The Black Mesa

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    Leiara The last remnants of the night sky faded as Leiara watched the sunrise over the east horizon. Only a few stars had fought hard enough to remain visible, but the sight was breathtaking. The orange and pink glow from the sun slowly eating at the pale purple twilight was enough to get lost in. Even as the sun was making its way further into the sky, the Mesa remained in a shroud of inky black shadows. Every morning it was the same, and every evening it all but glowed in the sun's setting light. As though it were alive. But Leiara couldn't afford to lose herself in the skies this morning.

    Especially not this morning. It was their Saint Day and there were many things to do before opening the gates to allow the tourists in. The reservation was already humming with activity. The dancers in their full dress making their way down to the plaza. The sounds of bare feet slapping against the packed dirt roads filled her ears bringing a smile to her face as she made her way inside to get herself ready.

    It didn't take her long, to paint her face and pull on her traditional dress, hers was much simpler than the others. Her station also excused her from having to take a shift dancing, but that wasn't really a perk in her opinion. She'd always wanted to join in. Even though it looked exhausting, it always had been something she wanted to do. But being a Shaman was an honor, even just training to be a Shaman; which was what she was doing. Running a brush through her long, dark hair she smiled at her reflection. Proud that her heritage was proudly displayed across her face. The tourists would know she was part of the tribe even if she wasn't dancing. The smile still decorated her face as she joined the others outside in preparation.

    It was hectic, to say the least. Vendors setting up their wares-- displaying their prized pieces of jewelry and food stands-- were everywhere. Everybody who wished to sell things were required to beseech the tribal elders before hand, but they were pretty lenient about it on the Saint's Day. This was the only public feast day after all. Leiara smiled and waved to those she passed, a few of the more troublesome youths avoided her completely. But that was to be expected. The Shamans were the ones who dealt out punishments and conversed with the spirits on how to handle those few that continually got in trouble after all. Still, nothing could bring her down today. Saint's Day had always been her favorite of holidays. She loved showing the outsiders their way of life.

    Slowly, she made her way to her family home. Her duties as a Shaman did not relieve her of her duties to her clan; well, at least not all of them. Her Grandmother and Mother were busy calling out orders to the cousins and when they caught sight of her they hurriedly waved her into the kitchen and handed her a bowl of bluish dough.

    "You're in charge of the paper bread," Grandmother told her as her narrowed, wrinkled gaze swept over her. "Should give you enough to do, but not so much that you'll be late for whatever else it is you're doing today."

    Leiara couldn't help but roll her eyes, but she did so as she nodded her acquiescence. Grandmother knew exactly what it was she was going to be doing. She was a Tribal Liaison. She simply had to be seen today. Out and about. Making herself appear welcoming, and answering any questions posed to her by an outsider. She'd spent the last week training on what to say and how much information to give. Their secrets were sacred and not everybody was allowed to answer questions. Not everybody knew the answers.

    Making paper bread was tedious work, but it kept her busy and focused instead of anxious. This was her first Saint's Day as a Tribal Official, and if she was being honest with herself she was a nervous wreck about it. What if she slipped up and told a secret? What if she forgot the prepared stories? She didn't want to disappoint her family, or her tribe.

    It took her a few hours before she returned to the kitchen with a basket full of rolled, blue, paper thin bread. She held it out for Grandmother's inspection smiling proudly.

    "Not bad, child. Could be better, but you don't have time to redo them. So go on. Get out there." The old woman's voice didn't match her words at all. Leiara could basically feel the pride radiating out of her family's matriarch. Leaning forward, she kissed the old woman's cheek and bounded out of the house. The tourists should be arriving soon.

    And they did.

    They arrived in droves. The reservation filled to the brim with people and eventually they ran out of regulated parking. Leiara was more than kept busy by inquisitive minds asking her question after question. Most of them harmless. They asked about the dancers and their dress. They asked who to buy the best fry bread from. They asked so many questions that Leiara found her voice getting raspy before noon. Finally she had to excuse herself to let her throat rest and get something to drink.

    Finding a nice, secluded spot next to the fence separating the Mesa with the rest of the village Leiara sighed and closed her eyes. Her face lifted toward the hot May sun in between drinks of her iced tea.

    "Uh, excuse me? Miss?"

    Leiara opened her eyes to find a group of outsiders standing in front of her. There were roughly ten of them. She pressed the smile back to her lips and greeted them. "Hello, I'm sorry but the festivities are back that way," she said pointing toward the plaza.

