Here we are. 🙂 Welcome to 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 read the first parts of the story here. You could just read the short blurbs about them, of course, but you’ll probably miss some important details. The blurbs are there for those of you who have read the story and are trying to keep track of all the names, more than anything else. You’re welcome. *bows*
Part 1: It Just had to be Lord Jerinthreo Kraven Balstin the Second: in which a writer, May Ann, wakes up to find a portal she’d designed in her book has become operational and two brothers, Jerinthreo and Daraton have come through and engaged in a bitter fight.
Part 2: All brothers fight sometimes, right?: May Ann tries to keep the brothers from killing each other. Grabs Jerin and pulls him into a secret passage, only to discover she has Daraton instead (they are identical twins). Break out of the passage into May Ann’s kitchen only to discover Varizan, a villain May Ann created, waiting for them.
Part 3: My kitchen will never be the same: Another fight between Daraton and Varizan breaks out in May Ann’s kitchen and May Ann saves Daraton’s life by shoving them both through the portal (which so happens to be the fridge).
Part 4: I am never doing that again: May Ann and Daraton arrive in Braceaon, Daraton is wounded and Varizan’s soldiers have taken over Daraton’s former home. May Ann helps Daraton away and they find Ethred, a lady both Jerin and Daraton seem to respect, and her daughter, Adella, who happens to be Lord Daraton’s wife.
Part 5: Well, that complicates things:: May Ann confers with Ethred and Adella and discovers they are both wordsmiths, chosen from their generations to record what happens in other realms (with some creative license). With Daraton resting, May Ann finally tries to get some sleep. But her eyes have barely closed when she finds herself wide awake. And captive in her own world.
Part 6: Why can’t this just be a dream: May Ann is a Varizan’s prisoner in this world. She (and he) realize that she is now in both worlds, though only awake in one. Varizan cryptically questions her, wanting to use her power as a wordsmith, then knocks her out.
Not my preferred mode of travel
My eyes fly open to glimpse Ethred and Adella bending over me. I groan and shove myself upright. “This is not how that portal was supposed to work.”
“Back, are you?” Ethred straightens and flashes a grin at Adella. “I told you she’d be fine. Besides,” she turns her attention to me. “You are the Wordsmith. Of course it would work differently on you.”
I groan, swinging my legs over the edge of the bed and pressing my hand to my forehead. “If by differently you mean being in two places at once and not being able to get a mental wink of sleep, while one body is unconscious and the other has to survive deadly dangers, then yes. I’d say it works differently.”
Adella crouches beside me, her brow furrowing she places two fingers to my neck and feels my wrist. “You’re sure you are fine? You were… you looked dead, almost.”
I force a smile. “Self-diagnosed as not dead.” I shake my hair out of my face and scan the room. What had Varizan said? Ask Ethred about the power of Wordsmiths? And Daraton… Black Shadows? A bit redundant but still, somewhat cool.
“Does Varizan know?” Ethred crosses her arms, standing before me as Adella slips back to where Daraton still sleeps. “About this shifting between realms deal?”
I blink. “Why do you think I woke up so quickly?”
“Fair point. He must be jealous.”
I press my hand to my forehead. Sleep. I need sleep. Except that only means Varizan again… “Daraton? How is he?”
“He hasn’t woken,” Adella replies. “Salendrian poison…” She shakes her head and presses her hand against his forehead. “Varizan knows of the cure. If he were here…” Her jaw tightens and her eyes flash as she lifts her gaze to mine. “Can you get that portal working again?”
“I wish.” I bite my lip. I shoved myself to my feet and turn on Ethred. “The power of the wordsmiths, what do you know of it?”
Her brow furrows. “We record, I already told you that. At least, we do our best to record. We don’t have any–”
“That isn’t what Varizan claims.” I advance a step. “There is something he wants. I’m still figuring him out, but he seems confident I can provide it. I’m assuming it is something a wordsmith in one’s own world can’t offer, else he’d have come to you instead of bothering with a portal.” My voice gains confidence. “Words cannot bring back the dead, but they have power. And I suspect you know a bit more about it than I do.”
