Chapter 5: Burning Ring Of Fire

The thick darkness of the library was so thick you could cut it with a knife. The only light that lit the room came in dark crimson flashes from the mountainous scene outside the small hut-like building as fire rained in the distance. That explains why everything is dead though Rhett as he rolled over on the hard ground. Thinking back to his home, Rhett was greeted with the warm feeling of his blankets, their simple security holding him during those long nights of emotional turmoil; His mother's cleanliness offering a safe-haven from his muck-filled life; His father's strong voice ringing out for the world to hear as he sang along to "Wanted Dead Or Alive". It's funny, I've never really thought about how nice home was…I still hate that stupid smile mom gets when I say 'yes' to something but still…nice he thought.

Silence rolled over very loudly, his long, drawn-out moan breaking the subtle peace Rhett had acquired through his momentary mediation. The whole scene came back to him as even more of a shock than it had before. Quickly sitting up, Rhett looked towards the small table against the far wall, the lamp hanging over it put out to avoid any possible communication between the Lectros and The Pagemaster as to their location. Leaning against the table rested Rhett's sword, a gift from his Musketeer comrades, its blade glimmering in the low-light.

Rhett lie back down and shut his eyes, but the moment he did so a vision rushed into his mind. It showed tens of thousands of books being marched towards a large stack of books with an extremely small opening, all led by Satires who prodded them while hurling insults. A small book, no larger than ten pages, cried in the crowd for its mother, only to be picked up by a Lectro just as the mother ran over. Rhett watched in horror as the Satire lifted the young child into the air and dropped it to its death, all the while the mother screamed for her baby.

Rhett sat up in a cold sweat, his legs and hands were shaking. For some odd reason he had been struck with a combination of fear and anger. Anger towards any who wished harm on these poor creatures; anger towards the one who started this infernal mess, but also fear towards him; fear of his power, of his malice.

Rhett wiped his forehead then looked once more at his sword. It almost glowed with what seemed like a purpose. He looked down at his hands and felt almost guilty, I'm the chosen one. I am here to free these things and I've been screwing around. When am I gonna actually do something about it?

Almost immediately Rhett stood up and softly walked over to the table so as to not wake his resting companion. He slipped on his shoes then tied the scabbard around his waist. Lifting the sword to eye level, he examined the elegant details of the craftsmanship. It's an amazing piece of work, but now it will serve its purpose he thought as he sheathed the sword then slowly but surely walked towards the door to the dreaded landscape ahead.

Standing at the door, Rhett turned around and looked at the sleeping book. "I'm doing this for you Silence," and with that he was off. As he took his first few steps out the door he automatically noticed the terrible smell of burning and of soot. The ground was more treacherous than he remembered from his first time traversing it, although the last time he did have his adrenaline in hyper drive. Every few steps he would step on a long dead piece of plant life, snapping it promptly in two.

As the house got further and further away Rhett began noticing how cold it had gotten. It was strange feeling this alone even though he felt he had only been traveling for just a short while, but then he stopped. A feeling of utter dread filled the air just as a low whining sound filled his ears that slowly grew in intensity until it forced him to his knees in agony. The noise was unbearable and it took every ounce of strength not to tear his ears right from his head, although his voice worked wonders as he screamed out. Just as he was about to give up a circle of crimson light formed around him on the ground, brightening quickly until it was so bright Rhett slammed his head to the ground, only to find the previous rough stone floor had been replaced by a smooth one.

With the ringing and light suddenly gone, Rhett looked up to see a large cavernous area with walls, floors and ceilings formed from stone books, just as Silence's home. The air had a dull red light about it almost as if from imaginary torches on their last length of life.

Rhett sat up and examined himself. Everything seemed to be just fine except for the fact that he had no idea where he was. Putting his hand on his sword as a way to mentally counteract the ever growing feeling of despair he took one slow step forward. Scarcely had his foot touched the ground when two red and black swirling orbs formed in the air, spinning in place until two Lectros emerged from the abyss, both staring straight at Rhett.

"Come quietly boy…" the one on the right said in an almost witch like tone that chilled Rhett to the bone.

"…And we promise not to kill you." the second chimed in obviously just to annoy the first one. This one looked as if some of its pages had been ripped out because its large spine countered its small width.

