The morning had come quicker than Terra had expected. After dining with the King, they had all returned to the House of Roses, now devoid of Delora or her personal servants. The outcome of the meeting with the King was pleasing, and Terra felt a burst of pride at doing what they had set out to do, but even she felt a sense of foreboding at the prophecy the King had shared. It was a secret prophecy, passed down from father to son throughout the entire Hillbreaker line since the days of the Signing of the Pact.
Terra wasn’t sure what it meant. She was sure Nadus and Arquina knew as little as well. Over the past week, Terra had gotten used to prophecies. She’d even made a few herself, unknowingly. She’d had visions and dreams, and everything she could remember, she’d scribbled into her notebook. Mostly it was full of doodles and whatnot, but the last few filled pages were full of words and diagrams of the two objects they still needed to prevent the destruction she had seen.
But now was not the time to dwell on such things. They were leaving soon, within the hour. Corpus had already arrived with Arynn Shima, Nalya and Bayne were overseeing the care of the House of Roses during her absence, and Ryan and Cale were doing the same as Terra. Packing their things.
She’d noticed that since they’d returned from the King’s Palace, Ryan had been carrying the black obsidian sword he’d been given by the Featherclaw. Unlike before, when he kept it packed with his things, now he preferred to wear it at his waist– especially after he’d found a leather sheath that managed to fit the odd shape of the sword. Nalya had warned him to keep it in the sheath, reminding him that many people would kill to possess the sword that Rasshauer Flenn himself wielded.
Terra flipped through her notebook, re-reading the passages she’d written since arriving. She’d tried to make nightly entries in it, but she was running out of space. The night before she’d completely foregone the ritual in favor of sleep. After all, she had been up for nearly two days. Her muscles had ached by the time she went to sleep. Now, they were just sore.
She packed her notebook away, a few knick-knacks she’d managed to pick up in Arronay and Cilasia, and then paused as she saw the thick leather-clad book Nalya had instructed her to read. She picked it up, looking to put it in her bag, but paused before doing so.
She looked at the book as it lay in her hands. She opened it up and flipped forward to the page she’d last read. She hadn’t even looked at it since the night she’d met Henna.
Slowly, she skimmed through the pages. Most of what was written she couldn’t make sense of. It wasn’t until a particular word seemed to jump out at her that she paused and read the passage.
The brotherhoods shall fall to pieces and forget their holy duty. It will be her, the bloodhead from the lost world, who will join them together by ties of blood. Father to son the word shall pass until the day of Hillbreaker’s last.
Hillbreaker. Nadus Hillbreaker. Terra kept reading, but nearly felt her heart stop as she read the next passage.
Her name will be as mine, a daughter of Canadian descent.
She felt the blood rush from her head. Canada was mentioned in the book. Specifically. The name of her country was within a thousand-year old book.
That didn’t make any sense. How could Maer have known that name?
Terra’s heart jumped into her throat. Her great-great grandfather… his name had been Wendell. Wendell Murphy, who’d been lost at sea over a hundred and fifty years earlier. She recalled as much from her great-great grandmother’s journals.
Did that mean..?
“Nalya!” she screeched. She jumped up and ran to the doorway, screaming Nalya’s name.
Mornings in the Vectoran Camp were cold, even in the middle of summer. Especially under the canopy of trees that offered shade, and Andy found himself shivering involuntarily. Boomer had made good on his promise of food and water, even managing to sneak him an extra chunk of spiketooth meat. Andy had slept on and off through the night. Sitting up with your arms tied to a pole sticking out of the ground didn’t make the most comfortable of positions, but when sleep called, Andy found himself capable of ignoring the pain.
Boomer had slept nearby, sprawled out on the ground. Even he had slept funny, but he was still full of energy by the time he got up and wandered off in search of a suitable breakfast for himself and Andy. As much as Andy appreciated Boomer’s actions, he wasn’t sure it was wise to continue with them. After all, they weren’t supposed to know each other, and Boomer was supposed to be a traitor to Dunsmith.
Andy had watched Burz Ynnia that morning as he went about preparations for Andy and Boomer’s journey to Anastae. He managed to overhear Ynnia once when he was close enough to be in earshot. Apparently five men would be there to guard him and Boomer as they were sent southward. One of them, to Andy’s disappointment, was that bastard pyromagi who had scarred him up. Giger.
Giger seemed very much the loose cannon to Andy, talking back to Ynnia, who was supposed to be the Captain. He’d never last a minute in any of the Earth militaries. Back in his day, he’d be made an example of. Taken out back and beaten to a pulp, taught to show some respect for his superiors.
But then, he’d noticed that other magii in the camp acted much the same way. As though they were higher, more important than even the highest ranking soldier in the camp. He doubted that General Ryde would have put up with it. From what he’d heard so far, he didn’t seem the type, but it was blatantly obvious that magii were afforded a get out of jail free card among the Vectoran forces. They were just too valuable to punish for menial offenses.
