Characters in this tale may really be based on unreal people.
After the most savage storm to ever ravage the kingdom, reports of the devastation had continued to pour in from around the Kingdom over the next few days. Most deaths resulted from the sudden floods through the village streets, where people, horses and carts were smashed against buildings, bridges and rocks downstream. Soldiers were rushed out as well as the local townsfolk, to attend to the dead, wounded and vulnerable, and begin repairs of the damage to homes and infrastructure.
A long and tearful funeral procession was held on the sacred Pine Lake waters for the eighty-three men, women and children killed. The floating timber platforms, on which the wrapped and anointed bodies were laid to rest, most with tokens from their loved ones, were cast off into the lake, as the sun set below the horizon on the third day. They were then set alight fifty foot out, by pitch burning arrows from three royal archers on the shore, igniting the evening sky with a loud crackling of burning timbers and a brightly flickering orange glow. This against the sound of wailing cries from the bereaved. As was ancient custom, the lives and fond memories of the deceased were then celebrated that night with gentle music, wine, singing and poems at the castle.
Days later it was decided that they return to the caves and begin their investigations. Excitement was building amongst the adults and unbridled exuberance in the youngsters. A large group again headed off with their wagons, horses, soldiers and supplies. The weather was warm and pleasant with a gentle breeze. Signs of newly emerging buds, birds in song and chirping insects helped divert attention from the recovering devastation of the landscape. Base camp was set up below the path up to the caves, but on some higher ground away from the stream. The first group, consisting of the royal party and retinue including scribes and a number of the soldiers, made theiroij way up the path and through to caves four and five.
Even after careful cleaning and close examination, no one was able to identify the strange material at the base of the cave pond. The ‘map’ was etched into a mysterious single flat sheet of silvery blue high sheen material. Some careful scratches into the hard surface with a dagger, showed that the surface colour ran deep. Anthon instructed that a sample be removed later for tests back at the castle workshops.
One of the scribes and his assistant were tasked to accurately copy the map layout onto vellum, with special attention to the exact route along the branching paths that was shown by the green dashed line.
In cave five, Prince Eltor stood at the top of the ladder and pushed up on the stone circle with the cross in the middle, gently at first and then with more pressure. It moved and then there was a stone on stone clicking sound behind the circle, immediately followed by another louder clack in the location of the rectangular grooves. Anthon felt again inside the grooves and found that new recesses had appeared to the inner sides of each of the grooves, toward the back. He pulled the stone slab between the recesses and felt it move toward him. Mathem bent down and helped pull the slab out further.
There was a scraping sound and a large cut stone, located at the back of the recess, slid down. This time another stone-on-stone sound came from behind the flat decorated hirogyptics wall. Now what? They all stood in front of the wall looking for clues of how to get through it. Anthon had attempted to interpret the symbols but most of it seemed to make no sense. The markings indicated something about a moving star dropping big waters, a land sinking circled by seas (waters of salt), a large number that might be four hundred and fifty thousand people under water with sand (mud?), and other such things. Time later to continue with trying to make sense of it, but he thought it more likely that the Merklin book he was referencing, may have interpreted some of the old symbols incorrectly.
The children were well behaved but were watching the attempt to open the flat wall with some frustration; it was taking so long with men pushing on different sides, pushing along the bottom and even standing on two ladders and pushing along the top. The wall didn’t budge. They even discussed smashing it down as a last resort. Anthon looked horrified and ordered scribes to immediately carefully copy the drawings and symbols. Amelia knew that they were probably even thinking of chopping through it with the exCaleebra swords. She looked more closely at the symbols and then asked
“Poppy, do any of those symbols mean push like the one on the ceiling?” Grandpa Anthon looked at her for a second and then looked carefully again, paging through his book. Before he could answer she said “There” and pointed to a circle with a cross in the middle, similar to the one Eltor had pushed on. It was on the right of the wall just above her head and before anyone could object, she pushed on it hard. It went in with a small metal sliding sound. There was an astounded hush and then her father and grandpa laughed out loud.
