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A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. September's Theme: "Relationships"
Volume 4 Issue 6 ISSN# 1708-3265
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Chapter Five

by Jennifer Kusz

Just joined in? Haven't read the entire story? Well, if you missed it, here's a link to:
Chapter One - Chapter Two
Chapter Three - Chapter Four

That night Jenny dreamt of two young boys, brothers. They chased each other, wrestling in the dirt, oblivious to the tears in their breeches, the bumps and bruises forming on elbows and knees. A distant giggle caused one of them to pause. The other took advantage of the distraction, pinning his brother to the ground. The giggle sounded again, this time closer. It came from a freckle-faced red-haired girl standing nearby, watching the boys' mock-fight. She put a hand to her face and giggled again. The pinned boy looked up and grinned bashfully, his face reddening. Then, with one swift motion he shoved his brother to the side and stood facing the girl, feet wide and hands on hips, the grin never leaving his face. Pink circles formed on the girl's cheeks as their gazes locked. The other boy stepped between them, offering his hand and his name to the girl.

"Name's Jack, this is my brother John." The girl allowed him to take her hand and she blushed more severely as he pressed it to his lips, the pink spots on her cheeks darkening and spreading. Her gaze, however, never left John's while his brother attempted to win her fancy with charm.

When she spoke her name, her voice was barely above a whisper and sounded soft and sweet as honey. "I'm Elsie."

Just then, another voice called out from the distance, the stern voice of an older woman. "Elsie!"

She tore her hand from Jack's, smiled once more at John and then turned and ran.

"Elsie," John whispered, his eyes fixed to the path on which her feet had trod.

A sharp hiss sliced through the dream and Jenny awoke. "John! Wake up!"

"Jack, what is it?" Jenny asked in John's gruff voice. Dawn's light had not yet penetrated the shadows of the forest, and Jack's face was barely detectable.

"I heard whispers, footsteps. Could be thieves."

"We will break camp, it is nearly dawn. Wake the men and tell them to keep their weapons at the ready. I will keep watch."

Jack darted swiftly from one bedroll to the next, rousing the men. John's movements felt oddly familiar to Jenny as she rose from the hard ground, his dagger in hand, and she worried once again that she might become lost in the Captain. With his practiced senses, she listened and watched through the darkness for any sign of peril. No sound could be heard beyond the quiet rustling of the men packing their things. The birds and critters of the woods still slumbered, waiting for that first hint of morning. No shadows moved on the outskirts of the camp. Nothing suspicious, and yet a knot had formed in Jenny's stomach and the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. She felt as if they were being watched like prey. The grip on John's sword tightened. Jack returned to his brother's side.

"The men are ready."

"Let's move. We'll stay off the main road until light."

They led the horses through the maze of brush and pine. The men and horses seemed nervous alike, heads whipping from side to side, searching for the predator who hunted them. Jack approached the captain with concerns that breaking camp had not been a wise move.

"Should we not stand ground and wait for the attacker to come to us? The men are worried, John."

"Keep moving."

"But they could take us by surprise."

"It is best if we keep moving. Be on guard and there will be no surprises. It will be light soon, and then we may see the man or men who track us."

"Yes, Captain."

Grey light filtered through the branches, revealing a shallow river of mist snaking its way along the forest floor, clinging to the ankles of the men. As they followed this newly formed path, Jenny sensed their unease. She tried several times to step out of the fog and onto clear ground. The vaporous path moved with her, and the knot in her stomach grew larger.

"There is something supernatural about this, brother," Jack spoke. John fell back in line, encouraging his men onward. Silently and hesitantly, they continued along the path of mists. Tendrils reached up and curled around their wrists as they trudged through the murky soup. Jenny struggled to maintain control over her psyche, as fear and confusion weakened her resolve. The distinction between the two was becoming less clear as John's mind enveloped hers.

"John," Jack spoke, touching his brother's shoulder. "John, what is this?" As though in response, a shrill and shrieking laughter pierced the thick air. It seemed to come from all around, from above and below, from everywhere and yet nowhere, the source mysterious and unseen. Its tone mocking, its resonance otherworldly, John knew it could only belong to one man. "The necromancer."

