The catastrophe of the e.., p.2
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       The Catastrophe of the Emerald Queen, p.2

           LR Manley
 

  The creature shrieked in anger and fear at the newcomer and dropped its knife. 

  “MORDALAYN!!!” it hissed in disbelief and fury. 

  The newcomer made no reply but advanced in three strides and grabbed the bald monster with both hands by the lapels of its scruffy jacket. 

  “No! Not my fault, don’t hurt me!” The creature pleaded pathetically, trying in vain to break free. Jared watched speechless as the wriggling creature was hauled into the air, squealing and kicking madly, trying to prise free of the grip. The newcomer pulled it forward to stare at its face.  

  “You would DARE?!!” he growled at the monster in a deep, gravelly voice and with a “snikt!” noise unsheathed claws from the fingertips on one hand which pierced the tips of his black glove. They were at least three inches long and looked sharp as razors. He slowly put his hand near the struggling creature’s face. 

  “No, please have mercy, not my fault, they made me do it!!!” The creature wailed, kicking like a fish on a line.  

   As the newcomer seemed to be on the verge of deciding what to do, he glanced in Jared’s direction. Jared shook his head and after a pause the figure grunted angrily and threw the pathetic form down to the floor. The creature whimpered and covered its head with its arms. “Don’t kill me, I’m sorry.” It gibbered frantically, trying to curl up into a ball. 

  The man scooped up the rainbow knife and held it for a moment. The colours faded out and the blade turned a dull brown. The metal changed to a lump of jagged rock which the figure placed in a pocket in his robe. 

  He glanced at Jared and then reached into another pocket. Jared staggered slightly and his legs collapsed and he fell back against the wall. The man turned to the fear stricken would-be assassin and picked it up by its collar again. It shrieked indignantly and continued pleading. “No, no!!! Let me go, I’ll be good.” 

  The huge figure opened his hand. In it was a green jewel, encased in silver. He blew on the jewel which rose up and hovered over the squirming creature. The bald figure’s shrieks rose like a tocsin in the room and the jewel began to spin fast over its head. The newcomer then let go and stepped back and as the jewel span, a brilliant green light enveloped the thrashing creature in a diamond shape and held it. 

  Just before the light flashed brightly and closed in on itself, taking the creature with it, the bald monster turned and glared at Jared and flung its hand out; the gnarled, twisted fingers pointing at him. “Nosey little boy!” it shrieked and a bolt of black energy launched from its rotten fingertips. Jared was frozen for a moment, unable to scream as it entered his chest and pinned him immobile to the wall. The hooded figure glanced quickly at Jared and shouted in anger but then the monster was gone, the sudden wind from the explosion signaling its absence, once more scattering the cards that littered the floor. 

  The man leaned forward and neatly caught the now clear jewel as it fell, spinning from the air, putting it back into his pocket. Straightening up he turned to Sophie and walked over to her bedside. Dropping to one knee amongst the chaos littering the floor he bowed his head, placing his hand on her arm. He whispered quietly and taking another crystal, held it in front of him in both hands and broke it in two. A glowing orange liquid, just a few drops, fell to the girl’s sleeping body. They ran backwards and forwards as if on a sheet of glass, forming lines and lines and then vanished. Sophie glowed for a second and then was normal. The man rose and turned, crouching down in front of Jared, his face hidden in the dark depths of his hood, a scarf covering his mouth and nose. He had eyes of emerald green, shining brightly amidst the shadows of his hidden face. 

  “Don’t be afraid,” he said softly but in a voice that was deeper than any Jared had ever heard before.  

  Jared shook his head, his ears still ringing and his vision full of dancing white dots.  

  “What’s your name boy?” 

  “J, J, Jared” he stammered after a few seconds. 

  “Are you hurt?” 

  “No, he didn’t touch me. You got here before he could.” 

  The figure rose. He extended his hand and Jared took it and struggled to his feet. 

  Just then there was a frantic banging on the door. “It’s locked,” one man’s voice said.  

