The Hero's Apprentice

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Ch. 23 Catching Up

Walter half hoped he’d get invited to the palace but after sneaking in he was sure they’d snatch him first chance they got. So Walter stayed by the harbor and just laid low until he felt he could try to storm the castle once more. This time he’d have to find Drey and take her if she came willingly. He was confident she’d leave. And if not, he would simply go into the forest and take his chances with whatever was in there. Perhaps defeating the creature that had no name would boast his status enough he’d get invited back. The problem was the wedding was tomorrow. Walter would’ve waited till then but he figured Drey would have her decision ready by now. Plus, if she did it during the wedding then there’d be guards, Prince Herum as he found out from the people at the harbor, and possibly a few wizards who would really give him a hard time.

Letting them look for Drey would give him time to get into the forest. If he took the road back to Ando they’d just follow him. He would’ve liked to travel there using magic, but Walter was tired of ending up in the wrong place and time. He needed more practice, and he also figured when he saw Cro again they’d make a proper rune circle together. One that could be used over and over and would only go to one place. It would be a big project, and they could cautiously perfect the travel spells. And Walter was done with time magic. There was so much he didn’t know and this whole mess had been caused by irresponsible use of magic. Not that Walter regretted it, but if he was going to keep doing it. He had to make sure it was never abused or something truly horrible might happen. He might influence an ancestor of Cro or Drey. Or he’d kill Rye and never get summoned to Ando. It was a web of lives that Walter couldn’t tell the beginning from the end. Walter hoped he’d not altered anything important. So far everything seemed to fit except his being together with Drey.

Walter couldn’t pick a side when it came to doomed to fate or choose your destiny arguments. His coming here had been an accident from one perspective, but his greatest desire too. He had acted upon the opportunity that was wanted by him but unwanted by Rye and possibly others. Walter wasn’t sure what to do when it came to will. How do you decide who gets what they want and who doesn’t in certain situations? Walter needed to know cause right now he was trying to get his will carried out, and it would naturally conflict with the interests of Prince Herum, King Fry, and probably King Yur and Queen Lain too. They had hopes and dreams too. Why should Walter get things the way he wanted and they just had to make room for him? Did love justify and trump any action? Or did Walter have to learn when the needs of the majority outweighed his own? Walter simply felt that being selfish was just as important as being unselfish. If you never got what you wanted, you’d never be happy. But if you always got your way, everyone else suffered.

Walter reached a compromise thinking about it. He’d have Drey if she would have him. And if there were hurdles to leap over for her parents he’d do it. And if the King and Prince wanted his head he’d politely refuse. Better to please four and disappoint two. Can’t please everybody anyway. No wonder God had such a difficult job. Walter felt sure of himself. This was his choice and he was going to deal with the consequences. Being happy shouldn’t be a crime, and if it was, it would be worth having his head cut off for just one last moment with Drey. Maybe his story did end with him dying here? Only for Drey to relive it with him one last time. But she had said she had already met him. How’d that work? Was he writing or rewriting what had happened? Walter wished Stephen Hawkings was here so he could shed some light on this paradox that made it abundant to Walter at least at present that anything was possible if time travel was. And if it wasn’t and it was all just a dream. Then at least Walter didn’t need to fear death. He’d wake up before the ax came down. You always woke up in dreams before you died.

The smell of fish made it difficult to focus, but Walter made up his mind that it was time to see if he could get Drey. The forest would show him how to get to Ando, and hopefully with no trouble along the way. With luck King Fry and his son wouldn’t follow him into the scariest place the realm had to offer. Walter was betting on that. He’d get Drey through it, and if she made him take her back to Gant, he’d just have to find another way. Hopefully he wouldn’t have to kill Herum. No! He wouldn’t, that was a mistake someone else had made. Unless of course Herum hurt or betrayed her? Walter would not be merciful if he were that kind of man. He’d travel further back in time if that was what awaited Drey and make sure she never met him. Walter had to stop himself there because killing Herum as a child who might become evil was still a hypothetical question no philosopher had quite found the answer too. Walter could deal with the moral and intellectual complications later. Drey was his wife as far as he was concerned. He simply had married her first and now was strengthening the relationship. It would be very awkward if Drey said no, cause then it meant their wedding night hadn’t or wouldn’t occur. So even if love wasn’t motivating Walter, what he was about to do would answer a lot of questions for science and philosophy. Lucky me thought Walter.

