This is a serial series posted weekly on Thursdays. This post will be the last in the series for the time being. To find the earlier posts, check out the blog.
“She’s supposed to be here!” the Shopkeeper sounded distressed, something Maxine hadn’t seen before. His agitation bothered her but more in an annoyed kind of way rather than making her worried. We came all the way up this gigantic mountain for nothing?! she thought.
Aprene paced the floor of the small shelter where Yunil was supposed to be and then walked out to join the rest of the group. “It looks like she was here–I can see evidence of recent occupancy.”
“Of course she was here! I left her here!” the Shopkeeper continued, shaking his hands at Aprene as if she were a child. Aprene lifted a raven black brow at him in a way that made him put his hands back down and explain in a more reasonable voice, “I gave her Cleopatra’s ouroboros that Maxine was supposed to use to reunite soul and body. She and Maxine are, well, they’re twins of a sort. One and same, yet different.”
“What? Cleopatra? Twins?” Maxine had been idly enjoying the view and watching Kevin toss rocks at a nearby scraggly pine tree. The Shopkeeper’s words snapped her back to attention.
He waved a hand at her. “Not the Cleopatra you know, the other one. The one that practiced alchemy. It’s a rather long story, one which I could have told in more detail if Yunil were here, but I’m afraid I just don’t have the time now. We need to find Yunil before it’s too late!”
“Too late for what?” Despite her annoyance with the man, Maxine started to have that same feeling of something being wrong that she had when she was on the ship. That hairline crack of fear was deepening. She suddenly noticed something was missing–her sword. Hadn’t she set it on that rock over there?
As she began looking around for it she saw Captain Gray Wing looking around, too. “Where’s Kevin?” he asked. “That damn fool is only good for getting lost.”
Maxine looked back to where he had been throwing rocks but was shocked when she saw that the tree was gone, replaced by some strange shimmering trick of the eye. She watched in dumb confusion as Kevin lifted his arm–holding her sword–in salute and said, “Thanks for bringing me to the portal, Shopkeeper, I’ll be sure to let Yunil know you tried to rescue her but you just weren’t clever enough to pull it off.” And with that, he stepped through a shimmer in the air–the portal, Maxine assumed–and vanished into nothing.
“Pandemic’s Curse!” yelled the Shopkeeper. The tree slowly reappeared and the portal was gone, along with Kevin and her sword.
– – –
Yunil stared at the sheet of paper on her lap and watched as words appeared in bold Courier type:
With the swing of the sword, one becomes two. Two will find balance.On the second swing, two becomes one.The loss is more than bittersweet.
Her mind, muddled and disjointed, could make no sense of the meaning and as she struggled to grab on to reality, a movement caught her eye. The mirror in front of her shimmered and a man appeared. He was holding a sword and stepped through the mirror with fierce determination on his face. Instinct told her to back away and she made to move off the couch but not before he reached her and brought his sword hand down. She screamed.
– – –
Maxine suddenly felt her knees give out and she dropped to the hard ground. The Shopkeeper lunged for her and she looked into his worried eyes. “The store,” she said. “She’s in your store.” Then, everything went black.
Author’s note: Never trust people from Michigan. Go Bucky.