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September 19, 2022

Call of Destiny v8p10

By Josh Brown

The Call - Part 10

Brand's desire for Megan and her life pulled at him. It forced him into action without his body's consent. Brand struggled forward. He crashed into Buba and mumbled stop but Buba was lost in the frenzy. Buba's lover, too, had been killed because of this woman. He knew nothing right now but the bitter pain that had been left. The man could be as gentle as a nurturing mother or as deadly as a prized pit bull. And right now, that pit bull had control.

Brand pushed against Buba. He mustered his strength and punched Buba in the back of the head with his left hand, his unchanged hand. When that failed, he put every ounce of strength he could find into his right arm and swung with all the pathetic might he had left.

It worked.

Buba staggered, then swayed, and then finally toppled like a giant oak that has been defiled by lumberjacks. Brand fell forward and landed on top of Zadara's broken, shattered remains. All the damage Buba had done could be the end of any hope of saving Megan.

Now Brand faced the last chance. He rolled off Zadara and slide the sword into the crippled, distorted remains of her body. She let out a swallow, almost automatic cry of pain as the blade pierced into her. It gave Brand some hope, the little hope that he needed, that she'd still be alive. Alive enough to drain her powerful energy. Again the black vapors of Zadara's essence covered the sword, absorbed into the sword. Brand gathered all the effort he could, willing the power to transfer into the blade, into the arm, into the Wielder.

Before his failing vision, Brand watched in mixed horror and fascination as Zadara's body withered deeper and deeper, her mangled remains shriveling into black, unrecognizable piles of ash, and finally the ash itself being sucked up by the sword. It had been done. Zadara was no more.

Almost at once the ground roared. The very foundation of the palace split into dozens of fissures that spread at alarming rates. The entire east wall collapsed in a violent display of demolition from the quaking land.

All Brand could do was lay there, unable to move, and watch as all the trouble he had gone through slowly seeped away in the tide that washed over him. His head rolled to the side. Blurry eyes spotted a streak of white as it ripped through reality. The white spread and formed into a rectangular box that stood upright. Then the white faded into a somewhat familiar site. He peered through the doorway and saw the storage room of the bookstore. He saw bare shelves where there had once been tons of ancient, unreadable books. The door that kept the storage room private had also been removed. Sunlight from the front window of the store shined brightly down the hall and gently illuminated the interior of the room.

Brand reached out weakly for the doorway. Dreams of returning to his home to find friends and enemies alike called out to him. Bring on those enemies. After this world, Brand couldn't look at anyone he considered an enemy as a threat anymore. Nor did he want to. If only he could reach the door. Preferably before it closed. That brought a chuckle to him. How sad would it be, he wondered, if he could somehow urge his body to that door just to have it close right as he reached it. It wouldn't be sad, he realized. It would be fitting for him.

Strong hands grabbed Brand by the wrists. He looked up, unable to see who dared to attack him, even now, as the world around him crumbled to bits and pieces. How could anyone possibly still have a fight left in him? His head once more lolled to the side. To his surprise, the door came toward him. He looked up again, his vision turning everything into dark black shadowy blobs. The door wasn't coming to him. He was being brought to the door. Without warning, Brand found himself hurled through the light. The storage room flew into view and them, wham, he was in it. His body crashed into the ground, rolled once, and came to a halt. Not a single part of him regretted he'd never see Zadara's world again.

***

Buba tossed Brand through the door and then ran toward Lisya. He gathered her up in his arms, turned, and almost started back. Then he spotted Chrava and his eyes darkened. She still lay behind the throne platform. Her eyes rose to meet Buba's and for a moment, Buba knew what she thought. He didn't need to be telepathic. No, he just needed to be human.

Carefully, Buba once more eased Lisya's body to the ground. He stormed toward Chrava, emotionless as she cringed from him despite wanting him to do exactly what she thought he'd do. But Buba wouldn't do it. He didn't kill people unless his life depended on it and even then it would be a battle within himself before he finally did it. He scoped Chrava up and brought her to the doorway. A moment's hesitation took hold of him. Should he send her through or leave her? The question flashed in his mind as the palace walls around him came tumbling down and then he decided like he would always decide. He did the right thing. Not before Chrava whispered into his ear. When she finished, he nodded to her and tossed her gentle through the doorway.

