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The catastrophe of the e.., p.3
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       The Catastrophe of the Emerald Queen, p.3

           LR Manley
 

   The train’s lights were dazzling and as they ran Jared could see nothing and closed his eyes as the blinding glare shone in his face. The man ran up to the platform edge and just as the train reached them he leapt onto the platform. Jared’s scream was drowned out by the roar of the locomotive and the wind blasting his face. Without pausing, his captor ran through the nearest exit and made for a service door. People stared gobsmacked. He charged up a darkened staircase and emerged at a security entrance. Jared winced as he saw the door looming towards him but the man twisted at the last moment and turned his shoulder to the frame. Pushing Jared behind him he barged into it and the magnetic security seal cracked loudly. They were on a similar area to the one they’d been on when all this started in terminal 5. He craned his neck to look up as the figure holding him scanned the area frantically. A police officer nearby was talking on his radio and staring at them in astonishment.

   “Hey!” he yelled, releasing his grip on the radio and raising his machine gun. “Armed police! Stand still!”

   The figure paid the officer no heed and suddenly sprinted off to the right. The officer lowered his gun and grabbed the radio again. “1142 to control, he’s here and he’s headed to the Departures area!”

   The hooded figure leapt agilely around, then vaulted the security barrier and hurtled through the queue, shoving people aside. He charged towards the metal detectors while bewildered security personnel stared blankly at them both and scattered. The alarms screamed loudly as he ran through and hurtled on. Jared had ceased to struggle now. He was too frightened and confused. In the back of his mind he realised that keeping quiet meant he might have a chance of getting out of this without being hurt.

   The man bolted along the linking tunnel to the Departures lounge, the few early morning passengers flinching to one side or the other as his heavy boots thudded down the carpeted corridor. Another armed cop came out ahead of them and dropped to one knee, raising his machine gun and yelling at them to stop.

   Halfway down the corridor was a fire exit, the handle taped up with a big red sign saying “DO NOT OPEN EXCEPT IN EMERGENCY.” The stranger skidded to a halt and ran at it, kicking the door hard. It shook in the frame but remained closed. Cursing loudly he booted it a second time and the door opened. The restraining tape snapped and fluttered outside, caught by the sudden blast of cold air.

   He leapt through the door frame and Jared had a terrifying glimpse of the tarmac, realised it was at least eight metres to the floor and before he could scream they were suddenly down. The man’s knees bent and he grunted slightly but then straightened and ran, this time parallel to the building. A large aeroplane was pulling away from the building, the turbines in the jets whirring loudly. Suddenly the man skidded to a halt and dropped Jared on the tarmac who scrabbled into a sitting position and found himself next to a motor cart, loaded up with luggage. He looked up to see the hooded figure draw his sword as two more black-clad shapes on hover boards swooped down out of the sky, the same maniacal laughter heralding their presence. Jared glanced over to the cockpit of the large jet and saw the pilot and co-pilot’s looks of confusion turn to fear. The jets whirred loudly and the plane halted its withdrawal from the terminal.

   “Meddling oaf,” one of the flying creatures cackled maliciously as it flitted past then up and away, taunting them.

   “Oafish meddler,” the other said as it flitted past and away.

   The man turned to Jared and stared at him, his face still hidden behind the large hood he was wearing. “Stay there boy!!” he shouted in a muffled voice and whirled as the second creature flew down shrieking and then swooped away as the big sword was swung at it.

   The driver of the luggage cart that Jared was next to looked out in fear from his cab and then jumped down and ran into the building via an open staff door. Jared wanted to run after him but was too petrified to move.

   The two flying monsters flew back up into the air, about 20 metres from the ground and pointed at Jared while whispering to each other. One snickered and they flew away from each other in opposite directions. Then they rushed in at almost blinding speed towards where Jared sat with the man above him, standing guard like some immense statue.