Walter decided he’d try one last time to enter the castle civilized like. If the guards and king weren’t decent enough to let him in, then he felt all the more justified in coming uninvited. Which was the greater sin, breaking an entry, or not taking a stranger in? Tough call, but either way Walter was walking away or fleeing with Drey. The guards recognized Walter and blocked his entry. Walter knew they’d tell him to leave so he started talking first.

“You delivered my message?”

“Yes, and if you enter, you’ll be taken in for questioning, and probably spend some time in the castle dungeon, and be executed soon after.”

“Do I get a…?” Walter didn’t know the Andoish word for trial. His Andoish had improved much since the month in the library, but it wasn’t a word he had needed until right now.”

“Forgive my limited speech, I’m asking if I get to be heard before I am declared worthy of death.”

“You mean a trial, yes of course, but as a foreigner you’ll get less sympathy than a citizen of Gant.”

“Unlikely, I’m a citizen of Ando, and if you execute me after the wedding, that would be bad for your king and the marriage. People would see it as a declaration of war and animosity.”

The guards understood, this wasn’t a threat, it was a genuine prediction of what he had said the day before. This wasn’t a wizard who wanted trouble, it was a soothsayer making a prophecy.

“Wait here! You have my word you will not be harmed.”

Walter was surprised he was going inside. He had readied himself for battle but now realized his little gamble had paid off. He’d be heard, and Drey would either dismiss him there, or go with him and there might be a scene. Walter was suddenly glad he didn’t know the details all the time. If he had tried to fight his way through, the outcome may not be the same, and he’d probably waste a lot of magic anyway. Sometimes reason actually worked. The timing had just not been right yesterday. Walter had been forceful the first time. This time he had the willingness to wait or try another way. Sticking to the basic plan was important. But modifications could make it smoother sometimes. It’d be crazy if Walter didn’t have to use magic today. But even more crazy if they let him take the carriage road back to Ando with Drey. Possible, but luck always runs out or changes Walter had to remind himself. Otherwise you’d be back with Drey already. Walter took a deep breathe and followed the guard who had returned saying the king would like to see him. Walter followed, at long last he was going to meet his father and mother in-law.

King Fry had a much larger court than the one in Ando. And he had ten knights and servants for every one that Ando had. But that was to be expected. It was more populated in Gant, and Fry was always trying to expand everything and anything he had. Too bad the more he did that, the less control he’d have over it all. Walter noticed the people were looking at his feet, and for the first time Walter wished he had a pair of shoes. The common folk were more accepting. These were the aristocrats and pampered folk who thought they were above everyone because they consumed more calories and did less manual labor. If Drey was one of them Walter might have been wasting his time all along. But he knew better. She was no brat. She was not selfish, and had sacrificed a luscious wedding for a secret one. Walter truly believed she’d give it all up to be with him. The fellowship of these people was meaningless. They did nothing intimate with each other. Their conversations were bragging contests and comparisons of wealth. These people got carried wherever they went. An assassin couldn’t ask for an easier target. These people were only symbols of power, but not the actual possessors of it. The moment they ticked off the masses they’d be removed and replaced.

Still Walter had to be careful even here. He had no idea if he was in the presence of just nobles or black-hearted feudal lords. He was the foreigner, and had better entertain them somewhat, or they would get bored and move on to their next fancy meal or ball. Or both since wedding traditions all stemmed from people with lots of cash getting it creative and memorable and the poor people somehow felt they had to mimic the rich as much as possible.

Aristo-crap, that’s what it was. It’s about quality not quantity you overdressed, delegate my life away, land grabbers. You think the world revolves around you but your wrong. The land you think is yours isn’t. You’ve never walked it, tended it, or even respected it. In a few years some peacock dressed up better than you will take your castle, rename it, and change all the land boundaries only for it to happen a few years later. And you wont do it, an army or group of farmers will do it. The earth will remember them and their children, but you’ll be dead and buried in some large crypt or obelisk sized coffin that will only testify to the fact that you spent all your wealth on yourself and your only monument is one that’ll just remind people like me that you really were worth more dead than alive. And even in death, you’ll make it hard for the earth because it’ll have to work extra hard to take back what was rightfully its own. You took so much, and gave so little back. It’s only natural you’d have nothing to gain and everything to lose. Walter did not want Drey to succumb to what was obviously the worst lifestyle anyone could ever have. Even slaves and thieves could have more pride and dignity than these task masters who were the only reason they even had to exist out of necessity. That was the bias Walter had of these people. He just hoped Drey, her parents, and maybe Prince Herum were the exceptions to the rule. Cause it already looked like King Fry was a hopeless classic bigot.

