we cannot fly.'

'Exactly!'

Liart sighed. 'Let's just find some-where to camp and go round like Yulean suggested. It's not like any-one has any better ideas.' Strongh opened his mouth, and Liart rolled his eyes. 'That are feasible.'

Strongh immediately shut his mouth.

'I agree with the stick-boy.'

Liart scowled. 'My name is Liart.'

'So? It was an accurate description. Come on, let's go. We have no time to waste.'

Strongh did not move. 'So what do you get if you save us?'

Yulean smiled. 'Fame and riches.'

'That's it?'

'What else is there in life?'

'There has to be something.' Liart offered. 'It can't be that hopeless.'

'I'm not hopeless. I'm going to be rich.'

The boys did not bother arguing with the man. Or was he a boy?

'How old are you?' Strongh asked.

'What difference does it make? Come on, let's get going.'

'I think you're fifteen.'

'Fifteen!?'

'Yup. Coz you're short.'

'And weedy.' Liart added, still feeling a little sore about his stick-boy remark.

Yulean turned red in an instant and began screaming at the top of his lungs.

'Fifteen!? Short?! Weedy!? I could beat you in a fight any day, arrogant Zraiatormmaein! You think you're so smart, don't you? Well let me remind you again who beat six men without even a weapon!'

'That was nothing.' Strongh returned. 'I could have done the same, coming from the trees. The real test is on the ground, where I was. I could have done just fine if you hadn't of interrupted.'

'Insolence!'

Liart sighed. 'This is stupid. If you ask me, you're both immature. Now, let's get a move on – unless you particularly want our stalkers to catch up with us.'

Yulean was not so easily persuaded. 'How old do you think I am, stick-boy?'

'Well, weed-man, I suppose you're about twenty-one.'

'Twenty, and thank you very much.'

'Still immature though.' Strongh offered, making the man lunge for him. Liart quickly caught his arm.

'Stop it.' He instructed. 'We didn't ask for your help, you offered it, but so far you haven't been very helpful since rescuing us. Please, do not lead us into this jungle only to kill us. Lead the way, and get us out of here. And don't entertain my brother's foolish, arrogant notions.'

Yulean glared at Strongh, but it was hard not to heed Liart's wise words.

'Alright.' He growled. 'Follow me.'

The young man took the lead and began walking in a seemingly random direction. After about fifteen minutes, Strongh felt calm enough to begin talking again.

'Are you alright?' That was to Liart, of course.

His brother nodded. Then, to Yulean, 'thank you for saving us, by the way.'

The man only grunted.

Liart shrugged and turned his attention back to Strongh. 'I'm sorry I wasn't more help.'

His brother was astounded. 'Are you kidding?! You were amazing! Man, if you learn how to control your gift, you'll be able to beat everybody in no time! And they were lucky you didn't kill them.'

Liart smiled weakly. 'I don't think I could, Strongh.'

Strongh only smiled back at his little brother. 'That's what makes you so much better than me.'

Liart was taken back by this. 'Are you kidding me?'

His brother shook his head.

'You're insane, Strongh! You're better than me, and you always will be.'

'You're both horrible!' Came Yulean's helpful input.

The small group continued in silence, each member hoping to find a safe place to stay before it grew dark.

 

'This will have to do.'

Strongh frowned. 'What are you talking about?'

'The tree. It is plenty big enough, good for climbing. If we can make it high enough, we should be more or less safe.'

Liart quivered at the thought of this. Strongh wasn't much more enthusiastic. But Yulean ignored there concern and scrambled up the tree.

Strongh eyed the tree warily before turning to Liart. The younger boy only shrugged.

'Mind over matter.'

Strongh nodded and cupped his hands. Liart carefully eyed the tree before walking off. The he ran towards Strongh and jumped into his hands. Strongh pushed upwards, and Liart went flying up towards the closest branch. He quickly scrambled on. Then he held out his hand. Strongh took a firm hold of it and pulled himself up, Liart wincing the entire time.

The boys progressed as high as they could without performing any more special tricks, and rested in the middle of the tree, several metres lower than Yulean.

'Good night.' He called down to them. 'And please don't die. You are my ticket to riches.'

Strongh rolled his eyes, but promised to try living.

Strongh was in a safer position than his brother – in between the tree trunk and another branch – so shifted to make some more room for him. Liart eagerly pressed himself up against his older brother and held on for dear life.

'Good work.' Strongh congratulated him. 'You did really well.'

