Champion of the light, p.8
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       Champion of the Light, p.8

           David Castleton
 

  Chapter Seven

  When Andrew woke an hour later it was nearly dark. His strength was restored. "Quick, let's cross the river and find a tree near the path to sleep in. If someone comes down the path tonight, perhaps we will hear them."

  "Okay, got it."

  The pair hurried across the fallen tree. Andrew was nervous that it might shift under their weight and topple them over into the infested river, but it held firm in spite his fears, and they crossed safely. They quickly found a suitable tree to sleep in, and gathered some soft leaves to make a bed for themselves in its boughs.

  But no one came down the road that night, nor all the next day. They hiked along the twisty dirt road. It was a nice walk, though they probably would have enjoyed it more had they not been hopelessly lost.

  The next night was a repeat of the night before; the teens slept in a tree close to the path, but no one passed by. A miserable thought crept its way into Andrew's mind. Perhaps they would never find a way out, and they would be forced to live the rest of their lives alone in the rainforest. If they would even survive for that long.

 

  It was midmorning the next day, and they had been lost in the forest for more than three days, when Andrew suddenly stopped walking.

  "What is it?" Katy asked.

  "Shh, I think I heard a horse whinny."

  They listened for a bit, but heard nothing more. They looked down the path, and saw nothing. Then…

  Katy pointed down the path, the way they had come. "Look!" Andrew turned and saw a small cloud of dust in the distance, which grew larger and larger every second. Soon he could make out a wagon, pulled by some sort of green creature. When it got even closer he saw that hitched to it were four green animals that looked like horses, but much smaller, and even somewhat smaller than ponies. The teens jumped up and down, waving and yelling for the driver to stop.

  The driver saw the young hikers and pulled on the reins, slowing the wagon to a halt. In front sat two short, fat, dumpy men. They both sported big, bushy, brown beards, softly sprinkled with grey. They wore old fashioned brown trousers, and rough looking green shirts. In fact, they looked identical in every way, except that one of them had a green right eye and brown left eye, while the other had a green left eye and brown right eye.

  The mismatched eyes created an interesting effect. When Andrew peered deep into them, it seemed that there was a brightness there, but it was hidden, and clouded over. Both men had multiple bruises on their faces and arms.

  "Greetings, travelers," called the one with the green right eye. "I am Marius, and this is my brother Meegle. We are citizens of Green's Realm."

  "Greetings," said Andrew. "Andrew, and Katy. Thank you for stopping. We are very lost."

  "Whence do you come?" asked Meegle.

  "Where is your destination?" Marius asked.

  "And how did you come to be lost in the Great Rainforest of the Realm of Green?"

  Katy answered. "We come from a town called Pine Valley, New York, on Earth. And we are trying to get back home."

  "By Earth, do you mean the Mortal Realm?" asked Meegle.

  "Umm..." said Andrew, "Perhaps. I mean, we're mortal, I think. So I guess one might call our world the 'Mortal Realm'."

  The men didn't even know for certain what Earth was. Interesting.

  "Of course he meant the Mortal Realm!" Marius shouted at Meegle. "What are you stupid?! All mortals call it Earth! Every little-school child knows that!"

  Meegle glared at Marius. "I know! I just wanted to double check. Everyone also knows that mortals from the Mortal Realm are rare in the Realms!"

  It seemed that they might come to blows, when suddenly, as quick as their fight had begun, it ended. Andrew had a suspicious feeling that he knew where all those bruises came from.

  "The Mortal Realm?!" exclaimed Katy. "Do you mean to say, that there is an Immortal Realm?"

  "Certainly. And you're right in it!" The brothers guffawed at the Earth travelers' ignorance.

  "Sorry. But it's not every day that you meet a mortal who is clueless about the Realms. You have much to learn," said Meegle.

  "To be honest, I don't know if we can help you get back home," said Marius.

  "Why don't you tell us more about how you landed up here, while we ride. Then we will see if we can try and get you back."

  “You can ride with us.”

  “For a price.”

  “Do you have anything of value?”

  “Well, I have a sword. And a robe. But I think I am going to need them,” said Andrew.

  “We’ll see about the price later,” said Meegle.

  “In the mean time, you are welcome to ride with us,” said Marius. "You can sit beside us, up front. The back is filled with mara-grass. Soft, but a little itchy."

  A long, grey stringy plant filled the back of the wagon. It looked like eight foot long strings of spaghetti. The plants were about three inches in diameter, with small offshoots and stems sprouting out from the main stalks.

  Andrew and Katy climbed onto the wagon and sat down next to the brothers.

  Marius snapped the reigns, and they began to move. "We're about a two days ride from the village of Cassara."

  "From there it's a week's journey to the town of Tallut, which is where we aim to sell the mara-grass," said Meegle.

  "We're tradesmen, always traveling from place to place. We're happy to give a fellow traveler a lift."

  "The mara-grass needs special weather conditions and soil to grow. The only land within five-thousand miles of here that can grow it is a small area of land, near a town called Yistass, about six-hundred miles east of here. Therefore, the grass is rare in these parts. It is valued for its healing properties, and it can also be used to make fine clothing, if processed right."

