Book IV The Cole Twins Saga
Return to Lemuria
The Cole Twins Saga
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"Close the doors, you uninitiated" Orpheus
Fourteen years ago:
Harmony walked softly, deliberately lowering each foot carefully to the worn wooden steps leading from the second floor to the foyer. She placed her bare feet in the spots she had learned would not squeak to reveal her movement, stepping over the seventh stair from the top, that she knew always creaked and groaned. It was perhaps the most obstinate board in the entire house. She paused at the bottom of the stairs and listened. She could hear her new father-in-law Walt’s snore in the back bedroom and the drip of the upstairs bathroom faucet. No sound came from her sister-in-law Genevieve’s room and she surmised Gen was sleeping soundly. She also knew her newlywed husband was asleep, as she had left his bed just a moment before.
Carefully, she opened the screen door of the back porch, taking her time so the hinges wouldn’t squeak. She stepped into the cool night air, softly closing the door and breathed a quiet sigh. No one in the house had heard. She looked around. The August moon was almost full, rising over the treetops in the east, and its light made it easy to cross the farmyard to the barn. Still, she padded quietly, taking care with each step, trying not to disturb a grain of sand or turn a single pebble that might awaken the chickens and start them clucking. If they did, the whole house would awaken as Walt would come banging out, grumbling and clutching his shotgun to ensure the fox wasn’t trying to steal the chickens again.
The farmyard was oddly quiet and she thought how strange it was that just eight hours before all of the wedding guests had departed. She had been married that same morning, right there inside the barn that she now approached like a thief sneaking through the night. In the glow of the rising moon the worn grooves of the barn boards glistened, making the front of the old barn look like it was coated with spun silver. Moving quickly to the corner she stepped into the shadows and looked back over her shoulder once more to make sure no lights had come on in the house. She continued along the side of the barn until reaching the back and rounded its corner. At first, she didn’t see him and wondered if he had left. Then he appeared from the shadows of the dark barn wood, as if stepping from the boards themselves, his form gathering from the wood’s weathered grain and the night’s cool shadows. He stood before her, dull blue cape resting lightly on his shoulders, high yellow boots with their tops turned down below the knees, a stout hardwood staff at his side. The bright moonlight made his hair appear like a crashing wave of silver cascading on the shore of his shoulders. The moon’s glow reflected in his eyes, lending them an even greater luminescence than their usual cast.
Harmony felt dread in her heart. An old man, a human, bent and grey, bowed toward her. “Lilith,” he whispered, calling her by her Lemurian name. She offered her hand and he took it gently in his, continuing the bow until his lips lightly touched her skin. “He doesn’t know? You didn’t tell him?” he inquired.
“I’ve done as you instructed, Olannon. No one knows. But I wish I could tell him.”
“It isn’t safe,” answered Olannon. “Difficult it is, but must be so to protect the child. Even now, the Vagabond has sent a pack of trackers into the northern mountains. He believes the Atlantians are hiding you.”
“The passage— is it sealed?”
“It is sealed. If they find the doorway into the Between it will appear as a rough hewn wall of rock where miners quit following a vein of ore.”
“She’s safe then. The child may grow here. None will follow.”
“Nay, M’lady. He’ll send others, night creatures most likely, Thought Stealers. He’ll order them through the shadows of night to strangle her in her sleep. That’s why you must do all I’ve asked. They mustn’t know. No one must know.”
“But Sam, he’ll….” Harmony’s voice faltered and the words stuck in her throat. It seemed impossible to her that she could find the courage required to do what he was asking, to leave her first born child in the hands of a human from Earth without an explanation.
Olannon’s hand rose in a hushing gesture, his tone soft yet commanding. “He cannot know,” he whispered. “I know you think it cruel to him, to disappear without a trace and never tell him why— but think of what would happen. If you tell him the truth and they find him, reading his memories of you and the birth of the child, all will be lost.”