“My stars little princess, you are a clever rabbit” said Daddy.
Breese clapped her hands in excitement and Harold punched her on the arm. “Ouch!” She said but hardly paid him any attention. Eltor and his brothers then pushed on the right-hand side of the wall and the whole panel started moving, opening into a dim room. As Prince of Oz, Eltor was the first to step through into the unknown The air felt cool. A myriad of tiny openings on the right-hand wall sparkled a gentle light into the space. He beckoned for the others to follow.
Once their eyes had adjusted they noticed that the floor, walls and ceiling were all smooth flat slabs of what looked like sandstone, interrupted with benches, reflecting sheets of what looked to them like pure crystal (but with no impurities), beds but not of straw, chairs, various items and implements they could not identify and in the middle of the room stood a table, on which lay a long box with a crystal lid and with various tubes running from it down through the large table. There were two quite small rooms on the left, containing various very shiny smooth white bowls, two of which were big enough to lie in, and all of which had shiny silvery metal taps and handles.
“Do not touch anything children, and stay with an adult at all times ok?” said Prince Eltor strictly. “We need to examine all of this very, very carefully later”. That didn’t stop Amelia, Breese and Harold from touching every surface they walked past, but they knew not to turn any handles, push any buttons or pull any levers.
“When is Bastion Grey coming back Amelia? He would go mad seeing all this stuff.” exclaimed Harold.
“Poppy says he should hear back from Merklin soon. In his last message he said that Grey has helped him find some amazing information on the mission. All secret of course!” she said proudly. She really missed her brother;- his brilliance, humour, and loving nature. She felt such added excitement that he would be back soon and then she and her cousins could show him these new discoveries.
Anthon and his sons were busy looking at the contraption in the middle. It had a clear crystal top and from above it looked as though it was shaped for someone to lie in. But if it were a coffin, why would it have all these strange wires, tubes and buttons around the inside and outside? There were also red, green and yellow crystal circles and rectangles, some with long thin arrow shapes inside and strange symbols. The big table itself had other similar decoration, as well as shiny grey screens and buttons.
“This will take months of study but let’s move on. Two guards are to remain in this room and ensure that no one touch anything. Is that understood” Prince Eltor commanded his men. He had already posted another four men at the entry to the caves to ensure security, and another to take care of the scribes needs. The armed guards were expected to arrive soon.
The onward passage from the square room double door was about eight foot wide and of a similar height. It was dark, requiring torch bearers front and rear of the group. There were hand-sized sealed crystal tear-drop shaped objects imbedded in the walls at regular intervals of about ten feet and three tubes ran along the cut rock ceiling which dropped down into the five narrow streams that passed through the corridor perpendicular to the walls. They wondered aloud how water could be made to move up the tubes without something like miniature screw shafts on the inside? When they reached the first of the tunnel branches, the crystal wall objects came to an end and all five tunnel branches looked identical, reducing to six foot wide. ‘These must have taken workmen a very long time to excavate’ thought Anthon. They sent for the scribe’s vellum copy of the map, which arrived with the panting scribe and his apprentice some five minutes later.
“Have you completed the drawing of the way through the tunnels accurately Ronsha?” asked Eltor. The scribe bowed low and confirmed that the work was complete.
Two well-armed torch-bearers walked ahead to provide a flickering flaming light, followed by Anthon, his three sons and Lukestar. Amelia, Breese and Harold followed about ten feet behind with their mothers as instructed, with five armed guards ahead and behind. Two rear guards would act as messengers taking turns to relay information back to the guards in the caves. Any long delay in such a message may mean that the Royal party are in danger, and an armed squad of men would rush forward to investigate. Chalk markings were made at regular intervals along the walls to ensure that no one take a wrong branch tunnel by mistake, because they may never find their way back through the maze.
