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A World Within Worlds

Your get away from the real world, and my real world.

The Lake

To live is gold, To die is glory

 

When I was growing up things weren’t the same

I’d pick the lake over home any day

We’d all wanted to be a little more together

So we did our part and stuck a lakehouse in the middle

Yeahhh we had a lot of something

But we took nothing

Homes with AC and pest control

But we’d all ruther be in the woods yah know

Kicking that beer can down the dirt road

Momma yellin’ cause supper’s cold

Frisbee games in our back front yard

Cousin in boots jumped up 15 yards

Yeahhh we had a lot of something

But we took nothing

Homes with AC and pest control

But we’d all ruther be in the woods yah know

Weeee had a choice for something better

But we’d bundle up in sweaters

Face the rain and the icy toes

Ruther go through mud with a fishin pole

Yeahhh we had a lot of something

But we took nothing

Homes with AC and pest control

But we’d all ruther be in the woods yah know

Just achin, rakin, and jukin

down in the dirty south

Then we’d all hit town on Fridays

For hot gumbo and some real sweet tea

Just going out with the family

Just goin on with the family

  • A. Inge

 

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A Metaphor

The golden glaze

Blankets a field

Natural breeze thrifts

Through the air

The plastic rumbles of grass imitation

It burns under sun and rain

And does not renew

It stops in a line

And Livid green grass reclaims

What once was theirs

It spears it’s green heads into the plastic, determined it shall not live on

And it will win because below

The dirt will aid and pass seeds

Refuse to soak up the plastic’s troubles

Refuse to aid it with nutrients

And above?

The sun

The sun sets fire to plastic

But the grass it will aid

And man’s work and toil

Will not last against the dirt and sun

  • A. Inge

A different way of seeing the dullest duties…

It’s not reading the Bible… it’s a meeting in the midst of distractions to talk to your best friend

It’s not brain aches and typing clutter onto your computer files… it’s channeling your inner soul into words and worlds so that someone might pick it up and their soul may connect with what your has written

It’s not working out… it’s texting your limits and disciplines- exploring things you never knew were possible

It’s not learning useless facts… it’s opening your mind to its fullest so you may understand He world more completely and be a productive person

Neverland

And when I dreamed it was of gold

Sunkissed skin and fields of hay

The dreams woke me vigorously bold

How the wind swept down to make love to my soul

Barren though it was I found love under those trees

In stream I stood whispering my adventurous schemes

A fallen tree caught each dream as it dripped like honey from a bee

Like molten gold, down they spread

Turning bushes into giants

Dirt into bread

Sticks into sword

Bark into boats

Leaves into pirates

Cracks spiderwebbing atop dry, mossy mud was supposed to look ordinary

Otherwise everyone might see

that if one go to his belly and whispered into the shallow earth

A fairy might prick your nose and tell you just what you’re worth

And between the trees?

Watching with envy you and me

A “sweaty toothed madman” with ears of cracked resin

I went alone each day

And sat beneath elms and willows

Ladybugs flew out to whisper the latest gossip

A loquacious bluebird served me warmth in a bottle

Miserable werewolves with fur soft as silk

And strong as ten legions

placed their heads in my lap and mourned their woes

They protected me with strength

And I with love and care

And to mend the wounded grasshopper

Without a mite of hate or despair

In the golden light

I stayed

Wishing never to go away

  • A. Inge

Note:  I read this to my 10 year old nephew and after musing for a second, he said, “Of course you would write this.  This is so you, Ally. Write something original.”  So I informed him that, “Yeah it is me, but J.R.R. Tolkien’s all the same too.  All he writes is  some adventure in the same land with magical descriptions.”  He disagrees because Tolkien always fascinates him, but all that to say it was pretty funny and it led to a long conversation about writing which made me realize he’s really smart for a ten year old.  I’m sorry if I bore people by writing all the same stuff, but when I write it perfect then I’ll move onto the next subject, ok?

A Reading Rhyme for Rhyming Readers

What a ghastly thing it is to read

To take on different flesh

And sit in firelight with a warm mead

Letting words turn one quite capricious

If one only stopped and bothered to wonder

Or at least paused and wondered to bother

What drives a joyous child to sonder

That is to see the life of her mother

Is as vivid as her own

And let words surround her with people when she is quite alone

To read, write, imagine

Let rivers spring up passion

I think it is a gift, a ghastly one still

To sit alone all day

Rather than go outside and play

To ignore your life for someone elses

To read all day and dream all night

For wisdom to come from books rather talking owls

For new ideas always give people such a deep fright

Yes, to read so much I must say

What a ghastly thing you do

To all who read as they may 

I hope the owl poops on you

  • A. Inge

 

 

 

Growing Pains

This excerpt is under copyright and may not be shared among any other sites without proper credit and link to the official author (me, A. Inge) and this paragraph

 

Huff, huff, huff

I’ll work harder, I am tough

puff, puff, puff

the sun sinks lower, I’m not enough

rough, rough, rough

the sandpaper burns my hand

One more day

let the sun sink lower

till all is faded

let the sun sink lower

till midnight kisses my lips asleep

**********************************************************************

when I was young

My only friend was a phantom of the night

when I was young

The stars were hung for my pleasure by the tree elves might

when I was young

Fields of gold tickled my feet and wind caressed my hair

when I was young

My own fairytale promised to never depart

But now I am all grown up

and the sea calls my heart

But now I am all grown up

so I ignore the moaning white caps which screech for my wild touch

But now I am all grown up

so I do not guess the number of sands sitting on the shore

But now I am all grown up

So I sleep at night and work at dawn

I slave away

Why? To be better.  To be strong.

For now I’m grown and mommy tells me my future depends on my now

and Daddy who toils away each day continues to swears he’s proud

Now I am all grown

So I can’t let them down

But what about when I’m old?

Gray, disfigured, and soon to be nothing but a mound

Will I kiss the summer seas?  Will I have to beg them to kiss me?

Will the phantom of the night be my friend once again?

Will the caressing wind recognize my gray hair for the once gold?

Or will toil and burdens wear down my golden soul

For though I slave during the day, I confess I lied about my nights

I do not…

I cannot sleep at all

For all the trying that I might

I dream of lighter days

When ink stained my hands

And the words inside me poured out

When nothing could quench the spout

Now I’m all grown up and, yes, I’ll make them proud

But never shall I let them take my head out of the clouds.

  • A. Inge

 

Perfect (Or something like that)

This excerpt is under copyright and may not be shared among any other sites without proper credit and link to the official author (me, A. Inge) and this paragraph

Somedays it’s all perfect

like dew drops on a daisy

like summer mist on an Alabama bay

like mud on a four-wheeler

And the words flow like a river of gold

I couldn’t be prouder that I made this

and sometimes I write a poem

and forget to make it rhyme

  • A. Inge

Shard-Filled Soul by A.Inge.

This excerpt is under copyright and may not be shared among any other sites without proper credit and link to the official author (me, A. Inge) and this paragraph

Dedicated to the night owls and the ones who take note:

From depths of sea

To stars so light

Wisps of wind run through the night

Electric deep inside my soul

To mend or brake, To make me whole

Turned about in the storm, my love then forever worn

Broken but brave, Cold but careful

My heart hunts me like a werewolf


=

The wind now beats my battered soul

Shards sting deep my flesh

Oh Love returns from shadows deep

But darkness still forever creeps

But I shall brave this freaken storm

Fire again shall blaze my soul

For love, my love, returns

and all is well in my shard-filled soul

  • A. Inge

 

New Beginnings

 

 

Editing in progress!

Chapter one:

This excerpt is under copyright and may not be shared among any other sites without proper credit and link to the official author (me, A. Inge) and this paragraph.

Chapter one

“Ahh nose in a book. I should have known.”

“Shhh, I’ve almost finished it.”

“Wait a second, that’s the same book as this morning. You… you mean you haven’t already finished?” The boy widened his eyes and he feigned mocking suprise. “Honestly, Brooke, when did you get to be such a slacker? I thought you’d at least be through, like, your third book by the end of the day. Let me see this.” He stole the book out of her hands. “And it’s only three hundred pages too. I gotta say I’m a little disappointed.” A fierce scowl covering her face she made a dive for the book. The boy, being much taller, raised the book in the air with a cocky grin. His blond hair blazed in the sunlight and his green eyes twinkled triumphantly.

“I will hurt you.” Brooke crossed her arms defiantly.

“Alright. Alright.” He handed her the book. “I was just trying to be helpful you know. Help you enjoy the sunlight.”

“You’re one to talk,” snorted the girl derisively.

“If you are referring to yesterday’s little incident that does not count. I don’t tan like you do. I turn into a tomato.”

“Whatever you say, Quigley.” Travis rolled his eyes at the ridiculous nickname. For a moment he tried to remember what had ever made her start calling him that. He’d given up when a familiar voice broke the silence.

“Sup sup mother truckers.”

“Hey Percy,” responded Travis. Brooke ignored the newcomer and once again attempted to finish her book despite the surrounding distractions.   It was her third time reading the chapter’s concluding sentence when yet another hand snatched her book from her.  Percy smiled his eyes twinkling with knowing mischief.  Holding out his hand to keep her from getting any closer he reviewed the book with an air of faux intellectualism.

“Hmmm. The Hobbit. I’ve heard good things about it, still need to read it. Did you like it?” Travis snorted in the background watching the small blonde’s attempts to move the boy’s muscular arm to grab at the book.

“How would I know?” demanded Brooke haughtily pausing her jumpng to stomp on the boys foot.  “No one’s letting me finish it.”  Impressively enough the stomping worked and Percy returned the book nursing his aching foot.

“That’s not fair,” retorted Percy laughing, you have boots.

“Not my fault,” Brooke stated collecting her bag and turning from the boys.

“Aww, come on, Brooke. We’re only kidding,” whined Percy as the sixteen year old marched off her long blond ponytail bouncing as she did. A piercing bell rang out across the lawn. Immediately, kids aged from ten to eighteen began to file into the large dining hall.

“Girls,” remarked Travis mimicking one of the boys favorite teachers to make fun of.

“Can’t live with ’em,” Percy continued the saying.

“Can’t live without ’em.”

“I don’t ‘spect anyone could handle living with Brooke,” added Percy running his hands through his shaggy, dark brown hair, “they’d blow their brains out.”

Travis laughed gathering his own schoolbooks and the boys followed Brooke’s path to the dining hall.

They found Brooke and two other girls waiting for them by the table in the corner immersed in a newspaper.

“Sup ladies,” Percy pulled a chair from the table next to them and sat down, Travis following suit.  Brooke rolled her eyes.

“Guys look at this.” Macy, the taller of the two girls shoved a newspaper across the table; her eyebrows furrowed with concern. Raven colored hair ran into a long mane of box braids. Golden hair clasps weaved into the box braids accentuated her girly style, aalong with her perfected eyeliner and carefully chosen outfits.  Pushing he braids out if her face she watched the boys intently as they scanned the article.  Noticing her gaze Percy picked up the newspaper deliberately and handed it to her.

“What?  You wanna read it?

“Yes that’s exactly why I handed it to you,” Macy growled.

“So what were we looking for?”  Travis intervened.

“The description of the guy.  Bottom left.”

“Late sixties, gray hair, brown eyes, monstrous lion tattoo on his back.  Sound familiar?”

“Ehhh, not really my type to be honest,” Travis admitted.  “You should ask Brooke, apparently she goes for older guys.”

Blushing Brooke sputtered, “I said he was cute for a teacher.  Why you gotta be so dramatic.”

“Comes with being y’all’s friends I guess.”

Brooke opened her mouth to respond, but was saved the trouble of thinking of something to say with Percy’s exclamation.

“Wait! It’s not….”

“Yep.”

“Wait, what am I missing?  Who is it?” Travis joined in.

“Mr. Traye, our principle,” answered Macy.  “Honestly I was surprised he lasted as long as he did.  I’m assuming they gave him the memory potion?”

“Wait… he has a back tattoo?” Travis scrunched his face in disgust.  “But he was so old.”

“That’s what I said!”  Brooke gestured dramatically.  She always talked with her hands.

“Yeah, he showed it to me once when I went in for tutoring,” added Percy.

“Isn’t that like teacher assault on a student’s eyes?”  Travis grimaced.

“Gotta admit, It almost cured me of wanting to get my chest piece.  Almost.”  Percy flexed his chest drawing mock tattoo lines on top the athletic shirt.

“Does no one realize what this means? I mean besides the fact they now have to find another principle?” The third girl glanced from person to person worry etched in her face. “If they didn’t give him the potion… why are they advertising him?  It could be a trap.  They could come looking for us. And for this school. A bunch of gifted unaccounted for half-humans grouped together on a remote island? Sounds like the American’s worse fear.”

“Ok, first off why you’d you say the Americans?  You realize we’re Americans too, right?’ Brooke shot up her eyebrows at her slim, hazel eyed friend.

“And second off,” added in Travis, “we’re fully human we just have a certain knack for…er… adventure, you could say. Second, wait no, third off you watch way too many movies. And fifth off…”

“You skipped four.”

“And fourth off, well I’m not sure I had a fourth off. Oh yeah, no ones going to believe Mr. Tattletale over there. You read the article, they called him insane. They gave a description so someone could go claim him like a lost puppy. I think we are gonna be safe from the big bad government for at least a little while longer.”

“Also, Mace, why are you reading a newspaper?”  Brooke asked.

“I always read newspapers you know this.  We have to get our news somewhere since they banned the whole school from social media.” Macy answered shortly.

“Imma go get some food,” Percy announced standing.

“Agreed, I’m starving,” Samantha followed suite. Macy turned back to her paper engrossed.

“Get me a roll,” hollered Brooke across the cafeteria. “And an expresso shot I got a test in ACS tomorrow.”

“Get it yourself,” yelled Percy in response.

“Fine. I’m not even that hungry.”

She watched her two friends mix into the swelling crowd of children.  Percy’s 5’9 muscular statue was tackled by two other jocks – Agusto (gus) Medorias, and Acalon (Cal) Catiel  – who played baseball and soccer with him.  The three Mexican boys looked like brothers with their dark features and muscular builds.  Sam edged away from the three boys jabbering loudly in Spanish about their last game.  Her slender, tall frame and glossy red hair gliding past them towards the food.

“Whatever,” Travis responded. “You always say you’re not hungry then sneak down into the kitchen at midnight to eat something.”

Brooke laughed. “Well you’re not wrong but I think we all know I’d do that whether I ate dinner or not.” Travis laughed knowingly. Macy was once again scanning the newspaper her brows knotted together in concentration.

“You ok, Mace?” Asked Brooke.

“Yeah, I’m not really hungry either.  Imma head to my room to work on my next painting.”

“Yeah, about that.  When you gonna paint me?”

“When you get cute enough to paint,” Macy responded with a mocking grin.

Brooke chuckled.

“Ah man, and I thought it was gonna be when you learned how to make something look as good as me,” Travis winked jokingly.

“Whatever you say Travis.” Macy stuffed the paper in her purse and strutted out of the room hiding a wry grin.

“So I guess they’re looking for a new principle….”  Brooke let the sentence hang in the air.

“I’m sure he’s top of the list, Brooke. Your dad was the best principle this school ever had. But…” he added tentatively, “doesn’t he still have a month left of suspension?”

“No, two weeks. He shouldn’t have gotten suspended in the first place.” she added bitterly, picking some unidentifiable piece of food stuck to the table, “That’s what you get around here for doing what’s right.”

“Hey, you know I’m on your side,” Travis responded.  Brooke sighed. “We both saw him.  David wouldn’t leave her alone, he goaded her into using the compass.  If he hadn’t dared her to travel she wouldn’t have done it and your dad wouldn’t have gotten blamed and he’d still be working here.  It wasn’t his fault and it wasn’t yours.  I know you were close to her, but you couldn’t have forseen it. They just needed a scape goat and your dad… he was available.”

Brooke stared mindlessly at the table.  She’d stopped picking at the food.  Finally she struggled to speak.

“I know. I know. It’s…It’s….” BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEEEEEP. Sirens filled the cafeteria and the lights begin to flash.

A voice came booming through the loudspeaker, “I’m afraid we have been comprised. Do not get caught. Do not expose us. Go to your safe houses now and wait for further instructions. This structure will be burned. This is not a drill. I repeat this is not a drill. Good luck.”

Brooke froze feeling her eyes widen. A similar look of fear had twisted the boys features, but he hadn’t let it take hold of him yet. Rising from his chair he gripped Brooke’s arm and dragged her to her feet.

“Come on.”

“But….”

“The others know the plan. They’ll be fine. We need to move. Now.” Nodding Brooke let him lead her through a maze of halls in stunned silence. He shoved her into her dorm and turned to leave. Pausing only for a few seconds to say “Pack. You know where to go. I’ll be at Casle’s Revenge at midnight in two days. Percy too. From there we will walk to the safehouse. Here’s the map. And for goodness sakes remember to think about the safehouse when you cross for once, ok?”

“Oh, shut up. It was one time. Well, three, but you did it once too.”

“Yeah, but at least I still wound up in the same world as my safehouse.”

“Travis, pay attention.  You need to get outta here.” A swarm of scared kids anxious to get to their dorms passed them.  “Remember Casle’s….”

“Yeah I know Casle’s revenge at midnight in two days. Now go!” With one last wave Travis’ turned and ran down the hall. His blond hair disappearing with a blur.

Chapter Two

This excerpt is under copyright and may not be shared among any other sites without proper credit and link to the official author (me, A. Inge) and this paragraph.

Chapter Two

Macy was already throwing painting supplies into a bag when Samantha entered looking dumbstruck but determined.

“Which safehouse do we go to?” Was Samantha’s first question.

“Casle’s Revenge. Midnight. Two days,” answered Brooke shoving her bible and notebook into her bag.  Within seconds each girl had placed a gold compass on the floor in front of them. Separately, they concentrated until each gold rim expanded and a staircase appeared inside the compass big enough for each girl to climb down.

“Remember,” Sam smiled encouragingly, “I’ll see y’all on the other side.  We’ll wait two days then we have to head to main base.”

With that they each took the first step.

  • A. Inge

Chapter Three

This excerpt is under copyright and may not be shared among any other sites without proper credit and link to the official author (me, A. Inge) and this paragragh.

