Into the Realm: The Chronicles of Carter Blake, Book I (C4,S1)

This was supposed to go live yesterday. I forgot to schedule it. I’m sorry, folks.

Previous subchapter here.

 

 

Chapter 4

Subchapter 1

A few days later, Angriz and I arrived at the Weirdling’s glen. My guide placed my hand upon a tree. “Wait here, until I’m able to introduce you. She doesn’t like strangers to be brought unannounced. I’ll bring her to you, first.”
“Alright,” I said.
“One more thing: she’s not like anyone you’ve met before.”
“Alright,” I said again.
I waited until Angriz tromped off before I laughed to myself. It seemed heartless to remind him everyone here was unlike anyone I’d ever met. Still, I found myself wondering what he meant. I soon found out. About ten minutes later, Angriz returned with someone who had a much lighter tread.
I noted an unfamiliar odor. I recognized Angriz’s scent. He smelled like hot steel, with a faint tang of pine. This came from his preference for sleeping on pine boughs. This new scent, while not unpleasant, unfamiliar; flowery, but with a faint acrid undercurrent. They stopped a few feet from me.
“Carter, this is Soo-jau. She is the Weirdling I told you of.”
“Angriz,” a soft voice said. “I wish you would stop using that common term. Please identify me the proper way.”
Leather creaked as Angriz bowed. “I’m sorry, Lady Soo-jau.”  He directed his next words to me, “She is Vaush-Tauric.”
“What’s in a name?” I said.
“Well said,” said Soo-jau. “A flower by any other name smells the same.”
‘She misquoted William Shakespeare to me, and has no idea who he is. I find that funny as hell for some reason.’
“Thank you, my lady.” I held my left elbow in my right hand, and tapped my lips with my left index finger. “Speaking of scents, yours is interesting. What is it, pray?”
“Carter!” Angriz sounded shocked I would ask such a question.
Soo-jau chuckled. “You are smelling my relaxation salts.”
“Another scent is beneath. Something acrid,” I said.
“Indeed,” she replied. “Tell me, how does Angriz smell to you?”
“Huh?” Angriz sounded confused.
I ignored him for the moment. “Like hot metal and pine. He likes sleeping on pine needles.”
“Can you guess why hot metal?”
“Maybe because he breathes fire.”
“You are correct. What breath weapon do you think I possess?”
“I would say one of acid.”
“Yes.”
“Are you a full dragon, Soo-jau?” I asked.
“I am. Only full dragons can ever be Vaush-Tauric.”
“Angriz tells me you will be able to restore my sight.”
“We’ll get to that, but first, I wish to perform a test. Come here.”
She took me by my hand and led me further into her glen. Water gurgled into a fountain. She released my hand and moved away. I marked her movements by listening to her footsteps through the grass. I turned my head so I would be able to follow her light step easier. The sward sprung up as her feet left the ground. She levitated.
“Why are you flying?” I asked.
“You heard me rise?” she asked, head titled to the side.
“I did.”
She nodded as if my answer was what she was expecting. “This is part of the test. I suspected you might be able to track my movements by sound. Your head movements confirmed my suspicions.”
“Hunh,” I grunted.
“Carter, does magic exist in your world?”
“Not real magic,” I answered. “We possess tricks we call magic, or illusions, but they are really slight-of-hand and misdirection.”
“Were you always blind?”
“No.”
I told her about what happened. I got chills reliving the experience. As an atheist, to have witnessed the appearance of a real angel was…startling to say the least.
“You seem to take the existence of magic rather well,” she said.
“In my world, I deal with things which to others would seem to be magic more often than not. Something we named nuclear physics deals with splitting atoms. We call this process fission. This generates an enormous amount of heat. My friend and I once experimented with creating the opposite, called cold fission which generates a tremendous amount of cold. I am used to the unusual.”
“What are atoms?” she asked with interest.
“In simple terms, they are the building blocks of everything.”
“What about not simple terms?”
