Kinhy tried as hard as she could to carry Anna's bag for her. It was difficult work for the tiny creature, but she refused to let anyone but she carry it. Keith followed close behind the king; everyone else stayed behind them. Tyler had recovered fully; he and Trey had practiced sword fighting in the yard nearly every day until Tyler was back to how he used to be.
They came out around a broken cobblestone street. The shops across from them were dilapidated and ransacked. They checked every building though, for other people. The king said they had tried that once before but there was no harm in looking again.
The sound of footsteps came from around the corner and everyone froze, the guards were coming. "Quickly," Keith pulled Tyler's arm and ducked into an alleyway.
"There's no use in searching everywhere. No one survived, and if they did they've long since left. Let's just go to the castle," one of the guards said. These guards were different from the ones they had encountered at Frogo's castle. Those ones didn't dare speak, but these were chatting freely. Tyler pushed past Keith's shoulder and looked at the guards. Their torches lit their faces so Tyler could make out every feature. There were humans, drea, weir and one other species that Tyler had never heard of. He ducked back into the ally.
"Those aren't frogarian guards! Those are normal people! They're humans and drea and," Keith clasped a hand over Tyler's mouth to keep him silent.
"Tyler those are Frogo's men. It's not just the hakelm who follows him. Everyone is involved, brother against brother."
Keith pulled his hand away from Tyler's mouth slowly. He stared at Tyler and waited for his words to register. Tyler only gave a slight nod and they pressed back against the wall until the men passed by. The light of their torches reflected in Trey and Tenac's eyes. Everyone held their breath. Luckily the guards didn't notice and kept on walking. Slowly the guards made their way down the street but no one dared to move until they were in complete silence.
When they could no longer hear footsteps, Keith slowly pushed away from the wall. A cloud passed over the moon and they were left in total darkness. Only Trey and Tenac could lead the way for them now. As they started moving again, Keith approached the King of the North.
"I thought you told me that the castle was deserted!" His voice was a harsh whisper.
"It was . . . " The King's voice was distant and somewhat depressed. Keith fell back, feeling that this wasn't the time for arguments.
"So what now?" Tyler was beside Keith now. "Do we still go to the castle? Or do we salvage what we can from around town and head south?"
"I..." Keith couldn't think straight. He didn't know what the King wanted and was afraid to make a decision that he disapproved of. "I want to see what the King thinks first."
"What's so great about him anyway?" Tyler scoffed. "So what? He's a King, big deal. Where I come from, we elect a president, then if we don't like what he's doing we get rid of him and find a new leader. I mean big deal what he thinks. It's not like he can just take command just like that . . . " Tyler was about to go on but he shut his own mouth. He'd said too much, he never liked to talk without carefully thinking his words over first.
Keith was quiet for a while.
"The oracle chose him, all the kings and queens are chosen by the oracle because of their personal qualities, no one argues with them. If they don't do their jobs, the oracle will remove their power. It's not for us to argue with," he explained to Tyler as they navigated around a footbridge.
"So why doesn't she do something about Frogo?" Other than her being all-knowing Tyler hadn't heard anything else about the Oracle.
Keith lowered his voice to a whisper.
"There never used to be humans in Pergia. Frogo's ancestors broke the barrier between the worlds long ago. Our weapons, our castles, armies, apothecaries, all of that came from Earth. The Oracle sealed the barrier again but not until a great number of humans had stumbled into it. My ancestors were among those few," he paused when Fezinc came within hearing range and waited for him to move away. "But Frogo had this crystal, which was stronger than the oracles power. He used it to travel between the worlds; it's evil magic. He could destroy the oracle herself with the power in that crystal."
Tyler took the weight of Keith's words. So he had known all along where Tyler and Anna were from. None of the others must have known about that crossing between Earth and Pergia. It must have happened hundreds of years ago, during medieval times.
They reached the edge of town and traveled some distance into the forest before deciding to make camp and rest for the night. Since they had no castle to conquer, they would need as much rest as possible to make it all the way south.
"So I take it we're not going to the castle," Trey said sarcastically at the campfire. He, Keith, the King, Tyler and Anna were the only ones left awake.
"I don't suppose so Trey," Keith answered just as sarcastically. He smiled and laughed a little. Not because anything was funny but because they needed to laugh, Keith knew that.
Anna sat huddled in a blanket beside Tyler. She was staring into the flames, oblivious to everything around her. Slowly her eyes dropped closed, then opened again halfway, then closed again. She would be asleep soon. Keith was facing out looking at the forest as were Trey and the King. Tyler was petting Kinhy absentmindedly; she was curled up between him and Anna sleeping.
"I was the servant boy, wasn't I?" Tyler's words made everyone snap out of their thoughts. The king shrugged his shoulders.
"I suppose it could be you, it could be any other boy who is your age on earth. No one knows."
"She had a frilly blue dress. It was her favorite, she wore it so often that the material was almost gray . . . " Tyler let his sentence trail off. Everyone stared at him.
The king nodded slowly. "Go on, what else do you remember?"
"We visited the east once. I wasn't supposed to go, but I hid in the back of a carriage," Tyler's head began to throb as images and memories of his past flooded him. He rubbed the bridge of his nose with his thumb and index fingers. "She found me first. She put me in a dress, to be a maid in waiting . . . " Tyler began to laugh.
The king smiled. "I remember that. I knew who you were all along but Anna was so proud of herself I didn't dare get you in trouble."
Anna's eyes were wide open now she stared at Tyler.
"And when Momma died . . . " her voice cracked on the last word.
