A terrible stench rolled at Garrhan. He could see nothing in the cell’s interior. Swiftly had he come, yet he feared it was too late. Still, he had traveled this far by faith, leaving reason to trail along behind as it might.
Reaching inside, his hand touched something. Ah. A foot. Quivers of horror stabbed briefly through his mind. Impossible! Somehow, the limb he touched did not quite seem lifeless, yet it was barely more than a hide covered stick.
There was more filth than flesh on this scarecrow, as he soon discovered. Despite suspicions his search had been in vain, he scooped up what was left of Dennos and trotted softly toward the tree line at clearing’s edge. Slung over one shoulder, his burden made no sound. Still, he could not be carrying a corpse. Too limp. No rigor mortis.
From a distance, sounds of upset Jindanians emanated, undulating, grieving, vengeful. Certainly, whatever had so upset the tribe had helped his rescue effort; they were thoroughly distracted for the moment. Unfortunately, he would have to swing wide to avoid their gathering point, aiming for a west-corner segment. By then, Dennos would doubtless be dead. With faint hope, he made haste slowly, ducking a serpent here, passing upwind of a downwind of a garox there. Combat he dreaded. Too risky, not to mention his natural reluctance to harm any form housing Soul. Blind in the absolute darkness of a jungle night, he chanted a vibration-focusing “HU-U-U” in silent, ceaseless repetition.
A one-time student of both astrology and astronomy, the Sure One was uncharacteristically unaware that he traveled during the triple-moon eclipse, a rare occurrence indeed. For tonight, navigating jungle was more than enough to hold his thoughts. He could not afford to be within its confines at daybreak; Screening for two bodies was draining him rapidly.
Unfortunately, swinging wide took too much time. Sunlight filtered through massive leaves; they had not made jungle’s edge. On a hunch, he selected a huge tree that towered above even its fellow giants. Garrhan climbed. Sweat poured from him. He had forgotten the stench of his passenger, nostrils deadened to it in natural defense. It was impossible, however, to ignore aching muscles or his weakening shoulder. Even a nearly starved Dennos was no joy to carry great distances. Branches began to thin out with altitude; at times it was necessary to scale directly up the trunk itself.
Not forty feet from treetop, he found a place. Two huge branches swooped upand out, forming a shallow, concave platform large enough for both bodies. Towering many lengths above neighboring trees, their perch commanded a view in all directions. Gar was too tired to even attempt a survey of surroundings. He lay Dennos down carefully, stretched out beside him, and was asleep before his head hit the bark.
When Garrhan awoke, he could not remember his dreams. He lay quietly, attempting the effortless effort that would so often recapture an image or two. No use. The Eck-Ynari, Secret Knowledge of Dreams, was a staple of his active inner life, but not today. Extreme physical fatigue usually made communication between inner and outer selves more difficult…enough. There was much to do.
Just then, Dennos moved. Startled, Garrhan sat up. The sufferer’s eyes were open. They stared at Gar, who suffered himself at seeing such misery in another. Even during the previous night’s travels, he had not perceived in full the pitiable state of Dennos’s physical body.
“Garrhan?” It came out in a croak, barely recognizable, forced between battered lips. Little as it was, it triggered a great wave of hope and love in the hearer. He had not been too late after all. The Living Eck Master had not sent him on a fruitless errand.
“Yes, Dennos. You are too weak totalk. Only give me a sign if you can hear me.”
The Quaverer managed a minimal nod. Garrhan spoke. “Dennos the Quaverer, you are free. You have lived through experiences few others could survive, ifany. Because of this I am to tell you your name is no longer Dennos the Quaverer but Rajee the Resilient. You may as well come live with me, since one captured alive is Outcast and anathema, and I myself am Outcast, though that story will wait. We must keep your body alive a little while longer, after which recovery is assured. We shall be in open country before nightfall, by the grace of Garthos.”
At hearing the Mahanta’s name spoken, Rajee’s eyes filled with light, so much so that Garrhan for a moment forgot his body’s pitiable state. Neither of them spoke further, but remained gazing at each other for a moment. Suddenly, it seemed to Gar as though he watched not Rajee but the countenance of Garthos himself….
Less than three marks later, they found themselves free of the jungle’s smothering presence. There was little time to lose. They had passed several Jindanian patrols on their way; all Jinda was aflame with rage. Finding a helpless prisoner escaped had hardly helped their tempers. As each patrol passed, Gar felt their anger pounding against his Screen, shoving its outer edge this way and that.
Rajee was not yet able to tolerate solid food. Garrhan, before descending from the resting tree, had powdered several of his medicinal herbs and mixed them with a few swallows of water from his belt flask. Rajee had held it down, barely.
They camped that night at the edge of a whotol field, far enough from any hut to be safe from prying eyes. Garrhan relaxed, Screen crumbling. He needed time to regroup his energy fields, and at least no jungle dweller was likely to find their trail. A stray Ptolian wanderer might recognize their emanations and curse them as Outcasts, but would not follow.
Rajee still looked deathly ill, but his appetite improved. Garrhan was encouraged and composed himself for contemplation, a necessity he had too often overlooked in recent days. Within moments, he slipped from the body and found himself in a broad field lit with a silver light. A greater light approached. He watched intently, at least perceiving with joy that it was none other than the Luminous Being. And with him…Rajee. Thin, drawn, but walking firm and upright. Overcome, he spoke quietly, “Blessed, Mahanta.”
The Master smiled. “You have again served Sugmad well, Garrhan. As you can see, Rajee will live yet a while in the body. I have now a riddle for you, a riddle in which Rajee plays a part. Have you rescued him, or has he rescued you?”
There was no sound for a long moment, except for a murmuring as of wind in the distance, a soft Eck melody from which his own voice replied quietly, “I do not know.”
Garthos laughed aloud, eyes twinkling, his majestic countenance lit with a radiance that lifted his listeners to see it. “The answer is simple. You have rescued each other. Neither of you could have reached your present level of spiritual attainment without learning from the other. Rajee’s faith has been strengthened beyond all doubt by his miraculous rescue. Your own ability to love has increased enormously by exposure to the suffering of Rajee. Each of you has thus progressed swiftly on the path of Eckankar.”
Then they were gone. Great knowingness filled Garrhan; for the first time, life held no secrets. Without hesitation, he stirred in the physical body, breaking camp while it was still dark.
For our readers who may not be familiar with words like Eck, Eckankar, Living Eck Master, or Mahanta, the terms may be found in A Glossary of Eck Terms at Eckankar.org.