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by J. D. Crayne
Category: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Description: In this exciting science fiction adventure, sixteen year old Geir, his sister Jory, and their mother, Sophia, take a pathway to a nameless elsewhere, which lies on the other side of a stone bridge. Beyond the bridge is a land filled with science so advanced as to seem like magic. An enigmatic white-haired woman named Irda, who claims to be the youngsters' grandmother, leads the youngsters and their mother on a journey intended to right a wrong which took place nearly two decades earlier. Lovely blonde Sophia fled this land with her lover many years ago, after stealing a strange black ring from Ullnar, Lord of the Jurnburg. Knowledge of what that ring controls is a dangerous secret, whose revelation threatens to bring the entire world to ruin. The Lord of the Jurnburg and the Ice Lord of the far north skirmish, lie, and plot, as war between them draws ever nearer. Geir, caught in the political turmoil, must choose who he is going to follow. Meanwhile, his sister has been separated from him by accident and finds herself miles away, embroiled in the machinations of Berict, Dwarf Lord of the Eastern Caves and the smiling, scheming, villain Luk. Sorm and Garm, the centuries-old shape changers, rescue Jory from the Ice Lord's minions, but they have plans and goals of their own and secret ways of achieving their ends. When Geir and his companions travel to Eishal, the Ice Lord's eerie training camp, to find and rescue the only one who knows what became of the black ring, brother and sister find themselves on opposite sides in a battle that may be to the death. The final answer to the riddle lies buried in the mind of a man trained only to kill, and he cannot remember it.
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/PageTurner, 2006
eBookwise Release Date: March 2006
6 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [219 KB]
Reading time: 148-207 min.
As soon as they entered their front door, stepping in out of the frigid January weather, they could tell that something was wrong. There were open drawers in the living room cabinets, and some things were obviously out of place.
"Well, it could have been a lot worse," Geir Simonson said philosophically, running fingers through his black hair. "Sometimes they smear, you know, stuff on the walls and tear up the furniture. What do you suppose they took?" He went to his room to look.
"Oh god, my new phone!" his sister Jory said, and dashed for her own bedroom.
Their mother sat down on the couch, her face hard and one hand wrapped around the locket hanging on its long gold chain against the front of her white blouse. She was a very fair woman in her mid thirties, with ash-blonde hair worn in a braided coronet, and cloud-gray eyes. At the moment those eyes seemed to be fixed on some point in infinity that only she could see.
"There's nothing gone," Geir said, coming back after a moment. "My room's sort of a mess, but I can't see that he ... they ... whoever it was took anything." He lifted his shoulders with the philosophic acceptance of a sixteen year old.
Jory, coming into the room just behind him and holding a cell phone in one hand, nodded. "My computer's there and everything." She wrinkled her nose. "Some sod was pawing through my underwear though."
Mrs. Simonson nodded, her face as immobile as a wax image.
"Should I call the police, then?" Geir asked. "Even though they didn't take anything."
His mother's eyes flickered and she seemed to draw back her attention from somewhere a very long way off.
"No. There's no need to do that." She got to her feet, looking suddenly decisive. "What I want you to do is to go down to the basement and bring up our luggage. We're going away for a while."
"But..." Jory glanced at her brother and then looked back at her mother. "What about school? And I've got soccer practice!"
"Never mind about that," Mrs. Simonson said.
"Does this mean we're going to move again?"
"I don't know. I have to go to the bank. Pack everything you think you'll want, for about two weeks. Dress casually, jeans or something, and don't forget extra underwear."
The siblings watched their mother go out the front door, then Jory slung her phone at the couch and watched it bounce.
"We're going to move again, I just know it. I hate this! Doesn't she know how hard it is, starting at a new school, making new friends? We've moved five times..."
"Seven," her brother corrected her. "I remember two places that you don't."
"Okay, seven. It's not the money," Jory said in a brooding way, "or like we're skipping out on the rent or anything. She never seems to be worried about bills. So why do we have to keep moving!"
"No idea," Geir said.
His sister kicked the couch, her face mutinous. "And why do we talk a language at home that no one else uses?"
"Oh, come on. Lots of people speak foreign languages at home; Spanish, Japanese, Hebrew..."
"No one I've ever asked even knows what it is!"
"So, when you go to college, major in linguistics."
Jory just snorted.
