The Red Hand Part 4
by Shane Migliavacca
Part Four Training Day
I wake up, a cold sweat clings to me. I look around; I'm in the old woman's cave. Just a dream. Although reality isn't much better. Tenth must be a light sleeper. She's already stirring in her bed. From the corner of my eye, I see she's looking at me. I turn to her. If only I could read that scaly face. She stares at me impassively.
"Sorry if I woke you."
Tenth doesn't reply. She merely gets up from her bedding. I hadn't realized that she'd stripped off her armor before bed. Of course I was too busy chatting up Maebh last night to notice. I feel a bit weirded out by Tenth's nudity. Add the fact that she's a scaly purple woman. She seems to have no qualms about the whole nude thing though. Doesn't even care that I'm there gawking at her. I turn away. She may not care, but I do. I look at the curtain separating us from where the old woman is sleeping. I wonder if she's up yet. I feel like a little kid waiting for their parents to wake up Christmas morning. Itching to open their presents. In my case it's opening the present that'll get me back home.
I stand up. I feel a lot more refreshed then my night spent in the cave. I turn back to Tenth who's strapping on her armor. It's a sort of body armor that reminds me of something you'd see soldiers wearing, but lower tech looking. There's plated armor over her chest area and legs, with a body suit underneath. She glances at me as she finishes putting her armor on.
"I want to thank you," I say. "For helping me out. You know?" I'm not sure if she understands me at all. I extend my hand but Tenth only looks at it and me. "Anyway, thanks." Nervously I brush a stray hair hanging down over my face away with the hand I'd offered.
"Good morning." I hear Maebh's voice in my head. "That's how it's said right? It's been a very long time."
I turn to see the old woman emerge from behind the curtain.
"You both slept well?"
"Not sure about her, but..." I hesitate. Do I want to tell her about the dream? My parents? I mean it was only a dream, but, it was so vivid. Felt so real, so terrifying. Thinking about it I feel a bit embarrassed. So I lie. "...Yeah."
I don't think she bought that. Just by the expression on her face. Which is fine, I'm a terrible liar. I'd be worried if she'd believed me.
Tenth goes over to the old woman. She says something in her language and bows her head, Pauses a moment and then turns on her clawed feet and starts to leave.
"Where's she going?"
"She has to go. Her people are expecting her back."
"Wait, I thought she'd be going with me. You know? Where ever it is...So I can get home."
I feel the hope inside me start to shrivel up.
Tenth pauses at the entrance, watching us. Maybe she thinks I'll try to attack Maebh.
"I'm truly sorry Serena, but there is much you have to learn."
"Learn? You said. 'You'd see about getting me home!'"
"Perhaps I did not explain myself better. We will discuss how you can get home. But in good conscience I cannot just send you out there. You would die. Perhaps getting Tenth killed in the process."
My heart sinks. Utterly defeated I sit down on my fur bed from last night. I feel the tears in my eyes. I try to hold them in but it's impossible and I cry. I think Maebh tells Tenth she can leave. She takes one last look at me and goes, probably thinking how pathetic I must look. Maebh goes over to the table and sits down. Giving me some space. She's right. The old woman. I could barely manage out there. And if Tenth is going to go with me, I could get her killed. I'm being a child, my own stupid curiosity got me here. If I hadn't gone into the damn house… Finally I pull myself together and I stand up and walk over to the table, sitting down across from Maebh.
"Your right. There's stuff I need to learn. But you could have told me this shit last night."
"We're going to eat. You'll need your strength. Then we'll start. I have much to teach you."
After another of the old woman's weird but tasty bowls of whatever, she brings me over to one of the crystals embedded in the cave wall. It glows brighter as we near it. She tells me how they're call Krel crystals. They're only found on this planet, as far as she knows, having never come across them on Earth. They work off a living being's life-force or soul or whatever you want to call it, glowing from the life-force we radiate. She leaves me there for a few minutes as she goes to retrieve something. It's something out of those old books mom had on past lives, auras and pyramids and crap. Maebh comes back with a piece of wood and hands it to me. The wood looks like broken handle to something. There's one of the crystals embedded in the top of it, glowing.
"What's this? A flashlight?"
"Concentrate on the crystal."
I stand with the ridiculous thing in my hands. It starts to hum a little and then nothing.
"Look, maybe I don't have the stuff for this one. You got a smaller one?"
She gives me a stern look. I can't help it. It's all so crazy, I start to laugh.
"Listen to me child!" Her voice explodes in my head. "Do you wish to go home?"
"Yes! Yes! Okay. Turn down the volume."
Damn. The little old lady isn't as kindly as I was thinking. My head is buzzing after she raised her "voice."