Chapter Three

The descent into blackness was gradual, yet Travis couldn’t even remember when it changed from light to dark. He found himself in a closed off room with stone walls.  Clarifying in your mind exactly where you needed to be taken was an art form each of the group had often argued over. An art which Travis, despite what he told Brooke and the others, had never quite mastered. He had asked for a wide open meadow and a short walk to Casle’s Revenge. This was a dark slimy hole with no escape and minimal room to move.

“Ok. It’s gonna be ok, Travis.” He muttered to himself closing his eyes to block out his claustrophobia. “Just find the door. Find the door. God, please help me.” Whimpering he dug his finger into the stone wall just to feel something other than darkness.

“God please. Give me a way out. Lord….”  Anxious attempts to regain his composure only worsened his nausea.  The confined space seemed to close in on him leaving him stranded with nightmarish feelings.  “God pleasse….”

“Hello. Anyone down there?”

“Yes! Help, help! Thank you, Jesus.” He added in a mutter pumping his fist in relief.

“Now what in tarnation has gotten into youngins these days? Climbin’ down an old well like some nincompoop. Probably trying to impress someone. Hold up lad I’ll throw down a rope.”

“Thank you,” croaked Travis.

The man threw down the rope and tied it taunt to the back of his wagon.  Gripping his horses reins resolutely, he urged them forward pulling the rope and a clinging Travis out of the well.

“Well, sonny, reckon you won’t be trying that again. No sirree.” He chuckled.  “Now you best be on the lookout in those funky old clothes. Someone’s liable to think you an entertainment act and throw tomatos on yah. Wouldn’t wanna ruin some good tomatoes.” Not sure if he was joking or not, Travis let out a half- hearted laugh waiting for his eyes to adjust to the bright daylight.  He was in a field at least with a meadow surrounding him.  A dirt road stretched out in front of him.

“How’d you now I was down there?” asked Travis remembering, with shame, his mini meltdown and hoping the man hadn’t heard him.

“I didn’t, Here Rusty,” at the mention of his name the coondog ran to nuzzle the man bouncing excitedly.  “Rusty smelt ya.  He’s that best coondog this side a’ Sheripoole.”

“Sheripoole?”  Travis heart sank.  He was not in the right place.

“Don’t tell me you didn’t come from there.  I wouldn’t believe ya anyway.  There ain’t another town for miles least not that I know of, an’ I been here longer than some of them old oaks.”  Travis groaned inwardly, but felt his gratitude towards the man increase.  He could have been stuck there for days.  The compasses, tricky as they are in familiar settings, are worse in unfamiliar ones.  Plus they could only be used three times before needing a mechanic to refill.

“Thank you by the way.  I could have starved down there.”

“Not likely.  So many people gotten stuck in there by now they put a trap door at the bottom.  It’s tunnel leads right back up.  I’m surprised you didn’t feel it in tha’ dark.”

Travis felt his face redden remembering his near meltdown.

“Good to know,” he responded in a cracked voice.

“It’s a bit of a ways into the city.  Wanna a ride?”  The man gestured to his own horse wagon already overloaded with hay.  The poor horse looked exhausted.

“You sure?”

“It’s up to you.”

“Thank you,” Travis responded warmly.  Feeling slightly guilty he mounted the wagon.  I needed to get to town.  I needed to find the others repeating these lines to himself they started down the dusty road.  Rusty shoving his head in Travis lap and received a good belly rub in return. I really need to work on my realm crossing techniques decided Travis and the wagon started off.


Brooke stared at her compass as it expanded. An unidentifiable buzz filled her ears and her heart throbbed. She hadn’t expected to feel this scared. Giving the other girls one last reassuring nod they descended, together but separate. Brooke let the comfort of knowing they were by her side drown her fear.  One step at a time. You aren’t alone Brooke. You’ll find your way back home.  God’s got you.  He’s going to take care…. “No.” Surprised at her own weakness, she lowered herself onto the stairs. Digging her nails into her palm, Brooke closed her eyes and forced her breathing to be even.  Why was this so hard all of the sudden? Traveling to an unknown realm may have seemed daunting to anyone else, but she was more than qualified.  She was curious and ready.  Or so she had thought up till now.

Besides, she continued to talk to herself, this isn’t even your first time realm traveling.  Sure you’ve never been to Casle but you went to Beinfield.  You know what to do Just follow the book.  Transport to Sheripoole.  Use the currency in your bag to buy clothes so you don’t stand out.  Find food and a place to stay and for goodness sakes don’t talk to anyone.  Never leave an impression.  You are there only to observe, never to interfere. Never interfere.  Simple really.  So, why would her heart not stop pounding?

She stared at the end of the stairs shrouded in a white light. Impossible to see what was beyond till she passed the threshold. The light faded out of focus as she allowed her memories to drown her.  Or at least one memory in particular. She could see it as clearly as if she was there again. Her thirteen year old self sat on a park bench overlooking a lake. A book laid by her side, placed facedown to save her place. The frayed cover read Peter Pan J. M. Barrie. Not even past the first five chapters, yet it already left her puzzled and slightly dismayed. It spoke in great lengths of the selfishness the children had to deny their own mother and father their company and travel to a far off land. The book painted a particularly dark picture of the eldest daughter, Wendy Darling.

   How can he call her selfish? wondered younger Brooke. Wendy meant no harm; she simply didn’t want to grow up. Who could blame her? How could they consider her selfish? Parents acted selfishly all the time saying it was for their children. Wendy saw the world the way it was reasoned Brooke picking a piece of grass and twisting it in her fingers. She saw the bitterness, selfishness, and fighting. Wendy, John, Michael all three of them wanted more for themselves. Why was that bad? Perhaps it was selfish but at least it was honest. They dreamed of adventure and exploration beyond the horizon. Adults have chased less pure things. Brooke’s train of thought was promptly interrupted by an impertinent ten year old blond bursting into the scene.

“Brooke, get your nose out of that book and hurry up. We’re gonna play hide and go seek.” Brooke laughed and promptly rose to follow the younger Travis. Who in the world would ever want to grow up? she thought as they ran laughing through the wooded brush.

Without realizing what she was doing, Brooke rose from the floor and stared into the undiscovered light. “I am your Lord, do not be afraid,” she whispered to herself, “I am with you, do not be discouraged. I will strengthen and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10.” With that, she stepped forward into the light.

The first thing she saw was darkness. Dropping to her knees she felt the dew covered grass for the compass. Her hand wrapped around a metal object and she stuffed it into her bag. It was still hot, probably because she had been sitting in it for so long. “Portals. So freaken’ touchy,” she murmured into the morning air.

A haze of light was creeping over the herd of mountains. Shadows began to shift and glimmer as the sun spread its aching tendrils over the land, as if stretching after a long nap. No sign of civilization appeared. A small spring dripped slowly into an ever growing puddle. Brooke slung her bag behind her back and began traipsing across the plane. Praying for signs of people or a town.  Really anything besides woods and grass.

  • A. Inge

Chapter four:

This excerpt is under copyright and may not be shared among any other sites without proper credit and link to the official author (me, A. Inge) and this paragraph.

Chapter Four

Sam marched down the street, struggling not to trip over her ridiculous dress.  Crumbling buildings towered over her on each side of the cobblestone street.  The men in tops hats and flapping black coats and the women with their bustles and over-decorated hats against the backdrop of buildings reminded her of a fairytale 1890’s London.  Identical clock towers marked the entrance to the town with an arch reading Sheripoole connecting them at the top.  A rather imposing and dark fence reached its arms around the city encircling it in its embrace.  Guards dressed in dark gray outfits with metal helmets patrolled the streets consistently.  Men, women, and children alike rushed about running errands or spreading the latest gossip.  Most remarkable, however, were the machines.  Sputtering metal contraptions displayed in every shop window couldn’t help but leave her gawking.  Each one made of iron or aluminum and constantly in motion.  Some simply rotated lights, but the bigger ones would blow glass, crochet shawls, or stitch up old clothing right before your very eyes.  She’d long since grown used to shop doors opening before her.  It was simply marvelous she decided wishing she could share the sight with someone.

Where was she? wondered Sam for probably the fifteen hundredth time that day.  Anxious to avoid eye contact with the milling masses, she lifted her eyes to the clock tower.  11:15. Exactly four hours and twenty-two minutes since she’d stepped out of her portal in front of the Sheripoole gates.  Sam spotted a familiar sign reading Miss Jenson’s Boarding house.  Free Breakfast!  Behind it, concrete steps led up to a wooden front door.  Sam lifted her dress and ran up the steps and inside.

Miss Jenson, a prim, bony women examined Sam as she walked in.  She was still wearing the same sour look she’d given Sam when she had checked in.  Ignoring the woman, Sam waltzed down the hall to her room.  Patiently, she waited for the door to unlock itself so that she could step inside.  Whining, the door closed after her.

Exhausted and frustrated, she collapsed on her bed.  “Still no sign of the others and no idea which direction Casle is in,” she muttered thoroughly discouraged.  After a moment’s pondering, she fell sound asleep.


Travis felt his heart freeze as he stared at the clock towers which stood opposite each other at the city entrance.  Between them a large black gate opened forebodingly: unmanned and with loud groans.  Over their heads a massive arch connected the towers reading Sheripoole.  It was impossible to see inside till the gates finished opening, as a matching fence ran as far as the eye could see to the right and left of the towers; encircling the city.  The inside was even more awe inspiring than the entrance.  For a minute Travis could neither move nor speak.  It looked like magic.  Adventure seemed to lurk in every corner of the London style city..  Thrilling structures rose up to greet him and a multitude of inventions invited his gaze.  He felt as if he could stay here forever, drawing, writing, and dreaming.

Upon entering the city, Ronnie let him off with many well wishes saying he had to hurry to get in his crops to the sellin’ barn for they closed.  Travis thanked the man earnestly attempting to pay him for his troubles.  Refusing the offer, the farmed tipped his hat with a friendly grin and rode off into the distance.  After waving goodbye, Travis turned his attention to the city with a delighted grin.

His out of place clothes drew many eyes as he sauntered down the street. Too buried in his own thoughts to notice, he stopped the first official looking person he could find and asked where he might find somewhere to board.  The man pointed him in the direction of Miss Jenson’s Boarding House and told him to “get himself a decent lookin’ outfit for anymore chillins’ saw him and got the wrong ider.”  Travis promised to do so, although not without wondering what the man expected the “chillins” to think, and disappeared down the street to follow the man’s advice.

Burt’s Barn Clothes was a small, one roomed corner store. The owner was a stout bald man chewing on a piece of tobacco and flipping through a magazine of some sort. A collection of machines sewed, folded, and placed clothing on the wooden shelves. Nervously, he pulled an outfit off the shelf and placed it on the counter. Silently, the man rung up the items as Travis dug through his pack till he found a Ziploc of money marked Sheripoole and pulled a few dollars out. Grunting the man took the money and returned to his magazine. Without another word Travis headed over to the recommended boarding house and checked out a room.  Within minutes of entering it he had collapsed on the bed and fallen fast asleep.


Percy wobbled into the brick wall struggling not to throw up.  Giving up on the useless endeavor, he puked on the alley floor then wiped his mouth and glanced around.  City lights stared at him intimidatingly at the end of the alley.  He felt tears well up and quickly wiped them away.  They said Realm traveling had a tricky way of playing with emotions, but it wasn’t the unknown making his heart race and back sweat.  Over and over again he replayed the last few moments before he had crossed.  Travis had already gone through his compass when he heard the first the pounding of boots in the hall.  Instinct had taken over and he’d gone through the compass as fast as he could without looking back. Without even hesitation.  Even the thought to stay and fight had left me in the moment he criticized himself once again feeling sick.   For the past nine years The Compass School for Young Adventurer’s has fed me, clothed me, made me more than a street bum.  Not just me, but other scared to death nine year olds too thought Percy. Kids just starting to make friends and with no compass yet; no way to cross realms or escape like the older ones.  And even though the teachers were supposed to get them out what if they missed one?  What if they  were taken.  What if ended up in foster just like….  Percy felt a tear rolling down his cheek and made a grab for his compass.  He had to be sure, right?  Wasn’t that the right thing to do?  or was that the stupid, impulsive thing to do?  Would rushing back make him the non-thinking jock everyone assumed he was?  Percy clenched his hand in frustration, unsure of what to do.  Thankfully, he was saved the trouble of answering by a new distraction.

“Whatcha doin’ in my alley, ugly?”  Percy jumped and brushed away his tears hurriedly.   Turning to the girl he tried to make her out in the dim lighting of the backstreet.

Her hair was an ombre of dark chestnut to honey blond.  It was braided back in French pigtails.  She would have looked around fourteen, petite as she was, had it not been for her commanding presence and slightly lined face. Her pale skin was decorated with various drawings.  In her largest one, a white rabbit stared longingly at a pair of dark towers.  At the bottom it read, “It’s never too late”.  Percy stared at her too stunned to move.  She repeated her question.

“Hey stupid, I assume you got a voice, right?  So what you doin’ on my side ‘a town?”

Finally latching onto his voice, Percy responded with a sarcastic, “Oh, you know, just sightseeing.  I hear they have beautiful sewage rats on this side of town.  Real big ones you know,” Percy gave her his lopsided, but she ignored it.

“You gassed or sumthin’?”

“Or sumthin’.” Percy rolled his eyes at the ridiculous girl.  Then, thinking she might be of some use, asked, “No chance you know someway to get outta this alley, huh?”

“This is gonna blow your mind.  You walk that way.”  She pointed to the end of the alley, the only way to go without running into a wall.  Despite himself, Percy laughed.

“You know what I mean.  Back to the city where I can find a nice bed to stay where I won’t get robbed.”  He replaced his compass into his bag.  His first priority should be finding his friends and although he may be used to traveling streets by himself, his friends sure weren’t.  His best luck of finding them would be the nearest hotel or boarding house.

“You got yourself here, you can get yourself out.”

“Yeahhhh, about that.  I got a lil drunk and….”

“Whatever, mama’s boy. I get it.  You want help?” she eyed him.  “Alright.  Not cause I like you, though.  But cause this city doesn’t need another murder right now.”

“Yeah sure.  What do you mean another murder?”

“Man that drug musta really screwed you up.  That chick down in the woods.  It’s all over town.  Course it would be the way she was found.  Ghastly, what them folks did to her.  No one knows where she came from.  She was wearing some weird garb.  Kinda like yours actually.”  Pausing, Percy glanced down at his clothing.  “What’s wrong with my clothes?  Its just jeans and a t-shirt.”

“We don’t wear that kinda garb.”  She nodded at his jeans.

“Ok, first off, stop calling it garb.  Secondly, these are levis and they cost me thirty-two dollars.”

“What’s a dollar?”

“Just, oh never mind.  Look if you’re gonna help me thanks, otherwise could you leave me to mourn my aching head in peace.”  Grunting, the girl turned to face the end of the alley.

“Follow me.”  Percy nodded his thanks and accompanied her down the twists and turns of the streets.

“I’m surprised you ain’t more jittery.  Most guys….” she stopped herself too late.  Percy glanced sidelong to read her face, but it was impossible in the dark.  “Well I ‘spect most people jump at the sound a pen drop out here,” she attempted to cover her mistake.  Percy didn’t say anything for a loud crash echoed through the street as she had spoke preventing him to catch more than, “I’m surprised you ain’t more jittery.”

“Yeah well, that’s cause you came along.  Cried like a baby ‘fore you did,” he meant it sarcastically but as the words left his lips he realized it was kind of true.

“I would have too,” she answered almost in a whisper.  When he didn’t answer, she changed the subject; clearly felt uncomfortable with the silence.

“As I was saying before I got sidetracked by your terrible choice in clothing,” Percy rolled his eyes at that, “this girl got killed over on the West side.  She’s clearly from wherever you are cause she was wearing, er, what did you call those?”  She paused her walking to gesture to Percy’s jeans.  “Levi’s right?”

“Sure.”  Percy nodded.  “But don’t lots of people wear je- err, levi’s round here?”

“No one, course I’m hardly one to judge,” she glanced down at her black, torn pants and dark colored shirt which was three sizes too big for her.  She was wearing boots and a shining gold necklace around her neck.

They walked in silence for a little while longer, the day slowly coming to meet them as they did.

At some point, Percy couldn’t quite say when, the streets and alleyways faded into trees and rocks and the houses grew farther apart.   They seemed to be heading away from the city, rather than towards it.  Percy turned to the girl with a questioning look.

“Where are we?” he asked.

“You’ll know soon enough.  Oh, by the way, my name is Cayenne.  Make sure to tell him that.”

Percy felt his reasoning slipping from his grasp.  Sleep had suddenly come to overtake his body. Laughing he asked “Like the pepper?”, then everything went black.

  • A. Inge

Chapter Five

This excerpt is under copyright and may not be shared among any other sites without proper credit and link to the official author (me, A. Inge) and this paragraph.

Chapter Five

Fear gripped the girl’s heart freezing her in the wooded area.  Blood dripped down a gash in her thigh soaking her blue jeans and white tennis shoes.  Expressionless, the two men approached her.   A tangled mass of beads, feathers, and leather draped from their shoulders to their bare brown feet.  The taller of the two reached his hand out to the girl gently gesturing for her to take it.  She refused and the man’s face clouded over.  His dark brow drew up into a knot and he raised his axe with a vicious warrior-like screaming.  His partner watched unbothered, unflinching.  Even as the man brought the axe down without a pause.  She screamed, but the nearby drumming drowned it out.


Brooke felt she could have walked for days when she first started.  The comforting smell of crunched fall leaves and morning dew filled the air on the green moor.  Tramping on however, each footstep grew to be a little heavier than the last.  What had been the perfect place for a picnic three hours ago was now more space between her and somewhere warm.

Her bare legs had long since gone numb.  In an impulsive attempt to save her leather cowgirl boots she’d stuffed her shoes and sock in the bag and continued on the grass barefoot.  A row of dim sunrays shined on her blonde hair and down onto her Cowboys jersey.  Blue and gold shone out across the moor attracting unwanted eyes from the fringe of woods beside her.

Brooke collapsed on the ground, discouraged.  Determined she’d transported to the right spot, she’d refused to so much as look at her compass in case the temptation to use it to try restransporting became too strong.  Now she was nowhere with nothing and no strength.  Groaning she crumbled onto her back.  Suddenly the ground rumbled beneath her.  She jumped up grabbing her pocket knife out of her bag.  It continued till the rumbling turning to an outright shaking.  Coming straight towards her was a crowd of what looked like men riding horses.  Thanks to Midlen Clothing studies with Dan Birchan (a class she’d found incredibly boring and pulled three all nighters to get that glorious B on the final) she recognized the clothing as that of a royal hunting party from the early sixteen hundreds.  As the men came closer to where she stood she dove into her bag for her jacket and boots; shoving them on in an attempt to look at least slightly presentable.

