Myscreth

by

parkertallan

Chapter Nineteen: Antlorn Passage

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The group pressed on, but progress wasn’t easy. Unable to risk moving in the open, they were forced to climb over piles of rubble and pass through the remnants of crumbling buildings. At times, Mason noticed a grimace flash across Claridee’s face, evidence that her ankle was still bothering her.

Reaching a particularly steep pile of rubble, Counselor Anklin looked it over and called out in a tired voice. “Let’s rest here and I’ll scout ahead to see if there’s a way around.”

“No, you stay here and get some rest Anklin,” offered Counselor Janice. “I’ll go on ahead.”

He nodded appreciatively. “Thanks Janice; the old body isn’t as spry as it used to be.”

Mason led Claridee to a flat stone where she could sit and knelt in front of her. “Let me look at your ankle.”

He tried to take the bandage off, but couldn’t. “Why can’t I …” he muttered. Suddenly remembering that Counselor Halrous had stiffened the bandage, he looked up at her. “Could you modify the bandage so I can take it off?”

A sad expression came over her face. “But Counselor Halrous did that for me.”

“I know, but I have to check your ankle,” responded Mason as gently as he could.

She gave a long stare at the bandage before looking at him. “It may seem silly, but I just want some tangible reminder of all Counselor Halrous did for me. This was the last thing he …” She lapsed into silence.

He wrapped her in a hug. The two of them remained that way until she said with a sigh. “I’m sorry, I thought I could be strong, but it’s so hard.”

“You are strong, Claridee,” encouraged Mason. “Look at all you’ve accomplished. Don’t doubt yourself.”

She gave him a grateful smile. “Thanks Mason, that means a lot.” She concentrated on the bandage. “The bandage should come off now.”

He removed the bandage and carefully examined her ankle. “Seems to be healing okay, but it will probably continue to hurt until you can rest it a few days.”

“That’s not happening anytime soon,” she replied with a failed attempt at a laugh. “I’ll just have to deal with it.”

When he finished wrapping her ankle, she once again concentrated on the bandage to stiffen it.

Counselor Janice soon returned. “The valley’s still about a mile away,” she reported. “I couldn’t see any guards, but we’re still too far away to be certain of that.”

“And what if there are guards?” asked Claridee hesitantly.

“We’ll have to prevent them from letting Proust know we’re here,” Counselor Anklin replied in a serious manner. “Normally we’d never use our abilities against innocent people, but Proust must be stopped. However, if we’re forced to use our abilities against those who’ve joined him, remember that we only want to impede, not injure.”

As they drew closer to the valley, their path along the edge of Antlorn grew more difficult and slowed their progress even more. Exhaustion made the stop for lunch all the more welcome. When they’d finished eating, Counselor Anklin set off to scout the way ahead. Mason noticed the concern on his face when he returned.

“It definitely looks like Proust has placed guards along out on the plateau,” he reported. “There are two lighted areas that look like camps and several smaller moving lights that are probably patrols. By now he must know that we never reached Bendroff. I don’t think he knows for certain that we’re here, but he’s clearly worried enough to take precautions.”

“Any guards near us?” asked Counselor Janice.

“No, the way ahead seems clear. Proust may consider the ruins a sufficient obstacle.”

“Or maybe he wants us to go this way,” Claridee pointed out.

“Yes, that thought had crossed my mind,” answered Counselor Anklin somberly, “but if we’re to stop Proust we have no other choice.”

It took the rest of the day for them to reach the edge of the valley. By then, there was barely enough light to see, but they couldn’t risk using their lights for fear of giving themselves away. Moving back into the ruins, they finally found a location that protected them from the wind and hid their lights. After setting up camp, they dug out some food and water from their packs for dinner.

“Where do we go from here Anklin?” asked Counselor Janice.

“We’ll have to wait till morning to get a good look at the valley,” he answered. “Hopefully, we’ll find some way to get to the settlement without being seen.”

Scanning the ruins around them, Counselor Janice advised. “I think it would be a good idea to have someone keep watch, just in case.”

“A wise precaution Janice,” replied Counselor Anklin. “I’ll take the first watch.”

“I’ll take the second watch,” added Counselor Janice.

“I’ll go third,” offered Mason.

“Well, I guess that leaves me with the fourth watch,” commented Claridee with a shrug of her shoulders.

Counselor Anklin made his way to a higher section of the ruins to keep watch while the others prepared to get some sleep.

As Mason and Claridee spread out their blankets, she whispered to him. “I’m not sure I’m ready for what’s ahead.”

Her words surprised him. “Why would you say that?”

She busied herself with smoothing her blanket before answering. “It’s just that I’m worried that I’ll make a mistake using my abilities and hurt someone.”

He paused as he tossed aside a rock that he found under the edge of his blanket. “I’ve seen how hard you’ve worked and studied. You won’t make any mistakes.”

She reached over and gave him a hug. “Thanks Mason, that makes me feel better.”

