The Daemon Wars: Part IV of the Wallmaker Saga
Chapter 12: War
Howl emerged from the portal into his brother's suite only to find it empty.
The handsome man stood for a moment at the foot of the Royal Sorcerer's bed, confused by the mess in the room that looked as though someone had packed hastily. But his eyes fell upon the small green candle carved with blue runes and he immediately knew where to look next. Turning on his heel, the Wallmaker strode purposefully through the turns and corners of the Ingarian palace until he reached the Healers Wing.
Here the floors were marble, not wood. It had been scoured so completely it was a wonder there weren't ruts in the surface where the cleaners had lingered too long scrubbing in earnest. The walls were painted white and shunned any kind of decoration like wainscoting and pretty paper. The ceilings were higher than normal in the corridor, opening up to the sky through gold ribbed skylights that let in natural light pleasingly. The corridors might have scorned the sumptuous decorations that festooned the rest of the palace, but here the healers celebrated nature's beauty. Plants lived everywhere. Twisting vines with sweet smelling flowers erupted from wall sconces just as ferns waved happily in the gentle breeze that filtered from bay windows that lined the outer wall. The view from these windows overlooked the herb gardens and the great Ingarian green house.
Girl and boy apprentices scurried up and down the hallways, often accompanied by adults in matching uniforms of healer's green. Some cast curious looks in his direction, and a couple of times there was a wild gasp as someone recognized him. However, the Wallmaker flashed about his dazzling smile indiscriminately, making it very apparent through the ease with which he strolled that he belonged here and should not be questioned. Although through his ruse he managed to become lost in the palace for the first time in his life. This turned out to be a boon and in his aimless wandering, the handsome wizard managed to enter into the healer's storage room. Immediately upon entering he was struck by the same leafy spice that his wife's sister wore like a perfume.
It was here that he found Martha.
To say that the storage room was huge was like saying there were many books in the Ingarian library. It was constructed of the same rich dark wood and white washed walls as the rest of the Healer's Wing. As he entered, Howl was struck by the sensation that he was in a garden of a different kind. The ceiling must have been at least five stories high and an immense double circular staircase sprouted from the middle of the room. Made of metal, which had patinaed ferny green under the rigors of time, the thing twined around itself in the same way a cluster of vines climbs a pole. The metal structure stretched straight up into the large glass ceiling, where it separated and spread outward like the limbs of a great tree to support the vaulted glass skylights that let in the sun outside. At each level a landing split the central space in two, running to the open balconies that encircled each floor. Every available space was filled with smartly arranged opaque crockery jars, pots and bottles, painted and marked with neatly colored labels that made absolutely no sense to the wizard.
For a split second the Wallmaker was reminded of the way that Sophie meticulously placed each dish and cup on the sideboard in the kitchen.
A series of couriers were hauling in large bags of herbs and other medical supplies through a large set of double doors to the left. They delivered the assorted items to several other healers, dressed in similar shades of green. The two women and a man were organizing the arrivals with the efficient scribbling of pens, while their younger assistants allocated the new supplies through a complicated system of weights, scales, bags, and barrels. The final products were delivered to the constant stream of the youngest apprentices, who scurried with their burden up one set of stairs only to come rushing empty handed down the other. The herbalist had the uncanny ability to make herself seem twice, even three times larger than her actual size. She was currently towering amongst the milling workers, directing their ebb and flow like a great tidal gate.
In spite of the fact, the room still dwarfed her.
However, the smoothly running operation came to a screeching halt the moment the wizard Howl stepped into the room. The tiny bells that each of the healers wore on their belts suddenly erupted into a clanging chorus of dissonant sounds that at once was painful and disquieting to the Wallmaker. As before, the sounds pierced at his mind like needles. Instantaneously, Martha and the other green garbed healers spun towards him, identical silver knifes appearing in their hands as his wife's sister dropped her tally board to rip a clear glass vial from her pocket. She made ready to cast it at him like a javelin just as the handsome sorcerer made a cutting motion with his hand.
The bells silenced.
