[For 14 weeks, beginning on March 19th, on Sundays and Wednesdays, I’ll be posting chapters of book one of my Jaben’s Rift trilogy: From a Far Land. I hope you enjoy it. The first part is here. I’d love to hear any feedback.]
Reyga sent a green flare of power at a hissing Trellin before it could bring its sword down on the back of an unsuspecting warrior.
“My thanks!” the man gasped, as he turned and realized what had happened.
Reyga turned his horse away, swinging his staff in a wide arc, the blazing emerald at the end leaving a crackling trail of green hanging in the air. A cry to his left caught his attention. Another warrior caught in trapsilk. Reyga incinerated the thread, and then sent a blast toward the Manarach that had thrown it.
He had been separated from the other members of the Circle as the two armies collided. Now he was using all of his power in an effort to keep the warriors around him alive. An arrow grazed his sleeve. He realized sitting on his horse made him a more visible target, but he was loathe to dismount; this vantage point allowed him to view the battle. Another arrow flying past made his decision for him, and he slid to the ground. He slapped the horse’s hindquarters, sending it barreling through the throng.
He sent power flying into the mass of enemy fighters. In the chaos it was difficult to know which way to attack first. A Trellin leaped toward him, bringing its sword down in a lethal arc. Reyga deflected the blow with his staff and then slammed the end of the staff into the side of the creature’s skull. As it staggered backwards, he threw a flare of dimsai at it, sending it crashing into the creatures behind.
He felt something wrap around his legs, jerking him off balance. His staff bounced away as he hit the ground, stopping just outside of his reach. He rolled over to see a Manarach looming over him, ready to impale him with a spear.
A blast of power sent the creature flying away. Another flash cleared a small area around him, which was suddenly encompassed in an iridescent curtain.
“I figure I owed you that one,” a voice said, as the trapsilk around his legs dissolved into ash.
He looked up to see Jason holding his hand out to help him up.
“Jason, you have your power!”
Jason pulled him up. “And I know what I need to do with it. I have to get to Bothan. Will you come with me?”
“Do you believe you can defeat him?”
Jason shrugged. “I won’t know until I try. But even if I can’t beat him, I think there’s one thing I can do that might help.”
Reyga looked at the battle raging outside the shield. He could stay here, hoping to protect the handful of warriors he could see, or he could go with Jason, perhaps to save them all. He had been there when this all began, when Jason first arrived. It seemed only fitting that he should be with Jason if it was coming to an end.
He nodded. “I will come with you.”
Gatlor jumped from his screaming horse as it went down, several Trellin bloodfangs broken off in its flanks. He landed beside Seerka and Calador, who had stayed near him as they charged the enemy. The battle raged around them as he and Seerka took up positions shoulder to shoulder. Behind them, Calador’s axe and maul kept the creatures there at bay. Between the clashing of blade and shield, and the hissing and roaring of the enemy, he could barely hear himself think.
“I suppose popularity has its price,” he yelled over the din, yanking his sword from the Trellin he had just dispatched.
“Naturally,” the Ferrin shouted back. “It is difficult to go anywhere without being noticed.”
A thread of trapsilk landed on his arm. He sliced through it with his dagger before the creature could pull him off balance. The Manarach gave ground to avoid the slash of his sword. He could see flashes of dimsai in the throng surrounding them, but was unable to determine if it was coming from Haven saiken or the enemy. A reptilian body thudded against him. Before he could react, it slid to the ground, blood pouring from the gashes in its neck.
“You owe me an ale,” Seerka laughed as Gatlor shot him a look.
“Aye,” he answered. “Perhaps more than one.”
He heard Calador roar from behind. Sparing a glance over his shoulder, he saw that two of Manarachs had the Dokal warrior entangled in trapsilk. They were unable to pull the giant off balance, however, and for the moment, his armor-like skin was deflecting most of the damage from Trellin swords.
With a flurry of flashing steel, he gained just enough space between him and his attackers to allow him to spin and slash at the silken threads entrapping Calador. His maneuver freed the giant from one of the Manarachs and loosed the arm wielding the maul. Heaving on the remaining threads, Calador pulled the other Manarach close enough to bring his maul down, crushing the creature’s skull. With a backhanded sweep of the weapon, Calador sent several Trellin flying into their comrades, clearing a small space in front of him.
