Journey to Esidarap - Part Three
The land's mourning of Nadara struck twice as powerful as it did for Adara. Brand was thrown into the smooth, metal wall of the corridor. The Sword of Destiny leapt from his grip and, as if it was a death-seeking missile, embedded dead center of Nadara's chest. The ground rumbled from deep within its stony depths, destabilizing the walls around the Wielder and his new companions. Deep cracks formed under the grated, metal flooring of the military installation. Lights exploded behind their clear protective shielding. In an instant, the base had turned into a giant blender with Brand, Miranda, and Borodan the main ingredients in the land's power shake.
Outside was a different story. Brand and company scrambled toward the pond on wobbly legs twisting and turning in unnatural, sometimes damaging, ways while avoiding fissures of doom that sprang up in unsuspecting places. The sky overhead was beyond explanation. Much like the earth below ripped to shreds, so too did the sky. Huge tears formed in the darkened night sky. Stars were unceremoniously tossed aside to leave enormous swatches of pure blackness, while fire began to rain down from the heavens. Gigantic balls of literal flames fell from the gaping holes in the sky and crashed to the ground, licking fingers of burning death spread and multiplied on everything they touched. Trees ignited, lighting everything with fiery passion. Behind them, the military installation had found the end of its life. Flame engulfed it, burning it to the ground with unholy speed and precision. All around the hidden base, the trees that once hit it remained untouched by the death strike. The trees in front of them, however, between the base and the pond were a blaze with frightful unwavering determination to not be around to witness the end of days.
"Keep moving," Brand said to Miranda, urging her forward toward the pond. He didn't know why, but he was positive the pond would provide shelter from this firestorm.
Without a moment's hesitation, Brand and company dove into the pond. Almost at once, they realized something was different about it. Instead of getting wet, they slid through the watery surface and fell for what seemed like miles of nothingness, but the sensation itself only lasted all of two seconds. Then, with a great thrusting of disorientation they found themselves moving upward instead of downward and out of the watery pond they went at full speed.
Brand's breath caught in his throat, his body rebelling against the sensations he'd just felt. After calming himself, he looked around at his new surroundings with disbelief.
The first thing he noticed was the enormous lake they'd just popped out of. The sky was still distorted and the fireballs were still raining down but they had moved someplace else. A well-used path about twenty feet away had been beaten into the ground after years of heavy travel. It led into a pile of rubble that could have once, as much as thirty minutes ago, been a town. People were running all around in a chaotic mess, most bleeding with eyes glazed as if they didn't really know where they were.
"A water portal," Borodan said as he came up next to Brand. "Only a powerful sorcerer can cast such a spell."
Powerful sorcerer, indeed. But was the spell cast from the pond or the lake? And where was this powerful sorcerer now? Brand glanced at Miranda. She wandered to toward the two men, brushing dirt from her clothes.
Miranda shook her head. "That was weird," she said.
An old man ran past them, screaming about the end of the world. A slightly young man followed him with his voice raised in a panic as he yelled: "Nadara is dead! Long live Zadara, queen of them all!"
And in that moment, Brand finally let it sink in. The prophecy had been true. He killed Nadara before he killed Zadara and now she held all the power. Just great.
"What did you expect, old chum? Even you are dense enough to fall for Fate's trap." Ah, the sword, always the willful informant.
Like a bad nightmare that only got worse, Brand gazed in sickening fear when he found the source of the leveled town. It wasn't the earthquake as he had at first suspected. Zadara was floating over the rubble, her arms spread wide, with giant arcs of red lightning spewing from her fingertips aimed directly at the pile of rock that was once a town.
There was a tugging at Brand's arm and he shot a look at Miranda. "We have to go now!" she urged. "Before she sees us."
As they took off in the opposite direction of the fallen town, the earth stopped trembling. The deathcry of some unsuspecting woman chased them away from the hectic scene of death and mayhem, giving Brand pause. He could end this all right now if he just went for Zadara and finished it one way or the other. He wanted to, too, but he kept on moving. While the moment had presented itself, an uneasy feeling tickled at the back of his mind. He couldn't, yet.
They ran down a steep hill, the destruction behind them disappeared as if it had never existed, and the sky burned away as if it had been set on fire. One by one the stars blinked out of existence to the point when Brand looked up, there was nothing was black. No moon existed; no stars existed. The world was suddenly alone and his mind reeled at the sight, for it wasn't normal and seeing it did certainly not make believing it any easier.
