Return of the Matka-Zem (The Sorain Chronicles) (7 page)

BOOK: Return of the Matka-Zem (The Sorain Chronicles)
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Soon after she left the small hospital, she hitched a ride with a long-haul trucker to Fort Nelson, Canada. He was an older man with a small potbelly, and a black, handlebar mustache. He was a man of few words, but, when he spoke, it was quite colorful. Heeding the Keeper
's words, Jane stayed awake throughout the eleven-hour trip. With a hand on the curved knife's handle, she stared out the window for most of the ride, too wary of the man to feel tired. She was thankful when they finally reached Fort Nelson, and she parted ways with him, giving him only a curt thank you.

It took the better part of the day to find another ride. Jane continued to walk south on the Alaska Highway, sticking her thumb out the way she had read about in one of her books. Few cars passed her and when the sun passed the noon hour, she needed to rest. As she searched for a safe, dry place to sleep, a motor home slowed and stopped ahead of her. When she hesitated, the side door opened and an elderly woman stepped out of the vehicle.

"Do you want a ride, dear?" the old woman called in a sweet, high-pitched tone.

"
Yes," Jane yelled as she started to run toward the waiting vehicle. "Yes I do." Once she'd climbed aboard and the RV started down the road, the woman turned her captain chair to face her and she introduced herself.

"
I'm Helen, and this is my husband, Sam." The sweet retired couple was returning to their home in Tennessee after a trip to Alaska. "Where are you headed, dear?"

"
San Francisco," Jane answered simply, not bothering to elaborate. "And I'm Jane."

"
Well, you're in luck, young lady," Sam called over his shoulder. "We can take you as far as Vancouver."

"
Thank you very much," she replied in earnest. She had a good feeling about the elderly couple. At first, she fought to stay awake, yet the purr of the motor intertwined with the sound of the couple's soft voices allowed her to relax. Laying her head on the sofa's arm, it only took a few seconds before she drifted into an uneasy sleep.

Haunted by the events of the past seventy-two hours, Jane tossed and turned on the tiny sofa. Nightmares penetrated her dreams as one horror after the other floated before her subconscious mind: a disembodied head of the Keeper yelled at her to run; Inga pointed a wooden spoon towards her and ordered the Glauc-tuko to kill; Thane struck the creature with his deadly weapon before it pounced. She watched in horror as two of the beasts overcame the Mlinzi and ripped him to shreds, all the while the horses
' death cries echoed around her.

"
Thane!" Jane bolted upright, fully awake from the nightmares. Disoriented from the terrible images, it took a few seconds before she realized that the RV had stopped and the elderly couple was not in the vehicle. She warily stepped out of the motor home and was surprised to find it was dark already. She quickly glanced around the area in search of the couple and found that they had set up a small campsite, with three lawn chairs, a folding table, and a tiny fire in a nearby fire pit. Her heart sunk in fear when she did not see Helen and Sam in the firelight. She cautiously walked around the motor home, searching for the elderly couple. Uneasiness grew inside her at the thought of the nice couple being prey to the horrid creatures that hunted her. The Glauc-tuko did not seem to be stealthy creatures and, surely, if they had found her, there would have been some kind of commotion. Deep in her mind, she feared something far worse than the Glauc-tuko lived in the dark.

As she slowly made her way to the edge of a small brook, the sound of laughter drifted in the night air. She peered in the darkness, and saw a silhouette of the couple playing in the cold water. With a sigh of relief, she crouched behind a boulder and spied on them as they lovingly embraced. As she watched Helen and Sam play in the water, Jane wondered how love would be on her home world. From the many books she had read in the library, she learned that looking for love on Earth was a constant search that many people never found. A fragment of lost memory tickled the back of her mind and she had the feeling life was different on her planet. She watched the elderly couple from her hiding place and a twinge of guilt caused her face to flush. Even with her limited knowledge of both worlds, she knew privacy was sacred regardless of where one lived, so she returned to the motor home to wait for the couple.

