Journey to the West

                                                                                 By Bert McKenzie 

                                                                                  Copyright 2010

 

 

Date: Fri, 26 Nov 2010 05:48:19 -0500 (EST)
From: BertMcK@aol.com
Subject: Crystal Throne/Journey to the West chapter 14

Journey to the West
By Bert McKenzie
Copyright 2010

Chapter XIV

"Can you make sure he doesn't slip out by using that invisibility trick?"
Scott asked.

"He would only seem invisible if one knew not where or how to look," Rood
replied.  "The lady Caseldra and I shall keep him from fleeing again."  He
motioned for her to watch the stairs.  "There is but only one way he may
leave and that is by this staircase."

"There's a fire escape in the back," Jennifer added.

"If you mean the metal steps and ladders," Rood remarked, "they are of
iron.  He shall not attempt to use them."

"Okay.  You guys keep watch.  Jennifer and I will try to talk to him.  We
use force as a last resort."  With that the two humans climbed the stairway
to the third floor apartment.  "The mailbox said 'Danny Smith, Apt. 34.'
This is it."  He reached out and rapped loudly on the door.

A radio playing inside the apartment was suddenly silenced.  Then a woman's
voice called out.  "Who's there?"

"Danny, it's Scott," the man replied.

They heard a dead bold click and then the door opened a few inches, still
held shut by a chain lock.  A young girl, probably 15 or 16 years old
looked out at them.  "Are you a friend of Danny's?" she asked.

"Yes, I am.  I'm Scott Quartermain and this is Jennifer Sloan.  We're old
friends of his."

"Old friends?  You're from Nicaragua!" she shouted and slammed the door
shut.

"No, wait," Scott said to the closed door.  "We've got to speak to Danny.
It's important."

"Go away before I call the police," the girl shouted from inside.

"Let me try," Jennifer suggested.  She stepped to the door and spoke with a
gentle voice.  "Honey, please, we only want to help."

"You're from the Nicaragua death squad.  My girlfriend told me about you.
She reads Time Magazine.  You want to kill Danny.  Go away."

"No, we're not from Nicaragua.  We only want to talk to him.  We're old
friends.  Can't we just talk?"

"Rood," Scott called, leaning over the banister and looking down the stair
well.  "Do you think you can get this door open?"  Before the words were
out of his mouth the big fairy was standing at the door, his hands gently
feeling the wood.

"Easy as pie," he answered with a crooked grin, then closed his eyes.  He
hummed a little melody, mad an unusual gesture with his hands and turned
the knob.  The door swung open, the chain dangling loose and unfastened.
They young girl screamed and ran for the window, trying to reach the fire
escape, but Caseldra was suddenly blocking her way.  She reached out,
touching the young girl on the side of the face.  The terrified girl sank
to the floor in slow motion.

In a matter of moments Rood and Caseldra had searched the tiny apartment.
"He is not here," the tall man announced.

"Great," Scott said in disgust.  "We lost him again."

"Maybe his pregnant girlfriend knows where he is," Jennifer suggested,
indicating the unconscious woman on the couch.

"Pregnant?"

Jennifer gave her human friend an exasperated look.  "So you just thought
she was fat and liked wearing 'Baby on Board' sweat shirts."

"I didn't notice," he admitted, looking at the young girl for the first
time.  "She's just a kid.  You don't think..."

"I don't jump to conclusions.  You're the one who doesn't think," Jennifer
retorted.  "Caseldra, what did you do to her?"

"I commanded her to sleep," the fairy girl said.  "It is a trick my father
taught me."

"Well, let's wake her up," Scott suggested.  "Rood, use the deep
communication on her."

"No," Jennifer said protectively.  "You guys just back off and let me try.

In thirty minutes they were all sitting calmly in a big booth in a diner on
the corner.  Maggie Jones was telling her story.  She had met Danny in a
freight yard and took him under her wing.  They had come to New York
together and she found him the job.  He was a natural with his delicate
features and graceful movements.  She admitted to working as a hooker, but
she was sure the child was Danny's.  As to her fears, she could tell from
his lack of English that he was an illegal alien.  She thought his language
was Spanish, and when he told her that people from his land were trying to
kill him, she figured out he was fleeing from the Nicaraguan death squad.
Her friend had told her all about it.

"No one is going to hurt Danny," Scott told her.  "I promise.  But we've
got to take him home.  He's the only one who can stop a war."

The girl's confidence was wavering.  "You must believe him," Rood said,
adding his voice to the argument.  "He would not lie to you.  He is the
consort of the king."

"Consort of the king?" Maggie said.