Gatlor looked around as he slashed and parried. They were completely surrounded. While they could fend off the enemy for a moment, they would not be able to keep it up for much longer.
A streak of pain flashed across his shoulder as a Trellin blade slashed him. He ducked under the next swing and rammed his dagger up under its breastplate into its heart. He tried to pull the blade free as the creature sank to the ground, but it was knocked aside by others pushing forward. The sudden sideways motion yanked the dagger from his hand. He parried another blow with his sword as he pulled a dagger from his bandolier.
A backswing laid open a Trellin throat just as another line of trapsilk landed on his sword arm. He pulled as hard as he could and sent the dagger flying toward the other end of the line. The Manarach hissed in pain as the blade buried itself in its shoulder. Before the creature could react, he pulled another dagger out and cut away the strand, just managing to bring his sword up in time to block a blade intent on separating his head from his neck.
The bodies pressed in closer and closer, making it difficult to swing his sword. He could feel the first subtle signs of weakness in his arms as he spared a look at Seerka. The cat-man bled from several shallow wounds, but his ears laid back and his fangs were in full display as he growled at his attackers.
“It has been an honor fighting alongside you, my friends,” Gatlor shouted.
“And with you,” Seerka called back. “Although I would have enjoyed sharing another ale or two with you.”
“We are not dead yet!” Calador bellowed. “Down!” Gatlor and Seerka dropped to the ground as the giant spun in a circle, the axe and maul swinging over their heads. His sudden tactic caught several of the Trellin and one of the Manarachs. They crashed back into the throng, allowing a small space to open up around the three of them.
A flash of dimsai blinded him. He raised his sword instinctively as he tried to blink the spots from his vision. As his eyes focused, he saw a glimmering shield of power surrounding them, sparking and flashing as the creatures attacked it. Standing in front of them, with his arms spread, was Jason Bennett. Reyga stood behind him.
“Well,” he panted, “your timing is excellent. It would appear that you have finally remembered how to use your power.”
Jason nodded. “Finally,” he said. Then he swung one of his hands in a circle around his head. The flashes from the shield stopped. Gatlor wiped gritty sweat from his face with his sleeve and looked at the surrounding creatures. They looked dazed. Then they began attacking each other. The Manarachs threw silken strands in every direction, killing any creature they could snare. The Trellin attacked the Manarachs and each other. The ground outside the shield was soon littered with bodies.
“What did you do?” he asked, not sure he could believe what he was seeing.
“These things are all connected to Bothan somehow. That’s how he’s controlling them. I broke the connection for the ones around us. Without Bothan’s control, they go back to fighting each other, but it won’t last long.”
“Can you break all of the connections? If the army began attacking itself, we might have a chance.”
“That’s what I was thinking too. But I’ve got to get to Bothan. I can only break them when I’m close to them. To break them all, I’ll have to do it at his end. Come on.” Jason opened up a path with a blast of power, and then ran into the mass of creatures. Reyga nodded at Gatlor’s unspoken question, and then went after Jason.
He didn’t hesitate. “Follow them. He goes to confront Bodann, and perhaps end this battle.” He ran after Jason, the others falling in behind.
Jason stood at the base of the hill, looking up at his ancestor. To his vision, Bothan looked like some demonic octopus out of a nightmare. Thousands of ethereal arms radiated out from his malignant aura toward the battlefield. The big man grinned down at him, his hand resting on the pommel of the sword at his hip.
“Well, lad,” Bothan said. “I see you’ve got your power, right enough. No matter. Unless you’d be coming to join me, I’m thinking you and your friends will live longer if you turned around and walked away right now.” He looked to Jason’s side. “Greetings, Reyga, my old friend. It has been a while, hasn’t it? I trust you are well?”
Gatlor stepped forward. “Let us finish this.” With a blur of leather, he whipped out a dagger and hurled it at Bothan. Almost negligently, Bothan flicked his wrist, reversing the dagger’s course. Gatlor ducked to the side as the dagger sliced open the shoulder of his tunic.
