Become a Fan
By Susan K Franklin
Sunday, May 01, 2011
Rated "PG" by the Author.
A quest to find the Great Combustible Nargle.
Purple mists rose into the air like swirling spirits drifting into space.
“Come on, Zarkin! It’s easy.” Ozlan engaged his fast acting rear thruster and shot up into the air. “See?” he hovered three metres off the ground and looked down. “It’s easy.”
Zarkin’s claws gripped further into the rock. He shook his head. “It’s easy for you. Your thrust comes out straight, mine pops and futts and I never know where I’ll end up.” his head dropped a fraction lower, “I wish I’d never been born with thrusters.”
“Zarkin! How can you say something like that?” Ozlan allowed himself to drop, before engaging his shoulder thrusters which gave him a soft landing. “It’s just practice. You’ll get it, I know you will.” He patted Zarkin on the shoulder. “I admit, your style is a bit odd, but if you straightened your body a little more, maybe you’d fly straight?”
The fast acting rear thrusters, commonly known as F.A.R.Ts were tricky to control, but those blessed with them, where greatly admired. The trouble was, Zarkin didn’t want to be admired, he wanted to be invisible.
The clang of the gathering gong repeated its deep rumble and stopped their practice. The sound had travelled far across the planet of Santronia. It repeated over and over again – bom dong dong, bom dong dong - a call for all Orksnogs to assemble. They had no idea how long the gong had been calling, so they had to move fast. Ozlan didn’t want to miss a thing.
“What do you thinks happened?” he asked.
“Whatever it is, it’s bound to be trouble.” Zarkin grumbled.
“We’ll have to use our thrusters to get us there, or we’ll be late.”
“Oh great!” Zarkin rolled his eyes.
“There’s been something going on for a while, and I think it’s something big.”
“I’d rather be late, that way I’ll never know what it is.” Zarkin, moved up beside Ozlan.
“Don’t be like that, this could be important!”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Zarkin said, as he tried to balance himself and keep his body straight.
Side by side they engaged their thrusters and shot towards the assembly point. Ozlan zipped swiftly through the air, spreading his wings to navigate the hills. Zarkin on the other hand, buzzed here and there, bumped his tail on the rocks and lost the power of rear thrust as they dipped low to fly beneath the Sivian lakes. The tunnels were narrow, damp and twisted and turned sharply.
“Slow down.” Zarkin yelled at the back end of Ozlan.
“We’re nearly there. Look there’s the exit.”
They shot out of the tunnel, the thunderous clang continued to echo around – bouncing off the craggy red mountains that rose steeply into a pale sunset sky.
Ozlan and Zarkin circled above the arena looking for gaps in the crowd - there were none. They were forced to land at the back. They looked across the heaving crowd to where the, Great Higharking, stood upon the speaking platform. He opened his throat and blasted out deep, blood red, flame in salute. He was a fine specimen of his species. The ridges on his forehead were large and lumpy, his tail a meter in length, solid and sturdy with the frame of a large hippo - he was impressive. His wings were neatly folded as he stood and raised his forearms. Many feet in the arena pounded the ground to welcome their leader. As his flame subsided, short crackling sparks continued to shoot from his short stubby mouth. He stood and looked down.
Eager, uneasy faces awaited.
The gathering gong continued with a gentle repetitive rumble. When its central panel was struck, twelve smaller outer panels tinkled gently.
Ozlan grabbed Zarkin’s arm and whispered. “This has got to be something big. Come on let’s get down to the front.”
“It’s probably safer to stay at the back.”
Ozlan sighed, “There’s nothing to be scared of,” Ozlan pushed ahead, trying to weave through the crowd. “Come on, Zarkin!” reluctantly Zarkin followed.
They weren’t often called to council, but anxious times called for exceptional measures. Ozlan and Zarkin filtered forward a little, but however hard Ozlan tried to push his way to the front - it was impossible. He could only stand back and watch from a distance.
The Higharking began, “My friends, all attempts to repair the ‘Great Combustible Nargel’ have failed.” He looked slowly across the group. “Before long our cloaking system will fail – our planet will be visible to others – we will be open to attack.”
“Attack! Attack! Did you hear that? He said Attack!” Ozlan could feel his scales tingling with excitement.
