The Gateway

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Summary

A collection of multi-genre stories. From turbulent skies and stormy seas to magical lands and wintry forests, this is a journey which will awaken some of your deepest emotions. Mysterious creatures and peoples from a myriad of worlds, including our own, will have you laugh, cry, gasp and wonder. You never quite know what you will find through The Gateway...

Genre:
Fantasy / Other
Author:
AJ Wright
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
25
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
16+

1. - OBSIDIAN SKY

A love story with a twist, so-to-speak. Set initially in a fantasy landscape, this tale is intended to be symbolic of a woman’s sense of worthlessness having survived a volatile relationship.

It addresses also how others, always ready to gossip, listen to rumour and consequently judge someone without all the facts, can have a detrimental effect, driving them to despair.

Her journey back to the ‘real world’ is a long, arduous one, but, the help, trust and love of one man from her past, finally gives her hope and helps her to resurface, stronger than before.


An elemental orchestra raged around the cliff tops. This would be a storm to end all storms. The clouds, black and heavy, swirled in a violent dance with the screaming winds; their multi-faceted nebula illuminated by flashes of wildfire, lightning. The sea whipped and surged high, breakers crashing on the razored rocks below, adding to the timpani of the turbulent weather. The island would surely vanish from the map before dawn arrived.

Within its epicentre, the crumbled ruins of an ancient tower were all that remained of a prison. Torrents streamed down its broken walls; symbolic tears grieving for all the time lost behind the cold stone enclosure.

For five long years, she had been locked behind the granite fortifications; incapacitated, subdued, despondent. Her diabolical captors had stood guard all this time, their continual ridicule, unforgiving and harsh. The enchantments and powers she had once possessed had been stripped from her by her subjugators’ brutality. But, her inner desolation had been her actual shackles.

A trust had been broken, and her solution to the problem had cost her dearly. Once a strong and determined woman, one individual’s retaliation had rendered her weak, afraid, unwilling and unable to trust again. Hence her incarceration ensued which over time drained her resilience, her fight, her will.

Until - she’d seen a face in a dream and heard someone calling her name; his voice a soft, seductive whisper. Something tugged at her mind. A memory from years gone by when she was young and carefree, living in a more innocent time where she smiled freely, laughed openly and loved fiercely. From her dossier of forgotten names and faces came a resonance that crossed time and space, inexorably pulling her up from her well of dark oblivion.

At first, she fought it. She could not afford to surrender to such whimsy. It seemed preferable to let her mind regress further until whittled to nought. But the timbre of the voice soothed and assured her, pinching at the tangential confines of her broken consciousness.

The voice beckoned her, invited her, teased her. Slowly, her vitality started to return. She muted her gradual recuperation from her captors. It would take time and much inner debate before she would dare allow herself to rise once more. The memory, however, delighted her, became insistent, encouraging, giving her the one thing she had thought lost forever - hope. He had awakened her.

Still, she needed time to build her strength, regain her energy, focus and abilities. The journey ahead would take all she had if not more, and she was unsure if she could survive the passage. But try, she must for this man had reached across the cosmos, banished her self-loathing and feelings of inadequacy. He had embellished her inner strengths, her self-awareness; and rekindled her desire. The nightly visits to each other in astral form had come to an end. Finally, she had regained her exuberance. Fuelled with an unquenchable need, she was ready. She had to break free, for daunting though the prospect was, she could no longer deny the pull. She had to be with him in the flesh.

At last, she was free of her bonds. Now, as she stood at the cliff’s edge, she inhaled the intoxicating scent of liberty. Her lungs filled with the promise of a life returned, renewed.

Watching the wild and exuberant storm unfolding before her, she embraced the long-lost tingle of her power as it flowed through her veins, gathering intensity. From behind her, amid the ruined remains of the tower, her ghastly captors wailed and screamed. They were searching for her within the fragmented prison and saturated grounds. A smile crept over her mouth as she turned to watch them drown within their panic.