"Wh….wh….wh…." Rhett tried to say, but shock took his vocal cords just like feline quadrupeds take tongues.

"Where are you? You're in The Pagemaster's Keep, home to Lord Blaine, ruler of all the lands! Saver of our people! Redeemer of the balance of…." The battered book said before it was interrupted.

"Oh pipe down! Otherwise we won't get as much of a reward!" The witch spoke up. The two nodded at each other and hovered towards Rhett, eyes lacking any form of expression, tongues licking large fangs that seemed like rebar in an unfinished foundation. Rhett, frightened by this sight, unsheathed his sword and swung horizontally at the two. Just as his blade was about to strike the first, everything froze. His arm was stuck in the air, but the two Lectros had ceased to move.

"I knew you would come. I know you will die." A loud voice boomed through the entire cave like structure. It caught Rhett off guard, but unable to move his body to examine where the sound originated from, he was forced to watch as the tip of his sword began to melt away into nothing which followed down to his arm. His breathing becoming erratic, Rhett used all his might in an attempt to move his body as immense pain accompanied the missing limbs, but found it was feeble as the wave of disintegration moved throughout his entire body, ending with his eyes.

The pain was enormous. The pain was everywhere. The pain was too much for him to take, so the second his body became completely engulfed was the second he blacked out completely. His mind raced to images of his mother, father, sister and Silence. He thought of how his death had come to quickly, of how he had failed to save the people, of how he would miss everyone and everything.

When the darkness faded he found himself in a circular room. Torches along the walls were the only light source, and were a dull one at that. On the floor lay a rug of simply exquisite design that spread along the entire floor. The design on the giant placemat appeared to be that of fire, brimstone, dragons, lions, eagles, and a woman standing in the center. A large wooden desk sat at the farthest wall from the door directly behind Rhett; to either side of him were paintings, all of one man…

"Surprised? I certainly am. I never thought you would have survived the initial journey. It takes a man of real power to survive that." An almost adult voice came from a chair that spun around, revealing a man sitting with his fingers touching inquisitively on his lips. He stared at Rhett with bright brown eyes that looked more amber than anything.

"Blaine." Rhett spoke in a low, angry tone at the realization of who had controlled these past events.

"Ah, so you do have a brain!" Blaine spoke as he stood up and ran his fingers through his short shaggy hair, not even long enough to be in his eyes, "I was worried my next victim would be a 'tard!"

Rhett couldn't hold back his anger any more. In one single motion he unsheathed his sword and leapt at Blaine in a downward strike. To an untrained fighter, this attack would have been unblockable, but Blaine leapt easily to the side of the attack, hands behind his back the entire time and kicked his foe to the ground like he flicked a fly. "You see boy, you cannot beat me. I control the elements," At this he held his hands out and two orbs formed in either hand, one of fire, ice, lighting and what appeared to be wind, that floated around each other quickly, "I control the population, but most of all, I control the world. You don't stand a chance against me."

Blaine turned around and began walking away, so Rhett leaped up once more with the same attack, this time however Blaine turned around. The balls he had conjured had disappeared and had been replaced by a staff that held the image of an open book cast in gold at the tip, which he used to block the attack. "I will free this land, you will not win!" Rhett was launched backwards, sliding to a stop.

Blaine leapt forward, attempting a jab at his foe's heart, only to find the boy had slid to the side of the attack, getting ready to attack his exposed side. Swinging his staff sideways, he dealt a solid blow to the forehead to his enemy, who stumbled backwards just enough to allow another quick jab at his chest. The attack his as well, but wasn't enough to do much damage because as Rhett was hit he rolled with the staff so he was standing directly to the side of Blaine.

Attempting to slice sideways, he found his strike hit empty air. Looking up, he discovered Blaine flying through the air as if he had wings. It was hauntingly beautiful, that is until he stopped flying quickly to hover in the air, offering enough time to shoot a jet of fire at Rhett. With little cover, he attempted to roll out of the way but the heat was so tremendous he felt his clothes singed to the greatest degree.

