“Pharmakon” Sneak Peek, Chapter 1

Pharmakon Front


 “I’m home”

 Past time

Trok’s hand was the first part of him to exist in reality again. As he emerged from the portal, the rest of him followed in the adjustment. His body always had a minor reaction to the process. It was still hard to get used to, even after five hundred and nearly thirty years of non-aging existence.

As he lifted an arm to shield his face from blowing sand, he felt his eyes and lungs working to cope with the different conditions of Phantasya. Well, he sensed them working, but he didn’t feel. He wasn’t connected to reality enough for that, not even here on Phantasya, where the barrier between the space dimension and reality was so thin.

Behind Trok, leaves sang in the wind as the desert breeze collided with the trees, and he turned from the blowing sand to look at the rich forest. He marveled once again at the strange disparity between the geographical settings.

Phantasya’s an odd planet in many ways, he thought.

A smile on his face, Trok walked into the forest. This past time was around the point when he’d first discovered the planet, and he recognized several nostalgic details along his way. He even saw the forgotten sandal that lay along the footpath – it’d been there the day he’d arrived on Phantasya five centuries ago, although technically it was that time now.

Trok soon came upon a familiar trail. Following this, he entered the quaint village of the Phantasyans. It was the same as he remembered – wooden huts, stone fire pits, rope pens holding domesticated animals from Earth.

Clank. Clank. Bang.

Phantasyans worked with hand tools around the huts, and small children playing in the center of the village added to the healthy ruckus. All were clothed in simple, plain-colored fabrics sewn from animal skins and cotton-like materials. The tallest of the natives stood about chest high. All were tan from exposure to the Phantasyan sun. The women wore their hair long and braided. The men sported unruly beards. But they weren’t Neanderthals; only rustics.

Trok waved to the Phantasyans, affection in the gesture.

I’m the only outsider to ever be accepted as one of Phantasya’s own, he thought. That’s a humbling blessing. The Warriors will undoubtedly stumble upon this place’s secrets too, but all that will come in time. For now…

“Trok! Trok!” The children left the chickens they’d been teasing and ran to greet him.

Trok couldn’t help but recall what these children would look like once grown, but he cast these thoughts aside as the energized children danced around him. Smiling, he greeted the little brood in their own language. Then he asked to be taken to Nangroo, their ruling village Elder.

Two boys took his hands and dragged him through the village of wooden huts. As he was guided past the homes, many older Phantasyans looked up from their chores and waved with cheerful greetings. Trok would have waved back were his hands free, but instead he bobbed his head at the adults, who laughed at the boys tugging the taller Earthling.

The children led Trok to a bonfire pit on the edge of the village. Here, circled around the fire, reclined the oldest men of the village. They sat idly laughing and talking about nothing in particular, the way old men of any time or culture do.

“Trok!” Elder Nangroo called in astonishment. He and the other bearded elders dropped their conversation and turned to greet their visitor.

The time-traveling Earthling smiled back at Nangroo, who would become one of the best Elders to ever rule Phantasya. In the Phantasyan tongue, Trok told the little man that there was something he was willing to teach the Phantasyans if they had the time and were interested.

The Phantasyans are eager learners, thought Trok. That hasn’t changed in five hundred years…

Trok asked Nangroo to swear that the teaching would be passed on to his people’s descendants.

Nangroo answered that he would be happy to do as Trok asked. The villagers were always eager to help Trok. They felt Trok was their responsibility because they’d found him alone and frightened in the desert.

Yes, thought Trok with a smile. I was pretty new at all this back then.

Trok joined the elders’ circle and sat on an available wooden stump.

He knew it would take a while to teach them, and he hoped Elder Nangroo would keep his word once Trok returned to the outside realm. It would’ve been simpler to teach the future Phantasyans who actually needed to know the teaching, but Trok already had a relationship with these people.

And so, as he addressed the growing crowd of Phantasyans around him, Trok began to undo Babel.

Outside time

As I stepped back through the portal hole, I congratulated myself for taking only a few months to teach the Phantasyans the English language.

