Watcher of the Realms Chapter 18

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Chapter 18

The cave was pitch black, but Braeden had a torch burning as he stood by the entrance.

“Wow. You really were a boy scout once. Huh?” Hope said.

“Glad for that, now, aren’t ya? I think you’ll be owing me some chocolate.”

“Mmm, chocolate. I could eat a pound of it right now.”

“I’m hungry, too,” Tish said.

“I got you covered. Come on.” Braeden led the way, and I saw a light up ahead.

The walls around us were dark. Like we were surrounded by black dirt, packed really tight. Little rocks covered the ground. And there was this yummy smell. Like Janet was cooking steak on the grill.

“Hungry?” He pointed to a little fire. There was a small animal roasting over the flames.

“What the heck?” Hope said.

“Told you. I was an Eagle Scout.”

“I could kiss you.”

“Um…please don’t.” Braeden shivered.

We didn’t say a word while we chowed down. But I kept looking around this strange place. The image on my hand randomly decorated the walls in red paint. Well, I hoped it was red pain and not blood.

Yikes.

“What do you think that symbol means?” Hope asked.

“Not sure. Wish we could have seen what the computer found out about the mark before those men came.” I shook my head. “J2 must be freaking.”

“Bet mine don’t even know I’m gone,” Hope whispered.

“I’m sure they do. They’re—”

“Probably too stoned to even realize I’m gone. Or too worried about what they can hoc to get money for their next fix.” She tossed a little rock at the wall and said, “Okay. So. Now that we’re filled up and nobody’s chasing us to eat our brains, maybe you should try the coin again? I could go for some of those cupcakes Janet always keeps around for you.”

I stood up and shook the dirt off my hands. “Worth a shot, right?”

“As long as we don’t land in some other freakish nightmare,” Braeden said.

I cleared my throat and gripped the coin. “Take us home.” Please. I want to go home. It was kind of cool I was considering J2’s house my home. They’re the only parents I’d known, at least that I could remember, so, I guess it made sense.

But nothing happened. “Home. Please.”

We all just stood there like dorks. “How the heck do I turn this on?”

“Does not work that way,” a gravelly voice echoed against the walls.

Everyone huddled around me as we peered deeper into the cave. Holy cow. How far did this thing go?

“Hello?” I said stepped forward.

“Ever think you may be home and that is why it does not take you away?”

A skinny, wrinkly-skinned, not so human looking creature shuffled into the light of the fire. His eyes were white as snow and he held a cane. Crooked old branch was more like it actually.

He took in a deep breath. “I smell kin.”

I looked at Braeden, and he pointed at me.

“Um, sir?” I stepped forward a little, and the skittish thing flinched. He was definitely not scary like the other Barbarians we’d met. “Sorry. Sir, can you help us?”

“You wish to go home yet not going anywhere so here must be home.”

“We came from somewhere else. That’s my home. That’s where we wish to go.”

“But if you are not, then you are not to go. Must be here for a reason.”

I glanced at Hope and she spun her finger around her ear in the he’s crazy gesture.

“Sir—what is the name of this place?”

“Realm of the Barbarians for it is filled with us.”

“You’re one?”

“Of the first.” He grinned a toothless smile. “You must be specific. Where to go. Only then it’ll know. There you’ll go. There you’ll go.”

“But you’re so small compared to the others we’ve seen.”

“Mmm. Yes. Outskirts. Barbaric.” His laughter turned into a fit of coughing, and he stumbled forward. “Tell me, what brought you here, boy?” He tilted his head back and drew in a breath. “Oh, you have a human with you.” His sightless eyes shifted. “And two more—not so human. Like you.”

“Do you know what I am?”

“You are kin. Yes. Kin.”

I had Barbarian in me. Monster. I was a monster.

He grinned again. “You are many.”

Braeden shrugged.

“What were you looking for when you arrived?”

“Realm Number Two.”

He growled. And suddenly, he had teeth. Long, pointy teeth. Perfect for ripping through bones and flesh. He stood straighter, and it seemed like he doubled in size. It couldn’t be possible, then again, how was any of this possible?

“Sir, what’s wrong?”

“Humans. You have a human with you and speak of Realm Number Two. Evil people. Bad people spoke of that once.” He eased forward, no longer shuffling. No, he looked more like a cougar ready to pounce. “You dare to come here? Risk The King’s wrath?”

“Wait!” Hope said. “We’re just kids. We came here by accident.”

“No one can. Only the chosen can Jump. And it is forbidden!”

“Jump?” I said, looking at Tish.

She puffed out a long breath. “I told you. We’re Jumpers.”

“That voice.” The creature calmed a little and turned toward Tish. “I’ve heard that before.”

She smiled and took my hand. “I’ve seen you too. In my dreams.”

“So it’s true. The humans are coming.”

“What do you mean, sir?” I asked, easing Tish behind me.

“It’s been foretold. All the Realms know.” He growled, the low, scary noise filling the already too dark cave.

“All the realms?” Braeden asked. “There are more?”

“Many.” He growled again, this time even louder. “I will not let you escape. You will not bring The King’s wrath to my home.”

“But we aren’t here to hurt you,” Tish said. “The bad men. They did this to us.”

“Who’s this King? Is he your King?” The way this creature seemed to fear the King, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to meet him. Or his wrath.

He drew in a deep breath. “The tall one. You. Come closer.”

“I’m thinking not,” I said. “And how did you know I was tall?”

“I may not see well, but I can sense things. And in you, I sense much. Come closer.” I glanced at Tish and she nodded.

Well, if the vision seer says it’s okay. I stepped forward a little. The creature drew in a deeper breath and closed his eyes.

“The Srupiso, mark of the Realm Ruler.” He clenched his jaw. “And more. Human. Strength.” His eyes went wide. “Abomination! Abomination!”

He swung his cane, and I ducked.

“You must die, Abomination.”

“Running would be good.” Hope pulled at my hand.

We took off toward the entrance to the cave. With our luck there’d be a team of Barbarians waiting.

“Hey,” Tish said. “Try asking the coin to send us to your bedroom.”

I pushed her along. The old guy was slow, but the way he swung that cane of his and his feral roar, I wasn’t about to take my time out of this place.

“If you’re really part Barbarian, then this is your home. He said to get specific.”

“Little runt has a point,” Braeden said.

“Hey!” Tish said. She clung to Alastair with one arm as she went to slap Braeden.

“Try it.” Hope grabbed Braeden. “Hold on. This is gonna work. I know it. I know it.”

I hoisted Tish onto my hip. The rest of the gang held onto me one way or another and I gripped the coin with my free hand.

“Take me to my bedroom above the garage at Janet and Jeff’s.”

Nothing.

“Crap,” Hope said.

“Please. Please. Take us to my bedroom—”

Wind whipped around the cave.

“Yes!” Tish squealed.

At the same time a roar rattled behind us and a shadow, way too big to be that little old creature, grew along the cave walls. Climbing toward us. Groaning and hissing.

This time I wasn’t waiting for the swirling black void to suck us in. “Jump!”

~~~~~~

Join us Wednesday for Chapter 19 of Watcher of the Realms. Be sure to subscribe to the site to not miss a single chapter of Riley’s adventures.

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