The herbalist froze as she caught sight of him, going white as a sheet as the ampoule fell from her hand. As it shattered on the floor the cloying stench of agrimony wafted towards him. Before she recovered form her shock, Martha stared at him with such an unguarded look of abject dismay that Howl immediately knew something was wrong. But the green garbed woman was not easily rattled, and recovered quickly.
"It is the Wallmaker," She announced in a voice that reached the very rafters of the room as though that explained everything.
Briskly retrieving her tally board from the floor, she wordlessly handed it to one of the other healers. The woman immediately assumed her place as taskmaster and declared loudly, "Back to work!"
As the herbalist turned heel, swiftly exiting the room, all Howl could do was follow.
The conversation in the flying castle's kitchen did not go unnoticed.
After helping her brother dress, Shan had led Drie by the hand back into her parent's bedroom to return the favor. After finding another pair of black slacks and a white shirt for his sister, they began playing in their father's closet. Together they pretended the press was a great tangled jungle of shirt trees. The two of them became bold adventurers seeking treasure in their father's pockets.
At least they were until they heard the bell.
The sound of it brought back with a great rush a thousand things Drie somehow had managed to forget. Suddenly she realized that something was missing from the back of her mind. It was like her foot had fallen asleep and she could no longer feel it. The other's presence was distant and muted, almost stretched to the point where it barely existed at all. This thought sent a wild stab of panic through her almost as powerful as that which reared within her at the sound of the signal below.
"What's the noise? Ow, it hurts!" Shan winced as he poked his head out of the closet, but his sister reached out her long arms and yanked him to her. Abruptly, the sound stopped and her brother was about to begin a new set of questions when she clamped a hand over his mouth.
"Shhh!" She whispered urgently, and then let go of him as she listened intently to that which her brother could not hear. Suddenly, after what Shan felt was hours of silence, his sister flew out of the closet and went tearing out of their parent's room.
"Sister?" Shan cried and chased after her, realizing the girl had gone upstairs.
"Papa said not to go up there!" He called up the stairs as he caught a glimpse of the tall silver-haired girl's shadow on the landing. Clambering after her, he cautiously entered into the burned shop only to find his sister kneeling at the edge of a great blue circle of magic. Within it boundaries, sprawled with abandoned exhaustion, was the woman that looked like his sister but was not.
"Dreiddy… That's the monster!" He whispered loudly, creeping carefully to the edge of the barrier.
"She's not a monster, Shan. Her name is Door. She's me," the child-woman replied with hasty sorrow.
"Whatja mean she's you? Is she really?" Akarshan was shocked as he looked at the filthy broken creature in the circle.
"Yes, I guess… It's like Papa and Calcifer," her anxious words soon turned to anger, "They're going to take her away. They're going to hurt her. I can't let them do that, Shan."
"Who, Dreiddy? Whose gonna hurt her?" The little boy was suddenly right with her, afraid for the woman trapped by the magic.
"The blond wizard downstairs."
"You mean Uncle Barimus? He's here? But why would he want to hurt Door, sister?" Her raven-haired twin was suddenly conflicted.
"Because he doesn't understand it's not Door's fault," she replied quickly and then lowered her face to the ground so that it was level with the chimera's. The other was breathing, but it was like she was so deep in sleep she was out of even Deirdre's reach. What had their father done?
"Door? Door, can you hear me?" The silver-haired child-woman called anxiously.
"Someone's coming, Drie!" Shan cried.
Deirdre straightened her blue eyes wide with terror as she cast a glance at the doorway. The smell of powerful magic suddenly flooded up the stairs, causing the Wallmaker's daughter to act desperately. Whirling around, the tall half-human slammed her hands against the floor and the wood rippled like it was water. Suddenly the sapphire fire of Howl's circle magic winked out of existence, negated by the turbulence that his daughter unleashed. At that moment Nox appeared in the doorway to the shop. A wild tangle of magnesium starlight burned brightly about him, fueled by the otherwind that snatched at the hem of his indigo velvet cloak. His handsome tanned face twisted into a mask of troubled dismay and the amethyst of his eyes was alight with fire. The elder star reached for the child-woman with iron resolve as he spoke her name aloud like it was a spell that could hold her
The man-daemon's name rose unbidden to the silver-haired girl's lips. Indeed, she froze as her eyes met his and she extended her hand towards the star. But in the same moment, Door's eyes flew open, exposing the endless night that filled their corridors. Faster than mortal eyes could see, the chimera whipped out her arms. As she snatched her sister and brother to her, a door to another place opened beneath them.
