Friday, May 30, 2014

Flash Friday #96: Surviving Elsewhere, Part 45-- The End

(Link to part 44)

While we stared upward, a crack appear in the dome above us, which was bad enough, but then I remembered we were deep within a mountain. More than just the ceiling stood above us.
"I suggest," Edmond said, his voice quite calm. "That we run."
A fine mist of dust fell. The ceiling cracked more in a fine spiderweb pattern.
We all turned to the exit, but Darman stood between us and that doorway. He brought his rifle up again and smiled.
"Well, this works out much better than I hoped!" The smile never wavered as he took a step back. "Goodbye."
Maggie grabbed my arm and Davis had hold of her. The cats looked to the rifle and then to the water, as though they weren't sure which was the worse. Lord Cayman gave a quick glance to the galleries, but they'd mostly emptied already. I wondered if we could get up there and out the way they had gone --
My father put a hand on my shoulder. "You are Sanctioned as a Protector."
I felt an odd stirring inside me, as though something came awake. Nothing scary; I felt more alive, but also far too aware of all the problems around us from the creature in the water to the cracking ceiling and to Uncle Darman with the rifle.
He still smiled as he fired at the ceiling, followed by a splash of magic; some of the ceiling turned to molten stone. I leapt backwards, tottering on the edge of the platform as glowing rock fell and steamed in the water. I saw the water creature hastily heading off and movement in the gallery where the last of our witnesses escaped. More rock fell, one hitting me on the shoulder and knocking me to my knees. Then I heard a distant rumble --
Darman disappeared into the dark, but we'd never make it out the doorway. Rock fell to cover the exit.
"Through The Veil!" Lord Cayman shouted.
A rock knocked him down. I reached for him, but Lord Snow grabbed him by the tunic and half threw him into the air so he fell across the big cat's back.
"We must go!" Lord Snow shouted.
He leapt through the curtain of lights at the other end of the platform.
Maggie made a sound of dismay. "We should have gone together!"
She still had tight hold of my arm. Davis had hold of her. I grabbed Edmond who gave a great sigh of relief, as though we would have left him behind.
"We must jump," Maggie said.
A huge boulder fell behind us, the platform cracking. Larger rocks fell around us, some sending up sprays of water. And worse, I saw the light curtain -- what I realized was our escape -- had begun to darken along the edges.
"I'll use magic. I'll get us through!" Maggie shouted.
"This just isn't going to be good," Edmond sighed and buried his head in my arm.
We leapt. I turned my head a little and saw a wall of rock come down where we'd been standing less than a heartbeat before. A chunk caught me again, this time in the back of the leg. I bent over Edmond to make certain he remained safe.
We fell into the light.
What had seemed like a wall of light changed as we passed the threshold. Colorful tendrils caught at us, trying to pull one way or another. I knew now why we needed to hold on to each other. I worried about Lord Snow and . . . My father. I couldn't see them.
Maggie's fingers dug into my arm. I realized she'd been talking. I'd never heard her.
"Focus!" she shouted, but the word echoed oddly around me. "Focus!"
I didn't know what I was supposed to focus on, but then I decided to just keep my eyes on her. avis had pulled in closer and wrapped an arm around my waist so we were in a circle of three, our heads close together and Edmond safe in the middle of us.
"Must find a way out," Davis said. He looked one way and another. Light everywhere, the shades different, but nothing that looked like a path back. Could we go back? Not a good idea, with the mountain falling.
"Where go?" I managed to say. I realized Edmond was hanging limply in my arms, but I could feel him breathing. "Must go."
"Yes." Maggie looked pale. She closed her eyes and I thought she might be close to fainting. Then she looked back at me, her eyes narrowed. "This way. Not back -- can't go back. This way."
We didn't argue. Out was important. The light grabbed at us, pulling and I thought maybe taking energy as well. I wanted to see Lord Snow. Yes, and Lord Cayman, but Snow was my ally. I wanted help.
Maggie kept us moving, her wings fluttering with distress and I could feel her growing weaker. Davis fed her power, but she could hardly move. I didn't know what to do. I only knew they were my friends and I needed to protect them --
Power flowed from me into all three. We moved, and very quickly. It felt almost as though The Veil kicked us out with such a shove that we flew more than a yard before the three of us went down on our knees. Darkness fell behind us and The Veil disappeared.
This wasn't anywhere I knew. The dark night sky was littered with a thousand stars, brighter than any I'd ever seen. A multi-colored nebula hung off to the right over a huge moon sitting on a horizon of craggy mountains and snow.
A city of glass towers floated in the sky.
"This -- this isn't Elsewhere, is it?" I asked.
Maggie shook her head. "We're . . . Somewhere Else."
But we were together. We would survive.
Edmond finally lifted his head as something huge swept across the sky. 
"Well this can't be good," he sighed.

