The Bejeweled Chest

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Faced with a threat that can topple an entire kingdom, a wizard must stop an assasin before he could snuff out the last hope of the deceased king. Thus ensued a wild chase beyond the boundaries of ages and dimensions, worlds and realities. Even time and space itself shall bend to the will of the enigmatic, magical bejeweled chest.

The Bejeweled Chest had been accepted by Cirsova Publishing (a semi-pro magazine), and is scheduled to be released on Cirsova Magazine Issue #6 Fall 2017 edition!

A part (chapter 9) of the 'Events at Barker House: Booksie Anthology' ! Check out the story in the anthology here: https://www.booksie.com/505894-events-at-the-barker-house-booksie-anthology-chapter-9
(Five more comments/ compliments for 'The Bejeweled Chest' are in Chapter 9 of the anthology)

Submitted: May 17, 2017

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Submitted: May 17, 2017

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I am bleeding, and I am bleeding badly. I could feel the stream of warmth as the blood seeped through my tunic, and trickled down the side of my legs. However, I am still alive. Still breathing...

 

Letting me escape would be a fatal mistake for the Arcane Enclave. My breath came in ragged gasps, my thoughts and vision were clouded from the loss of blood. I will expose them for the treacherous fanatics their whole lot are. I won’t let them succeed. I couldn’t let them… 

In my mind’s eyes, I could still glimpse the wrathfulness of the First Wizard, his voice crackling like a thunderstorm as he banished me.

“Archmage Kell. You have dared question our motives, our core teachings. Time and time again, you have stood against our destined rise to the rule of this kingdom. Aided those non-magical scums against your own brethren. With or without you, Kell, we will seize what is ours by the right of blood and arcane might.  Now be gone, and know that wherever you tread, you will not elude my sight!”  

I laughed a dry, pathetic chuckle that grated upon my parched throat. I hadn't run away.

Serves me right that they called me a blind. A deaf. A witless fool, Thrown out of the sanctum, I didn’t flee. I rushed headlong to the aid of the king, to prevent this land’s hope from being smothered out by the raging storm.

I had failed. A blade had plunged through my gut even before I caught a glimpse of the assailant’s face. It had plunged straight through the king, who wasn’t magically armored as I am. The man lay gasping, dying upon my arms, whispering the last of his words. Those whispers had led me here…

Towering before me were the grand spires of Barker Mansion, a grand obelisk that loomed a stark black against the field of stars above. Seat of the fabled Count Barker, it was the stronghold of the last man who was a trusted ally of the slain king. The Arcane Enclave had taken control of everything else. He is the kingdom’s last hope, its only salvation…

As my feet, sore with travel, started upon the marble staircase, a surge of willpower seemed to course through my veins.

I have come this far, I will not let all of it be swept away so easily…

I thought of Leira, of her radiant smile, her auburn hair tousled by the summer breeze. I thought of her hands clutching on mine, as if to never let go, on the morning I left to join the Arcane Enclave.

I gave up everything to protect you, Leira. I won’t let it all be for nothing.

I clenched my teeth, trying to distract myself from the throbbing wound upon my stomach,

I will not let them take you away too. You will live happily, get married, and have as many children as you ever wanted, just like in all those dreams you used to tell me.  That, I swear on my life.

Standing to my right was a courier. He glanced toward the waterdial before the mansion's gates, then announced thunderously.  

"One hour before the full night!" 

I was roughly shaken out of my reverie. With a startle, I remembered the words I heard whispered among members of the Mage's Council. We shall strike... one hour after the full night. Once and for all our last thorn shall be vanquished. And this land shall be ours.

I cursed, the sound barely a whisper, By the gods, they had known about the Count!

They had known it all along…

My bloodied hands making a mess of the doorknob, I stumbled forward and made a crashing entrance. 

Two hours before the kingdom came crashing down..

I plunged headfirst into a lavish party. The tunes of lyres and harps, fiddles and lutes, filled the entire evening. Men and women dressed in the elegant suits of nobles were dancing about on the dance floor, or standing by in groups having jovial conversations. It was the celebration for the name day of the Count's firstborn son, heir to his house. 

