Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Mists Close In, A Deal Is Offered, Efraim Opens A Door

Another few weeks between updates, but it couldn't be helped. First, I was sick during the times I had to write. Then, once I was better, I started writing and it . . . sucked. I threw out two drafts in the last few weeks. Nothing worked, nothing made sense and it all felt forced. So I'm going to leave Kenseth and Angela in the lurch and shift focus again until I have a Eureka!! moment.

Mists swirled around Magnus. He walked slowly, arms outstretched, searching for obstructions in his path. He wasn't cold, nor was he hot. He had no idea where he was or how he got here.

His name was not Magnus, yet this did not bother him.

He had been walking through this mist for eons as far as he could tell as his sense of time had disappeared shortly after he found himself in this formless, blinding landscape. Every so often, he would spy what he thought was a shape forming in the mists ahead of him, but any attempt to approach the shapes ended in failure as they dissolved as quickly as they formed.

The latest shape to appear did not even give him that momentary jolt of hope the first few dozen shapes had, until he realized it no longer was a shape, it was something real.

Stopping his endless shuffle, Magnus looked at what was a podium with a book on it. The book was large, it would take both hands to lift off of the podium, and it looked to be several hundred pages thick, if not a thousand. Made of leather, it looked old and well worn. The cover had a sigil emblazed on it, but he had never seen it before, a half-circle bisected by a line surrounded by tiny starbursts.

Magnus, peered through the mists, to see if there were any other shapes, or entities, watching him. If they were, he could not tell, but he was certain such entities would not be detectable anyway. He opened the book, hoping there was a reason to all of this.

"He who reads this has been chosen to play a part in the things that must come to be, lest a world fall to darkness forever . . " read the opening page.

Nodding, Magnus turned the page. While the writing was completely legible to him, he also knew it was not written in his native language, although what this language is or his own was remained completely unknown to him.

The writing was plain but engaging, a grand history of a civilization. The writer made few conjectures, sticking to facts, only occasionally introducing an opinion when the facts were muddied.

The book drew him in, explaining the origins of a hollow world born in fire, populated by heroes and betrayed by those sworn to protect it. The highest powers gave in to their weakest impulses, and as a result, death and destruction became the guiding force for a civilization. The aftermath of an event that should not have happened left the hollow world shattered, it's mightiest civilizations a shell of their former selves, and too many innocents caught in the crossfire.

"But this never should have happened . . " whispered a voice from the mists.

"What is my part in this?" asked Magnus, not sure why he even bothered to ask.

"Only someone not of this world has the power to change it," said the voice. "My people can only begin the process, you have to end it."

"I don't even know who I am," said Magnus, well aware that it wasn't his name.

"You will," replied the voice, and the mists closed in on Magnus, turning his world to black.

Efraim, having spent a few minutes staring at the door, decided the worst of the traps already had been sprung, but aware the likelihood of one last lethal trap was high. kneeling before the lock, he examined every inch of the metal and every fiber of the wood, feeling the edges, tapping the frame, and calling upon every bit of knowledge he had.

"I sense no more magic around the door," said Barbaro.

"We're down to mechanical," said Efraim. "And I haven't found a mechanical trap yet that can stop me. I'm betting on me for my streak to continue."

There was no response from Barbaro, which was fine with Efraim as he was trying to concentrate. He put on a pair of custom-made leather gloves. They were thin to allow him to do more with his fingers, but gave him a little protection from poison needles. Reaching into a pouch on his belt, Efraim pulled forth a few small tools. He took a thin needle and a set of prongs, and began probing inside the lock.

A few clicks later, Efraim removed the tools, satisified that he had the basic construction of the lock down. He also was fairly sure he knew where the traps were. He put his eye to the lock, holding his light source close. Grunting in satisfaction, he again went at the lock with his tools, this time with clear intent to open, head cocked to the side. He went purely by feel. A loud *click* followed by a *Thfft* as a bolt shot past Efraim's head, just as he had planned.

Putting his tools away, he lifted the latch on the door, and it opened.

"If it weren't for all the dancing I had to do just to get to the lock, I'd say whoever put this lock together was an amateur," said Efraim.

"If you can get to the point where the physical lock is all that stands between you and what's inside, the only other thing you can do is blow the place up," said Barbaro half-jokingly, but then realized that wasn't outside the realm of possibility.

"I thought about it," said Efraim. "But I have yet to find a place intended to guard something that included such a final self-destruct mechanism. If that was the case, this place would've blown up the moment I walked through the cave entrance. These people want this artifact to remain intact. If they lose it, they'll try and get it back, though."

"That's another problem for another day," said Barbaro, "But I have a feeling that problem may be coming sooner and be larger than either of us want to deal with."

"It keeps life interesting," said Efraim, and walked through the door.

Kenseth and Angela stared at the men in the doorway, all dressed in black. The man in front was small, with a rat-like face and a grin that was anything but friendly. He was flanked by two larger men, neither of whom looked any friendlier.

"Good evening," said the man in front. "You may call me Clemenza, and we have a lot to talk about."

"What do you want," asked Angela.

"For you to make a deal," said Clemenza. "One that will save your life."

On another world in another life, Larry woke up and stared at the clock. It was 6:52 a.m. He should've been up 20 minutes ago. It wouldn't make him late to work, but now his usual leisurely morning routine was ruined. He would have to wolf a cold bowl of cereal down and get dressed without the benefit of taking a few minutes to surf the web, play with the dog and just generally wake up.

As he went about his morning routine at a higher rate of pace, skipping the unnecessary steps along the way, he wondered why he felt like he'd been walking all night. Peering out the window, he noticed there was a heavy fog around the house, almost like a mist . . . .

Shrugging his shoulders, Larry finished getting ready for work, hugged the dog and went out the door. He didn't notice the large leather book sitting by the front door. Nor did he see the note taped to it marked, "For Magnus."