Well, kids are back at school, the house is quiet, except for the patter of paws on the laminate and the occasional cat that thinks, with it being the first day back, bringing in a mouse is an excellent idea! I tend to disagree!!
So, after kicking out the hunting feline and it’s catch of the day, and getting my youngest off to school, I’ve finally got the time to get some writing done. Oh, wait, that’s right, now come the chores I’ve been putting off during the holidays and have now backed up like a traffic jam of mess and dust!
At least I got this chapter out, though, which is a bonus!! So, please read and enjoy, while I go off to graft in the kid’s bedrooms, change bedding, clean, do washing, and basically have a melt-down!! 🙂
The strangely twisted version of the old man Trall presented was somewhat unnerving. Sacha caught herself glancing at him every now and then, her thoughts a conflict of warped memories and the truth trying to emerge from the fog Eliat stuck in her mind to make her think what she remembered was right.
Trall’s ancient self trailed gnarled fingers through the thick paste of liquid he’d somehow managed to form on the uneven floor of this dream state, or whatever world the Gate had created for them.
Forcing concentration, Sacha looked down. She frowned as a faint image formed in the sludge and altered its consistency from muck to a sort of dirty mirror. Squinting, she tried to figure out a meaning.
‘This is a representation of what’s in your head,’ Trall rasped hoarsely. ‘This is what Eliat wants you to recall, but it’s not real.’ Trall set a hand on her wrist, his skin rough as handmade parchment.
Sacha fidgeted, wanting to rid herself of his touch, but not wanting to appear rude. ‘So, what you’re saying is, nothing I think I know is actually what happened?’
Pulling back, Trall removed his hand. ‘It’s like this place.’ He gestured to the slowly dissolving room that was always in a perpetual state of melting away. ‘Eliat stole the Gate and twisted its purpose.’
Rocking back on her heels, Sacha eyed Trall, unsure what to think anymore. ‘Why did Eliat want me to believe you were dead? What’s his purpose? Why stick everyone inside the Gate? What did-‘
Trall held up a hand. ‘I don’t know all the answers.’ He sighed and glanced aside. When he looked back at her there was a softness to his expression, an easing of the lines, more like Trall from before.
‘You want me to trust you.’ Sacha approached this topic cautiously. Who knew if she could actually die in this dream world or not, but she wasn’t taking any chances. ‘But, I don’t really know you at all.’
‘You know me more than anyone,’ Trall replied, his gaze intense. ‘There is no other who listened to me like you did. That’s why Eliat hurt you, to get to me. That’s why he made out I was dead and gone.’
Getting to her feet, Sacha walked around the room. Her mind was all twisted like a knotted rope with no visible end, no way to untangle everything she thought was real and actually discover whether or not Trall was lying to her, or if he was, as he said, her only true friend.
There wasn’t much time in this place for her to really find out what so desperately needed to know. Trall kept on and on about how he had no real control over the Gate. It had a mind and will of its own.
Turning, Sacha looked down at Trall, kneeling next to his self-made puddle. ‘What do you want me to do? she asked. ‘How can we stop Eliat and escape the House? How, Trall, how do we do all that?’
Slowly, Trall got to his feet. Probably to give himself more time to find an answer, or maybe the old man persona was, in part, a reality and he’d finally had enough of sitting on the floor.
He wandered over the table that was still doing it’s best to wilt like a dead flower.Trall dragged over the partly fluidic chair that solidified as he touched it and carefully eased hismelf down onto the seat.
He smiled faintly. ‘Hard work this, being an old man. It’s who I am, sometimes. This creature.’ Trall raised a hand and stared at the liver spots and wrinkles before setting it back down in his lap.
Sacha swallowed the lump in her throat. It was so hard seeing him like this, but a small part of her asked if it wasn’t all just a Keeper lie to see who was loyal and who was a sabatour.
‘You’re debating whetehr or not this is a test to discover what part you had in that explosive device Thais tried to set in the generator room,’ Trall spoke her thoughts as if he’d read her mind like a book.
She narrowed her eyes. ‘What are you talking about?’
‘You know exactly what I’m saying, Sacha.’
‘No, I don’t, actually.’
Trall leaned back in his chair and regarded her for a moment in silence. ‘Thais failed. Deep down, you knew it was never going to work. That Keeper who walked in on you, it knew all along.’
Sacha’s mouth suddenly went dry as scorched bone. ‘What happened? Is she alright?’