After many twists and turns, following the map’s green dotted line route, they came across a blank wall ahead. This didn’t look good! However, as they drew closer to this end wall, they noticed that there were stairs down into the darkness. Thankfully so far there hadn’t been any nasty surprises, and Anthon postulated loudly
“I believe that the creators of this massive undertaking would have used this route regularly, so it is unlikely that they would make this particular route difficult or dangerous, but the other routes may have deadly traps to protect what they want kept secret. That’s my guess anyhow. However, we should remain vigilant at all times”.
The stairs led down about twenty feet and then continued for another fifty feet or so to a large metallic silvery-looking door with a grille above to allow airflow. There was a bright green circular wheel protruding from the centre, with a silver arrow shape at the top lining up with a green mark on the door. Prince Eltor moved forward and found that it rotated anticlockwise one full rotation before it clicked and allowed the door to be pushed open.
They all excitedly stepped through into a large circular room. There was a sprinkling of natural light through a myriad of transparent crystal tubes, connecting the curved wall on the right-hand side of the room with the outside. As these tubes got longer either side of the centre, Anthon surmised that the wall to the outside was about three foot thick at its thinnest and that the inner curve of the room would deliberately not be revealed to the outside. This was a very secret place!
The curved walls and ceiling were silvery blue like the material of the pond map and helped reflect the light evenly around the room. The room was comfortably bright so the torches were extinguished. On the left side of the room there were twelve beds, evenly spaced on the curve about five feet apart. They were wide enough for two adults per bed and the mattresses were amazingly comfortable to lie on, as tested in turn by all in the group with great delight. “We must get one of these dear” said Queen Emeralda excitedly.
“No more straw and feather mattresses after this comfort”, sighed Princess Saphire.
“What I don’t understand” exclaimed Lukestar,“is the lack of dust anywhere. How is that possible?”
“Good question” said Mathem. “What do you reckon Dad?” Anthon looked around in wonder. How was this possible, especially considering the movement of fresh air they could feel right through the tunnels?
“A miracle indeed” he said. “especially after being unoccupied for so many years by those here before. Possibly many hundreds of years! But look at this. I’m especially interested in this globe here”.
They gathered around a large three-foot diameter sphere, which seemed to be made of a dark polished crystal. It was placed in a small curved dish shape to hold it in place, which in turn sat on a circular green pedestal about three foot high and also three foot in diameter. Unlike the clear crystal ‘coffin’ shape they saw earlier in the square room, there were no tubes, buttons, markings or crystal panels. Around the top edge of the pedestal was a four-foot diameter curved yellow flattened donut- shaped protrusion, which stuck proud of the outer edge of the pedestal by about six inches. It felt comfortable and slightly warm to the touch. Six people could comfortably stand around the pedestal with hands resting on this flattened wheel, looking at the globe.
At the opposite side of the room to the door they came through, stood another large door of similar looking material. To its right, a curved bench stood below the lighting tubes with a variety of rectangular drawers. There were no handles but Harold discovered, after being told not to touch, that by pushing the face on the drawer it gently and smoothly moved out toward you, revealing a vast variety of objects, including clear crystal cylinders containing liquids or tiny ovoid shapes. “Wow!” he exclaimed loudly. Breese and Amelia rushed over join him and each pressed another drawer with the same effect. After warning the children again not to touch, the adults opened all the remaining drawers and cupboards, but did not open any liquid containers. All these fascinating objects would be examined later they decided.
Amelia wanted to test a thin shiny red-coloured pointed stick, after removing it from a holder stand, on an adjacent firm white pad, consisting of many thin sheets fixed together at the top. Daddy said ok but examined it first. He and Amelia were amazed to see that this stick object could draw lines and make writing marks, as with a feathered quill, but without requiring a pot of ink. Breese and Harold rushed over as Amelia started yelling. While drawing shapes she had found that pressing little buttons on the side of the stick changed the colours. They excitedly took turns and proudly showed their drawings to the adults. No one had seen anything so wonderful and many tried their hand at marking the pages.
