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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Book #3- A lapse in judgement.

Chapter 27

The six travelers wavered back into view, their feet landing with a soft thud on the sandy beach on Olie's Island. The view that greeted them was disturbing, choppy waves rolled restlessly toward the shore, having reached a level much farther up the shoreline then they ever had before. They were now standing close to the small rain forest normally two miles from the beach, now barely five feet away from the lapping water. The water carried a foul odor with it; the smell reminded Finola of chemistry class and the experiment she did with Sulfur. Darned stuff bubbled out of the beaker and spilled all over her shoes, she didn't like the smell then and she liked it even less now. Eyes wide with disbelief, she surveyed the place that had been her home for several years. What was happening here? It looked like the landscape was changing, landmarks that she was familiar with were suddenly shifting; there were land formations off the shore that she didn't recognize, they were new. The very sand upon which they stood was different, gray and gooey in some spots; they had to side step past to keep from getting stuck. The beach occupied a much smaller area, having been shifted back by rising waters.

The rain forest behind them was smaller, the trees shorter as if they were trying to avoid contact with the sky. And the sky, what was going on up there? Finola squinted to try and make out the shapes moving up there she pointed upward, drawing Franklin's attention there.

The sky was dark, the sun obscured by dark funny looking clouds, clouds that flapped about like wings. Franklin squinted at the swiftly moving objects, trying to reassure himself that they were just clouds, but somehow fearing that he was wrong. A loud shriek issued from the sky followed by a rush of wind as a large black bird swooped down to pass close to his head. He ducked, feeling sharp talons pull at his hair as the creature struck and rose into the air once again; okay, they weren't clouds, he got that now. The dark carrion flew back to join his flock, becoming part of the light obstructing mass once again. Its raspy caw sounded loudly in the air as it bobbed and weaved back to its place in the flight pattern, fighting the wind all the way.

Alice threw a barrier up over their heads to prevent another attack from overhead, she had a feeling that there were other things that they had to watch out for; this was just the beginning. Then the wailing started, low and mournful, it hung in the air, its origin uncertain. Wherever it came from it had its intended effect, it carried the message of fear and death to its listeners. The heroic band of fighters looked each other, doubt clouding their eyes for a moment before they steeled themselves against it. Joining hands to give each other comfort, they waited for what was to come next.

The tops of the large palm trees bent westward by the force of the wind breaking off palm fronds and sending them sailing out toward the water. Several loose objects followed, twigs, an empty bird nest, small seashells became projectiles that the group had to dodge.

Alice squinted, trying hard to see the land around her in the dim light. Despite the night-like setting, she was sure that it was mid afternoon. A quick look at her glow in the dark watch, confirmed that it was about two o'clock p.m. Goosebumps broke out on her arms as the wailing sound got louder, the place that had served as refuge for them all felt like a scene from a horror movie. She scooted closer to her friends, jumping slightly when a strong hand squeezed hers. She smiled sheepishly at Randall when she found the hand to be his. He smiled back, turning expectantly to look at Robert for further instruction.

"We must make sure they know we are all here," Robert said pointing to the sky and across the water to a neighboring island that Finola was sure had not been there when they left the last time. Large figures moved restlessly back and forth and even though they couldn't see their faces, she knew they were being studied closely.

Facing whatever was out there to announce their presence to, the small band of fighters raised their hands and let her rip, so to speak. Sparks flew out of Randall's hands and made contact with three large forms, the current arcing from one creature to the next causing a loud shrieking followed by the smell of burnt flesh. As the burnt flesh smell mingled with the sulfur it created quite an interesting and nauseating odor, causing quite a bit of dry heaving but thankfully no-one tossed their cookies, Finola was pleased to note.

For the first time in years, Randall did not experience a nasty after shock, so he continued to unleash his powers on the shadowy figures across the way. While he was occupied zapping the competition, Eric sent out waves of sound that intensified the movement of the waves, reversing the current so that the water rippled up and pushed against the shore of the other island. He smiled as he saw the high white caps slap onto the beach knocking down several of the figures on shore. While he was doing this, he also managed to silence the annoying wailing sound, giving them a blessed silence. Alice murmured a quick thank you before zapping out of view to travel to the far shore.

She emerged behind the enemy trying to get a look at what they were facing. In front of her stood thirty of those big creatures they had faced once before, Ornose, they were called; members of Braccus' elite guard. Large bloated beings with black flesh, four arms, and many eyes in their heads, they fought to kill, the only thing they feared was their leader. The element of surprise was the only thing that helped their group in the last battle. Hoping to repeat that advantage, she moved quietly behind the row of enemy soldiers, taking note of everything around her. Still in invisible mode, Alice watched as they trod the beach, throwing clods of dirt and sand into the air. Snorting like restless horses, they beat the ground with thick wooden clubs, all the while three sets of red eyes scanned the shore of Olie's island. The burned bodies of the fallen beasts were kicked aside or thrown into the water to make room for others, large carcasses hitting the crashing surf with a dull thud before being carried out to sea. Making themselves visible seemed to be their only purpose at this time, it was as if they were waiting for something to happen. Which it soon did; across the expanse of water, she could see Franklin create a large fireball. The fiery orb rose slowly into the air, creating artificial sunlight with its brilliance. It increased in speed as it floated skyward, and slanted off to hurl itself toward this very shore. Alice watched its flight with pride, that should take down a lot of these brutes.

