As mentioned, I’ll be posting approximately Enchanted Realm story a month. So, here’s the second installment. Enjoy!
As you might remember, the four teens from Earth (Tomas, Jasmine, Jimmy and Liz), had just arrived in the town of Ershak, after a fight with a massive turtle. All four were worn out by the end, but non more than Tomas, who had nearly used up all his energy in the fight.
After three days, Nurse Kelly finally let Tomas leave the infirmary and roam freely. Upon his release, he was met by Jasmine, who had been exploring non-stop since she had recovered enough to walk.
“There’s so many amazing places in this city,” she said. “I’ll show you the highlights, but Makdar wants to meet you.”
“Makdar?” Tomas asked.
“Ershak’s leader. You’ll like him.”
Jasmine led him through the streets, past street vendors and homes, to a massive stone keep, which was set some distance away from the harbor. They were met at the gate by a large wolf, who greeted Jasmine as an old friend.
“Hello, Serich,” Jasmine said, smiling. “We’re here to see Makdar.”
Serich’s smile back was somehow both menacing and comforting at the same time. “Of course, Jasmine. And Master Tomas, good to see you up and about. When we brought you off the ship, you were hardly responsive.”
Tomas nodded. “I glad you guys got us when you did. I’m not sure if we would have lasted much longer.”
“Thank your friend, Jasmine,” Serich said, motioning with his head. “She’s the one who got you into the harbor in time for us to help you.”
“It was nothing,” Jasmine said, shrugging. “Come on, Tomas. You’ve got to meet Makdar.” She smiled back at the wolf. “I’ll see you later, Serich.”
“Until then, Jasmine,” Serich said, bowing.
Jasmine led the way through the keep, finally coming to a door, where, once again, they were met by a wolf. This one, however, was not as friendly as Serich. “Mistress Jasmine, you cannot enter,” he said coldly.
“We are here for an audience with Makdar,” Jasmine said, narrowing her eyes.
“Lord Makdar is busy with a traitor,” the wolf replied. “I kindly ask that you wait out here until he is finished.
Jasmine muttered something under her breath, but reluctantly agreed. She motioned to a bench along a wall, and she and Tomas sat down.
“I feel like we’re sitting outside the principal’s office,” Tomas whispered.
“Pretty much,” Jasmine agreed.
Within the chamber, Lord Makdar Carrison paced before a large, vicious looking boar. “Hegwood, you are accused of consorting with the enemy, of giving them battle plans, and worst of all, turning your own Bandmates to the Lordsmen.”
In the nearby stands, Jimmy leaned forward. He studied the boar’s face, searching for any sign of guiltiness. But his eyes, so used to reading human emotions, couldn’t understand the pig’s features.
Beside him, Liz tapped the bench. He found it distracting, but he knew it was her way of focusing on something other than the pain of the lacerations across her body.
“As I stand before you,” Hegwood rumbled, “I deny your authority. Those belonging to the Cliff Band were traitors to the Animal Lord, our rightful leader. Long li-”
He was cut off as Makdar barked, the entire room reverberating with the savage noise. “Silence, pig. You are a traitor to all the Enchanted Realms. Long live,” he said, enunciating the two words crisply, “the Winter Army, and may it ever protect our homes.”
Hegwood stared Makdar, then began to laugh. “You fool. Don’t you know that no one can stand before the might of the Animal Lord? You think yourself strong and mighty, but you are nothing compared to him.”
Makdar was silent for a long time, and when he finally spoke, his words were loud and clear. “Hear this, Hegwood. Though your words would be treason, I will let you live. But only for one purpose, and that purpose is to take a message to your precious Animal Lord. The message you should give is this: That, just like a wild boar may be powerful, it is nothing when it is crippled.” On the final word, Makdar lunged forward, whipping out a knife of a nearly unseeable sheath along his stomach and slashing the boar’s right hind leg. It folded under itself, and the pig crumpled to the ground. Jimmy was interested to note that, even though Makdar walked on four legs, like any dog, it seemed one of his digits was able to be used as a a thumb.