Sophie reached the top of the stairs just in time to watch her children sink out of sight.
The cold wind tore savagely at Earin's hair, making her eyes weep in spite of the grim expression on her face.
The soldiers had chained her to the floor in the middle of one of the airship's forward decks. It was a great open area in the nose of the humming metal beast, no doubt used as a flight deck for the insect-like sky crafts that buzzed like wasps around the ship. But that meant the level was exposed to the elements. Indeed Danna trembled violently from the bitter gale that brought on a bone-aching chill. The constant wind robbed from her broken body any semblance of warmth, just as the shackles bit cruelly into the skin of her hands and ankles. They rattled loudly as she shivered.
Not that any of the twenty red garbed men and women surrounding her at a distance had a care for her comfort.
The Ingarian Wizard's Guards stood in a ring around her, their efforts focused on keeping alive the bright copper fire of the magic red circle that surrounded her. Not that she needed it, there was no magic left in her. Even if the enchantment broke, she could barely move let alone escape. Her daemon was gone, and with it went the lingering remnants of the cold woman's power. Her captors literally had to carry her from the house above Porthaven, for Mrs. Danna did not have the strength to stand. The guards made it very clear what was in store for her in the future as they plucked from her hands the silver knife. Where the blade had gone she was not sure. As such, nothing was sure anymore. Perhaps she had misinterpreted the prophecy?
What if she had been wrong?
The thought brought such a horribly tightness to her chest she almost lost herself. If she was wrong, then the she was responsible for horrors she could not bare to carry. However, "what ifs" mattered little at this moment. As soon as they arrived at their destination, she was to be banished beyond the Dull Wall. If she was wrong, her sentence would be delivered shortly and she deserved every minute of the endless torment in the world beyond. But if she was right… And so the woman turned over her fate to the hands of the Doom she could see looming in the future like the great black storm clouds on the eastern horizon. Surprisingly, after she had done so, the cold healer realized she did not feel quite so helpless.
Perhaps she dozed, because when the grey eyed woman came back to her senses, the ship had begun to slow.
Sirens blared and in the distance she could hear the echoing footsteps of the ship's crew as they pounded overhead. As the craft came to a hover, Earin caught sight of other airships. The huge fleet of vessels glistened in the sunlight like monstrous beetles, their silver hulls painted with the royal arms. The horrible drone of their engines was appalling to Danna, just as the stench of burning rubber and fuel choked her lungs. However, her sight was not so blurred that she did not catch sight of the strange craft in the far distance beyond the Ingarian fleet. It was like someone had scooped a pile of metal junk from some scrap yard, shaped it into the semblance of a castle, slapped wings on it and set it aflight in the sky. The flying castle currently soared in front of the snow capped mountains of the Wastes. As Danna realized where she was, her consciousness slipped as the toll of that morning's journey caught up with her.
She returned to herself once more as a fleet of the droning air kayaks circled the deck before coming in to land. At once the former healer picked out the tall bristle-bearded man who rode one of three crafts that were painted as gold as the sun. It took her a moment to place the other two men, but it was not difficult to figure out who they were. As the engines of the crafts cut, a semblance of silence descended on the deck. The sea of soldiers, both mortal and magi, that accompanied the monarchs of the Alliance parted before King Ferdinand. All present saluted as the barrel-chested man strode forward, Prince Justin and King Walden just behind him.
"Land the ships and deploy the hunters!" The red bearded man commanded.
"Sir!" Replied the crowd of soldiers in union, as they dispersed in a great procession of orderly marching lines.
Soon all that remained were the circle of wizards, and the troupe of bodyguards that clustered around the monarchs of Ingary, Marda, and Tyrn. The three of them stood at the edge of the red magic circle for a long time. The ruler of Ingary wore an emotionless mask, although his green eyes were a riot of conflict, bright with recognition. Finally, Earin lifted her eyes to stare impassively at the man she had watched grow from a child to a man.
