"Blood to Dust"
Gary Baker, January 2013
(beginning of book one, chapter eight)
Elias checked the dial on his watch.
West by SouthWest
“Good,” he breathed with relief.
Thankfully Melanie had never noticed the compass inlaid into the base of his time piece, and as such had been more than amazed each time they reached another rise where they could see the smoke plume again.
Looks like scouts didn’t leave me completely stranded after all.
It was more a realization than he had thought it would be, since each time he had ever actually needed the piece of equipment or the proper knowledge of its use had been within city limits until this. Most parks back home had been longer north-south than east-west, usually gated in by highways and the occasional coastline, and thus were easy to navigate without the use of a compass providing you knew the area well enough.
But this was a whole new world in more than the most obvious way. The compass worked still, but there was an inkling of an idea for Elias that the poles didn’t mean the same thing here. In fact, for all Elias knew, there were no poles at all in this realm. Perhaps this realm was more like the ancient belief that the world was flat, and that somewhere out there the oceans endlessly emptied into the void of space and over the heads of titan elephants.
Elias stopped short, almost falling forward as he tread onto a used dirt roadway.
He looked around quickly to determine how far it went, hoping this wasn’t a fallen tree’s resting place before being rolled down the slope. But each new detail brought more and more doubt about that very notion: a creeping vine along the southern side that lifted just above the main plane of dirt, trampled leaves just ahead, a general lack of foliage over the path and the lack of an end in sight.
What made it definite was the packed dirt and occasional grooves indicating cart wheels had passed during the last rain.
Delden skidded down the mountainside behind Elias, fixed himself and paused just short of his immortal lord. After a brief moment to catch his breath, the peasant saw the road and smiled. “Good work, lord.”
Then Melanie reached them as she concentrated on pulling a sprig of dead pine needles from her hair. “...damnit, I wish I had remembered by brush....” Her eyes lit upon the road as well and she appeared to forget her train of thought. “Wow.”
“What?” Elias turned to her with a grin, “didn’t expect me to succeed?”
She bristled before shaking it off, then smiled. “You want the truth?”
“No, not really.”
Melanie let out a breathy laugh. “Good answer.”
Elias made to move on when Delden shrugged out of his bag and dropped it at his feet. He knelt to it and began to forage through. The immortal turned to Melanie who had dropped her gaze to her weapon. She stared intently at the sheath, tilted her head to the side and trailed a wandering finger over the hilt.
It hung awkwardly at her hip, clearly meant for someone much larger, and drooped on the belt that held it in place. Yet as she went to grab the hilt as though to use it, her arm stuck in a slow motion tai-chi sort of maneuver, the hilt ultimately ended up held sideways. Should she have needed to use the blade right then she would have been more likely to smack them with the flat of the blade than to cut her foe in two.
“Got it!” the peasant announced.
Elias turned to the guide and watched as he removed a long cloth-bound shape from the packed bag. Once it was out he leaned it on his foot while he replaced the items that had been moved aside, then tied the bag shut and unwound the white cloth.
As the cloth was pulled away to reveal the very same dagger that had proven Elias immortal only days prior, his stomach churned with a jolt of anxiety.
He was going to have to prove his power soon... again.
The thought occurred to him then, that the whole blade-in-heart thing was a bit overdramatic. The pain was worse than he could describe, sure, but that wasn’t the only reason why he’d rather not have it happen again. What about dignity? The pain had almost made him pass out last time, and that had apparently missed all major organs... but when it cut his heart, as Delden so adamantly wanted, would the scream of tortuous insanity not instill doubt in the viewer’s mind?
Delden looked up as he hitched the weapon to his hip. “Are you ready for this, Lord Elias?”
Elias swallowed hard and found himself suddenly out of air. It felt like he’d just run a marathon while holding his breath. “Um,” he shifted his collar to give his neck more room to expand, surely he wasn’t imagining it had shrunk around him, was he?