A messenger runner was sent back to base camp to request refreshments and bring another two guards to be on hand. Some delicacies, sandwiches, tea and sweet milk was brought through by Aunt Sue and three staff. It was a welcome treat and a pleasant break. Some took that time to return to the base camp for toileting and washing before excitedly returning to the circular room of the Gods.
Duke Anthon again returned to the crystal sphere, determined that it must be of great importance, being in the very centre of the room. He and others tried pushing and prodding everywhere on the surfaces but nothing moved or changed. This indeed was a great enigma. Amelia came to stand at her grandfather’s side. He lifted her up to have a better look at the sphere. “I can almost see inside Poppy” she said and touched her hand to the surface. A gentle red light began to glow in the middle of the globe.
“Oh stars of wonder! Something’s happening” yelled Anthon. Amelia removed her hand in fright when he yelled, but strange lights and patterns were growing brighter and brighter in the ball. “It must be her charm” he called out excitedly, but realizing immediately that certain others must not be allowed to know what he meant, so quickly added “She has such a charming manner”. Jaygon smiled at his father’s unnecessary attempt to muddy the waters.
Everyone gathered around in awe as the sphere became clearer and then almost entirely see-through, but with what looked like real tiny people inside gesturing and talking in a strange language. Suddenly part of the realistic image grew bigger and filled the sphere with a pretty woman’s head, life-size, with the most beautiful long blonde hair, moving about as she talked, with piercing blue eyes that looked right out at them, although indirectly, and sparkling white teeth revealing a beautiful smile. She looked like a real Goddess! Anthon walked around the sphere and realized that he could see the back of her head from behind, and move right around what looked like a real person inside. A man’s head then came into view and then they got smaller again until you could see them both talking face to face from the chest up. The voices were clear and Amelia wished that she could understand what they were saying, as did everyone else in the room.
The messenger returned with the armed guards and they all stood there gawking in shock. Anthon was getting a little sore holding up Amelia and suggested she go to her daddy for a bit while he look around the pedestal a little more. As he placed her down on the floor a green and red square appeared on the outside of the sphere, on four sides, but with the moving images and voices still proceeding behind. Anthon had an idea and touched the red square on his side of the sphere. The sphere immediately went black and silent again.
“Oh no what happened?” cried Saphire.
Anthon quietly whispered to Amelia
“Touch it again darling” and lifted her up. Again the globe awoke to her touch and the little man and woman were still talking inside. He then lowered her to the floor and the red and green squares again appeared. This time he touched the green square and the squares disappeared but the show continued. Somehow the material inside Amelia’s protection charm was recognized by whoever built these devices. Now that was interesting, thought Anthon.
He had used particles of the same charm material in the molten metals, with which he forged the exCaleebra swords, daggers and lances. He knew in a flash, before he even tried it, that the globe would work when touched, while he wore his dagger, which it did. Amelia was fascinated, and secretly touched her charm pendant against the yellow flattened wheel rim. She couldn’t see anything from standing on the floor and again asked her Poppy to lift her up again.
Jaygon asked “What are these glowing symbols Pop?” pointing to the top of the yellow rim. All around the inner rim below the sphere, had now appeared a repeated pattern of ten symbols. “We need the scribe quickly” he ordered a guard who dashed off running.
“I can copy them” said Amelia “Mummy please pass me the red stick and that pad” she said pointing at the table. Anthon handed Amelia to the King gently so that he could concentrate on the symbols and his book. Four of the symbols were triangles pointing up, down and sideways. He touched the sideways arrows and the image inside the globe rotated left or right accordingly. The up and down arrows increased and decreased the sound of the talking in the globe. The circle with a red dot inside allowed him to zoom in on any part of the moving image and the circle next to it with an X inside allowed him to zoom out again. The other four symbols were even more interesting. The first was a block of eight small squares, each with a different marking. Touching these in turn changes the images to what looked like views inside different rooms, including one which showed what looked like six large cages. Those in the room gathered around closer.