They wished each other good night and both were soon fast asleep.

Before he knew it, Mason felt himself being shaken awake by Counselor Janice who was holding a small light.

“Mason. It’s your watch.”

He sat up and rubbed his eyes.

“Okay, I’m up. How were things?”

“Quiet. It doesn’t look like there are any guards around here. If you see anything, wake all of us up immediately. Claridee’s up next.”

He wished Counselor Janice a good night and watched her crawl under her blanket. Taking the light, he headed for the top of a nearby mound where he could watch the surrounding area. The light was barely enough to see where he was stepping, but anything brighter would surely warn Proust of their presence. Once there, he turned off the light and used the binoculars to scan the area, but could see very little in the darkness.

All was quiet and he was about to head back to awaken Claridee when he suddenly saw a light moving up onto the plateau from the valley below. Straining to see more detail, he could make out two people slowly working their way along the edge of the ruins. Mason silently made his way back to their camp, being careful to keep his light hidden.

He quickly woke the others, motioning for them to be quiet as he did so. In a low voice he reported. “Two people are heading this way. They just came out of the valley.”

“Do you think they’ll be able to see us here?” asked Counselor Janice.

“I don’t think so, but they’ll pass close by.”

“We’ll stay here then,” declared Counselor Anklin in a low voice. “It’ll be safer than trying to move.”

The group crouched behind a large section of concrete and listened for the approaching guards. They could now hear the tell-tale sound of feet walking on gravel and the din of low voices.

As they drew closer, Mason peaked out and saw two men walking towards them. Soon they were near enough to hear their conversation.

“…out here at night. We never had to do this before.”

“I’d certainly rather be in a nice warm bed, but I’m not about to say ‘No’ to Counselor Darnia.”

Mason heard a sharp intake of breath by the two Counselors.

Beams of light flashed over the ruins and above their heads.

“She seemed pretty certain that Anklin and his Earth allies are out here somewhere,” continued one of the men.

“Well, I certainly hope we don’t find them. There’s no telling what they’d do to us,” responded the other with fear evident in his voice.

The two men continued on in silence with only the sound of their footsteps betraying their presence. As the sound of the footsteps diminished, Mason breathed a sigh of relief.

After the sound of the men’s footsteps could no longer be heard, Counselor Anklin whispered in a distressed tone. “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen anyone on Myscreth fear the Council. Proust’s convinced his followers that we’re monsters. Even if we defeat him, it will take a lot of work to overcome the damage he’s done to the Council’s reputation.” He briefly paused, but resumed speaking with a more determined tone. “However, we’ll deal with that when we have to. Right now, our top priority is defeating Proust.”

“Yes,” agreed Counselor Janice emphatically. “Especially since it’s now clear that his plan is to establish his own Council. He must be stopped.”

After the close call, no one felt like going back to sleep and the group started packing their equipment and ate a quick breakfast. As they finished, a slight hint of light could be seen on the eastern horizon.

They waited until there was light enough to see and moved up into a ruins to study the valley below. The valley was about two miles wide with steep sides that were strewn with boulders and crevasses. The ruins extended into the upper half of the valley.

The valley floor was relatively clear with what appeared to be the remnants of a paved road running through it. The settlement itself was at the far end of the valley, about a mile and a half beyond where the ruins ended. The eastern side of the valley was a collection of boulders and debris, which except for a small area along the ruins, appeared impassable. The western side of the valley wasn’t much better, but at least it looked like one could make their way along it.

Counselor Anklin scanned the valley with the binoculars and shook his head. “The only way we can reach the settlement without being seen is to go along the western side of the valley. Unfortunately, to get there we have to get through the ruins.” He pointed at the valley below. “It looks like they start clearing out about halfway down. Once we get down there, we should be able to work our way across.”

Counselor Janice nodded. “The trick will be getting down there without being seen.”

When she finished speaking, Counselor Janice gave Counselor Anklin an expectant look and he returned her gaze. Finally, he nodded.

He turned to Mason and Claridee. “Janice and I discussed this earlier;” he paused as if searching for the right words. “As Counselors, it’s our responsibility to fight Proust, but we can’t let the two of you …”

Mason was surprised when Claridee interrupted, eyes flashing. “It’s as much our fight as yours.” She stared at the Counselors, resolute.

At first, he didn’t understand why she was so upset, but then realized what Counselor Anklin was trying to say: they planned to leave them behind.

He tried to control his anger. “Proust is threatening Earth too and I can’t sit by and let it happen.”

Counselor Anklin gave Counselor Janice a small smile. “I told you they’d react this way, Janice.”

“I know Anklin, but we had to try,” she responded sadly.

He gave them what Mason considered to be a look of pride. “There’s no guarantee we’ll be successful or even survive. I want you to know that before we continue.”

Claridee and Mason nodded.

“Very well then,” directed Counselor Anklin. “Let’s go.”

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A note from parkertallan

Thanks for reading. Comments and suggestions are always welcome.


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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