“It doesn’t bode well, does it?” Zarkin shook his head solemnly.
The Higharking raised his left arm. Silence fell.
“I have called you here to elect a champion to put aside their own future for the sake of us all.”
“Oh great,” Zarkin let out a hefty sigh.
From the crowd a solitary voice called: “With great respect, Higharking, can we allow another to die? Should we not just evacuate and let the Bovingtonian’s have our planet?”
Shocked voices blurted out from every corner. “What?” “Never!” “We’ll fight them off.” Heads swished from side to side trying to detect who had spoken.
The Higharking looked down; his head appeared as heavy as his worries.
“We could leave our land.” He said. “It is something that we may, one day, have to contemplate. After all, our ancestors sent many of us away before – to Earth where we lived happily until we were driven away. You all know what happened to the Orksnogs that lived on that planet. They were hunted by humans – killed by those of little understanding.”
One little youngling at the front began to whimper, a comforting arm was placed around him as the Higharking continued.
“We fled back to Santronia – only to find our planet under attack. The Bovingtonians are evil. Although we won the Great War, the Bovingtonians managed to steal our spare Nargel, but it is useless to them, they don’t have the intelligence to activate it. However, with our Nargel failing, we have no choice but to locate and retrieve the one that was stolen.”
The air felt cold and still – even the gathering gong missed a beat.
From the back of the crowd Ozlan raised his head high and spat a small flare of burnt orange flame.
The Higharking focused on the youngster. “Come forward and speak young, Ozlan.”
Zarkin grabbed Ozlans wing. “Ozlan, please don’t be stupid!”
Ozlan turned back. “Don’t you see, I have to do this? This is my chance to follow in my father’s footsteps. This is my time.”
“No one has ever come back, nor will you.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Zarkin!”
“It’s just that...”
Ozlan shook his friend off and weaved his way forward, he didn’t hear the last of Zarkins words as the crowd parted.
“...I’ll miss you,” Zarkin sighed, “I don’t want you to die.”
Ozlan raced up the steps, his scales shimmering in the light. He stepped up to where the Higharking stood. He bowed reverently and puffed a plume of smoke. “Great Higharking - I offer myself to you. I will take my place in the search for the Great Combustible Nargel.”
There was a rumbling of Ooo’s and Aaah’s around the arena. But not everyone thought it was a good idea. Comments were rife. - “He’s a little young, don’t you think?” - “Youth has its advantages – swiftness of wing and all that.” - “But wisdom – where is the wisdom?” - “Better him than me!” The comments bounced across the air like small pockets of fear.
The Higharking once again raised his left hand. “Ozlan, this is not a task to be taken lightly.” Ozlan nodded. “You’re swift of wing and undoubtedly impressive with the new technology and have great understanding of other races, but are you ready to die?”
Ozlan’s eye ridges rose with pride. “I’m ready.” He said, praying that he was ready.
The thrumming of the gathering gong continued.
Zarkin couldn’t watch, he lowered his head and slowly slunk away.
The Higharking growled knowingly. “Finding the Nargel is only the first part of the task. You will have to retrieve it and bring it back.”
“I understand this.” Ozlan nodded purposefully.
“The Bovingtonians won’t let the Nargel go willingly – they will fight.”
Two purple curls of smoke twisted from the sides of Ozlan’s mouth as the Higharking’s words sunk in. He vowed to himself that he would find the Nargel or die trying, but he would never back out, not now he’d given his word. He thrust out his chest, his small ears swizzled and he roared loudly.
“I Ozlan, second son of Dimnarka will take up the challenge. I will seek the Great Combustible Nargel to the end of the universes and I will lay down my life if need be
“So be it.” The Higharking said and turned back to Ozlan, grabbed his hand and thrust it in the air. “Let it be known that, Ozlan second son of Dimnarka is our new champion.”
“OZLAN – OZLAN – OZLAN.”
An explosion of excited voices bounced around the crowd. All the panels on the gathering gong were struck. Plumes of fire shot into the air. The celebrations began. It was during the celebrations that the enormity of his task flooded into Ozlan’s heart – his species, his planet and his own life depended on his success. Tomorrow he would leave and maybe he would never return.
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