Harmony nodded with resolve. She bit down on her lower lip to stay the pain that was burning deep inside. She resolved not to cry.
“Remember, no later than the child’s first winter. The snow of the season will hide your tracks. She’ll be safe with Sam. He’s a good man. He’ll raise Karolyn as his own and even when he discovers differently, he will always love her as a father.” He leaned close and whispered. “After tonight, my power will cease. I won’t even remember this meeting,” he said. “I will be as an old man, living in the woods on the mountain— a recluse. It’s the only way to keep them from reading my mind and discovering our secret.”
“Your power cast away? But how will you protect the chosen one?"
Olannon lifted his eyes to meet hers. “It is without power that Karolyn is safest. She will blend in, thinking herself to be one of the normal children of Earth. Still, if all goes as planned, I will assist her. The old man I shall be will send her onto the path and she will lead me back. I’ve cast spells into my cloak and staff that will reveal themselves when the time is right. Here, take this.” He reached into a pouch that hung from a belt beneath his cape and pulled from it a small object. Reaching out, he handed her a shiny stick of charcoal.
Harmony peered at the glossy black stick resting in her palm. She looked questioningly into Olannon’s eyes.
“It will help her when the time comes. Tell Sam to give it to her on her thirteenth birthday. Remember, take nothing with you. If they find on your dress as much as the wing of a fly from this world the child will be in danger.”
1 the wagon
Awakening, Michael felt cold water splashing his face. It was the second time water had been poured on him and his head was now resting in a puddle of mud. The side of his head throbbed. He lifted his hands to feel where he had been hit and found his wrists bound and tethered to those next to him. In the flickering torchlight he saw Karolyn tied to his left and Daniyyel to his right. It was Daniyyel who had poured the water on him. He handed a water flask to one of the men tied to the tether and thanked him. All of the villagers were tied to the same line like a string of cattle and the line was fixed to the back of the wagon. A guttural voice was speaking. “Dis naw da ownlink childings yeh ‘ave. Where dem oters?” the voice demanded. Michael looked up to see where the voice was coming from and saw a huge beast, like the one who hit him, strutting back and forth in front of the bound villagers. Daniyyel put his finger to his lips and whispered. “Don’t tell them who you are. There’s still hope,” he said.
Michael nodded. He wasn’t about to talk to the horned beasts. “What are they?” he asked.
“Vagabond’s Akvan. If they discover your sister, they’ll kill her. If they realize who you are, they’ll find her.” A troop of demons were going from hut to hut. From within the bark covered huts, the villagers heard the crashing and smashing of their furnishings and possessions. Blankets, tools, and other small treasures were carried out to be placed in the waiting wagon. A wooden baby cradle carved by a loved one was thrown from a window and smashed to pieces as it hit the ground. An Akvan came from the doorway of a hut emptying an urn of an ancestor’s ashes, brought from the old land. “Dis gonna make um good piss pot fer me wife,” he grunted. Villagers tied to the tether wept openly. One of the huts crackled into flame.
“What do they want with us?”
“Slavers— trying to find our children. They want children for the smaller tunnels in the mines. We sent them into the forest— thank Gaff. If the little ones get word to the patrols we might be saved.”
Michael’s eyes focused on Karolyn. She was passed out again. Her hair was caked with mud, making it appear brown. It looked as though someone had done this deliberately. “Did they hit her?” he asked.
Daniyyel shook his head. “No, she fainted when she saw the horns and cloven hoofs. Let her sleep— better if she rests. She was screaming hysterically and almost told them her name before she passed out. ”
“Cloven hoofs?” He looked at the beast that was strutting back and forth. He did indeed have hoofs in the place of feet. There was no longer any question about where he was. Demons with horns and cloven feet had captured them, but no such creatures were known to exist in California or Earth. They were definitely in another world.
Heathern, tethered next to Karolyn, gazed at him with contempt. “This is your doing,” she said. “I suppose you’ll have us executed next?”