I must find him. I heard a woman's scream from behind, but did not turn back. I must get to Count Barker before those mages do!

?

My eyes scanning through the faces in the crowd, I glimpsed the peak of a bleached cowl. It was there, amidst the flitting silks and suits of the guests. My heart stopped within my chest. 

Is it just my own fantasy, or am I too late?  Straining my eyes, I lumbered through the men and women, shoving carelessly despite the strings of curses I evoked. 

An assassin of the Pale Meister. Instinctively, my hand went to my stomach, clutching the gaping wound that still seeped crimson fluid.

I couldn’t believe that the Arcane Enclave, as desperate as they are, would have employed them. The Pale Meister was a notorious cult of magically gifted assassins, masters of stealth and the arcane. They were known for their ruthlessness and fanaticism, having slaughtered hundreds of people just to get to their target.

With this coup, the First Wizard had truly thrown away all shreds of his humanity. I mused grimly, my eyes tracking the assassin’s passage through the party.

So an assassin of the Pale Meister was the one who had slain the king. Fury threatening to consume me, I clenched my fist, preparing my storage of magic for the battle to come. 

I must get to him before he reaches the Count. I must stop this, once and for all. Before the last hope of this kingdom could be snuffed out...

I cast a quick spell to muffle my footsteps, and then followed the assassin out of the throng of party goers. I kept my distance, fixing my gaze upon him, making sure I had yet to arouse his suspicion.

He left the main hall and the music of celebration into one of the numerous corridors in the manor house. With a single glance backward, I went into the corridor.

And immediately lost him. My heart fluttered in panic, but then I saw the man. At the end of the hall way was a single wooden door, left open, and I glimpsed the assassin’s pale robes through it.

Just as I was creeping toward the opening, the door came slamming close with a splintering crash. As if in slow motion, I saw the Pale Meister smirk, then disappeared behind the blur of the closed door. 

"Bloody gods!" I cursed and sprang forward, slamming my shoulder against the locked door. It resounded with a dull thump, but did not yield. Did not budge an inch. 

I haphazardly casted a spell to enhance the strength of my fist, then plunged my hand through the thick wooden panel. I grabbed the knob from the other side and swung it wide open. And the Pale Meister was gone again. Vanished as if he was conjured from thin air. 

There was a single window. It faced a cliff that extends hundreds of feet to the river below. The room was a small, abandoned shack, containing only a few broken chairs and tables.  There was no place upon which a full grown man could have been hidden. The Pale Meister was gone…

However, something caught my attention. In the center of the room stood a large chest, heavily encrusted with jewels and gem stones on its outer surface. It was gaping open, and a pale white light was emanating from it. It seemed familiar for some reason, although that wasn’t the matter of import right now.  

Blast it! There is no way a full grown man could disappear into a chest. I frantically swept my gaze over the room, feeling the walls for any trigger mechanisms that could perhaps leads to a secret passage. There was nothing at all. Such a type of magic doesn’t exist.... Does it?

Then a sudden realization struck me a like a bolt of lightning. I’ve seen the chest before. I had glimpsed it during one of those rare private audiences with the First Wizard. There were rumors that the mage owned an artifact of vast power, a magical chest that could open up the doors between worlds and dimensions, space and time.

I had dismissed them as pure speculation… until now. Even if that was true, why would the First Wizard entrusted such an important artifact with a mere assassin? Was this mission’s accomplishment of such importance?

I never had any desire to tamper nor manipulate the flow of time and space, for the price of that could be tremendous. Apocalyptic, even. I could disrupt the fragile balance between worlds and smashed both realities asunder, if my mind wasn’t shattered into a million fragments beforehand. If the Pale Meister is in there, however, I must pursue him and stop the Count’s assassination at all cost.

