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BRINGER of BALANCE - Book II of THE LAND series

By smatusky All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Adventure

Chapter 17 - Broken

Early the next day I bathed in Zeesin Lake, away from prying eyes, and fell back to sleep while waiting for the coal to arrive.

“Wake up, sleepy!” I heard a loud bang on the table. “Here we are, running around for you, and you’re sleeping?” Sir Edward’s voice reverberated in my head and then I heard Devin snicker.

I rubbed my eyes and noticed a huge block of coal wobbling within the round shield on the tabletop. I stood slowly and crept over to the black mound. My eyes almost crossed as I stared closely at it.

“Where did you find it?” I asked, astonished.

“Conductor Jimmy.” said Devin. “There’s four smaller pieces over there.” He pointed to a cloth sack on the edge of the table.

“Our happy conductor told us he’s quite fond of whiskey,” Edward said with an amused tone. “Wine and whiskey seem to be as precious as diamonds to these people. The problem is, with all of their accomplishments they’re very poor at producing ale, wine or whiskey. And, since no one on Palleo imports alcohol, they rely on their own concoction which is horribly disgusting.”

“We tried Jimmy’s brew and the taste still hasn’t left my mouth.” Devin said then did a pretend gag while Edward’s body convulsed, both reliving the moment they endured the putrid drink.

“Do you think it’s wise to supply a train conductor with whiskey?” I examined the coal for defects while imagining a number of terrible outcomes resulting from our transgressions.

“He promised he wouldn’t drink while working.” Edward’s reply carried musical intonations and he bent down to interrupt my gaze, distracting me from the coal. I glared at him, uncertain if he was telling me the truth. He could have easily provided me with fake thoughts. “Come on, you got what you wanted. No one’s hurt! Now use those talents of yours little lady and let’s get out of this priggish town. I can’t take much more of our jolly Mayor Flicker, Flatter, Fatter,”

“Flanner!” Devin and I shouted.

“Oh, whatever, you know what I mean.”

“All right then, I’ll get to work and send for you when I’m finished. It shouldn’t be long.”

Edward offered a quick wink and a crafty smirk before walking around the table to kiss my forehead.

“See you shortly, my lady.” Devin bowed as usual.

It was midday, and six of us headed back into town with our newly made riches. Surprisingly, I never felt sick after using my magic unlike the night before. Devin and Sir Edward rode in front of us while Lord Raine walked behind, next to Wolfe on horseback. The town looked the same as the day before, people busy on the streets and trapped in their daily routine. Our knowledge of the protector’s would disrupt their entire society.

We heard the familiar jingle when Devin opened the office door and a hefty woman bustled out from the back room.

“Yes, what may we do for you?”

“Hello Miss,” said Devin. “Is the Mayor in?” He was charming, smiling while leaning in close to the woman.

“Do you have an appointment?” she asked, blushing.

“No,” he replied. “But he’s expecting us. Please tell him that the King and Queen are here.”

The woman’s eyes bulged with astonishment. She never imagined that Kings and actually existed in the world. “Oh yes, right away.” She walked into the back room, out of sight. “Zachary, Zachary Flanner?” she called in cheerful melody. He complained that he did not want to be disturbed, but his voice fell silent when she said in a softer voice. “Zach, it’s them. The ones with the mules are back.” After a moment of silence we heard a commotion and he sprang through the door, unable to conceal his excitement.

“Well, if it isn’t my favorite King and Queen. Bring anything back with you?” The side of his mouth twitched, awaiting our prize.

“Yes, Mayor,” Riley said. “We have brought you something, but first we would like to exchange information.”

“Anything you want.”

“We would like to ask you some questions.”

“Fine. Ask away, my good man.” Mayor Flanner was busting at the seams to get to his treasure.

“Have you ever heard of the Protectors?” Riley asked slow and methodically.

“Protectors…no, can’t say that I have. Are they some type of guard, or maybe a giant?” Our Mayor began guessing, hoping a wrong answer would not hinder his chance at acquiring a jewel.

“No. They are not a real being.” The Mayor’s eyes narrowed on Riley. “They are not of flesh like you or me. The Protectors are hidden, but they transform into different animals or people. Have you ever heard of such a being before?”

“Is this like some ancient lore or that dark magic nonsense? We abandoned those superstitions long ago.”

“The protectors are very real Mayor,” Devin spoke up. “They almost killed our King and Queen. They dislike humans and have been killing our kind for years.”

I squeezed Devin’s arm, worried he might scare our Mayor prematurely. “Sir,” I interrupted. “The beings are immortal, unlike us, and they are unhappy with our place in this world. You may never see a protector, but if the people living on the outskirts of your territory happen to die suddenly, from an intense fever, it might be due to our immortal enemies.”

“I’m sorry, Miss. Unless we can see these Protectors, I find it unlikely anyone in town will listen to such a tale. Immortal beings that can change, do you know how that sounds?”

“Yes, Mayor, we know,” Riley pleaded. “But have any of your people mentioned an illness?”