"Like a queen," Jennifer added.  Scott threw her a dirty look.

"Okay," the young girl said.  "I'll tell you where Danny is on one
condition.  You take me with him."

"Out of the question," Scott told her.

"My lord," Rood interrupted, and then spoke in a wind whisper.  "Let me
remind you how urgent it may be a return with Dannemel.  Also, if this girl
be carrying his child, what might think your human midwives when a Tuathan
child is born of a human?"

"Okay, lady, you got a deal," the consort said aloud.

* * *

Akuta checked out Pardoo's body and found that the western elf was still
alive.  He had apparently knocked himself unconscious in the fall.  The
high born fairy experienced a deep sense of disappointment.  He had
promised the dwarf that he would kill this man, and had hoped that his job
was done for him by the cave in.  He slowly drew the jewel hilted sword
from his side and prepared to strike.  One swift blow and the unconscious
elf would never awaken.  It was almost too easy.  But as he prepared to
strike, something stopped him.  He wasn't a cold blooded killer.  His very
mission was to restore life, not take it.  Akuta calmly put away his blade.
Perhaps the time would come later.

Pardoo slowly opened his eyes and looked around.  "Where am I?" he asked in
confusion.

"You are in the entrance to Turin Kareem," a voice answered hollowly from
the shadows.  It made his skin crawl.  He jumped up, preparing for flight,
although there was nowhere to run.  Akuta stepped into the light falling
through the opening in the overhead rocks.  "Now that you are awake," Akuta
said, his voice made hollow and unearthly by the cavern's echoes, "we may
proceed."

"Proceed?" Pardoo asked, his own voice coming back to his ears in an
equally frightening style.  "I am going to leave."  He looked up at the
opening above him.

"The dwarves await outside.  They shall kill you on sight.  Would not you
rather risk the dark?"

Pardoo pondered this statement and then shrugged his shoulders.  "Death is
death.  Lead us on."

The two left the stone chamber where they had entered and began to follow a
dark tunnel that headed in the general direction of the mountainous shaft
on the outside.  For a time they were able to see by the dim light that
filtered down from the surface, but as they walked farther and farther and
the tunnel began to twist and turn, the blackness soon closed in, blinding
even their sensitive elfin eyes.  From then on, the two had to travel by
feel.  The walls of the cave grew damp and slimy to the touch, and yet they
went on.

Akuta was in the lead, and soon noticed he could begin to see light.  He
began to pick up the pace, knowing he was close to the end of this dark
tunnel.  Suddenly, the confining walls dropped away and the two men stepped
out into the large cavern.  Far beneath them, on the cavern floor was a
river of molten rock which glowed a bright orange.  This accounted for the
oppressive heat as well as the illumination.  Their path had turned to a
stone bridge which spanned the cavern and led to a dark cave mouth on the
opposite wall.  The floor of the bridge was inlaid with precious gemstones
that scintillated in the dimly reflected orange light.

"Our pathway takes us across riches," Pardoo said quietly.  "With these we
may purchase a kingdom."

"Why would you so wish?" Akuta asked.  He was beginning to understand the
mindset of the westerner.  Pardoo tended to have a strong streak of greed
and materialism, something that was very unusual in Tuatha.  Akuta realized
with such differences in culture, why there had always been friction
between his kingdom and the western lands.

"Is not this why you undertook such a journey?" the western elf asked as he
slowly walked out onto the sparkling gemstone bridge.

"These crystals must have been placed here hundreds of seasons ago when the
dwarves still mined these caves," Akuta marveled.  "It would be wrong to
desecrate such a work."

By this time Pardoo was standing in the center of the span.  "Desecrate?"
he said with a sarcastic laugh.  "These color crystals hold my future, and
yours if you are smart enough to seize the opportunity."  He dropped to his
knees and began to pull on the intricately laid flooring, attempting to pry
loose some of the stones on the edge.

"This is not why I have come to this place," Akuta said angrily.

"You have your reasons and I have mine," Pardoo said without looking up.
He had managed to loosen several of the faceted stones, pulling free a
fistful of sapphires and emeralds.  As he did so the bridge began to
vibrate ever so slightly.

"You know not what consequence this action may cause," Akuta warned, but
the western elf continued to ignore him and scrambled for more of the
precious stones, yanking them loose from where they had been carefully
wedged, protecting the natural span of rock.  The floor beneath his feet
continued to vibrate, beginning to emit a dull rumble.  "Fool," Akuta
shouted and grabbed the elf.  "These crystals protect the bridge beneath.
Without them it shall collapse."