"Get your stuff together. I'll bring up your suitcase." Geir turned and headed for the basement. * * * *
They took a taxi to the airport, where Mrs. Simonson bought three tickets to Philadelphia. At Philadelphia they boarded a plane to Chicago, and from Chicago they flew to St. Louis. At St. Louis they left the arrivals terminal and went to the ticket counter.
"Mom," Geir said, wearing a backpack over his jacket and lugging his suitcase along behind her, "Couldn't you have gotten a through flight!"
Jory, struggling with her overnight bag, locks of her soft brown hair gone astray and falling over her face, muttered exasperated agreement. "Where are we going, anyway?"
Their mother glanced back at her two children. "Never mind where we're going. I could have gotten a through flight, but that wasn't the point." She dropped her bags next to a pillar. "Wait here. I'll be back in a moment." She shivered slightly, and then seemed to make a conscious effort to relax. A slight smile curled her lips, and she walked away.
Jory and Geir watched her stroll over to the queue of people waited to buy tickets, move slowly along the line, and pause to talk to three teenagers with duffel bags.
"So what was the point?" Jory asked.
Geir didn't answer. He shrugged off his backpack and dragged out a copy of Operating Systems and the User Interface. Book in hand, he leaned back against the pillar and opened it at a dog-eared page.
Jory eased the straps of her own backpack and then brushed her soft brown hair back off of her face. "Do you think we're ... running from something?" She sound frightened.
Her brother raised his eyebrows and laughed down at her over the top of his book. "On the lam, you mean?"
"It was so sudden," she said, "the way that we just grabbed everything and left! Why?"
Geir shook his head. "Dunno. Mom is worried about something, that's for sure."
"Mom's scared," Jory corrected.
"Well, weren't you upset, with someone breaking in like that?"
"I was pissed!" Jory said, "especially knowing some stranger had his grubby hands on my underwear. But Mom's scared. I mean, really scared. I've never seen her like this before. Geir, do you suppose someone could be, well, sort of after us?"
"Oh sure," Geir said. "Like Mom has ties to the underground, or some dope dealers or something!"
His sister's lips quirked slightly at that, thinking of their mother, neatly dressed in her conservative suits and tailored blouses, selling crack cocaine around the company water cooler.
"Okay, I guess that is sort of silly, but why did we leave in such a hurry, and where do you think we're going?"
"I haven't a clue where we're going, but I think Mom's been working too hard lately; that's all there is to it. Having someone break into the house was sort of the last straw and she wanted to get away for a while."
"Just kind of cut and run, you mean?"
"That's it." Her brother nodded at her with reassurance. "We'll probably wind up lolling on a beach somewhere; some place where she can relax and forget about the office, and we can all get a tan."
Meanwhile, Sophia Simonson and the three teenagers had reached the ticket counter. She laid three tickets down in front of the clerk.
"I want to turn in these tickets and have three new tickets issued for my young friends here." She smiled at the trio. "They're going to Daytona Beach. That's not a problem, is it?"
The clerk, who looked as bored as he probably felt, assured her that it was no problem at all, and began his finger dance over the computerized reservation system.
The teenagers, looking a little puzzled, but monumentally grateful, thanked her again.
She waved their thanks aside with a graceful hand. "My friends weren't able to use the tickets, and they asked me to donate them to someone who could use a little financial help. Students always qualify, right?"
"You bet!" They nodded and grinned.
After the students hurried away to the departure lounge, talking excitedly among themselves, Sophia took a billfold of cash from her purse and purchased three more tickets. * * * *
They landed in Sacramento just after noon, took a taxi to a nearby motel, checked in, and sat down to lunch at a nearby coffee shop. After hours of nearly non-stop flight, they were all tired to the point of exhaustion. Jory and Geir surveyed their surroundings without favor.
"Sunny beaches, huh?" Jory remarked sourly to her brother, between French fries. "The motel doesn't even have a pool.
He merely shook his head and ran a tired hand over his black hair. Their mother ate silently, sipping at a cup of black coffee and watching the door and front windows. When they were done and she'd paid the check, she led them outside again.
"Mom," Jory said hesitantly, "are you ever going to tell us where we're going? We're not going to stay here for two weeks, are we?"
"No, we're going to your grandmother." She smiled faintly at their looks of surprise. "Yes, you do have a grandmother." Her lips twisted. "We are not a close-knit family. Nevertheless, it's the best place for all of us at the moment."
"A ... a bolt-hole?" Geir asked boldly, as they headed back to the motel.