  "Why don't you tell us a bit about yourselves?" said Marius.

  Andrew told the brothers the tale of how he found the book, The Kingdom of the Light. He told them everything that happened from that point on; how he and Katy were walking in Arbori Park, when they suddenly found themselves in the middle of the rainforest, surrounded by strange plants and creatures. He told them how the first night they had been attacked by the wolf-beasts (which Marius informed him were called glenvins), how they had survived the attack, only to be attacked by the eaguars, and later by the tree-guardians, until they finally crossed the infested river, and arrived at the path where they met the brothers.

  "That's some story you have yourself there," said Marius. "Don't know many that were swarmed by the umlenzi, or tree guardians, and lived to tell the tale. Or many who survived an eaguar attack. They are the terror of the forest. Three are enough to take out a band of fully grown men. Villages around here have special bells that they sound when an eaguar invades, and every able-bodied adult goes out to fight it."

  "Yeah. We sure had some close calls. But one thing is very strange. An eaguar bit down hard, directly on my arm, and I wasn't hurt at all," said Andrew.

  "We thought that maybe they couldn't hurt us, because we aren't from their world. Do you know if this is true?" Katy asked in a rush of words. She leaned around Andrew, waiting expectantly to hear if her theory was correct.

  "I don't think so," said Marius slowly. "There are well known stories of mortals who were torn apart by creatures from the Realms."

  Katy deflated.

  "Sorry to disappoint you. But just having originated from the Mortal Realm will not give you any protection here."

  "Let me see that robe of yours please," Meegle requested.

  Andrew took off the robe and gave it to him. Meegle took it in his hands and examined it, turning it this way and that. The robe shimmered. Then, he suddenly sank his teeth into it, and pulled hard.

  "Hey, what are you do—" he was going to damage Andrew's beautiful robe!

  But nothing happened to it. It didn't tear.

  "It is as I thought," said Marius. "This robe is enchan
ted. It cannot tear, and nothing can penetrate it. Not a razor sharp blade, and not even the powerful bite of an eaguar. When you wear it, it is as if you are wearing a robe woven of hardest, tempered steel."

  Meegle handed the gi back to Andrew, who looked at it with renewed awe.

  "Wow," said Katy. "A real enchantment. That's incredible."

  "I forgot there for a second there that you are from the Mortal Realm. Magic is quite common in the Realms. But this is a powerful enchantment," said Marius.

  "Rarely found outside the Realm of the Light."

  "We can offer you a good price for it."

  "Thanks. But I think I'll keep it. I may need its protection again. And besides, I don't think that I'll be able to use your money back home anyway," said Andrew.

  "How embarrassing," commented Meegle. "Our money isn't even as good as the hyper-inflated Indonesian rupee."

  "How do you know about that?" Katy asked.

  "Stories and news from the Mortal Realm occasionally make their way to taverns in the Color Realms, from agents of the Royal Houses and others, who travel throughout the Mortal Realm for various reasons," Marius explained. "So us Immortal merchants do hear about the finances of the Mortal Realm from time to time."

  "What a nightmare," Meegle interjected.

  "But our knowledge contains very large gaps and holes, when it comes to the finances and news of the Mortal Realm, and is scant indeed," Marius said.

  "If you ever change your mind," said Meegle.

  "Our offer stands," Marius finished.

  "Thank you," said Andrew.

  "Now, about you returning to the Mortal Realm," said Meegle.

  "It takes a fairly accomplished sorcerer to bring a mortal to and from the Realms and Earth," said Marius.

  "If you want to get home, your best prospect would be to seek out whoever brought you here. He will have the power to send you back."

  So returning home would at least require a sorcerer.

  "I think I may have his card." Andrew pulled from his pocket the silver card imprinted with the image of the rainbow and prism, and showed it to the brothers.

  "Don't recognize it, never saw anything like it," said Marius and Meegle in unison.

  Andrew thought it to be a little suspicious that the brothers denied knowledge of the sorcerer so quickly and forcefully. Perhaps he is a powerful and dangerous wizard, one that the brothers wouldn't want to cross paths with.

  "When we get to Cassara, you will be able to make more inquiries," said Meegle.

  "But I urge you to ask yourself, if getting home is what you truly want," said Meegle cryptically. "Or if it is something that you seek which brought you here, something that you may not yet have obtained."

  "Okay. Anyway, I don't know if I want to meet him at all. It certainly seems that he wants us dead. Why else would he transport us to the middle of a dangerous rainforest?" said Andrew.

  If the brothers were telling the truth, then it would mean that this mysterious person isn't well known enough that these two seasoned travelers, who had been to many places, would know his sign, mused Andrew. Dark thoughts seeped into his head. Maybe the creator of the book was actually an evil sorcerer, who had lured him here for his own sinister schemes. What good reason could anyone have to bring a mortal boy from Earth, who knows nothing of the ways of magic, to a place of enchantment and sorcery such as this?

  Andrew tried to shake these dark thoughts out of his head, and clear out the cobwebs of his mind. They needed to find the creator of the silver card because he had the power to send them back home and end this whole ordeal. If it turned out that the man was evil, and had a wicked plan for the teens, they would just have to deal with it when the time came.

 
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