“Well, as I learned, an atom is the smallest component of an element having the chemical properties of the element, consisting of a nucleus containing combinations of neutrons and protons and one or more electrons bound to the nucleus by electrical attraction; the number of protons determines the identity of the element.”
“Hmm. I think I prefer the simpler way of saying it. I can learn a lot from you.”
“And I from you,” I said. “Now, what about the remainder of this test?”
She laughed. “Alright. This part is simple in concept: Catch me.”
“That’s all?” I asked, suspicious.
“Yes.”
I sighed and agreed. ‘This is silly.’ I lunged to where I had heard her voice from last, hoping to catch her off guard. This time, the laughter came from my right and a little behind me. I whirled and leaped. I landed hard on my stomach, my hands clutching the empty air. The air left my lungs in a rush as I slammed into the ground. Belly flops on the ground are painful, let me tell you. I groaned and rolled to my feet with care, cussing as I did. Further laughter came from my left, close by, so I swung my arm outward, intending to grasp her at the last moment. Soo-jau laughed again as my hand closed on empty air. Though I sensed no mockery in her constant laughter, only fun and enjoyment of the game, I found myself growing angry. I whirled left, then right, becoming angrier and more disoriented as I flailed about. I ceased talking, my only sounds grunts and gasps. I think she sensed my anger because her laughter also halted.
I found a scaled face with a flailing hand, and clamped down. A grunt and faint “Ow.” To my shame, I realized I had Angriz and caused him some pain. My anger melted away to be replaced with concern.
“I’m sorry,” I said, releasing my grip. “Are you okay?”
He pulled away. “No worries.”
With a clearer mind, I had a flash of inspiration. I stretched my hand out until I touched his leather clad chest. I moved to my right, stretching my arm out. I took two steps further away.
“Angriz,” I whispered. “Do me a favor?”
“What?”
“Hold your breath for thirty seconds.”
He took a deep breath, and did as I requested. I shouted, startling Soo-jau. A brief gasp of surprise revealed her presence to my left. I waited, counting to three in my head. She moved to my right as I anticipated. I leaped at her without turning my head. I manage to wrap my arms around her waist. Our combined weight overcame her levitation spell, bringing us both crashing to the ground. I released Soo-jau, and rolled to my back so I lay beside her. She lay panting in unison with me for a bit. Angriz resumed his normal pattern of breathing. A moment later, she sat up.
“Congratulations,” she said. “None ever caught me. How did you?”
I smiled, happy with my own cleverness and another chance to teach.
“After I hurt Angriz…-”
“You did not,” he said.
“My shame caused my temper to evaporate,” I continued as if he hadn’t interrupted. “When able to think again, I had a flash of inspiration: my hearing improved tenfold after I’d lost my sight, so I wondered if I might be able to hear you moving through the air. I had him hold his breath, and shouted. I guessed the suddenness of my shout would surprise you. You gasped and I knew where you hovered. I figured that you wouldn’t stay in place after giving your position away, so I listened as hard as I could for you to move. When you did, your mass caused a breeze. The day was otherwise calm so I knew where you ended up. The rest, you know.”
“Ah. Excellent,” she said with some pride in her voice.
I tingled with the sincere praise. I rose to my feet and held out my hand to her. When she accepted, I pulled her up from the grass.
“So, did I pass your test?”
“You did, Carter Blake. All of them.”
“All?” I asked,  surprised.
“Yes. I wished to test your character, you adaptability, and your hearing. I figured you might get angry, though the speed with which you regained your composure surprised me. I admit, though, I did not expect you to catch me. I planned to call an end to the test when you tackled me.”
“So, what happens now?” I asked.
“Now, I begin my preparations. We will learn if I am able to aid you. Return tomorrow.”

Continues here.

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Into the Realm: The Chronicles of Carter Blake, Book I (C3,S5)

Previous subchapter here.

