Into the Realm: The Chronicles of Carter Blake, Book I (C4, S5)

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Subchapter 5

 

I awoke with a start. Sunlight streamed through windows I hadn’t noticed before. I took a few minutes just to look around the room, savoring the joy of sight which was something I hadn’t realized I had taken for granted. Things I would have overlooked before I had become blind, I now took pleasure in. ‘Sight is awesome!’ There was a mural on the far wall from where I sat. It was of a forest clearing with a blue dragon which sat, posture regal, upon a stone plinth and at her feet was a clan of elves kneeling, worshipful. I assumed it was a female because my hostess was. I took a deep breath and turned my thoughts to my dream.

I remembered it with extreme clarity. I’ve never been able to do that before. There was the tall, muscular man with the cinnamon hair and uncomfortable Armani suit; the curvy woman with the dark hair who was about my mother’s height; that strange, yet familiar, control room with its many screens, the technicians, polished granite floor and the sleepy, rumpled looking man who stood in the center; and the asteroid which I knew was going to destroy everything the big man knew and loved. A rapid knock at my door, startled me. ‘By all the hells! I almost soiled myself!’ The urgency of the knock caused me to leap from the bed, dash to the door and yank it open.

“What is it?” I said to a surprised Keeper Dearbhaile.

Her eyes grew large as they traveled down and then she blushed scarlet. Wondering why, I glanced down as well. Imagine my mortification when I realized I had forgotten I’d slept nude, just for the experience mind you, and had answered the door that way. I gave a yelp of embarrassment and jumped behind the door. I stuck my head around the edge and repeated my question.

“O-Oh!” she stammered, playing with her necklace. “Lady Soo-jau sent me to get ye. She said ’tis urgent.”

“I’ll be right there!” I shouted as I slammed the door.

My face aflame, I scrambled to where my clothes hung drying from the washing I gave them the night before. As I began to get dressed, I ran myself down for not being smoother with the accidental flashing. I wondered how Angriz would’ve handled it. “Nah. He wouldn’t have answered the door that way. He’s always aware of everything,” I said to myself.

For once, I was glad to have simple deerskin clothing rather than my jeans; it just pulled on and I was ready to go. I picked up my shoes and carried them in my hand as I re-opened the door. Keeper Dearbhaile stood waiting with her hands clasped in front of her. Not knowing how to handle what happened, I resolved to not say anything about it unless she did.

“Let’s go,” I said.

“Aye,” she replied.

As she led me to the Vaush-Tauric, I asked, “Where’s Angriz?”

“With Lady Soo-jau.”

I nodded and said nothing more until we were before the Lady. This morning she wore a light red dress which flattered the color of her scales and was seated on a raised dais on a bronze throne with ornate designs. Something about her posture told me she was upset.

“Carter Blake,” she began without preamble, “your original quesst hass come to a conclusssion. Your sssight isss ressstored. Now you have a choissse: you and Angrizzz may go to the ressscue of Adora Orwen and perhapsss sssave her life; or you may go north and perhapsss encounter the architect of thisss war. What will you do?”

I paused for several moments. To tell the truth, the sudden hissing from my hostess scared me. After a bit of thought, I assumed it was due to her being upset and was able to put my unease behind me.

At last, I said, “You didn’t indicate a direction for the rescue attempt.”

The Vaush-Tauric sighed. “I do not know the direction she is to be found. All I was able to learn is: To aid her, you must first journey to Rivorei City. There, you will find your clues as to where she is hidden. Know these things as well: One, there is not time to achieve both goals. Whichever you decide, you lose the other. Two, thirty days from today, Adora Orwen will be dead and the architect will be gone to another realm. Three, if you and Angriz split up, you will both die.”

I thought about this for a couple of minutes. Then, I had an idea:

“Would you aid us, milady?” I asked.

“I cannot,” she said. “Because of what I am, I am both bound to this location and forbidden from interfering.”

“What is a Vaush-Tauric?” I asked. “And why are you forbidden from helping?”

“She is a conduit to the draconic gods,” Angriz rumbled.

Smoke rolled from his nostrils. Something told me he was upset by this choice.

‘Why me?’ Aloud I said, “Angriz, your thoughts would be appreciated.”

“From a strategic perspective, it would be best to go after whoever is behind this war. However, Lady Orwen has been my friend since she was a child.”

For some reason, hearing it in Angriz’ voice crystallized it for me.

“What a minute!” I exclaimed. “I thought Drago was behind this war?”

“He is a pawn in the scheme of someone else,” Lady Soo-jau said.

“Alright,” I said. “We know what happens to Lady Orwen if we fail to rescue her. What happens if we find this architect? Will stopping him stop the war?”

“No, but the number of people who die will be limited.”

“Hellfire,” I said. “Why must I make this choice? I’m only fourteen!”

“A man’s age,” Angriz said.

“Not where I’m from. I don’t want this kind of responsibility. This is nuts!”

“Nonetheless, Carter, you must take this on.” Lady Soo-jau spoke in a soft voice meant to soothe.

