Zoic made extra standard test flights in the ship, from one end of Fiod to the other. Passing through the gates of day and the passage of night. All ship's functions were in excellent condition as he readied himself to fly toward the planet Arca. Not knowing what he'd find there since being invaded some time ago as his own world had been invaded by the treacherous and malignant Dokk.
He took in the sights of the glow of Fiod's light and mass as he flew further away. It had been a long time since he had seen these sights. The world below still appearing as wondrous as it did back then save for the marked differences on its surface. And the view of the darkness of empty space and the far off lit bodies that danced brilliantly. He had forgotten the feeling of how these planetary journeys awed him so much. Zoic was relieved that the magic of it all, still remained. His blue eyes sparkled with hope and reverence.
Soon the globe of Arca could be seen, small in his viewing window. While it looked as beautiful as he'd remembered it, something was different about it. The colors were not as vibrant and the land mass was changed in some locations. On his approach he found that the old port was still intact, however it was abandoned. The lights burned dim and they droned on in a pattern of a perpetual flicker. He met up with a lone keeper of the port who came up out of the shadows.
"You startled me." Zoic said in what he could remember of the speech they spoke on Arca.
"It's been a long time since we've had any ships grace the platforms of an Arcan space portal." The keeper said in a calm tone of voice. Zoic asked him his name and learned that is was Khom. An ancient name in the Arcan language meaning sentry. A watcher. Someone who was familiar with the ways and traditions of Zoic's home planet that shared the same beliefs and values.
"Tell me, Khom, how long has this place been dark? When was the last time a ship visited here?" Zoic wondered.
"Nigh on to about three solar cycles of the closest sun. Not much more than that. We called for back up when the invasion here was in full force. A few ships took some of the people to the planets on the outer orbits beyond the Triad Worlds" Khom told Zoic.
"Were they from Cova?" Zoic asked.
"One was, but it would be out at Arcan 748 still. It never returned even when more were waiting to escape." Khom explained. "After there was no return of the ships, the darkness of Dokk began to dissipate. We could fight the remaining attacks but there is few of us now."
"Was it a large ship? The one from Cova?" Zoic seemed almost distraught as he asked.
"No. No, it was a small craft." Khom answered. Zoic was relieved. The ship he sought and the man he sought from Cova would still be on Cova.
Zoic looked up at the sky, and the nearby moon and the distant Fiod shone and looked so close that he still felt connected to his world, and the bluish and lavender colors from the moon and from his world, swirled in patches of the foggy air that permeated the surface of Arca. He'd forgotten how mystical this planet really was. He breathed it all in. A small tear fell down his cheek. Khom stood silently gazing at the ship. He stirred asking finally what Zoic was there for. He explained his recent journey to the Arch, which is legend to the inhabitants of all three worlds. Zoic explained his mission was a more of a spiritual one and that he was being guided solely by what the universe was speaking to him. Khom understood. Khom also understood that Zoic would have never come by ship were the celestial vibrations of life not at work here.
"I have waited for you then." Khom said at length. "There are five comrades I'd like you to meet. Come."
The two men walked on through the pathways of Arca's massive tree lines that would appear as mountains from the distance. And the vast spaces in between of shallow waters that in the dim light of the moon appeared as dark, still oceans. Zoic strained to see the landmass on the other sides of the waters and could barely make any out. But he saw that the waters were still as he remembered them. That their magic was still there. He felt a longing that was more pronounced here than back home. Arca would always be an alien world to him but a paradise that he could spend long amounts of time in and still feel at home. Arca was calming but elusive. That was its beauty. Its vibration. Its force in the light of the suns.
Finally they approached a grove that appeared very small at first until they stepped through and found that there were multiple passageways to other areas within the forests. A network of individual groves that appeared to go on forever. Small firelight dotted the trees and stumps bearing lamp lights shone brightly once their eyes adjusted. Lone torches made of iron and twine lined small paths through this strange realm. The grasses that carpeted the ground reflected the moisture in the air to appear as starlight all around them. Zoic smiled and knew this was the first place he needed to come before the voyage to Cova. His heart was at peace as was the ultimate sign that he was on the correct path.
Khom lead Zoic deeper into the forest sanctuary and brought him into a dwelling made entirely of twine and iron, with a covering of a lattice of leaves overhead to allow peeks of the moons and their light through at night's turn and sun's light during the day's turn. "I will bring my comrades shortly, rest and take nourishment and drink." Khom said as he offered Zoic food and water. "What do you call this mythical place?" Zoic asked. "Hidden Ground." Khom answered. Zoic smirked a little knowing that it would be that. He had forgotten how simplistic and straightforward the Arcans were.
After Zoic had refreshed and rested awhile under the mystical nature of his surroundings, he heard footsteps coming in to greet him. Standing to greet four warrior souls who had survived the invasion of Dokk the Darkness. Zoic beheld Nackendara, Ackea, Deba, and Kould with a sense of awe. He had forgotten how beautiful the people of Arca were. Their statures of strength and nobility. They all sat down to talk about things that had happened, and they thanked Zoic for traveling by ship to their world. Coming to them in a time of great need.
