Castle Roland

Elios Book I

by Arthur

In Progress

Chapter 12

Posted: 16 Jul 15



There And Back

Midday found the small convoy not as far along as Elios thought they would have been; although, in all fairness he realised that it was not any ones fault for the slow progress; it had taken Mita a lot longer to get used to the many extra gear shifts needed to get the large new heavy vehicle up to speed and; as often happened at the beginning; when Mita missed the change he would have to stop and start all over again or there would be a terrible grinding noise from underneath the vehicle. It all took extra time but by midday Mita had finally worked out how to use the gear shift and they were starting to make some little headway towards their old home base.

Elios checked his crude map again and made his new bearings; he turned them slightly more to the south and continued onward. There had been no sign of any Renegs for the whole morning but as the sun began to sink he saw in the far distance a cloud of sand rising and coming towards them; quickly he tooted the warning to the other vehicles and pulled over under a steep cliff face, the others forming a half circle around him.

Mita pulled the big vehicle into the middle as it had no armour and all their equipment was stored in it. Modou asked Elios how they would be able to defend against the barbarians approaching them with only the black pipes to hit them with; Elios just smiled and told him to wait and see.

Modou noticed Mita take a bigger and longer black pipe from his vehicle and open up what looked like two small legs underneath it; Mita then clambered up on top of his vehicle and lay down with the pipe held to his shoulder while he looked into another smaller pipe on the top.

The small group of boys waited patiently; to Modou's eyes they all seemed relaxed and not overly worried about the trouble approaching them. He took a tighter hold on his own weapons and prepared for battle; his two K'bine stood along side of him with their cross bows at the ready; fast approaching them were about twenty mounted barbarians. They had seen the small group and were yelling and whistling as they ran their haws into a gallop and charged across the darkening sands; an easy and tempting target was waiting for them, their leader had told them it would be easy pickings to while away the dark time with.

Suddenly Modou fell to his knees and his two boys threw themselves down flat on the sand with their heads trying to bury themselves to hide from the loud booming sound from behind them; with trepidation, Modou looked around and was just in time to see Mita readjusting his position as a small wisp of smoke came from the end of his black pipe.

Modou turned around and looked into the distance where the barbarians were; he could just make out a small lump lying on the sand and one of the haws running wildly away; the rest of the barbarians were still charging over the sand and seemed to take little notice that they had lost one of their number. Five times more Mita fired and five more bodies hit the sand but still they came on towards the group of boys.

The Renegs were now closer but still well out of cross bow range and still they came on yelling to raise their courage, then Modou saw why the boys were not worried about the larger group of attackers; the rest of the boys raised their own smaller pipes and the loud crashing sound of their weapons filled the valley around them. Modou watched in awe as barbarian after barbarian fell to the sand, none of them getting close enough to fire their own weapons.

Almost as suddenly as it had started, it finished; the quiet descended on the group of boys as they watched the few remnants of the Renegs try to escape but Mita had other ideas as he began to take aim again and; with careful movements he cut them down one by one until only a solitary Reneg was still standing although he had been tossed from his haws and was on foot.

Mita jumped down from his vantage point and sent the four quad boys out to bring the Reneg back, one way or another; he told them he wanted the Reneg for information if they could catch him alive. It took only a short time for them to surround the Reneg and force him to lie on the ground and have his hands bound; he was then led by a rope tied to one of the quads and taken back to the waiting group.

The Reneg was still young and had a bad gash on his head from being thrown from his galloping haws. Modou watched as his once promised boy; Usof, stood threateningly over the young man, a small black weapon in his hand. Modou had watched as he took it from a small pocket on his belt, this was a new and unseen weapon to Modou.

Mita along with Elios began to question the sole surviving Reneg; after some time they had all the information they could get; the area was ruled by a Reneg called Lion Claw; he held his place by being more vicious than any of the other men around him. Under his rule he had over ten times ten men and they had their own village three days haws ride from the valley they were now in.

