Worlds Apart: Part Eight
“Forgive me if I don’t hug you. You appear to be on fire, and I’m not even sure if you’re real,” Jaden said flatly, leaning against a rock and glaring at the Magma Scorchio in front of her.
“Why wouldn’t I be real?” He grinned that familiar smirk of his.
“I’ve gone a bit mad, I think,” Jaden said honestly, recalling the events of the last few days. “Is it painful?” She gestured at his flaming molten skin.
“Huh? Oh, no, it’s great. Like being in a toaster during the winter.”
“I’ve never been in a toaster.”
Carrick laughed, a deep chortle that made Jaden’s head hurt.
“It’s me, kid. You’re not going crazy.”
“How can you be here?” the Zafara said, her voice almost a whisper. Her eyes were wide and Carrick could see how tired she looked. “And how can you be like this...?”
“It’s a long story. Let’s get out of here, that guard will be waking up soon. Follow me.”
They crept along the outside of the Magma Pool, keeping out of the eyesight of the stirring guard, making their way into the caves high above the bubbling pits.
Sitting in one of the damp caves, it was quite comfortable sitting in the only source of light which was radiating off Carrick. Jaden sat staring gormlessly at him, rocking slightly. He frowned at her, concerned.
“Are you ok, Jae? You’re looking a bit...” Carrick stopped himself from saying the first word that came to mind ─ deranged. He settled on a less inflammatory word. “...fragile.”
“Hmm? No, I’m fine, thank you, Vin. Er ─ Carrick.”
“Where is Vin, anyway? I was so looking forward to showing him my new fire-breathing trick.”
“He’s gone. Fell overboard on the way here,” Jaden said calmly, as if the matter was of no importance to her. “How did you get here?”
“Well, at the Lost Desert, when we were staying at that inn, you know how Vin and I were having a nap? I woke up suddenly and saw guards outside. I panicked at first, I wanted to run. I’ll admit I honestly thought of leaving right then and there, running away to Terror Mountain or something. But I looked at Vin sleeping so peacefully and I just couldn’t. He snores really loudly, you know,” he added, smiling at the memory.
“I know. It used to drive me nuts. I tried to smother him with a pillow once. He didn’t really appreciate it...”
“I can imagine,” Carrick said dryly before continuing. “The guards were about to raid the inn, and I didn’t even know where you were. So I did the only thing I could think of. I led them away. It wasn’t easy, there was so many of them, but I managed. By the time I was able to come back to the inn, you and Vin had already left. I knew where you were headed, of course, but instead of coming straight here, I led them through a few places on the way. They’re scattered all over the worlds, split up, and they think we’re headed to Kreludor. I don’t think they’ll be bothering us here,” Carrick finished with a satisfied smirk. “If any of them make it here, we can handle that. Got any food? I’m starving.”
“Sorry. Got a bit waterlogged on the way,” Jaden said, shrugging apologetically. As pleased as she was at seeing Carrick again, she couldn’t stop the horrible empty feeling in her heart when she thought of Vin. Sweet, little Vincent, who was always so polite.
“I wish you and Vin could have seen me sneak past the guard and jump into the pool. It seemed just so inviting. I thought that was pretty smart of me to disguise myself as a Moltaran.”
The big Scorchio seemed to sense what she was thinking and sighed.
“But it’s not the same, is it? It was supposed to be the three of us,” he said, opening one of Jaden’s bags and pulling out a sopping wet journal. “What’s this?”
Uninterested, Jaden shrugged, putting her head in her hands and closing her eyes as Carrick opened to the first page and attempted to read the blurred and smudged words.
“The kids love the new house. They’ve been exploring the place all day. Gage loves the attic already, I just know he’s going to spend a lot of time up there. And Jaden has taken a liking to the gardens; she’s already been down there dancing with the flowers─”
Carrick’s reading was cut short when Jaden leapt up and snatched the diary out of his hands and flipped through the pages, her eyes wide with disbelief.
