A Fistful of Destiny - Part Five
The pond was situated between rolling hills that stretched out for miles and a thick line of towering oak-like trees sparkling with brilliant golden leaves. Behind the divide stood the military base, hovering like a menacing threat now hidden from view but Brand was all too happy to be away from there and free once more. Nightfall was upon them; dark shadows filled the area with an eerie, almost supernatural quality as if spirits of the dead were watching over them, preparing to attack at any moment. Next to him a tall, thickly muscled man with no hair knelt with his hands pressed against the lush grass. The woman Miranda was at the pond cupping water in her hand and drinking. It was the first time he had a chance to look at her and she was not what he expected. Far younger she was than his mind's eye had pictured her. Her stringy black hair was wet now and clung to her face. She had to be in her early twenties, if that. Both of his fellow escapees had similar computer chips attached to their right temples. The water didn't seem to be affecting them any. It wouldn't be hard for him to remove them with a quick yank, but he hesitated in offering. There was some question as to how deep those chips penetrated.
The jailbreak, suspicious as it was, went off without a hitch. That didn't mean he was free from that installation, though. Not by a long shot. His sword was still in there for one. Whether or not that pixie would bring it remained to be seen. Then there was the matter of the other prisoners. He couldn't leave them there despite knowing full well that he should get away as fast as he could. They were being held against their will, just as he was. Damn Buba for his moral-teaching ways.
Brand glanced down at the bald man, quirking a brow.
"What have they done to me?"
The man's face was a scowl of frustration. As his hands dug into the soil, he seemed to be concentrating with tremendous energy trying to accomplish some feat that just wasn't coming to him. All because of that chip, no doubt.
Brand knelt down next to him, inspecting the circuitry attached to his temple. Maybe yanking it wasn't the best, but perhaps he could blow its fuse like he did to his. "I might be able to help," Brand said. "But I don't know what'll happen. It could be dangerous to you."
Hope-filled eyes shifted toward Brand, the man's features softening considerably. "Do it. I'm no longer alive like this so just do it."
It struck him then just how powerful his role was in the universe now. With reluctance he tried to ignore, Brand slowly lifted his metal-coated finger toward the computer chip. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Miranda watching with a wide-eyed expression of anticipation. He couldn't watch. If this man turned into fried human he'd never be able to get that memory out of his mind. So he closed his eyes right before his finger pressed against the chip. There was a great resistance and the sound of static filled his ears. Moments later his finger broke the barrier and impaled the chip. Brand's eyes shot open as he pulled away, staring at the sparking chip on the side of the man's head.
It was instantaneous. The man's eyes swam with undying gratitude, his blacksmith arms embracing Brand with a crushing expression of thanks. "You truly are the Wielder!" As he pulled away, the man wiped at his eyes with his knuckles and turned back toward the pond, burying his hands into the soil.
Without warning, animals of all shapes and sizes started to emerge from the tree line, out of the ground, out of the pond, out of the sky. Everywhere, all around, creatures poured into the area headed straight toward the bald man. Most of the creatures Brand recognized, but there were some that were completely foreign to him. Birds flew from all directions, diving to the ground next to this strange man.
Brand stood and took a step back, barely ducking in time to save his head from a diving eagle with golden feathers. He watched in shock as the eagle landed on the man's shoulder, its talons gently gripping his shoulder without harming his skin.
Never before had Brand felt this... useful. Struggling all his life to find some kind of meaning for his existence, some kind of reason to be alive, had lead him to this point. That wonderful bald man showed him in a single moment why he was born. The power of destiny surged through his veins and it was up to him alone to decide how to use that power. With this power he could help people for the greater good. He could bring that missing piece of people's lives to the forefront and help them to achieve their greatest desires. He is the Wielder.
"There's hope for you yet," Sword said.
A compliment from Sword? Oh hell, Brand's world was suddenly askew. Can swords get sick, sword-pox maybe?
"Amazing," Miranda gasped.
Somehow she came up next to Brand. He blinked at her, then followed her gaze toward the bald man. Every animal that was ever created could possibly be surrounding him. There was a kind of surreal look to the whole scene, but the warmth that escaped the man and the animals that clearly adored him was epic in nature.
"Still don't know your gift," Brand said.
A startled look answered the comment before Miranda could hide it. She quickly set her face as neutral as possibly and shrugged. "I'm not so sure it's a gift anymore. So keep your fingers to yourself."