Elios called the boys together and suggested they keep going; the ground was flat and seemed to be solid for a long way yet; they would keep going until they had to stop. Mita told the quad boys to keep a sharp lookout for any danger either from the rest of the Renegs or from bad country; they would move slower than before but they felt they had better get as far away as possible before they stopped for a rest.

The boys quickly got out some food and ate as Usof volunteered to take the prisoner away from the group; a short time later they all heard the softer sound of Usof's sidearm and he appeared a short time later and sat with Mita and Elios as though nothing had happened; the rest of the boys were by now used to Usof's hatred of the Renegs; or, barbarians as he called them.

The convoy continued onward; the valley stayed remarkably flat and firm as Elios tried to follow the red lines on the map; he had tried to work out what each colour meant on the ancient map but was at this stage still confused as some of the lines were in red; others were in blue and black; there was only one place on the map where the red line crossed over the blue one; Elios didn't know what it meant but he knew they were approaching the place.

They had tried driving closer to the steep cliffs but the larger vehicle; which was driven by Mita; kept sinking into the soft sand and so they had decided to drive in the middle of the wide valley where it seemed a lot firmer; this was to avoid wasting time digging or pulling Mita's vehicle out of the sand; it was at this time that Elios had noticed that if they followed the lines of red down the center of the valley then they stayed on firm sand.

By the middle of the afternoon; as the ancients called it; they came to where the two coloured lines met; where they met was a funny symbol that Elios had not seen before; it looked like two tables back to back, ] [ ; at first Elios was confused by the crossing of the lines and then, as they drew closer to the meeting of the lines he saw; and finally understood what they meant; before him was a very deep ravine and across the ravine from one side to the next was a flat wide platform made of the ancient stone.

The boys stopped their vehicles and stepped out to see the wonder before them; the wide stone platform stretched across the ravine in one piece; it curved upward slightly in the middle and had two stone fences on each side that went the full length of the platform. Elios moved closer to the edge and saw that the platform was held up by huge stone arms that stretched from each side of the ravine and met in the middle.

Elios and Mita walked carefully onto the platform and found it was solid; looking over the edge they could see far below them the bottom of the deep dry Ravine; it was strewn with rocks and boulders but up here the platform was free of debris; only small mounds of loose sand were piled in some places close to the edges.

The platform looked to be about 150 meters across; Elios decided to get one of the quad boys to slowly ride across with Elios on the back to see what was on the other side as the platform seemed to lead onto nothing as it met the other side. Taking his rifle with him; Elios got on the back of a quad and watched as they made their way slowly across; much to his surprise on the other side, he saw that the platform led into a sharp corner; moving around the corner slowly, Elios saw that the side of the high plateau that they had been on was now stretching below them in another steep cliff; however he could see where the side of the plateau had been carved out somehow and had a very flat base for the vehicles to travel in a spiral downwards onto another valley below them.

The flat area going down looked to be wide enough for at least four vehicles to travel side by side. Elios was not going to take a chance and decided they would stay one behind the other as they went down; most of the flat area was free of rocks and stones although there were some that had rolled off the sheer cliff face in places; he was sure they could either move them or go around them. Elios and the quad boy went back to Mita and reported what they had seen.

As a matter of safety; Mita made the vehicles travel across the platform one at a time; if anything happened then they would only lose one vehicle but much to their relief they all got across without even a groan from the stone platform. Elios led the convoy with his Humvee as they set about following the strange flat track going down the plateau; it was a nerve wracking drive as the flatness zigged and zagged its way down only the occassional screech of the large vehicles brakes could be heard over the softly rumbling vehicles.

Once they were at the bottom of the plateau the sands stretched out before them; again they stayed to the middle and; two hours later they climbed a low sand hill. As they crested the rise and looked down below them; Elios tooted his horn for them to stop; jumping from his Humvee he looked in astonishment at the valley below them; checking his map once again he smiled broadly as he recognised the valley; it was their home valley but they were looking from the far end where it went inland; a direction they had not been in before.