   As the two howling figures dived in the swordsman adjusted his stance and correctly guessed that the first one was simply to throw him off. He ducked as the board shot by where he had been a micro second before, fast enough to take his head off. Then, almost too fast to see he swung the three bladed weapon in a powerful arc at the second creature that was rushing in, teeth showing in a yellowy, terrifying grin with its arms outstretched to grab Jared. The blades cut through the front of the board and it veered away, wobbling dangerously with red smoke belting out from the gaping hole.

   The creature screamed as the board bucked and weaved in the air, careening around and looping the loop, barely missing its colleague as it spun wildly. Then with a deafening screech the board and the rider flew straight into the left hand jet engine of the plane. There was a grinding crunch and flames billowed out. Jared saw the pilot grimace and shout into his radio. The same explosion of grey shimmering particles hung in the air for a moment, dancing above the orange flames and then the smoke from the fire smothered them and they were gone.

   The second creature glared furiously at Jared and his savior. “Nasty little interfering PIGS we have don’t we!!” it hissed and launched its board straight at them. The figure stood impassive as the monster hurtled towards him and at the last moment shifted his grip on the sword to one hand and stepped to one side, grabbing the creature by its leather coat and pulling it clean off the board. The board zoomed forward and embedded itself in the wall with an ear splitting crunch of grinding metal.

   The man flung the creature to the floor and pointed his sword at its throat. The creature showed no fear but instead glared up at its victor and spat. “To the Sea of Glass with you! No one can stop us. That child will DIE!!”

   Without saying a word the man brought the sword up over his head and then swung it down hard. The creature exploded in a final screech of fury, a shower of sparkling grey particles which again swirled around before making a path to the chest of the swordsman, his body momentarily shining and then returning to normal. Jared glanced over and saw the board disintegrate like the previous one.

   The man sheathed his huge sword and turned. Jared glared at him and snapped “I’ll come ok, just forget the baby carrying.”

   The man paused for a second then shook his head and scooped him up.

  “Oh, for God’s sake!” Jared shouted but chose not to struggle as he’d realised this did nothing except tire him out. The jet engine was still on fire, black smoke and orange flames pouring out from the crippled motor.

   As the man ran on with Jared tucked under his arm, the door ahead of them burst open and four armed police officers spilled out onto the tarmac. They saw the sprinting figure. One shouted the challenge as they raised their machine guns. He didn’t slow in the slightest and bounded forward relentlessly. The guns wavered and suddenly the man jumped high, sailing over their heads and landing with barely a break in his speed. The confused cops turned round and one shouted. “HEY!!”

   After another fifty or so metres, he came to a piece of wall that looked older than the rest and in the middle was an old service door. Jared could see that it looked ancient, rusted and red and had clearly not been opened in years. The man pushed Jared against the wall next to it and shouted. “Don’t move!” Reaching into his robe he pulled out a bright red crystal. He gazed at it and spoke some strange words then hurled it at the door. Jared flinched but before it could impact the metal, the crystal exploded into rainbow coloured swirls. They spread slowly, the colours forming into a square that fit the doorway exactly, the frame glowing with a pulsating light. The man lunged forward and grasped the handle. Jared expected it to remain stuck with the rust but it opened easily and he looked away as pure white light dazzled him. As it quickly faded and
the view cleared, instead of an old service corridor he was met by a mesmerizing sight of a red field and a sky lit by what looked like the most spectacular sunset he’d ever seen.

   This incredible sight was suddenly interrupted as the police officers ran up behind them and a police car made its way from around the corner, siren blaring noisily as it skidded to a stop. The man glanced over his shoulder then leaned forward and grabbed Jared by his collar and belt. As Jared yelled in protest, he swung him back and then flung him through the open doorway.

   The police ran to a halt ten metres from the figure who whirled and stood there facing them, his sword still sheathed. The car driver killed the siren and someone shouted. “Armed police, stand still! Do NOT move!” The man stared at them silent and unmoving, his face hidden in shadow, the door open behind him.

   The driver of the police car had two gold pips on each shoulder and appeared to be in charge. He raised a megaphone and shouted through it. “Place your hands on your head and drop to your knees.”