 

Subchapter 5

 

“Mother was unconscious, cradled in Father’s arms. Her dress was flung up above her waist, torn and caked in drying blood. Rage and grief churned within me, erupting in an anguished howl that I later learned echoed throughout the countryside and brought the villagers at a run.

“The roar startled my father back to reality. ‘Go for the healers!’ he cried. I turned without question and raced back out. I had never sprinted so fast before. Before I even got to the main road into the village, I beheld the Elder running beside Healer Smythwick, followed by the rest of the villagers. For the first time, I ignored our Elder and spoke only to Smythwick. ‘Come fast,’ I shouted. ‘My mother is hurt!’ Without hesitation, I whirled back to the house. I stopped running as I reentered. Father had by this time covered my mother’s nakedness, restoring some semblance of her dignity. I heard footsteps behind me and knew by his scent the Healer had arrived. I was ushered outside with my father while he began examining Mother.

“After what seemed like hours, he emerged from our cottage and reported that my magnificent, beautiful mother had been raped and clawed with viciousness. Bites ran down her neck and arms. My father stiffened and bade me wait. He then went in to her. I began to search the areas near the door for clues. Most would not have used ‘methodical’ to describe me any other time, but I was then. I found a red scale as father came outside once more. I showed it to him and received a curt nod. He looked at the Elder with glowing golden eyes and spoke. ‘Watch over Aurora for me until we return,’ he ordered.

 ‘Of course, Rhynskald.’

“Father beckoned for me to follow him, and set a brisk pace headed east. He set an incredible pace. About three hundred yards into the woods, he began to transform. First, scales spread over his skin in a spiral pattern. His body lengthened; his limbs bulged as his back grew broader. He dropped so his hands touched the ground. His clothing was ripped to shreds and fell to the earth. Father’s fingers and toes sprouted long, sharp claws. His face stretched and broadened, growing a magnificent ridge of horn as his nose and mouth lengthened becoming a maw with huge fangs. The whiskers on his face also grew longer. Tremendous wings burst from his backbone as his neck stretched until it was as long as his body. A tail swept out behind him, thick and sinuous. This wonderful transformation happened in a matter of seconds. I was astonished to behold him as a splendid gold dragon.

“I stared, mouth agape. Father swiveled his huge head around and peered down at me. One melon-size eye blinked closed. He gestured for me to come to him. ‘Come, we have a red dragon to hunt.’

“I stepped forward, filled with trepidation. A colossal paw, tipped with massive claws, grasped me. With a swift few steps, my father launched himself into the air.”

When Angriz paused, I took a moment to divert him from the anguish he must have relived, “Why did your father call you Swenlyn?”

“That was my name at the time,” he answered. “We dragons go through different naming processes than others do. We are given one name after hatching, or birth. We receive another at puberty, and one more upon reaching adulthood. Some are named for their deeds, and some by their enemies. Mine was the latter.”

***

I cocked a surprised eyebrow at him. “Why would you carry a name given by an enemy?”

“Because it turned out to be my True Name.”

I thought for a second: I’d heard of the significance of them before. I just couldn’t remember where. Mental forehead slap: BattleHammer.

“I may be wrong,” I began, “But if someone knows your True Name, they have power over you, right?”

“Yes, but only if secret. However, in the open, as mine is, then any True Name spells would backfire against the caster.” His smile was clear in his voice.

“Ah, right. Sorry for my interruption. Please continue.”

***

“My father flew through the night. His massive paw shielded me from the cold air. As we traveled, I asked about our family. ‘Father, does you being a dragon mean that I am one as well?’

“‘No, Swenlyn, you are half-dragon. Your mother is human,’ he said.

“This provided my next question, ‘Why do I look like the other children?’

“‘Half-dragons resemble the offspring of their non-draconic parent until adolescence,’ he answered. ‘That is when your body begins to change. Nothing looks different at first. Then, your scales begin to develop with what appears like a full-body rash which itches like hell.’

