Worlds Apart: Part Seven
For the time being, Vin decided to keep quiet about the journal he had found. He helped Jaden gather supplies for the long journey to Moltara. Whenever he had a spare few minutes he would sneak up to the library, sit in the big plush chair and read through the diary of Jaden’s father. Jaden never seemed to want to roam the house.
“August 23rd, 1980
I’ve barely time to write this. They are coming. I’m writing this with the hope that someone will one day find this and know the truth. They are here. They...”
The entry ended there and as Vin flicked through to the last page of the book he realised it was the last entry the author ever made. Perhaps he had been taken by surprise as he was writing. If so, Vin dreaded to think what it was that had stopped him halfway through a sentence.
Hearing a muffled yell from downstairs, he stuffed the journal in his pocket and rushed out of the room.
“Jae? You okay?” he called out as he hurried down the stairs. Unable to stop himself in time, he crashed into the Zafara, who was standing at the bottom. She narrowed her eyes beadily at him as he disentangled himself from her and extended a hand to help her up.
“I’m fine. What were you doing?”
“Why did you call me?” Vin asked, avoiding her question.
“What? Who? Where? Again?” Vin felt an awful sense of déjà vu as he remembered the last words written in the diary.
Jaden looked at him with concern tinged with suspicion.
“What do you mean, again?”
“Did I say that? Oops. Must be going mad. So, who’s here?”
“Guards. I saw them as I went into town. There’s only three of them, I think they’ve split up and each taken different cities. Orell’s here,” she added, as if reading the question in his mind.
“Poor guy. He’s too old for stuff like this. He should retire.”
“He should, and we should leave. As soon as it’s dark, we’ll take all the stuff we’ve gathered and set sail. The sooner we get out of here the better.”
On an impulse, Vin dared to ask her a question. It probably was not a good time. But he was fired with enthusiasm and curiosity from reading the journal. And he just had to know.
“What happened to your family?”
Jaden’s face set in an ugly grimace and she turned away.
“You know I don’t talk about that, Vin. Let’s go.” And she walked away, leaving her friend watching her curiously, thinking of the little brown leather book in his pocket.
That night when the rain was pelting down and the rest of the town surely slept, the two renegades made their way to the dock with their bags full of food and supplies.
“Maybe we should wait until the weather calms down!” Vin yelled at Jaden over the howling of the wind.
“MAYBE WE SHOULD WAIT. THE WEATHER!”
He grabbed her by the shoulder and bellowed right into her ear.
“WE CAN’T SAIL IN THIS STORM! WE’LL BE KILLED!”
Wordlessly, Jaden pointed at the boat and back at him. Her message was clear. Gritting his teeth, Vin threw his bags into the boat and hopped in. He screwed his face up as his feet landed in a puddle of water. After they were both settled in, they started rowing the little dinghy away from the dock.
They bobbed up and down on the waves, rocking to and fro as they struggled to keep it steady. The rain raged down upon them and lighting flashed through the sky. Nearby, thunder rumbled menacingly.
“WE NEED TO GO BACK!” Vin yelled as another wave of salty, cold water crashed over them. It was so dark they could see neither in front of them nor behind. The dock had vanished behind them and there was nothing on all sides except for the foamy black water. “WE NEED TO─”
But just what they needed to do Jaden never heard, for at that moment the boat struck something hard on one side and Vin was sent flying into the dark water.
“VIN!” Jaden screamed, lunging for him. She plunged her arms into the freezing cold water, gasping at the initial shock. She felt around as far as she could reach, sobbing. “VIN!”
But there was no trace of the little Green Kyrii. She frantically searched and felt around, but it was an impossible task, it was too dark, and too wet, and too unsteady. Jaden cried as the storm raged on...
By some miracle the last member of Cell no. 6 managed to land her boat on the rocky shore of Moltara. Her face was streaked with dirt and tears and she had developed a slight limp. Slowly, stripped of any sense of her former urgency, she made her way down through the caves towards the heart of the underground city. She no longer walked like a thief in the night, and she didn’t once pause to look over her shoulder.