    "I know." The speaker was a tall, thin man roughly in his thirties with sandy brown hair, and bright hazel eyes. "We were just curious about the rest of the reservation. Like why is this section fenced off? We couldn't see any livestock." The group mumbled a general consensus with his query and stared at her with wide and curious eyes.

    Pushing herself to standing, Leiara brushed the red dust off her skirt with a sigh. She'd been taught what to say in case this situation occurred, of course. With practiced tone she began the tale.

    "The Black Mesa is never traversed. To get to the other side one must walk around even though there are very clear cut paths leading up to the flat top and back down the other side. No amount of time shaved off the trip is worth it. Those who travel to the top never come back down. The land is sacred and protects itself from intruders. It is said that the spirits of our ancestors live on the Mesa and they wish to live their afterlife in peace. So please, I implore you: let your curiosity die with the end of this tale. Our traditions are not to be exploited."

    The group looked from her to the Mesa and back again, and she smiled and waved her hand in the air. "Silly myths and legends is all. Nobody goes there though, we hold the land close to our hearts and don't violate the traditions and teachings of the past. So, how about we all get back to the plaza?"

    With that she led them away towards the rhythmic sounds of the drums echoing through the reservation.

  2. Jem

    Tired. That was the world that spoke volumes about how Jem was feeling right now. Jet-lagged from the long flight from her culture study in a few of the Northern African tribes and how they interacted when they didn't even speak the same languages. Having to have entire conversations through interpreters was tiring in and of itself, and it was never easy to tell how well the translations were coming across and there often seemed to be understanding. She was glad she was coming to a settlement where the actually spoke her language some.

    She'd been this specific place once before. It seemed like it might have been around this time too, because she remembered there being quite a bit ruckus last time as well. Maybe it was a different celebration last time she was here, and even then, it was a long long time ago, when she first started her work as a Sociologist.

    She smiled as even the little kids seemed to be busy helping with the festivities. This would be a nice break compared to the rest of her work. Even if she was here to study these people a little more. She was following a group of tourist, when she found herself looking at a lady of the tribe who seemed quite tired. She was having a drink when she started telling people not to go over the Mesa. She remembered this story. It was about the only thing that she had learned about these people the last time that she was here because she was forced to go elsewhere so quick, which was why she thought it was strange that she didn't feel like she knew any of these natives. Until she remembered that she only saw a few at that time before, everyone seemed to have been either hiding or working the last time she was here.

    She frowned as she listened to the story once more. So short and simple. And yet, she couldn't help but feel that there was some truth to such a story. A ledgend or myth does not exactly come from nothing. They are stories passed down that have meaning. And for even those of the tribe to not set foot on such lands... She looked out over the mesa. Letting the group get ahead of her for a bit before she started to follow it. She wasn't actually in the group but she was most certainly following it, if only to see how the Natives interacted with the tourists.

    She didn't really seem to fit as a tourist, having a lot more items on her than any normal tourist would a large pack on her back looking like it might contain quite a bit of camping gear. A journal and a pencil in her hand, so that she could make notes or draw pictures like she occasionally did. Like now. She wrote about that story one more time and a small note to herself that there might be and that there probably is more to the story than meet's the eye. She had found in many cases that these stories were meant to keep others safe. Just as in some of the other tribes she had resided with had acted in a way where you yourself would not go where they would not go.

    It also didn't help that she wasn't really wearing normal clothing for touring, she looked more like she was wearing a uniform in a deep teal color. The fabric made for all kinds of climates, and the shoes were just a set of fancy tennis shoes. She smiled at all the little children and even some of the adults as the gazed at her curiously.

    She took a deep breath and looked around. These festivities were always so lively and brought a smile to her face. She wondered how often these people got visitors like this. It felt wrong for tourists to be able to roam free in a place like this, but then again, technically she was one of them as well. Looking around it was nice to see all the Natives selling their wares outside of their own volition to outsiders, it was unique and she wondered how the trades worked. Looking to one of the food stands as they passed by, smelling so amazing, which made her stomach growl. She blushed a bit because a few of the back of the tour group looked at her and just chuckled. She fell back a bit further and kind of just stood there to the side of the path so others could walk around her while she un-clipped her pack's straps and laid it on the ground gently.

