Chapter 7: The Sunstone

Leila sat in the dark, sheltered underneath a low, leafy shrub as the rain poured down around her.

Lightning flashed, and through the roar of the deluge she could discern voices, and see lit torches moving about like giant, horrid fireflies. The glow from the tips lighting up the forest. She knew that getting away from her dogged persuers last time hadn't been dumb luck, someone had helped her - was helping her - and that thought comforted her somewhat. But she also understood that to count on some unseen helper to ensure that she survived would be foolish.

The torches dimmed into the surrounding foliage. The voices quietened. Leila breathed again.

Anywhere else in the world and she would have been freezing right now, but the mix of adrenaline and the warm temperature here, wherever here was, was more than enough to keep her warm. Now she just needed to find a way back.

Reaching into her pocket, she withdrew a soggy sheet of paper. Writing, now blurred by the rain, covered it's surface. The activator.

"Dammit." She quietly cursed, wondering how she had been so stupid. How many times had she heard her Aunt tell her about exactly this situation? How many times she had been warned about being careless? But, she reasoned, she'd never seen an activator before, not in the flesh. It was a simple mistake which she'd just have to deal with and hopefully rectify when - and if - she had the chance.

Suddenly the voices returned, but were fewer. She could discern that there were just two of them now, and they were sweeping the forest for her with urgency.

Leila gently folded the parchment and put it back in her pocket, if the stories her aunt had told her were correct, she would need it later when she found her way back into the city she had escaped from. The city back across the desert. Running here had been an act of desperation. She had used up time and energy in the escape, and hiding in the town would have been much more effective. But the town was foreign, and she needed somewhere to think without the risk of being caught.

It had happened so quickly. One second she was in the city, the next she had stepped onto the sunstone and had been deplaced, arriving here at what seemed to have been the exact moment the stone had finished being carved. In actual fact, she was hit in the face by a small chip of rock as the stonesmith took the final stroke.

Looking around in the few seconds she had to do so, she saw that where she had appeared was some kind of official building with rich red, yellow and green fabrics hanging on the smooth, mudbrick walls.

The stonesmith, an elderly, scrawny man in a green tunic, had fallen back off his seat with shock. Having a girl in bizarre clothing materialize on top of your masterwork un-announced was clearly not common practice in this city, and naturally he had yelled out in shock. The guards were prompt, but Leila was quick, and darting out a back-door, she ran through what seemed a maze of small houses, through dusty, cobblestone streets and through empty marketplaces until she came to the edge of the city and had no choice but take to the desert. Had it been midday she would have baked to death on the scorching sands, but the sun had set, and she ran until her lungs couldn't carry her further, then kept running anyway.

A flash of lightning woke her from her reverie, and as she snapped back to the present she heard a loud noise like a gigantic bone snapping.

Strange ... she thought.

The sweeping torchlights grew nearer, the voices louder. They would find her if she stayed here, so she thought quickly about which way she would run, took a deep breath, and stood up. The moment she did so, the light washed over her and the guards' heads snapped around, then they advanced, spears raised and faces serious while yelling words at her in a strange language.

Another loud cracking sound filled the air. The rain pounded onto her forehead as she turned her face skyward, drawn by a strange sense that something was moving above her. The guards were poised to attack, but just then something happened. Another flash of lightning illuminated the canopy, and as Leila watched it appeared the sky itself was falling.

With a roar like nothing Leila had heard before, she fell back against the trunk of a massive tree behind her and watched as the canopy came crashing down in a blur of black. The guards glancing up for a split second before their startled yells were muffled by a gigantic tree branch and vines pounding into the forest floor. 

For a moment Leila couldn't move, frozen with shock by what she had just witnessed. Then she smelled smoke.

The giant tree-limb lying before her had been struck by lightning and the flames on the ruptured bark were dying in the downpour, leaving a cloud of smoke dissipating into the sweet forest air once again.

She shook herself, glanced around and saw nobody, then doubled back, through the thick foliage, across the small stretch of grass to the desert between the forest and the city, where she would now have to go if she ever wanted to get home, and back to her own time again. Her lungs heaved as she ran, but as tired as she was, she knew that stopping would leave her exhausted and unable to continue. Better to press on and use the rain's cooling drops to give her energy until she couldn't take another step.

Soon enough, in the distance firelight twinkled from beyond the sand. She would work out how to get out of this place, but first she just had to concentrate on the glittering cityscape that lay beyond the desert before her.

*  *  *

Brandon stood on the tower's uppermost balcony, staring at the glittering cityscape that lay beyong the sea before him.

"Quite something, isn't it?" Ninian said, enjoying the reaction from Brandon with a smirk.

Lizebeth stepped forward and looked Brandon right in the eyes. "Brandon, I must apologise to you. There is so much we wanted - needed - to teach you before this. But we are running out of time, and unfortunately-"

"Unfortunately we're wasting more of it now." Ninian snapped, "the guild is onto us and they'll figure out a way to get in here soon enough, and then we really will be in trouble, oh yes."

"I'm aware of the situation, Ninian." She said, and then Lizebeth was silent for a moment, as if turning something over in her head, before she turned to Brandon and continued. "But we had to show you this now. To prepare you for what needs to be done."