Again he turned to Lisya. When he went forward though, it wasn't for her. He walked up the platform as a beam fell from the ceiling. An important structural beam followed moments later, bringing with it a large portion of the ceiling. Debris flew through the air. Buba grabbed the throne for balance as the ground rocked viciously back and forth, up and down. He reached into the seat of the throne and tore away the cushion there. Inside he found the book that had started this entire mess. He grabbed it, then jumped off the platform and grabbed Lisya.

To his left, the doorway flickered. Just once but Buba saw it and his heart beat faster. He dropped the book in his shirt, then picked up Lisya with all the gentleness that she deserved and ran for dear life. As he ran at the doorway, it flickered out of existence completely, only to return a second later. When he reached the doorway, it flickered out again and he passed through thin air. He spun around and waited. He waited some more. The door wouldn't return, he told himself. He had trapped himself here by saving Chrava. He looked down at his fallen lover in his arms and had absolutely no regret about saving Chrava.

As if Lisya had been watching out for him, the doorway came back to life for one final time and Buba Bleu stepped through, thanking Lisya all the way.

***

Day became night and night became day. Five times this happened while Buba, Brand, and Chrava did nothing but sleep. They slept in that very same storage room for five full days. None of them had the strength or will to do anything but sleep. The course of their lives had taken them through hell and back again. Some of them lived to tell about it. Others did not.

The first to awaken in the middle of the bright spring afternoon five days later stood and felt refreshed. His mind had cleared and his wounds had healed completely. One of the few perks to being a Wielder that Brand actually liked. He surveyed the remaining members of his cadre. His eyes darkened as they passed over Chrava. His spirits rose tremendously as he scanned Buba's battered and emotionally worn body. He even found the book, Brand though with a faint smile. That motherfu--

Megan. Brand looked down at the sword on the ground. Then his eyes jerked to his metallic right arm. He grabbed the sword. For the space of two seconds--the time it took Brand to get out of the storage room and into the empty showroom of the abandoned shop formerly known as the bookstore--Brand became a worried mess. "Sword. Sword!" he whispered in a harsh tone.

"Sleeping beauty finally wakes up," Sword said, bored. Then: "What?"

"Is it too late?"

Sword knew the answer. "Yup. Too late. You slept through your only chance."

Brand staggered at the weight of this. He looked back at the storage room. "And Lisya? Too late for her, too?"

"Ding, ding, ding. You so smart."

Brand flung Sword across the room. It spun top to bottom several times before sinking six inches deep in the brick wall. Staring, he stomped toward the sword. "I will bury your ass so far in the ground you'll melt from the heat of the earth's core."

"I don't have an ass, for the record."

"Sword! I'm not--"

"You can still save them both."

Brand's knees turned to jelly. He whispered, "How?"

Threaded between smart-ass remarks and tired cliches, Sword told him everything he needed to know.

***

When the others woke up, Brand gathered them in the abandoned showroom. This included Lisya, though Buba couldn't figure out why and he wasn't thrilled about it at all. He didn't feel right about having her body sprawled out in such a visible place.

"We have one more thing to take care of," Brand said. He looked directly at Chrava. "And it concerns you."

Her eyes never met his.

"Buba, I can bring Lisya back to life."

A gasp escaped Buba. He couldn't speak.

"In order to do that, though, someone," again he stared at Chrava, "has to give up her life."

Buba's shock at Brand's first statement turned to disappointment. He would give his life up for Lisya, that didn't disappoint him. That he wouldn't be there with her when she returned, that made him ache for both of them. "All right, Brand," Buba said. "My life for hers."

"No. Chrava's life for hers."

Chrava said nothing.

She didn't need to. Buba's eyes widened and he looked at Brand disapprovingly. "No, Brand. Not Chrava. Me."

"I won't let you do it. Megan said we needed Chrava. Well, this is what we needed her for."

"It's not right, Brand. You can't just kill anyone that..." he faltered.

"Say it."

"Brand--"

"Say it!"

"She killed Megan. She used me to do it. I don't care. What right do we have to say she should die so Lisya can live? What right, Brand? I love Lisya in so many indescribable ways, but, no, Brand. Absolutely not. You can't just go around and kill people you hate so people you like can live. That's not how it's done. As much as I wish more than anything, as much as I would give away just to be with her again, I can't let you kill Chrava so Lisya can live."

