A Fistful of Destiny - Part Six
As the night grew colder, the stars grew brighter, and the enormous full moon lifted through the heavens with its misty green haze, Brand began to wonder if that pixie was ever going to return with his sword.
The animals, great and small, had departed from the area. All that remained was the golden eagle, perched high on one of the oak-like trees, watching the area like a lookout. For all he knew, that eagle was a lookout reporting back to the escapee who thought he was Doctor Dolittle or maybe the Beastmaster. And he still didn't know the guy's name.
Miranda sat by the small fire, poking and prodding at it with a stick. A knot exploded and sent a fiery stream of burning ash toward the sky. Flickering shadows and reddish-orange hue gave her an almost demonic expression that caused Brand to shudder faintly as he knelt down and warmed his hands.
"Thanks," Miranda said as she peer through flames that tried hard to lick the sky. The flames themselves were reflected in her eyes, adding to Brand's mental image all the more. Still Brand couldn't help but find her attractive, perhaps even more so.
He shrugged a shoulder. "Don't mention it." Maybe it was what she said about her gift that made his mind wander toward this unsightly image of Miranda. Or maybe he was just tired. "I'm going back," he said to which she had no reply. Her eyes merely returned to their deep, lost gaze somewhere in those flames.
"To get the others?"
Brand started at the deep voice, turned to glance at the mystery escapee, then nodded.
"I shall assist you."
"As will I," Miranda seconded distantly.
There was a brief moment when Brand was going to argue, but it faded in an instant. Somehow he'd reformed his core group here and he doubted seriously that it was a coincidence he suddenly found himself with temporary replacements for Buba and Lisya.
Speaking of Buba and Lisya, he wondered what they were up to right about now. Surely Buba would be out trying to find him. Or would he? If only he had a way to send them a message.
He nodded to the others. "All right. If that little girl isn't back by sunrise, we go in."
"Or you could do the smart thing," Sword chimed in, "which I realize it extremely difficult for one of your limited mental abilities, and ask me what's going on in there right now."
"By all the gods in the heavens," Miranda gasped. "It truly does talk."
Brand sneered at his arm. To Miranda he said: "You heard it earlier, when we were escaping."
"I wasn't sure what I heard."
"Oh." Brand chuckled. "Anyway, oh grand and wise sword of all swords, do tell."
"Why should I bother? You obviously think you know everything, so what's the point in telling you? Huh? Huh? I'm forced to sit through your 'save the day' spiel and hope that you don't get whacked, while you sit there and ignore me as if I weren't here! How rude."
Whacked? Brand had never used the word, but it was somewhere in his mind. Why the sword decided it was worth using was beyond him. He couldn't help but smirk. "I'm sorry, Sword. You are a valuable asset to my safety and my plans. Please, tell us what you know."
"That's more like it." Sword paused. "I don't know anything yet."
With a deep over-acted sigh, Brand rolled his eyes. "Thanks," he muttered.
He gazed through the line of oaks separating them from the base. It was too dark to see anything but a giant shadow of building, but it was enough to know the base was there. Something like that didn't belong here and Brand was going to see to it that it was removed, one way or another.
Attempting to sleep on the cold ground was not one of the highlights of Brand's night. He tossed and turned for several hours but he still wasn't able to find that glorious dreamland where anything was possible. Finally he just gave up. Miranda and mystery-man were snoozing away like they were sleeping on beds of clouds and it irked him to no end. That and the massive need to relieve his bladder.
Into the towering tree's Brand went with the single-minded goal of watering this landscape with what could possibly be gallons and gallons of growth formula. He was the Wielder after all. Surely his piss would now make things grow into grand specimens. He was tired. Yep.
He didn't get far. Suddenly, fear struck him like a bolt of lightning. He was standing in front of a giant golden gorilla. The gorilla turned its big fat head with its little beady eyes inspecting Brand suspiciously. Where's Dr. Dolittle when you need him? Sleeping, of course. The gorilla reached a dangly arm up and scratched its head.
"Nice monkey," Brand murmured. "I'm the Wielder, you know what that means?" You're losing it, Brand thought. Just slowly walk away from the thing before it attacks you and rips you to pieces. For a fleeting moment, Brand actually imagined the gorilla stealing the Sword of Destiny and becoming a Wielder. He giggled madly. Sleep needed.
Brand took a single step back. His plan of escape was simple. One step back, wait, another step. If this overgrown ape didn't charge him, he was free and clear. He noticed he didn't so much have to piss anymore. Fear caused that? Or had he just decided to wet his pants? He couldn't think anymore but it didn't feel like he'd wet himself.
Huh? Brand glanced around. Nothing but trees and a giant golden gorilla standing in front of him, lazily swinging an arm back and forth like some kind of executioners axe. So who said-
"I know you're the Wielder. That's why I came." It was the gorilla.
Disbelief hardly contained the justice needed to describe what Brand was feeling at that moment. He watched, horror-stricken, as the gorilla actually spoke to him. Its lips moved like some kind of bad special effects in a movie with talking animals.
The gorilla pressed its knuckles into the ground and lunged toward Brand, a snarling grin spread across its face. "What? Never seen a talking gorilla before?" it asked. For a moment, Brand was sure he was hallucinating from lack of sleep. For a moment, that is, until the beast reached out and slapped him on the shoulder. Brand staggered, bumped into a tree, then just stood there staring at the gorilla.
