“The Gods were never satisfied with just one world,” Panpar began. Right from the beginning there was no doubt that whatever story this simple looking older man was going to tell, was going to be a long one. Their Aunt Veranda had called him old, and indeed he had an older appearance to him, but that appearance of old was more of a perception, than a reality. It was a perception created through wisdom, and early greying hair, but in reality the man couldn’t be older than forty human years. Veranda herself was older than that.
In truth, he not only wasn’t old, but his body was also fit. (A fact hidden to them all by the loose, baggy sack that he wore as clothing). He didn’t return the wooden table; didn’t sit at the hard chair at all, but instead turned Veranda’s rocking chair toward the table, and sat in that instead. It was another indicator that the story they were in for was a long one.
Once he was sat, and comfortable, he reached through a slit in the side of his makeshift outfit, pulled out a small pouch, rolled some of the tobacco into a moist brown leaf, and lit the end of that tobacco with a magical wooden stick that had a red tip on the end of it. When he did this, none of them knew what tobacco was, nor did they understand what he was doing or why. All they knew was that the smell of what he was doing was offensive to their noses, and the idea of drawing fire into a person’s body, filtered through leaves or not, was utterly ridiculous to them all.
But nobody informed him of their opinion at the time.
“The Gods,” he continued, “weren’t even satisfied with ten worlds, or twenty, or even a hundred. They have thousands of worlds spread amongst those twinkling lights in the night sky that we haven’t even begun to understand. The Gods,” he said emphasizing the word Gods as if he were saying it with distaste. “Create worlds much in the same way that a baker creates bread. Crafting one loaf to be white, and another to be brown, and yet another to be yellow, all of them having a different taste, and all of them tasting better with one meal, than they do with another.” He rocked back and forth in the chair as he began his story and his eyes were intently focused on both Veranda and Freebus as he spoke.
Jo-Laina could remember every word that Panpar had spoken that night clearly. She could picture every word that he spoke as if he were speaking them at that very moment to her instead of years before. And she could also remember her thoughts as well. He had talked about the God’s and the ‘worlds’ they created as if he knew for sure that what he was saying was true. He talked of the twinkling lights in the night skies as if they were those worlds, instead of the God’s shining lights down onto theirs, which is what everyone else believed.
“And when the Gods decided to create our world, they did it out of boredom,” Panpar continued. “They didn’t create our world to survive and last throughout the ages as they did others. They created our world just so they could sit back and watch all of the inhabitants kill each other off. Each of the Gods created their own race of either warrior beings, or predatory animals, and they did it with the idea of watching us all kill each other.”
“You speak these things as if you know them for sure, old man,” Veranda butted in. “And not as if you are speculating. You can’t know these things. You can guess them, but you can’t know them.”
“Ah, but I can,” Panpar answered her claim. “You see, my lady. I may look human, but I am not. I am a Puntarian.”
They all knew the word punta, to see in the dark, and they all knew of the Muntarians, also known as listeners. And they knew that the word Muntarian stemmed from the word munta, which meant to hear from silence, so the word Puntarian, automatically meant at least something to them when they heard it. It registered to their minds and clung there like a bat hanging from a tree during the day. It fluttered invisibly in their minds as they waited for more of the story.
“You see in the dark?” Veranda asked.
“I see some of what has happened over time. And I also see some of what will happen,” Panpar answered as he took another drag from his leaf rolled cigarette. He drew the smoke in deep and blew a grey cloud toward the ceiling. “In the very beginning, back when the ancients referred to their ancestors as the ancients, every race was separated completely. The Prim controlled this land, humans another, the Moog lived completely underground, The Bentarian tree walkers were spread throughout the forests, clinging to their trees for cover, then there were the Muctar, the Lumarians, Prectock also known as the Tso Tsa Minh, the Muntarians, and Puntarians, and this is only mentioning the higher thinking beings.”
“Your story makes no sense, old man! The Prim … The Prim cannot reproduce alone. They would have died out long ago if what you are saying is true,” Veranda said as she sat forward in her chair. It was as if she were looking for a way to discount him right from the beginning.
“I don’t think it was meant for any of the races to survive. Not the humans, not the Prim, or any of the rest of them for that matter. I think it was meant for all of the original races to wipe each other out, but that’s not what happened. The Gods didn’t expect any of the races to form alliances which is exactly what they did.