With uncertain steps, I gingerly stepped into the mysterious chest. A nauseating, tugging sensation pulled at my stomach, and I fell. Truly fell…  

I emerged, stumbling right into the midst of a raging battle. All around me, warriors roared with the ferocity and bloodlust of fighting men. Throaty war cries, mists and sprays of blood became the world

A spear clattered against an enemy shield before splintering, its thrower ran through by a blade from behind.  Swords of bronze clashed in a shower of sparks.

An armored warrior lobbed off the head of his more lightly dressed opponent, before being pierced in the side by a spear himself. Arrows rained down by the troops beyond, cutting both their comrades and enemies alike.

Corpses littered the ground, and streams of life blood ran like rivers. Men screamed their war cries in hundreds of different languages, all a raucous cacophony that added to the fiendish atmosphere of the battlefield. 

What sort of hell have I landed in?  I wondered, stunned by the landscape littered by bodies and gore before me. I belatedly casted a spell of invisibility as an arrow flew right overhead, close enough that I felt a tinge of pain across the top of my skull.

Invisible to anyone else, I climbed up atop a large mound of corpses. Squinting my eyes against the sunlight, I gazed over the entire field of battle. Then, through the midst of blades and roaring men, I saw it. 

From the other side of the battlefield, the Pale Meister was just stepping into the bejeweled chest, and then he vanished once more. Even gazing from here, the chest seemed to fade a little after the assassin, its conjurer, had plunged into it. 

I must get to him before he could return and take the Count's life! That will not be an easy task.

 I was trapped within a narrow mountain pass, where two vicious groups of fighting men barred my path toward the only escape from this hell. Before me was a small group of warriors clad in plates of bronze, armed with spears and swords, standing against a massive horde of enemies.

They seemed like ants compared to the endless legion of their nemesis, whose forces seemed to stretch toward the horizon.

It’s suicide. There is no way such a small force could even hope to deter that massive army. Not even the greatest wizard could survive.

Against all odds, the bronze clad men gave a blood curdling cry, a scream that could be heard to the deepest pits of hell,

“Alalaaaaaaa!”

Hurtling their spears through the air, not pausing even as the bronze-tipped javelins plunged into the bodies of their foes, they charged.

I stared, awe struck, as the warriors ran straight into the midst of their enemies and fought with a mad, fiendish fury of a thousand men. They mowed through ranks upon ranks of their enemies, each man felling dozens of corpses around him.

All had seemed impossible, yet those men still went forward. As I gazed at the magical bejeweled chest, I felt a surge of dogged determination overtook me. 

If it is not me who could do this, no one else could. My title of Archmage did not come at such a cheap price…

Whispering the incantations for the spell, I rubbed on my wizard's rings and turned invisible. Steeling my emotions, I focused on my senses and lunged into the bands of clashing men.

"Wruagghh!" A warrior screamed as his scimitar swung right over my head. I ducked past him and crawled forward, where I was brought short by a spear plunging into the ground inches from my face.

A man before me fell face down, his body ran through by another spear. I gingerly stepped over him as a blade erupted from his killer’s back and the man fell.

 I skulked by, avoiding any physical contact that could disrupt the spell. Finally, there was a clearing within the ranks of clashing men, and I was free. So I ran.

I ran forward, darting between men hacking and slashing at one another, evading javelins and slingshot pebbles hurling through the air, spraying red mists all around me. I thought I had dodged them all, until a slinger's pebble cracked against the right half of my skull.

It was deafening. I went down, staggering, my vision infiltrated by dark blotches. When my hand came away they were covered in blood. 

Many of the surrounding warriors looked down at me. The effects of the invisibility spell had faded when the rock struck me.

Curse the Gods!  Before I could cast another spell, raucous screams and wails of men disrupted my concentration.

Droplets of blood misted the air, men were cut and ran down as a chariot plowed through the ranks of soldiers, friends and foes alike. 

Without a second thought, I leaped onto the speeding chariot, hurling the archer atop it aside. The charioteer turned his head back in shock. I jammed my fingers into his eyes and threw the man into the horde of enraged soldiers. 

With a blood running into my eyes, I roared and whipped the horses toward the magical chest, plowing down any men that stand in my way. In a spray of dust and bodies, the vehicle had finally crossed to the other side of the battle line.