Tyler turned to look at her. He bit his lips together trying to remember that night. It was hazy in his mind; he remembered everyone crying, no one would tell him what was going on. He wanted to find Anna and ask her.
"Summon the guard! Find her immediately!"
"Muv, where's Anna?"
"Shh love, now go to sleep."
A door closes and the room is dark. The straw bed creaks as a small boy climbs out of it. He climbs to the window and pushes it open. The night air is cool and damp. Before long he's climbed down the wall and is outside. He waits for the guard to change then runs for the stables. Behind there is an orchard, he reaches an apple tree growing by itself at the end and climbs it. He can hear her crying.
She gasps. He moves over onto a branch and sits beside her. The branch shakes from his weight and he sees a knife fall to a lower branch. He reaches out and takes her wrists in his hands, they're wet, and he can smell the blood.
"Anna, what happened?"
"Muv died . . . it's all my fault, I . . . " she starts to cry again and he hugs her.
"It'll be fine, I promise, it wasn't your fault. I'm here, It's all right," his small arms automatically circling her shoulders. The smell of her blood fills his nostrils. She slowly stops shaking, and he whispers in her ear. "We'll be together always." He takes the knife from a lower branch and then cuts the palms of both his hands. She's shaking, watching him wrap his hands around her wrists, letting their blood mingle.
"Now our souls are joined," she whispers into the cool night air. He nods, keeping his firm grip.
"I don't want to lose you."
Anna touched Tyler's shoulder to snap him out of his daydream.
"We should get to bed," Tyler turned away from Anna and walked toward shelter. She sat and watched him leave, wondering why he always turned and left when they connected. He mulled over the memory, suddenly quite aware of the presence of her soul. It explained the warm feeling he had, and his constant need to crush her to him, make them one person.
"Suppose you could have told us we were going to be heading through a desert!" Keith's voice grew louder as he spoke. He'd never traveled outside the west and northern kingdoms. Now he knew why.
"I thought you knew? Why do you think the south is still free?"
"We could have brought extra horses, or something!"
Trey laughed. The desert was his home climate; he wasn't hot at all. Before he met Keith, he had lived in a small desert town called Kyame. Technically it was in the center of the continent, but the south claimed rule over the tiny town because of the minerals found around it.
After his parents and older brother were killed, he left and headed toward the western kingdom. Tenac had been his brother's son and he brought him along. Trey would be Tenac's uncle if they were on earth but on Pergia, their relationship wasn't family at all.
Out of everyone there, Kinhy suffered the most. She came from the northern forests and wasn't equipped for hot dry weather. Anna had taken all the bags from her and was carrying her. Kinhy's tiny body was drenched with sweat. Lila and Youli had shed most of their clothing and looked like a couple of bony kangaroos. Tyler took off his trench coat and held it over his head for some means of shade. There was sand for miles around; he didn't understand how anyone knew where they were going.
"I'm starting to hallucinate!" Keith joked; he put his hands out in front of him and grabbed the air. "Why yes, I'd love a glass of wine."
Fezinc blinked and stared. "But Keith, there's nothing there."
Keith pretended to take a sip and smiled at Fezinc. "Sure there is big guy. Can't you see it? Water, food, snow!"
Fezinc stopped and squinted. "No, nothing."
Anna began to laugh. Trey joined Keith. "Look over there Tenac! It's a giant tree! Shade for us all!"
Tenac laughed. "Let's go jump in that lake there! It'll cool us off!"
Tyler could feel himself start smiling. Tenac jumped up on Trey's shoulders and looked off into the distance. "I see it there! A giant snowman!"
Fezinc looked all around him. "But Tenac! There's no snow! I don't see anything!"
Keith put a hand on Fezinc's shoulder. He smiled. "Just try to imagine it!"
"Um." Fezinc scratched his head and looked off to the side. "Look! It's a man riding a camel."
Keith patted his back "good! What else do you see?"
"Just that man on the camel."
"Try harder, there has to be something else."
"Two other people on camels with him."
Keith smiled. "It doesn't have to be the same thing."
"But it is Keith! Look! Three people on camels!"
"That's enough about people on camels now Fezinc." Keith went to talk with Tyler but Fezinc continued.
"They're getting closer now! Maybe we should stop and talk to them."
"Fezinc, we're just pretending there's nothing . . . " Keith turned to look and saw three people dressed in white riding toward them on camels.
"Whoa, now I'm really hallucinating."
"Hold on men. Come back," the king shouted to the horsemen in the lead of their group. The people on the camels seemed to be waving to them, so they waited until they were within hearing range.
"Good people! This area of the desert now belongs to Frogo! If you want to stay alive come with us now and we will take you to the beach!"
The King waited until they had stopped beside them.
"What all this about?"
"Frogo is after it all sir. His armies are marching to the south now. We have to get out of here! If you keep on in that direction, you'll never catch the ferry!"
"Ferry?" Tyler echoed to Keith. Keith only shrugged. He'd never heard of a ferry before. The three people on camels looked red, as if they'd been sun burnt all their lives. They had wrinkly faces and long black mustaches. They must have been related somehow.
The king conversed with the lead man for a time before he turned to the group and announced they would head for the beach.
They changed their direction and after nearly a full day's travel they saw the shoreline.
"Wonderful! We'll wait here until the ferry arrives to take us across."
The men on the camels came down for the first time since they'd appeared.
