Excerpt chapter 2 . . . .
There’s something strange about this place as if we’re on another planet. There’s something they’re not telling us. And now this, it’s weird, I tell you.”
The crackling of a stick that broke announced the entrance of a slim soldier accompanied by three soldiers. He was wearing the same outfit in green and brown hues as they wore, but his dress was impeccable, as if a tailor had sewn it. “And what would that be Anders?” The man had a sharp clear, precise, voice. When Anders didn’t answer the man continued. “What exactly happened?”
“I don’t know Captain. I followed Sven, and we sneaked up on this guy. I on one side and Sven on the other side of a large bush, and when we arrived on the other side we saw him lie on the ground, partly covered by the bush. And then as fast as you couldn’t believe it, he stood up and said: ‘Good morning, gentlemen, Sven and Anders.’ He spoke with an accent but it was no problem to understand him. Talk about a shock to hear him talk like that and that he knew our names. Then he started saying something about blackberries, I think, and then before I could take a shot at him he simply vanished. The next thing I remember is Sven shaking me and yelling at me. It was like waking up from sleeping, even though I was standing up. Completely weird.”
“Do you have the necklace with the white stone, we got from the Chief?”
“Yes sir, here in my pocket.” Anders took out a necklace with a heavy chain whose sole decoration was a white stone set in the same dark metal as the chain.
The captain turned to Sven. “And you?”
“Oh yes sir, it hangs beautifully around my neck here.”
“So Anders had it in his pocket and fell asleep, but Sven had it around his neck and didn’t fall asleep?”
“Simple, Anders. Hang it around your neck you too and you will not fall asleep like that again.”
Anders started to put the necklace back into his pocket, but changed his mind when he saw the captain’s gaze, and hung the necklace around his neck.
“Fine as a babe, with a cheap heavy necklace.”
“Did you say anything Anders?” The captain looked straight at him.
“No, sir. Nothing at all.” He looked down.
The captain looked away, and began to absentmindedly twirl a stick. “We’ve been here a long time now, but I believe that since we missed our target today we’ll return to base camp. There’s no justification for remaining here anymore. I wonder what the Chief thinks about today’s fiasco. We’ll hardly get any bonus for what we did today. That’s for sure.”
It became quiet among the men as if the captain had cast a spell for a mild depression over them.
Yldrath let the squirrel approach them somewhat.
“But we’ll still become very rich. Very rich indeed. There’s a great need for cheap raw metals. Particularly in Asia; China cries out for raw materials.” The captain got up.
“Look captain. A spy among us.” Sven smiled and pointed at a squirrel that sat looking at them some distance away. Sven’s smile froze and died when the captain took out a gun and shot the squirrel. The last Yldrath heard was Sven who with a strained voice cried: “But that’s only a. . .”
When Yldrath became conscious again he felt as if his head was wrapped in several layers of warm wet towels that someone jumped on, hard and rhythmically.
Yldrath clasped his head with his hands and uttered something that sounded like: “Uffg ungg Ohhhh.” Inside his head a myriad of provoked angry hornets buzzed.
Judging from the sun he had been knocked out for several hours.
It was the second time in his life that he had been in contact with another mind when it ceased to exist. There was clearly something wrong with these people. Why had they not merely driven away the squirrel? A life is after all a life. He would not hesitate to kill hundreds of wolves if it was needed to save a human being, but killing ought to be the last choice, and taken only when all other options had been tried.
The captain must know much more than his men, because he had immediately grasped what the squirrel could be. But, his men were just hired tools, and if they were not very careful they would be thrown away at the first opportunity.
Yldrath recognized the attitude; they had one single aim: to get rich. Power was everything and respect for life and honour was nothing. But he also felt there was something else to it, as if this one single aim of becoming rich was no longer just the objective but also the very ethics and purpose of their lives.
He took a bite from a piece of belk, the chewy leather like strap. He ate slowly and drank water from a container. The heavy throbbing in his head abated and the imaginary angry hornets flew a bit further away.
He had lost precious time so he would have to risk travelling through Shadowland again. He stood up, but had to sit down again when the buzz in his head exploded into an awful symphony. No, Shadowland had to wait a while; it was too dangerous to travel that way in his present condition.
The sun was low and night was preparing to take over. The forest had changed and huge trees with enormous treetops dominated. The ground was covered with dark green mosses.
Yldrath tripped and fell. The moss was soft. Sleep! I can sleep later he told himself, but the moss was cosy and welcoming and he dozed off.
Yldrath sat up. A sense of shame came over him. How could he have fallen asleep? He was no little child. He had lived for thousands of years. His name was both respected and feared.
This would not do. Yldrath opened his knapsack and took out a small box, finely decorated with intricate patterns. He said three words, the box lit up with intense light and the cover opened. The box contained a dozen tablets in various colours. He looked at the tablets and hesitated, but then he took a yellow tablet and swallowed it. The effect was instantaneous, the fatigue vanished, and the throbbing in his head fell so it was barely noticeable.
He had never entered Shadowland when he lived on borrowed strength. ‘To venture into Shadowland requires great strength. Never go there unless you have enough strength to handle it. Never!’ Yldrath remembered his father’s words, but now it was he who was the teacher. Always time for something new. Yldrath stood up and made the same circle with his arms as before, said the same words and entered Shadowland again.
The shadows were more distinct than he had ever seen them before, but when he tried to move forward it was sluggish, like swimming in water, and his thoughts came slowly.
A huge squirrel appeared in front of him and then burst into pieces. Yldrath shook his head; he must not lose his concentration. His head was pounding as if he stood next to a big hammer angrily banging away on iron bars. He heard his father: ‘Shadowland derives its name from how things in our world become stripped-down so they resemble shadows.’
How long had he been stuck in Shadowland? He tried to think but his thoughts insisted on going their own ways. His father’s voice, ‘And just as the Shadowland is a stripped down reality, you can also go into a Shadowland of the Shadowland, where the shadows are shadows of shadows.’
A little boy inquired, ‘And why would you want to do that Dad?”
His father, with his white beard, had turned his face towards him and replied: ’For the same reason that you enter Shadowland: Speed! If you enter the Shadowland of the Shadowland, you can move with speed unimaginable.’
‘Fast and faster,’ had his father bellowed and thrown him up into the air, so he had flown several meters upwards. He had laughed with the joy of being with his father and from the tingle in his belly. ‘Have you been in the Shadowland of Shadowland?’
‘No, my son. It’s too dangerous and something you only do as a last resort and only if you’re a great magician, greater than I am.’
‘But you’re the greatest dad!’ And his father had been that, as all sons believe before they become too grown up.
Well, he sure needed to go fast now; a pain was growing in his breast and he had trouble breathing. A blue ring on his right hand shone. Balfyhmn. Its protective qualities had been activated. Well then, now was time to see if he was a great magician; he had to break free. Yldrath fought to form the words ‘Pent Maxum Herlzom. . . .‘ The simple opening words were followed by words aged beyond comprehension. They came slowly, but the long training and the many preparations for just such an event as this paid off.
