Alix started leading them deep into the woods. Jackie noticed that the trees here had fresh leaves, and they were very green. The sky was clear, unlike the dreary weather they had been in before. That proved they were definitely in a different place. A thought suddenly occurred to her, and she turned to Alix. "Where are our horses? You said you saw them run past you."
Alix turned slightly, smiling at her. "I didn’t stop to catch them. I was more concerned with the fact that they were without riders. I know this place, and I think I have an idea of where they are. We‘ll find them."
Jackie nodded. "I hope so. Those are my uncle’s horses."
Alix glanced at her, then continued walking. He led them through the trees for what seemed like an eternity, then stopped. They could see a cabin ahead. When they started toward it, Alix stopped them.
"Wait," he murmured, closing his eyes. He seemed to be concentrating on something. He had to make sure there was no one coming. Once he determined it was safe, he opened his eyes.
While they waited, they noticed there was nothing extraordinary about the cabin. It looked like any old cabin, plain and brown. The only thing that stood out about it was that there was no grass for about two feet around the cabin. There was grass everywhere else. As a science fanatic, Luke knew it had been caused by some form of radiation.
He looked at Alix. "Is this cabin safe? It looks a little odd."
Alix stared at him for a moment. Luke didn’t like the look on his face. "Yes, it is." He walked over to the cabin. When he tried the door, it was locked, like he expected.
"Last I checked, it was illegal to break in to places," Megan said.
Alix ignored her and turned to Luke. "You unlocked the gate, right?" When Luke nodded, he continued. "Maybe the same key will unlock the door."
"You know, Megan’s right. You’re not supposed to break in," Luke protested.
Alix rolled his eyes. "I just asked for a key, didn’t I? If we can open it with a key, we’re not breaking in, are we?"
Luke ground his teeth. He could see the point. "How did you know about the key?" He glared at Alix. When the other man just stared at him, he cursed lightly. "Fine, I’ll try it."
Alix smiled grimly, and moved out of the way. "Go ahead."
Luke pulled out the key, remembering what Daniel had told him. Keep the key with you. You’ll need it again. Had he known this would happen?
Sticking the key in the lock, he turned it easily. He stepped back, and Alix pushed past him. He stared around in awe. He was actually in the cabin. He was getting excited.
Once in, they all explored. The cabin was quite large, but almost empty. There was not much in the main room, only a table, some chairs, and a furnace in the corner. There were three bedrooms, with no lamps and one large bed in each room. The beds had old blankets and two pillows each. They were quite basic, as if no one had intended to be living there for very long.
Megan was the first to note that there was not a restroom, quite to her dismay. Alix explained that they would not be staying there for any longer than one night, and could always go outside. She accepted that fact grudgingly.
Near the back of the cabin, Alix froze. There was a door with a strange light coming from it. He knew what that room held. It was the reason they were here. Luke tried to open it, and found it not locked, but had air resistance. He tried again, but was still unable to open it. He turned to Alix, glaring at the other man. "Okay, what's going on here? What is this place, and why are we trying to open a closet? What the hell?"
Alix stared at him, and Luke found his eyes unnerving. "I will explain in a moment."
Luke glared at him again. "You had better start soon." He was trying to ignore the strong urge he was having to pull that closet door open. He couldn't understand why he was finding it so intriguing.
Mark felt a strong sense of dread when he saw the door. He felt like he had seen something like it before, and he seemed to have a vague memory from one of his dreams. It sent chills down his spine, and he backed away from it.
Alix glanced at him, a little wary. "Are you alright?" he asked, watching at him with a strange look on his face.
Mark avoided his eyes. "Yeah, I’m fine." He moved away from the door, sitting down at the table, beginning to feel dizzy. He hoped it didn't have anything to do with the cut on his head.
Alix glanced at him again, then turned to them all. "I’ll go get the horses, and some of us can go into town to get some food."
Jackie smiled at him. "We have some food in Mark’s saddlebags. We can eat that for tonight. That way, we can wait to go into town."
Luke glanced at Alix. He didn’t like how much Jackie was interacting with him. It was making him jealous, even though he knew it shouldn’t. He had already established that there shouldn't be anything between them, anymore.
Alix considered it for a moment, then nodded. "Okay, that sounds like a good idea."
After Alix left, Mark turned to Luke. "What do you think?"
"I’m not sure we can trust this Alix guy, but we do need to figure out what’s going on," Luke sat down in one of the chairs. "There’s really nothing we can do on our own, since we don’t know our way around."
"That’s true," Mark said, still looking around. He glanced at the strange door again, shivering. He could almost hear a whisper of someone calling to him, but was not entirely sure what that was. He only got that feeling when he looked at that door.
Alix returned with the horses, along with his own horse. They arranged a picket line, so the horses could eat, but not run away. He had also brought wood with him.
Alix set the wood in the corner by the fireplace. He took note of how Luke avoided the wood. He seemed to be nervous about the idea of lighting a fire. That reminded Alix of the questions he had for them.
