Spirits of Alaruk

Chapter 7: Nakuka

The Temple of Nakuka's interior yawned before Treke as she set foot inside its walls. Rows of sconces illuminated the sandstone brick hallways, revealing several woven tapestries that decorated the walls with depictions of fuglan spirits. Treke could not imagine how the fuglans of Hulerin could construct such a massive structure, but it was apparent how important the ancestral spirit Nakuka was to the Naku clan to have such an extravagant monument built in its honor. As Treke ventured further into the temple, carrying Lasranu's basket of fish in her arms and her new kikri companion perched on her shoulder, the rranha thickened like a dense fog. Like a gloomy bout of depression, she felt her energy drain away and her movements become more sluggish the further she went.

"Be careful, Treke. I sense tukran up ahead," echoed the voice of Klaiune.

"How many?"

"Several. I suggest you create a ward to protect yourself."

"How do I do that?"

"Surround yourself with kenha. It may temporarily shield you from the effects of the tukran, but be warned that it will quickly drain my energy."

Treke stood still for a moment, resisting the intense sensation of hopelessness that overcame her. As she concentrated, she imagined a bubble forming around her, pushing the rranha away from her immediate vicinity. Feeling a renewing energy rush back, she sighed with relief at her newfound bubble of safety.

"The tukran have blocked any natural light from entering the temple, so I can only provide kenha for a limited time here. There is also the possibility that you may fail doing this... The rranha is much stronger here."

"I understand, ancestor. I still have to try or it may only get worse."

"With speed, my child."

Treke pondered how the fuglans of Hulerin could tolerate such a high concentration of rranha in one place, but it was possible that they weren't aware of its presence in the first place. She understood she was more sensitive to spiritual energies, but it still left a palpable tension in the air. The desert fuglans were likely too afraid to leave their homes from the fear-inducing effects of the rranha alone.

"Taksue! Get up, Taksue! The temple isn't safe anymore, we have to leave!"

From further down the corridor, the sound of a distressed voice caught Treke's attention. She promptly picked up her pace, frantically hobbling on two legs towards the source as she clutched the basket. As Treke entered the temple's antechamber, she spotted a bulky female orange fuglan standing over the prone figure of another fuglan. "What's going on?" she asked, dropping the basket and rushing towards the two fuglans.

"I don't know! He just passed out suddenly," said the orange fuglan, wringing her massive hands. "But you really shouldn't be here, dear! There's something strange going on in the temple and I fear for everyone who stays within its walls."

"It's all right, I'm a healer. Let me check him." Crouching down on her haunches, she took a moment to check his vitals to make sure he was stable. The figure was a lanky red male, dressed in cream colored robes with a sun emblem worn around his neck. Just like the giant fish from the day before, she could feel the presence of a tukra. "How long has he been like this?"

"Not long. I've been trying to convince him to leave the temple all day." She shook her head with disapproval. "Kalagala, Taksue is so stubborn!"

"You should wait outside. I believe he's possessed by a spirit."

"By Nakuka... What will you do?"

"I'm going to purge it from him and cleanse the temple. Go quickly now, I don't have much time."

The orange fuglan gave Treke a concerned look, glancing towards the hallway and back at Treke. Not wanting to leave her friend at first, she decided not to argue. "All right..."

"Take the fish with you. I don't know how long this will take."

"May Nakuka's light guide you, stranger."

As the other fuglan left, Treke could already feel the rranha beginning to close in around her. She needed to hurry. First beginning with the thickened rranha, she purged the surrounding area to give her some more time. But the more energy she spent, the more her protective ward waned. Taking a deep breath, she concentrated on locating the tukra that was harming the red fuglan.

There it was. But as she was about to purge the spirit, something in the tukra awakened. Darkness quickly overwhelmed her as she felt her ward being ripped away. She quickly realized this was not like the tukra in the fish. Now fully aware of her presence, the tukra lunged at Treke like a ravenous rak pouncing on its prey.

Unable to defend herself, Treke saw the world around her quickly change, warping into an ethereal landscape of wonders and horrors. Shadows and vibrant colors danced around her, both bewildering and fascinating. The temple disappeared and above her the sky opened up, with colors shifting and swirling like oil on water. Her kikri companion was also nowhere in sight.

"Who are you, drekaira?!" A raspy disembodied voice startled Treke, demanding her attention.

Drekaira was a form of address that only spirits used towards the living. Although she was unable to pinpoint where the voice originated from, Treke realized it belonged to the tukra and that she was now in the spirit realm. She would need to keep calm, she understood, as to not let the rranha overwhelm her with negative thoughts.