“Who is it that dares protest the marriage of Prince Herum to Princess Drey?”

“My name doesn’t matter except to those who search it out like my master Cro of Ando.”

“Very well nameless student of Cro, state your business and be on your way. Speak out of turn and be sent to the dungeon to await your trial for disturbing the peace.”

“That wont be necessary your majesty. For I am on my way to the forest to dispose of the unnamed shadow that dwells there.”

The whole room began to gasp and whisper at the mention of the legendary terror that had claimed so many of their choice men, and had yet to have any champion slay it and dispose of it.

“Really? I had heard you spoke of the destruction of Ando should the wedding occur tomorrow, which it will.”

“That is true, Ando will burn, for if Drey weds before three years are up, you will burn the forest and the beast in the forest will be drawn out of its hole and will devour first Ando and then make its way here.”

“Impossible,” Fry bellowed. “Gants’ knights and mages will kill anything that comes forth out of that forest and slay it with a thousand arrows, swords, and our finest spells.”

“Has that worked in the past?”

Fry went silent for a few seconds, and Walter had firmly established himself as the center of attention.

“Is it your intention to provoke the shadow, or to simply forewarn us as a gesture of friendship from Ando?”

Walter had hoped Fry would ask him to go and with his troops. But Fry was a coward at heart as Walter had guessed. He’d send everyone but himself into the forest before he lifted a finger. It was clear to Walter that Fry had little concern for Ando or for Drey. This was a political marriage, and an excuse to use Ando as the replacement land Fry couldn’t get from the forest. It was actually clever, since Fry couldn’t expand east, he’d expand past the forest, and slowly claim the mountains, and then there’d be a center piece that could be attacked from all sides. Fry wouldn’t lose a drop of sweat, and hundreds would die to unite his so called realm and kill this creature.

“I came here to save lives. If the creature is left as it is, it will kill more than if action is taken now. Three years should be enough time to slay it, and my prophecy is this. Whoever slays it will get Dreys’ hand in marriage, and the rights to the forest and all the treasure contained within it.”

The mention of treasure opened a few ears, and now the knights and servants were listening to the barefooted wanderer who was telling them the next big event in their future.

“What treasure?”

“The princess mostly, but glory everlasting for slaying the creature and making the realm safe forever. The other phantoms and denizens of the dark world will lose heart while the fearful will take courage to finally cleanse the land the way Krell and countless others did when the demons first immerged.”

“Princess Drey is betrothed to my son. I will handsomely reward any man who slays the beast. He may have his choice of any other maiden in Gant or in Ando.”

“No! Drey is the one who will decide. She can wed Hermun if she desires. But if she waits three years then she may save both realms and marry a true champion. I have no objections to Hermun going forth to slay the foul thing lurking in the bog of the forest. If he is worthy of Drey he will go forth without a thought and save us all and our childrens’ children, and prove he is truly worthy to be king of both kingdoms. If not, perhaps a man of Ando will do it, and he will rightfully earn his place as Dreys’ husband. King Yur! Queen Lain! I ask you if you will accept such a man who will save the realm by slaying the black specter of the marsh.”

King Yur and Queen Lain gave their affirmation and Walter was pleased to hear it. He was also pleased at how well he was speaking Andoish. This prank was working amazingly well, he was sure it would’ve caused laughter and ridicule but this was an appeal to honor and glory. There wasn’t much of that in any world. But he had found a thing that surmounted rank or status. Old fashioned bravery. You couldn’t fake that. You either went to the danger and came back victorious, died with honor, or fled like a roach when the lights came on. Walter just hoped his speech got to the masses and then King Gant would have a real problem on his hand. No fear! Someone would get it out of this room, and soon the whole town would be talking about it tomorrow. Ber would freak, as would Cro when it eventually reached Ando. Especially the part about it being one of his students who had made the prediction. Walter just hoped Rye was not Cros’ only student. Otherwise he’d show up or worse, Cro would show up and recognize him.

“Why should I take advice from a shoeless street performer?”

Walter wasn’t insulted, Fry was changing the subject like an intellectual delinquent and Walter loved a good mind bashing contest.

