Myscreth

by

parkertallan

Chapter Seventeen: Travel Plans

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When they emerged outside Grandline’s transport hanger, Counselor Anklin paused briefly, almost as if steeling himself for battle. “Come on,” he ordered leading the way to the guest quarters.

As they walked, Mason asked in a low voice. “What are you going to do about Counselor Tranlee?”

“I think I’ll send her on a little excursion,” replied Counselor Anklin in voice laced with barely-restrained anger.

Mason had no idea what he meant by that, and was about to ask him when they reached the guest quarters. Entering the room, they found the two Counselors sitting at a table with Counselor Tranlee pushing an empty plate away from her.

She looked up at Counselor Anklin. “Didn’t realize how hungry I was.” She looked around the room. “Where’s Halrous and Claridee.”

“They’d just left Vandrous when we arrived, but there’s no reason we have to wait. Gather your things and we’ll travel to Bendroff.”

As Tranlee picked up her satchel, Counselor Anklin concentrated on the wall producing a humming sound and a flashing purple light. As the light became constant, Counselor Anklin gestured towards the doorway.

“After you, Tranlee.”

“Thank you,” she replied, stepping through the doorway.

Once she was through, the doorway disappeared. Mason and Counselor Janice stared at the blank wall where the doorway had been.

Counselor Janice snapped at Counselor Anklin. “What have you done?”

Counselor Anklin gave a grim smile. “Oh, I just sent her on a little vacation.” Mason was surprised to hear not even the slightest hint of regret in his voice. “You see, I have this little place north of Dafrum where I like to go when I want to be alone. A friend of mine, who’s a transport pilot, helped me set it up. It’s a sturdy building with a generator and enough food and water for several weeks. It’s a good place to send someone, when you want to get them out of the way for a while.”

Counselor Janice stared at Counselor Anklin. He met her gaze, and spoke in an unapologetic tone. “There was no other way Janice. I couldn’t risk Tranlee informing Proust that we’d discovered his location.”

“But it just seems so cruel.”

“More cruel than how she treated Gorwold?” countered Counselor Anklin crossly. “Besides, she’s perfectly safe where I sent her.”

Counselor Janice finally gave Counselor Anklin a look of resignation. “I know you’re right Anklin, but I’m not happy about it.”

He put a hand on her shoulder. “Nor am I, Janice, but it was necessary.”

Staring at the wall, Counselor Janice’s face soon regained its usual no nonsense expression. “I think we should leave for Vandrous immediately,” she declared, with the commanding tone Mason was used to hearing. “There’s no way of knowing how long it will be before Proust realizes that Counselor Tranlee is missing.”

Mason’s first sensation upon their arrival was a strong wind blowing in his face. Looking around the darkness, he saw the lights of a small settlement not far away, but was surprised by the lack of grow lights. “Where’s the farms?” he asked.

“Vandrous is such a new settlement that they haven’t started farming yet,” answered Counselor Janice. “Hopefully, they’ll be ready to start planting in another few weeks.”

The three of them walked into Vandrous. The only person they saw was a small blond-haired boy, who Mason guessed must be about eight years old, filling a bucket of water at the settlement’s well. “Hello,” called Counselor Anklin to the boy.

The boy stared at the three of them, a look of uncertainty on his face. “Hello,” he responded in a small voice.

“Could you tell us where the guest quarters are?” asked Counselor Anklin.

The boy gave a bashful smile. “Yes sir, I was just taking this water there,” he replied, gamely lifting the nearly full bucket.

“Well,” offered Counselor Janice. “I’m sure this young man,” she nodded towards Mason. “Would be happy to carry it for you, if you’d lead us there.”

“I guess that would be okay.” He put the bucket down. “Follow me.”

Mason picked up the bucket, surprised by how heavy it was. He’s a lot stronger than he looks, thought Mason

They hadn’t walked far when the boy pointed at a building that was larger than any other in the settlement. “Here we are,” he announced.

