Moonrise on Jupiter

A Glimpse into the Thoughts & Imaginings of Vibeke Hiatt

The Forgotten King – Chapter 4, Part 3

He stopped his horse at the point where the two boxes joined and dismounted. “Helen,” he said with mock benevolence, “what happened? Do you need help?”

Helen said nothing and only watched as Ian walked measuredly along the wall, back and forth, running his eyes over it. Then he put out his hand and touched the wall as he walked, moving closer. His fingers smoothly penetrated it, then his hand, then his entire arm. Helen’s fear grew faster than she could control. Fumbling, she pulled a small crossbow from her bag and stepped backwards until the resistance of the wall stopped her. She set an arrow in place and pointed it at the man, though her hand shook noticeably.

Unaffected, Ian smiled piteously, continuing to pace until he again reached Neil’s portion of the box. In a deliberate and exaggerated way, he walked straight forward, stepping through the wall like he was going through the curtain of a waterfall.

“Are you going to introduce me to your friend?” he asked. Confused by Ian’s demeanor but not willing to show it, Neil stood mutely, his cautious gaze fixed on Ian. Ian waited for a reply, but when he didn’t receive one, he took a deep breath and went on. “Helen and I met before. She was on her way to meet a friend, and I assume you are the friend she was going to meet.”

Helen was irritated by the way he said this, knowing that she hadn’t told him about Neil before. But, she was sure he only said it in this way to bait her, to make her argue with him. Fighting the irritation, she remained quiet, while her mind worked on the puzzle of how to get out of this box.

“Why are you both so quiet?” Ian asked after another pause. “It seems to me you’re in trouble and I may be able to help you. Let’s just try to think up a solution to this problem.”

“You’re willing to help us?” Neil stated.

“Of course,” replied Ian. “After all, I didn’t have any trouble crossing that line, so it looks like I’m the one who can help you.”

Trying to force herself to be confident, Helen stepped forward. As Ian spoke, the darkness she felt intensified. She was desperate to find a way to dispel it. The wall resisted her approach, but she fought against it until she was able to stand within two feet of the violet shield.

“We don’t need any help,” Helen said. “Not from you.”

“This seems a little familiar to me, Helen. You really need to learn to trust me. This is a dangerous place and I’m afraid you’re going to get hurt. Just look at what’s happened to you now.”

“How do we know you didn’t cause this?” she asked. Her mind was racing to find a solution, but it only made her feel more helpless than before. She didn’t remember any stories about boxes of light that might trap them.

“Really, Helen, you should be more careful. You don’t have many chances left. You’re lucky I’m feeling merciful today. Choose to come with me or I might be forced to do something you won’t like.”

“No,” Helen replied flatly.

“Such a brave little fool,” Ian jeered, “and so determined. But it won’t do you much good. I’m beginning to think you’d rather destroy yourself—and Neil—before you accept help from anyone. Are you really that arrogant?” He turned his attention to Neil, only glancing occasionally at Helen. “Listen, Neil. I know this place, and I know how to get around it. If you let me, I can help you find what you’re looking for, and you can help me find what I’m looking for.”

Neil stood completely still, his expression unreadable. It was impossible to tell if he was actually considering what Ian said, or if he was only trying to compose his own response. Tensely, Helen looked on, hoping Neil would choose not to listen to Ian, but knowing her own position was vulnerable no matter what he chose.

“Somehow,” Neil said so quietly Helen had to strain to hear, “I don’t think a man who’s offering to save my life would try to make a bargain.”

Ian’s pleasant, willingly helpful expression quickly melted into one of disappointed anger. Deftly, he pulled a small dagger from his belt and pointed it at Neil. “Your chances are slimming, too, Neil,” he stated. “I’ll have to kill you if you don’t come with me.”

The three of them stood motionless for just a few seconds and a gentle breeze began to blow. It vibrated through Helen, filling her entire body with a strange lightness. Not really knowing where it came from, a sudden idea formed in her mind and she knew what to do.

Lifting her crossbow again, she pointed it at Ian. Her anxiety replaced now with confidence, Helen raised her free hand. Ian’s hand began to shake, only slightly at first, but gradually the shaking became more violent. His grip on his dagger eased and it fell to the ground. Surprised, he held his wrist with his other hand. Then Helen looked up into the sky. The white clouds that streaked it thickened and turned dark grey, building on themselves, filling the expanse in a matter of seconds. Heavy rain started to pour down.

Helen again turned her eyes to Ian, who stared back with unmasked malice, holding his wrist and trying to stop the shaking. With determination, she shot the arrow in her crossbow. Shards of violet light flew and fell to the ground like pieces of glass as the arrow penetrated the wall, then continued on and pierced Ian’s shoulder. He screamed and fell to his knees as the rest of the walls shattered and fell to the ground, then disappeared.

Without a word, Neil ran to Helen and took her hand. He pulled her towards the nearest grove of trees, on the side of the nearest hill. Though she didn’t take a chance to look, Helen could hear Ian trying to follow behind them for a few yards, before his footsteps stopped abruptly. She hoped they could make it to the trees and disappear before he tried to follow again. A few more seconds went by, then just as they entered the trees, she heard the sound of the horse’s hooves. Ducking behind a trunk, she looked into the valley. But instead of riding towards them, Ian was riding away.

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