“‘I won’t be able to continue playing with the others, will I?’ I asked.

“He sighed,  ‘As long as they allow it. I’m afraid they will be much like other children I have seen in my travels, and ostracize you. Odds are you will be very lonely, son. However, as you grow, your strength, agility and intelligence will, too. They grow at a much faster rate than anyone’s except a pure dragon.’ With that he fell silent.

“At last, close to dawn, we came to the Saffron Mountains. We landed on a broad ledge near the summit of Mount Killimin, the highest peak in the range. He released me from his grip and transformed back to the man I knew. Several feet away, a black cave led into the mountain. Father held my eyes for a moment, seeming to find something. He nodded, more to himself than to me.

“‘Wait here,’ he commanded as he strode into the cave. Hours passed as the sun rose higher into the sky. Too long, he had been gone. The silence, the not-knowing was toying with my imagination and I was considering following him. He would not have tolerated my disobeying him. And yet, if he were in need of me…how could I just stay?

Much to my relief and horror, the silence was destroyed by a terrific roaring. Inside the mountain, a titanic battle was being waged. Pebbles bounced and tumbled down from above the cavern entrance. Dust thickened the air as the ground shook.

“I dove to one side as a searing wall of flame shot from the opening. My right shoulder took a beating from a sharp rock half buried in the rubble. I rubbed the bruised and singed muscle as I rose. Moments later, Father strode out. He was tired, dirty, sweaty and covered in blood. I wondered how much of was his and what amount belonged to the red dragon still inside. His battle-weary eyes locked on mine. For a moment I thought I discerned more than just the father, the warrior I knew him to be: all strength, integrity and discipline. Something else stood looking at me which I did not recognize. He seemed as if he were a king. No, a king of kings. His appearance was at once majestic, yet menacing.

“He beckoned for me and forgetting all else, I ran to congratulate him. He was safe! He’d won. But before I could celebrate, he spoke, wary and tired, ‘It’s not yet over.’ I slid to a stop a foot or two from him. In his hand was an enormous silver greatsword with an intricate filigreed pommel. He offered the hilt to me. Not yet understanding his purpose, I grasped the sword and followed.

“We returned to the cave and walked for a long distance. This was not a single grotto, but a series of immense caverns. The last hollow we entered was breath-taking. The ceiling soared far above our heads. Tiny eyes measured our progress. At any other time, this would have been beautiful; flowstones, rising stalagmites, beautiful curves, nooks, a small stream that was no doubt a tributary to some deep underground lake.

As my eyes adjusted to the gloom, I espied the red dragon lying not far from us. He was huge, but not  as big as Father in his draconic form. He laid in a pool of his own green lifeblood. Gore also sprayed over the nearest rocks. Chunks of flesh and scales littered the floor. The red’s breathing was quick, shallow and ragged. Father and I drew closer. I detected the crimson dragon’s lava-like eye roll to watch us. He tried to get to his feet, but was unable. His tongue rolled out of his mouth and dragged on the cavern floor. Dust clung to it.

‘His fate lies in your hands, my son. If you do not choose to finish him, there is a good chance he will survive.’ With that, my father turned, and headed outside. I lowered the sword point to the ground at my left side, and I gazed at the red for some time.

‘What is your name?’ I asked.

‘S-Skor-Skoroth,’ he panted.

‘Did you rape and torture my mother?’

He nodded in affirmation.

‘Why?’

‘For pleasure,’ he gasped. ‘And because I was paid a sizable sum to torment your family.’

Furious, I shouted, ‘Who? Who funded you?’

Skoroth wheezed out laughter. I did not flinch as a fine spray of blood flew from his mouth, coating my face and chest. “I’ll never tell you, Whelp.”

‘What’ll you do if I allow you to live?’ I demanded through clenched teeth.

Something he descried in my eyes made him answer thus, ‘I will hunt your kinfolk and kill them, my dear… Angriz.’

‘Fair enough.’