Still, Andy would have preferred Giger stayed behind, but it was he that requested to be sent with the prisoners. Giger didn’t trust Boomer, that much was evident by the way he watched him like a hawk as he moved about the camp.
He watched as they loaded a small wagon with supplies for the trip south. They’d had Boomer loading much of the stuff while Giger watched him carefully. The night before, when he’d seen Justin and the others leave the fat man’s tent, Giger had been sniffing around, obviously trying to glean what he could off the men. Through it all, Andy knew that the man was going to be a problem. He’d made it his personal mission to sniff out the secrets of this Bond character.
A flurry of movement to his right caught Andy’s attention, and he looked over to see Justin and one of the Halish soldiers, Jori, standing there, regarding him.
“I need help,” Justin said.
“What?” Andy asked. “How the hell am I supposed to help?” he shook his bound hands around for effect. “I’m a little indisposed.”
“We’ll need a diversion,” Jori said. “We need you to attract attention this way in three minutes.”
Justin opened his hand, displaying four D-cell batteries, and Andy knew immediately. Justin was going to try to replace the batteries.
“You know where it is?” Andy asked.
Justin nodded. “I spotted it last night, but I couldn’t get to it,” he said. “That Giger guy’s been watching us.”
Andy nodded. “I know,” he said. “Not to worry, though. He’ll be out of your hair soon enough. As soon as Boomer’s done loading the wagon, I’m pretty sure they’ll untie me and send us packing. He’s coming with.”
“Not that it will make our task here any easier,” Jori said. “There are still many eyes here who would turn us in if they ever caught wind of our intentions.”
Andy nodded. “What kind of diversion are you going to need?”
“A loud one,” Justin said.
The tree was tall with a thick trunk. Justin examined it carefully. How Samantha Whittaker had ever managed to scale the thing was beyond Justin. He was in decent shape, not the best, but climbing a tree was no big deal.
This one, on the other hand, was going to be difficult. Small broken-off branch nubs jutted out of the bark. They wouldn’t be big enough to grab hold of, but he might be able to use them to stand on while he scaled the tree. Jori and Teslan kept watch nearby while Justin considered his path. After a few moments of careful examination, Justin gave them the thumbs-up. Jori quickly looked to Andy and nodded.
After a moment of silence, Justin could hear a loud wail coming from behind the tree. He recognized Andy’s voice in the scream. After a moment, all of the Vectoran eyes in the camp were cast in his direction, and Justin chose that moment to leap up towards the tree, climbing as quickly as he could.
“Get it away!” Andy screamed. “Get it away!”
After a few moments, Justin found himself between two thick branches stretching out into a Y-pattern. In the center, placed so that it gave the widest view of the camp, was the wireless camera. Justin looked over towards Andy to see a small mass of Vectorans crowding in around him as he thrashed and screamed.
“It’s a spider!” Andy yelled. “Get it! Kill it!”
Justin opened the back panel of the camera and pulled the little ribbon, dislodging the batteries and sending them tumbling to the crook of the tree. He watched in horror as a large battery rolled, then fell off the tree, landing on the awning of a tent below. He watched in silence as he waited for someone to come out, curious as to what had just been dropped, but thankfully none did. Either those inside were still asleep, or they were already crowding around Andy, laughing with the other soldiers at the man who feared spiders.
He ignored the dropped battery. It was dead anyway, and ultimately useless. He’d have to retrieve it later on, but for now he had to focus on the task at hand. He pulled the fresh batteries out of his pocket, put them in and closed the panel. There was a piece of black electrical tape over the indicator light. He pulled it off just enough so that he could see it was functioning, then smiled and waved into the camera. He had little doubt that someone back in Dunsmith was watching. Deftly, he put the camera back in the spot he had picked it up from, made sure that the tape was again covering the light, and started climbing back down the tree. Andy, obviously seeing Justin was done, started to quiet himself.
“It’s done?” Jori asked as Justin landed back upon the ground.
Justin nodded. “I dropped a battery,” he said. “Around the front, it landed on a tent.”
Jori looked to Teslan and nodded. Teslan disappeared around the tent a moment later.
“What were you doing?”
The voice took both Justin and Jori by surprise. They spun around to see Lieutenant Vatori standing there, fat as ever.
“I asked you a question,” he said.
“Forgive Alverra, Lieutenant,” Jori said. “It’s his way. He likes to climb trees.”
“Does he, now?” Vatori asked. He opened his hand to produce a cylindrical-shaped object. Justin stared at it in horror. It was the battery he had dropped. Vatori must have been watching him the entire time. “And what is this?”
Justin looked from Vatori, to the battery, to Jori. He opened his mouth to speak, but the words wouldn’t come out. He found that he had little to say. He hadn’t been expecting this.
“Begging your pardon, sir,” Jori said. “The prisoner carried it with him. Alverra only thought to take a trophy from his capture. He must have dropped it.”
“I think Alverra should be the one to speak for himself, don’t you?” Vatori asked.