Elios looked again at the map and realised that by following it on the way back they had cut off more than half the distance of their outward journey. Smiling happily, Elios ran back to Mita's vehicle and told him the good news and what it now meant to both bunkers; with his information relayed, Elios jumped back into his Humvee and drove down the hill and onto the valley floor; there he pushed his foot down and they began to speed towards the home bunker at top speed just as the sun was beginning to set ahead of them.

Just as the last rays of the sun began to disappear on the horizon they pulled to a stop outside the large door of home bunker; the boys inside had been told by the lookouts that they were arriving and everyone, except the guards; was outside waiting for them. Most of the boys were waving and laughing at the sight of the small convoy. Elam more than the others as he spied a new vehicle for him to play with.

The waiting boys stood aside as the convoy drove into the bunker and then followed as the doors were once again closed to secure their home. When the vehicles came to their final halt, there was a sudden hush as they saw for the first time; the tall muscular figure of Modou and his double brothers step from Elios Humvee; the sight of the big warrior caused the garage to become as silent as a tomb; he was now dressed in the same clothes as the other boys but the double brothers had wanted to stay in their short white wraps; their small round knot of hair told all the boys present that these rare double boys were the property of the big warrior.

Elios jumped from the Humvee and hugged his two friends as the rest of his convoy parked and left their vehicles to hug and slap each other on the back and; in some case, on the butt; their first adventure had been a success and they had so much new stuff to talk about. Elios introduced Modou and his bred boys to Elam and Elvan as they led everyone to the common room. Elvan ran ahead and started to call out to his kitchen boys to start making the best meal they could come up with as a celebration of the rovers return to their home bunker.

Modou's two boys stayed close by his side as they saw over 200 boys cram into the common room; the noise and laughter was strange to their ears as they had never seen so many boys in one place before; they looked to their warrior to keep them safe as they were the center of a lot of attention because the other boys had never seen double brothers before; both of them kept as close to Modou as they could.

Modou could only look in awe at the bunker and all the boys there; the food seemed to appear in an endless stream as the common room filled with more boys and the hum of conversation between eating was a continuous murmur. Elios along with Elam, Elvan and Mita had sat Modou down with them and began to answer all the questions their new friend fired at them about the bunker system and the many new artifacts they used.

It was very late by the time they had all had enough food and conversation. Elios led Modou and his two bred boys to one of the smaller sleeping rooms after showing them the washing room; they then left their new friends to settle in and went to their own rooms for some rest; the next day they would have to start to plan for taking some of the boys from home bunker to the new one. Elam was only concerned with the new large vehicle that Mita had driven back; they now had a way of moving a large number of boys in one easy lot instead of a lot of trips in smaller vehicles; he was also fascinated by the descriptions of the other big war vehicles Elios had told him about.

For the next two days they sat and planned; it was finally decided that Elvan would stay at home bunker as the leader and would organise any new boys that still seemed to hear the rumour and arrive in small groups to the new marvel for safety. Elam would go back with Elios, Mita and a collection of other older boys who would be taught by Mita to drive the new large vehicles; that way they could set up small convoys to carry equipment or food from the new bunker in larger quantities and bring back more boys to fill and work the new bunker.

Elios, Mita, Elam and Elvan had agreed that should Modou want to stay with them he would be the ideal person to help train their guards and other boys to be warriors; they were under no illusion that the time would come when they would have to go out and face large groups of Renegs but first they had to have enough boys and bunkers to be able to quickly and easily reinforce their warriors. Although they also agreed that the Renegs would have no way of fighting against their better weapons of the ancients; they still accepted that there would come a time when they might have losses.

With the new track to the bunker now open they could send as many as thirty boys in the big vehicle and as the trip was now a lot shorter by going over land instead of around the Oshun shore; the boys could each carry enough food in a back pack for the one day it would take.