At the bottom of the hill, a cave led back underneath it. The Wielder and his companions ducked down under the eave of the cave and dropped like corpses, out of breath and both physically and mentally fatigued.
All, that is, except for Sword.
"Now you've done it," Sword said. "The real fun begins and boy oh boy is this going to be a blast and a half. You're nowhere near prepared to take on Zadara, Brandy. If I were a betting sword, I'd bet against you."
"Does it ever shut up?" Miranda asked coldly.
Brand shrugged. "I've learned to tune it out. If you stick around long enough, so too will you. How does one go about sending a message? I really need to talk to my friends."
Borodan let out a shrilling cry of a whistle that nearly deafened Brand. Brand winced and pressed the palms of his hands against his ears, albeit too late, and shot a glare of hate at Borodan. Several moments later, though, Borodan's golden companion swooped through the opening in the cave and landed on his shoulder. The eagle opened its beak and let out a small cry of hello.
"Kwah will take a message to your friends," Borodan said.
As soon as Zadara was blasted away from them, Kate and Lisya jumped the wagon and got out of there. In the moments following their rapid departure, the situation finally sunk in.
"Did we almost die back there?" Kate asked a little uneasily. She looked toward Lisya, frowning uncertainly at the glazed look in her eyes. She looked to Kate like she was in shock or perhaps she was damaged somehow by Zadara's evil magic.
Kate poked Lisya's side with a well-chewed fingernail. "Lisya? Hello?"
"Fine," Lisya murmured.
Okay, what did that have to do with anything? Kate turned back to the road and sighed inwardly. Her dreams of becoming a companion to the Wielder were not exactly living up to her expectations. Sure she knew there would be danger involved. There had to be, of course, because this was destiny-altering work that had to be done.
All her life Kate had heard stories from her grandfather. He had known a Wielder and had actually been there to see the Wielder's death. A companion he was not, but a friend was better than not knowing the Wielder at all. Wasn't it? His stories always brought her to the same conclusion: If the Wielder exists again within her lifetime, she had to be part of his inner circle. And so she now was, but at what cost?
Several miles down the road, Lisya suddenly climbed into the back and inspected the statue of Buba with a madly keen eye for even the slightest alteration. Kate figured she was worried that Zadara might have done something to the statue.
But that worry was soon forgotten when the earth began to quake. The wagon jerked madly to the left, then the right. Lisya staggered, nearly fell out of the back of the wagon, then let out a cry of shock as the statue of Buba teetered on the edge of the wooden surface. Kate pulled the horses to a halt and hopped in back in time to see Lisya get knocked out of the wagon. Kate dove for her, missed, and slammed into the side. The rising and falling of the ground below proved to be more of a foe than the last time this happened. Kate realized with something of a distance examination that Buba was not going to make it through this unscathed. And sure enough, a minute later the rolling earth hurled the statue out of the wagon. It slammed into the ground with a heavy thud. Thick cracks spread instantaneously throughout the stony surface. The biggest break came at the outstretched neck.
Kate threw herself from the back of the wagon as the horses went ballistic and charged away. She landed between Lisya and Buba just in time to see what would have otherwise been the most horrifying thing in her life, had Buba not been a statue. The fissure forming in the neck suddenly became too large and poor old Buba's head popped right off.
Lisya has hysterical as she tried without success to put Buba's head back on. Her eyes had become something of a puzzle, moving about with a seemingly random course that could not have possibly led to Lisya actually seeing much of anything.
There was no way to figure this all out. The world was ripping apart from the middle and above, apparently. Large tears began to spread throughout the darkness overhead, blotting out the stars. This was new, Kate thought. New or not, she was as well versed in the end times prophecies as anyone else. The Wielder she had come to work for was the Wielder. Of that, she had no doubt.
Kate sat back on her heels and rode out the tidal waves of land with all the agility of a dancer. For once, she was glad her parents wanted her to become something more than they were. While the dancing didn't pan out, she became more nonetheless. Again, though, she wondered at what cost all of this would have. The wagon rolled, taking the horses with it. The wooden surface exploded into huge planks of useless wood and the horses ran for their lives. Yes, at what cost? This wasn't going to be pretty.To be continued...