Chapter 1: 2014
“Want anything?” Taylor asked as he headed for the door of the bus.
“Nah I’m cool,” Isaac waved him off, a pillow over his eyes.
“Zac? You asleep yet?”
Taylor paused with his hand on the door, waiting for a response.
“He’s not,” Isaac assured, “just get him sugar. He’ll be gaming all night.”
“Right,” Taylor rolled his eyes, finally leaving the bus.
He gave the driver a nod as he fuelled up the tank, then headed around to the men’s room at the side of the building. As he went about his business he noticed a blue light moving across the wall – as if a car had pulled up beside the wall and paused with its headlights shining through the window, but he hadn’t heard any sound. Frowning as he finished up and went to wash his hands, he listened for the sound of tyres or maybe a car door, but there was nothing. Not entirely unsettled by it (the bathroom could have just had good soundproofing after all) he shrugged it off until an almighty boom of thunder seemed to crack right over the entire truck stop.
“What the?” he jumped.
The weather had been fine, and as far as he knew they weren’t expecting any rain let alone storms.
By the time he made for the door, the light had dissipated. If they were headed into a storm he wanted to grab the groceries and get back to the bus as soon as he could.
On the other side of the door, he paused. Instead of the car he expected stood a man – possibly a foot shorter than he – dressed in odd clothing. He spun in fright at the sound of the door closing, immediately looking Taylor up and down.
“Are you okay?” Taylor felt the need to ask, casting his eyes either side to see if he could tell where he’d come from.
Before the man could respond, Taylor spotted the sword attached at his hip and his eyebrows rose.
“You cosplaying or something?”
“What?” the man had scorn in his voice, “who are you? And where am I?!”
Taylor groaned internally. This was just what he needed.
“Look, guy, I’m kind’ve on a schedule here so… if you don’t need any help…” he began to walk back to the store.
“Wait!” the man called after him, somewhat reluctantly.
Taylor turned back, vaguely hoping he wouldn’t ask for money. He wasn’t sure how much he had on him and he really needed a drink.
“I do need help,” the man relented, “please, could you tell me where I am?”
“Just out of Seattle,” Taylor replied, “are you… lost?”
“In a manner of speaking,” he looked to the left, his left hand going to the hilt of his sword.
“How did you get here?” Taylor frowned.
“This… Seattle…” the stranger looked confused, “is it a large city?”
Taylor paused, his eyebrows going up.
“You’re not from around here, are you?” he realised.
He hadn’t picked up on an accent, but the man seemed very well spoken and deliberate.
“No,” he relented again, “but I will have friends looking for me I’m sure. I guess I’ll just wait here.”
Taylor frowned again, looking toward the light from the fuel pumps.
“That’s probably not the best idea,” he suggested, “it can be dangerous around places like these at night. Particularly close to the city.”
“I think I’ll be fine,” the man assured, lifting the hilt a little.
Taylor instinctively took a step back.
“That’s real,” he realised.
“Why wouldn’t it be?” the man frowned.
“Okay…” Taylor began backing off, “I guess I’ll leave you to it then.”
He kept his eye on the man – who simply stood there confused – as he continued back to the front of the store. He almost made it to the door when he heard another ‘wait!’ from behind him.
He looked back to see the man standing at the corner, staring across at the tour bus. Knowing it would only take a second to dart inside if the man became aggravated, he chose to wait. Now that he could see him in the light he could see that his clothes were mostly leather and hessian cloth.
“Do you need to use a phone or something?” Taylor’s voice seemed to snap him back to reality.
His head snapped to the right suddenly. Worried at the sudden movement Taylor kept his eye on him, wondering if he should just go inside and tell someone about him. The guy quite obviously needed help – and probably more than he realised.
Before he could think further, he saw the same blue light he’d seen from the bathroom suddenly emit from somewhere around the corner. The stranger shielded his eyes before ducking back around and out of sight.
Taylor darted a look back at the tour bus. He felt as if he should at least know where he was in order to tell someone what was going on.
“Dammit,” he cursed, making his way back toward the bathroom.
When he rounded the corner he froze in his tracks. The man stood before what looked like silent blue lightning, twisting and curling in mid-air. The man drew his sword and stepped closer.
“Look out!” Taylor warned, sure it must have been a fallen electrical wire of some sort snaking through the air.
The man turned back a moment before a similar thunder clap echoed through the empty car lot. A visible shockwave followed the sound, engulfing the stranger in the blue light and throwing Taylor back several feet.
Chapter 2: Unknown
Taylor landed on his back with a grunt. With a cough he rolled onto his side in order to push himself up, but paused when instead of asphalt… he touched grass.
The next thing to catch his attention was the point of a dagger at his throat.
Trying his best to heed the warning, Taylor’s eyes followed the length of the dagger up a white-clothed arm to the woman’s face.
She had to be one of the most beautiful women he’d ever seen in his life.
“Hey! It’s okay!”
Taylor looked to the left where he saw the stranger he’d followed making his way over. He put a hand on the woman’s shoulder.
“He’s okay. He wanted to help me.”
“Richard, why is he dressed like that?” she asked under her breath.
“Could you take the dagger away please?” Richard insisted, “he’s not going to hurt us.”
“Hurt you?” Taylor’s brow furrowed.
The woman lowered the dagger and hid it somewhere in her dress. Taylor couldn’t see where in the dark, though there was ample light from a full moon above.
Richard offered him a hand, and after an awkward moment he used it to pull himself to his feet.
“Who are you?” the woman demanded.
“Who am I?” Taylor’s eyebrows rose before he looked around, “who are you? And where am I?!”
They looked to be in a grassy clearing bordering a dense forest. The darkness was unnerving to say the least.
“I’m sorry,” Richard offered, calling his attention again, “I know this might be a bit of a shock…”
He sighed as Taylor folded his arms defensively.
“My name’s Richard Cypher, and this is Kahlan Amnell.”
“Also known as the Seeker and Mother Confessor,” Kahlan said pointedly.
“What?” Taylor’s eyes narrowed.
“What’s your name?” Richard asked gently, “let’s start there.”
“Taylor,” he relented, “my name’s Taylor.”
“As in seamstress?” Richard mused.
“Richard as in Dick?” Taylor retorted.
Richard blanched, and Taylor got the unsettling feeling that he just didn’t get the reference.
“Where am I?” he demanded.
“Just East of Tamarang, in the Midlands,” Kahlan was looking at him curiously now.
“Great,” Taylor nodded, “that tells me nothing.”
“What in blazes is going on over here?”
“Zed!” Richard turned, jogging over to an elderly man.
He was much taller than Taylor and Taylor felt himself backing away. Kahlan put a hand out to stop him.
Richard stopped to make sure the old man was okay before pulling him into a hug.
“Whatever you did – thank you!”
“It’s great to see you here my boy,” the older man beamed as he returned the embrace, “we were afraid we’d lost you. You were gone for a long time.”
“How long?” Richard pulled away, worried.
“Since the last full moon,” Kahlan answered for him, “we needed for wait for this one for the spell to work.”
“Spell?” Richard frowned, “what spell?”
“The one Darken Rahl cast to exile you from the Midlands,” the old man replied, “to where, we don’t know.”
“So how did you get me back?” Richard looked between them.
“It was a reversal spell,” the old man continued, “to undo Rahl’s work.”
“We still haven’t quite figured out the spell he originally cast,” Kahlan explained, “so it was all we could think of.”
“Well we need to find out,” Richard insisted, “because we need to get Taylor home.”
“Sounds great,” Taylor insisted, trying to ignore their babble as best he could as he began shivering from the cold.
“Taylor?” the old man frowned, as if suddenly realising he were there.
“He came back with me,” Richard quickly explained, “he’s not from here. So we need to get him home.”
Taylor eyed the old man as he came closer. He couldn’t deny that his height alone was intimidating, let alone his stance.
“Pleasure to make your acquaintance,” he dipped his head a little, “Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander, wizard of the First Order. And you are…?”
“Taylor Hanson,” he replied, suddenly wondering if he’d hit his head on the pavement harder than originally thought and for some reason helped these people escape from a hospital.
“And where are you from, Taylor Hanson?”
Taylor’s eyes darted to Richard. He wasn’t sure if this was going to help.
“Tulsa, in Oklahoma,” he answered honestly, “but I met Richard just outside Seattle, Washington.”
Zeddicus turned to look at Richard. Richard just shrugged.
“And what province are these towns a part of?” Zed tried.
“Province?” Taylor’s brow furrowed, knowing for sure now that he was on the losing end, “they’re their own cities.”
“What is that around your neck?” Kahlan suddenly asked as Zed took a step back.
“What?” Taylor asked, glad to be distracted from the feeling of dread welling in his chest, “this?”
He indicated his scarf, and Kahlan nodded. He was reluctant to take it off because of how cold he already was, but she held her hand out expectantly and he already felt as if he couldn’t refuse her.
He slid it from his neck with a disgruntled look and held it for her.
“It’s just a scarf,” he insisted, “nothing special.”
“This is made from wool?” Kahlan confirmed.
“Yeah,” Taylor looked up as Richard came to feel the scarf too.
“I’ve never seen wool this colour before,” he frowned, testing the texture between his fingers.
“What, red?” Taylor frowned.
“This is something only someone like Darken Rahl could afford to own,” Kahlan looked to Richard worriedly.
“Who’s he?” Taylor shrugged, “could he help me get home?”
“In a manner of speaking,” Zed replied gruffly, “he certainly has the power to do so.”
“Great!” Taylor insisted, “what are we waiting for?”
Chapter 3: 03
Taylor jumped as Richard grasped his shoulder and pulled him aside. The touch was another reminder that this wasn’t just a weird dream.
“Taylor…” he began carefully, “Darken Rahl is a very dangerous man.”
“But he sent you?” Taylor frowned.
“And there was a reason for that,” Richard insisted, “he wanted me so far away from the Midlands, that he sent me to Seattle. A place none of us have ever even heard of.”
“Where are we?!” Taylor was getting exasperated, “and how did that blue lightning transport us to the middle of some kind of forest?!”
Richard hesitated at his outburst before a look of realisation crossed his face.
“Are you from a world without magic?” he asked suddenly.
“Magic?” Taylor’s eyebrows rose, “you want to tell me the lightning was magic?”
There was an awkward silence between them, and Richard looked over his shoulder to their two curious spectators.
“Yes,” Richard decided to be blunt.
Taylor froze for a moment, then nodded slowly.
“Right,” he breathed, before turning away and putting his hands on his head, “I swear to God I’m losing my fucking mind. How hard did I hit my head?!”
“Uh…” Richard turned back as if to ask for help, only getting a shrug from Zed.
With a slight grimace he turned back.
“Hey,” he tried again, “it’s okay. Where I’m from there wasn’t any magic either. It took a lot of getting used to but-“
“I just need to wake up,” Taylor said decidedly, “no offence, but this is freaking me out a bit too much.”
“But you are awake,” Richard looked confused.
“What’s happened here is an unfortunate accident,” Zed finally came to Richard’s aid, “as I was unaware of the exact process Darken Rahl went through to send Richard to Seattle I was unable to create a cure, so to speak. In our rush to find a solution we simply reversed the spell, not knowing what it was. Apparently the spell was never aimed specifically at Richard…”
“Or maybe…” Kahlan suggested, “it was aimed at all three of us. If we’d been near Richard at the time we might have been transported too.”
“So because Taylor was near me when the spell was reversed…” Richard caught on.
“He returned with you,” Zed confirmed.
“Spells… teleportation…” Taylor was shaking his head as if willing himself not to digest it, “next you’ll tell me there’s monsters here.”
“There’s no monsters in your world?” Richard looked surprised.
“There’s plenty of human ones,” Taylor replied, before catching the meaning behind the question, “there’s monsters here? Did I just walk into a Lord of the Rings re-enactment? Because I swear I’m not supposed to be here!”
“Calm down,” Kahlan insisted in a gentle tone, “I’m sorry, but we don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“And I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Taylor hugged himself again, “so this is going great.”
“It’s getting late,” Zed suddenly decided, “perhaps we should get some rest and concentrate on this in the morning, when we are all more composed.”
“Sleep,” Taylor scoffed, not looking him in the eye.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Richard offered, “we can set up camp, and focus again in the morning. We’ll have calmed down by then…”
He gave Taylor a pointed look.
“…And we can decide what to do. It’s already really late and we don’t want to make any rash decisions about going after Rahl tonight. He’s too far away anyway.”
Taylor said nothing to that, realising he wasn’t going to get a choice in the matter. Maybe he’d wait until they were asleep and then try and find a road. If he walked for long enough he was bound to find civilisation eventually.
“It’s settled then,” Kahlan offered them a smile before leading the way toward the trees.
“Wait, in there?” Taylor immediately looked worried.
“Well we don’t want to sleep out in the open and be a Gar’s midnight snack now, do we?” Zed mused, following the woman in white.
“A what?” Taylor looked to Richard.
“Don’t ask,” Richard insisted, putting a hand on his shoulder and inviting him to follow.
Taylor was hesitant until he saw the warm glow of a fire suddenly appear through the trees. Opting more for the warmth than the company, he relented and made his way into the trees. He came to small clearing where Kahlan and Zeddicus had settled themselves down around the large campfire.
“I’ll take first watch,” Richard offered, leaving Taylor at the edge of the clearing before disappearing back into the shadows.
“Come on boy,” Zed indicated a spot on the ground near to him, “you’ll regret the lack of shuteye in the morning. You can’t solve your problems with a fatigued mind.”
Taylor didn’t want to say he’d been expecting at least a tent or two. These people really seemed to be living off the land out here.
He jumped at the sound of a footstep not far behind him before realising it was simply Richard moving out. With an internal groan he took up the position the old man had offered.
When he realised that he wasn’t going to lie down, he didn’t either.
“So what’s the deal with this Darken dude?” he asked, softly in case Kahlan was already trying to sleep.
“Darken Rahl?” Zed’s eyebrows rose, “Rahl, or ‘Lord Rahl’ as he is more commonly known, is the ruler of D’Hara and the Peoples’ Palace. His influence is sweeping across the Midlands as we speak, and is even moving into Westland now.”
“So they’re big places?” Taylor guessed.
“Oh yes,” Zed nodded patiently.
“Okay. So he’s like a king.”
“A king rules a kingdom,” Zed began to look amused already, “there are many kingdoms in the lands Rahl rules over.”
“Okay…” Taylor frowned, wondering vaguely how the governing system would work.
Especially if “magic” were involved. It had to be complicated.
He was really having some weird dreams lately. The thought prompted him to think that maybe if he did get some sleep, he’d wake up back on the tour bus.
“So if this… Rahl, is like the ruler of the lands here,” he had to satisfy a curiosity first, “and you’re warning me that he’s dangerous… are you guys fugitives or something?”
Zed almost smirked, but couldn’t stop the grin adorning his face.
“My boy,” he mused, “you have so very much to learn about this place.”
Chapter 4: 04
“It could be somewhere oceans away. It doesn’t do us much good to speculate.”
“But what if we can’t find the spell? We might need another way to send him back. And what if this takes too long? It could jeopardise the Seeker’s mission!”
Taylor’s eyes slid open. The voices were hushed, but clear in the still night.
“There’s also the possibility…” Zed tried to bring the tone back down, “that if Rahl were to find out that we have a special visitor, that it could peak his interest.”
“And if he really is from the future…” Kahlan caught on, “Zed…?”
“This could be a problem,” he agreed.
“So how do we keep him from Rahl, but also get the spell?” Kahlan shook her head, “how will we get the spell from Rahl in the first place?”
Zed sighed somewhat dejectedly.
“I am sure that if anyone will find a way, it will be the Seeker,” he tried to reassure.
Taylor tried not to make any obvious reaction to that. It was too soon to draw conclusions, and it still didn’t feel all that real.
He looked across to where Kahlan’s eyes were on him.
“Are you alright?” she asked.
He didn’t reply straight away, honestly unsure of how to answer her. His eyes fell to the glowing coals that had once been the campfire.
“I just want to go home,” he admitted, before rolling his eyes at himself.
They weren’t even through what could only be his first night out here and he was pining for home already. Not to mention that he hadn’t been home to begin with, he’d been on the road.
“Do you have a family?” Kahlan asked as Zed pulled himself to his feet.
Taylor leant up a little to watch him disappear into the trees. There was no sign of Richard.
“I do,” he put his head down again, the need for sleep winning out for now.
“You have children?”
“Five,” he closed his eyes again, trying not to get homesick while he was tired and emotionally vulnerable, “three boys. Two girls.”
“I bet they’re amazing,” she said softly, dropping her head a little.
“They are,” Taylor sighed, willing himself to fall asleep again before the conversation got awkward.
Before he could get far another set of footsteps made him open his eyes again. It was Richard returning.
“What are you doing awake?” he asked Kahlan, before realising Taylor was as well.
“Zed and I were talking,” she replied softly as he sat down next to her.
“Do you really think it’s…” Taylor paused, trying to get his words right, “do you really think I could have travelled back in time?”
Richard gave Kahlan a curious look.
“It’s a possibility,” Kahlan offered, “and depending how far, it would explain your confusion.”
“And mine,” Richard agreed, “I had no idea where I was. It looked almost like a black castle, but with no ceiling… and there were lamps giving off light but with no fire.”
“You guys don’t have electricity?” Taylor’s eyebrows rose.
Their confused faces gave him his answer.
“What was that place?” Richard asked after Taylor had sighed and closed his eyes again.
“It was a truck stop,” Taylor replied, knowing it wasn’t going to mean anything to him, “a place for people who travel to stop and get food and refuel their vehicles.”
“Like a tavern,” Kahlan suggested.
“Yeah,” Taylor suddenly looked up, “sort of.”
“So there are some similarities at least,” Richard mused, “we’re not completely in the dark yet, so to speak.”
“But speaking of dark,” Kahlan eyed them both, “we do all need sleep. Zed suggested we make way for the Peoples’ Palace in the morning.”
“The Peoples’ Palace?” Richard frowned, “why? You think that’s where Rahl might be?”
“If he isn’t, someone there will know where he is,” Kahlan shrugged.
“Does Zed have a plan?” Richard asked, “or are we just walking into an ambush for the sake of it?”
Taylor’s eyes followed each speaker in turn. He could tell neither of them wanted to make the journey.
“We’ll have plenty of time to come up with a plan,” Kahlan assured, “it will be a good few moons before we make it there.”
“Days?” Taylor looked up again, “how far away is it?”
“Leagues,” Kahlan shook her head, “if we had horses maybe we could get there faster but…”
“That would involve going back to Tamarang,” Richard realised.
“Unless we meet a trader on the road, you never know,” Kahlan shrugged.
“Horses,” Taylor muttered to himself, forcing himself to close his eyes again.
He was still holding out hope that he’d wake up back in the tour bus, and it would have all been a really weird – and cold – dream.
“You have horses in the future, right?” Richard thought to check.
“We do,” Taylor agreed, “but I’m not exactly… I’ve been on one, but I’m not really an expert.”
“You said the truck stop was used to fuel your vehicles,” Richard realised, “what kind of vehicles?”
