Stars Riddle

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Chapter Three

Raederle opened her eyes to find smoke and choas. Small fires still burned where Pete had stood and the wind-blown library hall was now little more than a ruin. The papers and scrolls were gone! The masons were besides themselves with worry and grief.

“Pete couldn’t have just vanished into thin air!” Raederle tried to explain to one of the masons.

“The scrolls did. All those books just vanished into nothing! Who is to say that a young man can’t dissappear the same way?” The mason told her.

“I’m telling you that people don’t just vanish!” Raederle counted to ten and took calming breathes before continuing. “Could he have been taken by the Dark Elves like Caidan?”

“Anything is possible but that situation is very doubtful. The Dark Elves had their prince. They would not bother with the rest of you,” the master mason said with certainty.

“Then something else took him,” Raederle decided with cold dread runing through her core. They had all been warned that there were worse enemies than simple Eratians or even Dark Elves.

“I saw the wind moving,” Tarale said slowly. “I heared it speaking. I’m afraid I know what took Pete.” Dread seemed to fill Tarale too but she continued talking all the same. “If I’m right about Pete, than I know how to send you to the Dark Elves.”

“I thought you said the Dark Elves couldn’t have taken Pete?” Raederle said with confusion.

“I don’t believe that they did take him but they needed a demensional hole to get here,” Tarale began.

“Do you think they’re from the same place?”

“Oh, no. Not the same place at all but nieigher of them are from here. They both had to cross demensions to get to this place. There should still be a traveling place if they only just left with Pete,” Tarale concluded.

Raederle tried to hold down her excitement. “You have a place that will let me cross into the Dark Elf demension?” Raederle waited for the Nemphess’s quick nod before continuing, “Then all I have to do is cross back with Caidan! Show me this place, Tarale!”

“Things will not be so simple, child,” Tarale tried to explain but Raederle only pulled her to her feet and led her from the room. “You humans are so hastey,” Tarale said with a laught before letting Raederle draw her outside. Tarale let the way at a fast pace but Raederle had no problem keeping up. She could have run in her excitement. She stopped dead when Tarale did though.

They stood in the deep ridge of a valley. The two of them were surrounded by trees even though the earth around them was clear. The tree’s canopy was so wide that the leaves could be seen from within the deep ridge.

“This is where the hole is? How can you tell? We’re in the middle of no where!” Raederle could not hide her disappointment. She was expecting to see some evidence of the hole Tarale seemed to know existed.

“It’s diffenatly here,” Tarale assured her. “Can’t you feel it?”

“I don’t feel anything,” Raederle admitted.

Tarale walked beside the girl, touching her shoulder. “Step up here,” she directed. “Wait while I talk with the trees, to make sure that this hole is safe to enter. I don’t want you to get lost trying to find him.”

Raederle nodded and tried to be patient. Her heart was beating a thousand beats a second and her hands began to shake. Each second seemed to last an hour and waiting was not going to be an option for long.

“Now!” Tarale screamed with a booming echo to her voice.

Raederle barely heared the word cut off before she stepped into the woods and ended up in darkness. She felt weightless and lost. The feeling unnervered her. She tried to take another step just to make the feeling end but that’s when the blackness finally closed in.

Pete looked around at his new seroundings in shock. The wind had carried him through cold, biting air until he passed out from sheer exhaustioin. Pete opened his eyes after what felt like only seconds of sleep. It must have been longer than that though; he was numb to his core with wind and cold.

Pete got to his feet slowly. He almost wanted to be lost in the winds again. The wind was less confusing than the world he now found himself in. He found himself in a world of mist. Nothing was clearly defind, everything blended into another. Pete had to blink rapidly to focus on anything around him.

He squinted and began to see the shape of a man in the distance. Pete began to walk towards the shape and the mist that covered everything seemed to part infront of the man. Pete walked closer and closer and the mist grew thinner and clearer until he recognised the man.

“Sargento?” Pete asked in surprise. “How did you get here?”

Sargento seemed to vanish as soon as Pete made a way to him. “Sargento! What happened?” Pete looked around, searching for where his friend could have gone.