"What n-n-needs to be done?" Brandon asked, feeling a little nervous.

Lizebeth went on, "As I told you before, the city you see before you over the ocean is one of three, hidden in ancient times by the ten greatest concealers ever to walk this Earth. At the request of one of the ancient kings, ten men and women were selected, ten extraordinary people with incredible gifts, and those ten people shrouded the three cities from the rest of the world. It was the single most incredible feat performed by man, in my honest opinion."

She closed her eyes now, as if she were seeing what happened.

Perhaps she is, thought Brandon, still unsure of what her abilities could do.

Lizebeth continued, "The seers saw what needed to be done, the concealers performed their task, and the marvels covered up all traces of it in the minds of those living in that time. The trappers … well let's just say there were disagreements at the time, and they were almost eliminated in the ensuing war. But it ended in the Seers' favour. The war was won, the cities were hidden, and since those times each generation of concealers has maintained the protective cloak around them and kept them in obscurity." She paused as if considering not to say the next few words.

"So why n-not just let the city stay hidden."

This seemed to be the question she had been waiting for. "If it were that easy there would be no problem." was the answer. Then, with an unusually caring smile Lizabeth explained, "But the problem is that the sheild is ... well cracking, I suppose would be the word." Her face then turned a little more serious. "And we have nobody to repair it."

Brandon glanced to the city hovering, surreal and indescribably beautiful in the clouds.

"You can't see it, nincompoop!" Ninian blasted, knocking Brandon on the side with his cane. Brandon's painful protest was lost as Lizebeth continued.

"The good news is that we can prevent the protection from failing, but we need you to help us." She said. "Here in this library, we are safe for a time, and in this library we must school you, teach you to use your ability the best you can."

Brandon nodded, excited and scared, and still not quite sure if everything so far had been a dream. "How long will it t-take?" he asked.

"One night." Lizebeth answered, "It will take one night, because we only have one night."

"Come along come along!" Ninian then said irritably, "that's enough history for now. Actions, not words!" he cried, and with that, the three of them left the sunlit rooftop, the secret lookout, and descended back into the hatch and into the library, leaving the city glowing like fire in the sunrise.

*  *  *

Fire glowed in a torch mounted to the wall of a kitchen as the noise of thousands of excited voices and hurried footsteps filled the air. Leila crouched in the shadows and struggled to keep herself together. The smell of meat, corn, and woodsmoke wofted from the windows and was unbearable. She was almost considering the scraps of food lying here and there in the muddy ground around her, but remained as focused as she could, watching the activity ahead of her.

Shifting slightly, she slipped a little in the smooth clay under her feet. The rain had stopped a while ago but the ground had by no means dried up again.

Something was happening in the city tonight. As torchlight lit the streets people wandered in droves towards some central destination not far away, adults, children, guards with their spears and even some animals, llamas and pigs, were caught in the flow.

They were dressed in what must have been local finery, ladies in beautiful soft cloth robes and tunics, jewellery draped across necks, around arms, and hanging from ears. Colourful garments everywhere. It would have been a beautiful sight if the circumstances had been better, but hunger, fatigue, anxiousness, and the damp clothes hanging off her were chilling her to the bone now that the night had become cooler and killing any aspect of appreciation she might have had for it.

The flow of people began to ebb, and Leila moved.

Stealing across a street and then a large, empty square with a single tree at the center, she made her way towards what appeared to be a cluster of dwellings in the darkness. Mud brick walls, thatched roofs and wandering animals surrounded her as she carefully slipped through the alleys and streets, and entered one of the houses to find just what she was looking for.

The fabric was rough once the tunic was hanging on her shoulders, but it was dry, and she immediately felt warmer when she had at last pulled her wet socks off and stepped into the pair of leather sandals sitting near the door. Then, gathering her belongings, it was back into the streets, with not a moment to lose. She had to get to the stonesmith's hut, back on the other side of the city, right where the mass of people had moved to.

First she found a torch, and heaping her old clothes into a pile, she set them on fire - to risk them being discovered and altering something would be foolish. Then she found a clean patch of the clay and covered her arms, face and legs with the cold, smooth mud. In the daytime this trick wouldn't have worked, but at night the thin coating could be mistaken for dark skin, if she was careful and avoided being caught in too much torchlight it would get her where she needed to go unnoticed.

Soon enough, Leila reached the crowd, but before she came in sight of them she could hear yelling, drums beating, and people cheering in unison.

A festival perhaps? She thought.

Moving closer to the building, one or two people glanced her way, but her disguise seemed to have worked, and they soon turned back to whatever they were all looking at.

The stonesmith's building was right ahead. She snuck into the doorway.

The light from her phone blinked on once again, and she swept the room for the sunstone. There were the tools, right where she had seen them before, and the chips from the carved rock still on the floor. But on the pedestal where the sunstone had been, there was nothing.

Nothing. She thought, defeatedly. All this way, for nothing.

She was going to be stuck here, in this time and this place, stuck here until she could find it.

