Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope it's a great holiday for you! Please don't fall asleep while reading from all the Turkey. Only two episodes left!
Avery woke to the sweet sound of Julia’s laughter. Before opening his eyes he let her voice pass over and through him. A smile slid across his face. The smile subsided when he did open his eyes and saw the source of her laughter; Wesley leaned in close to her ear muttering something. Avery shifted his weight and grimaced in pain. The last of Lilana’s salve had completely healed the arrow wound. Unfortunately it failed to remove the arrow head lodged underneath. He laid back and felt warm noon sunlight upon his face. After three days of darkness, the river tunnel gushed into a deep ravine. The sky and clouds were all visible through the narrow opening at the top of the ravine high above. The shear cliffs all around prevented them from going anywhere but down stream. Almost a week had now passed since their escape from the ruined city.
In the other boat, Byron sat in the stern dutifully guiding the rudder to keep them off the walls of the ravine. Lilana sat in the middle eating some sort of canned meat they managed to snatch from the metal shed just before escaping. Avery had yet to eat on this trip. The combination of the arrowhead and the rocking boats made him sick and irritable. Wesley made his way to the middle of the boat and began to inspect the lashings holding the two crafts together. Julia sat back and seemed to fall asleep. Avery looked up at Wesley and opened his big fat mouth.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“I’m checking the lashing so Byron and Lilana don’t suddenly float away.” Wesley shook off the rudeness. Avery had been most foul since the arrow wound.
“No mate, I mean with Julia.” Avery sat up. “The flirting and the hand holding; you realize you’re just leading her on, right?”
“I don’t think it’s leading her on when I feel the same way Avery.”
“Prick.” Avery looked him in the eyes. “You know at some point you and Julia will be separated. She saw you on earth. So do her a favor and don’t get attached. It will only make it harder when you’re gone.”
“You’re out of line Avery. For all we know she could have been there too, just not with me at that moment. There is no way to know…”
“Out of line? There is no ‘line’ on the relay, only chaos.” Avery moved again and grunted in pain.
“That’s enough.” Julia said from behind them. Avery’s face went white. “Avery, this subject is none of your business. You think this idea hasn’t crossed my mind?” At this point everyone in the boats turned an ear to listen. “I’ve chosen to take the risk. So please just leave it!” Avery shook his head and climbed into the other boat. He sat at the front and played look out for Byron. Wesley returned to sitting beside Julia. Lilana aimed a questioning shrug of her shoulders at Byron who, used to seeing men fight over his sister, just hoped that was the end of it as he steered the boats around a tight bend in the river.
As the sun began to set that evening, Avery took control of steering from Byron. Wesley and Julia sat in the front of their boat to spot for Avery. Lilana and Byron slept as best as possible in the small life boats. With the suns light gone, the ravine became cold and soon Julia moved as close to Wesley as she could get.
“Do we have any chance to catch Mabry?” She asked him.
“I think so. He does have a weeks lead on us, but he is alone and has to stop to sleep. We don’t.” Wesley put his arm around her for warmth. Avery, watching from the stern, spit into the river and pleaded with unknown deities for tobacco to appear before him. It did not. That night grew into a new day and repeated the cycle. Two weeks quickly passed without incident or sign of Mabry. Around noon at the end of the third week on the river, Byron stood to stretch. He considered jumping in the water to cool off and relieve himself when he spotted another boat. It was pulled up onto a sandy shore; empty. He alerted the others and they slowly guided the boats to this shore and got out. Remnants of a fire still smoked a few feet from the waterline. Byron helped Lilana out of the boat and for the first time noticed her pregnancy showing. Avery inspected the rocks around the area and soon found a path into the ravine wall. They all began to hike up this trail. Avery began seeing foot prints and picked up the pace. He soon went to an all out run. He seemed to feel something the rest of them did not.
Avery soon gapped the others as he ran. The trail wound up and down through the rock. Avery pushed harder until he whizzed under a low hanging wall and arrived in a large open to the sky cavern. At the far end of the chamber sat a relay ring. Walking towards the ring was a man dressed in a dark brown robe; hood up. Avery began to run wildly after him. The man heard his foot steps turned removing his hood as he did.