There was hardly a squeal as Hegwood forced himself back to his feet, when most people, humans or animals, would be screaming in pain. “I will take your message,” he said. “But the Animal Lord is no cripple. And I will also serve as a message to you. No matter what you do, a wild boar continues forward.” He spat on the ground. “Remember that when Animal Lord is marching towards you.”
“Get this animal out of my sight,” Makdar told his guards, two burly wolves. They complied, leading the boar out of the room and down the hall.
Within minutes, a cleaning crew had entered and begun scrubbing away the stain of the boar’s blood. Behind them, Tomas and Jasmine entered the room. Tomas was surprised when he saw Makdar. From all the guards, he had been imagining a gigantic wolf. Makdar, however, was more along the lines of a St. Bernard. His massive frame, his head nearly to Tomas’s shoulder, was covered in a pattern of white, brown and black fur. While his face looked droopy, his eyes boasted keen intelligence.
“Tomas! Good to see you awake,” Makdar said, bowing his head. Tomas returned the motion. “I hope you’re feeling better?”
“Very much, sir,” Tomas replied.
“Hi, Makdar,” Jasmine said, waving.
“Jasmine,” Makdar said back, smiling. “How has your exploring been?”
“Amazing! You have so many cool things around here!”
Having been around the Earth humans for a few days, Makdar didn’t bat an eyelid at the new term. “Yes, I’m sure that many of the things we have here are ‘cool,'” he said. “I’m sorry that you were kept waiting. I had to deal with a certain despicable creature who was intent on selling us out to the Animal Lord.”
“How could he?” Jasmine asked, surprised. “I thought the Animal Lord was evil.”
“He is,” Makdar said. “But many people, humans and animals alike, are blinded of that fact by seeing what they want to see.”
Jimmy nodded. “I’ve seen it happen before, back in our world. People get so caught up in seeing what they want to see that they miss out on what’s really going on.” He stood up. “Slider! Good to see you up and about.”
Tomas grinned back. “Nice to know you missed me,” he said.
Makdar smiled at them all. He could see life-long friendships formed, and growing deeper as time went by. “Friends,” he said loudly, and the chatter stopped as the four teens looked at him. “While you are here, Perolan believes that it would be wise for you to train. To grow your skills. The battles facing you will never be easy, and you must be at your best in order to succeed.”
Jimmy looked at him. “Now that you mention it, there is something that I’ve been needing.” He thought about how to explain it. “You see, back on Earth, I was a fighter. I used my fists a lot.” He motioned to his back, where his wings were folded across his back. “Now that I have these, it’s harder for me to use my fists properly. But when I’m in the air, I can’t use a sword the same way as when I’m on the ground.”
Makdar made a humming noise. “I suggest you go to Aerie. Ask for Gilden Longwing. He should be able to help you with your problem.”
“Thank you,” Jimmy said. “And where’s the Aerie?”
“Ask Serich. He’ll show you where it is.”
As Jimmy left, Makdar turned to the rest of them. “Is there anything specific that you’d like us to teach you?”
The three looked at each other. “Not that I can think of,” Liz said.
“Then follow me, and I’ll take you to our training room. One can never be too good with any kind of weapon.” The was a shared look between all of them, but, resigned to their fate, they reluctantly followed Makdar out of the room.
In the meantime, Jimmy was following Serich down narrow streets. “Do the birds let you into the Aerie?” Jimmy asked.
Serich laughed. “It’s not a matter of being let in,” he said, grinning broadly. “It’s a matter of getting in.”
“Aren’t those the same exact thing?” Jimmy asked, confused.
“Not in this case,” Serich replied. “You see, the Aerie isn’t exactly on the ground.”
“Come again?” Jimmy asked.
Serich stopped and motioned upwards. “Like I said. It’s not on the ground. It’s up there.” Jimmy followed the direction, and saw a huge tower. A door was set in its wall, about twenty feet above the ground. “They use the entire building,” Serich said, “But there are no doors at ground level.”