The fuel for the vehicles had been noted by Elios and they found that the big vehicle used more than the smaller ones; it meant they did not have to carry much extra to make the journey in one faster run with only a short stop at midday to refill the fuel tank. Elios had seen the previous night that while all the boys were now dressed in the ancient clothes and all looked similar to each other; many of them had made small alterations in different ways to keep a little individuality to each boy or in some cases, to a group of boys; the hardest part of the uniform were the boots as there were many boys with smaller feet and the number of small sizes available was not great; they had finally worked out that if they wore two or three pairs of the foot coverings over each other; they could fill the boots enough to be able to use them.

On the third day a new convoy left home bunker; this time there were only two quads and the one Humvee as well as the big vehicle which they now knew to call a truck; in the back were thirty boys with their fire arms and a back pack with food and clothes and any personal items the boys wanted; they would be the first of the boys to inhabit the new bunker.

In the front of the truck sat Mita, Usof and Elam; in the Humvee was Elios along with Modou and his two boys; the quads now had two boys on each one and were a little way out front as a vanguard; by midday they were on the other side of the stone platform and had stopped to eat and refuel the big truck and other vehicles. Elam could not believe how quickly they progressed along the sands now that Elios understood more about the marks on the ancient map.

As the sun sank they came to the hill that held the new bunker; the large metal door could now been seen easily as the sand had been cleared when it opened last time but they still could not see the outside control box; they settled and made camp for the night so Elios could go back down the cliff and enter the old way; tomorrow they would have all thirty boys dig outside to find the control box that had to be there under the sand.

Elam was amazed at the size of the new door as it towered over his smaller frame; it was nearly twice the size of the door at home bunker but he could now understand that it would have to be bigger on account of the size of the new trucks and other vehicles still inside.

Next morning Mita took Elios to the same cliff edge and slowly lowered him down the rear entrance while the others waited patiently for the big door to be opened from the inside. Half an hour later and they heard and watched as the big door opened inwards to make a ramp and Elios came striding through with a smile on his face as the new boys watched in awe at the size of everything.

The small convoy drove into the cavernous garage; their echo's sounding deep into their new home. Elam jumped from the big truck and began to organise the transport; happily rubbing his hands together as he saw all the new vehicles to check out and looking forward to going down to the real garage below them.

It had been agreed by all that Modou; with his warrior training; would take over the duties of forming squads with the twenty guard boys while Elios and Mita took the rest and set them to their duties either in the kitchen, the bunk rooms; or beginning the search through the top level of the new bunker while Elios took his two boys through to the office and started them on cleaning and setting up their screens.

Mita had set some of his older boys to learning to drive the new trucks under the watchful eye of Elam while he checked over two more quads for the outer guards; the door ramp stayed open while the boys were outside but would be closed once darkness came. Elios worked out a plan for the boys to start to look for the outer control box in the morning after they had had a good night's rest; it was going to be a big job to find it in all the piled up sand at the front of the doorway.

The next morning, the real work began; after setting the guards the rest of the boys got to work to find the outer control box while those inside continued to search and evaluate all the new things in this large bunker; it was by now obvious to Elios that this was a main supply bunker for the surrounding area but the new larger office was more detailed than the last one; if Elios was to believe all he saw and learnt then this was one of the main control bunkers for the whole land.

The scope of what he saw stretched his wildest imaginings until he almost felt overloaded with information; to see and try to understand that there was really a very large and new world out there was giving Elios strange thoughts but the size of the maps on the table screen was just to real to be a trick.

That afternoon the boys found the control box outside; it had been well buried but now they had outer access and the guards could now be set without leaving the ramp open when the others were resting or working inside. Over the next two weeks the bunker came to life and the boys settled in to their respective places within the bunker. Mita sent two truck loads of supplies back to Elvan when they received a message from him over Elios computer system; the trucks returned with more new boys for the large bunker home until the home bunker was down to eighty boys which seemed to be the right number for that one.