The End

Thank you for reading Surviving Elsewhere. I plan to take up the tale again in Escaping Somewhere Else in 2015, followed by Saving Elsewhere in 2016.   Surviving Elsewhere will also be available in ebook in the next few months.  
I hope to see you when the next set begins! Thank you again!  For the immediate future I will be going back to stand alone flash fiction for the Friday entry.

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Flash Friday #95: Surviving Elsewhere, Part 44-- Confrontation

(Link to part 43)

Creston's eyes glittered with joy and anger. Darman, I told myself. Uncle. He wanted to kill me because I had killed his son.
Except it wasn't that easy of an answer now.
"I'm sorry I killed your son," I began, trying to feel my way through this new problem.
"Son!" He gave a hooting laugh. "That creature was no blood of mine. I don't mate with human animals."
My hands curled into fists. No use saying anything to this person. The rifle was still steady. He was going to kill me. After all I'd been through to get here, my enemy walked in right behind me and would finish the job.
"No, Darman. You are not going to do this."
Lord Cayman stepped forward. Lord Snow crouched on his haunches, his lips curled in a snarl that made him look so much like an animal in the wild, that I took a step away from him.
"You're too late to stop me, brother," Darman said. His voice almost purred. "I've set matters in motion, and this bastard halfling is not going to be any help."
"What have you done?" Cayman said, his voice gone soft.
I could feel power moving through the area, a wave of warmth that grew to heat with the emotions of all the others in the area getting out of control. Lord Cayman looked at the gallery to the right and gave a wave of his hand. I still hadn't seen what might be there, but in a moment the emotions eased back and I felt as though I could breathe again.
Darman smiled. I had never seen so evil a look before. Knowing now that he wasn't even human made it all the worse. How had I not seen it before? But then I hadn't seen it in myself, either.
I had no idea what to do. The rifle remained aimed at me, even when he looked away. I suspected he was trying to lure me into doing something unwise. I wasn't going to be that easy to trick.
"I was a long time over the other side," he said suddenly. I could hear the contempt in his voice. "I had seen, you know. I have the gift too. I knew you had sired some half-breed on a willing mare --"
My hands formed into fists once more, but I was suddenly aware that he was not aiming this at me. Lord Cayman -- my father -- took a step up beside me, and I saw in his face the same hatred that I felt. Odd to feel so akin to him suddenly.
"What have you done?" Lord Cayman asked again, and this time I felt a wave of worry from him, strong enough to almost be a power. This wasn't good.
"Little Tommy Creston was not my only project, you know. I knew there was a child of your blood over there somewhere. I started by making something I thought would draw him out. Then I realized I could do more. I could build an army of weres and bring them back across when I was ready to take over Elsewhere."
I thought about Tommy and what he had done, killing those others. Had he left those creatures loose in my world? In my human world -- I still felt a connection to that place, even though I'd been here for days now. I couldn't go back and be what I had been -- but I couldn't leave them defenseless against those creatures.
Protector. It was my purpose.
And the rifle never turned away from me, the muzzle pointed unerringly at my heart. Magic, I supposed, perhaps fueled by nothing more than his hatred of me.
"You cannot win," Cayman said. He had taken a step forward, his fingers brushing against my arm in a warning to stay back. "Killing my son will not win you my position. I'll make certain of that, Darman."
"Killing the boy is only secondary now," he said with a laugh. "You haven't been listening. I went across to kill your whelp, but I learned I could do far better than simply make certain you had no heir. No, I'm going to kill him simply for the joy of watching you, brother. And then I'm going to return to the other side and kill his bitch mother and all her other children, just for the joy of it --"
He had failed to take two things into account. First was that the rifle stayed aimed at me, his hand on the trigger -- and not at my father. He had taunted us both with those words, but Lord Cayman moved first, shouting words of power and sending a bolt of pure lightning that surely would have killed Darman. Instead, he waved it away, but his finger moved on the trigger at the same time. I'd expected it. I threw myself down and to the side, thinking the water would be better if I could make it that far. I didn't have much hope of moving faster than a bullet though.
And this is where Darman learned the second thing he had not taken into account.
I had allies.
Three things happened at once.
Maggie stopped the bullet, just as she had that first day.
Lord Snow roared and rushed forward leaping past me.
Davis shoved me down to the ground. I was aware that the bullet went past a heartbeat later, still too damned close. The lightning my father had fired was deflected away and shot up into the ceiling. Bits of stone fell along with a scattering of lights that burnt when one touched my arm. Magic filled the area from everywhere. I could barely see anything.
Edmond leapt past me and launched himself at Darman, just as Lord Snow had. I scrambled to my feet, a hand on Davis and a nod of thanks. I could barely see now --
And then we heard the ceiling crack.
Everyone stopped and looked upward.