“You’ll have to do better than that, Gatlor,” Bothan sneered. “You always were too headstrong for your own good.” He held up a hand as Calador raised his axe. “Hold, giant. Not even a brute your size is any concern to me. Why don’t you two take your pet cat and let old friends chat?” With a gesture, he wrapped the three warriors in a cocoon of power and sent them flying across the parched rock. Jason couldn’t tell where they landed, but it looked like it would take them a while to get back, assuming they were even able.
“Bodann,” Reyga said, “why are you doing this? You would destroy Teleria? Why?”
“Teleria is not the target, Reyga. It is the prize. To win it, I will break the Circle and all who are loyal to them. Any who will not pledge themselves to me will pay the price.”
“Then let me give you my first payment.” Reyga sent a blast of dimsai that exploded at Bothan’s feet, sending him stumbling backward. As Bothan fell, Reyga turned to Jason.
“Jason, listen to me,” he said. “I cannot defeat him. His power surpasses mine. But I can distract him. While I do that, you must break his hold over his army. Give our people a chance.”
“Please, Jason.” Reyga turned back toward Bothan and started walking up the hillside.
“Now, Reyga,” Bothan said, getting up, “that was a trifle uncalled for wouldn’t you say?”
“Not at all, old friend,” Reyga said. “If you will not cease this foolishness, then I must.” He sent another volley of power, but the big man was prepared this time. Reyga’s power detonated loudly, but harmlessly, against a shield that now surrounded Bothan.
Bothan sighed heavily. “Ah, Reyga. I had truly hoped you would change your mind once you saw which way the wind was blowing. But, just as the others, you have ever been blind to what should be.” He threw his power at Reyga, who just managed to put up a shield to deflect it. Even with the shield, Reyga staggered, and had to struggle to retain his balance.
Reyga shot Jason a look before throwing another blast at Bothan. Jason turned his attention to the threads overhead, trying to ignore the explosions of power a few yards away. He focused on a particularly thick cluster of strands and sent his power upward. As the power sliced through them, the tendrils frayed and faded away.
Satisfied with the results, he began severing more of the connections. He looked over his shoulder at the two men. Reyga threw bolt after bolt at Bothan, but it was clear that it was an effort in futility. The blasts detonated impotently against the shield protecting Bothan, who appeared mildly amused.
He turned back to his task, working as quickly as he could. Half of the strands were gone now, and he could hear a subtle difference in the sounds coming from the battlefield. He risked a quick glance. Sections of the battle had dissolved into chaos as the creatures no longer under Bothan’s control attacked anything within reach.
“What are you doing, boy?”
He turned just in time to catch the back of Bothan’s hand across his face as the big man stormed down the hillside. The blow knocked him backwards, and he landed on his back, stunned. As he shook his head to clear it, he saw Reyga lying motionless a short distance away at the base of the hill. A small trickle of blood wandered from the corner of his mouth through the dust on his face. Oh, Reyga.
“I asked you a question, boy. What do you think you’re doing?” Jason looked up to see Bothan towering over him. He struggled to his feet, coughing as dust clogged his throat.
“I’m stopping you,” he managed to choke out.
“What? You’re….you…stop….?” Bothan looked taken aback for a moment, and then he roared with laughter. “You? You’re going to stop me? Oh, that’s rich that is.” His laughter cut off abruptly and his eyebrows lowered. “The only thing you’re going to stop doing today, lad, is breathing.”
Once again, Jason felt the icy loop constricting around his throat. He forced himself not to panic and focused on his power. A moment later the pressure disappeared.
Bothan scowled. “Aye, lad. That’s a nice trick,” he said as he slowly paced around Jason. “But you’ll need more than that to walk away today.” He glanced at the battle, and then waved his hand toward it. Jason saw the threads he had destroyed spring back into being. With Bothan’s control restored, the creatures again focused their attention on the Haven forces. Bothan turned back to him.
“Actually, lad, I’m glad you’ve found your powers. Here and I was thinking this might be a dull afternoon.” He threw a glowing blast of dimsai at him.
He had been expecting something like this, and was ready with a shield. Even prepared as he was, the force of the impact drove him back a step. But just one. Bothan frowned as he saw him still on his feet.