Elios had renamed the new bunker as the supply bunker and he was now happy that they had 120 boys there; that seemed to be just the right number for the larger bunker to operate with. Mita suggested that Modou organise a group of guards to go out and find any boys that were rovers and see if they wanted to come and fill out the numbers until they had enough to begin a new search. Elios had worked out that the next red lit bunker would be more than five days away; even if they were able to follow the red lines all the way on the map.

At the odd times that Elios went outside the bunker he was followed closely by Usof; the second bred boy still took his vow seriously about keeping Elios safe and he could often be seen sitting behind Elios as the other boy looked at the far off sand hills and valleys as he tried to work out where the red lines went on the barren sand.

Two months went by and the bunkers numbers had steadily increased as Modou's boys searched and found new rover boys to join them; the supply bunker had now become a thriving hive of continuous activity day or night. Elios, Mita and Elam along with Modou; agreed it was time for the next search. Elam would stay as the head of the bunker and the others would take a small number of boys with them to start the search; as before Mita was in charge of the vehicles, Modou was in charge of security and Elios was responsible for getting them there.

This time the group had twenty guard boys who would also do other duties as they went; the convoy was made up of two quads, two Humvee's, two trucks with the extra food and fuel supplies as well as a place for the extra boys to ride and; at the tail end came one of the new eight wheel armoured APC like vehicles with the two strange weapons on the top. Mita had insisted on bringing it up from the storage level and had been playing with it outside the bunker for more than a week as he tried to learn how to operate it; he now felt confident enough to take one with them; this was going to be their real heavy duty protection.

Elios had finally worked out what the two strange marks meant on the map so that now; when he saw the ] [ marks he knew it was something called a 'BRIDGE' and that it could be used to cross a deep ravine or river if there was any water in it. The direction he had chosen to the next bunker site was to the rising sun; or east, in the ancient's language; the red line was mainly straight until it came to the high mountains and then it seemed to turn and twist back on itself; Elios surmised that it meant they would be going up or down the mountains as the next red light was on the far side of the mountains and the two green lights were on the Oshun side.

The three leaders now had a good idea of what they might encounter as far as trying to find the third bunker and so stored as much equipment as they could to find it; the biggest discovery in the new bunker had been found by one of Elios office boys while he had been down in one of the levels looking around and trying to work out what a lot of the new things did; it had again been by total accident that the boy had stumbled on this new secret of the ancients.

He had been searching along a tall rack when he came across a new type of box. inside he saw a lot of thin wires and smaller boxes along with what he now knew were the cylinders called batteries; this all intrigued him so much he took out the little instruction book and sat down to read.

He was not missed at meal time as he had sat with his back against a tall rack in a far corner; he was to engrossed in the small book and what it was revealing to him to be bothered with eating; if what he thought the book was telling him was really true then this new discovery was going to change things for the better for all the boys.

It was well into the night before he became aware of his thin stomach growling; his need to go and see the leader boys was an urgent tug on his mind; taking hold of two of the smaller boxes and his book he ran to the elevator and set the button to the number 1 level; he ran into the common room just as Elios, Mita, Usof, Modou and his two boys were about to leave.

Yelling loudly to his leaders, the boy ran to them waving the book and boxes furiously to get their attention; seconds later he was standing in front of them breathlessly trying to explain what he had found. Mita calmed the boy down and then heard the deep rumbling from the boys stomach; with a smile he called out for one of the other boys still in the common room to find some food for the boy; next they all sat again as the boy calmed down and began to tell them of his wondrous discovery.

The small group listened intently as the boy described what he had found while searching the lower level; the group listened without a word as the realisation of what the boy had found could mean to their efforts when out searching the wilds for new bunkers, or for the outer guard boys who watched over the bunker.

