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 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.
Part 7: Not my prefered mode of travel: May Ann meets Thrayton, Varizan’s second-in-command and discovers that, to get a cure for Daraton, she must fall asleep and confront Varizan. But when she wakes up in our world, she discovers Jerin has escaped.
Terrors of the Modern World
Jerinthreo… succeeded in rescuing himself. The words replay themselves through my mind twice before I make sense of them, then I jolt upright. “Jerin escaped!”
Varizan leans one elbow against the doorframe. “It would appear so.”
I blink at him. “And you expect me to find him?”
He shrugs. “Your world is a big enough place. It has its advantages, but I’m not sending my men out when you’ll go and be more successful bring him back.”
I choke out a laugh as I scramble to my feet. Why haven’t they tied— Oh. I catch the cut rope as it slips from my wrist, then glance toward the corner where Jerin had been held. “I’m not about—”
“You want us to stay here?” Varizan peers at me.
I snap my mouth shut.
He shakes his head. “An argument will waste more time than we have. Think, now. You’ve walking in my world for a few hours. I suppose you’ve learned things there, including the fact that no one really has any clue how to open the portal from that end.”
I scowl. “Let me guess, Jerin is the only one on this end who can do it?”
“I’d not say that.” He crosses his arms. “I’ve a feeling Jerin’s success was more accident than otherwise. But he may have a few clues.”
“Hmmm.” I brushed a strand of hair from my face. “I’ve learned other things there. Such as the fact that Daraton is dying from poison and you’re the only one who knows the cure.”
“Ah, you’ve spoken with Trayton, then? Though I don’t think…” Varizan traces the daggers at his belt, then pauses. “Never mind, that one was poisoned. More’s the pity. Although the cure is quite close by for any over there who know how to use it.”
I narrow my eyes. “I suppose you want a price before you tell me what it is?”
“I suppose you know what my price will be.”
I press my lips tight, then exhale forcefully. “Fine.” I can’t very well let Jerin wander into town, whatever the situation here. Freedom for myself and an ally… Who knows what good we can do before we end up back in Varizan’s clutches? “Which way did he go?”
Varizan retreats a step, then and pivots on his heel in my room. I try not to look at the strewn books or tattered maps. A number of them are spread over a desk, black markings across their surfaces.
“That way, if the tracks lead right.” Varizan points out the wind. “Toward the lights.”
“Wonderful.” I press back against the desk, staring out into the faint glow reflected off low hanging clouds. He would head toward the one place I’d have him avoid. Not that there’d be much chance of finding him if he took to the woods, I supposed.
My fingers brush the edges of the maps and I roll those I can feel into a tight scroll. “I’ve one condition. You’re not to follow me.”
Varizan’s eyebrows rise. “You think I have any intention of following you? That’s why we’re sending you out in the first place. If Daraton dies in Braceaon, you’ll have enough trouble there that you’ll be begging for my help.”
I suppress a smirk. That is doubtful. I shove myself upright and tuck the maps up my sleeve. Where… there it is. I sweep up a black cloak, folded on my bookshelf. My fingers close around a dagger hidden in its thick layers and I tuck the bundle against my chest. “Later then.” I spin away.
“You’ve until two hours after dawn.” Varizan calls after me. “Make sure you’re back.”
“Like I plan on you leave you in my house any longer than necessary,” I mutter.
Several of Varizan’s men glance up as I pass through the kitchen. One of them is carving a loaf of bread. Another has an apple at the end of his dagger while a third is preparing to shovel a spoonful of ground coffee into his mouth.
I pause. “You are going to clean this all up, are you not?”
Three pairs of dark eyes turn in my direction.
I cross my arms. “Portals and poison I understand, but you really don’t have to leave my house a disaster. You understand that, right? I’m tracking down your prisoner. The least you could it is clean up some of this mess.”
The soldiers glance uncertainly over their shoulders and I spin away before they can reply.
In the direction of the light… I sweep up a long stick lying in the yard—one of my brother’s swords or staffs, no doubt. Right. They’re coming home tomorrow. No, tonight. It’s today by now, probably. Dawn is only a few hours off. Less, maybe. Why hadn’t I thought to check a clock before leaving?
I draw a deep breath and hurry past the empty driveway. I’ll be fine without a vehicle, I’d said. It will be wonderful and relaxing home alone, I said. I shook my head at myself. Though if the portal opened and no one was here to take charge of things…
Like you are really taking charge, my dear?
Oh, shut up.
As soon as the shadows of a small wood cloak me from the house, I pause and pull the rolled papers from my sleeve. Folding them, I stuff them into a pocket, then fasten the dagger at my waist and the cloak about my shoulders. Shifting my grip on my staff, I take a deep breath and plunge forward.
Perhaps it is just as well I don’t have a car. The headlines would probably send Jerin deeper into shadows. That, or he’d attack. How long has he been gone? Why hadn’t I thought to ask Varizan a sensible question or two while I was back at the house? I rub one hand over my eyes, pausing once to lean against a tree. Tired… I’m so tired. How much has this body slept? Or is it just my mind that is worn to frayed wires? Why did I ever write up that portal anyway?
You think not writing it would have done any good? It was Jerin who got them here, not you.