Feisty. Brand wiggled his eyebrows at her. "For now," he said with a grin. There was no denying she was attractive. Those dark eyes spoke of a haunted, mysterious past that intrigued him considering her age; nobody that young should have eyes that looked so old.
Nobody could fly higher than Kate was and that's a fact. The Wielder's companion had come to her rescue. Just standing next to that great, holy man was enough to elevate her in everyone's eyes. Nothing could possibly take her down now; she was soaring higher and higher with each bouncy step.
Nothing, that is, except for a blood-curdling scream of pure anguish.
She froze mid-bouncy step and stared straight ahead with her heart suddenly thumping against her throat. It's all right, it's okay, nothing to worry about here. That was not some grown man reduced to a pile of heaping pain. It was a wild animal. A cougar, yes? Right. A cougar... trapped in the inn. There are no cougars around these parts. Arg.
Nothing was in the air, now or in the future, to give Kate any kind of clue as to what that was. She slowly drifted toward the inn; her bouncy step was a thing of the past. Everything inside her head told her not to go anywhere near the inn, while everything in her body seemed to be on a direct course with whatever fate lie beyond those doors. Don't go; you know there's nothing good that'll come of it, she mused. Think of your family, your poor little brother will be so lost without you. There's no way anyone could get past the heartbreak that little boy would feel if his big sister were killed. All the logical reasons running through her head and still, one foot went in front of the other and before she knew it she was standing in front of the doors to the inn.
Nowhere to go but in and in she went.
Slowly Kate moved toward the innkeeper; he stood at the foot of the hall, rigid as a statue. Each step brought her heart to a quicker thud trapped somewhere in the realm of her throat. The only light available was from the candles lining the walls. As she came up next to the innkeeper with his tall hair reaching for the ceiling, she froze. Down the hall, in the midst of flickering candlelight, she found the source of that terrible scream.
Furthest down the hall was a man Kate didn't recognize. His face was a mess of blood, warped far beyond any semblance of a face. Closer at hand was the woman she'd seen with the Wielder's companion. She lay prone on the ground, her breath coming at uneven intervals. It was as if she were struggling to stay alive. And between them, there was the Wielder's companion. She recognized him immediately despite the fact that he was no longer living flesh. He'd been turned to stone, his body thrown back in its kneeling position, presumably originally over the bloody man, his face etched with the last expression he'd undoubtedly ever have. Pure terrorizing agony.
Screaming seemed like the thing to do right about now. The natural thing to do. Kate, however, couldn't bring herself to do even that. A great sadness welled up inside her. The man that had saved her life from an angry mob was, for all intents and purposes, dead. Just a short time ago she'd been talking to him, thanking him. Now he was staring into the heavens asking, "What have I done to deserve this?" The answer was unmistakable. Those who travel with the Wielder put their lives on the line for destiny with the benefits that come to him who wields.
How long had she been standing there? Hesitantly, Kate moved forward toward the fallen woman. Wife? Girlfriend? Whatever she was to the Wielder's companion, she was clearly distraught over this sudden shift of reality. Kate knelt next to her, a steady hand coming to rest against the woman's arm. Despite the enormously overwhelming fear that was surging through her body, Kate kept herself together. She'd been graced by this wonderful man and now it was the least she could do to help the remaining companion of the Wielder. It was her duty.
The woman's face turned upward, staring at Kate. For a fleeting moment Kate was sure she saw regret in that expression. But her gaze shifted when she saw the bloody drawing on the floor.
Suddenly, the pieces fell together in her mind. Her fear turned to anger in the twinkle of a star. Her hands grabbed the woman's shoulders, shaking her violently. "What have you done?" Kate shrieked. "What have you done?"
The fury and pain disappeared almost instantaneously for Buba. Sure, it took Lisya making him hard as a rock to accomplish that and the pain itself was a result of her actions, but overall, it wasn't so bad. He couldn't move but there were no feelings of being confined. Right now everything was okay. Easy going. Relaxing. It was like being on vacation from reality. Not that anything seemed like reality lately.
Wrapped in an envelope of sheer darkness, floating freely from all outside influence, he found himself free to rest. All thoughts were lost on him. All worries gone. All fears vanished. All problems were non-existent. Here in the world of nothing, Benjamin Bufford Bleu no longer struggled in a harsh, cold world of unending trials and tribulations.
Here Benjamin Bufford Bleu was at peace.To be continued...