Counselor Anklin bent down and held out a hand. “Thank you for your help.”

The boy stared at the outstretched hand before taking hold of it and gave it a hard shake. “You’re welcome,” he replied before running off.

Entering the building, they found Counselor Halrous, Claridee, and six workers just finishing dinner in the dining area. Everyone looked up in surprise as they entered. Counselor Halrous stood up and bellowed. “What brings you three here?”

Counselor Anklin pointed at Mason holding the water bucket. “Oh, just delivering some water for your meal.”

The entire room burst into laughter.

Mason put the bucket down as Claridee rushed towards him. She excitedly grabbed him by the hand and dragged him outside.

“I’ve got great news!” she exclaimed with a beaming smile.

There was something about her smile that mesmerized him and he stood there just staring at her face.

“Well?” she asked impatiently. “Aren’t you going to ask what it is?”

“I’m sorry.” he replied. “I just love to see you smile. Now, what is this great news?”

She shook with excitement as she spoke. “Two days ago, when I was training with Counselor Halrous, I was able to manipulate structural mechanics for the first time.”

He wrapped his arms around her.

“That’s great news! I know how hard you’ve been studying and training. What was it like?”

She paused as if trying to find the right words.

“It was just like you described it to me. The feeling of power was incredible, but it also seemed sinister in a way.”

“I know you’ll be able to handle it.”

“Thanks.” She leaned in and gave him a kiss.

After dinner, the three Counselors, Claridee, and Mason went to an unused room so they could speak without being overheard. It contained a cot, a small table, and some chairs. When they were all gathered, Counselor Halrous stood up, a wide grin on his face. “I have an announcement to make.” He waited for everyone to look at him before continuing in a voice bubbling with excitement. “Trainee Claridee has become proficient in using her abilities.”

Counselor Janice stood up and gave Claridee a hug. “Congratulations Claridee, that’s wonderful news.”

Counselor Anklin beamed at her. “I knew you had it in you Claridee, well done.”

Mason watched as Claridee’s face turned a bright pink and, while he couldn’t be sure, thought he saw some tears of joy as well.

Once the congratulations to Claridee were complete, Counselor Anklin turned serious. He looked over at Counselor Halrous. “Halrous, I think we’re going to need some privacy.”

Counselor Halrous nodded. “Understood.”

Counselor Halrous stood up and stared at each wall of the room, paying special attention to the door.

As he was doing this, Mason leaned over to Claridee and whispered. “What’s he doing?”

Claridee whispered back. “He’s modifying the structural properties of the walls and door so sound can’t pass through them.”

Once these precautions were in place, Counselor Anklin recounted the events of the last four days: Klarth’s capture and escape, discovering Proust’s location, and finally, Counselor Tranlee’s betrayal.

This last piece of news deeply affected Counselor Halrous. He shook his head and struggled to get the words out.

“I can’t believe it. Tranlee was like a daughter to me, but I never suspected a thing.”

Unable to continue, he looked down and sighed. Mason was struck at how old he suddenly looked. It was as if the force that kept him going had suddenly been taken away.

Counselor Anklin put a hand on Counselor Halrous’ shoulder.

“I understand how you feel. She’s the last person I would have suspected of turning against the Council, but Proust got to her somehow. He’s even more dangerous than I thought; he not only has incredible power, but the force of will to convince people to follow him. He’s already started turning people against the Council, just look at what happened in Mastrion.”

Counselor Halrous looked up, his eyes moist.

“I know you’re right Anklin, but it still hurts. She’ll have to live with what she’s done for the rest of her life.”

Counselor Halrous sat there in silence, apparently deep in thought. Finally, he sat up straight and wiped his eyes. To Mason, he once again looked like the Counselor Halrous he’d always known. In a voice filled with determination he declared. “We have to stop Proust before he can ruin anyone else’s life.” He looked at Counselor Anklin. “When do we leave?”

Counselor Anklin took out the map he’d gotten while he and Mason were in Bendroff and laid it out in front of them.

