Mace Black, Page 354-360 by Wolfenshire ()
Members remain the original copyright holder in all their materials here at Renderosity. Use of any of their material inconsistent with the terms and conditions set forth is prohibited and is considered an infringement of the copyrights of the respective holders unless specially stated otherwise.
Mace Black, Page 354-360
She was trying hard not to be upset over Sern, he hadn’t even mentioned her in the letter. If anything, she felt foolish. The warning signs that Sern was upset with her had been there for a while, and she had missed them all.
She remembered he had warned her to start sharing in the chores, and she had asked to learn to cook, but she had lost interest in that after two days. She wouldn’t admit it to anyone else, but she had taken advantage of the boys. She needed them more than they needed her. That had been the problem from the beginning, she didn’t know how to do anything. She would have been dead that first day at the Temple if it wasn’t for Sern and his brothers.
She would show them all, she would learn to be independent and survive on her own. She heard a twig snap and nearly came out of her skin. She turned her head towards the sound and saw Gaevin and his two tigers walking parallel to her in the woods.
“I don’t need you guarding me,” she said.
“I’m not guarding you, I’ve just never seen anyone get eaten by a wolf before and wanted to watch,” said Gaevin.
Jasai spun around, expecting to see a wolf ready to pounce. She scanned the woods for any movement of a wolf and saw none. She turned back to Gaevin, but he was already gone. “You’re a mean, nasty little boy,” Jasai shouted. She continued walking, but did keep an eye out for wolves. She really shouldn’t expect anything better from Gaevin, all Falcons had a mean streak. She had never met a Falcon she liked, even Hawks were better, at least the Hawks didn’t play cruel pranks.
Her stomach was starting to grumble. She should have eaten breakfast before leaving the farm, now she would have to stop and try to make lunch. She heard the distinctive sound of a horse at a full gallop ahead on the path. She stepped off to the side of the path and waited. A Post Rider appeared ahead, but not appeared as in came around a bend, but appeared as in the rider wasn’t there, and then the rider was there. It was like they faded quickly into existence from some phantom zone. It was a little creepy, especially the first time they had seen one. You could always hear the rider before they appeared, probably to warn people to get out of the way.
The Post Riders had only just started appearing, but then Roael hadn’t known anyone so he had never gotten mail before. Most of the letters came to Batheba at first, and then the Cormons, and the new Tarlock got a ton of letters from everywhere. The Post Rider slowed and Jasai’s heart leaped into her throat, maybe Sern had written her a letter.
The Post Rider stopped and dismounted, but didn’t come to her. He went to the other side of the path and held up a letter. “Letter for Tarabeth of the Sherata,” he shouted.
Tarabeth, with Gaevin on her back, came out of the forest. Gaevin took the letter and handed the Post Rider a coin, though he didn’t need to, he was just showing off how wealthy he was by giving a tip – the sender was responsible for paying the rider. Tarabeth turned and ran back into the forest.
Jasai frowned. Gaevin and his tigers were still following her.
She forced herself to keep her head up and not look disappointed. Sern hadn’t written her a letter. The Post Rider walked back to his horse, but instead of mounting, he retrieved a second letter from his saddle bag. He came over to Jasai and looked down at her.
“Letter for Jasai Raven of Little Wings Ranch,” he announced and held out the letter.
Jasai grinned and took the letter, and shrugged when she noticed he was waiting for a tip. She didn’t have any money to give him. The Post Rider didn’t react to not getting a tip and went back to his horse. She watched him gallop away, and then fade back to that phantom zone, or wherever it was they came from.
Jasai looked at the envelope – it was a deep grey color with her name written in stark black script writing. This did not look like Sern’s handwriting at all. She turned the letter over, it was sealed with black wax and the initials ‘LS’.
“LS?” she whispered to herself. “Could that stand for Land of the Shadows?”
She broke the seal and opened the envelope. Inside was a letter. She took the letter out and unfolded it. The letter had gold embossing around the edges. She read the letter.
‘You are cordially invited to interview for admittance to the Library of Shadows. Please verbally acknowledge or decline this invitation.’
“Oh, LS stood for Library of Shadows,” she said to herself. “But, what was the Library of Shadows?” Any library was a good library, but this had to be a great library. The very thought of idling her time away reading ancient lost tombs would appeal to any Jackdaw, and maybe the Library of Shadows was in the Land of the Shadows, and a library would be exactly where someone would keep the Raven Law. Could her quest be this easy? She looked up and said, “I accept the invitation.”
