Todd and Einah paused at the doorway to the grand room, looked at each other, squeezed hands and stepped into the room.
Applause and cheers greeted them as they entered the room and the crowd parted to let them through. The joy was palpable as they walked up to the dais and climbed it’s stairs to join Bandrag and Gardle and the other elders who were there already. Todd and Einah greeted them and then turned to face the crowd at Gardle’s instruction. Bandrag stepped forward and motioned the crowd to be silent.
“Fellow Anakdidae. Today we thank Emanuel for victory over the Beast!” he began.
The crowd cheered and applauded loudly again and Bandrag waited for them to settle this time.
“Today we thank Emanuel for sending his servant to defeat our greatest enemy! I present you Todd Hargood!” Bandrag motioned Todd forward to stand beside him. Einah was smiling and applauding as loud as any of the Anakdidae.
“Today Todd has proven himself worthy to be called one of us, and in honor of that privilege, I present him with this medal, The Order of Emim.”
One of the other elders stepped forward and offered a blue coral tray to Bandrag. From the tray he took a rope of woven seaweed which held a gold medallion. The medallion had a profile of a male Anakdidae with a golden braided rope around the edge and on the other side a picture of the steeple with beams of light coming from it. Below that was the double H like the one on Todd’s belt buckle and the like the one on the altar of Dagon. Todd bowed his head as Bandrag placed the medal around his neck then stepped back to applaud. The crowd joined in and cheered once more.
Einah pushed Todd forward and whispered “Say something!” with a smile of encouragement. Todd stumbled forward and Bandrag put his arm around Todd’s shoulder. The crowd grew silent and all eyes were on Todd.
“Um, I - I don’t know what to say, um. Thank you, for this wonderful medal! Um, I only did what any one of you brave Anakdidae would do. Thank you!” Todd stumbled through his short speech and was grateful it was done.
The crowd cheered again as if he had just given them an oration fitting Aristotle.
Gardle stepped forward and said “Now that we have done with the formalities, refreshments and music please, we have something to celebrate!”
The crowd cheered again and then talked amongst themselves. Several Anakdidae came and shook Todd’s hand and thanked him again for saving their home and their lives. Todd really couldn’t understand why they were so grateful to him. Surely any one of them could have done what he did. Finally, after the crowd broke into groups, music played and food was brought around on shelfish trays, he asked Gardle.
“Gardle, What did I do that was so special? Surely you, or any other of the warrior class Anakdidae could have turned on the light beam defenses.”
“No, Todd. It could only be done by a human, and a human of the Hargood line. You see, for hundreds of generations we have lived in hiding in this world below yours. We have often fought with the Beast’s progenitors. Every generation the Beast comes, and we defeat it, only to have it’s offspring appear after several years and the battle repeats again and again. We have tried to fight the Beast ourselves but it’s strength is too great and many lives were lost. The medal you wear bears the image of Emim who was a great warrior who had no equal. He was Einah’s father. Your grandfather had come to our world but was injured in his battle with the Beast. Emim took the oracle and found the altar of Dagon, but the defenses did not activate, and he was lost. Your grandfather, despite his injuries, made it to the altar and activated the defenses, killing the Beast. Only a human, it seems, is worthy to bring the light. Other humans have come, but they were defeated when the light would not come. Only a Hargood can defeat the Beast it seems. “
“So my grandfather has been here? What about my father?”
“Every generation a Hargood must come. We call you with our minds and pray that Emanuel will send the one. Yes, your father John Hargood, and your Grandfather , Earnest Hargood and his father, Lincoln Hargood have all been here, and their fathers before them.”
“Why don’t you just find the nest and kill the eggs?”
Bandrag said “Todd, we haven’t been able to find the nest. For generations we have searched, to no avail. We have searched with our combined minds and that of the Blessed Hive; we have searched individually; we have searched in groups; every time the Beast is defeated we search again; but it seems to be impossible. Sometimes we find a young Beast and kill it, but there is always another.”