The boy had emptied the two boxes onto the table as he ate; laying out the different pieces as he reread the small instruction book; the others looked on at the small pieces and could not see how it did what the book said it could; slowly and carefully the boy opened a small hole in the base of the black box; on the top of the box were two small buttons that could be turned around; in the middle of the two buttons was a very small green coloured screen that had numbers show up once the batteries were inserted and the first button had been turned to the 'On' position.

The boy next took a long thin wire with a very thin small piece of metal on one end and at the other was a strange looking piece; it was thin metal and shaped in a semi curve; the wire ran from one side of it and it had another thin wire from which there was a thicker blob; at the other end of the first metal piece was a strange round blob that seemed to have no use until the boy showed them how it all fit together.

When he was finished they stood and looked at the strange item sitting on the boys head; with a smile the boy took the second black box and pushed the batteries into it and turned on the button; it now had a hissing sound coming from it; the boy for the first time spoke more or less at the thin metal wire near his mouth; suddenly, as clear as anything; his voice also came from the second box at the same time; he had found out how the ancients could talk over long distances with these small black boxes. Elios carefully followed what the boy had done and then ran from the common room and down the long passage; next he spoke into the small blob near his mouth and only moments later heard the boy talk back to him as clearly as if he was standing next to him. Elios ran back to the common room with elation showing on his young face; this new means to talk was going to change everything for them; no more tooting or calling out loudly.

Now that they had found a way to keep in contact while moving; the plans for the next mornings departure were put in action; it was going to be a long trip this time as Elios had estimated that there would be close to five days travel if everything went according to plan. Now they had a way of contacting the bunker they would be able to keep a daily update.

In the bunker, Elam had decided to stay and run it while the others were out searching; they had created a second convoy of one Humvee, two quads and three of the large trucks to go back to the home bunker and bring in more new boys; the drivers and guards had instruction to keep a look out for any new boys that wanted to join the newly formed bunker boys.

While Modou would have liked to go along with Elios he decided that for the time being he would stay and help Elam in the defence and guarding of the new bunker; that way Elam could concentrate on all the new vehicles that had been found; as well as helping with the training of the boys in fighting techniques as he knew them. His only problem was the ancient's technology; their rifles and side arms were still somewhat of a mystery to them but fortunately there were two other older boys that were well versed in their use and would take over from Mita as teachers.

The next morning Mita led the search convoy from the bunker and, under Elios direction; turned them eastward and towards the far off mountain range that could just barely been seen in the far distance. The vehicles followed a track that no one could see apart from Elios and his red lines on the map although the evident flatness of the valley did indicate that it was firm ground and easier to travel on than the sand hills surrounding them.

They travelled all day and the mountains seemed no closer; any expected Renegs were conspicuous by their absence as the convoy slowly ground its way forward to the next bunker; they had to make small detours and alterations to their course because of unmarked ravines or high unclimbable sand hills.

By the time the sun was sinking behind them and night was coming on; the convoy had covered only 200 Kms. of the expected 1500 that was the distance worked out by Elios; it looked as though it might well take more than five days if the mountains were also traversed by unknown ravines or rock falls.

That first night they found a small gully to camp in; although tired from their first day on the trip, Mita managed to satisfy both Elios and Usof that night as around them there were the noises of other boys filling their own needs; only the current guard boys had to wait until they were finished their duty; most knew that in the days to come they might very well be to tired for any games at night so made the most of it on their first night.

The camp was now bigger than any they had made before because of the extra guard boys; there was also a likelihood of picking up more new boys along the way. This new trip was going into unknown country and all their senses had to be keen and alert. Elios and Mita were well aware that the direction they were going was also bringing them all close to where they thought the main gang of Renegs were living; the new dangers could not be taken lightly.

Just as the new sun was rising the next morning, the convoy started out on the next leg of their journey; the use of the ancient's tinted eye coverings were a real boon for the drivers and guards as they drove fully into the rising sun; they had also been a find in the new bunker and all the boys thought it was fun to cover their eyes with these new toys; it was not until they used them while driving into the sun that they realised the true use of them; they could now see as though the sun was not even there, it was a great relief as far as their concern for their safety went.

