With a passion for storytelling spawning before he even could write, Pete Cotsalas, a Massachusetts native, does not feel accomplished unless he has written daily. Fiction is his passion. With a BA in English/Creative Writing he hopes to milk all the use possible out of this basic credential, and dreams of the world reading and enjoying his work. He is an avid reader and researcher in his spare time. To inspire himself, he often contemplates “If it exists, I can write about it.”
Teleportation via Chliste’s spell was travel in discomfort. Ivanna would compare the sensation to being caught in a silent tornado grasped in a giant’s fist. Blinding flashes of colorful light surrounded them until their destination. Out of the haziness, the mines of Scholder materialized. No trees were in sight. No songbirds warbled. Nervously, Myria gazed into the abysmal darkness below. “Where is the Asylum?” Ivanna and Glee pointed to answer. The structure upon the far cliff was Tearmann Asylum. Located on the far northwest corner of Scholder Province, Tearmann was perched on a cliff, overlooking miles of mines, not accessed for years. These mines were harvested clean of their ample supply of precious material centuries before. Tearmann Institute was once a smelting station until its function became pointless. The mines which the people of Scholder now worked in were exclusively on the south rim of the canyons, miles from there. From the distance where they stood, it appeared as a child’s dollhouse, teetering on the edge of a chair.
“Blimey!” exclaimed Glee, nearly sliding off a cliff. “Why did you not transport us all the way to Tearmann?”
“Heavy warding against such magical is on the walls,” Chliste explained. “Just as in Caineann, it is to prevent escape. This is the closest I could manage.”
Hiking the narrow paths along the cliffs was strenuous. Without treetops to obscure the sun, rays loomed down on them, hellishly, as the party ventured upward. Clutching at a cramp in her side, Ivanna stopped to catch her breath. A droplet of perspiration hit her in the eye from Froman, a few paces uphill. Ivanna found it astonishing that inmates could be escorted along such a set of winding trails, with the constant danger of falling into the canyons below.
Offering Ivanna a handkerchief, Glee looked down into the deep ravines of the mines. “I can only imagine,” he muttered, plaintively. “Do you honestly think it coincidental that they decided to establish this place up on the cliffs of a mine? It was a clever exclusion technique. The powers that be simply wanted so-called undesirables away from mainstream society. If we were to search depths of these mines, I have no doubt we would find skeletal remains of many inmates, discarded like rubbish. You know, there was a dark time, even after The Days to Forsake, when it was the norm for Fathach authorities to execute those with mind impairments. Or use them for medical experimentation.” Glee ceased his unwarranted assessment, upon reaching the large gateway to the Asylum.
Initially, it looked as if Tearmann was run by a tribe of ogres and trolls. Grunting and shouting, they carried, or dragged inmates along corridors, and in and out of chambers. Dwarves, elves, goblins and men, in restraints babbled incoherently, or flailed in resistance. Quickly Glee explained that these trolls and ogres were manpower. Originally, they were met with uncertainty when asking a troll who was in control of operations there at the institution. Finally they were granted an audience with an old elf, drinking a goblet of wine beside a fireplace in a study, seeming out of place between two inmate chambers. Standing as they entered, he gripped his monocle beneath his bushy eyebrow, with irritable impatience. “Who are you? State you business here,” he demanded, over the pained cries and whimpers. A troll crony was administering a flogging of an inmate in the adjacent chamber.
Becoming much more hospitable when Ivanna and Glee produced their Enforcer badges, the elf introduced himself as Spratly, “Coordinator” of Tearmann. “Of course, I can take you to Humblainenzie, the fairy. Right this way.”
Down and expansive, dank corridor, Spratly escorted them. The stone hallway was lined with cells. “This is positively despicable,” Glee muttered, looking around. Behind a set of bars to their left, a young goblin shivered, seated in a puddle of water, leaking from above. “Why do we treat the violent, convicted criminals on our continent with more grace than those who suffer mere mental impairments? This place needs more regulation from The Legion.”
Ivanna rolled her eyes. “You say things such as that quite often Glee. Every time you disclose an opinion of that nature, I advise you to go forth and address The Grand Legion about them. I said that about the goblin segregation in Ullbarr, and countless other issues you have mentioned.”
“They would not listen to me,” Glee said. Ivanna knew he would say this.
