Jaxes was still trying to come to grips with his poisonous thoughts about Zerosta when he became aware of a commotion approaching. This is it, he thought darkly. Any second now Zerosta will arrive and laugh at us all. I know it.
All too soon, a small procession appeared in front of the cage. It certainly wasn’t what he expected. Most prominent of the group was a being nearly seven feet tall wearing nothing but what appeared to be a kilt of some sort. Its hair was pulled back in a tight braid. Displayed just over the shoulder was the blade of a huge battle axe. Jaxes found himself mesmerized as he realized he would never even be able to shift the giant weapon. It seemed like the other’s muscles had muscles.
Standing just to the right of the behemoth was a being nearly the polar opposite of the giant. Perhaps four feet tall on a good day was a woman. Her entire body, bare for all to see, was covered in tribal images. Two diamond studs, embedded in her areola, were connected by a long, thin silver chain to a single golden earring sitting in her left ear lobe. Her hair stuck out in all directions. As they neared, Jaxes found himself wondering which would be more dangerous.
The behemoth spoke out: “Is he here?”
“No…The one is not amongst these…though there is knowledge of the one.”
Jaxes just stared in confusion. The One? What are they talking about?
“Listen up, all you worthless maggots! I want answers, and I want them sooner than later. I want to know about the travelling man! Where is he? Tell me, and I’ll set you free. Withhold your knowledge and I will make life hard on you. Look over there! See the pit! See the maggots working night and day in that pit? That will be you if you don’t tell me what I want to know. You will forever be men at work till the day your worthless body gives out from exhaustion. Tell me.”
As the behemoth spoke, Jaxes could feel the woman watching them all. Her eyes seemed to penetrate deep into his soul. There was some hidden power within her that frightened him more than the physical might of the behemoth.
“Well, none of you have anything to say? I will give you a little time to think things over. Know this though! If you still remain silent when I return, you’ll wish you were never born!”
Jaxes felt his mouth go dry as the behemoth and crazy woman turned and left. Somehow he needed to figure out what they wanted. He certainly didn’t want to spend the rest of his life working in a pit. Just as the pair passed from view, a raspy voice whispered.
“I see you thinking there, but you aren’t thinking correctly. Who’s missing from your village?”
“As if you didn’t know! He’s the reason you captured us. He betrayed…”
Jaxes’ answer faded off as he felt a sharp kick to his shin. Glancing to his right, he saw Tinamou glaring at him. Her anger had a palpable feeling to it, though it only made Jaxes smirk.
“You still aren’t thinking straight, human. No one betrayed you to us. You remember the woman you just saw? She is a Twisted Sister of the Metal Church; A seer of sorts. She told our chieftain that the Travelling Man walked the earth. A man of prophecy…a man foretold to herald destruction. She claimed he lived north, near the wasteland, so our forces moved out to capture, and perhaps kill the Travelling Man. Obviously they failed. This one you think betrayed you, in actuality is the one that is sought still.”
“If what you say is true, then I don’t know how to help you. I never knew where he went. He was almost like a ghost.”
A smaller version of the behemoth stepped forth from the darkness.
“You mistake me, human. Unlike the others, I do not subscribe to their interpretation of the prophecy. There must be another way for it to come about. One which will not lead to our annihilation. If I were to release you from your cage, would you come with me to the wasteland? I figure that is where the Travelling Man has gone. Anywhere else and he would have already been captured.”
“What’s the difference between what you are offering, and what the chieftain has offered? Why should I listen to you, and not him?”
“It’s simple, really. With me you have a chance at life. With the chieftain, once you have told him what he wants to know, he will kill you. That is the freedom from the slave pits that he offers. He will never release you. However, you must decide now. I don’t know when he will return.”
“You’ll free us all? You’ll take us all with you?”
It was the first words Tinamou spoke, barely a whisper, yet somehow conveying a deep sense of commitment to her people.
“I cannot. What I propose will be difficult enough. The more I try and free, the less likely that escape would be achieved. I can only take the two of you. Somehow I sense you two know more than the others. Somehow you two know what the chieftain wants. He must not get those answers. Perhaps a way can be found later to free your people. I really don’t know. But I do promise to make the effort to learn of a way.”
Jaxes and Tinamou stared silently at one another, lost in their respective thoughts. Finally, as one they nodded their assent. Within seconds, they were free of the cage, and following silently in the wake of their rescuer.
An hour later, far from the Other’s camp, they stopped for a minute to rest and eat.
“I am Judash. We can only stop briefly. We must be beyond the wall quickly. You do not know how much effort those two will put into finding us.”
“I am Jaxes…this is Tinamou. We are thankful for your help in escape, but to go into the wasteland is certain death. Why save us if you were just leading us to doom?”
“It is true that none in our lifetime have come out of the wasteland. That does not mean it is certain death. We will only know once we enter. What I do know is that you will wish you chose certain death if they catch us now.”
“Fine…but when we get to the wasteland, promise you will tell us everything. I know there is something you are not saying.”
“I agree. Come on. Time grows short.”
As Judash started out, Jaxes and Tinamou following, they were each wrapped within their own thoughts. Jaxes worried what he had gotten himself into. Judash wondered if they would make it to the wall. Tinamou, though tried to puzzle out what it was Judash had said that struck her. She agreed with Jaxes that they weren’t being told everything. None of them noticed the creature step out along their path, staring after them.