"Leave me alone," Pardoo shouted and shoved his companion, knocking Akuta
over, the tall fairy almost falling from the structure.  As he gripped the
rocky side he could see huge chunks of stone falling down to the river of
lava below.  Akuta scrambled back from the edge and reached for his sword,
knowing he must stop the mad elf.  Just then the bridge gave a mighty lurch
and the center crumbled away, falling to the abyss below.  Akuta looked up
at the empty span where a moment before the westerner had been removing the
gemstones.

The vibrations seemed to have stopped.  Akuta slowly crawled out onto the
remaining span to look down and was amazed to see Pardoo hanging by one
hand from the jagged piece of rock.  He was dangling precariously over the
molten river a hundred feet below him.  Akuta reached out.  "Give me your
hand," he called.  Pardoo looked up at him.  Akuta could see he still
clutched a fist full of gems in his free hand.  "Drop the color crystals
and give me your hand.  I shall pull you up," Akuta said as he reached out.

"No.  You want to steal my crystals," the crazed elf called back.  "They
are mine.  I risked my life to get them."

"You may lose your life unless you give me your hand."  The rocky span
suddenly vibrated again shaking the jeweled sword loose from its place at
Akuta's side.  It slipped along the rocks and then plunged down to
destruction.  This time Pardoo almost lost his grip.  In the process he
dropped the stones and grabbed onto the jagged rock with both hands.  "Now
reach for me," Akuta said as he leaned out.

"You caused this," Pardoo hissed.  "You caused me to lose those crystals."

"Give me your hand," the fairy repeated.  Pardoo reached up, but at the
same time the bridge shook again.  His fingers slipped, and in an instant
he was dropping down and away.  Akuta stared in horror as the elf grew
smaller and smaller, then suddenly, he struck the lava and disappeared in a
fiery flash.

Again the span shook and more stones fell after the westerner, plunging
into the molten river.  Akuta quickly crawled backward to the mouth of the
tunnel.  As he reached it, the remains of the bridge disintegrated and
dropped down into the orange light.  The fairy knelt for a moment and sang
the song of death, wishing Pardoo's spirit speed on its journey.  He then
rose and looked across the impassible gulf, not believing that his journey
would end after coming this far.  He knelt again and tried to meditate.

A few hours later Akuta opened his eyes and began to examine his
surroundings.  In his meditation he felt a buoyant hope begin to arise.  It
was a feeling or premonition of a solution to his dilemma.  He took time to
eat some of the food Korbod had provided, and then refreshed he began to
search.  Not knowing what it was he was searching for, he looked at the
rocky remains of the bridge.  There on the right hand side was a narrow
ledge which descended from his tunnel opening and provided a steep path
down toward the flaming river below.  Since it was the only possible
direction he could go, Akuta carefully stepped out onto the ledge and began
the slow descent.  As he drew closer to the lava the heat increased
dramatically, as did the strong smell of sulfur.  It was like the stench of
a dragon's lair.  Akuta gasped for breath but kept descending.  He was only
a dozen yards from the fire when he found a large cave opening in the rock
wall.  Needing to get out of the heat, Akuta slipped inside.

He found himself in another dark tunnel.  Either he could climb back up the
narrow ledge and return to the surface world, or he could continue along
this tunnel.  The obvious pathway had been across the bejeweled bridge, but
Pardoo's greed had destroyed that avenue.  Akuta could only hope that
perhaps this tunnel would also lead to his destination.  He trudged on into
the blackness, the dim orange light finally fading away to nothingness
behind him.

Akuta stumbled on for hours.  Soon time perception in the complete
blackness grew strange.  He was not sure if he had been walking this tunnel
for days or weeks.  He sat down several times to rest and refresh himself
from his water flask and food supplies.  As the darkness closed in
oppressively around him, he thought of Sharon.  He hoped she would be
alright.  He had not kept his bargain in killing Pardoo, yet Pardoo was
dead anyway, so the dwarves had nothing for which to complain.  Akuta then
thought of his friends back in Esbereth.  He wished he could have told Rood
about his quest, but then the captain could be awfully stubborn.  No, it
was for the best that he did this on his own.  The fairy heaved a sigh and
began his journey anew.

The walls of the tunnel once again grew cold and damp and oozed with slime.
On occasions he could hear small things scurrying in the darkness around
him.  Once he was even attacked.  He had apparently walked through a nest
or den of some kind of blind cave slugs.  He could feel them drop from
overhead as well as crawling up his legs beneath the covering breeches.
Akuta ran through the dark, flicking the soft, squishy creatures from his
skin.  He then stopped and peeled off his trousers to be able to clean the
slugs from his bare legs.