Michael glared back at her. “If it was my doing then why am I tied up?” He lifted his wrists to show her that he was bound. “Besides, you ran into the forest in the dark of night and got everyone captured,” he said. “That was your doing.”
Daniyyel leaned toward her. “Leave him alone,” he whispered. “He doesn’t know who he is; this is First Michael. Even the Lady Karolyn never gave up on him.”
Heathern studied him, looking directly into his jade green eyes. “He’ll have us all killed,” she said solemnly. “Once he discovers his powers we’re all dead.”
“Quiet down,” hollered the demon, who hadn’t overheard what was said but didn’t like his prisoners talking. “Two scrawny childings ya gived ta us.” He pointed with his whip handle at Michael and Karolyn. “Yous thinks we stupid? We kin sells ya ta da mines er sells ya ta be serbants in Panish. Ya kin cooperate an has a nice house ta werk in or ya kin die hackin’ up blood an black dust in da mines. Wats it gonna be?”
“There are no children— the plague took them last winter,” insisted an old woman tied near the back of the wagon.
The Akvan swaggered to her and stood close. He put his hand on her bony shoulder and leaned over, his face almost touching hers. She turned her head away, trying not to breathe his gagging breath. “Ya seys da childings dead?” he spoke softly. “Den, tell me modder,” his voice raised to a holler, “where be dem’s graves?” He roared so loud that her scant grey hair blew back.
“We burned them— plague. We burn those who die from it,” said another villager.
The Akvan frowned at him. “Meh not stupid! We gonna find dem.” He slapped the handle of his whip against his thigh.
“You should look in the forest,” said a villager who knew the peculiarity of Akvan demons: they would do the opposite of what they were told. This eccentricity of their behavior was inherent in the character of the Akvan race since its creation. While the Vagabond had bred them to be obstinate, the portions of mulishness and impetuousness were overdone in their making; so much so that during the Mineral War of Azmerith the flaw had saved many a warrior’s life who shouted “Kill me!” just prior to the final sword thrust. The Akvan refused to do anything they were told. Unfortunately for warriors in Azmerith, this was eventually overcome by the wearing of iron helmets that covered Akvan ears when in battle.
There was a roaring grunt from the kiva and two Akvan ran from the entry. “Deys has a wizard!” yelled one. A third Akvan came from the kiva carrying Michael’s backpack at arm’s length. “Wizard tings in dis,” he said.
Imoo, the chief boss of this troop of Akvan leapt from his place on the wagon seat. He was larger than the rest of the Akvan and had some nasty looking scars across his face and chest that he wore like medals of valor from his battles. Michael saw that the Buck knife was now tucked under Imoo’s belt. “Don’t gives me dat,” he ordered, meaning, “Give that to me.” He took the backpack and inspected it, noting the strange nylon material, never before seen in Lemuria. He opened the top flap and looked inside. “Don’t hold da torch over it,” he ordered and one of the troops thrust a torch above the pack. Inside, Imoo saw binoculars, a flashlight, lighters, a spoon, a notebook and a pen, none of which he had ever seen before. He sniffed at the items suspiciously, closed the flap and scanned the villagers, looking closely at each one until his eyes rested on Michael. “What dis?” he said. “White skin— fine clothes. Strange clothes! Yer no dirt turner! Dis be yers!” He shook the pack at Michael and then turned and tossed it into the back of the wagon.
“Him da one meh gots dat shiny blade,” said Hajar, the Akvan who had clubbed Michael and given the prize knife to Imoo. He wore a necklace of bird and small mammal skulls and had a ponderous belly bulging over the top of his skirt.
“Don’t tie its ‘ands behind and gags its mouth,” ordered Imoo. “An don’t put em in da wagon, naw tie ‘ems feet. Him fetch us big reward in Panish. Big reward fer Mekorian wizards!”