At the last moment, I swerved the chariot in a sharp turn and leaped off its platform, falling… Right into the chest of magic...

I am flying. Truly flying. I was standing in a sort of a hull, a large tube-shaped room with many oval windows looking out at the clouds besides it. And the room is MOVING, the clouds passing by in gradual clumps of white.

My feet were placed upon a solid floor, carpeted, yet the long, cylindrical hull seemed to be flying. Unbelievably, flying at such a height that exceeds even what is possible for the largest birds of prey. 

This is madness. Where did the chest take me this time?  There were many aisles in the room, rows upon rows of them, and the people sitting upon them were gaping, staring at me in shock and amazement. 

Where did the Pale Meister go? I waded forward, feeling every step taking its toll on my bloodied, weakened body. Gritting my teeth, I yanked at the collar of the man in the nearest aisle. 

"Where are we? What is this strange thing we are riding on?" I growled. There was not much time left. The Pale Meister could be anywhere and on his way to end the last hope of my kingdom. 

The man swear, his voice racked with fear, "I paid a large sum of money to be on this plane, you bloody lunatic!  Get your hands off me!” Not having the time to listen to this rabble, I forcefully slapped the man across the face, loosening a few of his teeth.

“We are on a Delta flight to New York! You goddamn nut job…" The man whimpered painfully. He continued to swear, his eyes filled with an equal measure of panic and rage.

I released the man unceremoniously back to his seat, and didn't bother to turn back as he made some more protests.

I am on a... plane? Whatever sorcery that is. The chest opens here, which means that the Pale Meister must also be here. As I was about to wade onward, a voice suddenly blared from the walls of the so called "plane". 

“Ladies and gentlemen, the Captain has turned on the fasten seat belt sign. We are now crossing a zone of turbulence. Please return your se... Wait, who the hell are you? You are not allowed in here... Some... Somebody helpppp! Arghhhhhh!" Then the sound was cut short and replaced by a buzzing noise before ceasing completely. 

The men and women around me erupted into a state of panic, swearing and screaming words I couldn't even start to comprehend. 

"Terrorists! The plane is hijacked!" One woman hollered.

“I still don’t wanna die!” A young man whimpered, huddling into a ball in his seat. A woman wept and embrace her three weeping children, one still a suckling babe. Some people started praying, their lips moving, but any words they uttered were blotted out by the cacophonous mix of hollers and raucous cries. A large, muscular man yelled that they should fight against the terrorists, but no one gave him any attention.

Unable to make a sense of all this, I yanked on the robes of a dark-skinned woman on the aisle on my other side. 

"Where is that voice coming from? Where sits the man behind it!" 

She gazed at me with shaky eyes, "There!" The woman pointed her finger at the narrow path ahead. "From the captain's room!" I gaze forward, and glimpse a metallic door at the far end of the long walkway. 

I started forward, then stumbled and fell. Discordant cries arose from men and women all around as the plane tilted madly, threatening to dip to one side and plunge down.

I clutched on the seat nearest to me until my knuckles went white, until I could feel the metal leaving marks upon my palm.

The plane swerved like a drunken man, passing dangerously close to the pillars of lightning within the storm clouds. It rolled to the right, then left, then right again, throwing passengers against one side or another. It seemed like an eternity when the vehicle finally went back to its original, stable course. 

Many people in the room sighed their relief. I stood up, trying to approach that door again. 

The entire plane shook with a thunderous  BOOM! as a bolt of lightning struck against its lower half. My ears were ringing, blood seeping out from them as my hearing ceased to work.

This time, the plane went into a straight dip downwards, the floor suddenly slanting in a steep angle. People screamed as they flew from seats, crashing into the one before them or stumbling onto the walkway.  

From behind, I could see the lower half of the plane being engulfed in flames. The structure creaked and groaned, before detaching completely, disappearing into the midst of the storm. Passengers went overboard, screaming as the wind tore at them and vanished with the vicious gale.