Liart shrugged. 'I'm not really scared of heights. But sleeping in the tree sounds a little disturbing. I mean, what if I fall out?'

Strongh smiled and punched his brother affectionately. 'I won't let you fall out.'

'What if you fall out?'

'You won't let me fall out.'

'But we could both fall out together!'

'United we stand, together we fall.'

Liart laughed. 'You're silly, Strongh.'

'What? It'd be true.'

'Maybe.'

 

 

Jaliq opened his eyes.

It was morning, he could tell that much. Shifting, he realised he was in a tree – a fact that had probably saved him. He sat up carefully and looked around, trying to see if he could work out where he was. After a minute of inspection he realised he didn't have a hope of working that out, but he could see smoke a great way off. That would have to be the city, he thought. Either the city, his sons, or Jasper and his men. So then, he would head towards the smoke.

He rubbed his eyes – he had a splitting head ache – and reminded himself why he never used the science of Astronomical Pontes unless he had to. It was a painful procedure.

He began climbing down the tree. He wasn't very fond of heights, so it was hard work. Jumping down from one large branch to another, he had a clear view of the ground for the first time and backed up against the tree trunk, huddling in terror.

'Not heights.' He muttered under his breath. 'No, no, no.' Trust him to get himself stuck up in a tree ten storeys high. He didn't even know trees could grow that tall! 'I have to get down.' He continued muttering to himself. 'I have to find Strongh and Liart. I have to make sure they're safe.'

He hoped they were. He wondered if they'd escaped. Or had they finally been kidnapped?

'Is it really such a bad thing?' Jaliq whispered to himself, feeling terrible for wondering. 'Wouldn't they be better of?'

He didn't know exactly why Jasper and his men were after his sons, but he had a rough idea, and he began to suppose it wasn't so bad after all. Maybe he had been foolish keeping them for so long. Wasn't that what his gift had suggested? Maybe he should step away.

'Eventually.' He promised. He knew, deep down, that he would only hurt them if he kept them too close for too long. One day he'd let them go. But not now. He couldn't... he didn't even care if it was unwise.

He stole a look at the tree, and instantly grew giddy. No, he thought, he wasn't going to be able to make it down this tree. It was all too much.

'But I can't stay up here!' He pressed himself, hoping to get somewhere. 'Come on, Jaliq. Deep breaths. Let's go.'

He shuddered (he was quite pale by now) and surveyed the tree carefully. Jumping from branch to branch was no longer an option, as the branches were not big enough. Swinging was another matter. But that would require strong arms and dry palms – not sweaty palms and shaking arms. It would also require a keen eye, something he did not have at the moment. His head was spinning, and his heart was beating with pure terror.

He stood up slowly, his entire body shaking, and reached out for the next lowest branch while attempting to cling to the trunk. He was terrified of falling. He had no idea how to go about this enormous task of climbing down the tree.

Suddenly, his foot slipped, and his heart skipped a beat. He fell, and reached out desperately for any branch – anything. He missed the one he had been aiming for and landed on the one beneath, clinging to it desperately, afraid lest it should happen again. He hung onto it and began to believe he would never get down. Not unless he used the science of Astronomical Pontes yet again.

He felt around for a bridge, but could feel none around him. Not strong enough for him to use anyway – only advanced travellers could use these bridges. But surely, he thought, he could go back to where he'd come from. That bridge had obviously been strong. Looking up to the spot where he had been originally, he realised he would only be able to access that bridge from that point. And it simply wasn't possible for him to get back up there. He couldn't reach another branch in any direction.

Any direction! He was stuck on this branch – forever! And Strongh and Liart – they were gone forever. Gone! He would never see them again, and they had parted so bitterly. Hadn't he suggested that he didn't want them? Hadn't he told them he was foolish for keeping them? Oh, he was a miserable wretch!

He buried his face and wept.

 

They had a little bit of difficulty getting out of the tree, but the rest of the day was fairly easy after that. Until about lunch time, that was.

'I'm really hungry.' Liart whispered, afraid lest Strongh should mock him. 'I didn't complain about skipping breakfast, but this...' His voice trailed off, and Strongh filled with an intense rage.

'Enough!' He cried. 'Yulean, you're an idiot! You can't just drag two children through a hostile jungle and not feed them!'

'Are you alive?'

'Yulean, bringing us back alive is not the only thing that's important! Could you at least try to make us like you?'

Yulean paused for a moment. Then he shook his head.