Taylor’s eyes opened again, seeing that Richard’s curiosity was at a peak.
“Cars,” he relented, “trucks… which is why it’s a truck stop. Bikes. There’s lots of kinds.”
“Cars?” Kahlan looked to Richard, who shrugged.
“It’s hard to explain,” Taylor held back a tired groan, “maybe I could draw you a picture tomorrow.”
“Okay,” Richard agreed as Kahlan finally lay down again.
When silence finally overtook their small camp again, Taylor was able to close his eyes for good.
Chapter 5: 05
Somehow it was colder in the morning than it had been the night before. Once again Taylor awoke in the forest instead of the tour bus, and he instantly began pinning his hopes on the night to come instead.
They began to follow what they considered a road but Taylor barely considered a forest path, and he soon realised they didn’t have anything on them that could substitute as breakfast.
“So I know I’m a little out of my league here…” he began when his stomach had growled for the second time, “but I was thirsty when I got here and now I’m starving. What do you guys do for food?”
“You don’t hunt your own?” Richard stopped to look back at him.
“Hunt?” Taylor didn’t know why he was surprised at this point.
“Here,” Kahlan offered him a water skin from Richard’s bag, “we have a little water left but it should do for now.”
“Thanks,” Taylor took it, taking a moment to work out how to open it and drink from it.
The water tasted foul, but his mouth was so dry he wasn’t about to complain.
“I’ll try and find us something,” Richard handed the whole bag to Kahlan.
“Be careful,” Zed warned, “but make it big. I’m starving too!”
“You’re always starving,” Richard smirked before taking off at a diagonal from where they were.
“He’s not worried about getting lost out here?” Taylor’s eyebrows rose as he handed the water skin back.
“Richard’s a good woodsman,” Kahlan assured, “it shouldn’t take him long to find something and find his way back to us.”
Taylor looked in the direction he’d disappeared – there was already no sign that he’d been there as far as he could see.
“If we find a trader and manage to get us some horses,” Zed began as they continued moving down the path, “we should find Taylor some suitable clothes. We wouldn’t want the D’Harans to catch a glimpse of his strange attire.”
Taylor frowned at that, not at all looking forward to the idea.
“It would be safer,” Kahlan insisted when she saw the look.
“What’s so bad about the D’Harans?” Taylor asked, “I mean it’s not like I’m someone important here, and I’m certainly not… ‘magical’ or anything.”
Zed glanced over his shoulder at that.
“So why would they be interested?” he shrugged.
“Wouldn’t you be, if someone from your future suddenly turned up?” Kahlan mused, “wouldn’t you want to ask them everything?”
“I don’t know,” Taylor admitted, “I don’t know what I would ask them, if they were this different.”
“As for what’s so bad about the D’Harans,” Zed went on, “the D’Haran army is led by Darken Rahl and his close circle of commanders. Most of them are under a magical influence that ensures their allegiance. They have no qualms about killing the innocent people of the Midlands in order to take anything they want – including utter control.”
“So this Rahl guy is just all about control?” Taylor guessed, “like, the power of ruling D’Hara has gone to his head?”
“That and much more,” Kahlan agreed, “some people were just born evil.”
“Evil?” Taylor once again had to remind himself that he was in a place that resembled Lord of the Rings, where monsters supposedly existed.
Kahlan just nodded at his query.
“And who knows what he might do if he had access to knowledge of the future in his grasp,” Zed shook his head, “I hate to think what he and his counterparts might conjure up.”
“So… what ‘year’ is this anyway?” Taylor asked, immediately getting a curious look from Kahlan, “I mean I came from the year 2014. Does this year have a number?”
“2014,” Zed’s eyebrows rose, “two-thousand and fourteen years after they start counting the years.”
“Why would they count the years?” Kahlan was confused.
“To make it easier to keep track of things? I don’t’ know,” Taylor shrugged, “I was only born in 1983.”
“So you have a system that counts the sun and moon,” Zed mused, “and how does that help you with-“
“Hey!” the three looked up to see Richard ahead of them on the track.
Taylor looked behind him. They’d come quite a way already and he hadn’t heard anything. He wasn’t sure how Richard had ended up so far ahead of them.
“Breakfast anyone?” Richard grinned, holding up two dead rabbits.
“Finally!” Zed announced, already making his way toward him, “something to fill my aching belly with! Let’s find somewhere to start a roast!”
Taylor tried to keep the grimace from his face, but he had a feeling Kahlan knew what he was thinking.
“Come on,” she smiled, putting a hand on his shoulder, “Zed isn’t a bad cook, especially when he’s hungry. Which is most of the time.”
“I’m starting to understand why,” Taylor couldn’t help himself as he let her lead him forward.
“You haven’t eaten rabbit before?” Kahlan asked curiously.
“I’m not sure,” Taylor admitted, “I’ve tried a lot of things over the years. I travel a lot, so…”
“You travel?” Kahlan paused.
“Yeah,” Taylor dug his hands in his pockets somewhat awkwardly, “my brothers and I travel the world, for work.”
“But you don’t recognise this place?”
Taylor paused, already able to smell roasting rabbit on the breeze heading their way. Richard and Zed worked fast.
“My world – or the future, if that’s what it is – is a very different place,” he shook his head, “there’s not a lot of natural forest and grassy hills left.”
The realisation saddened him a little. For how much he didn’t want to be here, the scenery was rather beautiful.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Kahlan gave his shoulder a rub, “it sounds a lot like D’Hara.”
Taylor sighed again as she made her way toward where her friends had set up their small fire off to the side of the trail.
“I doubt it,” he muttered to himself before following.
Chapter 6: 06
Lunch was leftover rabbit along with some berries found along the trail. They were something Taylor finally took a shine to, and he managed to raid a good portion of the tree before they moved on. They seemed to do nothing but walk all day long, though the problems they had in what should have been simple conversations managed to keep them entertained.
The sun was close to setting when they did come across a trader who happened to have horses, but no spare clothes. Taylor was silently grateful when he heard, Kahlan having kept him hidden in the trees while Richard and Zed bartered. It didn’t take them long and they soon returned with two chocolate thoroughbreds.
“We should be setting up camp soon,” Zed suggested, “if we get enough sleep we can set off again at first light.”
“Sounds good to me,” Richard shrugged as he patted his horse down.
“We should make it to the Kern River tomorrow,” Kahlan took the second horse by the reins to introduce herself to it before fitting her bag to the saddle.
“Then we’ll need to cross the mountains into the Azrith Plains,” Zed added.
Taylor realised they were as much telling Richard where they were going as they were him.
“And then?” Richard asked, as if on cue.
“The Peoples’ Palace is just the other side of the Plains,” Kahlan explained.
“There is a garrison setup a way down from where we plan to cross the river,” Zed had warning in his voice, “so we may need to keep an ear out for quads. But we should be far enough away to not have a problem.”
“Garrison?” Taylor finally gave in, “quads?”
“Rahl’s army,” Kahlan offered, “the quads are groups of four of Rahl’s best fighters usually sent out on missions.”
“For example, to hunt down the Seeker and Mother Confessor,” Zed said pointedly, “if they find out we’re in the area you can be sure they’ll be out looking for us.”
“Why does Rahl want you guys?” Taylor looked between them, confused, “aside from being evil or whatever, why you in particular? Did you do something to piss him off?”
The three took a moment to give each other troubled glances.
“I mean if it’s none of my business just tell me to back off,” Taylor raised his hands in surrender, “but you’re not really helping me decide I’m with the side of right here…”
“We haven’t hurt you, have we?” Kahlan’s brows rose.
“No,” Taylor looked confused, “but you’re trying to convince me that Rahl hurts people for the sake of it?”
He was about to say that life in 2014 wasn’t like that, but paused when he realised it would be a lie. Earth certainly had its criminal element just as rampant – if not more so – in the twenty first century.
The next time he looked up he saw Kahlan just smiling at him.
“There are tales to be told around tonight’s campfire,” Zed mused, mostly to himself, “I’m sure Richard wouldn’t mind telling some of it himself.”
“Like I haven’t been graded on it enough?” Richard smirked, keeping an eye out for a suitable place to stop as he walked the horse.
“How come you don’t know where we’re going?” Taylor asked him.
“Like I said,” he shrugged, “where I came from there wasn’t any magic either. I’m still a little new to this stuff.”
“And yet you’re a ‘Seeker’,” Taylor still didn’t know what that meant.
“This will do,” Zed announced, pulling off the trail to the left and ending the conversation.
When Taylor followed he saw he’d found a fallen tree, half its branches hanging down as they slowly wilted and creating a nice little shelter. Kahlan and Richard led the horses off to the side to find them a place where they couldn’t be seen from the road.
Both Kahlan and Richard soon hunted down some dinner for them, and by the time the sun set they had three rabbits and a pheasant on the fire.
“So what’s a Seeker?” Taylor asked, hugging his knees as he waited for the food.
“A Seeker…” Richard began as he settled down, knowing Zed was going to make him take the reins on this one, “is someone tasked with seeking justice for mankind.”
“Okay…” Taylor’s eyes narrowed.
“Long ago, Richard’s birth was prophesised,” Kahlan stepped in, “it was foretold that Darken Rahl would become the evil tyrant that he is, but it was also said that the first true Seeker in a thousand years would be born – and would rise up to defeat Rahl and free the people from his reign.”
“But no pressure,” Taylor gave Richard a glance, making him smirk.
“When he was born, Rahl sent his best soldiers to Richard’s hometown of Brennidon,” Kahlan went on, “and had them kill every first born son in order to avert the prophecy.”
Taylor stared at her for a moment, unsure whether to believe her or not.
“Thankfully we heard word of the soldiers’ orders, and I was able to whisk Richard away to Westland in time to save his life,” Zed explained, “where he was able to grow into the man he is today.”
“Yeah without telling me, might I add,” Richard gave the old man a scornful look.
Zed just shrugged and returned his attention to the fire.
“So this Westland,” Taylor tried to ignore the whole prophecy angle and focus on the reality of the situation, “there’s no magic there?”
“The boundary was created to keep magic out,” Richard agreed, “or… in, I guess. It’s stood as long as anyone can remember.”
Taylor noticed Zed giving Richard an awkward glance at that, but tried to pay it no mind.
“What kind of magic are we talking?” Taylor had to ask, “like… what’s so magical about being the Seeker?”
“Most of the Seeker’s power comes from his mind,” Kahlan assured, “but a great deal of it also comes from the Sword of Truth.”
Taylor cast his eyes to the sword sitting on the ground beside Richard. Richard noticed and reached for it, taking hold of the hilt.
As he unsheathed it, Taylor’s eyes widened. An orange glow seemed to emanate from the centre of the steel, almost as if the steel surrounded LED globes in an ancient yet somehow architecturally precise design. When Richard tilted the steel he could see the metal was so thin that the premise would be impossible.
“How did it do that?” was all he could get out, not realising how wide his eyes had gone and stayed.
“Magic,” Kahlan was grinning now.
Chapter 7: 07
The following day was much of the same, and if it weren’t for the scenery or the intriguing company Taylor knew he’d be going stir crazy. A few times when he was sure the others weren’t watching he’d pause to take in a scene, sometimes using his cell phone to take a quick photo. He was somewhat surprised that it was still working (though the battery was already low) and was already wondering how he’d explain such pictures to the people back home.
Whenever he finally made it home.
After the four of them had walked off breakfast, they finally mounted the horses. Richard and Kahlan rode together while Zed offered Taylor the back of his saddle. Feeling somewhat safer with the more experienced rider he obliged.
With the added speed of the horses they reached the river by mid-afternoon. Taylor was rendered speechless by the mirror image of the landscape the water provided, and held himself back from using his phone again. Mainly to keep hold of the horse.
“Is it deep?” Richard asked worriedly.
“There are certain places that are easy enough to cross,” Zed assured, “this isn’t one of them, but we’re close.”
“Richard,” Kahlan caught his attention before pointing down to the riverbank.
Richard frowned before dismounting the horse and taking a closer look at what she’d pointed out. Zed waited patiently as he stepped into the shallows before turning back with a grim expression.
“D’Harans have been here,” he announced, looking to the North in case they were following the water line.
“We knew they were nearby,” Zed reminded them, “better to get to the crossing as soon as we can and make way into the mountains.”
“I should follow them,” Richard insisted, “see where they’re headed. Make sure we’re not going to cross paths.”
“That’s not a good idea,” Kahlan insisted, “we need to cross and keep moving.”
“Which way are they headed?” Zed asked.
“North,” Richard replied, looking back.
“Great. We’re headed South. Let’s keep moving.”
Richard gave him a disgruntled look, but went back to his horse nonetheless.
Before he could even take hold of the saddle to mount, an arrow whizzed past his head.
“Richard!” Kahlan took hold of his shoulder and used it to dismount.
Before Taylor even realised what was happening, Kahlan had pulled her dagger and Richard had unsheathed the sword. As the clattering of chainmail came from behind them Zed spun his horse, his right hand going back to hold Taylor on as the horse jolted.
“It’s the Seeker!” one of the soldiers cried, a second aiming his crossbow again.
“Holy crap,” Taylor couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
There were more than four of them. As Taylor struggled to hold on to the back of the saddle, Zed spun the horse and threw his right arm out. Taylor didn’t see what happened but he heard some of the soldiers yelling as a horrible stench erupted.
“Get him out of here!” Richard yelled to Zed as he began a sword fight with one of the soldiers.
“Go back to the garrison,” their leader was heard commanding, “tell them to send word to Rahl that the Seeker is here. With company.”
“We need one of them!” Zed announced, “we need to find out Rahl’s plan! Kahlan?!”
Zed turned the horse into the water in time for Taylor to see Kahlan go for one of the soldiers. The man’s sword came down barely missing her shoulder, before she took hold of his arm with her left hand – dropped her dagger – then grasped him around the throat with her right.
As Zed pulled the horse out of the water on the other side of the small battle, a shockwave like thunder without sound pulsed through the air. The shock of the vibration caused Taylor to lose grip on the saddle and finally fall from the horse onto his back.
When he recovered from the fall he looked up in time to see Kahlan collapse through the horse’s legs. Richard didn’t seem too worried, and what happened next was probably the strangest thing Taylor had seen on this adventure so far.
The soldier Kahlan had grabbed began to fight his own men.
“What the Hell?” Taylor was so distracted he was almost trampled by Zed’s horse and didn’t even notice.
The remaining soldier and their captain were taken down by Richard and the turned soldier, and Richard soon took off into the trees to scout for any runners. Zed dismounted the horse and went to help Taylor up.
“Are you alright?” he asked as he did.
Once Taylor was standing his eyes flew back to Kahlan. She had recovered from whatever she’d done, and was now talking to the soldier.
“What do you know about the spell Darken Rahl cast on Richard at the last full moon?” she demanded.
“The spell? Nothing my lady,” the soldier assured, “the garrison heard word that the Seeker had been defeated about that time but we didn’t hear how.”
Kahlan looked across at Zed who was watching apprehensively.
“How did you hear about the Seeker?” she asked as Richard returned – sheathing his sword.
“By the journey book,” the soldier looked surprised that she’d ask.
“Of course they’d have a journey book at the garrison,” Zed realised.
“A what?” Taylor finally found his voice.
“And we lost one of them,” Richard sighed, “he’s probably headed back there right now to send word to Rahl.”
“Lord Rahl. Word in the journey book from the garrison at Kern River south,” his faithful commander announced.
Darken Rahl turned from where he’d been looking out the window, a foreboding look on his face.
“They have met with the Seeker trying to cross the river. It appears your prediction two moons ago was correct… the Seeker is back.”
“Of course he is,” Rahl didn’t sound at all surprised.
“And it appears he is not alone.”
“I don’t doubt that it took long at all for him to return to his wizard and to his confessor.”
“That’s not quite what the message says,” the commander raised a brow, garnering Rahl’s attention.
There was a pause as he read it over again to make sure.
“He has the company of three,” he revealed, “one of which is wearing very strange clothing.”
Rahl paused to consider the words, before running his fingers down his robe thoughtfully.
“Reply to the garrison. Have them send their best quad,” he ordered, “and in case they fail, inform them I will send the nearest Mord-Sith to assist. Have them detain the Seeker and his new friend. Make sure they know I want them both alive.”
Chapter 8: 08
“What did she do?” Taylor asked, hoping the noise the horses made walking through the water would stop the other riders from overhearing.
The soldier Kahlan had interrogated walked by her horse’s side.
“She confessed him,” Zed caught his meaning right away, “it’s what confessors do.”
“But what does that mean?” Taylor frowned, “is it supposed to be some kind of magic? I’ve never even heard of a confessor before.”
“What that means my boy, is that sadly they’ve died out before your time,” Zed said somewhat sullenly, “though there aren’t many left now. And if Darken Rahl has his way…”
He didn’t continue, as if the thought was too hard to fathom.
“That doesn’t answer what she did,” Taylor pointed out.
“When a confessor uses her power…” Taylor noticed Zed slow the horse down a little to grow the distance between them, “the afflicted lose their free will.”
“Their free will?” Taylor was confused, “how?”
“By becoming enslaved to hers,” Zed explained, “they want nothing more than to please her, even if it means their untimely deaths.”
“That doesn’t even…” Taylor cut himself off as he tried to process it.
“It doesn’t have to make sense,” Zed mused, “like I said, you have a lot to learn about this place.”
Taylor kept his eye on the soldier as the horses began climbing the second bank. Without stopping they continued up a nearby path headed through the trees and aiming for the nearby mountains.
They were near the start of a mountain trail when the sun began to disappear behind them.
“Go find us something to eat,” Kahlan said to the soldier, “we’ll set up camp nearby.”
“Yes Mistress,” the soldier bowed his head before disappearing into the trees.
“How long are we keeping him around?” Richard asked as he dismounted.
“Until we find something better for him to do,” Kahlan replied, “there’s nothing but the garrison within a league of here, and sending him back there would be to his death.”
“You didn’t seem to have a problem taking out the others.”
Richard and Kahlan turned to where Taylor had dismounted and started stretching his back.
“This is different,” Kahlan insisted, “he’s been confessed.”
“Whatever you say,” Taylor shrugged, trying not to let on that seeing people killed in a sword fight was what had been affecting him the most.
Kahlan gave Zed a look that he could tell meant she’d heard every word earlier and that he hadn’t said enough. Zed shrugged as he led the horse off the road.
They found another small clearing – this one much smaller and confining than the last two – and tied the horses to nearby trees as Richard set up the campfire. When he looked up at Zed expectantly, Zed cast his eyes to Taylor.
“Taylor?” he got his attention, “I’d like you to see something I’m about to do.”
Taylor looked between the three, sure he’d seen just about all he could handle for the day already.
“Zed…” Kahlan wasn’t sure.
“Watch,” Zed stood aside as Taylor awkwardly hugged himself.
He lifted his right hand as if to hold something, before closing his eyes for a moment to concentrate. When he opened them again he threw his hand toward the wood pile, and golden flames flew through the air as if he held a flamethrower.