Just then a chorus of cheers and yells suddenly erupted outside, and Leila edged to the window to see what was happening. From this vantage point she had a pretty good view of the space outside, and she could now see that directly across the square there sat a tall, stepped pyramid with a steep stairway leading up it's front. At the base, thousands of the city's citizens crowded around, and at the very top on a platform overlooking the city, Leila could see more official looking people dressed in feathery garments, guards by the masses, and a woman in a long, flowing gown standing patiently, all waiting for something.

Leila soon saw what it was, as a group of men emerged from the doorway behind these officials carrying something. It looked like a table, and must have been heavy, as it took six of them to carry it. They set it down in between the important looking woman, and a man in a large tunic with a staff, and stood back.

There was silence as the man held up a hand. He waited for a moment, then in a deep voice yelled to the crowd "¡Ima sumaq llaqta!" to a roaring response.

While the cheering continued, the officials began to tilt the table, and at this moment the sun broke the horizon behind them all, and the next moment the top of the temple blazed with bright golden sunlight. Now Leila could suddenly see that the table the officials were holding was not a table at all in fact, but the beautifully carved, round sunstone.

Leila's brow furrowed. "That's a problem…" She said to herself, and the crowd's cheers muffled her next word.

Posted in

Chapter 6: In the dark

Brandon held tight to the cup of tea in his hands, absorbing its warmth. The sensation was the only thing convincing him this wasn't all a dream.

S-s-so I made her invisible?”

Precisely,” Lizebeth answered.

Cool,” he replied, impressed with himself. He still couldn't get his head around the fact that he was important. Him. The skinny kid with the stutter. The one that always shied away from any sort of attention.

Oh do please stop patting yourself on the back, there isn't time for that,” said Lizebeth interrupting his thoughts. “Leila's life is still in danger. Or technically, I should say: Leila's life was in danger still. I think. Time travel makes grammar so very confusing,” Lizebeth said removing her spectacles to rub her nose where they previously sat.

We have to save her! How d-d-do we save her? We need to travel there by the sunstone.”

Sadly it's not that simple,” said Lizebeth. “A relic is only good for one activation. But not to worry, Bram slipped up – by keeping the sunstone intact he allowed us to work out the exact time and region Leila's trapped in. I think I can reach her with another artifact.”

How do you get someone out of t-t-the past?” asked Brandon, trying to get his head around everything he'd learnt so far.

The easiest way is for her to stand on the original relic and destroy the activator, the piece of papyrus. She'll then return to the sunstone in our time - another reason it's so strange Bram left it untouched,” replied Lizebeth, the second part almost to herself.

Brandon waited patiently as her mind drifted off, deep in thought. When she snapped back to reality she seemed almost surprised to see Brandon sitting before her.

We must be getting you to the library. You'll be safe there while you learn more about... everything,” she said, straight back to business.

C-c-can you make things invisible, too?” Brandon asked, wanting answers now.

No, I'm a marvel, not a concealer. We have different abilities. Mind influencing and mind reading are the wrong words to describe what I do, but they'll do until the right words appear. All clear?”

No. S-s-so much still doesn't make sense,” Brandon confessed.

Well, there are also trappers, self-explanatory really. And seers, although they're next to useless if you ask me. And finally there are...” she stopped mid-sentence.

The light in the apartment grew darker as the streetlight outside Brandon's window flickered and died. Lizebeth was immediately on her feet.

We must go, now!” she said, her voice more urgent and alive than he'd heard it before.

W-what? Why?”

Shadows,” she said as she grabbed her cardigan sweater and headed for the door as fast as her elderly body would allow. “Come on, hurry. I can feel their minds racing towards us. Someone on The Guild must have... oh dear...”

The frosty, night air assaulted Brandon as he followed Lizebeth outside and down the stairs to the ground level. He would've run back for a jacket but something about the look on Lizebeth's face convinced him otherwise.

Where's your automobile vehicle?” she asked.

I c-c-catch the bus,” he replied.

Then we shall have to walk most briskly.”

She made her way down the middle of the street as Brandon chased after her. She sure was sprightly for someone of her age. Brandon glanced nervously over his shoulder for whatever she was afraid of.

W-w-what are shadows?”

No time to explain,” she answered in-between rushed breaths.

Can you help me make us invisible?” Brandon asked.

It's no use, they hunt by smell,” she answered. “Now do keep up. Quick. Here. Cut across the park.”

She led Brandon through what was a pretty poor excuse for a park. One slide and a rusty set of swings in a large field of overgrown grass and weeds. Brandon raced along with Lizebeth, starting to wonder if perhaps this was all just the ramblings of a senile old lady. Certainly it was the explanation that made the most sense. One weird dream wouldn't turn him into a hero, after all.

Splash! He looked down at his sneaker, now at the bottom of a puddle. Great. He shook his foot in the air as he walked along trying to get it dry or at least less wet. They were almost at the end of the park when he first heard it. Splish --- Splish. It sounded like footsteps in the wet grass behind them.

He turned in the direction of the noise, straining his eyes to see anything in the darkness.

H-h-how do you kill shadows?” he asked, a little embarrassed to be buying into her delusion.

You can't kill them. Best you can do is trap them,” she replied as they stepped out of the park, back onto the footpath.

Splish--splish--splish. The noise was getting closer. Faster.

A-a-are they deadly?” he asked, already suspecting the answer.