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Flash Friday #94: Surviving Elsewhere, Part 43-- Stonewild 5

(Link to part 42)

I had tried to grab Edmond out of the way of the magic and slipped as I caught hold of him. We both flailed and plowed into Lord Cayman.
We all three headed for the water.
Maggie gave a shout. "Watch out for the --"
And I hit the water.
I had let go of Edmond in the hopes he would suddenly grow wings and fly off. He landed in the water to my right and went straight under with me. I didn't see Lord Cayman, who may have saved himself the dunking.
Beneath the surface I found a glow of blue water, stands of large green plants, which I immediately expected to try to grab hold of me. They only seemed to be moving in the current we were creating. Bubbles rose up and swirled all around us
Watch out for what?
I didn't plan on sticking around to find out. I made a dive at Edmond since he still appeared to be going downward and was a bit frantic now, all four legs flailing. I pushed towards him, aware suddenly, that I wasn't having any trouble breathing. Magic, I realized. My own magic, in fact. I could feel it like a cocoon spread over me. I was quick to grab Edmond and pull him close, hoping that my magic would help him, too. He grabbed tight hold of me -- claws going straight through my shirt -- and I headed upward.
Something moved to the left, at the base of the stone outcropping where we had been standing. Edmond glanced that way and then tried to bury himself inside my shirt. I figured that meant we were in danger.
No surprise there.
I kicked upward, but the creature, much larger than me, moved out out of the plants and cut us off. Human-shaped, but fish-like in some ways, and reptilian in others. The huge, long-fingered hands caught me by the ankles and yanked us back downward.
"Going so soon, visitor?"
I clearly heard the words his mouth made. So I took a deep breath and answered, hoping I could talk my way out of this, and hoping Edmond was not drowning. The creature had let go of my legs, and I bobbed there looking at his alien face with the dark set eyes that never blinked.
"Sorry. Didn't mean to disturb you," I said trying to sound polite and strong at the same time. I had the distinct feeling you didn't want to sound like prey to this one. "I'll be on my way."
"Of course," the creature said. "But you will leave that lovely tidbit behind."
His long arm reached out towards Edmond, who dug his claws in even deeper. "Everything hates me today," the cat said, relieving me of fear about him drowning at least."
The hand drew back in surprise.
"It talks."
"Yes," I said. I tried to inch away slightly and glanced up at the water above us. No more than two yards. I might be able to shove Edmond up and out. The stone outcropping we had stood on wasn't far away.
But oddly, the creature had pulled back. "I could not eat something that speaks to me. Go. Go quickly."
He fled before I did.
I didn't waste time. With Edmond holding on tightly, I kicked upward and reached for the stone above us. My hand broke water and someone caught hold of me. I almost jerked away out of habit, but I could see Davis through the water, and Maggie reaching beside him. I pushed Edmond up and Maggie caught the cat and pulled him close while Davis drew me up out of the water.
Lord Cayman was sitting on the stone a few feet away, looking as wet and disheveled as me. I hadn't seen him in the water. He must have gotten out of it fast. I expected him to be angry, but instead he looked perplexed.
"Why did you do such a thing?" he asked. "Why risk so much for the cat? The power was mine to give and take."
I didn't remind him that I had no idea I was risking anything more than a dunking in the water, because even if I had known the danger, I would have done the same thing.
"Edmond is a thinking creature," I said. Maggie was holding the cat close to her, clearly afraid for him. "It doesn't matter if you gave him that ability; he is intelligent. I couldn't let you hurt him."
"Protector," Davis said with a nod to Lord Cayman. "You should have fully considered what that meant."
"But -- a cat --"
"I trust that cat," I said. "He's done a hell of a lot more to help me than you have."
That shut him up. I was aware, once more, of our audience. I still couldn't see more than a few moving shadows, but I knew they were taking every word. Lord Cayman stood. So did I.
"I was told I had to stand before the Council to be Sanctioned in my role as Protector. I was told I have been tested before I arrived here. What do we need to do now?" I asked. Straightforward. Make this professional.
He gave a single nod and I knew we understood each other.
"The vote," he said, and waved towards the gallery and then to the glowing crystal. Light played from his hand, white and pure. I heard Maggie give a small sigh of relief and knew this was a good sign.
Light streamed down to the crystal while I stood there dripping water. A dozen, two dozen -- more -- and they were all white. The crystal glowed brighter and I was starting to believe that at least one part of this was over.
Then Lord Cayman looked past me and straightened. "I expected you before this, brother."
I turned to see Darman -- only I knew him as Sheriff Creston.
And he still had his rifle, aiming at me.