Immediately a bridge opened, but not a Crystal Bridge as she had seen them. It still looked like it was made of crystal, but a deep shadowy black kind of crystal. She walked to the edge of the Bridge and tentatively put a foot on the edge.
“No, stop, wait,” shouted Gaevin.
She looked out at the woods and saw Gaevin on Maseth’s back with Tarabeth next to him charging towards her. Gaevin must switch back and forth between the two tigers to keep them from getting jealous. She ran to the center of the Bridge and stopped just in front of the portal. The last time someone had told her not to go through a portal it had been Jon Black trying to stop them from entering The Land of Ancestors. They hadn’t listened and now were trapped here. Maybe she should listen. But, it was Gaevin, why should she listen to him?
She stepped through the portal and ran down the other side of the Bridge. She paused for just a moment. Until she stepped off the Bridge, she wasn’t committed, she could still go back. No, let Gaevin have to go back and explain to Batheba that he lost her. That would teach the little brat. She stepped off the Bridge and it immediately disappeared behind her.
The brightness hit her first as a stab of pain exploded in her eyes. The Night markings on her arms flared instinctively and shrouded her in a shadow of night. She pulled her cloak over her head and put her sunglasses on. The heat struck her next and nearly took her breath away. This was not the Land of the Shadows. She felt like she was standing on the surface of the sun. She glanced up and counted the suns in the sky – six of them. This was not a place a Raven wanted to stay long.
Jasai let the dark flames on her arms diminish slowly until they were barely visible, then one by one let them extinguish. She moved the night shadow across her eyes and reduced the dark flames until only one remained. She had practiced with her Night markings much more than her Raven boys had and was very adept with at least her ability to manipulate the night shadows around her. She pulled the cloak hood off her head, but left her sunglasses on. The dark flame remaining on her wrist was now so small it would be hard for someone to see it. Jasai was now satisfied she was expending a minimum amount of energy to maintain continuous protection for her sensitive eyes.
Next she surveyed her surroundings. It was hot, really hot. She was standing on a road that cut through a desert of white sandy dunes. She agreed with her initial assessment, this was not the Land of Shadows, more like The Land of No Shadows. She wouldn’t have noticed the creature sitting on the rock next to the path if it wouldn’t have been for its tail swinging back and forth. The creature startled her for a moment, it blended in perfectly with the rock, but it was wearing clothes, not much clothes, but still an indication it was a person and not an animal. Though, it could still be dangerous.
The creature was small, maybe not much bigger than her, and resembled a very small Daiami, in a distant cousin sort of way. Its scales were a brownish tan that blended really well with the environment. The tail had a barb at the end. “Ah,” she thought, “if it was anything similar to a Daiami, then that meant it was a male, maybe a boy. Yes, definitely a boy, female Daiami didn’t have barbs on their tails.”
The lizard boy was facing away from her, and apparently completely unaware she had arrived. The boy had something in his hand and was inspecting it carefully. “Excuse me,” she said. The boy jumped at least three feet in the air and scrambled behind the rock. A moment later it poked its head around the rock and looked at her.
“Are you going to eat me?” the boy asked.
“I am hungry, but I don’t usually eat boys,” replied Jasai.
The boy stood, tipped it’s head to the side. Jasai noted that in at least that, he was not similar to a Daiami, the Darai tipped their heads, not the Daiami. He took a tentative step out from behind the rock and held the thing he had been inspecting out. It was a dead animal of some sort – kind of looked like a big rat. He slowly walked towards her with the dead animal and held it out to her.
“Here, you’re hungry, this is good, you can have it,” he said with a smile filled with fangs. She wasn’t freaked out by fangs, the Darai had fangs also. She stared at the dead animal. This was not going to be pleasant, but she had gotten high marks in First Contact Protocol Class at the Temple and knew what she had to do. She took the dead rat thing and thanked him, swallowed hard, and lifted it to take a bite. She opened her mouth and was about to take a bite when he said, “Oh, you eat your food raw, I like to cook mine first.”
Jasai froze and glared at him. The disgusting rat was less than an inch from her mouth. She had made a cultural mistake, thinking he wanted her to eat the rat right now. “That’s a wonderful idea,” she said. “Let’s save it to cook for later.”
His eyes sparkled and he smiled. “Okay.”
