It’s this time of the month again. 🙂 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.
Why can’t this just be a dream?
“Varizan?” I blink, staring into his sharp blue eyes. How… I was in Braceaon. Resting. Relaxing! Why am I having a dream like this!
“Rested?” Varizan raises an eyebrow, rocking back on his heels as he releases me. “You slept long enough.”
I open my mouth, then shut it soundlessly. Varizan was in my home, but I’d gone through the portal, hadn’t I? Yet I am… here? In my closet. My arms tied behind one of the bare supports of my closet. With Jerinthreo, of all people, even more trussed up than I and glaring at me from the side.
Varizan shakes his head. “What realmly good did you think it would do to get Daraton out of my way when I didn’t care a wit about him in the first place? Well,” he corrects himself, “with his brother in my hands, I’m sure I can pull some good out of the situation. Assuming the young lord survives.”
Jerin’s breath hisses between his teeth. “Just you wait, Varizan. Just you wait.”
“I have been waiting, several hours,” Varizan says. “Nothing’s happened yet.” His gaze flicks back to me and hardens. “You, however, my dear…”
I am still staring at him, my mind spinning. Characters have come to life and I’ve visited their world. Why should being back here, interrogated by my own villain, be so startling? Interrogated… My stomach churns. That is one part of his character I have developed. For once, I don’t like knowing what to expect.
Varizan flips a dagger absently between his fingers, still rocking on his heels, then finally sheaths it. “Are you ready?”
I glare at Varizan. “It might help if you gave me a clue about what you wanted.”
“The wordsmith doesn’t know?” Varizan raises his gaze to the ceiling, then snaps his eyes back to my face. “I daresay you’d help if you did?”
His hand smashes against the side of my face. I gasp, my head snapping to the side.
“That was a warning.” He lifts one finger as I blink. His face blurs in and out of focus. “I’ll be back. With details.” He rises. “In the meantime, think over what you do know about me and consider how long you can defy me.”
He strides from the narrow closet. I stare after him, his last words echoing my mind. How long… Time. Time. I close my eyes, my shoulders slumping. What my family would have done if Jerin and the others came through when they were all here is beyond me. As it is, they’ll be back tomorrow night. Back from the visit to our grandparents. A visit I skipped because I was supposed to be writing. If they return while Varizan was here…
That is an interrogation weapon he knows how to use too well.
I muffle a groan.
“You’re going to be dealing with more than a mere slap if you intend to defy Varizan.” Jerin growls.
I twist my head, glaring at the twin as best I could. “You think that is bothering me?”
I bite my lip before snapping a retort. “And you? I thought you were with Varizan?”
Jerin snorts. “Just because he gave me information doesn’t mean I trust the son of a snake. But he was right. And Daraton–”
“Daraton did not kill your father.”
“Or so he claimed in those brief moments before you threw him back in the portal and then collapsed in that strange pantry?”
Strange pant– Oh, the fridge.
“Ethred told me,” I say.
“That name is not one to be bandied about just because you have a token from her.” Jerin’s voice is low. Deadly.
I close my eyes, my fingers twisting at the knots about my wrist. They don’t give. “And yet she did tell me. I went through, Jerin–”
I ignore him. “I went through and got your brother to Ethred and Adella–”
I cut myself short. Was Jerin for the marriage, or against it? Ethred’s hasty explanations still wound confused webs between my eyes.
“He’s safe then?”
“Yes, well…” I hesitate. “Besides slowly slipping away from poison on Varizan’s dagger and hiding from soldiers who seem to have taken over the manor house.”
“Flaming Salendrians!” Jerin spat the exclamation. He jerks against his ropes, then lets his head fall against the wall with a sigh. “When I get my hands on Varizan–”
I blink, shaking my head. “Varizan now? I thought you were mortal enemies with your brother. Not that I’m complaining.”
“I’m not a fool,” Jerin says. “My brother has much to answer for, but it is not Varizan’s place to interfere or implement execution for a crime he seems very well able to have committed himself!”
Well then. That was one uneasy truce brokered.
“So…” I venture. “Varizan?”
“What about him?”
“Do you happen to know his backstory?”
“Backstory!” Jerin jerks upright. “Is that all we are to you? Characters in some book?”
“Not anymore,” I protest. “And it’s not just me. You should see what Ethred–”
“Ethred has issues when it comes to her wordsmithing.” Jerin rolls his eyes. “Everyone is orphaned, had a troubled childhood, or was beaten at a young age. I had hoped you weren’t all like that.”
I press my lips tight.
“Varizan then?” I ask again.
