The Master's Chair (The Chronicles of Terah) (9 page)

BOOK: The Master's Chair (The Chronicles of Terah)
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Chapter 7

 

Tuesday, March 6, Present Day

 

 

Laryn was getting a little uneasy. Badec hadn’t shown up at breakfast, and now, an hour later, he still hadn’t put in an appearance. He hadn’t said anything to her about an early morning appointment, and he always let her know if he was going to be out of the castle. Finally, she got up from her desk and went upstairs to make sure he wasn’t still in his room.

When she knocked on his door, there was no answer, so she opened the door and stepped inside. A chill ran up her spine when she saw her brother still in bed. She’d never known him to sleep in, not even as a child.

As she approached his bed she noticed that his chest was rising and falling with steady breaths, so the first jolt of panic subsided a bit. Maybe he just had a touch of a cold or something. She felt his forehead, and although it felt fine, no sign of fever, he didn’t open his eyes or do anything at all to imply that he knew someone else was in the room, and with his powers, that was beyond unusual.

Laryn softly called his name as she placed her hand on his wrist, searching for a pulse. It was there, not quite as strong as usual, but definitely there, and steady. Finally she took hold of her brother’s shoulder and gently shook him, hoping to wake him up, but once again, no luck.

Laryn glanced around the room, looking for anything that might give her a clue as to what was going on. His evening tray with one tea cup was on the table beside his chair, just like always, and he had on the same old nightshirt he’d worn to bed for the past ten years. From all appearances, everything had been normal when Badec went to bed last night, but things were definitely not normal now.

After trying once more to rouse her brother, Laryn left his room and went back downstairs to the office. She asked Ariel, one of Badec’s pages, to go to the Chapel of Light in Milhaven and ask Sister Agnes to come up to the castle as soon as possible.

~ ~ ~ ~

That evening, Kalen was in the kitchen of the Gate House when a falcon landed on the kitchen windowsill and pecked on the glass. When Kalen opened the window, the falcon held up his leg for Kalen to untie the note, and then immediately flew away, without even waiting for an answer. As soon as Kalen saw Badec’s seal, a cold knot formed in his stomach. He sat down at the table, took a couple of slow, deep breaths, and opened the letter.

 

Kalen,

I regret to inform you that Badec seems to be in a coma. He was fine yesterday, but when I tried to awaken him this morning, I could not rouse him. I sent for Sister Agnes, but she was unable to rouse him either. He is breathing regularly and his heart seems to be fine, but he is unresponsive.

If he is not up and about by the beginning of April, I will have to report his condition to the Council of Sorcerers. They will not declare him dead as long as he is breathing, but they will vacate his chair in one year if he does not awaken, or if he is too weak to carry out the duties of Master Sorcerer.

I see no alternative other than to send for Myron immediately. We must get him to Glendymere as soon as possible, yet secretly and safely. I fear for Myron’s life once news of Badec’s condition becomes known.

I realize that we have not discussed plans for Myron’s introduction to Terah, but there is no way that I can leave Milhaven right now. You have my complete support for any plan that you devise. I wish you luck.

I have sent a falcon to Duane with a copy of this message and have dispatched a phoenix with a message for Glendymere. I leave it to you to inform Pallor.

Yours sincerely,

Laryn

 

Kalen sat staring at the note until midnight. He had to agree with Laryn. Their only option was to send for Myron. Unfortunately, they weren’t ready. It was too soon.

He put in an emergency call to Pallor, went into the living room, lit the fire, and sat down to wait for the elf to pop in. Kalen felt like he had only been staring into the flames for a few minutes when Pallor popped into his living room a couple of hours later.

One look at Kalen’s face and the elf knew something was horribly wrong. Kalen didn’t even seem to know that he was there. Pallor walked to a spot directly in front of the dwarf and asked, “What’s going on?”

Kalen didn’t answer. Instead he handed Pallor Laryn’s note.

Pallor sat down on the edge of a chair and read through the note a couple of times. Finally he said, “I’ll try to have Kevin and some companions on Terah in about two weeks.”

“Who’s going to explain all of this to them? Who’s going to tell Myron what’s going on? Who’s going to tell him that he’s Myron?!”

Pallor stood up, shrugged, and said, “I guess you are.”

“Me?! I can’t do this, Pallor. Someone else is going to have to.”

“Who, Kalen? I can’t. I’ll have my hands full back on Earth explaining what happened to them.”

“But I’ll make such a mess of it.” Kalen’s face was the picture of misery.

Pallor put his hand on Kalen’s shoulder and said, “I’m sorry about all of this. Badec wanted to be here and take care of this himself, but now … Look, just do the best you can, and don’t blame yourself for any of this. No one could have foreseen this.” Pallor handed the note back to Kalen. “Why don’t you send for Duane? Maybe he and Xantha can help. I hate to leave you like this, but I’ve got to go. I’ve got a lot to do.” Then he took out his key, gave it a quick turn, and disappeared.