   The silent figure made no attempt to comply and simply stared at them. The cops shuffled nervously, their headsets crackling with frantic chatter from their control room.

   The officer shouted through the megaphone. “Just do as we say. Put your hands on your head and drop to your knees.”

   Without a word the man simply turned on his heel and walked through the door, slamming it behind him.

   Jared staggered backwards, his view of the runways and skyline at Heathrow airport now gone as his kidnapper marched towards him. Impossibly, the door he was now facing appeared to be the back door of a shed on a farm He was all dusty where he’d landed and while before he’d been too caught up in what was going on to be really scared he was now very frightened.

   The man walked forward and stood over him, the dying sunlight bathing his robe in red light. As if sensing Jared’s unease he reached up and grasped the sides of his hood and pulled it back and yanked down the black scarf that covered his mouth and nose. Jared gasped as he saw the man wasn’t a man but had the head of a large Caracal hunting cat. The ears were tall and black sticking up from its skull, its nose coloured with a black tip, the whiskers long. The fur was a light brown and it had long hair, like a human, extending from behind the ears, tied back with a purple cord.

   The cat man looked at him and after a pause said slowly. “Do not be afraid. My name is Mordalayn and I will not harm you.”

  Chapter 3

   

  Jared tried to stand up but his feet slipped and he fell over. Mordalayn reached down and gently took his arm. Around them was a field of what looked like tall red wheat stalks, waving lazily in the fading sunshine. The sky was a magnificent array of orange, red and purple, the clouds lit up by the dying shades of dusk. The house next to them was ramshackle. The bricks looked old and the chimney on the top was crooked. Smoke was puffing from it slowly and Jared could smell something like stew cooking. 

  The farm creature nearest to them broke from its grazing to see what had interrupted its task, then looked away disinterestedly and carried on. Its four small horns moving as it munched away contentedly.

   The wooden door was closed and Jared somehow guessed that if he opened it he wouldn’t find himself staring at Heathrow’s runways.

   “Where are we?” he said to Mordalayn while trying to brush the dirt from his sleeves.

   “I will tell you later,” the huge figure replied, his deep voice somehow reassuring despite the fear and confusion Jared was feeling. “Come inside, I will find you clean clothes and food and you can rest.”

   He put his hand on Jared’s shoulder and gently steered him through the dusty field, Jared’s shoes picking up the dirt as they made their way round the front of the house. In places the ground was split but in the cracks was a bright orange, thick substance like smooth marmalade. It bubbled slightly and a steam rose from it.

   “Watch your step,” Mordalayn said, steering him around the ooze.

    A large black horse was standing in a pen, it raised its head and snuffled as they approached it. Mordalayn extended his hand and rubbed the creature’s nose soothingly. He ducked down under the tiled awning above the doorway and grasped the round metal handle, shoving the door forwards with a grinding noise.

   Checking that the room was secure he then beckoned Jared to enter. “Come,” he said, “it will be colder soon.” Jared gingerly stepped inside and saw that the room was a basic living space. There was a large wooden table in the centre with a few metal plates and mugs. There was what looked like a fruit bowl on it, but the main item in it looked like a cross between a pineapple and a cactus plant. Looking closer, what he thought at first glance was an apple appeared to be silver in colour. Further back were a couple of closed doors and to his left was a large window.

   Mordalayn turned to Jared. “Your arm with the bracelet, show it to me.”

   He hesitated but then extended his arm. Mordalayn pulled the grubby sleeve back and saw the oval crystal was still cloudy. He unslung his sword and laid it on the table, then removed his robe.

   Jared jumped as a male voice suddenly went. “Well, back again. Just in time for tea.”

   A short man wearing an apron emerged from one of the doorways. Jared could see a stove through the open door with a couple of large black pans on. He felt his stomach rumble in protest.

   “Hello young man,” the man said cheerfully, wiping his hands on a large cloth “and who might you be then?”

   “He appears totally unfazed by the sight of a hulking, cat faced man who’s just walked into his front room and lain a sword on his table,” Jared thought.

