Previous Next

The First 1000 Steps Are the Hardest

Posted on Sun Jan 3rd, 2021 @ 1:16pm by Chief Petty Officer Remal Kajun & Captain Rhenora Kaylen

Mission: Healing of Minds
Location: Darkur Province - Bajor
Timeline: Current

As the shuttle cruised over the landscape, things changed from recovering trees and underbrush to great plains filled with vast stretches of tall grass and sporadic wildlife. They passed over a large lake which marked the edge of Darkur Province. Even the lake held variations as it changed from a grassy lowland lake into a glacial mountainous runoff at the base of the Darkur mountain range. There were several small mountains, hills and valleys and then one large mountain dwarfing them all, Mount Darkum.

The shuttle followed a large river which led into a valley just south of Darkum, where it began to descend. The river twisted and curved through the lush canopy of trees until an opening emerged to reveal a shuttle pad. As they grew near, Remal spotted a simple wooden platform with a large bronze bell similar to that of the Bonshō, a Japanese bell used to summon the monks to prayer. They would have to ring this bell to announce their arrival on the pad, and then wait for the escort of the Brotherhood monks.

He looked at Rhenora, “Oh yeah. I forgot to mention the stairs. The 1000 steps of Darkum to be precise. They don’t allow shuttles to fly over their village, so we will have to traverse the steps. Consider it, our first challenge.” He smiled and squeezed her hand.

She tossed up the urge to be overly sarcastic as a touch of anxiety crept in, opting for something a little less harsh instead. "Only one thousand? I swear the stairs on Vulcan were way more than that" she quipped, convincing herself and her legs that they were up to the task.

The shuttle landed on the pad with a thud. The hatch opened, allowing the crisp and cool mountain air to rush in. It was cool and breezy here, but Remal knew once they were in the valley of the Brotherhood, the sun would warm them. It was built in a location perfect for capturing the right amount of sunlight as the planet turned. A valley that ran East to West in the shadow of Darkum.

He stood and lofted his bag with simple provisions upon his shoulder, then offered his hand to help his wife up as a signal of respect. Together they made their way out of the shuttle, onto the pad and over to the bell. He waited for the shuttle to lift off and leave, then took a heavy sigh knowing there was no going back. He reached out and grabbed the clapper, then swung it hard against the bell. The deep gong resonated throughout the valley, bouncing off the walls of the cliff side.

The sound of the bell is made up of three parts. First is the atari, the impact of the strike. A well-made bell would produce a clean, clear tone. The initial sound of the strike was immediately followed by the prolonged oshi, the reverberation that continues to sound after the bell is struck. This is higher in pitch and is a low rumble with a sorrowful air, rich in harmonics; it lasts for up to ten seconds. Finally comes the okuri or decay, the resonance that is heard as the vibration of the bell dies away, which lasts up to a minute. The low tone and deep resonance of the bell allow the sound to carry over great distances; a large bonshō can be heard up to 32 kilometres (20 mi) away on a clear day.

As there were two of them, he struck the tone once more, then released the clapper. As the tone diminished he looked to his wife, “And now we wait.”

"How long?" She asked, knowing full well he wouldn't know the answer. It would be the first part of the disengagement from her strict lifestyle of regulated times, meetings and appointments. Her day would no longer be governed by the chronometer on her wrist and Ronson's schedule of efficiency. Now the rising and setting of the sun would be her only timekeeper.

It would be a while. There were benches provided but in the mind of a disciplined monk, the benches were for the weak. He was not weak, at least in his mind, and therefore he stood. Breathing slowly and attempting to enjoy the fresh mountain air, he passed his time in a mental state of turmoil. The lake nearby caused the air to be moist and he allowed it to fill his lungs.

An hour passed. His stomach growled like a dog at the mailman just as two monks entered visual range. He nudged Rhenora, who had closed her eyes. “They’re coming.”

Her eyes snapped open, yanking her mind from drifting through a mixture of memory and fantasy firmly back to reality. She had been leaning against one of the benches… not sitting but not standing unassisted either. She regained her composure and prepared herself for what was to come.

It was another 10 minutes before they reached the bottom of the staircase and approached Remal and Rhenora. One male and one female, one for each of them. This would be the beginnings of a separation. Remal suspected this would come and instantly began kicking himself for not making more of his time together with his wife.

The monks bowed in respect. Remal and Rhenora returned the bow. “Brother Ruben. Sister Rye. We have come…” Remal began before being interrupted by Ruben.

“We know why you are here. Your arrival has been foretold by the Prophets. Please, follow us.” The monks then turned and moved back up the stairs.

Remal looked at Rhenora and chuckled, “Foretold, yet we still had to wait. Perhaps the Prophets need a clock.”

"Perhaps" she smiled back at him, hoping to encourage him. The stairs would be grueling. And just how did everyone seem to know what was going on with them except the two people who mattered the most?

As they each stepped onto the staircase Remal commented to his bride, “Slow and steady. One at a time, okay.”

"Somehow I fear this is going to be the easy part" she said quietly, focusing on her breathing and keeping her pace measured. There were going to be a lot of stairs and a lot of sore muscles tomorrow she feared. Savar would be chuckling, as would Sapphire, both keen on improving her base fitness level. Nothing like the real deal to remind you of your age and lack of peak condition.

Despite a peak physical condition, the monks stayed well ahead of Remal and Rhenora. When they finally reached the top, Remal commented through his sweat filled brow and heavy breathing, “I counted only 998 steps Ruben, are we sure you shouldn’t go back and recount them?”

To which Ruben responded, without even a smirk of his lip, with a gesture through a small mountainside pass. More a carved tunnel, with a bright light at the end. Remal commented, “Look dear, a light at the end of the tunnel.” He helped her up the last step and pointed at the tunnel. He knew what lied ahead and so as not to spoil it for her, left it to her imagination.

"Not a stair too soon" Rhenora puffed, her legs threatening to turn into jelly at any given moment. Weakness would not be tolerated, she couldn't show how much the climb had winded her.

“Just through there.” They entered the tunnel where Rye and Ruben had already disappeared, minutes later emerging into the Valley Remal once called home. After allowing their eyes to adjust to the bright sunlight, Remal immediately spotted the path lined with Rhenora flowers he had helped to develop, plant and grow.

Ruben bowed to Remal, “This way.”

Rye bowed to Rhenora, “This way.”

They were being divided, because of course they were. “Can I at least say goodbye?” Remal pleaded.

“There is no goodbye if you are one with each other in the eyes of the Prophets. You will meet again.”

Remal heaved his duffel and looked to Rhenora, giving her a look to reassure her, then turned and followed Ruben to his private side of the valley.

Her eyes lingered on his, silent words passing between them as they were denied the verbal equivalents. One with the Prophets or not she wanted to hug him, to reassure him they would get through this difficult chapter no matter what was thrown at him. She hoped those feelings were conveyed in her eyes. Once out of sight she took a deep breath and followed Rye.


Previous Next