[For 14 weeks, beginning on March 19th, on Sundays and Wednesdays, I’ve been posting chapters of book one of my Jaben’s Rift trilogy: From a Far Land. This is the final installment. I hope you enjoyed it. The first part is here. I’d love to hear any feedback.]
“But I thought Nyala told you the past could not be changed,” Reyga said.
“That’s just it,” Jason said. “I didn’t change the past, because what we thought happened didn’t really happen.”
“Well, all I know is that I thought I was a dead man,” Bruce Bennett said. He was sitting at the table with Tal, Reyga, Seryn, and Lenai, with Jason standing behind him, his hands on his father’s shoulders. “I looked up and saw the dagger start down. Then everything stopped and I saw Jason standing there with…with me.”
“Let me make certain I understand,” the High One said. “You took a body from the battlefield, altered it to look like your father, and then went into the past to exchange it so that Bodann, disguised as Chon, would think he had killed your father?”
“Yeah,” he said. “When I was looking at the bodies on the ground, I started thinking about all of the stuff that had happened since I’d been here. Then it hit me: If Nyala could go fourteen hundred years into the past, maybe I could at least go back a few days.”
“So, the reason the body I examined wasn’t human, was because you had exchanged it,” Seryn said.
Jason nodded. “I didn’t bother with anything on the inside because it just needed to convince Bothan that he’d killed my dad.”
“Remarkable,” Reyga said. “Truly remar—”
Jason was surrounded by an expanse of white. A dark haired woman smiled at him. He smiled back.
“Jason, I wanted to thank you. You saved the people of my world from a dark future.”
“Well, I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“I only showed you how to use your power. You chose the ways in which to use it.”
“You did more than that,” Jason said. “You saved my life a couple of times. If Regor would’ve had his way, I wouldn’t be here now.”
“Then we helped each other,” she said. “If you like, I may be able to help you again.”
“I think I can help you get back home.”
“What?” Her words almost made him dizzy. Home? He could go home? “You can send me home?”
“I can’t,” she said. “My power is not strong enough. But if we were to join our power, I believe that, between the two of us, we could open a portal back to your world. Of course, it would have to be to a time after both you and your father came to Teleria. Otherwise the effects on the timeline would be unpredictable, perhaps even disastrous.”
His thoughts were a confusing blur. For some reason, the idea of going home didn’t excite him as much as he thought it would. He had been through so much here, met so many good people. Here, with his powers, he could actually make a difference. But he had friends back home. And after all, it was home. He needed time to think.
“I know,” she said. “Teleria has its appeal.” She smiled at him again and laid a gentle hand on his cheek. “Give it some thought, Jason. When you decide, think of me and I will come.”
“—kable,” Reyga said. “Jason, I know you are happy to have your father back, but I am equally pleased to have my friend back. You are truly an extraordinary young man.”
“Yes, he is,” his dad said, laying a hand over Jason’s. Jason’s mind was racing as he thought about what Nyala had said. He almost didn’t notice his father’s touch.
Reyga turned to Lenai. “And what of Baruun? I have not seen him since before the battle.”
“Baruun was injured, but will recover,” she said. “He has returned to our telosh.”
“I am pleased to hear that,” Reyga said. “Please give him my regards the next time you speak with him.”
“And also our thanks for the aid from your people,” Tal added.
“I will relay your words to him,” she said.
Jason’s thoughts had turned back to the battle. He looked at Tal. “I’m sorry I didn’t remember my power sooner. I saw Brin fall into the pit.”
“Actually,” Tal said, “Loremaster Brin is in the healing area.”
Tal shook his head with a smile. “That man astonishes me sometimes. After he jumped off the ledge, he opened a portal back to the Haven as he fell. He was still severely injured when he flew through the primary portal and crashed into the opposite wall, but the healers were able to treat him in time.”
“That’s amazing,” Jason said.
“Indeed,” Tal agreed. “I could not have said it better myself.”
The small group sat around the table for another hour, talking about the events of the last few days, and discussing the future now that the war was over. Eventually, everyone began saying their good nights until only Jason, his dad, and Lenai were left.
“Well,” Bruce said, standing up and stretching, “I think I’ll retire too. These old bones need their rest.”
“Wait,” Jason said. “Dad, Nyala told me she thinks she can help us get back home. I thought I would be more excited than I am at the thought of going back. What do you think?”
His dad took a deep breath. “Home. Funny how the meaning of that word can change. I’ve been here for thirty years. There’s nothing left for me back on Earth.” He laid a hand on Jason’s shoulder. “This is my home now, and I’ve come to love this place, but if you want to go back, I will go with you.”
He didn’t answer as he pondered his dad’s words. If they went back to just after his dad left, like Nyala had said, all of Jason’s friends would be almost forty years old. They could always move somewhere else, and he could make new friends, but…
“I know there’s a lot more on Earth for you than there is for me,” his dad said. “Why don’t you sleep on it? Whatever you decide, I’m with you. Good night, son.” His dad hugged him and kissed his cheek before shuffling out of the room.