No,” she said to his surprise. “Not often. They rarely kill. Rather they prefer to suck out your potential. When they're done, you'll wish for death.”


She rushed him through a series of back alleys until, finally, the castle that housed the library came into view, high up on the cliff face. Brandon still couldn't help looking over his shoulder from time to time, not sure if he was imagining a presence behind them. The blackness of the night increased his paranoia, like when you feel something brush up against your leg in the ocean. He turned a corner chasing after Lizebeth and was startled to discover no sign of her.

Lizebeth?” he called. His voice echoed out. No answer came back. What to do? That was when he sensed something. Movement in his peripheral vision. Scanning left and right all he could see was darkness and shadow. He backed up slowly towards the glow of the one nearby streetlight. Standing directly under it, he watched as the shadows started to grow towards him. He wasn't sure if it was his imagination, but he thought he could almost see the form of some sort of creatures in among the different hues of black. His imagination placed their size and shape as somewhere between a panther and a bull.




The sound of large, heavy claws on pavement. Slowly inching they way towards him. It wasn't his imagination! He could hear them breathing and see their breath in the cold, dark air. All around him shadows grew closer. One let out a high pitched squeal that sent goosebumps racing across his body. The streetlight that Brandon stood under started to flicker.

Lizebeth!” he cried out more urgently, as loudly as he could.

A massive, thunderous roar filled the night sky as a gust of wind flew past Brandon's head, causing him to instinctively drop to the ground. From his new position, he watched what he first thought was a small plane race by. As the streetlight returned to full power he got a better look at the... creature? It was around ten, maybe fifteen feet long; its torso covered in a protective metal armor. Fire shot from its mouth and the shadows around Brandon started to fade and retreat. It's a dragon he realised to his own amazement. A battle dragon!

The dragon raced back over Brandon's head and away, up into the clouds. He looked around the alleyway – everything suddenly looked brighter. It must be getting closer to dawn. Perhaps his sanity would return with the rise of the sun. Despite the lighter surroundings, he still couldn't see any sign of Lizebeth so he hurriedly made his way towards the castle, hoping he'd find her in that direction.

It was around the next corner that he found her, hunched over. She appeared to have taken a fall and he rushed to her side as she shakily tried to get back onto her feet. Kneeling down, he put one of her arms over his shoulder and helped her up.

It w-w-was you, w-wasn't it?” he said, not daring believe it. “Ninian said you were an old battle dragon. I didn't realise he meant literally!”

Ninian said what!?” she demanded. “Why that old...” She stopped herself, took a couple of deep breaths, then added, “It was just in your mind. I'm a marvel, remember? You only think you saw a battle dragon. Now, let's get inside before the shadows regroup.”

The doors to the Library closed behind them with a satisfyingly heavy thud. Already Brandon felt safer. Being inside the castle also seemed to give Lizebeth a second wind. She now stood freely again on her own two feet.

I guess the time has come for more answers,” she said as she lead him through the library. “Tell me, what do you know about Atlantis?”

Brandon stopped in his tracks.

W-what?” he asked. “The legendary island?”

No, the casino in Reno... Yes, the legendary island.”

It sunk.”

It's going to be a long lesson,” sighed Lizebeth as she plucked a book from one of the shelves without looking and continued forward. “I'll start with the basics.”

Many believe Atlantis to be merely myth – that Plato's dialogues were works of fiction. And it must be said, there is plenty of fiction to be found in there. However, if you look closely you find the seedlings of truth. Atlantis was indeed an advanced civilisation and its own corruption, in part, led to its downfall. Take that much as fact. And that's where The Guild come into play,” Lizebeth said as she led Brandon down the corridor leading to the central tower.

Since its origin, The Guild has sort to prove the existence of Atlantis. Over the centuries, their knowledge has grown to the point that they now know about deplacement and how it occurs. It is their hope that one day they'll find a relic from the brief era where travel to Atlantis was possible. Or a relic from Atlantis itself. So far they have neither. We here at RUPL are determined to keep it that way.”

She took a key from her pocket and opened the door to the main tower. It was pitch black inside. He heard some rummaging noises, then a lantern came to life beside him, which Lizebeth passed to him as she lit another.

But a-aren't you part of The Guild?”

Yes, someone needs to keep an eye on them. They know I have potential, but don't realise the extent of my powers. My marvel abilities have been able to keep them in the dark. There is much they don't know.”

So they're the b-b-b-bad guys?”

Lizebeth looked in him the eye, “No. They're a group of people, Brandon. And like any group of people, in them lies the potential for good and bad deeds,” she answered.

Now you wait here. I'll be right back,” she said before handing him the book she grabbed earlier. “Why not read a bit of Plato's Timaeus while you wait.”

Brandon did as she said, sitting down by the staircase with the book. Most of it was hard to understand. He squinted as he continued to read by the faint light of the lantern: Now in this island of Atlantis there existed a confederation of kings, of great and marvelous power, which held sway over all the island, and...

Who are you!? Badge please,” said a voice in the dark, startling him. After his encounter with the shadows, he was really starting to hate the dark.

Brandon swung his lantern across to see the familiar face of Ninian looking back at him expectantly.

Hey Ninian, it's me. B-B-Brandon. The c-concealer.”