"I've never been on a beach before," Keith marveled at the sight. Anna took poor Kinhy right to the water's edge and gently lowered into the cool water. Kinhy shrieked at first. It was cold and she didn't like getting wet. Anna waded in with her and when she saw that Anna was coming too, she began to swim around a bit.
Tyler watched her intently. Now he couldn't ignore her. Everything she did made him want to stare. He kept seeing flashes of the little girl in a faded blue dress, running around the apple trees and getting into trouble, sneaking cookies and milk from the kitchen when no one was looking, being able to fit without crawling into the passageways around the castle, there were so many memories for him now. Having her father here with them, and the enchanter, who once wiped their memories clear, made everything come back to him now.
Anna's memory was coming back slowly. There were a few things here and there, especially the night her Mother died. Everything else was hazy and distant, Kinhy was still a mystery, Tyler was still a stranger she'd only just met, and not someone she'd spent half her life with.
"Here it comes now." One of the three strangers smiled and pointed out across the water. There was the small outline of a vessel shimmering on the horizon. The smallest of the three went to wait out on a wooden dock.
"They're certainly strange people," Keith commented. Tyler nodded.
Trey smiled and lowered his voice to Keith and Tyler. "They're merchants. We used to see them all the time at home. They travel between our town and the south all the time. I'm surprised they haven't tried to sell us our own clothing by now!"
Tenac giggled and held his hand over his mouth. They looked up to see the tallest of the three trying to sell a bronze pot to Fezinc.
"The ferry will be here any minute now! Come everyone!" The small merchant waved his arms as if he was trying to gather everyone to himself. Anna waded out to the dock and set Kinhy up. She grabbed the wooden boards and pulled herself on then walked to the end. Kinhy shook water over everyone and laughed when she saw the water spray around her.
As the ferry came closer it was easy to see the wooden planks holding it together and the few crewmen. It didn't seem large enough to carry them all, but there was a small compartment Tyler could see. He assumed it led to below decks where the camels could stay. Everyone crowded to the end of the small dock. By the way it groaned Tyler was afraid it would collapse.
A man with a long pole maneuvered the ferry along side of the dock. The men with camels went first and a small boy helped them get their camels below the deck. The men then went to stand on the other end of the small vessel. Tenac was the first one to take a shaky step onto the ferry. Trey followed him and Fezinc went after that. Youli and Lila climbed cautiously onto the ferry then Keith and Tyler climbed on. From there they helped Anna and Kinhy. The king, the enchanter and his small band of guards were the last to climb aboard. With all the bodies on the ferry it sank deeper into the water. With a simple push of a pole the ferry was off again. It turned and began to head in a direct line to the south.
As it picked up speed, Tyler could feel the wind began to blow around him. He stood by the railing and looked out as the front of the ship cut through the water sending a spray on either side of him.
"What makes it move?" Anna asked. She looked up; there were no sails. She didn't hear a motor or any paddles. It seemed as if an unseen hand was pushing the ship.
"It's a ship, what else would make it move? It glides along the water as easily as a bird glides through the air." Trey patted the railing with one hand. "It's amazing isn't it? I love the water."
Anna nodded slightly. Kinhy was clinging to her leg and whimpering. She picked her up and held her out to see the water.
"See? It's like flying."
Kinhy only whimpered again and pulled her way back to hide her face in Anna's shoulder. Tyler smiled and watched Anna give in and hold Kinhy. She turned her head and caught him staring. Tyler turned and blushed, then quickly moved away to talk with Keith.
"Tyler, what are you doing?"
Tyler looked up from the side of the ferry. He held his fingers up for Keith to smell.
"What's it smell like to you?"
Keith sniffed the goo on the ends of Tyler's fingers. "Yuck! It smells awful!"
Tyler took his hand back and sniffed again. "It smells like hair gel to me."
Keith raised an eyebrow. "Hair gel?"
"Yea, see," Tyler put the goo in his hair. Keith watched and tried not to be disgusted. "It's how we do hair on Earth."
Soon Tyler's hair was spiked and solid with gel.
"That actually looks good, besides how disgusting it is."
Tyler smiled. "You think?"
"I'm going to show Anna."
Tyler got up and left. Keith watched him walk into the small cabin Anna and Kinhy stayed in. When he was out of sight Keith kneeled down and rubbed his hand in the goo on the side of the ship. He lifted it up and smelled again.
Then he took a bit of it and rubbed it into his own hair. He played with it a bit, wondering how Tyler got it to stay up. He wound up with two pieces of hair in front that went straight out then turned down at the end. He found his reflection in a bucket of soapy water and smiled.
"Hey . . . this looks good!"
"Keith, have you seen Fezinc anywhere?" Trey walked over toward him. He stepped back when Keith turned around. "What happened to your hair?"
"Oh, something Tyler showed me. What do you think?"
"I think you should show me too."
Keith brought Trey to where the goo was and showed him how to rub it in his hair. Trey managed to get his hair to curve up and down in a wave on his head. He looked at his reflection and smiled.
Anna came out of her cabin just then to find Keith and Trey looking at their hair.
"Oh boys, what has Tyler done to you?"
They both looked up slightly embarrassed and laughed.
Anna just smiled and laughed. "You look nice boys."
"I see land!" Tenac came rushing by them then stopped to stare at Trey and Keith.
"What . . . ?"
"Land? Where?" Anna leaned over the railing. Tenac jumped up onto it and pointed.
"There, see it? We're almost there now."
Anna could just barely see a black outline on the horizon. It was growing bigger fast and soon became a distant shoreline.