 

 

 

Chapter 8

 

Another Search Begins

 

 

As soon as Pallor was back on Earth, he was hit with the closest thing to a panic attack that he had ever experienced. There was no way he could have Kevin and six or seven of his friends on Terah within two weeks. He had no idea which of Kevin’s friends would even be suitable. He hadn’t started working on that yet. He was supposed to have at least two more years to figure it out, not two weeks!

Pallor paced around his small office and tried to work his way past the panic. He stopped in front of the window, but nothing out there either relaxed him or gave him any ideas. All he could see were houses, cars, and tall buildings.

Omaha wasn’t all that big when you compared it to places like New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago, but for an elf who loved the outdoors, it was suffocating at times. At least when he was living in Seattle he could see mountains in the distance. Here, nothing but city.

He had moved to Omaha a year ago when Kevin had accepted a job with Beasley, Dixon, Matherson and Co. PA. He had expected to be stuck here for at least a couple more years, but now it looked like his days in Omaha were coming to a close. As soon as he could figure out how to get Kevin and his friends on Terah, he could leave. He could go back to the Seattle area.

That thought alone helped ease the panic. So he took a deep breath, grabbed a pencil and notepad, and sat down at his desk to make a list of Kevin’s friends. As Pallor stared at the notepad, he realized that there was no one to list. Kevin had not made any close friends while he was in college, and, as far as Pallor knew, Kevin had never even made it to first name basis with anyone in Omaha. He would have to send complete strangers to Terah with Kevin. As the panic started to build again, he forced it down and tried to tackle the problem logically.

First, he had to find some suitable candidates. He needed people without strong ties, basically loners, so he began by listing some quiet restaurants in the area that would appeal to loners. Then he added a few coffee shops near the college where the more independent types hung out.

Next, he listed several of his contacts who would have information on new arrivals in town. Maybe he’d luck up on someone who was a drifter, working at odd jobs, seeing the country one piece at a time, a modern day explorer.

After that, he picked up a stack of old newspapers that had piled up on the floor beside his desk and started going through them. He wasn’t sure what he was looking for, but he made notes on anything that caught his eye. A couple of hours later he had found a few articles that he wanted to check out, but only one that really tweaked his interest.

On the sports page of a week-old paper, there was a follow-up article about a college football player who had been injured in a game a few months ago. The thing that caught Pallor’s attention was a quote from the young man: “Football is my life. There’s nothing else. I can’t even imagine my life without it.”

According to the article, the doctors would soon know how successful they had been at trying to save his career. Pallor made a note of the athlete’s name, his coach’s name, and the orthopedic surgeon in charge of his case.

Wednesday morning, he began calling his contacts. One was a woman in a real estate office that managed several apartment complexes. After they joked around about his only calling when he wanted something, Pallor said, “I’ve got a character who’s going to have to pick up, move across the country, and take a new job in a strange city. I want to talk to someone who’s doing that to get a better feel for my character. Do you have anyone moving in soon who would fit the bill?”

“Give me a couple of hours to look through the new rentals,” she answered. “Male or female? Or does it matter?”

Pallor paused for a moment. “My character’s male, so maybe I’d better stick to males.”

“Okay. Do you want someone who’s already moved in? We had a few who took possession over the weekend.”

“I’d rather get his thoughts when he arrives, as he’s moving in, but I guess I could work with someone who hasn’t been here long.” Pallor said. “But I don’t want him to know he’s being interviewed. I need his real reactions, so don’t tell anyone.”

“Don’t worry,” she said with a little laugh. “I don’t want to lose my job. But you owe me! Again. Call me back this afternoon,” she said, and then she disconnected.

Pallor’s next phone call was to the young football player’s coach. When he finally got through, he introduced himself and said that he had been asked to write a series of feature articles for one of the local papers. “Right now, I’m working on an in-depth feature on college football. I’ve been reading about your quarterback, the one who was injured, and I’d like to interview him and get his perspective on the sport. Do you know when he’s meeting with his doctors to get their final evaluation?”

The coach hesitated. Pallor waited a few moments and then added, “I want to wait until he knows one way or the other.”

“Next Tuesday morning,” the coach finally said. “But don’t crowd him if it’s bad news. Give him a chance to … I don’t know … come to terms with it, I guess.”

“You’re expecting bad news then?” Pallor asked. Then he added, “Off the record.”

“I’ve seen a lot of knee injuries. I knew it was bad when he got hit.”

“Have you told him what you think?”

