© 2023 by Nol Galaxy.

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BRIGHT LIGHT AND

LINGERING HOPE

Night came slowly that day, Shenor thought uneasily as he climbed the rock edge, arms strong and breathing steady. He was thankful for the light as it made it easier to climb, but he was also anxious, because it would make it easier for their pursuers to spot them. He looked down to see his brother, Elin, whose barely average body fitness was making the already difficult climb harder and tugged gently on the rope holding them together.

“Shenor, please slow down,” Elin begged, his arms shaking as he reached for the next arm hold.

“Can’t do that.” Shenor sighed. He was doing his best to find the easiest path up the mountain and all Elin had to do was follow. “There’s no time if we want to make it to the cave before nightfall.”

“Night won’t be falling anytime soon. Please, slow down.”

“Elin,” Shenor said quietly, but forcefully, and Elin flinched. “Do you want to be killed, or worse recaptured?” He said, stopping to adjust his grip so he could turn to look at his brother. Elin’s watery gold eyes stared back at him, and he would have given in, if not for the knowledge of what they were running from. “Do you know what they’ll do to you if you get recaptured?”

“I know,” Elin said, and the tears fell from his eyes. “I know, but it’s so hard.” He felt such shame at his admission. Not only was Shenor leading the way, but he was also carrying both their bags. He knew that if Shenor was alone, he would have reached the cave already, then for a moment, he considered cutting the rope that held them together. He thought that it would have been better for him to let go and fall than to become a hindrance to Shenor.

“Don’t even think about it,” Shenor said raising his voice. “Don’t…I will carry you if I have to, so stop thinking stupid thoughts.”

“Stop looking into my mind,” Elin said, smiling sadly. “I wouldn’t really do that… ah, I’ve rested enough, let’s keep going.”

Shenor stared at him a moment longer, then turned and continued climbing. “Let’s keep going, we’re almost there.”

The torturous climb lasted a couple hours longer, and by the end, Shenor was almost dragging Elin, who was completely worn-out. When they reached the cave, the sky had just started to dim. Shenor climbed up the lip first, then throwing their bags down, he leaned out and pulled Elin the rest of the way in. Elin lay where Shenor left him and tried to catch his breath. Meanwhile, Shenor looked around the cave, and discovered that it was much deeper than they had initially assumed. They had first spotted the cave when the transport shuttle brought them from the processing facility to the Lycron mine seven months ago and had been planning their escape since then. Shenor walked back to the entrance where Elin still laid on the floor, and quickly looked him over, making sure he wasn’t hurt anywhere. The inspection was quick but detailed, Shenor checked his younger brother for even the lightest scratch.

Elin had been accustomed to his brother’s over protectiveness since childhood, so he soaked up the attention. Sometimes, he wondered how he would survive if he was alone. Even after their family’s farm was ceased and they were separated from their parents, Shenor had made sure they stayed together. Elin smiled, then reached up to pat Shenor’s head.

“Are you done now mom?” he asked sarcastically, and Shenor scoffed.

“I wish you would have put all the energy behind that tone of yours into climbing faster, instead of whining and thinking useless thoughts,” Shenor said squinting to see deeper into of the cave. The fading light from outside, did nothing to pierce the deep shadows of the cave’s depths.

“It looks more like a tunnel than a cave. Do you think it has an exit?” Elin asked.

“I’m not sure, but it seems to be going in the opposite direction of the mines, so it won’t hurt to go in deeper. It’s better than staying out here and waiting for the Iclaxians to find us. Light the way,” Shenor said pointing.

Elin stepped forward, and concentrating on a point in front of them, created a ball of light that pushed away most of the darkness and illuminated the cave; even with Elin’s light, they could not see its end. Elin and Shenor’s abilities came from their Cajaran ancestry, but their powers were weak when compared to full Cajarans.

Elin could create bright lights, and small balls of heat, while Shenor possessed above average strength, yet as insignificant as their powers were, they had had been forced to hide them. Elin shuddered at the fact that if the Iclaxians had found, they would have been separated and sent to the deepest high security mines because they were too far removed from their Cajaran roots to be sent back to Cajara or a Cajaran colony like they did to the full Cajarans, and halves like their grandmother.

“Lead the way,” Elin said. Shenor picked up their bags, and was going to carry both, but Elin hurried take his own.

“I can carry my bag.” Elin felt bad enough that Shenor had to climb the mountain carrying both, and he wasn’t going to make him do the same now, when all he had to do was walk. Shenor smiled but said nothing and accepted his brother’s consideration, even though he didn’t think it was necessary.

There was no evidence that people had passed through the cave, but the ground was fairly smooth and free of debris, so they were able to walk fast with Elin’s light moving ahead of them and revealing any dangers. They had already been walking for a couple hours, yet the cave still went deeper into the mountain. Elin suspected again that the cave might would run right through the mountain.