"Preparing to dock. Please keep away from the outer railings," one of the crewmen walked by and glared at Tenac. Everyone moved away from the railing and Tenac flipped down then smiled at the man. He kept walking.
"Do you think the Queen there will even want to help us?"
"Of course she will Tenac," Keith smiled. At least I hope she will. He thought to himself.
When they pulled up to the dock, everyone gasped. It was made of white marble stone with gold railing. Everything glittered; this land must be overwhelmingly rich. Anna and Kinhy were helped off first by two strong looking men, Keith, Tyler, Trey and Tenac followed. Fezinc, Lila and Youli came off then the king was the last to come. The men bowed before him.
"Your majesty," they greeted him. "We welcome you to the kingdom of the south. Our Queen has been expecting you. If you would follow us . . . "
It sounded more like an order than an invitation. The king nodded solemnly. The two men turned and began to walk. When they saw everyone following they stopped.
"Only the king will see her highness. All others will wait, you may explore the town and the palace court, but no further."
Keith nodded. "Yes sir."
They watched the King be escorted off. His guards followed close behind however, but the enchanter stayed.
"Time will show what the good Queen's intentions are. I intend to visit some small shops around this place. Perhaps for an elixir of some sort. I bid you farewell then, good bye," he hurried off.
"Well, I suppose we should do as those men said and explore?" Keith suggested. Trey and Tenac were already wandering in one direction.
"I smell food," Trey smiled. Fezinc came and stood beside him. He snorted in a deep breath.
"Yea. Me too."
"I'm pretty hungry myself," Anna looked up at Tyler. Tyler shrugged.
"I guess we could go get something to eat."
Trey seemed to know his way best around the desert town. They followed him and stared at the rich tapestries that seemed to blanket the very path they walked upon. Every building was beautifully carved and molded to fit in with the rest. There was an outer wall running around the entire city. As the wind blew past it the colors shifted and melted into one another like a kaleidoscope. It was like being inside a painting.
One building had the most delicious smells wafting from it. It wasn't as assaulting at the spices and noises of the East, it was smoother, delicate almost. Tyler stopped outside what seemed to be a door.
"Let's try in here," he stepped forward and a small person appeared seemingly out of no where. He bowed before them. He was dressed in what looked like a red uniform, he smiled at them and Tyler could see his tiny mouth hid razor sharp teeth. The man's ears pointed up like that of a bat. His hands were merely thumbs on the ends of pathetically small wings.
"Good evening good visitors. Would you be interested in sampling some of what we have to offer?"
Keith took charge and stepped forward. "We come from the west. We have had a long and tiring journey, we would like something hearty and filling."
The man, who seemed to be a waiter, nodded.
"Yes sir, right this way," he turned and walked through the wall behind him. As his body passed through the colors moved and rearrange themselves to let him pass. Keith put a hand out and stepped cautiously through the door. As he passed, he could feel his mind numbing slightly and a pleasant drifting feeling over took his body. When he entered the restaurant, he was completely relaxed and comfortable. There seemed to be no memory of a war or pain in his life.
Everyone else passed through with almost the same results. Anna was the last to go through. Before she was halfway there however, a sharp pain jabbed her in the back of her neck. She screamed and the colors froze around her. She was trapped in the wall, she couldn't move at all; she has been totally frozen. She couldn't even move her mouth to cry for help.
The others didn't seem to care; they drifted happily over to a table and sat. The waiters brought them things to eat but Anna still couldn't move through the wall. A group of men dressed in white overcoats came just then and began extracting the wall from the side of the building.
"We have to get her to the hospital," she heard one of the men say.
"I'm not going to lose another one this week!"
Anna was laid down on her back and could only watch the sky and tops of buildings pass her by. Her heart was racing; there was no air left for her to breathe. No one seemed panicked though; it was as if everyone was too happy to care. No one even took a second glance at them as they rushed down the street.
Anna could feel herself swooning for air, her eyes began to blur and she started to lose her grip on what was happening, all too slowly she drifted off into blackness.
At the restaurant no one seemed to notice Anna's absence. It was as if everyone was on a drug high. Nothing seemed to matter. The food tasted great for all they knew. When asked for money they gave gladly and followed another man who led them outside.
While passing through the wall again their own memories came back to them and they were brought to their senses. Like having cold water splashed on your face first thing in the morning.
"Ah!" Tenac exclaimed. He looked around. "Did I just wake up?"
"No, it was that place," Tyler looked back at the colors shifting on the wall and started to feel the same peaceful numbness set in again. He shook his head. "There's something about those colors. They make you calm, like a sedative."
"Anna!" Kinhy exclaimed. Tyler looked back to see her rushing back toward the wall. Keith bounded forward and caught her before she went through again.
"Hey, where is Anna?" Trey looked around. Fezinc scratched his head and opened his mouth to answer.
"Uh," he stopped and thought for a minute. "She didn't come in I think."
"I don't remember what happened," Keith set Kinhy down and rubbed his head.
"The girl has a mental problem, because of the defect she could not pass through the gate. I'm sorry, she was rushed to the nearest medical facility for removal," the same waiter who had greeted them appeared from nowhere again.
"What mental defect?" Tyler demanded.
"Her memory is missing. The doctors will work to restore it but if they don't in time she will die," he said it just as casually as asking the time. Tyler was ready to punch him. How dare he put Anna in danger, not warn them of the gate, he clenched and unclenched his fists at his sides.
"Where can we find her?" Keith asked calmly. Tyler could see he too was trying not to hit the man.
"Follow this street to the end, turn to your left, there is a large building in the shape of a dome. That is the medical center."