  “Kick it in!” someone else shouted. 

  “I have to go Jared,” the man said taking him firmly by the arm. “The spell he placed on you means his people, my enemies can track you.” He pulled back Jared’s right sleeve as the pounding on the door and the frantic shouts grew louder. Removing a bracelet from his own huge forearm he placed it on Jared’s wrist, whispering something as the metal curled in and shrank on itself to fit his smaller arm. The round jewel in its centre briefly glowed before returning to a cloudy green. Jared tried to pull away but the man held him firmly. 

  “This is a warning sigil,” he explained over the increasing din as the people outside hammered on the door. “It will alert you if my enemies are close. The jewel will glow and become warm if they are near to you. If it does so, hide wherever you can, don’t let them get hold of you, do whatever you can to get away.” Jared nodded mutely, still confused and frightened. “I promise you I will come to protect you” the man continued. “One final thing. Do NOT tell anyone about me.” 

  Jared was about to answer when the door to the small corridor behind them finally broke in and the people from outside spilled into the small room. Almost too fast to see the man let Jared go and sprinted the three or four steps to the window behind Sophie and hurled himself at it, his arms out in front of him. The glass shattered loudly and Jared watched dumbfounded as he disappeared into the night, the rain of glass following him down. 

  Jared turned from the shattered window to the security guards and a nurse who were piling into the room. They looked around quickly and saw the chaos and disarray. The nurse moved quickly to Sophie and checked her vital signs and pulse, then turned to the others. “She’s ok,” she said, exhaling heavily, relieved. Then she glared at Jared and seethed. “Just what the HELL happened in here young man?!!”

  Chapter 2

   

  As Jared got out of the taxi at Heathrow airport he felt dizzy. The holiday in Malta had been planned for about nine months and like Susan’s baby, his mother had fussed and fretted the whole time. For the last seven days she’d gone into anxiety overdrive until even Jared’s father had got sick of it as she worried about the house in a frenzy of laundry, suitcases and countless repacking of everybody’s luggage. 

  The incident in the hospital a week earlier had been awful and when the man had leapt out the window Jared had been left alone with the comatose Sophie. Initially hostile to him, the nurse and security guards had softened when his visible fear and tears had made it quite clear that he’d simply interrupted someone who had come to the girl’s room to cause mischief. The police had interviewed him a short time later with his distraught and tearful mother present alongside his ashen-faced father. Jared had decided to lie and had stated only that a horrible man in a nasty suit had been in the room when he’d walked past and had trapped him and then jumped out the window. For some reason he felt that he should respect the stranger’s wishes and not mention him or the unbelievable things he’d seen. He’d managed to keep the bracelet hidden, which was difficult as he couldn’t take it off no matter what he did.

   His mother had initially been skeptical about his involvement and had asked him in front of the police if he’d not smashed the window himself and was “fibbing” in order to cover up. He was secretly pleased when the female detective interviewing him had abruptly told his mother to shut up, after she interrupted their conversation for the third time to ask if Jared was “sure” he wasn’t hiding something.

   The police had said they’d be in touch and had phoned a few days later to say Jared wasn’t a suspect. They added that he was in their opinion a brave lad for trying to stop whoever was in the room. They then stated that in future he should call for help and not t
ry to intervene himself.  

  His mother’s stress levels had gone through the roof and he was glad that now finally they were about to go on holiday and hopefully she would relax.

   His father paid the taxi driver and they got the suitcases out the boot. Jared’s slipped and fell onto the tarmac.

   “Watch what you’re doing Jared!” his mother snapped angrily. “If you looked after other people’s property as much as your stupid comic books then you wouldn’t keep breaking things all the time” she seethed.

   The taxi driver looked uncomfortable and Jared’s father looked away.  

  Jared knew she was just being spiteful but kept quiet, knowing arguing would simply result in an embarrassing display outside Terminal 5.

   They moved into the departure area. Only a few people were milling about as it was 6am.