Two Akvan approached Michael as he tried to pull his hands free of the bonds. “Get away from me! Do you know who I am? I’m….” Hajar leaned over him and drew from his belt a long wooden club. Whomp! The club came down on the back of Michael’s head. He slumped forward. The demon drew his knife and cut Michael’s bonds from the tether line. “Him try magic,” he said, lifting Michael’s limp body from the ground by one arm and dragging him to the side of the wagon. “Him try trick,” said Hajar, tossing the inert body at Imoo's feet. Blood soaked the soil around Michael’s head.
The boss demon, Imoo, stared at the limp body. “Yeh stupid cur! If yeh hit ‘em any harder we be eatin ‘em fer supper an git no pay fer em in Panish,” he growled. “Why meh get stupid Hajar in meh troop?”
“Him was wigglin’ fingers and makin’ faces at meh. Him say wizard werds. Yeh want meh thump ‘em again?”
“Yeah, beats ‘em again so meh kin kill ya— him no good dead yeh blind barmanou butt. Don’t put ‘ems body in dah wagon.” With that, Imoo turned and went back to the front of the wagon. “Meh knew him’s a wizard,” he grumbled, climbing to the driver’s seat. Both guards picked Michael up by his legs and arms, and tossed him over the backboard of the wagon. There they gagged him so he could not speak and bound his hands, wrapping cords around his fingers so he could not cast magic spells.
Satisfied with the capture of what he thought a wizard, Imoo called his demons to assemble, guarding the prisoners with their spears. He cracked his whip over the heads of the beasts pulling the wagon. Akvan at the back cracked their whips over the heads of the villagers. “Git up,” they demanded. Daniyyel and Heathern helped Karolyn to her feet and holding her up as best they could with tied hands, helped her walk. The wagon lurched forward dragging the tethered prisoners behind.
Karolyn walked in a daze, her mind numb and caring not to look at the demons. She kept her eyes cast down at her feet. ‘These are Satan’s minions,’ she thought. ‘God has abandoned me.’
“It’s Panish for us,” said one of the men tethered behind Karolyn. “I heard them say they’ll get better pay for their wizard there.”
“I hope you’re wrong,” said a woman. “Better to pluck out an eye than look upon Panish.”
“I’ll not serve those idolaters,” said the man. “I’d rather slit my own throat.”
“You won’t have to do that yourself if they take you to one of their temples,” said Heathern. “You won’t serve anything but their sacrificial knife.”
“What of the Lady Karolyn?” asked a man at the end of the tether. “We must help her escape before they discover her.”
“Hush, hush,” said several voices. Heathern and Daniyyel exchanged worried glances. After they traveled a few miles from the village the wagon was drawn into a shallow gully where it stopped at a stream for the watering of the sal’awa, the jackal-like beasts that pulled the wagon. The demons allowed their prisoners to sit. Most of the villagers sat or lay down, some trying to move the binding cords to a more comfortable position on their wrists and others falling asleep as soon as they sat. The demons kept a close watch on them. Karolyn’s own binding cords were thin and the hard leather had bitten into the top layers of her wrist so that they were stained red with blood. This had made the leather more slippery and she tried rolling the cord over her hand.
An Akvan guard, noticing Karolyn’s movements, stood over her. He poked at her with the butt of his spear. “Try escape and get dis,” he said. “Go ahead, try run. We make nice stew wit’ yer feet.”
At hearing the mention of stew, the other demons began talking about food and there was much grumbling and complaining amongst them. “Meh ain’t had no fresh meat in three days! Why not eat one ah dem?” demanded Hajar, the big nasty looking Akvan who had clubbed Michael.
Imoo turned around in his seat on the wagon. “Kill one and cook ‘em! We naw needs ‘em and naw needs our ears when we get back tah da master wit’out enough swords.”