They sat down and started eating. Alix casually brought up the subject of powers. He explained that he had recently been freezing random liquids with ice that came from his hands. Luke found it odd that he had recently acquired powers, and was wondering if that was what had happened to him. It had not seemed possible before, but now that they were in a strange place, anything could be. They all started telling about the strange things that they had been doing. Alix told them he may know what was causing the powers, and that he would explain more the next day.
Alix notice that Mark had stayed somewhat silent throughout the conversation. He mentioned the mind reading, but remained quiet about the dreams. He seemed fidgety.
After eating, they all figured out where they would sleep. It was getting late. There would be more time to talk tomorrow.
The next morning, Luke woke up to a light knock on the door. When he didn’t answer, the door opened and Mark slipped in. Glancing at Luke, he kicked the bed.
"Get up. Alix wants to talk to all of us," Mark offered a small smile. "Maybe he’ll finally explain things."
"This whole thing is strange, huh?" Luke got up, already dressed, since he had not had anything to change into. "It feels like we’re in a dream, or something."
Mark frowned. "Yeah, it does. I had no idea things like this could happen."
Luke moved to the door. "Yeah, know," he sighed. "Well, shall we go see what our dear stranger has to tell us? Maybe he can help us get home, so your uncle doesn't get worried." He suddenly remembered the key, and Daniel's urgency when speaking about it. That, and the gate...how could he have known?
Mark just smiled, watching his friend. "Let's go. I'm sure the girls are getting anxious, and I don't really feel safe leaving that Alix guy in there with my sister."
Luke grinned. "Yeah, not kidding."
Once they had all settled in the main room, Alix stood up. "I’m sure you have all noticed the glowing door at the back of the cabin," his eyes flicked around briefly. "What’s in that room is the reason I brought you all here. That key you used to open the door and unlock the gate is from the Rotievan Wizard Council. They control, or at least monitor, all magic used in Rotieva It’s been that way since the creation of the first Blood Swords."
He paused, and Jackie cut in. "What are the Blood Swords?"
Alix stared at the door for a long while, then answered. "The two original swords were created to protect the realm. One of the wielders became obsessed with the power it gave him. This caused him to kill his own brother to try and gain his power, also. No one really knows the whole story. After he was locked up, the Council took control of the swords," Alix looked at them. "That is why they are called the Blood Swords. They were created with blood, and destroyed by blood."
When he paused again, Luke interrupted him. "Sorry, but what does this have to do with us getting home?"
Alix stared at him, annoyed. "It may have everything to do with you. As for going home...just let me finish.
One of the swords was stolen, so the Council created four more to add to the remaining sword. These would be used to track it. The problem is, not just anyone can wield the Blood Swords," Alix took a deep breath. "With the powers you have all been telling me about, and my own, we just might be the wielders. There is only one way to find out," he looked at Luke. "I believe, since the key was given to you, you are the one to open the door." Alix turned to all of them. "You can follow me, and see if this is true, or you may walk out the door. It’s up to you." Alix continued down the hall.
Luke took out the key and looked at the others. When no one objected, he walked down the hall. The others followed him, curious.
When they reached the door, Alix smiled at Luke. "Ready?"
Luke reached for the handle, turning it. It didn’t have the same resistance it had before. When he pushed it open, they saw a glass chest with five glowing swords placed carefully inside. Luke stepped back, shocked.
Alix looked at the others expectantly. He was shaking with excitement. No one spoke. They just stared at the swords, wondering. Alix stepped toward the chest, followed by the others. Mark started to follow and hesitated. He was feeling a strong sense of dread, but at the same time, eagerness. He moved to the chest, his curiosity overriding his caution.
Luke unlatched the chest and started to reach for one of the swords. Slowly lifting it out, he stared at it. He felt a slight tingle, and fire shot up the blade. The fire didn’t burn, and didn’t feel afraid. He felt like he had been connected to this blade for years. He also felt a strong obligation to protect the others.
Jackie stared at Luke, then took her sword out. There was the same amazing connection, but light instead of fire. She studied it, turning to the others.
Megan felt a rush of air with her sword. She had never been into weapons, but this felt like it was a part of her.
Alix glanced at Mark, who still seemed unsure. Shrugging, he pulled out his sword. It frosted over immediately, and Alix felt an instant bond with it.
Mark stepped forward last, touching the remaining sword hesitantly. As soon as he picked it up, all the shadows in the room seemed to darken. His mind seemed open to everyone around him. The power it instilled in him was incredible, and he was starting to wonder why he had ever been afraid. He started to smile, when a cold feeling replaced the light one. He suddenly felt a strong hunger for power, as if nothing could stop him from having all control. That feeling made him very uneasy, but he felt like he had never wanted anything as much as he did now. There was a tingle, and the dark feeling vanished as quickly as they had come.
No one spoke for a long time. They all seemed content to bask in their new found power. They all felt such a connection to their swords, and they didn’t want to ever put them d
The chest stopped glowing, and they all snapped out of their dreamlike state. They looked down, and saw that scabbards attached to belts had appeared on each of their waists for the swords. They placed the swords inside them, and left the room.
Alix looked at all of them, his seriousness replaced by a grin. "So, shall we go into town now? I’m guessing no one wants to go home just yet."