He struggled to raise his head and stare at me with surprise and curiosity written on his face. The angle was perfect. I swung the greatsword up and around, decapitating him. I slashed so hard, I spun around several times before I fell over, dropping the sword as I did. The cavern continued to spin and tilt, as I raised my eyes to focus on Skoroth. His head lay under the stump of his neck. A river of blood coated the floor and me. Unable to stop myself, I brought my hand and placed blood-covered fingers into my mouth one at a time until I licked them clean. Spent and weary, I rose to my feet and left Skoroth’s lair.

Father was watching a flock of geese overhead when I exited the cave. I stood beside him, trying to find  way to tell him what I had done. Not about killing Skoroth, but tasting and licking his blood from my fingers. Before I opened my mouth, my father said, ‘You did the right thing, my son. I am proud of you.’

His voice seemed to unlock the words I’d been searching for. ‘Father, I have tasted his lifeblood. Something inside me, something irresistible caused me to do it.’

‘You need not worry about that, Swenlyn,’ he reassured me.

‘I am Angriz.’

He turned to look at me with an eyebrow raised. He searched my face, and then nodded in understanding. ‘Ah. The red?’

‘Yes.’

He said nothing else. In silence, we stared without seeing. Our eyes focused somewhere other than the surrounding mountains. I imagine that deep within himself my father wrestled with the injuries of Mother, and possibly the wisdom of me embracing the name of Angriz. I was numb. I don’t remember thinking of much at all. My outer surroundings and inner thoughts blurred, leaving me unable to focus on anything.

A little before sunset in the warmth of dusk, Father transformed once again into a gigantic golden dragon. I straddled his back and we flew home. I never did press him for an explanation about tasting Skoroth’s blood, thinking we’d discuss it soon enough. But weeks passed into years and my father died before I thought to ask him again.”

Angriz fell silent, his tale finished.

“Why did Skoroth call you Angriz?” I asked. I struggled to hide my consternation that the one who raped his mother, the one who had torn his family asunder, the one Angriz had killed had been the one to reveal his True Name.

He shifted and replied in measured tones, “My appellation means both ‘Avenger’, and ‘Holder of My Fate’, in Draconic.”

“How?”

“In the language of dragons, words can have different meanings depending on the way they are used.”

“Oh.” Then, it occurred to me. “Why didn’t you suffer from the Bloodtaste when you tasted Skoroth’s blood?”

“I do not know. Many times I have wondered that. Even more so today.”

 

Continues here.

Thanks for nothing, Gianelloni Family.

This is a well-said. well-put article. I followed the link to the original post, and I found it to be heart breaking & rife with cherry picked data & the usual hokum. I don’t know how anyone say they love their children if they refuse to vaccinate them.

vaxplanations

Your latest blog is crazy full of myths and misunderstandings about vaccines and measles.

1. It’s really not funny to mock a disease outbreak, especially one which is mostly affecting young babies and children.  How do you find humour in a virus that can sicken and disable the body’s defence systems to attack the brain?

Measles can kill quickly or it can kill slowly over many years.  This is why we take it seriously enough to vaccinate against it. Playing it down as if it is some innocent disease of childhood is worshipping the suffering of children. You find that funny, really?

2. The Daily Beast article which you focus on sources this newspaper story.   Your first error is in mocking the description of an outbreak being a mere 3 cases.

Take note:  the newspaper story actually says 3 MORE CASES of measles, not 3 cases.  If there were…

View original post 1,789 more words

Into the Realm: The Chronicles of Carter Blake, Book I (C3, S4)

Previous subchapter here.

 

Subchapter 4

I walked the castle grounds with care, concentrating on how to move around outside without my sight. Seeing-eye dogs and white canes didn’t exist here. A couple of steps behind me I came the heavy tread of the bodyguard assigned to me. I hadn’t bothered to learn his name.

I walked in silence, the sounds of birds singing in the trees, the gentle breeze wandering through the grass, and the smooth conversation of a nearby river flowed over my mind. Wrapped up in my thoughts, I almost missed these things.