Jasai noticed his eyes didn’t have that swirling deep fire the Daiami had. The Daiami always looked angry, though that was only the Warrior Class that was always angry. The Tarlocks had the same fire in their eyes, but somehow they made it seem more like they were just very intense. This boy’s eyes were filled with curiosity.
“Is there any water?” asked Jasai. The heat was starting to get to her, but she didn’t want to use up the water in her flask if there was water nearby.
“Oh yes,” he said. “I’ll get you some.”
The boy took off at a run down the road. Jasai looked at the road stretching to the horizon and beyond, and there wasn’t anything that looked like a place to get water. It was just sand on both sides of the road.
“Wait,” she called out. The boy stopped and turned around, smiling. “How far away is the water?”
He scratched his head, then pointed the way he had been running. “That way, umm… two days.”
Jasai shook her head in bewilderment. “How were you going to carry the water?”
The boy tipped his head to the side thinking, then cupped his hands. Jasai blinked behind her sunglasses. He was going to run two days, get water in his cupped hands, and run back two days. Okay, he might be a delightfully curious creature, but he was dumb as a box of rocks. She liked him.
“Never mind, come on back,” she called to him.
He trotted back and stood in front of her, his tail swinging happily back and forth. He stood there smiling for a moment, then his face turned to anger. He hissed and leaped at her. She jumped sideways and drew her dagger, thinking he was attacking, but he went past her. She turned to watch as he jumped on something that looked like a cross between a bobcat and a kangaroo. It was some kind of predator that had been sneaking up on her.
The boy became all claws, fangs, and barbed tail, rolling and battling on the ground with the beast. The animal bit him on the arm, but did no damage – his scales were thick enough to protect him. He got the beast by the throat and his barbed tail whipped around and that was the end of the thing. He stood, shook himself like a dog shaking off water, and held the bobcat-kangaroo thing up.
“Big dinner,” he smiled.
Jasai’s mouth dropped open. He was brave, fearless, strong, only a hand taller than her, and dumb as a rock. He was the perfect boy. She went from like to love in two seconds. That had always been the problem with Sern and his brothers, they were fearless also, but too intelligent. She always felt like they were taking center stage when she should always be the center of attention.
“What’s your name?” asked Jasai.
The boy hissed. “Ziiiilllllsssszzz.”
“My name is Jasai,” she said. “How about I just call you, Zil?”
He smiled. “Okay.”
She studied his clothing, trying to determine his species level of advancement. The clothing wasn’t dyed, but the stitching was intricate. So, they were at least able to spin cloth and make fine needles. He wasn’t carrying any tools, but he was a desert dweller and his claws, fangs, and barbed tail would make up any need for weapons at this stage. She walked closer and pretended to admire his kill, he did seem proud of it, but she really wanted a closer look at the necklace he wore. There was a pattern to it, but not one she knew. It was a series of loops intertwined with each other, and the necklace wasn’t bronze, it was iron. She guessed his people to be mid to late Iron Age.
The sound of a horse at full gallop alerted her to a Post Rider coming. “Quick, get off the road,” she said.
They moved to the side of the road just in time to see the Post Rider appear. He stopped and dismounted. “Letter for Jasai Raven of Little Wings Ranch,” he said.
“That’s me,” said Jasai, running to him and taking the letter. It had the same seal as before from The Library of Shadows. “Thank you.”
The Post Rider produced a second letter. “Letter for Ziiiilllllsssszzz of the Mathor,” hissed the Post Rider.
Jasai’s head snapped up. She had heard of the Mathor. That was where Batheba and Sern had gone. Sern was somewhere on this world. She thought to ask the boy if he knew where Sern was, but the boy was looking so sadly at the unopened letter she immediately forgot.
“I don’t have any money,” said Zil.
“Zil, the sender pays for the post, you don’t have to pay him,” said Jasai.
“I can’t read,” said Zil. “You have to pay for the Post Rider to read the letter.”
“Oh, maybe I can read it for you,” offered Jasai.
Zil brightened up and handed her his letter. “Okay.”
Jasai opened his letter and looked at it. “Oh no, I can’t read this language.”
Zil gave her a weak smile. “That’s okay.”
Jasai looked up at the Post Rider. “Hold on, I can guarantee payment through Little Wings Ranch, Roael Raven will loan me the money.”
The Post Rider nodded. “Credit has been requested, one moment.” The Post Rider turned away from her and said, “Crystal Bank, please.”