When he stood up from his roll the short burst of flame had ceased but was no replaced by a strong gust of wind that threw Rhett backwards, slamming against the wall and rolling onto the floor beneath. Muscles aching, head throbbing, Rhett tried to stand up but was stopped by four sheets of ice that held his hands and feet to the ground. "LET ME UP YOU…."

"Woah now, why don't we cool down so I can explain everything to you before you die." Blaine said softly in that adult tone as he slowly floated to the ground. The Pagemaster staff dissolving into dozens of small blue lights that slowly faded from existence.

"What are you talking about? You imprisoned the books and…"

"Will you please!" Blaine screamed to silence the boy, which worked quite well. "I speak of the prophecy. The one that says that one day a boy will come to save this world, and he shall be divinely chosen."

"Ya, so."

"Don't you think it odd your name being what it is, Rhett Samuels?"

Shock and terror filled Rhett's mind as it raced so fast it could win the Daytona Five Hundred in six seconds flat without a pit stop. "How… how the hell do you know my name?"

"Think about it, a boy with your name being the chosen one. Ironic is it not?" Rhett stared at Blaine with a questioning look that obviously did not give him the satisfaction he wished for. "You mean you haven't realized yet! Wow, you must be a 'tard!" Summoning a jet of fire he burned the name "rhett samuels" into the wall. "Now look at what happens when I do this," and as he said that he wrote over it so that it read, "RhETt SAMuels".

"So what?" Rhett honestly didn't get it, but sudden shock filled his blood stream like heroin as Blaine wrote directly underneath it "MASTER".

"You see! You have been chosen since you were born to do this, there is no escaping your fate. You will die here, along with the others." At this he waved his hand and the earth from the wall around Rhett's name fell to reveal names that read "DESten TRelvOYER", "ROn proIVASon", and "ROy TuCkEt conThORP" among others. "You are not special, you are not unique, you are the same as the rest of them. All chosen to die".

Blaine raised his hand so it held a large ball of lightning that cackled and fizzed in his hand so much that his hair stood up from the static. Rhett, too shocked at this sight of so many dead heroes that seemed to be too innumerable to count and the fact that this was not a happen chance thing, failed to notice that his imminent demise was close as hand. "Goodbye 'master'. Say hello to the rest of them for me!"

Just about to bring his hand down on the stunned boy, a large ruckus was heard outside the single door. Steel on steel and creatures screaming out in what seemed like pain could be heard very distinctly, so much so that the handheld thunderstorm was collapsed in on itself for the time to allow a proper investigation. As he walked closer to the door, leaving Rhett to lie there, it burst open. Door fragments flew everywhere and smacked The Pagemaster in the head, knocking him cold.

From the rubble emerged Silence, his sword glittered with scarlet blood. Examining the room, he found Rhett still lying on the floor, his ice cuffs having melted from their master no longer holding their solidic form in this immense heat. Running over, he lifted the boy so he sat up.

"Aye, how doest thou do?" His familiar voice woke Rhett from his emotional slumber. He shot a gaze at Silence then grabbed onto him like he has never grabbed anyone before, not even his mother. "No need to get emotional lad. However, we must leave this dreaded place… Quickly!" When this was said Silence opened a small library he had, the doorway that opened appeared to be the inside of the small cabin like home they had been staying in.

"But, how will you get back?" Rhett wasn't sure if he wanted to leave the person who had saved his life from absolute death. The dread of leaving was almost as much and that for the boys and for the books.

"I can traverse this pagescape faster than you could on horseback with a two day head start. I will meet you there in two days. Until then, do not leave that room. Do not attempt to come look for me because I will be ok. Do not open any Libraries. You never know where they'll go."

"I can't leave you. I won't!"

"You must. You are far more important than I could hope to be!" All of this was said extremely quickly, but not quickly enough as through the doorway and down the stairs there was heard a treacherous sound of screaming battle cries and threats from what sounded like an army of approaching Lectros. "Quickly! You must leave! Wait for me! I shall return!" Silence ran behind Rhett and pushed him through the door. When he fell through as easy as nothing he hit the floor hard, having fallen from the door which came from the ceiling.

Instantly turning around and reaching upward to climb back through, Rhett yelled, "SILENCE!" just as the path dissolved away as fast as a snake strikes.

Silence filled the empty room, although he was nowhere to be seen.

Next Chapter: Behold The Darkness