Not knowing what to do or where to go, Evalieh stumbled and staggered through the jungle. When he reached the bridge at the edge of the gorge, the barricade had deteriorated. The crystal spaceship roared, causing another shockwave to ripple the ground. In a panic, Evalieh hurried across the bridge, trying to outrun the flames. Nearly out of breath, he fell along the ropes, trying to catch his breath. Hanali crawled towards him, urging him to go on. Fear began to turn Evalieh’s eyes pale, and ice began to form along his feet. The fire crackled and sizzled along the posts at the edge of the bridge, causing smoke to billow towards them.
Evalieh grabbed ahold of the ropes, cringed, and pulled himself up. He winced in pain and pulled Hanali along to the other side. The bridge collapsed, leaving the fire behind them, to Evalieh’s relief. He collapsed along a tree and Hanali gathered himself.
“We’ll be alright, trust me.” Hanali tried to catch his breath. “I’m afraid I won’t be able to protect us for a while though. I think I’ve exhausted myself and my flame,” he said.
Throughout the rain and thunder, smoke rose from the gorge and filled the jungle with a stench alongside the rising fog. The glow from the surrounding plants began to fade, filling the jungle with rough particles and embers. Hanali pulled out his compass and pointed a shaky hand forward. “We’ll go this way,” he said.
Evalieh trembled in pain as he clutched his shoulder. A chill from the rain crept throughout his body, making him worry. Seeing the ice form around him, he feared he was going to freeze to death.
Hanali placed a hand on Evalieh’s face and made him look into his eyes. “It’s going to be alright, Evalieh.”
Evalieh clenched his jaw and looked away in a huff. “I’m sorry.” He took a deep breath and sucked the air through his teeth. He couldn’t believe he was apologizing, but it felt necessary. “If I hadn’t acted so selfishly, this wouldn’t have happened.”
“No, I understand. You just want to go home.”
“Yes—but now we have them to worry about. Who knows when they’ll return.”
“Then we’ll be ready for them.” Hanali tugged at Evalieh, making sure he could walk. “Let’s get a few paces ahead, we need to get out of this mess and find somewhere to rest,” Hanali said.
The light from behind the thunder clouds began to fade and morning twilight began to creep through the canopies. Sometime later, they found a clearing full of flat rocks and moss. Together, they hid beneath one of the rocks to avoid the rain. Hanali leaned against the walls of the rock and closed his eyes. Left to himself, Evalieh looked around in a panic, thinking he heard something, then buried his head between his knees. Twigs on the ground cracked and water poured all around. He couldn’t help but think about Beve’s amalgamation pounding along the ground. Not wanting to be left alone, Evalieh found himself wiggling closer to Hanali as he kept a look out for anything suspicious.
Thunder crackled overhead alongside streaks of lighting that crackled through the morning sky. The clouds turned into blotches of dark blue and purple, leaving the jungle foliage a dark green. Splashes of rain, puddles of water, and gathering droplets flashed in the lightning. Evalieh flinched each time, thinking he saw something in their reflection. He couldn’t help but think about the Cloaks of Adam and how they treated individuals who failed their test. Their cloaked shadows flashed against the lashes from their whips, making Evalieh flinch. He tried to rationalize why Proton and the others wouldn’t take him home, making him question his worth. He knew he could keep it all a secret and that no one had to know about his return.
Time tickled on and Evalieh couldn’t find time to let his body rest and relax. He tingled and trembled, fearing the worst might happen if he fell asleep. However, his eyes grew heavy, and he struggled to keep them open. Before long, he calmed to the sound of the rain pelting the ground and leaves. Birds chirped in the background and little creatures squeaked. Evalieh felt his body going numb and limp the wearier it became. He tried to fight it, but soon fell asleep.
Later, Evalieh awoke with a jolt, panting and sweating. The rain had passed, and the sun glistened throughout the canopies. He hastily turned to Hanali, hoping he was still there. To his relief, he sighed happily and slid against the walls of the rock. He wondered if he or anyone else could transform, seeing as how much it exhausts Hanali’s body. Evalieh rubbed the scar along his chest, feeling his eyes grow heavy again. He didn’t want to cower in fear and become a burden to anyone. He hoped the BayoBayo tree will be able to help him.
“Evalieh, it’s almost evening…”
“Evalieh fell over, sprawling out. “I’m not ready.” Hanali shook Evalieh, scaring him awake. He jumped up and slammed his head against the rock overhead. Hanali tried to cover his laughter as they climbed out of the rock.
By now, the smoke had died out and air was filled with a humid dull floral smell and rain. Overtop the animal calls, droplets of water echoed from the trees when they splashed into the puddles below.
Evalieh stretched and yawned. “Are you feeling well enough to travel?” he asked.
Hanali pulled out his compass and searched for the northeast. “I’m fine as long as you are.”
“So, can you use your flame again?”
Hanali gave a halfhearted smile. “Of course, I’m good to go at a moment’s notice,” he said.