Her eyes were unfocused and hazy and she muttered to herself as she walked. Citizens of the molten town stopped what they were doing and stared as she passed them. It didn’t bother her.
She carried the two bags that had managed to survive the journey and in her hand she held a fizzled out wet lantern.
As she moved aimlessly through the town she did not notice a figure following her from the shadows. She felt calm, at peace, for the first time in ten years. Losing her best friend had been the last straw. Having lost everyone who had ever meant anything to her, she was broken.
Not wandering in any particular direction, Jaden happened upon a small cavern out of the way of the general population. She glanced inside and saw a Magma Gnorbu reading a thick book. He smiled pleasantly and gestured for her to come inside. Cautious, she stepped inside the old cave, looking around.
It was warm and cosy, a bit messy, and had a few books lying open on the floor with dozens of lit candles around the place.
“Welcome,” the old Gnorbu said, calmly lighting another candle. His face was weirdly distorted in the flickering light. “Tell me what it is you seek.”
“I’m not seeking anything,” Jaden said dully, sitting down heavily on a smooth rock, and wondering just what she was going to do next.
“Everyone seeks something.”
“Not me,” Jaden said firmly, leaning forward and resting her head in her hands. The warm room was making her head feel heavy and her eyelids droop. “You’re Igneot, aren’t you? I’ve heard of you. You’re as mad as Sloth.”
“Everyone is mad. Or at least, everyone has the potential to be.”
“Yeah, I think I’m starting to lose it, actually,” Jaden confessed, watching the Gnorbu through hazy eyes.
“What makes you think that?” Igneot asked, sipping his cup. “Tea?”
“No, thanks. I like Moltara,” Jaden said, somewhat randomly. “I’d like to stay here a while.”
“What’s stopping you?”
“It was supposed to be the three of us. Now it’s just me. I just feel... I don’t know. Like it’s not even worth it.”
“The bonds of which you speak are strong,” Igneot commented, eying her closely.
“Yes. I think I’ve surprised myself, actually. I didn’t expect to get so attached. Now I can’t imagine my life without them.” She sighed, realizing that she was exactly that, ─ without them.
The Gnorbu nodded, and lit another candle.
“Close your eyes for a minute, dear child.”
Suspicious, but without the energy to be concerned or to move, Jaden shut her eyes and shuffled more comfortably on the rock.
“Picture them, in your mind, as clearly as you can.”
In her mind she saw Vincent, smiling at her. He was grinning a happy, carefree smile. He waved merrily at her, his face free of worry. He looked better than she had ever seen him.
Next to him was Carrick, and how odd he looked! He was no longer Darigan. Instead he was made of molten magma. He was flaming red hot and sparkling, and had a distinctly healthy glow about him. He grinned that gleaming I’m-going-to-eat-you smile of his that she had grown so fond of, but his eyes were twinkling. He was looking at her with an excited expression on his face and was mouthing something. Jaden screwed her eyes shut even tighter and tried to focus on his mouth but the words were a blur. All she could make out was... ‘pool’.
Startled, Jaden’s eyes flew open and she jumped up.
“What was that?” she demanded of the Gnorbu, who had turned back to his book. He calmly raised an eyebrow at her, before picking up his cup again.
“No, I don’t want tea!” she said loudly, exasperated. Why did people ask stupid questions and never give a straight answer? “I saw them, I saw my friends.”
“I’m very happy for you.”
“But they weren’t how I knew them! They were different, and they were trying to talk to me. What did you do?”
“What could I be responsible for, dear? It was in your head, was it not? You’re the only one in there.”
“Is there any sort of pool around here?” Jaden asked with a sigh.
Igneot smiled slowly.
“There’s the Magma Pool. It’s just around the corner. Big guard on duty. You can’t miss him. Take care as you go now,” he said, waving at her. “Nice meeting you.”
Jaden had jumped up upon hearing where the pool was, then paused in the doorway, reading a note taped on the outside wall.
“Out for lunch. Back in three days,” she read aloud. Out? She turned to look back inside the cave.
She was the only one there. Jaden sighed and rolled her eyes.
This was really getting to be rather disturbing.
To be continued...