The Nightmare Begins
“I’ll be okay,
Dad,” Penny said softly. She
cradled her broken arm with her good hand and smiled slightly to
reassure her dad. He
didn’t looked very reassured, but he nodded anyway.
“Will, you help
your sister get to the next gate and I’ll take up the rear,” John
said, watching for a moment as his children headed in the direction of
the second gate. It annoyed and frustrated him greatly to have so little
control over circumstances, especially when his children’s safety was
also a factor.
Turning back toward
the Krimlon portal, he was surprised to see what appeared to be a
spaceship approaching the compound.
Sprinting toward a small outcropping of boulders, the professor
watched as the ship, roughly the size of the Jupiter II, landed quietly
on its repulsors. In shape, it resembled two oranges stuck together, one on top
of the other and flattened somewhat.
Two humanoids exited as the landing ramp was being let down and
they were met by a Krimlon in the robes of the Office of Purity.
The Krimlon seemed to be acting very deferential.
Try as he might, John was unable to pick up any thoughts from the men, only the emotions of frustration and anger, exactly the same emotions he was experiencing. He couldn’t escape the feeling that he was missing something vital, but there was nothing he could do about it, aside from getting closer to the camp. Right now, he wasn’t willing to take that chance. Turning his attention toward the gate from which he and the children had come, he was surprised to see that the soldiers were only maintaining their position there and not attempting to follow them.
To say that Havreel,
the Purifier, was not happy about the arrival of the Brumyatta merchants
would be an understatement. His
frown of displeasure turned into a forced smile as Brumyatta clo Yondah
walked down the ramp from his spaceship.
Brumyatta ubi Biro, the captain’s secretary followed close
behind. His bulbous eyes shifted back and forth, undoubtedly taking
in everything going on in the compound.
The tall, spindly
merchants stopped several paces in front of the Purifier and paused.
clo Yondah cleared his throat dramatically.
“I was told that you had a number of zanlings and several
kreelings for sale. Where are they?” he said, his voice deep and guttural.
“Merchant, we had
in excess of thirty zanlings, all in prime condition and apparently
young,” Havreel said quietly.
ubi Biro’s breath
hissed through his slightly pointed teeth, his thin pale lips drawn
tight in an almost feral smile. His bristly hair seemed to stand up on
end in anticipation. Then, as if able to read the thoughts of his
secretary, the Brumyatta captain held up his hand.
“You said ‘had.’ Where
are they now?” clo Yondah asked, his voice even lower than before.
Havreel had to
exercise tight control to avoid shuddering.
He knew the Brumyatta captain would not be happy.
“Aliens from Krimlon came during the night and broke the locks.
It is assumed that the zanling and kreeling abominations are back
Snorting in disgust,
clo Yondah said, “If the zanlings came here to escape Krimlon, why
would they go back? And why
would a Krimlon come here to rescue zanlings?
You are not making sense, Purifier.”
“The Guardian came
to Krimlon. Abominations
are now tolerated and King Reezel supports laws of reconciliation. The zanlings would be safe in Krimlon now.
The only way that the old laws of purging would return is if the
government was overthrown. That was what the previous Purifier was attempting to
accomplish, Captain clo Yondah, but he was killed in a duel with the
Guardian. I would not be
surprised if it was the Guardian, himself who rescued the zanlings and
kreelings,” Havreel explained hastily.
“Then can I assume
that this Guardian is back on Krimlon with the escaped merchandise?”
the captain asked, his voice tight with anger.
“I doubt it,
Captain. The guards had
been ambushed and they woke up in time to see the zanlings go through
the gate. Several kreelings managed to get through shortly after that,
but one was killed in the attempt. The Guardian and his companions could
not move as quickly as the abominations.
I don’t believe they ever went through the gate.
I can only suppose they are waiting in the rocks for an
opportunity to return to Krimlon. I
have guards on duty to prevent their escape right now.
They will not get away from us, Captain.”
because I want to personally make this Guardian, or whoever it was, pay
for my loss of revenue,” clo Yondah hissed.
“And if I can’t get my revenge on this alien, then I will
exact it on you.”
“There is something
else, too, Captain....” Havreel said quietly, the implications of clo
Yondah’s last statement not lost on him.
captain barked impatiently.
first alien was a young female and she was injured trying to escape. We drugged her and implanted a device, hoping to get the
location of her home world. I
was told she was a strong telepath and a questing gate to her world
would be most beneficial to some of your customers, would it not?”
Purifier. Yes, it would be
beneficial for that purpose at any other time, but right now it is of
most use for tracking these creatures,” the Brumyatta said
Penny stumbled and
fell against Will, crying out softly in pain.
“I’m sorry, Will. I
have to stop for a minute. When’s
Dad coming back?” she asked.
answered from behind them. Penny
and Will started at their father’s sudden and silent arrival.
“At the moment we aren’t being followed, but it would seem
that the Office of Purity is in league with some spacefaring race. A spaceship landed near the compound.”
“I saw it flying
in,” Will commented. “Do
you think they’ll try to follow us, Dad?”
“I can’t say,” John hedged. Somehow he felt that at the very least, the soldiers would try to capture them on this world, but he didn’t want to worry the children too much. “Look. I see the glow of a gate up ahead. Let’s get as much distance between us and them as we can.” Bending down, he gently picked up his daughter and carried her the remaining distance to the softly glowing portal.