Evalieh narrowed his eyes, he didn’t believe him but followed behind without another word. Together, they made their way through the jungle, spreading bushes and climbing around trees. Evalieh sneered and grumbled at all the mud and wet plants slapping him in the face. He shook and shivered against the dampness. “How long before we get to the Earth and Water Clan, I’m hungry and my feet are already hurting,” he said.
Hanali stopped and Evalieh bumped into him. “Probably a good two weeks.”
“Two weeks?! Are you serious?”
“Yes, by foot, this takes around two weeks, so I’ve heard.”
“Can’t we just travel by crazy power or those big peacocks from before? You can’t lie to me—I saw those clan leaders appear out of nowhere.”
Hanali chuckled and closed his compass. “I’m afraid the peacocks only enjoy the humid weather in the Sun Clan. They’re kind of picky. Besides, the other leaders were already in the area, they just did a little trick to show off,” he said. He gestured with his hands, by pointing from the sky and through the jungle. “Now, if only I could ride the light of a rainbow—that’d be something.”
“Ride…the light?” Evalieh shook his head and shrugged.
“Besides, we don’t want to draw attention to ourselves. It could attract unwanted attention and put us in danger.”
“I think we’ve already seen enough of that. Can’t you just use your power to make our travel go by much faster?”
“Well, since the Sun Clan’s god is gone, I’m the only with this power. It’s been so long, since anyone held the sun’s flame, that they forgot what all we could do.”
“But I saw others at the ceremony plucking at the flame.”
“That’s a fake. The true flame is a pitiful flicker of its former self. After all these years, there was only enough left for one leader. So, each generation refused to use the flame unless something major happened,” Hanali said. He sulked his head and shuffled his feet around. “One day, when I was younger, I found the secret vault that held this flame and took it for myself. I didn’t know what I was doing at the time, and now, I feel a great burden for protecting everyone.”
Evalieh shrugged and tried to laugh away the somber moment. “Well—you are human. It’s not like you’re a god. You make mistakes—you learn. You have limits—it’s okay. I can kind of see that for myself,” he said. In a flash, Evalieh could see himself back home, worrying about all his mistakes. They were taught to grieve their mistakes and shortcomings until they improved. It was a difficult time to always appear perfect at home and in public, causing Evalieh a great deal of stress. He took a deep breath and gave Hanali a slight smile.
“I guess, I must admit I have my limits. Mother warned me.” Hanali looked up with glassy eyes. “I can’t help but feel like there’s something greater about me—as if I’m meant to do something big. It makes me feel like I don’t know who I am or why I have these powers. All I can think about is protecting others—and I refuse to fail,” he said.
Without another word, they began to follow the compass once more until they reached a group of dirt roads. These paths cut through the bushes and trees, leaving the two perplexed and wide-eyed. Hanali searched for a sign, pointing out that he had only been beyond the gorge one time. With no luck, he decided to trust his compass and travel down the middle path.
The palms and evergreens began to arch around the two the further they traveled. The dirt path grew narrower, and the bushes grew taller. Evalieh held onto his stomach, feeling it growl with hunger. “We should have packed some meat or something—I’m starving,” he said.
“I’m afraid we don’t have that luxury out here. How about I try and find us some fruit and nuts?” Hanali said.
Evalieh waved his hand. “Whatever, I’ll eat anything at this point.” Feeling irritable, he rubbed his aching head.
Hanali drew close and pulled open his compass. “If you look closely, you can see a tiny map on the inside of the lid. We couldn’t see it in the dark.” They crowded around the lid and eyeballed the tiny map. “I think we’re about two days away from reaching the Sun Clan’s border. The rest will be by crossing the Broken Planes and the Earth Clan,” Hanali said.
“What are the Broken Planes?”
“A wide-open land full of rocks. It’s where the shamans once attacked when they tried to summon their god. It set off spires of rock that quaked the ground and ripped it apart.”
Evalieh leaned against a tree and sighed. “I can’t believe you people are so content with such destructive people around,” he said.
“They weren’t always like this. Things just changed—remember, I told you once. Now, it’s up to use to restore the island with the sun tears and crystal bloom.”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it.”
“You stay here, I’ll go get us some food.”
Hanali walked off, leaving Evalieh to wonder if he said something wrong. Realizing Hanali is more familiar with the situation, Evalieh narrowed his eyes and suspected there’s more to the matter than he’s told. Knowing they had at least two weeks before they’d reach the Earth and Water Clan, Evalieh began to feel stressed. His mind became overwhelmed with worries and fears of dying outside alone and hungry. His feet began to freeze, to his horror. He tried to get up and move but the chill crept along his legs, binding him in a block of ice. He called out to Hanali but received no answer, making him worry even more. Growing nervous, he trembled, causing the ice to grow faster.
Before long, Evalieh’s body was encased in a frigid, heavy, block of ice. Every breath he took crushed his chest with a heavy weight. He couldn’t move and every pant he made fogged his vision. “H-Hanali, where are you? I’m not going to make it!” he said.
“My, you’re so pessimistic,” came a voice. There were a few knocks on Evalieh’s icy cage and then everything went black.