    Kneeling down she started to dig through her pack. She had packed for such occasions, since she didn't really have a lot of money to begin with and she didn't think she had anything worth trading. There was a slight possibility that they accepted normal currencies from the cities in the area, but they were pretty far away from here. She pulled out a snack bar, chocolate peanut-butter flavored and started to open it up to eat it when a bunch of little kids of the tribe started to surround her murmuring in their own language in curiosity most likely. She kind of shrank a bit, like a turtle trying to hide in it's shell. She didn't know if any of them were allergic to nuts, and it was a bad idea to let them have any to test it to find out. In fact she should have thought about this and just had the cheese and biscuit snack that she had instead and had the peanut snack for later.

    "G.. Go away.. Please.. Could make you sick." She winced. Hoping that they would understand but they seemed to just kind of hang around her like birds attracted to bread. She was really nervous she would upset some of the higher ups in the tribe if one of their kids got sick from something that she brought. She really hoped one of the adults would come soon. Or maybe she should just eat it and get rid of it fast so that they were less exposed to it's oils? She was totally at a loss right now!
  3. [BCOLOR=transparent]After leading the group back to the village center, Leiara turned back to wander through the vendor aisles. The stands were restricted to the side streets, and closer to the entrance to their lands. Today had been exhausting, and it was still early yet. Leiara couldn’t imagine having to dance on these days. It would have been too much for her, even with the mandatory rests. She shook the thought out of her mind. She could have done it if that what was required of her. Just as she could deal with the monotony of answering the same questions over and over.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]She had made it to the gates, and turned back to make her way back towards the dancing. She loved watching it, and she had planned to meander back toward the plaza every chance she had. On her way back though she spotted a group of children giggling like maniacs surrounding a very nervous looking woman. Leiara sighed and rolled her eyes as she approached to shoo them away. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Go on, now,” she scolded. “This is no way to treat our guests.” [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]The children backed up but didn’t move very far, but Leiara decided to ignore them. She held out a hand to the woman and smiled. “I apologize. They tend to get ornery when there’s outsiders around.”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]After helping the young woman up, she shooed the children off again, this time not speaking english, but the tone was universal. She was scolding them. The entire group of children cast their gazes toward the ground and mumbled apologies before running off. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]She turned back to the woman and smiled sweetly. “Again, I’m sorry. Allow me to make it up to you by inviting you back to my family home for a good meal.” Glancing down at the processed food in the woman’s hand she grimaced and then returned met her gaze again. “I’m Leiara, by the way.”[/BCOLOR]
  4. The pure look of relief that fell upon Jem's features as she saw the guide girl come over from whatever she was doing was priceless. She was helped up and embarrassment at her blunders filled her face. As the little kids ran away with their tails between their legs, she looked at the girl and blushed in even more embarrassment. "T.. Thank you for that.." She felt her cheeks redden a bit. She always thought that exotic girls were lucky to have their looks, though she guessed she looked exotic too to some eyes.

    But then her eye's widened. Was this really happening?! One of the natives was inviting her into their home! She had been planning to camp out just on the outskirts of the village until people were all asleep enough for her to be able to just go out a bit onto the mesa. Even if she knew that it was bad, she wanted to get some sketches from a different view from what she had. But now she was being invited to join this woman and her family in their home! The food customs she could learn! Her eyes lit up.

    But should she really accept this request? Would that be right of her to be so excited to take such a request. Her mix and rush of emotions were showing on her face. And it probably looked worrisome to anyone else. She took a look at the girl. She doesn't mean harm. She just want's to help. But if she agree'd to this would it be okay?

    Just then her stomach rumbled embarrassingly loud. She jumped a bit and covered her stomach, looking down a bit ashamed and blushed. "I.. I would.. Love that... T.. Thank you." She gave in. There was no way she could turn down good food. And she knew that there could possibly have been consequences for not accepting the invitation too. So she would just buckle down and enjoy the food.