‘What are we going to do?’ I thought.

‘Continue on, dummy,’ I answered myself.

‘We’re fucking blind!’

‘Big deal! We can still think! Maybe that is how we are meant to help.’

‘Fine. Now, about Lady Orwen.’

‘We just met her.’

‘She’s treated us better than any woman ever has from our first meeting. Other women waited until we made ourselves useful.’

‘Good point. So? The plan?’

‘I don’t know.’

Thus my thoughts went, over and over. At times, I wondered if events had driven me crazy. A light touch on the shoulder made me pause.

“Lord Blake,” the bodyguard said.

“Yes?”

“We are at the river’s edge. A bridge is several paces to your right, milord.”

“Thank you.”

With that, I turned ninety degrees in the specified direction, and took eight calculated steps. Even without sight, I sensed the subtle change in sound and wind temperature that indicated I was next to the bridge. I rotated left and stepped on the connection with care. I felt the cobblestones through the thin leather soles of my new BattleHammer shoes. I counted my steps as we crossed. When the sound changed and the sensation of the ground differed, I ceased counting and came to a halt. Seven hundred forty-eight paces. I cover around a meter with each stride. This meant the span was about 683.97 meters from one side to the other. The calculations served to distract me from being blind. At least for a while.

I resumed hiking, hearing the crunch of hard packed earth beneath my feet. I noticed the birds had stopped their twittering. Somewhere ahead, I caught the hot coppery scent of lifeblood. I came to a stop and signaled the bodyguard forward. He stepped to my side and I signed for silence.

“Yes, milord?” he whispered.

“I smell blood up ahead,” I breathed.

A faint hiss as he drew his sword. He bade me to wait and crept along the path. I have no idea how much time passed. Then, an ungodly cry and my guardian screamed in anger. The ire became a shriek of agony. Running footsteps came.

“Run, milord!” he shouted. “Werewolf!”

Before I could respond, I perceived what my nose told me was the metallic odor of blood splashing upon the ground. A sudden rush of air and a light thud indicated something landed near me. I no longer detected my bodyguard’s footsteps. I assumed he was dead.

The howl I’d sensed moments before erupted again, closer now. A rush of pounding feet as the creature raced towards me. Adrenaline dumped into me as I prepared to die. Off to my left, I swear Godzilla roared. A wave of intense heat flashed past. The werewolf bellowed in pain. I scented burning hair and roasting flesh, as the monster was consumed by the inferno. Overwhelmed by sound and odor, I dropped and vomited. When I had no more to disgorge, I sat back on my heels, and listened, intent on gauging my surroundings. Snuffled breathing sounded in front of me. I stood, movements tentative, and reached towards its source.

“I don’t know who you are, but thank you for saving me,” I said.

I touched a scaled muzzle with long whiskers. The scales were like small interlocked plates. Hot, sulfurous breath caressed my face.

“Angriz?” I asked in a low voice. ‘I so hope I’m not wrong.’

The creature crackled and I caught a brief whiff of ozone. A sudden gust of wind slammed into me from behind. From all around came a burst of energy like thunder, but without sound.

Then, “Carter?”

“Yes.”

“What happened? Last thing I remember, we were being attacked by the Crimson Walker.”

“Well, the machine flipped a guard’s bloody head into your mouth. An angel named Azriel locked the Engine away. I became blinded. Lady Orwen was abducted two weeks ago and you were banished as a mindless beast.”

Angriz growled his displeasure. “That explains the blankness. How was I saved? When the blood of an intelligent being touches the tongue of a half-dragon, we are rendered senseless; wild and volatile. Nothing has ever brought one back from Bloodtaste before.”