Taylor jumped backward, hitting a tree in his rush. The flames settled into the campfire as quickly as they’d appeared, but there was no mistaking where they’d come from.
When Taylor pulled himself together enough to pull his eyes away, he saw both Richard and Kahlan staring at him expectantly.
“That-“ he cut off when he heard the footsteps of the soldier returning.
He waited until he was in the firelight to continue.
“-was real,” he realised.
“I did introduce myself as a wizard, did I not?” Zed mused.
“Zed,” Richard rolled his eyes, “I think Taylor’s had enough excitement for one day.”
“Yeah, yeah I have,” Taylor jumped on right away.
“What do you have?” Kahlan focused on the soldier, “is it enough for all of us?”
“I’m sorry my lady,” the soldier looked worried that he may have upset her, “I only have a fox and two rabbits.”
“That’s plenty, thank you,” she reassured him.
Taylor grimaced a little, feeling like he could eat the entire fox himself. He turned away as the soldier began to skin it.
“I know this is a lot to take in,” Richard’s voice came from over his shoulder as he came to stand with him, “believe me. I only found out about magic when some weird venomous vine bit me and Zed had to heal me.”
“Venomous vine?” Taylor’s eyebrows rose, “and he can heal?”
Richard put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed.
“Yes. And... sorry. I’m trying to help and only making it worse.”
Taylor gave him a disgruntled look.
“I think I need to stretch my legs,” he sighed as his stomach growled.
“That’s a very bad idea,” Richard insisted, “at least one of us should go with you.”
Taylor looked back to the campfire, thankfully seeing the meat already on the spit.
“Maybe later,” his eyes fell.
“Then I’ll come with,” Richard assured, “we can talk about whatever you want to talk about. And maybe you can tell me more about that truck stop.”
Taylor smirked, and Richard smiled when he realised it had worked.
“Come on,” he pulled him back to the camp.
Taylor made sure to sit opposite Kahlan, not entirely comfortable being close to her now that he knew what she could do with her hands. He wasn’t all that comfortable sitting so close to Zed either, but preferred him to the soldier.
About the only person he did feel he could fully trust at this point was the hunter with the magical glowing sword.
He shook his head to himself as he silently waited for their dinner to cook, barely listening to the surrounding conversation. He’d certainly been in strange situations in his life, but nothing even came close to where he was now.
Chapter 9: 09
It was Richard’s watch when Taylor rolled onto a sharp stick and woke himself up. Seeing by the coals that the soldier, Kahlan and Zed were all well and truly asleep, he pulled himself up into a sit and retrieved his cell phone from his pocket before turning it on.
When his home screen came on with a photo of he and his wife he smiled sullenly. He realised it wasn’t the passing time that made him miss her so much, it was the distance. Not to mention the inability to even call and hear her voice.
Yes, he was definitely homesick by now. In his opinion the sooner they could get to D’Hara the better.
With a sigh he pulled himself to his feet, and using the phone as his light he tried to quietly make his way out of the camp. He had no idea what direction Richard might have been in, but if he was scoping out the area it shouldn’t have taken long for the two to meet up.
He found the original path they’d been on before Richard could find him. Figuring Richard would eventually make it there on his rounds, he stood back against a tree to wait. To pass the time he started going through the photos on his phone from the day before, knowing he’d hear Richard’s footsteps in time to turn it off.
According to the clock on the phone it was 3:15am when he did hear footsteps coming up the path. He quickly turned it off – simply not wanting to have to explain something so complex – and opted to wait until they got closer.
“Richard?” he called in a hushed tone when they got closer.
When there was no reply, he frowned. He was almost tempted to use the light on his phone to make sure that it was really Richard coming toward him, but by the time he’d reached for it the moonlight had already hit the person’s face.
It definitely wasn’t Richard.
“Hello there,” the woman drawled in a playful tone as she drew closer, “you must be Richard’s new friend.”
Taylor frowned as he realised she wasn’t alone. A man stood off to her right shoulder wearing similar red and black robes to the soldier Kahlan had apprehended.
“It’s impolite to not answer a woman,” she came to rest in front of him, “I’m sure even in your era that’s inexcusable.”
“Sorry,” Taylor frowned, completely caught off guard, “but how do you know who I am? Do you know Richard?”
“I do know Richard, very well in fact,” the woman mused as Taylor’s eyes went to the soldier with her, “I expect that he’s somewhere nearby. It would be very foolish of him to let you get yourself lost out here. Especially in the dark.”
“He is,” Taylor confirmed, “but… who are you?”
“My name is Triana,” she introduced, “and your name?”
“Taylor,” he was looking at the soldier again, not sure if he should be wary or not.
The fact he was keeping company with a woman kept his radar down, but he had to keep reminding himself that things were different here. Kahlan was certainly not a woman to mess with, and Triana came across as possibly even more powerful.
“Well, Taylor,” she stepped back a little, “I’m sure you’ll want to get home as soon as possible, is that so?”
“Yes, yes it is,” his eyes widened slightly, “but I need to get to a guy named Rahl.”
“A guy named Rahl…” Triana mused, casting the soldier a glance, “well if we leave right away we can certainly get you to him by sundown tomorrow.”
“Really?” Taylor could hardly believe his ears, “it sounded like it was going to take longer…”
“That is if we don’t stop, which we shouldn’t need to,” Triana added, “shall we go?”
Taylor looked back over his shoulder. He was surprised Richard hadn’t shown yet, and he wasn’t all that certain he could find his way back to the camp without him. Maybe if he yelled out he could wake the others up, but it might also alert some dangerous people Richard and Zed had insisted were in the area.
“Is something wrong?” Triana asked when he didn’t speak for a time.
“I’m not sure where our camp is,” Taylor admitted, feeling a little silly for not having left himself some sort of marker, “we need to tell Richard and Kahlan-“
“Don’t you worry about them,” Triana insisted, “I have friends of my own who will let them know we’ve gotten a head start. Now if you’ll be so kind as to follow me… we have a carriage where you can sleep while we keep travelling.”
“Really?” Taylor’s eyebrows rose, the prospect of not being on a horse all day unbelievably inviting.
“Really,” Triana smiled, “come, Taylor.”
Taylor took another glance back – the line of the trees barely discernible in the dark – before starting to follow her away.
“Are you sure they’ll be okay with us getting a head start?” he thought to check.
“The idea is to get you to Rahl as soon as possible, isn’t it?” Triana pointed out.
“Well yeah, but…”
“Then let’s do that,” she shot him a smile over her shoulder, “our carriage isn’t far away.”
Getting the feeling that he should be silent, Taylor grudgingly followed.
It wasn’t far down the track when they came to the carriage. Torches lit either side of it both making it easy to see and to light the surrounding trees in order for the horses to see where they were going.
“I’m sure you’ll be more comfortable in here for the night,” Triana led Taylor to the back where the small wooden door sat open.
Taylor stopped at the back as he looked into the dark space. It was certainly small, and he was suddenly having second thoughts.
“Would you like some company?” Triana offered, tilting her head at his pause, “it should be warm enough inside and out of the cold, but if you’d like I could-“
“No, that’s fine,” Taylor insisted, mainly just pulling himself together to step in, “but… thanks for the offer.”
She nodded and extended her hand, signalling for him to enter. He looked to the soldier – who offered him a nod – before stepping up onto the back platform and crawling in through the door.
When he was inside he heard the soldier instructing the driver to get going, before Triana’s face appeared again at the door.
“I’ll need to latch this so you don’t fall out, as small chance as that may be,” she smiled as she spoke, “goodnight… Taylor.”
“Goodnight,” he returned before she closed the door.
He heard the latch go on and Triana climb up onto the back. The moment she was on the horses began to make way.
Taylor waited until they’d hit a steady rhythm before he lay down on the hay. It wasn’t long before the rocking carriage had sent him back to sleep.
Chapter 10: 10
Zed and Kahlan both jolted awake, Kahlan immediately going for her dagger as Zed struggled to open his eyes. The soldier was on his feet in a second.
“What is it boy?!” Zed exclaimed, seeing the moon still high in the sky.
“Taylor’s gone,” Richard informed them.
“Gone?” Kahlan frowned, pulling herself to her feet.
“Gone where?” Zed demanded, still on the ground, “weren’t you on watch?”
“I was, but I was up at the peak thinking I’d get a good view of anyone coming in. I could see the garrison from up there with their torches,” Richard insisted.
“But you didn’t see him leave?” Kahlan frowned, “why would he go? He doesn’t know this place.”
“Here’s the fun part,” Richard pointed, “when I did realise he was gone I tracked him. He was taken to a carriage headed for the mountain pass.”
“A carriage?” Zed finally pulled himself to his feet, “then he wasn’t alone.”
“You didn’t go after him?” Kahlan was confused.
“I tried,” Richard was already looking sheepish, “but when I got there, there were two guards and a Mord-Sith.”
“A Mord-Sith?” Zed gasped, “a Mord-Sith has Taylor?”
“Yes,” Richard nodded, “and it was too far up the track, and I thought by the time I got back to you I would have figured out a way to go after them successfully but I’m still drawing a blank.”
“We need to get moving,” Kahlan sheathed her dagger again, “we need to follow them. Keep them in sight.”
“Well we already know where they’re going,” Zed pointed out, “they’ll be taking him to Rahl. Obviously the garrison’s message got through to him. He knows that Taylor exists, and he will stop at nothing to get his hands on him.”
“He’ll also stop at nothing to get his hands on me,” Richard pointed out, “they knew we were with him. If they had a Mord-Sith with them, why didn’t they come after me?”
“He must have a plan,” Kahlan’s eyes darted as she thought, “maybe he wants to draw you out. He could be praying on your inability to let an innocent person-“
“What, be tortured by the Mord-Sith?” Richard scorned, “would you really wish that fate on anyone?”
“Rahl maybe,” Zed shrugged.
“We can’t let them get to the Peoples’ Palace,” Richard made for where the horses were tied, “we need to ambush them on the road.”
“How?” Kahlan frowned, “you can’t use the sword against them, Zed can’t use his magic-“
“We’ll figure something out!” Richard scorned, pulling the reins of his horse and leading it through the thrush, “besides, I could use the sword against Denna. If I can defeat her I can defeat any Mord-Sith.”
“Even when she has her soldiers distract you?” Kahlan was getting annoyed.
Richard pulled to a halt as Zed stepped into his path. He held back a groan as he looked up at the old man.
“We need to slow down,” he insisted.
“Taylor is my responsibility,” Richard countered, “I brought him into this world, it’s only right that I help him get back home.”
“And we agree with you,” Zed insisted, “but running after a Mord-Sith and who knows how many soldiers is not necessarily the best plan of attack.”
“Two,” Richard’s eyes narrowed, “she had two with her. The commander and the driver.”
“A Mord-Sith, if I may…” the soldier suddenly interjected, “would not travel with only two. Perhaps because she thinks she has her prize she is escorting him back to Darken Rahl herself, but she would have been sent with a quad for the retrieval.”
“Which means there’s a quad nearby,” Kahlan realised.
“Who might possibly know exactly where we are,” Zed added.
“Now you think moving might be a good idea?” Richard scorned.
“Don’t you speak to me with that tone, boy,” Zed warned, “I’m still your grandfather.”
Richard sighed, finally realising what he’d been doing.
“I’m sorry Zed,” he apologised, “I’m just worried, and if we do decide to ambush them we need to try and get a head start.”
“I agree,” Kahlan nodded, “but the safest thing for now would be to get out of these woods.”
Richard continued leading the horse out as the soldier went for the other one.
“Will you trail behind us?” Kahlan asked him, “and watch our backs?”
“I’d be honoured,” the soldier assured, “I will make warning if the quad shows.”
“Thank you,” she smiled, taking the horse from him and following Richard.
“Lord Rahl,” the commander announced, “word from Triana. She has the Seeker’s ‘new friend’ and will reach the Peoples’ Palace by sundown tomorrow.”
“Brilliant,” Rahl cracked a small smile, “I look forward to meeting this… friend. Send word to Triana that we anticipate her arrival, and everything will be ready for a fitting welcome.”
“Of course, Lord Rahl.”
“And make sure everything is,” Rahl ordered as he turned to look down on the darkened land again.
“Of course, Lord Rahl.”
Chapter 11: 11
When Taylor woke up the carriage was still rolling. The sun was coming in through a side window, and he could hear the steady sound of the horses’ hooves over small mountain rocks.
Digging his cell phone out of his pocket he turned it on to check the time. The battery was sitting at around 20% so he knew he’d have to be more careful with it.
The time was 10:24am.
Grudgingly he turned it off and closed his eyes again. For the lack of stimulation this world provided, it certainly was tiring.
An hour or so later it was just as his stomach began to growl that Triana made an appearance at one of the windows.
“Good morning Taylor,” she greeted with a smile.
“Morning,” he looked across before doing a double take.
She was upside down, presumably leaning over from the top of the carriage.
“I saved you some pheasant from breakfast,” she mused, “would you like some?”
She reached a hand in through the open hole. Taylor could already smell that the bird was still warm. He took it gratefully, only wishing that there was more.
“Thank you,” he nodded as he collected it before digging in.
“We’ll be stopping shortly to get more,” Triana informed him, “I expect we’ll be sharing our evening meal with Rahl himself.”
“Great, thanks,” Taylor brightened at the idea before she disappeared again.
True to her word, they stopped to go hunting again soon after. Taylor got out to stretch his legs while waiting for the birds to cook, and once they were ready they hit the road again almost straight away.
According to Taylor’s phone (down to 13% by now) it was after 6pm when they arrived at the palace. Hopefully by the same time the following day he’d be recharging it in the tour bus, so he wasn’t too worried anymore. The carriage came to a halt at the bottom of an elaborate stairwell and Triana opened the door for him.
“Come,” she invited, “Lord Rahl is just dying to meet you.”
Taylor blanched a little at the ‘Lord’ added to ‘Rahl’, before remembering these people were probably some of his most loyal followers. The end result was going to be the same – Richard and his tribe had been planning to bring him to Rahl anyway – so he hadn’t seen the problem. Triana’s way had definitely been faster.
He stepped out of the carriage into what looked like a bustling street. Market stalls lined the area and people in mostly hessian clothing sold a variety of wares including trinkets, more clothing, and foods. It reminded him a little of some smaller countries he and his brothers had toured to.
Yet he still began to feel a bit odd at meeting such a powerful man in really dirty clothes.
Triana began to lead the way up the steps, her partner following Taylor closely. He was getting some very odd stares from people who passed by, which was entirely understandable. These people – aside from Triana – were still using rope as belts and bags for shoes. His denim jeans and leather boots looked more than just out of place. They must have seemed completely alien.
At the top of the stairs he was led through a large lobby area and taken higher in the palace. From the outside it had looked like a small city on its own, but on the inside it somehow seemed… bigger.
It must have taken a further half hour to reach Rahl’s quarters, and Taylor’s legs were practically on fire from walking so far again after being cooped up in the carriage all day. The guards at the main doors stood aside for Triana without word, and she opened the doors to lead them inside.
“Lord Rahl!” she announced her presence, “I have someone that would like to meet you!”
As Taylor followed her into the room his eyes first fell on the water feature in the centre. Everything was made of stone just like the old style castles of Europe.
To their right was a large table with an array of different foods, including meats, vegetables and even fruits. Most of which Taylor recognised. He had to forcibly stop himself drooling at the sight.
“Taylor, I presume?”
Taylor looked up to see a man only slightly shorter than him slowly making his way closer. He had long, dark hair and wore strikingly red velvet robes adorned with gold stitching.
There was no mistaking this was the guy in charge.
“Yes,” he replied when he remembered to talk.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Rahl spoke with determination, “I admit I was intrigued to do so.”
“Likewise,” Taylor folded his arms defensively, shooting Triana a glance.
She stood to the side with a smile on her face.
“You and I have much to talk about,” Rahl assured, taking his attention again, “I’m sure you’ve worked out by now that I am the one responsible for your being here.”
“I have,” Taylor agreed, “and I’m told you’re the one who can send me home.”
“Indeed I am,” Rahl smiled a little, “and I will gladly do so if that is what you want.”
“Of course,” Taylor shrugged, “I don’t think I’m supposed to be here at all.”
“And yet you are,” Rahl stepped closer, putting Taylor on guard a little.
He was very aware that all eyes in the room were on them.
“I wonder…” Rahl mused, “if I were to send you back tomorrow night, would you do me a small favour before then in return?”
“Of course,” Taylor shrugged, “but what could I do for you?”
“Nothing too strenuous,” Rahl assured, “I’d just like to know about your time. Call it a personal curiosity.”
Taylor looked across to the food again, really just not wanting to look him in the eye.
“Sounds fair,” he reasoned.
“Good,” Rahl smiled again, “and of course, feel free to help yourself to anything we can offer you in the meantime…”
Realising he was indicating the table, Taylor thought he’d double check.
“Seriously?” his eyebrows rose.
At Rahl’s nod, Taylor had trouble walking slowly to the table. Seeing there were no plates or cutlery around, he immediately dug in with his hands.
It tasted better than anything he’d had in weeks. Including on the tour.
With an appreciative groan, he completely forgot where he was.
“Prepare some sleeping quarters for our guest,” Rahl ordered one of his soldiers, “and Triana…”
She stepped forward with a knowing smile, and he took her hand to kiss.
“I thank you for your service,” he gave her a nod.
“Will there be anything else, Lord Rahl?” she asked.
“Yes,” he gave Taylor a glance as he tore into part of a roasted chicken, “please, stay for a few days. I may have need of your services further.”
“Of course,” Triana agreed, “I will return when I’ve informed the sisters of my presence in D’Hara.”
Rahl gave her another nod before she left the room, the soldiers once again standing aside for her. When she was gone he turned to watch Taylor curiously.
Chapter 12: 12
Once Taylor had had his fill, he was escorted not far down the hall. The room he was led into was large and held a four post bed larger than the one he had at home. The windows like the rest of the palace held no glass and a cool breeze filtered through them unimpeded.
“I trust it is to your liking?” one of the soldiers asked him from the door.
“Yeah,” Taylor offered him a small smile, “much better than the carriage that’s for sure.”
The soldier smirked as Taylor took a seat on the bed. There were lanterns on the inside wall to provide light though the windows were certainly large enough to let in plenty of moonlight.
“If there is anything you further need, there will be a guard stationed at your door,” the soldier gave him a parting nod.
“Thanks,” Taylor’s eyes lowered as the trio left, closing the door behind them.
He waited as he heard their footsteps making their way down the hall before pulling himself to his feet again and walking over to the window.
His view took in a great deal of D’Hara, and reminded him somewhat of a skyscraper. The scattering of torches below told him the marketplace had closed, and there weren’t many people out after dark. He couldn’t see far enough to the left to take in the mountains he’d come by, but the view he did have showed the city bordered what looked to be a desert but was actually the work of construction.
“So this is the start of progress,” his eyebrows rose as he spoke to himself.
After stopping to take it in for a while longer, he pulled out his cell phone again and aimed the camera at the view. It could barely pick up the torches, and before it could tell him the battery was running low he turned it off again. He’d get a better photo in the morning.