He smiled at his ancestor. “My turn,” he said. A bolt of power shot from his hand, shaking the air as it exploded against Bothan’s shield. The big man staggered back as a second bolt rocked him. Jason waited to see his reaction, but the sheer hatred blazing from his ancestor’s eyes stunned him more than had the man’s attack.
With a howl of rage, Bothan sent a flurry of volleys at Jason. Although none of the blasts penetrated his shield, the unrelenting intensity of the attack drove him down to one knee.
Then he remembered his father. The fury and pain that he’d felt in the training yard came pouring back into his soul. And now he had a target for it.
Teeth bared, he sent a bright flare of power streaking toward Bothan. As Bothan threw another blast toward Jason, the two bolts collided in a thunderous explosion that knocked the big man backwards.
Jason stood up and started toward his ancestor. “What…did you do…to my dad?” He punctuated his words with blast after blast of dimsai. Bothan staggered backward with each bolt, suddenly looking uncertain. Along with his rising passion, Jason felt a rush of power coursing through his soul. Almost as an afterthought, he threw power at the tendrils radiating from Bothan, severing them all instantly. Then he reached out and wrapped Bothan in a cocoon of dimsai like the one Bothan had used on Gatlor and the others. Time for you to see how it feels. Then everything went white as a concussion of power threw him backwards.
“I warned you not to interfere.”
Jason tried to get up, but his tingling limbs refused to obey. He could only lay there blinking at the sky, trying to breathe air that seemed to get thicker by the moment. A dark shadow leaned over him, eyes blazing. The dusky aura drowned out everything around it, like an eclipse cutting off the sun.
“You should have listened to me, boy. Now it’s too late, at least for you.”
Regor. Jason’s mouth went dry. Where was Nyala? Was she just going to let Regor kill him? Pushing aside the surge of fear, he focused on his power, trying desperately to resist the mounting pressure building in his chest. It felt like he was trying to pull molasses into his lungs. If he didn’t get some air soon, he wouldn’t last much longer.
Just as the edges of his vision began to darken, he felt a minute easing in the constriction, allowing the barest whisper of air to seep into his starving lungs. If he could just manage to break free, maybe he could use his power to get away.
But if he ran, he would be leaving all of the people of Lore’s Haven, and who knew how many others, at Bothan’s mercy. He remembered the Rodinn children, and the sounds of their laughter as they played with Lenai. He thought about the woman who had given him, a complete stranger, a beautiful piece of craftsmanship, and about her husband and son. The pride in her husband’s eyes still touched him. He thought about all of the people he had encountered since he’d arrived, and how welcoming, how polite, how nice they all were. If he’d had any air in his lungs, the realization that struck him would have taken it away. Somehow, without knowing how or when, he had come to love this world.
Then he thought about the world he’d come from. Bothan surely fit better in that world than this one. If he ran, all of the people here would suffer, and this world might take a step toward becoming more like his own. He couldn’t allow that to happen if there was any way he could prevent it. He didn’t know if he could take Regor, but he wasn’t going to just run away and let him and Bothan win. He let go of his fear, and let his newfound passion blossom within. As he did, he felt another surge of power. The constriction eased enough for him to take a deep breath of dusty air. Then, from where he lay, he poured his soul into a blast of dimsai he sent at Regor.
The impact staggered the Altered, and for the briefest instant, the ebony cloak shredded. In the center of the dark aura, he caught a glimpse of a man with wavy blonde hair, a look of surprise etched on his face. Then the darkness returned, the edges of the shadow shifting and flowing. The eyes blazed even brighter than before.
“That the best you got?” Jason challenged, standing up. Like his dad always said, better to be hung for an eagle than a dove.
“Oh, you have no idea,” Regor said. “You were just a minor irritation before, boy. Now you have my full attention.”
Within Regor’s shadowy silhouette, a globe of utter blackness began forming. The intensity of it was almost painful to Jason’s vision. It was as if Regor held a ball of concentrated nothingness that was growing stronger by the moment. He focused all of his power into his shield, but he didn’t know if it would be strong enough to resist the destruction that Regor was preparing.