Oh dear, this is not good. I'm having it. What's it called again?” said Ninian.

Jamais Vu,” answered Brandon.

Thats it! You're a bright one! I can tell I'm going to like you.”

Brandon smiled.

You'll have to lose that ridiculous s-s-stutter though,” Ninian continued. “Now, what's with the book?”

Lizebeth gave it to me, told me to r-r-read it.”

Bah, that ol' battle dragon. You learn by doing, not reading. Follow me!”

Brandon hesitated. Lizebeth had been quite specific and she didn't seem the type to tolerate disobedience.

I should stay here,” he finally said.

Suit yourself,” Ninian replied. “I was only going to show you the most amazing thing you'll ever see in your entire lifetime. But yes, that book seems fun, too.”

Brandon stayed focused reading, ignoring Ninian as he hobbled over towards him. Then, with a swift, fluid motion Ninian flicked his walking stick up, connecting with Brandon's book, sending it flying out of his hands and into the black void of the library.

Ninian!” Brandon said in annoyance. “W-w-why'd you do that?”

A most fortuitous accident it was. Now come. Follow,” he said as he wondered off.

B-b-but Lizebeth said...”

Lizebeth said to listen to Ninian! It was in her subtext. Learn to listen, boy!” he said as he hauled himself up the staircase, one slow step at a time.

Lifting himself up, Brandon began to follow him. Hopefully they could make it back before Lizebeth even knew they were gone.

W-w-where are we going?” Brandon asked.

Up,” said Ninian as he climbed another step. “I'm seriously doubting your intelligence.”

S-sorry,” muttered Brandon darkly to himself.

A few minutes later they reached the sixth floor, where Ninian directed Brandon through a door to the right and flicked a switch, flooding the new room with light. Brandon shielded his eyes as they adjusted to the brightness. When they finally did, he was astonished at what he saw. The room stretched back for what seemed like eternity and was filled with relics – hundreds, possibly thousands of them. Everywhere he looked it seemed there were priceless artifacts.

Welcome to the Relic Room,” said Ninian proudly.

T-t-this is amazing,” said Brandon lost for words as he studied the room.

There was so much to look at. He walked across to an ancient sword and examined it. On one side he found the words, Take me up and on the other side Cast me away.

Is t-t-this... no it's impossible,” said Brandon.

Not impossible,” said Ninian laughing. “It is Caledfwlch – although you may know it as...”

Excalibur,” whispered Brandon.

Exactly,” said Ninian laughing.

B-b-but that's just fiction.”

Parts of it yes. Parts of it, no,” said Ninian. “Merlin was a marvel with a wonderful sense of humour.”

Merlin was a reckless liability to our people,” said a stern voice behind them, scaring them both. “By now I've learnt to expect your insubordination Ninian, but I had hoped for better from you, Mr Amery.”

Lighten up Lizebeth,” said Ninian.

People are dying! The Guild is closer than ever to learning the nature of our existence and Bram seems to picking us off one by one, so I will most certainly not lighten up.”

She had a way of looking at you that made you fill up with shame and guilt, Brandon noted. He quietly stood there, looking for some way to apologise as she took a deep breath.

Furthermore, someone sent shadows after Brandon tonight. I think The Guild has a traitor.”

You're the traitor, remember? You daft old bat!” said Ninian.

Another. Traitor,” Lizebeth said, the tone making it clear that her patience would stretch only so far.

Nevertheless,” she continued. “We are here now, so we may us well show him. He needed to see it at some point anyway.”

N-n-needed to see what?” asked Brandon nervously.

Come, it's easier if you see for yourself,” said Lizebeth simply as she climbed a small staircase about ten feet from the room's entrance. Reaching the top, she undid a latch in the roof and pushed open a trapdoor leading outside. Brandon followed her up the stairs and out into the crisp morning air.

Outside they were on the roof of the castle as the sun began to rise, gently bathing the coast in golden light.

The thing about Atlantis is: it was actually the smallest of four such islands. While it may have sunk, the others survived, thrived and continued to advance,” Lizebeth told Brandon.

But Brandon wasn't listening to a word she said. Instead he was looking on, awestruck, as he gazed out at a mass of land that rose up out of the ocean leading to a city in the clouds. The city was unlike any city he'd ever seen in his life. Even through it was a great distance away, he could recognise a few distinct features, including what appeared to be a giant sphinx and pyramids carved out of glass or crystal. The island in the sky was way beyond the scope of the word beautiful.

The city of Persephone,” said Lizebeth with a smile. She glanced across at Brandon, who could only stand there in shock, his mouth wide open. “Oh, do close your mouth before a fly makes its home there.”

You didn't really think concealers could only conceal people, did you?”


Posted in

Chapter 5 - In the Past & Present

The room where Brandon slept might have been messy if it weren’t so bare. On the desk beside his bed were an armful of books and a few hand-written pages of what looked like letters to friends or family. An old-fashioned lamp, a watch and tall glass of water were the other objects that competed for attention.