He’d already wished multiple times that he hadn’t left his cameras on the bus.
With a sigh he went back over to the bed and started taking off his boots. He really needed a shower, or whatever equivalent they had in this place. His best guess was probably a bath.
He left his wallet and phone on the bedside table – which looked to be hand carved, of course – and set aside the covers to get himself comfortable. It was definitely the most comfortable he’d been since he got here, and with the promise of getting home within a day’s time he was very quickly off to a peaceful sleep.
“Where are they?!” Richard demanded, a sword to the soldier’s throat.
“I’m not telling you anything,” he sneered back.
Richard growled through his teeth as he stood back, keeping the soldier backed against the tree with the threat of his blade. In seconds Kahlan was by his side and had grasped the man by the throat.
Richard waited patiently as the man’s eyes reverted from black back to normal, before swapping hands with the sword and catching Kahlan before she could fall.
“My Mistress,” the soldier fell to a knee, “command me, please!”
Kahlan took a further moment to recover before she could focus on him again.
“Tell us where the Mord-Sith was headed,” she demanded.
“Of course,” he complied, “she and Riggs were taking the prisoner to the Peoples’ Palace per Lord Rahl’s request.”
Kahlan and Richard shared a knowing glance.
“What are Rahl’s plans for him?” Richard demanded.
“I wish I knew,” the soldier shook his head, “Mistress, does it upset you that I do not know?”
“Rahl would want to keep his intentions quiet,” Kahlan said to Richard, “perhaps only trusting his most faithful guards with the knowledge. We won’t get definitive answers from foot soldiers.”
“Taylor is from so far in the future that it would have to be something very specific,” Richard frowned, “I can’t think of anything that Taylor could tell him that would help him today, unless he wants to invent cars himself.”
“Maybe it’s deeper than that,” Kahlan suggested, “there’s something Rahl wants to know that he presumes may have been in the history books of the future.”
“But Taylor’s never even heard the name Rahl before,” Richard shook his head, “it can’t be specific to him.”
“And we’ll never figure it out by jabbering on,” Zed’s voice came from behind them, “so let’s keep moving.”
“The horses need to be rested,” Kahlan insisted, “if we run them too far we’ll lose them, and we’ll have no quick getaway from the palace.”
“Kahlan’s right,” Richard relented, “and we need some rest ourselves. We’ll have to catch up with them tomorrow.”
“Are you planning to intercept the Mord-Sith?” the newly confessed soldier asked.
“Yes, why?” Richard frowned again.
“Because she was due at the Peoples’ Palace by nightfall,” the soldier revealed, “she should already be there.”
“Then Rahl has Taylor already,” Zed was gloomy.
“There’s still a chance that he doesn’t have what he wants from him yet,” Richard insisted, “and even Rahl needs his rest. If we can make it to the palace by tomorrow night and hope that Taylor’s held out-“
“Against a Mord-Sith?” Kahlan shook her head, “you said so yourself you wouldn’t wish that on anyone. How long do you think Taylor would handle it? Denna had you under her command in just a few days.”
“Not completely,” Richard reminded her, “and I’m not giving up hope. Rahl has him for a reason, and until he gets what he wants we have to presume that Taylor will be safe.”
Zed sighed, knowing there’d be no changing his mind.
“Are there any other soldiers stationed near here?” Kahlan asked the soldier.
“No my lady,” he assured, “Triana sent us to find the Seeker and deliver the message that she had his friend.”
“Rahl wants you to come for him,” Zed realised.
“He’s laying a trap,” Kahlan looked to Richard with worry.
“I was afraid of this,” Zed grumbled.
“We’ll figure something out,” Richard insisted, “Rahl doesn’t know that we got the message yet.”
He turned back to the soldier.
“Can you send Rahl a message to say that you failed?” he asked.
“Only from the garrison,” the soldier replied, “Triana left with the journey book in hand.”
“Go back to your garrison,” Kahlan ordered, “send word to Rahl that you couldn’t find the Seeker, and accept your due punishment.”
“Yes Mistress,” the soldier nodded, finally pulling himself to his feet.
“And hurry,” Kahlan insisted, “the message needs to reach him as soon as possible if it’s to work!”
Chapter 13: 13
Taylor rolled over in bed as he awoke, getting himself more comfortable. A sleep-in was just what he needed with his back still aching from the fall off the horse.
The memory of what had caused his backache made him open his eyes, as if to prove to himself that he was still in Richard’s world.
The sight of Triana standing over his bed caused him to jolt upward.
“Good morning Taylor,” she greeted with a smile, “I trust you slept well?”
“Until now,” he was panting.
A quick look around proved she was alone in the room.
“Sorry about that,” she feigned apology, “but Lord Rahl is very eager to meet with you.”
“I’m sure he is,” Taylor rubbed his face, trying to wake himself up further, “can I have a minute?”
“For what?” Triana asked.
“To wake up?” Taylor raised a brow.
“You’re awake,” Triana smiled, “follow me.”
She turned to leave the room. Taylor watched after her before pulling the sheets aside with a groan. Like the woods the room was colder than it had been the night before, so he quickly pulled on his boots and grabbed his scarf from the floor. After slipping it around his neck he grabbed his phone and wallet before following Triana.
She was waiting for him in the hallway with the guard who’d been watching his room. When he finally caught up she led him back to the room where he’d first met Rahl.
In place of the elaborate feast the night before was a second, more breakfast-styled on instead. Taylor couldn’t help a small grin when he sighted it, hardly able to wait to get his hands on the pastries.
“Please, go ahead,” Triana indicated the table, “Lord Rahl will be in to see you shortly and he’d prefer that you were well fed and rested.”
“Great, thanks,” Taylor made a beeline for it.
He was nowhere near as hungry as he had been the night before, but he soon made short work of it nonetheless. He’d just about had his share when Rahl finally appeared.
“Good morning,” he greeted as he stepped into the room with his guards.
He dismissed them with a wave of his hand, and they closed the doors behind them.
“Good morning,” Taylor returned, standing from the table and wiping his hands on his jeans as he finished his mouthful.
“Did you sleep well?” Rahl stepped around the opposite side of the water feature, seeming to avoid eye contact for the moment.
“I did, thank you,” Taylor assured, “and the food here is amazing.”
“That’s good to hear,” Rahl mused, “shall we?”
He indicated for Taylor to follow him through a door on the other side of the room. Taylor gave Triana a glance, but followed Rahl’s line. Triana stayed in the main room as Rahl closed the door behind them.
“Please, take a seat,” Rahl offered, indicating a small table with a chair in the centre of the room.
A skylight provided sunlight from above, showing scrolls of paper set out on the table with nearby quills. Taylor took the seat, wondering if Rahl was just going to pace the entire time.
“You… want me to draw something for you?” he asked curiously.
“Perhaps, if you feel it’s necessary,” Rahl waved off, “I’d be more interested if you could write some things down.”
“Okay,” Taylor shrugged, “like what?”
“Let’s start with something easy,” Rahl suggested, looking him up and down, “let’s start with your clothing.”
“What about it?” Taylor frowned, “I mean I know it’s different, but-“
“What linen are your clothes made from, exactly?” Rahl was already bored with the line of questioning though trying not to show it.
“Well this is wool,” Taylor removed his scarf and set it on the table, “my shirt is cotton. The jeans are denim…”
“Yeah,” Taylor grimaced a little, knowing he’d have to take baby steps, “sorry. My pants, they’re called jeans. The belt and shoes are leather.”
“I find the colours interesting,” Rahl began his pacing, leaving Taylor to direct his eyes to the table uncomfortably.
“They’re made with dyes,” he replied, “I’m sure your people have them, I’ve seen coloured clothing.”
“Yet how do they come so clear?” Rahl asked, “and where did ‘your’ people find such intricate shades?”
“Chemical combinations, mostly,” Taylor scratched his head, “anything else?”
“No,” Rahl decided to move on quickly, “what can you tell me about the magic in your world?”
“Nothing,” Taylor gave in and glanced over his shoulder, “there isn’t any.”
“None at all?” Rahl confirmed.
“None that I know of,” Taylor assured, “I mean some people still believe in it but they’re usually just crazy.”
“So you’ve never even seen magic?”
“I have now,” Taylor’s eyebrows rose, “I saw a wizard shoot fire from his hands. And of course, I saw the lightning that brought me here.”
“Of course,” Rahl repeated thoughtfully.
An awkward moment of silence followed.
“So…” Taylor broke it, “something Richard’s friends found interesting was our concept of time…”
“What does that mean?” Rahl was focused again.
“Well,” Taylor pursed his lips as he thought, “we count our years, and we’ve done so for thousands of them.”
“How?” Rahl demanded.
Taylor hesitated at his tone, but took up one of the quills. After looking it over to make sure he knew how to use it, he dipped it in the ink.
“A year is made up of 365 days,” he began to draw a bit of a diagram, “a year can be broken down into twelve months, each named from January through December. The months are made up of either 30 or 31 days except for the second – February – which usually has 28 but every fourth year has 29. Seven days equals a week and each day in the week has its own name too. 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour, 60 seconds in a minute, and a second lasts as long as it takes to say Mississippi.”
“Sounds… complicated,” Rahl’s interest had evidently peaked regardless.
“A month loosely coincides with the moon’s rotation around the Earth,” Taylor looked up, “and a year is how long it takes for the Earth to travel around the sun. And by the way? Earth is round.”
Chapter 14: 14
Rahl took more of an interest in the operation of the solar system than Taylor thought he might have, and the explanations took up most of the day. He wasn’t sure if the older man believed him when he told him men had walked on the moon but he relented that half the people of his time didn’t really believe it either.
The morning and afternoon were momentarily interrupted as Rahl saw to other duties – each time signified by a loud bell chiming throughout the palace – and Taylor was left in the room each time to draw. He’d tried writing down the names of both the months of the year and days of the week, but he’d soon come to another barrier… their written language was very different, and he knew there was no way he’d learn theirs in time to translate anything. At one point when Rahl left the room he’d tried writing down the alphabet and then giving examples of how it worked, but Rahl just wasn’t interested.
It was sometime after dinner when Taylor finally clicked as to why Rahl was finding the main topic so intriguing.
“Is this for spell work?” he asked suddenly, “I heard you sent Richard to 2014 under a full moon. Is this just so you can mathematically predict the right conditions or something?”
“Somewhat along those lines…” Rahl admitted as he paced, “I admit you’ve been a great help to me, my dear Taylor.”
Taylor grimaced a little at that. He put it down to not being used to their way of talking and not a subconsciously creepy insinuation on Rahl’s part.
“Only sorry I couldn’t help more,” Taylor put the quill down, “but I’m no expert when it comes to astrophysics or even geology for that matter.”
“What was your area of expertise?” Rahl asked curiously.
Taylor hesitated at that, knowing it was again probably very different here to home.
“Music,” he admitted, turning in his seat, “I’m a musician. My brothers and I also run our own business which has a few different side ventures.”
“Well…” Taylor tried to think of how to word it so as not to confuse him, fiddling with his scarf as he did, “last year we released our own… ale. Or beer, as we call it. We also sell our own band merchandise.”
At Rahl’s curious look he simply avoided his gaze.
“Just… trinket stuff. Clothes. Somewhat like the marketplace you have at the entrance here but more specific. In our time it’s another way for musicians to make money. It’s a way to help us do what we love while still being able to afford to live.”
“What of your taxes?” Rahl asked, pacing behind him again.
“They’re probably similar to what you guys have,” Taylor shrugged, “the government takes a certain amount of your earnings to keep themselves afloat, and to take care of random things around town like roadways and community services…”
“Yeah,” Taylor blinked, “things the communities need that no one else in particular is designated to pay for.”
Rahl almost smirked at that, appearing once again in Taylor’s view.
“So your world is very… currency reliant,” he presumed.
“Very,” Taylor emphasised, “without it, life’s pretty hard.”
“And you have establishments tasked with taking care of your currency?”
“We have banks, yes,” Taylor couldn’t help but frown a little, “don’t you?”
“Not as such,” Rahl seemed to dismiss.
Starting to feel uncomfortable at the line of questioning, Taylor looked up to the skylight where the sun had slowly but surely faded. They were already working with a mix of mediocre leftovers of the golden rays and new moonlight.
“Anyhow…” he hated to bring it up, knowing Rahl would love to hear more, “it’s getting late…”
“Yes, I agree,” Rahl looked up to the open door and nodded to Triana who stood watch, “Triana, escort Taylor back to his chambers.”
“What?” Taylor shot to his feet, “what about sending me home?”
“My dear Taylor…” Rahl took a step closer, making Taylor inadvertently back against the table as he stared him in the eye, “why ever would I want to do that?”
Taylor blanched, his eyes going to Triana who was making her way into the room.
“We had a deal,” Taylor tried not to gulp, “I tell you about my time, you send me back there. Tonight.”
“The deal is resent,” Rahl didn’t look back as he walked out.
“Why?!” Taylor demanded as Triana took him by the arm.
“You should be honoured that Lord Rahl has chosen to keep you around,” she smirked as he disappeared from sight, “he could always just send you to the block. Come with me.”
Still reeling and without complete comprehension of what had just happened, Taylor was pulled back toward his room. Rahl was nowhere to be seen.
Triana led him inside and gave him a shove toward the bed.
“What happens now?” he was afraid to ask as he backed against the end post.
“Get some sleep,” Triana scorned, “you’ll be back to work at first light.”
“Doing what?” he knew he was staring.
Originally he’d taken Triana’s outfit as somewhat of a female version of the soldiers’. Now he was seeing it in a completely different light, and considering where she had him her stare was making him more nervous than Rahl’s.
“Talking,” she said matter-of-factly, “I hear you’re good at that. Rahl wants to know more about your time, and he will keep you here until he’s satisfied you’ve shared everything of interest to him.”
Taylor looked toward the door, noticing the soldiers keeping their distance outside.
“Play along,” Triana turned to leave, “and we won’t have a problem. Goodnight Taylor.”
He wanted to object, but he didn’t know what he was up against. He certainly didn’t know how to handle a sword.
He waited as Triana closed the door behind her and her heels clicked down the hall. Waiting a further moment to pull himself together he made for the door and tried pulling on it.
With another grimace he went to the window. Looking down at the darkened marketplace he began to wonder exactly how far behind him Richard had been.
This had to have been what they’d meant about Rahl. Taylor was already kicking himself at his impatience to get to D’Hara.
He leant on the window sill as his mind raced. There was no guarantee they would find him, and he had no way to get word to them. He might as well have been completely alone.
After a moment of thought, he looked back at the bed.
Chapter 15: 15
“What’s your plan once we make it to the palace?” Kahlan asked, keeping her head down.
“I don’t know, I’ll know more once I’ve seen it,” Richard frowned, stepping aside from a cart.
“You can see it from here,” Kahlan insisted, “there isn’t much more to see up close. If you want to try and find Taylor, we’re going to have to reveal ourselves to the guards. I don’t think approaching a palace commandeered by Mord-Sith will be our best strategy.”
Richard grunted as someone bumped into his shoulder, wishing that Zed were there with them. But they knew they were going to be up against Mord-Sith and the safest place for a wizard was far away.
“As long as they don’t see the Sword of Truth I may as well be a commoner,” Richard insisted, “only Rahl and a few of his guards even know what I look like.”
“I think you’re forgetting the wanted posters,” Kahlan smirked.
“No one’s going to expect the Seeker to walk into the Peoples’ Palace of his own accord,” Richard mused, “what kind of idiot would he be if he did that?”
Kahlan rolled her eyes. She was worried about him, and annoyed at his foolishness, but it was hard to stay angry with Richard.
“Rahl might be expecting it,” she suggested, “he’s had Taylor for almost two days. There’s every chance Taylor has talked, whether coerced or not.”
“I don’t know about that,” Richard’s eyes narrowed as he looked up to the palace on the dark sky line again, “I get the feeling Rahl would have plenty of other questions to ask him first. And for all Taylor knows our object was achieved – getting him to D’Hara.”
The two of them suddenly stopped in their tracks, hearing shouts from up ahead. When a woman screamed and people started running, their eyes turned to the sky.
“A gar,” Kahlan pulled Richard into one of the nearby stalls.
They hid camouflaged against one of the inside walls, the cloaks they’d picked up on the outskirts concealing their out-of-town clothing under the plain hessian. They kept as still and quiet as possible as the few townspeople left in the marketplace this late scattered, and it wasn’t long before they heard the gar take its latest victim. By the screams they could tell that it was an older man, leaving behind a son who was watching on. Most likely one of the stallholders still packing up for the night.
“Why did no one shoot it down?” Richard frowned, unwilling to move until Kahlan did.
“It’s too far from the palace, the archers wouldn’t reach,” Kahlan replied sullenly, sparing a moment of silence for the damned before stepping aside.
“These people live in an area where gars are rampant, yet no one down here owns a bow?” Richard’s brow furrowed.
“Maybe they can’t afford to,” Kahlan suggested as she stepped out of the stall and kept her eyes to the sky, “or maybe they’re not allowed to.”
“That makes perfect sense,” Richard said sarcastically as he followed.
“The rule of Rahl doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but Rahl,” Kahlan mused.
She jumped when Richard suddenly took hold of her arm and pulled her back to meet him.
“What is it?” she asked, realising he was looking up at the palace.
“That window,” Richard pointed out the one in question.
Kahlan squinted as she looked up, barely making out that there was a person there before Richard realised what was going on.
“It’s Taylor!” he exclaimed in a hushed whisper, quickly glancing over his shoulder to make sure no one heard.
“Are you sure?” Kahlan couldn’t tell.
“He’s trying to escape from the window!” Richard insisted, still not entirely sure what he was doing.
“That answers two questions,” Kahlan gave him a knowing look, “both where he is and whether or not he’s met Rahl.”
“We can’t help him,” Richard frowned.
“Not yet,” Kahlan agreed, “but he won’t escape by climbing. Which means…”
“They’ll keep him elsewhere,” Richard realised before taking her arm again, “how well do you know Rahl’s dungeon?”
Taylor tried not to make any noise by grunting as he slid himself down the bed sheets he’d tied together. He’d already noticed a correlation between his current position and his kids’ fairy tales and had decided to bite the bullet and take advantage of something he’d learned from them.
His target was the storey below, on which a wide balcony was easily visible. It would be pretty hard to fall to his death with the way the palace was set up but he knew if he didn’t get low enough he risked breaking a bone or more. The bed sheets together made it to the ceiling of the floor below and he was sure he could jump the rest of the way.
His next problem – he knew – would be getting out of the castle. He couldn’t exactly blend in, and from the floor below he wasn’t even sure of the layout or how to get back to the main entrance.
Figuring he’d work it out on the way and that it wouldn’t be too hard to keep hidden in a castle full of nooks and crannies he finally braced himself and jumped. He landed in a squat on both feet and immediately looked up to the area he’d jumped into.
Two soldiers were watching, surprise in their eyes.
“Shit,” he cursed to himself, eyes darting for an avenue of escape.