The crowd surrounded her as smoothly as water surrounds a pebble, forming a ring of proud looking men all glaring down from their horses.  Brooke suddenly felt very naked.  Fiddling with her silver necklace she smiled at them spinning in a circle to see them all.  Awkwardly she let her eyes flit from face trying to decide on who to address.  Finally an elderly man stepped forward to address her.  He didn’t look much different than the others, but his air of authority reminded Brooke of a general or president.  Dipping his head and touching his helmet lightly, he flashed a bright smile.

“Hello, Miss…?”

“Uh Brooke.  Short for Brooklynn. That’s with two n’s.”  Brooke laughed nervously.

“Well Miss Brooklynn, I suspect you are walking to the castle to prepare for tonight’s ball, correct?”

Do I look like I am headed to a ball? thought Brooke sarcastically.

“Ummm, actually no.  I, err, wasn’t invited.”

“Nonsense!  You can fight I assume?”

“Well I did get an A in Weapons of Defense.  And technically a B in Defense weaponless but I lost three out of five of my battles so uh, yeah I can fight.  Sorta.”

“Excellent, then you are invited.  I just invited you and being the King I think no one will object, wouldn’t you agree?”  The man smiled expectantly.

“I would imagine not, your majesty,” answered Brooke with her broadest fake grin.  Anxiously she wiped the sweat from her palms on her shorts.

“Very well.  You may ride with Zachary.  I’d let you ride with me but that might be a bit scandalous, you know, being a King and all.”

“Yeah, just a lil.”  Brooke agreed not really knowing what the man meant.  She found herself warming up to the pompous, but generous man.  A rider (apparently Zachary) moved his horse forward and offered Brooke his arm without so much as a glance at her.  Indignant at his manners, she ignored the extended arm and jumped up herself using the empty stirrup as a boost.  Zachary turned in the saddle to look at her.  His mouth twitched slightly  Then without another word he spurred on the white thoroughbred and the group was off.  No one questioned her odd clothing or lack provisions.  All in all, Brooke felt very jipped.  In all her culture study classes they’d warned her about going to strange lands wearing outlandish clothing.  Especially for girls as shorts or even pants could be enough of a reason to get executed depending on the world they transported to.  Yet here she was riding horses with an actual king to go to an actual ball where it somehow mattered if she could fight or not.  Guess they don’t know everything laughed Brooke imagining a certain teacher’s face if they could see her now.

Eighty-one feet of pure rock rose before Brooke’s eyes.  Half castle, half mountain the building was unlike anything she’d ever imagined.  She wasn’t quite sure where the castle stopped and the rock beneath it began.  It grew out of the plane so naturally.  Yet the contrast between the wooded lush grass and barren tunneled rock was startling.  It made her wonder if anything could grow inside it’s walls.  Her stomach turned a little.

Zachary turned to face her barely hiding his smirk.

“Not too late to turn back you know.”  Brooke felt her eyebrows draw together and responded stonily, “I think I’ll be just fine thank you.”  Zach turned back around and lifted his helmet to scratch his balding head.  Smiling he replaced his helmet breathing a puff of what smelled like tobacco and onion in her face.  “Whatever you say, darlin’.”

Brooke dug her nails into the side of the saddle.  What had she gotten herself into?  Fear gripped her heart as she felt her breath catch in her throat and her eyes began to water.  Stop it! she commanded herself as her breathing continued to slow to panicked rasps.  I said stop I!  Stop crying! The saddle suddenly became of great interest to her as she tried to drive her fears from her mind.  Silently, she gulped in a breath of mountain air.  Much better she thought feeling the tension in her throat ease and her tears wipe away in the wind.

Perhaps one of these men is respectablePerhaps one of them will be my friend, she wished silently as the party waited for the iron gate to be raised.  After some yelling from the same man who first addressed Brooke, Arnold was his name, it finally lifted and the party crossed the threshold.


“Excuse me,” Sam whispered eyeing the boarding house owner flipping through her thick book.  The woman held up a bony finger for her to wait, and Sam groaned inwardly.

“Yes?” the woman finally asked, looking up from her book.

“Has anyone checked in here by chance?  Specifically some kids around my age.  There’s a blond boy and girl. Both blonde,” she added for clarification, “a Mexican guy, and an African-American girl that are supposed to meet me round here.”

The woman stared blankly, expectantly.  Sighing, Sam checked her crumpled dress for pockets.

“I’ll be right back,” she told the lady and ran down the hall to find some money to make her talk.  While she was gone, a bleary eyed Travis appeared at the front desk in nothing but black pants with suspenders and a crumpled button up shirt.

“Hey, you seen a blond or redheaded girl anywhere round here?  Or a goofy looking Mexican guy or a little African-American girl?  They’re all pretty tall, ‘cept the blond and Macy…err… the African-American girl.  Macy’s got like these weird braided dreads things with gold clasps.  You couldn’t miss her.”  The woman’s eye flashed at the description of Macy, but she stayed silent holding out her hand for money.

Travis groaned loudly.  “Dang, this really is a tourist town.  Alright fine, I’ll be right back.”  He left to go rummage through his pack in hopes of finding some change.  Sam reappeared while he was in his room and handed a pile of coins to the woman.  Her eyes widened at the amount making Sam cringe; she hadn’t been sure how much was a good price.  Quickly, Miss Jenson, the boarding house owner, deposited the money into her pocket.

“So, what about it?  You seen ’em?”  There was a sound of a door opening down the hall and the lady pointed silently to the hallway.  Two seconds later Travis appeared counting his money.

“Travis!” screeched Sam tackling him with a hug.

“Sam!”  Travis squeaked, falling backwards.  He recovered his balance and pried her off to ask, “Have you seen any of the others yet?  I haven’t seen any of ’em.  Not like I’ve had time to look though.”

“No, but I’m sure they’re somewhere around here.”  Sam took a step back to look the boy over.  Her green eyes glowed with merriment and she began to laugh.  “You look like a scrawny, blond Tom Copperfield.”

“Hey!  Who knows Tom Copperfield may have been scrawny.  Not like he ate a five course feast everyday.”  Sam rolled her eyes.  “Besides,” he added laughing, “you should see yourself.  You best be careful out on the streets.  You slip in that thing and someone might actually see your ankles.  Hate for a guy to have to go home to his wife after being tempted like that.”

Sam laughed, “Honestly.”

“It looks like you’re hiding another person in there.”  Travis gawked at her puffed sleeves and bustle.

“Excuse you,” Miss Jenson interrupted eyeing Travis hand where he still held a pile of coins.  “But I think I can tell you where to find one of your friends.  In fact, I can show you.”

The two turned to face her.

“At a…err… reasonable price.  Naturally,” she smiled revealing a set of crooked yellowed teeth making Travis grimace.

“Show us.  Then, when we see it is really her we can negotiate price,” responded Sam hotly.  She isn’t going to weasel a cent more than needed this time decided Sam.  At least not outta me.

“Very well.  But naturally, as a show of faith and payment for me having to close my shop all day, I will require a starter fee.

“Consider the money I already gave you your starter’s fee.”  The woman snarled, but her attention was diverted to Travis stuffing the coins into his pocket.

“Very well.  I will give you five minutes to grab some money and whatever else you might need while I close the boarding house.  I will expect the money soon as I bring you to her, and you will have to find your way back on your own.”  Sam opened her mouth to protest but Travis interjected, “Agreed.”  Sam and the woman glowered at each other for a moment then turned to attend to their business.

“We will leave in five minutes,” announced Miss Jenson disappearing down the hall.

Sam turned to Travis excitedly, “Do you know what this means?”

“We all suck at realm traveling?”

“Close, but no.  It can’t be a coincidence that at least three of us made it here assuming, and that is a pretty big assumption, that she is telling the truth.  We have to be close to Casle.  Some safe places are better hidden than others anyway.  Maybe we are even in Casle right now and just don’t know it.  It could be hidden beneath us or… or something.”  Travis raised an eyebrow skeptically.

“Don’t give me that look it is possible.  We can cross realms, Travis, it’s not like anything is going to surprise me at this point.”

“Fair point.  I just think you might be a little over optimistic.”

“I’m just thinking about our next step,” retorted Sam.  “Come on, I got to grab my hat before we go out.”

Travis smiled gleefully.  “There’s a hat?  Please tell me you’re keeping this outfit.”  Sam rolled her eyes.

“Oh just shut up.”

The clock tower read 2:55 when the group stepped out of the boarding house and Miss Jenson hailed down a carriage. It was pulled by a tired looking Shetland pony.  It’s mangled hair was combed and braided as was it’s tail.  There was no carriage driver, but some sort of metal contraption in the front seat with three arms.  One was for the right rein, the other for the left, and the third was to hold the whip.  Miss Jenson reached past the squished children to punch in an address on a computer like screen and then sat back against the leather seat.  Sam and Travis exchanged a look as the machine whirred to life with a giant vibration and metal huff.  Miss Jenson clicked impatiently at the horse and the poor thing began it’s trot as the hands directed it’s path.  The third hand stood at attention ready to whip the horse if it slowed down.  Occasionally, Miss Jenson reached forward to grab the whip out of the hand to slap the horse with.  Until Sam angrily told her that each whip equaled a coin gone from what they would pay her that is.

Two hours later the group arrived in front of one of the ugliest buildings in the realm.  It was four stories tall and a terrible yellow and green color.  Litter and dead grass covered the small yard surrounding it.  Mold round around the wooden windowsills.  Pipes stuck out in odd directions.  A few, unbroken windows were boarded up with bars, but the rest were in shards with dull blue and blood red paint sprayed across them.  The most attractive thing about the whole building was the paintings and graffiti art covering the bottom and some of the top.

“Miss Jenson!”  A short, balding man ran out the front door to meet the group descending from the carriage.  He was wearing an old fashioned, police outfit complete with the metal helmet hat.

“So nice to see you Miss Jenson.  You finally caught them!  I assume these are the hoodlums who keep poisoning your cats!”  The man yanked Sam’s head down by the ear.  “Listen up lil missy.  If it’s not yours don’t kill it.”

“No, Ralphie,” cooed Miss Jenson.

“They are…” pinching her face into a sneer she spat her next words as if they were poison, “my guests.  They say they know the girl.  The one you brought in this morning.”

“Oh. Ohhhhh.”

“Ralphie” released the Sam blushing profusely.  A sort of distant look came into his eyes and he stared at the children with something akin to pity or being in need of a substantial eating.

“Follow me.”  He said dramatically.

“Wow,”  Travis’ eyes darted around the inside skeptically.  As if to make sure they’d entered the right building, he walked back outside, glanced around, and re-entered the building.

“Holy smokes.”  Sam let her mouth hang open and looked at Travis.  Linoleum floors led like a runway to a time machine.  The police station was abuzz with young detectives wrinkling their faces in concentration and elderly men smoking over their assemblage of paperwork.  Most of the machinery was 1890’s except some odd contraption’s here and there that swept or mopped.

“Ralph.  What are these children doing here?”  Angrily, the detective marched to the front.  His balding head glowed red with rage.  “We have a major case and do not need the distraction of some petty whatever they did.”

“Good to see you again Sergeant Wheedle.”  Miss Jenson interrupted blushing as she stared at the man causing Ralph to turn purple with rage.

“Miss Jenson I should have know,” answered the Sergeant coolly.

“Excuse me, uh Sergeant Whettle,”  Travis stepped forward reaching out his hand.

“Wheedle,” answered the man stiffly.

“My name is Travis and this is my friend Sam.  We’re just traveling through, but we’re supposed to meet a few friends around here.  Miss Jenson said she recognized the description for one of our friends.  Some girl y’all just picked up.”

The Sergeant’s face became unreadable.  He didn’t answer for a minute as he seemed to be studying the two.  Finally, he nodded.

“Ralph why don’t you take Miss Jenson to get some coffee or something.  I’ll finish escorting these two.”

“Sam,” Miss Jenson hissed as the two began to walk away. “My money please.”

“You haven’t brought us to her yet,”  Sam responded shortly following the detective.

He took them down a maze of corridor’s and stairs till the reached a blank wooden door.  At this door he stopped to look at the two.

“I….” he paused.  “We found your friend this morning,” his tone was grave causing both hearts to race anxiously.  “There was nothing…well… we’re doing our best to find….”  He paused, his face twitched slightly.  “I’m sorry.”  He opened the door and the two entered the room.  Macy’s lifeless body met their gaze.  She was spread across the wooden table, a sheet covered everything but her head. Sam screamed and Travis fell back into the wall, unbelieving.

“No.  God no!”  Sam ran forward and slapped the corpse angrily.  “Come back.  You’re not dead.  Come on.  MACY!”   She balled her fist and hit the corpse again as if angry that it didn’t get up and walk.  “Stop it, Mace.  I know you aren’t dead.  Please Mace, I know.”  Travis ran forward to grab her.  Her whimpers turned to screeches as she dug her nails into his arms.  He ignored the pain and dragged her to the cold ground.

“Shhhh.”  He held her refusing to let go.  “No, she’s not.  She’s not. I know she’s not.”  Drained, she clung to him sobbing into his shoulder.  He bent his head over her, letting tears drip into her hair.  “She’s gone.”  His voice was still as if he didn’t recognize his own words.  “It’s gonna be ok.  It’s not ok, but it’s gonna be.  God, it better be.”  He kissed her head and they sat there in the dim lighting.  Desperate for this to not be real, they gripped each other praying silently.  “She’s in a better place,” he promised grasping her hand.

He held her speechless for what seemed like hours.  There was something calming in having someone to take care of.  Someone who you had to be strong for.  But his strength was failing.  As he held Samantha, the reality grew inside of him and his tears grew in violence.  Shaking uncontrollably, he attempted to stand and say goodbye.  With a sort of mute irresistibleness his legs cracked beneath him leaving him once again sitting by the sobbing girl.  Emotions were morphine to his veins, rushing with light year speed and with the weight of a lead bullet.  They weighed him down and shook his body.  It was as though he was watching it all from outside his body; looking down on some boy crying over his dead friend.  He found, with an astonishment dulled by everything else, that he could not move his body.  I must be dead he thought with a sort of irony.  His body tried to revive by shock like a failing heart tries to revive by electricity; all at once, then not at all.  In waves of deep sorrow mangled with longing then broken with pauses of dead indifference.  It’s efforts seemed not only useless, but to kill him more.

“We need to find them,” Sam’s cracked voice edged on his reality.

“Yes,” he croaked his heart pounding in his chest.  “Find them.”  Travis felt a wave of hatred roll over his body.  With desperation he attempted to fight it, to hold it back.  But it consumed every pore till he felt like a new man.  With trembling legs he moved to his feet.

“We need to help them,” Sam added.  She wanted to find her friends, even if it meant leaving Macy.  She could not take another loss.  Percy and Brooklynn’s faces crossed her mind and she felt herself let out a small whimper.  If anything were to happen to them….  Her eyes met Travis’.  She needed to see that they were on the same page, to know he found help her.

When one has been with one long enough, a mere look can not only tell you what they are thinking, but grow in your chest a modeling of just what they’re feeling.  This was especially true with Travis as he’d never had a good poker face.  Sam met his steely gaze with fear.  She felt herself gasp slightly at his murderous expression; she had never seen Travis – always happy, over concerned, everyone’s best friend or big brother Travis – look so angry.

“Help them?” he exclaimed.

“Our friends Travis.  Before something happens to them too.”

“You would leave her?” His face went pale.

“No,” and even as she said it she realized it was true.  No matter how logical she wished she was, she couldn’t leave Macy.  Her heart would brake.  They would stay long enough to bury her then they would go.  “No we will… we must stay to bury her.  But then we have to find our friends.  Brooke, Percy.  It could be them next.”

Travis’ face sank into a look of breathless horror, any trace of rage has disappeared into something Sam found, at best, recognizable.

“Travis look at me.  We can’t lose our heads; it will be ok.”  He nodded.

“We will stay three days at most.  No we don’t even have that long.  One day.  We will bury her tomorrow, pack our things, get some advice and head out.  Ask the chief if he knows anything.”

“And the what?  We just going to go out and pray we find them?”

“No, idiot, we go where we should have gone in the first place.”

“And where is that?”

“We go to Casle.”

 

  • A. Inge

Chapter Six:

This excerpt is under copyright and may not be shared among any other sites without proper credit and link to the official author (me, A. Inge) and this paragraph.

Chapter Six

Percy watched the man silently from the corner.  The stranger adjusted his armor eyeing his reflection in the mirror.

“Absolutely dashing,” muttered the man smiling.

“Would someone please tell me what I am doing here,” he finally said attempting to keep the sarcasm out of his voice.

“I would like to know as much,” answered the man turning to face him.  “Not everyday a random boy shows up in such odd clothing at the door of my castle.  It’s usually just the one time each month.”

“What?”  Percy didn’t bother hiding his exasperation this time.  Ignoring the beefy knights on either side of him, he stepped towards the stout man.   Both guards motioned as if to stop him, but the man held up his hand and they fell back.

Like professionally trained bimbos thought Percy.

“I’ll give you a deal, Mr. uhhh,”

“Percy.”

“Percy.  You tell me the last thing you remember and I will tell you what I believe is going on here.”

Percy stared at the man incredulous.

“Percy,” the man’s tone was smooth, “I want to get to the bottom of this as much as you do.  But I can only help you, if you help me.  So please, what do you remember?”

Percy clenched his jaw angrily and gave the man an unwavering glare.  Finally, curiosity got the best of him and he spoke.

“I remember waking up in an alley and asking from directions.  This girl offered to help.  She said she was leading me to the heart of the city.  But the last thing I saw we were standing on a cliff over looking some woods and a field.   She told me her name was Cayenne and I laughed cause who names their child Cayenne, right?  Then everything went black.  I don’t even remember getting hit.”

“That’s cause you weren’t hit Mr. Percius.”

“It’s just Percy.”

“Forgive me, Percius.  But this woman, Cayenne.  She’s been a thorn in my side for many years.  Personally, I have zero tolerance for the nasty woman.  But she’s also a professional.  She uses some sort of inhalant, odorless but effective.  It knocks anyone without an immunity to it out cold for precisely about thirty minutes.”