Justin’s mind was running a mile a minute. “Yes, sir,” he said. “Sorry sir. I thought I might take a trophy from him.”
“You thought you might take a trophy, and not declare it to the rest of us?” Vatori asked. “Did you think yourself more important than the rest of us, perhaps? That you alone had right to this treasure, whatever it may be?” He tossed the battery in the air, catching it again, then pointed a finger inches away from Justin’s face. “Remember that all of the Disputed Lands is property of the Emperor,” he said. “If you’d like a trophy, then kill a man and take his skull. This belongs to Vector.”
Justin nodded. “Yes, sir. I’m so sorry sir. You can have it, sir.”
“I don’t need your permission,” Vatori said. “I’m taking this to Captain Ynnia, and there’ll be a full report on this, mark my words.” He turned, and started to walk away, then looked back over his shoulder. “You’re a soldier of Vector now. All that you are, all that you own is the property of Tammil Cuerian. Treat him well, with respect and you shall be rewarded. Hiding things and thieving things will sent you to the ropes.” He pointed to a rack from which hung a number of nooses for effect.
“Yes, sir. I will sir. I’m sorry sir,” Justin replied.
“Save your apologies for Ynnia. He’ll be the one who’ll decide what’s to be done with you,” Vatori said, then walked away.
Jori and Justin only looked at each other, the concern showing on both of their faces.
Nalya stared at the book in disbelief. She had already read through it once after receiving it from Orynn, but she hadn’t made the connection of the word. “You’re certain?” she asked.
Terra nodded. “It has to be,” she said. “He knew about Earth.”
“But Canada’s only a hundred and fifty years old,” Ryan said. “This book’s over a thousand. Can’t he be talking about something else?”
“Her name will be as mine?” Terra asked. “Maer sounds a lot like Murphy.”
“But you can’t be sure,” Ryan said. “Besides, the times don’t match up. This book was written eight hundred years before there was a Canada.”
“Maybe time works differently here,” Terra said. “Maybe it moves faster here than it does back home.”
“Oh, like that’s possible,” Ryan commented.
“You never know,” Cale said. “If you hadn’t been paying attention, stranger things have happened.”
“It could explain the prevalence of your being a Green Seer,” Nalya said. “If Maer was from your world originally, it would explain much.” She paused for a moment. “You say your great-great grandfather was lost at sea?”
Terra nodded. “He was seeing the world. He was just leaving Norway, then made a stop in Ireland and sailed for Newfoundland,” she explained. “His ship never made it. It was never found.”
“Legends say that Maer and Flenn both arrived in Shavi in a great wooden ship,” Nalya said. “Starved and lost, many legends say. It could well be that they are the same people, your Wendell Murphy and our Wendael Maer.”
“Which means that this isn’t the first time something like the halo has happened, right?” Terra asked.
“I would not jump to conclusions just yet,” Nalya said. “These journals you speak of, your grandmother’s? Do you still have them?”
“They’re at my mom’s place,” she said. “Back in town.”
“You’re not seriously entertaining this notion, are you?” Ryan asked. He picked up the book and flipped through it. “There’s too much that’s just wrong with it.”
Terra snatched it back from him. “I know what I know, and I honestly think this might be my great-great grandfather.”
“Aye, and he’s obviously well-tuned with the artisan’s craft,” Bayne said. “The book’s protected. If it was truly the lass’s kin, he’d have wanted her to have this. He had it visited upon by an artisan.”
“What’s an Artisan?” Cale asked.
“It’s one of the forbidden magicks,” Nalya replied. “There hasn’t been a practicing Artisan for generations. When the High Magus Council began to oversee the care of the Pact, it was one of the first skills to be outlawed. If an Artisan existed today, he would be hunted and slaughtered. As it stands, Summoners are treated much the same unless they’ve been oathbound to the Council.”
“Wait, so… you’re saying that back in the day, these Artisan guys were going around crafting magickal items?” Ryan asked.
Nalya nodded. “It was very dangerous magick, and the lore is lost to us.”
Ryan shook his head. “I still don’t get it,” he said. “Too much time has passed. This just can’t be the same guy.”
“Look at it this way,” Terra said. “Wendael Maer and Rasshauer Flenn’s legend is simple. They came from somewhere else and completely changed the Pactlands, right?”
Ryan nodded dumbly.
“And what has Sephalon been saying this whole time? That we’re here to stir shit up, right?” She threw her arms in the air. “What if that’s what this world does?”
“I mean, if it figures there’s something wrong going out, it picks up a phone and orders some help from Earth. This time, it happened to be Dunsmith.”
“You’re saying Dunsmith was pulled over because of you,” Cale said. “Because this Maer guy might be blood. If that’s the case, then why the hell did we come along with you?”
Terra shook her head. “I don’t know.”
“There’s little sense in arguing over it now,” Nalya said. “We’ll wait until we’ve returned to Dunsmith and we’ll look over these journals. Only then can we be certain.”