   “Quickly Jared, come on Paul,” his mother said bossily. As they walked along Jared felt his wrist get warm. He pulled back his sleeve to see that the green jewel in his bracelet was glowing faintly. He shrugged and pulled his sleeve back, glancing quickly to check that his parents hadn’t seen.

   As they moved deeper into the huge room Jared squinted at the bright glare compared to the gloom in the shadowy area they had been in before. The roof and walls were glass and metal, towering above them in vast skeletal forms. Huge metal pillars with vast nuts and bolts linking it all together. His father spotted the departures screen nearest to them and moved towards it. Jared felt the warmth get hotter on his wrist and was starting to worry, he pulled his sleeve back as the glow from the jewel became brighter.

   His father returned and smiled. “The flight checks in at desk 17, on the left.”

   As they moved towards the desks a hooded and robed figure stepped out of an elevator and looked around slowly, eyes finally resting on Jared. Moving forward holding a large tube in one hand, like for mailing a poster, it moving lithely and soundlessly between people, never bumping into anyone.

   Above them through the glass structure were clouds of the early morning. Blue sky was spattered amongst them and Jared hoped the day would have good weather.

   There was only one person ahead of them at the check-in desk. Jared’s mother’s insistence that they arrive a full 4 hours before the flight was due to leave to cover for “complications” meant that they wouldn’t have to queue. The lady on the desk smiled brightly as they approached and asked for their passports. Jared glanced down at his wrist; the jewel was bright green now and hot enough to feel like sunlight on his skin. It wasn’t painful but it was impossible to ignore. As he glanced at it, it began to pulsate in a steady rhythm and Jared remembered what the man in the hospital had said. He was frightened now and just as he looked to his father there was a deafening crash above them.

   Everyone looked up as chunks of glass rained down, three or four thudding against the luggage conveyer belt and one splitting a suitcase open, the clothes bursting out. The cascade spattered around them and people shielded their eyes and turned away. A loud whooping could be heard and, almost too quick to see, a figure swooped down in a graceful arc from the ceiling. It swerved in mid air and stopped in front of Jared and his terrified parents. It was standing astride some kind of hover board and it grinned wickedly. Dressed in tattered black leather and wearing what looked like flying goggles and a black, tight fitting leather cap. The check-in woman screamed in terror and dived behind her desk. The hooded figure from the elevator began to run towards them from the other side of the hall, sprinting fast while prising the lid off the large tube he was carrying. 

  “We-e-e-lll,” the creature on the hover board cackled malevolently. “What do we have here then? Time to come with me little boy.” It grinned evilly and licked its lips, reaching out to Jared.

   “No use to run, we catch you boy. We love the chase we do,” the creature laughed loudly and glanced at Jared’s father who was standing rigid, his mouth silently opening and closing.

   His mother screamed and fainted, hitting the floor with a loud thud. The creature maneuvered the board to where Jared’s father stood and gave Paul a hard shove, propelling him backwards towards his prostrate wife where he toppled over and sat down hard on the floor.  

  “Poor daddy,” the creature snarled snatching its head round to glare at Jared. It spied the bracelet on his wrist and tutted theatrically. “Oooh, toys have we? Not going to do you much good now.” 

  Jared was dumbstruck and scared beyond belief. The creature had slitted, orange eyes that glowed brightly and its smile was like a row of kitchen knives.  

  Everywhere people were frozen to the spot. The robed and hooded figure was pounding across the floor, tearing the top off the long tube and reaching inside. 

  The creature leaned over and cocked its head conspiratorially. “Come with us boy, we take you for a ride,” it said in almost a whisper, winking as it did so. 

  The people around them were staring, unmoving. The check-in clerks were clearly petrified but the nearest one scrabbled with her hand for the panic button under her desk. 

  Jared backed away. Chunks of glass were still pattering down from the ceiling where the creature had burst through. It snorted loudly through its nostrils as Jared staggered back further, the jewel in his arm bracelet now glowing with a vivid and almost blinding green light, as clear as a freshly cut emerald. A piece of glass tocked against his shoulder and snapping out of his fear he turned and ran. He remembered what the man had said in the hospital “don’t let them get hold of you, do whatever you can to get away.”