"Let's go," Keith turned without thanking the little imp and hurried down the street. Youli and Lila bounded forward on their kangaroo like legs. Tyler had no idea they could travel so fast. He understood why though, Youli was the last of the royal servants of the North. He felt committed more than ever to protect Anna.
They turned left and almost ran into the dome. Tyler pushed against the wall but the colors only moved with his finger touch, they wouldn't let him pass.
"Look, this one has a sensible door!" Trey turned a knob and opened a heavy wooden door. It was painted white and decorated with fine gold and silver carvings.
Tenac, carrying Kinhy, rushed through. Tyler, Keith, and Fezinc followed. Youli and Lila came in behind them and walked slowly. There was a front desk, almost like the emergency rooms in hospitals on earth. A waiting area with chairs and couches was to their left, and a small pub to their right.
Keith went to the desk.
"Our friend was trapped in a wall? Someone told us she was taken here."
The woman at the counter looked like one of the hippopotamus people Tyler had seen in the east. She looked at some papers in front of her then back up. In a very high pitched nosey voice she answered.
"Anna? Princess of the North?"
Keith was a bit shocked. No one other than them and Frogo knew she was princess.
"Yes, that's the one."
"She's in recovery right now. Don't worry, she'll be fine."
"Where? We want to see her!" Keith pressed.
"Third door on your left," the clerk opened her mouth to say more but they weren't listening anymore. Keith started down the hall and everyone else was on his heels, They found Anna's room and rushed in.
At the far corner there was a bed, a figure lay beneath the blanket. It was still, she didn't move. Tyler stepped forward out of the crowd and recognized Anna immediately.
"Tyler!" She exclaimed. She sat up and almost threw her arms around his neck. However, she stopped herself and sat back a bit, she smiled over her embarrassment.
They jumped back. She looked fine to them. There was hardly any sign that she had almost lost her life. Keith smiled.
"Hey, sorry about that Anna. We got in a little over our heads that time."
Fezinc nodded but added encouragingly "the food was really good though," he stopped and scratched his head. "Uh, I think so anyway."
Tenac and Trey pushed through, Trey was holding Kinhy. The little purple creature leapt from his arms and on Anna's stomach.
"Anna! Anna! You left me again! How could you Anna? You always are leaving me! I looked and looked for you over and over many, many times," she started to cry and Anna held her close. The smell of her fur and warmth of the tiny body was like a shock for Anna.
"What do you think Anna?" My father asked. I sat staring at the baby creature. It stared back and gurgled a hello.
"It's funny looking," I poked its belly to prove my point. It burst into a fit of giggles and scurried against the side of my bed.
I started laughing now too. This was a worthy plaything; excited I leapt forward and tickled it. Immediately it shrieked, laughed, and tried to get away. My father's deep laugh filled the room until we collapsed in a pile by the bed.
"Should I take this funny looking creature back to the market?" He teased me. I looked up at him, surprised.
He laughed and I smiled. "What should we call it?"
I started making clicking noises with my tongue the creature imitated me and laughed at the same time. Its clicking noises made a sort of Kinhy, Kinhy sound.
"Let's call it Kinhy."
"Kinhy!" Anna mumbled. Her memories were clear now. She could remember everything about her childhood. The memory restoring process worked so well she even remembered things from infancy. When she looked at Tyler now she recognized a loved friend and memory. She smiled.
He smiled back, almost desperate now to hold her. That was just what everyone wanted him to do. Sometimes it felt like so much pressure was on him to come out of his shell. That only made him retreat further. Which was what he was doing, retreating. It wouldn't work out, he told himself. He pushed the thought as far as it would go.
After several men in white robes came and checked Anna out she was released to go with her friends.
I was nearly nightfall and they needed a place to rest. Trey tried to translate some of the signs with what little he knew about the language here. The walked into an apothecary and a tailor shop before finding an inn. With what was left of Youli's money, they paid for a room and got themselves settled in.
Tyler was restless and could not sleep. He got up and slid footwear on. After using the bathroom he caught a glimpse of himself in a mirror. Something he had not seen in awhile.
The gel had long since worn out of his hair and it hung limply around his face. His eyes peered over his yellow glasses. He had not shaved since the beginning of his journey and now, although he was a teenager, it was beginning to show.
"Wonder if they got barber shops here?" He thought aloud.
When he was still he could hear a lot of noises from outside. His curiosity got the better of him and he followed the noise through the inn to an outdoor sort of patio. There was a great banquet table set up and people were dancing in the center. He smiled and watched out the hole in the wall that passed for a window. There was a yellow glow around and everything seemed perfect down there.
Something brushed his shoulder and he jerked around.
Anna's blue eyes stared back at him. Her mouth was not smiling but she did not seem upset either. She was calm; maybe she just could not sleep either. He nodded at her then turned back to the window. He expected her to move on and explore by herself. Tyler was surprised when he looked back and she was still standing behind him, looking out the same window.
"We used to go exploring together," she whispered, as if answering his unspoken question.
He shrugged, trying to seem indifferent.
"I remember things now." She lifted his hands in hers, checking for the scars she knew would be there. She wrapped the right hand around her right wrist, trying to reenact the memory that was so strong. He breathed in sharply at the feeling, again recalling the night he joined his soul to hers. His blood in her veins and hers in his.
"Anna," was all he could get out. She smiled, throwing her arms around him and hugging him close.
"I always knew there was something important about you," she didn't let go. "You remember too?"
He nodded, hugging her back.