“But why?”

“Money and personal vendetta.  Casle and Sheripoole have been neighboring cities for years but neither has ever heard of the other.  Would you like to know why Mr. Percy?”

“Why Mr. Know it all?”

“That’s not my name at all.  Oh forgive me, did I forgot to introduce myself again?  Blast it, I always do.  It is Federico at you service.  Prince Federico to you, feel free to kiss my hand.”  Federico held out his gloved hand averting his eyes to the barred window dramatically.

“I’ll pass, thanks.”

“No?  Maybe some other time then.  Anyway as I was saying.  They do not know each other exist because they are not one.  They are not together.  Their clothing, their technology, even so much as their mindsets completely differ.  They are not in the same realm.”

“Wait, how do you know…?”

“I am a Prince, Mr. Percius.  It is my business to know.  Anyway, the point is Miss Cayenne has been a bitter rogue for years now.  Her father was killed years back on a realm raid, uh, certainly you know what those are?”  Percy stared at him blankly.  “No.  Well it’s really simple.  As you know some people are born with the ability to cross realms.  Miss Cayenne and I are currently the only two in either Sheripoole or Casle that I know of and well,” he laughed, ” I know everything. Anyway realm raids happen in times of crisis or war and these children or adults who whoever is able to crosses realms to gain knowledge so as to help with battle strategies or inventions or whatever may cross their fancy.  They weren’t really raids I supposed, but my grandpa was always a sucker for alliteration.  Anyway these crossovers got so complicated that finally Grandpa Federico said enough.  He started schools, him and his associates, in all sorts of realms to train children who had the ability to cross to blend in.  To never disrupt the peace one could say.  Cayenne’s father was a realm crosser like her and he was also a bit of a wild card.  He liked to take risks and one day he took one too big for him.  Anyway he was sacrificed by monks or something like that and now Cayenne has made it her personal vendetta that every Realm traveler is accounted for.  No more realm raids, every realm traveler must be trained from a young age.  They are watchers not doers.  She has a bit of a gift for spotting them actually.  Anyway, her job is quite simple.  If she spots one she brings them to me end of story.  Oh, and naturally I pay her a little something in return for her services.”

“Wait, hold up here I don’t understand.  Your Grandpa was named Federico too?”

“Naturally.”

“Interesting.  So does everyone know about these realm rampages or whatever?”

“Realm Raids and course not.  Did you not listen to anything I just told you?  We must keep the two worlds separate.  Crossing means chaos.  Which is why I need you to put this on.”

He threw Percy a bundle of clothes.

“You will play the part of servant tonight.  It’s just one night so no whining about it.  I will need some sort of excuse to explain your total lack of civility and finesse ”

“Hey.”

“Quiet, I’m still talking.  Tonight is my father and I’s joint birthday party.  There will be alcohol, naturally, but I pray you keep to your senses and not let the liquor loose your tongue like the last fellow.  He was sent to the gallows for being insane and there wasn’t anything I could do without revealing he was telling the truth.”

“Wait, what?”

“Don’t worry, you’ll have a grand time.  I’ll send some servants to show you around and train you for tonight.  It won’t be for some time.  Oh, and one more thing, please don’t faint when you see the trolls.  They tend to take it personally.”

Before Percy could process what had happened, Federico disappeared outside the door.  There is no way this is the right Casle.  This is supposed to be safe house not a mad house.  And where is everyone? Maybe they are already here and I just don’t know it.  The thought was enough to get him on his feet and changed into the ridiculous mud brown pants and white button down shirt.  Then, he exited the room.


“Here you are Miss Brooklynn.”  Zachary slowed the horse to a stop in front of the castle doors allowing her time to slide off.

“Thanks for the ride.”

“Don’t thank me, wasn’t my choice.”

“Ok.  Umm, not thank you, then?”

“King Arnold!”  A flock of servants rushed forward to take his horse and bloody game bag.

“Make sure those get to the cook.  We’ll need all the food we can get tonight,” laughed the man.  “Brooke!” The King spotted the girl standing by awkwardly and approached her.

“Follow me, I’ll get you some warmer clothes.”

“Sir,” interjected a male servant eyeing Brooke and blushing, “I can do that.  Your royal highness needs some rest after that ride I am sure.”

“Oh no, Rodger.  You’re not stealing this pleasure from me.  It’s been a long time I got to walk around with a beautiful young lady in my castle.”

“Yeah,” Brooke heard Rodger mutter snarkily, “it’s been like a whole day.”

“What do you say Miss Brooklynn?  Care to escort an aging man ’round his castle?”

“Sure,” Brooke awkwardly accepted the offered arm.

“Open the doors, Rodger!” King Arnold demanded leading her inside.  Brooke’s eyes grew large with shock.  It looked exactly as Brooke would imagine the inside of a castle to look like; but imagining and truly seeing were vastly different experiences.  Or so Brooke was learning as she past the various servants, knights, goblins, and decorated stone rooms.  He led her up a flight of stairs and down a series of hallways till they reached a room filled with gossiping seamstresses.  They stared at her for a moment before losing interest and returning to their work.

“Madiliene.”  Arnold hailed down a passing seamstress.

“Yes, your majesty?”

“Those dresses from Weighland, are they still sitting in the back closet collecting dust?”

“Yes sir.  You instructed us to keep them safe and….”  He cut her off.

“Splendid!  See to it she gets one.  Preferably blue and show her the bath house as well and tell Marge to do her hair.  I have an appointment to get to.  Party preparations you know.  She’ll take care of you from here, Brooke.  Hate to leave you like this, but I’m a busy man.  I’ll see you tonight I’m sure.”

“You’re good.  Thank you for taking me this far.”

King Arnold nodded his answer and exited to room.  Silently, Madeliene followed the King’s instructions ignoring Brooke as much as possible.  Brooke enjoyed the silence though.  It gave her time to collect her wayward nerves.

The “bathhouse” was a bathtub filled with cold water and a few variations of soap.  Madeliene waited patiently outside the door for Brooke to finish bathing then reentered to help her with the dress.

Per Arnold’s request, the dress was blue.  It clung to her tightly till it met her waist then it fell softly to her feet.  The cut of the dress, the small amount of decoration, and the smooth, rippling silk material gave a simple yet elegant look.  Brooke stared at her reflection sliding her necklace’s charm forward and backwards on it’s chain.

“Doesn’t really go with my bag now, does it?”  Brooke laughed eyeing her scruffy sack in the corner.

Madeliene grunted and called out the door for Marge.  A squat, but happy-looking woman hurried into the room.

“Oh I have been waiting for this!”  Marge clapped her hands excitedly.  “Your hair, it’s simply gorgeous.”  Brooke smiled weakly.  “No really, it’s such a pretty color and, well, the length is a little shorter than what I’m used to but it’ll do.”

Brooke felt her pride wince a little at that.  She was used to people noticing and complimenting her hair and a lot of it came from it being considered so long. Brooke pulled a strand down to her rear eyeing it in the mirror. How is that short?

Marge interrupted her thought with, “Now I’m sure you’re used to whatever your own servants do, but don’t worry I’ll take good care of your hair.  I’ll treat it as if it was my own.”  Brooke cringed at that.  Her hair was set in a ridiculous set of braids that reminded her of Jaden Smith or Medusa.  Brooke’s worry was in vain, however.  Marge set it in a simple some hair up, some hair down style with a long braid going down the back.  Loosing a few strands so to frame her face, Marge smiled at her handiwork and sent her downstairs to find some food.  Brooke thanked the woman heartily and tentatively headed down the hall.

In her anxious excitement, she’d forgotten her earlier hunger.  But at the sight of the numerous delectable dishes, she felt her stomach growl.  A couple dozen goblins dashed around holding platters of cut vegetable’s and meats clearly preparing for the night’s party.  No one seemed to be paying attention, so she quickly stuffed a platter of cream puffs and a tenderloin in her bag.  Ignoring the mess she knew it was making, she hurried out of the kitchen searching for a private spot to sit and eat.  Her search led her outdoors to the garden and she collapsed behind a set of bushes to dig into her “meal”.

“I didn’t ask if it was a big cow, I asked if it was a fat cow.”  Brooke choked on the tenderloin and tried to keep from laughing too loud.  Sneaking a look around the bushes she spotted two boys deep into an argument.  They didn’t seem to notice her so she continued to watch their odd debate.  Rolling his eyes, the taller of the two responded dryly, “It’s the same thing, idiot.”

“No, Max.”  Drawing himself up to face the brown haired, green eyed boy the original speaker responded.  “No it does not.  Big can mean a more than just fat.  It can mean a thick coat or tall or healthy.  Fat is just fat, meat on the ribs, higher levels of flesh than most.”

Max- as the original speaker had called him- met the second boys gaze.  Thick brown eyebrows shot up as if to enforce the point he was about to make when he caught sight of Brooke.  Brooke blushed as she met his eyes.  Freezing, they stared down each other till Brooke could no longer handle the silence. Throwing the last bit of her food to the side, she stood up shaking off the crumbs from her dress and stepped forward.

“Hello M’lady, is it a particular habit of yours to spy on people behind bushes or is this a one time thing?” asked the second boy whom Brooke had already taken a small liking to.  He looked more pirate than knight with his dark brown skin and shaggy black hair.   He was wearing a bit of a mischievous smile that somehow made Brooke’s palms sweat.

“Oh, I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to intrude on y’alls highly intuitive conversation here, I was simply trying to eat my lunch in peace.”

“Lunch in peace, huh?  You know there is this thing called a table.  Sometimes people sit there to eat, but If you prefer your hidden bush corner, by all means, don’t let me stop you.”  Max elbowed his friend and they exchanged a quick look.  “M’lady,” added the boy sarcastically.  Brookes suddenly felt very conscious of her own nice clothes and their not so nice rags.

“Yes.  Well my meal is through so I shall take my leave.  Good day, gentlemen,” Brooke grabbed her pack and left with a clumsy curtsy.  Pausing at the entryway to the castle she added, “And no, fat is not the same as big,” then hurried on her way.


“Max, Clyde!”  Simultaneously, the boys turned from the doorway they’d just watched Brooke disappear into to find the voice owner.

“Federico, how are you doing today sir?”

“That’s lord to you, you rummaging ragbag.  Look I need you two’s assistance with something”

“This guy really knows how to ask for a favor,” whispered Clyde into Max’s ear.

“I heard that you bumbling trolls.  No offense to the trolls, naturally.  Now I shall need you two to take in a boy for the tonight’s party.  Just do your best to make him fit in.  Just for tonight.”

“Then what?”  Max’s face was dark, determined.

“Well then I shall sell him of course.  Just like I do with all the realm crossers.  He should be waiting for you in my room.  Introduce yourselves, show him some of that welcoming charm you two are so famous for.  Just keep him distracted.  I have some pre-ball duties to attend to, naturally.”

“Naturally,” Max answered tensing his whole body.  Clyde noted his friend’s averted gaze and immediately broke into the conversation.

“We’ll go look for him now, sir.”

“Lord,” spat Federico.  Clyde mumbled something that made Max snicker and they ambled off.


Confidently, Percy strode down the hall.  As he passed by the various dirty, exhausted servants, he nodded greetings trying to look like he was on a mission so as not to be deterred.  He was just about to pass one hall when he happened to glance down and see a row of doors mirroring each other on either side till a window halted the imposing procession.  Curious, he jiggled the first doorknob.  Locked.  Sighing in frustration, he tried the next one and so on till he found one that opened.  Taking one last look around, he snuck into the room, quietly closing the door behind him.  What he saw took his breath away.  Rows upon rows, columns upon columns of books stared down at him.  As someone whose only escape for years was yellowed pages bound by paper covers, the sight was enough to make one’s heart pound.  In awe he reached for the first book.  Small Matters of Poop Scooping After Your Neighbor’s Dragon by Kien Filukne.  Laughing, he turned opened the book settling himself on the hardwood floor.  After a few moments he realized it wasn’t a comedy, but a self-help book about dealing with pesky neighbors and, disappointed, returned it to the shelf.

Searching the shelves, he was a little more particular about what he picked this time.  Finally he found a psychological story about two boys growing up in completely opposite situations and how they turned out to be the people they were because of their circumstances.  It was a short story, only about a hundred and fifty pages and Percy finished it within an hour and a half.  Disgusted with the ending, he returned it to the shelf.  What bullcrap he thought.  Like you’re oh so dependent on your circumstances and everyone’s a victim.  Like we shouldn’t take responsibility for our actions.  Clearly the writer didn’t have much real life experiences or he’d know about real people.  People like my brother who grew up right in the heart of Brooklynn without a cent to spare and now is a regional manager of Chic-fil-a.  Bet none of those riches white guys with all their college knowledge saw that in a nineteen year old homeless kid.  Bet they thought the world would be a better place without him.  What utter bullchit he thought using one of the replacement words he’d come up with a few years back to help him stop cussing.

Suddenly the door opened and in walked two boys around Percy’s age.  One was white with dark brown hair and green eyes.  He badly needed a haircut thought Percy, self-consciously running his hand through his own long locks.  The other one was small and dark and Percy found himself staring at him for a moment.  They were both good-looking, but he was good-looking in a different way.  Almost like gypsy or some book character kind of handsome.  He was smaller than his buddy, but still muscular.  The mischievous smile he wore so well drew Percy to him.  Like he knew a secret which Percy should want to want to know.

After a second, the brown haired boy, Max, spoke.  “Honestly this was the last place I thought you’d be.”

Percy smiled awkwardly, unsure of how to respond.

“I mean there’s about twenty different rooms in this hall and in between the armor room, treasury, and the room of odd and undesirable objects I really didn’t expect to find you in an old library.”

“It was the only door unlocked,” answered Percy drawing himself up to his full height and crossing his arms.

“Ah, now it all makes sense.”

“Have you been in here this whole time?” interrupted the gypsy looking boy, Clyde.

“Whole of what time?”

“We’ve been looking for you for hours.”

“More like an hour and a half,” corrected his friend.

Percy felt his eyebrows shoot up in surprise.  “It took you that long to find me?  I literally just walked down a few halls and went through the first unlocked door.”

“Like I said,” answered the original speaker exasperated, “we didn’t expect you to hide away in a dusty paper room.”

Percy grunted.  “So is there any particular reason you were looking for me or you just here to flap your jaw.”

“Flap your what,” Clyde asked raising an eyebrow.

“Never mind, just….”

“Yes,” interrupted Max, “we’re here to teach you how to be a servant or something like that.”

“Oh, Federico send you.”

“Yeah,” Clyde answered leaning against the doorway.

“What is his deal?”

“What?”  Max furrowed his eyebrows and his eyes turned cold.

“I mean the accent, the pompous attitude.  It’s like he’s acting for a hidden camera or something.  He’s like a medieval Dr. Doofenschmirtz or something.”

“The only part of that I understood of that was the accent’s weird.”

“You mean he’s uppity right?” interrupted Clyde stepping inside so he could close the door.

“No.  Anyone can tell he’s a selfish prat.  He just gives me a weird feeling.  I don’t trust him.”  Percy stopped, realizing what he was saying, and felt himself falter.  To his surprise the two boys were looking at him with understanding rather than with condescension.

“Oh I get you,” Max chimed in.  “He’s like a despicable piece of dirt for a human being that smiles and waves in the light and orders executions in the dark.”

“Second that.  Except change the like to is and you got a pretty well rounded description the bastard.  Now if we’re done stating the obvious we should be off.  We only got a few hours to teach you what it took us our whole lives to learn so follow us.”  Clyde ripped open the door.

“What are you teaching me anyway?” Percy asked following them out of the sunlit room.

“To be a servant,” Clyde led them down the passageways.

“To lick boots,” growled Max.

“Sounds the same to me,” Percy said holding his breath as a distraught looking maid hurried past saturating the air with a stench that could only be properly compared to a dung pile.

Max and Clyde exchanged a look.  The new boy was growing on them, he was smart and fairly level-headed and, unlike the other realm crossers, didn’t seem so different from them.  Simultaneously the two boys felt a twinge of guilt.  It’d been years since they’d helped a realm crosser escape and look where it got them. As if on cue, they passed the royal dining room lined with treats reserved for only the highest members of the royal party.  A whiff of warm, buttered croissants and smoked ham met Max’s nostrils making his mouth water and bringing him back to better, easier times.

Clyde saw the look on his friend’s face and felt a new wave of guilt rush over him.  A series of If only’s… ran through his head, but were interrupted by the laughter of a returning hunting party.

  • A. Inge

Chapter Seven:

This excerpt is under copyright and may not be shared among any other sites without proper credit and link to the official author (me, A. Inge) and this paragraph.

Chapter Seven

“Quick,” Clyde grabbed Percy’s arm and pulled him to the side.  “Whatever you don’t look up.”

Automatically the to boys drilled their gaze at their muddied feet.  Percy felt the tension rise as a group of older men carrying weapons, followed by a pack of exuberant dogs, rounded the corner and marched toward the boys.  Curiosity growing steadily inside him, Percy struggled to keep his eyes chained to the floor.  Suddenly all thought of the men were driven out as a familiar voice rang down the hall.  A golden haired girl rounded the corner deep in conversation with one of the kitchen goblins.  At the sight of the group however, the goblin bolted leaving Brooke facing the them alone.  Nervous, she shuffled onward into the group as they parted way for her.  Before he could cry out after her, Percy felt the butt of one of the men’s swords crash into his neck.  His eyes watered as he felt to his knees biting back a yelp at the shock and pain.  Brooke spun around eyeing the guard with the unasked question.

“Percy,” she froze in shock at the sight of him on the ground.  “What the heck is he doing?” she heard herself mutter.

“Rodger, at your service ma’am,” said the scrawny boy who’d offered to show her around that morning.

“Yes, I believe we met,” answered Brooke coldly.

“Begging your pardon ma’am, but the servant boy was looking at you,” Rodger rushed to explain noticing the bitterness in her tone.

“Excuse me?”  Brooke felt fear and indignation grow simultaneously inside of her.  If they hurt him like that just for looking at her who knows what’d they do if they knew they were friends; but also how dare he hurt Percy.  What an idiot. 

“Yes ma’am,” interjected an older, more confident guard stepping forward.  “It is our custom that the lower status not raise their eyes in the presence of one clearly… ahem… better than them.”  Brooke stared incredulous at the guards.