As the convoy continued on into the rising sun; by mid morning, they saw in the distance their first sight of Renegs; it looked like a small group, perhaps scouts Mita thought; he pointed them out to Elios who quickly got onto the talking box and passed on the information to all the other boys to keep a sharp lookout from now on.

After the midday halt to refuel the vehicles and take a light meal, the boys talked about the appearance of the first Renegs; it was decided to keep a closer eye on the hill tops around them and to keep their fire arms close by and ready; the convoy resumed its journey just after the highest heat of the day had begun to recede a little and by nightfall on their second day Elios estimated they had now covered more than a third of the distance; at last the mountains were beginning to look just a fraction closer; all that remained for the next day was to cross a long wide flat stretch of ground that seemed to sparkle white and pink in the dying sun; none of the boys had ever seen anything like it before; they were now well out of any familiar lands they had previously known.

To the eyes of the boys it looked as though once they had crossed this new strange landscape, they would be at the mountains which in the dimming light looked a hazy blue in the distance; the only other sight the boys could see were what appeared to be a thin layer of white clouds hanging above the far off mountains.

Camp that night was inside a small circle of the vehicles; four guards were set this time as there was no natural cover on the flat expanse around them; the only advantage they held was that any attackers would be seen well before they got too close to the camp. One of the guards that had been trained in the use of the double guns was always in the eight wheeler ready with his new weapon in case of emergencies.

During the night there were a couple of false alarms as movements were seen outside the camp turned out to be only small animals out looking for their meal. Mita congratulated the young guard boys for their alertness; he felt that this trip they would need all the boys on their best behaviour; both Elios and Mita knew that by the end of the next day they could be very close to the main Reneg camp. The vague description they had got was that it was somewhere near the big hills; both boys hoped they would be able to avoid it for now although they both knew as did most of the other boys; that the time would come when they would have to find a way to attack the Renegs and finish them once and for all time if their lands were going to improve with the help of the ancients many helpful artifacts.

The next morning, as the sun rose higher in the sky; the boys noticed that the ground under them was reflecting the sun back at them with much stronger power than it had ever done before; their mouths became very dry as they travelled onward and the strange white sand was lifted into the air and drifted into the vehicles; the water consumption increased rapidly as the boys needed to drink more and their bodies seemed to demand more moisture.

All the vehicles grew hotter the further they moved out onto the white surface that stretched into the far distance all around them; this was a new surface and, at the midday stop; Elios went to look closer at the ground around them; picking up a few grains of the sand he put it to his lips; the sudden bitter taste made him spit it out quickly but in the back of his mind there was something vaguely familiar about the taste of it. Elios sat in the limited shade of the truck and thought about the taste.

Like most discoveries so far, the answer came to Elios in a small flash of incite; they were not travelling on normal sand, they were now on a massive landscape of salt. Elios jumped up and told Mita what he thought it was and they sat and discussed the strange event. Previously none of the boys had ever given any thought to where the basic food flavouring of salt had come from; Elios and the others looked at the vast distant of salt around them and were awed that there could be so much; now they had their answer to a question that had never been asked. Elios sat and marvelled at how much he was learning since he had been sent out of the breeding caves more than a full year ago; in fact, it was now getting close to two years.

After the midday stop for fuel and water; they set out again for the now closer mountains; they were able to travel at speed on the flat hard surface under them and by dusk they were under the shadow of the mountains and had just left the salt lands; ahead of them were the towering mountains and as yet no sight of the way up them. Elios sat working on his map as he tried to work out a way to find the 'Road' up the mountains; it looked as though they would have to send out the quads in the morning to look for the start of the climb; they were also in very dangerous territory now and they would have to keep very alert for any Reneg activity.


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