Jimmy’s eyes widened with surprise, but then he shrugged. It made sense, he figured. “In that case, I’ll see you later,” he told Serich.
“Until then, Jimmy,” Serich replied, bowing.
Jimmy took off, his wings opening and pulling him to the door in only a few minute’s time. He knocked on the heavy oaken door. A peephole was pulled open, and a brown eye peered out. There was a look of surprise, then the entire door swung inwards.
“Welcome, Fairfeather,” the bird said. It was a condor, with a bald head and glossy black feathers.
“Excuse me?” Jimmy said.
“Fairfeather,” the condor said again. “It is our term for those humans who have been given wings.”
“Thank you…” Jimmy trailed off, inclining his head as if to ask what the condor’s name was.
“I am Solum Blacktrill. It is a pleasure to have you within the Aerie, Fairfeather.”
“My name is James Kerren,” Jimmy clarified, “But most people call me Jimmy.”
“Jimmy Fairfeather is even better,” Solum said. “Now, what brings you here?”
“I was told to speak to Gilden Longwing,” Jimmy said. “I have a problem with flying and fighting at the same time.”
Solum cackled. “Then you definitely want to talk to Gilden. He’s the champion Windtester.” He went on as he saw Jimmy’s confused look. “It’s a competition we have around here. Battles in the air, endurance flights, those kind of things. It’s called Windtesting. Gilden’s been on top for nearly four years now.” He bobbed his head jerkily. “Now, you make yourself at home, and I’ll go and find Gilden for you.”
Solum waddled toward the middle of the room, and Jimmy looked around the room. It was circular, and sparesly decorated. The only places to sit were an old birdroost that was obviously designated for visitors, and what Jimmy assumed to be Solum’s roost, behind simple wooden desk.
There were no stairs, merely a hole in the floor and ceiling. Solum took flight and soared through the one above, Jimmy left standing alone. He scratched his head, having nothing better to do. Finally, the condor returned, with a huge golden eagle in tow.
“Here he is!” Solum said. “The Farifeather!”
Gilden’s gaze was filled with scrutinity as he looked Jimmy up and down. “I hear you want to be able to fight and fly at the same time?” he said.
“That’s correct,” Jimmy said.
Gilden nodded. He motioned to Solum. “Do we still have Ishbar’s Talons?” he asked.
“Yes, we do, we do,” Solum said, waddling to his desk. “I have them right here, as a matter of fact.” Solum pulled out what looked like vambrace. “It might be about right for Jimmy Fairfeather,” he said, passing it to Jimmy.
Jimmy slipped it on. It was just a hair larger than a perfect fit, but it wasn’t awful. Gilden motioned to the plating on the vambrace. “Pull it out,” he said.
“Pull what out?” Jimmy asked, looking down. He noticed a hand-like shape emblazoned on the metal. He dug his fingernails underneath it and pulled it free. It was about the size of his hand, but the fingers were much, much longer than his.
“It goes over your fingers,” Gilden explained. Jimmy pulled it down and over his hand. Gilden reached up and fiddled with it for a second. “The metal bends around your fingers,” he explained, “and forms a weapon.”
Jimmy lifted his hand. At end the of each finger, a metal triangle protruded. Each crease was tight, and looked sharp enough to cut. It came down to a point, which gleamed softly. He sized it up, considering the advantages and disadvantages.
“Ishbar’s Talons,” Gilden said, breaking his reverie. “He was one of the most feared warriors in his day. I hope his weapon will suit you well.”
“Is there another one for this arm?” Jimmy asked, motioning to his left arm.
“It is up to you. We do have a left-handed pair. However, Ishbar found it to behoove him to use a shield instead.”
Jimmy flexed his hand, and shook his head. “I can’t make a fist,” he muttered.
“You’re displeased?” Gilden asked, concerned.
“These are nice, but I feel too much like a cat,” Jimmy said. “I’d be clawing at everything. I can’t put as much force as I want to.” He slashed experimentally. “They’re okay, but honestly, a little worse for me than a sword or spear.”
