A/N: Hi everyone. Am back to my original schedule (1st and 3rd Friday of the month) of posting this chapter with a few or some revelations. I hope you’ll like it. 🙂
Hands shot forward, breaking his fall. Anxious voices pulled him from slipping into unconsciousness. A card door slammed; gravel crunched underfoot; then Mohy stood beside him.
“I’m fine,” Fred said, slapping Mohy’s hand away. His and Louis’ protests were ignored as the Libyan checked his eyes and pulse.
“You’re not alright,” Louis snapped. “You tried to pull off a rescue mission with a severe head trauma caused by Cheska’s Doberman over there.” He pointed at Fred’s chauffeur.
“That’s rich coming from a spoiled brat and a thief!” Tony retorted.
“Borrowing and stealing are two different things you ignoramus.”
“You knocked me out and…”
Fred sighed and tried to tune them out. He rubbed at his temples, thinking of Cheska. How did she succeed in silencing these two who acted more like children than grown men? Still, there was a new development concerning the “stolen-slash-borrowed” car.
A hand rose in the air and he heard Mohy say: “Pardon me, but it would be wise that Dr. Fred rest and,” he paused, “his environment remains peaceful while he recovers.”
The men stopped bickering and stared at the doctor. Fred felt their anger turn on him. They blamed him for how things had escalated to its current situation. If his condition was anything but fine, they would be hurling accusations at him for keeping things from them. Fred couldn’t help feeling guilty though his actions were justified.
“Let’s get you inside,” Tony said.
“Not here,” Louis interjected.
“Fine. Where do you want us to go, your royal highness?”
The sarcasm was lost on the poor Libyan who looked confused at their exchange. Fred sympathized Mohy. The young man must still be in shock from what they had been through earlier.
“Anywhere but here,” Louis responded.
“You’ll have to be more specific.” Tony folded his arms in front of him.
“How about your place?”
Tony’s eyes narrowed, but nonetheless agreed. No one commented on the Libyan woman’s state, though Tony’s eyes kept swiveling to the unconscious passenger behind him during the drive. He ushered them in and activated his flat’s security system, recently installed in addition to the apartment building’s own. Louis eyed it as a computer voice informed them that the room has been secured.
“Make yourself at home,” Tony gestured to the sparsely living room. There was a bit of feminine touch in it that Fred observed: colored cushions on the grey sofa and paintings and sketches framed and hung on bare walls. Majority of the artworks were done in broad strokes and bright colors; but a few were more vibrant and alive. Undoubtedly, the decorations and some of the art pieces were Cheska’s.
It was clean and cozy for two people. With their number though, they had to squeeze into the tiny room. Zafeera was laid on the sofa. Fred took a portion of the seat, placing her legs on his lap. Mohy perched on the cube-like stool near her head. Louis took his place by the window, watching the building’s entrance. Tony pulled a chair from the kitchen. He straddled it facing them with arms rested on the chair’s back.
Feeling responsible for the Libyans, Fred started to speak when Mohy interrupted: “It’s alright, Fred. I should be the one to tell them.”
Fred knew little of what the rebels did through Zafeera. He would have been made to believe the worst of them if she hadn’t told him what they were truly fighting for. Still, she had her reservations regarding the organization’s activities. Zafeera had thought that the small knowledge he had would keep him safe from their enemies. The incident in the chapel proved that Fred’s involvement – however, short it had been – and his profession made him a person of interest in the Libyan government now that a sickness was spreading in the country.
He gave a small nod for Zafeera’s brother to continue.
Mohy’s eyes roamed to the two wary strangers. Louis’ initial hostility was reduced to shooting him death glares. It was understandable especially if he really a guardian.
“What do you know about Libya?” Mohy directed the question to the less threatening of the two.
“Isn’t there an epidemic right now?” Tony responded.
“Yes. What about in politics?”
“The President-General’s son stood as his father’s proxy. He announced that the military and the Hyena Quarter will work together in fighting the terrorists.”
“My sister and I are part of the rebel organization Hyena Quarter.” Mohy leaned forward, propping his elbows on his thighs. “For twenty years, we were also known as terrorists.”
Tony leaned back, his jaw working and eyes snapping to Louis and Fred.
“Let him explain,” Fred said.
Tony was having difficulty to trust these men completely. They hadn’t been upfront with him from the first. Fred seemed a good man in spite of his flaws. How in the world had he gotten himself embroiled with Louis and this Libyan? If things were different – if Cheska hadn’t met Fred, Tony wouldn’t be worrying over the doctor’s health and letting them drag him into their problems. He decided to let the Libyan proceed, thinking it would least give him an idea on what kind of people they were.
“People who opposed the President-General were cast out of society; those considered a threat, tended to disappear. Even those in positions of power suffered. One word spoken against the government could destroy you and your family’s lives. Friends you’ve known since childhood would turn their backs on you in fear of the President-General.
“Our family’s wealth and status was destroyed the instant a colleague reported father’s comment about the poor conditions of the people in the Southeast sector and how the police were extorting protection money from civilians. I hadn’t been born yet, but my brothers and sister told me soldiers came in the middle of the night. They were rounded up in the courtyard like cattle. The President-General had declared father a traitor to his country.