As his food and water began to dwindle, so did his hopes.  Akuta thought
sure he would die in the darkness.  Just as despair was about to overtake
him, he thought he detected a very faint glow of light.  The fairy stood
and began to run down the tunnel.  The light grew brighter until without
warning Akuta came to a dead end.  The light was coming in from overhead.
Akuta noticed that the rough, stone walls afforded few hand or footholds,
but he had to try.  He began to slowly scale the wall, searching for every
finger and toe hold before reaching up and moving on.  After an exhaustive
and perilous climb Akuta finally pulled himself from a hole in the floor of
yet another cave, only this cave was fairly shallow with bright sunlight
shining in the nearby opening.  Akuta sat a moment, resting and regaining
his strength, as well as allowing his sensitive eyes to slowly adjust to
the bright light he now faced.

The fairy stood and walked out into the fresh air and sunshine.  He looked
around to find himself on the side of a mountain, looking down on a
glittering forest.  Akuta slowly started down the hill, and stepped among
the sparkling plant life.  It was unnaturally sharp and colorful, not like
the vegetation he was used to, but more like plants growing in an unusual
and surrealistic painting.  Akuta bent down to examine a flowering bush and
realized the vegetation was made of rock and gems.  The flowers had wafer
thin petals of sliced quartz and lapis lazuli over leaves of jade and
olivine.  Tiny thorns of agate projected out of the jade stems.  As he
walked he came to a small grape arbor, the trellises covered with silver
and gold leaves that looked as if they had been carefully hammered and
worked by the finest craftsmen.  Large clusters of grapes hung down from
the metal vines.  These were round stones of blood red carnelian and deep
purple amethyst.  Akuta marveled at all he saw, but continued to walk on
toward a broad sea shore he had glimpsed from the cave opening above.

"My lord Akuta," a feminine voice suddenly hailed him.  "Why come you to
this shore?  It is not yet your time."

Akuta turned in surprise to see a young woman standing beside him, covered
in a heavy robe and hood that hid her features.  "My lady, know I you?"

"You should, my lord," she replied.  "I am the cousin of your king."  As he
watched, she slowly pulled back the hood revealing familiar features, the
pale blond hair, the classical face and sparkling green eyes of the deep
wood.  It was Ellenia.

* * *

Two days had passed, two very long and boring days.  The dwarves for the
most part rested and slept, or played an unusual game with odd shaped
stones in the dust to pass the time.  A few of their number would leave for
a time and soon return with fresh meat which they roasted over an open
campfire.  Sharon spent the time silently, thinking about her friends back
home or her friends at Esbereth.  She tried her best not to think of Akuta
wandering around in the dark caverns under the mountains with only the
treacherous Pardoo for company.

After the first day had gone by Sharon grew bored and restive.  She was in
need of company.  Despite Akuta's admonishing, she occasionally made eye
contact with Korbod and he seemed pleasant enough, always smiling at her.
After the second day, Sharon ventured to speak to him.  He was, after all,
the only dwarf who appeared to know the Tuathan language she had learned.
"How are you?" she asked.

Korbod seemed shocked and surprised when she spoke to him.  "I be well.  I
be strong and virile," he replied.  "And how be ye?"

"Fine," she smiled.  "I'm fine."

"Have ye born many children?" he asked.

The question stunned Sharon, but she reminded herself that he came from a
different culture.  Perhaps this was a natural question.  "I haven't had
any children," she answered.

"Be ye barren or be ye virgin?" he asked in surprise.

"Neither," she said quickly.  "I'm just careful."

Korbod nodded as if he understood her, then he moved off to talk with the
other men.  They all seemed fairly excited and kept glancing at her.  "Oh,
wonderful," she thought to herself.  "Now they're all probably saying what
a slut I am."

The following morning Sharon awoke to bustling sounds.  The dwarves were
obviously preparing to leave.  She ran to find Korbod directing the packing
of the camp.  "What's going on?" she asked.

Again the little dwarf seemed surprised by her questions.  "We plan to
return to the village," he answered her.

"But Akuta is still in there.  He hasn't come back yet.  I thought you
promised to wait for him."

"We waited," Korbod replied.  "He has not returned.  If we wait more, we
wait in the village."

"I'd like to stay," she said firmly.

"Ye go with me.  Ye belong to me now," he said equally firmly.

A cold chill ran down Sharon's spine.  "What do you mean?' she demanded.

"Ye be my property now.  Ye will return with me and bear me many
children...tall childen," the little man said with a broad grin.

 

 

 

 

 

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