“Well thank you for… um… clearing that.  Feel free to move on now,” she added hopeful they would leave her alone and continue on so that she may speak to her friend without her temper exploding on them.  Which they might have except an angry Percy had just risen from the floor with a look that let Brooke know exactly what he was about to do.  A look that both scared her and gave her peace.  He’d fight them she knew he would.  He probably shouldn’t considering their situation, but that didn’t stop her admiration of him from growing.

Without a word he locked eyes with Rodger, clenching and unclenching his hand.  In an even match, Percy was an easy choice for a winner.  He’d lived long enough on the street to know how to fight with or without weapons.  Not to mention he won almost every battle he’d done in Weapons of Defense and Defense weaponless despite being a lot smaller.   But he wasn’t just facing Rodger.  He was facing Rodger and five other guys, most of them twice as big as him.  Brooke had a crazy idea to run forward and fight, but pushed it down.

Snarling, Rodger pulled forward his sword and jabbed at Percy.  With catlike agility, Percy sprang back then dove toward Rodger’s sword hand attempting to grab it in his own.  Rodger avoided the grasp and drove his fist into the side of Percy’s face.  A sound of cracking bones filled the hall making Brooke’s stomach sick.  A small part of her begged for them to stop, but a much larger part knew Rodger wasn’t going to come out victorious by any means.

Her assumption was proven by Percy’s next move.  Recovering from the blow, he lunged forward slamming Rodger into the wall and pounded into his face.  The sword, rendered useless by the close combat style of the fight along with Rodger’s overall ineptness in handling it, clattered to the floor.

Seeing their comrade had no chance of winning now, two of the guards stepped forward to pull the boys apart.

“Enough is enough,” said the oldest guard restraining Rodger.  “He’s received his punishment,” he added as if Rodger had won the fight.  “Leave him be.”  Rodger made a rash move towards Percy, but the Guard shoved him back.  To each of the spectator’s surprise, the guards followed their leader and disappeared down the corridor; apparently tired of fighting for the day.  Soon as they were gone Max and Clyde unpeeled themselves from the wall and ran to Percy showering him in high fives and praises.

Percy ignored their congratulations to wrap the girl he considered a sister in a tight hug.

“You bloody idiot,” Brooke sniggered pulling away and punching him lightly on the arm.   Wincing, he responded, “Well I didn’t see you trying to stop me.”

Blushing, Brooke rolled her eyes.  A laugh escaped her lips as she tried to stare the boy down.  As always, he’d read her mind. It was getting to be extremely annoying she reasoned inwardly all the while outwardly giggling.

“I thought you were dead or lost,” Brooke confessed growing sober.

“You know I did die once,” Percy remarked eyeing her seriously.  “But now I am very much alive and very much want to get outta here.”

“Amen to that,” Brooke turned to the two boys, noticing them for the first time.  “Brooke by the way,” she held out her hand.

“Max,” Max firmly shook her hand.

“Clyde,” Clyde added taking his turn to shake her hand.

“So what are we up to now?  Discussing whether deers are lean or skinny?”

“What?” Percy’s furrowed his brow in confusion.

“Nevermind,” responded Brooke.

“Ok.”

“Actually we aren’t doing anything,” Clyde answered.  “You are not a servant so you can’t be seen with us or we’ll get whipped or discharged or something.   Even talking right now isn’t safe we need to split ways.”

“No way,” Percy interrupted.  “I’m not splitting up, not again.  We find an escape, we get out of here.”  He pulled Brooke to the side whispering in her ear.  “They’re not like us, they can’t cross realms.  We need to go find our friends.  There’s another town near here, maybe even another Casle.  This is not a safehouse surely you must realize that.  There’s not a single school official here.  We need to leave.”

Brooke nodded and for the first time in her life felt a twinge of sympathy for those who could not cross.  Guilty, she glanced at the two boys wondering what would happen to them if they just left.  Would they be blamed for their disappearance?  Whipped?  Maybe nothing would happen.  Perhaps she was just overthinking it all.  Afterall, King Arnold seemed fairly nice; and he hadn’t made any threat on what he’d do if she left.

“Brooke.”

“Hate to break up y’alls lil meeting over there, but someone’s coming.  We need to get out of the hall.  Follow me.”

  • A. Inge

Chapter Eight:

This excerpt is under copyright and may not be shared among any other sites without proper credit and link to the official author (me, A. Inge) and this paragraph.

Chapter Eight

With Max in lead, the four ran down the hall and turned to find another hall and a staircase.  Quickly, they stomped up the stairs till they reached an abandoned guard tower with a sign that read Careful: Crumbling Zone.  Ushering the others inside, Max slammed the door shut locking it tight with a key he had in his pocket.

“What is that supposed to mean?”  Brooke pointed to the sign.  “It means we won’t be bothered here now sit down.  We have a lot to explain.”  Max gestured to the seat.

“Max,” Clyde’s voice took on a warning tone.

“No,” spat Max, “they may be our shot out.  Come on, Clyde, tell me you haven’t been cooped up so long you forget what freedom feels like.”

“No, but it hasn’t been so long that I’ve forgotten what being sentenced to die feels like either.”

“Don”t be a baby,” Max crossed his arms defiantly.

“Oh, you couldn’t have though to consult me on this life or death situation first yet I’m the baby.”

“It’s our time to be free.”

“Please you sound like a badly written speech.”

“And you sound like a scared moron.”

“Guys!”  Brooke barked, “We don’t have all day and if you don’t care to make yourselves plain we are going to leave.  For good.”

“Make yourselves plain?  What like a bagel? A plain bagel.  Or like no makeup cause I’m pretty sure that’s glam shaming to ask someone not to wear make up,” said Percy with a deadpan expression.

“Percy,” responded Brooke.

“Yes?”

“Shut up”

“Gee, grouchy, grouchy.”

“Clyde, just tell them,” Max agreed quietly, lowering himself to sit on top a wooden crate.

“Ok, I don’t know what Federico has told you….”

“Who’s Federico?”  Brooke asked furrowing her brow.

“He’s the King’s son and a royal pain in the….”

“Anyway,” continued Max.  “The point is he wants to sell you.  Both of you as I’m assuming you’re a realm traveler as well.”

Brooke gasped.

“Wait, how… who…. Do you know where the others are?  The safehouse?  Is this really it?  Is there a tunnel?  Did you go to our school?  Can you… can y’all…?”

“Woah, ok, hold up there.  One thing at a time.”

“But Federico said no one else knew about the realms,” interjected Percy with a puzzled expression.

“Clearly, he was right,” Clyde responded his voicing dripping with sarcasm.  Max rolled his eyes at his friend.

“Wait, did you say sell us?”

“If everyone would please shut up so I can get through my story, that’d be great.”  The group turned their eyes toward Max attentively.  “Thank you.   As I was saying, well it’d better due to start at the beginning.  A few years ago Clyde and I… we weren’t quite so bad off.  I mean we had a few nice things….” Max blustered embarrassed to admit to his former fortune.

“We were loaded,” interrupted Clyde, “or at least he was.  I wasn’t so bad off either.  In training to be a knight like my father, savings for my own modest cottage one day.  Then it happened.”

“What happened?”

“We crossed realms,” Max announced like he’d been bursting to tell them all along and couldn’t wait now that opportunity was here.

“Uh no.  I crossed realms,” interrupted Clyde.  “I went to Sheripoole.  A few weeks later Max discovered the same thing I did.  He could cross.  Together we went almost every night.  We were curious, anxious to learn.  It was like we couldn’t get enough.  We wanted to know everything, even tried to recreate some of their inventions.”

“Ahh yes, the good old days,” mused Max.

“Anyway fast forward two years, we knew about Cayenne and how realm travelers disappeared round her.  We took every precaution in the book, we were not going to get caught.  By age thirteen we could practically make ourselves invisible.  Nobody knew, not our families, not our friends.  Just us.  We had our own duties of growing up we had to take part in.  My knight training was becoming more intensive, and Max, well, Max had a bit of a harder time sneaking around.”

“I was the Duke’s son,” admitted Max stiffly.  “They watched my every move it seemed.  My job was to be a good boy, do well in school, then take over for my father.”

“And…?” goaded Clyde.

“To marry a Princess,” whined Max.

“His dad urged him every day. ‘Max my boy, someday you will be King.  Just wait, our good King Arnold will have a daughter soon.  He’s bound to with as many women as he has.  One of them has to have a daughter and when he does you will sweep her off her feet.  I know you will my boy.  You were meant to be king,'” Clyde impersonated Max’s father with a stern tone and michevious glint in his eyes.

“Sounds foolproof,” laughed Brooke.

“Anyway life was pretty good.  Or at least looking back it was.  We always had food.”

“And a future,” added Clyde.  “Until, that is….”

“Until her.”  Max wrote in the blank.  “She was gorgeous, smart, kind, and defenseless.  We both fell like rocks.  She was a realm traveler too.  Told us all sorts of stories about the world.  Had this wonderful compass.”

A look of understanding dawned on Brooke’s face.  Hurriedly she pulled forward her compass.  “Like…like this?”  Her palms sweat mercilessly.  It seemed to take him hours to respond.

“Exactly… where…but how….”  it was the boy’s turn to be stunned.

“It’s part of our training.  We don’t cross realm lines, we cross using these.  You think of where you want to go and the rim expands and stairs appear.  When you walk out on the other side, you’re there.”  Finishing the explaination in a rushed huff, she added anxiously,  “This girl… was… did she um….” she cleared her dry throat.  “What was her name?”

Dumbstruck, Max fingered the compass.

“It’s beautiful,” he ignored her question.  A sort of gleam had come into his eyes.  Like a cornered animal who just found an escape and didn’t care who he hurt getting to it.

“Amaredora,” Clyde finally answered.  Brooke’s heart dropped.

Registering the name, Percy stepped toward Brooke instinctively.  Before he could say anything Brooke exploded. “Amaredora, blond hair, blue eyes.  Amaredora, tiny and defenseless?  Amaredora, always way too talkative?  That Amaredora?”

How many people do you know named Amaredora thought Percy.  Wisely, he refrained from voicing this.

“You know her?”  Clyde started from where he had been sitting on an empty crate.

“Know her….”  Brooke tried to keep herself from laughing at the irony of it all.  “Yeah, one could say that.  What happened to her?”

“That’s what I was saying,” Max interjected.  “Federico took her and we found out.  We helped her escape, meaning to go with her.”

“Why didn’t she just use her compass?” Percy asked.

“She couldn’t.  The city has a protection around it or something.  It wouldn’t work unless you get out of the front city gates.  Brooke and Percy exchanged a glance.

“They caught us trying to help her.  She made it out, we didn’t,” Clyde stated.

“They banned us from seeing our families,” continued Max.  “Like our families would have agreed to see us anyway they were so ashamed.  Federico took us from our lives, our futures.  He set us to be servants, not allowed to leave the city.  Constantly watched.”

“But worst of all….”  Max paused and Clyde gave him a reassuring nod, “Worst of all he forced us to help him.  Federico sells realm travelers on the black market.  But the real shocking part is how he does it.  Needless to say realm travelers are in high demand.  I mean they can steal from other realms that are ahead of you in technology, get you food in famines, maybe discover a way to allow everyone to cross, and they’re unusual.  The same sort of thing realm raids used to be about.  But now realm travelers have grown scarcer.  Most of them don’t live to be 50.  So they have to know how to fight, to keep their wits about them, to break out of jail, and most of all to take care of themselves.  Survival first.  That’s what tonight is about.  Federico and old King Arnold they collect realm crossers like dragons collect gold.  Then at these parties,” Max spat the word bitterly, “they put them to the test.  It’s a gladiator battle.  The winner is sold and doesn’t have to live the next three months in prison till the next party where they get to show their skills.  People come from miles around to watch.  Of course the only ones who know it’s all about realm traveling are us, the royal party, and the buyers.”

“How have they never imprisoned y’all?”  Brooke asked, puzzled.

“We’re smart.  If they knew we could cross we’d be long gone.   Sold by now.”

“I just have one question,” interrupted Percy.  His tone was flat, something near calm, but Brooke read with fear the anger in his eyes.  His body had gone stiff, untouchable.  It was the same look he’d stared down Rodger with before they fought.

“Percy,” Brooke muttered in protest.  She knew what had made him so mad, she’d felt a flash of anger herself at their confession.  But now was not the time to fight; they needed their help more than ever.  Whether they could trust them stood yet to be determined.

“Y’all seem like pretty nice guys.  Fairly decent.  You helped the girl escape so good for you.”  Without warning his voice dropped to growl.  Flashing eyes bore an ominous warning as he stared at first Max, then Clyde.  “But in what world do you have the right to send innocent people, innocent children, to their deaths or worse?  Huh?  Riddle me this if you’re so smart jackass, what black part of your soul has found peace with this murderous act?  This thing most thieves, most beggars would never dare to do as they know full well they would never get another nights sleep?  Are you God that you determine children’s fates at your whim of selfish will?”

To Brooke’s surprise, Clyde stepped forward to meet the imposing figure.  Percy dwarfed him by a good couple of inches and was much stronger as well. Still Clyde met his gaze unwavering.

“I know you think you’re perfect, but you weren’t there.  You weren’t scared and fifteen years old.  You didn’t watch a full grown man torture your father just to make you watch.  You didn’t see blood drip from your grandmother’s arm and then listen to piercing screams as she crashed to the floor only to realize they were your yells.  They took the very breath God gave her.  So yeah, I did what I did to protect my family.  I did it because I love them, not because I’m a monster.  And Max would have loved to see his family rot in the dirt, but he didn’t.  He was a whole lot more man than his father ever was.  He protected them even when they held nothing but contempt for him.  Never once did they say thank you.  They don’t so much as look at him like they’ll have a deathly convulsion if they do.  So yeah I didn’t warn the kids.  We get one almost every month we’ve been working for Federico for almost two years, you can do the math.  I can defend myself all day long saying it would happen to them if we helped or not.  There was no escape for them or us.  We were both slaves of hierarchy and I never had a choice  But if I never had a choice I’d still be able to sleep at night.  So yeah I did it and if I could undo it…. I would.  But I can’t so I… we are making up for lost time.  And we’re starting with y’all.  You don’t have to like us to help us.  But you are gonna help us, cause without us you’re as good as sold.”

The group seemed to be frozen, each caught in their own whirlwind of thoughts and emotions.  Percy shrank back into his regular self.  His eyes had lost their fire in return for steel.  Through clenched teeth he asked, “What’s the plan?”

Brooke felt something slip inside her.  Like a physical force leaving her body as the tension left the room.  Inwardly she laughed.  She wasn’t sure what Percy was more angry about: injustice or the fact someone stood up to him and kind of beat him.

“Simple,” Max stepped towards the two boys.  “We get the hell out of here.”

  • A. Inge

Chapter Nine:

This excerpt is under copyright and may not be shared among any other sites without proper credit and link to the official author (me, A. Inge) and this paragraph.

Chapter Nine

“I need truth,” Travis stared at the chief unwavering.  “Who did this to her?”

“We don’t know,” admitted the Chief.  “But we are doing everything in our power to find out.  Currently we suspect Cayenne.  It wouldn’t be the first time she’s been seen with a kid who then suddenly disappeared.  It is the first time we have found the body.”

“Where can we find her?” interrupted Sam.

“No one knows.  We can’t find her, can’t pin anything on her.  She’s a real life ghost.  But if I knew I wouldn’t tell you anyway.  This is my investigation and I don’t need any kids meddling.”

“Naturally,” Travis wisely decided to hold back his real opinions on this issue.  Over the next few minutes he managed to coax out that they found her by a creek in the woods coasting the border of Sheripoole.  Covered in cuts and bruises, her body had been mostly stripped and abandoned.  The pants were of a material foreign to the chief and her shirt a simple cotton tee.  Everything else, her shoes, jewelry, even the clasp she’d always braided into her hair had disappeared into thin air.  A gash ran nearly over two inches deep and at least four inches wide over heart.  Cause of death, the Chief confirmed, was excessive bleeding.

With grim determination the two listened to the callous summary of their friend’s death.  As sympathetic as the Chief had first seemed to be, he forgot his place in describing the gory details as he continued his thoughts and notes on the case with a sort of blind enrapture.

Sickened, Sam waited till he had finished the synapsis then excused herself to the bathroom.  A small pit formed in Travis’ stomach as he watched her go.  Oblivious to their pain as all who never have felt true hardship must be, the Chief offered his condolences with a rushed sympathy and recommended Travis “be off once his friend returned, before it was too late to safely leave the station.”  Travis assured Chief Wheedle they’d return tomorrow once the study of the body was completed to claim it for burying.  Keeping Miss Jenson their ever whining servant with gold pieces and ridiculously high prices the pair returned to the boarding house.

A silent fog had settled over the city that night.  Death had touched Sheripoole’s mechanical heart and hope now stroke her lovingly with her blanket of mist.  Little did hope realize one can not comfort those who remained untouched by her counterpart, grief’s, hand.  Even the pious,ever-giving truth hid her face from the laissez citizens as each one tucked themselves purposefully into their soft beds and whispered their daily rituals to the dark.  One woman set out an oil bowl for a pet of metal, while another reached into their cupboard for medicine to a long-ago cured ill.  Each heart betrayed its owner with a plee to be alive.  Each, that is, but two.  Lovers of 3 a.m. talks and spiritual prose, the two rocked in their stone beds aching to be mechanical.  To be frozen like a fossil in moonless nights and remain there: old, forgotten, crumbling without knowing it into the dust from which they came.  Both young dreamers wished for the darkest wish of all: death. So each Sheripoole-ian greeted the night; in complete vacuity, comforted by warm beds and pre-bedtime rituals.  In the midst of all these lifeless, mechanical people two naïve dreamer’s condemned hope’s gift; so altered they were by her sister’s virile touch.  Both souls felt, rather than knew, a light had extinguished in their spirits.  Just what that light had been and if it would ever return seemed impossible to say.

  • A. Inge

Chapter Ten:

This excerpt is under copyright and may not be shared among any other sites without proper credit and link to the official author (me, A. Inge) and this paragraph.

Chapter Ten

Travis stared at the wall silently, his blond hair on all ends in the morning sun.  He hadn’t fallen asleep even once in the previous night, but after a shock such as his, nothing less was expected.