***

"
Valencia!" Thane bolted upright in bed. In near panic, he scanned the hospital room in search of the young woman. At first glance, he determined he was in some kind of healing center and gave a mental laugh at the shock the healers would receive when they realized he was not human. Although humanoid, he was far from an Earthling. As he struggled off the bed, he pulled out the IV, and ripped off the cast on his arm. Weak as a newborn kitten, he stumbled on his first step. Pain shot through his broken arm as he fell onto the IV pole and sent it crashing to the floor. Although he had the capacity for rapid healing, his wounds were extensive enough to need the Ravib Kivi, the healing crystal. With a mumbled curse, he searched the room for his belongings and found them stuffed in the tiny closet. From deep inside his cloak, he withdrew a blue crystal shard, thin as a pencil, blunt at one end and pointed at the other.

"
Genees mij," he whispered and the crystal flashed as if a light lay inside the shard. . Placing the pointed tip against his chest, he grit his teeth against the pain as his body began to heal. As he watched his forearm knit together, the pain in his head began to ease. As he wearily leaned against the bed, he thankful the Soren race learned long ago how to control the power of the crystal. Just as the blue light vanished, the door flew open. Thane spun around to face the intruder and saw a woman in a white uniform rushing towards him.

"
What do you think are you doing? Get back into bed," the woman ordered in a stern tone and reached for his right arm in an effort to protect the damaged limb. When she realized his arm was healed, she gasped in surprise. "How?"

"
Where is the princess?" Thane practically growled his question as he towered over the woman. He bit back his laughter as the uniformed woman cowered before him.

"
Your wife left a day ago and hasn't returned." The woman backed away from him until she reached the door, then bolted out of the room. Thane gave another bitter laugh. Expecting the woman to call for help, he swiftly retrieved his belongings. With a smile, he found his sword, glad the princess had retrieved it. Although he carried several dangerous weapons and a few short swords as backup, nothing felt better than having the long steel blade at his side.

"
Damn you, girl. You should have known to stay put." At the thought of his missing charge, his smile vanished. "But no, you couldn't do that! You just had to run off on your own. Must you always give me grief?" He gave a bitter laugh at his own ignorance. No thanks to the Xeral Mlinzi, Princess Valencia had no clue who she was and did not remember the hell she had put him through as her personal guard. He cursed again for his own contribution to her disappearance. "I should have instructed her to stay with me," he muttered. Although completely healed, Thane felt stiff and he groaned as he donned his shirt. If the princess hadn't unleashed her power, cocooning him inside a plant, he could have dispatched the remaining Glauc-tuko instead of suffering a near-death battle wound. As he buttoned his pants, Thane laughed again, amazed by the power of the girl. To wield such power on an alien world was magnificent. In all their history, only one other Matka-Zem had such a gift and she was the one who awoke Sora thousands of years ago. Shoving his foot into his boot, he felt a piece of paper tucked inside. When he read the address, he gave a sigh of relief. "At least you're not running away from me."

With the hilt of his sword, he smashed the window and was thankful to be only on the second floor. As two security men, followed by the woman, rushed inside the room, he jumped from the ledge. Thane heard their gasps of surprise as he lightly landed on the ground and vanished into the nearby woods.

***

With the elderly couple occasionally stopping to sightsee along the way, it took three days to reach Vancouver. Although the sense of urgency remained knotted in her stomach, Jane enjoyed the time with Helen and Sam. They treated her like a daughter and included her in their outings.

It was a sad moment when they stopped outside Vancouver and she had to say her goodbyes.

"
Jane dear, why don't you stay with us for a while?" asked Helen with a slight frown on her pale face.

"
A beautiful young woman such as yourself should not be traveling alone these days," Sam stated in a fatherly way that brought a smile to her lips. Nevertheless, the urgency to find the way to her own planet was always just below the surface and she had to take her leave from the friendly couple.