“Jae? What’s going on? Is that about you? And who’s Gage?”
“Shut up,” Jaden hissed, turning her back on him and continuing to look through the book before understanding dawned on her. “Vincent! He had this... But how? He knew...”
“Knew what?” Carrick asked her, fidgeting with curiosity.
She spun around and he did a double take. Her eyes were wild and her lips were pulled back in a silent snarl, baring her sharp white teeth. When she spoke, her voice was cold and nasty.
“He stole it. He stole the book from my... from my father. HE STOLE IT!” she suddenly bellowed, gripping the journal so tightly some of the water was squeezed out with an unpleasant squelching sound.
Taking a step back from her, Carrick tried to talk to her in what he hoped was a calm and soothing voice. Evidently, though, it was not.
“HE WENT INTO THE LIBRARY! THAT’S WHAT HE WAS DOING UPSTAIRS!” she shouted before screaming incoherently. Carrick caught a few words like ‘traitor’ and ‘I’ll kill him’.
“Jae, what’s gotten your trousers in a twist? So Vin found this book, where? Where did you go?”
But Jaden was in no state to be talked to rationally.
“Would you please stop screaming?” Carrick hissed at her as she started again. “You’ll give us away!”
“THEY’RE COMING! They’re coming for me, again! They’ll get me this time, I know it. I can’t run anymore, I’ve been running for so long,” Jaden moaned, covering her eyes with her hands as if trying to block out some unpleasant images. Peering through her hands her face lit up with an eerie smile. “Oh, hello, Kelland! I’m most delighted you found your way. I do hope the journey was quite comfortable?”
Squinting in the darkness, Carrick saw nobody where Jaden was directing her conversation to.
“Yes, the same happened to moi. Will the others be along shortly?” she inquired of the invisible person.
“Why are you talking like that, all weird and la-dee-da? And who are you talking to?” Carrick asked, but she ignored him.
“But of course, dear! They shall be here soon, you say? I do hope they make haste; we shall be leaving at first light.”
“Whhaaa?” Carrick asked, deeply frustrated.
“Yes, this is him. Carrick, I’m sure you’ve heard of Kelland, the Thief? He is very pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“Delighted,” the Scorchio said flatly, stepping forward and putting an arm around his friend and speaking as if to a difficult child. “Jae, hon, perhaps we should be leaving? Maybe we can find someone for you to talk to... someone... real.”
“The heroes will be here shortly. You know, from Altador?” Jaden said, looking down her nose at him like he was just so uncouth. He smiled pleasantly and patted her hand gently.
“Like the ones from the Hall of Heroes?”
“The very same. Upon their arrival we shall be setting sail again, I say.”
“Why are you talking like that, though?”
“I shall do my family no shame, Carrick! Those of blood as pure and noble as ours need to remain as such if we are to continue living our ways. You have seen my house, in Shenkuu? It is most grand.”
Failing to understand what she was talking about, the Magma Scorchio watched in disbelief as Jaden pulled away from him and started dancing. She was smiling and whispering to her dance partner, who Carrick had the unpleasant feeling that it was that ‘Kelland’ character.
Feeling as if the world had gone mad and forgotten to tell him, Carrick picked up the journal Jaden had thrown aside when she had seen her ‘hero’. He turned his back on his friend and started reading through it again, glancing over his shoulder every so often to check what she was doing. She appeared not to notice him, and was laughing hysterically at something Kelland had said, which was apparently hilarious.
Absorbed in his reading, his eyes wide with horror and disbelief, Carrick did not notice as the Zafara twirled past him, her hands held delicately in the air, spinning and leaping as though she had been born to dance. He did not see her leap right out of the cave, nor did he see that the rocky floor of the caves below were swarming with guards. It was only when Jaden screamed that he looked down and saw them, and in their middle was someone wearing a heavy black hood over his head.
And Carrick watched as the guards struggled to keep a hold on the writhing Zafara and Vincent offered his hand to help.
To be continued...