Chapter 13: The Pale Hunter
Chapter 13: The Pale Hunter
Joshua was in the belly of the beast. Much to his surprise however, the beast was plush and comfortable. His boots flaked dried mud on the carpet. What he wouldn’t give to take his shoes off and feel that under his feet; it had been so long. There were soft chairs against large porthole windows. Joshua craned his neck left and saw what was verifiable a small kitchen. Forget the carpet, he’d take the food.
Niles ushered him through the floor and to a sort of office space in the middle of the airplane’s belly. The room was structured simply enough with a large circular table and chairs but the walls were glass, making the comings and goings of this room visible to all.
Joshua noticed none of this. He sprinted past Niles and slid on the carpet coming to a stop near the still bodies of Kael and Gianna on their backs. Joshua gasped and his heart rate rocketed until he saw the slight heave of Kael’s chest and realized he was alive and breathing. Alive, but just staring at the ceiling blankly. Gianna mirrored him in every way.
“What’s wrong with them,” Joshua turned on Niles, a low growl rumbling in his voice.
Niles smiled back. “Temporarily paralyzed if I had to guess. I was going to do the same to you if you didn’t cooperate.” Niles subtly twisted his wrist and a thin, silvery needle appeared between his index and middle finger. He twisted back and it was gone.
“Fix them!” Joshua yelled.
“I suppose I could. But then again, making people better goes against my instincts.” Niles backed off as Joshua rose. “I’ll go get the guy in charge though. You can take it up with him.” Niles left with a twirl of his cloak.
Joshua ducked back down to fret over his brother and Gianna when another man entered the room silently. He walked past Joshua and sat down at the other end of the table. Settled in, he rapped his fingers on the wood to get Joshua’s attention.
Joshua jolted upright and stared at this newcomer. Actually, to say he stared would be too kind. He gaped, slack-jawed and dumbfounded. The man across the table was an oddity in Joshua’s eyes. His skin had an opaque translucent quality, enough to make the reds and blues of his circulatory system slightly visible. His hair was pure white. Not even white. It had a colorless quality. The man’s pale gray eyes were transfixed on Joshua.
“Do have a seat,” the man said. Joshua didn’t know what to expect from his voice, but it wasn’t that. Looking back down at Kael briefly, Joshua slowly took his seat.
“Fix them,” Joshua hissed.
The man tilted his head and made some extravagant gesture with a hand. “I could, but, they’ll recover in a matter of minutes if not seconds. It’s easier if we begin right away. They’re both awake and can hear, they’ll catch up.”
“Fix them,” Joshua steadfastly repeated.
The man’s colorless eyebrows knight together in annoyance. They were hard to see, in another light, they wouldn’t appear to be there at all. “I’m Ell,” the man said.
“My name is Ell. And while I was certainly hoping to meet you and your brother after. . . .” The man paused and spun in a circle with his chair, arms out. “Well, everything Niles told me about. I do consider it a welcomed surprise to meet you out of the blue like this.”
Unsure, Joshua listened. It seemed unlikely that this was a coincidence. But then again, it was undoubtedly pure coincidence that they passed by a Dark Element base in the first place. A hand grasped the table beside him and jolted Joshua from his thoughts. Gianna slowly pulled herself up and sat down to his right, giving him a curt nod before turning to Ell. Joshua glanced back to Kael still on the ground.
“Tell me, little girl,” Ell smiled, “do you know who you are traveling with?” He looked on for some change in her face or disposition and was sorely disappointed. “Joshua and Kael are the princes, or rather former princes, of Taerose,” he said with a wave of his hand.
It was not Joshua’s turn to look for some reaction in Gianna. While there was none, he wasn’t sure if that’s what he wanted.
“So you kidnapped us because of who our dad is?” Kael said shakily, wobbling to his feet. He forcefully stood as tall as he could and braced himself on Joshua’s chair. Ell gave a simple, rehearsed shrug of the shoulders. “Who are you?”
“You didn’t hear? My name is--”
“Your group! These people!” Kael shouted.
“Ah!” Ell said leaning back in his chair. “I trust you all know Seriah?”
“I used to live there,” Gianna said, speaking up.
“And why is Seriah hunting the Dark Element?” Joshua pressed.
“Why indeed?” Ell said, distractedly looking at two soldiers walking past. Joshua thought he recognized them from the melee. Ell cleared his throat. “Seriah prides itself on being the only superpower in the world-- unrivaled. It took a great amount of effort to convince them of the existence of Syches, but, once I had, everything else fell into place. They were not fond of the idea that Taerose was amassing a small army of Syches. It was easy enough to throw this together and put myself in charge.” Ell motioned to the room, or maybe the airplane in general.
“Then why is Ell hunting the Dark Element?” Gianna asked, mimicking the cadence to Joshua’s cadence.
“That is the best question asked yet.” Ell smiled to himself. “Ell is hunting Syches because Taerose is a threat to this entire world if left unchecked. And let me be clear, by Taserose I mean the self-proclaimed King-Emporer of Taserose.” Ell shot an accusatory finger at Joshua and Kael. “Your father.”