With a gasp of horror, they could see that in one of the cages there was a Terraloon lying down, either dead or asleep. The other five cage doors were open and the cages empty. A chill of dread ran up Anthon’s spine and fearful murmuring filled the room. “We don’t know how old this image is so don’t be too alarmed” said Eltor, but there was something about the subtle movement of light in the room that indicated that it might be a live scene.
The last three of the eight squares showed different views of a massive almost circular sunlit area, surrounded by sheer high cliff walls on all sides, with a stream, trees, fields, overgrown vegetable patches, little cube shaped huts but right there in the middle of the sunlit crater, and which attracted gasps and comments, was a large boat-like vessel, lying slightly tilted, on just dry land and rocks. Compared to the size of the trees, it looked impossibly large and even more incomprehensibly, made of metals and not timber. “What the blazers is that?” exclaimed Mathem loudly. Everyone started talking at once about what they had seen.
“It is possible” said Anthon loudly, demanding silence, “that these images are of what lays beyond that door”. They all looked toward the unopened door nervously. “Before we decide on how best to proceed let me test these remaining symbols”.
However before Anthon got the chance, the sphere crackled and flickered for a brief second, and an amazingly striking woman’s face appeared with the most intense green eyes that anyone had ever seen. She didn’t look completely human, with gold-yellow skin and unnaturally bright almost glowing long red wavy hair, which seemed alive, and kept rippling up and down from the top of her head to the tips. What was particularly shocking, and froze Duke Anthon to the depth of his being, was that she looked directly into his eyes and then at each of them in turn, saying absolutely nothing, focusing finally on Amelia.
Amelia thought that this woman was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen, and was flattered that she kept staring at her. Before Amelia could say hello and wave from her daddy’s arms, the woman looked down at her pendant for a second or two, then smiled at Amelia with a flash of brilliant white teeth against exquisitely ruby lips and whispered in a dusky voice, what sounded to Anthon like “Meralin”. She then glanced again at Anthon, moved her hand and immediately the screen went black.
“The Red Wasp” whispered a stunned Anthon, “but that’s impossible” he cursed in a loud voice. “It’s impossible!” he repeated even louder, smacking his own cheek, as if to wake himself up. His sons crowded around him with great concern, not just for his upset, but because they too wanted answers to this strange woman that looked directly at them where they stood, as though she was right there in the room with them. Furthermore, she could obviously control the globe from wherever she was.
“Who the gods name was that?” asked Eltor, creating an immediate babble of discussion, questioning and concern. Jaygon put Amelia down, because she wanted to hug her mummy all of a sudden.
“Why are they worried about that lady mummy?” Amelia asked cuddling up in her mother’s arms. “I think we should ask them darling” said the queen, deciding that this was no longer a matter for the men alone. She was feeling more than a little concerned about the way this woman stared at her daughter as if she could eat her. She called for the attention of all in the room and demanded that everyone have an equal say, including the women, and that one person be heard at a time, starting with the Duke Anthon, who seemed to know something about the red-haired woman. Most people sat on the beds and chairs to listen.
Anthon then proceeded to tell them what he knew of the legend of the witch, Red Wasp, but that it seemed impossible that someone from such an ancient legend could still be alive. It was therefore likely that this woman was a descendant of a tribe of people who had such unusual features. However, she could also have similar dangerous abilities, so all precautions should be taken. She exuded such self-assured power and didn’t look the least bit concerned by the room full of well-armed men. Her whereabouts was unknown, but she too could be outside that door. Another big question was whether she be friend or foe, if ever they met?
Secretly Anthon worried that this woman was indeed that evil witch, or at least as dangerous, and very unlikely to be friendly!
“First order of business” boomed Prince Eltor, even though it obviously was not a business meeting “is to decide whether or not to open that door while we are here, or head back to the castle to better prepare ourselves for what may lie ahead. If we decide that some or all of us proceed from here” he said diplomatically, knowing that the mothers would never allow the kids through, “then I will send for another twenty of my best soldiers before we go through”
“We will return to the castle with the children” agreed Emeralda and Saphire. Even Amelia said nothing, being shocked that such a beautiful woman could possibly be so wicked. She wished she could meet her and that she really isn’t a witch like the one in the legend. “Can we take the drawing sticks with us please mummy?” asked Amelia. Breese and Harold leaped off the bed, followed rapidly by a yelling Amelia, grabbing their sticks and a pad each, before an adult even had a chance to respond. “Ok that should be fine” said Jaygon after getting a smile from Anthon.