“Since there aren’t any settlements near Proust’s location, we don’t have any current maps of the area. The only map I could find was this pre-war map.”

He pointed to a spot on the map.

“The doorway Proust traveled through led to a valley just north of the city of Antlorn. This matches the description Counselor Gorwold gave us. According to his testimony, the settlement was located in a valley near a large cave.”

At the mention of the name Antlorn, Counselor Halrous looked up, a startled expression on his face. “Did you say Antlorn?”

Counselor Anklin nodded. “Is something wrong?”

“I’m not sure, but it seems odd that Proust would be near Antlorn.”

“Why is that?” asked Claridee.

“Because it was in a medical facility near Antlorn where the ability to manipulate scientific laws was first discovered.”

“Not that old legend,” scoffed Counselor Anklin.

“It may be a legend,” replied Counselor Halrous, “but most legends have a kernel of truth in them. After all, Antlorn was one of the first cities destroyed in the war, so it must have been a place of importance. Besides, some of my ancestors were there and the story’s been passed down for generations.”

Counselor Anklin smiled. “Well, I certainly can’t argue against family history, but I doubt Proust chose the location of his settlement based on a legend. Right now we need to figure out how to get to him.”

Mason was slightly disappointed since he enjoyed hearing Counselor Halrous’ stories about Myscrethian history. Noticing his disappointment, Counselor Halrous whispered. “I’ll tell you the full story later.”

Counselor Janice looked over the map and pointed at an area northeast of Antlorn.

“This looks like a good area for us to arrive. It’s far enough away that we won’t be seen, and the city ruins should provide shelter and concealment.”

Counselor Anklin nodded.

“I think you’re right, but we have no way of knowing the condition of Antlorn’s ruins since we’ve never sent survey parties there. However, it does appear to be the only way we can approach without being seen.”

“What will we do once we get there?” asked Claridee.

“The first thing we have to do is get Darnia out of the way. As long as she’s with Proust, he’ll be able to escape.”

“And how can we do that?” wondered Mason.

“I don’t know,” Counselor Anklin admitted. “We’ll have to wait till we get there and see how things look before we can formulate a plan.”

“If that’s all settled, let’s get going,” exclaimed Counselor Halrous.

“I’d like to,” Counselor Anklin responded, “but it might look suspicious if we all suddenly left.”

“Good point Anklin,” agreed Counselor Janice. “We’ll say we’re returning to Bendroff and board the transport with the workers in the morning. Once in the air, we can have the transport change course to Dreardor after which you can open a doorway to Antlorn.”

Counselor Anklin nodded and then turned to two trainees.

“We’ll need enough food and water for several days, a portable generator, some lights, a heater, binoculars, and blankets. All of this should be on board the transport. If any of us Counselors went out to the transport, it might draw too much attention. However,” he gave a slight chuckle. “No one would pay much attention to two young people taking a stroll together. Find a safe place in the cargo hold to hide the supplies so we can get to them quickly when we’re ready to leave for Antlorn.”

“Right,” answered Claridee.

“Now don’t be out too long, we’ve got a busy day tomorrow.” he added with a sly wink.

While the workers were informed that they’d be leaving for Bendroff first thing in the morning. Mason and Claridee wished the Counselors a good night and told them they were going for a walk.

It was late by the time the two of them left the guest quarters, and the streets were empty. They held hands as they walked, enjoying each other’s company in silence. They took a roundabout route to the transport so it wouldn’t be obvious where they were going.

As they neared the transport, Claridee asked. “Mason, are you worried about what might happen when we get to Antlorn?”

He hesitated, wondering if he should put on a brave face, but chose to be honest about his concerns. “Yes, there’s no telling what Proust might do if we’re discovered. I suspect the Counselors feel the same way.”

She squeezed his hand.

“I guess I just wanted to be sure I wasn’t the only one.”