Regor sent the black energy flying toward him. He braced himself for the impact. At this point, he just hoped he would survive. The dark globe detonated against the shield, the sound of the explosion almost deafening him…but it wasn’t his shield that took the blow. A wall of sparkling iridescent force stood between him and Regor. His head snapped around, and he almost fainted from relief. Nyala stood behind him.
“I said you would have to deal with me if you wanted Jason,” she said.
Regor didn’t answer, as he and Nyala faced each other. At last he said, “Are you certain you want to do this, my dear? It doesn’t have to be this way.”
“I’m afraid it does.”
“Very well,” he said. “Then let’s not waste time.”
Almost simultaneously, the two beings threw concentrated blasts of power at each other. The explosion as they met sent Jason flying backwards. He got a glimpse of Bothan sailing in the opposite direction. Then everything changed.
He didn’t know where he was, but the multi-colored glare was almost blinding. Squinting until his eyes were mere slits, he could just make out vague shapes. There were other people here. He realized that the glare was coming from their dimsai auras. He stopped using his vision and blinked rapidly as everything seemed suddenly dim.
As his eyes adjusted, he saw that he was in a room. The walls and ceiling constantly shifted colors and patterns. Looking at them too long gave him a queasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. The floor was the only thing that stayed one color and texture. Nyala stood beside him, with Regor on her other side. Facing them were five figures that Jason could only assume were the other Altered.
There was a tall, matronly lady wearing a white shawl. One of her eyes was solid black, while the other was pure white. As he watched, the eyes changed colors. Blue, green, red, violet. Always one solid color, but always changing. Beside her was a figure that constantly shifted from one appearance to another. Now a teenage boy, now a stocky lady, now a frail old man, and so on, no two ever the same. Next was a woman that looked to be in her twenties, but her skin, hair, and eyes were solid gold, almost like a living statue. Beside her stood a human shape made up of whirlwinds. The last figure was made entirely of flame.
Even without his vision, the power present was potent enough to make his skin crawl. It wasn’t doing his nerves any good, either. He wished they would drop the disguises. Maybe then, this wouldn’t feel so much like a trial. Or an execution. He looked at Nyala.
“These are the other Altered, Jason,” she said. “They are Airam, Nivek, Haras, Ekim, and Darnoc.” He noticed her voice sounded normal in this place, losing the shifting quality it had before.
“Altered have attacked each other for the first time since the agreement,” the matronly woman said, ignoring Nyala’s introduction. “Apparently because of this boy. Would either of you care to explain?”
“Do you break the Covenant, Nyala?” the golden woman asked.
“No, Haras, I don’t,” Nyala answered. “I merely seek to retain the balance upset by Regor.”
“Regor?” the whirlwind said. “In what way does Regor upset the balance?”
Jason looked at Regor, but the dark figure remained silent.
“He gives his power to a man called Bodann,” Nyala said. “He does this with the intention of becoming a god to the people of Teleria.”
“Is this true, Regor?” the whirlwind asked. “You gave your power to a mortal?”
Jason didn’t think Regor was going to answer at first. “Yes,” Regor said abruptly, clearly irritated. “I lent some of my power to Bodann.”
“Why?” Haras asked.
“Because I am tired of being relegated to myths and legends. The Covenant was fine when we first gained our powers. It prevented us from destroying this world, and maybe even ourselves. But now we’ve mastered our power. It’s ridiculous for us to still be bound by something that no longer serves a purpose.” He turned to the flaming figure. “Darnoc, you remember. We discussed this.”
“Yes, I remember,” Darnoc said. “But as I recall, we agreed to let it be.”
“That was over two hundred years ago,” Regor said. “I got tired of waiting.”
“It was not your decision to make,” said the matron, both eyes bright red. “While I understand your frustration, Regor, you had no right to act on your own.” She turned to Nyala. “And what of you? You said you sought to retain the balance. Did you give your power to this boy as well?”
“No, Airam,” Nyala said. “Jason’s power is his own. I merely showed him how to use it.”
Regor laughed. “I doubt that. If any of you had felt his attack on me, you would find that statement highly questionable.”
“His attack was self-defense, and you know it,” Nyala shot at him. “You attacked him first. He was trying to survive.”
