Sunday, July 12, 2009

3 - Dust and Dragons

As they continued driving, the meadows changed to a more barren and lifeless area, where very where there was little growth. The travelers silently watched the scenery change around them, listening to the jazz music.

Shortly after the road had straightened out, Tooga began to look uneasy, staring off in the distance and rubbing his thumbs on his fingers. Jik noticed and began to wonder what was wrong.

“Hey, are you alright?”

Tooga shook his head.

“What's up?” Jik asked, now slightly concerned.

Tooga shook his head again, still not moving his eyes from the distance. He tore off the top page of the writing pad and wrote on it without looking down.

“ 'There is something chaotic up ahead,' “ Jik read. “You can feel it?”

Tooga nodded. Jik turned the radio off and began to look around carefully as he drove. Soon the air grew tense. Jik couldn't decide if his own battle instincts were ringing or if the monk was making him nervous for no reason, but he could tell something was up. Despite the van's engine and the occasional rock, the eerie silence continued, but the warriors' patience was long and well-trained.

Then Tooga made a forward waving motion with his hand.

“Speed up?” Jik interpreted, whispering.

Tooga nodded. Jik stepped on the gas. The van followed the road for several minutes, steadily going faster as it went over the few bumps and occasional left curves. They were almost heading north.

All of a sudden, Tooga showed the palm of his left hand to Jik. He sudden movement startled the driver, but before he could ask what it meant, the monk slapped the top of the dashboard with his palm, then showed it to Jik again, who finally understood and hit the brakes, forcing the van to screech to a halt. The monk put a finger to his lips, so Jik killed the engine and watched his companion hop out of the seat onto the road.

A sudden dry mist seemed to roll low on the ground. Tooga kept staring off at the distance. Jik had no idea what Tooga was seeing, but he figured the monk wasn't just looking with his eyes. Jik hopped out and raced around the front of the van to stand by his friend.

They stood there for another while, the sun now well past noon. Then, to Jik's surprise, Tooga jerked his thumb back at the van.

“What? You want me to go back inside?” he asked, slightly offended.

Tooga nodded.

“C'mon, I'm here! We're together!”

Tooga jerked his thumb again, shaking his head.

“Is there a good reason?” Jik asked after a moment, his voice much more level.

Tooga looked at him, his eyes sparkling with a fierce energy, and nodded.

Jik stood there for a moment then stepped back toward the van, banging his fist on the hood. He climbed back behind the wheel, forced to merely watch what was going to happen.

Tooga crouched down near the ground, moving his hands over the dirt road. He began picking up some of the dirt and throwing it, spreading dust all over, like some kind of ritual. Jik wasn't sure what was going on, but tried to satisfy himself that this waiting would be worth it in the end. If he couldn't fight, maybe he'd at least see a good battle.

The monk stood up again, one hand now straight out in front of him. He seemed to grab something from mid-air, then he suddenly began to make rapid motions with his arms. After a few moments of studying, Jik finally found the transparent staff that his friend was expertly swinging around. The spiritual weapon impressed him, and he could feel the monk's energy quickly increasing.

Then Jik heard something, like a roar, but it was more of a feeling than an actual sound. He knew it didn't come from Tooga. Jik struggled to concentrate, hoping that he could see part of what the monk was seeing.

The roar came again, closer, but not louder, and a rush of wing blew in from the same direction. Speedily, Tooga flipped his staff at something, and whatever it was roared again! Then the monk made a dodging maneuver and struck again. Finally, Jik was able to see what the noise was all about.

It was a serpent-like dragon, transparent like the staff, with colors that rainbowed across his scales. The dragon was firing spikes from the mane around his head, but Tooga was dodging those easily. It also tried attacking with a clawed hand, but Tooga quickly blocked it and counter-attacked. It even tried to trap the monk with its long tail-like body, but that didn't work either. Tooga was far too agile.

Every time Tooga's staff hit the beast, a bright light would flash, making seem like Jik was watching an impressive light show. Soon, it became obvious that the monk was winning the battle. The dragon tried to escape, but Tooga blocked its path and then hit it fiercely with his staff.

Finally, Tooga took a large leap and pierced the dragon's head with his weapon. The dragon's eyes rolled in their sockets, and it tried to shake the monk off. Tooga was able to hang on and began reaching into the dragon's skull as if searching for something. When he found it, he ripped it out, and at once the dragon dissipated into nothing. The monk fell to the ground, gracefully landing on his feet.

There, he began spinning the staff all around again, releasing his energy. The staff disappeared and Tooga stood there, all by himself. He threw whatever he had grabbed from the dragon's head into the ground and began tossing it back and forth in the dirt. Then he held it in front of him in one hand, his other hand on top of it, as if he was keeping it hidden. He closed his eyes in concentration, then he stood up and walked back to the van.

“Wow!” Jik cried, totally impressed as he watched his friend climb back into the van. “What was all that? What happened?”

Tooga didn't respond. He just sat there, staring at the now uncovered object in his hands. Jik leaned over and saw a medallion with a bright golden surface. On its face was an imprint of the dragon that the monk had just defeated.