‘Not really, but you both knew the risks.’
Clenching her fists, Sacha grated out, ‘And you knew all of this?’
‘Naturally. The Gate sees many things and often shares it’s knowledge-‘
Trall rocked back in his chair as Sacha leapt right on him, clawed finngers trying to gouge his eyes out. ‘Sacha…What are you…’ He attempted to fight her off, but Sacha was too pissed off to notice.
He grabbed her wrists and squeezed. ‘Stop this!’ His voice bounced around inside Sacha’s head.
‘Liar!’ She screamed, cracking Trall in the face with a well-aimed headbutt.
Recoiling from the impact, Sacha blinked as a dark blob fell into her eyes, smudging her vision to a scarlet blur. Her head throbbed and funnily enough so did the bridge of her nose…
‘Well,’ Trall announced, still holding onto her like she was a wild animal. ‘It’s defintely broken.’ He eased her down onto the floor and gently placed two fingers onto her pulsing face.
A soft warmth spread from his hand, penetrating the fractured bone. She flinched when something cracked and tears freely ran down her cheeks as the dull agony gradually eased.
Pressing a hand to her cheek, Trall whispered, ‘You have to trust someone.’ He stroked loose hair from her face. ‘Please, choose wisely. We’re running out of time, Sacha…Sacha? Can you hear-‘
‘You were talking in your sleep.’
Sacha took a deep breath and let it out slowly. ‘Was I? What did I say? Anything useful?’
Unarel just looked at her, dark eyes pitch black and impenetrable. ‘Trall,’ she said flatly. ‘You kept on and on about someone named Trall. Which, is funny, as that’s not the person you healed, is it?’
‘You seem to know a lot about that,’ retorted Sacha, suddenly inflamed by all the questions.
‘Because you’re not the only one to have dreams. Or did you think you were special?’
Sacha glared. ‘I’m not the one who keeps banging on about me being the only person capable of getting us out of this mess, or did you forget all about that, conveniently?’
Unarel clenched her jaw. ‘No, but i’ve willingly told you information any other Keeper would have killed to protect and now i find out you’ve been keeping secrets!’
‘I’m not the only one.’
‘And what’s that supposed to mean?’
‘You know exactly what i’m talking about. Don’t try to pretend, Unarel, you’ve been lying to me.’
Unarel tensed, a hand pressed to the side of her box, mouth gaping like a stranded fish…
‘You thought I wouldn’t find out, didn’t you,’ Sacha pushed.
‘What…did…’ Unarel hesitated. ‘Did this Trall tell you something about me?’
‘He says you can’t be trusted. That you’re a traitor. Is this true, Unarel, are you a traitor?’
Dropping her gaze, Unarel nodded. ‘Yes,’ she whispered. ‘And a murderer.’
Sacha shut her trap for a minute. This wasn’t going how she expected. Yeah, Trall told her Unarel wasn’t all she was claiming, but in all fairness, Sacha could have guessed that much for herself.
What Trall failed to mention was the details of Unarel’s crime. Really, this put a whole new spin on everything. Sacha didn’t even know where to start with this one. ‘What did you do, Unarel?’
Pulling herself up, Unarel gazed back at her with red-rimmed eyes. ‘Everyone,’ she rasped. ‘I’m the one who gave Eliat the secret to capturing and controlling each and every one of you.’
Unarel flinched. ‘Because he knew.’
‘Knew?’ Sacha frowned. ‘What…What could Eliat possibly know that would make you a killer?’
‘My daughter!’ Unarel shouted. ‘He had my daughter. Are you satisfied? Is that what you wanted to hear? My big, terrible secret was that I was too weak to let my child die in order to save everybody.’
Stunned would be an understatement. ‘No,’ Sacha eventually found the words. ‘No, Unarel, you did what you had to. I’d have done the same and be damned with the consuquences.’
Unarel wiped fresh tears with the back of her hand. ‘He killed her, though.’ Her lip trembled as she fought the emotions trying to best her. ‘Slaughtered her like an animal, made me watch, made me…’
For the first time since arriving, Sacha wished she could get free of this stupid box and reach out to comfort the woman who so needed someone to help her see she had a friend.
‘Unarel, I’m…’ Sacha sighed. ‘I know it won’t make a difference, but I’m sorry.’
Covering her face with her hands, Unarel sobbed quietly, body shaking like a leaf in the wind.