A window had been left open and light streaked across his room each time a breeze stirred the curtains. There might have been a streetlight right outside. But Brandon didn’t notice. He tossed and turned in his bed, dreaming. Then, as though spitting sand from his tongue, he pth pth-ed…

A girl – a pretty girl, with tousled brown hair and hazel eyes – trudged through a desert in jeans. She held up a hand to protect her face from a blustery wind full of gritty sand. Night had fallen, and the moon was not particularly bright; the landscape indiscriminately grey-blue. The girl reached into her pocket and used the luminescence of her phone’s backlight to guide her for a few metres before putting it back away.

A soft, rhythmic chanting haunted either her ears or her imagination. She looked back over her shoulder in the direction from which she had come; the faint glow of civilisation. She fell to her knees, looking exhausted and utterly dejected. With as much strength as she could summon she drove her fist into the sand, fighting back tears. She closed her eyes and mouthed: Why?

Behind her, a group of eagle warriors stalked towards her with swift, silent steps. They carried spears or clubs that bore sharp, obsidian-edged blades. The girl was completely unaware. Danger crept closer and closer.

Brandon’s restlessness intensified. ‘No! N-no!’ he shouted out to his apartment, from deep within his subconscious. His eyes darted frantically underneath his eyelids.

A few more paces and they’d be upon her. The nearest of them began to raise their weapons in readiness to strike. She turned at the final second, to see the point of a spear hurtling towards her. She fell to her side just in time. The spear narrowly missed her shoulder, but she wouldn’t have enough time to scramble to her feet and put any distance between herself and the warriors. She lunged for the spear that had missed her – determined to fight, no matter how futile the chance of survival.

Something stilled Brandon. His breathing slowed down considerably. His eyes stopped their frenetic movement, too. It could have been a moment of complete inner-peace, or incredibly intense concentration.

A shiver ran through her as she grasped the spear and span to face her attackers. They’d stopped, frozen in place. They were staring at the spear. One of them pointed at it in alarm. Another shrieked and fell over backwards. The girl was unsure of what was happening but jabbed the spear at one of the muscled men close to her. Visibly panicked he swung his club wildly at the spear and the area around it, as if unable to see her. She looked at her arms and gasped. It was as though they were deflecting light – camouflaging her. She could just make out a flicker of their outline. Her whole body was the same!

Most of the men were staggering back away towards the glowing light on the horizon, but two were speaking softly to each other and creeping closer to the floating spear. She waved it as menacingly as she could in their direction. They paused, then let out a blood-curdling war-cry and kicked up heaps of sand. Some of it landed on her arm, and they could see it just as well as she could. They advanced. She hastily brushed off the sand, ditched the spear, and darted downhill to her left. The warriors watched the footprints she left in the sand but did not take chase.

After a short time all of the men were gone. She circled back. The spear was gone. She was tired and thirsty and scared for her life. She knew she had to do something about it to survive. So she began the trek back towards the city she’d fled. Hoping to catch a break. Desperate to remain concealed.

Brandon woke suddenly and reached for the glass of water on his desk. The images of the girl in the desert were still vivid in his mind. It was not only the images, either. Her thoughts, her feelings – he’d known them, been connected to them.

He swung his legs over the side of the bed and his feet hit the floor. There was a strange sensation in his head. It felt like a part of his mind was busy doing something else. But he couldn’t tap into it; it was almost like he needed a key to access that part of his consciousness. Weird.

His watch read 03:05, which was not so weird. Lately he hadn’t been sleeping through the night all that well.

He heard a gentle knock on his door. Back to weird. It was followed by a whisper.

“Brandon it’s Lizebeth, from the RUPL. I know you’re awake.”

He shuffled over to the door. “The w-w-what?”

“The Regeric Unfeld Private Library, you fool!” snapped the whispering voice. “Now do let me in, it’s imperative I speak with you.”

Brandon cringed. What if this was about the book he and Ninian had destroyed?


“Er, I’m n-not dressed.” Brandon lied.

Tapping and clicking came from the lock on his door – which was soon opened by a kneeling Lizebeth. She got to her feet and brushed some specks of dust off the front of her long skirt.

“This really is unacceptable.” Lizebeth swept past Brandon and into his apartment.

“Now tell me,” she said as she perched on the edge of his sofa, “how many Lizebeth’s do you know, exactly?”

Brandon laughed nervously. “I uh, don’t—”

“Quiet.” Lizebeth was staring at him intently. She cocked her head slightly and squinted as she seemed to listen for something. “Is that… Are you…? No that’s not possible.” she said to herself, shaking her head dismissively.

“C-can I get you a drink? I have water and—” Brandon rubbed his temple, which suddenly felt strange.

“My word, you are!” Lizebeth exclaimed. “What are you doing, right now, in your mind?”

“I d-don’t kn-know what you mean… I’ve felt odd since I w-woke up from this strange dream, though.”

“Tell me about it, immediately.”

As Brandon described the events of the girl in the desert, Lizebeth could not hide her surprise, despite trying terribly hard to. The hands clasped on her lap tensed and her lips were pursed just a little too tightly.

“That was no ordinary dream, Brandon. And I must say it: you are no ordinary young man.” Lizebeth paused for a moment, collecting her thoughts. “I have a lot to tell you, all at once. I would have preferred to ease you into all of it, but time is not on our side.”

Lizebeth motioned for Brandon to sit and he did so. “Alright then, where to start? The secrets of the Library? The Guild? Parallels? Clement Bram? Why you’re possibly the most important person on the planet at this moment? Hmm, I’ll let you decide.”