“Hmm…, people die all the time, especially in the fields, accidents happen, and then there’s old age, but I don’t recall any illness. What exactly do you want me to do with this information?”

“We are looking for the Protectors and we’re hoping you know where we can find them. At very least we hoped that you would warn your people about the immortal threat.” Riley seemed slightly hopeful, but I knew what the Mayor had already decided.

“Do you really expect me to announce this to everyone? They’ll kick me out of office for such folly. If there is such a threat we’ll need solid proof. I can’t state such findings until we have all the facts and we don’t know you well enough to waste our time on something this intangible.” The Mayor was right, the Miserlain people would lock him away for disrupting their lives with our trivial information. There was no proof, just like our struggles at , and I glanced over at Riley while shaking my head. “Sorry, but I can’t help you,” the Mayor said.

“Then promise us this,” I asked while opening the bag with my homemade diamonds. The stones were dull since they were uncut, but they were huge and worth quite a good price. “Consider our information, find your facts, and share our knowledge of the protectors with others. If you do, we shall offer you these for giving us your word.”

Four stones rolled out of a velvet sack and onto Mayor Flanner’s shiny, wooden desk. The stark contrast of the stones on the mahogany surface made our prize even more enticing to eager eyes. I pulled back the pouch to reveal the last diamond, the biggest the Mayor had ever seen.

“What is that?” He staggered to the desk, dabbing his brow with a white handkerchief, and watched me place the diamond on the desk.

“They are diamonds and, if cut properly, they should be quite exquisite. Do we have your word, Sir?” The Mayor tore his gaze from the diamonds briefly.

“Yes, yes of course. You have my word. I’ll have my men investigate right away. May I?” He asked while slowly extending a hand toward the desk.

I nodded and he picked up the largest stone. His mind was filled with thoughts of riches, entertaining the elite, and expeditions to find more treasure.

“Well, the least I can do is to share one more of our prized technological accomplishments. Let me just put these somewhere safe and I’ll take you there.” The Mayor snatched up all the diamonds and placed them into the top pocket of his vest. He patted his pocket while smiling. “All right then, this way.”

He led our party north toward a dam, smaller than Masanner Dam. Upstream, the waves of a tranquil lake lapped along the stone wall while, on the south side of the dam, gentle waters poured from an opening below and skated through town to a pre-determined destination.

“Come in, come in.” The Mayor said as we followed him into a stone building alongside the dam. “Here is where we are most proud. Our people have worked for generations to harness the force of these waters so that we may produce energy for everyone in town. We’re still working on getting energy to places outside of town, though it does take time.”

“Exactly what does this do?” Lord Raine asked, his body crouched while following us through a narrow passage. “And what is your energy used for?”

We stepped into a room filled with the same flameless lights that Riley and I had noticed in the store.

“My word,” exclaimed the Mayor. “Don’t you people have your own energy source?”

We shook our heads while Sir Edward shrugged his shoulders, utterly confused.

“Electricity, my friends, to light your homes, turn fans and mills, heat stoves, run your presses? I can go on and on. Our town couldn’t function without energy.”

We stared expressionless, so he continued to explain the Miserlain use of hydroelectric energy.

“Follow me,” he gestured. We trailed behind him walking by ladders and gauges. Farther down we heard mechanical noises but also a sound greater than machines. I heard the distinct sound of forceful water. The Mayor brought us to a series of openings in the wall that displayed a massive room.

“Take a look down there,” he yelled. “The water shoots out that pipe and spins the wheel.”

“What is the wheel made of?” Riley asked. It was huge, about fifty feet wide and spun like a top.

“Metal. It took many men to assemble the wheel, but it lasts a long time. Up there are the turbines. The shaft from the wheel spins the turbines that produce our electricity. Copper wire transports the energy as far as it can reach.”

“Ingenious.” Riley stepped back to speak to the Mayor. “But I noticed during our travels that your dams have stopped all the main rivers flowing south. By trapping the waters flowing from the and using their force to create your energy, aren’t you stopping the natural flow of these waters into the land south of your territory?”

“Well, yes. I guess that’s true. But we need water for our crops and livestock. The water from the turbines helps our supply, but we need plenty for a town our size. I’m sure the land can adjust.”

“Have you seen the land south of your town?” I asked.

“Not really. I’ve heard it’s just desert. There’s no need to travel south if we’ve got everything here.”

“But you’re using up everything. Surely your people can share the water and give some back to the land.” I said, fuming.

“’s right,” said Riley. “What you have created for yourselves is quite wonderful, but there are better ways of dispersing the flow so that the surrounding land would benefit, even help your crops.”

“We own the water that passes through our land, and we will extract its energy as we see fit,” the Mayor said. He was not interested in listening to a naïve group of royal dimwits. “If the land cannot adjust then it will have to change. It’s not our fault we’re smart enough to use what has been given to us.”

I wanted to scream. But of course he didn’t care! The Mayor was greedy and his people blind. Even if they could see the destruction they had caused by their ingenuity, they would be unwilling to change.