A tall figure seemed to appear from the mist. Pete walked towards it but stopped dead. This thing was clearly not a human. It smelled... wrong... like rotting fish.

“I am sorry to disappiont you, wolf-brother. Your friend is gone,” a scratching voice said from the mist. The scratchy seemed to fit the thing that stood before him.

“What have you done with Sargento?” Pete demanded. “How do you know me?”

“My name is Ornree,” the thing said with a smile. “Sargento was telling me all about you.”

“Sargento didn’t look too happy to be with you,” Pete said with a discussed snear on his lips. “I didn’t exactly volunteer to be here. Wind stole me from a floating city.”

“The wind only takes what it needs. The wind and I need a wolf-brother. The Nemphs you were with should have told you all about it,” Ornree said with a snear of his own.

“I don’t want to know your secrets or play your games. I just want to get out of here. Can you help me leave or do I need to find a way out on my own?” Pete tried to get a riegn on his temper but the scenery made him angrier and angrier.

“This is not a game, wolf-brother. You will help me save my people or your friends will suffer,” Ornree ground out.

“There is no need to make threats,” Pete told him, holding up a calming hand. “I will help your people. But I will do more than that if you let me help without threatening anyone.”

“You are a soft man,” Ornree said with a sneer. “You have never made hard decisions before. I think you will need proper insentive when it is time to make those hard decisions.”

“What are you asking me to do? I thought you wanted your people saved! What is this about hard decisions?”

“Humanity kills itself and takes us all down with it,” Ornree said in a mysterious tone.

“The stories say that you killed hundreds of people too,” Pete said with steel in his voice.

Ornree laughed his terrible laugh. “You’ve heard the stories, have you? Your friend did not seem to know me.”

“The wolves told me of you,” Pete said in a growl.

“Call them here,” Ornree ordered.

Pete ran.

Morgan tried not to open her eyes. She heared footsteps and the rush of water. She heard voices and the wap of fabrick snapping in the wind. This was not the Eratian coast... Morgan was not sure where she was or how she got there. Good since should have told her to keep her eyes closed until she knew more but instinct won out.

Her eyes snapped open. A boat rolled beniegth her as she jumped to her feet. The sudden movement gave her a case of vertigo and sent her tumbling. Arms wrapped around her to keep her from falling.

“Easy there, young lassy!” the man who held her called out. “We’re here to help. Take deep breathes now.”

Morgan froze in the man’s arms. All the breath flew from her. Morgan could not breath and she was not sure she could make herself breathe again. Morgan knew that it was truely shock setting in but convincing the panic that seemed to fill her was harder.

“There, now,” the man soothed. “I’m Dominic Balec, first mate on this ship. You are safe here. The captain and I... we all saw you fall from the sky. The men think you were sent by the Creator to lead us home.”

“Where are we?” Morgan aske donce she had air to speak again.

“We’re north of the Lone Isles in the Black Ocean. The ship is headed to the Eratian royal city with a haul of silks from the Lone Isles.”

“You think that I can help you find your way? Are you lost?” Morgan tried to hide her panic.

“No one is lost, lass. Sailors are supersticious folk is all,” Dominic explained to her.

“You should not be going anywhere in Eratian. There was a tornado there or maybe a huricane!” Morgan tried to tell him.

“Oh, no, lassy! You must be mistaken. Our ship would have run into a storm before it reached Eratian. Our ship is not so far away as all that!” Dominic tried to laugh.

“I was in Eratian,” Morgan tried to tell him. “An Nemph city was floating above it but then this great wind came and the trees the Nemph used knocked me here!”

Dominic set a hand on her arm and guided her below deck. “I see what’s happened, lassy. You must have fit your head in your fall. Things may be a little confised for a while but things will come to rights, you’ll see.”

Morgan tried to tell him that she most certainly was not seeing things and that a storm had come to the Eratians but she could see that he was not listening.

Morgan was ready to give Dominic a piece of her mind weather he was listening or not but a movement in the corner of her eye caught her attention. The shadows were moving in the darkened corners of the room. Morgan remembered what the shadows had done to Evan and could not help the shudder that passed through her.