The remaining people were desperately clinging to the seats around them for dear life, but even those will not last long. The plane is taking a straight dip toward the ground far below, where all will turn to flames.  

With a prepared sigh, I released my hold on the seat and strengthened the soles of my feet with a quick spell. I slid down the walkway like a tumbling boulder, my back scraping, as if on fire, as the plan dipped down even further. 

It's approaching the ground. Approaching fast...

Only a few paces before the metallic door, I drew back my knees, preparing for the impact. It came with a jarring ferocity that shook my whole body, clattering my teeth against one another. Threatening to drive my wounded body unconscious once again. The door to the captain's room flew open with the tremendous force, and I rolled into the room.

It was filled with large assortments of panels and buttons, but only the chest standing between the two dead men caught my eyes. I only stole a quick glance at the bloody corpses before stepping into this gate between worlds...

I yelped, jerking out of my stupor. Around me prowled a voracious pack of jackals. Their eyes were bulbous, clenched jaws dripping with saliva at the prospect of such a meaty prey. They were large as horses, with decaying peels of rotten flesh giving away glints of bones beneath. 

One of them took a chance bite and almost snapped off my ear. I jumped up and hollered. Gracing the ring, I hurled a bolt of lightning at the fiendish beast.

The sandy earth shook with the thunderous KA-BLAM! as the beast was thrown off and charred to a crisp. The remaining jackals, unfazed, lunged with their jaws gaping horrendously. 

 

I dropped onto the sand and rolled, letting the fel beasts collide among themselves. I tasted sand within my mouth, and its particles scrape against my skin until I bled. However, I rolled on some more until I was sure. 

The beasts were still snapping at their own kind, wondering where their large prey had disappeared to. I channeled all of the arcane powers into my arms, feeling the energy coursed through my veins, threatening to rip them apart.  

My palms sizzling, crackling with power, I blasted a white-hot column of lightning at the packs of beasts. The fiends scuttled and yelped in agony as they were roasted to crisps, unable to flee from the leaping bolts of energy. Foul bestial stench mingled with that of charred meat as I made my way across this new, forbidden landscape.  

From horizon to horizon, everything was covered in sand. The sun shone brightly overhead, scorching the sands as I weaved my weary path forward. The bleeding from my stomach and head seemed to have stopped for now, but without giving it any rest the wound was sure to split again. 

Having survived the assault of those monstrous jackals, I had the time to ponder on something that could be crucial in the battle against the Pale Meister. Back then, on the airplane in the world before this one, just after I’ve stepped into the bejeweled chest and before I was transported here, I saw this world.

The world at which I was going to be brought to. I was in too much of a shock the first time I stepped into the chest, and later when I jumped into it from a speeding chariot. However, now that I think of it, I may have seen these images even back then.

Does it mean that it is possible for me to glimpse the world I’m going into once I’m inside the chest, moments before I have actually arrived there? That is another puzzle I’d need to solve.

As I grimly wondered if I'm going to survive trudging along the seemingly endless desert, I spotted the crumbling ruins of a city in the distance. With sun-burnt soles, I stepped onto the roads of the ruin that used to be a city.

The buildings were nothing of the sort I had ever seen before. There were massive towers that seemed to be able to scrape against the sky. Wounding between the buildings were great stone paths, hoisted by pillars as lofty as the most formidable castles.  

This place used to be a great city. Perhaps even the capital of this advanced world. I mused grimly, my eyes scouring the place for any signs of life. I carefully tread by rows upon rows of smaller buildings.

All of them showed signs of desertion, like they had not been inhabited by human life for a great long while. Most had their windows shattered, doors smashed in, thoroughly looted for anything of value. Dust and sand pervaded everything, forming a thin layer over the buildings, the paths, the sky-high towers. Only the hardiest of plants survived within the cracks between stones, and even those didn’t seem like they could survive for long.

This vast megalopolis was but a great, decaying ruin, a bare husk of its former self. A pile of crumbling debris waiting to be devoured by the surrounding world of sand.