“The first alliance came early. And it was between the Muntarians and the Puntarians. If it wasn’t for that alliance both of our races would have died out early. Separated, we are not much better than the humans, but together we had a powerful alliance. The second alliance just happened to be between the Prim and the humans. It was a friendship formed from necessity for both races. By the time the alliance was formed, the Prim were winning the war, but because they couldn’t reproduce, they couldn’t replace those that were killed in the early wars. The humans were decimated in the beginning and had been spread throughout the lands, hiding where they could, and avoiding the fight entirely unless cornered. In my dreams the only thing the humans had going for them was that they made good slaves. As warriors they were inferior in almost every way and, even with those that were born as wizards which, as we all know, was the reason that the Prim chose them for their alliance.”
“Because the wizards can give the Prim children,” Veranda confirmed with a nod of her head. “But how did they figure that out? I’ve always wondered that.”
“His name was Jondim. At the time just before the alliance was created he was a young talented wizard with great abilities. It was he that suggested the alliance, and he did it because he had just so happened to fall immediately in love with a Prim as she tried to kill him. It was through her that he convinced the Prim to accept the alliance.”
“Well, this guy must have really had a death wish!” Veranda commented. “She tried to kill him and he fell in love with her? How does that even happen?”
“Very carefully. I remember the first time I saw him in my dreams, and I can see why he fell in love with her, by the way. She was a lovely creature to say the least,” Panpar said as he dragged again on his cigarette. “She almost had him too. It had been her mission to kill Jondim because he was the first human in ages to put up a fight against the other races. Before that day he had killed quite a few Prim, but when it came to Jo-Rena, he just couldn’t do it. She was able to sneak up on him, to raise her sword as she charged him, but that was as far as she got. He used his spell to put her to sleep, just like he had done with the others, but by the time her body crumbled to the ground, in peaceful slumber, his mind had been made up. He not only didn’t kill her, he brought her back with him to where his clan was hiding. There he watched her sleep until she awoke, and by then he had come up with the idea that he could help the Prim with their problem,” Panpar chuckled, half inwardly, half outwardly as he stubbed out the burning end of his cigarette on the wood of the rocker. Veranda gave him an annoyed look, which didn’t seem to register with him. “I doubt he realized that mating with the Prim would end up being the death of him after all.”
The Barakai weren’t hiding anymore as they continued their upward trek toward the top of the Dead Mountains. They peered at the travelers from behind jutting correllium rocks, over the sides of ledges, from behind and in front of them, but mostly from overhead. Their perpendicular jaws opened and closed at them, making that signature clicking noise, as if they were telling them how hungry they were, and yet they still did not attack. Jo-Laina wasn’t sure why that was. None of them were, but she had the feeling that their luck wouldn’t hold out. Nothing was ever that easy.
But she allowed her mind to go back to Pan’s story. Focusing on her memory of that, as opposed to the god-awful clicking noises, was much better.
By the time that she had heard Panpar’s story for the first time, she had already been made aware of what happens when a Prim is born. She knew of it, accepted it, and dealt with it the only way that she could—by not thinking about it. Hearing him say it reminded her of the fact, that both she and her sister had consumed the souls of their parents upon their birth.
Ask him if he knows why that happens, she had demanded that her aunt relay to Panpar.
“Why is it necessary for the Prim to begin their lives by feeding on the soul of their parents?” Veranda asked.
Panpar’s eyebrows raised as if he found the question very interesting. “That is what most people believe is happening. But it isn’t exactly like that. The body of a Prim child grows in the body of a mother much in the same way that a human baby does, but their soul isn’t attached until after the child is born. Before that the child’s soul exists in between both veils. The child isn’t consuming their parent’s soul. The parents are retrieving them and sending them to the child’s body. If that doesn’t happen upon the child’s birth the child doesn’t live and once the body of the child dies the soul is released to the Gods.”
“So you see, even when the Prim finally found a solution to their reproductive problems, the solution wasn’t so perfect. In the beginning there were thousands of Prim, and yes they do live much longer lives than almost every other race, but they’re not immortal, and they can be killed. In our time there are less than fifty Prim, spread throughout our land and their numbers are controlled by how many human born wizards there are who are willing to give their lives to procreate with them. Most of those that do are forced into doing it by the Prim, but back then they weren’t forced. Back before the ancients ruled it was considered a great honor, and it was also an alliance that served both dying societies.