The sluggishness left him. He was able to move again, and he moved fast! The throbbing in his head came back and increased to cruel levels, but Yldrath kept moving. He knew that if he stopped, all could end here. He became a light that shone over the shadows he passed, fuzzy shapes: The Ocean Würl; the countries Ardamena, Timanos, and Stipa; then, the mountain range that had given its name to the Kingdom of Artos; Artos’ Mountains, grew with monstrous speed, but Yldrath was unable to carry himself over the mountains, so he went right through them. Everything was possible, as in a dream.
Arythos came into sight, the part of Artos where the King lived in his castle Mevyr in the city of Gülldvyr. Yldrath sent out his mind, felt for the king and found him just as he noticed another light approaching with reckless speed, it was a woman. A proud woman immersed in bright light with a chin like a male, intensive commanding eyes and a confident smile on her lips. Like a white marble statue of a vanished great, but ruthless, queen. She opened her mouth.
Yldrath said a word, flashes of light as he passed protections set up around the castle Mevyr, and then he stood before the king’s bed. The candles, on a table close to him, fluttered wildly. “I’m here my king.” Yldrath collapsed.
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Excerpt chapter 8 . . .
The mist disappeared and he looked straight into the jaws of a gigantic monster where he was its appetizer.
“Look at my ring Stelldan!” Yldrath’s words sounded as if he had shouted under water, but he turned away from the monster and looked at Yldrath. Yldrath’s eyes held his gaze with a force that restored him. “Just look at my green ring, Stelldan!”
“Yes.” Stelldan’s voice was weak.
The journey continued in the same manner with a carpet that jumped on a sea of shadows that had run amok. His stomach calmed down some when he looked at Yldrath’s green glowing ring. Podrg stared at the ring too, almost prayerful.
“Get ready,” shouted Yldrath and, after something that could have been minutes or years, they were back in a real world; it struck lock in their ears and they tumbled down on a sandy beach. The sun shone strong above them and a soft salty wind blew towards them.
“Uhh, you could have warned us.” Steldan gulped.
“The patch and our stones learn, the journey will be calmer next time.”
“I do hope so.” Stelldan went down on his knees and said goodbye to his previous evening meal.
Podrg stood straight and looked up at the sky, as if he thanked the gods, up there, that they had finally arrived.
“Ugh. How disgusting. Are you sick?” A boy stood staring at Stelldan. Then he turned to Yldrath, “From where did you come? You just popped straight out of the air. Are you magicians? How did you get the rope to vanish like that?” The boy waved with considerable vigour a plastic shovel as if it was a magic wand.
“Who are you talking to Thomas?” A sunbathing woman rose up, put on her hat, and tried to see what her offspring was doing.
“You can’t swim with those clothes on. You can’t,” said the boy.
“It’s nothing at all ma’am. We’re just out for a walk where I show my friends the scenery, the beach.”
“They’re magicians mom! Look at their clothes!” The boy ran up to the woman. “I saw how they came out of nothing.” The boy waved frantically with his plastic shovel in the air.” Poff and whoosh, then they were here! Just like that!”
Yldrath laughed and walked over to the woman. “Your boy has quite a lot of imagination. However, it’s true that we’re in that business. You have to make a living somehow, right?” He sat down on the sand some distance from the woman. Podrg and Stelldan followed.
“We were looking for inspiration for our next show, but I think we brought with us our noble swords, and our other paraphernalia,” he smiled, “quite in vain.” Yldrath turned his smile into a warm smile and looked admiringly at the woman. “Our hero, here, has eaten something he shouldn’t have eaten. Do you mind if we catch our breath a bit? The view from here is magnificent.” The woman smiled and Yldrath moved closer to her and gazed out towards the ocean.
Podrg and Stelldan sat down behind Yldrath. The little boy walked up to them waving his plastic shovel which now definitely had become a magic wand. He stopped in front of Stelldan. “I shall conjure you away!”
Stelldan looked at the boy and feigned surprise. He threw up his arms, said something in his language, and ended by beating his hands together and saying “Ohuju, Ohuju!” The boy gave a laugh and decided to play more with his new friend.
“They’re from Europe and don’t speak much English,” Yldrath explained to the woman who smiled back. “I understand,” she said simply.
“It truly is beautiful here.” Yldrath tried to push away some hairs that disobediently were playing in front of his eyes in the faint breeze.
“You’re in the magic industry?” The question came hesitantly from the woman.
“Yes indeed! Sadly I admit, we’re not yet very successful, or perhaps you’ve heard of ‘Ivan the magical’?” Yldrath’s eyes widened slightly; pretending to anxiously wait for her response. The woman shook her head.
“Not? Well, then, let me introduce myself and my friends. “Yldrath got up and bowed and said, “Ivan is my name.” He bent down and put his finger in front of his mouth and whispered, ”actually, my name is Evans, but you must not divulge that to someone else. . . . schschhschhhh. Our little secret.” Yldrath smiled a small smile, which was answered by a smile from the woman. He continued with a deep proud voice, “And these are my friends from Europe, Sten and,” he laid his hands on Podrg’s shoulders, “our great philosopher Peter.”
He sat down close to the woman. “Can I perhaps inquire, noble lady, about your name?”
“Marjorie is my name and my boy is called Thomas. We’re here for a few days to swim and relax.”
“A very noble mission, Lady Marjorie. Our mission was also noble: To give a performance here and show our magnificent magic tricks!” Yldrath shrank slightly. ”However, when we arrived it turned out that the place where we were to perform our magic show had gone bankrupt. . .”
“Oh such a pity!”
“Yes indeed! It could have turned into an unfortunate fate, but now I feel that we very fortunate anyway.”
“Yes, we have found . . .” Yldrath looked straight at Marjorie. ”. . so many beautiful things to look at here.” Marjorie felt how she began to blush and looked away.
“Perhaps Lady Marjorie would like to see a simple trick?”
“Come Thomas! The nice man will do magic for us.”
“To do this magnificent trick I need a banknote. A ten dollar bill would be just fine.” The woman looked dubiously at Yldrath. Yldrath put his right hand over a handbag that was standing next to her. ”You have a couple in your handbag.” She looked puzzled but decided that ten dollars was an approved price for the little play he had begun with her. It was not every day someone called her a lady and with such a voice; so deep, vibrant, it made her blood flow faster. If nothing else, his voice was magic. She opened her handbag and took out a ten dollar bill.
“Ten dollars!” Yldrath took the note, showed it in triumph, and then folded it until it became a small square, which he placed between his hands. “Do you know what serial number your bank note had? Not? How will you then know which ten dollar bill that is yours? “He drew mischievously at his mouth and said a few words. ”A few magical words, sprinkled like spices, make the trick go well.” Yldrath rubbed his hands slowly back and forth.
A folded bank note, a small square, fell down from his hands, soon followed by another and another until there were seven squares on the sand. ”Seven is of course a magic number.”
She stared at the pieces of paper.
“You had better pick them up or the wind might blow them away.” The woman quickly picked up the squares.
“Now you have to unfold them, and tell me what you have.” The woman obediently followed Yldrath’s instructions. “They are seven ten U.S. dollars banknotes.”
“Can you please check that they are genuine?”
“Yes. Yes they seem to be real.”
“And which serial numbers do they have?” “01 80364159A, 01 80364159A, 01 80364159A, 01. . . but they have the same number!” The woman looked surprised.