“Whoa,” Jik exclaimed softly, “Didja pull that out of the dragon's head?”

Tooga stayed silent, but when Jik looked at his eyes, he could see them moisten a little. Then he watched the monk respectfully placed the medallion in his bag, then sigh heavily.

“Shall we keep going?” Jik suggested after a moment. He figured he wasn't going to get much information from his friend about what had just happened. Tooga nodded and Jik started the van again. A little later down the road, Jik asked Tooga if he was alright, and the monk nodded, but Jik could tell something very small had changed.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

2 - Tailsnake Junction

The scenery of grass and occasional flowers seemed endless as it stretched beyond the horizon. There were mountains beyond that, but they barely poked their heads up. Tooga watched the wilderness pass by as Jik attempted to focus on the road, but the serene nature was making him sleepy again.

“Like listening to music?” Jik finally asked. Obviously the quietness was bothering him.

Tooga's body language seem undecided, unsure how to proceed.

“Mind if I turn on the radio?”

Again, Tooga looked confused. Jik smiled, not believing that the monk didn't know what a radio was. He pointed a finger at the collection of knobs and dials.

“This is a radio. It receives signals and plays them. Sometimes it's music, sometimes is people talking about news or something, but I like the music.”

Tooga's eyebrows arose, then he began to scribble.

“ 'I thought you were going to suggest that we sing' !” Jik read Tooga's words, then laughed out loud before continuing, “Oh, man, yeah, that would've been awkward! No, I like listening to music that is played. Here, I'll show you.”

Jik turned the radio on and began fiddling with the receiver, finally finding a station that played jazz music. Tooga was startled all over again, trying to find the source of the noise by turning himself around in his seat. He was able to discern that the music came from the speakers, but the device itself was beyond him. Then he began listening to the music itself, offering no reaction. He seemed to just be focused on it, not showing any sign of acceptance or intolerance.

“Soooooooo, do you like it?” Jik asked bluntly.

Tooga grabbed the pad and began scribbling. Then he showed the driver is response, still focusing on the music.

“ 'As a monk, we sang songs along with our rituals and I loved these, but they were entirely vocal. This is different, still music, but I hear no voices, but other, strange sounds. Also, the structure of the music is less strict and controlled,' “ Jik read aloud, stumbling over some of the bigger words. “Man, you don't know much about music!” he then added.

Tooga suddenly looked insulted. Jik then tried to re-explain his meaning.

“I mean, you haven't had a lot of experience. This is just one type of music, like you songs are another type. There's all kids of music, from all over the place.”

Scribble, scribble, scribble.

“ 'Which is your favorite?' I like them all!”

Scribble, scribble.

“ 'What is this called?' Oh, it's jazz.”

Tooga nodded.

“Do you like it?”

Tooga sort of nodded.

“I like music in general because it makes traveling easier and funner.”

Tooga nodded again in understanding. Then he noticed a sign on the side of the road and pointed it out to Jik.

“Yep, we're coming up on Tailsnake Junction. Won't be long now.”

The van rolled into what was left of a dusty bit of civilzation. The road came to an end, splitting east-west. There were a few abandoned buildings where some people had tried to set up shop, but they had failed long ago. Jik stopped the van right before the signpost showing that Takston was to the left and Silvanri City was to the right. Then he reached in his pocket and pulled out a coin.

“Now this is how we make decisions-” he started to say, then noticed that Tooga had his eyes closed in concentration, his hands together like he was praying. Jik watched for a moment, awed by this sudden sign of reverance. Then he saw the monk open his eyes, look back at Jik, then point to the right.

“You think we need to go that way?” Jik asked.

Tooga nodded.

“I thought you said you weren't going anywhere!”

Tooga turned to the pad of paper.

“ 'I do not have a direction, but I am still able to tap into my powers of divination to help me understand where the supreme forces of my life want me to go, even though I have been disfellowshipped from the order,' “ Jik read, again stumbling over the bigger words.

“Well,” Jik responded in protest, “I've always made decisions by the coin!” He showed the coin, but Tooga gave him a strange, yet skeptical, look.

“You see, we have one side mean one direction and the other mean the other. Heads or Tails. Then we toss it in the air and whatever side is up is the way we go!”

Tooga looked at Jik with disgust.

“Hey, it's the way it's done! Now Takston is heads and Silvanri City is tails, okay?” Then Jik flipped the coin in the air. He caught it in his hand and slapped it onto the dashboard. Then they both looked to see what it was. Tails.

Jik looked at Tooga suspiciously. Tooga raised his hands in innocence.

“You didn't use your powers on this, did you?” Jik accused.

Tooga shook his head, then he started writing. Jik impatiently read over his shoulder.

“ 'It seems as if my supreme forces and whatever gods control your coin are cooperating, showing the validity of the decision.' “ Jik thought for a moment, then repeated it in his own words.

“So you're saying that since your powers and the coin said the same thing, we're okay.”

Tooga nodded, smiling at the sense of understanding.

Jik thought for a moment, then resigned, putting the coin in his pocket. “Well, the coin never lies. Let's go!” and he put the van in gear and stepped on the gas towards Silvanri City.