Journey to Esidarap - Part Four
Once the rumbling stopped and the world seemed to settle from its outrageous revolt things seemed to slow down. Kate, settled on the ground, glanced at Lisya and sighed softly. Lisya fell asleep shortly after her hysterical fit passed. Buba's head remained firmly in her arms as she snored in an almost perfect way. It annoyed Kate. Overhead, the sky had calmed and the raining fire had stopped but all was not normal. The stars were gone, the moon was gone; everything was gone. It was as if the sky had been erased and all that remained was a giant enveloping blackness around the world.
Kate poked at the fire before her, now the only source of light left in the area, and tried to determine what was going on. Something radical obviously happen, but what? The only thing she could think of that could possibly result in something of this magnitude was the death of another sister. Two down, then. She could only hope Brand wasn't foolish enough to leave Zadara last.
Just when Kate was about to settle in next to the fire and try to get some sleep, a piercing shriek slashed through the black void and gave her a start. A moment later, a huge golden eagle swooped down and landed directly in front of her. Kate scrambled back on her palms; her eyes locked on the bird that looked more like a beast.
"Shoo! Go away." Kate swatted at the eagle but it just tilted its head and stared at her. She looked at it and wondered just what she should do with it. Then she noticed the small piece of paper wrapped against its leg and frowned. Hesitantly she reached toward the bird and it actually lifted its leg. She yanked the paper off its leg, then it jumped into the air and disappeared into the darkness.
It was a simple note from Brand. She read it over glad to see he was still alive but not at all happy with his plan. He was headed to Esidarap, Zadara's base of operation, and wanted them to meet him there.
She tossed the note in the fire. It cracked and burned, curling into a pile of black ash. She wanted to be a companion, well, now she was. The trip to Esidarap would take about a month from Plyse. Of course, getting to Plyse had just gotten ten times harder with the wagon and horses gone.
Kate lay back on the ground and closed her eyes. Never have to worry about a boring life now, do you Kate? She thought to herself as she drifted away into blissful sleep.
Brand, Chrava, and Borodan had been on the road for a few weeks when they ran across an abandon house. There wasn't much inside except for a few chairs, a bed, several loaves of hard moldy bread, and enough dust to kill someone with bad sinuses.
Travelling had proved a challenge. With the sky gone, it was pitch black day and night. Borodan had several animals guiding them, but travel was still slow. At least they weren't dropping down canyons.
Right now Brand and Chrava were alone in the house. Borodan had gone out to scout the area. Of course, Chrava was still counting herself lucky; Brand hadn't figured out the mysterious Miranda was in fact Chrava, the one person he wanted dead more than Zadara. Every time the sword spoke up, her heart filled with a dread that was barely controllable. She was sure it would give her up at any time, if it knew.
"I think I've figured you out," Brand said.
Chrava froze with a rock-hard loaf of bread in her hand. If she needed to, she could try and knock him out with it. Anything to keep him from killing her. She tried to ask what he meant, but nothing would come out. The fear was echoing deep within her throat, seizing her breath with wicked skill.
"Clearly," Brand continued, "you have some kind of telepathic... telekinetic power. You didn't want me to remove the chip because you were free from it for once in your life. Is it that bad?"
The relief was staggering. "Yes, yes," she said. Her body visible slumped against the counter, a sharp pain shooting through her hip where she hit the edge. "I mean, it can be bad. Yes."
Brand settled on the bed, sending a puff of dust into the air. "You can't read my mind, though." He said it with a kind of as-a-matter-of-factness that drove her batty. "I've noticed how tense you are around me. The only reason I could figure for that was that you didn't know what I was thinking."
"It's so second nature for you that it really bothers you when you can't read someone, doesn't it?"
He was so far off she was actually starting to feel relaxed. She could never read Zadara and felt perfectly comfortable around her. No, her tenseness was a result of the fear that he would find out that she was responsible for his lover's death and cut off her head. So she did what she does best: Lie. "Yes, it can be bothersome. I'm so used to being there in someone's head without even realizing it. So, it's like... I don't know, like the missing sky. The sky was always there above us and we got to the point where we no longer noticed it. But now that it's gone, it's like, shit! The sky is gone. It's very much at the front of your mind."
The room was dimly lit with some candles that had been left behind. In the shadows, she could see Brand shift uneasily on the bed. What she wouldn't give to read him right now. But she had an idea what was on his mind. The whole trip she'd been sending him signals, trying to get his attention. Could it be the great Wielder was finally proving he was actually a man?