    That was when she heard the girls name and she smiled. "I.. I'm Jem. Nice to meet you." She still felt embarrassed about the grumble of her tummy.
  5. [BCOLOR=transparent]Leiara watched the storm of emotion cross the girl’s face with an increasing interest. How strange that she was so conflicted about an invitation to eat. Any one of these people would be thrilled to be invited into their homes for a real, traditional meal. When the invitation was finally accepted a wide, warm smile spread across Leiara’s face and she turned her head toward her home near the plaza, her lips pursing slightly as though she was pointing with them.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“It’s nice to meet you, Jem. My family home is that way,” she said before heading off down the dusty, packed-dirt road. Her thin, soled sandals slapping in time with the drums playing below and kicking up little clouds of red dust with each step.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]The throngs of people were milling about the dusty streets, but in the hot afternoon sun many of them had retreated back to their cars. It was like that every year. The morning crowd was always much more impressive than it was in the afternoon, and her duties would be relaxed for the rest of the day. Leiara could now focus on her familial duties, playing hostess to the many others that were invited to their feast and helping her mother and aunties keep the house presentable.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Leading the way, Leiara pushed her way through the heaviest parts of the crowd surrounding the dancers and skirted along the edge of plaza keeping just far enough out of the way that she wasn’t tripping up any of the dancers. The drums were so loud in this area that you couldn’t hear much of anything else. The beat vibrated in her bones, and she found her whole being moving along with them. Each step coming down onto the ground along with each bang of the drums. Only occasionally did she glance over her shoulder to make sure the girl was still following along after her.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]It didn’t take long before she was pushing her way through the crowd again, towards the door of a large, but run down looking adobe house. The red clay walls looked ancient, but solid and it was obviously one of the first buildings that had been built on these grounds. The door was solid, dark wood that had been hand stained, and was open just a bit. Leiara pushed the door open and held it wide for Jem as she caught up.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Gah wah-eh,” she told the woman with a slight bow of her head as she crossed the threshold into a large open foyer. “Welcome to our home.”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Upon stepping through the door a wave of scents overcame her. It smelled like home and heaven combined into one lovely and savory smell. The smell of home-baked breads and tortillas hung heavily in the air with undertones of chile and roasting meat.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Unlike the outside of the house, the interior equipped with modern conveniences. Though none of them seemed to be in use. Polished hardwood floor swept the entirety of the foyer into the formal dining room and living room on either side. The living room looked small in comparison to the rest of the house. And the dining room was decorated with traditional artworks, the table was obviously handmade, and was lined with long benches on either side. Every seat was taken at the moment, and Leiara gestured for Jem to head into the living room. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Who is this,” the question came from a middle-aged woman wearing a flour covered apron. Her accent was thick and her english sounded almost as though she had a difficult time forming the sounds around her tongue. Her salt-and-pepper hair was pulled back into a loose bun at the base of her skull and her dark gaze was intense enough to bore holes through you.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Auntie,” Leiara started before pulling her through the dining room and into the kitchen explaining the situation in which she had found the girl, though she was no longer speaking English. The language was broken, and jarring to untrained ears. Every syllable broken up into what sounded like separate words. Each consonant harsh and unforgiving.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Leiara reappeared at Jem’s side within a few minutes and ushered her fully into the living room, nudging an older man’s leg so that he would scoot over and allow space for their guest on the large, plush, brown leather couch. After settling Jem, she disappeared back into the kitchen and busied herself helping with some more of the preparations, but too many cooks and all that and she was shooed back out. With a huff she returned to the living room and plopped herself next to Jem.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“I wasn’t expecting so many people so early,” she explained raising her arm a bit to gesture at the full table. “If you have places to be, we will not take insult to your leaving…”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Before Jem had a chance to respond the man next to them engaged Leiara in conversation. It was mostly in English, but a few words of their native language was littered in sporadically. Leiara lit up as she described her day to him, obviously an elder relative. The pride of her position and training were practically radiating off her as she spoke.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Finally the man’s attention fell on Jem and he smiled in a reserved, but friendly way. “Who is your friend?”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“I met her out beyond the plaza. Some of the kids were teasing her. Her name is Jem.”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]The man raised a thick eyebrow and looked at her pack and his dark gaze moved from there, inspecting every part of her. “Your clothes are different than the others,” he observed with a hint of accusation, his eyes settling on her pack once again. “Why do you need a bag for this trip onto our lands?” [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]At that moment the same woman that had questioned Leiara earlier stuck her head into the living room and waved them in. “There are spots. Come eat.”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Leiara grabbed Jem’s hand and pulled her to standing before basically dragging her into the dining room and pushing her into an empty spot on the bench. Each seat had already been served a plate. It all but overflowed with food. Meats, and vegetables, fried potatoes, a portion of what looked to be enchilada, and a bowl of spicy stew sitting next to the plate. It was a lot of food by anyone’s standards and Leiara beamed at Jem as she reached across the table and grabbed two pieces of fry bread handing one off to Jem before digging into her meal. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Polite chatter bounced back and forth across the table, most of it in their native language, but every now and again somebody would remember that they had an outsider guest and would ask Jem questions in English.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“What is your job?”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“What do you think of the food?”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Make sure you eat it all so you don’t insult the cook.”[/BCOLOR]
  6. Jem's day couldn't have gotten any weirder or better in fact! She had glee writen all over her face as she walked through the crowd. Giggles of excitement filling her. But in her excitement she realized that she almost lost her guide. She gasped and looked around and then smiled when she found her again, quickly hurrying after her. But she had to stop a moment when she realized she'd found herself in the middle of the dancers. As the dancers and the crowd looked at her, the more red she got, but the dancers hadn't stopped dancing. She looked around, watching the patterns and waiting for an opening.