Once the others had left for the castle and the extra well- armed men arrived, it was agreed that Anthon, his sons and Luke, as well as thirty well-armed men, proceed through the door. Five armed guards would ensure that no one come back through that door, without the agreed knocks and password. A similar wheel handle opened the door from the room side and they cautiously pushed the door outwards. This door was almost a foot thick and heavy to open, with only a strange thin slot and no handle on the outside. They successfully tested knocking and calling with the door closed and reopened before finally closing it and proceeding on. This doorway lead into a strange zig-zag tunnel, with what looked like eight-foot wide vertical straw-like material padding in the inner corners of each zig zag. If you ran too fast Anthon thought, you would bang into the straw stuff, whatever it was. When Mathem touched it with the tip of his finger, it gave way easily, but when he tried to remove his finger it was difficult and very sticky.
“Don’t anyone touch the straw stuff. Be really careful not to walk into it. It will suck you in like the deadly mudsand. Pass the message back quietly” he commanded.
After five minutes the dark tunnel turned the last corner and opened into an enormous sunlit area, surrounded on all sides by steep cliff walls, with a paved path leading to an avenue of flowering jacaranda trees in the distance. There stood the big metal ship, and it looked exactly like it did in the globe images, which meant that the image views were of now and not the past.
They stood in stunned silence, trying to absorb the scale and wonder of what was before them. The ship looked taller than even the highest towers in the castle, but was not a normal boat shape. It was half a mile long and perhaps an eighth of a mile wide, Anthon guessed. There were big protrusions out the sides and as they carefully drew closer to the first one, they could see that eight huge metal curved blades sat inside a giant circle of about thirty feet diameter, as the spokes of a wagon wheel. There were three big blade circles, sat within each protrusion, and three such protrusions on either side of the ship. As they approached, they could see vines and plants growing up the sides of the giant boat, and could see trees poking out over the decks above. They decided to walk up to the top of a little hill to get a better view over the whole area. King Jaygon suggested sending out five groups of three men to check all the cube shaped huts and any other areas hidden from view, to firstly ensure that no threat existed from man or beast, and report back.
From their vantage point on the hill they could see what looked like a blocked-off entrance archway in the cliffs, directly opposite the tunnel they came out from. The men reported back that apart from small animals and birds the whole crater seemed empty of life, with the exception of a dead Terraloon in one of the cages. Remaining vigilant, half the group went to investigate the cage room. They were all relieved that the red-haired woman was nowhere to be found, especially Anthon who had been feeling very tense since they ventured out from the globe room.
The cages were massive and the shiny metal bars at least six inches in diameter. Yet two of the cage doors had been twisted out of shape and the others left open. What were the old inhabitants doing with caged Terraloons instead of killing them? Surely they realized the immense danger to their own population if one ever broke loose? They also noticed that the body of the dead creature was dried out but that the skin had not lost its incredible toughness. “Let’s hope that there are no more of you out there, Powerful One” Marshall Mathem said in awe, to the murmuring agreement of the others.
“I want to see if we can get inside that boat” said Eltor eagerly and spinning on his heels toward the craft. “Me too” said Jaygon and Mathem, at the same time, like twins. “Ok sons” said Anthon, “but I’m off to have a look at that walled-in entrance. These two gentlemen can accompany me” he said pointing at two of the guards, who immediately stood to attention.
