A Huge Stone Garden
“You are the Martin, brother of Jake?” said the wizard, who, towering over him as he did, could not help but present a menacing visage above the not all the way filled out 17 year old.
“Tzetridge . . .” the man answered as if the name should mean something.
“You've not heard of me?” Tzetridge seemed a bit dejected. “So, no record survived - it's only been . . .” he looked at his watch “Oh... it has been awhile”
“Oh, since I left your reality.”
“Uh...when did you leave?” Martin asked pausing to adjust to the idea of other realities.
“Oh, um, 9000 years ago.” Tzetridge said, looking at his bare wrist.
“I haven't heard of you.”
“Typical - humanity can't evem remember recent history properly, who was to think they'd remember me.” Tzetridge said with an air of disappointment.
“So, is this what happens?” Martin was trying not to show how rattled he was, but if he got the wrong answer he could do nothing else but break.
“It's more what might happen.” What terrified Martin wasn't the possibility of a grim fate. A grim fate had been looming for a while. It was the ease at which Tzetridge had become distracted - almost to the point of forgetting what was going on; who is calm in the face of such carnage? And what horrors must Tzetridge have endured to desensitize him to such a ridiculous extent?
“So what makes the difference?”
“We're not entirely sure... Maybe you, maybe someone close to you, maybe someone or thing else, but there are paths to a better future. One hero might save the life of or even inspire a future savior. Seek first a path to an end... like I said, the long game is needed. Your brother Jake was a key but a key to what, or who? Now we know it was someone close to him, or at least someone close to someone close to him.”
“Is Jake alive”
“Yes, we have been taking people, we had no choice.”
“What about my sister's friend, River.”
“She is with us as well.”
“You got a lotta fucking nerve. Do you even get what you've done?” Martin wanted so badly to beat Tzetridge to a pulp, but not only was he sure he had no chance of actually harming what was obviously a wizard, Martin wanted to hear his explanation. On balance however, it was only the elation he felt hearing his hunch about Marin's brother and sisters soul mate confirmed that allowed him to listen to a word of it before what still remained of his sanity completely collapsed.
“We are impossibly outgunned by the warlocks. Our only hope is to take acolytes and begin to build an army. It was a choice between taking people as quickly as we could to a place the warlocks do not know, or fail in an idiotic attack on an entrenched and superior adversary. This was the best case scenario. You see we didn't realize the extent of the breach right away.”
“Breach . . ?”
“Ah, yes, let me start from the beginning... well more an end, but a very old end.” Martin was confused already but he was learning to allow whoever these people were some time to find a point.
“12000 years ago, we Mages, the wizard sect who work to propagate life to the point of translation - the point at which we become energy. We sought to find a key to such a state, but we had hit a dead end. Despite mastering Majik to the point of virtual immortality, we could not find our final solution. Eventually a mage went mad; he formed a cult calling themselves Warlocks. They sought to find a solution by experimenting on normal humans.
It was against the very essence of Majik but they justified it based on their mad seers misinterpretation of your apocalypse.”
“Our Apocalypse?” Martin spotted something familiar.
“They thought humanity would destroy itself, and us with you, but they failed to see their and our factor in the equation. It was corruption that destroyed them, and is corruption that might destroy you, but it might be Majik's removal that proves most harmful.” The Mage paused as if repressing a massive portion of that same trauma that holds back the impact of the world around him.
“Soon, a war began, and it lasted 3000 years. Finally, a solution was proposed. The Druids, the sect of Wizards who saw the Earth as a life form and a God, built a huge stone garden and we spread a rumor through the front lines we had solved the riddle and to achieve our goal: one only had to enter a majikly illuminated section of the garden. In reality, it was a clocked gateway to a pocket dimension that would become their - and our as guards - prison.”
“You're talking about Stonehenge?”
“So you've heard of that!” Tzetridge seemed offended that Martin knew about something but not him. “Needless to say, after holding them for 9000 years, they found an escape, came here and entrenched themselves in seats of power. It is we who were tricked this time.”
“What do you mean”
“They are roughly 50 years ahead of us . . .”
“50 years - do we even have a chance?” blurted Martin, becoming far more keenly aware of how bad things were; the stability provided via news on Jake was wearing thin.
“Those who live a fleeting time never get the long game. I have lived for 14 millennia - believe me when I say 50 years is less than you think. There is always hope, no matter how late the hour, so long as one honorable warrior still draws breath, too stubborn to die.”
“What do you expect me to do?” Martin had to stop himself from a wry laugh. A 14000 year old wizard was asking a 17 year old for help.
“No idea . . . that's why we have been cautious in recruiting you.”
“No idea – great - narrows it down!” With every word Martin was becoming less and less relieved to discover the root of the crisis, and more and more convinced that those who thought all was lost were right - just not as to why.
“I only know what I know.”
“Wait - cautious, why?” Martin felt a knot in his stomach as it dawned on him something was being withheld. Well . . . ?” Tzetridge's silence betrayed him; Martin's assessment was doubtless correct.
