A New World~ Lage’s Game: Chapter Eight Part One

By ‘home’, Lage had meant a hut, really. It was just a bulge of twigs and leaves among the snow and trees. I suppose he was trying to be nice, taking me to his home. There, he had said in the brisk walk over, he would make me a good hearty stew.

There was to be no stew.

Before the hut stood several figures. They were conspicuously not made of stone though they stood as still as it. They were alive, and that was to be trouble.

There was one woman, tall with onyx skin like pearls, bearing a white fur cloak and hood that draped to the ground. Beneath, I caught glimpses of a green dress and metal accents. She bore a staff that was sculpted and carved intricately. The way she held her head and stood gave off a sense of royalty.

To her left and right were guards in medieval tunics and cloaks, complete with shields and swords drawn.

Lage muttered something unintelligible under his breath as we stepped from the trees into the small clearing before the hut. Reaching out an arm, he drew me slightly behind himself.

“Lage,” said the woman with the white cloak. Her words were icy.

“Rebella,” said Lage cautiously, tilting his head downwards not so much respectfully as carefully. “What can I do for you?”

Rebella did not answer, her eyes flickering to me then back to Lage.

“There has been some trouble,” said Lage slowly.

Rebella’s lip curled. “As usual. The bonds ought to have been severed centuries ago.” With a nod to her guards she said “Kill the girl.”

“No!” exclaimed Lage, drawing his sword and punting me behind him with a swipe of the leg. I fell over, tumbling into the snow.

“You don’t want to do that!” Lage was saying as I scrambled back up to my feet behind him.

“Oh? I’m certain I do,”said Rebella with a sneer.

“I will tell the Queen, and you – you will suffer the consequences!” Lage barked.

Rebella sneered again, but seemed to reconsider. “Card collectors cause nothing but trouble,” she said to me “And they have no rights here.”

“Unless they are invited by a card bearer,” said Lage. “I invited her! She is a guest between worlds. You cannot deny that! Would you cause a war between worlds for your vanity?”

Rebella moved to the right, so gracefully I was entranced. Her eyes were fixed upon me in utter disdain. “There has been trouble that you know not of,” she said icily. “I think we ought to kill her.”

“Whatever trouble, I doubt it’s her fault! Don’t murder a child!”

There seemed to be a light behind Rebella’s eyes. “Her soul is hardly young.” But she gestured to her soldiers, who had drawn their swords. “Put your swords away.” To Lage she said “The Queen is ill.”

“The crown will not pass to you,” said Lage slowly, wary as he lifted his hand from his sword.

Rebella sneered. “I would not be here if I’d done the poisoning. No, rather,” she reached under her cloak and drew a pouch out from her belt. It was of soft brown leather, but held something clunky and pointed within. She waved it before herself. “Guess.”

Lage made a sort of shrug. “The Tael poisoned an arrow?”

Rebella laughed. “I would not want a card collector dead if so.” Ruefully, she drew the pouch open and drew out a black handgun. Lage gasped. A shudder went down my spine. ‘They’ were here. It had to be. Were they everywhere?

The gun was tossed to the ground between us. Lage jumped back and I flinched. “Be careful with that!” Lage muttered.

“The worlds have been crossed,” Rebella said angrily, glaring at Lage. “Murder has been attempted – on our Queen no less. War must be declared. A line is to be drawn between us, and them. Make your choice, Lage.”

I looked to Lage, then Rebella.

Lage heaved a breath that misted out between us. “They are after the child as well. They murdered her family. She,” he placed a hand on my shoulder. “Is one of us.”

“’Us’?” Rebella asked pointedly. “You think she can join? That I would permit that?”

Lage hesitated. “Her soul is old, like you said,” he started.

Rebella lifted her eyebrows in an angry question.

Lage looked down at me. More hesitation.

“Say it!” barked Rebella.

“She has an ancient soul, is all I’m saying,” said Lage in an obvious fib. A smile played on his face. “What more can I tell you? I think she would be an asset. To you. To this kingdom.”

Rebella’s gaze narrowed. “Who is she? The Fool? The Emperor? Tell me, and I might let her live.”

Lage rolled his eyes. “Not all old souls are known to you. Besides, I-” he hesitated again. Then, shaking his head, he continued. “She is but a child now.”

“I don’t care!” yelled Rebella. “If I want her dead she will be dead!”

Anger surged in me. A tingling came over me and I decided that Rebella, for all her grace and beauty, was my enemy. For all my admiration, I wanted to murder her.

Rebella’s eyes landed on me. “Do you sense that?” she asked. Lage nodded, looking down at me glumly.

“She is an ancient,” murmured Rebella in awe. Greedy awe. Stooping over, she peered even more at me. I wanted to punch her.

“Maybe an Annunaki,” suggested Lage playfully, and I felt he was gambling with something, or goading her on.

“Shut up!” Rebella snapped. “You wouldn’t know them if one punched you in the throat.”

Lage sighed and squeezed my shoulder. “As a matter of fact, I think I have been punched by one-”

“What part of shut up don’t you understand?” barked Rebella, straightening. With a nod, she ordered her guards. “Take the girl. I’ll keep her.” With a sneer to Lage she said “Mine now.”

Lage lifted his hands to his shoulder in a ‘not my problem’ gesture. Then, eyes widening, he stooped over me and, cupping a hand to hide his mouth, whispered in my ear “Don’t tell her you ate my card!”

The next instant, the guards were dragging me away from him. “What did you tell her?” Rebella was shouting, marching up to Lage.

Lage held up his hands to his shoulders. “Not to make you angry. That’s all.”

“You wish,” hissed Rebella before whirling around and marching away into the trees. The guards followed, hauling me along by the arms. I took one look back, and Lage waved miserably at me.

Photo by Ave Calvar Martinez on Pexels.com

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