   “My...” he squeaked and then coughed to clear his throat and cover up for his nervousness. “My name’s Jared. Jared Miller.”

   “Ah,” the man said beaming.

   Jared looked at him puzzled. “Now then,” he said to Mordalayn who was wrapping his robe up into a ball. “You both must be hungry. I have some stew and sweetsomes for eating. You are both welcome of course.”

   Jared glanced around the room. The place had a high ceiling and wooden beams supporting it, criss crossing here and there. The windows were old looking and diamond shaped from the lead patterns on the outside. There were many ornaments on the various sills, large cabinets and chests of drawers. One was a small statue of a woman, wearing a long green dress and holding her arms out as if wanting to give a hug. Another was of a ship, the rigging and sails exquisitely rendered. The man caught Jared’s wandering eye and chuckled. “You like my boat?”

   “Yes, errr…it’s very good.”

   “Thank you,” he replied smiling and then, “My, my, where are my manners,” he tutted to himself. Putting the rag he’d wiped his hands on into the pouch on his apron, he extended his hand. “Fellicone,” he said beaming and shaking Jared’s hand hard.

   Mordalayn had finished wrapping up his items and he turned around. He was hugely tall and was dressed in green leather trousers and calf length brown leather boots, buckled severely. He wore a brown jerkin with several pockets adorning it, over a green shirt of some heavy looking fabric with the sleeves rolled up. He had what looked like a silver coat of arms pinned to the left breast. The buckle on his belt was large and had a carving of a hand, with a crown in the centre. Writing above and below said “MANUS HAEC INIMICA TYRANNIS.” The cat face showed no emotion. He gestured for Jared to sit down. “Please, we owe you an explanation and I do not want you to be afraid.”

   Jared thought that being afraid was something he might have to get used to but took the proffered wooden chair and sat, looking from the smiling, friendly face of Fellicone to the unreadable one of Mordalayn.

   Mordalayn sat opposite Jared and placed one arm on the table, his huge fingers still, the gold ring on his middle finger had the same hand and crown crest on it.

   The cat figure leaned forward and spoke quietly his voice resonating in the room. “You were in mortal danger when I chanced up
on you in the hospital. The creature who was in that room was an assassin, sent by evil men to kill our queen.” Jared looked puzzled and Mordalayn paused.

   “Do, do you mean Sophie?”

   Fellicone and Mordalayn exchanged glances and Mordalayn leaned slightly further forward. “Her name to you is Sophie Roberts. Here she is our queen and ruler, bringer of light and joy to all in Alegria.”

   He paused for a moment and then continued with his explanation. “She was hurt, four months or more by your calendar, much longer by ours. She is greatly vulnerable now.”

   Jared stared at him confused and bewildered. He had no idea what was going on and far from reassuring him, this explanation was just tying his brain in more knots.

   “Sophie was hurt in a car crash, at least I thought she was. How is she your ruler here? Is this like Africa or something? Is she a princess staying in England or something?”

   Mordalayn again glanced at Fellicone whose face creased in concern.

   “Jared, we are not in Africa. This is Alegria.”

   He paused and Jared looked at him even more confused. “Where’s Alegria?” he asked.

   Mordalyn paused. “I cannot tell you everything now, for your own safety. I dealt with the assassin and placed a protection spell on Our Lady so they cannot find her. But that spell he threw into you means our enemies can track you.”

   Jared looked around and was still uncomprehending. “But again. Where ARE we? I have to go home, my mum and dad will be worried about me.”

   Mordalayn sighed. “I promise you all this will be made clearer later. I need to get you to a safe place. We are safe here for a short time only but we are on the borders of Alegria. Those who would hurt the queen may find you here.”

   He stood. “The corvo he placed within you has to be removed.”

   Jared paled. “But, but I feel nothing. What is it?”

   “The corvo is not malignant, it simply resides within you, but our enemies can track you with it. We need to remove it. Now..”

   Jared was scared and stammered. “But, but what will you do?”

 
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