Welcome to the next (and third from last) installment of my serial story, Beyond the Parchment. Because I finally outlined the end and I only have two more parts to write!
Thus far, dysfunctional portal, invented by a weary writer, May Ann, actually began to work, bringing characters to our world. And herself into their world. General maham is the result. Check out the rest of the story here!
Power of a Wordsmith
The blue glow of the portal blinks out as we duck inside the stables. Simply wonderful. Hopefully Jerin will be able to open it when it is time for me to leave. I blink, peering at the figures scrambling to their feet as Thrayton steps forward with a torch. If my brother dared… But he’s not here. I exhale softly, sinking back into the shadows as Thrayton grasps Varizan’s arm. The night crashes around me, pressing down, tugging at me.
So alone… I hug myself tight and gnaw on the inside of my cheek.
“And there is the wordsmith!” Varizan steps forward with a broad smile. Behind him, two soldiers release Jerin as Varizan flicks one hand. “I thought you’d be here.”
I frown. On second thought, I’d rather be alone.
Varizan shrugs. “Well, come along then.”
I sigh and straighten. “And what about everyone else?”
“Why would I care about everyone else?” Varizan asks. “It’s not as though I’m staying.” He considers Jerin. “Run along and find your brother. I believe you two have a fight to finish.”
“If you even dare—” Jerin steps toward Varizan, but two soldiers move to block his way.
Jerin’s eyes search out mine. I shake my head slightly. Whatever theatrics and noble sacrifices and ‘I’ll never leave yous’ take place in a novel, this is not the place for them. “Just go, would you?” I cross my arms. “Least make sure you haven’t killed your brother.”
Jerin scowls. He opens his mouth once, then pivots on his heel and strides toward the door. He pauses at the entrance, one hand on the doorframe, and glances over his shoulder. “Keep alive. We’ll figure a way to get you out.” He sprints off into the night.
I choke back a laugh that turns into a sigh. That’s one version of a dashing rescue, I suppose.
I glance back at Varizan. “And what was it that you wanted that I’ll never be able to give?”
He raises dark eyebrows. “You’ll be able to give it. Why else would I have brought you here? Thrayton, please tell me we have more comfortable lodgings for our use than these stables?”
“The lay of the manor.”
“Ah, you took it then?” Varizan wraps his cloak about his arm. “The manor house will do very well.”
I cross my arms.
Thrayton jerks his head, motioning me to follow. Am I such a defenseless prisoner they think I can do nothing to escape as well as nothing to harm them? I scowl and follow the guards.
Ripples gather through the assembled troops as Varizan steps outside. The men are pleasant enough, for the most part. I peer closely at the insignias. “Mercenaries from the south,” I mutter under my breath. That will do very well if it comes to a fight, provided we defeat Varizan before they find out about it. Defeat Varizan? Who exactly is ‘we’ and what am I going to do about it?
I follow the men to the manor house and Thrayton leads the way to a great study. Books line the wall and warm lanterns glint from hidden alcoves. I draw a soft breath, a faint smile breaking over my face. Now this… this is a study. I never got around to add it in any of the scenes, but plenty of backstory took place here.
Varizan clears his throat. “You ready, Wordsmith?”
I drag my attention back to him. “Ready for what?”
“To write.” He drops a stack of paper on the table, as well as a quill and some ink, then throws himself into a chair beside it. “Well, go on.” He props his boots on the polished surface. And here I thought he was something of a gentleman.
I step forward and grip the back of the chair. “You’ve yet to actually tell me what it is I am to do?”
“Ah, that.” Varizan’s boots thud to the floor and he sits up straight. His brow furrows. “You haven’t figured it out yet? I thought you were clever in that way.”
I don’t rise to the taunt, meeting the sharp gaze. What I have guessed is none of his business. He’ll tell me what he wants, if he wants it done, and he’ll tell me clearly. He shrugs, even as a shadow passes over his eyes. “A pocket, some call it. I want you to create one. A world within a world, except with alternate events.”
“Alternate events…” I cross my arms. “You mean you want your family to live.”
Varizan’s jaw clenches. His eyes flash. Thrayton stiffens. Okay, then. Sensitive about family. Perhaps it’s best if I keep my mouth shut. Except…
I frown. “I’ll need to know the events of… you know, what happened. And there will have to be an explanation of some kind about why you weren’t there.” I blink and study Varizan. “How exactly are you to get in this universe, may I ask? And what of the ‘you’ in that place? Do I get to kill you or will there be two of you running around?”