For the first time, Ethred glances away. Her lips press in a tight line.
Well… that is an answer of some kind, anyway.
“What about the Black Shadows?” I press my advantage.
Both heads snap toward me.
“Black Shadows?” Adella rises to her feet. “Where did you hear that name?”
I roll my eyes. “Varizsan, of course. I didn’t make it up if that is what you are wondering. Well?”
“They were… raiders.” Ethred speaks slowly. “No allegiance. No nationality, though many of them hailed from Salendria. Lord Balstin fought them during the wars. Routed them. Never a single defeat, or so we heard.”
“And Varizan…?” A raider, perhaps? But no, he’d been a villager. A farmer. He had a family; one that died, by his own admission. Black Shadows. Bandit wars. Lord Balstin the Undefeated… pieces shift, twisting into various shapes and possibilities. I shove them all to the side. “Does Varizan have a captain or second in command of some sort nearby?”
Ethred narrows her eyes. “Why?”
I stare back. “I need information on this ambassador if we are to figure out how to stop him. And maybe he’ll know about a cure for Daraton.”
Ethred is already shaking her head. “And you think Thrayton will help you why, exactly?”
I pace to the end of the room and stare out into the night. Night… how can it still be dark? “Depends. Does he care for Varizan or fear him?”
“My dear, there is nothing on this earth Thrayton fears.”
“Well then,” I spin, planting my hands behind me on the windowsill. “How about a deal? Varizan is trapped in a cruel hard world and if Thrayton ever wants to see his…” I searched for a word. Master? Friend? “If he ever wants to see him again, he’s going to help us.”
Adella’s eyes gleam. “Nice. He might even believe you.”
Ethred still frowns. “And… you can reopen the portal?”
I scowl at her her. “Not yet. But I will figure it out.”
“Hmmm. I’m not–”
“I’m going with you.” Adella strides across the room and slings her quiver over her shoulders. “We’ll improvise if something goes wrong.”
I raise my eyebrows. “You mean if it turns out he doesn’t want Varizan back and we twist the story so that Daraton is the only one to can stop him and we need help.”
Adella doesn’t blink. “Something like that. Yes.”
“Adella!” Ethred steps forward, her eyes slipping between us.
Ethred hesitates, then her knuckles whiten over the back of a chair. “Be careful. And don’t you dare get captured, because I can’t tend to your husband and rescue you at the same time. Understand?”
Adella inclines her head. “I’ll be careful. We should be back by dawn. Unless,” she looks at me, her brow furrowing. “Unless she goes to sleep again.”
I roll my eyes. “I’m not just going to fall asleep.” Does Varizan have a way to wake me up, though? If he does…? Hmm, not sure what would happen. Could be interesting. I’d rather not find out.
I follow Adella from the cottage, back into the cool night. My fingers close about the dagger I’d saved from Daraton’s wound. Maybe Thrayton will recognize it. Whatever the case, I have a weapon of my own now, never mind the fact all my knowledge of how to use one came from a book. It is a knife. How hard can it be? I grimace.
Adella’s steps are firm, quick, retracing my own steps from earlier that evening. I grip her arm, pulling back as lights glint from a manor house. “Where are we going?”
She raises her eyebrows. “Did you think Thrayton was holed up in some cave or camp? All the ambassador’s men lodged in the manor. Thrayton will be running the place by now, or at least keeping some semblance of order.”
Thrayton… I shift through my memory as I fall in pace a step behind Adella. Nothing. I have nothing. Varizan really isn’t as well developed as I thought. Some skills–well, more than some. And… that’s about it. It’s not my fault! I wasn’t done with him yet, or with any of the others for that matter. I scowl.