The guards gave each other a glance before one of them called for backup and the other made for Taylor. Taylor waited until he was close enough before darting around a pillar and making a run for it. The soldier who’d called out was distracted enough to let him pass before realising he’d gone, and Taylor made for a hallway to their left.
He heard their chainmail clattering as both came after him, though it was no match for his own heart pounding in his ears. He came to a right angle in the corridor and hit the wall in his rush before stopping himself a few yards in.
Triana stood there calmly, two more guards behind her.
Taylor turned to try and go back, possibly getting past the soldiers that had chased him, but stopped when he realised one had pulled his sword and was holding it ready.
“Leaving so soon?” Triana taunted, pulling a rod the same colour as her leather outfit from her belt.
“Just looking for the bathroom?” Taylor figured he’d at least try.
Triana smirked and took a step forward. Taylor automatically stepped back before remembering the sword behind him.
“Lord Rahl would be most upset if you were to get yourself lost in these halls,” Triana mused as she stepped even closer, holding the rod out slightly, “guards? See to it that Taylor here finds a more… comfortable place to sleep tonight. I’ll make sure Lord Rahl sees him first thing in the morning so they can discuss further arrangements of their own accord.”
Taylor jumped as one of the soldiers from behind took hold of his arm. Before they could pass, Triana stopped them and looked Taylor up and down.
“Make sure he looks the part,” she ordered the soldier before dismissing him.
Chapter 16: 16
Considering the circumstances, Taylor wasn’t too concerned with losing his clothes. He did however put up a fight when the soldiers took his cell phone and passed it to more guards out of his reach.
They’d gone down so many stairwells that by now he was sure they were underground, and the stench of ferment and rot only confirmed it for him. When he first caught a look at the dungeon he almost rolled his eyes incredulously. It looked like it was straight out of some sort of old gladiator movie.
There was a torch on either wall to light the space but the cells were still dark (and dank, with no air circulation). There were three cells with thick iron bars cemented into the stone ceiling and floor, and only the cell to the left was occupied. Taylor was taken to the one in the centre and thrown inside so hard he hit the rocky floor.
“See how ‘comfortable’ you are in there,” one of them smirked as he locked the gate.
Taylor turned back to watch as he added the key to his belt and walked away. The second soldier took up a post by the stairwell and began a long, hard stare into the cell. Unsuccessfully trying to stop his face going red, he pulled himself up and had a quick look around.
“No way out of here, I’ve looked,” his new neighbour insisted, his face barely visible in the dark.
“I guess not,” Taylor wasn’t giving up hope so soon, but the guard didn’t need to know that.
“What are you in for?”
Taylor held back a groan when he realised the man wanted conversation. To his credit he’d probably been down here alone for a very long time, but regardless Taylor had no idea what to say to him.
“Wrong place, wrong time,” was the best he could offer, folding his arms as his eyes followed the length of the gate – evidently the only way out.
“Weren’t we all…” the man trailed off, shifting himself on the floor.
At his movement Taylor realised he’d heard the rattle of chains. When he looked across into the other cell he noticed for the first time that the man was in shackles.
There were other chains hanging from the walls, all looking well-worn and rusted.
“How long have you been here?” Taylor frowned, avoiding eye contact with the guard.
“I don’t know,” was the honest reply.
Taylor nodded to himself, registering that there was nowhere for sunlight to infiltrate the space. He didn’t know why he was surprised.
It didn’t take him long to figure out that the guard didn’t plan on leaving, and he took a seat on one of the rocks in the cell. There was no denying he was tired from the day, but he was too on edge to contemplate sleep. Adding to his situation he could feel a familiar icy fear rising in his chest that told him if he didn’t get out of the small space soon he was going to have a panic attack.
He closed his eyes and tried to concentrate on steadying his breathing.
“What’s your name?” came the voice from the other cell.
“Taylor,” he replied without opening his eyes.
“You’re not from around here, are you Taylor?”
He almost broke out laughing with incredulous, but managed to curb it to a chuckle as he looked to the ceiling. Even the ceiling was stone, as if the entire cell were carved out of the mountainside.
“That’s an understatement,” he relented, dropping his head into his hands.
If there really was magic in this place, maybe Dorothy’s trick would work eventually.
Zed was about to settle in for the night – a magical alarm system on standby to let him know if Richard and Kahlan were to get into any trouble – when the flames of his bonfire suddenly rose.
Cautiously taking to his feet he watched on as they soon dimmed, a figure appearing from behind them.
“Shota?” Zed frowned, knowing the witch would bring nothing but trouble.
“Zed,” she nodded with a small smile, “it’s good to see you.”
“Why are you here?” Zed demanded, not in the mood for small talk this late.
“Getting down to business as usual I see,” Shota relented, “fine. I’ve come to speak to you about the traveller.”
“Traveller?” Zed frowned.
“You know of whom I speak,” Shota settled her gaze on the wizard, “and I would assume you also know that even the magic of the house of Rahl would not be enough to bring him to our time.”
Zed contemplated her words before his frown only deepened.
“Are you saying you helped him?” Zed wasn’t sure, “why?”
“It’s simple really,” Shota assured, “I’ve seen Rahl’s plan, and for the first and only time our interests are aligned.”
“You have to be joking,” Zed scorned, “since when has a Rahl ever had a ‘good idea’?”
“There’s a first time for everything,” Shota mused.
Zed began to pace aside the fire, thinking it over for a moment.
“Rahl sent Richard to the future to be rid of him forever,” he eyed her suspiciously, “how did you know that he would return with Taylor in tow?”
“How do I know any future?” Shota shrugged.
“You foresaw it,” Zed nodded.
“I knew that you and the Confessor would bring Richard back as soon as you were able,” Shota stared him down, “I would not have entertained Rahl’s plan were it not for Taylor’s assured involvement.”
“You made sure Taylor came back on purpose,” Zed realised.
“Taylor has a greater destiny than the future can provide him,” Shota insisted, “he will – in fact – help Richard defeat Rahl once and for all.”
“How?” Zed frowned, “he didn’t even know who Rahl was, and he certainly doesn’t have any power.”
“Oh but he does,” Shota’s lips curved in a knowing smile, “he just doesn’t know it yet.”
Chapter 17: 17
Taylor hadn’t slept when the guards returned to the dungeon. With idle hope that they were retrieving his neighbouring prisoner, he couldn’t help but groan when they came to his gate.
“On your feet,” one of them commanded as the gate was unlocked.
Taylor stood as he was told and followed the soldier out. They paused before making it to the stairs so the guards could lock similar iron shackles onto his wrists to those his neighbour wore.
He was led back to the very first room he’d met Rahl in. Rahl was in the middle of talking to someone already – another soldier by the looks - with Triana standing ready to the side. Instead of the table to their right being covered in the breakfast platter today, it held Taylor’s clothes, wallet and cell phone. He began staring at the cell phone the moment he’d entered trying to figure out a way to get it back.
“I swear, that’s all I know,” the soldier sounded worried.
“So we effectively have no idea where the Seeker is, once again…” Rahl paced, not even looking in his direction.
Taylor looked up at mention of the Seeker. They were talking about Richard.
“The quad was unsuccessful, yes,” the soldier replied.
“And where are the other members of the quad?” Rahl suddenly stared him down, “the three that did not return with the one bearing the bad news?”
The soldier stumbled a moment, perplexed.
“I don’t know, my Lord.”
Rahl smiled a little before taking a step forward and holding out his hand. The soldier took it, confused.
“Thank you,” Rahl said sincerely, “for your many years of service.”
A gasp escaped his throat as Rahl suddenly brandished a dagger and slit the soldier’s arm practically in two. The soldier fell to his knees as he began to bleed out.
Taylor tried to back off but his escorts held him firm.
“The reason the other three never returned…” Rahl went on as if the man’s life wasn’t slipping away, turning to fetch a large white quill, “is because they were killed. By the Seeker himself. The soldier who returned had been confessed.”
He stooped to dip the quill in the man’s blood, watching as the light faded from the soldier’s eyes.
“Orders, my Lord?” Triana asked as he stood again.
“I will send word to the garrison that the Seeker has indeed passed through their territory,” Rahl dismissed, stepping over to a book, “all I need you to do for me now… is to clean up this mess.”
Triana nodded and instructed the guards to do so with a wave of her hand. They dragged the body from the room before Taylor felt a sharp shove in his back. He stumbled forward, trying to avoid the puddle of blood.
“Good morning Taylor,” Rahl greeted, otherwise distracted as he wrote in the book, “I trust you rested well?”
Taylor looked across to Triana at his left, then back over to the table on his right.
“What do you want?” he asked, leaving his gaze at the table.
Rahl simply gave him a glance before concentrating on finishing his message in the journey book. When he was done he set the quill aside and stepped around the pillar to face Taylor head on.
“Thus far you’ve been very helpful,” he began as he looked Taylor over, “I only hope we can continue our relationship as smoothly.”
Taylor grit his teeth but said nothing. At least that meant Rahl still wanted him alive. When Rahl realised he wasn’t going to reply he began to pace again.
“This is what’s going to happen,” he began, “you will tell me everything I wish to know about your time. Everything. And if I suspect that you are not being truthful, well…”
He gave Triana a subtle nod.
“You will spend tonight in the Mord-Sith chambers.”
Taylor frowned at that – wondering what he meant – before he heard Triana take a step toward him. He didn’t have time to react before something hit him in the side.
With a surprised yell the pain sent Taylor to his knees. It wasn’t like any kind of pain he’d ever felt before and he instantly knew that magic had to be involved somehow. The touch of the red leather rod Triana carried at her belt somehow managed to feel like death itself had touched his skin.
When Triana finally pulled away Taylor was left in a heap on the floor trying to catch his breath.
“I’m sure Triana will be happy to find you something to do if you were to keep her company,” Rahl mused as she stepped back, “stand up.”
Before Taylor could even comprehend standing, the guards behind him took his arms and dragged him back to his feet.
“You’re nothing but a tyrant,” he choked out, keeping one eye on Triana in case she came close again, “but it won’t last long, I assure you. No one in my time has ever even heard of the name Rahl. You’re not even a memory for us.”
He flinched as Rahl’s gaze settled back on him, and again tried to back away when he stepped closer. He was held firm.
“That will change,” Rahl assured.
Taylor frowned at his determined gaze. Rahl obviously knew something he didn’t.
“You see Taylor…” Rahl’s eyes lowered to look him over again, “you and I will write a new future together. One where your people will certainly be aware of the name Rahl.”
“How?” Taylor’s eyes darted between his, “and why on Earth would I help you do that?”
They ignored a short chuckle from Triana, though Taylor shot a glance her way to make sure she stayed there.
“My boy,” Rahl mused, “you have no choice in the matter. Now follow me, we have much to discuss.”
He turned to lead the way into the back room. Taylor wasn’t about to follow until the guards forced him once again.
Inside he was pushed down into his chair again, in front of a large blank sheet of paper. He stared at it in order to keep his eyes away from Rahl who was already practically over his shoulder.
“Today we’re going to start with you telling me all about your world leaders,” he decided, “starting, of course, with the man you call ‘president’…”
Chapter 18: 18
“Zed!” Richard called out as they cleared the ridge, “we think we’ve figured out a way to…”
He paused when he saw the look on his grandfather’s face.
“Zed?” Kahlan stepped around him, “what is it?”
Zed was silent as he stared into the campfire, before resting his hands on his knees to pull himself to his feet.
“I had a visit from Shota,” he revealed as he turned to them.
Richard immediately frowned.
“Shota?” Kahlan mirrored his expression, “why?”
“She knows about Taylor,” Richard knew already, “why else would she show herself now?”
Kahlan looked to Zed, and he nodded to confirm.
“What did she say?” Kahlan’s eyes narrowed.
“I think you’d better sit down,” Zed indicated some logs by the fire.
Richard and Kahlan gave each other a worried glance but did as he suggested. Whatever it was, it was obviously important.
Richard set the sword down as he took his seat and they waited as Zed figured out what to say.
“It’s no accident that Taylor is here,” he began.
Richard was already frowning.
“Shota saw to it that he in particular would be the one returned to this time.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” Richard cut in, “when I was in the future – and when you brought me back – it was pure luck or bad luck that he just happened to be there. He just stepped around a corner and the light grabbed us.”
“It was no luck,” Zed shook his head.
“Are you saying Rahl was after Taylor specifically?” Kahlan tried to understand.
“No,” Zed shook his head, “I’m saying that Rahl had help.”
“Shota helped Rahl?” Richard scorned, “why would she ever help Rahl? She wants him dead as much as anyone!”
“Maybe even more,” Zed agreed, “but it was Shota who sought Taylor, and with very specific reason.”
“I’m confused,” Kahlan looked between them, “was it Rahl who sent Richard away, or Shota?”
“Rahl, with Shota’s help,” Zed confirmed, “and Shota was the one who affixed the place and time to coincide with Taylor’s appearance. Shota made sure the timing was perfect to bring Taylor back.”
“So why Taylor?” Richard caught on, “if there’s something he’s meant to do he obviously doesn’t know what it is.”
“He is doing exactly as he is meant to already,” Zed was serious.
“What, being tortured by Rahl?” Richard scorned.
“Is this a prophecy?” Kahlan frowned, “or a vision of Shota’s?”
“Oh it’s no prophecy,” Zed assured.
“So Shota’s playing with the future again,” Richard realised, “putting her own spin on everything.”
He blanched at the look Zed gave him.
“Did she say what Rahl wanted with Taylor?” Kahlan thought to ask, “do we know why Shota wanted him specifically?”
Zed slowly nodded.
“Well, what?” Richard was almost afraid to ask at this point.
“Rahl is going to convince Taylor to tell him everything he knows about all the people that hold power in his time,” Zed tried to explain, “and once he has that knowledge Rahl plans to travel to the future himself.”
“What?” Kahlan was incredulous.
“What would Rahl want from the future?” Richard didn’t understand, “the future’s so different, and there’s no magic there.”
“Precisely,” Zed agreed, “there is no magic in the future. Presumably because all the wizard bloodlines have died out.”
He paused, almost for effect.
“Just think of how easily Rahl could walk into a camp of common people and rule them,” his tone was suddenly one of warning, “and now, imagine that on a far greater scale.”
“He wants control of Taylor’s land,” Kahlan frowned.
“He wants control of the world,” Richard corrected, “and he’s suddenly found an easy way to do it. But he has no idea what he’s in for – he doesn’t know how different Taylor’s world is from ours.”
“Which is why he needs someone like Taylor to guide him through it,” Zed nodded.
“Zed, if Rahl needed Shota to help him cast the spell… he’s going to need her again,” Kahlan pointed out.
“Why is Shota going along with this?” Richard demanded, “what does she have to gain from this?”
“Shota believes that by helping Rahl travel to the world of the future, she is doing this one a favour,” Zed explained, “with Darken Rahl lost to time the Rahl Empire will inevitably crumble. We may finally get the peace we’ve been after, and the Seeker’s quest will inadvertently be fulfilled.”
“So she thinks she’s doing me a favour,” Richard smirked.
Zed just shrugged.
“Meanwhile the Mord-Sith will be training Taylor to do as Rahl asks of him,” Kahlan looked to Richard, “getting him ready to be Rahl’s guide. And if Taylor’s people have never seen magic they’ll have no idea what they’re up against.”
“Here is where we might possibly underestimate Taylor and his will,” Zed considered, “Shota is convinced that Taylor has access to his own form of power.”
“How so?” Richard frowned.
“She didn’t say,” Zed admitted, “but she was certainly hiding something. But for all we know whatever Taylor tells Rahl will only be the tip of the iceberg of what his world will hold in store. From only what we’ve heard there will already be a very rough transition period.”
“I wouldn’t believe a lot of what he’d told us if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes,” Richard agreed, “maybe Rahl’s really the one who doesn’t know what he’s in for?”
“But you’re talking as if you’re going to let this happen,” Kahlan looked between them again, “we can’t let Rahl go to the future. We need to get Taylor home, and deal with Rahl ourselves. Shota wants to hijack Richard’s quest, and you’re just going to let her get away with it?!”
“I’ve said nothing of the sort,” Zed scorned, “I am simply telling what she has told me. Now you’ll also understand why Rahl will make it even harder for anyone to access Taylor, let alone rescue him. And now you know that it will take more than my magic alone to send the young man back to his time.”
“We need the combination of Shota and Rahl,” Richard realised, “well that sounds easy.”
“We have a more pressing problem,” Kahlan insisted, “we need to get Taylor out of the palace before he gives Rahl everything he needs.”
“He’s in the dungeon,” Richard told Zed, “we think we’ve figured out a way to get in, but we might need some help getting out again.”
Chapter 19: 19
“I don’t know what else to tell you,” Taylor shrugged, “you can’t get near him. You’ll be killed if you even try.”
“My soldiers are the most well-equipped in the world,” Rahl assured as he paced behind him, “and I certainly have enough power at my fingertips to ensure events go in our favour.”
Taylor faltered at that. He knew the soldiers couldn’t compete with the weapons of the future, but he was constantly forgetting to enter magic into the equation.
He wasn’t sure how the armies of 2014 would react to that.
“So tell me…” Rahl paused to lean on the table and stare Taylor down, “how do we get in?”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you,” Taylor’s brow furrowed desperately, “I don’t know. I wouldn’t begin to know how to know! I don’t know anyone that’s tried, and it’s not as if I paid attention to their security measures when I was there. Even that was a long time ago. And even if we found a way in, there’s no guarantee the president would even be home at the time. His travel plans are on constant lockdown and only certain highly-regarded…”
He looked toward the door where one of Rahl’s superior soldiers stood at the ready.
“…security guards,” he picked up, “know about them.”
He caught Rahl’s eye again and blanched when he realised he hadn’t moved.
“I mean, from what I see in the movies,” Taylor quickly amended.
Rahl frowned at the reference, not having heard that one yet.
“Are you telling me you’re simply guessing all of this?” the tyrant stared him down, making Taylor shiver.
“I know the basics,” Taylor kept his eyes down, “I don’t know specifics. It’s not something I’ve ever focused on. I didn’t need to.”
“I would suggest focusing a little more… and making sure everything you’re telling me is the absolute truth,” Rahl had intent in his voice, “I would hate to have to return you in a lesser condition than in which you arrived.”
“It’s the truth from my perspective, I swear,” Taylor shook his head, at a loss of what else to do or say, “but I don’t know what else I can offer you. An attack on the president isn’t something I’ve ever even contemplated before, and wars are fought by armies not by their leaders.”
He gave the soldier another nervous glance.
“A few things haven’t changed,” he amended.
Rahl looked to his soldier as if to give him a silent command. The soldier roughly grabbed Taylor by the shoulder, making his heart suddenly race.
“We will see if you remember anything more clearly in the morning,” Rahl dismissed him with a flick of his wrist, “goodnight Taylor.”
Taylor looked to the guard as he was pulled to his feet and pushed from the small room. Rahl stayed behind to study what had been drawn, some of which the guard had had to translate into their written language.
Expecting to be returned to the dungeon and hoping he could somehow sleep on the rocky ground, it took Taylor a moment to realise he wasn’t headed back in the same direction.