“Treason was punishable by death, but our President-General had granted mercy to our family. Father was given fifteen lashes in front of the whole household and my mother pregnant with my brother. Then, my family was thrown out of our home with nothing but the clothes on our back. It was also that night when a man called Shadow helped us in our darkest hour. He offered us shelter and food and…a future. Father became his second-in-command and helped him form Hyena Quarter. They recruited people who were unhappy with the President-General’s rule and desired change.
“We secretly distributed leaflets informing citizens about the abuses made by the authorities; disrupted government activities which were not beneficial to our people; but were careful that the innocent was not dragged into our rebellions. Our actions, however, angered the President-General and his corrupt politicians that Martial Law was enforced. As his laws became harsher, civilians began to take sides. Their hatred was either directed towards him or us.
“The military found our base and ambushed us six years ago…we were being slaughtered. We had no other choice but to fight back. A death of a comrade meant death to a soldier. Blood spilled on both sides. The Hyena Quarter was declared terrorists in national news.”
Mohy’s and the doctor’s eyes met. It was in that particular skirmish that Fred gave first aid to a wounded military officer when the fighting had subsided. They had unwittingly walked into a trap setup by Mohy’s father; Fred and his patient were taken as hostages to keep soldiers from opening fire at the rebels.
“The plague gave us a chance to clear our name,” Mohy said. “But Zafeera,” he glanced at his sleeping sister. Tears threatening to spill, he blinked. “Zafeera believed in the good within people. She believed that each of us deserved a second chance. Zafeera,” his voice broke in anguish, “saved the President-General from the sickness.”
“The President-General blamed you for the plague,” Tony said, sitting upright on the chair with wide eyes.
“That’s the long and short of it,” Mohy smiled wryly. “Zafeera had acted alone that Shadow couldn’t do much to help us. He convinced the President-General to send us here. From the looks of it, he gambled on the doctor to put up a fight and hide us.”
“This Shadow person is someone with enough power to influence the President-General’s decision?”
“He’s the President-General’s son,” Louis said. His gaze left the street and saw three pairs of eyes looking at him. “Why else would he negotiate peace talks with the ‘rebels’ and fight the ‘terrorists’?”
“I forgot about that,” Tony said under his breath.
Mohy’s head hung with eyes downcast. The Libyan hadn’t intended to reveal Shadow’s identity.
A rap at the door disturbed the tense silence. Their attention turned to Tony who looked at Louis. The latter frowned and shook his head. He hadn’t seen anyone enter the building from the view in his window.
“Probably my neighbor from upstairs,” Tony said and stood.
“Wait,” Fred said. He had sensed something wasn’t right and Louis’ rigid stance verified his suspicions.
Tony’s eyes darted between both men. Louis nodded to Fred who rose to his feet.
“I hope you know what you’re doing,” Tony muttered, worrying that they might be attacking the harmless old lady from the upper floor.
Fred took position behind the door, while Louis answered it. Few words were uttered, the last being “guardian” from the stranger.
“What did you say?” Louis asked, his knuckles turning white against the doorknob he held in a death grip.
The response came out muffled but Fred distinctly heard “instrument” and “help.”
“Why should I trust you?” Louis said in a louder voice. Whatever the man’s answer was gave him permission to enter.
Feathers were stuck in the stranger’s hair and more of them covered his body. Fred saw tattoos adorning a sharp face when the man cast him a sidelong glance and said: “You need not fear me. Not yet.”
The man’s gaze left him and appraised the others. Fred realized the statement had been directed to all of them. Mohy was crouched beside his sister with one hand holding his blow dart.
“Who are you?” Tony asked. He appeared relaxed, his hands rested on the back of his chair.
“I am a messenger.”
“Messengers don’t enter the homes they make their deliveries.”
“He is one of them,” Mohy said, his voice held a bit of awe and reverence. His hands dropped to the side, weapon forgotten.
Fred followed the direction of the Libyan’s gaze which flickered between Louis and the new visitor. What did Mohy know that he didn’t? The Libyan barely knew these people. Then again, Zafeera knew about the Mysts’ tunnels.
“So is the Libyan woman,” the stranger returned, “the doctor, his chauffeur, and you.”
“What do you mean?” Fred asked.
“It means you will need my help.”
“You speak in riddles, sir,” Tony drawled. “You’ll have to speak clearer than that if you want us to trust you.”
The stranger’s mouth twitched and curled downward. He searched each of their faces, his gaze landed last on Louis.
“You have not told them,” the man said reproachfully.
“It didn’t seem relevant,” Louis answered.
Suddenly, the room darkened and the stranger appeared to tower over them. Eyes flashing, he as he said, “You may have prevented it today, but at a price and with no guarantee that it won’t happen again.” An odd expression flitted across his face as if he caught himself losing his composure. The atmosphere changed back to normal and he shrank to his original size.
A few seconds passed before he calmly spoke again: “Very well. We will start from the beginning.”
Copyright © 2014-2016 Cecilia Beatriz. All rights reserved.
A/N: The messenger has arrived! We’ve had a preview of him talking to Louis’ father. Seems like his mission in the Mysts involves our group of bachelors and two rebels. What kind of help will he offer to them? Tune in on the next chapter (scheduled on May) and find out. 😉
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