Solum cackled. “I believe Fairfeather is a hammer, when Ishbar was a dagger,” he commented.
Gilden eyed him. “What would you suggest?” he asked.
“The boy is what the bears refer to as a boxer,” Solum replied. “So give him a way to make his fists better.”
Gilden shook his head. “Whenever you say that, I know you have something in mind. What is it, my friend?”
Jimmy looked between them, utterly confused. “Yeah, Solum, what are you talking about?”
Solum winked at both of them, bobbing his bald head. “You go train with the Fairfeather, Windester. Come back here in about an hour, and show you my idea.”
Gilden huffed. “Come, Jimmy,” he said. “Once he gets like this, he’ll never tell you what’s going on. I’ve grown accustomed to it by necessity, but I see no reason that you should be forced to endure it. Let us take to the skies and see what those wings can do.”
Jimmy looked between both of them, but finally shrugged his shoulders and followed Gilden out of the Aerie’s door. They winged their way into the sky.
“Do no be deceived,” Gilden said, circling around so that he was right next to the young man. “People assume that because I am the Windtester, I am also the sharpest of wit among the birds. But that’s not the case here. Solum is far, far smarter than I ever will be.” There was a pause as Jimmy absorbed the words. “Now,” Gilden said sharply, “Let’s see what you can do!”
He lifted his wings and soared into the heavens, rising toward the white clouds floating calmly through the air. Jimmy followed. Whie his wings were bigger than Gilden’s, he also had more body mass, which meant he was unable to climb as quickly.
Gilden veered suddenly, dropping back towards the ground. Jimmy banked to the right to avoid him, then somersaulted and shot towards Gilden. He let his wings unfurl to pull into a glide, right on Gilden’s tailfeathers. The eagle veered to the left, and Jimmy followed. He was gaining, ever so slightly. It wasn’t until the last second that he realized that was exactly what Gilden wanted.
The eagle had led him into a thickly shrubbed area. While Gilden, smaller bodied and more nimble, zipped around the bushes as if they were nothing more than pebbles on a path, Jimmy’s legs dragged through the underbrush. Fortunately, there were no thorns to rip his pants, but he hated the lack of control he felt.
He pulled up, holding himself above the shrubbery, and saw the forest quickly approaching. “Oh, not happening,” he said, changing his trajectory 90 degrees. Gilden, on the other hand, dove into the thick woods, disappearing into the deep green leaves.
A few moments later, the hawk shot out above the treeline, and circled around to where Jimmy was waiting. “I suppose that is your weakest talent,” Gilden said. “You are so large, that you cannot manuever as fast as myself, or any other birds who attack you. On the other hand, you have much more power than them, though it’s bridled because of your size.”
“So what do I do?” Jimmy asked. A slow smile crossed Gilden’s face.
The following hour went by in a blur. Jimmy found himself pushed to the edge of his abilities, and then some. But by the end, he was beginning to understand how he could make himself more nimble, even with his ungainly form.
They flew back to the Aerie, passing over the training ground where the other three humans still practiced with their weapons. They looked up as they passed by and waved, but then, just as fast, went back to their training.
Solum met them in the Aerie’s entrance way. “Welcome, welcome, Fairfeather!” he cawed, bouncing backwards to hide something from Jimmy’s view. “Are you ready for your new weapon?”
“Yes!” Jimmy exclaimed. Solum cackled, then pulled out a strange looking assortment of wood and leather. Solum handed it to Jimmy, who examined it closer. It was a glove, basic leather with four fingers and a thumb, but across the back, four wooden struts had been attached. They came up and attached via a hinge to wooden spikes, about eight inches long. The spikes were also attached to fingers of the gloves, but Jimmy could see that they would only cover the space between the first two knuckles. He slipped it on and mimed throwing a punch.
“This is a lot better,” he said, grinning. “I feel like Wolverine.”
“Even a wolverine does not have claws like this,” Gilden said.
