To read the previous adventures of Sabine, click here. The story continues below. *** Onandon led the charge toward the Mystic’s Pylon as Sabine and Billy lagged behind. After she’d wrapped a bandage around his
To read the previous adventures of Sabine, click here. The story continues below.
Onandon led the charge toward the Mystic’s Pylon as Sabine and Billy lagged behind. After she’d wrapped a bandage around his bleeding head and an arm around his waist for support, Sabine asked Billy, “What happened?”
“Eh?” He shook his head and stumbled in both words and steps. “We—we were just talking. We got going about the rest of the team, Byrns started crying. I tried to comfort her and,” he bit his lip and rubbed at his wound. “She hit me with the butt of the sword and ran.”
At the entrance of the Mystic’s Pylon, a massive portcullis bore a still-smoldering hole that penetrated to the great, ebony doors behind. Onandon stepped through the destruction and called back, “And now she has the sword. Damned, stupid boy!”
Onandon rushed on through a similar smoking hole in the ebony doors that led to the piazza. Sabine glared at him as she asked Billy. “What do you think got into her?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe she thinks she’s strong enough to go it alone, maybe she thinks she can get the sword to work— Byrns!”
The princess stood on a bridge in the center of the piazza. Below her the Crystalline River ran down toward the falls, each side of the fortress built on a side of the rush of water. With the Sword of Flion gripped in her hands, Byrns stared down at the river below. As her companions came into view, she scowled and clutched the weapon tight. “I told you to stay behind!”
“What do you hope to accomplish, foolish girl?” Onandon said. “You can’t even use that damned sword.”
Her face twisted with pain, and she asked, “Oh, I can’t?” And as she spoke, the rusted sword came alive with a shimmer of light.
Billy gasped and took a step back. Even the ever-unmoved Onandon raised an eyebrow. With a stammer, the younger man said, “Wha—but—but only my family’s supposed to be able to work its magic!”
“I guess the old mystic wasn’t just making things up this whole time.” It sounded as if a lump formed in Byrns’ throat. “It’s working for me right now, Billy. Seems your father and my mother were always keeping secrets from us.”
“I’m sorry what?” Sabine took a step closer and Byrns mirrored her with a step back. “This is ridiculous. Billy, you said your dad ended up as a miserable drunk. When would he have had a chance to lie with a queen?”
Perhaps he saved her from an evil warlock, and she threw herself at him, Dahkhal said. I hear that gets results.
“Oh, shut up—”
“It matters not what the self-speaking seer says,” Onandon shouted. “And—and I knew it all along! Yes I did.”
“You’re so full of it,” Sabine said. “This is all getting completely out of hand—”
“No, Sabine. I—I knew it was going to end like this.” Byrns wiped away a tear. “When I spoke with the magical tree who laid all this power inside me, she told me what was to come. That a wayward, bastard of a mystic sought to infect the whole country through this river. And that, by the journey’s end, I’d have to sacrifice myself.” She looked, agony in her eyes, toward Billy. Despite everything, she managed a shattered fraction of a smile. “I know you loved me, Billy. I guess it kind of works out we were siblings all along, it means it really would have never worked between us.” She raised the blade.
Billy shook away Sabine’s support. “Byrns—don’t!”
“We’ve lost so many friends already,” she said. “I just wanted to spare putting you through one more with your own eyes. I’m so, so sorry.” With a look of acceptance, she turned the blade on herself.
After a few seconds of her struggling against its unwieldly length, Sabine breathed a sigh of relief. “Billy, calm down. It’s too long for her to hurt herself with.”
The young man turned for just a moment back to Sabine and shouted, “No it isn’t!”
Magically, a foot and a half of the sword collapsed in on itself and, before she even knew what was happening, Byrns ran it right through her own stomach.
She shrieked in pain.
Billy screamed. “No!”
Sabine ran to his side.
Onandon’s eyes widened ever so slightly.
Byrns and the sword in her grip slipped backward into the river. In a fantastic flash of light, the magic flowed out of her wound into the water. After just a few moments, the shimmer faded, and the night appeared to return to normal.
Body racked and spirit broken, Billy fell to his knees, looked to Byrns as she slipped with the current and sobbed.
Sabine, face wrinkled with disgust and a shake of her head, turned toward Onandon. “Are we done here?”
“One test remains.” The mystic reached into his cloak. “One to prove if it was all worth it.”