“So Gant has no champion? Very well, Ando will complete the quest. And if Drey weds tomorrow hopefully Ando will weaken the demon enough for the men of Gant to muster enough courage to at least help deliver a final blow.”

King Fry wanted Walters’ head, but that would only scare the people if every time a prophet came he reacted so brutally. King Fry knew he wouldn’t be able to get out of this now. Either he got Ando, or this champion would. Fry had heard enough. Losing his entire kingdom was finally a possibility in his mind and in the minds of his subjects. If he did nothing Ando would end up with all the support, all the land, and all the glory. Gant would be nothing. Just a neighbor who had watched while Ando immortalized itself yet again like the green hero, Krell, Krells’ sons, and every other knight and mage who loved those stories and wanted to at least say they’d been a part of it. King Fry made one final attempt to escape the prophecy.

“What champion does Ando put forward to begin this three year quest?”

“Myself for starters. And should I die, then the next hero of Ando will take up my quest and we will all gladly die to defeat the foul plague, and assure our beloved princess that we know she is destined to marry the greatest of us all. For my prophecy states that she will be the instrument that enables him to defeat it.”

Everyone looked at Drey who could not believe what she saw and what she heard. She was the focus of a future that entirely depended upon her response to this man from her dreams’ prophecy, or to a marriage proposal that would unite two kingdoms and leave her life virtually unchanged in many ways except she’d be queen and have children. She wanted her children safe from the shadow. And wanted this man her angel from last night spoke of to be her husband and father of her children. He was willing to do a task that no man had achieved. And those that would certainly agree to it were dead or exaggerated versions of their true character. But Drey wanted to believe, she just had to wait three years. What if it was all a lie? Then she’d just marry Herum later and things would go back to the way they were. Drey didn’t want it, she wanted to see if it would happen. See if this reality the green wizard spoke of was true.

Drey reached into her dress pocket to find her handkerchief to wipe the sweat from her face and found something else. She pulled it out. Then put it back in her pocket so no one would see. The ring from last night. It wasn’t a dream, this boy was going to his death all for the chance to have her. Was he insane? If he died how could she meet him in three years? Or was this going to be his last time seeing her and he was saying good-bye? Drey couldn’t bear the thought of seeing her future husband in front of her, only to have him go to his death now. Drey had to stop him. She was convinced. She’d wait three years for him. He’d come back. No! She’d make him return with her and she’d find a way to keep him in Ando so he couldn’t leave her. She’d love him so much he wouldn’t go.

“I’ll wait three years.” Drey said and then went quiet.

Walter rose from his kneeling position he had taken when pledging to take up the quest.

“The quest has begun. I will go to Ando and inform my master that Drey will be returning and we will make preparations to finish what Krell started.”

King Fry was enraged and tried to at least make Walter ruin his perfect performance.

“So you will not go now?”

“Oh I can get to Ando in an instant your highness. Cro taught me how to travel without walking. Such is his skill. I simply go to set my affairs in order should I not come back alive.”

King Fry got some satisfaction from that remark. If he couldn’t kill this annoying preacher. Perhaps he’d die on his quest. That would discourage the people of Ando and Gant would assume its place in doing what Ando couldn’t. Fry hated how this wizard of Ando had insulted him so professionally. And no matter what he did, Gant would only be following behind Ando until it made a mistake. So the wedding was off for three years. Fry didn’t care, Drey would just get prettier in that time, and Herum could, no would slay the weakened beast. Even if he had to fire a ballista at it everyday for the next three years.

Walter excused himself and had the entire room watching him go out of the hall and down the stairs and out the way he’d come. The knights who had heard the echoing of everything he said bowed as he left. Walter saluted them back telling him that they had shown true nobility and he had a favor to ask of them. Could they quickly show him a few sword swings.

