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Chapter 9

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Chapter IX

Leaving the Sanctum

 

As Commander Codsworth was being taken back to the mountain after his disastrous attempt to send help to the garrison fighting below The Iron Tooth had failed. Martin sat in the circular room where he could see all the statues of the gods. They were almost identical to their living counterparts up in the other plane, eerily so. even in his young life, he knew that statues presented idealised versions of the person, hiding flaws and heightening the positives, but these seven showed everything and held none of the flaws back.

He was bored, and wondered when Xyla would return, as the god lady had told him not to enter the visions alone, so he passed his time throwing small stones at the statues to amuse himself.

That was when it happened once more, his body slipped reality. The first time it had happened he had damn near had a stroke, but now he was more adapted to the process. Although as the statues began to swim in front of his eyes, he did still feel queasy watching them. Although he wondered what was happening, he had not made to enter the god plane as he had come to think of it, but he wasn't complaining and accepted the change of location with enthusiasm.

He felt himself arrive before he saw it, as the temperature of his new location was a lot warmer than the sanctum had ever been. Martin opened his eyes, and as he had expected, he was back in the ‘time’ room. The place where he had witnessed his friend’s future, or potentially their lack thereof one.

The room was cold, even compared to the north he felt a chill running down his spine, but he pressed on, not being distracted by the orbs of light that filled his vision, temping him to look into the possible futures that awaited him and his friends.

Leaving this strange area he came to a blank room, where there was nothing but clouds surrounding him. Calling it a room seemed weird, but he had to keep reminding himself that he had not left the protective boundaries of the sanctum. ‘Well not in a geographical sense he hadn’t.’ Martin thought as he looked around, before sitting himself down in the centre and closed his eyes, focussing everything he had on the three gemstones that lay inside the large mountain fortress to the north.

It took a while but eventually he found them, resting inside the safe in the quarters that they had inhabited. Sapphire, golden and clear, sitting innocently in a row.

Martin focussed his attention, a difficult feat as the gemstones called to him, trying to convince him to stop his attack upon them. But slowly, the gemstones began to move, not much as first, but moving all the same, they were about to connect, when the scene dissolved, taking Martin by surprise.

 

Martin closed his eyes trying to refocus on the mountain, but when he opened them again, he found himself a long way from the mountain, a long way from the north. The eight-year-old found himself on an open plain, somewhere down in the south, around him were destroyed buildings and wildlife. He was for all his knowledge alone, but that didn’t stop him from keeping his guard up, as this was how he had been infiltrated before.

But Martin’s curiosity overpowered him, and he began to walk, exploring the abandoned streets of whatever poor town this had been, it seemed to have been long destroyed, and he wondered why he had been brought here for.

That was when he first sensed it, a prick on the back of his neck. And Martin turned around to see the largest hoard that he had ever seen standing about fifty meters away, staring towards something in the distance. The dead were in their thousands, tens of thousands all rotting and decomposing in front of his eyes. He took a few hesitative steps towards them, then stopped, before deciding to carry on.

It took longer than he would have guessed, but eventually Martin reached the hoard and began to walk through them. It was as if he wasn’t there, none turned to face the only living thing for about twenty miles as it walked through their misted.

That was when Martin saw him, the great evil, a creature who had crushed his father’s neck like it was nothing. The Shadow stood seven feet tall and wore its full black armour, with only it’s red eyes visible. Surround the demi-god were The Ravens, all five of them covered in black robes and riding black horses. But something was not right, Martin could see them, see them underneath their hooded disguises, something that he wished he couldn’t.

They looked worse than the dead, their skin was chalk white, with no disenable eyes, ears or nose, only a great fanged mouth that took up half their deaden faces. They also seemed to flicker, like they were half in this world, and half in another.

Martin however was distracted from this horrifying image when The Shadow turned and looked him straight in the eyes. Red meeting blue with nothing short of loathing in the red. As Martin turned around to run, or at least to try, he found his route blocked as the dead, previously unaware of his presence were turning to face him. He knew that he had royally fucked up, but the worst was still to come, as he felt a cold presence right behind him. And turning around Martin found himself face to face with The Shadow. He tried to back up, but too late. The Shadow grabbed the boy’s arm with his red-hot gauntlet, and Martin began to scream, screaming harder than he had ever done with Doctor Larry, the pain was excruciating, like a white-hot rod had been applied to his wrist. Somehow, he was able to challenge that pain and force himself back to reality where he came face to face with Xyla, looking frightened for the first time.

It was a long time explaining, but Martin was able to do it uninterrupted by the god for which he was extremely thankful for as he didn’t know if he could tell the story if he was constantly having to stop. After the story was told, Xyla paced for a few moments doing some very quick thinking. In this briefest of moments however, Martin looked for the first time at his arm and nearly threw up. The thing was burnt a lot more than it had been when the guards at the prison had used their electro rods on him, this was just a solid dark red band that wrapped around his pale skin. He quickly hid it and pushed any thought of the damage out of his mind, as to make sure that Xyla nor anyone else would know about it.

 

“We can’t remain here much longer little bro.” Dave said as he turned his attention of his brother and looked around the sanctum.

A few hours had passed since Martin had told Xyla about his unscheduled trip into wherever he had been going to, Martin still wasn’t entirely sure about that. But after he had told Xyla about it, the god had warned him about the danger they were now in, before quickly leaving to speak with the others about it. Martin had wanted to go with her, but the god had refused stating that he would likely not help his case by going to speak with them.