   “IT TICKLES!!!” The creature whooped with delight and kicked the side of the black, bobbing board with its heel. Weaving after Jared as he tore terror stricken down the concourse, people staring dumbfounded as he ran past. The creature threw its head back and laughed loudly, clearly enjoying the thrill of chase. Jared glanced over its shoulder and saw the creature’s brown and yellow, crooked teeth jutting from it mouth. “God,” he thought suddenly, “don’t any of these people have dentists?” and then wondered why he’d thought that at this of all times. 

  He turned down a side corridor and saw that it branched off to left and right with closed shops either side, their grills down. The creature swerved the board round the corner with an impressive curve, the front end rising up and laughed again. “Run boy, tickle all you want. We will find you so we will!”

   Jared turned and the creature smoothly powered the board towards him. He staggered backwards and tripped over his feet, landing hard on the floor and wincing.

   The creature lowered itself and the board to just above ground level and then its voice took on a serious tone.

   “You come we take you, you don’t come we take you. Your choice boy.”

   Jared sat staring through frightened eyes at the triumphant creature. As he looked past the hovering monster he saw the hooded man charge round the corner and pound up the corridor towards them. The creature grinning at him was oblivious and simply stared at Jared and reached out its hand, the filthy, curved nails on its fingers clawing the air.

   The hooded figure grasped something inside the tube and tugged hard. A sword in its sheath was pulled clear. He dropped the tube, grasped the sheath with one hand and yanked the weapon free. Jared saw to his amazement that it had three golden blades which shone brightly, a big, engraved central blade and a thinner one either side. As the man hurtled down the corridor he raised the sword and just as the hovering creature turned to see what was behind it the running man launched himself in a flying kick. A booted foot caught the creature in the chest and with a whoosh of air it flew back, smacking into the large window facing the runways and then collapsed on the ground. The man ran past Jared and as the creature furiously struggled to its feet it tugged a long, thin blade free from its belt. Jumping into a squatting position, it hissed madly as its attacker thundered towards it.

   “Cursed meddling swine!!!” it hissed loudly, raising the blade. Before it could do anything else the fi
gure swung the three bladed sword towards it and on impact the creature seemed to explode. One second there was an angry hissing monster, the next the air was full of what looked like black dust. It reminded Jared of watching a vacuum cleaner bag explode. The dust shone and glittered crazily and swirled around the man who drew the sword back into a defensive stance. With a disembodied scream the particles flooded into the man’s chest, who stood impassive and unmoving. Then there was no sign that the giggling monster had ever existed except for its hover board, still bobbing slightly in the air. Then, that too turned to dust and after a second the particles sank to the floor.

   The man sheathed the sword and slung it over his shoulder by the red strap.

   He moved quickly towards Jared and without saying anything scooped him up under his arm and ran quickly down the left corridor.

   “HEY! Let me go!” Jared screamed in shock and indignation, futilely struggling against the powerful grip. The stranger ignored him. Jared saw signs they were heading for the shuttle train platform that led to the other terminals and he kicked madly. The people around them were pointing and shouting, one or two taking photos on their mobile phones and cameras. The man holding him skidded around a corner and then ran down a flight of steps, bounding over them three at a time. He barged a woman out of the way on the escalator and in four quick strides was at the bottom and running to the train platform. The few early morning passengers turned at Jared’s screams for help as the huge figure jumped down onto the track and bolted into the dark tunnel. Jared caught a glimpse of the digital clock on the platform wall. It said “next train in 2 minutes.”

   The man ran, the fact he was also carrying Jared seemed to make no difference to his speed as he sprang nimbly along the track. “Let me GO!” Jared cried out, thrashing madly.

   The light of Terminal 3’s train platform was getting ever brighter. Jared could see the train on the platform and to his horror saw it start to move towards them as they ploughed down the tunnel.

 
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