From earlier investigation, I’d known this would have to be done. Having a common language would greatly help the Phantasyans and the Warriors once my friends arrived from Ebon – and in the past time when Rave and Arctos had first discovered Phantasya, for the alteration’s rippling effect throughout time would change that past time as well. (No matter how circular my effects on time were, they had to have a starting point somewhere.) Now, everything was ready for the Earthlings to land on Phantasya.

“I wait once again,” I told myself. “At least this is a peaceful resting period between planets. No one’s dying in this limbo.”

In real time, the Warriors and other Earthlings were nearing the end of their month-long trip from Ebon to Phantasya. I’d watched them all the while, and they were getting along fairly well – although they needed to stretch their legs. Once they arrived on Phantasya, they had about two weeks before I was meant to go to them. Two more weeks. Then the current future window would be fulfilled – I’d return to see my Warriors, the boy clone would meet my friends, and I’d send them on a new mission.

Despite my eager anticipation, I was the model of patience compared to the boy.

He’s so much like Rave at that age, I thought with a smile. When I raised Rave at the oasis, he knew little of what it meant to be human. The boy is even less connected to conventional humanity. Still, if Rave turned out okay, I have every reason to expect the same from the boy.

Having nothing better to do, I turned back to the portal hole. I wanted to examine the time when the male Warriors had first arrived on Phantasya. That would show me if the language alteration had worked or not. I would also see myself in this past time, but this oddity of my existence was something I’d become accustomed to.

Past time

It had only been three months since the WARBIRD’s crash on Ebon. It felt longer. Arctos and Rave had traveled from planet to planet in Ebon’s solar system, and finally they could say with certainty that Cruelthor was nowhere in Ebon’s colonies. So, they’d next turned their borrowed spacecraft to Ebon’s permanent portal, which the Ebonites claimed would lead to yet another solar system, though this new world was unexplored.

Flying once more into swirling, fiery lights, Arctos cringed. It was hard to forget that the last portal they’d entered had sent them crashing from Earth. However, as they emerged on the far side of this portal, Arctos held the Ebonite ship under control and saw that everything was as it should be. But…

“Where are we now?”

Looking out the windshield, Arctos and Rave found blank space before them. Somehow, the blackness looked clearer and cleaner than Ebon’s void. Less hazy. Less polluted. The stars even seemed brighter.

Working the now familiar Ebonite ship’s radar, Arctos tried to translate the grid. “Any ideas?”

Rave leaned over the controls to get his face closer to the windshield. His eyes narrowed, and he must have used his genetically enhanced eyesight to scan the empty space. Swishing the hanging bangs out of his face, he scowled in his typical way.

I’d laugh at that look, thought Arctos, except that laughing at anything lately seems completely inappropriate.

“Look over there.” Rave pointed against his side window.

Arctos looked where his friend indicated and saw a distinguishable planet against the stellar backdrop. This was the only celestial ball in the sky, so Arctos aimed their ship in this planet’s direction.

“It’s small compared to Ebon,” Arctos noted.

The planet’s orbiting moon was much closer to the planet’s atmosphere than any moon they’d seen. Because sunlight shone on the faces of the two globes, Arctos could see their surfaces quite well. The naturally smaller moon had a churning blue surface, suggesting a global sea. The planet itself was mostly yellow with only an equatorial belt of green suggesting vegetation.

Rave flicked his finger against the windshield. “Do you know what that planet is? That’s Phantasya! I’m home!”

“What? This is where Trok raised you?”

“Exactly! I wonder if the old Bearer is there now. You think?”

They’d been trying to rationalize Trok’s absence for some time.

“Could be. You always said Phantasya was Trok’s favorite planet. Maybe he’s been here, waiting for us to find this place.” The bigger Warrior shrugged his stiff shoulders. “I don’t like that Trok hasn’t answered sis’s calls, though. He’s always come when we’ve needed him before.”

Rave let out a puff of air. He sat back in his seat and strapped himself in. “Well, let’s just get there and then figure it out. You know how Trok skips around – I’ll bet he already knows we’re coming.”