Yldrath grimaced. “Oops. I have to fix that. Give them to me.” Smiling playfully, he took the bank notes and spread them out like a fan. Then he folded them together, said once again a few words, and gave them back to the woman.
The woman checked them. “Now they have different serial numbers! How on Earth did you do that?”
Yldrath frowned and looked stern. “But Lady Marjorie. That’s the question you can’t ask a great magician.” With a much softer voice: “Impressed?”
“Yes very.” She put her hand fleetingly on Yldrath’s knee.
“A great magician I am; intelligent, but not very smart as my mother used to say.”
“What do you mean?”
The woman adopted a protective maternal stance.
“Well, . . . here is, by the way, your banknote.” Yldrath handed her one of the banknotes. “You better check that it’s the one with the correct serial number.” The woman laughed. “But tell me!”
“Well, after having practiced and worked hard for a long time, I got the chance to do this trick before an audience, but. . .” Yldrath started to laugh, a beautiful deep laugh that went on until tears came into his eyes. “If you had been with us the first time I did this. . .” He wiped away his tears, looked at the woman, sighed again and turned his face towards the sea.
“It didn’t go so well at that time?”
“No it didn’t.” Yldrath started to laugh again but soon became quiet.
“But what happened?”
“Well.” Something twinkled cheerfully in Yldrath’s eyes. “The person that got up on stage turned out to work for the United States Secret Service. You know, one of their main areas of responsibility is to stop counterfeit money.” Yldrath turned his eyes to Marjorie, “And he turned out to be zealous. Exceptionally zealous.”
“Did he think you used counterfeit banknotes?”
“He was very zealous.” Yldrath grinned.
”But what did you do?”
”I conjured him away; he vanished in front of the audience.”
”No, of course not.” Yldrath laughed.
”That was lucky for him.”
”But perhaps I had him disappear . . .and the audience thought it was part of the act.”
Yldrath turned his head towards the ocean again. They sat on the beach and looked out to the sea.
“It’s very beautiful here.”
“Yes it is.” The woman leaned against Yldrath.
Thomas played with Stelldan, and Podrg sat silent and looked out at the sea. Far away you could hear a group of people who played a ball game; the sounds from the ocean, birds, and bathers were mixed and created a typical beach, a late summer evening.
Occasionally the woman and Yldrath exchanged a few words, but mostly they sat in silence, allowing the magic of the environment take its natural course with their moods.
The woman laid a hand on Yldrath’s knee and this time she let her hand remain. After a while they stood up and walked down to the shore.
Time passed, the sunset came and it got colder. Yldrath put his arm around her. “Now it would fit well with a bite to eat?”
“There’s a nice restaurant not far from here.” I was there last night with Thomas.”
“But then we have a plan! And as a thank you for helping me to conjure up money, so that I’m now rich, perhaps we can invite you?”
“You’re a funny bird Ivan, Evans.”
“But then I’m from another world.” The woman laughed, but only briefly. Maybe he is she thought, and gave him a quick glance. Apparently, I can still be surprised at myself. That’s good. So very good.
Excerpt chapter 9 . . .
The evening was a huge success. Yldrath volunteered to assist in the kitchen, and to the astonishment of Marjorie he was not only allowed to assist in the kitchen, but he was also very good at it.
“How did you get them to go along with this,” she asked as she watched how Yldrath made knives, spatulas, frying pans, pots and ingredients create fragrant dishes.
“With a little magic you can persuade most people.”
“Are you never serious?”
“I protest! My culinary magic is very serious! Didn’t you think that I could cook?” Yldrath shook his head in mock despair and sprinkled olive oil on a salad.
“And if I had been on my own planet, where I’m much more familiar with the ingredients, then – ahh – what a wonderful dish I would have made for you!”
“You’re never serious!”
“I’m a king too!”
“King of dishes. I suppose.”
“You have enchanted me.”
“Yes, but only a little. With rings like this. “Yldrath gesticulated with the rings on his right hand. The stones flashed. “Excellent! The batteries haven’t run out yet.” Yldrath looked up from the pan he was holding. “I told you I was from another world. You believe me, right?”
“You know a lot about our world for being a true alien.”
“I have studied you closely.”
She smiled. “Of course.”
They ate and drank.
“Very good” said Stelldan who had begun to say a few words in English.
“Yes, indeed. The wine tasted good yesterday when I was here, but not as good as tonight,” said Marjorie whereupon she belched. “Oops, I apologize.” She laughed. “It must be the nice company. But yes, you must all definitely accompany me tomorrow when I go back to San Francisco. I have a big car and it would be so nice to have company. If you’re all going there.” She belched again. “Oh, sorry. You must absolutely accompany me. I insist.”
Yldrath raised his glass. “A toast to this day, this evening, tomorrow and our joint journey to San Francisco!”
They drank a toast. Then another one. And yet another one. In fact, they drank a toast to everything they could think of.
“Time to pay the bill.” Yldrath waved gently with his hand to a waiter. “And pay, we can.”
Yldrath smiled at Marjorie, clapped his hands and began rubbing them together as he had done previously in the day. Small folded quadratic banknotes fell down on the table from his hands. “I hope they don’t check their serial numbers.” Marjorie began laughing so uncontrollably that she spilled wine on the table.
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The next day they started for San Francisco. They were in a good mood but tired. Yldrath sat in the front seat next to Marjorie who was driving. Stelldan and Podrg sat in the back seat with Thomas in the middle.
The three in the backseat were soon fast asleep, while Yldrath chatted with Marjorie. The weather was at first brilliant with sunshine, but after they had driven a few hours it began to become overcast and a rain started that rapidly increased in strength.
“And here they promise clear sky and sunshine. So much for weather forecasters with all of their computers,” said Marjorie and pursed her lips. The weather deteriorated rapidly.
“What a strange weather, it’s like driving at night.” Marjorie slowed down. The rain now poured down and it was difficult to see despite the windscreen wipers that efficiently got rid of the falling rain. Something white loomed in front of them, a white lady who was standing in the middle of the road. Marjorie tried to dodge the white lady but Yldrath grabbed the steering wheel and held it in an iron grip. They drove into the lady, right through her as if she had been made from smoke.
“I must stop! Why did you take hold of the wheel? I may have hit someone!”
“You didn’t hit anyone.” Yldrath turned his head towards the back seat. “Stelldan, you can stop playing with your tricks, you’re scaring up our new friends.”
“Stelldan? Stelldan who?”
“I said Sten.”
“You most certainly didn’t!”
The next moment the roof of the car was torn away. The car shook and a roaring noise hit them; it was as if they were inside an excavator who had decided to dance a wild dance on rocks.
“What? Iiiiiii” Marjorie’s outbreak of understandable surprise was blown away by rain and wind. With one leg on the trunk, and the other leg on the remains of the rear window, stood a white woman. It was the same woman, with the same rigid marble smile, Yldrath had seen before he managed to get through to Arythos. A beam of light shot out from one of Yldrath’s rings and encircled the steering wheel and Marjorie. Podrg threw Yldrath his sword.