    It took a minute, but she found one, though it seemed purposefully made for her. She ran through it, "T.. Thank you.. S.. Sorry.." She bowed her head and looked a little ashamed of herself, what a rookie mistake! She covered her face and ran after the guide girl.. Miss. Leiara. Her face bright with embarassment, as Leiara seemed to greet someone that seemed to be part of her family.

    Oh! She gasped as she looked around, they must have made it to her home! She looked so happy. So many people were around her, but she was still embarrassed about her little stunt! The dancer's must have been mad that she'd gotten into the middle of their dance somehow. She looked around nervously and visibly shrank as she walked in.Such loud characters, and she felt a bit out of place. She smiled as much as she could, but so many people around her, and she was sat down by one of the older men. She nodded what she hoped would be what looked like respect to him as she sat down.

    But then the girl, Leiara left her. And she felt herself shrink even more. She didn't know what to do, When she turned to talk to the man she clammed up. Her heart raced. And she started sweating a bit. She had interrupted a dance. She was sure that they would talk about her, think her rude. She gripped her knee's and closed her eyes. She wanted to disappear.

    Even when Leiara came back, she felt like she was washed up. Under water. Her head filled, her head was swimming and tears were starting to fill her eyes. It was all too much, she had never felt this way, but she'd never been alone on a job before, and then then everything started to clear when the man asked her about her pack. She was about to say something when the announcement for space at the table was made. She bit her lip and wrung her hands together as she hesitantly walked over to the table with the others. Or well.. she would have been more hesitant if Leiara hadn't grabbed her hand and litterally pulled her to the table. She did sit down kind of slowly though.

    They filled her plate and her stomach growled again, though it was drowned out by the drone of unfamiliar and rough native language. An outsider... that's what she was... She remembered the question the man had asked, her pack behind her but out of the way. She ate her food slowly and graciously, a smile on her face. But even with the questions, she almost felt like too much of an outsider. She should be used to this.. This should be normal... Why was it so different...

    The first question came to her after about a half an hour into the meal... her hosts seeming to forget about her for a time. She didn't know where it came from, but she knew it was intended for her, because she was the only english speaking guest. What was her job... that was a good one..

    She gave a weak laugh as she could feel a few eyes falling onto her. 'I'm.. a sociologist, or anthropologist. I study human and sometimes animal interaction." When a few of them looked at her like she was insane she blushed and started to shrink again. "I... People watch.. is... the simplest way to put it.. and.. write it down.." She made a motion that looked like she was writing in a book. Hoping that they understood. Hoping that she wasn't making a rude gesture.. or maybe she was speaking to fast..

    When all the reactions were done, she kind of shrank back, answering any more questions about her job in a quiet manner. Then there was the question about the food. She smiled and nodded. At this time she had about 3/4's of her plate done and she was eating slowly, trying not to gourge herself, but finding it hard to stop eating. She was glad that someone had said to make sure to eat everything. She blushed as she kept going. Being a slow eater didn't help her case. It gave them more chance to watch her, to criticize her even. She blushed and looked at them as she ate. Feeling like a chicken in a wolves den.

    When she finally finished eating she got up, thanked them for the food, and grabbed her back pack, putting it on and then heading towards the door. She looked pale, and kind of seemed to trip over nothing and onto a wall. She narrowly avoided falling on top of a child, as well as narrowly missing a picture frame. She took a deep suddering breath. Blushed brighter, and hurried around the child, apologizing over and over again until she made it out the door. Her breath shuddering. But she just couldn't take more than to steps. She looked at her hands and shook more. Why... why did she feel like this? Why was she always such a ditz? What was it about that house. She frowned a bit.