Excited for the first time in months, Arctos sped their spacecraft to the planet’s orbit. It didn’t take long before they scorched through the atmosphere. The ship vibrated and grew a bit warmer, but they’d grown accustomed to this during their numerous landings on Ebon’s planetary settlements.

Arctos decreased their speed and controlled their descent. The clouds lessened. Arctos brought the ship to a smooth coasting speed, and they flew lower over the planet’s surface.

Now they saw an endless desert of sand dunes. Sunlight reflected off the yellow sand, and Rave activated the dimmer on the windshield.

I’m squinting, thought Arctos. This light must be blinding Rave.

Eventually, a line of green appeared on the southern horizon. It stretched from east to west for as far as they could see. At the moment, however, everything below them was a wash of yellow sand. Despite the lack of scenery, Phantasya was a beautiful planet compared to the gray, sunless Ebon.

“It’s exactly as I remember,” said Rave as he looked out. “Sand, sand, and more sand. Trok never let me go to the forest. He said the Phantasyans should be allowed to keep their way of life without being introduced to outside influences. Trok always was a bit overprotective.” His lips stretched into a plotter’s grin. “Let’s go to the forest. Maybe the Phantasyans know how to reach Trok.”

Arctos flew the ship toward the horizon of green. They glided over several more kilometers of desert but saw nothing of interest.

As they drew near the forest, however, they saw an obvious indicator of intelligent life – a city stood at the forest’s edge. This city was surrounded by high, white, stone walls, but an opening in the northern wall showed a pillared entrance. In the middle of the city, rising high above the height of the walls, stood a single tower of white stone.

Before they could get a clearer look, the Ebonite ship flew past and the city dropped back out of sight. Now they flew over a lumpy, lush forest canopy.

Rave spun in his seat and exclaimed, “What was that?”

“You don’t know? I thought you grew up here.”

“I’ve never seen that before in my life. Trok raised me at an oasis in the middle of the desert, remember? No wonder he never let me come this far – I would’ve begged to live here!”

Arctos turned their spacecraft around. “I’ll land. We should find a place far enough away so the Phantasyans can’t get to our ship if there’s trouble.”

Rave seemed to agree as they flew back to the desert.

Arctos began searching for a suitable landing place between the dunes. “Are you sure we are where you think we are?”

“Of course, but I didn’t know these people were capable of building something like that.” Rave scrunched his face in thought. “Trok told me that the Phantasyans came from Earth through the Mainland-Euro DuoPort. Evidently these settlers wanted to return to the simple life, and they’re very agricultural. Trok never said anything about them being master architects. I never asked much because I got the impression that they were kind of boring. But if I’d know about that city…”

Arctos nodded, not having a full picture but not wanting to hear Rave’s undoubtedly long explanation. “Well, we should stay alert. We have no idea what we’re walking into, if you’ve never met these people.”

“Uh-huh.” Rave was still watching the ground below.

He’s excited Trok might be here, thought Arctos. So am I. Maybe Trok can help us out of this mess.

Arctos picked a level spot behind the dune nearest the city. The dune was high enough to shield the ship, so he eased the ship down until the landing gear settled into the sandy ground. Finally, he turned the spacecraft offline. They went through the checklist and then stood from their seats, Arctos ducking in the confining, metallic ship.

I don’t care what it’s like outside, he thought. Anything is better than this. We’ve been cooped up in here for… How long as hit been?

Rave seemed equally desperate to get out. Together, they made their way through the shadows to the exit hatch.

Arctos had a thought. “Should we try signaling sis again? If we run into trouble, we’ll want her to know about it.”

Rave paused with a hand over the exit’s controls. “Good thinking. You’d better call out to her – I don’t think she’s been monitoring my mind link at all. I’ve tried asking about Kynacoba, but Amu hasn’t acknowledged me.” He scowled, worry for his sister once again clear.