I shrugged. “All I know is: my bodyguard and I were walking along the castle grounds. As you may imagine, I was making some attempts to deal with my blindness and the fact that I’d be that way forever,” I paused. The memory stung. “Anyway, after we crossed the bridge, I recognized the metallic scent of blood. I informed my guard and he had me wait, while he investigated. I think he went into the woods and was attacked. He ran back to warn me and was killed moments after. I was to be next, but you incinerated the thing before then. You approached me, and I reached out and touched your face.”

I said the last, and we burst out laughing. He had a pleasant laugh, not at all what I’d expected, more melodious than rasping. We laughed long and hard as the giddy might after finding themselves safe from a dire threat. Our laughter died away, his large clawed hand grasped my shoulder.

“Carter, I have no way to repay you for what you’ve given me. Words of thanks are inadequate.” He paused. “Come with me, I know of one who might help you regain your sight.”

“Mordecai said I’m immune to the magic of this world.”

Angriz snorted, “Lord Mordecai isn’t aware of everything, powerful as he is. A Weirdling lives a few days from here. She does not deal with rakshasha or wizards. She only deals with those of dragon blood. Also, she may be able to tell us where Lady Orwen might be.”

“Alright,” I said. “I suppose we should return to the castle and let everyone know we’re leaving.”

“That wouldn’t be good. None ever came back from the Bloodtaste before. You must understand, they’d kill me without hesitation.”

“Fair point. Let’s go then.”

I can’t say why I chose to trust and follow him at that juncture. Maybe because he gave me the hope of being able to see again. Maybe it was a way to piss off Mordecai for tearing me from my home. Petty? Good chance of that. I didn’t care, though. His choice caused me to be blind.

Without further words, Angriz took me by the wrist and led me into the woods. I sensed the transition from bright, warm sunlight to cool shade as we passed under the forest canopy. I perceived the soft swish of grass; I smelled the musty, damp scent of trees—pines, cedars and soon, willows. Life in the woodland became accustomed to our presence and resumed their usual activities: the thrum of the woodpecker as he hunted his dinner and the skitter of clawed toes as squirrels chased each other through the trees. In the distance, beavers chewed on trunks of pines as they built their dams. I both smelled and heard the brook as it meandered by the path, a small splash as a fish leaped into the air and fell back. I was delighted and amazed at all I was able to distinguish. For a city boy like me, it was wonderful, because I’d never spent any time outdoors. The adage about losing one of your senses and having another sharpen seemed to be true.

After hours of travel, we stopped for the night. Angriz gathered wood, explaining that he would build a fire once he finished getting camp set up. I didn’t want to be a burden, nor to feel helpless, so I began to gather the deadfall into a pile for the blaze. My fingers became host to many splinters, and I cursed each that punctured me.

When Angriz returned, he gave a gentle laugh as he pulled them out for me. “Thank you for your efforts, but you should have waited. The splinters would not penetrate my scales.”

I growled in response. Within moments, he had a warm bonfire going. I listened as he prepared his kills. Soon after, the tantalizing aroma of dinner roasting made my mouth water.

I felt him wrap my fingers around something rough and rounded.

“What’s this?”

“A sword. I will begin teaching you how to use and care for your new blade tomorrow.”

“A blind swordsman?”

“Have faith, my friend. You will not be sightless for too much longer.”

Angriz then handed me a cold metal cup filled with icy water from the brook.

“What were you like as a kid, Angriz?” I sipped from the chalice.

 The log I’d been leaning against shifted when he sat. Angriz took a deep breath. I wondered what expression crossed his face.

“My earliest memories,” he began, “are of laughter and happiness. My parents loved each other and me a lot. Father was a ranger. His job was to track and capture deadly animals and villains, to keep our village safe. Mother was the community teacher. She taught all children how to read, write and do numbers.

“Though both were important to the community, our home had been built near the outskirts. We had a sheltered area nearby which allowed Father to transform to his true shape, hidden from prying eyes. One of my fondest childhood memories was flying through the air on his broad back.