    Looked towards the Mesa she just leaned against the wall next to the door, and thought about whether or not she was really ready to do this. To walk the forbidden mesa, The Black Mesa, she had to have courage... because she very well could not come back..
  7. [BCOLOR=transparent]Leiara watched as Jem left and then went back to her own meal. She knew better than to eat quickly. She took her time, savoring every bite and chewing slowly before swallowing, and then carrying the conversation with the guests at the table. She laughed and enjoyed the break, but knew that it wouldn’t last.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Finally finishing her meal she rose, gathering both her plate and Jem’s she took them into the kitchen and scrubbed them clean before placing them back on the stack clean plates. As she was walking out the door her auntie grabbed her arm and pulled her back into the house.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“I noticed the group by the fence,” she said, worry filled her dark eyes.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Leiara nodded and moved back to the couch. If her auntie wanted to talk she was going to stay off her feet while they did so. “Yes, there was quite a group gathered there, but I herded them back to the village proper. Why?” [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Keep an eye out, darling girl. There’s always the one that goes up there. Trying to be brave. Fools! Every last one of them!” [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“I don’t understand the issue. Why not just let them see it’s just a mesa? Or stop them before they reach the top?” Leiara blinked. She’d known the legend. Heard the stories. But she’d never actually heard of somebody venturing up to the top. She’d heard of the people that had gone missing on their lands, but part of her doubted that the Mesa had anything to do with it. Still, it was tradition… and she should have kept her ideas to herself. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]The scowl that masked her aunt’s generally friendly expression confirmed that. “Just a mesa, child? Has your instruction taught you anything? Not just a mesa.” [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Leiara felt herself growing angry, but she did her best to stamp her feelings down. “I misspoke, auntie. Forgive me. I just don’t see the point in being so cryptic about the Mesa. Perhaps if it wasn’t forbidden people wouldn’t be so curious.” [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“The spirits dwell up there and they don’t like the company of the living.”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Leiara tilted her head to the side and her eyes widened. She’d heard glimmers of information about the Mesa and the spiritual energy that resided there, but she’d never heard anything so concrete before. Why hadn’t the shaman spoke of this? How did her aunt know things that nobody else seemed to?[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“What do you mean?”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Her aunt shook her head. “I have already said enough, Leiara. Just watch the fence line. Don’t let anybody start up there. It will already be too late for them if they do.”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Leiara watched her aunt walk out of the room in a stunned sort of silence. Too late for them? What was that all about? She rose, exited through the back of the house, trying to avoid the now-dwindling crowd in the village center and headed toward the Mesa; Leiara had taken her aunt’s warning to heart and was planning on standing guard until the last of the tourists had left.[/BCOLOR]
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  8. Jem couldn't stay there all night waiting for Leiara. She would just have to apologize for her rudeness when she came back. She knew she had to go now or she'd never get this chance. She didn't want to go far into the mesa. Just enough to say she went and came back from it to live the tail. She was sure that any paths through it were long gone, eroded by nature. which was probably why travelers never came back from going down that way.

    She readjusted her things and was walking towards the mesa. Going through the light crowd with ease, now that there were so few people. Her vision had adjusted to the darker time of day with ease. She walked until she got to the over look and was just appreciating what view she had.

    She looked over her shoulder. Someone was coming? She freaked out for a moment, looking around and trying to figure out where to go. But the only place she could see to go would be down into the mesa. She had to go now if she didn't want to be pulled back. Guilt started to fill her soul. What if she never did come back. Whoever it was that was coming over here now would feel like it was their fault yes? But she had to do this. She had to experience this for herself.