“Avery!” Mabry sounded almost happy to see him. Avery ignored the greeting and continued the sprint. Mabry held out his hand. The relay behind him began to glow white. Quickly a beam of white light shot out from the relay and pulsed through Mabry. The light rushed through his out stretched arm and began to form a bubble around Mabry. This all happened so fast Avery had no time to stop himself before hitting the bubble. He smashed against the wall of light and it threw him backwards. Avery landed on his back, nose bleeding, head thumping.
“I really wish you’d be civil.” Mabry dropped his hand and the shield dissipated. “You look rough.”
“MABRY!” This scream came from Julia who had just entered the cavern and was running to join them. The others followed. Julia bypassed Avery still on the ground and got right in Mabry’s face. “Where is Alexandria? Where is she!” Mabry grabbed her arm before it struck his face and began to twist it in hand. Wesley stepped forward to stop it but suddenly could not move. Mabry twisted Julia’s arm behind her back, bringing her to her knees.
“Julia. It has been a while.” He looked at Wesley, still unable to move. Mabry smiled at him before noticing Byron and Lilana. “Byron! No need to freeze you I guess. You never stood up for her before, why would you now?” Byron said nothing. Mabry pulled Julia to her feet. “Are you traveling with this man?” He pointed to Avery still sorting out his thoughts.
“I am. He’s been a great help.” Julia could smell Mabry’s rank breath. “Please, tell me where Alex is!”
“You never were a very good judge of character Julia. I suppose Avery told you little to nothing about himself. I can oblige. Did he tell you he too is, or was, a follower of Ullur, as I am? Did he tell you he worked as my closest confidant for years? He is a murderous, thieving, traitorous, world killer!”
“Can you say any better of yourself?” Julia replied. Mabry smiled to himself.
“No, I can’t. But the only thing you two have in common is a hatred of me.”
“Seemed to be enough up to this point.” Julia wriggled her arm free and moved back to stand with Wesley. “Just tell me where Alex is and we will leave you alone.”
“Alex is safe.” Mabry looked them over. “I can’t say the same for you. Goodbye.” Mabry winked at Julia as the relay began to spew white light once again. The light engulfed Mabry and then in a flash he was gone and the relay sat dormant. Avery climbed to his feet and tired to talk to Julia but she would have none of it.
“Julia please let me explain!” Avery seized Julia’s arm, spinning her around. Wesley separated them and pushed Avery away.
“She doesn’t want to hear it Avery.” He commanded.
“She needs to.” Avery said flatly as he stepped forward again. Wesley pushed him back with more force this time. “Wesley this doesn’t concern you.” Wesley shoved him back once more.
“If it concerns Julia It concerns me!” He stepped into Avery’s face. “She doesn’t want to see you right now so back away!” He pushed Avery, knocking him to the ground. Avery’s face went red with rage. He jumped up and ran at Wesley putting his shoulder forward and slamming into him. Wesley flew backwards and before anyone could catch him, he ran into the relay ring. His midsection leveraged on the ring, flipping him through. The relay flashed and Wesley was gone. Julia stood stunned. Avery approached her but she backed away. She began to cry.
“Julia I… I didn’t mean…” Avery had nothing.
“Tell Byron what we need to know to travel alone. He, Lilana and I will be going forward without you.” Julia walked to the relay and sat beside it. Byron walked up to Avery and put an arm around him.
“Sorry man, she’s the boss.”
“It’s okay Byron.” Avery turned and walked away from where Julia sat. “To keep your clothes just concentrate on them. The moment you pass your hand through the relay is the most important part. Focus on your clothes and you’ll keep them. That’s as simple as I can make it.”
“What about following Mabry?” Byron looked back at Julia who was being comforted by Lilana.
“Now that he knows we are after him, there is no way to track him with the relays. He’s far too powerful.” Avery put out his hand for Byron, who shook it. “Tell her I’m sorry and I can explain.”
“You think I can get through to her?” Byron laughed. “If she listened to a damned thing I said we would be home having never met you.”
“I’m glad she didn’t listen to you.” Avery turned and walked away from the relay and his companions. The pit of his stomach turned. Avery felt sick and alone. A few moments later he saw the tell tale flash of light and when he turned, they were gone.