“The first time I witnessed his transformation, I was only eight summers. Rumors of a red dragon lairing nearby had my father away almost all the time. I was playing with friends when I noticed it was near dusk. I bade them farewell, and trudged toward home.”

Angriz hesitated a moment. I heard his breathing change as he visualized whatever he was about to tell me. “Not far from our abode, I knew something wasn’t right. Smoke should have curled from the chimney as mother cooked dinner. On that day, none rose to the sky. I sprang into a run. I quickened my pace as I spotted the door dangling from a hinge. Blood traced a delicate path along the grain of the portico down the front. I flew into our home and … saw….”

Pain and sorrow in hung in his voice which had dropped to a thick, husky whisper. I had goose bumps both from anticipation of what I imagined would be a hideous sight, along with sympathy for his distress. After several moments, Angriz took a deep breath, and resumed.

Continues here.

Into the Realm: The Chronicles of Carter Blake, Book I (C3, S3)

Previous subchapter is here.

Subchapter 3

Two weeks had passed before I received any news about the princess. She had been abducted.

I was startled to discover how much people rely on sight to act. We look at so many things in our lives, and yet, we don’t observe them. I’d come to realize what we didn’t see tripped us up, in the literal sense, as well as the figurative one. Hell, before I lost my eyes, I traveled everywhere without even thinking. Now, I discovered myself always considering each step: the end of the bed I used sat sixteen and a half steps from the doorway, the armoire thirty-three paces. To arrive from the bedstead, I only had to travel nineteen. The first time I tried to find the desk, I’d banged my knee on the seat of its chair which was the same distance. The fireplace and chairs, I found with ease: I hit the mantle above the hearth chest first. I wound up stumbling back into one of the two seats. They were fifty-one steps from the four-poster. I did not know the precise place of the bookcase. To tell the truth, I could go without knowing. I wasn’t about to walk into the bloody thing, nor would I be reading anytime soon. I still decided to find the shelf. The location was an unknown. I don’t care for unknowns.

A throat cleared behind me. I turned to face the sound, empty eye sockets covered by a thin strip of cloth. I didn’t want to make anyone sick. “Yes?”

“My friend,” Mordecai began. “I am so sorry for—”

“Enough! Where have you been?” I felt feverish, breathing short and shallow, skin tingled as sweat formed, then rolled. ‘Calm down,’ I ordered myself. That ever work for you? Me either.

“Attempting to find some trace of Lady Orwen.” He exhaled. “I have not been successful.”

I grunted. “Alright. How do I get my eyes back? Is that possible?”

He sighed again. “I’m afraid I don’t possess the knowledge.”

“What the hell, Mordecai?!” Arms crossed, I scowled in his general direction.

“I’m sor—”, he began.

“How can you not?” I interrupted through gritted teeth.

“I’m not all-know—” he said.

“Aren’t you a wizard?” I continued to interrupt, muscles jumping and tingling.

“My friend—” he tried again.

“Don’t even start, you fraud! You rip me from my home, asking for my help, I might add. I’m attacked by some monster and get blinded!” I ripped away the cloth, revealing empty eye sockets. “You tell me that you don’t know if I’ll ever see again!” I shouted, jamming my finger in his general direction, feet planted wide. My pulse roared. I wanted to punch the most powerful wizard in the Realm. “How dare you call me your friend?”

He growled as I fell silent. He took a deep breath.

“Are you finished?” His voice was soft.

Anger still boiled, but the rumble spooked me enough I decided to bite my tongue. “For now.”

He waited for a bit. “I tried to help you,” he said. I gave a snort of derision. “I have. Disbelieve all you must, but that is a fact. I made an unsettling discovery.”

That piqued my interest enough to ask. “What?”

His robes rustled as he crossed the room. Mordecai pushed me back on the bed, and sat next to me. The bedstead sank deep beneath his weight. He gripped my shoulders. I guessed he was looking into my eyes, or at least, where they used to be.

“My friend, you are immune to the magic of this world.”

I sat in stunned silence. I was blind forever.