“What happens if the Beast wins one time?”
“Without our Blessed Hive we will have to seek shelter elsewhere. We can cultivate and nurture another one, but it takes hundreds of years to do so and we would be vulnerable until then. We would seek refuge in the oceans but there even more dangers exist and the salt water is, how can I say, distasteful.”
“You must take the oracle back to your world and preserve it for your sons, and their sons; just like your father has done so for you.” said Bandrag
“I have to leave?” asked Todd looking at Einah.
“Yes, you cannot stay here. The breather must be returned to it’s kind, and you cannot use it indefinitely, there are health consequences. Besides, your family will be missing you.” he answered also looking at Einah.
“I know, I miss them too. Can I visit here? Sometime?”
“No Todd, I’m afraid not. Once you return we will secure the entrance until the Beast returns.”
“Oh.” Todd said.
“Grandfather, can we not make an exception?” asked Einah her eyes beginning to brim with tears.
“I’m sorry Einah, there can be no exceptions. We have been protected by our God for generations through the Blessed Hive and through the Hargoods. If we were to expose ourselves more often, there is a greater risk to our safety. In fact Todd must leave tomorrow.”
“What! Oh Bandrag Zamzummim!” exclaimed Einah, using his full name she covered her face and ran sobbing from the room.
“Einah!” called Todd and ran after her, exiting through the same doorway.
“He will adjust to being at home again. They all do.” said Bandrag.
“I’m not so sure. He is taken with Einah. That has never happened before.” commented Gardle.
“Once outside the hive memories fade for humans. They have a recollection of the events, but the details are lost over time. He’ll be fine.”
“What about Einah?”
“It is just the infatuation of a young Anakdidae. She will grow out of it once Todd is out of sight, you’ll see.”
“I hope you are right, Bandrag.” said Gardle.
“So do I.”
Todd found Einah watching the life teeming on the other side of a view port.
“Are you OK?” he asked.
“I am not OK. I want you to stay, but I must honor my Grandfather’s wishes.” she answered.
“I know. I need to go back to my family. My sister Mary will be missing me, and my parents. To be honest I miss them too.”
“Of course you do. Oh Todd!” Einah cried and hugged him tightly. He hugged her back and sighed.
“I will never forget you Einah.”
“I will never forget you either Todd.”
They turned to face the portal and sat down on the bench that rose from the floor at their command. Watching the exotic creatures swim by they sat side by side arm in arm reflecting on the amazing events of the last two days.
The next day Todd said farewell to Gardle, Bandrag and the healer who gave him the container of healing gel with the elder’s approval but with the strict instructions not to reveal the source.
There was a crowd surrounding the exit from the Blessed Hive; the portal that would carry Todd to the surface. With the breather removed Todd felt like he was missing a part of himself, but more so, he was missing Einah, who was conspicuous by her absence.
Todd was dressed in his human clothes again and had everything but the oracle with him. When he saw Einah coming into the passageway, he knew where she had been. She had been to the temple of Dagon to retrieve the oracle. Einah ran up to Todd and presented it to him with a curtsy. “Sir!” she pronounced.
“Thank you ma’am.” said Todd formally, then smiled and they hugged one last time. “Good bye Einah.”
“Good bye Todd.” she said.
To Bandrag and Gardle he said “Thank you for all that you have taught me. I will never forget.”
“You are welcome Todd.” They said together.
Todd moved toward the portal and waved one last time to the Anakdidae, but to Einah he made his thumb, index and little finger into a trident, or I love you sign. She made the same sign. He had taught her it when they talked until late, as a way of remembering and indicating their love for one another should they ever meet again.
“What is that he did?” Bandrag asked Gardle.
“I do not know; some human custom I assume.”
They both returned the sign awkwardly, which made Einah giggle under her breath.
Todd laughed and jumped into the portal.