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Thursday, May 08, 2014

Flash Friday #93: Surviving Elsewhere, Part 42-- Stonewild 4

(Link to part 41)

I stared at the man -- the fae -- who claimed to be my father. Too young, I thought -- but he was fae. Maggie's wings were doing more than fluttering now. I feared she was going to spread them wide and knock us all into the water.
Lord Cayman stared at me with appraisal. I could see why people thought I was oriental now, seeing his almond eyes and dark hair. "You did well to get here with so little trouble."
"And with no help from you," I added, which may not have been the best first words to a father.
His eyes narrowed slightly. "I dared not give you too much help or else my brother would have killed you out of hand. He could have and taken the consequences if he'd known you were this important."
The last of that statement sent a chill through me. "Important."
"My son," he said, as though that explained everything.
I glanced at Maggie, my guide in all of this. She glanced at Lord Cayman, who gave a little wave of his hand, an obvious sign that she should explain things. Then he walked back to the metal pole and put his hands on it. The light brightened.
"There are a dozen high lords," she said quickly. "And each has only two children in their lifetime. That he chose one to be half human --" She stopped and shook her head. "I don't understand that part. Lord Cayman is a High Lord and sits on the council. His brother, Darman, has always wanted that post, but he wouldn't get it if he simply killed his brother. No one would accept him. I don't know what that means for you."
"Does he have another child?" I asked.
She shrugged.
"I do not," Lord Cayman replied. He stepped away from the pole and looked me over again. "Fae do not have children on a whim. We must be bonded with the fae of our choice. It is not a bond we can easily break, either."
"Does that apply to a human mate as well?" I asked, thinking of my mother.
"Peggy was a star in the darkness," Cayman said. "She took me in, she sheltered me at a time of grave danger. Yes, I love her very much."
Those could have just been words, but they were not. I could feel the truth in what he said. Could fae trick me that way? Maybe so, but at the moment, it was better that I accept and move on. We could have a serious family discussion at another time.
"She's married. She has other children," I said.
His eyes flickered. "I know. I've watched over you and her, as best I dared."
"Why me?" I finally asked. "What am I supposed to do?"
"Years ago, in the way humans count time, before you were born --" He stopped and looked around. I was aware of fae watching us from the gallery, though I couldn't see them. I suspected judgments were passed, and not just on me. "I had a vision of disaster; of a darkness spreading across Elsewhere, and destroying everything good. I wasn't the only one who had visions in those days, but mine were more than simple forebodings about the future. I didn't tell the others. I was aware that we had a problem within our own group and that I was the problem."
"You were going to bring the darkness?" Maggie asked, obviously shocked.
"No, not intentionally. But it was linked through me --"
"Uncle Darman," I said.
He gave a quick nod. "Visions are warnings. They future can be changed. I started planning for how to change what I had seen. The first step was to allow Darman to think he was winning. I confronted him and planned to make a strategic retreat and draw him into a trap where I would hold him. He was smarter than that; he wounded me and I barely escaped into the human world."
"To my mother."
"It was fated," he said with a soft smile I hadn't expected. "But if I had stayed any longer, then Darman would have claimed my position. I dared not show much interest in what was happening on the other side, either. To that purpose I gave Edmond the gift of Visions and speech so that he could do what I could not."
"Ah," Edmond said. "That's why you were always so interested in Maggie and me."
"I blocked this from you, Edmond, though I always nudged you in that direction," he said and then looked back at me. "You want to know why you are here. You arrived before I expected. I hadn't seen the trouble in the human world, and quite honestly, it bothers me. It shows someone interfering with that side, and I suspect it is Darman."
"Why would he -- to flush me out?" I asked.
"If he suspected you existed, yes. And he might have felt your presence, so close to Elsewhere's entrance. He might well have released weres on that side because they would have had the best chance of finding you. But from what I can tell, they have gotten out of hand. Not that he'd care."
"So what does that mean for me?" I asked.
"The darkness is coming," Edmond said. He stared, blinking at the wall of light in the distance. "Darman has set things in motion already."
"I know," Lord Cayman replied. "He has allies that are willing to risk total destruction if there is a chance they might win."
"What do we do?" I asked. I was here. I was stuck. I might as well work with this man. At least he was giving answers.
"First it is time I take back what is mine," he said. "Edmond --"
He reached towards the cat and Edmond gave a cry of dismay as magic played from his fingers.
"No!" I leapt forward and threw myself between them.
Well what did you expect me to do?