“Two societies aligned wasn’t enough, however. Even with the humans and Prim united together they were still bleeding numbers too fast. And so were the Muntarians and Puntarians so two became four. Those four clans combined became much, much stronger, and it was during this time that the Black City was somehow created.”
“It’d be real nice if you could explain that one, old man! If we knew how to mine correllium, the Prim could be dealt with much easier,” Freebus said. “When they come into our villages to take of ours, whatever they want, we could stand against them!” Freebus slammed his fist on the table as he finished his sentence, and the entire room echoed the noise from his fist.
“And that is the heart of the problem, as I see it. The Prim. In the beginning of the alliance, everyone was valued as equals in the arrangement. But it didn’t stay that way. Eventually the Prim, Muntarians, and Puntarians, began to enslave the humans. So I agree with you. To an extent, but I don’t know how they were able to mine it.”
“But I might know how to get correllium weapons so the Prim can be exterminated, once and for all,” he added.
Both Freebus and Veranda looked at each other with an anticipatory glow in their eyes. Neither Jo-Laina nor Jo-Vanna shared their excitement. An uneasy feeling crept into both of their stomachs, but they did share their aunt and uncle’s interest in Panpar’s plan.
“Tell us,” Freebus demanded.
Panpar leaned back in the rocker, crossed his arms in front of him, and began to rock gently back and forth in front of them. “It is the reason that I have bothered traveling from village to village in the first place,” he said. “I have told this same tale to at least three dozen different people. I have been looking for the correct people for almost a year and I’m happy to know that I have finally found the right couple to tell it to.”
“The correct people?” Veranda inquired.
“Mmph,” Panpar said. “Not just anyone can get them. As a matter of fact, only a Prim can lay claim to these weapons, for they are located at the highest point in the Dead Mountains, and they are hidden beyond a portal to the grey, and only a Prim can walk in the grey.”
Veranda stood up, placed her hands on her hips, and scowled at Panpar. “Well then you are truly a fool, old man, because no Prim would ever hand correllium weapons over to humans.”
Panpar smiled back at her. “They wouldn’t?” he asked her. “Not even if those Prim were, say … your nieces?”
“I … umm,” Veranda stuttered. Jo-Laina remembered how hot her aunt’s face felt at that moment. Panpar’s accusation had taken her by surprise and she hadn’t been prepared for his words. Her mind had raced desperately for a quick remedy that could dig her out from beneath his suggestion, but her mind hadn’t returned a solid answer. “I have no nieces!” she had said.
“Nonsense!” he said back to her. “There’s no need to hide the truth from me. I mean you no threat, but I have seen your nieces in my sleep for years. The forbidden Prim have accompanied me in my sleep since I was young. I know that they exist. I know that they are remarkable Prim, and I know that they are both in your head, even as we speak! Come out Prim! From where you are hiding! Come out and meet your Uncle Panpar!” As soon as his conversation went from speaking to Veranda, to speaking to the twins, he began to speak much louder (as if that made some sort of sense because they were still hearing him through her ears). He began to look back toward the place in the wall--the place with a secret door and a secret cubby hole.
“I’m afraid you’ve resorted to madness, old man! There are no Prim here!”
But Panpar ignored Veranda’s words as if she hadn’t said anything. “I speak to the two of you, right here, and right now. Hear me. Hear my words, and listen deeply! This world needs you both. This world and the worlds of others, for the path between the grey will not stay closed forever! Hear me, I beg of you both! Take this chance to come out of hiding. Take this chance to do something with your gifts instead of cowering in a closet like vermin!” Panpar was peering into Veranda’s eyes as he spoke, but everyone in the room knew that it was not her that he was talking to and when he spoke the word vermin, he spoke the word with such utter distaste, it was almost as if he were spitting that word from his mouth like a woodcutter spitting tobacco at the ground.
Both of you two need to just stay put! Veranda ordered them in her head.
But they didn’t stay put. No sooner had she made her demands, the door to the hidden cubby hole slid open. Jo-Laina came out first, and she had been quickly followed by Jo-Vanna.
“Good!” Panpar said with his face lit up. “Come join your uncle on a quest. A quest that you will not regret and a quest that you will never forget. A quest for the Pockets of the Prim!”