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.”
“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.