Pulling an arm out from the confines of her box, Sacha leaned, straining, gritting her teeth against the pull of all the wires until she could just touch Unarel’s shoulder with the tips of her fingers.
She didn’t say anything else, what comfort could she give to a woman who’d lost her child through the act of trying to save them?
‘Damn it, Unarel, why not just tell me?’ Sacha was about ready to pull her own hair out in clumps. Oh, they’d had a moment when Unarel finally shed some light on her past, but that was days ago.
Or maybe it wasn’t. Sacha ground her teeth. There was no way of knowing if time even passed in here, if it was the same as the House, if it moved faster, or slower, or if they were dreaming still.
‘Give me something,’ Sacha demanded. ‘Before I go crazy and you’re left with a drooling vegetable as a companion and no-one else to tell all your weird and wonderful theories!’
Unarel just took it all in her stride or rather the laid back position she preferred nowadays. ‘I cannot give you that, not yet.’ She held up a hand. ‘Please, Zar…’ Unarel quickly shut her mouth…
‘Hah! You let something slip!’ Sacha jabbed a finger at Unarel like that made her point more valid.
‘None of us are what Eliat made of us,’ Unarel raised her voice. ‘We are all of us false images.’
‘I know that. You’ve told me, repeatedly.’
‘And yet nothing has sunk in. You simply cannot accept the truth!
‘Because it’s just so…ridiculous, that’s why!’
Unarel rasied an arm, pierced by needles, wires and tubes. ‘None of this is real. We only think it is. All of us here fear the truth therefore we make a prison of lies. Both of us were cursed with curiosity-‘
‘Yes,’ Sacha cut in. ‘I know all that. It’s why we’re stuck here.’
‘No!’ Unarel surged upright and clamped bony fingers onto Sacha’s wrist. ‘You must see.’ Unarel’s broken nails gouged skin and bone like the claws of a monster. ‘You must free us. Help us get out.’
Sacha pried Unarel’s hand from her arm. ‘Look,’ she tried reason, given demands failed. ‘I’d like to help, but riddles are not my speciality. You have to tell me what needs to be done. Then, maybe…?’
‘The Seal must be broken.’ Unarel’s dark eyes strayed to the glossy portal of black obsidian.
‘How?’ Sacha leaned closer.
Unarel’s shoulders slumped. ‘I don’t know.’
Sacha tried a different tactic. She really didn’t want to spend a lifetime here, slowly dessicating like a corpse that refused to die. ‘You say these things stuck in our bodies aren’t real. How do we get rid?’
Unarel turned her head. ‘You must believe. You must know. You must see truth,’ she intoned all of that like she’d read it in a book somewhere and memorized the text for future reference.
Sacha sighed. ‘Thanks.’ She wanted to add, for nothing, but doubted that would help.
‘Seek the Mirror within,’ Unarel muttered, her expression creased with a frown.
‘Easier said that done,’ Sacha responded without thinking.
‘Yes.’ Unarel nodded. ‘I have failed to understand and comply.’
Sacha thumped her box with a coiled fist. It bloody hurt like Hel, but, damn it, they couldn’t just stay here and wait for a death that obviously took it’s sweet time coming.
A sudden thought occured and Sacha turned to Unarel. ‘You know who you are.’
Unarel’s expression soured. ‘Yes.’
‘You won’t like it anymore than I did.’
‘Tell me anyway.’
Unarel let out a long breath and then drew another. She refused to look Sacha in the eye. ‘I am the one known in myth as the Destroyer of Dreams. My name is, Morena. Godess of Winter and Death.’
Sacha wanted to laugh, but all emotion clogged in the back of her throat, threatening to choke her.
‘You’re what now?’
This time Unarel made eye contact. Her long dark hair clung to her left cheek, lank and greasy like thick wet string, dark eyes piercing to the bone. ‘I collect the dead,’ she added in a flat montone.
Sacha sank back into her box, wood pressing against her back and hips. ‘And…What am I?’
There was a pause that felt like eternity, then Unarel said matter of factly, ‘Zaria. Water Elemental. Ancestor to the God, Karakas and his wife, Valenia an Air Elemen…’
‘Hold on a bloody minute,’ Sacha interrupted. ‘I thought Karakas was, you know, wed to Mered-‘
‘And where did you hear that?’ Unarel asked with a quirk of one eyebrow.