"I am Treke of the Neuk clan, and you are disturbing the Temple of Nakuka. Leave this place, spirit."

The tukra laughed bitterly. "What makes Nakuka more important than any other sudrat that they should have their own temple?"

"From what I understand, Nakuka is the spiritual ancestor of the Naku clan of Hulerin. They built a temple just for them."

"Pah! We have the right to be here just as equally!"

"But your presence disturbs the fuglans of the temple. That is enough reason to warrant expulsion."

"We refuse to leave! We have no obligation to soothe other drekairan."

Treke cringed as a sharp pain pounded her head. This spirit was stubborn indeed. Without being able to discern its location, it would be impossible to banish it. Perhaps with enough talk, she could coax it out of hiding. "You entered this temple for a reason, but what for?"

"Nakuka disgusts us with their glorification of the sun. We aim to remove them."

"Who is 'we'?"

"Ludaru and their followers, you fool."

The mention of Ludaru sent shivers down Treke's spine. At least she knew she was on the right track of finding them. "But why, spirit? Surely you would rather find peace than torment the living?"

"There has never been peace for us! We will not be satisfied until Nakuka is gone and Ludaru takes their place. Hulerin belongs to us now."

Another wave of pain seized Treke. "S-stop this!"

The tukra laughed again, this time with more malice. "We can tell you are now ordinary fuglan. Despite knowing we are here, you still chose to enter and face us. You are not unlike the other one who refused to leave the temple."

"Unesudrat protect the living, not harm them! Ludaru's twisted lies have misled you."

"We will not know peace until the sun is gone!"

"This is madness. I do not understand the reasoning behind your hatred for the sun. How can a tree grow without the sun to give it light? How can a fuglan warm themselves without its warmth?"

"The sun blinds our eyes , burns our flesh, and steals water from the ground. Have you tried traversing in the heat of the desert during the day, drekaira? You'll find that it is not pleasant."

"I have not, but that does not make the sun any less important."

"You may think differently if you die from its cruelty. We will make sure that never happens!"

There was no reasoning with hatred, it seemed. Perhaps she needed to take a different approach. "I do not see Nakuka. Where are they?"

"Hiding like a coward. They have no intention of facing us."

"Just like how you're hiding from me?"

"How dare you!!" the voice shrieked, sending another painful wave of rranha at Treke.

Treke couldn't help but smile a little, despite the bombardment. "I'm likely no more powerful than the desert fuglan you attacked here in the temple. Why don't you come out and fight me directly? Only a coward would decline."

"Foolish drekaira!" the spirit hissed, becoming more offended by the moment. "We'll make you regret your words!"

The hot-headed assailant wasted no time revealing itself to Treke. Three more tukran that had been hiding in the shadows appeared beside it. While the other three did not exude as much negative energy, Treke's head still pounded in agony. Together, they were far too powerful for her to take alone, but at least now she had them out in the open. Expending the last of Klaiune's kenha, she was able to make them with a spell so that it would not escape into the ether again.

"What is this you've done, drekaira?" The tukran were shocked and unprepared for Treke's spell. "A ruksala?"

"Surely you're not afraid of a fuglan who has only been a ruksala for two days?"

"You tricked us! Release your spell!"

"I will not. There's no need for you to go back into hiding, after all."

"If you will not release your spell, then we will continue to torment you until you do!"

Treke braced herself as her head exploded with pain again, the rranha weighing her down until she dropped to her haunches. Although the tukran were relentless, she was steadfast in not giving in.

A short time passed and it wasn't long before she heard the voices of her friends call out to her, echoing from down the hallway. "Treke! What's going on in there?"

"Don't enter the temple! It's not safe!" Treke cried out. While she couldn't see them, she knew they were close from the sound of their voices.

"You can't keep them safe forever. Give up already."

Treke knew this was true, but she refused to let them take control of the temple as long as she was still conscious. But her hope began to wane and she realized she was unable to do it alone. "Ancestor Klaiune, help me... Help me so that we can banish these lost spirits."

The gentle voice of her ancestor echoed inside her head. "I have no kenha left, my child. I am sorry."

Despair overcame Treke once more, closing in and suffocating her like the waves of a tenacious sea. Sinking further to the ground until she was prone, she felt a heaviness in her chest. "No... please... I cannot fail."

"So much for Treke! You'll be a bastion of hope no more!" the tukran jeered. They circled around Treke, dancing impishly as she lay helplessly on the ground.

Treke closed her eyes, nearly ready to pass out when she felt her body being picked up and moved. She was unsure what was happening, but it was not caused by the tukran. "Who...? Who's there?"