Jimmy ignored the comment, stepping back and miming a block. “I’ll need another one for the other hand,” he mentioned.
“You’ll need one of metal, is what you’ll need,” Solum chuckled. “I’ll take you down to our armorer so he can make a real one for you.”
“You made this in an hour?” Jimmy asked, looking at the detail in the work. He could feel now that the wooden struts were connected to another wooden piece in his palm, which provided additional support to the spikes on the fingers.
“More or less,” Solum said. He hopped to the door. “Come along, Fairfeather.”
The group met that night at their assigned barracks. The least tired among them was Tomas, who had been allowed more rest time instead of training all day, as he was still weak from the ordeal on the river.
“I was really hoping to show you all of Ershak,” Jasmine said, shrugging. “I’m sorry you didn’t get to see much of it.”
Tomas shrugged. “It’s okay. The training yard was kind of amazing, really.”
Liz looked over at Jimmy, who was stretching out his wings, trying to get the kinks out of them. “How’d your day go?”
“Excellent. I can’t wait to show you my new claws.”
“Claws?” Tomas asked.
“Like Wolverine,” Jimmy confirmed. He crossed his arms across his chest in the classic Wolverine pose, then dropped them, feeling silly.
Liz snorted. “If you’re Wolverine, who am I?”
“Oh, there are plenty of mutants that you could be,” Tomas said. “Juggernaut’s the one that first comes to mind.”
Liz looked at him, confused. “Who’s that?”
Tomas opened his mouth, then closed it. “Forget I said anything,” he said finally. “It’s not really you.”
“I can’t be Wolverine anyway,” Jimmy said. “He didn’t have any wings.” He flexed the muscles one more time, then sat down on one of the beds. “Do you guys miss home?” he asked suddenly. “I mean, I know we all did when we first got here. But now that we’re fighting. Do you ever want to just quit and go home?”
Surprisingly, it was Jasmine who answered first. “No. I don’t miss it. Sure, home was comfortable, but I couldn’t do any of the things I can here.”
“I miss it sometimes,” Tomas said. He was the youngest of the four, at fifteen. It would make sense, Jimmy thought, that he would be the one who missed home the most. Tomas continued, shrugging. “But it’s different here, and it’s a good different. Back home, I was overlooked a lot, because I’m just normal. Here, I’m special.”
The group fell quiet, and eventually looked at Liz. She stared back. “What?” she asked.
“Do you miss home?” Jasmine asked.
Liz leaned forward. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “Whether I miss it or not, we’re not going back. And if we do,” she continued, forestalling the complaints she knew were going to come, “You’re not going to have those powers, Jasmine. And you’ll be normal again, Tomas.” She turned to Jimmy. “And you won’t be in charge anymore.” As the oldest, Jimmy had become the de facto leader of the group.
“Maybe not,” Jimmy said. He looked at the group. “I probably should say something really sentimental,” he offered. “Like, ‘You guys are home for me,’ or some other cliche like that. But honestly, I do miss home. I miss waking up in the morning and feeling safe. I miss seeing all my friends around the neighborhood.”
He lowered his voice, shaking his head. “But there’s no way that I can see to get back. And so I can’t have all that. So, do I miss it? Yeah. But I just don’t let it bother me.”
“That was profound,” Jasmine said. Liz shrugged. Tomas pulled at his ear. Jimmy rolled his eyes and settled into his bed.
“Either way. It’s time for us to get some sleep. Makdar wants to show us the new boat he’s giving us tomorrow.”
“Sounds good,” Liz said, also heading for her bed. Makdar had offered to split them up by gender, but they had opted for staying together, explaining that it made them all feel safer.
After the lights had been turned out, and each one was left with their thoughts, they slowly fell asleep. One drifted into a slumber, dreaming of his friends and home. The second twitched in his sleep, his wings rustling. The third tossed and turned to get comfortable, eventually ending in a position that, in the morning, would leave a strand of dark hair lying in her mouth. The fourth lay awake. She had talked big, but she was just too scared to admit that she, like everyone else, missed home.