A large assortment of inmates was in a wide dormitory on the left side of the long corridor. An old dwarf with one arm shouted, pointing at Ivanna, Glee, Myria, Froman and Chliste with his one remaining arm. In loud bellows he accused them of being Rakshasa, and continued this rant as they passed. Spratly explained. “That ward is reserved for veterans of The War for Right. Many of them lost their minds on the battlefield. The only ones remaining are dwarves and elves, as they live much longer than you humans.”
Glee muttered under his breath. “Somehow I have a suspicion that they did not all have an opportunity to allow time to end their lives.”
“What ward is Humblainenzie in?” Ivanna asked to divert the subject.
The elf shook his head. “The traveling fairy has not been kept in a ward in over a century. He roams the corridors free. Here he is.”
Humblainenzie did not appear crazy or unbalanced. In most aspects he appeared, at first glance, the same as any other fairy. Walking with a distinct lightness to his step, he was short, half the height of Myria, who was the smallest of their traveling brigade. One differentiating factor setting him apart from other fairies was his wings. They were shackled behind his back. Never before had Ivanna seen a fairy rendered flightless. Agreeably, Spratly left the five visitors alone with Humblainenzie.
Upon laying eyes on Chliste, Humblainenzie grinned, with a colorless twinkle in his eyes, characteristic of a happy fairy. “Chliste, it is good to see you.”
“You as well,” said Chliste, with less charisma. Sorrowfully, he looked at the wing restraints. “However, I am sorry about the limited freedom.”
“A minor hindrance,” said Humblainenzie, glancing behind his back. Tips of his wings twitched helplessly. “Ogres tell me it is a necessary precaution. Discomfort is something I am able to cope with. To what do I owe this large visitation?”
As he often did, Chliste overlooked casual introductions and pleasantries, arriving directly on topic. “My companions and I seek information on Djinn.”
Sparkles seemed to flicker slightly from Humblainenzie’s eyes. Following a short pause for composure, he nodded. “For millennia, I explored the vastness of realms. They operate in a labyrinth, as a giant whirligig essentially. Crossroads between them are sporadic and unpredictable. More than once, I happened upon the Djinn. I can only tell you so much about them. If you desire complete answers, I can escort you to someone who can deliver.” With a nod of his head, he led them toward another section of the narrowing corridor. Lit torches which had lined the walls up until now became scarce. This seemed to be a forgotten wing of the asylum. Six cells they passed were vacant. One nearly at the end of the corridor had an occupant. There was a human male in this ward, mumbling incoherently to nobody. “Nameless inmate,” explained Humblainenzie. “Everyone calls him Lockjaw. Day and night, he sits there mumbling that jargon, which nobody has deciphered. He was admitted a decade ago, discovered aimlessly wandering the forests of Province Dli. Although he may seem unremarkable, hear this. They have neglected to feed him since. Ten years, this human has gone without sustenance. Still he lives.”
In Ivanna’s eyes there was only one explanation. “Impossible, then he is not human. At least he is not entirely.”
“Has a healer examined him?” Glee asked Humblainenzie.
The fairy scoffed “Healer? In what level of delusion do you blissfully find sanction? There has not been a certified healer in Tearmann in three decades.”
Curiously Ivanna glanced from the apparent immortal man, back to the shackled fairy. “What causes you to think he has the answers we seek?”
It was Chliste who answered her question. Leaning his head against the bars, he cupped his hand around his ear. Chliste looked and Humblainenzie, listening to the man’s mumbling, with widening eyes. “He speaks the language of the Cryptic Alphabet.”
Humblainenzie nodded, and looked at Glee with a mischievous fairy smirk. “See, Chliste is far more perceptive than the most educated healer.” Slowly he pushed the rusty cell door open. “In all this time, he has never stood from that bunk. Nobody has bothered to lock his cell. Would you care for a closer examination?”
At the bedside, Chliste touched the man’s arm and closed his eyes. Everyone else remained silent, knowing the golem was reading the man’s energy. Chliste nodded, and opened his eyes. “This man suffers from acute, yet prolonged Barrier Shock,” he surmised.
Humblainenzie explained to the humans and Wolf. “That condition predominantly exists among fairies. We use it to refer to a state of mental or physical impairment which one can occasionally succumb to after crossing between realms of reality.”