    She hurried over to the entrance to the mesa and crossed it's borders. Shivering a bit she hurried. Not sure what she had just done, but she knew that she probably would never be welcome back here. She looked back. She was already in the Mesa. What would the person who'd come to watch over it do when they saw her. She gasped when she saw who it was, only to try and quickly cover up her mouth to drown out the noise. but it was to late. The noise echo'd through the night. Leiara was the one to see her break the rules. Leiara would be the last person to see her if she didn't make it back. She stood there frozen. Not realizing she was already too deep in to be saved.
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  9. [BCOLOR=transparent]The setting sun sunk into the horizon, but to Leiara it seemed more like it dove. It was twilight, the orange and purple skies painting a gorgeous backdrop on their humble little pueblo, and then it wasn’t. Darkness had fallen in what seemed like less than a minute. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Her feet fell in naturally in the familiar pathways through the village. The soft clop of her feet slapping the packed dirt almost echoed in the strange and still silence that had fallen with sun. An uneasy shiver ran down Leiara’s spine. What is this? She tried to ignore it, but her instinct was screaming at her. Something was wrong, the world just didn’t feel as it should. Her pace picked up as she headed for the fence labelled with the “No Trespassing” sign until eventually she was all out running. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]She could see a figure in the distance, traversing paths up the hill that for some reason never grew over. She could see a faintly familiar silhouette climbing up the side of the Mesa. Oh, gods, Leiara thought. Who would go up there? Especially at night..[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Her heart pounding in her chest, she maneuvered herself though an opening in the fence and took off toward the stranger. Why?! As she neared, she began to recognize the shape. It was the lady she’d invited to dinner, Jem.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“W-wait! Stop!” Leiara’s breathless cries pierced the darkness, but didn’t seem like they were traveling far enough for Jem to hear her.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Scrambling up the side of the Mesa, Leiara was gaining on her. She needed to stop her before she got to the top, though she wasn’t sure why, or how she knew that.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Jem, please stop!” Her breaths were coming out in puffs and her lungs were burning from the strain of trying to catch up, but her efforts were paying off; she was gaining on trespasser.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]The ground was starting to level off though, it was too late and she felt all the way to her soul. The air around them crackled with electricity. Thunder sounded though there was not a cloud in the starry night sky, and then she felt it. A pull like she’d never felt before, her body was being ripped from this plane and Leiara knew that all would be lost if they couldn’t find stay grounded.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Looking over to Jem, she saw that she was experiencing the same, and she allowed the pull to propel her to the other girl grasping her arm with one hand and a nearby mesquite with the other. Sharp thorns bit into her skin causing her to cry out in pain, but she didn’t let go. She couldn’t, they would both be lost… [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]The pull, the drag, the grasp of whatever it was dug in deeper. It felt is if ice cold fingers were digging into her chest demanding she comply, but still she could not. A bolt of lightning shot up from the ground, reaching its tendrils into the sky. The shock of standing so close caused Leiara to flinch and try to draw away, but the mesquite thorns dug deeper into her palm, and instead of granting her purchase it sliced through her skin, causing her to fall closer. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]The blood now coating her palm made it harder to keep her hold, and the pain made her want to let go. Tears streamed down her face, but still she held--to both the plant and Jem. Her thoughts were racing too fast for her to comprehend anything. Then the wind started… [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Hurricane force winds swirled around the pair of them, drawing their feet up off the ground and toward the brilliant purple light that was now radiating off the lightning shaped tear. Leiara now recognized it for what it was… a tear in the fabric of reality. She had no idea how, or why, but she knew that whoever was behind its creation was livid. She could feel the anger pulsing with every gust of wind.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Her hand slipped further off the branch, just her fingers were holding now. She knew it was futile, and she knew that her hand was ripped to shreds. It was just another few seconds before she lost her grasp completely though it felt like an eternity. As soon as her last finger left the branch of the mesquite, they both flew into the tear, and were surrounded by complete darkness. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Seconds stretched to minutes, minutes stretched to hours, hours stretched to days…. Or so it felt. It might have been a mere matter of seconds or it could have been years that they were trapped in that oppressive darkness, but gradually a light grew. From nowhere in particular and everywhere at once, a light grew. A pale blue light shone from beneath them, from the sides, illuminating their desperate surroundings. A graveyard, or a mass grave… Leiara’s breath caught in her throat as she looked around, and pushed herself to her feet.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Catching sight of Jem, Leiara helped her to her feet too before stumbling forward, and looking to inspect their surroundings even more.[/BCOLOR]
  10. Jem almost had stopped when Leiara had cried out to her. Tears filling her eyes as she fought the urge to turn back and fought the rush of fear that came with it. What was she so afraid of? What was about to happen to her if she kept going? She shook her head though trying to keep going.

    But then the storm started. And real fear started to hit her. It hit her so hard that she could barely move. And then the pull started, and she started to freak out. She tried to scream when Laiara grabbed her, but nothing came out but air. Or what she thought was air. But as soon as she realized it was Leiara, some part of her calmed down a bit, and she adjusted so that she could grip Leiara back.

    Jem was looking at Leiara the whole entire time. How brave she seemed. How strong she was to hold on to something that must hurt so much. Tears just fell from her eyes as the lightening struck so close. Her heart almost stopping with how much she was afraid. It was then that she saw Leiara crying too. They weren't alone in this fear. They were together.

