Welcome to the next installment of my serial story, Beyond the Parchment
So far we learned that a dysfunctional portal, invented by a weary writer, May Ann, actually begins to work, bringing characters to our world. And herself into their world.
Anyway, you can check out links for the first ten sections here if you haven’t read them yet. *smirks* Have fun.
A Knife in a Gun Fight
Just what I need. More destruction.
I shove past Varizan and sprint into the kitchen. Three of Varizan’s men press back against the far wall, their eyes wide, their hands over their ears. Leinad stands at the opening of the once-secret entrance, his finger pressed along the barrel of the gun as it points to the ground, ready to be flicked up at a moment’s notice. The fridge is shattered.
My foot slips and I grasp the edge of the counter, regaining my balance as Varizan and the others hurry in behind me. “Did… did you just shoot the fridge?”
Leinad shrugs. “It was glowing.”
“Glowing?” I rub a hand over my face. “Like a portal?”
“Eh…” Leinad glances at the gun in his hand, and then at the fridge. “Maybe, now that you mention it. Don’t suppose the bullet will pass through and kill whoever is running this from the other side?”
“I don’t suppose it will shut the portal down, either,” Jerin says. The sarcasm laced so thickly in his voice that I can almost see it. He shakes away from his captors and this time they let him go at a quick nod from Varizan, though what he thinks he can do about the small whirlpool of blue twisting through glass shards is beyond me. I wince, narrowing my eyes and hoping by all the worlds I’ve created, or thought I created, that the glass won’t hurt those passing through.
“Don’t suppose it will harm it.” Leinad meets my gaze and jerks his head. “I’ll not suppress the portal completely until you all are well away, I assure you.”
“A pity you have to suppress it at all,” I mutter. I edge around the counter. A hand grabs my elbow before I can take a full stride toward my brother.
“Not. So. Fast.” Varizan smiles. “You’d not deny us what we came here for, would you?” His grip tightens as I jerk against it.
“Get your hands off her!” Leinad steps forward, raising his weapon.
Varizan blinks and looks at him. “Or you’ll throw noise at me?”
My brother scowls. “This holds a bit more than noise. I’d be more than happy to show you, but ammunition is so expensive nowadays. You’d be better off letting my sister go and heading back to your own world.”
“Would I indeed?” Varizan’s face is suddenly tight. His fingers dig into my elbow like steel pincers, though I’m fairly sure he doesn’t know his grip has tightened. “That is highly unlikely, I assure you. And since you won’t leave us in peace in this realm, I’m afraid I’ll have to take her with me back to Braceaon.” Cold steel presses against my neck and I stiffen. Varizan nods. “Yes, this is one of the poisoned ones. And since there is no cure here, I suggest you both stay very still.”
I grit my teeth. “I can’t very well go with you then, can I?”
Varizan snorts out a laugh. “You think yourself so smart. All the better for what I need.”
I roll my eyes. “You have a Wordsmith in Braceaon. Why can’t she help you?”
The dagger tightens against my skin. “Do you honestly think I’d have come all this way if I could have used her?” Varizan sighs. “One can’t write an alternate universe to their own world, only to others.”
“An alternate—” I half turn, ignoring the dagger, and stare at Varizan.
He raises one eyebrow. “There are ways to work around rules. You can’t change what has happened or bring back the dead, but you can create a place where such things never happened in the first place.”
The power of the Wordsmith… I frown.
“She’s not going anywhere,” Leinad says. He advances a step and Varizan presses the dagger against my throat again.
I close my eyes. It’s so inconvenient to be a hostage. “I won’t be able to write anything if you kill me.”
“You’re not writing anything to start with.” Leinad grits his teeth. “Half of you is already on the other side of that… that portal. Who knows what will happen if you go all the way through.”
A faint smile flickers my lips. “I don’t know, certainly. I’m not the one who has studied it.”
“May!” My brother scowls. He drags his gaze back to Varizan. “I will kill you if you try to pull her through.”
Varizan shrugs. “Well, Jerinthreo, is it ready?”
Jerin runs his fingers through the pool of light as it spreads, wider, faster. His face is pale, his jaw set. “No thanks to any of us. I don’t know how these cursed things work or who is manipulating it, but yes. It is working. I assume.”
“Good.” Varizan releases me with a jerk and shoves me toward Leinad. My brother’s arm wraps around me. I draw in a deep breath. If he’s about to simply leave me due to my brother’s threats, I’m going to very disappointed in his character.
Varizan motions to the other soldiers, who step through the portal and vanish, one at a time. His gaze never leaves mine. The corner of his mouth flickers. “You won’t have long to follow me, I suspect, but you’d best move quickly.” He inclines his head. “You come through and come to me, or I will kill Jerinthreo and Lord Daraton will be as good as dead.” He grips Jerin’s elbow as the young man’s eyes widen and shoves him through the portal. A second later he vanishes.
I would prefer to have been disappointed.
Leinad muffles a groan. “Don’t you dare.”
I pull away, keeping one eye on the portal. Is it my imagination, or has it shrunk by an inch? “You act like I have a choice.”
“Of course you have a—” Leinad catches himself and scowls at me. “No. This is not about to turn into a cliché conversation about choices. They only end one way in any case. But I’m coming with you.”
“And these conversations tend to end the same way as well.” I hold out one hand in a restraining gesture. “I’ll be fine. Or… as fine as can be expected. But half of me or a shadow of me or something is already over there. And I can’t just let them die.”
Leinad’s jaw clenches.
I sigh. “I can’t have them threatening me with you too. Besides,” I glance around. “Someone needs to clean this up. And tell the others what happened if… if…” I bite my lip and take a step toward the fridge. The portal is definitely shrinking.
“May…” Leinad holds my gaze.
I draw a soft breath, then force a smile. “I’ll be back.”
I plunge into the portal.
Tendrils of ice and light sweep about me, jarring the breath from my lungs. Then I waken with a jolt, jerking my head from Adella’s lap with a gasp.
I’m all here now. I can tell. If I go to sleep now, only blackness and dreams await me. I rub my hand across my eyes. It’s still night here, but a sliver of gray shows on the horizon. Bonfires blaze on all sides. It looks as if there is a small army gathered, tight knots covering the green.
“Well?”Adella clasps one of my hands.
I blink at her. Right. Daraton.
“The roots of the dreamflower and powder of moonstone,” I repeat the cure Varizan told me.
Adella exhales. “That’s it?” She springs to her feet without even glancing at Thrayton who is watching us, arms crossed. “Come on!”
“You go.” I wave one hand. “I’m sure I’ll be along eventually.”
She hesitates. I glare at her.
“Go.” Thrayton steps forward. “The Wordsmith will be as safe here as anywhere else.”
Adella’s lips part, then press together and she springs away.
I watch her fade into the darkness, then rise and meet Thrayton’s gaze. His eyes bore into me, hard as steel.
“Varizan is back,” I finally say. “Come on. I’ll show you the portal.”