My steps whisper against the grass and my fingers tighten around my dagger. The manor looms before us, dark. Deserted. One man rests on the top step, his arms crossed over one raised knee, his head leaning against the doorframe. Wonderful. A guard. Of course…
Shouts and the tramp of feet drift from the barracks and stables, but here all is surrounded in a pool of silence. Torches lift the night into a gloaming. The man shifts slowly as we approach, not even turning his gaze on us until we are mere paces away. His eyes flit over us and he scowls as he pushes himself to his feet.
“None of the lords are here, nor the ambassador either. I’d suggest you hurry back to the village. The night isn’t safe for such as you, even if you do carry a bow.”
I start. That voice… I’ve heard it before. Daraton and I… the stables. What had he said? Everyone vanishing isn’t natural, even for him. He’ll have got himself in deeper than he meant to this time…
“Obviously.” He crosses his arms as we don’t move. Light and shadows rove back and forth over his face.
Adella glances at me. I glance back at her.
She scowls, then advances a step. “We actually came to speak with you. And unless you are declaring open war on your hosts here at Braceaon, then I call upon your honor to help us.”
“Honor?” He springs forward a step. “Varizan has vanished. With a dozen of his men! On this land. I will do as I please until we get him back. If you have information about his location, then speak. Otherwise,” he flung out a hand, then turned away. “Just leave. I’ve other matters to deal with.”
Adella presses her lips tight, but I hold her back and advance a step. “I’ve seen Varizan.”
“Indeed.” Thrayton snorts then pauses as he glances at me, taking in my clothing. His eyes rest at my belt, freeze, then snap back to my face. “Let me have that!”
“This?” I draw the dagger. “It’s why we are here, actually. We need–”
“Let. Me. Have. That.” Thrayton strides forward and holds out his hand. “How did you come by this?”
I relinquish the weapon with a scowl. “Hurling a knife at someone is not how someone generally tries to keep their daggers safe.”
Thrayton grunts, holding the dagger up to the light. “Someone was wounded.” It is a statement, not a question. His eyes jerk back to me. He sighs. “Varizan poisoned his blades again, didn’t he?”
“And now Lord Daraton is dying,” Adella says. “We need the cure. And we need it quickly.”
A shadow crosses Thrayton’s face. “That is not something you will get unless you speak with Varizan himself.” He watches me closely. “Ah, so you do know where he is then?”
I blink. How had he just…?
“Where is he?”
“There is a portal, or was a portal…” I glance toward the stables. “He’s trapped on the other side.”
“Enjoying himself immensely, I’m sure.” Thrayton scowls. “How do we get over?”
“We don’t,” I say. “Lord Jerinr… Jerin…”
“Jerinthreo,” Adella supplies.
“Right. Anyway, he opened it. I’ll need to speak to him to figure out how to reopen it.”
“And where is he?”
Thrayton throws his arms into the air. “And what use is all this news to me? You know where he is, but you can’t even speak to him or–”
“I can speak to him,” I interrupt.
I shrug and glance at Adella apologetically. “I just need to go to sleep.”
Her jaw tightens, but she nods and pulls several flowers from her pocket. “I suspected as much. These will send you away quick enough.”
Well, then… I take the pale blossoms and sniff at them, then grasp Adella’s shoulders as the ground suddenly spins.
“Not here!” I hear her voice faintly. “What… don’t you know how…? Thrayton, help me, would you?”
Strong arms slip around my knees as they buckle, and another arm catches my shoulders. Blackness, flecked with petals, washes around me…
And I blink away back in my closet. The door is ajar and shouts echo through the house. More drift in faintly from what must be outside.
“Jerin…” my words slur, then jerk to a stop. The ropes are cut. The closet is empty.
The door opens and I lurch upright as a shadow moves between me and the light. Varizan smiles. “How nice to join us again. I hoped you would. And I’m afraid I need your help.” He taps the daggers at his belt. “You see, I’m very worried that Jerinthreo has just succeeded in rescuing himself.”