"So it's true," Ferdinand spoke in a brittle timber, having to pause to clear his throat as his normally strong voice broke.
"Are you judging me, Freddy? How like you, always the hypocrite." Earin spoke harshly, a cruel smile twisting her lips.
Her words seemed to wound the king, who was having difficulty reconciling the person before him with the woman he remembered. Mrs. Danna and her older sister Suliman looked a great deal alike. There had been affection between the late royal Sorceress and the King of Ingary; some whispered more than that since Ferdinand still remained unmarried. And although the monarch was shocked, his guards were not. A red garbed witch near the king's side stiffened at the daemon queen's voice and made ready to retaliate. But Ferdinand threw up his hand. The soldier froze.
"I could say the same for you… What has become of you, Earin?" Ferdinand spoke in a raw voice, his words soaked in sorrow.
"Earin Danna is dead," the cold woman spat venomously. Her words burned like acid, cutting like a double edged blade that opened old scars before twisting cruelly in the newly made wound.
"She died the day you allowed the Wallbreaker Agyrus to kill her husband and son! You remember them don't you, Freddy? Alistair and Aeden were quite fond of Suliman. They visited her often; no doubt you met them on many occasions."
"We are not to blame for Agyrus' madness. Nor are we at fault for the death your family," Prince Justin cut in with abrupt coolness, seeing his friend struck dumb by the prisoner's merciless words.
"Are you so sure, little prince? The Council knew about Agyrus' methods, but they did nothing out of fear! How are you any less to blame for allowing them to sit by and permit murder? And what about Suliman? Didn't she die because Ferdinand hesitated to make a decision?"
"And what of you?" Young King Walden cut in, his youthful face flushed with anger and his crown askew. Justin was forced to grab the young ruler's elbow as the man started forward in his passion. "How many have you killed… you… you blood-thirsty monster!"
"Such is the price I must pay to safeguard the future!" Danna half screamed, her grey eyes burning with righteousness.
"You know nothing of the doom I have seen and the taste of the suffering to come I have experienced. The means to avoid this fate one of your precious Councilor's wanted to sell off to the highest bidder. You are blind to the fact that the Council has broken under its greed and pride. Just as you were blind to the Darkness at work within Agyrus; by permitting them to exist you simply aided the undoing of our world. Through my work the second Wallbreaker will be revealed, but I won't allow him to live. Even if I have to kill every last magus, even if it means I have to sacrifice my very soul by turning to the Dark by taking the life of innocents, I won't let the Wall be broken again!"
"I will save this world and the next!" The former daemon queen thundered.
In that moment the airship landed on the ground with a great clattering creaking moan. After what seemed like ages, the engines sputtered to a halt, leaving only silence. In the echoing quiet, the distant buzzing of an air kayak could be heard.
"You're mad, Danna… You've already lost your soul," King Ferdinand spoke in a harsh voice as he turned away.
"Should we wait for the Royal Wizard?" King Walden asked uncertainly, fidgeting uncomfortably with his ermine lined robe.
"I see no need, I'm sure Barimus will be in accord with any decision we make," Prince Justin replied smoothly, reaching out to straighten the boy-king's crown. The pretty man then cast a side-ways glance at Ferdinand, who was staring into the distance with a brooding expression on his face. The large man pulled viciously at his moustache. After a long moment, the Ruler of Ingary let out a blustery sigh and nodded sharply. Immediately, the golden haired prince gestured to one of the guards at their side. The sorcerer, one of the higher ranking red garbed soldiers, stepped forward and snapped to attention as he drew out a scroll.
"The accused will rise for sentencing!" The soldier demanded. Danna, however, remained seated and the guard continued irregardless.
"Earin Danna, you have been judged by the King's Alliance and found guilty of murder, treason, and Dark sorcery. As one who has been touched by the Dark, you are hereby sentenced to be banished beyond the Dull Wall for as long as you shall live. Have you any last words?"
"We're doomed, every last one of us!" Danna spoke the words like an ultimatum: a prophecy in its own right.