“This feels like a trap,” Elin said.

Shenor didn’t reply, but he was tense, and kept glancing behind them, waiting to see the horrid green glow of the Iclaxian search party. He had always protected his brother, even before the Iclaxians came, so he was trying to keep a brave front, but he knew that if he let himself dwell on their situation, he would be too terrified to take another step. He had climbed faster and walked faster to escape that fear, and the only motivation that kept him from giving up was to make sure Elin was safe and happy.

Elin sensed Shenor’s anxiety and held his hand to comfort him. Shenor was twenty years older than Elin, so Elin had always been on the receiving end of his brother’s comfort, so he was proud that he could support him now. To some extent, a small part of him was happy about their situation. Before the Iclaxian occupation, they had slowly begun to drift apart. Shenor was becoming more involved in running their family’s farm, while Elin wanted to embrace a more urban lifestyle. If things had continued unchanged, they may have gone their separate ways, and even the thought of that made him feel dizzy. He took a step, and realized that he had actually become dizzy, and his legs gave out. It was thanks to his hold on Shenor that he didn’t fall, then he noticed that the shadows in the cave had grown darker and realized that his light that had gotten dimer. He wiped the sweat from his face, and his vision faded in and out.

“Elin?” Shenor said, worry filing his usually calm voice.

“I’m fine, let’s keep going,” he said in gasps, and tried to take another step, but Shenor stopped him by placing a hand on his shoulder.

“We’ve been walking for hours, lets rest and eat something.”

Elin gently moved the hand away, not roughly as a rejection of his help, but assertively to show his determination. “I said I’m fine.”

“I know you are, but I’m not,” Shenor said placating tone. “Seriously,” he added at Elin’s disbelieving look. “If I was at my best mentally, I would have been pacing us properly, not just recklessly marching without any thought. Let’s rest okay?”

Elin thought for a while, then nodded and sank to the ground. His entire body ached, and now that he had sat down, he felt that he would throw up if he was asked to stand again. Shenor chastised himself and was appalled that he had forgotten to keep track of his brother’s condition. Shenor unpacked a couple thin blankets from his bag, and laid them out for Elin to lay on, then the got out some of the food they’d been stashing from their daily rations in the mines. He took out a bottle of water, and gave some to Elin to drink, before sharing the food.

After eating a bit of the nutrition cakes, Elin became livelier. “Hey Shenor,” he said, pointing at a few silver spots like pock marks on the cave wall. “It’s Lycron.”

Shenor looked at the spots on the wall, then his expression turned hard, and his eyes filled with rage. “I wish the darkness of Sol on whoever found this graule-damned metal,” He spat venomously.

Elin watched his brother in surprise, it was rare for Shenor to lose his temper, let alone curse so vehemently, but he understood his brother’s anger. Before Lycron was discovered, their planet, Ouit, had been a Cajaran colony. Their main resource was their fertile soil that took to most vegetation from around the galaxy, so most people were farmers. Like all Cajaran colony’s they enjoyed all the protections and benefits of the Cajaran government and were all consider Cajaran Citizens. Merely two years after Lycron was found, their lives were torn upside down.

Elin could still remember the horrid shock that passed through the planet when Iclax suddenly brought up the fact that they were the original parent planet of Ouit and would now be taking back the planet after loaning it to Cajara. Of course, Cajara protested. They had been supporting Ouit for over 16,000 years, after Iclax had deemed it unprofitable. Now a good portion of the population was Cajaran or of Cajaran decent, even Ouit’s government wanted to remain a part of Cajara, but it was all fruitless. Like swarms of scavengers, the Iclaxian ships descended on the planet and forcefully took control, and the planet was renamed Lycron, after the metal.

Elin pick at the rest of his food and forced himself not to cry over the memories. “Do you think we’ll see them again?” Elin said, and his voice caught at the end of his sentence. He looked up as the tears began to fall. “Are they even still alive?”

“Of course they are. Elin, when did you become so pessimistic? Do you think our parents are that weak? And although the Iclaxians are greedy jits, they not outright murders. If we’ve survived this long, then they’ll have too.”

“But mom’s a quarter Cajaran, they’ll send her into the deeper mines.”

“They will be fine, we on the other hand, need to rest. Sleep first, and I’ll keep watch.”