“How is that our fault?” Kael asked angrily while Joshua scoffed at Ell’s words.
“It’s not,” Ell said, taking a second to stretch his neck. “But it is something you can help with. Hence why we are all in the same room.”
“How can they help?” Gianna asked as if the idea revolted her.
“Hold on,” Kael said, “It doesn’t matter if we can help or not. We aren’t going to.” Joshua shook his head in agreement. “We’re busy doing our own thing.”
“Yes,” Ell said. “The Book of Light wasn’t it?”
Kael stuttered trying to find words. Ell knowing this much was nothing short of moral outrage. “That Niles guy followed us,” Joshua said, catching his brother up. “They seem to uh. They seem to know a lot about us.”
Kael strode over to a chair and finally sat down before pointing a finger at Ell. “No one was following me. I would have known.”
“That’s what I said,” Joshua agreed, priding himself on a level of awareness that probably didn’t exist.
“To refocus this,” Ell began, “there is nothing we can do to acquire your assistance? We don’t need much.”
Kael said, “Not unless you can give me the Book right now.”
Ell looked to the seats next to him as if there was someone else he could rely on. “And just where do you think this Book is? Do you even know?”
“We have a pretty good idea,” Joshua said. “We’re kind of the experts on the subject.”
“Fantastic!” Ell said rubbing his hands together. “Give me a heading and we’ll go there right now. We’ll be your taxi and in return, you help us with the Taerose problem.”
Joshua glanced to Kael quizzically; Kael in turn seemed taken aback and looked to Joshua for some clue on how to answer. The nonverbal communication was interrupted when a soldier knocked on the window, attempting to get Ell’s attention. Ell slid out of his chair and left the room.
“This is fishy,” Joshua said as soon as the door closed.
Kael sat contemplating it all for a good minute before he slowly said: “It’s perfect.” It was undoubtedly the last thing Joshua had expected him to say. “We need to be the ones to find the Book, but anyone can go kill our dad. This is the perfect opportunity.”
“We don’t know these people,” Joshua spat back. “This is insane. They drugged you.”
“You’re saying you won’t do it?” Kael answered.
“I will if you make the call. I’m just asking you to think about this carefully,” Joshua finished by blowing out air and leaning back in his seat. He could already tell that Kael was smitten by the idea. As Joshua turned to see what was happening outside the room, he cocked his head in interest as Ell was animatedly talking with the grizzled soldier from the clearing as well as Niles. Niles was amused as always, a wide grin plastered to his face, while the soldier was explaining something with a worried look in his eye to a disaffected Ell. Joshua stood up worriedly when Ell suddenly sprinted from the conversation further into the ship. Ell promptly came tearing back with a long rifle over his shoulder. Joshua sprinted from the room with Gianna who had noticed as well, leaving Kael alone and horribly confused.
“What is happening?” Joshua screamed back at Niles and the soldier, but he was already out of earshot by the time the answer came.
Joshua and Gianna burst through the cargo bay door and were then shoved aside by a group of shoulder sprinting into the ship. Annoyed, Joshua and Gianna joined Ell at the lip of the ship looking out into the forest. Through the line of trees, a mess of commandos sprinted, carry the poles that Niles had planted earlier. As Ell brought the rifle to his cheek, Joshua stumbled as the engines roared to life and the ship shook. The rifle rose to his cheek and Ell took a shot out into the trees causing Joshua to back away, unsure if it was safe to be standing where he was.
As the last of the commandos sprinted into the bowels of the airplane, the ship rocked and began to ascend vertically, quickly putting distance between them and the ground. Joshua squinted as he saw two men emerge from the forest in a hurry. They were dressed in the black uniform of the Dark Element, but one of the men was altogether familiar.
“Hey, Emile!” Joshua screamed and waived as Ell trained his sights on him.
“Emile?” Ell asked, shouldering his rifle. He stretched sideways and pressed a button causing the gangway to close.
“You know him?” Joshua asked.
“We have no Syches of our own, at least Seriah doesn’t. We’ve been desperately trying to flip a few.”
“They seem to know you,” the man standing in the woods next to Emile said, eyeing him skeptically as the jet-plane above quickly turned into a speck.
“Let’s just keep that to ourselves,” Emile replied. “I’ve got you covered if anything comes of it.”
The man next to him gave a boisterous laugh. “I know. I just want to hear the story behind it.”
Thirty minutes later, Joshua, Kael, and Gianna sat back down at the table with an assortment of food and hot drinks.
“We’re going to accept your offer, Ell” Kael said during bites. They hadn’t talked about it in those thirty minutes. They hadn’t needed to. It was set in stone the second Kael heard the offer.
“Fantastic,” Ell said, watching them eat in abject horror. “Give me the heading and we’ll be on our way.”
“Oh no you don’t,” Kael said forcefully, smashing both his palms on the table. “We’re doing it my way. We need rest and recovery. You are going to put us down at a place of my choosing, and then in exactly two months, you’ll meet us there again. At which point I will tell you the destination and we will go. After we finish our business at this. . . place, then we will help you take down the Taerose Empire.”