The magi in the ring gathered their power to feed the circle magic and the crackling static of the enchantment made every hair on Earin's body stand on end. The former daemon queen felt light-headed, frozen with panic as she realized she was about to die. However, she was dumbstruck to feel the magic evaporate like a mist in the powerful dawn light. The sorcerers that ringed around her shuddered and cried out. Some even fell and scrambled backwards as they cast wild confused looks at one another.
Somehow, the red circle and the banishing spell had disintegrated.
"Wait!" Shouted a red haired man piloting a small sky kayak that fell from the sky. It landed with an abrupt bounce on the edge of the platform, but the wizard spilled straight into the air as he shot over to the kings.
"Dieter?" King Ferdinand growled angrily, "What's going on here?"
"I know not, Your Majesties," the twin replied quickly as he bowed deeply and then rose to salute, "I bring a message from Lord Councilor Barimus. He implores you to postpone the sentencing of the Daemon Queen. He says it's a matter of life and death for the Wallmaker's children."
"What?" Walden stammered in shock.
"What do you mean the Wallmaker's children?" Justin exclaimed.
"I beg your pardon, Majesties, but that is all I know. I was sent ahead. The Lord Barimus and the Silver Sorceress are on their way," the flush-faced Captain of the Wizard's Guard explained shortly.
"You haven't answered my question, Dieter!" Ferdinand replied curtly, twitching his moustache irritably, "Did you dissolve the banishing spell?"
"W-what, Your Majesty?" The freckle-faced man seemed shocked.
Suddenly, they were all distracted by a distant sound.
"Do you hear a bell ringing?" Walden asked curiously.
A portal jumped to life on the back step of one of the row houses in Chipping Market, expelling three figures into the dim empty alleyway. Immediately, Deirdre knew exactly where they were. This was the exact place where she had first met Akarshan, before she had lost her childhood to the hunger of the Dull Wall. Behind her was the house in which she had been raised by a woman she had once wanted to call mother. The same house where the creature she now called sister had killed a man.
"What happened?" Shan cried fearfully, casting his eyes about in confusion, "Where's the castle?"
"Why did you bring us here?" Drie demanded angrily trying to pull away from Door.
"NO!" The chimera half shrieked in terror, snaking her arm around the silver-haired child-woman's waist so she could clutch her sister and brother against her. Deirdre and Shan were stunned by the daemon's actions as Door hid her face in her sister's shirt, half slinging Akarshan over her shoulder.
"Don't leave me. Please don't leave me. If you do she'll find me and take me away again. She's gone from me now, but if you let go of me, she'll come back," Door babbled around hot tears of anguish.
"Who?" Shan asked in confusion, having to squirm in the daemon's arms to look at both halves of his sister.
"Mrs. Danna?" Deirdre spoke the name with horror and her brother paled as well.
"Yes… Yes… The star made her leave and the Wallmaker's magic kept her away. You let me out of the circle; you saved me from the bell and the mirror. But now green mother can find me again, but as long as I'm with you she can't."
"I don't understand," Akarshan cried in dismay.
"You are Wallmakers, that's why the circle that trapped me listened to you and let me out. You keep the circle's magic alive in me and I can hide from green mother in its shadows," Door mumbled incoherently.
"Can't we go to mamma or papa for help? Won't they be worried?" Shan asked fretfully.
"NO!" The half-daemon shouted, beginning to tremble, "Silver mother doesn't want me. I heard her! She left me with the Wallmaker and tried to give me away to the one with the mirror."
"It's alright, Door. We'll stay with you," Deirdre spoke with genuine concern as she hugged the damaged creature to her. Akarshan seemed to be in accord as well.
However Drie's answer was shaped by ulterior motives. She didn't want the other screaming incoherently in a back alley. The child-woman could feel that the village wasn't safe anymore; powerful magic were descending on this place. Almost in response to her thoughts, an air kayak like the one that the blond wizard had arrived on buzzed over them in the sky. Shrinking back into the shadows of the overhang, the child-woman realized they needed to stay hidden. That would be very hard to do with the other being covered in blood. Casting her eyes overhead, she caught sight of the clothes hanging on a line.