    As her feet left the ground, she was trying to pull herself together. She knew that she'd done something wrong. She had angered something and she'd caused Leiara to suffer whatever this was as well. She was trying to think, because she knew that they'd have to try and figure out a way out of whereever that purple tear in the air near them was taking them. But why did she know that it was going to take them somewhere. Probably all of those strange Si-Fi movies she watched when she was a kid. Or maybe it was the literal anger swirling around them.

    Whatever the case may be, Leiara was slipping, and their time was out. Time slowed, time sped up, time even seemed to freeze all at once, and then Leiara's hand was not in hers anymore. Both of them had lost their grip. And as she floated in the darkness, she briefly wondered why Leiara would jump to her aide like that when she was going to get sucked into the problem too. But then, all of a sudden she was laying there, at the edge of a mass grave.

    She sat up and shivered, looking around and frowning. She looked at all the dead. Some nasty looking while others looking kind of peaceful. She tried to stand up but couldn't. She was shaking.When Leiara finally found her, she broke into tears again. Almost jumping into her arms, but she didn't have that capacity. Her body just couldn't do it. She let Leiara help her up. And then spoke the question that was probably on both of their minds. "Where... are we?" Her voice rasped as if she'd not used it for years or even decades.
  11. [BCOLOR=transparent]“I… am not sure,” Leiara blinked at the darkness beyond the graveyard in her immediate vision. Her nose crinkled at the smell of old flesh and dirt and mildew. They weren’t still on the Mesa, or the Reservation, that was for sure, running her fingers through her hair she idly tried to remove the knots that the wind had tied in it, but it was futile. She wasn’t sure what to do, or how to fix it. They were lost, like all the others that had ventured to the Black Mesa.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]With a sigh, Leiara slumped back onto the ground her hands coming up to cover her face as a desperate sob escaped her. Nobody had ever returned. They weren’t killed… they were taken. It all fell into place. All the knowledge she’d been given by the Medicine Man, by her family, and through her training, it all made sense now. The land protected itself, and as long as they continued to put their faith in their ancestors they too would be protected. But she had failed. She violated the trust put in her people and now here she was, with an outsider no less, trapped. They might as well be dead. They probably would be dead soon.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Now, now, child. It isn’t that bad.”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]An unknown voice drew her attention from her hands. An elderly man stood hunched in front of a path that Leiara was sure hadn’t been there before. He wore a cloak of animal skins draped over his shoulder and his silver hair hung down past his hips. The lines on his face spoke of a wealth of knowledge and wisdom to be passed to the younger generation. In his gnarled hand was a long smooth, ivory cane that appeared to be crafted from a large leg bone of some sort.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Leiara blinking, and wiped the tears from her face, before rising and bowing her head to the man in front of her. “Who… Who are you?” Her voice sounded so strange in this place, a mere echo of what it usually sounded like. Her tone dry, and her pitch dead, as though the spirit and animation it typically carried was being smothered.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Who I am matters not,” his voice held a certain quality of authority, a deep pitch that resonated through her whole being. “What matters is that you being here is a mistake. A mistake that could cost you your life, and the life of your friend.”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Leiara glanced over at Jem and then back toward the Elder. The longer she looked at him the less she was sure that he was actually there. His form seemed to shift and shimmer in a nonexistent breeze. His bright brown eyes and long smooth hair seemed to shine in the nonexistent light. Briefly she considered responding, but decided against it. He had something to say, that might save their lives, she needed to hear him out.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“We saw your climb, and your attempts to save the Outsider, and as such have decided to give you a chance. The door, as it were, to the outside is in pieces, but should you gather them in the correct place it should still open.”[/BCOLOR]


    [BCOLOR=transparent]Holding up his hand he shook his head and continued. “You cannot stay here, but we cannot send you back either. It has to be your own desire for survival that takes you home. You have much left to offer the tribe. You’ll know the pieces when you see them.”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Leiara couldn’t respond. All she could do was stare stupidly at the man as he turned and disappeared down the path, taking any evidence of him being there with him. The path slowly closed behind him and once again the pair of them were alone, surrounded by old bones and whispers of the past. Her wide-eyed gaze fell on Jem, and the hint of hope painted her feature. “Do you think he was being truthful, that we actually have a chance to leave this place?” [/BCOLOR]
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