"We shouldn't have left you alone in the temple all by yourself," said a familiar chipper voice. "We're getting you out of here!"


"That's me! You're little kikri friend wouldn't stop bugging us until we helped you!"

Ancestors, this place feels unnerving," said another voice. It was soft and silky and could only be Lasranu.

The group of fuglans worked quickly to get Treke and Taksue out of the temple, carrying their bodies down the hallway until they were out in the open once more. Having access to starlight again, Treke was able to disperse the rranha enough that she could finally see the living world again. Laying on her back, she saw the tukran had followed her outside, still circling around her in frustration.

"No, we will not let you win!" the tukran cried out. "You and your friends will suffer!"

"You can attack me but not my friends, spirits," said Treke sternly, putting a ward in place to protect them. Becoming more desperate by the moment and unable to escape into the ether, they had little choice but to target Treke.

"Kvati...?" The red fuglan who had been unconscious before was now sitting up, bewildered by his surroundings. "Why am I outside?"

The orange fuglan who had been sitting beside Taksue, despite being relieved, immediately scolded him. "Taksue, you thick-headed fool! You got attacked by tukran in the temple!"

"I did? Huh..."

"What will I do with you," she sighed.

Watching the sky to the east, Treke could see the stars near the horizon begin to fade as the sky grew lighter. She was unsure what would happen once all the stars in the sky were gone. "I am... still trying to contain the tukran." Her voice was sluggish and faint, drained from exertion.

"The tukran are here?!" Taksue stood up abruptly and looked around in alarm.

"Only ruksalan can see spirits, but yes..." Treke's head throbbed at the slightest disturbance of sound. "They are here, right now, but I've cast a ward to protect you all so they will target me instead."

"Treke, be careful! You've already put yourself through a lot of stress just crossing the sea," said Siku.

"It's all right... I don't plan on keeping them here much longer. My ancestor's energy disappears with the sun and so does my magic."

As the stars faded into the coming of dawn, Treke indeed felt her powers wane. But as the blinding flare of sunlight pierced the edge of the sea to the east, Treke felt the suffocation of the tukran's rranha wane as well. To her this was a shock, as she expected the rranha to grow stronger with her weakening ward. The tukran were growing increasingly more agitated as the golden rays of sunlight poured across the desert landscape.

"Release us! Release us now, you sdenvrak drekaira!"

Treke sat up and shielded her eyes from the light, her energy feeling oddly renewed. Perhaps it was the heat of the sun warming her cold blood, but it was unusually potent and premature for sun basking. Her ears twitching at the tukran's insults, she felt she had quite enough of their bickering. Trying one last attempt to banish them, she closed her eyes, using the sunlight's warmth to distract herself from any negative emotions. As she channeled, something felt different this time. Her mind was clearer, almost vividly. A new voice, one that was vigorous but kind, overtook her headspace. Before her appeared an unesudrat whose form appeared to glow intensely like a flame. Treke could only surmise it was Nakuka.

"Treke of the Nuek clan, I thank you for bringing these tukran out of my temple. In order to aid you in banishing these malevolent spirits, I will temporarily grant you access to my kenha. Please use it to your fullest capabilities."

"I will. Thank you."

The tukran could only protest in vain as Treke swiftly purged them from the temple grounds. Nakuka's kenha was incredibly potent, allowing Treke to not only banish the tukran, but purge all remaining rranha in the area. It was clear to her why the desert fuglans revered this ancestral spirit so much.

"The tukran are gone now," said Treke, standing up. And just like that, Nakuka was gone, as well as her magic.

"Wait, what? How??" exclaimed Taksue. "You got rid of them?"

Treke nodded. "Nakuka helped me."

Taksue's jaw dropped, astonished and more curious by the moment. "I've spent so many seasons inside that temple and never once have I seen Nakuka with my own eyes... How does a ruksala do it?"

"Ah, w-well..."

"I think we can talk about that later, yeah?" said Siku, interrupting the conversation. "Treke must be very tired by now. I know I am."

"How would you all like to come over to my place for a meal and some rest? I'm an excellent cook," said Kvati, holding up the basket of fish she took on the way out of the temple. "Taksue, have you eaten recently?"

"Uhhh... Maybe?"

Kvati shook her head knowingly as if she was used to that response. "You need to remember to eat more. Anyway, come on over, all of you!"

"I would love to visit and try your cooking," said Treke. "We can talk more about Nakuka and what's going on there."

Kvati's eyes lit up with excitement. "Wonderful!"

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