Drey couldn’t sleep and didn’t plan to cause she packed her few things and set out to find Walter. She realized she should use the ring, then remembered she needed his name which she still didn’t know. This was ridiculous. She was chasing after a man she met last night and she didn’t even know his name. She had to know it at least before he vanished. She tried it anyway. She thought about Walter as much as she could and begged that he would still sense her even if she didn’t have his name in her mind. Walter felt it faintly and realized he hadn’t given Drey his name and that was why he wasn’t having as easy a time finding Dreys’ location. Walter couldn’t go to the castle cause he was supposed to be on his way to Ando so he concentrated hard and tried to tell Drey to leave the castle and go to the inn near the armory in the market place. It was a mouthful so when he realized how hard it would be to hear all of that he told her instead to wait. Wait a moment he would bring her to him. Walter didn’t want to waste magic but this was Drey and he’d already planned to use magic if necessary to take her if there were any opposition to her decision. Walter had never done a summoning, but he was sure he could. He just couldn’t think of anything he wanted to summon. He couldn’t summon Drey because he had no idea which one he’d bring if he tried. But this Drey had his ring and was close by. The spell would find her ring easily and bring her with it just a few hundred feet. It was nothing compared to what Rye had done.

Drey sensed Walters’ instruction to wait and anticipated he’d arrived at the balcony. When Walter caught sight of her in the night he poured his love into the spell and Drey appeared in his arms slightly frightened, then she realized what had happened and embraced Walter.

“I thought I was too late.”

“You have to get back to Ando.”

“Not without you.”

“I made a vow.”

“I release you, come back with me and I’ll keep you near Cro.”

“Cro hasn’t met me yet.”


“I’ll be his student in three years, you’ll see.”

“Are you serious? You really are from the future?”

“It’s more of a different world, but the time thing is something that happened along the way.”

“I command you not to go as my subject.”

“Command me not to go where?”

“The forest of course, you will come back to Ando with me and you and I can fall in love in a way that doesn’t get you killed.”

“I wont die, I promise we’ll get married in three years when I meet you the first time.”

“First time? Let’s get married now, or at least court first.”

“We’re already married. I married you a little over a month ago from my reckoning.”

“Preposterous. How is that even possible?”

“You asked me to before I left to come here.”

“I can’t understand this.”

“Yes you can. This is the present, and everything else has either already happened or is going to happen. It’s just different from person to person. I’ve already fallen in love, and you haven’t yet. Eventually we’ll both be in love at the same time and that is all that matters.”

“You promise?”

“Just as I promised you when we said our vows.”

Walter handed Drey his precious bracelet and she read it. She couldn’t read the one side, but she teared when she read her name and the inscription in Andoish.

“What does the other side say, and what language is it?”

“It’s my language, English and says I will always love and protect you. And my name Walter.”

“Walter?” Drey had him show her how to write it since there was no way to do it in Andoish yet.

“Walter I wont have this. You can’t go. Stay with me and I promise you wont regret it.”

“I know I wouldn’t, but I have to get back to you. Three years from now where there is no need to travel back and forth between yesterday and tomorrow.”

“I don’t want to wait.”

“And I don’t want to lose you. If I don’t go I’ll never be brought here and I’ll never learn from Cro and we’ll never get married.”

“Brought here?”

“Yes, you’ll find the answers in three years. I promise it’ll all make sense. I don’t know what happens after three years, and I doubt you do either.”


“Then it’ll be over, I promise I’ll stay with you after that. But I have one last thing to take care of.”

“You step another foot near the forbidden forest and I’ll go in with you.”

“I’m taking you home to Ando where Cro will protect you till I get back.”

“No! You can’t do this to me.”

“If I don’t I lose you and I’d rather die than let that happen. I’ll come back and make up for all the lost time. I promise. Even if I don’t see you after this, I just want to know you’ll get a little more time with another me who will love you as much as I will.”

“You mean there’s another you and another me?”

“There’s another me who told me this would happen. As well as another you and Cro who told me likewise. I don’t care if it’s the first day or millionth day of your life or mine. But I love you the same whether you remember those days or they are just about to occur.”

“I want to go with you.”

’You can’t. You have to stay in Ando till I show up again and then I can stay forever. I’ll take you with me then if you want.”

“You promise, three years and you wont leave me.”

“Yes, and anyone who gets in my way will pay dearly for every second he keeps me from honoring that promise.”

“Where will you go now?”

“I still have to clue in my yesterday self to what I’ve just told you. He wont fail. He’ll find you. I trust him and I trust you.”

“Go to him then, but come back here to me so I know you aren’t just joking.”


“Yes! I can’t marry you for three years, and you expect to just leave without first coming back here?”

“You mean visit from time to time throughout the three years.”

“Yes, that’s what I mean.”

Walter was wild. He had hoped to just go grab himself on his wedding night, send him back and then go home. Now he had to come back here yet again. This Drey was almost as impatient as the one three years from now. But who could blame her. She was taking everything pretty well. No she was the only one who could. She was believing an impossible story.