Miss Jenson was in a disturbingly good mood and woke each child as soon as the sun was up demanding they get ready to go to the police station.  When they insisted on finding breakfast somewhere first, she gave them each some old fruit and promised, “The little bit of mold makes your teeth straight,” before rushing them out the door.  She drove them with at breakneck speed causing both children to wince and grip their seats.   When they arrived she promptly hopped off, demanded her payment, and rushed inside leaving the two behind.  Travis turned to Sam; taking note of her presence for the first time that day.  She looked as exhausted as he felt.  But, he thought with a twinge of guilt, it would be worse if she didn’t.  To think he was alone in his suffering was almost worse than the suffering itself.

“She’s crazy,” he mouthed.  Sam nodded and neither said anything for a moment.  Then Sam added,

“No, I don’t think so.  Didn’t you notice the perfume?”  Travis shook his head.  “I think Miss Jenson has a crush.”

“Honestly Sam, I’m flattered, but I don’t think I’m Miss Jenson’s type.”

Sam smiled weakly.

“Sorry,” he lowered his head in shame.  “Jokes… they help me.  Sometimes.”

She placed her skinny arm around his shoulders and hugged him.

“I know,” her voice assured him in a motherly tone.  “Macy would know too.”  His eyes glistened.

A head peeped out of police station door.  Ralph was waiting impatiently for them to come inside and gestured for them to hurry up.  Groggily, they smoothed their ridiculous outfits and stepped out of the carriage.

When they entered, Ralph, Miss Jenson, and the Chief were deep in a whispered conversation.  Upon seeing the children, they stopped abruptly and the Chief stepped forward.

“Hello Samantha.  Travis.”  They nodded.

“Can I interest y’all in some hot coffee and pumpkin bread?  Ralph brought some for the whole station.  It’s in the back break room, he will lead you.  Ralph, show them where to find that delicious coffee and pumpkin bread you made.”

Ralph stepped forward.  “Right this way if you please.”  Without having spoke a single word, the kids let him lead them to the break room curious as to what they’d been mumbling about.  If it was important enough to lull them away with pumpkin bread  like they were five, it had to have something to do with Macy.

They each grabbed a plate of pumpkin bread and some coffee and sat down.  Despite knowing they were being treated like children, the two appreciated the food and warmth after the long restless night.  Silently, they sipped their coffee basking in the sweet aroma and lost deep in thought.

“Hello.”

Jolted out of their reverie, the kids looked up at the newcomer.  To there surprise, they found Ralph had disappeared and instead this man in uniform was pouring himself some coffee.  He took a seat at their table.

“I suppose y’all are the two friends of the girl?”

Sam nodded.  Nervously, the man glanced around.  Seeing the room was empty he lowered his voice, keeping his eye trained on the door at all times.

“Chief would kill me if he knew I was telling you this, but I think you should know.  I’d tear this place apart trying to figure out what happened if someone killed one of my men.”

Intrigued, they leaned forward.

“Why doesn’t he want us to know?” whispered Travis.  The man raised his hands to his lips and made a “shh” sound.

“Man’s got his reasons.  If I had to guess, he doesn’t want you going after her.”

“Who?”  Sam scooted closer towards the man spilling her coffee as she did so.  “Crap.”

“Here,” he handed her some paper towels.  “Her name is Cayenne.  She’s been a suspect in about a thousand of other missing kid cases, but never caught.  This is the first time it’s ended in murder though.”

“Where does she live?”

“Nowhere really.  At least not that we know of.  She just kinda drifts, never one place or another.  You can usually find her in the East side of town though.  If you can find a guy name Reyes, you’ll find her.  Some people say it’s her boyfriend, others her brother.  Personally, I just think they’re friends.  But either way she cares about him.  I’ve watched her for years, she goes to his house every Tuesday 9 pm on the dot.  Except when she knows we’re watching; and she always knows.  I don’t know how, but she does.”

Footsteps interrupted the conversation and all three simultaneously leaned back in there chairs. After a moment, no one had entered.  The man slipped a piece of paper across to Samantha.

“It’s directions to Reyes.  You’ll know her when you see her.  She’s got a big white rabbit tattoo on her arm.”

Sam felt her eyes widen.  Tattoos and a 1800’s style town did not seem to go hand in hand to her.  Nothing like realm traveling to broaden one’s perspectives she thought to herself.

“Why are you helping us?” Travis’ eyes locked with the man’s.

“I told you.  I’d want someone to help me if I was in your shoes.”

“Yeah, ok totally makes sense.  Now, why are you really?”

Grunting, the man leaned forward.  His dark brow furrowed as if concentrating on what to say.

“I hate her,” he finally spat.  “Y’all are young and I hate to ask you to do this, but it needs to be done.  We’ve been after her for as long as I’ve been here and the chief still doesn’t seem to care if we catch her.  I want her gone, eradicated,” a villainous glint came into his eyes.  “She’s a pollution to the system, a mockery.  She’s made us a joke to the East side.  We are a joke,” he scoffed.  “It’s like the chief doesn’t want to catch her.  He doesn’t do anything, but parade in his uniform and pretend to solve crimes.  I….”

“Are y’all almost done with your food?”  All three jumped in their seats.  Unknown to them, Ralph had snuck up, but seemed to not hear or not care about their conversation.

“Yeah,” Sam scurried up collecting plates and mugs.  “Yeah, we’re done.”

“Alright, follow me then.  We have a bit of a surprise for you down in the morgue.”

“Sounds lovely,” muttered Sam.

The followed him solemnly.  To their great surprise, they found Macy set in a small casket surrounded by fires.  The room was clearly set up to look like funeral home and there were several detectives in their best clothing staring stiffly at the wall.

“We thought,” explained the chief, “since you probably don’t have anywhere to turn to around here, we would throw you a farewell party for Macy before we must bury her.

Sam and Travis smiled appreciatively.

“Thank you,” said Travis and he really meant it.  It was a thoughtful gesture considering the chief was correct.  They wouldn’t even know where to begin with putting together a real funeral.

The service was short and sweet, Sam, Travis, and the Chief all said a few words.  Then they placed the lid on the casket and a some of the stronger men carried her away.  They forgot completely about the stranger in the coffee room and the brown piece of paper Sam still held in her pocket.  It gave a sense of finality, but not closure.

Sam and Travis went home with heavy hearts, reminiscing about their friend.  When they arrived at the boarding house, Miss Jenson showed them into her small kitchen, made them some hot tea, and started a fire.  It wasn’t cold, but it brought comfort to the two children.  Even she watched them with the pitying eyes of a stranger.  She pat Sam’s fiery hair with a sign and disappeared from the house claiming she had errands to tend to.  They watched her go, confused but thankful.

“You remember,” Sam asked hoarsely, “when we were little and Macy tried to set up an art show?”

“Oh yeah,” laughed Travis.  “She sold a few of her paintings too before it started raining and we had to run everything inside.”

“And then some of the kids asked for refunds because the teachers told them the paintings were not by Van Gogh.”

“Mace always was a good salesman.”  Sam laughed.

“And when she tried to start a strike because they wouldn’t let us go outside without an adult.”

“Well it was ridiculous.  We were twelve years old and they’re trying to tell us it’s too dangerous to go into some woods.”

“Oh yeah.  Cause we could go outside just not past the fence line, right?”

“Yeah, we always got in trouble for passing it.”

“Yep, so she set up a rally with flyers saying ‘strike against oppression’.”

“Problem was nobody cared about the woods.  They just wanted to stay inside on their phones.”

“Oh well.  They lifted the ban eventually anyway.”

The two continued talking of “good ole days” till one in the morning when exhaustion finally overtook them and they turned to their separate beds.  Each heart was a little more comforted and warmed by the conversation.  They hadn’t spoken of it, but they knew they would leave to find Cayenne the next day, and they probably wouldn’t come back.  They needed to know what happened to Macy and, more than that, they needed to find their friends.  Every moment away was a moment they could be closer to Macy’s fate.  Shuddering with anxiety at the thought, they fell asleep.

  • A. Inge

Chapter Eleven:

This excerpt is under copyright and may not be shared among any other sites without proper credit and link to the official author (me, A. Inge) and this paragraph.

Chapter Eleven – A Party

“It’s been postponed,” Max was breathless from running.  The group turned and stared at the boy.  They were all dressed and ready for the party which was supposed to begin in a few short hours.

“What in Malaki’s name could possibly postpone an annual giant ball?”  Clyde asked raising an eyebrow skeptically.

“They aren’t saying, but from what I’ve heard it’s the Ogromanti.  It’s escaped.”

“Excuse me, the what?”  Brooke interrupted.

“Well we’re not really sure what it is,” began Max.  “See they brought it back a few years ago from some big battle.  It used to fly free, terrorize some villages, usual flying monster stuff.”

“Wait flying monst….” Percy asked

“Yes flying monster.  I’ve never seen it, but that’s what I”ve heard.  Anyway the rumors of it are pretty much the only thing that has kept Arnold in the throne as long as he has been there.  If anyone grumbles or disagrees with him they are fed to it.  It is very important to keeping the kingdom in check that we have it.”

“Of course,” broke in Clyde, “some would say that it is all a rumor.  An act Arnold uses to subject the kingdom to fear.”

“I believe in it,” interrupted Max.  “My dad got to see it once.  Arnold and him were out drinking one night and the King got a little out of hand.  You know too much ale”

“Per usual,” grumbled Clyde.

“He wanted to show off and showed my dad the beast.  He used to tell me stories of it growing up.”

“But…” insisted Clyde, “if he really wanted to scare the people he’d bring it out and show it off.  He never does.  He’s let it grow into legend.  So it’s not real.”

“The reason Arnold has never shown it is cause he can’t control it.  To let it out to show the public, it’d kill everyone with one breath of fire or everyone would die from fright at the sight of it.”

“Just how drunk was your dad?” Percy said skeptically.

Max rolled his eyes.  “I’m serious guys.  Most of the gaurds won’t get close to the thing.  Even King Arnold would only take my dad onto a balcony to look at it from a safe distance.”

“So how do they keep it under control?” asked Brooke skeptically.

“Mostly the trolls do.  Their skin is non-flammable. ”

“Well, did they recapture it?” interjected Percy.

“Not yet.  They got every guard looking for it.  The kingdom’s on lockdown.  Double security at every door.  They will host the party soon as they recapture is what I’ve heard; and they’ve already had some spottings so it shouldn’t be long.”  Max answered.  “But this is good news for us.”

“It is?” interrupted Brooke.

“Oh yes, afterall every death mission should have a pre-feast.”

“Excuse me?”

“You’re excused.  I’ve had some of the friendly kitchen help whip us up a small meal and I’m borrowing a few of the overlooked ponies to take us to our destination.”

“Which is?”

“You’ll see.” Max beamed with excitement.

“Max, you are crazy,” Clyde laughed clapping his friend on the back.

“Oh and Brooke,” added Max with a smirk, “not that you don’t look absolutely stunning in that dress, but I would change if I was you.  You’ll find some servant clothes in the library.  Percy can show you where.  Meet us at the stable when you’re ready and we’ll set off.”

Taken aback by the unexpected compliment, Brooke stammered out, “ok,” and watched Max and Clyde disappear down the hall laughing and talking animatedly.

It was a short ride, but Max was right to find horses.  They would have never been able to take the food if they hadn’t.  Buckets upon buckets of roast beef, citrus fruits, steaming soups, sweet smelling pastries, buttery bread, and seasoned chicken among many other things rattled as they rode.  Max had been right about the guards and castle staff as well.  Too busy to notice they were missing,  people rushed around to save what food and decorations they could for the postponed party.   The gate surrounding the castle’s lands went for miles.  An impenetrable wall of wood and steel which towered them off in every direction.  The only exception was where it turned into a gate which met the walkway leading up the cliff Brooke had traveled over the day before.  With a sinking heart, Brooke couldn’t help feeling they would never escape this treacherous land.

Max led the into woods on the left side of the castle.  Once again he’d thought of everything, by getting them ponies instead of horses they were able to travel through the brush much easier.  They were almost to their destination before they were forced to dismount and lead their ponies on foot.  Giant trees surrounded them on every side.  Redwoods, oaks, and maples grew side by side in startling contrast to one another  It was impossible to see the wall from inside the protective trees.

Rocks suddenly broke up the plant life  The rocks melted into a muddy bank which melted into a overflowing brook flowing into a deep pond.  A  beautiful oak limb draped over the water.  From it’s multiple, mighty branches swung several different contraptions.  A few sheets faded from rain and cold weather swung in hammock style on one of the lower branches.  While a sturdy rope with knots going up it swung over the water just tempting you to grab hold and swing out with a barbaric roar.  A few badly nailed wood pieces seemed to tell the story of two boys full of dreams of treehouse homes and a secret fortress. Several makeshift weapons lay around the base of the tree along with other collected trumpery.

“Welcome to Meridale or Dale for short,” Max gave a dramatic bow and began to relieve his pony of it’s burdensome saddle and bags.

“Meridle?”  Percy followed suit, taking off it’s ponies packs and helping Brooke with hers.  She shoved him away and did it herself.

“Meridale and yes.  Our childhood hangout.”

“It’s really beautiful,” stated Brooke.  “Reminds me of my home.  Or what I can remember of it, ” she added in a mutter.

“That it is,” added Clyde spreading a sky blue blanket on the ground and laying out various foods and a set of plates, cups, and silverware for each person.

“We used to come out here everyday.  To plan our next adventure, to imagine what beasts we would fight.”

“To practice sparing and archery once we got older.”

The boys smiled reminiscently.

Brooke began to clear away the brush from a small circle of sand.

“What are you doing?” asked Percy digging into the roast beef.

“Starting a fire.  This is a camp out isn’t it?”

“I’ll help!” Clyde jumped up excitedly and began scrounging around for small leaves and twigs.

“Where are you supposed to get matches from?” asked Percy.

Brooke pulled a small box from her bag.

“I always carry matches Percy, you know this.  Or should.”

“You’re so weird.”

Brooke ignored him and lit the pile of leaves, blocking the wind from blowing it out  With Clyde’s help she continued to add twigs, then small branches, then big ones till they had a roaring campfire.

Happy with her handiwork, she turned and smiled proudly.  Her face was covered in dirt and her plain, loose servant dress was already muddy.  Max watched her with a small pang in his chest.  She reminded him uncannily of another enthusiastic, blond girl.

“So did y’all grow up together?” asked Brooke from across the fire.  Staring at the boys hideout, it seemed a rather dumb question.  Clearly this had been their place for years.

“Pretty much.  I don’t actually remember when we became friends,” said Clyde thoughtfully.

“I do,” Max poked the fire.  “Or sorta.  We had already been friends for a while, but dad tried to brake us up.  Something about bad influence or something.  I wasn’t fond of taking orders though.”

“Not fond?” snorted Clyde.  “If you ever want Max to do something, just tell him he can’t.  It’ll be done within the hour.”

Max rolled his eyes.  Brooke turned at the sound of clinking glasses.  Clyde was pulling forward two large bottles wrapped in deerskin.  Four dirty wine glasses made the clinking sound as he placed them on the ground and proceeded to fill them halfway from one of the bottle.

“Really?  We haven’t even eaten,” Max said sitting down with a full plate and digging in. Clyde offered him a drink and he took it without another word.

“What is it?” asked Brooke skeptically taking the drink.

El Mierdinel.”

“What?” asked Percy dumbly.

El Mierdinel,” answered Brooke excitedly.  She took a glass from Clyde’s outstretched hand.  “I wrote a whole paper on this when I was younger.”

“Ok, but what is it?” insisted Percy taking the drink from Clyde suspiciously.

“It’s a strong drink brewed by the High Austere which only the kings and highest in the social order generally have access to.  It is said to be flavored with fallen stars and brewed in the heat of dragon fire.  It is extremely expensive and one glass will leave you feeling warm and happy for the rest of the night.  It does dull the senses though.”

Percy seemed to be trying to grasp the idea still.

“It’s Elvish wine,” Brooke simplified sipping at the colorless drink.

“Ooh gimme,” Percy took a cup and chugged down a big gulp of the drink.

“I wouldn’t….” Brooke stopped as the drink disappeared in Percy’s glass.

“Oh lawdy.  I need to get a leash for you,” she mumbled.

Clyde’s eyebrows shot up in amused respect.  Max locked eyes with Brooke and a sort of mutual sigh went between the two.

“WHOO!” Percy shook his head and sprang to his feet.  His eyes watered and his face flushed red.

“Percy you should probably eat someth….”

“No Brooke.  I feel great.  I won’t have to eat for days.  Dude, look at that tree!”

Brooke turned to the plain cluster of trees at the edge of the clearing.   Turning back her eyes widened in shock to see Percy running his hands through his mass of black hair and mumbling in Spanish.

“Es majestuoso,” his eyes watered against the fading sun.

Clyde sipped his drink a small smile tugging at the corner of his lips.

“Doesn’t take his drink too well, does he?”

Brooke narrowed her gaze at Clyde.

“Hermosa arbol. Ohhh.”

“Oh stop it.  Percy.” Brooke stood to her feet and snapped her fingers in front of Percy’s face. “Percy.  Percius Mathelomew Carlomagno snap out of it.”

With turtle like speed, he shifted his gaze to her.

“Hey good-looking, what’s cooking?” he smiled.  Clyde snorted.  Brooke slapped him gently.

“Percy.”  He didn’t even seem to register the slap.  This time she slapped him harder.  No response.

Clyde grabbed the bottle and began to pour himself a second glass.

“How long does this last?”  Demanded Brooke.

“He should be toned down within an hour,” answer Max promptly.

Satisfied, she sipped the drink; all the time keeping an eye on Percy.  The drink let loose a warm feeling in her body and, unlike alcohol, tasted delicious.  She could almost believe it was made from stars.

It was a night they would not soon forget: full of the unlocking of past memories and unspoken ideas.  As the stars pin pricked the dark with their glorious light, the four children rapidly made their food and drink disappear.  Laughing heartily at past follies and reminiscing fondly of memories they had kept in their heart under lock and key for years.  As Percy began to calm down and enter a somnolent state, he opened up about many past stories growing more loquacious than Brooke had ever seen him.  When he wasn’t talking- under the quiet buzz of a different conversation -Brooke could hear him mumbling to himself in Spanish.   With each hour a new piece of who they were at their very core became unveiled before the night.  In turn, night swallowed the information collecting it deep into his coat of darkness saving it for another time.

“No, no,” Percy bolted upright from where he’d been resting on Brooke’s leg.  Brooke was trying, in response to Max’s question, to tell them how Percy came to be live at their school.  “You have the story all wrong,” insisted Percy.