I thought back to the places, the worlds and eras I had been to with the power of the chest. I tried to reflect upon images of the battlefield where bronze clad men fought and died, of the flying tubular ‘plane’ plummeting toward the earth, and of this abandoned, decaying world.

The world that was, the world that is, the world that will be. What is the Pale Meister’s intention for traversing all of these worlds? Does he have full control over the chest, or was he just allowing a minor glimpse of its overpowering might? That was another question that still bothered me immensely…  

Treading upon the paths through the crumbling city, I strode onward, still desperate to discover any forms of life. There were not a sound beside my own footsteps and the whooshing of the wind.

Wait, I heard something. Faint, but definitely something. Is that… music?

The tunes seemed to stand out more now that I’ve noticed it. I followed the source of music until I came before what seemed to be an abandoned tavern.

I stepped into the tavern, its original door smashed to pieces besides the entrance. The place was in shambles, with smashed bottles of liquor littered everywhere, chairs upended, tables smashed in. Dusts coat the place in a thick layer, signifying that its tenements had abandoned the place a long while ago.

I gazed to the source of music and stared in awe and wonder. It was a metallic statue of sorts, standing solidly beside remnants of the tavern’s bar.

I approached the dented statue, and almost yelped as it suddenly spoke up,

“Last recording: 24th July 2179

They’re all gone now. Even the last groups of refugees have left the city. I should have gone with them, but even that is hopeless. They are not going to survive the hordes of mutated beasts out there in the desert, much less without food and water.

Sitting here now, awaiting my death, I realized that this end is a punishment for our own wrongdoing. World War III, fought over three decades ago, had decimated much of our landscape.

Where the first bombs were dropped, no one could remember, but when the major world powers brought out their hydrogen bombs, the globe went into flames.  Billions of people had turned to ash, along with most of our natural resources and landscape.

Then the nuclear winter came next, covering the world in an impenetrable haze. Even now that it is gone, we could no longer grow anything from this barren desert. Nearly everyone who had survived the war end up dying from starvation, radiation, or those mutated monsters created from our own attempts to kill one another.

We are… no. I am one of the last of humanity now… and if anyone is listening, I would like to say that I’m sorry. We had destroyed the world. Not from outside forces, nothing could have devastated us this badly.

We had destroyed this world… by our own hands. Now we must pay the ultimate price…

Recording done by automaton G73H”

As suddenly as it had started, the lights went out from the eyes of the statue and the message stopped.

I gingerly stepped forward and tried shaking the metallic figure, getting it to start speaking again to no avail. The metallic statue had gone back to being a chunk of inanimate metal standing in the corner of the tavern once again.

What in the name of the Gods was that? I couldn’t make much sense of what the “automaton” had said, only that a great war had happened here in this world.

That had somehow been the cause for this abandoned city, the mutated beasts roaming the wilderness, and the endless desert which seemed to spread unto the horizon.

I couldn’t understand much of it, but the statue’s message had given me a chill that went down to the spine. I prayed that such a punishment, such a grim end to all civilizations, would not happen to my world…

The sound of an explosion, followed by cascades of falling rubble, violently yanked me out of my reverie. I ran to the tavern’s entrance and peered outside. A cloud of dust had settled over the street just before the tavern, forming an impenetrable haze that allowed no light through.

However, I could hear the sound of something moving. Something big, dragging its feet along the stony road. Accompanying that were sounds of blasting rubble and explosions, like someone was battling the creature. 

I stood there in front of the entrance, trying to calm my nerves, waiting for the moment to move forward. When the dust finally settled, I bursted onto the street and gaped at the battle in front of me.

A humongous lizard, the size of an elephant, towered on one end. It had scales as dark as pitch, jaws large enough to engulf a man’s head, and a pair of massive curved horns that points away from its body.

 Its claws were sharp as sickles, dripping with crimson blood. The monstrosity gave a blood curdling roar as it bull-rushed its prey.  

On another end was… the Pale Meister. The assassin was bleeding from several places, the claw marks upon his body still fresh.

