Dry leaves crunched beneath Grav’s boots. Grav hesitated. These were Reaka leaves. Reaka leaves named such by the Loen people. A people indigenous to the Northern War Zone.
A people who died a hundred thousand years ago. Without written record. Without any remaining evidence of their passage.
And yet, Grav knew them. He knew their language. He could see their faces. Children laughing and arguing and laughing again as they chased each other around the trunks of the Reaka trees. Adults who knelt and gathered the leaves and fruit as they did their own version of chasing the conversation around trees in playful and not-so-playful ways.
Reaka leaves. The Loen people. Things Grav shouldn’t know. Things he hadn’t known before the first relic. But now his mind was opened to experiences and people he’d never imagined. To a dying world’s forgotten potential.
Grav took as deep of a breath as his hazard suit would allow. The air’s poisons were filtered away with the hum and rasp inside the mask, but he could still taste the air. The contradiction of wet earth, laden with vegetation, and the acrid, dry death of the Reaka trees.
Maybe this world’s potential would never be re-realized. Maybe they would fight and kill for the rest of time.
But he wanted to remember. He wanted to know what came before. For himself. For the people like the Loen–a people more worthy of remembering than the ones he knew.
Static crackled in his ear. “Did you have another Remembering?”
“Yeah.” Grav continued walking. More Reaka leaves crushed and crunched under his steps.
“Grav, are the comm’s clear? Do you read me?”
“I hear you, Dandrien.”
Dandrien was an agent of The Contingent. The only group who believed Grav’s story after the first relic. The Contingent had funded this venture into the Mid War Zone. He owed them.
“Grav? Do you see the second relic?”
Grav looked up. He saw the stack of grey stones beyond the line of dead Reaka trees. The symbol carved in the top was more intricate than the first relic’s. “Dandrien, I–”
Before he could answer, before Grav could utter another syllable, the relic lit up. And what filled Grav was not more knowledge. He gained no more Rememberings than he’d had before.
What he gained was dread. A palpable, heavy, tingling sensation that pulsed within him.
He was not safe. Not now.
“Grav? Your vitals are … unusual. Can you hear me?”
The voice sent tremors through his body. Mistrust cut through his every thought. He should answer Dandrien! There was no predator in this forest. There was no reason for the fear. For the sudden spike in adrenaline.
But he could not reason away the fear.
Grav looked up at the relic.
“Grav, if you can hear me, we’re sending in med-evac.”
Grav pulled the helmet off of his head.
“Stand by,” the helmet crackled in his hand.
Grav dropped the helmet and ran. Following a trail only the Loen people knew. Following an intuition that wasn’t his own.