They quietly boarded the transport and started collecting the needed supplies. Mason was surprised that the generator was only about the size of a loaf of bread and was much lighter than he’d expected. Curious, he visualized it in his mind and found that its gravity had been modified to make it easy to carry. Even after all his time on Myscreth, he was still amazed at what manipulating scientific laws made possible.

In the cargo hold they found some backpacks and filled them with the supplies they’d gathered. After stuffing them with all they could hold, they hid the backpacks behind some crates. Checking to make sure that no one was in sight, they left the transport and headed back to the guest quarters.

It had now grown cold and Mason wrapped an arm around Claridee to warm her. As they walked, she leaned her head on his shoulder. The streets were now deserted, and the only sound they could hear was the wind. They rounded a corner not far from the guest quarters when Mason saw someone slipping out its front door. He quickly pulled Claridee back around the corner.

She seemed startled, and looked like she wanted to ask what was going on. But before she could speak, he put a finger to his lips and whispered. “I saw someone coming out of the guest quarters. It seems strange that someone would be going out this time of night.”

She nodded, and after looking around the corner grabbed his arm.

“They’re coming this way.”

The two of them quietly moved to the other side of the building and watched the person hurry towards the edge of the settlement.

“Did you recognize who it is?”

“It looks like Laundra, one of the workers who came here with Counselor Halrous and me.”

Once she’d passed, they crept forward and peered around the corner.

“We should follow her,” whispered Claridee.

Mason agreed, and they started moving parallel to the street she was walking on, careful to keep out of sight. Vandrous’ farming fields hadn’t yet been established so there were no lights outside the settlement. As Laundra reached the end of the settlement she turned on a small light and continued walking.

Mason paused.

“Come on,” whispered Claridee urgently. “She’s getting away.”

“But we don’t have a light.”

“Laundra’s light should be enough for us to see by.”

“Okay, let’s go.”

They tried to stay within twenty feet of Laundra, but even then her light still wasn’t much help in traversing the rocky terrain. Several times they tripped over unseen obstacles. After each fall they stayed down fearing that they’d been heard, but Laundra continued on showing no sign of having noticed. After one particularly bad fall, Claridee gave out a small cry of pain.

“Are you okay?” whispered Mason.

“I twisted my ankle,” she muttered through clenched teeth.

“We should go back.”

“No,” she argued in a low voice. “I can walk if I lean on you.”

He was about to ask if she was sure when he felt her grab his shoulder and whisper hoarsely. “Move it.”

They continued following Laundra until she stopped at the top of a small hill.

Afraid she’d hear them if they moved any closer, they crouched down at the bottom of the hill.

“Turn out the light,” hissed a voice from the darkness.

“That’s sounds like Darnia,” whispered Claridee.

Darkness engulfed them and the voice continued.

“What news do you have?”

Laundra answered. “Counselor Anklin, Counselor Janice, and Trainee Mason arrived tonight…”

“Wasn’t Counselor Tranlee with them?” the voice interrupted.

“No,” she replied. “There were just the three of them.”

“That’s odd. Now tell me what did they discuss?”

“They met together in a room for quite some time. I tried to listen, but couldn’t hear anything.”

“You heard nothing?” the voice replied angrily.

“I’m sorry, but I did my best,” Laundra replied fearfully.

There was a short silence before the voice continued, this time speaking in a soothing manner.

“I’m sure you did, and Counselor Proust deeply values your help.” She continued in the same soothing tone. “What are their plans?”

“We’ve been told that we’re leaving for Bendroff first thing in the morning,” answered Laundra, sounding relieved. “They haven’t said anything else.”

The voice replied. “You’ve done well Laundra. Go back before they notice you’re gone. I’ll contact you again when you return to Bendroff.”

“Thank you,” replied Laundra.

Mason and Claridee went down flat on the ground as Laundra turned on her light and started back down the hill. Neither moved as the woman passed within ten feet of them.

“Should we follow Darnia?” whispered Claridee when Laundra had gone past.