Then she heard it, a sound that normally would have lightened her heart and brought a smile to her face; now it only made her want to cry out in denial. Laughter rang out in the air behind her, loud enough to be heard even above the crashing waves and other sounds of battle. It was the most terrifying sound she had ever heard for it was the laughter of children at play.

Turning to see what she hoped was not there; Alice's worst fears were realized, twenty children stood behind her. The first child she saw was a boy about six years of age with curly brown hair and startling black eyes; small and stocky, he had pale white cheeks, was dressed in faded blue jeans and a patched blue shirt. What struck her the most about this boy, aside from the fact that he was here with the Ornose, was the scowl on his face; laughter was bubbling from lips twisted in a pained grimace. Despite the constant chuckling, he looked as if he wanted to cry or scream. His eyes had a blank, unfocused look to them that was repeated in the eyes of the other children that stood around him. The children varied in age from six to sixteen , all dressed in homemade clothing like the villagers she had encountered in her travels here. These must be the children taken by Braccus' people in the raids. Why were they here, what was wrong with them and what was so darned funny about this whole sick situation.

Looking closely, she noticed that each child held something that could be used as a weapon, a thick stick, a piece of metal, one even carried a long slender fork with sharpened tips. As she watched in disbelief, a Garren with gangly limbs appeared behind the group and herded them toward the line of Ornose. The children followed without resistance, their young faces raised upward illuminated by the balls of fire hurtling down from the sky.

No Franklin, her mind screamed out to her friend as she raised a protective shield to cover the zombie like captives. The flaming projectiles hit hard, bouncing upward again to land on two of the Ornose immediately in front of them. The large lumbering anomalies ignited in a matter of seconds, stumbling and shrieking blindly into the sea, their screams being quickly swallowed up by death. The remaining flame bombs hit the sand to sit there and crackle merrily, highlighting the darkness of the air. Trees fell like dominoes, their smoldering branches spreading, snapping off to fall against the next in a cascading inferno.

The Garren whipped his head around to see the source of power that had saved the children. The pasty faced fiend was sending out mental feelers to detect her energy. Franklin's frantic what's wrong went unanswered; she dared not send a message to her friends now, to do so would be like flashing a big 'here I am sign' to them. The Garren prodded the filmy barrier around the children with his arm, his cold gray eyes searching the area for a sign of the intruder. Alice fell back as his gaze moved in her direction, her breath caught in her throat as he paused and continued to look thoughtfully at her little section of sandy ground before moving on to scan the rest of the beach. A river of sweat ran down her face to her neck mixing with salty tears as she watched the children try to move beyond her invisible bubble to join the black monsters that ruthlessly walked all over the dead bodies of their own kind, blood and guts swishing between their clubbed feet to smear on the sand. Alice felt her resolve weaken watching the unbelievable scene unfolding in front of her.

She stood, frozen, unsure of what to do next. She didn't want to release the shield and risk the safety of the children but she wasn't sure how long she could stay here and keep this up. The Garren wasn't a stupid creature, he would do his best to find her and she got the impression that he wouldn't hesitate to use the children to get to her. Her heart dropped to her feet, when with an eerie grin, the gaunt figure bent toward the shield and beckoned to the brown haired boy. The youngster shuffled over to the Garren, only to stop short when he bumped into the barrier. With a flick of his finger, the evil man worked the boy's arms like he was controlling a puppet causing him to bring the sharply pointed stick in his hand up to his own throat.

"No!" Alice screamed, releasing the barrier and lunging for the boy. The Garren moved quickly, reaching his long arms out to pull her toward him. She felt his boney fingers dig into her arm, tearing at her shirt and scraping at the skin underneath. His cruel grin widened as he tugged her closer, so intent on capturing her that he failed to notice the large tree root snaking along the ground behind him. He fell to the ground, losing his grip on her, a satisfied grin still on his face as the gnarly growth wrapped around his legs and dragged him back into the thick forest. She saw his body rise up once when the root picked up his body and slammed it into the ground. This was all she wanted to see. As fireballs continued to hit the line of Ornose in front of them, Alice stood in the middle of the group of children and transported them all back to Olie's island.

The children landed in the sand around her scrambling to their feet quickly with evil little smiles on their faces and quickly turned on her, their makeshift weapons raised as if programmed to do so. With seconds to register this new situation, Alice flickered out of view to reappear next to her friends along the tree line. Not wanting her group to be harmed by this new threat she had unknowingly brought to them, she drew a protective shield around them and advised them of the situation they now faced.

Finola watched in fascinated horror as the children slashed at the invisible wall with clubs and spears. Her eyes wide as saucers, she realized that she knew some of these kids. Rebecca Flanders, a girl she had gone to class with in the village of Harthy, slashed wildly at the air in front of Eric's face with a pair of pruning shears. Long golden curls bobbed on her head as she tried to break through to the boy, she shivered as she noted the ferocity of the attack. If it hadn't been for Alice's power, Eric would be dead. Next to Rebecca stood Chance Fremont, he was punching at the air in front of Finola with a sharpened ice pick. Both Rebecca and Chance had the same slack mouth, glassy eyed look that all the children shared and seemed determined to kill the people in front of them. Alice's face flushed as it suddenly occurred to her that this had been part of the enemy's plan. She had thought only of rescuing the children but in doing so, she had brought danger right to Olie's door.

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