"Today I thought that I was going to die, but instead I had my life given back to me." She hugged him tighter, not wanting to let go of her life-long best friend. "You've always been there haven't you? Even on earth you were always near me. Our souls belong together."
"I went to the same grade school, same high school, I only lived two streets down from you." He nodded with her assumption, finally understanding the weird pull he'd always felt towards her. She dropped her wrists, freeing them from his hands, as if she just remembered something that made her sad. She looked out the window at the dancers, changing the subject.
"Looks like they're having fun huh?"
He nodded vaguely. He was comfortable being so close to her, she moved and her face was beside his, looking closer out at the dancers. He lifted a hand almost absentmindedly and made a move to slide it around her shoulders. He caught himself and dropped his hand to his side. She stared, watching for so short a time, Tyler wanted her to lean back when she stood up again.
He turned to face her; they both had their sides to the window now. The yellow light reached her face and Tyler thought how much she looked like an angel. She smiled vaguely, not directly at him; they were not making eye contact. He wanted to say something more, but Anna will you be my girlfriend? Didn't fit, he wanted more, he wanted to blurt out Anna will you marry me? And watch the way her face lit up at the words. He wanted make sure they would never be apart. When she turned she caught him staring.
"Anna," he began. His mind suddenly a complete blank, wiped clean by the depths of her eyes. He stood with his mouth slightly open ready to finish the thought that had disappeared.
"It would not work out."
"What you're thinking. It just would not work; not now, it did not back then. It won't now," she lost control of her voice. "I, I'm sorry."
"But," his heart dropped, he had never felt like this before, it was like shortness of breath. His heart actually hurt. He struggled for the words to express how he felt. He could only come up with actions, to show her. He took her hands again, pressing their matching scars together and locking her eyes in his. Tell her that you can't live without her, an internal voice urged him. Tell her you don't care about anyone else. His eyes flashed and she watched his emotions pass clearly through them. "But now it's different," he managed to get out.
Anna fought the urge to crawl inside him and cover herself in the warmth of his spirit. She nodded, "I know."
The dancers outside suddenly screamed. Tyler darted back to the window and looked below. There were no dancers, only bodies. Tyler's heart stopped. It was dark out, he could not see beyond the torches, but he knew what was there.
"We need to get the others," his voice was on edge. Anna started at a run down the hall.
"Keith!" Tyler was almost frantic to get them out of that inn. He bounded into the room right on Anna's heels. Keith was already dressed and so were the others. He took charge the minute Tyler entered.
"Let's go, NOW!"
The building started to shake and it collapsed as the team escaped.
"Ahhh!" They heard a scream behind them and stopped. Caught in the rubble was Tenac, his upper body reached out to them and his face was twisted in pain.
"Tenac" Trey screamed. He leapt over some fallen bodies back to his nephew. Tenac looked up at him and watched the flaming arrows land around them.
"Get out of here, they'll kill you!" Tenac let out another cry of pain. Trey shook his head.
"Not without you."
"Let's move guys!" Keith watched another wall tumble behind him, blocking Trey and Tenac from his sight. Tyler started walking towards the rubble but Keith caught his shirt in his hand. "You'll be no help to them dead."
Tyler stopped but did not look back to Keith. He stood, clenched, and unclenched his fist. A cry from Anna made him turn around. There were soldiers there already! One wielded a sword and missed Fezinc by a hair. They surrounded him with swords.
"Keith!" He called. Keith looked back to Tyler; they nodded at each other and pulled their swords.
It was a frenzy of whirling swords and slashing. A man screamed and Tyler realized he had just impaled someone on his sword. Things were getting out of hand.
"Tyler!" Anna called. He twisted his head and saw a flash of her jacket, Youli cried out as her hand was ripped from him.
"ARG!" Tyler yelled and swung his sword over his head. "There's too many of them!"
Keith kicked a soldier in the face and leapt over him. "Anna!" He swung around a corner, more soldiers, they were everywhere! He pushed his way through, hacking and slashing everyone in his path. Anna was gone from sight. There was no point in continuing that direction. Keith grabbed the ledge of a window and pulled himself up into the building. He rolled down onto a soft carpet.
"Who's there?" A voice called. Keith jumped.
"Keith! Oh god!" she found him in the darkness and threw her arms around him. "It's insane out there! The soldiers actually lost me in the crowd! I climbed in here to hide. Who are they?"
"Frogo's men. This is it Anna, the final attack. If we're going to defeat Frogo, it's going to be tonight."
Tyler felt a hand on his shoulder and was pulled up into a building. He fought the hands and tried to bite the one the covered his mouth.
"Tyler! Tyler! Calm down! It's me," Fezinc's voice caused him to relax immediately. He was set down on a soft carpet and immediately felt arms around him. He fell backwards in the dark and the person landed on top of him.
"Tyler." It was Anna.
Kinhy brushed against them. "It's scary out there!"
"We need to find Trey," Keith announced in the darkness.
"And Tenac," Tyler piped in, he sat up with Anna still close beside him. Everyone was silent; they all had the horrible image of Tenac, stuck under the rubble, reaching out to them.
"Besides those two, everyone's here. This is it guys. We have to defeat Frogo and we have to do it tonight. First... we need a plan."
"Well, I have an idea," Tyler lowered his voice and everyone leaned into the circle.
"Trey," Tenac whispered. His legs were a bloody mess; the bones had been shattered. Trey was scampering over the rooftops with Tenac on his back. He had decided the best place to go would be the castle. There was strong magic in the south. That, if nothing else, would protect them.