Why hasn’t Amu been paying attention to our mind links? Arctos wondered yet again. She said she’d keep us informed about Kynacoba’s health, but she hasn’t talked to either of us in weeks. Shouldn’t she be monitoring our mind links to make sure we’re safe? She can’t be that busy at Phethorei.

“Well, I’ll try,” Arctos offered.

Rave nodded, though not with much hope.

Arctos closed his eyes and scrunched his face to think at his sister. A second later, he felt the familiar sensation of her mind link.

“Arctos, hi! I was just scanning my mind links for you,” said Amu’s mind-voice. “Oh! You’ve found Phantasya! Thanks for letting me know. I’m not busy here in Phethorei at the moment, so I’ll stick around as you go outside and explore. I’ll see everything through your mind. Okay?”

“Okay,” said Arctos aloud as he opened his eyes.

Rave turned. “What?”

“Amu’s in my head with us. She says she’ll see everything through me.” Arctos desperately tried not to think things that would alert his sister to the fact that he thought this was a disturbing ability.

Rave was also uneasy about Amu’s stronger telepathy, but he seemed to think it useful in this case. “How’s my sister?”

Amu heard this. “I haven’t been able to visit her in a while, but her doctor promised to send me a health report tomorrow. I’ll let you know as soon as I hear anything.”

Arctos was about to relay this, but Amu must have simultaneously spoken the same in Rave’s mind.

”Thanks, Amu.” Rave frowned but looked at Arctos. “Well, let’s get going.”

Opening the hatch, the two men finally exited the ship.

Arctos had to lift a hand to shield his eyes as he adjusted to the bright sunlight. He stood for a moment beside the ship and took a moment to enjoy everything his senses brought to him – Rave was probably getting even more out of it than Arctos. The sounds of blowing wind and sand were wonderfully organic compared to the hum of the ship. The air was warm and dry on his skin. Arctos felt immediately revitalized after spending so much time in the cold, dank ship.

He turned to look up. “Whoa! That may be the strangest thing I’ve ever seen.”

In the blue sky, an alarmingly close moon seemed to hang just beyond Phantasya’s atmosphere. The moon’s surface flowed hypnotically in varying hues of blue, and Arctos felt he could almost hear waves as the colors rolled over the moon’s surface.

“Wow!” Amu’s mind-voice chirped.

Arctos glanced at Rave. “That’s the moon you were always talking about?”

“Yeah, that’s Rowen from the ground view.” Rave sounded unenthused. “You can always see it. I know you Earth-born folk think of a moon as a planet’s underling, but this moon is its own entity. Rowen is entirely water, and there are people called Leks who live inside mer-pneumas, a squid-like species.”

I already like this place over Ebon, thought Arctos.

Amu sent him a feeling of disapproval.

Rave pointed back to the dune in front of the ship. “Meanwhile…”


Together, Rave and Arctos left the ship and approached the dune. Hiking their way up the shifting sand, the two men eventually crested the dune and stood in the breeze to survey what lay before them.

From east to west, the desert ended abruptly where the forest began. Leveling off from the desert dunes, the sand hardened for a few meters before disappearing altogether into the thick vegetation of the forest’s edge. The forest looked like any ancient forest Arctos had seen in holo-pictures back on Earth. The trees were not palms, as would be expected, but instead were more similar to oaks and maples with an occasional white stripe of birch. Vines clung to tree trunks from their birthplaces out of hard ground.

That which caught the eye most was what had caused them to land in the first place – constructed on the edge of the forest was the white-walled city. The lone towering structure jutted up for perhaps twenty stories above the city walls. Along the tops of the walls, high flags waved in the breeze. From where the Earthlings stood atop the dune, they could look into the city through the northern wall’s pillared entrance. On either side of the city, the forest stood like an extension of the stone walls, adding to the city’s magnificence.

“Yeah,” quipped Rave, “I definitely would’ve preferred this to the oasis.”

“I saw from our aerial view that these walls wrap all the way around the city. I think that tower is dead center, and it has to be over fifty stories high. I didn’t see any other buildings, did you? That tower is big enough for any use, though. What do you think – did you see any sign of trouble?”