Walter realized that he was going to use up all the magic he had tirelessly stored again if he did this. He’d hexed the rune circle in his apartment so he could take himself and his just married self there. But he’d need a way to go forward three years. This would be yet a new spell, then Walter remembered. He told Drey to give him his ring and she did. Walter transmuted it to its’ future state and placed a three year spell on it that would slowly wear off. When it reached empty it would pull him to the place the ring was. From there he would quietly take himself home for the very last time and give him the heads up and then return here, and then finally return back to his wedding night, and just wait till he and Rye disappeared. And that would be the end of it. At least until Rye showed up wherever he was. He hoped he would not get back, take just a little longer.

Walter returned the ring to Drey and said he wasn’t sure when he’d vanish, but then before he could say something else he did. Walter found himself in Dreys’ bedroom. She was fast asleep and her ring was on a bedstand. Walter realized he would restore the ring any day now, train with Cro, come back the same day, get married, and that would be the time to kidnap himself. Walter quietly exited the room, and went downstairs. Cro was nowhere in sight. And Walter quickly checked to make sure neither Cro or Rye were nearby. All were asleep. It must be the night Walter slept over at Rye’s. Walter needed to get out of the castle. He couldn’t though. The doors were locked and there were servants and knights on and off duty. Walter eventually found the king and queens’ chamber and locked himself inside. Putting a few spells in the room to keep himself safe from anyone and anything that tried to get in. When morning came Walter unlocked the door and realized his other self would be having lunch with Drey later that day, she’d tell him everything, he’d restore the ring and then go off with Cro and be back that night to get married. Walter had to hide through all that? Walter eventually hid in the wine cellar and did manage to find a door that servants used to deliver supplies to the castle. Waiting for it to be clear was a pain because there was always someone going in and out. Garbage, food, laundry, it was a nightmare because they all used the same entry and exit.

Walter did manage to get out of the castle that morning and went to the forest to wait. Then he realized he needed to be in Peor not Ando. Great, Walter sprinted to Peor at his fastest. By the time he got there he was sure that he and Cro had finished lunch, and that they would soon depart for Mutton Hollow to train. Walter stayed out of Peor to avoid detection and went into the wilderness to listen and serve. It was refreshing since Walter was tired of walking and even more tired of traveling. He was gonna have to go home in a few hours. But then he’d have done everything that had been implied to happen. Walter swore if his future self showed up again he’d tell him to buzz off and just go back and do whatever it was he was doing. He’d had enough. He wanted a break from this stupid duel with Rye that Cro needed to call a draw on or whatever. Walter didn’t care anymore. What Rye wanted had nothing to do with dueling. He said he was just testing him. But then he had to go and try and send him back home where he had to go now. Walter was ticked at all the trouble Rye had caused, and it was only worse because this time it had been intentional. Walter made a rune circle there in the Peor wilderness. He’d come back here after he was done with himself. Then he’d be gone by the time he and Rye vanished. Then Drey and Cro would be waiting.

Walter wanted to watch his wedding, but that was out of the question. Avoiding Cro was the main concern. He had to think up something to get around Cro. In the end it was just a simple sleeping spell that overpowered Cro and the guards. Just a few minutes to go get himself. Cros’ old age and exhaustion probably helped, because some of the guards woke up as he climbed the stairs to the room. Then Walter realized he needed to put himself and Drey to sleep or he would enter at an awkward moment. He’d factored in the wedding night, but still had to be very careful. Getting himself dressed and carrying him out was the hard part. Then Walter realized he needed this him to wear his clothes. He’d woken up clothed back home, and been sent back in the same state he’d been with Drey. Walter carried his naked sleeping self with him to the forest. Pouring more sleep into him so he wouldn’t wake up too early. Cro was still sleeping, and the guards nodded off again long enough for Walter to get to the rune circle and take them home.

Walter tried to make sure it was his ring he looked for and home. Otherwise his travel spell would take him back to a previous encounter where he needed not to be. Walter managed to get to his room, and it looked like it did when he had left. His journal entry on the desk told him he was here just before he’d write an entry, tear it out and vanish. That was good. He was not there when the goth took ownership, and not much earlier when his past self would be older and dying for his life to break routine.