"You're thinking about your lover, aren't you?" she asked. It took her a moment to realize how big a mistake that question was.
Brand looked at her from across the room; flickering shadows danced across his face and a kind of madness slowly percolated in his eyes. His voice was hard now, cold and hard. "How did you know about her?"
Nice, Chrava, just great. Now what? "Who hasn't?" she tried. "You're the Wielder. Everyone has heard of you and your evolution in this land, including the stories that go with that event."
Nothing was said for a while after that. When Brand finally spoke again, his voice was softer. "Yes," he said, "I was thinking about Megan."
"I lost someone close to me once," Chrava said. "Sometimes it helps, you know, to talk to someone. Or just to be around someone that truly does care." She fell silent. A small frown formed on her lips. Despite his voice's determination to appear softer, Brand's eyes were still swimming in that slowly building madness. It was just enough to give Chrava pause. What if he knew and was just waiting for the perfect moment to tell her?
"I don't want to talk," Brand said. "That's not my thing. What about you, Miranda? Why are you coming to Esidarap with us?"
"Nothing better to do. Maybe I can be of some help."
She regarded him a moment then walked over and sat down next to him on the bed. "You all right?" she asked softly.
"Did those stories of my evolution include the fact that Megan was pregnant with my child? Or that Zadara and her evil sidekick Chrava forced my best friend Buba to kill Megan?"
Chrava looked down at her lap while that frown pulled on her lips again. She wanted to say, no, no Brand, that's not possible, but she couldn't without giving herself away. What kind of game was he playing? Or did he truly believe Megan was pregnant? Chrava knew otherwise. She'd glanced into Megan's mind before the incident and knew perfectly well that Megan was not with child. But hadn't Buba also thought the same thing? Chrava knew she was a monster, but even she had her limits. She would never harm a child or a woman carrying a child. That's why she glanced at Megan's mind in the first place.
"Are you sure?" Chrava asked.
Brand looked at her as if to say, of course I'm sure, stupid. He said, "Yes. I'm sure," instead.
Something was very wrong here.
In the corner of the small home Brand and his companions had discovered was the last thing in the world Brand would ever expect to find. Megan stood there, invisible to all that should look in her direction, with her arms crossed and her brow scrunched in deep thought.
Being dead wasn't as bad as she anticipated, but it was still not as good as living. She wanted nothing more than to be able to shout, "That's the murdering bitch that possessed Buba!" Unfortunately, she was not allowed to interact with the Wielder yet, partly by choice but mostly by otherworldly rules and sanctions. Ha. Even the afterlife had a bureaucracy. Go figure.
Death was kind of funny when it came to emotions. Had Megan still been alive, she would be in enraged at the thought of this little girl trying to move in on her man. The hatred for Chrava was still very real and strong in her, but it was explained to her that unnatural death tended to leave a lasting emotional weight on the newly dead. The rest of her emotional being, however, had rapidly faded. Her love for Brand was still there, but she wasn't jealous. She was actually glad for Brand. He needed to move on, the sooner the better; then she could actually interact with him. But until he has moved on, she needed to stay away and let him heal. Of course, he didn't need to be moving on with Chrava.
Megan had to stay away from Brand, Buba, Chrava, and Zadara but everyone else free game, thanks to the training she received from Adara.
She took two steps back, slipping through the wall of the house, and scanned the surroundings. Despite the eternal night that had fallen on the world, she could see everything as if it were high noon. She swiftly walked toward Borodan as she spotted him.
Borodan was wandering toward the house when she intercepted him.
"Hello, Borodan," Megan said.
He stopped and stared at her. Who wouldn't? She just appeared out of nowhere.
"Don't be alarmed," she said. "I'm Megan."
When Borodan's face fixed hers with recognition, she continued: "I'll make this short and simple. Miranda is Chrava." That was as brief as she could make it.
"I've seen Chrava before. I've known Miranda was Chrava since I first met her at the holding area. What of it?"
"Why didn't you tell Brand?"
"Chrava can do with her life as she wishes. I am, however, watching her. If she steps out of line, I will let it be known who she really is."
"You realize she's putting the moves on Brand, right? He's just going to get hurt the longer this charade goes on. You can put a stop to it right now. Have you no decency?"
"We all follow the laws of our nature, Megan. You come to me with this information, why? Go tell him yourself if you can. Do not assume all is as easy as you'd like it to be."
With that Borodan walked on toward the house and left Megan there, blinking with more than a little confusion. That did not go as well as she had hoped.To be continued...