He was blasting the lizard monster with scorching balls of fire and bolts of lightning. Even as I stared, the mage assassin conjured a wall of flames that completely engulfed the lizard monster, leaving behind only a pile of smoldering embers.

Then he turned and saw me. The Pale Meister bolted toward the nearest building with the desperation of an injured animal. I hurled my own bolt of lightning after him, but it only zapped against the building’s stone facade. I sped after him into the crumbling ruin, renewing our relentless chase once again.

The Pale Meister leaped onto each new flight of stairs with the agility of a wraith. He seemed to flit along the endless staircase as if he was a pale ghost.  I barely managed to keep up to him, much less close the distance between us.

As I jumped over another step, I caught the assassin’s eyes and saw him throw a lance of ice downward. Spiraling toward me.

I sidestepped just in time for it to only graze my shoulder, before lobbing a fireball back in return. It stuck home, and I heard the assassin roar in agony before moving away.

He was slowing down, burdened by the injuries he had sustained both at the monster’s hands and mine.

I pressed my ring to the soles of my boots and cast a spell for feathered feet. Instantly, I could feel myself getting lighter, my steps less burdened than before. I flew over the seemingly endless staircase, getting ever closer to the Pale Meister.

Finally. I am finally going to catch him this time!  The assassin was just a staircase over now.

Fixated on the steps before me, I only heard the door slammed shut when it was too late. I gazed up at the flights of stairs above and the Pale Meister had vanished. My heart seemed to stop for a moment, before I frantically climbed the steps and reached the door to its rooftop. I leaped forward and yanked it open.

Across the rooftop, the Pale Meister was making a run for it, leaving a trail of blood after his hurried steps. He flung a small trinket into the air. I gaped in awe as it gradually expanded while air borne and landed as the bejeweled chest, the magical chest that opened gateways between realms and dimensions.

I threw a flashing bolt of lightning at the assassin. He leaped as the ground beneath him exploded in a shower of debris and blinding lightning. Without a second thought, the Pale Meister dived head first into the magical chest. I cursed and leaped in after him. 

We were plummeting, like stones dropped from a castle tower perched amidst the clouds.

The Pale Meister seemed shocked at the location upon which we had appeared, but I had known it, glimpsing it as I lunged into the bejeweled chest.

Gusts of wind whipped at my hair, flapping my robes madly like the wings of a raven. Down below, the Pale Meister hollered, trying to grasp a foothold against the building’s glass surface in vain.

This is my last chance. This is the last chance to stop his attempt to assassinate the count.

With the roar of the wind howling in my ears, the thrill of falling freely and a sinking feeling as the ground rushed up to meet me, I kissed my wizard’s ring. Charging up the power, I hurled a gigantic bolt of lightning at the Pale Meister.

The man whipped around, conjuring a rough magical ward that barely deflected my spell. He pitched a voracious fireball that scattered to sparks as my own ward went up.

Lances of ice shattered, flames flew, and tendrils of lightning arced across the sky as both of our wards thinned. The ground is rushing up rapidly, like a beast waiting to crush the two fools leaping right into its mouth.

I could see it clearly now. The pavement beside a street, thronged with passersby. They gazed up in horror at the two men plunging down the side of the building, their eyes meeting mine.

In a movement that snatched the breath from my lungs, the Pale Meister threw down the bejeweled chest. It slammed thunderously against the ground, immediately sending the crowd of onlookers scuttling away in panic.

Out of the assassin’s hands, a smokescreen surged upward and enveloped me.

He’s trying to flee again, through the chest and into another world. I can’t let him do it!

Glimpsing the white of his cowl through the smoke, I threw a solid lance of ice at the flitting figure. The smoke instantly dispersed as his ward shattered and failed, and my spear impaled the assassin through his chest.

He howled and gurgled blood. A feeling of triumph rose up within me.

Before he collapsed, he whipped back and hurled a bolt of lightning that raced through the sky at me. It struck the ward then, and my magic failed. I screamed as lightning zapped through me, as my skin burned like the coals of a living flame.