Walter busied himself switching clothes with his other self, and dubbed his exercise attire as his future self had. He was about to put his wizard garbed self in bed when the door nudged. Someone was coming. As fast as he could Walter put the sleeping Walter under the bed and he hid himself in the bathroom behind the shower curtain. Just the landlord trying to collect todays rent. Too bad that would never happen. Walter would leave soon and maybe that was why he had gotten the place rented out so quickly. The landlord looked at the unlit room and left quickly. Walter was about to come out when Cro and Drey appeared suddenly.

Walter had no idea Cro and Drey had come here. This had never been told him. He stayed hidden praying he wouldn’t be found, and his other self under the bed. Cro and Drey eyed his room, Walter could hear that much but could not see through the shower curtain. When one of them entered the bathroom and turned on the sink, Walter prayed the curiosity ended there. Then he suddenly heard Drey and Cro go into the closet. Great, who was it this time? Someone turned the lights on and sat down at the desk. Walter was burning with realization at the situation. His old self had just sat down to write the entry and would begin this whole adventure. And he, himself, Cro and Drey had been hiding in his room the whole time. Walter heard the page being torned out and knew he’d be summoned away any second. Walter was relieved when Cro and Drey left as well.

The landlord would check up again since Walter hadn’t been there, but he’d let a good amount of time pass. Walter put his other self on the bed and went to get a drink of water. Walter had almost had a heart attack. So much could’ve happened if anyone had been just a slight bit more attentive. When his other self stirred and shouted for Drey he duplicated the scene perfectly. Except that the rune circle ended up being what had bound him all along. The past Walters’ spell missed him, and the binding had him nice a tight. When young Walter surrendered Walter did release him out of his trap. He set up the chess board he found under the bed and tried answering Walters’ questions, trying to be vague cause he himself didn’t know that much to be honest. Truth was Walter was telling this Walter his plan since he’d not dealt with Rye for the most part so far. But if the other Walter knew that, it would be bad for both of them. Walter also couldn’t tell him he was actually going to completely exhaust himself going to some place called Gant to see Drey so he lied a little and said he’d stay at home and replenish. The moment Walter was finished he got ready to send Walter home. And made very sure to only send Walter. It worked. Walter had reset and put the other Walters watch on the bed as a locater so he could send Walter back to the inn instead of the rune circle in the field in Peor. Walter put his wizard clothes back on and the armor, sword, and spell book he’d hidden under the bed as well.

Walter then realized he had other problems. He had to somehow get back to Gant, and he had to do it with the little magic he had left. He was finally truly caught up with the present, and it was just as unclear and scary as the time he’d had to wait and fulfill all the implied future events that were dotted all over time and space. There were three rune circles. The one in his room, the one on the castle top, and the one in Peor. Only one thing to do. Go to Ando and wait for Rye and Walter to disappear and surprise Cro and Drey with the fact that he needed to get to Gant three years back. Walter had no choice. Besides he’d replenish while he waited. Walter entered the rune circle and said good-bye to his home for the third time.

Walter was on the castle roof again and gazed at Ando. This was the castle he knew and the village he remembered. Ryes’ house was visible near the forest and Walter spied Rye heading to the academy. Walter was in rage. Rye would be at the academy until he challenged him to the duel that would take him all over the place and eventually back here. Walter wasn’t just going to sit by and let Rye do that. Walter had been through a lot, and learned much. He could beat this Rye or cripple him for sure. The younger Walter needed all the help he could get. Plus there was the whole business of Cro and Drey to go find out.

Walter climbed down and left the castle to hide and replenish in the forest. In the morning he’d go deal with Rye or prepare to during the duel. Keep him at bay, or throw in a few enchantments to push the duel in his favor. The displacement spell couldn’t be countered cause Walter had to save Ando from the vines. Walter wasn’t even sure he’d be able to help much considering he was spent. His only chance to help would be to sleep that night and spend the morning serving until the other him, Cro, and Drey made their way to the academy. Walter has welcomed the moment he entered the forest. Walter had to hush the forest cause he didn’t want Rye to sense him and come searching. The forest understood, and also pointed out that Walter was low on power. Walter said he knew and that he would do all he could to earn it back. The forest laughed at his suggestion and began invigorating him like never before. Walter was glad to be back here. The forest of Ando somehow knew he had saved it when it had been infested with the vine. And had caught word of how he and Drey were married now. The forest kept Walter awake all night asking what he’d do when he was king, what they could do for him when Drey got back, and how long he’d stay this time before he left.