“Alright, you tell it then,” Brooke leaned back staring at Percy with interest.  Percy, a generally open guy, had never really opened up enough to talk about his life before coming to the school and it was something that had tortured Brooke’s curiosity and protective nature for years.  If there were past demons her friends had to fight, she didn’t feel like a true friend unless she fought them with them.  It was both a weakness and a strength.  Percy scooted closer to the dying fire and began his story.

“I was three when my parents died and my brother took over.  I say parents, but not even sure about my dad.  Who he was I mean. My mom was your typical street case.  Doing things she should not have been doing and getting involved in some rough situations.  She tried to sell my brother when he was five or so he told me.  I don’t remember her any.  She died from some sickness, I don’t know what and my Uncle took us in.  He trained Ron to be his delivery boy and look out.  By fifteen Ron always carried a gun and was ready to use it too.  He never gave in to my Uncle though.  Always stayed clean.”

“Ah yes.  It’s important to take lots of baths,” snorted Clyde.

Percy glared at him.

“We don’t know what a streetcase is or staying clean means,” explained Max.  “And ignore Clyde.  He’s a sarcastic ogg sometimes.”

“Ogg? Never mind, I don’t wanna know,” began Percy.  “Just know my uncle was a bad person and, actually he was a lot like Federico.  He threatened my brother into doing bad stuff.  And he used us as leverage.”  He mumbled the last part as if lost deep in thought.  Now that he said it the connection seemed obvious and a small part of him wondered if, in the moment of yelling at Clyde earlier that day, if he had been angry at him or at his brother.  Shaking the thought from his head, he struggled to regain his composure tuning into Brooke as she spoke.

“Yeah.  He dealt da druggies to da thuggies and it didn’t make him very huggie.”  Max laughed for a moment then stopped abruptly.

“What does that mean?” he asked.

“Never mind,” broke in Percy, “just know my Uncle was a bad influence.  Anyway, so yeah my brother grew up moved out at fifteen.  He got a legitimate job and worked his way up to manager at a restaurant.  It’s this place you sell food at.    Pretty much all to spite my uncle honestly.  I was eight which, in my head, meant I was almost as old as Ron when he started taking care of us and I tried to take Dorie and run.  The state, that’s again like our king, caught us and took Dorie.  There was a spy or some informant though in the state.   There must have been cause he found out my ability and the school-our school- approached me.  Offered me a better life and I took it.  I abandoned my brother like Ron had abandoned us,” tears were now rolling down his cheeks.  He stopped and all fell to silence.

Brooke stared at him awkwardly.  As his friend she felt the need to comfort him.  But something, whether it was pride or awkwardness or fear held her back.  She’d just made up her mind to overcome her initial reaction and tell him it was ok when, to her surprise, Clyde scoot forward and placed his arm around Percy.

“I know exactly,” he hiccuped, “how ya feel mate.  It weren’t….” he paused as if realizing this did not sound quite right, ” were not,” he amended, “easy living with myself after I done that to the kids.  I tried to fight him-Max too.  Federico is a dangerous man to gamble with though.  First time I rebelled, he whipped me.  That was all well and fine I wasn’t bout to ruin my soul in exchange for my flesh.  But then he took my sister and it wasn’t a question of killing my soul or body no more.  It was my soul or my sister’s.  And I figured the selfless act of killing my soul for her was enough to weigh out what I was doing.”  He stared into the small fire.  “Nox, was I wrong.”  Percy placed an arm around Clyde solemnly.

“We both were,” they patted each other on the back silently.  Clyde jumped up suddenly and announced he was going to get some wood and disappeared.

Slowly, sleep overtook the camp out.  A cricket chorus let off for the entrance of the early bird song.  Black was interrupted by first white, then yellow, then orange, and finally blue as the morning sun rose with brutal determination.  Another blade of grass speared it’s green head into the earth, imagining the feel of sun on its bare leafy exterior.  An ambrosial smell drifted through the air blanketing the group with blissful sleep.  Finally, the sun’s heat broke through their dreams and they woke stiffly.

Clyde glanced around the group, bleary eyed.  Running a hand through his hair, he yawned.  Other than being extremely tired, he felt high in spirits.  Few hours for now they’d either be dead, sold, or on their way with a new adventure.  Whichever way it went, Clyde couldn’t help but enjoy the feeling of his quickened pulse and heightened senses.  Anxious to get on with the mission, he hopped up and begin kicking the others awake and gathering their trash.

“Why the nox are you collecting trash?  We’re gonna be dead probably in like…” Max paused squinting in the morning light, “like soonish.”  He groaned at his own lost for words and curled back up into a ball.

Clyde chuckled.

Percy burrowed himself under the blankets groaning.  Stretching herself awake, Brooke nudged him.

“Come on Percy, we gotta get up.”

Shutting his eyes tightly, he ignored her.

“C’mon.  They’ve for sure noticed we’re gone by now,” said Clyde.

“Then five more minutes won’t kill us,” asserted Max.

Eventually, the group made their way back to the castle.  After reviewing the plan and arranging a meeting place for later that day, they separated- the guys to teach Percy how to be a servant and Brooke to wander about.  They felt it’d be dangerous to be seen together anymore than they already had been.  True to Max’s prediction, the trolls caught the Ogromanti quickly.  Or so Max believed as the party was announced to be taking place that very night.  The others, skeptical of Max’s flying monster theory, wondered of the strangeness of the whole affair, but had too much on their mind to dwell on the affair.

Clyde felt strangely energized after the long night.  With an elated bounce.  Max did most of the talking- per usual- while Clyde watched with amusement as Percy tried to properly bow, memorize the politically correct responses to the various questions strangers were bound to ask, and how to tell a tipsy guest he did not need any more wine without getting fired, executed, or fired upon with arrows while getting executed which was apparently a popular option.  The peasants found they liked to go out in style.

As they walked, Max showed Percy where he would meet Clyde in the heat of the night to sneak into Federico’s room and grab the city’s gate key.  Gaurds were posted at every corridor, but during the party it would be fairly empty and seeing some servants rushing back and forth would not be unusual enough to raise an alarm.  There was a gate- a rather advanced one actually- blocking the hall leading to Federico’s room.  Two gaurds were posted at it 24/7 blocking anyone who tried to lift it.  The gate was why Percy was going.  The need to be discreet was why Clyde was going.

“And please,” pleaded Max, “do not forget to lock the guards in the broom closet.  The last thing we need is someone seeing them   Percy nodded as if this was an obvious step.

“Don’t forget anything.  One slip up and it will all bust.”

“What about Brooke?”  Percy said anxiously

“She’ll be fighting of course,” Max scoffed Percy’s worried gaze.

“Fighting?”

“We can’t leave before the fight, Federico will be keeping every eye and guard on us.  The later it is the better.  Everyone will be watching the fight rather than us.  Even Federico will have his hands full talking to buyers.  I will get the horses and keep an eye on Federico.  Then we will all meet, as planned, in the East garden.  From there it’s ride or die.  I’ll have already started so I will be ahead in order to open the gate.”

“So 90 percent of our plan is ride or die?”  Clyde said skeptically

“Yep.”

“Sounds full proof,” Percy said.

Clyde laughed.  Max looked at Percy, a little embarrassed.

“There’s just one hitch.”

Percy noted the concerned expression and grew sober.

“What?”

“Brooke.  Can she fight?  Really fight?  Some of these fighters have been sent to the padlocks too many times and won’t back down without a fight.  It gets… gruesome.”

“Oh.”  Percy paused.  “Well, she’s never beat me.  And she’s kinda small.  But she’s beat a few bigger guys with choke holds.  Course she’s been doing it for years.  I guess it depends on the opponent.  She can take a beating though, I’ll give her that.”

Max grew increasingly concerned.

“Here’s the thing,” he began, “she doesn’t come back out after the fight.  Not if she loses.  They take her immediately from the arena and you don’t see her again till the next feast.”

Percy’s expression grew hard.

“Well, we better make sure she wins then.”

  •  A. Inge

Chapter Twelve:

This excerpt is under copyright and may not be shared among any other sites without proper credit and link to the official author (me, A. Inge) and this paragraph.

Chapter Twelve

With baited breath the country watched the sun rise.  Today was, as it says in Genesis, good.  A bustling spirit awoke each household as girls screeched with excitement their slender fingers twisting and primping their hair and dresses.  Mother’s exclaimed in horror everywhere at their daughter’s lack of any fashionable sense adding a brooch here, a ribbon there, steaming their dresses.  “Quick!” one anxious mother commanded her son, “the towel, the towel! Maggie has stained her dress.  No, it must be wet, Joseph, did I not teach you anything?”  Father’s wrestled his best loafer’s from their hound dog’s grasp patting them and muttering “Good boy, Jax, good boy.  Now don’t howl, we’ll be home soon, don’t worry.”  Joseph moaned in humiliation over the stiff suites forced upon him and, with poor Jax howling on the porch and Maggie scrubbing at her stained dress in embarrassment, the family would head out to town.  There they would picnic their lunch outside the castle gates till it opened and they were admitted.  Maggie would find her girl friends who all strictly assured her they could not see the large and very noticeable stain upon her dress; and Joseph did his best- along with Tom, Dick, and Harry- to run around playing catch despite each mother’s strict rules against doing exactly that.  Slowly, the stiffness would seep out from their outfits and the boys would forget their clothing.  Maggie no longer remembered her stain except when a young, good looking man would catch her eye and she’d cover it blushing.  Father would sit and sleep as they waited unless he ran into a few hunting buddies.  In which case they would spend hours talking about how big their last kill was and whether Federico would make a better King than Arnold.  That is if the old bloke ever decided to hit the sack they agreed with a laugh.  Only mother would grow more tense as time continued.  Was her hair a mess from the drive?  Why was that young lady staring at her?  Mrs. Johnson she called her- was she really so old?  There were the Jones with their daughter’s new dress.  Would Maggie notice?  Should she have splurged and bought a better dress?  It would have broke them for sure, or would it?  Oh, why couldn’t Joseph stop playing catch?

Like ants, the whole castle buzzed.  Brooke watched them from on top the astronomy tower.  From the window, she had grabbed the overhanging bars which held much of the roof in place and pulled herself on top of the crumbling structure.

It was serene.  To sit in silence, at peace, and to watch everyone else in their mad scrambles. Still in the clothes Max had given her from the day before, she shifted uncomfortably in the itchy, stiff blue dress.  Laid over it was an equally stiff, white apron.

Above, the sun embraced her skin with warmth.  She removed the servants cap from her head and a breeze tickled her flyaways till they bounced and twirled in the air.  A still knowing filled her soul as she uttered her prayer.  “God, please,” her head lowered sweetly, “let us escape.”  Far below her the people’s chatter rose to a buzz.  Great rolling hills of forest melted into the gate surrounding the city.  “Give us strength and victory in our escape.  Let me find her, God,” she cried, “let me find my sister.”  Suddenly, a violent breeze pushed her cap off the tower and she gripped the top of the building in fear.  God’s response came softly.  Like the breeze had dropped it into her lap as it rolled by.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.  I do not give as the world gives.  Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27

Peace and love filled Brooke.  Up above, God seemed to smile and whisper to her soothingly.  She lingered on the roof, blissful in His presence.  Then began to climb down.

  •  A. Inge

Chapter Thirteen:

This excerpt is under copyright and may not be shared among any other sites without proper credit and link to the official author (me, A. Inge) and this paragraph.

Chapter Thirteen

A buzz filled the castle corridors.  Musicians, chefs, guards, servants, duchesses, foreign women, buyers, watchers, entertainers all filed in to the castles enormous ball room.  Goblin cooks bustled around and the oiled oak tables grew alive with fruit, meats, and desserts.  Women- old, young, rich, poor, married, single milled about laughing flirtatiously at handsome young men and blushing as they asked them to dance.  The glory of the night was the elevated cage in the middle of the room.  Couples danced around it warily.  In the midst, a proud lion watched the dancers with bewildered eyes.  His giant muzzle drew back in a taunt warning against the children who drew to closer.  A mother screamed and pulled her son back just as the lion roared and leaped at where his hand had been just moments before.  Guards approached the woman, scolding her for not keeping a better eye on her son.

In the midst of the noisy room, Brooklynn walked along side King Arnold her arm hooked in his.  Her dress and hair were once again beautifully adorned and styled.  A soft breeze seemed to shift seamlessly through the dark blue skirt as she glided across the room.  The sleeveless dress wrapped tightly around the top part of her body, shaping it, but also making movement much easier.  She’d been noting it’s feel and weight in case they didn’t offer her a change of clothes before the fight, but the dress seemed to be made for fighting.  Even the loose skirt was built with shorts beneath and a material which seemed to move out of her way of it’s own accord.  The idea the dress was enchanted made her-quite frankly- extremely nervous.  She couldn’t help wonder what would happen if the dress suddenly decided to run away or disappear.  Blocking the idea in her head, she smiled sweetly at the dutch and duchess of some foreign land, and excused herself to go grab cake.

Percy watched Brooke hawk-like from the corner of the room.  King Arnold did not seem as much the friendly old grandpa type Brooke saw him as, but more the creepy old stalker type.  Plus, his reputation was enough to set Percy’s teeth on edge.  But Brooke played her part well, smiling and eating.  Engaging in conversation so as to keep a group around.  She’d be alright.  Federico nudged Clyde, giving a pointed look at Percy.

“Percy!” hissed Clyde.  “Stop staring at Brooke.  Federico is gonna figure out y’all two know each other if he hasn’t already.  “And either way, you’re a servant here.  You can’t look at her like that.”

“What do you….”

“Excuse me!”  An elderly woman tapped Percy viciously.  “Do you have anymore of those delightful little strawberry cakes in the back?   They’re simply to die for.  Compliments to the chef.”

“Uhhh, yeah, I’ll ask,”  Percy looked around quickly for a goblin.

“Hey!  Goblin!  Errr, is that offensive?” he whispered to Clyde.

“Is that… is that offensive?” exclaimed the goblin.  “Would you like it if I said hey human?  Of course it’s offensive you overgrown, soft skin, cow eatin’….”

“OK! Ok, I’m sorry.  This lady wants some more of y’all’s strawberry cakes.  Got any?”  Throwing a miffed look at Percy, the goblin turned to the lady and responded sweetly that he would return with some shortly.

“Smooth,” Clyde chuckled.

“Shhhh,” Federico shot them a warning look.  His eyes lighted upon a giant of a man stuffing his face with pork-smidlions and he approached him excitedly.

“Who’s here?” asked Percy.

“Buyer,” spat Clyde.  “He works for Gogorath.”

“Is that a person?”

“No, country.  Would you like cake m’am?”

“You know normally I would,” responded the woman to Clyde’s invitation, “but I found they were a little dry tonight.  Not half as good as last year,” she added pointedly.

“I’m sorry about that m’am,”  Clyde said bitterly, “I find the food has improved since last year’s management.

Huffing the woman turned and disappeared, apparently not ready to be disagreed with.

“Has the management changed or something?” interrupted Percy.

“Federico just started allowing goblin to work for the castle this year.  We were shorthanded, he didn’t have a choice.  Not everyone approves of the idea.”

“Oh.”

Clyde and Percy continued turning about the room, making sure guest’s received constant care and attention.  Occasionally, they caught sight of Max running around for Federico.  He stayed separate from them most the night, however.

Slowly the hours ticked on.  Another mess to clean.  More wine.  The baroness wants peppers for her chicken.  The silverware needs restocking.  Finally, one o clock hit.  Brooke was led off by King Arnold to prepare for battle.

True to Brooke’s suspicions, King Arnold told her the dress was made for fighting and would not get in the way.  If anything it might help.  Informing her it was a no blade fight, he handed her a wooden staff and rope telling her to knock him or her out or tie them up and she would win.  Brooke breathed deeply and faced the wooden gate leading to the arena.  Outside she could hear the cheering crowd.  She knew she was going to fight, but it seemed to all happen so quickly.  Was it really two days she’d been here?

Through the muffled walls she heard the crowd go quiet.  Her thumb stroked the staff and she tightened her grip.

“Almost time,” said Arnold gleefully.  Her stomach sunk at his twisted look of joy.  His dark brown eyes underneath bushy brows glistened happily.  Twitching with anticipation, his lips revealed yellowed teeth.  Bristled hair poked out across his face.  Suddenly, Brooke realized he was an oblivious old codfish, but a very aware, but frail, old man.  She’d had more mercy than he ever deserved on him because of his age.  Now the time came to fight however, she saw in his eyes he knew all he did and loved it.  The gate swung open and fire ran through her veins.  With a barbaric scream she charged purposefully, swinging the stick.  One thought drove her forward: her sister.  He tried to sell her.  He would have let her fight.  Crashing down with whip like speed the man’s skull crushed beneath it and he crumpled.  Rushing forward, the guards pulled her back.

Kicking, biting, and clawing she fought the two much bigger men.  In her rage she could only remember one defensive move.  Swinging around her foot connected with his and she grinded her elbow into his face.  Yelling, he let go and she ran for the door dodging the second guard.  It took her too long to open the door however and the man yanked her back.  She swung around intending to hit him in the nose, but he caught her hand and twisted it around her back causing shooting pain to race up her arm.  Another three guards hurried into the room and she was tied securely.  A medic looked over King Arnold’s limp body, checking his pulse and the wound.

“He’ll live,” he announced as solemnly as though he’d said he would die.  They took Brooke from the room, dragging her down the halls.

“It’ll be the death penalty for sure,” she heard two guards mutter to each other.  She set her face in a determined scowl.  Still, her heart thundered below and she felt her eyes well with tears.

“I just want to go home,” she caught herself saying.


Max Knew something was off soon as he got to the predetermined meeting spot leading the four sturdy horses.  Something felt off inside.  Inside the castle, a howl went up but it didn’t sound right.  It wasn’t the usual cheer the gladiator wars usually brought.  He tensed as someone ruffled the bushes coming down the path.  He froze.  Before he could move, two guards appeared out of the corner.  Max tried to turn and walk away quickly, but the guard yelled quickly.

“Hey you there!”  The tall one pointed at Max.  “What you doing with those horses?  Thinking of selling them or something?/  Thought you’d get away with the distraction of the party, hmm?  Come here you vagrant!”  Seizing him they pulled him inside.

“You know the penalty for messing with any of the royal house’s property.  Death.”