“Shadows...” Morgan wanted to warn him but she did not know where to begin. All words seemed to leave her. Dominic seemed to notice her trouble.

“Don’t clam up on me now, lass! What about shadows?” Dominic screamed.

“They’re moving,” Morgan said in shock. “They’re alive!”

“Calm down! shadows aren’t --” Dominic broke off, seeing the shadows’ movement himself now. “They’re everywhere!”

Morgan spun left and then right, looking for a way out of the circle of shadows she and Dominic were now in. Morgan called migic to her as Mistress Tessa had taught her on the long road to Misty mountain. Fire and lightning burst from her fingers, making darkness melt before her. Morgan called on more magic until light itself was dancing from her hands in a blue-white torrent.

“Get down!” Morgan commanded Dominic as she danced with her magic, sending light to every corner of the ship.

The shadows melted and vanished into the sea and get lost in the water’s depths. Morgan breathed a sigh of reliefe, hoping against hope that they would not come back. She moved to the rail to study the water when Dominic came to her on shaking leggs.

“How did you do that?” He whispered in awe. “What did you do?”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. It was the only thing I could think to do!” Morgan did not know where to begin explaining magic and how she knew anything.

“This has happened to you before?” Dominic asked in shock. “My sailors were right! They are normally a superstious lot but they were right about you, lass.”

“I’m not evil! I know that the velvet women in Eratia say that women who use magic are evil... but I sware to you that I’m not.” Morgan was not sure if she was pleading with Dominic or herself.

“You saved my life, lass. I can see you’re not evil. You got nothing to proove to me,” Domonic swore in a calm voice.

Morgan tried to take deep breaths and be calm herself. “My friends are trapped in Eratia. They taught me how to control the magic.”

“I can see why you don’t want to return to Eratia,” Dominic said a little shakily. “My crew will not allow a treasure like you to be lost.” Dominic turned his back to Morgan and screamed, “About face! Westward to port!”

Morgan looked about in confusion, watching the men run in a chaotic whirl of activity. Dominic saw her confusion and explained. “We’re taking you home to the Island Nation.”

Morgan looked at him with wide eyes. “I can’t just leave my friends... my sister is there!”

“This ship is taking you to the Island Nation all the same,” Dominic said in a tone that said the conversation what finished.

Will looked at Sargento in shock. Sargento had told Will all that had happened in a rush. Will could hardly believe his ears but something had forced Sargento to stay back.

“You got lost in a world of mist?” Will repeated slowly. “A skeleton-thing made out of black tar tried to get you to talk to wolves?”

“I told Ornree that I was Pete. I told him I was a wolf-brother. He knew I was lying. He asked me to call the wolves to me to prove that I was a wolf-brother. I tried to distract him but I didn’t have to for long. Pete appeared out of nowhere and next I know I’m here!” Sargento said the whole thing in one breath without pause.

“Try to calm down,” Will said slowly, trying to stay calm himself. He wanted to scream with frustration and confusion but he kept the feeling inside. “Just breath. We’re in the dream world. We can find a wolf and tell them about Pete. You know how protective they are of him. A whole pack of wolves will come to his rescue and bring him to safety!”

Will tried to feel as confidant as he sounded. Sargento seemed to think that he sounded confidant enough. The former wolf-man was nodding and looking more calm with each word Will said.

“We’ll get help for Pete and then check on the others. The wolves should be able to tell us how the others are holding up. They have a way of knowing everything.”

“Pete may be spending too much time with them,” Will said thoughtfully. “He’s getting a mind-reading complex.”

“I thought that was your friend. Don’t you want him to know these things?” Sargento was looking at Will as if he was a stranger.

“I am concerned for him because he’s my friend. I’d just ignore a nobody on the street,” Will told him with a sly grin.

“You can play the tough guy if you want but I know the truth,” Sargento told him with a sideways look.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. I never play games.” The sly smile never left Will’s face.

“Let’s find some wolves then,” Sargento said with a shake of his head.

“Juniper!” Will yelled as he ran in circles around the wolf’s valley. “We need your help!”