"Why, Buba? Why would you do that? I can make Lisya live again. I can save her. I can give her back her life so you two can be together. Why would you possibly let this bitch live, especially after what she did to you?"

Buba looked earnestly at Brand. His eyes had grown sad, distant. "She deserves the chance, Brand. She deserves the chance to redeem herself. Chrava has an entire life ahead of her and she can change. She can become a better person in spite of all that she may have done in the past, none of that matters. It's what she does now that matters. And when I look at her, yes, I feel the pain that she caused me. Yes, I see the blood of Megan on my hands. But, no, Brand, no. I don't see an evil girl that cannot be saved. I see hope that she can learn. That she can grow and become something more than what she once was. When I look at her, Brand, I see the boy you used to be. And then I look at you and see the man you have become. And you know what? That gives me the greatest hope of all. She has a powerful gift and she can do great things with that gift. If she's given a second chance, the chance to make something good of herself, the chance to use her abilities in a positive way, then she deserves to use that chance and change. Because she can change. Anyone can change. Anyone can be redeemed. And all people deserve the chance to do just that."

Brand looked from Buba to Chrava. Sword never felt as heavy in his hand as it did right now. With a single, striking blow, Brand could end this discussion and save Lisya. He thought about it, too. He thought long and hard about just doing it and not talking it through with Buba first. But his respect for the man that stood before him had been great even before they left on that terrible adventure. His respect for Buba now exceeded all possible boundaries of thought.

Chrava looked up at Buba. Tears danced precariously on the rims of her eyes. "I'll do it," she said. "I give my life for Lisya's. Thank you, Benjamin Bleu. Thank you for all that you've said. But I don't belong in this world and the powers that I possess... they are too much for anyone to handle. I caused more damage in three years than anyone could in several lifetimes. I can never atone for all of that. Never. No matter how hard and how long I try, I would never be able to do enough. For a long time I've wanted to die. Please, for you and Lisya, let me make this sacrifice."

Buba met Chrava's gaze and never looked away. He took her words to heart and believed everything she said. When Brand finally did the deed, Buba was pleased to see he did it with a caring, gentle hand. Buba doubted Brand cared, but saw that Brand gave the ritual the respect that it deserved, gave Chrava the respect that she deserved for choosing to make this sacrifice, and for that he was grateful.

Brand stood on Lisya's left. Chrava stood on the right. Buba stood above her head, watched her prone body, and did not move. How much it didn't look like Lisya surprised him. But soon that part of us that makes us alive would return and Lisya would look right once more. Brand lifted the sword and slid it into Chrava's side. It slipped through her rib bones with ease. She cried out as the pain added to her already twisted, mangled ankle. Buba took her hand and squeezed it. Brand knelt, still holding the sword in place, careful not to jar it too much and placed his left hand on Lisya's forehead. White vapors wrapped around the sword, leaving Chrava's body. They flowed along Brand's shoulders, then down and into Lisya. For five minutes this went on, and when it finished, Buba carefully laid Chrava's body on the ground.

Five more minutes passed. Then five more. Twice Buba looked apprehensively at Brand. Twice Brand looked back without a clueless shrug. While Lisya now looked alive, she still didn't breath. CPR helped none. So they waited. After twenty minutes passed, Lisya's lungs filled with air and she opened her eyes.

As Lisya and Buba smothered each other with unbridled passion, Brand stepped away and lifted the sword. In the center of the room, he closed his eyes and muttered the phrase the gatekeeper had told it. The phrase itself could not be understood, not now. Its language had been long gone; once a secret language of grand mystical powers handed down from Wielder to Wielder. Its powers had faded nearly all together and the language had died. But there still remained one trick. And it was a doozy.

As he muttered the words, Sword hummed to life in his hand. The black vapors of Zadara's evil power spread from the sword in long wisps of streaming energy. Suddenly, they turned back on the sword and whirled around it, flowing in an ever-increasing cylindrical formation that spun wildly around the blade. Lisya and Buba both looked toward Brand, startled at what they saw. The force of the sword surged through Brand and the spinning cylinder went gray. Then silver. Then red. And finally to white. As it shifted to white, it fell apart. The room filled with blinding whiteness.

When it cleared, Megan stood before them. Alive once more.

To be continued...
Article © Josh Brown. All rights reserved.
Published on 2003-12-20
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