The warrior-wizard Chelinn and his friend Lodrán have visited many strange places. But when a curse goes awry, sending them to a place where wondrous yet mundane devices have taken the place of magic, nothing is familiar at first. Then, after stopping a robbery of a game store, they find themselves embroiled in a far more dangerous situation.
As hundreds of lives hang in the balance, two heroes and their new friends must use all their talents to foil an evil plot — and survive until they can catch a rainbow and return home.
This excerpt is very close to the original flash. It’s set in the same world(s) as my earlier #FridayFlash stories What Is Due and Off the Cub, and falls between them chronologically. Feel free to critique both the story and the blurb. (Please!)
Far From Home
Lodrán and Chelinn looked around them wild-eyed, assaulted by eldritch sights and sounds, trying to take it all in. A phantasmagoria of wild flashing colors competed with a cacophony of roaring, bleating, thumping noises. The scent of recent rain battled with a less pleasant smell, a hint of something burned.
After a long minute, Lodrán looked behind him then gripped his friend’s arm. “An alley!” Chelinn took one last look around, then nodded and allowed Lodrán to pull him away from the street.
After the incomprehensible overload of sight and sound, the alley was a familiar if odorous comfort. They ducked behind a large box of some sort, giving them cover and some relief from the strangeness without. The noises from the street followed them into the alley, but muffled enough to allow speech and thought. Unhealthy puddles of standing water, close walls looming above, even the smell of decay, all combined to provide a touchpoint of familiarity. “Some things can’t be changed, eh?” Lodrán grinned, looking around.
“Hm.” The big warrior-wizard rapped the green-painted box with a knuckle. “An alley is an alley. But details? Look. This box is made of iron.” He tapped a shiny spot near the top, where paint had flaked away. “See? Rust. And if my nose does not lie, it’s full of garbage.”
“What? That’s as much iron as we’d find in all of Anlayt or Roth’s Keep, and they… no.” Lodrán sized it up. “A box must have a lid. The way it slopes into the alley, I’d say that’s the front…” he seized the end of the lid and lifted. “Ha! Whew. You’re right — what kind of fools would dedicate such wealth to garbage?”
“The kind of fools for whom iron is near as abundant as water?”
“Impossible. Nowhere in all of Termag is… um.” Lodrán turned to look at his comrade, the question he dared not ask plain on his face.
“Yes. Wherever we are, we’re far from home.”
Lodrán peered around the side of the great metal box, shuddered, and crouched against the wall. “If I get a chance,” he panted, “I’ll kill that priest!”
“I’m sure you already killed him.” Chelinn looked as grim as Lodrán had ever seen. “You spitted him with your spear, right in the middle of his curse. Good thing — those Easterners do things differently, but if I’m right he meant to send our living bodies straight to Hell. Instead, you disrupted him and we’re — wherever we are.”
“I’m not convinced this isn’t Hell!” Lodrán chewed his long mustache, as he often did when nervous or thinking. Instinct led him to crouch in the shadow of the box. Black garb, black hair, tall and thin, Lodrán was a shadow among shadows. Even knowing he was there, Chelinn found him hard to see.
“Courage, man. Hell would not have left us armed —” he patted his sword hilt — “nor provided this quiet alley for our retreat. This is no more Hell than it is Termag. So let us gather our wits and look again at the world beyond this alley.”
After a minute, they retreated again to the shelter of the great iron garbage box. “What did you see?” Lodrán asked.
“Carriages of metal and glass, moving without oxen pulling them. People inside the carriages. Streets of solid stone. Lights flashing in patterns, and patterns have meaning. People walking around without weapons. And our alley. We’re in a city. And you?”
“Storefronts. People walking unconcerned among the carriages. No armed patrols. This place reeks of a long peacetime. And magic.”
“At peace with others, perhaps. But with itself? Hear that?” They paused to listen to a wailing, whooping, chittering cry, a sound they had never heard before. It grew for a moment, then faded. “I don’t need to know the language to know that’s a distress cry. And whatever made it was moving fast.”
“But… didn’t we hear it when we were looking around too?” Chelinn nodded, and Lodrán continued, “Nobody looked concerned then. If we were watching the street now, nobody would do more than look around. I’d put a handful of octagons on that.”
“And you’d be likely to win that bet, my friend. Let me take one more look, then we’ll decide what to do.” Chelinn slipped around their shelter before Lodrán could object.
Lodrán only had a few minutes to wait before his friend reappeared. “I know where we need to go. Come on.”
“This way,” said Chelinn, reaching the sidewalk and pointing to his right. “What do you see up there?”
“More city. More chaos.”
“No… look up.”
“Hm. The rainbow?”
“Indeed. A rainbow is a bridge between worlds. If we can get to it before it fades, we can cross it and get home.”
“Then let’s catch it.” They started down the sidewalk to their long journey home.