He stopped and turned his head to look into Tenac's eyes.
"I don't think I'm going to make it Trey," Tenac mumbled. Trey shook him.
"You can not start thinking like that. You are going to make it, hear me?" Tenac did not say anything and shut his eyes.
"Oh no, you're not leaving that easy."
Trey jumped down off the roof he was on and rolled into a dark room with soft carpet. He laid Tenac out carefully.
"You cannot go this way. Not now Tenac, please," Trey found a candle and called a fire spell to help him light it. He went back to Tenac and lifted the body, limp in his arms.
"NO!" He screamed. The cry echoed through the house. Tenac's body was lifeless, his eyes glazed over in death, he was gone. Trey's throat tightened and he echoed "no."
"NO!" The cry was faint but it had come from somewhere in the house. Tyler stood in the darkness.
"Did you hear that? Someone's in trouble."
They all stood and found the door; it opened up into a hall. At the other end there was a faint light. Tyler and Keith ran towards it, they stumbled into the doorway and found Trey huddled on the floor.
"Trey," Keith stepped forward. Tyler held him back. Anna went forward and knelt beside him. Tenac lay there wrapped in a bed sheet. He looked peaceful in death. She started to cry Trey put and arm around her and they all came forward.
"Tenac, no," Keith whispered almost inaudibly.
"Frogo killed him," Trey's voice growled.
The Queen nodded. They had made their way over rooftops back to the castle where the survivors had retreated. Everyone else was dead, or would soon be dead. The castle was the last wall between Frogo and ruling the entire world.
"You, five, are all we have left. The soldiers protect the town's people. I have no one left to fight against Frogo. This plan of yours young boy. Is all there is left."
"I have faith in these young people," Anna's father told the Queen. He turned to Tyler. "You are our last resource. This ends today."
Tyler nodded solemnly.
"Except," the Queen mentioned for them to follow her. She opened a door and led them down a plank way before them stood the most majestic vessel ever constructed by the hands of Pergiarians. Keith gasped.
"A what?" Tyler asked.
"I never knew they actually existed! I thought they were just stories! It's like a ship, only it rides on the air," Keith explained. His mouth hung open as he stared upwards. This airship was three times the height of him. It was made of wood and iron.
"How does it move?" Anna asked.
"Strong animals inside turn the turbines which make the propellers spin. It's magnificent isn't it?" The Queen smiled. "Yours to use, get you quickly to Mount Kolts. I fear Frogo may already have killed the oracle." Her voice was grave but true.
Keith nodded. "Thank you," he said graciously.
Anna stepped lightly up the stairs. She looked behind herself at the others: Keith, Fezinc, Tyler, Youli, Lila, Kinhy, Trey ... Her father. She tried to smile at them; it had been a long journey. Meeting these friends had been the best part of it. Tyler smiled at her, and he was the other best part. Tyler started up the steps behind Anna, the rest followed quietly. This was also a heavy time. Traveling would give them time to think, time to weigh the losses. They knew that once they had left the Southern Kingdom would be destroyed, their queen killed. In the night Trey would have memories, forever. This knowledge weighed heavy on them as they signaled for take off. The air ship rose into the air slowly, then powered it is way towards Mount Kolts.
Anna lay in bed, staring up at the ceiling. There came a soft knock on her door, she sat up. "Come in."
The handle turned slowly and the door opened a crack, then all the way, Tyler flipped himself around the door and closed it just as slowly and quietly. Anna smiled a little and Tyler came to sit beside her. They just stared at each other for awhile, both were thinking about what was coming, wondering if they would make it out alive ... or not. Tyler opened his mouth to speak, his voice cracked and he closed it again, embarrassed.
"I'm scared," Anna said just what Tyler was thinking. He nodded.
"Me too, what if we don't make it Anna? What if we end up like Hotep, or Tenac? I just, it is so much to think about."
Anna nodded slowly; she reached out her hand and stroked his cheek. She felt his face tighten as a solitary tear rolled down his cheek, she wiped it away with her thumb and drew him closer to her. He slid his arms around her and she began to cry too.
"We can do it Tyler," she whispered, "I know we can."
"There it is Keith," Trey pointed towards the mountain. "We're almost there."
Keith nodded and bit his lip. "Frogo is so arrogant. He thinks he doesn't need his army here, that no one would came after him. Well, we'll get him, all alone."
Trey clenched his fist. "Then I can make him pay, he'll regret it."
Tyler and Anna came out slowly to watch the ship land. Fezinc followed them soon after. They were ready, as ready as they would ever be to defeat the evil that had made their lives so hard for such a long time.
"This is it," Keith breathed. "What are we fighting for?"
"My home," Anna said.
"Tenac," Trey nodded with Fezinc.
"My race, and Hotep," Youli came out.
"Anna!" Kinhy smiled up at Tyler.
The ship landed slowly, it took only seconds for them to realize the ground was shaking, they had very little time left to find Frogo. The captain had made that easy for them. There in front of them stood the incarnate of evil himself. He smiled at them. His skin was leathery like a snake, and his eyes burned like twin flames. The group walked out to meet him, he stood patiently, and Keith was enraged by his arrogance.
"You think you can beat us that easily?" He demanded. Frogo smiled and nodded.
Trey trembled and walked forward to be face to face with Frogo. He forced the words to spew from his lips into Frogo's face. "I hate you. You're going to die."
Frogo laughed lightly then, quicker than any eye could see, he drew a dagger and stabbed Trey. Trey screamed in pain as Frogo turned the dagger and threw him off of it, dead.