“But time doesn’t work like that in here, or at least that’s what the god lady said.” Martin replied, but at this Dave shook his head. Despite Xyla’s warnings that he had to leave; he really didn’t want to.

“Maybe in here. But out there.” Dave said, pointing out of the sanctum into the open landscape. “Out there, time is passing whether it does in here or not. And I’m still not a hundred percent sure about that.” Dave finished, whilst Xyla had not exactly lied to them on that count, they had seemingly not gone hungry despite eating very little in the two or three months that they had been here for. But all the same, time was moving along in the real world. This was only part of the reason why Dave wanted to leave however, the main one being that he found the sanctum creepy, he had spent days and weeks alone in the open plains and there had been times when he had felt uneasy. But none of those times came to the sense of unease that he felt whilst in here.

He was unsure as to whether to raise these doubts, before deciding that his little brother probably knew about them before he had even thought about it. So decided to put it out in the open anyway.

“Plus, this place gives me the creeps little bro. and I’m not alone in that feeling.” Dave finished looking earnestly at his youngest brother, wondering just how much power he had over him. He had agreed not to return Martin to the mountain when Vernon had tasked him to do just that, and he was now starting to regret that decision.

“I know. I don’t want to remain here. I have to remain here.” Martin said blurting it out as if he spoke the truth quickly it would hurt less, that was until reality set back in and he spoke up once more. “But your right. I doubt that we can stay here much longer.” Martin finished and praying to the gods that his older brother wouldn’t enquire further, which mercifully he didn’t.

 

That night, the group camped outside, as was most of their customs now, all but Martin having retreated out here after the first few days and weeks, claiming that they did not feel welcome in the sanctum. Martin had now felt that feeling too, and he assumed that the meeting that Xyla had had with her companions had not gone down to well. And as if on cue, the god appeared out of thin air, taking Russel who had been looking directly at the place where Xyla had just materialised completely by surprise and the river-man almost fell down in shock.

“You need to leave. Right now.” Xyla commanded before any of them could talk, she sounded urgent, such a change from her usually calm voice and demeanour that it took Martin off guard.

“But…” Martin started but Xyla interrupted him in her unusual sense of urgency.

“You are no longer safe here Martin Wolfrick, none of you are.” Xyla responded quickly, at this Dave got up and ran into the night before returning just as quickly with the horses. Who seemed more panicked than the god. Although Martin couldn’t blame them as the wind had started to pick up and he thought for a moment that there was about to be a hurricane.

“You alright Sparky?” Olly asked as he looked at his friend, it felt weird to be leaving this place without knowing how much time they had spent here. As Martin continued to look around expecting to see something far worse coming before only nodding in response, he was not convinced that leaving now would do them any good, as he was still doubting his abilities. But both Xyla and Dave had insisted, and he knew that his friends agreed with the decision, even if they wouldn’t tell him to his face.

“Where are we heading, back to the mountain?” Russel asked looking around, if truth were told, he was not keen on the idea and would much rather head south towards his homeland where the rivers ran freely.

“No. there’s no point in that, we’ll head for The Iron Tooth and meet them there.” Dave said looking around in case anyone else came up with a better idea, but when none did, he continued. “The odds are the forces are already at the fortress. I dunno how much time has passed, but certainly enough for Fierhand to have at least gathered enough forces to move south in strength.” Dave finished, and looking to his youngest brother he began to ride out, heading towards the setting sun in the west, followed by the rest of the group, with the wear-bear Brutus bringing up the rear, charging alongside the horses in his black bear form.

 

As the group rode of towards the west, Xyla turned around to see one of her fellows walking out of the sanctum to join her.

“You know the others will not take kindly to this Xyla. The boy has been marked after all and the game is now up.” Alfdall said, the god of the sea looking curiously at the retreating mortals with interest. Before returning to the god of the dawn with a concerned look on his bluish face. “Please don’t tell me that your feeling pity for the boy?” Alfdall finished.

“The others be dammed, I will not sacrifice this one, like I did his father.” Xyla replied, she had felt guilt when she had sent Alan to his death, even if he had accepted the position, but this time was worse, far worse.

“The boy was only ever a means to an end Xyla. You knew that when you summoned him here.” Alfdall said. “I do not agree with it either, but it is the will of, well the others that the boy is far too powerful. We cannot risk ourselves for the life of one mortal.” Alfdall finished looking at his counterpart and pleading for her to understand. On the contrary however, Xyla looked angrier at this than she had done before.

“Martin. His name is Martin.” Xyla retorted angrily, having enough of the word boy, as it was being used by the sea god, as well as the others to distance themselves from the cost of what they were planning to do.

“Xyla. That boy has the power to overthrow us should he wish. Remember what happened the last time we gave someone that power.” Alfdall said in a warning tone, and as he spoke rain slowly began to fall on their little section of the world. “You became attached to that one to as I recall. Which is why we are in this mess once again.” Alfdall finished.

If Xyla had been angry before, it was nothing compared to what she was now, the clouds parted and the rain stopped, the light god putting the water god in his place.

“I will not have you bring that one up again.” Xyla said, golden light radiating of her like heat.

“You may be right. But the others may still choose to strike the boy down regardless of your wishes.” Alfdall finished, and with that he returned into his own plane and vanished from the landscape.

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