"
I would love too, but I can't." She hated to see Helen's eyes cloud with tears. She gave the elderly woman a hug. "I will always remember your kindness," she whispered into the woman's ear. With a quick hug for Sam, she turned her back on the couple and walked away with a heavy heart.

The city sidewalk was so crowded with people that she had to press her right shoulder against the building in order to make any progress towards her destination. She had read about the bustle of city life, but she could not have imagined the stress involved in just trying to find the bus station. As she progressed down the street, she felt out of place, apart from the crowd. She was different. Her Gift was proof of that. No human being could do what she had done. She was an alien, in the literal sense.

When the Greyhound bus sign came into view, she increased her pace and pushed through the crowd to reach her target. Purchasing a one-way ticket to San Francisco, California, she hurriedly boarded the waiting bus. Choosing a seat in the last row, she silently waited for the bus's departure. Fearing her enemies were closer than she hoped, she was thankful for her luck in catching the last bus heading south. Waiting for the next bus could possibly be her undoing.

With a roar of its engine, the bus finally pulled out of the station. As the vehicle merged onto the highway, its sway began to relax her and she was able to reflect on her shrouded past. Taking a deep breath to let the tension seep out of her body, she closed her eyes and cleared her mind to allow the fleeting images to form. Bits of memory drifted into her consciousness, yet no complete recollection of her past life fully materialized. Only glimpses of unfamiliar places and faces flashed before her closed eyes. She could not bring into clarity many elusive memories.

Fragments of information of an alien planetary system filled her thoughts. Remembered images of a huge gas giant composed of swirling red and white stripes spun before her closed eyes. A hint of memory teased her thoughts and she recalled twin suns setting in a lavender sky. Memories of two small moons rising in the darkening sky formed solidly in her mind.

"
Sora!" The word screamed inside her brain. Sora was her home planet. For the last ten years, she realized, she'd thought herself human. It was almost unfathomable that Earth was nothing more than a hiding place from some evil foe.

"
But from whom?" She glanced out the window and caught a glimpse of a young boy playing with a toy dinosaur in a passing car. She had never heard of the Glauc-tuko and had the feeling that the creatures were a nightmarish version of a pack of hunting dogs. Moreover, whoever controlled them wanted to control her too.

Join us or die
. Inga's words echoed in her mind. Join who? And why did they want to kill her if she did not? One question only bred another and no one could answer her. The knot in her stomach tightened at the thought of blindly returning to Sora.

"
Trust no one!" she could hear the Keeper's croaky voice in her mind and this time she was willing to obey. Looking back over the years at the compound, she realized the Keeper had been preparing her for her return with both physical and mental conditioning regimens. The old woman had insisted she learn the art of war as well as studying Earth's history, and she had drilled into her mind the importance of understanding all sides of a conflict, to try to solve controversies through diplomacy, but if all else failed to strike without hesitation or mercy. She presumed that there was some kind of political struggle raging on her home planet and she had a major role to play. All she wanted was to live a "normal" life, and the thought of returning to her real home caused her heart to constrict in fear.

The sound of a child
's laughter brought Jane back to the present. She glanced around the bus and found the happy toddler seated across the walkway from where she sat. The little girl's Latin mother smiled at her, their eyes briefly meeting, before the mother returned her attention back to her child. As the mother hugged the toddler in her arms, a flash of memory of Jane's home world penetrated her mind. She remembered how children did not choose what they wanted to be, like on Earth, but were born into their positions in society. With a great ceremony once a year called a Branda, the children who had come of age would be absorbed into their respective guilds, no longer remaining part of their parents' lives. Most children would stay in contact with their birth parents, but they rarely return to their old homes.

Jane stared out the window to watch the change of landscape. The memory of her world lingered as she tried to remember her own Branda. Yet, as far as she could recall, she had had none. Why was she so different? Was she the only one with this power inside her? Was the power the reason to hide her in a place away from her own world? And was her power the reason she was marked for death?

BOOK: Return of the Matka-Zem (The Sorain Chronicles)
12.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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