"No!" Keith, Tyler, and Fezinc ran forward. Keith caught Trey, Tyler grabbed the dagger, and Fezinc grabbed Frogo. Frogo began to laugh.
"You think you'll win that easily?" He laughed again. Two people came out beside him. The imposter who pretended to be Anna's father and Derek. They both smiled towards Anna.
Anna's hands trembled and she bit her lip, Tyler tried to stop him but Derek came forward and forced a kiss on Anna's lips. She muffled a scream. Keith let Trey down and drew his sword all in one second. He slashed Derek's back and the wound bled quickly.
Kinhy came forward and screamed, "No hurt Anna!" She roared and transformed into a globe of light. Kinhy's instinct to protect had caused her to transform into a flying dragon. She was twice as tall as Anna and had soft white fur and feathers cover her entire body. Derek froze in shock; Frogo wrenched himself free of Tyler and Fezinc. Tyler ran towards Anna, Keith grabbed Derek by the hair and Fezinc stopped the imposter from running away.
"I'll show you all how strong I am! No one has power over me, do you hear me?! NO ONE!" Frogo screamed and lifted the crystal, which he had stolen from the oracle high into the air. The black spell cast around him started lightning. There was a sudden brilliant flash of light. Kinhy spread her massive wings and covered Tyler and Anna from the light. Her own wings glowed purple from the force. Anna clung to Tyler and screamed. There was a loud roar outside the wings like a tornado.
Slowly the wind died down. The breeze filtering through Kinhy's wings was cold. Anna slowly let go of Tyler and pushed aside the white feathers of Kinhy's wings. They crumbled into dust. The white light was blinding and she had to squint. Tyler pushed his way out and gasped. Everything had been turned to crystal. Tyler ran, and stumbled, then got up again to look at Keith and Fezinc, the only two of his friends he had left. They were frozen solid, even their clothes were white like stone.
"Oh god," Anna whimpered. Tyler turned and saw the massive Kinhy, stone cold, dead. Anna reached out to touch the stone, just as her fingers brushed the surface the crystal shattered with a scream. Anna stood, stunned, as the dust of Kinhy was blown away by a cold wind.
She started to cry and fell on her knees. Tyler looked at the frozen images all around. Keith, Fezinc, Youli, Lila, buildings, flowers, animals, and in the center of it all, was Frogo, frozen with the real crystal still over his head.
"Did everyone die?" Anna asked desperately. Tyler didn't answer, he knew as much as she did. "Why aren't we dead? Why didn't we go with them?" Anna was almost screaming. Tyler shook his head and stuck his hands in his pockets. He felt something cool and smooth brush his fingers. Tyler pulled it out and saw the crystal piece he had stolen from Derek.
"I think it has something to do with this," he said. Anna went closer to see what it was. "I think this crystal piece protected us."
They were at a loss of what to do. They had nowhere to go and no one to turn to. Tyler stared hard into the lifeless eyes of his friends. The silence was deafening and he roared in anguish. It was over, everyone gone. In his desperation, the only power Tyler could think to call on was the oracle. At once he took the crystal from Frogo's hands and watched him shatter. There he turned and made his way higher up Mount Kolts. Trees, grass, and animals all shattered as he passed but he did not care now. He did not even care what Anna thought if he cried because now he was crying out loud.
Anna stood and followed. She did not ask where they were going; she only followed, like a lost animal with no home. They reached the last cliff and began to climb. Tyler dug his hands into the mountainside; things shattered and sliced his hands. Anna began to cry. When they reached the top their hands were raw and bloody. Tyler did not falter a step. He pushed against the boulder and entered the cave of the oracle without hesitation. He reached back and Anna took his hand. His blood mixed with hers again and she shivered at the memory of the first time they joined souls.
"Oracle!" He screamed and pounded his hand on the altar. Anna shrank back filled with fear. What if the oracle was destroyed too?
Slowly though, wisps of glowing smoke filled the chamber. The Oracle formed, smaller than they remembered. She spoke with a weak voice.
"My children, what have you brought me?"
"This crystal. The one Frogo stole from you." Tyler set it down. Anna came forward again and nodded.
The Oracle did not say anything.
"Well?" Tyler asked. He waited then yelled, "Well! Make it better! Make everyone come back! Fix it!" His words turned from yells into sobs and he fell to his knees. Anna knelt beside him and held him.
The Oracle nodded. "That I cannot do. There is not enough energy left to repair the damage Frogo has done. Earth has suffered the same fate as us I am afraid. I cannot even send you back there."
Tyler shook his head and pounded the ground with his fist. "There has to be something! You have to do something!" Anna started to cry loudly and Tyler held her closer.
"My child," the Oracle whispered. "Would you give your life to solve this?"
Tyler looked up slowly then to Anna. "Yes, I would." Anna nodded in agreement.
"If I took the energy left in this crystal, my energy, yours, and what is left in our two worlds, I could start a new world. Only one. this is what your souls have been preparing themselves for. This is your destiny, to merge into one and create a new world from these hollow ashes."
Tyler took this information heavy in his heart. He nodded very slowly and Anna buried her face in Tyler's chest and cried harder.
"We can do this," she said. Tyler nodded to the Oracle.
She nodded back.
Anna looked at Tyler. "Good bye, thank you." She hesitated to say more.
Tyler pulled her closer and kissed her slowly. Anna closed her eyes and held him. When he pulled away he whispered.
And they were together, their souls and life energy woven together to create a new world.