He watched his dad leave, and then turned and looked at Lenai.
“What would you do?” he asked her.
She shook her head. “Only you can answer that, Jason, for only you know where your heart truly lies.”
“Yeah.” He only wished it were that simple. Right now, he didn’t know where his heart wanted to be. He stared blankly at the table. He had friends back home even if they would be twenty years older, but he’d made friends here too. And what about Crin?
“Yes, what about Crin?” Jason smiled as he heard the fortunewing.
“What is it?” Lenai asked him.
“Oh, Crin is just giving me his opinion.”
“Ah.” Lenai stroked the tabletop. “Jason.”
She seemed hesitant. “Jason, I do not wish to make your decision any more difficult than it already is, but there is something I must tell you.”
He waited for her to continue.
“When we performed Sho tu Ishta, something happened.”
“What happened?” he asked. “Did I become ch’tasa like Reyga? If that’s it, Lenai, you don’t have to worry. I won’t ask you to tell me anything you don’t want to.”
“No,” she said, “you are not ch’tasa.”
“Oh.” He felt an odd tinge of disappointment. “Well,” he said, trying to make light of it. “Whew! That was close.” He forced himself to chuckle.
“You are not ch’tasa,” she repeated. “But when you restored that part of me which is Shanthi to me…when you restored myself to me, my soul…you became ch’nai.”
“Ch’nai? What does that mean? Is it good or bad?”
“That is for you to decide,” she said. She stared at the table top. “I am bound to you, Jason. Or rather, my soul is bound to yours.” Her words came pouring out as she looked up and saw his stunned expression. “Jason, I am sorry. I never intended this to happen. If I could change it I would, but Chai na, the Bonding, cannot be broken.” Her gaze dropped back to the table. “If you are angry with me, I will understand.”
“What do you mean, your soul is bound to mine?”
She didn’t look up. “It means that where you are, I must be there as well. It means that if anything were to happen to you, I could not survive.” She looked at him finally, her eyes heavy with threatening tears. “It means that I would give my life for you.”
He gaped at her. She was bound to him? Nothing like throwing a new wrinkle into the mix. If she was bound to him…
“Lenai, what will happen to you if I go home?”
She looked down again. “As long as you are well,” she said, “I will be also.”
He didn’t believe her. “Tell me the truth.”
Her voice dropped to a whisper. “I do not know.”
He looked around the room as he tried to bring his whirling thoughts in order. How could he go back if there was a possibility that Lenai might die if he did? Could they take her with them to Earth? No, even if she agreed to go, that wouldn’t work. Aside from the occasional shifting of the color of her skin, bound to draw the wrong kind of attention, he didn’t think her warrior’s sense of honor would be able to handle some of the things in his world. Besides, his dad didn’t really want to go back either. And there was Crin. Plus, they didn’t know if Bothan was really gone or not. He took a deep breath. Well. That was it then.
“Well then,” he said, “I guess I’ll have to stay a while.”
Her head jerked up. He saw a tiny glimmer of hope in her eyes.
“Jason,” she said, “do not stay if it is only because of me. What happened is not your fault. You should not have to sacrifice your world because of that.”
“I’m not,” he said. “Look, if I can go back now, I can go back later. So, for now anyway, I’ll stick around. Bothan may still be out there, and there’s a lot of Teleria that I haven’t seen yet. Maybe you could show it to me?”
She smiled at him, her eyes shining. “Yes, I can show you.”
He smiled back. He could think of a lot worse things than being bound to someone like her. Besides, she was prettier than Tracy Jacobson anyway.
In a dimly lit room, a small circle of men and women sat around a table.
“Bodann was a fool,” one said.
“So what do we do now?”
“The only thing we can do. Now that the Circle has destroyed so many of our forces, we must rebuild. Fortunately, most of our saiken were able to escape the battlefield.”
“Even with the saiken, it will take time.”
“We have no choice.”
“Bodann was a fool,” the first speaker repeated.
A dark shadow stepped out of the corner.
“Bodann was not a fool,” the shadow said. “He was over confident. But even that is better than sitting around a table endlessly making plans you do not have the courage to carry out. At least Bodann acted on his plans.”
A grumble went around the table, but no one dared to challenge the Shadow Lord.
“So we rebuild.”
“But now this Far Planer is with them. From what I hear, he is almost as strong as an Altered.”
They waited for the shadow’s response.
“Jason Bennett is strong, and we lost many of our forces,” Regor said, “but there has been some good come of this encounter.”
“What is that?”
“The other Altered now know of my feelings about the Covenant. And I have learned that I am not the only one who feels this way. It is just a matter of time.”
Jason’s journey continues in