“There are two,
Dad. Why would there be
two?” Will asked in surprise.
“Dar told me the
old records indicated that the portals were first called questing gates.
Their ancestors would erect them and ‘quest’ for new
worlds,” John explained. “Let
me look at your arm, Penny and then we should leave,” he added with a
sigh. The world beyond the gate would serve the purpose of allowing them
to hide out until the night returned to this planet.
Then they should be able to slip through both gates under the
cover of darkness.
unwrapped some of the bindings and looked at her wound.
He felt currents of her pain and anxiety, but she held perfectly
still during his examination. The
arm had been well taken care of and he rewrapped the binding. “Once we get back to Krimlon, we’ll have your mother put
a plasti-cast on this, but in the meantime, they did a pretty good job.
I just wish I had something to help you with the pain.”
Turning to Lucy, he
told her, ‘Go through the gate
on the right, just enough to see what’s on the other side, and then
quickly complied. Within
minutes she flashed back through. ‘Flat, much grass, warm,’ she reported. John motioned her toward the other gate.
Again she zipped between the posts and then shortly returned.
‘Mountains, many places to hide. Cool.’
The picture she passed
along made him pause. The
landscape was rugged, with steep, narrow
paths littered with rocks. He
pondered their options for a moment.
“We’ll go through
the mountain gate. It’ll
be harder on us until we find someplace secure to hole up, but it will
be much easier to conceal ourselves there than on the plains,” he told
his children. He heard the
distant sounds of motor vehicles starting up and surmised the hunt had
begun. “Let’s go,” he said somberly as he helped Penny to her
They walked the last few yards to the glowing posts and stepped between them into a world of dizzying heights and rocky paths.
beloved?” Dar approached
Maureen and Litha, who were enjoying the flowers and shrubs in the
palace gardens. Sunset was
not very far off. “Do you
know where the Guardian is?”
“It was my
understanding that he went for a ride with Will.
What surprises me, though, is how long Penny has been out. She and Trelorin have been riding for a very long time.
I wish she’d come back.” Maureen didn’t want to get into a
discussion about her rules for dating.
beloved, Trelorin came back several turns ago, saying that your daughter
wanted to continue riding alone,” Dar explained.
“Alone? Oh, dear, I hope nothing has happened to her.”
“She is a very
accomplished rider. Surely if anything was wrong, her zanlings would
come and get us,” Dar reassured his friend.
“But I will send a servant to check the stables.
And if you wish, I can send a couple of soldiers to look for
“Yes, please, I
would feel better if you could do that,” Maureen said apologetically,
looking towards the setting sun now with trepidation rather than
appreciation for its beauty. Sending
a quick message to Maggie, she watched the little lizard fly off in
search of her daughter.
your daughter is all right,” Dar told Maureen automatically.
Litha felt a strange foreboding, but it was nothing definitive
and so she said nothing. Sitting
next to the Guardian’s beloved, she looked toward the horizon, her
When her husband and
younger children had not arrived for dinner a couple of hours later,
Maureen began to worry in earnest.
During the meal at which she picked at her food, sudden
pandemonium reigned when a group of almost three-dozen flutter-dragons
poured through the windows. At
their head was Silverado, followed by Nova, Peter and Susan, all
squeaking in consternation. Landing
on the table in front of her, the lizards began giving her messages and
pictures, but they were so agitated that their thoughts became tumbled
masses of images and words.
“All of you, calm
down,” Maureen admonished, while trying to do the same thing herself.
“Calm down!” she added more forcibly.
“Silverado, tell me what’s going on.”
He laid his wings
against his back and cocked his head in a move that Maureen had come to
recognize as the equivalent of taking a moment to gather his thoughts. ‘Maureen, John went
through a gate. Penny went
first. Captured by
purifiers. Will followed. John and Will let zanlings and kreelings free.
John wants Dar to help.’ Then
what followed was a visual replay of the events leading up to the
zanlings’ passage through the portal to Krimlon.
Nova added his report
as did Peter and Susan. Suddenly,
Edmund came flying through the window, landing awkwardly next to
Silverado, his little body heaving with exertion. ‘John
said careful. Krimlon men
near gate. Chase family. Max go first.’
As each of the
family’s flutter-dragons gave their reports, Maureen’s anxiety grew
and suddenly she felt a hand on her arm.
Turning, she saw Don,
his eyes full of concern. “Maureen,
I’ll go immediately and find John and the children.”
Maureen asked looking at him in gratitude.
“Some of it, I
guessed at the rest,” he said softly.
Dar, Litha and the king were standing nearby, concern etched in
“Penny found a gate in the forest east of here and went through it. Apparently the Office of Purity is not just hunting and destroying deviants, but they are selling them to interested buyers. Penny stumbled on that operation and sent a couple of her zanlings back to tell John about it. They found him riding with Will and they all went through the gate to help Penny,” she explained for the whole group. “Penny was caught and hurt, but John and Will rescued her and the zanlings. Unfortunately, they were not able to get through the gate and have been cut off. John requested help, but warned that these people are heavily armed and warned us not to barge through.”