“Where are you taking me?” he worriedly asked, not recognising the hallways.
“Lord Rahl insists you sleep in more comfortable quarters tonight,” he replied, giving Taylor’s shoulder another shove when he paused.
Taylor wasn’t sure what to make of that, but was somewhat relieved to not have to return to the dungeon. When they came to a large door the guard gave a sharp knock, and Taylor almost fell over when Triana was the one to answer.
“Welcome,” she smiled at him, stepping aside slightly.
Taylor didn’t move until the guard shoved him inside. He almost lost his balance, and by the time he turned back Triana had closed the door.
“I trust Lord Rahl kept you well entertained today,” Triana stepped forward, adjusting her leather gloves.
Taylor’s eyes fell to where the rod sat at her belt. He hadn’t had a chance to take in the room, so when she advanced on him and he backed away he soon found himself cornered between the large four poster bed and a side wall.
“You’re not afraid of me, are you Taylor?” Triana crooned, reaching out to run a fingertip down the left side of his jaw.
“What do you want?” Taylor kept his eye on the rod, remembering his brief encounter with it and not wanting a repeat.
Triana coyly bit her lip when she followed his eye line, dropping her hand to rest on it. She held back a chuckle at Taylor’s flinch.
“You want this, don’t you?”
Taylor frowned. How she could possibly expect him to want the weapon, he had no idea. Then he just as soon realised her point – it was a weapon.
“You think if you could only get your hands on my agiel… you could fight your way out of this place.”
“Where would I go?” Taylor’s brow furrowed as she slid the rod free of its pouch.
“Freedom is something many people wouldn’t think twice about were it within their grasp,” Triana turned the rod so it was pointing at Taylor’s chest.
Taylor gulped slightly before Triana unexpectedly turned it on herself, holding it on her open palm and offering him the handle.
“Go on,” she invited, “take it from me.”
Taylor knew it was a trick. It had to be. Perhaps you had to wield magic to make it work, though it didn’t seem to bother Triana.
Deciding that if he didn’t take it she’d probably turn it on him anyway, he took a deep breath before reaching for it. The moment his fingers curled around the grip he felt his chest tighten as the pain shot from his hand right up his arm and straight through to his heart. He hit the ground before he could even comprehend what had happened, the chains sending a loud clatter echoing around the room as they hit the stone.
Triana’s giggle hit his ears before he could even open his eyes, and when he did he saw her crouching beside him.
“You still have a lot to learn about this world,” she mused, waving the rod tauntingly in front of his eyes.
Taylor wanted to say that he’d barely learned anything - he’d spent too long telling Rahl about his own. But he didn’t think he could talk right now even if he tried.
“Not to worry,” the rod hit the floor and trailed closer to him, forcing him to inch himself back against the wall, “we have all night to get you well acquainted.”
Chapter 20: 20
“Why are you doing this?” Taylor choked out, “I’ve done everything he’s asked of me. I haven’t lied, I’ve tried not to confuse anyone…”
“Lord Rahl just needs to be sure you won’t doublecross him,” Triana tapped the agiel against her palm, pausing beside where he sat and gently moving the toe of her boot to touch his calf, “are you saying you don’t want to spend time with me? You might hurt my feelings.”
“Why would I doublecross him?” Taylor frowned, “I don’t have any reason to not tell the truth.”
“Like I said…” Triana didn’t move from standing over him, “he just needs to be sure. We don’t know what the future really holds, and men are proven fallible. We have no reason whatsoever to simply trust whatever you wish to tell us.”
“But you have no way of knowing,” Taylor continued to eye the rod in her hand, resting his head back against the bedpost, “not for sure.”
Triana smiled again before kneeling in front of him.
“That’s where you’re wrong,” she assured, thrusting the rod into his side.
Taylor jolted, his back arching as the pain hit. He could feel the blood thumping through his temples and white flashes shot across his vision, making him unable to concentrate on anything but the horrendous agony. His throat closed up so that he couldn’t even breathe and he momentarily lost feeling in all limbs. It was over in seconds but it felt as if it were hours.
He found himself still sitting back against the bed, though he was sure he’d hit the floor in the ordeal. Struggling to catch his breath he forced his eyes open to watch where Triana held the rod. It remained at the ready, not even a foot away from his skin.
“We have ways of knowing for sure,” Triana spoke as if nothing had even happened.
Taylor just held his chest and stared back at her as she stood and moved to the other side of the room.
“My stories won’t change,” Taylor wasn’t sure how long he was going to hold out if this went on, “but I can’t possibly tell him everything in such a short amount of time. I don’t want to be called a liar just because I might forget due to stress or threat.”
“So you’re saying your memory would work better if you weren’t under so much stress?” Triana clarified, remaining out of sight.
“Yes,” Taylor agreed, doubting she’d humour him but choosing to be honest.
“Interesting theory,” she mused, making Taylor turn his head.
She had her back to him and he couldn’t see what she was doing. The rod had returned to her belt as she was focused elsewhere. Realising she wasn’t taunting him any further for now he reached up for the post and used it to pull himself up to his knees and onto the bed.
“Maybe I could help with that,” she suggested.
“How?” Taylor’s voice croaked again, “I can’t think straight as it is. No one’s ever been as far from home as I am.”
“Mord-Sith are not just masters of pain…” Triana turned to look over her shoulder, “we are also the masters of pleasure.”
“What?” Taylor was caught off guard as he held his stomach.
It was then that Taylor realised what she’d been doing – she’d been removing parts of her leather outfit. When she turned to face him with her breasts barely covered his face flushed red and he turned away.
“I can’t,” he tried to be forceful in his voice and failed.
“Can’t what?” Triana made her way to the bed, crawling onto it and nestling her nose into the nape of his neck, “you’re very tense for someone who’s made the journey through time.”
“How many of us have you met?” Taylor figured he’d try and divert the conversation.
Triana had proven to be someone he wouldn’t want to reject outright.
“You’re the first,” Triana’s warm breath hit his throat.
“Then how would you know?”
Triana used a still-gloved hand to sweep some hair back behind his right ear. But the moment her tongue touched it he flinched and backed away.
“You don’t want my gift?” Taylor wasn’t sure if she was perplexed or simply confused.
He raced for an answer that might possibly not offend her but came up empty.
“No,” he frowned, watching her shift on the bed and take to her feet at the side.
He backed away further, aiming for the centre of the room.
“Have I intimidated you?” she seemed to almost pout.
An incredulous look crossed Taylor’s face.
“Wasn’t that the point?” he hugged his abdomen again, “what are you?”
Triana stepped around to the end of the bed, sitting on the edge. She gently patted the space beside her.
“Sit with me and I will tell you,” she promised.
Taylor knew he was trapped but he took a moment to work himself up. As if to reassure him Triana took the rod from her belt and set it on the bedside table. She didn’t need it to look intimidating but the act managed to lower his heart rate enough that he could do as instructed.
“When I was a little girl…” Taylor found himself surprised at her keeping her word, “I was playing in the garden with my cousin when the Mord-Sith came to our township.”
Taylor kept his eyes down and his hands in his lap as he listened to her story.
“They dragged us away from our families and took us back to the Mord-Sith temple, where we were locked in their darkest dungeons and fed nothing but gruel. There we stayed for months as the rats nibbled away at our toes and ears, our only relief coming when our mistress would begin our training.”
“That’s horrible,” Taylor frowned, but didn’t look up.
“Through our training with the agiel we were taught empowerment,” Triana seemed to get slightly defensive, “how to withstand pain, and how to master it.”
“Why?” Taylor couldn’t understand how anyone could touch a child with an agiel.
“To serve the Lord Rahl,” Triana was evidently proud, “the Mord-Sith hold the highest honour bestowed under the rule of Rahl, and his rule is absolute.”
“Not according to Richard,” Taylor remembered.
He jumped as Triana moved, before moving his arms to defend himself too late. Triana had grabbed the agiel and struck him harshly across the jaw. The blow sent him crumbling to the ground at her feet.
“The Seeker has no authority here,” Triana scorned, “he is nothing but a thorn in the collective side of the House of Rahl, and he will be dealt with just as insignificantly.”
Chapter 21: 21
“A cloaking spell,” Zed caught onto Richard’s plan.
“Can you do it?” Kahlan asked seriously.
“I can,” Zed assured, “but I don’t think it’s a very good idea. And certainly not our safest option.”
“What would you consider our safest option?” Richard folded his arms, an expectant look on his face.
“Not walking into the House of Rahl and causing a scene, no matter whose face you’re wearing at the time,” Zed said pointedly.
“But if I’m wearing the face of a trusted guard-“
“You think Rahl will be fooled simply by a face?” Zed scorned, “my boy have I taught you nothing?!”
“He won’t even need to face Rahl at this point, we just need to free Taylor from the Palace,” Kahlan tried.
“And then what?”
“And then we can decide from there the best way to approach Rahl.”
“Approach,” Richard smirked to the side.
“Will you do it?” Kahlan demanded of Zed, already losing her patience.
Zed stared her down for a moment, well aware he was losing this particular battle.
“We’ll need a guard,” he announced, “make sure he’s about the same size.”
A grin crossed Richard’s face and he immediately pulled Kahlan away with him.
For yet another night, Taylor didn’t sleep. He lay deathly still aside Triana on the large bed, aware of what would happen if he dared disturb her rest. For a time he tried to imagine being in bed at home, but everything felt so very different here that it became impossible.
Triana arose shortly after sunup. She seemed amused to find him awake, but unsurprised.
“I hope you are well rested,” she teased as she rolled over and sat on the edge of the bed, “you have another long day ahead pleasing Lord Rahl.”
Taylor didn’t bother to move, knowing his body would ache. Triana began to assemble her leather outfit once again.
“Before you leave this world I wish to be intimate with you,” she announced.
Taylor looked up at that, caught off guard by both parts of the statement. The first implied that Rahl still intended to send him home. Triana smiled over her shoulder.
“It should not be a surprise. I simply wish to compare. I want to see if you do things differently in your time.”
“I don’t see how it would be any different,” Taylor frowned, avoiding eye contact, “do you think he’ll really send me home after all?”
“Home, the Underworld. Either way you won’t be here at the next full moon.”
“The Underworld…” Taylor took a moment to click.
“Get up,” Triana ordered, standing after affixing her boots, “we must meet with the Lord Rahl when he calls. He’ll want you clean.”
It was another long day in the small room with Rahl. Taylor hadn’t noticed before but it had been terribly hot under the skylight in the ceiling with little to no air flow due to lack of windows. It helped keep the paperwork from blowing away but he began to wonder why he’d been forced to bathe when he was sweating again already.
He began to wonder exactly what year deodorant had been invented and why they hadn’t come up with some kind of magical alternative in this time.
The day was spent again focusing on world leaders and their systems of government. Taylor wanted to ask about what Triana had said that morning but couldn’t bring himself to do it. Rahl’s dark presence alone told him that anything coming to him wouldn’t be in his favour.
Rahl left him alone in the room when it was time for his evening meal, promising to be back after sundown. It was the only time of day Taylor had been offered food and it was even less appetising than the rabbits had been on the road.
When he was almost done a guard appeared at his door. Knowing he was there to take the food away Taylor quickly downed the rest.
“Lord Rahl requires your presence in his quarters,” the guard announced, a hand sitting readily on his sheathed sword.
“Great,” Taylor muttered under his breath, wondering what the tyrant wanted and hoping that Triana wouldn’t be involved.
“Time is of the essence,” the guard insisted.
Knowing he shouldn’t keep Rahl waiting, Taylor quickly cleaned up a little before leaving the room. The guard took him by the arm to lead him out into the corridor and Taylor was quick to notice that no one else was around. Keeping an eye out for other guards he wondered if he’d be stepping out of line.
“Where is everybody?” he asked, “do they all eat together or something?”
“Something like that,” the guard mused.
He was led to what he recognised as one of the outer staircases. Realising now that he wasn’t headed to Rahl’s quarters he tried to pull back.
“Where are you taking me?” he demanded, now worried about how many people actually knew he was there, “this isn’t the right way. Where are we going?!”
“Keep your voice down,” the guard warned, pushing him further down the steps.
“How do I know you aren’t taking me somewhere worse?” Taylor scorned.
The guard cornered him in the stairwell and put a hand on his shoulder to push him back against the wall. Taylor hit it hard, but with shackles still on his wrists he couldn’t fight back.
“Calm down,” the guard warned, before unsheathing his sword a little.
It didn’t take long for Taylor to see the glow.
“Richard?” his brow furrowed once he realised, “…how?”
“There’ll be time for that later, for now we have to get you out of here,” Richard insisted.
Taylor nodded before Richard began leading the way down again.
At the very next landing they ran into three guards patrolling the corridor. Richard was about to lead Taylor past them when one of them stopped to their side. Taylor quickly recognised him as one of the guards from the day before.
“Where are you taking Rahl’s prisoner?” the guard demanded, making Richard stop in his tracks.
“Uh…” he struggled to come up with something in time, causing the guards to draw their swords.
Richard instinctively drew the Sword of Truth in response, sending them back several feet.
“I don’t want any trouble,” Richard warned.
“It’s the SEEKER!” one of them yelled, making Richard roll his eyes.
“Trouble it is, then.”
Chapter 22: 22
Taylor backed himself against the wall, still very close to the swordfight. The first guard went down at his feet as Richard took on the other two. Having seen Richard in action before he knew he’d have the two outnumbered on his own, but he stooped to take the sword from the fallen soldier just in case.
Richard easily took down the second guard, but as he went for the third more began appearing from the stairwell behind them. Richard was still fighting when one of them came for Taylor. Feeling the adrenaline pumping he adjusted his grip on the sword and thrust it straight into the first guard’s abdomen.
“STOP THEM!” another guard called from behind Richard, reinforcements suddenly surrounding them, "but Lord Rahl needs the prisoner alive!"
Richard could see even as he fought that it was going to be hopeless. They were now far outnumbered and it didn’t take long for the sword to be knocked out of Taylor’s hands. Just as Taylor backed against the wall again and Richard checked over his shoulder to see where he was, a powerful pulse filled the room causing both of them to cover their ears. When they recovered they saw that all the guards were down.
Richard’s eyes darted to a nearby balcony where Zed suddenly appeared in a wisp of green smoke.
“Move, Richard!” he ordered, “I’ll cover you!”
Richard looked back for Taylor, taking him by the arm again as Zed disappeared as soon as he’d appeared. He led Taylor down another two flights of stairs before sheathing the sword again and opening a door out into a courtyard.
“I can’t blend in with shackles,” Taylor warned him, seeing that they’d have to go through the marketplace.
“We need to meet Zed,” Richard realised, “but we can’t wait too long. Rahl will know you’re gone anytime now.”
“I’m right behind you.”
They heard him before they saw him. Zed uncloaked himself before flicking a hand toward Taylor’s shackles. They opened easily and fell to the ground.
“I’ll meet you at the campsite. Kahlan will be waiting.”
The wizard disappeared again and Richard led Taylor toward the crowds. They could already hear yelling from above and Taylor noticed that Richard was purposely keeping his eyes forward and trying to ignore it.
“How far is it?” he asked once they were among the crowd, Richard already starting to remove part of the uniform he’d been wearing and hiding it along the way.
“Not far. Hopefully these people will help them lose track of us,” Richard indicated forward.
They passed a few guards on their way up to the palace, but they weren’t given a second glance. The yells were already too far to distinguish. Richard had them out of the marketplace in minutes and they quickly diverted from the main path to where Kahlan was waiting.
“You made it!” she exclaimed, jumping to her feet when they appeared in the clearing.
“Don’t look so surprised,” Richard was slightly offended.
“Behind us,” Taylor scratched his head, avoiding looking back in case he’d see something else crazy.
“Are you alright?” Kahlan came to his side in a motherly gesture, “I can more than imagine what Rahl and the Mord-Sith might have put you through.”
“I’m okay,” Taylor assured with a nod, folding his arms to make sure she didn’t touch him, “it could have been worse.”
“He wasn’t all that bad with a sword either,” Richard began removing the rest of the uniform, replacing it with his own clothes.
“Really?” Kahlan mused, “you fight the same in your time?”
“No,” Taylor corrected, “but my brother has a collection of weapons. It’s very, very different but he does have a sword. I’ve swung it once or twice.”
Richard and Kahlan looked across as footsteps were heard, seeing Zed appear from the trees.
“Finally. I’d like my face back please,” Richard gave him a smile.
“All in good time my boy,” Zed grunted, taking a seat on the log closest to the fireplace, “I believe I’m owed some dinner first.”
“The D’Haran guards are looking for this face, I’d prefer my own if I’m to go hunting,” Richard insisted.
“They’ll be looking for your own face too,” Kahlan pointed out.
“Give me my fill and I’ll have enough strength to set you right again,” Zed promised.
“Fine,” Richard rolled his eyes, taking his sword and heading into the trees again.
“I think this was a mistake,” Taylor spoke up barely a moment after he was gone.
“What was?” Kahlan was confused.
“Coming back,” he admitted, “I should have stayed at the palace.”
“Why would you say such a thing?” Zed frowned up at him.
“Rahl lied about sending me home at first, but I think he still plans to,” Taylor hugged himself again, avoiding eye contact, “now that I’m gone he might just kill me instead.”
“He won’t,” Kahlan assured, “Rahl needs you alive.”
“For what? He’s running out of things to ask already.”
Kahlan looked toward the wizard. Taylor couldn’t read their expressions.
“What is it?” he looked between them, “what aren’t you telling me?”
“We should tell him. He has nowhere else to go,” Kahlan shrugged.
Zed considered for a moment, Taylor’s nerves only heightening, before he indicated the log beside him.
“You might want to sit down,” he warned.
Taylor took a deep breath before doing as suggested. He kept his eyes to where Kahlan was lighting the fire, at the same time avoiding her gaze.
“We’ve learned much since you’ve been gone,” Zed began warily, “including Rahl’s ultimate plan. It does involve taking you back to your time, that’s for certain.”
“I feel like there’s a ‘but’ coming,” Taylor said under his breath.
“But…” Zed mused, “it’s believed that he wishes to travel with you this time. Maybe even with his army at his side.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” Taylor finally looked up, “I thought he sent Richard away to be rid of him? Why would he want to go instead?”
“He’s not going for fun,” Kahlan finished with the fire and stood, “he has become impatient with this world and wishes to conquer another in its place.”
“And in you, my boy,” Zed pulled his attention back, “he has the perfect advisor to do so.”
Chapter 23: 23
The four moved under cover of darkness with Richard covering their tracks until they were sure they were far enough from the palace to be able to rest unhindered. Under their watch Taylor finally slept for the first time in days. By midday he’d woken and they started moving again.
“So I’ve noticed we’re getting farther and farther from Rahl,” Taylor hung back with Zed as Kahlan and Richard led, “do we actually have a plan or are we just delaying the inevitable?”
“Rahl did not cast the time spell alone,” Zed revealed, “he had help.”
“What kind of help?” Taylor frowned.