The white lady looked at Yldrath like a cat on a mouse. “Did you think you could run away from me?” Her voice came through clearly as if the din from rain and wind didn’t exist. She laughed. “So nice to meet you again Yldrath.”
Yldrath made the car accelerate.
“And a sword, you have too!” she purred contentedly.
“This is no sword. This is a magic wand. Just sharper than is common,” said Yldrath and drew his sword from the scabbard.
“Then I must beware myself.” She laughed again.
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Chapter 24 . . .
Yldrath awoke with a pounding headache. A few lamps spread a weak light inside the wagon. Outside it was pitch black and silent. It was quiet! They must have stopped, but why?
He stood up and something crunched under his feet. He looked down; he had trampled on tiny pieces of glass, like from a vial.
The others slept. He went to Podrg and shook him but he didn’t wake up. Yldrath shook him vigorously but still he didn’t wake up. He tried to wake the others but with equally poor results.
Then he heard neighing horses outside the vehicle. Yldrath unsheathed his sword and walked cautiously to a window. The light! He must lower the light. He stretched his right hand towards each light. The green ring, Vertz, glimmered and the light fell until it was completely dark inside the carriage, except for a feeble light that leaked in through the windows.
He approached a window cautiously but saw only the stars that glittered in the sky. He pulled back. His pounding headache was getting worse, but when he heard the horses again, he decided that he must try to reach out to a horse so he could see and hear through the animal.
There were four riders and one of them was a woman. The woman looked at the horse Yldrath used and he immediately recognized her; it was the white lady.
“But look who’s awake!” The woman pointed her hand at the horse’s head; Yldrath’s mind was thrown back so violently that he staggered several steps backwards and nearly fell.
His headache grew. His rings should have protected him! He hugged his necklace and went to the others.
He put a hand on Stelldan and one hand on Podrg. Awake or asleep, their stones would join forces with his stone. He uttered three words; the stones rose and began to shine brightly.
There was a crash when the door was shattered.
“Is it not Yldrath playing with stones again?” The woman’s voice was deep and sonorous and got Yldrath’s headache to reach new, previously unknown, levels of throbbing pain.
Yldrath raised his sword. The eternal stones pulsated furiously.
“Last time we met I wasn’t prepared.” She took out a white stone from a pocket.
“We shall not play with swords this time.” She lifted the white stone.
Her lips moved and then he was hit by a force that threw him against the wall with such impact that his sword was torn from his hand, and he fell to the floor, where he remained. The woman’s white stone emitted a loud vibrating sound, a tone that quickly grew until he had to cover his ears.
The lamps exploded around the walls, the windows burst and crumbled to white dust.
Yldrath shouted ancient words and the light from the eternal stones became so intense that it burned.
A muffled ‘poof’ was heard, the light from the eternal stones on his necklace died. Yldrath looked down. His eternal stones had split like eggs, leaving only a few dark empty shells that still hung from the necklace.
It was impossible!
Stelldan’s and Podrg’s stones had also stopped shining. Yldrath picked up his sword.
“Your eternal stones Yldrath. They weren’t so eternal.” The woman chuckled.
He dropped his sword without noticing it, bent down, and picked up small pieces of the stones. He looked at the remains, unable to comprehend.
“It’s impossible.” Yldrath’s voice came calm, thick and full of wonder. That it was bright during the day and dark at night, that water was wet and quenched the thirst, that the fire could burn and that the eternal stones could not be destroyed by anything, were all equal and unalterable truths to Yldrath; indisputable truths since his childhood.
It was quiet; a silence that was dark and deep after the excruciating noise he had endured. Suddenly the woman laughed again, triumphant.
“It’s not possible.” Yldrath swallowed. He looked at the others; Martin, Stelldan, Podrg and Dinah, they all lay on the couches and slept. Amazing that none of them had awakened.
“I would by the way like to thank you.”
“Yes, because when you killed Plevel you put a stop to the cumbersome plan I had made to tie down people with loans and salaries and so on, to force them to work in my factories. It was an unnecessarily complicated plan. Now we have a simpler plan.”
Yldrath put his hands to his head. His thoughts floated in syrup. Could it have been the noise, or had he lost some ability when the stones were destroyed? He had never thought about what a lost stone could mean, because that was something impossible. But could the impossible really happen?
“Yes, to work for us or die. The countries that refuse to send workers to our factories will suffer death. I call it Bevelug’s revenge.” She laughed.
“I don’t understand.”
“No, it’s not much you understand. Hazardous waste!” She paused and laughed again. “Some hazardous waste scattered across an obstinate city ought to teach other cities not to be so stubborn.”
“But you can’t do that.”
“Why not? It’s easy. Just load some waste on an airplane and sprinkle it over the obstinate city.”
She looked at Yldrath.
“Oh you mean the morality of it? That we because of moral principles can’t do so? Why not? Why should others have the right to select what moral principles I should follow?”
She laughed with satisfaction in a long laugh; laughing like at a child who doesn’t understand what grown-ups do.
“Would it be something new in the history when primitive civilizations must make way for more advanced civilizations?”
“You can’t do . . .” Yldrath felt heavy and dumb and had to lean against the wall not to fall. Why could he not think? He heard a whisper . . . something important, but the woman’s words flowed towards him and cut short his efforts to hear the whisper.
“It can be done and it has been done. Not lately on Pohlonnia, I have to admit, but that’s exactly the problem. On Earth many primitive peoples have disappeared and that has paved the way for modern society.”
“That’s not true.”
“Ha, take the Indians for example that were so poor at collecting food that they had to leave the old and weak to die when the tribe moved on, because of their limited resources. Today on the same land, there is created resources in abundance. Wasn’t it good to get rid of those primitive Indians? It’s the same with your world Pohlonnia; it has barely evolved over the last thousand years. What moral principle should then apply? Retaining something that has stagnated or create an energetic dynamic state that grows and can create resources in abundance?”
The words were literally spit out. Her voice went into Yldrath like a sword and struck out his thoughts. He sat down, or, rather fell, on the floor.
“Pohlonnia is a world of great harmony.”
“Baah. Worthless words. Look at yourself. The moment I take away your toys you fall to pieces. History will absolve me if I have to do some drastic things just because you’re so stubborn and downright stupid that you don’t understand your own good or your duty to the future.”
She stretched out her hand, which still held the white stone, at him and pointed. “It’s you who is the villain here. Not me!”
Yldrath looked at her hand and the white stone. Stones. The important something that shouted somewhere inside him was all about stones.
“But I’m a generous victor and I’m willing to forgive because you don’t understand what you do.” She looked down at him and took a few steps towards him. “You’re like a little child.” She smiled at him. “We have been a disobedient and stupid boy, right? But surely, we want to correct the stupid things we’ve done? You’re king of Artos and have much influence. Cooperation is my tune. Shouldn’t it be yours too? Why should we fight? What’s the point in people dying?”
Sweat poured down his face. Bevelug came closer to him, very close; she sat down beside him. He felt a faint scent of flowers and realized to his surprise that she was using perfume. It felt wrong somehow; women like Bevelug should not use perfume. Perfume was used by women like his mother and others who cared about people.
She held the white stone in front of his face. The stone glowed and he began to yearn to come into the stone. The stone! Yldrath made such a great effort to think that he shook.