I couldn’t open my eyes. Each breath ripped through the tissues of my lungs. Pain blotted my senses as the world went to darkness. There is a jarring impact as I smashed against the ground, but I felt no pain. I felt nothing at all.

The warmth and comfort of the darkness was persuasive as I let it enveloped me, and I drifted into the abyss…

I woke up drenched in sweat. Evening sunlight streamed in through the eastern side of the room, bathing it in an orange glow. The smell of drugs and sanitizer hung faintly in the air.

Had I fallen asleep again?

Besides me, one of the two children started to voice his protest, “Mister! So how does the story ends? Does the hero defeats the bad guys?” The other children, the first boy’s little sister, stared at me with her big blue eyes filled with anticipation.

Sprawled open upon my knees was children’s story book. However, I am no longer in the mood for stories. Not after that dream…

“Kids, it’s time to get back to your own ward,” the kindly nurse came into the room and gently herded the two children out of the door.

“Awwhhh,” the girl cried disappointedly, “see you later, mister.!” Then they were gone.

I had that dream again. Was that a fragmented piece of my past?

From what the doctor had told me, I had completely lost all of my memories after I have miraculously survived falling of from a building. No one knows me, there are no documents of identification that could tell them who I am, where did I came from, or who were my closest relatives.

They had found another man with me, dead upon the pavement besides the building, but other than that the police will not reveal any more details.

Lying beside my body after the fall was a chest, assumed mine. For some reason, it was stuffed full of coins of a rarity, and those were used to pay for my hospital bills.

My legs are still as leaden as ever…

As a result of surviving the miraculous fall, I suffered from paralysis on the lower portion of my body. Whenever I want to move around, a wheelchair would always be needed. I am still learning to live with it…

Since coming back into consciousness, I would often dream. A dream filled with adventure, magic, and intrigue. My doctor said that it is most usually my own imaginations, a result from the brain trying to regain its memories and regain its function, but I wonder.

Could it be some part of a life I used to know? Could such a thing be possible? It seemed like something that came out from a movie shown in the hospital room’s television.

I ran my thumb along the ring on my right hand, a gesture my doctor had noticed and had recommended. He said that such a habit could help in the process of regaining my memories.

Are those glimpses I saw in the dream really my life before I had lost my memories, or are they just my own imagination?

I could not remember much, but some names kept on repeating itself in my head.

Who is the Pale Meister? Who is Count Barker? And why do I feel as if I have accomplished something, some sort of mission, yet not even remember what it is?

I tasted salt upon my lips. I reached up and found out that my face was wet. Among the images and thoughts scattered wildly within my head, one shone out more clearly than the others. It was the face of a woman, her auburn hair shimmering in the sunlight. Her smile warm and radiant as she gazed at me.

Leira… The name came up unexpectedly. I shook as I wept, unable to contain myself.

Only a single thought remained in my mind, glowing like a beacon amidst all else.

I must return. I must get back to where you are. No matter what…

Lost in thought, I gazed at the setting sun until it dipped over the horizon. As darkness enveloped the night city, I noticed a pale, unnatural light within the room itself. I turned to look inside the room, and then I gaped in wonder.

It was the chest. It was closed, but a pale white light was emanating from within the chest itself, spilling out through the slits between its covers.

It couldn’t be possible. With trembling hands, I shoved against the firm mattress and rolled off the bed. I yelped in pain as I landed on the concrete floor, but staring at the wonder in front of me I soon forgot about it.  

I crawled forward using only my arms and hands. It was hard work, but before long I’m at my destination.

I slowly lifted up the lid of the jeweled chest. From its interiors spilled an ethereal white light that seemed to transcend time and dimension. Just like how it was in my dreams.

Will this chest really be a portal to different times and dimensions?

With a resigned sigh, I heaved my body up to be at the same level as the chest. There is only one way to find out.

I half crawled, half plummeted as I made myself fall forward into the chest. The usual nauseating sensation tugged at my stomach, then I fell into the unknown…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




© Copyright 2019 S. K. Inkslinger. All rights reserved.

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