Elin wanted to argue, but his eyes were already drooping. After Shenor confirmed that he was asleep, he let his mask fall and leaned against the wall, his face filled with worry. He hoped from the bottom of his heart that his words were true, and that their parents were okay. After a couple hours, Shenor woke Elin up, and slept a bit as well. After he woke up, they ate a bit again, then continued walking. They walked for about two days, only stopping occasional to sleep and eat a couple meals. They were still anxious, but they knew Iclaxians were quick to action. If they had not been discovered yet, then they were most likely free, but they couldn’t relax, especially as they started to see signs of that other people had been through cave. First it had been a couple scorch marks from fires, or left-over ash and some food packaging, but now they saw deliberate markings on the wall, which they assumed were some sort of sign left by those that went through before them. They knew the traces weren’t left by Iclaxians, as they wouldn’t need fire or food, but they were unsure of what they were heading to and they could no longer turn back.

They walked silently and resolutely, both steeling their hearts for whatever fate lay at the end of the cave, which they now knew for sure was tunnel as they could feel the wind blowing from its exit even though they couldn’t see it yet.

“I think we’ll reach the exit before the end of the day,” Elin said.

“How can you even tell whether it’s day or night?” Shenor asked, although he didn’t doubt Elin’s words.

“I just know…its like an instinct,” Elin said smiling. “You know, I never really paid much attention to my abilities, after all they’ve been pretty useless until now, but if we make it somewhere safe, I want to see how much they can grow. Maybe I’ll even be able to make fire like mum and grandma.”

“When we make it somewhere safe, you will definitely learn to make fire,” Shenor said, and smacked Elin’s back. “Now that you’ve expressed your determination, I will make sure you train every single day.”

“You really don’t have to do that,” Elin said laughing nervously. Ever since Shenor taught him how to drive years ago, he had vowed never to learn anything from him again. He had had to wake up before sunrise every day for a month to complete a four-hour driving route his brother had mapped out. It was one of the most difficult memories of his childhood, and he was in no hurry to repeat it.

“You’re kidding. The only reason you are such a great driver is because of my lessons,” Shenor said seriously.

“Yes, but the reason I hate driving is also because your lessons… And how many times do I need to tell you to stay out of my mind?” Elin said laughing.

“As many times as it takes for you to learn to guard your mind. Even children do a better job of it than you…maybe I’ll train you in that as well.”

“I’d rather wake Sol from his eternal slumber than let you teach me anything. At least with Sol it would be a quick death,” Elin said. Their banter had distracted them and lightened their mood so much, that they hadn’t realized when the light of Elin’s abilities had begun to be mixed with the rays of daylight from the cave’s exit.

“I’m not so sure about that,” a voice suddenly said from ahead of them. “I know Sol, and on the rare occasion he deliberately decides to kill someone, it’s usually very slowly… his from Munder you know, he feeds on the pain.”

Elin stiffened, and Shenor moved to stand in front of him protectively. “Who’s there?” Shenor said, his voice was steady and strong.

A shadowed figure appeared in front of the them and walked closer. As he entered the range of Elin’s light, he greeted them with a wide grin. Elin sniffed and began to cry against Shenor’s back, while Shenor put his head in his hands and let out a deep sigh that released the tension that had been building in his body for the last two years. Everyone on Ouit knew the face of Cajara’s third prince, Alexil Vi Cajara.

“My name is Alexil, call me Alexil, and you?” He said, extending his hand.

Shenor stared at the hand, dumbfounded for a moment, then smiled broadly and shook it firmly. “I’m Shenor, and this is my younger brother Elin,” he said moving aside so Elin could be seen. “It’s so good to see you, I can’t express how relieved I am… things have been so crazy… but how? Why are you here?”

“I was waiting for you,” he said, then took out a handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to Elin. “A couple groups escaped through this tunnel earlier this year, so I set up a signal to alert me anytime someone came through here. I wasn’t expecting anything you know? But I did it just in case, and now I’m glad I did.”

Shenor listened as he spoke but was distracted by the worry he noticed in the prince’s eyes. It wasn’t pitying or distant, but a real deep mixture of worry and relief usually reserved for more intimate connections, and not mere strangers. Shenor was almost overwhelmed by the joy he felt seeing that look in the eyes of a prince of Cajara, and he suddenly felt that everything would be okay.

“How long have you been waiting?” Elin asked, his tears finally under control.

“Not that long, about a day. I did know how fast you were traveling… the last groups could all fly, that’s how they made it up to the other entrance. That climb is not easy, did you climb all the way up?”

“We did. Well Shenor basically dragged me to be honest,” Elin said, and Shenor smiled.

“I’m happy you made it,” Alexil said softly, but there was a sharp edge behind his words. “But the fact that you had to risk your lives this way is a failing on our part, this whole state of affairs is just…” then he sighed.

“It not really you fault,” Shenor said, and Alexil smiled.

“Well that’s true.” He laughed, “but, the people of Ouit should not suffer this way…anyway, we shouldn’t linger here too long. I wouldn’t want the Iclaxians to notice my presence here,” he said, then raised one hand, and they were enveloped in the bright light of teleportation, and a lingering hope.