Journey to Esidarap - Part One
The road ahead filled Lisya with little hope. Her greatest fear, that she had effectively killed Buba, haunted her thoughts and dreams like an evil spirit from beyond the grave determined to never let her forget just what she had done. And what had she done? She turned the man she loved into a stone figure frozen forever in twisted agony. Nothing in her life could compare to the needless death of such a gentle soul. Onward she went with the determination to try anything it took to undo her deadly mistake, even if it meant giving up her own life in the end.
Perhaps someone was looking out for Lisya, though. Not only did Kate know the way to Plyse she had a wagon and several horses. It took three men to get the statue of Buba into the back of the wagon and two hours to collect everything that needed collecting. Kate said her goodbyes and then they were out of town and headed toward Plyse.
"It'll take nearly three weeks to get there," Kate had said.
Lisya could only look at her, not wanting to go but wanting ever so much to be there even quicker.
Now here they were. Two women headed toward an evil wizard that could turn them into toads and all they had for protection was a statue that took three strong men to carry and, of course, Kate's ability to smell the future. That would definitely be useful.
"I don't know who has it worse," Kate said.
Lisya shaded her eyes from the afternoon sun with her hand and turned toward Kate. The wagon vibrated madly underneath her as the horses dragged them toward Plyse with all the speed of two turtles, or so it seemed to her. "What do you mean?" Lisya asked.
"You or me. You know, the power thing. Sure, you can see into someone's soul and all, but I have to sit here with three weeks of travel perfume destroying my sense of smell." Kate paused, then actually chuckled. "Hey, that might be a blessing!"
Blessing or no, this journey was going to take a lot longer than three weeks. The horses stopped suddenly for what seemed like nothing at all. As Lisya glanced around for the source of the problem, Kate did her best to get the animals moving again to no avail.
"Strange," Kate mumbled.
There was nothing around them except for the dirt road they were on and the plains that surrounded them. Lisya couldn't even spot a bug in the road much less something that would stop a horse. It never dawned on her that it might be a little strange there were no insects of any kind anywhere to be seen.
Kate jumped off the wagon and inspected the horses. "They're shivering!" she shouted.
Lisya glanced back at Buba. He was still there, all right, but he wasn't the only one. Lisya shrieked, jumped off the wagon and put as much distance as she could between herself and the wagon. Kate was next to her in a flash; the shriek gave her enough foresight to follow Lisya's lead.
"How rude," Zadara muttered. She wrapped her arms around the statue of Buba and grinned. "I guess it's just you and me now, lover."
Chrava's knees turned to jelly and she collapsed amid the dozen or so bodies she had just wiped out. It was do or die time, so she did. Now all she could do was stare across the corridor at Brand with hope against all odds that he would not put two-and-two together and realize that the woman known as Miranda was in actuality Chrava. There was a speck of a hope somewhere inside her, but now all she could imagine was that metallic hand squeezing the life from her neck.
Across the hall, Borodan made his way toward the colonel, toward Chrava. As he passed by, the words that marked her for death escaped his lips in a barely audible murmur. "I know who you are," he said. But then he continued past her without a single threatening look. Was it a warning? Or just for your information?
Had she not been so weak after killing the hundreds of soldiers that occupied this base, Chrava would have sought out the answers hidden in Borodan's mind. Instead, she looked up at Brand as he knelt next to her.
"You all right?"
The lie lingered on her lips. She wanted to tell him yes. She wanted him to get away before he could discover the truth and kill her for what she had done to his companions. At the same time, she needed him. His reassurance and gratefulness for saving them called out to her.
"No," Chrava whispered. The lie wouldn't come.
Brand snaked his arm around Chrava and helped her to her feet. With his arm still around her, he guided her toward Borodan as Borodan pulled the colonel down the corridor.
"Once we get the sword, we'll get out of here. You can rest and get your strength back."
When Brand smiled at her, Chrava's fear flared tenfold. And she could see in his eyes that he knew something was not right. There was a confused look of doubt that taunted Chrava with each step. He knows. He just doesn't know he knows. Some part of Brand was trying to tell him that he is helping the woman responsible for his lover's death, but he wasn't listening. Once he did listen, Chrava knew she was doomed.
At the end of the corridor, they passed through a huge set of double doors and found themselves in a large laboratory setting. And there in the middle of it stood the Sword of Destiny, held by a giant metal arm attached to a crane.