“Why?” I demanded. “Because the Great and Mighty Mordecai pulled me from my world? Or because Morgrid the Soul-forger ordered him to do so?”

“No,” she said. “You must because you are the Walker of Worlds.”

“What the hell is that?” I shouted.

“I cannot say,” she said. To her student she said, “Keeper Dearbhaile, you are to go with these men and aid them in any way you are able.”

“Aye, Mistress.”

“I will now take my leave of you,” the Vaush-Tauric said. “Good fortune to you all.” She vanished like a dream in the morning light. I looked at my friends and let out a sigh. “What should we do, Angriz?” I said.

“Wherever you lead, I shall follow, Carter.”

“And I also,” said Keeper Dearbhaile.

‘These two are adults declaring they’re going to follow me. I don’t even shave!’

‘Why are you doubting yourself?’

‘No one’s life has ever been in my hands.’

‘Come on, how is this a question? Faceless strangers versus your friend, Lady Owen. There’s no contest.’

‘Any other time, I’d agree, but what would she say if we told her we rescued her instead of trying to stop the war?’

‘Who says she needs  to know?’

Internal argument complete, I knew what needed to be done. I looked at Angriz and Keeper Dearbhaile who waited, expectant.

“We’re going north,” I said with as much conviction as I could muster. “It would be selfish of us to let innocent people die just to rescue our friend.”

My companions nodded agreement and we walked from the throne room.

Into the Realm: The Chronicles of carter Blake, Book I (C4, S4)

Previous subchapter here.

 

Subchapter 4

 

I found myself in a high school gymnasium. The basketball hoops were cranked up to the ceiling with crêpe paper chains connecting them. LED Christmas lights were twined around the chains, windows and doors. The bleachers were secreted away behind recessed sliding doors of their own. Blue and gold carpet covered the hardwood floor. I guessed they were the school colors. At the far end of the gym, a stage had been erected with instruments at attention, waiting for the band. Tables, with white coverings and lit by Chinese lanterns which floated in mid-air, were scattered around a wide open levitating section of floor I assumed was for dancing. The lanterns and Christmas lights provided the only illumination, and yet were all that was needed.

I felt myself drawn to this large guy who reminded me of Angriz. He was taller than me, broader shouldered and narrower at the hip. He had dark gray eyes, cinnamon colored hair in a pony-tail and a Van Dyke beard. He wore a black three-piece suit with a lavender shirt. He was talking with a much shorter woman. The top of her head came up to the bottom of his ribcage. Her hair was a dark golden brown, her eyes the color of a Hershey’s Kiss. Her skin was a light tan. The young woman’s lips were a moist looking bright pink. She had high cheekbones and a heart-shaped face. A lilac blouse, black jeans and black sneakers trimmed in white made up her outfit. In her left ear was the black and yellow emblem of Batman. In her right ear was the red and yellow “S” shield of Superman.

She smiled up at him as he bent to kiss her. Just by that, I somehow knew they were in love. I also somehow knew that they were not destined to be together. She moved away from him and he went over to the stage where some folks had begun playing music. The large man climbed up on the stage, which had risen into the air, and passed the man on the keyboard a note. As he hopped back down and approached me, I heard the opening notes of Breaking Benjamin’s “I Will Not Bow” begin. Breaking Benjamin is one of my favorite bands.

“Hello, Carter,” he said to me.

“How do you know my name?” I asked with puzzlement.

He smiled. “Follow me.”

“Where?” I said, the hair on my neck stiff as steel wool.

“You’ll see.”

“Why should I trust you?

“Carter, don’t you realize when you’re dreaming?”

He led me passed the stage and over to the steel double doors I remembered from my time in public schools. He pushed the bar that opened the door to the right and stepped through. I followed him, wanting to know how he seemed to know me. I strode through the door and, rather than a school hallway, or a parking lot (which I would have expected), I found myself walking along an asphalt road that wound through a mountain, or else we were underground. Either way, the tunnel was huge.

It looked like it would run for miles before we came to a destination, yet after five steps, we were before this titanic door. Victory Keep could go through it with feet to spare. It swung open in silence and the big guy sauntered through. Again, I followed him.

I was amazed by the sights. The ten meter screens with their images from various spy satellites. The ten techs sitting in front of their control panels typing. Sixteen operators chatted into their headpieces with various operatives around the world, and the many assistants scurrying about the place. I was in some sort of control room. I watched as the huge guy crossed the mirror polished granite floor to the middle of the room where a much smaller man stood studying reports and on occasion looking up at the central screen. He pointed at the screen the other guy was looking at.

It showed the cold, dark reaches of space. There flew a huge, dense mass of rock.  It was potato shaped, cratered from meteor impacts and was the size of the state of Texas. It was flying right at the camera. Before I shouted a warning, the big guy spoke to me.

“If you have my back, I’ll have yours. That’s how I work.”

Then alarms whooped, and Klaxons screamed of danger. A loud-speaker shouted:

“Warning! Warning! Impact from heavenly body imminent! Warning! Warning!”

There was a huge shaking of the ground beneath my feet and…