“Can you… can you cure it?” Glee asked Chliste, reluctantly.
“Typically, yes I can,” Chliste said. Ivanna’s heart leapt as she saw in Chliste’s face something she never had before. Fear, Chliste looked fearful, looking down upon the murmuring mess of a man. With silent hope, she wondered if it was merely his new heart taking its root. “But… I sense unusual aura around this man,” continued Chliste. “Honestly, I have never detected anything remotely like it. It feels like… an immeasurable mass of restrained power. I can also tell you… this man is centuries old.”
“How do you know?” Glee asked.
Gazing at his hand, as if not believing it his own, Chliste flexed his long pale fingers. “When I touched him, I saw flashes of memory,” Chliste said. “He remembers a time when the illuminating cracks still loomed in the sky.”
“That means he recalls time when our world was pending completion,” Froman said, cocking a mangy eyebrow. “Faraoise told me of such a time. That means that this man’s life precedes the Days to Forsake. How is that possible?”
A pause followed. Solidifying his discomfort not knowing answers, Chliste changed the subject slightly. “It is a riddle he speaks. The same is etched on the walls of Faraoise’s layer.” Solemnly, he recited it. “Above the mind which conceives and designs, they grow. Outside the exterior, they thrive. Colorful beauty, permitting vanity, displaying wealth, shapes and styles are worn in a plethora.”
“Hair,” said Myria, shrugging. Somehow that seemed too simple to Ivanna. Inquisitive faces of the others proved she was not alone in that feeling.
“Gemstones,” said Chliste. “The answer is gemstone. “Mind” references not the physical brain of any creature, but of Faraoise herself, who conceived the world. Perhaps if I answer the riddle, in the Cryptic Language, his shock will dissipate. One minor precaution, I will take.” Raising his hands, Chliste murmured an incantation and his sclera shined a cerulean blue. Initially, it did not seem that anything happened. Then Ivanna noticed the orange light from the one torch in corridor was not longer flickering. The flame was perfectly stationary. Poking her head outside the cell, she saw an ogre, carrying a tray of bread to another cell standing still in his footsteps, not moving a muscle. Chliste explained “I have enacted a time-stopping charm, excluding those of us occupying this room to conduct his remedy without interruption. Also, if it does not work, and something less satisfactory occurs, I believe it better if time were not moving at normal pace.”
Widening her eyes, Myria blurted “Wait, what do you think might-?”
Inhaling, Chliste ignored her, murmuring the answer to the riddle, “Gemstones” in the gibberish language. As if a miniature earthquake occurred within this one cell, Ivanna felt the sensation she were falling, and was then caught. This had to mean the energy in the room had shifted. Curing the Barrier Shock nearly drained Chliste. As the man ceased his nonsensical utterance, and sat up, Chliste collapsed.
Ivanna bent down to tend to Chliste. Panting and grunting, Chliste shook his head, silently saying he would be fine. He pointed to the man regaining consciousness. “What is your name?” It almost frightened Ivanna to ask this question.
“I… I do not know,” the young man said, blinking and rubbing his head.
“Irrelevant,” Froman sneered in Ivanna’s ear, his foul-smelling breath striking her nostrils. “His name is not pertinent to our goal.” To the stranger he asked “What do you know of Djinn?” as pointedly as Chliste.
Humblainenzie was correct. This man did know of the Djinn. He provided an answer so readily, it almost sounded rehearsed. “The Djinn are all-powerful, but thrive on benefiting others. Forming reality out of the desires of others substantiates and empowers them.” As he spoke, the man looked around at them, blinking them into focus. “Djinn are the archrival or evolution.”
“How is that?” asked Glee.
“They are parasitic, ticks suckling blood. Acquirement forms one of the basic dictums Faraoise conceived when she created the concept of life. Part of accomplishment is strive and growth it requires. When Djinn simply supplement a wish, and provide it, eliminating that, it hinders a life essential.”
Crouching down to face the man, Froman gazed into his eyes. “What have Djinn to do with the Warlock Loyalists?”
Blinking ceased. The stranger’s eyes widened, as he looked into Froman’s aggressive face. “Do you not know? A Djinn leads them. Loyalists are comprised of more than mere dwarves, men, goblins, trolls and elves. The most powerful being in all of the realms walks among them.”
TO BE CONTINUED