When Walter informed it that he had to get to Drey in Gant and slay the creature in the marsh west of this place, the forest grew quieter. The forest peered into its’ memory and realized what was going on. The forest helped Walter get comfortable so he’d sleep. And then began a meeting with its members on what they should do. Walter was leaving, Drey was in Gant somehow. And Walter had to slay a beast along the way. A beast that the forest had never been able to get rid since Rye had crafted it so long ago. Krell had lost two of his sons to it, and both Ando and Gant had lost choice men to it. The forest didn’t want Walter to die. It had to do something if Walter was ever to stand a chance against it. All through the night the forest searched for something to help Walter get to Drey in Gant. The forest told the mountains, the mountains informed the valley, which told the sea. They all tried to tell the mages of Gant who were hard of hearing and concerned less with the forest than the ores in the mountains and the fish in the sea. They kept trying though. And while sitting looking over his spells, Ber heard them, and ran swiftly outside, exited the town and reached the grass. Ber listened, and listened to every word. Ber knew what to do. Walter needed a way to get back to Gant? Ber had waited three years for this.

Walter awoke and the forest told him they had a way for him to get to Gant. Walter was shocked but said he’d have to go to the academy and then come back and hear it. Walter knew the way he’d gone to the academy. So he hid himself and very far away from the trio he saw making their way to the place he’d worked for a month. Walter realized he had a decent amount of power thanks to the forest. All the more serving when he got back from Gant. Walter eventually did reach the dueling field and realized he’d be seen. He carefully hid behind a tree and made sure no one was looking in his general direction. When Rye and Walter started their duel Walter started his own spells. He tried confusing Rye, and making him lose focus. Anything to make him clumsy and easier to beat. Attacking Ryes’ mind was hard Walter found, he was so angry and determined. And cocky. Walter could use these emotions to Ryes’ disadvantage. Walter was about lock onto Rye and then saw the sight that couldn’t have possibly shown up at a worse moment. Rye, with a full beard and pointing a gun at Cro and Drey.

Walter had no time to plan, so he used his power to send Cro and Drey to his room. Peor or the castle would’ve been better, but Walter had panicked and chosen the place furthest away. It worked, Cro and Drey vanished before Rye fired a few shots into the air. Bearded Rye was confused. Had the spell taken everyone? He knew it hadn’t very quickly cause Walter had the element of surprise and set Rye on fire with his and Cros’ favorite kind of spell, flame. Rye dropped the gun but prepared to use his staff to extinguish himself but Walter wasn’t done. This time he went all offense on Rye. He bound Rye, and pointed the gun at Ryes’ forehead after he fell to the ground.

“No death dealing Walter.”

Walter put a bullet in Ryes’ left shoulder for the snide way he had spoken. And another in his right knee. Rye screamed in pain and Walter fired the gun in the air till it was empty.

“That’s for ruining my honeymoon, and the others for attacking our village with your hex vines.”

“My village. Your village had me in prison for five months.” Rye managed to say through the pain.

“Obviously you didn’t learn anything from it. Except that you have no honor and would resort to a gun of all things to kill me. This duel is over, I win.”

“Not yet. Cro has to make the call, I was hoping to make that impossible.”

“I’ll find Cro and tell him what happened here. No referee would ever debate the winner.”

“If I keep you from Cro, doesn’t matter if you win here. As long as I’m alive and Cro is far away, the duel can’t end. Your defeat is sealed given enough time. That was my strategy all along. You have improved, but you will never surpass me.”

Walter drew this sword and put it across Ryes’ throat. Rye shut up fast and was more scared of the sword then the gun cause Walter could kill him slowly if he wanted to.

“Surrender now or I take your life. Or worse, your eyes, tongue, and anything else you wont be needing if you die.”

“You’d risk violating the rules?’

“I’ve got you under my blade, and I could’ve shot you in the head. Even if you pull something I’ve claimed your life two times over. Your tunic is mine.”

Rye would’ve screamed never but his knee and shoulder were hurting a lot and he was losing blood. He had to use his magic to get away or get rid of Walter. But Walter was too close, besides he’d just take them both wherever and unless it was dangerous, Walter would have the edge. Rye had just escaped from jail, but at least there he’d be safe and get treatment. Rye smiled and Walter pushed the blade closer, but then they were in the prison. In the same circle Rye had drawn there a moment ago when he escaped.

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