The laughter grew in intensity until all thought and reason threatened to abandon Jenny entirely. The men surrounding John covered their ears and fell to their knees. Horses whinnied and bucked, trying to free themselves from the reins. Only John remained standing, his hands at his side. His horse twitched nervously, but made no attempt to escape. Jenny longed to cover her own ears, but realizing she no longer had ears to cover, and sensing John's strength, she retreated into the quiet cavern of his mind, hiding from the necromancer's power and relinquishing all but a sliver of control to the man whose body she inhabited.

"It's a trick," John said. "It's a trick, men! Stand your ground!" He whispered something to his horse, then let go the reins and moved amongst the party of men, touching each on the shoulder, bending down to whisper in their ears. Jenny could not hear the words spoken, but saw through John's eyes the calming effect as each man lowered his hands and rose to his feet. When the last man stood, John returned to his steed, pausing to stroke the muzzle of the beast before taking the reins and shouting "Onward!"

The laughter ceased, supplanted by an eerie and unnatural silence. John's voice rang out as he cried into the mist. "Necromancer! I know your tricks and I do not fall for them! We march for home! Remove your mists, old man, and let us pass! If you dare challenge us, then show yourself!"

Laughter ensued with unbearable magnitude. John's hands clenched and he refused to submit, even as the men around him were driven back to their knees. The mists at his feet began to gather before him, forming into a neat sphere, then lengthening upwards and solidifying into a single standing stone. A bright light radiated from the centre of the stone and the stone burst, sending a shower of rock and gravel onto the crippled troop. John lifted his arm to shield his face, expecting the pain of a thousand shards hitting his forearm. Surprised at the lack of sensation, he lowered his arm and saw that the remains of the stone had disappeared. In its place stood a wizened man, leaning against a staff as gnarled as the bones it supported. Hair cascaded like white falls from scalp to knees, a sharp contrast to the ink-blue robes which descended in heavy folds to the forest floor. Black eyes flecked with gold rested in a bed of wrinkles. Jagged teeth, like those of a wolf, were barely visible behind dry and cracked lips, lips which curved into smile. The powerful laughter had been replaced by a hoarse cough-like chuckle, and the old man's shoulders shook to the rhythm of it.

"What do you want with us, old man?" John asked.

"Old man?" More chuckling.

"Why do you mock us? Answer me, necromancer!" John reached out with the intent of grabbing the old man by his shoulders, but with a swiftness that belied his appearance the necromancer gripped John's wrists and squeezed with crushing strength. John winced against the pain and then asked again, through clenched teeth, "What do you want with us?"

Releasing his wrists, the necromancer replied calmly, "I have something of yours."

"What could you possibly have that I would want?"

"Perhaps we could barter."

"I do not barter with dark wizards."

"He thought you might say that."

"Who is this that you speak of, old man?"

"I believe you know him. His name is O'Connor. Thomas O'Connor."

She was with that Thomas. He had a mean face on him. She had the look of a broken horse on her, John. The words of John's brother echoed in what remained of Jenny's mind. A seething mixture of anger and fear boiled in John's gut. "What have you done with her?"

The necromancer turned and glided away from them, dematerializing from the ground up and leaving John stunned and bewildered. "Necromancer, come back! What have you done with her?"

A woman's scream ripped through the air and John cried out, "Elsie!" He reached forward, attempted to catch the necromancer before he vanished completely. Fingertips barely brushed a lock of white hair and the old man was gone. "Follow the mists!" came the whispered command, and John knew he had no choice but to obey.

Chapter Six will be published in our November 2007 issue.

Jennifer is happily married to a wonderful woman, Lisa. Theirs is a union of true, deep, respectful love… the kind we all dream about. Of course we mustn't forget… their beautiful little fur-family! Her two cats - Max and Hazel, dogs - Daisy (and Queenie, who is frolicking in puppy-heaven), rats Gloria, Fifi, Charlie, Tobey, Abby and Allie. Her hamster - Poohbear and aquatic-turtles Maximus and S.A.M.

Jennifer is embarking on a new career as a Behavioral Analyst and also works part time at a group home providing care to persons with physical and developmental disabilities.

She is also a writer and poet with a passion for the written word since childhood. Jennifer's poetry has been featured in The Prologue, an annual publication of the University of WI, River Falls, Body Mind Spirit Magazine and here at TSM.

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