“Now, why don´t you throw away your broken toys in this bucket? Showing that you’re a good boy, and want to set things right?”
Eternal stones could not be destroyed!
“See come now, what remains is sharp and you can hurt yourself on the pieces. Put your broken necklaces in this bucket, as a token of trust, a new beginning for us both.”
Suddenly he knew, the voice in his mind screamed: ’Eternal stones can’t be destroyed!’ What? Thoughts floated like thick syrup.
The woman’s white stone was a tiny sun, becoming his whole universe; he brought his hand to his necklace. He had to take it off and then his rings.
“That’s my boy.”
He stopped. The woman said something impatiently, but he forced himself to listen to the voice within him. Eternal stones cannot be destroyed! But he had seen it happen? Eternal stones cannot be destroyed!
And she carried no sword which was significant for some reason. It was all like a dream. A dream. If what he saw was a dream? An illusion? Then his stones were not destroyed.
He heard the woman shouting but ignored it. Let’s see now, when using eternal stones . . . first you think of something you hold dear and want to protect, and then you think about what you want to happen. Yldrath thought of Artos and the people who lived there in harmony with themselves and nature. The remains of the stones began to glow.
He watched as the woman reached out towards the glowing shells but then quickly withdrew her hand. He let his image of what he wanted to happen fill his mind: he wished the illusion to disappear.
Excerpt chapter 25 . . .
Yldrath was back in the wagon. A white stone, shining brilliantly, hung in the air in front of him and a silver bucket floated beneath it. He drew his sword and the stone and bucket disappeared out a window. It became pitch dark, but soon his eyes adjusted and he saw starlight leaking in through windows. The violent throbbing headache was just as strong. A sharp, acrid odour of something reminiscent of lilies of the valley irritated his nose. Thoughts still came slowly but easier than when the woman had spoken to him. He was wet as if someone had thrown a couple of buckets of water on him and he staggered when he moved.
A grim smile came across his lips; weak or not, he could still fight. He grasped his necklace and immediately he could see better.
Everyone was there, no, Martin was gone. Horses neighed outside. So, the horses were not part of the illusion, and he found pieces of glass on the floor at the sofa so they were real too. The pungent smell, could it have come from a crushed vial? But how?
He wanted to open the windows to get rid of the poisonous fumes but hesitated; then he heard a faint murmur from the outside. He let his stone give him better hearing.
“I don’t know what happened. The contact was broken just before the control over him was completed.” It was Martin’s voice.
Another voice indistinctly: “No! I don’t know what happened, but, in any case, we gotta get away now.”
“Yepp, time to move to Plan B.” This voice was much darker.
A moan made him turn towards the sofa. It was Dinah. He walked over to her and shook her. When she didn’t wake up, he took out one of his white pills from his silver-like metal box and placed it in her mouth. He found a bottle of banea and poured some of its contents into her mouth. She resisted, but he managed to get her to swallow the pill.
After a short time she opened her eyes.
“Scchh. We’ve been attacked.”
Yldrath helped her to a window, which he cautiously opened.
“We shall see what they’re doing. Do you remember how Podrg helped you to understand our language in the Council Hall? Well, this is like that, but better.”
Dinah nodded and Yldrath put one hand on her shoulder and held onto the eternal stones with the other. He sent out his mind and found an owl sitting on a branch nearby. He interrupted the owl’s plans of taking a vole as a midnight snack. Instead he let the owl approach the horses.
Dinah drew a deep breath and whispered, “I see clearer than with my own eyes!”
Yldrath sensed no danger, so he let the owl fly closer; below them were four horses, Martin, three unknown men, and a large wooden box with a metallic cylinder-like object inside it.
He let the owl fly even closer. There was something written on the cylinder.
“It’s Russian. I learned some of the language when I was studying.”
A man was kneeling at the cylinder, where a small box had been fitted on it. “A really hot gift for our friends in the wagon.”
“Yes, yes. Just make sure to activate it. If I know Bevelug right, she’s angry with us cause her first plan didn’t work. If she becomes pissed she may not open the portal. He picked up a radio transmitter.
The kneeling man looked up. “Done. Just press here, then it will count down to party time.”
“Red to base. Plan B is activated. Confirm.”
It rasped but no response came.
“Red to base. Plan B is activated. Confirm.”
“Base to red. Confirming activation of Plan B; be ready for the portal. Over and out.”
“Over and out.” The man turned to the others.
“Guys, the portal opens up soon and I’ll not miss it for all the oil in Texas. Put the damn machine on five minutes, no seven, I want some extra safety. But for God’s sake, do it when the portal has opened!”
A coarse voice commented. “Real Christmas present, but short party and too hot for me!” The three unknown men laughed.
A bright light turned up next to the men; it blinded the owl and Yldrath lost contact with the bird. They looked out; about two hundred meters from the men a white standing square, like a door, lit up the road and the forest. The horses seemed to be used to the door because they rode through it calmly and then they, the men and the door were gone.
“Did you see what was written on the cylinder?”
“No, but it was in Russian. I’m sure.”
“We must find out what it is.” Yldrath started towards the door but staggered. Dinah helped him. Yldrath fought against his weakness, felt his heart beat fast. He was weak, but decided not to take more pills. There were only three left and he had used them so frequently that one more pill could have the opposite effect.
They arrived panting at the cylinder. The men had been in such a hurry that they had not put the lid back on the wooden box.
Inside the mounted box was a display where numbers were being counted down 3:39, 3:38, 3:37; below this there was a keypad.
“It’s a bomb.” Dinah’s voice was weak and tired.
Yldrath looked at her. “Yes, a bomb. How they could have gotten hold of it I don’t understand but it seems to be a Russian nuclear bomb.” She laughed strangely. “A genuine Russian nuclear bomb, just what’s needed to make a party perfect.”
Yldrath’s thoughts came slow. Damn that Bevelug; the poison she had used had affected him a lot.
“Then we’d better take cover” he began to say, but they must also bring with them Stelldan and Podrg and there was no time for that. Yldrath stared at the numbers that mercilessly counted down: 2:47, 2:46.
“Take cover, Yldrath? With such a bomb? Now we’re going to die Yldrath, but we’ll at least die together Yldrath. I love you so.” Dinah smiled and walked up to him and took his hand.
“Die?” Why did they not leave? Yldrath shook his head.
“Yes, die Yldrath. It’s a nuclear bomb, you see. Didn’t you hear what I said? It will make a big hole.” She laughed, tears streaming down her face.
Nuclear bomb! Yldrath shook, but it was not the night’s cool air meeting his sweat-soaked clothes that made him shake.
“Can the countdown be halted?”
“Should think so, but we probably need a code.”
Dinah bent down and pressed a button. A text appeared ‘Введите код:’
“Yes, it wants a code.”
There could be thousands of possibilities! Millions! They must get away! He reached out for the black patch, but his knapsack with it lay in the carriage.
There was no time to activate the carpet and get everyone on it. What should he do? His thoughts stood still and he cursed Bevelug and all others who were willing to destroy so much and do anything to attain their sick selfish goals.
He checked himself.
To think so didn’t help. There must be something. He squeezed his blue ring, Balfyhmn.