Right. Jerin. I straighten and stride through the shadows. Branches crack loudly at each step and I wince. How many characters have I blessed with silent moving and this is what I get in return. Of course Jerin is one of the best. Can almost see in the dark too. I scowl. Then again, maybe not. I’m not everything Ethred made me out to be. Or any of it, probably.
I trip over a log. Muffling a grunt, I shove myself back up. Night. In the forest. It’s so dark I can’t see my hand. Even Jerin couldn’t have made it far in here. Not as if anyone in books ever has a problem with the night, unless they use its shadows like a convenient cloak to hide in, then fling off the moment they need to silently pick their way through some patch of forest or see more than a few inches from their face.
I’m… no. This is enough. I crash through the underbrush, forcing my way back out into the open. Anyone listening will already know I’m coming. Anyone not listening will know too.
I stumble into the open and brush tangled leaves off my dress. Well now…
If Jerin left any tracks, I’ve probably ruined them. No… I need to figure out where he’d go. Think like him. Think like… A small smile quirks my lip.
People… he’d try to find other people. Which means finding lights. Which means… I start off at a quick pace toward town. A very little town, hardly deserving the name. People. Clothes, probably. Maybe food. Or a weapon. Yes, he might want a weapon. I bite my lip. Jerin in a small country town. This is not going to be good.
The first few houses are quiet enough. He’s no fool. He knows he’s in a new land and he probably knows that they know nothing about other worlds. A public place then…
A yellow sign gleams in the darkness. Dollar General. I pause, my fingers closing over the edge of my cloak. Well, there’s nothing for it…
I sprint across the parking lot, gray in the haze of a rising dawn. There’s only two other cars parked. I ignore them, almost slamming into the automatic doors as they hesitate before sliding open. One of them moves jerkily, half off its runner… whatever those things are called. It’s a good sign. Or a sign, at least.
A lady peers up from emptying egg cartons into a refrigerated section as I hurry through the inner doors. Her eyebrows raise. Right. My cloak. Though if Jerin is here, it’s not like I’ll be that conspicuous. I grin and give the lady a small wave as I hurry by. Nothing down the cereal aisle. Nothing down the home decorating aisle. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe… I freeze. There is my quarry.
He stands in the center of the aisle, his tattered cloak almost sweeping the tiled floor, a tiny furrow wrinkling his brow as he holds a butcher’s knife to the light.
I cross my arms under my own cloak. “Find what you were looking for?”
He jolts, his empty scabbard knocking a row of tins to the floor with a raucous clatter. “Doesn’t your world have any better weapons than this?” He traces one finger along the blade. “It’s not sharp, is inconveniently shaped—”
“It’s for the kitchen,” I interrupt.
He scowls. “Yes, I guessed that. No one else would make use of such things. But they don’t have a weapon section here.” He tosses the blade to the shelf with a clatter. “Or maybe there’s an underground level? A cavern of some kind?”
I swallow back a smile. “I’m afraid those are the best you’ll find here.”
“In which case I’ll spend my coins on items that will do some good. They didn’t find all my daggers.” Jerin’s frown deepens as his gaze skims me again. “They sent you after me, didn’t they?” His hand drifts behind his back.
I incline my head. “That doesn’t mean I intend to work for them, though.”
“Humppp.” Jerin taps his fingers on his belt, then turns and sweeps up a small pile of… what has he collected? A loaf of bread. Several washcloths. Spoons. A bag of fish rocks and… is that a batman hoodie? “And… Daraton?”
My amusement fades. “Not good. Varizan says he’s a cure but…” I motion towards him.
“My freedom for the brother he tried to get me to kill.” Jerin snorts. “He doesn’t waste any time, does he? Not that I’m about—”
I stiffen at the jolly voice behind me. Please… not now.
A hand claps my shoulder. “I know you like the whole costume thing, but isn’t it a bit early for you to be up?”
“Isn’t it a bit early for you to be back?” I spin and scowl at my older brother. Heat clenches my stomach. “Everyone isn’t back yet, are they?”
Leinad shakes his head. “Relax, you’ll still get a day of quiet. I’ve classes and… things.” He gestures vaguely. “Just stopped for some breakfast. How did you get him to dress up for you?” He nods toward Jerin. “It looks great by the way,” he smiles at the second son of the Earl of Braceaon. “Even has the beat up and worn look that May likes—”
“Leinad!” I hiss.
I press my lips tight and shake my head. “It’s not what you think. I just… You need to… stop.”
“Stop what? I’m not doing anything. May, are you all right?” He catches my shoulder as I suddenly sway.
“Yes… I…” I blink. No, I can’t go back. Not yet. Not… A wave of sleepiness washes over me.
Jerin springs forward. “They’re waking her up! Over on the other side.”
Leinad’s hand tightens about my shoulder. “Are you—”
“Listen to him.” I grit out. “It’s… something happened.” I met Jerin’s eyes. “Tell him. And you…” I drag my gaze back to Leinad as my head begins to droop forward. “Listen to him, if you can. And… and don’t go back to the house.”
My knees buckle. Dimly I can hear exclaiming voices and feel strong hands catching me. Then darkness, wrapped in blue strands, twists me away.
Well, what do you think will happen next? And… do you think I should follow May Ann in the next section or should I begin by switching to Jerin’s POV? 😀