What a curious arched entrance, Anthon thought, as he approached. The entrance way was blocked in with what looked like sandstone, with vertical and horizontal embedded strips of a one-inch wide turquoise-coloured substance at nine-inch intervals. Anthon reached across to touch the sandstone and was shocked to find that his hand just disappeared inside it. He could feel nothing. It was some sort of illusion. However when he touched one of the turquoise strips it glowed briefly and burnt his finger badly. “Ouch” he yelled, nursing his wound. “Are you alright your majesty?” said one of his guards with alarm. “Fine, fine” he answered in pain. He urgently took off his backpack and applied an ointment, which brought immediate relief.
“Well, well, well your majesty, or should I call you Poppy?” said a husky voice above him. He looked up and froze in horror. Suspended in the air, just ten foot over their heads was the red-haired woman they had seen in the globe. She gently floated down to the ground, her body radiant and shimmering, and her bright red hair moving with a life of its own, her glowing green eyes staring intensely at Anthon. Golden yellow skin and all, she was staggeringly beautiful. Both stunned guards suddenly realized their duty and moved forward with swords raised. She didn’t even give them a glance, but with a small flick of her wrist, they froze and fell to the ground totally immobilized. “I won’t harm you if you don’t attempt to harm me” she gently laughed. “In fact I hope that you can help me solve a riddle”.
“You can speak our language?” Duke Anthon stammered once he could find his voice. “Who are you? Where do you come from?”
“You know who I am, Anthon Joshua of the Seven Kingdoms and I know much about you and your family.” Icy spine-tingling fear gripped Anthon at her words. His family was in danger. She sounded sweet and friendly but he knew that she was deadly.
“Yes, I am the one they called the Red Wasp, but my name is Tallia of Mog. I come from a different world and seek to return. You won’t understand much of what I say so don’t expect explanations. Just answer my questions. If you attempt to call the others, I will have to destroy them. In fact, to avoid that time wasting distraction, let us go somewhere private.” She removed a golden rod about a foot long from a scabbard concealed in her robe and pointed it toward the arched entrance. The turquoise strips retracted to the sides and top and she instructed Anthon to walk through the stonework. “It won’t hurt you, come on! We don’t want your sons and companions to die needlessly now, do we?”
It was nerve wracking walking through the foot deep stonework but it only felt slightly tingly. Similar materials lined the inner walls and ceiling, as were in the circular globe room. The difference here[AW1] was that light actually shone from the shaped crystals in the walls, which glowed brightly. The air smelled fresh.
Tallia led him along passages, and various rooms, which all lit up ahead of them as they moved through. She didn’t stop until they reached a wall at the end of the last room. It was massive, at over twenty feet high and thirty wide. It was of a black material with what looked like thousands of little stars twinkling in its surface. Tallia turned to Anthon, coming up close enough that he could feel tiny tremors running across his skin. “This is the wall I need to get through” she breathed into his ear, touching his sword arm lightly with her cool fingers “and you are going to help me. First question; where is your friend Merlin?”
Anthon thought that he knew the name she meant, his friend Merklin, but he would never reveal his whereabouts, even if he knew where to find him. He did know how to send him a message but would never tell this witch. “I don’t know anyone called Merlin” he said deviously but truthfully. Her eyes glinted dangerously into his.
“I saw the power of the Azlan Quantum material in your granddaughter’s pendant as soon as she awoke the communication sphere. That I’m sure, came from the Azlan drive of the only other space-jumping Azlanzid craft, which was wrecked a great distance away up north.” She waited briefly, staring into his eyes from just a foot away, before continuing. “When we came to visit your world, the Azlantids cunningly surprised us, and a great war broke out. That particular Azlan drive was hidden in various pieces to avoid our people using it for the return to our world.
“Our seven ships were destroyed but for my own, which I hid, whilst their forces were still more powerful. They were a selfish fearful race and I am glad that their main base was successfully attacked and sunk into the sea. Behind this black wall is the smaller Azlan drive from the aerial seacraft you see outside. Also behind that wall is my spacecraft to return me to my home-world and the means to open the roof portals. My husband and the rest of my traveling explorer crew were murdered. I was held prisoner for a long period, as were most of the loyal workers we brought with us; the ones you referred to as Terraloons. I am sure, from my discussions with many others over the years, that this Merlin person knows where a large part of the Azlan Quantum material is. I will need as much of it as possible.”