1:41, 1:40, 1:39, 1:38.
A memory of his father came to him; they were out in the forest and walked. ‘You know how to use the words, the ancient words to affect matter. But you can also combine these words into chants and thereby obtain a quicker and greater effect. This will give you great power but will severely drain you so you should never . . . ‘ Yldrath pushed away the memory.
1:20, 1:19, 1:18.
He clutched his necklace. “Come!” He took her hand and started running and at the same time he began to sing. Small symbols formed and followed them. They ran with pain in chests and legs, and he chanted high and melodiously. He fell and got up.
0:26, 0:25, 0:24.
The symbols formed a cloud. It started to turn black before his eyes.
They were inside the wagon. “Embrace us!” Yldrath threw himself on Stelldan and Podrg and hugged them. Dinah did the same. Yldrath shouted a word and the cloud of symbols formed a sphere that enveloped them; it became pitch black. The surface of the sphere felt cold and smooth, as if made of glass. Yldrath continued to chant, sending symbols into the sphere.
They were pressed hard against the sphere and it began to glow below them, on what was now their flooring. The floor soon shone fiercely and they were pressed against it until they gasped for breath and the hard surface hurt their bodies.
The pressure eased and after a while they hovered weightlessly inside the sphere. Time passed in a state of shock.
The light grew fainter, redder, and it became hot inside the sphere. Dinah looked at Yldrath that still hugged Podrg and Stelldan. His lips moved and Dinah moved closer to hear what he said.
“Dinah, I have used all my strength.” Yldrath swallowed. “You must finish this.”
Dinah looked at him. “I? I can’t,” she started to say, but Yldrath grabbed one of her hands so hard that it hurt.
“We don’t have time to discuss. You love me, so you can use my eternal stones. Use them!” He released her hand.
“Here.” He laid his necklace in her right hand. She looked at the burgundy stones that shone invitingly; it was like holding his heart, and she loved them. He put her other hand over them as a cover. “You’re united to the eternal stones through your love. Trust in them and they’ll lead you. Do this,” Yldrath closed his eyes and for a moment Dinah thought he had fainted.
“Think of something you love and how much you love it, and then ask for help to understand how to rescue what you love.” Yldrath closed his eyes. “Then they’ll guide you. Ehl’Ge’tild.” He became limp.
Dinah shook him but to no avail. Dinah felt on his neck; it was pale, wet and cold. She could not feel a pulse, but she saw how he breathed jerkily. Dinah looked at the beautiful stones in her hand, which he had entrusted to her.
“I love you Yldrath and this world,” she said quietly and squeezed the stones hard. Nothing happened. Dinah tried to focus.
“Please, stones or whatever you are. Please.”
She sobbed. Tears came. Why was it so easy to cry in this world? In her own world, she almost never cried. She had been a good girl, and then a professional woman. Perhaps it had something to do with the air? She laughed and smiled, she could use some humour.
It became darker inside the sphere. The faint red light coming from the burgundy stones made it possible to discern Yldrath, but not much more. Suddenly, she realized she was weightless and that she felt sick. She took deep slow breaths using a technique for breathing she had learned when meditating. Slowly she felt better.
She hugged the stones and an image came to her, very clear: a small orb that moved high above a planet. The planet resembled Earth seen from space, but had other continents and oceans. And the oceans occupied less area than on Earth. She understood that this was the planet Pohlonnia and that the tiny white orb she saw was their sphere. She wanted to get closer to the orb and obediently this happened, the orb became larger.
The orb was on its way down and she knew that she must bring it down safely. But how? She tried to control the orb but nothing happened.
Thin air high above the planet hit the orb and they were pushed against the inside of the sphere. Dinah felt sick again but the feeling of heaviness eased that feeling. She tried to control the orb again and again but to no use, except that the perspective in the image of their journey changed. The pressure against the “floor” increased and the orb leaped to at times. She could see how the orb turned red on the outside where it met the atmosphere, but inside the sphere it was dead quiet and the temperature didn’t increase. It was already warm though. The pressure increased.
She heard someone groan. It was Stelldan.
“Stelldan!” Stelldan groaned again but didn’t answer. Sounds echoed inside the orb and were distorted, so it was difficult to figure out from where a sound came. She didn’t want to die alone in the dark. She wanted to have light! Instantly there was light; so the eternal stones could at least give her light! Stelldan was next to her and she kicked him in the shin with her foot as hard as she could.
Stelldan cried out and this time he woke up. “Where are we? Ohh my head.”
Dinah focused on the image; they approached the ground rapidly – too rapidly – and she could see some details on the ground.
“Just listen, Stelldan. I haven’t time tell you all that has happened. You must use the power of your eternal stones to help me land.”
“Land?” Stelldan’s voice was indistinct, sighing.
“Just do it! Help me!”
Stelldan looked with eyes that didn’t focus.
“Just do it! Grab the stones with one hand and hold your other hand on my shoulder and do what you must do to get the stones to work.”
Stelldan looked uncomprehendingly at her.
“Think of something you love! Let the power of the stones help us land!” Stelldan flinched and grabbed his necklace and her shoulder.
Dinah could a forest under them. They were heading straight for a little hill. A lake lay beyond the hill; maybe they could land there?
She focused but nothing happened. She bit her lip so blood came. Surely, the orb changed direction? A bit? Yes! Towards the lake! The lake! Slowly! Please slow down! The orb changed direction towards the lake and at the same time a crushing weight pulled them downwards; their speed decreased, but the orb was still going too fast.
+ + + + + + + + + + ++++++++++++++ + + + + + + + + + +
Excerpt chapter 46 . . .
Yldrath woke up with a sense of being monitored. The white fetter around his ankle probably had something to do with it but how it worked he couldn’t guess. He crept closer to the wall and pulled the blanket over him so that he created a small space in front of his face. Silently he whispered an ancient word and a symbol appeared, but it immediately fell apart into small pieces and disappeared. He tried again and again until he was sweating.
If he made a very small symbol? That went better and a tiny symbol, which didn’t fall apart, was formed in front of him. He uttered a word and the symbol disappeared into his body; Yldrath closed his eyes.
‘Hallaldelh?’ Weakly he perceived ‘Yes, I’m here.’ Yldrath opened his eyes; he didn’t seem to attract attention, so he closed his eyes again. ‘Hallaldelh?’ The same words came to him, ‘Yes, I’m here.’
He sank deeper and deeper into himself. ‘Hallaldelh, do you know where my other eternal stones are?’ No answer. A friend had his father called Hallaldelh; Yldrath tried to frame his thought as to a friend. ‘Hallaldelh, do you know where my other eternal stones are?’ Weakly but clearly he heard a ‘Yes.’
‘Can you show me where they are?’ Yldrath saw the blue eternal stone, Balfyhmn, on his right hand. Then he saw the other eternal stones and their swords lying in a house next to the house where they had been.
‘Balfyhmn is not on my finger.’ He was answered with the same image.
A sound from the door caused him to lose his concentration, but it was just someone who tested that the door was locked. Yldrath looked at his right hand where no trace could be seen of his blue ring. He stroked the finger where Balfyhmn used to be, but he could not touch the skin on the finger; the ring was thus still there, but had hidden itself!