The things which had prevented her from being who and what she was, now lay broken, redundant, eliminated. Her imprisonment had been a pathetic attempt by those who considered themselves superior and wanted her kept hidden; proclaiming her an outcast, a fiend who deserved no humanity nor decency - and all because she had decided to right a wrong, to live freely, dancing to her own tune.

The man who had been sent to “test” her was a devious man indeed. The relationship should have all but left her an empty shell. Her unexpected rebellion was her negation of the detachment from society which others believed she so deserved. His recoil after that had then hit her severely.

Others’ self-exaltation, however, was eventually their undoing. Believing themselves better than she - above the frailties of the human spirit with its desideratum for endless affection and praise - they ostracised her, denied her any connection with people from her far or recent past. Beaten, she shut down, refusing to interact with anyone. In effect, she was isolated, alone and shunned. Her light had dwindled, and she’d folded inward.

A crack of thunder and flash of lightning brought her from her reverie. Her cape danced on the wild winds, whipping around her form, making her look almost ghostly.

No more maudling in the past. With a satisfied groan, she drew on all the energies surrounding her. Gradually, manipulating the elements, the forces of nature responded. It had taken weeks for the atmospheric conditions to infuse her with their raw power, but now they were here in full force. She was back in control.

Her lips curved in an omniscient smile and she turned back to face the roaring sea.

Low in her chest, she started to chant. Her hands raised slowly, fingers flexing, curling. The sea responded, as did the gales and the lightning, even the very ground heaved beneath her feet. She manipulated the elements, bent them to her will, forming a swirling vortex. It pulsed, expanded then rose ahead of her, its centre rippling.

Movement to her left made her look to the side; alert, ready. They were coming for her. Not wanting to lose face, they would attempt to claw her back, drag her down and keep her hidden from the world.

But, she would not allow them to do that to her again. Freezing the tourbillion before her, she slid both hands inside her cape. Her fingers curled around the leather-bound hilts of her daggers, and she pulled them from their sheaths.

Turning, she launched the blades at the two Glumiers - her sinewy persecutors. Their leathery arms reached out to grab her as they shuffled forward, relentless. The blades buried to the hilts in their hearts and they fell writhing to the ground. In seconds they lay still, their featureless faces showing no shock nor pain. Gaping holes which served as their mouths were open wide as if in silent screams.

From the strappings on her thighs, she pulled smaller blades and bade her time as the gelatinous creatures which served the captors oozed and slid across the uneven terrain towards her. In their wake, they left a trail of slime as they made a determined effort to reach the creature who had just slain two of their masters. The small, but deadly blades flashed in a flurry of death at the giant, mobile pustules, puncturing their lacteal flesh.

Using more secreted steel sheathed on her arms, she spun, launching them in an arc at more of the fibrous Glumiers coming at her. Her weapons were not endless, she needed to swiftly retrieve those she had already thrown to bring down the encroaching jailers. Finally, only lines of hideous dead creatures lay before her, some within their final throes of life, writhing, blistering, pulsing and popping.

Slowly, methodically, she moved among them one last time and collected her keen little kisses-of-death. She wiped all the blades on the sodden grass before securing them back in their sheaths. No going back now, she confirmed. She glanced once more at the tower, its stone continuing to crumble under the potency of the storm.

Resuming her stance at the edge of the cliff, she conjured and hurled a fireball at all the corpses. The heat, though brief had been intense enough to do its job before the heavens lay claim to the flames, washing over the seared remains on the cliff-top.

Her leather chest-piece creaked against the strain of her breasts as she took deep breaths. She scanned the area for any further threat. No movement remained. Injustice, insecurities and the hateful jailers were all now history.

Distantly, his voice reached out to her, carried on the winds. ”Come to me. Come to me now!”

Finally, she was going to leave this place and never look back. It was time to seek him out.

Once more, she employed the elements, the resulting vacuum tugging at her cloak. Time slowed. The gravitational pull of the vortex swallowed the storm. Her blood coursed through her veins, the sound pounding in her ears. She could feel the rapid beat of her heart, fuelled by sweet anticipation.