Varizan’s knuckles whiten over a dagger. “Shut up. Sit down. And write!”
“At least a few of those were honest questions,” I mutter. I glare at Varizan.
He glares back. “Do not make the mistake of thinking that, just because I came and found you, I can’t kill you and find another Wordsmith.”
I scowl. “I didn’t realize there were so many of us.”
A hand closes over my shoulder and Thrayton shoves me into the chair. “Do you have a death wish?” He hisses.
I sigh and rub my hand over my face. The blank paper stares back at me. Write an alternate universe, that’s all he wants me to do. It’s probably one of the worse crimes in the unattainable Wordsmith handbook but how should I know? I glance sideways at him. Helping a villain never ends well. Except this is a world, not my story. Both Jerin and Daraton are alive, for now. Varizan isn’t the best soldier alive, but he’s certainly not the worst. What harm does tucking him away in another universe, safe and happy with his family, actually do?
Varizan’s fingers tap against the table. “Well?”
“Give me time!” I protest. “It’s not like these things just spill out effortlessly.”
Varizan frowns. “It’s just writing. You’ve ink, you’ve a quill. Write words.”
“And for that, I ought to leave you here or at least make you very miserable when you find your way into this new world,” I mutter.
I dip the quill in ink and hesitate. What was my own past I’d invented for Varizan? His family died in a raid nearly ten years back. That is going to be a leap for them. And for him. It’s not as if I can simply make him ten years younger. Help them escape, then. Maybe a few others for good measure. Varizan… he could be captured. A prisoner of war? Or maybe a slave in the mines. Eh… nothing too horrible. Or, no. I could find him a friend. Someone who would help shape him—
“Are you going to write?” Varizan demands.
I set down the quill and cross my arms on the table. “Only if you be quiet. The things do take time. I need to think.”
I stare at the paper again. It doesn’t matter much what I do with the Varizan in this story. This Varizan is the one going over. I can’t change his character. Hopefully his family will do that for him. I frown to myself. Circumstances may help to shape a man, but I’ve very little confidence in the peacefulness of one who settles down merely because he is happy. Does he realize what he is asking me to do? That I’ll have to kill him in this version so he can take his own place? My brow furrows as the quill hovers above the paper. This is going to cause nothing but trouble. What if the Varizan in my story isn’t the same as the one glowering at me? Which one even is the real Varizan? What if—
A crash interrupts my thoughts.
“Really?” I throw down the quill. “If I am ever to get anything—” My voice cuts off and I blink.
Jerin leans against the door and Daraton is behind him, pale but with a blade in his hand. Apparently the cure really did work, and quickly too.
“Ah!” Varizan shoves himself to his feet. “I thought you’d show up sometime.” He slips a dagger into his hand. “Just the men I wanted to see before leaving.”
Jerin levels a sword. “You are not going anywhere.”
Varizan shrugs. “Debatable. I’ve been very merciful here, you see, but there are some things a man does not forgive easily.” He motions his soldiers with a hand.
Thrayton stops them with a gesture that is just as quick. “You’re leaving.” He advances a step toward his captain. “You don’t have to leave death behind you.”
“Neither shall I leave the family of the man who caused my family such sorrow in peace.” Varizan’s eyes narrow. “They will die. I will leave.”
“No you won’t.” I spring around the table as two slighter figures appear behind the twins. “If you kill them, I won’t write you anything.” The words sound lame even as they leave my mouth.
“It is probably preferable you not write anything, child,” Ethred says from behind me.
I frown over my shoulder. “Will it upset some great balance if I do?”
She doesn’t blink. “There are consequences. Perhaps not serious, but consequences none the less. Why else do you think I brought the others here for a rescue?”
“Oh, that’s what this is?”
Behind Ethred, Jerin snorts. “I’d have come anyway.”
Varizan sighs and strides around the table, flipping his dagger from hand to hand. “Enough of this.” He pauses several paces away from me. “Stop with the threatening and the noble sacrifices. This manor is surrounded by my soldiers, inside and out. The young lords won’t get away, nor you either. So will you write or not?”
I glare at him. His face falls. He sighs. “Very well then. I hope you realize the sorrow you will be causing.” He raises his arm and hurls the dagger.
I gasp, just as something shoves me to the side. And the knife embeds itself in Ethred’s stomach.