Yldrath sank into his meditative state again. ‘Hallaldelh, do you know where my friends are?’ He saw his body filled with a tremendous amount of thin bright shining lines. ‘Am Hallaldelh.’ The words came softly and in a way that he had never heard it before, like a song that smiled at him, ‘Am Há – allh – áh – hà – hald – é – ellh.’
Images came of those who had come with him on the aircraft, but not of Komdeg; his friends were in a room in the same barrack as he, but at the other end. Yldrath tried to figure out how he could get in contact with them, but was interrupted by a new image: he saw Pohlonnia from space. A brief moment he hovered above the planet and then it shrank rapidly. He travelled past stars with indescribable speed until a new planet appeared as a dot. The dot became large and he looked on Koplon. He hovered briefly over the planet and then fell so abruptly that he instinctively raised his hands to protect himself. The city Koplan appeared and he was quickly carried right through walls into a large room. The room was simple and symmetrically decorated like an abstract painting; only a few scrawny plants in a couple of pots in a corner disturbed the abstract symmetry. A woman was sleeping on a round bed; Dinah. Yldrath called out to her but nothing happened. He tried to walk towards her and this brought him closer to her.
‘Dinah!’ She moved restlessly in her sleep.
‘Dinah!’ She woke up and looked straight at him.
‘Yldrath? Are you here? Where are you?’
“Right in front of you.’
“Yldrath, are you really here? I hear you, but I can’t see you.’
Dinah puckered her eyebrows and looked around.
‘Há – allh – áh – hà – hald – é – ellh.’ Yldrath sang the name. ‘I can reach you through Hallaldelh.’
The door was torn up so fast that it slammed against the wall and Yldrath awoke from his meditative state with a start. It ached from his foot where the white fetter was. Several soldiers arrived.
“He’s doing something tricky, sure as sure as my name is Istanov. Be careful.”
“Shall we give him a shot so he falls asleep?” A young soldier dressed in freshly pressed military uniforms directed his cylinder towards Yldrath.
“No, Dr Igerfeldt wants to talk to the fella tomorrow.”
Istanov looked disapprovingly at Yldrath.
“Call Dr Melcovic, maybe he can figure out what’s going on.”
Dr Melcovic proved to be a middle-aged thin man with glasses and a beard. A white coat hung sloppily on him; the pockets were bursting with note pads, technical devices and other things in a formidable mess.
“Well?” Melcovic looked impatiently at Istanov.
“We got an alarm, but everything seems to be in order.”
Yldrath sat up. “Heck no! Here I’m trying to sleep but my foot starts to ache from that fetter you put on my ankle and then you storm into the room; is this some kind of torture to keep me from sleeping?”
“The alarm! Let me see the alarm codes,” said Melcovic.
Istanov indicated to a soldier to hand over a flat device with a display to Melcovic. His hands shook slightly but he got control over them and began to press different buttons.
“I see. Hm. Aha. Strange.” Melcovic studied the display carefully; sometimes he looked at Yldrath while he chatted to himself and pressed a button now and then. Finally he gave the unit back to the soldier, but so carelessly that the soldier almost dropped it. “Look out idiot!” Melcovic’s voice went up into a falsetto. He turned to Istanov and cleared his throat, “The explosive charge in the fetter has not been armed, but the sensors indicate that he has used eternal stones. The charts show it clearly. Very clearly, I would say, although Dr Mueller, of course, must be consulted on the matter.”
“What eternal stones? You’ve stolen them!” Yldrath took a step towards Melcovic.
“Take it easy!” Istanov pointed a cylinder towards Yldrath.
Melcovic scratched at his beard absently. “Perhaps it’s best to give him a shot anyway just in case.”
The young neatly dressed soldier raised his cylinder and pointed it towards Yldrath.
“Wait!” Melcovic looked straight at Yldrath. “Yldrath! Yldrath! Bevelug is great. Hear her words: Est Pervert Pervertum Inhill Yldrath.” Melcovic repeated the words.
Yldrath felt as he was falling. ‘Hallaldelh, what’s happening?’
‘When you were knocked out Bevelug planted an eternal stone in your body to gain control over you; that’s why she was so sure you would agree to her proposal, but I have it under control. Just play along with them. I’ll help you.’
Melcovic repeated the words a third time.
“I hear and I obey Bevelug, for it’s the right thing to do.” Yldrath stood still and stared straight ahead without blinking.
“Good. Tell us what you did.”
“I’ll tell you everything and show everything. Please see here.” He held his hands in front of him as in prayer.
“Poor thing, he prays to us.” Istanov laughed hoarsely and the other soldiers smiled mockingly at Yldrath.
“Well, tell me then!” Melcovic sounded pleased.
“See here.” Yldrath took a few steps towards Melcovic and suddenly hugged him.
“He’s in love!” Several soldiers laughed.
Yldrath said two words; they entered the Shadowland together and fell through the floor. The air from his lungs was forced out but it only lasted a few seconds and then they were back from Shadowland, but under the barracks, in a space between the barracks and the ground.
“A trick!” Melcovic’s cry was mixed with startled exclamations from the soldiers in the room above them.
“Well, a bit of drama and a little of our technology. As an engineer and scientist, you ought to appreciate the demonstration.”
“I couldn’t breathe!”
“You survived, didn’t you? I was not quite sure you would.”
A beeping came from his fetter.
“They have primed the explosive charge. We’ll die!” Melcovic tried to pull away from Yldrath but Yldrath held the man in an iron grip.
“Get off me! Your fetter will explode!”
“Hallaldelh, can you protect me?’
‘Yes, but it will hurt.” A bag of light formed around his fetter, and then came a loud bang; it felt as if he had jumped from a high tower and landed on only one leg. He tried to move his leg, but it was numb. Debris rained down on them when the barrack over them partly collapsed. Yldrath put his hands around Melcovic, said the words and a moment they were in the Shadowland again. They came out under another part of the barrack that was still intact.
“What is it you’re doing?” Melcovic inhaled audibly and held both hands around his neck. He was bright red in the face. “I’m bleeding. I’m dying!”
Yldrath examined him briefly. “There are only a few small wounds on you. You’ll survive. Concentrate on the scientific aspect of what’s happening.” Yldrath smiled, it felt good to be the one initiating action again, instead of just being a prisoner.
“What did you say? I can’t hear you! And now it starts ringing in my ears as well. I! I! I!”
Yldrath struck him across the face; it was complicated enough as it was without Melcovic becoming hysterical. Melcovic quietly began to cry like a baby, muttering incoherently, “Poor Melcovic, poor me.”
“Hallaldelh. How do I get my ring Balfyhmn back?’
‘Do as you always do.’
Yldrath thought of something he loved and then that he needed Balfyhmn back and suddenly the blue ring was there on his finger. His numb leg began to pain but he noticed he could now move it some.
Melcovic didn’t react so Yldrath tugged at him and used his blue ring to make him understand. They crept to another place under the barrack; if only his friends were still there.
“There they are!” A powerful flashlight shone on them. “No, goddamn it, don’t shoot them. Make them fall asleep!”