“When we took Jake and investigated his family, we found that two people close to him, or close to someone close to him would play pivotal role in the war to come.”
“Good, more the merrier.”
“You don't understand,”
Martin paused a moment. After everything else, he was sure he didn't want to know, but he felt as if he had to press.
“So tell me!”
“One might be key in victory, the other in our defeat; I did not want to burden you.”
“Well, too late.” Martin spoke in a flat subdued tone, but only in the way one would lower their voice when they were raging inside.
“One of you - one among your family and friends, and not either parent will grow to lead the warlocks. The seeds are their in all of them; in the end, it will be a task of the former to stop the latter.”
“You mean kill them!” Martin was suddenly more comfortable with his back to Tzetridge, fist balled tight.
“There are few other ways to stop Warlocks, but nothing is absolute. In the end we cannot coexist with any who seek to destroy another being for any other reason than defense of self or liberty. You have them yourselves, Nazis and the like and the institutions of your world are rife with patently offensive policies: racism, gender inequality, prisons none of it is accidental. It is done by the same people, just in different uniforms, be they nazis, Warlocks or - what they go by next, fascists all seek the same domination and control. And as I have begun to explain, we've tried many other ways, to no avail. “
“You've lost then.”
“Because I can tell you, no one among us will kill any other. You don't give up on kin. My friends, my brother, my sisters - I know them all in ways you never could.”
“If that is Gya's will, so it will be. Regardless, you will soon join your brother with us. Stay where you are, and I will send for you soon.” said Tzetridge.
“Stay where?, What - here?”
“Don't be ridiculous, you're not actually here.” Tzetridge waved his hand and the scene faded as Martin began to feel faint. Martin again felt as if he had imploded only to explode back into himself a moment later.
Before he knew it, Martin was launched into soft, wet ground covered in leaves. Frustrated and exhausted, Martin sat up, removing leaves from his mouth and lamenting the fact that he would likely be picking leafy bits from his teeth three days later. That's when it dawned on him where he was; Martin had been deposited at a campground outside of town. He thought about running home, knowing how worried everyone would be but the sun was setting and he did not want to tell the story he had just endured falling over tired. So Martin found a dryer patch on land and lay down to rest.
~ Mass Escape at Alterra Prison ~
Through a Looking Glass
As Jamie, Sam and Jose trod their way down the trail towards the campground their families had visited in prior summers, Sara and Rayn found the going tougher than their older counterparts.
“Can we slow down?” Sara sighed.
“What - can't deal with a little hardship?” Rayn was only a few strides ahead of her sister and might have been the one to complain in different company, but the opportunity to show up Sara added further benefit in her eyes to impressing Jamie and Jose, both of whom she looked up to quite a bit.
“Oh, like you're happy about this - at least I'm honest.” Sara spat back in reply.
“We could always just leave you two behind so we don't have to listen to your preteen drama.” Jose quipped - an empty threat - hoping to embarrass the both of them into shutting up. “ What exactly are we expecting to find again?” He continued betraying his own annoyance with the situation. Jose, though, was determined to both allow and be allowed to do whatever each member of the group needed to do to process their emotions after the day they'd had.
“No clue.” Sam said as he led the group “but if all of you would shut up you'd save a lot of energy... we're almost there anyway.”
Jose was annoyed at his brother lumping him into a group with the twins, but decided arguing would only provide Sam further ammo. Sam on the other hand was in his element and thoroughly loving the fact that he was better at something than Jose by a wide margin. While Sam had achieved a lot and the Ramirez family did their best to be supportive, they were far less able to relate to his athletic accomplishments as well as they could their other sons intellectual feats.
Jamie for her part was sick of all the testosterone, a frequent problem being the lone female in a group of close friends. Martin was the most relaxed member of the group most of the time; only hours into it, the daunting idea of a Martin-less world was already manifesting havoc in Jamie's life. The normal balance between the four friends hadn't shifted - it was flat broken. With that notion, she decided the best thing for her to do was to push past the lot as she called on a second wind, beating the boys to the campgrounds by several meters.
“What the fuck!” Jamie called out, confusing everyone as she arrived at campgrounds.
“We better hurry, the humans are starting to take an interest. A ship just approached us but I took care of it.” A tall figure standing on the edge of an ancient fortress near the North Pole called to his master.
“What did you do?” asked the wizard, who was covered in a cloak made of what looked like scales and wearing rings on ever finger 3 or them doubled up to fit more and a necklace with 8 amulets of power adorned the obvious general of the group.
“I killed them.” Cranic, being something of a novice, felt he had done something worthy of praise.
“Cranic, you fool, why would you do such an idiotic thing?”
“Lord Merlyn, you've said no price is too high.”
“I'm not concerned with those you slaughtered, I am concerned with the search parties that will be out at dawn looking, and the fact that there are treasures here they might blunder into that we have not the time nor man-power to take.”
“Do you really think human's could find this place when it's cloaked?”
“Considering the artifact we came for is missing, I would say they may already have.”