“Just one,” said Hajar, “little one, little girl one.” He pointed at Karolyn. “She not worth much— little, scrawny— we eats ‘er!” The other demons guarding the tether mumbled agreement. “Meh gets a fire going. We kin cook ‘er on a spit,” said one. Karolyn’s face went white and her head slumped forward toward the ground. Daniyyel pulled as hard as he could against the binding cord, trying to break free. “If you touch her you die,” he threatened, but the hungry Akvan didn’t seem to hear.
Imoo jumped from the seat of the wagon with the sal’awa driver’s whip in his hand. He cracked it at Hajar’s right ear, the long tentacle slicing through the air until the tapered end grazed the side of the demon’s head. The left half Hajar’s ear spouted a red fountain of blood while the right portion dangled, barely held by a thin fragment of skin. “Meh said go ahead,” shouted Imoo. “Eat da one yeh want, even scrawny girl. Da girl get big gold at da mines, buy many sword— but yeh kin eat her first. Meh tell master yeh was hungry!”
Hajar cowered down pressing his hand to his ear to stem the flow of blood. He lifted his head, exposing the soft skin beneath his jaw to Imoo, and opened his mouth as wide as he could, offering all of his yellow tusks, a sign of submission.
Imoo stood over him, coiling the whip. “Yeh better not listen,” he said to the other guards. “We gots orders. Takes slaves, sell ta Panish an da mines, fill wagon wit’ sword. Need many sword. If slave bad— run, den kill ‘em, don' cetch em. Oter slaves, yeh beat ‘em bloody, poke ‘em, make ‘em bleed.
“How many time meh tell yeh? Dey no like damaged slave in Panish,” he growled. He stared at Michael in the back of the wagon for a long moment, his yellow cat-like eyes narrowing. “If’n ‘em die, we don’ eats ‘em,” he said, “An Hajar gits da bones.” This was an obvious insult to Hajar, one meant to remind the others that clubbing the prisoners was not to be tolerated and would not result in fresh meat. “Oterwise, don’t eat da corn yah fetched from da village. We don’t camp here. No one sleep except Hajar.”
Hajar kept his posture of submission while Imoo found a sleeping place. Standing, he looked down at Karolyn, checked to make sure that Imoo wasn’t looking, growled and kicked her in the stomach before walking away.
Karolyn lay still on the ground, her stomach aching, listening throughout the night for any stirring in the wagon that would tell her Michael was still alive. No sound came. Hour by hour she felt greater fear and despair. She begged one of the Akvan guards to go check on him but received only a dispassionate stare for an answer. She prayed to Saint Bridget and to every other saint she could remember. Standing, she tried to see over the worn backboard but wasn’t tall enough to see Michael’s body there.
As the first light of dawn tinted the eastern sky, Imoo shouted orders to the demons that they should sleep and ‘fall out’. Immediately, the demons were poking the villagers with the butts of their spears and kicking those who didn’t arise as quickly as they demanded.
The team driver cracked his whip over the heads of the sal’awas and again the wagon wheels began their squeaking over a rutted and rocky road through the thick forest. The long tether line snapped taunt just as Daniyyel got to his feet. Looking behind, he saw that Karolyn was still sitting, staring blankly at the ground. “Get up Karolyn,” he whispered as loud as he dared, as her arms were jerked forward by the tether and her legs began to drag. Her expression was like a mask and did not change. She was like one who had been bitten by a venomous snake, whose blood had turned to poison that coursed through her mind. “Get up! Someone help her!” Because he was tied ahead of her, he could not reach her, but he tried pulling at the main line to get her body closer to him.
Two of the men tied behind Karolyn rushed forward, pulling all of the villagers who were behind them. They were able to grab her by the arms and pull her to her feet. She stared at them, wide-eyed and with little recognition, as though she had awakened from a deep sleep. They held her up for a time until her legs began to move. The men moved back to their places as soon as she seemed to be walking well enough not to stumble.