“A sorceress, and one I know very well. If Rahl is to complete the spell a second time he will need her help once more.”
“Where is she?”
“Where she is, is not important,” Zed assured, “she can work her magic from anywhere. What we need to do is convince her we’re on her side.”
“And what does she want out of this?” Taylor was confused.
“In her own way she wishes to help the Seeker. Her ways of doing it have always come into question, but we need to use that to our advantage in this instance.”
“What does that mean?” Taylor frowned, “she wants Rahl to come with me?”
“Yes,” Zed revealed, “she believes that by sending him to your world she will be helping Richard in saving this one.”
“But they’re the same world,” Taylor shrugged, “what does it matter what time he’s in if he needs to be defeated?”
Zed paused in his stride and Taylor stopped with him. Richard and Kahlan continued on ahead oblivious.
“I believe the sorceress is thinking short termed,” Zed kept his voice down, “she believes that by ridding this world of Darken Rahl that she is helping the Seeker’s quest come to fruition. It was no accident that you returned with Richard. She wanted you here in order to persuade Rahl to return with you.”
“I don’t know if I’ve done that,” Taylor admitted, “I thought I was helping him learn things to use here, I didn’t even think of him coming to 2014.”
“I’m sure if he wanted it that he was getting the information he desired,” Zed was solemn.
“Are you coming?” Richard called from up the path, Zed and Taylor seeing that they’d stopped to wait.
“So do we have to find Shota? Is that what we’re doing?” Taylor asked first.
“I’ll make a call tonight,” Zed put a hand on his shoulder to lead him forward again, “we’ll know more after that. For now let’s get you some decent clothes.”
“Lord Rahl,” a guard came into the room with the water feature apprehensively.
Rahl stood in the open doorway to the room where Taylor had been, Triana standing off to the side awaiting orders. The table to the right was now spattered with the blood of the last guard to enter – his body on the floor between them.
“My Lord, the Seeker evades us once more. There has been no sign of he or the prisoner.”
“Are you sure it was the Seeker?” Triana raised a brow, “my sources tell me it was but a lowly guard like yourself. Perhaps he had been confessed?”
“Mistress the Sword of Truth was sighted,” the guard countered.
“Are you telling me these walls held the Sword of Truth and you let it get away?” Rahl’s voice came from the other side of the room but he didn’t turn around.
“Yes my Lord,” the guard admitted, “we lost many men in the fight.”
“Not only have you lost your prized prisoner, but the Sword of Truth as well?” Triana’s brow rose, “it has not been a good day for the House of Rahl.”
Rahl grimaced, barely containing his rage. Triana hid her smirk but her eyes shone. Expecting him to take his anger out on the soldier she was disappointed when he pulled himself together to sigh instead.
“I want Taylor returned to me,” he remained composed, “the Seeker can wait. Taylor must be here by the next full moon or this will all have been for nothing.”
“I can retrieve him myself, my Lord,” Triana assured.
“I am sure he is leagues from here by now,” Rahl eyed her before looking to the guard, “bring me my journey book. I will send word to the garrisons to keep an eye out for the Seeker. If any of them spy him in their territories, Triana you will take a retrieval quad.”
“Yes my Lord,” she couldn’t help but smile as the guard ran from the room, “may I take a journey book and begin the search myself?”
“Perhaps in the morning, I need you here tonight,” Rahl dismissed.
The guard quickly returned, handing Rahl the book. He set it on the table before using his quill to collect the blood pooled there.
“You are both dismissed,” he announced.
“Yes my Lord,” Triana and the guard said in unison before she followed him from the room.
After closing the doors behind them, she suddenly grabbed the soldier by the throat.
“If you see anything in the journey book about Lord Rahl’s prisoner, inform me or my sisters first,” she ordered in a low tone, “Lord Rahl has enough on his plate and I wish to make this easy for him.”
“Yes Mistress,” the soldier agreed, well aware of the threat of the agiel.
She let him go and he continued on his way.
Chapter 24: 24
Taylor, Richard and Kahlan stood back as Zed performed the spell. Taylor found himself slowly starting to get used to the idea of magic and its use, but still felt nervous every time it was brought up. Watching the wizard in action when he knew it was coming however was intriguing. It was as though he had time to concentrate on and witness it properly for the first time as opposed to being continually caught off guard.
The fire changing colour still caused him to jump backward. Kahlan put a hand on his shoulder with a reassuring smile. Richard was also sympathetic, having been through it all before not long ago.
By the time Shota’s spirit appeared in the fire Taylor was just about done for the day.
“Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander,” she sounded pleased with herself, “to what do I owe the pleasure this night?”
“I think you know already,” Zed indicated Taylor on the other side of the fire.
Taylor stood straight as the spirit turned and focused on him. He could see Zed through her easily, almost like a ghost bathed in fire.
“You must be the traveller,” her eyes shone and he wasn’t sure if it were her physical form coming through or just the fire, “I’m honoured to meet you. I’m a little surprised that Rahl hasn’t found you yet.”
“He did,” Taylor folded his arms, “Richard brought me back.”
“Did he now?” Shota’s eyes went to Richard instead.
She didn’t look pleased.
“But I want to go back,” Taylor quickly countered, playing his part, “I want to go home, and I know I need Rahl to do that. I also know I need you.”
“You’re asking for my assistance?” Shota seemed amused.
“We know you need Rahl to conduct the spell,” Zed pulled her attention back again, “we also know you planned this all along – to send Rahl back with Taylor.”
“And we’re in,” Richard announced, “the sooner Rahl’s gone, the better.”
“We’re asking what you need to make the spell work, so that we might help,” Zed concluded.
Shota paused for thought, a smile curving her lips. To Taylor it felt like forever before she spoke again.
“I am relieved you’ve seen wisdom,” she didn’t sound entirely convinced, “however we need one thing for the spell that you cannot provide.”
“What’s that?” Zed was ready to change her mind.
“A full moon.”
“I haven’t been here two weeks yet,” Taylor was pacing nervously, “I can’t wait another two or three to get home. I won’t survive here.”
“Not if Rahl gets his hands on you again,” Kahlan warned.
“Is there anything we can do?” Richard was hounding Zed, “can we maybe perform half of a spell on the half-moon if we’re only planning to send Taylor?”
“Only if you’re happy to have only half of him transported,” Zed scorned.
“I would not be happy with that,” Taylor raised a hand.
“Perhaps the key to this is patience,” Kahlan suggested, “we lay low until the full moon, and then return Taylor to the Peoples’ Palace.”
“We can’t just hand him over to Darken Rahl!” Richard scorned.
“It looks like it’s the only way,” Zed shook his head, “however I may have an alternative to the moon situation.”
The three younger paused, unsure of what they’d heard.
“Zed you can’t move the moon,” Richard’s eyes narrowed.
“Maybe not, but perhaps I could make it look as though I had.”
“But that would mean confronting Rahl,” Richard scorned.
“Not if Taylor delivers the message for us.”
“Rahl will hardly believe we’re doing him a favour,” Kahlan was cautious, “what excuse would we have to cause a full moon?”
“We could pretend we’re trying to stop him by changing the phases of the moon,” Richard realised.
“You’re proposing that Taylor lie to Rahl in the presence of the Mord-Sith,” Kahlan reminded him.
“He’d have no reason to lie,” Zed pointed out, “he wants the spell to work just as much as Rahl does.”
“I want to go home,” Taylor confirmed for the thousandth time.
“And that’s all Rahl needs to know,” Zed assured.
“Rahl also has some things I need to get back,” Taylor admitted, “things that don’t belong in this time.”
“Like what?” Richard asked.
“Personal things,” Taylor looked a little sheepish, “things you wouldn’t understand even if I tried to explain.”
“Are they objects?” Kahlan thought to ask.
“Yes,” Taylor nodded.
“We’ll get them back,” Richard assured him.
“Don’t go making too many promises yet,” Zed warned, “this could very well turn into Taylor’s battle, not ours. At this point we’ll have to wait until Rahl has vacated the palace before we can even move in.”
“I’m sure he won’t bother telling any of his men his plans,” Richard rolled his eyes, “they’ll still fight.”
“With Rahl gone his magic will also leave the land,” Zed reminded him, “his hold on the people may wane also. It may only be a few loyal followers we’ll have to deal with.”
“Sounds a little too good to be true.”
“That means it usually is,” Kahlan agreed.
“We won’t be sending Taylor in there alone, we’ll be right behind him,” Zed had his eye on Taylor as he spoke, “we have a little leeway for error.”
“Can you really replicate the full moon?” Kahlan folded her arms.
“My dear,” a grin spread across Zed’s face, “I am a wizard of the First Order. We’ve barely touched on what I can do with the moon.”
Chapter 25: 25
Taylor knew it was nearing dawn when Richard returned from a watch to find him awake in their camp. Kahlan had long ago taken Richard’s place.
“You should be asleep,” Richard mused, “who knows how much sleep you’ll get in the coming days?”
“I’m worried,” Taylor admitted, hugging his knees to his chest.
“We’re all worried, but I’m sure we can handle what’s coming,” Richard set the sword down and took a seat beside him.
“It’s not really that,” Taylor shrugged awkwardly, “I’m worried it won’t work. I’m worried that I might end up stuck here.”
Richard hesitated, unsure of how to respond to that.
“I mean no offence, this place is incredible,” Taylor looked around, despite it being dark, “I’ve never seen anything so… pristine in my life. But I can’t stay here. I don’t belong, and my family back home needs me.”
Richard nodded, rubbing his hands together as they warmed in front of the fire.
“You have family here, right?” Taylor realised he hadn’t heard mention of them, “don’t you miss them?”
“I miss them very much,” Richard couldn’t help but smile a little, “but my family’s a little complicated.”
He looked across, meeting Taylor’s gaze. He was waiting for him to go on.
“It turns out the family I grew up with didn’t include my birth parents,” he quickly explained.
“So you were adopted?” Taylor confirmed.
“The parents I grew up with gave me a brother, Michael,” Richard wasn’t sure how to respond and so didn’t, “our mother died when I was young, and my father was recently murdered by a D’Haran soldier.”
“I’m sorry,” Taylor’s brow furrowed.
“It’s okay, I’ll see them again someday,” Richard smiled, “just as you will your family.”
Taylor sighed and rubbed his face. He was trying his hardest not to consider the alternative, but there were too many unknowns in the scenario. Anything could go wrong before then. He might even catch some kind of eradicated disease he’d never heard of.
“The spell will work,” Richard leaned in a little, “I trust Zed with my life, and he hasn’t let me down yet.”
“I appreciate the sentiment, but I don’t really have a choice one way or another,” Taylor pointed out, “I have to trust him whether I would or not.”
Richard looked across at where Zed lay asleep. He wasn’t sure anything else he could say at this point would be understood.
“Tell me more about your time,” he decided to change the subject instead, “I know I wasn’t there long, but I saw some very strange things. I saw light from something other than fire, and some kind of large metal creature…”
Taylor tried to remember what he might have been referring to, before his eyes lit up.
“That was our bus,” he realised, “you saw our tour bus. It’s like a… kind of like a giant cart that needs fuel instead of horses. It takes us from city to city.”
“Fuel?” Richard was unsure.
“Kinda like what you put in your lamps but different. It helps run machines. Though more and more are turning to electricity instead of fuel. Electricity is what you saw in the lights.”
“Electricity,” Richard repeated, “like lightning?”
“Exactly like lightning,” Taylor’s mood brightened when he realised Richard was getting it, “in our time we’ve managed to harness the natural energy of things like lightning, water, wind, and use those to fuel our cars our homes…”
“Why would you need to fuel your homes?” Richard mused, “are they on wheels?”
“Some are,” Taylor considered, “like our bus. But homes in my time are full of things that need energy. Ways to heat or cool, ways to cook food, ways to keep food for a long time. So much is different it’s a little hard to comprehend.”
“I’m sure I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it for myself,” Richard agreed, “but you don’t seem to be as amazed about our time, if I’m not being too presumptuous.”
“No you’re not,” Taylor assured, “and I am amazed. I’ve never seen anything like what Zed can do. But the way your people live is actually rather similar to our own history. I’ve read about it, I’ve see it in movies-“
Taylor paused again before smirking.
“I think that one would take a little too much time to explain.”
“What?” she demanded through her teeth, stopping in the corridor to turn back.
The guard closed in on her to make sure no one would overhear.
“The journey book has sent word of the traveller being sighted at a camp out near the ridge,” he said quietly, “he was with the Seeker.”
“Unsurprising,” Triana drawled, “was this sighting certain?”
“Yes Mistress. I am on my way to inform the Lord Rahl.”
Triana thought it over quickly.
“Give me a head start,” she ordered, “and inform the Lord Rahl that I will retrieve the traveller myself.”
“Yes Mistress,” the guard bowed his head as she stalked past him.
She had retrieved a quad and left the palace before the soldier even made it to Rahl’s quarters.
Chapter 26: 26
Taylor moaned in relief when he came across the berry bush. He recognised the red berries instantly as the ones he’d scoffed many days back. Wishing he had his scarf with him to collect them, he carefully held the front of his tunic out with his left hand as he started collecting with his right. Once he had enough for a handful they went straight into his mouth.
He’d barely finished two handfuls when he heard footsteps on the path. Expecting Richard or Kahlan to have found him he jumped several inches when instead he saw Triana.
“Fancy seeing you out here,” she had a smirk on her face as she came to rest.
Taylor dropped the berries and immediately raised his hands in surrender.
He had to wonder how far away Richard and Kahlan actually were.
When Triana retrieved her agiel from its holster Taylor jumped backward.
“Whoa, whoa! There’s no need for that!” he insisted, keeping his hands up.
“Really,” Triana wasn’t convinced.
“Really! If Rahl wants me back I’ll go with you. I know he’s the only one that can help me.”
Triana’s eyes scanned the trees suspiciously.
“The palace guards informed us that you readily went with the Seeker. That he did not force you away,” she countered, “why should I trust that you wish to return to Lord Rahl?”
“Like I said,” he shrugged, “the Seeker can’t help me get home. But Rahl can.”
Triana’s eyes went to the trees again. This time Taylor heard the tell-tale clinking of chain mail as he quickly found himself surrounded by a quad.
“Whether you’re telling the truth or not it doesn’t matter,” she assured, “you’re coming with us either way.”
Taylor felt an internal shudder as he entered the same room once more. Rahl was standing in the far doorway to the room where Taylor had been schooling him, and he didn’t bother looking up. To Triana it looked as though he hadn’t moved in days.
“Lord Rahl,” she announced their presence, standing to Taylor’s side, “I have something for you.”
Taylor’s breath caught in his throat as Rahl moved. He barely gave Taylor a glance as he approached him.
“Taylor has told me that he didn’t actually want to leave the palace,” Triana rolled her eyes, “that the Seeker forced him away. He promises that he understands you are the only person who can help him.”
“Is that right?” Rahl stopped in front of Taylor, reaching up to tinker with his necklaces.
“Yes,” Taylor’s voice shook, not daring to step back but thoroughly petrified at having the tyrant so close.
“It’s uncanny then, that in your efforts to evade the Seeker and his comrades that you managed to stop and find some peasant clothes,” Rahl dropped the pendant he’d been fondling and stepped away.
“Rahl I have something-“
Taylor jolted as Triana hit him in the side with the agiel. His teeth clenched and he grabbed for the table as he fell to a knee.
“You will address the Lord Rahl properly,” Triana ordered, “and it starts from your knees.”
Taylor fell to his hands and knees once she let him go, struggling to get his breath back and force himself back to his knees.
“Sorry,” he cleared his throat, “Lord Rahl. I have something important to tell you.”
Rahl paused in his pacing, turning back to look down at Taylor. The eye contact made Taylor’s heart race faster.
“Speak clearly,” Triana warned, agiel still at the ready.
“The wizard. Zed?” he suddenly wasn’t sure of the name despite hearing Richard say it often, “he’s going to move the moon.”
“How would he do such a thing?” Triana broke into an amused chuckle, “’move the moon’?”
“Zeddicus is a wizard of the First Order,” Rahl returned to stand over Taylor, “I don’t doubt that he has such power. Did they happen to say when?”
“Tomorrow night,” Taylor responded, “he’s going to make it full so you won’t have time to cast the spell. That’s why I ran away from them. They want to keep me here so that Ra- Lord Rahl won’t have a chance to travel too.”
“Why not tonight? If he has the power,” Triana shrugged, “they are underestimating the Lord Rahl’s patience. He can simply wait for the next full moon.”
“But that’s a month away,” Taylor frowned.
“Perhaps this is to our benefit,” Rahl was speaking to Triana but kept his eyes on Taylor, “with all preparations made for tomorrow night, the Seeker will not have time to mount an ambush on the palace. We will be able to travel unhindered.”
“And the sooner I leave the better,” Taylor agreed.
“I smell a trap,” Triana warned.
Rahl paused to consider, before moving to the other side of the room again. He looked up to the skylight where he knew he needed the moon to sit perfectly for the spell.
“Maybe so,” he conceded, “however it appears the Seeker and his friends have given us everything we’ve been asking for.”
He looked back to Triana.
“So until then, why don’t you keep our guest company?” Rahl smiled a little, “I’ll call on you if either of you are needed.”
Taylor felt himself gulp slightly before Triana’s agiel appeared in front of his eyes.
“On your feet traveller.”
Rahl was already ignoring him. Taylor cast a quick eye around the room in an effort to find his belongings, but he couldn’t see them anywhere. Not even his clothes.
With a grimace he pulled himself to his feet and followed Triana from the room.
Chapter 27: 27
Taylor had been dreading this moment. While he was no longer in physical shackles he certainly felt as though he were. Triana had closed the door on two guards stationed outside after ordering him to sit on the bed.
“I hope you haven’t forgotten our little arrangement,” she turned back, one hand on her agiel.
“I’m not all that sure we had one,” Taylor frowned.
He knew exactly what she was talking about, but he was going to skirt around it as long as possible.
“Don’t be coy,” Triana rolled her eyes dramatically.
She set her agiel aside and began unbuckling her leather.
“Those clothes suit you much better than those potato sacks, but they will need to be removed.”
Taylor’s eyes went to the window. He remembered how far down it was and he already began trying to work out if he could make the jump without breaking his legs. Because he was distracted Triana startled him when she pushed him down and crawled onto his lap.
“Allow me to do it for you,” her smile was devious.
“I’d rather you didn’t,” he tried crawling back further.
He froze suddenly at the sight of her agiel to his right. He didn’t see the sudden change in her expression.
“What is her name?” Triana demanded.
“What? Who?” Taylor was caught off guard.
“Who are you thinking about?” she was getting riled up.
Before Taylor could work out what she was talking about she hit him in the side with the agiel. His back arched as he cried out, but Triana’s legs and right arm stopped him writhing far.
“What is her name?!” she demanded again as he collapsed under her.
“Natalie,” he struggled to catch his breath, “my wife’s name is Natalie.”
Triana set the agiel aside again, though Taylor’s eyes were fixated on it now.
“I’m sure she’s very worried about you by now,” Triana’s eye wandered over him, “I’m sure she wishes she were here to comfort you.”