Brandon looked lost for words.

“Do stay with me, Brandon. And know this: I will always do my best to help you.” She patted him softly on his knee. “You are, well, quite extraordinarily burdened. I can-- I know something about what you’ll be going through.”

“Thank you…”

Lizebeth gave him a small sad smile.


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Chapter 4: The Guild

"… and here is our most recent loss." a quiet but powerful baritone voice spoke to the small assembled crowd as an image of a young girl flicked into the quivering projector screen on the wall. The room was silent save for the whirring of the machine, most other sounds muffled by the tired, musty-looking velvet curtains hanging between grand columns lining the walls.

This place had seen many meetings like this. This was an old place, a secret place, and these were old friends. Secret friends.

"Leila Aarne, 16. A latent, but also a potential." the voice continued.

"What kind of potential?" A gentler, woman's voice cooed from the darkness.

The man with the baritone took a moment before answering.

"Nine point four."

There was a chorus of gasps from the seated attendees.

"But … but that shouldn't be possible!" someone said quietly to his neighbour amidst other excited and muffled whispers.

"I assure you, it is. We know her profile intimately." the baritone voice replied, "she was about to find something too, a relic most likely, when she was de-placed by a favourite of ours…"

Another image replaced the picture of the girl. This one was a man with a confident smirk on his face. He was dressed in a rather fine business suit which you could see even though the picture was a poor quality, black and white image speckled with pixel artefacts. Clearly it had been taken by a security camera in a rather important-looking building.

"Psshh! Bram?" A grisled, rough English accent broke in from the rear of the room "Haven't you dealt with him yet Tembris?"

The man with the baritone voice, Edmund Tembris, ignored the question and went on.

"Clement Bram. You all know him well." he said quite matter of factly. "This time he actually went so far as to stand there during the deplacement. He actually pushed the girl into the horizon."

There was a momentary pause, then the woman's voice piped up.

"A latent," she began, "… are you saying she knows what she is to become?"

"Precisely." Tembris replied.

"Now, just a second." The grisled voice spoke up again. "How was she assessed? An nine-point-five is not a matter to be sneezed at, I've heard nothing of this."

"She has been assessed properly, in the traditional fashion, and that is what we determined her to be. It is not always pertinent to explain our discoveries to everyone, Mr. Volker. We've had trouble with that method before." He turned absently to the man on the screen, appearing for a moment to be lost in thought, before adding. "Of course, there is a reason her potential is so high. It seems she is one of the few that has a parallel."

More gasps.

The grisled voice began laughing now, "Good God Tembris," he said between breaths, "how on Earth did you let her go. This will be the biggest joke to the guild I've yet seen!"

"Thank you Bautista. I'm well aware of the seriousness of the situation." Tembris replied calmly, no trace of a smile on his face.

"Where is she now Edmund?" The woman asked, looking away from the screen to Tembris, and for a moment her face was illuminated in the intense light of the projector. She was an older woman, with a face that could be kind, but looked to be more often than not plagued by worry. On her nose sat a small pair of overly-magnified spectacles.

"We don't know." Tembris replied. "Without the activator we can't follow her. No clues in his stash either, when we found it there were nearly a hundred relics, all from different cultures, all spanning more than five thousand years."

"Oh my." The woman said with a worried tone, looking toward the screen again but her head sinking slightly.

"Yes, it means she could be anywhere, and anywhen." Tembris said wistfully, his powerful stance relaxing for a moment, something that was rare for him. He put his hands in his pocket and looked back to the screen.

"However." he said, the hint of a smile crossing his face. "We have a lead. I wouldn't have asked you all here on such short notice if I didn't have a good reason."

The woman looked up again, hope flickering across her face.

"This photo of Bram was taken by the security cameras at Dellwin's bank on 14th. I went in there after we heard that he'd been seen there."

"And? What of it?" Bautista asked impatiently, the grating of his voice more apparent now in this short burst than it had been before.

The image on the projector screen changed again. A magnificent room, marble floors and walls, and a large skylight spilling sunshine into the space. In the center of the floor, a great stone carving of an aztec sunstone.

"Is that … "

"Yes, it's authentic. Aquired by the bank's owner at the founding of the building."

"So he found a relic! In a bank! Oh he's a cunning devil." Bautista yelled, almost with glee. "Pity we lost him Tembris…" he added "he was a smart one, all else aside."

"Yes, he found a relic. A particularly strong one. With the activator he gave Leila she didn't stand a chance."

"I'm sorry…" A timid, younger voice now spoke up. "I'm a little confused."

"Of course." Tembris said, turning to her. "My apologies Ms. Austin. We tend to go a mile a minute in here sometimes. What did you want to know."

"What is … er … an activator?" the woman asked, sinking into her seat a little. Even though it was dark, it was hard not to notice her cheeks suddenly flushing red.

"Hah!" Bautista harked. "This gets better, amateur hour is it Edmund?"

The older woman with the spectacles turned sharply and glared at him, and immediately he fell silent.