“No,” answered Mason. “We already know where she’s going.”

They could make out Laundra’s light rapidly moving away from them and beyond that, the lights of the settlement. The darkness significantly slowed their return trip to the settlement and had to stop several times when Claridee’s ankle became too painful to continue.

Both were exhausted by the time they reached the settlement and sat down against one of the buildings. Now that there was light, Mason examined Claridee’s ankle.

“It doesn’t seem to be broken,” he reported after feeling the bone, “and doesn’t appear too badly swollen. However, you should probably keep off of it for a day or two.”

She gave a small smile. “I’m sure it will be fine once it’s been wrapped. Besides, I wouldn’t want to miss out on our upcoming trip.”

After resting, they returned to the guest quarters, with Claridee leaning on Mason for support. They entered as quietly as possible in case Laundra was still awake. Once inside, they slipped into the room where they’d met earlier in the evening. After helping Claridee to a chair, Mason closed the door and turned on the light. Turning around, he was surprised to see Counselor Janice asleep on the cot.

Feeling embarrassed, he quickly looked away and whispered to Claridee. “See if you can wake her while I go to get the first aid kit and the other Counselors.”

She nodded. “Okay.”

When he returned with the first aid supplies, Counselor Janice was busy examining Claridee’s ankle. Mason handed her the bandages and she began wrapping Claridee’s ankle. When Counselor Janice finished, Claridee stood up and put pressure on the ankle.

“Feels much better,” she announced, but Mason could tell she was trying to put on a brave face.

Counselors Anklin and Halrous quietly entered the room. No one said a word until the door was closed and locked behind them. The modifications that Counselor Halrous had made to the bedroom walls and door earlier were still in effect so they could talk freely.

Mason and Claridee recounted following Laundra and her meeting with Darnia. Counselor Anklin nodded gravely when they described Darnia asking about Counselor Tranlee.

“I have to think that Proust has someone watching each Council member. He probably already knew about Janice and Mason meeting up with me and that we went to see Counselor Tranlee. Her absence will certainly cause him to suspect that we know about her betrayal. However, there’s nothing we can do about that now.”

There was silence as the two trainees finished describing the night’s events.

“What will happen to Laundra?” asked Claridee, concern in her voice.

Counselor Anklin gave a small smile.

“Nothing, we’ve already seen how persuasive Proust can be. In fact, she may have actually helped us. He now thinks we’re travelling to Bendroff and that might buy us some time.”

“I think you’re right,” agreed Counselor Halrous. “I see no need to change our plans.”

Counselor Janice addressed Mason and Claridee. “Were you able to gather the supplies?”

“They’re hidden in the cargo hold where we can get at them tomorrow.”

“Excellent,” responded Counselor Anklin. “Now, we’d all better get some rest; the next few days may be the most grueling any of us have ever faced.”

After an early breakfast the Counselors, Claridee, Mason, and the workers made their way to the transport. As the transport left the ground, the propellers sprung to life and Vandrous was soon behind them. Once they reached the cruising altitude of five thousand feet, Counsel Anklin whispered to the others. “I’m going to talk to the pilot. When I return, follow me to the cargo hold.” Mason and the others nodded as Counselor Anklin got up and spoke with the pilot.

Leaving the cabin, Counselor Anklin made his way to the door leading to the cargo hold at the rear of the passenger section. The four others got up and followed. Mason noticed the workers watching them, but none showed any outward concern.

Once in the cargo hold, Counselor Anklin locked the door behind them. They gathered the backpacks that Mason and Claridee had prepared the previous evening while Counselor Anklin opened a doorway. When the light stopped flashing, the five of them walked through.

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A note from parkertallan

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About the author

parkertallan

Bio: An engineer who enjoys writing something other than technical reports. Writing let's me share all the ideas floating around my mind. I hope my writing jump starts your imagination as so many books have done for me.

If you enjoy physics, check out https://physicswithcats.com/ for some fun stories which explain various physics topics.

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