My head began to ache as I thought about the white crane, Sulimi. Then I remembered Riley’s words from a week ago. No matter how many animals you heal they rely on instinct and cannot adapt to the changing world.

We walked down the street, following Mayor Flanner to yet another invention, and he showed our party one of their self-propelled transportation machines. “No mules needed when we’ve got these,” he said, then offered others in our party a ride.

The more I watched our Mayor, the more frustrated I became. I tried to tune out his thoughts, but not before reading his intentions. Our show with the diamonds convinced him that we were indeed wealthy and he was positive we were not smart enough to benefit from his tour. He wanted more jewels in exchange for his time and wealth of knowledge, though he hesitated to ask.

Our time with the Miserlains had finally ended and my head was about to explode. As soon as we reached camp I talked to Devin.

“Can Rhaida make more tea? My head is really aching.” I asked while he packed up his supplies.

“Of course, but…” Devin hesitated.

“What?”

“Rhaida is running out of supplies and has been asking when we’ll visit her home. She really wants to go to Tonada. I’m sure the Sierrow people will help us with supplies and would be open to hearing about the protectors.”

“Very well, we will head south across the ridge and then west to Tonada.”

Devin kissed my hand, “Thank you, my Queen.” He turned to leave then quickly looked back. “Rhaida will be very happy.”

We were packed in an hour, but daylight was fading quickly. I pleaded with Riley and the others to leave our pleasant view of Masanner Dam. I hated the symbol of destruction used by my kind, one that slowly choked the land to nothingness. My hatred for the Miserlains grew every time I glanced at the monument.

Luckily, Riley understood my frustration and commanded our departure. Devin signaled for our caravan to head south while I cinched my bag of belongings onto our cart.

“Where are we traveling?” a voice asked in my head. It was Sulimi. He stood tall on the edge of our cart and I spoke with him telepathically.

“We are traveling south and then west.” I said. “We are headed to an area called Tonada northwest of here.” The gentle breeze ruffled Sulimi’s satiny white feathers. The elegant crane spread his wings as though stretching, but he lifted off of the cart.

“Thank you,” he said while flapping in the air above me. “I must leave now. The others are waiting. Thank you for helping.”

“Wait!” I shouted. “Sulimi, don’t go. They aren’t there! No one’s there!” The magnificent crane was already twenty feet in the air and headed south. “Come back or you’ll die!”

Riley turned around and noticed Sulimi flying away. “You can’t stop him. The Barrens is his home and he’ll always return, despite the outcome. I’m sorry, Crystal.” he squeezed my arm then beckoned me to the caravan. Riley’s thoughts told me he expected Sulimi to die, and I stood while my husband walked to our cart and guided our horse toward the caravan.

I looked back at the town and then to the imperious dam that had transformed the into a barren desert. Sulimi was the last of his kind and with his inevitable death came the realization that the splendor of lush vegetation and rich wildlife would be forever lost. The thought permeated my body: I hated these humans. They gloated with their niceties, and no matter what got trampled along the way the Miserlains would always turn a blind eye.

I could see why protectors carried such hatred for humans and it was then that I understood how our kind had been a plague upon the land. It was the protectors’ viewpoint I saw. This was why they wanted to kill us. My anger grew, as it had done in the past. The last time I remembered my dark side taking control was years ago, before Riley became King. The women of the castle made me so angry, especially Ms. Weston telling Riley to leave. My powers were forceful and very hard to contain.

My visions warned me even though I thought I could keep my balance, yet I knew it would happen. The evil emotions that I had suppressed for so long were pouring out and in control.

The Masanner dam began cracking as I stared at it. The sound was frightful as water sprayed from its middle, my force crumbling the hard stone.

“What are you doing?” I heard Riley’s call. A dark cloud hovered over the pompous town and in the distance tornadoes ripped through households and shops. “Stop!” he yelled, but I did not want to. He finally grabbed my arms and swung me around. My eyes must have been glowing because I startled him. “, you must stop. You cannot change what has happened here. The protectors saw the same thing, but no one can change the course of time.”

The alliance had halted to see what was happening. They were shocked and I looked over my shoulder at the devastation, clouds hovered over the town. Water rushed from the dam and the stone wall collapsed, carrying cabins down the dry riverbed. A dark ominous cloud was now looming over Riley and me.

“?” Riley glared into my eyes.

“I don’t think I can.” I said.

“What? You don’t think you can what?”

“Stop, Riley, I can’t stop this!” I was frightened. The cloud above us was growing darker, the atmosphere a refection of my anger. Riley did not know what to do as I tried to stop the swirling tornadoes. Nothing worked. I was broken and the more I strained the denser the clouds became. The ground shook, as it had done on the , and I knew it was because of my irrepressible magic. Someone from behind grabbed me, holding me in a tight embrace. It was Sir Edward and I started to cry.

“Shhh, everything will be all right.” he whispered and caressed my hair. We slowly rocked together, tenderly. If I ever needed a father it was at that moment, and I shut my eyes, concentrating on his loving presence. The ground rumbled below our feet and Edward held me tighter.

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