“It’s probably safe. There’s no barricade or even a gate. These people clearly aren’t expecting trouble. I doubt they’re any more ready to dish it out.”

“So go inside,” Amu’s mind-voice suggested.

No further prompting was required, and Rave marched down the far side of the dune. Once on level sand, the two men walked to the pillared entrance and found that it led into a wide plaza. The interiors of the grand walls were lined with colossal statues of colorfully painted men who seemed to represent nobles or rulers. The flags along the tops of the walls were accented by draperies that ran high overhead from one wall to the other, drooping across the open plaza, creating a bit of shade. Scattered carts, wagons, and enormous baskets cluttered the area like a marketplace. Arctos smelled wonderful spices and tangy, fruity smells wafting from the market.

Smells a thousand times better than ship rations, he thought with a swallow of drool.

On the far side of this plaza, stone stairs led up to the veranda of the towering edifice. Arctos, tipping his head back to get a better look at the building, now saw open windows in the stone tower. He couldn’t see beyond to the other side of the city, for the tower blocked any view.

All this Arctos saw with a few glances, but it took longer to examine the bustling crowds of the city. The natives were surprisingly dwarf-like. Their clothing suggested they lived modestly. All the women carried baskets made of some sort of reed, and many men led donkeys carrying packs. The women wore long, light dresses, and the men wore simple pants and tunics. Children were running through the maze of carts, some carrying handcrafted toys of wood and stone.

“So these are Phantasyans?” Arctos asked Rave.

“I don’t know. I never met one.”

“They seem harmless, but be careful.”

As Arctos and Rave approached the nearest crowd, a hush fell over the plaza. The mass of people stared at them in amazement, but they didn’t look afraid. Actos and Rave had encountered several planets’ settlers who’d been fearful of newcomers, but these were simply curious. A toddler boy even tried running to the strangers, but his mother caught him just in time from falling on his face. The adults looked as innocent as the child. They seemed most mesmerized by Arctos’s size, and he felt – even more so than usual – like a giant.

A Phantasyan man with a long beard walked up to them. He smiled warmly and held out his arms in greeting. In his own language, the little man babbled away at them.

Rave looked at Arctos and shrugged.

At the same moment, something strange happened. A flash like portal light seemed to come from every direction at once. It stretched in waves over absolutely everything and shown so brightly that Arctos had to hold a hand to shield his eyes.

A Phantasyan man with a long beard walked up to them. He smiled warmly and held out his arms in greeting.

Arctos shook his head. “Whoa,” he muttered, “Déjà vu.”

The native before them said, “Greetings, visitors. We’re thrilled to have you here. Please, come with me. I’ll take you to Elder Quar so he can welcome you properly.” He waved an arm for them to follow as he turned toward the tower.

Not knowing what else to do, Arctos and Rave followed the cordial native through the crowds. Seeing that the newcomers had an escort, the people returned to their shopping and let the Earthlings be.

They reached the veranda stairs, and their guide led them up the steps to the tower doors. These were impressive, heavy, wooden doors, but the little man managed to swing one wide. Standing to the side, he smiled and ushered them inside before following, letting the door swing shut behind them.

Rave whistled.

The center of the tower was basically hollow. Standing at ground level, Arctos and Rave looked right up to the top of the building where a webbed, glass skylight allowed sunshine to pour down to the ground floor. Balconies distinguished different levels above, and rooms must have lined each level – since there were no windows but the grand skylight, the windows Arctos had seen from outside must have shone into these rooms. A spiraling staircase wrapped around the walls, climbing through the many balconies.

Back at ground level, the door they’d entered was flanked on either side by fire pits and miniature cooking areas. A few women were busy at work here, rolling dough on stone counters or stirring pots over fires.

Smells good, thought Arctos. Man, I’m starving.

Farther to the right, shelves of scrolls lined the wall, and a Phantasyan man stood on a ladder, apparently searching for reading material. A few comfortable-looking, pillowed chairs sat in front of these shelves, and more Phantasyans were reading here. Beyond this area to the right, potted flowers and hanging plants made a kind of indoor greenhouse, catching the sunshine from the skylight above. Next came the grand staircase.