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Friday, May 02, 2014

Flash Friday #92: Surviving Elsewhere, Part 41 -- Stonewild 3

(Link to part 40)

First we had to get to the council. I'd thought since we reached Stonewild, we'd ended the journey.
I have really got to stop being so optimistic.
The hall went on forever. I became increasingly aware of the fact that we were heading under a mountain and downward into the depths of the earth. Given how much trouble I'd had up in the open air, I couldn't say this was a really good feeling.
There were lights now and then, but mostly we relied on Maggie's staff. The cats did not rush ahead of us, which also didn't help my feeling of trouble. Maggie and Davis kept quiet, too, so I didn't feel that I dared ask a question.
But I was getting tired of walking and I was about to complain -- I'd had a hellish few days and I ached now in just about every place.
"Hey," Edmond said.
He startled us all.
"What?" Maggie asked, her voice softer than usual. She clearly didn't want to draw any attention.
"Let's rest," he said. He glanced at me, golden eyes catching the light of the staff. "Mark is going to need rest before he faces the Council. We don't want him going in here and falling flat on his face."
"True." She stopped and leaned against the wall. I stared at the stonework for a long moment, expecting it move, or grow hands or melt --
But it didn't, so I leaned against the wall by her. Then I slid down and sat on the ground. I hadn't meant to, but my legs just wouldn't hold me.
"Yeah, rest is a good idea," Davis said. He slid down beside me. My head was pounding now and I could barely turn to look at him. "You look like you're on your last legs, Mark."
"Hit me suddenly," I admitted. "Just too much going on."
Maggie stayed to her feet, but she did lean down and put a hand on my shoulder. Edmond climbed into my lap, but Lord Snow sat facing the way we had come -- waiting for trouble. At first that upset me, but after a moment I realized it was good to have a guard with better senses than humans. I forced myself to relax.
Be truthful, Maggie had said. That covered a wide range of things I could say, and some of them not polite about how things have been going. I tried to bury that thought away. I didn't think it was a good idea to head into this council's presence with a bad attitude.
We got up again. I looked at Maggie, but I didn't ask her how far we still had to go. We'd get there. The walk gave me a chance to calm down, as long as I didn't think the walls were going to attack me. I was trying very hard not to mistrust them.
The descent had been gentle, but I still noticed when it evened out. I could also see light ahead. Maggie dropped back by me as the hall widened. She gave a nod but said nothing at all. I took that to mean things were serious. Even Edmond had shut up.
The light came from an opening carved like an intricate doorway, all of it carved out of stone. Only it wasn't simply light -- I sensed the strongest magic I'd ever felt coming from that opening. I could see something as we neared -- a pole with a crystal secured to the top by golden bands. Yes, the magic came from there, but it wasn't the only place. The entire area suddenly reeked of so much magic that my head swam. I kept going and did my best to stay calm. That helped. Emotions, I reminded myself. Emotions were what fueled magic and what was giving me the worst of my problems.
As we neared that opening, I thought to tell the others to stay back, but I realized it would hardly do any good. The Council had been sending those tests, so they had to know that we had worked as a group, but if I had thought I could get them out of trouble, I would have ordered them away.
I suspected it would have worked, too, if I thought they were in danger. I could protect them. I looked at Maggie and considered --
"No, Mark," she said. She must have seen it in my face. "No. We go the rest of the way with you. If any of us wanted to walk way, we could, earlier or now. But there is something going on, and we are all here to see if we can set things to right."
And I didn't have the right to deny them their place in the battle.
So we walked out through the opening and stood on an intricately carved slab of stone, with the glowing crystal just before us. Columns stretched out into the distance where a wall of glowing light blocked the view, like a living curtain. Water swirled beneath us and splashed up over the stone. I saw no one around, but I could hear -- no, I could sense them in the alcoves looking down at the place were we stood.
We didn't have to wait long. Someone leapt from the right and landed gracefully on the slab by the pole. He stood and brushed his hand over the metal in a gesture that seemed to show respect. Then he nodded our way, though I could read nothing in his face. Fae, I realized -- the real thing. Tall, dark haired, eyes of blue that glittered as he looked me over.
"High Lord Cayman," Maggie greeted him and bowed her head. Her wings fluttered slightly, which told me this was a dangerous man.
"Maggie," he said with a slight nod her way. Then he turned to me. I gave him a bow of my head, but nothing more. He returned it. "I'm glad you finally made it here, son."
Well hell.

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