"Shan, can you get those down?" Drie asked brightly.
"Can I use magic?" Shan squealed breathlessly.
"Okay, but use as little as possible. It's a game, okay? We need to stay hidden and magic will give us away."
"A game? Yay!" Akarshan sang happily and clapped his hands, squirming in Door's grasp. The daemon was still pressed against Deirdre's chest as though the shirt was a powerful artifact that could hide them from the whole world.
"Silver sister, can you put Shan down?" Deirdre asked in a gentle voice. Hearing the special name Door used for her other seemed to rouse the chimera. She drew back and blinked red-rimmed eyes at her in surprise. After a moment the daemon seemed to understand and sat the little boy on his feet.
"Thanks, Door-sister!" Shan smiled up at her. He bounded down the steps to stand under the clothes line with an serious look on his face inconsistent with the six-year-old's normal behavior. Door looked after him with a stunned expression and Deirdre realized the half-daemon's nose was running horribly.
"Don't let anyone see you, Shan," The child-woman called to her brother as she ushered the other into the house.
"That's our brother," Door murmured like someone who was sleeping, trying to crane her neck to see the little boy as they went into the house.
Drie steered the daemon up the back stairway, not wanting to go into the shattered front room lest it upset them both. The house had not changed at all and there was plenty of soap in the bathroom. Mrs. Danna had always liked things clean. As she ran a tub full of hot water, Deirdre had difficulty explaining to Door that she had to let go and get into the bath. Eventually, the other settled for one of her sister's braids, which she clutched possessively like a leash as the child-woman scrubbed at the daemon's face and arms. The Wallmaker's daughter lied to herself in the moments that followed, saying that the brown caked onto her sister was just dirt. It was easy to get the stuff to wash away and once gone it was forgotten. Unfortunately, the snarled mess of her hair could not be salvaged; Deidre had neither the time nor the skill to detangle it.
"I'm going to have to cut it, Door," the child-woman spoke in dismay.
"It's just hair, silver sister," The chimera replied soberly, and then for some reason smiled brightly at her.
"I got them all, Drieddy!" Shan suddenly burst into the bathroom just as the silver sorceress' daughter made the last cut. Even through he was half buried under a pile of clothes, their twin peered around the sleeve of a shirt to look at the half-human. He took in the daemon's new haircut, which was just like his own and tossed his burden aside to clap his hands.
"Wow! That looks pretty, Door-sister."
The chimera touched her head curiously, running her fingers through her wet shoulder-length hair with one hand, all the while clutching Drie's braid with her other.
"What do you want to wear?" Shan asked suddenly, looking down at the pile of clothes at his feet. Door peered over the edge of the tub until her eyes fell on a red dress.
"I like that one," She pointed.
"Don't you want pants?" Drie asked curiously.
"No, I like that one," Door repeated with confidence.
Getting the other dry and dressed was an ordeal since she insisted on constantly being in contact with either Deirdre or Akarshan. The red dress was far too short for the daemon, falling to about her knees, but she smiled and played with the buttons happily. Together they piled onto the tiny narrow bed in the attic of the house where Drie used to sleep. It was strange to be in this house again; once it had been threatening and horrible. Now the close darkness in the room made it seemed safe and quiet. There was a triangular window of stained glass at the apex of the gables. Shan pushed it open letting in the light and wind as he gazed out at the airships that crowded the sky above the city. Door suddenly stiffened and cuddled closer to her sister as she pointed at a distant craft that approached from the west. The ship looked like it was making ready to land in the wastes.
"Green mother is there," she whispered in terror.
"Door," Drie began in a voice stronger than she felt, "How can we make Mrs. Danna let go of you?"
A thick silence followed and finally the other answered in a tiny voice.
"I have her heart… But if I gave it back we would be free of the bargain. But then I might have to go back to the burned place."
"I am bound to Danna by the terms of the pact. Once that is gone, so am I. But maybe not, for now I come from you as much as her. Perhaps I will stay."
Deirdre considered that solemnly, but then Shan spoke, "So you might not need her heart at all anymore, right?"
"Perhaps…" Door replied uncertainly.