Istanov’s angry voice reached them at the same time Yldrath uttered his words, the Shadowland with its vacuum a few seconds, and then they were in the room above.
“Hey! Puhh. Shadowland without proper eternal stones is not a nice place to be in.”
They were in a slightly larger room than Yldrath had been locked up in. Melcovic coughed in several violent fits of coughing and then began to cry quietly again.
“What have you dragged with you Yldrath?” said Podrg with a wide smile.
In an instant Hamnyah was at Yldrath’s side. “Yldrath is injured.”
“It’s nothing serious.” Yldrath stretched his arm towards her for help to get up but it became a hug instead; it felt really good to hug her. Reluctantly he made himself free, but kept her hand.
“Stymnas, guard our friend here. If he does something stupid, just knock him out. He’s small, so I’m sure we can carry him without trouble.” Yldrath turned to Podrg. “He’s an interesting source of information. Now, we need to get out of here and preferably with our eternal stones. Have any of you got a fetter around an ankle or elsewhere?”
No one had, but Yldrath used his blue ring Balfyhmn to check anyway.
“You’ll not escape. Hahaha.” Melcovic’s voice came croaking.
“And why not?”
“Bevelug has your signum. Your signum, so say goodbye to hope, and I’ll die too. Bevelug doesn’t like it when things go wrong.” Melcovic started to laugh, but abruptly stopped and returned to his quiet weeping.
“If you will come with us and help us, we’ll protect you.”
Melcovic looked at Yldrath and something lit up in his eyes but it died. “You can’t protect me; Bevelug is too powerful, I’ve seen what she can do.”
There was no time to try to make him understand; Melcovic had simply lived too long under too much stress and threat.
“What’s a signum?”
“It’s used to track a person and to listen to what he says and sees if the distance is not too great. A signum ages, but Bevelug has taken new ones of you and of course on everyone else. On me, for example.”
“You do this tracing with a machine?”
“Yes, the machine is in the mushroom shaped tower you saw outside.” Melcovic was calm, resigned. “It doesn’t matter; I’ve already got two warnings, and I doubt I will get a third one, although I know a lot about eternal stones. She . . . She doesn’t like it when you fail.”
Footsteps were heard outside the door.
Yldrath let his blue ring shine on a wall and uttered a few words.
“And keep our new friend quiet.”
Stymnas put his hand over Melcovic’s mouth and held him in an iron grip. The door opened and three soldiers entered.
“Look, they have smashed the wall and escaped! No one is here.”
Istanov followed with two other soldiers and looked at the wall. “The very devil! Get out and search around the house!”
A siren began to howl somewhere.
“What did you do?” asked Podrg.
“I created an illusion showing a large hole and created a smell of smoke. It wouldn’t have worked if they had shone on us with a flashlight, but it’s time we get our share of luck, don’t you agree?”
Two other soldiers came in, but Yldrath and Podrg knocked them down before they realized what was going on.
“Stymnas and Podrg change clothes with them; their clothes will fit you best.”
“Melcovic, now listen to me: We’ll bring you to safety.” Yldrath let his blue ring shine on the man and tried to reach his mind. Melcovic didn’t resist much; he was already a broken man.
“We’ll let Melcovic go first in the lead with Hamnyah beside him. I and Szarack will follow behind them, and our two new guards will go last. Keep your cylinders in readiness. Go!”
“But how do they work?”
“Seems simple,” said Szarack and pressed a button; something flew away from the cylinder, missed Yldrath and hit the wall with a sharp sound, twaang, followed by a static spluttering.
“The needle is electric and also contains poison.” Melcovic’s voice was toneless.
“Well then, now we know. Let’s go!”
They came out into a corridor. The front door was open and they heard shouted commands and the howling siren that now did its best to drown out all other sounds.
They went to the front door; outside were three soldiers.
“It’s Ok Sergei, the prisoners have been caught and Yldrath is under my control.” Melcovic’s words came slowly.
The soldiers hesitated and gave Stymnas and Podrg time enough to give each soldier a dose from their cylinders; the soldiers fell like ninepins. A truck was standing a few hundred meters from the house and Yldrath decided to go to it.
“Do you know how to drive this thing?” asked Szarack.
“No, but I saw many of these when I was on Dinah’s planet; it can’t be that difficult because everyone seemed to have one, or something similar, but smaller, and everyone knew how to drive them. You start it by turning a key and you increase the speed by pressing a pedal at your feet. You control it with a steering wheel.”
“Can’t you drive it with your ring?”
“If there is a driver, I can make him or her drive it.” But, then he was struck by a thought. ‘Hallaldelh, do you know how to drive this vehicle?’ The answer came at once, and did it not sound as if Hallaldelh chuckled? ‘No, but I can guess that there is a brake somewhere.’
Their pleasant conversation was interrupted by two soldiers. “You there! Where are you going?”
“To Bevelug as quickly as we can!” said Stymnas.
The soldiers fell obediently under Stymnas and Podrg’s well-targeted fire. Yldrath opened the door to the truck. “There’s a key! Our luck holds! Stymnas and Podrg bring our new friend up on the truck bed, I’ll drive. Shoot at everything that comes near.”
Yldrath sat down at the wheel, Szarack in the middle and Hamnyah at the other door.
“I don’t want to go with you!” A thud was heard from the truck bed; Melcovic groaned and fell silent. Shouts could be heard from soldiers running towards them. Yldrath turned the key and the truck made a tiny leap forward and then stopped.
“Is that all?”
“Well, Szarack, I suggest you do something too; press and push the controls.” The light came on, the wipers began wiping, it blinked and honked but the car didn’t move.
“You talked about pedals; there are pedals at your feet!”
Yldrath turned the key and pressed a pedal; the engine started but they didn’t move. Yldrath tried the key again; it sounded terrible, but they didn’t move.
The shouts of the soldiers were now very close. Yldrath found the accelerator pedal and stepped on it too; the engine roared, but still they didn’t move.
“Perhaps you should let go of a pedal?” Yldrath did that and the rear wheels started spinning so gravel spurted; they moved. Yldrath held the accelerator pedal at the bottom; the engine roared like crazy.
“We are not moving very fast and should it roar like this?” screamed Szarack.
“I think I’m getting the feel of it, and we are moving! Try and pull that lever. On Earth they used to move it when they changed speed.” Yldrath pointed to the shift lever.
“Where everyone could drive these things and it could not be that difficult.”
“Don’t be impertinent, just pull it!”
Szarack pulled the lever, it crashed, the engine began to rush, but the truck slowed down. The soldiers came closer but were felled by fire from Podrg and Stymnas.
“Yldrath! We have run out of arrows!” Podrg’s shouting could barely be heard over the engine roar.
Hamnyah covered her ears. ”I don’t think you’re doing this quite right!”
“Nah! Me neither!” Yldrath could not help but laugh.
Szarack pulled frantically at the shift lever; it creaked loudly in the gearbox, and they began to move again and the engine roar fell.
Yldrath drove towards the exit, but then turned so sharply that he lost control of the truck for a moment; but he succeeded in targeting the truck towards the corner of a house.
“The eternal stones are in that house; I’m crashing into it. We must get them with us!” The house approached rapidly.
Copyright © Stefan B Sigfried 2014