“I will help you if I can,” Juniper assured them, appearing suddenly. “Though I am not sure why you are running about my fields. You are scaring away the hunt! No deer will be here for hours now.” The large wolf seemed to pout. “I can wait but that does not mean I want your impatients to make me wait.”

“I’m not here for a lesson,” Will told him ryly. “We have information for you this time.” Will guestered to himself and Sargento.

Sargento launched into his tale quickly. “Pete is in trouble. The other wolves need to know. A black creature in the shadow world has him. It’s called Ornree and it wants the wolves to be called --”

“Did you say, ‘Ornree’?” Juniper interupter with the clip of fear in his sending even though there was no voice. “The wolves do need to know this. We need to get to Pete right away.”

“Can you spread the word?” Will asked, sincing the anxiety in the room.

“It is dangerous for the wolves to go to Ornree. They have had trouble with the shadow creature in the past.” Juniper did not explain further.

“How do we get to him then?” Sargento jumped in, knowing that they were running out of options. “Someone has to save him and if the wolves can’t do it... that leaves us.”

“You don’t know what you’re up against,” Juniper warned. “Ornree and his people once lived in our world. His people were banished to the shadow world centures ago. They have been trying to get back ever since. Still, you know demensional travel is difficult. The ancient civilization that banished Ornree made it impossible for him to return without seven tears in the space wall.”

“I take it these tears are hard to make,” Will said, beginning the piece the story together.

“It is possible to tear the fabric of space by killing something that travels through them. Ornree can be free if he kills seven wolves. He has taken Pete to draw the wolves to him,” Juniper said quickly.

“Will the wall tear if he kills us? We travel the dream world just like the wolves do,” Sargento pointed out.

“It must be a wolf. Your blood is human even if you can travel,” Juniper assured them.

“We can save Pete without letting Ornree out,” Will said, thinking aloud. “How do we get to Pete?”

Juniper was about to send answer when Will and Sargento both were violently pulled back. They landed with a jolt and opened their eyes in shock.

They were back in the Eratian dungeon.

“Bind their hands and bring them,” the empress ordered before leading the way upstairs.

Evan crawled his way to the surface of the blackness. The shadows still wrapped around him but he was able to gather his sinces. Evan reached up and lifted the shadows from his face. His arm felt like it weighed a ton on its own. All of Evan’s strength seemed to be grained just lifting it to clear his face.

Evan groaned and tried to look around. He could do little else. Still, Evan struggled to at least sit up when he saw the silloquete of a man coming towards him.

“Welcome, Evan, great-son of Talmon, great-son of Morgon, great-son of Emmeron, great-son of Riddlemaster. It was Riddlemaster who sent us here so long ago,” the shadow said in a slow, drawing voice.

“Who are... What are you?” Evan asked through a dry throat.

“You know us, Evan,” the silloquete said with a smile that seemed too large for its face. The smile did not falter or diminish no matter what was said. “We have been watching you for a long time.”

“Watching for what?” Evan asked. “Did you find what you were looking for?”

“I have found the decentant of my greatest foe,” the shadow said, keeping that smile in place. “I would like to kill you. You are the only one who can destroy us but then, you are the only one who can save us too. The council members spoke for caution so I shall have to keep you alive.”

“Why are you telling me all of this?” Evan asked in fear. He tried to keep his voice from shaking but it was a loosing battle. “If my ancestor sent you here whu would you expect me to help you?”

“We expect you to help yourself, Evan,” another shadow said as it came into the light. This shadow’s voice was higher-ptiched and the shape of the shadow had a feminine cast. The first shadow began to hiss at her but the she-shadow ignored him. “You will not like the consiquences of ignoring our requests.”

“What are the consequences of fulfilling your wishes?” Evan asked with suspicion boiling up within him. “I won’t do anything until I know what your ‘request’ will do. There is an action for every reaction and a consiquence to each thought.”

“Your masons have taught you well,” the first shadow hissed at Evan. “You repeat everything they say perfectly but they have led you astray. You do not know what you are saying.”

“I don’t know what you’re asking me to do!” Evan said in frustraition. “I won’t agree until you give me all the information.”

“Follow me,” the she-shadow commanded, “And you shall have your answers.”

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