In the first installment of Beyond the Parchment, we learned that a dysfunctional portal, invented by a weary writer, May Ann, actually begins to work, bringing characters to our world. A pair of brothers, actually, who are currently engaged in mortal combat.
All Brothers Fight Sometimes, Right?
I do what any girl would do when two men plunge into a duel to the death in her bedchamber. I step behind a pair of bookshelves and get dressed. Thirty seconds is all it takes to throw on a skirt and shirt. Another half a minute to pull on my socks and shoes. For all their faults, Daraton and Jerin are two of the most expert swordsmen I’ve written. My only characters who can fight until exhaustion with neither one drawing blood…to their everlasting irritation and my own amusement.
Except it’s not amusing now. My ears ring with tinkling glass, crashes, and thuds. Long swords and small rooms don’t mix well. And with little room comes daggers. And with daggers…
With daggers, one brother is very much superior to the other and, in their current rage, neither one will pull back on a fatal blow if an opening reveals itself.
They’re too good for that. Relax.
You’re telling me to relax? Do you know what will happen if one of the brothers dies?
Universal apocalypse? Which is why you’re taking the time to get dressed?
Something like that. And do you expect me to leave here in a nightgown? Don’t give me that look. I’m not like Jerin. I finish tying my shoe as I fire off the last thought to my own inner voice, then throw my body against the bookshelf as something heavy thuds against it. A wave of books jolt from their perch above my head, tumbling down around my shoulders. I wince, peering around the wood, then jerking back as a blade flashes near my head.
“Botheration.” I mutter the exclamation as a figure rolls to avoid a descending blade, then twists back to his feet. Not good. Not good at all. I’ve got to get Jerin out of here before he kills his brother. As it is, I can hardly tell which twin is which. The lights won’t help, even if I could reach them without losing an arm. I’m certain each bulb is shattered by now. But Jerin is the one with the cloak, isn’t he and Daraton…his cloak is darker? Since when do they wear anything remotely similar?
That feast last night, remember? You forced Jerin to dress down and Daraton to dress up.
Right. That. In which case the story isn’t very advanced at all. That is it. I have to get Jerin out of here.
I yank a photo off the wall and jerk down on a sort chain. A groan echoes through the room as a portion of wall slides away and, for the fraction of a second, the fighting pauses long enough for me to hear more boots downstairs. Jerin’s back is to the bookshelf and I grab his arm, ignoring his glare as I hold up the silver petalled stone I still hold. “Come with me now!”
“Where did you…” his voice trails as his sword flashes, deflecting a spinning gleam with a clang. Seizing my wrist, he dives for the opening in the wall, dragging me with him as another dagger thuds into the bookshelf.
My gaze picks out second figure in the room, a figure whose eyes are now blazing with anger as they stab through me. More boots are pounding up the stairs and I duck, punching a button as another dagger hurtles through the air, clattering against the inside wall moments before the door shuts.
Flaming flames! Or whatever it is they say in Braceaon. Daraton must have been practicing recently. It isn’t right for one man to have so many skills.
“Jerin…” my voice trails off as I spin to face the figure in the dim but growing automatic lights of the concealed corridor.
“Jerin?” The man’s eyebrows lift up. They are so alike, and yet so different. More firm. More determined. And yet with the same tense sorrow I’d seen earlier. “My brother lets you call him Jerin?”
Daraton. My breath sticks in my throat.
No wonder the other figure threw daggers so well.
And now Jerin is left facing Daraton’s men. I only hope he doesn’t kill them all. That would really put the brothers on bad terms.
Daraton sweeps up his brother’s dagger from the floor and slips it in his belt, his face dark. “What dealings do you have with Jerinthreo?”
“I don’t…I’m not…” Why can I scold Jerin and yet find myself wordless when faced with his brother. Their hair. Their build. Their nose and jaw. It is the same. And yet Daraton’s eyes are different. Hard, wary… He scowls.
“Whatever the reason she sent you with that stone, it better have been worth interrupting the judgment of an avenger of blood.” Daraton’s eyes sparked, his hand tightening over his sword’s hilt. “How did you even get over here? I gave stern orders to the contrary. Ethred wouldn’t let anyone over unless it were a matter of life and death.”
“Do you think she doesn’t have her ways?” The words spill out before I can stop them, even as my mind spins. She? The stone? It was an heirloom of their house; no single person claimed ownership of it and certainly not a girl. Not that I ought to complain, the story is sadly lacking in female characters. But what is Daraton…
A sword stabs through the drywall of the entrance, almost grazing my cheek.
The blade Andrith. Apparently the wall is far from innocent because the blade withdraws, then carves another gash into the wall.
“He’s getting quicker.” Daraton mutters, his hand closing about my wrist. “Well, which way is out? Unless you’re going to let me finish the fight this time?”
“Not a chance.” I pull my hand from his grasp. “This way.”
I always told you it was a good idea for us have a secret passage.
Yes, and maybe it still would be if the doors actually kept out intruders, I counter as I dash around a corner. As it is, it will work well enough as an escape route. And, once we are outside there are dozens of places to hide in the surrounding forest or fields. Assuming we can get out of the house.
Because that’s another downside of this passage. It leads to the kitchen pantry. Though Jerin can’t know that, so we should be safe. The crashing behinds us ends with the sound of crumpling wall and I shove open the door to and spring into the shadows of the wide pantry.
My fingers close over the handle and I yank the door open then freeze, drawing a sharp breath. The kitchen glows in a faint light. Dishes, food, and glass lie in shambles over the floor and the door to my fridge hangs open at a rakish angle. Even as I watch, a soldier steps from the inside, almost slipping on the tile floor. But my brain doesn’t even comprehend the ridiculousness of the portal’s exit as my gaze fastens on a pair of pale blue eyes meeting my own, then travels outwards, to his clipped black hair. His dark face. His red and gold clothing. The black belts crossing his chest and the silver blade flicking between his fingers.
Varizan, dark lord of someplacethatneedsaname and a character who isn’t even supposed to be in Braceaon yet.
This is not good.
So, what do you think? Any favorite characters? Any guesses at to what will come next?