"Sister, what were you before you went to the burned place?" The child-woman asked curiously, as though that piece in the puzzle of their lives might hold some clue to help them.
"A special mirror, a door mirror, her mirror," she replied cryptically.
"What happened to you?" Akarshan asked curiously, sidling closer to his sisters before Drie could ask who she was.
"She cracked me when she saw for the first time. She was very strong: too strong. She saw too much and too far, and a little bit of the Dark got through the crack. I frightened her with what I showed her. I think the Dark touched her, because she was scared so badly she gave up the sight and sold me to some mortal from the North. Somehow I came here and that's when I met silver mother for the first time. But the Dark came through me again and I could not help it!"
Suddenly the other's voice was seething with hatred.
"When I finally broke he sent me to the burned place and I stayed there until she found me again. When she brought me back it was different. She was different. The Wallbreaker tried to purge the Dark from her by taking away her magic. But it broke her in ways that changed her. After that she needed me again, my magic and my power. But I was lost beyond the Wall. The price was the blood and flesh of the empty one who had taken her place with the old fat mortal. I was forced to wear her skin until she put me inside of you when you were old enough to open a door through the Wall."
"Who sent you to the burned place?" Deirdre asked, although she regretted it the moment she spoke.
"The Wallmaker," the other spoke in a flat voice.
"Papa sent you to the burned place?" Shan was incredulous and oblivious to the dangerous ground on which he was treading, "He would never do that!"
"He did!" Door smoldered wrathfully and as she blinked her eyes went black, "He must have sent me there! He was the last one I saw before the horrible red sky and the black sands of forever. Hate him!"
"Door!" Deirdre cried as Shan recoiled from the daemon in terror. The both sensed that the other was slipping away into the hate that crowded inside of her like the chorus of angry metallic voices that beat themselves against the Dull Wall, "Silver sister come back!"
"They're calling me…" Door murmured in horror, blinking rapidly as she seemed to struggle with herself, "I hate her, but Green mother saved me from the burned place. I don't want you to have to go there too, silver sister!"
"What do you mean?" Deirdre demanded, utterly confused by the chimera's prattling.
But Door fixed her other half with a gaze full of such dreadful certainty the child-woman felt her blood turn to ice.
"They're getting ready to send her beyond the Wall, sister. We can't let them. If she goes, we go too!"
The Wallmaker's daughter remembered all too well the horrible place beyond the charcoal bricks of the barrier that held back the Dark.
"The ship Mrs. Danna is on is here! It's landing on the hills above the city!" Shan cried, peering out the little window.
"What should we do?" Deirdre persisted in a terrified voice, shaking her other by the shoulders.
"Too late!" Door sobbed.
But the daemon seemed to have left herself. Her head lolled as she swayed slightly and to the child-woman's horror, the other's eyes faded to grey once more, but only for a moment.
"By her own hand and the blade of silver shall the childless green mother perish. And in that moment the Wallmaker shall become the Wallbreaker and all will be lost to the Dark Fire," The chimera spoke groggily as thought repeating something from a long time ago. But she blinked eyes that were blue once more as she surfaced from the madness within her. Door started forward by Shan as her keen sight fixed on something they could not see.
"They stopped them…" The daemon whispered and then pricked up her head to stare at the sky, "Silver mother?"
"Wait! I see the castle!" The raven-haired twin called out in surprise s he squeezed next to Door to peer outside.
Suddenly the sapphires jewels that hung from Deirdre's ears and the pendent around Akarshan's neck pulsed brightly like a lighthouse's guiding fire.
"Mom is looking for us!" Shan announced in surprise as he held up his necklace.
"Something's wrong," Door spoke ominously, still looking out the tiny window.
The daemon sniffed the air and stiffened as though she were listening to something. Indeed, Deirdre felt it as well. Softly at first, as though it were possibly a just the figment of their imaginations, there came a sound. Suddenly, like a wave crashing over them, the ringing of hundreds if not thousands of bells drowned village. And with the clanging came an army of spirits who flooded the city as they spilled down the hills from the wastes. Elementals and whirling wisps swirled around the twins, thick as a fog and charged like static. But the spirits were not touched by the Dark; these were the children of the ancients and the daemons were projecting thoughts of violent retribution. As suddenly as it came, the deafening chorus of bells silenced as though cut short against their will.