"When I'm trying to teach you, don't be so flippant."
"Okay. I'm sorry. Still trying to deal with all this shit."
"I'm sorry child. I'm not used to being around anyone anymore."
"Why do you keep calling me child? I'm twenty nine."
"To me you are a child."
She takes the handle thing from me and orders me to step back. She grips the thing like it's a sword. The crystal starts to hum louder and louder. At first I thought it was getting brighter in the cave and then I notice this light or energy is coming from the old woman, radiating from her body. A distortion begins to form at the tip of the wood handle, floating above the crystal like a blur. It forms into something vaguely resembling a sword. It hums loudly in her hands. I can see it vibrating as power races through it. Maebh takes the sword and strikes a part of the cave wall with it. Leaving a deep gash in its smooth surface, she then backs away from the wall. The energy and distortion fade away. And it's just a wood handle with a crystal again.
"That was amazing." I manage to spit out. The things I've seen since entering that house. It's started to numb me. It's been one insane thing after another. The old lady made a damn sword appear, it's fantastic, but my mind is still trying to process it all. Being on another world!
I notice the old woman seems a little shaky. She leans against the wall for support. This snaps me out my thoughts.
"A drawback of this technique is it can tire one out. It requires a great deal of energy to use."
I help her to a chair. She hands me the piece of wood. "I want to you to try again."
"Sure. I'll try."
I try again. It lights up and hums but nothing more. The old woman sits there watching me. Maybe if she'd piss off for a while and let me work on this thing I could get somewhere. Instead granny is eyeballing me.
"You have to clear your mind of everything else. Nothing else is unimportant. Just what you’re holding in your hands. Focus on making the blade a reality."
"Easy for you to say. Your nerves aren't all jingle jangled up."
I try again and get nothing.
"I can't imagine what this must be like for you." Her voices echoes in my head. Sounding more kindly now. "Perhaps some Teague root tea would help calm you."
"Thanks. That sounds good actually."
Maebh gets up from her chair, looking more rested then when I'd helped her over. As she makes tea I practice again. I try focusing as she'd suggested and it hums to life like before. Clearing your mind is a lot harder than it sounds. I imagine the sword forming out of the handle. Then I think of mom getting news I'm missing. She's going to fall apart, and the thing stops humming. Again and again I try with the same result. My mind is so cluttered with thoughts, with worry. Making it almost impossible to clear my thoughts.
Maebh calls me over for the tea. I see a faint smile on her face as I sit down. I think she's happy I was practicing while she was busy. I take the wood mug from her. The teas has a faint smell that reminds me of hazelnut, I take a sip.
"It tastes good. I feeling a bit better already. I'm just worried about my mom. When she finds out I'm missing...I don't know what she'll do."
I take another sip of the tea. "My dad died before I was born. She raised me by herself. We're all each other has."
"Your mother must have be a very strong woman."
Sitting here with Maebh feels relaxing. Like when Betty invited me in. I yawn. I could go for a nap about now. Damn I'm old.
"Do you have anybody?" I ask. "Kids?"
"No. Unless you count Tenth. We've been friends since she was a young hatchling. I feel as if she's mine sometimes. I've never had the inclination to raise children."
I decide to tell her about my dream last night. She sips her tea and listens as I tell her everything that happened. When I mention what my dad told me in the dream. About the door and the Far Away her eyes light up, and then when I tell her of the hand coming out of the stars and the great eye she practically drops her mug. It strikes me she might be having a heart attack.
"Are you okay?"
"No. Why did you lie to me earlier? When I asked you about how you slept?"
"It was so private. My dad, my mom. I-I felt embarrassed by it."
And then it sinks in. She purposefully asked me about it this morning.
"You knew!" And the warm fuzzy feeling dies completely inside me. "What did you give me?" I get up from the table knocking the chair over. "What did you do to me?"
"I had to test you. I haven't seen someone from Earth since coming here. I needed to know if your blood still had traces of them."
"Traces of what?"
"Of the ones from Far Away. My parents."
Every minute here in this world something new assaults my sanity.
"What did you do to me?"
"I put a small dose of a potion used for prophecy. To see how it would affect you."
I run my fingers through my hair. Walking back and forth as she talks. If only I could run out of here. Find a way home. And never have to deal with this crazy old woman again. But I'm stuck.
"When you talked of your blood on the painting. Getting pulled here. I suspected. But I wanted to test it. To see just how diluted their gifts are inside you."
Calmly I reach down and pick up the overturned chair and sit back down. My head spinning with insane thoughts.
"Just what the hell is going on here?" I ask. Not sure if I want the answer to the question.
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