‘Well…’Sacha hesitated, but if she couldn’t trust Unarel what was the point of all this? ‘A friend told me, alright. He had some book he kept hid and read to me sometimes. I thought it was just a story.’
‘There is always a grain of truth in myth,’ Unarel remarked.
Unarel gave a rare smile, though it faded quickly. ‘Karakas was known by another name once. He lived a different life, fought to survive and yes, had a first wife.’ She paused, and then, ‘Our world has known many tragedies. Karakas was no different, except he was an immortal who chose to die.’
‘So, he decided to just quit, is that what you’re telling me?’
No,’ Unarel replied shortly. ‘He didn’t. From what I’ve managed to surmise from the little gossip and few texts I managed to scrounge, Karakas learned his true nature and then eradicated his enemies.
‘Some time later, he was forced to choose, and he opted for death in order to save those he loved most. Only his heirs survive. They were the ones who originally trapped Eliat and thought him dead.’
‘More fool them,’ Sacha reponsded dryly. ‘So, I’ve got siblings? How many? Are they trapped in the House, or somewhere else? Are there more Portals?’
‘Ulyses placed them at all four corners of our lands, preventing us from being attacked by enemies who would try to to take advantage of our weakness after the Vastian threat almost wiped us out.’
‘I recall Ulyses died.’
Unarel fixed her with an odd look. ‘Yes,’ she said slowly. ‘He sacrificed himself so we could live.’
‘Seems that was popular, although, I doubt that was his original plan,’ Sacha remarked.
‘Hence Karakas’ memory problem.’ Sacha probed further.
‘Correct. The Vastians and Mancers were trapped, yet their commander was free to cause chaos, as was her will. Kararkas succeeded eventually, but at great cost to himself and our ultimate future.’
Unarel gave Sacha an intent look. ‘Although, Karakas knew happiness before his untimely demise, and despite the efforts of his enemies his children prevailed and as a result you were created.’
‘Sure.’ Sacha frowned. ‘Except, I Never heard of Zaria before now. Trall didn’t mention her.’
‘Not many have,’ Unarel admitted. ‘Your mother kept you isolated in a remote Asarl temple for your protection, and I think her own piece of mind. Much that is known is pure speculation.’
‘And you think I am the only hope you have of getting out?’
‘Defintely,’ Unarel was emphatic in her belief.
Sacha fiddled with one of the tubes that snaked under the remains of her shirt. Her fingers bent the flexible pipe, twisting it slightly. The rubber softened beneath her touch and she pulled back. Thinking.
The room with melting chairs popped into her head and Sacha made a conscious descision to trust Unarel, despite Trall’s strange precitions, how could she know he was even real?
‘There’s something you should know.’
‘What?’ Unarel leaned closer.
‘Trall is trapped inside the Gate…’ Sacha hesitated.
‘Go on,’ Unarel urged.
‘Well, he was a Worker. Eliat stuck him in the Gate because of what he knew.’
‘Ahhh, Trall is one of the lost,’ Unarel surmised. ‘He said too much and Eliat silenced him.’
‘You know about this?’ Sacha exclaimed, slightly annoyed she carried this secret and the strange dream around for the past few days and chewed over opposing thoughts about telling Unarel or not.
‘Not really,’ Unarel admitted. ‘Just rumours. That’s what got me into this mess. My curiosity led me to this place and made me a prisoner. I thought…I hoped the others would notice my absence, but not one of my so-called friends ever came. I waited so long and lost all hope of ever being rescued.’
Sacha reached out and squeezed the other woman’s hand. ‘You’re not alone now.’
Unarel smiled. ”You will free us. You have to. There’s no other way.’
Sacha pulled back, there was so much riding on abilities she didn’t know that she possessed.
‘So, you’re over the strangling me to death thing, now?’ Sacha recalled their first meeting.
Unarel flinched at that one. ‘I was disorientated and trapped in a dream state.’
‘Right, I suppose I’ll just have to forgive you the lapse.’ Sacha forced a grin.
‘Your sense of humour is sometimes extremly warped,’ Unarel said, but she smiled despite herself.
Sacha shrugged. ‘I have my moments.’
‘We’ll get out of here,’ Uanrel assured. ‘We have to.’
‘Question is, how?’
‘Faith,’ Unarel replied. ‘Trust.’
Sacha scowled at the looming presence of the Gate. ‘Yeah, If only it was that easy.’