There was an enigmatic expression on his mother's face. "I hope we won't have to think of it that way. Right now I want a U-Haul rental agency; one that rents those little vans for one-way trips."
"A U-haul? But that's for moving," Jory said, bewildered. "All we've got are suitcases and backpacks. Why can't we just rent a car?"
"Because agents remember more about people who rent a passenger car for a one-way trip." * * * *
In other circumstances, Geir would have been pleased to take advantage of his four month old driver's license, guiding the rental van west along a road leading out of Sacramento with his mother and sister sitting next to him. Now however, he was too aware of his sister's fatigue, and his mother's tension. He glanced over at his mother. Her slender hands were folded together quietly in her lap but something about her reminded him unpleasantly of a predator, waiting.
When they stopped for gas, he asked his mother for her credit card, but she shook her head and gave him currency for the clerk in the little store that managed the gas pumps.
They passed through orchard country, with stands of apple and pear trees, and between rounded hills covered with scrub. Purplish-blue mountains loomed in the distance, like a backdrop to the lion-colored mounds of the foot hills. There were small signs announcing towns with as few as thirty inhabitants, and stray farmhouses with barns and outbuildings. Near sundown they came to a particular fork in the road and took a branch that led to a small collection of buildings; market, bar, church, and gas station.
"Here," Sophia said, pointing to the dirt parking lot of the cinder block building that held a bar and grill. The lot was empty except for a couple of pickup trucks and one tan sports utility vehicle.
Geir drove in, parked, and turned off the engine.
"Where are we?" Jory demanded, rousing from half-sleep.
"Looks like the middle of nowhere to me," Geir said, leaning over the steering wheel. His eyes itched, and he was stiff from sitting in the same position for so many hours.
"We're in a town called Guinda," their mother said, "but we won't be staying here for long." She opened the door and stepped out onto the dry hard dirt of the parking lot, looking slim and elegant in her faded jeans and cream-colored shirt, for all her thirty-four years.
Across the parking lot, the driver's side door of the SUV opened, and a rangy dark-haired man, wearing black, got out; shut the door quietly behind him; and strolled across the dirt toward them. His footsteps sounded harsh against the packed earth, and Geir was faintly aware of the faint sound of some strident music coming from the bar and grill, making a strange counterpoint.
"Hello, Cory," Sophia said calmly, straightening up and holding onto the open door of the U-Haul.
The man nodded, taking in all three of them. "Hello. Let's move your gear and get going."
Leaving Jory and Geir to bring their own luggage, he took Sophia's two suitcases out of the back of the U-Haul and transferred them to the SUV.
Geir frowned slightly as he lifted the other cases out of the back of the U-Haul. He handed her overnight case to Jory and whispered, "How did he know we were going to be here?"
"Mom must have called him from somewhere," Jory said. "And they were speaking our language!"
He shook his head uneasily. "Yeah, I understood that, but I don't remember seeing her use a phone."
"Okay, so it's magic!" His sister said with a shrug, taking her overnight case and backpack and heading toward the SUV.
They climbed into the back seat. Their mother was silent in the front passenger seat, the sinking sun making a silhouette of her profile as she glanced toward their driver. He started the car and they set off into the lowering twilight, heading toward the mountains.
Cory did not say anything further, and Sophia was as silent as he was. The only sound came from the car radio, which Cory flicked on as he drove out of the parking lot. A news program reporting escalating hostilities in the mid-East, bad weather that caused the crash of a Florida-bound passenger jet with no survivors, and the marriage of two film stars, gave way to a program of classical music which floated gently through the evening air.
It was dark and late when the car finally stopped and its weary passengers climbed out. Jory looked up and gasped. Geir, following her gaze, felt almost as staggered. The sky was full of stars. Not merely a half-black expanse dulled by city-glow, it was hard and brilliant, crowded with twinkling bits of beauty. The broad swathe of the Milky Way flowed across it in a beautifully elegant curve. Below the stars the sharp outline of mountains cut into the sky.
Their mother's voice called them back to present matters. They lifted their luggage and headed toward a dim golden glow of light in the near distance, following Sophia and the silent Cory, who was almost invisible in his black clothing as he led them across what felt like a grassy pasture.
Jory and Geir half-stumbled over a dark threshold into a small dark hall, lit by oil lamps. They looked around, half dizzy with fatigue. Their mother exchanged some words with a tall figure in gray, and then, taking up one of the oil lamps, she led them up a narrow flight of stairs to two small bedrooms, where they climbed into their beds by candle light, and slept.