Tethered in the dust behind the wagon, miserable, exhausted and hungry, Karolyn was still numb with shock and fatigue. She drifted in and out of reality, the fantasies of her mind preferable to the real world that surrounded her. She feared Michael was dead. The Akvan ran hard, keeping pace with the lurching wagon, and they lashed now and again at the villagers who were stumbling. If any stumbled or fell, they were dragged for some distance until they could regain their feet.
The wheels creaked and groaned over the rocky surfaced road, slowing now that the wagon was rising from the green plain into a band of grassy hills studded with clumps of grey brush. “Where are they taking us?” mumbled Karolyn, wishing to hear that wherever it was it would be near.
“They’re taking us through the Humbar Hills into the kingdom of Leurianland,” answered Heathern. Karolyn tried hard to concentrate. Her mind wandered. Everything seemed surreal. She imagined that she must be in a dream, a very real dream but one from which she would eventually wake. She thought that if she could think of something concrete, something real, that the dream would change. She tried to remember the elements and their symbols from the table of elements that she had studied in school; being in a dream about Chemistry class wouldn’t be bad, she thought. She could only think of twenty elements. She soon gave that up and tried the multiplication tables starting at twelve times twelve and working backwards, which was too easy.
Finally she tried to remember all of the words to The Gloria in Excelsis Deo, an ancient and venerable hymn that Father Neffam used in mass on Sundays. That proved the most useful as when she began to hum the tune several of the villagers surrounding her joined in.
But even with the hymn, her mind kept drifting off and imagining an enormous dragon. Like a dream, or a whispered secret, her thoughts turned to a huge winged creature of tremendous power. She remembered her mother’s drawings and into her thoughts would leap the image of a dragon, like the ones in fairytales. She turned to Heathern. “Are there dragons in your world?” she asked.
“Not around here,” answered Heathern. “But these are the hills of illusion. In the olden days, there were spells of deception laid on this land. The spells protected a dark kingdom of the north, the kingdom that was here before Enchantment. Sometimes one who is sensitive will feel what still lingers here— perhaps you’re remembering.”
READ ON: The story continues In Return to Lemuria
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copyright © 2012 D.G.Stebbins All rights reserved.
This book is copyright material and must not be copied,reproduced, transferred, distributed, licensed, or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the author. Unauthorized distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.Any resemblance between the characters and persons living or dead in Azmerith is purely deliberate. Any resemblance between the characters and persons of Earth, living or dead, is coincidental.
There was once a girl, born on Earth of a mother from another world, foretold to bring justice and harmony to the enchanted land of Lemuria. That girl died, trapped by the spell of an evil river. Her soul was captured by the corrupt Masters of Rebirth, but she escaped the chamber of souls with little but vague dreams and an unexplained call of destiny to guide her in a new life, that of an orphaned slave.
WHAT ARE THE KEYS?
The keys were made by Gaff, the god-like creator dragon who slumbers in the Lake of Light beneath the mountains of the ancient kingdom of Azmerith, a legendary land beyond the sea.
Each of the magical keys was given to a different race of beings as they left war-torn Azmerith to settle on the new continent of Lemuria. Each represented one of the great virtues of true magic. But, over time, each had become lost, their magic forgotten, their power faded. It is only through the virtues of Aunan that the keys may once again be found, united, and their power renewed.
Perused by Akvan trackers, demons riding sal’awa, a jackal-like beast with square ears and dagger-like fangs, Aunan must find the keys and unite their power to prevent her own land from falling under the rule of the Evil High Lord of Tenmanchent.
Yet finding the keys and saving Lemuria from the dreaded High Lord isn’t the only destiny of Aunan. Within her soul lies a mission from her previous incarnation, that of Karolyn Cole, fifteen-year-old Catholic School brainy girl who drew spooky gothic drawings of dragons and mystical landscapes. As Aunan travels, her own consciousness growing, she gradually discovers and recovers her true mission as the history of her soul becomes clear. It is through the merging of the life of Aunan with her past life as Karolyn that her true quest is reborn.