Arctos heard splashes of water over the chatter of the people in the tower, and he looked across the open ground floor to the far side. Here, partitions enclosed what Arctos guessed were bathing areas, considering Phantasyans were walking around these partitions wrapped in towels. A high trough system with spouts spilled gurgling water down into a long tub with a fire underneath, which must have warmed the water before pouring into the baths. Arctos saw that the main trough system began where a large, open spout in the far wall gushed water into the open-faced trough. This trough ran all the way around the tower, ending in the kitchen area beside Arctos.

Their escort proudly watched while the Warriors looked around. Once they’d taken in the sights, he said, “Follow me, please,” and led them to the left.

More Phantasyans filled this area, and Arctos saw a long, low table with pillow seats stretching the entire length of the left side of the tower. A small gathering of older Phantasyans was seated at this table, conversing amongst themselves and mostly ignoring the mass of people milling about. Behind the table, a platform stood against the tower wall, and on this platform stood a fairly magnificent throne.

Take us to your leader, thought Arctos with a smile.

Here sat a plump, white-bearded, wrinkly fellow wearing a gray tunic made of animal skin. This Phantasyan seemed in charge. When he saw the approaching Earthlings, he waved the newcomers over with a wide smile.

They arrived before the throne, and their Phantasyan guide bowed before stepping to the side. Figuring they should look respectful, the foreigners also bowed.

Suddenly, a bright light shone in the room as a portal appeared by the platform. The Phantasyans at the table didn’t seem surprised in the least, and they began clapping as a man emerged from the red and yellow swirls.

“It’s Trok!” Arctos exclaimed.

It was. Trok looked the same as always, which Arctos didn’t think was fair, given everything they’d been through.

“Trok, it’s an honor,” the Phantasyan leader called from his throne.

“It’s my honor, Elder Quar.” Trok bowed before the native. Then he stood and smiled at the Warriors.

Seeing his hero, Rave sighed in relief. “That’s why these people aren’t surprised to see us – you told them we were coming?”

“Yes, I prepared them for you.” Trok smiled in greeting at the other Phantasyans.

“Well, where have you been? We haven’t heard from you since we left Earth – that was like three months ago! Did you follow us here, or what?”

Trok shrugged at his nephew. “You know how I use the portals. I’ve always had access to Phantasya. I am surprised that you came back, though. I thought you hated this place.”

Rave and Arctos exchanged a look. It made no sense that Trok could be this blasé.

In Arctos’s head, Amu’s mind-voice said bitterly, “Oh, so he’s been having a good vacation? Does he even care that we’ve run into catastrophe? Cruelthor disappeared! Bullseye died! Does Trok have any idea what we’ve had to deal with?”

Arctos waved for Trok’s attention. “Sis says ‘Hi.’”

Trok nearly laughed. “I’ll bet.”

“Yeah. Well, she’s listening through my head.” Arctos glanced at Rave before relaying Amu’s message, though with less anger. “Sis wonders where you’ve been and if you know anything about what’s happened. Bullseye died… Sis wants to know if you have any idea what we’ve been through.” He cleared his throat, hoping he didn’t sound as snippy as Amu did in his head. Then he had his own question. “Did Bullseye really die? The whole thing has us really confused.”

“I’m sure your Leader is having a grand time of it too,” Trok said pointedly.

“Do you know if the Magi meant for this to happen to sis? Her abilities have gotten…”

“Freaky,” offered Rave.

Trok looked glum. “No, I don’t know what’s happening to Amu.”

Amu’s mind-voice exploded in Arctos’s head. “Well, then, where has he been? Does he know anything?”

Arctos again relayed her questions.

“I’ve been looking into things, but even I don’t understand much yet. I’ve been watching over you, and I’m glad to see you’re adjusting without me. I’ve had other work to do.”

Rave crossed his arms. “Do you know where Cruelthor went?”