Anthon only vaguely understood what she was talking about. “I have so many questions” he started to say but she immediately interrupted. “I am not interested in your questions. Normally my discussions with people don’t always end well for them, but my options are dwindling so I am allowing you to understand my predicament, and yours. Where did you get the Azlan material? Give me the name of those you met and the location.”
“I don’t remember the trader’s name but I met him by chance in the markets in Jedd. I gave him a sword in exchange,” Anthon lied. Tallia just stared into his eyes in silence and then said “Perhaps Amelia will help me” and before Anthon could react or plead with her, she had disappeared, floating in a shimmering light away from him down the corridor. He ran after her shouting promises of helping her, but knew that he was too late. The corridors were darkening behind him as he ran as fast as he could, but very soon he was stumbling in the dark, crying with fear for Amelia. “Oh Merklin” he thought, “my dear friend, I would have given you up in exchange for those I love, if she had but then returned. I’m so sorry!”.
King Jaygon could hear his father yelling, as they ran toward the arch entrance, having been alerted by another guard who had spotted the two soldiers lying unconscious. “He’s behind the rock Sire” one guard cried pointing “But don’t touch the blue lines, they’ll burn you”. His brothers were close behind King Jaygon, who cried out
“How did you get in there Pop? Tell us how to open it”. On the inside Anthon could easily see outside, through what looked like brown mist. He yelled to his sons
“The Red Wasp, she is heading off to get Amelia. Send men to protect her. Oh no, on second thoughts, nothing can stop her” he sobbed sadly. “Her name is Tallia. Whoever sees her, tell them not to attack, even if she has Amelia. She cannot be defeated and must be reasoned with. Tell her that I will give her the information she wants. Hurry, hurry, before she hurts anyone. Just leave two volunteers with me and to help those two men on the ground”. Marshall Mathem refused to leave, but the others raced off to reach the castle. “Oh son, they will never get to her on time. I am such a fool for not giving her my dear friend Merklin’s whereabouts.”
Anthon looked around for a way to switch off the turquoise rods and open the entrance. “Ow! Dunderblast frax” yelled Mathem, having burnt his hand. “Just hold on son. Here use this!” said Anthon and suddenly out of the sandstone-looking rock came Anthon’s hand, holding ointment. Mathem got such a shock that he jumped back and tripped, falling on his posterior. “Now, now son, it’s just me and this brown wall is an illusion, so you can stick your hand through, but the strip rods are dangerous.” Mathem got up sheepishly and applied the ointment and then dipped his finger into the sandstone “Good grief” he said.
“I’m going to use my special sword son. Stand back!” commanded Anthon. But as he drew his exCaleebra sword, the turquoise rods immediately receded into the side walls. Out walked Anthon and hugged his son. “I have an idea” Anthon said. Instead of rushing back to the castle, he and Mathem walked back inside the entrance again and told the guards to wait outside and report to the others when they returned. As Anthon held up his sword, the lights came on again and they walked the route Anthon remembered, this time chalking the way, to the black twinkling wall.
It was late afternoon and Amelia was sitting with Breese and Harold on the parapet wall, legs dangling in the cool breeze looking out toward the caves. They still hadn’t heard from the men exploring the crater. The walled garden below had escaped the high winds of the big storm and the trees and bushes were still green with leaves. The azaleas and bougainvillea were a riot of the most beautiful colours imaginable. Breese spotted a twinkling red light in the hedge maze at the end of the garden and pointed it out to the others.
“What is that?” said Harold.
“Let’s go look!” said Amelia.
“Mum said we have to stay indoors though” said Breese.
“Well it’s inside the garden walls, so it’s not really outside” said Harold and they all climbed down excitedly and rushed down the stone stairs to the garden. At the centre of the hedge maze a shimmering, wavy red-haired creature floated, waiting silently in patient anticipation.
The End of Chapter 3