“Death?  I’m pretty sure one of those horses are lame, you really wanna advertise the king has lame horses?”  cooed Max.

“Personally, I don’t see that as any of your business.  Besides,” his voice grew quiet, “I know who you are, Max!”

“Glad to meet you too, I don’t believe I caught your name?”

“You aren’t going to sweet talk your way out with me.  Don’t worry, I’m sure it’s not too bad down there.”

“Hey, please we all know I’m going to be reincarnated as a bird.”

The guard paused, a stupid look on his face.  He fell for it, however, and asked, “And why do we know that?”

“Cause Imma come back and poop on you,” he smiled and the man shoved him forward grunting angrily.

“Come on, you can die next to little miss blondie.”  Max stomach dropped. “Who?”  Chuckling, he continued, “Oh, didn’t you hear?  The girl King Arnold picked up outside of the castle, Rook I believe was her name, tried to actually kill the king.”  He laughed, “Of course she didn’t succeed.  I guess you can take the girl out of the wilderness, but not the wilderness out of the girl.”

Max grew deathly pale.  “Don’t worry about her, she’ll have a place and the people will finally get to see a gladiator fight leading to a death.  Just minus the fighting.”

In the moonlight, Max swayed unsurely.  Whether it was the cold or something else, he felt his body began to shake uncontrollably.  Anxiously, he tried to steel his body and put on a brave face.


Percy watched Arnold lead Brooke way hesitantly.  It didn’t feel right to leave her, but Clyde assured him she could take care of herself.  After so many years of taking care of Dorie though, it was hard to get that protective instinct out of his system.  His jagged nails cut into the palm of his hand.

“Come on, we don’t have long,” insisted Clyde.  Percy nodded and followed him down the passage way.  Keeping their heads high, but avoiding eye contact with any superiors they made it through the first maze of halls.  It was two lefts, one right, two lefts, three rights… Percy tried to keep track but soon lost count.  Either way Clyde seemed to know where to go.  A guard tried to stop them as they got closer to the room, but Clyde spoke quickly confusing him with an excuse and pushed on.  They didn’t run into another problem until they reached the gate.

“What…” Clyde yanked Percy back from rounding the corner motioning for silence.  Lowering himself onto the ground-where no one would be looking- he peered round the corner.  Just as anticipated, two tall, muscular guards stood at attention their eyes trained on the hall before them.

“Oh boy,” mutter Clyde.

“What?”

“Nothing, they’re just some, uh, really, really big dudes.”

Percy glanced around and quickly jumped back.

“Holy s….”

“Shhhhh”

“Right.  This… this could be an issue.”

“Not an issue,” Clyde rubbed his chin, “but a new development that needs some adjusting the plan to.”

“Yeah, ok.  What do you suggest?”

“A distraction.  It’s one of the few things I’m good at.”

“So, what you go out there and start singing or something.”  Clyde’s face lit up excitedly.  He pushed back his dirty brown hair adjusted his clothing to look slightly sloppier.

“Exactly.  You don’t need me to open the gate and honestly it can’t be that hard to find the key.  It’ll probably be lying around somewhere.  If you really can’t find it, sweettalk a maid.”

“Yeah but….”

“No time for buts.  Here, hide behind this pillar.  And don’t come back for me, ok?  I know this castle better than I know my own home and it was one room so I’ll be fine.”

“Are you su…?”

“Fire!”  Clyde ran out towards the guards panting excitedly.  “The… the… FIRE!  Beast… the king’s in danger!  Hurry!”

Exchanging an uneasy glance, the two guards watched Clyde suspiciously.  They weren’t supposed to leave for anything, but on the other hand if they saved the king’s life….

“HURRY!” Yelled Clyde and, surrendering all suspicions, they followed him down the hall.     Immediately, Percy ran forward and lifted the gate with a groan.  Seconds before it thudded to the ground, he rolled under it to safety.  On the other side he panted and looked around.  Two halls diverged into darkness and neither gave any indication of which way to go.  Somebody yelped from the other side of the gate and he guessed the guards were returning.  Sending up a short prayer, he plunged into the left one and galloped down the hall.


“FIRE!” Screamed Clyde leading the guards down the hall.  He could feel the fleet of guards breathing down his neck as he flew down the halls.  He felt unstoppable running around the twisted corridors and secret passageways.  He was going to make it with time to spare he had just smugly decided when he fell flat against the stone floor, something large and menacing actually breathing on his neck.  A clutter of armor was heard and the guards brought him to his feet shoving him into the wall.

“Wasn’t there two before?” remarked one of the guards and without seeing them, Clyde could imagine the horrified expressions of King Arnold’s royal bedroom guards as realization hit them.  He heard two heavyset men scramble away yelling to each other and chuckled softly.

“What you laughing about?  Gonna be gallows for you for sure or firing squad take yer pick.”

“I’ll have to think about it,” Clyde said dryly.

“Calling fire when their ain’t none,” snorted one, “what a load of horse dung.  What a vagrant.”

“What safety hazard,” squeaked out one guard.

“Yeah!  What a safety hasyard.”

They gripped his arm harshly and pulled him back to meet a row of gleaming fangs.  Of course thought Clyde who had been wondering who or what had caught him.  They used dogs.   These over armored fatties couldn’t catch a butterfly he thought blissfully aware that, if it had been a fair chase, he would have escaped.

“Boy, what was the point of all your yelling anyway?  What’d it get yah?”

“Oh,” Clyde smirked at the condescending mustache, “I was only trying to break into King Arnold’s room.  You know, cause a distraction, get the guards away.  Double back and steal some gold or some of those luxurious pillows he claims he needs for his back.”

“Don’t you talk about your King like that or it’s gonna get you into some serious trouble….”

“Aw man, I’d hate to have to cancel my vacation plans.”

“Come on smartnox, lets go”


King Arnold glowered at Brooke from his podium outside the arena.  The crown watched him with baited breath.

She’d only been half surprise when they pulled up Max and Clyde next to her and tied them each to their own wooden stake.  They stared out at the crowd, each at a lost for words.  King Arnold’s speech buzzed in and out their ears as they looked out into the sea of strangers.  One distinguished looking family and one poor one stood at the front sobbing.  It was near impossible to turn her head as it was tied to the stake, but Max’s mangled sobs and Clyde’s sharp intake of breath told me all she needed to know.  After everything that had happened, they had come- finally together- to mourn their sons.

“These three,” King Arnold boomed out with Federico standing impassive by his side, “were found coercing in a plot to kill me, rob the kingdom of it’s riches, and disappear into the night.”  The crowd gasped.  “They would have your King dead and you made fools!  Your children’s inheritance stripped all for their selfish greed.”  Angry mutterings ran through the crowd.  “And so, I give you, today, justice!”  A roar went up from the crowd.  “Today you will see just what happens to people who try and make fools of my people!  This will not be tolerated!”  A drum banged ominously and Brooke felt her heart skip a beat.  “This will not be permitted!”  Gates opened leading into the stadium and archers filed out into a single file line facing the three children.  “Crime shall never be allowed inside my walls!  No matter the age!”  A cheer rose from the crowd.  The archers aimed their weapons.  Brooke felt the tears began to fall and a roar filled the empty space.

“Fire!”

  •  A Inge

Chapter Fourteen:

This excerpt is under copyright and may not be shared among any other sites without proper credit and link to the official author (me, A. Inge) and this paragraph.

Chapter Fourteen

“Got everything?”  Asked Samantha anxiously.

“There wasn’t much to get,” said Travis as he finished stuffing his supplies into his bag and slipping it onto his back.

“I know.  I’m just anxious.  It doesn’t feel right, just leaving I mean.”

“I know.  But there’s nothing left, we have to find the others, and what happened to Macy.  Not to mention our school.”  He paused thoughtfully, “Do you think… I mean I’m sure they did, but if anyone….”

“I don’t know,” Samantha fixed her large green eyes on him sympathetically.  “We can only pray everyone else is doing better than us.  At least we know the younger students would have had guidance from the professors.”

Travis nodded grimly.  “We need to stay focused,” she added, “if we go back now- that is if there is anything to go back to- we might never find them or what happened.”

Samantha nodded, her small chin sinking and rising slowly with her bright green eyes staring off as if trying to think of something she once knew, but now wasn’t sure of.  Her glossy red hair was greasy and tangled so she had pulled it back into a thick, wild French braid running down her back.  A few stubborn pieces which had not quite regain their length since she had made bangs of them the previous year, fell on her smooth, sunburnt cheeks and around her small pointed ears.  She picked a patch of dry skin on her elbow watching the birds flitter outside the window of Travis’ room.  Her stuff was already packed and on the floor and they had closed up her room.  A million questions buzzed through her mind, but she didn’t think she could answer a single one.  A single tear formed in her eye and she rubbed it away quickly.  If Travis noticed, he did not say.

“You know,” Travis began, “There’s a saying Brooke always loved to use- from Lord of the Rings of course.  It was something like ‘It’s a dangerous business stepping out you door.  You step out onto the road and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to.'”

Sam smiled.

“Come on.  We don’t want to run into Mrs. Jenson on our way out.”  Travis froze.

“I almost forgot!” he pulled forward his money bag and pulled out a handful of coins.  Sam stared in amazement.

“As if she hasn’t taken enough from us.”

“It doesn’t matter,” stated Travis.  Sam looked at him curiously, but didn’t pursue the issue.  They set out onto the road referring to the directions given to them by the officer.


Cayenne cleared off her dining table of the multiple drawings and plants and began to set out plates and cups for breakfast.  A burly man with a full, scruffy beard and hairy chest appeared yawning in the doorway; his hands reaching above him till they hit the top door trim.  His beady black eyes met hers and he grinned.

“Eggs again?” he complained jokingly.

She opened her mouth to retort, but at that moment two black haired boys ran screaming into the kitchen.  The older ran dangerously close to his mother, nearly knocking her over.  Her husband scooped the seven year old up hanging him upside down and tickling him.  He giggled incessantly, begging for him to stop till the father replaced him next to the second troublemaker.

“Daddy,” complained the five year old with a drawl, “David hid my sword and he won’t tell me where it is.”

“David, give your brother his sword back.”

“But he hit me!”

“David, we’re the parents we punish your brother not you.  Next time he hits you just tell us.”

“I….” David’s words were lost by a hard knock on the small cabin’s front door.  Ruffles, the family’s brown cat hissed and hopped on top of the table.  David dragged her off and Cayenne’s husband, Joad, opened the door tentatively.

To his surprise, two tall young adults stood staring back at him.  Exhaustion showed plainly on their travel weary face.  The boy was tall and scrawny with a round face and dirty blond hair.  He was wearing an odd looking suit similar to Sheripooler’s clothing.  His teeth stuck out as he grinned broadly and offered a tanned hand.  Joad shook it roughly.  The girl tried to smile, but it was more of a grimace.  Her wild hair was pulled back into a braid and her piercing green eyes shied away from his own.  She was also tall and skinny with a dress that swallowed her whole.  They had matching dirtied packs on their backs.  The boy spoke confidently as they shook hands.

“Do you know a Cayenne and where we might find her?”

“Honey!  There’s some people here to see you.”

“Be there in a minute,” she appeared in the doorway and whispered somethin to her husband.  He nodded and stepped inside and she stepped out closing the door behind her.

“Yes?”

“We…uh,” Travis stuttered.  He hadn’t exactly thought through what he would say.

“We know you” Sam said stiffly.

“Are you sure about that cause I don’t remember meeting you.”

“About… about you.  We heard about you making kids disappear and we want your help.”

Her brow furrowed in concentration.

“With what?”

“Disappearing,” interjected Travis.  She looked from one to another suspiciously, noting the black backpacks and determined looks.

“Can you cross?” she asked suddenly already knowing the answer.  The stunned looks on their faces was all she needed for confirmation.

“Come inside.  You need a shower and clothes that won’t give you a heatstroke.”

They glanced at each other anxiously, then followed her inside.

They joined the family for breakfast, glancing uneasily from face to face in the family-like proceedings.  Given her reputation, this was not the greeting they’d expected from this child nabber.  With a sinking feeling, Samantha glanced at the two boys but decided they looked too substantial a mix of both father and mother to have been kidnapped.  Breakfast finished and Cayenne sent her boys off with their father to do chores.  She led the children to the shower and then a pile of clothing similar to her own.  After cleaning up, they dressed in matching black pants and cotton shirts with tight leather vests and black boots.  Travis studied himself in the dirty mirror.

“Hey Sam!” he called and she appeared from behind the curtain where she’d been changing seconds before.

“What?”

“I look like a pirate,” she gave one look and busted out laughing.  “From Charles Dickens to Pirates of the Carribean.  This whole adventure is basically one big costume party.”

He laughed, then grew serious suddenly.

“If we tell Cayenne we want to disappear too, maybe she’ll take us wherever she took Macy and we can find out what happened to her.”  Samantha nodded.

“I concur Barbosa.”

“Shut up,” he shoved her playfully and she snorted.

Cayenne handed each a cup of hot coffee and offered them a seat at the kitchen table.

“Why do you want to disappear?” she shot out the question with an intent gaze which watched every part of them for the answer they might try to hide.

Samantha set her face in a blank stare and let Travis do the talking.

“What’s it to you?” responded Travis raising an eyebrow skeptically.

“Well, I generally like to know what a person’s running from before I decide to help them run.”

“We aren’t running from anything,” Samantha said in an exasperated voice.  We need to find,” she paused, “we need to find our friends”

Travis threw her an angry side glance.

“That was not the plan,” he hissed.

“I know, but it was a sucky plan.  What if she led us somewhere totally different.  Besides,” she glanced at Cayenne’s confused, but amused expression.  “Excuse us.”  She dragged Travis to the opposite end of the room.

“Anyone can be bought and we got money to spare.  We’re going about this all wrong.  We need to coax out what she knows.”  Travis sighed.

“Well it’s too late now.”

“Don’t be such a grump.”

“Sorry about that,” Sam smiled and they retook their seats.  “We’re gonna be straight forward with you because, quite frankly, we don’t have the time to not be.  A few days ago we traveled to this realm with three other friends.  A day or two after we find our friend has been killed and a guy leads us to you.  Says you make a lot of kids go missing but have never killed anyone.  Personally, I don’t care what you have or haven’t done,” she added hurriedly seeing Cayenne was about to respond, “and we don’t think you killed our friend.  Or maybe you did, I don’t know, but I would really just like to know what the heck is going on so we can find our other friends, take revenge, and go home.”

“Revenge is a dark path to go down.  You sure you’re ready to…?”

“It’s not any of your particular business what I am or am not ready for,” she snapped.

Cayenne paused and studied the pair carefully.

“How much?”

“How much?”

“What am I not allowed to ask how much you’re going to pay me, too?  I got two mouths to help feed now how much?”

“Oh.  Sam pulled forward her bag, then paused.  “You’ll get the money after you tell us what you know.”  Cayenne nodded, and she pulled forward the money bag counting out what seemed like a decent price.  Cayenne nodded, her face impassive and Sam returned the money to her bag.

“I don’t know much about the girl she died,” she began.  “I knew, or rather guessed, she was a realm traveler from her clothes.  When the boy appeared a day later I was sure.”

“Boy?”  Travis jumped in his seat, seemingly surprised to find useful information.

“Yeah.  A little taller than you but dark and muscular.  Wild black hair, pretty good looking, but young.  Had a bag like yours.”

“Percy,” Sam gasped.  “I….” she stopped.  “I do make kids disappear, but not because they pay me and not because I don’t have a good reason.  My dad, like me, could also travel realms.  Unlike me, he was a bit of a loose canon.  We were close when he was around.  Realm raiding took him everywhere he wasn’t meant to be.  Away from home, in the heart of danger.”

“Realm raiding?” interrupted Sam.  Cayenne explained the concept quickly.

“My father believed in  uniting the worlds, but it’s impossible to do when only a few people can cross.  His biggest mission was to find a way for everyone to cross.”  She glanced at the wall languidly.  “Including my mother.  He thought he’d finally found a way, but he didn’t.  He killed both of them in his madness and left me to deal with the world on my own.  After that I couldn’t stand realm travelers.  It never felt right, but then I knew it wasn’t.  It was one big mess-up from the universe that made life full of danger and death.  Who can be content with what they have when they know how much is out there?  You’d drown in your own want for knowledge, never able to rest.  I didn’t…I don’t want that for my family.  So any realm traveler I find, yeah, I hand them over.  I have a guy, in a different realm, I leave them on his doorstep and he takes them far away from where I live.  Never will my kids know or deal with realm travelers.  And if they do it will only be legends.  Eventually there won’t be any realm travelers left and when no one travels across a line the line cease to exist.  There is no way to travel anymore.  I may not make ours disappear in this lifetime, but for the sake of the future generations, I must try.”

“Why are you telling us all of this?”  Samantha asked.

“So you know.”

“Know what?”

“Not to come back once you cross the line.  I will show you where I took your friend, Percy.  But you must promise to keep the realm travelers there.  To stay there yourselves.”

They stayed quiet for a minute.  A choice unraveled itself before them.  A choice they knew would be coming since they saw Macy’s still body.  To find revenge and solve her mystery or to leave and find their friends.  Never find out what happened.  Never find justice.

Is there anyway to go back when you make a wrong choice? wondered Samantha leaning back against the couch.

Travis ran a hand through his thick blond hair.  It felt cold in the room he thought rubbing his arms.  He tried to think reasonably.  Certainly his friends alive and well were more important than the one dead.  The one in the past.  He begged himself to reconsider the choice he knew he would make, but all he saw was Macy’s face floating before him.  How she’d helped him study science and always knew what he was thinking.  They weren’t close like him and Brooke had always been.  He paused.  Brooke and Percy swam before his eyes.  Those two didn’t know anything but loyalty.  Brooke had never let anything stand in their way of being friends.  When she decided to be friends with him she didn’t go back.  Those two had been siblings to him from day one.  Unwavering, faithful, and always challenging him.  He paused.  They would tell him to do what he needed.  To find Macy’s killers.  Wouldn’t they? They would.  She hadn’t been the kind of friend Percy and Brooke had been.  But she’d been his first kiss.  Nervously, he glanced at Samantha to ensure she wasn’t looking at him.  As if she could read his thoughts.  It’d been so long ago, he thought Macy would have all but forgotten it.  They’d only been thirteen and they’d kept the secret so well.  Only Brooke knew because he hadn’t been able to keep from telling her.  It wasn’t till now he realized just how much he’d loved her.

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