“Ambassador from Salendria. Still not sure why he came, but Father–” His voice wavers, but he takes a deep breath. “Father accepted him. Didn’t talk much to him though, that I could see.”
“Family?” I ask.
“None that I know of.”
“And that is probably where the backstory comes in,” I mutter under my breath. I search back through my various shreds of history. A wife and two kids, at least Varizan had them at one point. What happened? A raider attack? Fire? I shook my head. Something involving the former lord Balstin, probably. Their ages matched. There had been a war twenty years ago when Balstin was a captain and Varizan a mere villager.
“What are you smirking about?” Jerin demands.
I clear my expression, blinking as I snap my gaze back to my fellow prisoner. “Just thinking. I had a… idea.”
“If it is about Varizan, you’d better keep it to yourself. I know what you types are like.”
“Ethred, remember? What did she do to your past? Kill your family and have a sibling die in your arms?”
I choke out a small cry of indignation.
“Whatever family Varizan had is dead,” Jerin says. “That much I know. If you try to share the elaborate ways they might have died, then it will go the worse for you.”
“That I don’t doubt.” I bite my lip, then draw a soft breath as footsteps approach.
The door swings open and I turn my head away, blinking in the bright light.
“General wants to see you.” A dusky figure blocks the sun, striding around me. Cold steel presses against my wrist. The ropes jerk tight, then loosen abruptly.
I swing my arms around, massaging my wrists. “What does he–?”
“I’m sure he’ll tell you.” The man yanks me up by the arm, shoving me before him. “Come along.”
I stumble a step as he pushes me out into my room. My poor room. What had these men done!? I bit my lip as I stare at the maps torn from the walls, the trampled flag, the scribbled parchments, my leather journal of customs and superstations lying open, with some passages underlined and others scribbled off….
The corridors and rest of the house isn’t much better. I’ll not get any sleep at all if I want this clean before my family gets back.
Varizan is sitting in state at the dining room table, rolling magnetized balls around the palm of his hand. He pinches two apart as the man who fetched me loosens his grip and pulls out the chair at the other end of the table.
I watch him warily as I sit down, then let my gaze skim the paper and assortment of pens and pencils before me. I bite the inside of my cheek.
Varizan lets the magnet balls reconnect with a snap, then drops them to the table and looks at me. “I suppose you’ve a guess at what I want?”
Varizan waves one hand in a circular motion. “Pray, elaborate.”
I trace the inside of my teeth with my tongue. Family is probably a sensitive point. Power? Revenge? Most likely, but we can go with power. “You want to take over this world and you want me to write up some story or such where that that happens.”
Varizan throws back his head, his laughter billowing upward. “This world? This world?” He shakes his head. “Why in all the realms would I want this world? I have great confidence in my own abilities, but taking over a whole realm which is already fragmented into dozens of warring factions? I must say, I am flattered.”
So much for the power angle.
“Closer, but not by much.” Varizan sobers. Folding his hands, he watches me steadily. “I want you to write.”
“Hence the paper and pens.”
“Someone died once.” Varizan continues. “Someone dear to me. You are going to write them back.”
My breath caught in the back of my throat. So it was family then.
“But what?” Varizan rose, circling his chair and leaning on the back. “You can’t? Think carefully about what you say.”
“I…” Best have it out with. “That’s not what I do. I write, yes. But what has happened has happened. I can’t change events. I can’t bring people back from the dead.”
“No?” Varizan’s brows draw closer as he rounds the table. He presses both hands on the surface beside me. “A wordsmith can do what she pleases, how she pleases.”
“You must believe me, we can’t.”
“And I am supposed to take the word of one captive on that?” Varizan leans close.
I force myself not to recoil. “I’m not the only one! Even Ethred said–” I cut myself off. Idiot! I could write my own death scene at the moment.
A slow smile spreads over Varizan’s face. “Ah, so you did go through the portal? A portion of you, anyway. I suspected as much.” He rounds the back of my chair, his hands resting lightly on my shoulders. I jerk, but their grip hardens, holding me in place.
“No need for any writing yet, my dear. The past is, as you said, past. The future, however…” his hands slowly slide toward my neck. I suppress a shudder.
“Wordsmiths have more power on the future than Ethred likes to let on. Ask her about it, why don’t you? And,” he leans over my shoulder, “when you see Daraton, tell him the Black Shadows has finally come.”
Varizan’s hand close over my mouth and nose, cutting off all air. I twist, struggling to breathe, but his hold tightens. Blackness edges my sight. Choking, suffocating blackness. And then I know no more.
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