Brand released his hold on Chrava, then strode to the sword and reclaimed it with ease. With a firm grip, he swung the sword around in an arc then sheathed it behind his back. That done, Brand moved toward the colonel and Borodan.
He was about to find out, Chrava knew. Whether he would realize she was the one person he hated most in the universe didn't matter because in a minute, he would know that Chrava had just killed everyone in this base. The prisoners included.
"I want you to start removing these doodads that you have on all the prisoners," Brand said to the colonel. "No funny business either. One of them dies and you die, too."
"Brand," Chrava said.
"Why can't you?" Brand demanded.
The colonel laughed, deep and hearty. "I'm not a doctor. All the doctors are dead."
"Doesn't matter," Chrava said. When Brand turned toward her, she continued. "I had no way of sorting them out. They're all dead."
Brand stared at Chrava, speechless. His mouth flopped up and down as he tried to make it work to no avail. Chrava knew he was going to kill her now. How could he not? The voices of her past laughed mercilessly in her mind; their revenge was upon her at last.
Then Brand surprised her. "It's okay," he said. Chrava wanted to scream at him, tell him it wasn't okay, and demand to be killed. Yet, a glimmer of hope started to slither its way through her.
"It's okay," Brand repeated. "I'm going to check something out, wait here." Brand grabbed the colonel and hauled him out the door, leaving Chrava with Borodan.
The silence between them could not have been any more awkward. Chrava looked down at her hands, unable to face the man that knew the truth. While there was doubt that the Wielder held the capacity to figure out who she was, Borodan had already told her he knew. So there was nothing left to discuss, expect, perhaps, what exactly he meant to do with that knowledge.
"No," Borodan said as if he could read her mind. "I shall not tell the Wielder who you are. You saved my life and for that, I am grateful. Whatever is between you and the Wielder is none of my concern. I only ask that you decide what is most important in your life, Chrava. You alone can determine your fate. Choose wisely."
"You'll get nothing from me," the colonel said.
Brand ignored him and dragged him on. He'd just as soon be rid of the guy, but not just yet, just in case.
Three corridors and two sets of stairs later, Brand glared in disbelief at the archway with C1 painted above. "What's down there?" he demanded. Of course, the colonel wasn't talking. Brand shoved him down the stairs, then followed after.
Like in his dream, they ended up in a round hall with three doorways. Two bodies lay crumpled on the ground on either side of the middle door. Brand shoved the colonel into the middle door and pulled the sword out from behind his back.
"What's in there?" Brand said again.
Brand stabbed the tip of the sword into the colonel's thigh, then yanked it out. "What's in there?"
Blood soaked through the fabric of the colonel's pants, slowly forming a small puddle on the floor next to his foot. The colonel bit down hard on his lip and shook his head.
Brand stabbed him in the shoulder this time, giving the blade a little twist for good luck. The colonel cried out. "What's in there?" Brand repeated.
"I don't know! All right!" The colonel slid down the door and sat in his own blood, one hand squeezed at his thigh, the other pressed at his shoulder. "Damn you. This area is off-limits even to me! Okay! Only the top scientists are allowed in here."
Brand shoved the colonel away the door and tried to be cool by kicking it open. All he got for his troubles was a shooting pain up his entire leg. He hobbled back, then ran the sword through the door. With the ease of a hot knife through butter, he cut a hole through the door and went in.
There were no windows, no lights. The little light that streamed in through the hole Brand had just made was enough to show him the shadow of a prone body at the rear of the room. He made his way toward it, sword in front of him and ready to strike. It was far too dark to tell whom this might have been but Brand was actually glad Miranda had killed all the prisoners as well as the soldiers. Did that make him a bad person? His nightmare was coming true, minus talking gorilla, and he did not want to come face to face with that monster again. Was that so wrong? He nudged the body with his foot; then he knelt down and poked it. When nothing happened, Brand grabbed a handful of cloth and dragged the body back toward the door.
At the door, the body came to life and grabbed his calf. Brand let out the girliest of all screams he could muster, then promptly dived through the hole in the door and tried his best to scramble away. The hand came loose and he was halfway up the stairs before he dropped and struggled to breathe.
"Wielder!" the wretched voice from Brand's nightmare cried out.To be continued...