Sabine sighed and dropped to a knee beside Billy. She took a few moments to choose her words before she said, “I’ve lost people I wished I could’ve been closer to as well, you know.” She shook her head. “I’m not about to tell you how to feel.”
Onandon stepped to the water’s edge. Billy didn’t make a noise besides little chokes and sniffles.
Sabine tried to get through to the heartbroken boy. “It hurts like hell. Twenty-seven hells of hurt. And—”
Dahkhal asked, Is that a potato?
Sabine paused, frowned, and looked toward the mystic. And, indeed, he held a potato in his hand. “What… what are you…?”
Onandon dropped the spud into the river with a splash. For a few seconds it sunk out of view. But thereafter, two tiny, vinelike tentacles rose from the river and pulled upward. Sabine flinched, rose to her feet, and stepped back as the newly-appendaged potato crawled about.
“What?” She looked toward Onandon. “What is going on here?”
It’s like what the blathering idiot went on about, Dahkhal said. Fluoride in the water and tiny potatoes with limbs. But he made it sound like an ill omen.
For the first time since Sabine had seen the mystic, something perhaps distantly related to a smile crossed his face. Onandon looked toward Billy. “That talisman wasn’t always called the Sword of Flion, you know, boy.” He waited for the young man to react and went on when he didn’t. “That was a misnomer caused by centuries of wear and tear. When your ancestor, Itsola, wielded it, it was the Sword of Sham.”
As the implications of the name, “Itsola Sham” came to her, Sabine’s blood ran cold, and she rose to face the mystic. “No. You can’t mean—but Groan—”
“Shane Flion killed Groan decades ago. The sword convinced the fool he could walk on water, so he stepped into the river and broke his neck going over the falls.”
The ramifications hit Sabine like a swing from the mystic’s hammer. “So, you’re saying all of this—”
“The Sword of Sham makes truths into lies and lies into truths,” Onandon said. “I didn’t anticipate the girl would be able to use it, the two weren’t siblings when the journey began. But it seems the lie was told enough for the sword to make it true.”
It was then a still-shaking Billy turned and looked to the mystic. “But—but then why? Why any of this?”
“Why? Why?” Satisfaction seeped into Onandon’s tone as he pointed to his slithering spud. “I have been the last mystic for centuries. I have seen how my glorious order fell from favor as fools railed against us. We are now called conspiracy theorists and madmen! We who rebuilt the world after the ages of naughty lumins and the war of the three masons! You thought we were always kooks, and you think you don’t need us anymore.” He pointed toward the potato. “We’ll see how this world needs us when the micro-chips return!”
Stunned, Sabine and Billy both stared at the mystic before the Flion boy managed, “But—but it’s all a lie.”
“It’s truth now.” And with the utmost triumph, he said, “Silence yourself, Billy.”
The pylon went still as the circumstances of the night played out in everyone’s heads. Eventually, Dahkhal cut in to ask Sabine, So why did he just explain his master stroke then?
With a frown, she looked to the mystic and repeated, “Why tell us that then? You could have gotten away with all of it without saying a thing.”
The small smirk on Onandon’s lips dropped away as he considered. “What—I mean… what?” He stared at her and shook his head. “You’re right, it makes no sense. The sword—it seems to have some kind of reverse effect on you. As if you compel truth from the lies—”
Ahh, Dahkhal said. Because you’re already an anomaly. You erased your existence from this world, yet you still exist. You’re a lie yourself. Two lies reveal the truth.
In another shift, Onandon’s brow creased in anger. “I don’t understand it, but if you know what I’ve done, you can still stand in my way.” He extended his hands, conjured his hammer, and rushed at her.
Sabine leapt backwards as he swung, drew her short sword, and looked toward the still half-comatose Billy. “Hey, kid, I’ll handle him! You’ve gotta stop the lies from spreading.”
He flinched. “What? But how? It’s too late.”
“Which means, according to the sword, it isn’t too late!”
“That stab and the fall should have killed her, right?” Sabine turned toward Onandon, but kept her words directed to Billy. “That’s the truth, right?”
The implications of their increasingly warped reality dawned on Billy, and he made a desperate dive off the bridge to the water. Sabine put herself into the mystic’s path and swallowed hard.
He’s got centuries of experience on you. On me, even, Dahkhal said. He’s a madman, but that just makes him all the more dangerous. That kid better get the sword back, I have no idea how we’re going to win without it.
Onandon ran at Sabine, intent to smash his last loose end into a million pieces.
To Be Continued…