"Anyway, hope you're paying attention, Wielder. There's trouble afoot and I thought you might want a little guidance."
This couldn't be happening. No way. No how. Not in a million, billion years. Brand suddenly shoved off the tree and dove at the gorilla, swinging his metallic hand with all the force in the universe. His fist impacted with the gorilla's face but nothing happened. Brand fell to his knees, directly in front of the smelly golden beast and stared up at its beady little eyes in shocked horror.
"You're lucky I'm a nice gorilla, that stung."
The gorilla patted Brand on the head with its disgustingly gnarled fingers, then scooped him up like a baby with one arm. With its other arm it swung through the tree-covered divide heading straight toward the base, knuckles pressing into the ground to propel it forward. All the while Brand just rested in its comforting, parental arm and watched as the trees slowly pulled away behind the beast.
I've been kidnapped a talking gorilla with golden hair. Where did I find the pot and how come I don't remember smoking it?
As they came up to the base, Brand turned his head and watched the looming building become clear in the night sky. Two soldiers stood watch at the front door with machine guns slung over their shoulders, and did nothing to indicate they noticed the approaching gorilla carrying a full-grown man.
"Watch your head," the gorilla said.
Huh? The gorilla spun on its knuckles and rammed its back into the front doors, its back and Brand's clueless head. A hollow thud echoed loudly as the doors swung open. The gorilla turned back toward the doors and headed into the building. Brand reached up and slowly rubbed a knot on his forehead. Still the soldiers didn't seem to notice anything out of the ordinary.
Several dark, shadowy corridors zoomed by as the gorilla moved swiftly through them, still carrying Brand like a big giant man-baby. He felt silly, but really, what about this wasn't insane?
They passed through a huge archway with C1 painted above it.
Down one flight of stairs later, the gorilla tossed Brand down (not very parental-like) and stared at him expectantly.
They were in a rounded hall with three doors. Behind them, the stairway they descended led back up. Two soldiers were stationed on either side of the middle door, looking bored. Again there was no sign of awareness.
"Well?" Brand asked. Damn monkey guru wasn't going to bring him here and then expect him to know what to do.
The gorilla merely pointed toward the middle door, the guarded door.
Shrugging, Brand walked toward the door and pushed it open.
It was dark inside, but he could make out the outline of three people. Hesitantly, as if he knew he was about to walk into a trap, Brand entered the room and approached the nearest figure. It was the mystery escapee. His bald head turned toward Brand and nodded.
"How could they do this?" He recognized that voice right away. It was Miranda and her voice was distressed. "It's just not... possible."
Brand took several steps in her direction, then paused as the third figure started to move toward him. "Wielder," a weak voice rasped. The voice drove deep into his bones, drilling like a dentist tool. He took a step back, not wanting the owner of that voice to get anywhere near him. He couldn't explain why, but that voice evoked great fear in him. Fear for his life; fear for his very soul.
"What's going on here?" Brand asked. His eyes never left the shadowy figure with the voice of death.
"Don't you know?" the baldie asked curiously.
Miranda slapped Brand's face. "You defile the name of the Wielder."
"Wielder," that voice rasped again.
The shadow moved closer; Brand felt his life drain faster.
He looked back, searching for the golden gorilla and felt a twinkle of sadness to see it was gone. When he turned back, it was too late. Ice-cold fingers dug into his throat, squeezing mercilessly. The breath burst out of him in sudden shock, and then he struggled to rip the fingers free. Scratching, pulling, hammering, nothing worked. White dots slowly crept into his field of vision, materializing deeper and deeper into his sight. His lungs strained painfully in their attempt to draw in that which was impossible.
Then the face learned forward, out of the shadows, and Brand's eyes shot so far open he was sure they were going to fall out. Not that it mattered much at this point. An ice-cold breath escaped the woman's cracked lips, brushing his face with the very hand of death. Her maroon-red complexion was covered with rotting craters and thick, blue veins. He recognized her at once, Adara. Or was it Zadara? Or maybe even the third, still unknown, Nadara. It didn't matter. She let out a screech that would make a banshee jealous...
...and Brand shot up with a startled cry. He found himself back at the pond with the fire struggling to stay alive. His lungs screamed out with mercy as air filled them once more while his heart tried to escape his chest with sickening thuds.
On the other side of the fire, Miranda's shadowy form moved. She turned toward him, "What?" she whispered. "What's wrong?" Then she leaned toward the fire and her beautiful young face was not what he found. Flames shot out of the fire suddenly, new life born within the dying embers. "What's wrong, Brandypoo?" Miranda's face was old and male, and looked exactly like William Shatner.
Brand let out another startled shriek and jerked up from the ground. The sun was playfully peeking over the rolling hills. Miranda and the bald escapee rushed toward Brand, alarmed at his cry.
"What is it, Wielder?" The bald man asked. His hard features were etched with lines of concern. "Has something happened?"
Brand stared off into the tree-lined divide, his eyes searching for a golden gorilla. He just shook his head at the others. There was no way to explain that. He himself didn't have absolutely any idea.To be continued...