"For someone to de-place another," Tembris began, wandering towards the sunstone on the screen, "well, it's devilishly hard without two parts. Firstly you need a relic, then one needs an activator. The relic determines to where and when the deplaced will go. This sunstone is an original, carved whenever and wherever the girl was sent. Are you following me?"

The woman nodded slowly.

Tembris continued, "You see, relics alone are basically useless. They're just pretty pieces of art. However, when you put a source of energy nearby one, like a human being, and then give that human being an activator, then something really interesting happens…"

"Deplacement." The woman said.

"Precisely." he said with a nod. "Now, what is an activator? The easiest way to describe it is to say that it's a unique piece of parchment. Not just any piece of parchment mind you. On these pieces you will find inscribed nothing short of pure thought itself. And when you bring the two pieces together, deplacement occurs."

The woman's face lightened a little. "I see." She said. "And … this 'parallel' you spoke of."

Bautista covered his face with his hands and shook his head. Now it was Tembris that glared at him. But before he could respond however, the older woman started instead.

"There have been times-" she said, "generations - where the potential is very low. My generation, for example. I was never able to reach first-class because of it."

There was an awkward silence in the room. Then the woman went on.

"We don't know why, exactly, but we do know that every once in a while, two people with potential are born at exactly the same time." She looked at the screen as if seeing the girl, Leila, once more. "Linked from birth by something we can't see."

Ms. Austin nodded, and followed the older woman's gaze to the screen, even though it still showed the room with the sun-stone.

"This link creates … a feedback effect, so to speak. And it's this which makes this girl so strong, and her parallel also. They are amplified, if you will. But only while they are both alive - and in the same time."

Tembris nodded in a scholarly way and walked back to the projector.

"Thank you," he said to the older woman, "and this is precisely why we need to find her. She is so very important."

"What of this other relic?" Bautista said. "She obviously didn't find it, did she?."

"No, Bram was able to lure her easily away." Tembris replied. "The relic is still in a safety deposit box. Left to Leila by a relative, if I'm not mistaken."

"We must find it." the old woman said with a sudden determination. "If Bram gets his hands on that …"

"I know," Tembris replied, and clicked the small remote control in his hand, "and it is now equally important that we protect the parallel as well."

A final slide clicked into place.

It was a of boy that looked Leila's age. He stood quite tall, awkward looking and in casual clothing and in a park. The picture had been taken in stealth, it appeared, as leaves and twigs bordered the image, and as it clicked into place, the older woman suddenly made a short gasp. Immediately she tried masking it as a cough, yet it was evident, especially to Tembris, that she recognized the person in the image.

"Brandon Amery." Tembris said, gesturing to the boy.

"He is now the most important part of this puzzle, and that being the case, I'm assigning two of you to find him, follow him, and … to do what has to be done." He gazed at the various people sitting on either side of him.

"So now I ask you all," he said, changing his tone. "Who will help?"

For a moment, there was absolute silence. Everyone was stunned by what they had heard, and what they had seen. Then, slowly, a hand went up.

"Ms. Austin?" Tembris said, impressed but slightly disbelieving. "Are you sure you wish to carry out this task?"

She stood, and her posture was confident, strong. "I … I am." she said.

Bautista chimed in, "Ridiculous!" he barked "This is not a job for new recruits! Not a job this important! She doesn't even know how to-"

"-oh do be quiet Bautista!" the older woman snapped. Then stood up herself, and in a gentler, but also determined tone she continued, "I'll go with Ms. Austin. She needs a guiding hand."

Tembris looked at the older woman, and for barely a second a look of suspicion flashed across his eyes, but then slowly he nodded.

"Alright." he said. "Alright then." He picked up two pieces of paper from a small pile by the projector.

"You two will begin immediately, I can't stress how important time is here. In the meantime, I will assemble a second team to find out where and when the girl went, and we'll see if we can get her back."

Tembris then proceeded to close the meeting and gather his effects, and what followed was the most excited buzzing the room had seen in many years as the members chatted together on their way out the doors.

A few moments later there was only a couple of straglers left making their way swiftly to the exit. One of them was the older woman, talking quietly to Ms. Austin.

They passed Tembris as he picked up a large suitcase containing the projector, and as they did, Tembris looked up. "A moment, if you will." He said gently.

The older woman stopped with an "Of course.", and Ms. Austin nodded too, then continued on alone.

Now it was just the older woman, and Tembris in the empty hall.

"Not that I don't have confidence. But please, look out for her." He said somberly "Bram is up to something. This is the second time we've seen him in the act, but that doesn't mean it's only been two times. We've lost others."

"Wiping them out one by one…" she replied wistfully. "Of course I will. I always do, don't I Edmund?"

He laughed and shook his head "I don't know why I doubt you." he said, "You haven't let me down yet." but then another look crossed his face. "You're still just as strong as ever, still just as bold. Still just as … trustworthy." he paused then, the emphasis on that last word sinking in for just a second as he scanned her face for something he didn't find.

"I'll look after her, Edmund, and him." She said stoically.

"Thank you." He replied, and the woman turned to leave.

"And Lizebeth," he continued.

"You be careful, too."

Lizebeth nodded her head, took a breath and polished her glasses quickly, then, setting them back on her nose she looked toward the younger Ms. Austin standing patiently outside the large doors to the auditorium, and went to meet her.

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