A Crystal Bridge appeared, and a moment later a man in a fine suit and a pocket watch chain dipped into a vest pocked came through the portal. He carried a ledger under his arm and walked smartly to the end of the Bridge. He was followed by two assistants carrying - Jasai shook her head - this was getting too weird. The assistants were carrying half of a bank teller cage, but just the front part with the little ledge for the customer and bars to protect the teller from bank robbers. They walked around the Bridge, set the teller cage in the sand, and took a position on each side. The man in the fine suit stepped up behind the teller cage and said. “Next customer.”
Jasai rolled her eyes. The Crystal Universe was certainly full of surprises. She walked up to the teller cage and said. “Umm…hi?”
“Would you like to review your balance?” asked the man.
“Uhhh…yes please,” said Jasai.
“You currently have eight hundred pounds of gold stored in your vault,” replied the teller. “Would you like to make a withdrawal?”
Jasai’s draw dropped open. “What? Where did I get that much gold from?”
The man lifted a pocket watch and looked at it. “Thirteen point four seconds ago the sum of eight hundred pounds of gold was authorized transfer from Roael Raven to an account Mr. Raven opened in the name of Jasai Raven.”
Jasai’s hands flew to her mouth and tears formed in her eyes. She had thrown Roael’s mane clipping into the fire and walked out on him, but sweet sweet sweet Roael hadn’t abandoned her. She should have known better. Roael might never leave Gaevin or the farm, but he would also never abandon her. She cried for having thought all the bad things she had been thinking all morning about her Raven boys, they were so wonderful to her, and she had acted like a spoiled brat.
“Would you like to make a withdraw, or perhaps I can interest you in an investment bond?” asked the bank teller. “Crystal Bridge Incorporated is the number one growing fund.”
The Raven that Jasai was wanted to ask about interest rates, withdrawal fees, penalties, daily withdrawal limits, and perhaps conversion of gold to money loan bonds, but the whole thing was just a bit too much to absorb at one time. “I just need to pay the Post Rider to read a letter,” she said.
“Minimum withdrawal is a standard travel purse of assorted coin denominations,” explained the teller.
“I’ll take that,” said Jasai, leaning to the side and looking around the edge of the teller cage. The assistant on that side made a clucking noise and glared at her. She rolled her eyes. Yes, there was bars on the teller cage on this side, and two guards standing to each side facing her, but what was to prevent someone from coming up behind the teller and robbing him. In the span of ten minutes this road had seen two Crystal Bridges, a Post Rider, a Banker, a lizard boy, and herself – she half expected to see a gang of bandits on horseback any second.
“Sign here,” said the banker.
She straightened up, making the irate guard happy, and rolled her eyes again. A not so small money purse bulging with coins, just like in the movies, was sitting on the ledge waiting for her. Seriously, where did that come from? She almost laughed at the ridiculousness of the whole thing. She signed the slip of paper for the money and took the money purse. The banker promptly turned around and walked back to the bridge. The two assistants pushed the teller cage on it’s side and carried it to the Bridge. A moment later they were through the portal and the Bridge disappeared.
Jasai opened the money bag and looked through the coins. She handed two silver coins and Zil’s letter to the Post Rider. The Post Rider unfolded the letter and read it out loud.
“Ziiiilllllsssszzz, you have been chosen as body protector to accompany Miss Jasai Raven. Do you accept?”
Zil smiled amicably. “Okay,” he said.
Jasai groaned. Somebody was determined she was going to have a bodyguard.
“You should read your letter, Miss,” said the Post Rider.
Jasai broke the seal on her letter. She took the piece of paper out and unfolded it. She read it out loud.
“Ziiiilllllsssszzz has accepted the position of your body protector, do you accept his appointment?”
“Oh come on,” said Jasai. “How could they know he was going to accept, and how could they know he would read his letter first? Fine, whatever, I accept.”
She wasn’t really upset. Zil was cute, and dumb, and would do whatever she said. Hopefully he could cook, she was getting really hungry. The Post Rider mounted his horse and rode off to phantom land, or wherever, and was gone.
Jasai waved her hand impatiently in the air. “Come on, you know you’re going to do it.”
The smoky dark Crystal Bridge appeared. “Yep, there it is. Come on, Zil, I’ve drank the potion and now it’s time to jump down the rabbit hole.”
Jasai marched up the Bridge and through the portal, with Zil right behind her smiling happily and dragging his bobcat-kangaroo behind him.