In that moment an earthquake of horrific magnitude tore Chipping Market apart.
Theresa was moping again.
She had swept the room, washed the windows, packaged up all the herbs Martha had left for her to process, straightened the bed linens, and drank five cups of tea. Currently she was fiddling with the small circle of glass that was embedded into the shaft of the garden hoe Markl had made for her. The feather trapped beneath it reminded her of a moment frozen in time. Perhaps she should go for a spin around the greenhouse gardens, flying always made her feel better. No, she didn't want to leave Markl. Besides, everyone had bells on now, and her garden hoe would make them ring.
Besides, what if he woke up?
Instead, she brooded on the fact that Mrs. Danna had been captured. Good! Perhaps now all of this madness about daemons and destruction would settle down. Perhaps she and Martha could move out to Mrs. Fairfax's house and set up shop again? The freckle-faced girl really missed her mistress' teacher; the plump old witch was ever so kind. Plus, Theresa loved to wander in the waste; things felt so alive and wild in the moors. It would be perfect! Barimus could set up the portal magic for them and they could be together in spite of the distance. I was a wonderful dream, but the red-haired girl seriously doubted it would ever come true. Martha was too deeply entrenched in her work at the capital to leave.
With a sigh the green-eyed girl leaned forward on the foot of her friend's bed and sank her face into her hands. Theresa was so entrenched in her misery that she had not noticed that the sun that was shining so brightly earlier that morning was slowly blotted from the sky. Shadows crept into the room as an errant wind tangled the curtains.
Suddenly, the Wallmaker's apprentice gasped and sat bolt upright in bed.
"Markl!" Theresa screamed with incredulously joy, clutching her garden hoe in her hands.
But with a stab of disappointment that slowly melted into fear, she realized the young wizard was not looking at her. He was staring with wide eyes at the ceiling. And his normally golden-brown eyes were as black as night.
Just like a daemon's.
To her absolutely horror the bell on Theresa's belt began ringing, but it was not a singular sound. It was like every bell in the city was ringing in her ears. At that same moment, the Wallmaker burst into the room half dragging Martha behind him by the hand. Words must have been exchanged between them, because the stone-faced woman looked just as unhinged as her brother-in-law. As soon as the herbalist entered the room, the bell at her waist began sounding clamorously. The look of mad terror on the tall sorcerer's face melted from relief to abject shock as he caught sight of his son. Markl lowered his eyes to regard the raven-haired man, whose posture shifted subtly to a tense stance of one on guard. The foreign presence within the boy seemed to study the keeper of the balance, judging him in the same way a gambler weights the odds before casting his bets.
It appeared that the verdict remained undecided.
"What do you want?" Howl demanded in a low voice that echoed with power.
"The mortals have disregarded our warning, Wallmaker. They invaded the wastes. They unbalance the two worlds. Our truce is broken," intoned a chorus of voices.
The song of the ancients burned in their ears like a rain that falls as fire to an earth that crumbles to mists.
"We are all part of the balance. It cannot be restored through violence," The raven-haired man tried desperately to explain rationality to an irrational being, "Can we not work together as once before?"
"Too late! It has begun," The beings spoke out of Markl, but the boy's lips did not move. The words seemed to resonate from all around and deep within him.
Instantaneously, the bells silenced and the apprentice let out a small cry as he slumped backwards against the pillows.
"Wait!" Howl cried.
But the ancient chorus was gone as soon as the man was at his apprentice's side, pulling the boy against him. Markl gasped hoarsely blinking eyes that were brown like wet clay as he clutched at his father's sleeve.
"They're here!" The young wizard gasped.
As soon as the boy spoke the ground heaved beneath their feet. The ceiling split above them, raining down shards of glass and debris as a screaming wind infiltrated the room with such power it dashed all standing from their feet. Fingers of sky reached into the shattered room, trying to snatch them up into the great maelstrom of black clouds that boiled overhead.
To be continued in The Broken Wall: Part V of the Wallmaker Saga