“No, I don’t know where Cruelthor is. I’ve looked, but there’s a slew of places he could be. I know you’ve seen something of these worlds’ vastness yourselves, so please understand that it may take me a while to locate Cruelthor…if ever.”

“Well, how do we get home?” came Rave’s next question.

Arctos was also very interested in this question, and he too looked at Trok. However, he had a bad feeling.

Trok shook his head. “You can’t get home, boys. Not ever. It’s simply not a possibility. After you left Earth, the DuoPorts closed. Even if you went into the portals and tried to reverse the course you took, there is no portal for you to enter back into Earth’s world.”

“But can’t you open a portal for us? When I left Phantasya, you opened a special portal to Earth. Can’t you do that again?”

“It won’t work, believe me. You can’t get back to Earth. I suggest getting that into your heads quickly. There is much still ahead.”

Amu said something vicious in Arctos’s mind, but he wouldn’t channel her words. When she realized this, Arctos felt her anger.

There was a moment of silence as the three Warriors considered their Bearer’s words. Arctos took the time to look around the tower’s ground floor, and he noticed that a crowd of smiling Phantasyans had gathered behind them.

Rave let out a breath. “Okay, so what are we supposed to do? Come on, Trok, give us something.”

“Let whatever happens happen.”

Rave stared at him.

Trok shook his head. “I can’t tell you what to do. Everything has to happen according to its own time. I’ve seen a future time when you’ll leave Ebon, and I think that you should come here once Kynacoba is well. That’s all the instruction I can give you.”

Rave’s frustration grew visibly. “You want us to live on Phantasya once my dead or dying or undead sister is better. After everything that’s happened, that’s all you’re telling me?”

He was met with silence.

“Can you even tell us if our sacrifice was worth it – was the Dominion destroyed on Earth after we left?”

Trok sighed. “Rave, just trust me for now.”

Arctos stayed out of it.

I don’t always like Trok’s enigmatic attitude, he thought, but I don’t feel comfortable taking the liberty of yelling at the man either. Rave seems to think arguing is perfectly within his rights. We certainly have every reason to wonder if Trok gives a crap about what’s been going on.

But Trok stood his ground.

Rave ruffled his hanging bangs but controlled himself and faced his uncle. “Alright. Fine. We’ll come to Phantasya once Kynacoba is healthy.”

Arctos tried to lighten the conversation. “I can think of worse places to stay – Ebon, for one.”

“You have no idea.” Trok grinned and opened a portal. “Goodbye for now.” He bid them adieu before they could question him further.

Let down, Arctos and Rave were left to look at each other in wonder.

Outside time

Floating in the portal lights, I frowned as I thought on something I’d seen in this past time.

It concerned me that the language alteration’s ripple effect had been so distinct. Because the barrier was so thin between Phantasya and the outside realm, any play with time was incredibly pronounced. Ordinarily, on other worlds, the alteration ripples were only slightly noticeable and even then played off as a trick of the mind, as déjà vu. On Phantasya, however, the separation between the space dimension and reality was too thin to hide the alterations entirely.

I’d have to be careful not to get caught in my Interceder work.

I frowned as I gazed into the swirling lights.

This secrecy about my life was beginning to bother me, and I’d felt it afresh in the past time I’d just observed. Even in real time, the Warriors still didn’t understand my work, my life, or why I did much of anything. This was becoming dishearteningly usual. My little explanations – my little hints of the truth – were the only answers I could give them.

The age-old truth is still the same, I thought. Too much knowledge of my Interceder abilities would burden those in existence, even here on my favorite world. If I told them all I knew, they’d be overwhelmed with a million questions. I alone am the Interceder, and I do my work alone.

I rubbed my face as I drifted in the portal lights.

I’d been absent for an entire year. I’d always been elusive, but now I’d been missing. This separation from my Warriors had been harder than I’d imagined. They’d adapted to life without me, which was all the more depressing because I’d wanted them to do it. Now, they might not even need me anymore as anything but the Interceder I’d become.

I would see soon enough what the days ahead would hold. Once the current future window was fulfilled, a new one would open to show me what would come next. I hoped for the best.

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