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.
Part 8: Terrors of the Modern Word: Varizan sends May Ann after Jerin, promising a cure for Daraton if she’ll bring him back. She tracks him to a local Dollar General, confronts him as he examines a batman hoodie, then her brother appears, wondering what is going on. Except she fall asleep before she can explain the situation…
Truth and War
The wordsmith just had to fall asleep and leave him with the mildly troublesome task of convincing some stranger of the truth, did she? Jerin crossed his arms with a scowl.
“May? May Ann?” Her brother was on his knees, cradling her shoulders with one arm and pressing the back of his hand against her cheek and forehead.
Jerin snorted. “You’re not going to wake her. Not yet.”
“What…?” The young man glared up at him. “Who…? It doesn’t even matter. Why haven’t you called someone yet?”
“The hospital, I don’t know. She needs help!”
“Oh, that.” Of course he’d think of healers. Jerin’s jaw tightened. “She’ll be fine. She’s woken the last few times.”
“Last few…? How many…?” The brother stared at him.
Jerin grimaced. This was ridiculous. They’d be here until dawn. “We need to go. Now.” He stooped. “Here, I’ll take—”
The brother’s hand flashed and his knuckles slammed against the side of Jerin’s face. “Keep your hands off!”
Of all the ungrateful… Jerin’s breath hissed through his teeth and he slowly turned toward the younger man. “Do you have any idea who I am?”
“Do I look like I care? What have you done to my sister?”
He was still worried about her? Right… Jerin rubbed his cheek. His free hand clenched about the hilt of his last dagger. Daraton… How soon did Varizan expect May Ann to drag him back? It had only been a night, but a night was enough. Varizan’s poison… The brother was still glaring at him. It wasn’t that hard to understand, was it? He exhaled a long sigh. “There is a portal between our world and hers. There is a rogue ambassador of some sort in your house. Poisoned daggers and all. I suggest you stay away. Your sister, however, I need to take back with me. Once Varizan tells us the cure—”
“Varizan?” the brother sputtered. “If this is about her writing…”
“This is about my brother!”
He shook his head. “My sister is still laying here, asleep, for no reason, and if you for one minute think I am even going to—”
“Is everything fine here?” A new voice asked.
Jerin’s gaze jerked to a figure at the end of the aisle. She pressed her hands against a red apron and her gaze darted between him, the other one, and the Wordsmith. “What—”
“We’re fine,” Jerin growled.
Her lips compressed and she raised her eyebrows, just like that one aunt he stayed with for half a day before borrowing a horse and tearing off across the plains. His hand curled the dagger and he flipped it between his fingers. “We are fine, thank you very much.”
She opened her mouth, then spun away. The brother stared after her. “Did you just…” The words froze on his tongue as he turned back.
Jerin crouched before him, his dagger resting an inch from the young man’s neck. Jerin inclined his head. “How quick are communications in this world?”
The brother blinked. “You are seriously threatening me with a dagger?”
“Varizan took my sword. How soon will that guardian have guards here?”
“Guardian…” his brow furrowed.
He was as hopeless as the rest. One would think the brother of a Wordsmith would get some of the general terms. Jerin gritted his teeth. “Get the Wordsmith and get up. We need to get out of here.”
The brother stumbled to his feet, heaving the girl in his arms. At least he understood that reference. For a long moment, he met the brother’s eyes. They stared back, probing and sifting beneath the furrowed brows. A muscle twitched in his jaw. “Put that dagger away and grab something to make you less conspicuous, would you?” He spun on his heel, then glanced over his shoulder. “Well, come on!”
Of all the spear shattering… He should have drawn the dagger to start with. Jerin swept several items from the shelves and strode after the brother. He flipped one coin to the red-aproned guardian as they passed. It was more than anything is this place was worth but he could come back for change later. She stared after them, something flat and black pressed against her ear. On the other hand, maybe he’d not come back. She’d the eyes of a dragon, that one.
He blinked. They were back at the unwalled courtyard surrounding the building. Gray sliced the night on the eastern horizon.
The brother yanked open the door of a tiny humped transport the color of lurid flames. Jerin raised one eyebrow, then yanked off his cloak and unbuckled the worthless sword’s belt. Where was it…? He held up the black shirt—coat. Whatever it was. Too short for a tunic, but it had a hood. And it was black except for the winged design on the front. If it was what people in this realm wore… He slid it over his head.
Someone made a strangled sound and he found the brother staring at him.
“I… nothing. I think I prefer the cloak.”
Jerin scowled and tugged up the hood. “You were the one who—”
“You’re fine.” The brother rounded the vehicle and yanked open a door. “Get in.”
“If you think for a minute I’m—”
“You need May Ann, don’t you?” The brother raised an eyebrow. “Well, you aren’t getting her. At least not without a much more detailed explanation. So you can go face your poisoned daggers or you can come with me.”
Jerin gripped his dagger. “My brother is dying.”
“And my sister is split between this realm and another!”
Jerin blinked once. “You believe me.”
The man grimaced then sighed. “It just so happens that I work with a group who studies portals. Or we would, if we could ever get to them fast enough. We tracked a disturbance late last night and…” he bit his lip and glanced toward the vehicle where May Ann lay asleep. “Anyway,” he held out one hand. “The name is Leinad, if you missed it earlier.”
“Jerinthreo Kraven Balstin the second.” Jerin watched the man warily as he clasped his arm.
Leinad nodded but didn’t loosen his grip. “Now get in the car. We have major work to do.”
I squeeze my eyes tight, my head in my hands. How many hours until dawn back home? No, it’s probably dawn already. Then I’ve two hours to bring Jerin to Varizan, assuming he’s inclined to go. And assuming he and Leinad haven’t killed each other…
“You all right?” Adella sinks down on the stone step beside me and hands me a warm cup. Tea, probably. What is it with these people and their tea?
I stare in the distance. Too much… it’s too much, and I’ve only been up for half an hour. First Adella and Thrayton shaking me awake, then a confusion of flames and clashing steel. Varizan has an army; who would have imagined that? Well, enough of an army. Even Thrayton couldn’t save the manor house. It is still blazing hotter by the minute. I lean against the stable door. Soldiers mill on all sides, but Thrayton has managed to convince them Varizan is on some secret mission and will be back any minute instead of being held captive lord or another. Varizan a captive… I snort out a laugh, then glance at Adella. She is staring vacantly at the flaming mansion.
I touch her army. “Hey.”
She flinches. “It’s going to be too late, isn’t it? Even if you get Jerinthreo… If Varizan gives you the cure… They’re still going to kill him, aren’t they?”
I bite my lip. Who knows what Varizan is after? “Only if they find him.”
She presses her fist to her lips. “I need to get back. I need… but they’ll follow me if I leave. They’ll find him and…”
“Shhh.” I reach out tentatively and clasp her hand. “Enough time once we have the cure. Thrayton will help. Maybe.” I glance sideways at the man standing several paces away, one hand on the hilt of his sword, the other flipping Varizan’s dagger.
Adella exhales softly. “We need that cure. Soon.”
I nod and rub my eyes. “Do you have any more of that dreamflower… whatever it is? I need to get back to sleep.”