“Still,” Airam said, “it would be very unusual for a boy of his age to possess the kind of power Regor describes.”
“I believe her,” the shifting one spoke up. “Nyala and I have had our disagreements over the years, but she’s not a liar.” He looked at Jason. “I’m Nivek,” he added. Jason nodded to him, grateful that at least one of them acknowledged him. If he was Nivek, that would make the whirlwind Ekim.
“Nyala, why didn’t you come to us when you learned of Regor’s actions?” Haras asked.
“We haven’t spoken as a body in centuries,” Nyala said. “I was afraid it might lead to unnecessary confrontations among us. My hope was to deal with the situation quietly, and keep the rest of you from ever knowing it had happened.”
“Understandable, even if mishandled,” Ekim said.
“So, what do we do about the situation?” Darnoc asked. “Is the Covenant broken?”
“No,” Airam said. “Bent, perhaps, but not broken. Although Regor brings up valid points regarding it. It may be that we need to discuss…other options.”
“Other options?” Nyala asked. “You can’t be considering Regor’s plan.”
“I didn’t say that, Nyala. I said other options, one of which may or may not be Regor’s idea. Just because we haven’t met as a group, doesn’t mean there haven’t been individual discussions. Considering the situation, I think it’s time we all get back together and decide if we want to continue the Covenant, or explore other possibilities.”
Jason saw several of the group nodding in agreement. Nyala shook her head, but didn’t say anything further.
“So what do we do now?” Nivek said.
“I say we let the situation play itself out, without any further interference from either Nyala or Regor,” Darnoc said. “If the boy’s power is indeed his own, and if Regor has been giving his power to this Bodann character, it should resolve itself rather quickly. Then we can focus on the future.”
Airam looked at the others. “Is that acceptable to everyone?”
The other four nodded in agreement.
“Very well. Nyala, Regor, your part in this is over. Do not interfere again.” She turned to Jason. Her eyes turned white and gained a blinding brilliance. “It’s time to send you back, young man.”
Jason landed on the packed earth with a thud that drove the air from his lungs. He rolled to his hands and knees, disoriented by his sudden change in location. The last echoes of the explosion still hung in the air. He looked up the hill and saw Bothan struggling to his feet. From one side he heard coughing. Looking to his right, he saw Reyga trying to prop himself up on one elbow. A surge of relief poured through him.
“Where’s Regor?” Bothan shouted. “What did you do?”
Jason looked up the hill. “I didn’t do anything,” he called. “Regor’s gone. It’s just you and me now.” He saw that the threads connecting Bothan to his army were all gone, apparently a product of Regor’s borrowed power. He looked over at Reyga, who was sitting up and looking around dazedly. Since it looked like the Loremaster would be okay, there was some cleaning up to do.
He turned back to Bothan just in time to see him throw a bolt of power. He caught the blast on his shield as he stood up, but another blast at his feet knocked him backwards.
A third bolt flew past him. He heard it detonate behind him followed by a rumbling crash. He glanced over his shoulder to see that a large pit had opened up in the ground about ten yards behind him.
Another explosion at his feet threw him off balance, sending him closer to the pit. He looked at Bothan, standing halfway up the hill. His ancestor was throwing blast after blast of dimsai, driving him back toward the edge of the pit. He was spending too much time trying to catch his balance to be able to focus on a counter attack.
Yet another blast, and his feet landed a few inches from the edge. He looked up to see another bolt flying toward him. He managed to catch it with his shield, but the impact made him take another small step back. Oh man, this is really gonna suck. He windmilled his arms frantically, trying to regain his footing, as the ground crumbled underneath his feet. As he started to fall, he grabbed for the edge. His fingers brushed against the rim, but immediately slipped off. Then he was falling into the pit.
He tried to twist to see how deep the pit was when a jerk wrenched him around and slapped him against the rock wall. He hung in midair, something holding onto his arm. Then Lenai appeared, her feet braced on the side of the pit, one hand grasping the edge, the other wrapped firmly around his wrist.
He thought he might have a heart attack. He said the first thing that popped into his head. “So,” he gasped, “does this make us even?”