They spoke long hours past the night turn and into the next night turn. They told Zoic of the secret gatherings of the people to undo the evils that had been done to their world. Zoic spoke to them about needing their assistance as he alone could not undergo the mission his elders gave to him and knowing that his elders expected him to seek to gather a team.
"While the nightmare of a darkness that rages over the worlds, and everything being torn apart that you built and loved, and everything you love is taken away as the brutality of evil does, you're in a survival state of being. A survival state of mind. You even sleep on your toes, ready to fight or run. You're set in a life of battle and you have no time to genuinely rest or think about anything being different. You're just surviving." Nackendara told Zoic.
Zoic eyes glinted with tears as he heard of all that happened to these people, and he blessed them with a spiritual bond to him and offered them his loyalty and promise to be there with them now that a plan was being made and underway.
"But whenever there might be an end to the suffering, doubt, and the impulse to jump up running, when there's an absence of dangers that you've been conditioned to face all the time, you still wake up in cold fear from nightmares of a life that you had lived for so long. You'll look over your shoulder at the slightest sound of approaching feet, even the wind or rains. You have the memory of a hellish life that everything you've fought for could still be taken away at any time if the evil of that malignant entity should manifest again. It's a shadow of death that assumed power from the emptiness of the spaces between galaxies. An evil so concentrated that it absorbed the lifeless void and has a will to make all as nothing." Nackendara spoke as if she was reliving the horror again and her voice seemed to trail off to almost a whisper. Her tears and sorrow were felt by the rest. They sat in silence, knowing that she spoke of the trauma that still lingered. Like a shadow that never truly went away.
At length, they all slept for a turn of day and a half turn of night. After the rest was satisfactory they set out with Zoic to show him the location that Nackendara and Ackea escaped from after the devastating loss of life there. The surface vehicle they used was the same one the women used to cross the landscape to the hidden sanctuary off the Mossy Way. It was a little beat up, the six wheeled, light-silver covered mobile traveler had seen better days. But it was operational and they didn't have time to fashion another.
Along the way, they had made several planned stops to gather further supplies. After the invasion, small shops had been set up as traveling points between locations of Arca, as the main routes were all but lost or unearthed and turned into rumble. They had brought enough crafted wares with them for trading and collected among other things, power conductors crafted from ore and dense silver rods made to regenerate power for ships when close enough to magnetic sources like planets and moons. When they arrived at the location of the dark event spoke of at Hidden Ground, there was still smoke rising from the grounds and collapsed structures. A few inhabitants still remained and had begun to rebuild what was left of their lives. Nackendara pointed out the man who lost his young son, and the expression of the man's face was a torment that broke the heart. Another couple of folk were introduced, and some who had lost everyone they loved as they survived on, while probably wishing they went with the now departed. Zoic's soul was saddened, he knew all too well what the evil of Dokk was capable of, and he had to go back to Hidden Ground just to shake the effects of seeing what had happened as it all mirrored what had happened on Fiod.
Nackendara held the hands of a few of the folk, took the hand of Comok who had lost his son and with Zoic, they all prayed and signaled the need for guidance and the willpower to go on. To fight another day and to gain an answer to what could overthrow this evil and to finally destroy Dokk that had destroyed countless lives. As the people of Arca did thirst for justice and to avenge their dead and everything taken from them. "Once again, my friend, would you not be willing to come to Hidden Ground to heal your spirit for a while?" Khom asked Comok. "I stay here in case my son should send his essence, of whatever is left, to me. This would be the last place he'd have remembered of his life here. I don't want to be absent should there be any sign I might miss." Comok explained. Nackendara and Deba embraced Comok before walking back to their land mobile. The others gave Comok a hug and a way to communicate with them should he and his fellow villagers need passage to Mossy Way or to Hidden Ground.
When everything had been documented by Zoic and Khom's comrades were ready, they made their way to the old port where his ship awaited him and his new traveling companions. Khom spoke of coming with them, but he was a sentry for the old port. He knew there would be other ships arriving sometime in the future and he had to make ready. They would go to Cova to retrieve the larger ship that remained hidden there for so long and to seek a man that was written about by the scribes as having the knowledge to pilot the large space vessel. The newly assembled team of Zoic, Nackendara, Ackea, Kould, and Deba set out. Neither Deba or Ackea had ever been off world before and Kould and Nackendara, as well as Khom, had only been off world ages ago when they completed a small tour around Arca's moons. A sort of holiday celebration of a vaguely remembered event that used to happen on Arca when they still celebrated the anniversary of their moons days of creation, that they witnessed in long ago happier times.
Now they were flying away from their world, watching as it grew smaller and moving away from them. There were no words of sentiment. There were no thoughts to speak of. They quieted their senses and cleared their minds for what would be ahead of them. As uncertain as they all were, the spiritual aura of their souls were being slowly awakened by a sense that they were connected in this existence. That there was a hope they never truly felt before and it began to strengthen their sense of confidence. This was the instinct they once knew, and it was sharpening within each of them again.