In a burst of rage, Strongh pulled out his sword, and Liart quivered in fear. But his brother had grown a little wiser than gave him credit for. He swung down suddenly, at what Liart could not tell, and there was a sickening 'crunch'. Then a thump, and a particularly fast, yet fat, bird landed at his feet.

Truth be told, even Strongh was impressed at the extent of his skill, but he did not show that. All he did was pick the bird up, walk over to a clear looking patch, and attempt to make a fire.

'Liart.' He said, ignoring the fact that both he and Yulean were staring at him incredulously. 'You know how you look like you're on fire when you turn stuff to diamond?'

Liart only nodded.

'Do you think you could make fire?'

Liart didn't have a clue as to whether or not he could make fire. He'd never tried before. But to test the theory, he'd have to make himself angry. And so, keeping his teacher's advice in mind, he thought of something that made him incredibly angry.

He thought of his father, ignoring his calls at school. He thought of Strongh, ignoring him and then ruining what he had worked so hard to win. And by this point, he was ready.

'Okay.' Strongh instructed. 'Now I know when you're scared you kind of can't control your diamond-making ability. But please do, because I don't feel like being turned into diamond.'

'I'm not scared.' Liart replied, trying to control his anger. But it wasn't working. He couldn't control it. 'Go away!' He cried. 'I can't control it, okay?!'

Strongh's eyes widened in alarm, and he quickly hid behind a tree. Then, as an afterthought, he pulled Yulean next to him. Liart helpfully turned the other way.

Suddenly trees, sticks, and leaves all turned to diamond. Then, in a minute exercise of control, Liart began turning various diamond objects to dust. But there was fire, he could feel it. It was within him. Heating carbon, turning things to diamond by force. And that same heat turned them to ash. He just had to get that fire outside of him and onto the sticks...

He tried to breathe it out, but nothing came. Then, suddenly, he had another, better idea. He touched a stick. He did not hold it, and he did not channel all his anger into it. He momentarily thought of something that made him happy, and watched to see what would be happen.

The stick burst into flames.

Liart was filled with such sudden joy that his powers stopped at once.

'I did it!' He cried, and Strongh ran out from his hiding spot.

'You did it!' He cried with an air of disbelief. 'You actually did it!'

Yulean sauntered out timidly and eyed the fire cautiously, as if it would suddenly explode. When it did not, he smiled a little.

'That's pretty cool.' He admitted. 'All we can do is be short.'

Strongh hurriedly brought the flaming stick over to his small tee-pee and watched as the construction ignited.

'Wow.' Liart breathed. 'I can't believe that thing was even inflammable.'

Strongh only frowned at this. 'What do you mean? It burst into flame. It's obviously flammable.'

Liart sighed. 'That's what I meant.'

He felt drained, and too tired to explain that the real word was inflammable. Flammable was only used because people didn't confuse it, as Strongh had just done.

The elder boy roasted the bird quickly, until black, just in case of parasites. Looking at the poor creature, Liart felt positive that anything living off it was well and truly dead.

Strongh kindly gave his brother a larger portion than his, and even offered Yulean a little. He was proud, though, and refused such charity.

And so the two ate hungrily, as Yulean watched wistfully.

 

Jaliq looked down, certain he must have overlooked something. He could not simply be stuck up a tree forever. There had to be a way down. Surely.

But as the afternoon neared, he began to realise that he had been right the first time. His situation was every bit as hopeless as he had first thought.

'Come on, Jaliq.' He muttered to himself. 'What else can you do?'

He didn't want to use his powers again. Besides, he had a feeling they'd just confirm his fears.

'Try nothing.'

This startled him, and he looked down expectantly.

'I could help you though.'

His first instinct was not to smile. But he didn't feel like scowling either. Instead he froze with fear and unease.

His potential hero rolled their eyes and took a step back.

'Could you at least say 'hi'? I'm not your enemy. I mean – I came to save you, didn't I?'

'Why?' Was all he managed to say.

The supposed deliverer laughed with an amount of disbelief. 'Why do you think?'

Despite the fact that he was stuck up in a tree and in desperate need of help, Jaliq replied hotly.

'You tell me. You're the one that told me to get out of your life.'

Rose replied with equal ire. 'It was meant to be better for you! You would have been better of listening to me!'

'I did listen to you.'

Rose only rolled her eyes. 'Do you want out of this tree or not?'

'What do you think?' Jaliq returned, mimicking her voice.

Rose angrily dropped the bag she was carrying and screamed her reply.