A smile bent one corner of her mouth. “Perhaps,” she said. “But we can discuss that another time.”
She hauled him back up so that he could hook his hands over the edge. He struggled out of the pit and looked up the hill. Bothan had mounted a horse and was riding through a portal at the top. Before Jason could stand up, Bothan had disappeared. Just before the portal winked out, he saw a streak of yellow zip through.
After a few moments, an image appeared in his head. “Jason, he is here.”
Crin, have I ever told you you’re the best?
Crin sounded amused as he replied, “Yes, but it’s always nice to hear it again. Now you must hurry. He rides toward the Riftlands.”
He turned to Lenai. “I have to go after Bothan. Can you stay here and take care of Reyga? He’s been hurt.”
“I will tend to him,” she said. She laid a hand on his shoulder. “Jason, be careful.”
“Don’t worry. I will.” Then he opened a portal to the location Crin showed him and stepped through.
Reyga saw Jason disappear through the portal. Then Lenai jogged over to him.
“Loremaster Reyga, are you injured?” she asked, as she kneeled beside him.
“Nothing that will not heal, my dear,” he said. “Where did Jason go?”
“He goes after Bodann.”
She shook her head. “He did not say.”
He looked toward the battlefield. It appeared that Jason had been successful in breaking Bodann’s hold over the creatures in his army. Less than half of the enemy remained, and the creatures were attacking each other more than they were attacking the Haven fighters. Most of the Haven forces had actually withdrawn to a safe distance, only intervening when any of Bodann’s fighters tried to escape. The battle would be over soon, with the Haven forces achieving a shocking victory.
Then he saw Gatlor, Seerka, and Calador walking toward them. Although Gatlor bled from several scrapes, and Seerka had a slight limp, they did not look seriously injured. He breathed a sigh of relief. When Bodann cast them away, he had not known whether their departure would be permanent or not. Lenai helped him to his feet as they walked up.
“Loremaster Reyga,” Gatlor said. “Are you well?”
“I am well, Captain. A few bumps and bruises is all.”
“Where is Jason Bennett?”
“Bodann fled,” he said. “Jason went after him. We do not know where.”
Suddenly, an image appeared in his head. Along with it, he felt a presence in his mind.
He stiffened as he heard the voice in his head. Nyala? Jason? No, it did not sound like either of their voices.
“Loremaster Reyga, can you hear me?”
“I hear you,” he said.
Gatlor looked at the others, who shook their heads. “Loremaster,” he said. “No one spoke.”
He waved his hand, shaking his head. “Not you.”
“Loremaster, Nyala bids me show you where Jason has gone. Bodann leads him to the Riftlands. He needs your help, and the help of the warriors with you. You must follow.”
“Who is this?”
He saw the warriors exchange puzzled glances, clearly wondering about his sanity. “Loremaster Reyga…” Lenai began, before he shushed her.
“My name is Crin.” The location faded, replaced by the image of the fortunewing they had encountered outside his home. “I am Jason’s companion.”
“You are the fortunewing?”
“Yes,” the voice said. “Now you must hurry. Bodann is leading Jason into a trap. Jason will die without your help.”
“Why does Nyala not protect him?”
The voice sounded impatient. “Nyala and Regor have been removed from this conflict. They are no longer allowed to interfere. Nyala risks much asking me to relay this information to you, but feels it is necessary. You must hurry.”
The original image filled his thoughts again, and then the presence was gone.
He blinked the dust from his eyes. Then he took a couple of steps away from the others and began creating a portal.
“Loremaster Reyga, what are you doing? Where are you going?” Gatlor asked.
“You mean where are we going,” he said. “Bodann is leading Jason into a trap with the intention of killing him.”
“Loremaster,” Lenai said, “how do you know this?”
“I will explain later,” he answered. “We must go now. Jason’s life depends upon it.”
The portal sprang into existence. Through it could be seen the turbulent atmosphere of the Riftlands. He looked toward the Riftlands in the distance. Somewhere out there, Jason Bennett was going to die unless they could get there in time to prevent it. At his urging, the others ran through. He looked at the Riftlands once more. We are coming, Jason. I just hope we are not too late. Then he stepped through and the portal vanished.