Taylor didn’t know what to say to that. He knew very well that the time between Richard being sent away and returned hadn’t been very long. Natalie might not even know that he was missing yet.
Technically, she hadn’t been born yet.
“Luckily for you…” Taylor stiffened as Triana’s hand ventured upward under his tunic, “I am here instead.”
“I can’t do this,” Taylor knew she could feel his heart racing, “I belong to her.”
“And yet she does not exist in this world,” Triana rebutted, “but I do.”
She leant in further, forcing him flat on the bed. Her left hand cupped his chin forcing his head slightly upward.
“No need to worry,” she assured, “I’ll take better care of you than she ever has.”
She placed a gentle kiss on his lips.
“And if you find your way home, perhaps you could teach this Natalie a thing or two,” she mused.
“It is ready, my Lord. Shota has come through for you.”
“I thank you for your many years of trusted service,” Darken Rahl gave his sorcerer an appreciative nod, “I only hope this works.”
The sorcerer nodded in return and Rahl left the room. He made his way out to a small balcony under which a mixed group of Dragon Core and D’Haran soldiers stood at the ready.
“Good evening,” he greeted them, “you all know why you’re here, and I am ever grateful for your eternal servitude and sacrifice. I will personally see to it that each of you are rewarded greatly.”
He looked above to the near-half moon. His trained eye could already see the light spreading across its surface.
“It is almost time,” he announced before turning to his aide, “bring Taylor to me.”
Triana was fixing her last buckle when a guard knocked at the door. She stalked over to it and pulled it open.
“What?” she demanded impatiently.
“The Lord Rahl has need of the traveller,” the guard replied, making Taylor look up from where he stood at the window.
Triana looked over her shoulder to make sure he was paying attention.
“Come,” she indicated with a nod.
Taylor didn’t hesitate. The guards led the way through the castle, Triana following closely to make sure he wouldn’t suddenly change his mind. As they neared the balcony Taylor did hesitate.
“Wait,” he raised a hand to make sure Triana knew he wasn’t actually resisting, “when I came here, I carried some things with me. I need those to take back.”
“I will find them once you are in Lord Rahl’s capable hands,” Triana assured, ushering him onward.
Darken Rahl stared Taylor down as he came into view before pointedly turning back to his men. Taylor clasped his hands as he took up post behind him trying to imagine being anywhere but there. He hoped with everything he had that Richard’s plan was going to work.
Rahl kept his eyes to the moon, and once Taylor realised what he was doing he too could see the light crossing the moon’s surface. It told him Zed was already well at work.
Before he knew it Rahl began reciting the incantation.
“Wait,” he quickly turned to follow Triana, only to come neck to blade with a guard’s sword.
“I’m afraid I can’t let you leave, traveller,” he warned.
Taylor stepped back so the blade was no longer touching his skin and cast his eyes to where Triana had disappeared.
“Triana owes something to me,” he looked the guard in the eye, “I need it.”
“Make sure he doesn’t leave the light!” Rahl stopped his spellcasting to yell out.
Taylor saw him shielding his face from the moonlight before dropping his hands and continuing the spell. The guard pushed Taylor back further to make sure he was bathed in it.
“Find Triana!” Taylor scowled, his fear replaced with urgency.
Just as the flashes of blue lightning started to appear to dance around them, a shadow appeared in a far corridor. Taylor began to feel weary and along with Darken Rahl beside him fell to his knees. Triana appeared to throw Taylor’s belongings into the moonlight just as they faded away.
Chapter 28: 28
Taylor hit the asphalt hard, not expecting to fall onto anything but stone. Rahl fell beside him but rose to his feet instantly. Taylor saw his cell phone on the ground in front of him and quickly grabbed it before one of the soldiers could drag him up as well.
Once he was on his feet he was able to see that he was back behind the truck stop where he’d first met Richard. It already felt like so long ago.
“You know what to do!” Rahl ordered his men, and the sound of twenty swords unsheathing echoed into the night.
“Why haven’t we moved yet?”
Isaac looked up to where Zac had appeared in the doorway.
“We must be still waiting for Tay,” Isaac realised, not having been paying attention at all.
“We’ve been here half an hour what is he doing out there?”
“Why don’t you go find out?” Isaac replaced one of his earbuds.
Zac rolled his eyes and made his way from the bus. As his feet hit the ground he saw the flashes of blue off to the right and stopped himself. The glares almost looked like lights reflecting from water, but he was sure there couldn’t be any water around here.
Curiosity getting the better of him, he made his way to the corner of the truck stop. The light was gone by the time he got there.
The moment he stepped around the corner he found a sword to his throat.
“ZAC!” Taylor spotted him before Rahl did, but a soldier took him by the arm so he couldn’t move.
“Wait,” Rahl ordered, “you know this man?”
“He’s my brother,” Taylor replied.
“Stand down,” Rahl ordered his soldier, who immediately lowered his sword.
“What is going on?” Zac’s eyes were darting before settling on Taylor, “you found a bunch of cosplayers?”
“Sadly no,” Taylor’s eyes went to Rahl.
“Why do you look like you haven’t shaved in weeks?” Zac frowned as Rahl approached him.
“If you truly are Taylor’s brother, you will also be able to help us on our quest,” he looked Zac up and down, “will you cooperate or will you need convincing?”
A raise of his hand saw a sword to Taylor’s throat. It hadn’t taken Zac long at all to recognise that the blades were real. Costumes or not, Taylor’s life was under threat.
“What do you want?” he asked nervously, his left hand creeping slowly to the pocket that held his cell phone.
“I want to meet your president,” Rahl gave him a smile, “your brother here has assured me that he can take us to him.”
Zac’s eyes went back to Taylor. He was nodding in agreement but there was something else in his eyes. Something he couldn’t read.
“Sure…” Zac looked back over his shoulder toward the tour bus, “we just need to organise the bus. I’ll need help from my brother for that.”
Rahl locked eyes with the soldier standing at Zac’s side.
“Go with them,” he ordered, “make sure they don’t wander off. We wouldn't want them getting lost.”
The soldier holding Taylor shoved him forward. Step by step as he walked toward Zac the soldier followed.
“Don’t keep me waiting,” Rahl warned Taylor as he passed, “you know what awaits you if you do.”
“Yes Lord Rahl,” Taylor confirmed, before grabbing Zac by the arm and pulling him back toward the bus.
“Tay what the hell is going on?” Zac said low enough for the soldiers to not hear.
“I’ll explain later,” his older brother promised, “right now you need to do everything I say or we’re going to be in deep shit.”
He looked back to where Rahl was watching from the corner. He waited for Zac to board the bus and quickly followed before the soldiers could.
“Get out your phone,” Taylor instructed, seeing that his was almost dead.
“Want me to call 911?” Zac asked softly, his eyes going to where the first soldier was joining them.
Isaac heard the heavy clunks and felt the bus sway. He pulled his earbuds and quickly sat up.
“No,” Taylor corrected, “we just need to stall for time. Give it here.”
“The Lord Rahl will not be kept waiting!” the first soldier had overheard.
“What the…?” Isaac frowned, soon finding a blade at his throat also.
“Who are you?!” the soldier demanded.
“FREEZE!” Taylor ordered, lighting the torch on Zac’s phone and shining it in their eyes, “unhand my brother and stay right where you are!”
The soldiers, confused, stayed where they were and the first dropped his sword.
“What kind of sorcery is this?” he frowned, shielding his eyes with his other hand.
“How much time are we talking?” Zac was starting to catch on.
“Hopefully not long,” Taylor wouldn’t take his eyes from the soldiers, “find something we can use if this doesn’t work.”
“What’s going on?!” Isaac demanded as Zac rushed past him.
“Stay where you are!” Taylor ordered him.
“I got it!” Zac raced back barely a moment later, quickly connecting one of his consoles to the nearest television.
Taylor didn’t know what he was doing, but he knew the soldiers were starting to realise that the light wasn’t harming them and they weren’t going to have much time to convince them otherwise.
Zac found the remote and turned the set on to one of his games where he quickly went through the menu into a saved game. Still thoroughly confused Isaac watched as the CGI knights appeared onscreen.
Taylor looked over his shoulder to see what he’d done before dropping the light.
“If you don’t want to end up like your friends stuck in the box,” he added a smirk in order to fake confidence, “now that my light has shone upon you, you must do exactly as I say.”
Zac looked between the soldiers, trying to judge if it was working.
“Exactly as I say,” Taylor reiterated as he stepped forward, causing them to retreat a little, “you’re in my world now.”
Chapter 29: 29
Richard, Kahlan and Zed could see the blue lightning emanating from the Peoples’ Palace from atop a ridge not far away.
“There they go,” Zed stated the obvious.
Once the light had dissipated Richard sighed.
“We have barely two weeks to get everything together for the spell of undoing,” he looked up at Zed, “unless you want to keep playing with the moon.”
“I’m afraid that spell only works once in a summer’s rotation,” Zed was apologetic, “it’s up to us to make the preparations and hope we stay out of Shota’s way in the meantime.”
“Is there any way we can ward against Shota’s influence?” Kahlan asked as they made their way back to their temporary camp, “I’m sure she’ll do anything she can to keep Rahl locked in the future.”
“Where he’ll be Taylor’s problem instead of mine,” Richard agreed.
“We can’t let that happen. Taylor’s world is without magic and his people will be powerless against them,” Kahlan reiterated.
“Don’t despair just yet, we don’t know what Taylor might have at his disposal that he didn’t share with us,” Zed attempted to calm their fears, “I’m sure there are many things he would have told us about if we’d only been able to understand his words.”
“I can vouch for that I guess,” Richard shrugged, “there were so many things he said that did not make sense to me. No matter how hard he tried to explain it.”
“Just like he had trouble understanding our ways,” Zed agreed.
They made it to the camp and Zed quickly threw wizard’s fire onto the wood they’d prepared earlier.
“I’ll find us something for dinner,” Richard announced before heading off into the trees.
Kahlan set her pack down and took a seat on the grass.
“What if we can’t do it?” she asked once Zed had taken a seat also, “what if Rahl is really consigned to living in the future forever? What of our time then?”
“I highly doubt that anyone’s going to notice that Rahl is missing for barely two weeks,” Zed considered, “however if we don’t manage to reverse the spell at the next full moon and it ends up taking longer we could face some confusion in the upper ranks of the D’Haran army. In particular with the Dragon Core and the Third Battalion.”
“And what then?” Kahlan leant forward, “they’re hardly going to let the Seeker walk into the Peoples’ Palace and claim the throne – a throne might I add that Richard certainly will not want.”
“He may not have a choice if it’s an aid to restore order to D’Hara,” Zed warned, “perhaps this could be the turning point for the two of you in becoming the leaders you were always meant to be. Richard on the throne of D’Hara and yourself on the throne of Aydindril.”
“I don’t recall any prophecy of Richard becoming a leader,” Kahlan reminded him, “only that he was to defeat Darken Rahl with the book of Counted Shadows.”
“But the prophecies have never told us what will happen in the wake of their coming to pass,” Zed pointed out, “and I assure you, Richard is meant for much greater things than simply killing Darken Rahl.”
“That’s the last of it, right?” Richard dropped a coin purse full of white powder in Zed’s lap.
“That should do,” Zed confirmed, “now give me time and space.”
“The moon has almost risen,” Kahlan’s eyes were to the sky as she pulled Richard away from the stone circle they’d created, “it won’t be long now.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Richard’s eyes were on the trees instead, “if anyone were to stop this from happening now would be the perfect time to intervene.”
“Imagine that, Seeker.”
Their eyes shot to the right at a voice from the trees.
“You make mention of me and I appear, even without magic,” Triana was grinning, and she wasn’t alone.
Two other Mord-Sith appeared from the shadows behind her, one of them with their eyes on Zed.
Richard and Kahlan had led them far enough away that the wizard hadn’t heard their arrival.
“Are you here to stop us or to help us?” Richard demanded.
“Why on Earth would we help you?” Triana was confused, “our orders come from Lord Rahl, and those orders included stopping you from bringing him back from 2014.”
“If Rahl stays in 2014 then you won’t have a leader to follow,” Kahlan scorned, “the orders don’t make sense.”
“Our duty is to serve the Lord Rahl. His orders don’t have to make sense, we just have to follow them.”
Richard drew his sword causing the Mord-Sith to draw their agiels. But Kahlan stepped in front of him.
“Then you agree you’re doing this for nothing,” she pressed, “you simply need to see reason.”
“We won’t convince them,” Richard tried to warn her, “the Mord-Sith have always happily died for Rahl and that doesn’t change if he isn’t here.”
“Richard speaks sense,” Triana said to Kahlan pointedly, “which isn’t too much of a surprise considering he went through Denna’s training. He knows our ways after all.”
“I do,” Richard agreed, “but that doesn’t mean I agree with them or don’t think you’re being incredibly stupid.”
Triana paused and tilted her head, evidently taking offense but trying not to show it.
“Perhaps our training needs to be reinstated,” she bared her teeth, raising her agiel.
Kahlan stooped to retrieve the daggers from her boots but the Mord-Sith to the left attacked first. Richard hit the agiel away with the Sword of Truth almost taking her head with it.
“Kill the confessor and the wizard, but leave the Seeker to me,” Triana ordered her sisters, “he’s mine.”
Richard instantly moved to the side to put himself between the Mord-Sith and Zed. He barely managed to take one of them down before a flash of light lit up the clearing as bright as day.
“STOP THE WIZARD!” Triana screamed out.
“You’re too late!” Richard let them go.
They raced to the edge of the circle where they were forced to stop by the sheer force of power. The white light pillared toward the moon overhead before taking on a blue hue.
“It’s working,” Kahlan put a hand on Richard’s shoulder to help catch her breath.
“I hope so,” he couldn’t tear his eyes away, “but now we have to be ready for Rahl’s soldiers.”
Chapter 30: 30
“What if that other guy comes looking for them?” Zac was looking worried.
“What other guy?” Isaac’s heart was racing.
“Is everyone on the bus?” Taylor looked between them.
“Yeah we were waiting for you,” Zac shrugged.
“You need to leave,” Taylor turned back to the soldiers, “get off the bus.”
“Tay-“ Zac grabbed his arm.
“They can’t stay here,” Taylor insisted, “they have to go back with the rest of them and we need to get out of here.”
“What do you mean ‘go back’?” the second soldier demanded.
“The wizard is working on a reversal spell right now to take all of you back to D’Hara,” Taylor told him, “so if you don’t go back and join your friends you’ll be stuck in 2014 for the rest of your lives. You can trust me when I say you will not survive here.”
The soldiers glanced at each other, unsure.
“Give us your swords,” Zac pushed in front of Taylor.
“No!” the first soldier scorned.
“Tay?” Zac indicated the phone.
Taylor went to turn the torch on again, but had second thoughts before he could. Instead he opened the camera. The soldiers both raised their swords again in an effort to deflect the light making Zac step back out of their range. Taylor moved up instead and took a quick photo. He made sure it was visible on the screen and turned the phone around.
“Step one,” he warned, “recognise these faces?”
The soldiers warily came closer. When they saw themselves on the screen their faces paled.
“If you don’t do as my brother says and hand over your swords, guess what will happen next?” Taylor didn’t have to act the urgency, he knew Rahl was going to come looking anytime now.
The soldiers handed them over. Zac struggled with the weight until Isaac took one of them from him.
“Go back to Rahl, and tell him I’m gone,” Taylor ordered, “but take your time. If you run, you’ll run straight into the box.”
He pointed back to the television where Zac’s character was still moving onscreen.
“GO!” he scowled.
The soldiers carefully backed themselves off the bus.
“Tell the driver to start her up, we’re going,” Taylor took Isaac’s sword from him, “we just need to make sure they go back.”
“Is that a good idea?” Zac wasn’t sure, “can’t we just guard the door and take off?”
“Rahl might have a way of stopping the bus,” Taylor followed them.
Zac and Isaac locked eyes before Zac realised he’d better follow. Seeing the grip Taylor had on the sword once he was outside put him more on edge than the sight of the soldiers had to begin with.
The two soldiers had headed back around the corner to where Rahl was waiting with the rest of them. Out of sight, most of the soldiers were inspecting their surroundings more closely.
“Lord Rahl,” the first approached cautiously.
Darken Rahl looked him over, seeing immediately that his sword was gone.
“Where is Taylor?” he demanded.
“There is sorcery at work here,” the soldier warned, “the traveller has already taken soldiers prisoner. He has them in a small box that emits light.”
“I have a question for you,” Rahl wasn’t impressed at all, “but first I want you to look around. Is anyone missing?”
The soldier did a quick headcount. All twenty soldiers were present.
“No my Lord.”
“Then how would Taylor have taken anybody prisoner?”
The soldiers gave each other a nervous glance.
“Where are your weapons?” a soldier from the Dragon Core demanded.
“They took them. There’s more than two of them,” the second soldier replied.
They were distracted as the wind suddenly picked up.
“FIND THEM!” Rahl ordered the Dragon Core members as the tell-tale blue lightning broke through the darkness.
“We’re right here,” Taylor stepped out from the corner, “and we’re not going anywhere. But you are.”
“We’ll see about that,” Rahl sneered, “seize them!”
“Tay what are we doing?” Zac shot his brother a glance as the soldiers advanced.
“Stay out of the light and wait for it,” Taylor insisted, twisting his grip on the sword.
Taylor stood his ground even as a soldier twice his size aimed for his throat. He managed to twist his own sword into a defensive position and cast the offending one away. Another member of the Dragon Core had gone for Zac and he immediately went into offence aiming for the soldier’s unshielded legs.
“Lord Rahl, we need to get out of the light!” one of the foot soldiers called in warning as the lightning started to surround them.
Taylor ducked another swing, following Zac’s lead and going for the soldier’s legs. He took a cut to his left but came for Taylor again. Their swords clashed before Zac darted forward and used his weight to shove the soldier back toward the group. The second took hold of his arm.
“It’s too late,” Rahl realised aloud, staring toward Taylor as he did so, “but never fear. I’m sure we’ll see them again.”
“ZAC!” Taylor had to step into the light to pull his brother back.
Zac had tried to fight the man off but it took Taylor slicing at his arm for him to let go. He managed to pull Zac back just as a white light enveloped the area and the two of them ran. Just as they ducked behind the building the pulse erupted that sent the D’Harans away.
Once it was dark again, Taylor ran back to check that everyone was actually gone.
“Okay, you need to tell me what the hell just happened,” holding onto the sword was the only reason Zac was staying upright at this point.
He turned when he heard a clutter behind him to see a trucker having emerged from the truck stop. He’d dropped his coffee and his face was white.
“We need to get out of here,” Taylor insisted, returning to collect his brother, “come on!”
He took Zac back to the bus. With the driver ready to go they quickly pulled out onto the highway. Zac carefully placed his sword onto one of the couches while Taylor kept hold of his, adrenaline still pumping through his veins.
“So…” Isaac was now looking Taylor up and down, just realising how different he actually looked, “are we going to have to avoid Seattle from now on or…?”