Surrendering herself to the void, she was yanked mercilessly into the time rip. Her body hurtled through the cosmos, spinning, twisting, somersaulting in ever-faster degrees. Her flesh felt as if it was being peeled from her bones. Was this what it would feel like if trapped within a centrifugal force, she wondered. With eyes closed, she envisioned the molecules of her very being breaking down, splitting and separating, powering towards a bantam of light in the obsidian sky.

The momentum of her cosmic journey slowed suddenly, like violent braking on the approach to touchdown. Then it eased, became smoother as she neared her destination. Opening her eyes little by little, she could make out the ripples of a town; roads, buildings, gardens. Then with a last burst of speed, she was roughly spewed out onto a grassy banking.

She inhaled as she rolled to cushion the blow and her feet hit the ground. Quickly she surveyed the area. Familiarity washed over her. She knew this place — memories from what seemed like decades before flitted across her mind’s eye. Her chest heaved. Overcome by a sense of home, she gulped as she fought the urge to shout out her felicity.

It was night time here too, and a silver crescent hung overhead, clouds scuttling across the sky, obscuring the sparse moonlight.

Some people were gathered outside a public house, drinking, chatting, smoking. They stood mere feet across from where she had materialised. Surprisingly, they had not yet seen her. With a wave of her hand, the disturbance in the curvature of time shrank then snuffed out with a soft “whoosh”. She cast her eyes skyward, and with a low chant, the rain began. Nothing too heavy, but enough to make the punters retreat inside.

A new sound – mechanical, powerful - reached her ears. Her head snapped round. A silver car had just turned into the street to her right. She watched as it drove along slowly, indicating to park. Like a magnetic field, she felt the pull towards it.

It was him.

She crossed the gardens, jumping over the small rise at the edge of a low wall and moved swiftly up the street. Ahead she could see the rear lights of the vehicle flare as it reversed into a parking space. She hurried on along the pavement.

With her back against the building, she stood next to where he’d parked. Her right foot rested against the wall, hitching the bottom of her cloak over her heel. He had not heard her arrive. She smiled as she watched him leaning back into the car, retrieving something from the passenger side. The glint from the street light reflected on a bottle of Jack Daniels. She smiled. More memories awakened.

Her eyes glanced down at her bust. A wicked grin tweaked the corners of her mouth, and she undid the ties of her leather bustier a little further.

The car door closed with a dull thud, and she glanced up from under her hood. A warm smile greeted her.

All he could see of her face was her mouth, full of promise and heady delights. He stepped closer. “I see you made it then,” he said quietly, his breath just ghosting her cheek.

His eyes drifted to her cleavage, the gap between her breasts widening as she tugged at the ties again. Mesmerised, he watched as raindrops landed on her chest and trickled slowly down between leather and flesh. He groaned.

Inching back, he allowed his eyes to explore further down. The burnished leather moulded to her body accentuating the hourglass figure beneath. This woman was voluptuous, her body made for sin, a paradise he wanted to visit.

“I’m afraid I caused some disturbance on the way here,” she said, glancing at the sky and nibbling her bottom lip. Her eyes locked with his as he grinned and stepped near once more.

Taking her hand, he pressed it against his groin. “You have caused a disturbance here, too,” he said, leaning in closer a small laugh escaping his lips. She sighed then giggled coyly as her fingers caressed the hardness beneath the fabric of his trousers. He closed the distance, and his lips brushed hers. “I am so glad to see you. I have ached for this night.”

A flash of lightning and the distant rumble of thunder sounded overhead. The rain started to fall harder. He stepped back, pulling her toward the door of the building. She stayed her ground, digging her heels in and stopping him in his tracks.

“Say it!” she demanded. “Say what you have been whispering in my head all this time.”

He glanced around to make sure no-one was within earshot then pulled her against him.

Her eyes focused on his mouth as he uttered the words she needed to hear.

“I want you. I always have,” he said, his hunger almost feral, his voice hoarse. “I need you.”

She moaned, pressing herself against him. “Then, lead the way,” she whispered against his ear. “Take what is yours for the taking.”

They entered the building just as the skies cracked fully open, and the whole world became wet.

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