'I'm sorry, alright!'

All fell silent.

This wasn't right, Jaliq thought. He was just as bad, he had just as much to apologise for. Dropping his eyes, he cringed as shame set in.

'I was under pressure.' Rose continued. 'And scared. And... everyone told me... you'd be better off without me. And it's true, Jaliq, so I don't know you're so upset with me. It's not like you ever... came back.'

'I'm sorry.' Jaliq said, clearly, distinctly. It was something he should have said before her. 'I should have come. I knew the pressures you faced. I should have stood up. Should have tried to convince you that... I'm better of with you... than without you.'

He looked up, but Rose was not so easily bought. She was never one to pay much attention to words.

'But you didn't.'

The words were cold, cutting, and Jaliq couldn't find anything to say in reply. It was true. She had done the right thing, and he had been a coward. He should have fought for her – for them.

Rose picked up the bag she had thrown in her anger and pulled something out. Jaliq realised that it was a rope, and his eyes brightened up somewhat.

'You really did think ahead.'

'Yeah, well, you know me.'

That was true. She had always planned for the worst.

'You know, ' he began quietly, 'next time you make a plan like that...' he looked at her, hoping that what he was about to say wouldn't just make things worse. '… could you let me in on it?'

Rose's eyes flashed. 'I shouldn't have had to let you in on anything. You should have known better than to leave. You should have known better than to think I'd really mean it – really give in to peer pressure.'

'But I didn't.

Silence fell again, but this time neither party felt guilty. Just sorry. And forgiven. That was understood, unlike Rose's words all those years ago.

She looked up at him, her eyes hard, and he smiled warmly. Nothing much changed in her face, but she began tying knots in the rope, which was a good sign.

'You'll rescue me?'

Rose nodded. 'Don't know why though. I guess it's mainly for Strongh and Liart.'

'Oh, of course.'

There was silence as she began attempts at lassoing the tree. Then, just as she was successfully, Jaliq worked up the courage to say,

'thank you.'

Rose rolled her eyes. 'It's okay.'

'No.' Jaliq replied, looking at her sincerely. 'I mean thank you. For forgiving me.'

Rose paused her, quite surprised by this. Then, briskly, she replied, 'you're welcome. Now, you have to slide down the rope.'

Jaliq's eyes flooded with fear again and Rose laughed. But when she looked at Jaliq, her eyes weren't angry this time. They were kind.

'Still scared of heights?' She asked.

Jaliq nodded.

'You'll be right.' She promised. 'I won't let you fall.'

Jaliq smiled at that. And she smiled back at him, fondly. But they had neither of them been much for romance or formality. So Jaliq laughed. 'What will you do if I do fall? Catch me?'

Rose laughed too. 'I'll give it a shot.'

Jaliq supposed there was no other way he was going to get down from this tree, and so – timidly – he began edging his way down the rope. His knuckles turned white he was holding on so tightly. On the plus side, however, his sweating palms made it easier to slide down. Jaliq pointed this out to Rose who only laughed again.

'That's disgusting, Jaliq.'

He smiled, as she was right.

Finally, he touched the ground and sighed with relief.

'Thanks.'

'You're welcome.'

The woman turned abruptly and began walking deeper into the jungle.

'Where are you going?'

'Finding your 'kids'.'

Jaliq frowned. 'Don't do that.'

'What?' She smiled teasingly. 'I only meant to say that they're far too smart to be called children.'

He rolled his eyes. 'Yeah, right. If they were smart we wouldn't be in this mess.'

'Don't be so hard on them, Jaliq. You don't know what happened to them.'

'They probably went snooping around, ended up being found, and...'

'… why don't we wait till we know for sure?'

Jaliq clenched his jaw, but nodded anyway.

The two walked through the jungle in silence for most of the day, until, finally, Jaliq worked up the courage to ask,

'aren't you hungry?'

Rose shook her head. 'I brought food.' Then, softening for the first time in a long time, she asked, 'would you like some?'

Jaliq nodded timidly. 'Yes, please.'

She handed him a bread roll in a brisk manner, which saddened Jaliq.

'Rose... please, I said I was sorry.'

She rolled her eyes. 'I know.'

'Please don't be angry with me.'

'I'm not angry with you!'

'Yes you are.'

'Well I am now!'

Jaliq sighed. 'Rose, what's wrong?'

'Nothing.' Rose replied bluntly. 'Nothing's wrong.'

And so Jaliq knew that everything was. 

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