“I’ve tried to prepare him, but he’s not hearing me, or at least that’s the way he’s acting.” The coach was quiet for a moment. Pallor felt like he had more to say, so he just waited. Finally the coach sighed and said, “He’s a smart kid. I’d be willing to bet he’s figured it out for himself, but he’s not going to acknowledge the possibility that it’s over until the doctors say so. After all, until they say no, there’s always hope.”

“Yeah,” Pallor said softly.

“Just give him a little breathing room. He’s a good kid. He didn’t deserve this,” the coach said. Then he disconnected.

Pallor left his house and went to a few of the restaurants on his list, looking for likely candidates, but the only thing he got was indigestion. When he got back home, he called his contacts back to see if any of them had come up with anyone.

He struck out on his first two calls. The newspaper hadn’t had any requests for new subscriptions within the last few days and no one had applied for a new library card either. But when he called the real estate company, his contact there told him that they’d had four rentals move in over the past weekend, but all four of those were married couples, two with children. The only one that sounded the least bit promising was Chris McAllister, a twenty-six-year-old marketing director scheduled to arrive on Friday. According to the information on his rental application, he was single and had lived in New York City all of his life. He had stated that the reason for the move was that he had been offered a new job in Omaha.

Pallor almost didn’t bother with him. Anyone who had spent his whole life in New York City would find Terah even more alien than Kevin would. But he made notes of all the specifics and got directions to the apartment complex all the same. It wasn’t like he had an over abundance of prospects.

Pallor didn’t have any luck at all on Thursday, but Friday morning he stopped at a small diner just inside the city limits. One of the waitresses caught his eye. Her accent didn’t sound native to the area and from the bits of conversation he overheard, she had to have lived some place rural. She even looked the part with sandy hair, blue eyes and a down-to-earth way of carrying herself. She came across as being perfectly comfortable with who she was.

He had taken a seat at the counter and ordered a cup of coffee when he walked in, but once he had his coffee, he picked up the newspaper he was carrying as a prop, and moved to one of the empty booths in her area. When she stopped by to refill his cup, he noticed her nametag: Joan. It fit. A no-nonsense name for a sensible lady.

“You aren’t from around here, are you?” Pallor asked.

She grinned, shook her head, and said, “My husband and I had a farm in Missouri until last fall. After the drought last summer, we decided to call it quits.”

“Do you like living in the city?” he asked.

“Truthfully, I think we both miss the open spaces and peace of the country, but we’ll adjust,” she said with a smile. “Now, what would you like to go with that coffee?”

Pallor ordered a small pastry and settled in to observe her while he pretended to read the paper. She was friendly and attentive without being intrusive. He hadn’t really considered using a married couple, but he could see some advantages to it, and there was a definite advantage to sending someone with an agrarian background. The more he thought about them as prospective companions for Kevin, the more he liked the idea.

While she was writing up his check, he asked, “Do you have any children? There are a couple of pretty good museums uptown that cater to children.”

She shook her head and said, “No, it’s just me and Karl,” as she handed him his bill. “Thank you, and come again.”

“I certainly will,” Pallor said, and added to himself,
every morning
.

After Pallor left the diner, he drove out to the apartment complex to wait for Chris. He had the make, model, and tag number of the car that Chris would be driving. He cruised through the lot to see if Chris had already arrived, but the car wasn’t there, so he parked his car at the end of the lot and settled in to wait.

A couple of hours later, a large truck pulled up in front of the apartment building and two burly men climbed out. They opened the back of the truck and started unloading a bed. Pallor got out of his car and walked over towards them.

“Is that for Chris McAllister by any chance?” he asked the larger of the two men.

“Yeah. Are you McAllister?” the man answered.

“No, but I’m a friend of his. He isn’t here right now,” Pallor said.

The man grunted, looked at his paperwork, and said, “Load it back up, Mac. He’s not here. We’ll have to come back this afternoon.” Then he turned to Pallor and asked, “Do you happen to know which floor his apartment’s on?”

“Third.”

“And I’ll bet there’s no freight elevator,” the big man grumbled as he climbed back up in the cab of the truck and drove off.

Pallor headed back over to his car to wait. About the middle of the afternoon he saw a car pull into the parking lot that matched the description he’d been given, right down to the New York license tag. The car backed into an empty space near the entrance to the apartment building and the driver climbed out. From a distance, all that Pallor could tell was that he had a fairly good physique and dark blond hair.

While the driver was stretching and looking around, Pallor got out of his car and walked over. When he reached the driver he held out his hand and asked, “Chris McAllister by any chance?”

“Guilty as charged,” the driver said with a lopsided smile. “Are you the manager?”

“No, I was out here waiting for my girlfriend when a couple of guys in a big truck came by looking for you. I think they had a delivery to make,” Pallor said. “My name’s Paul Stewart.”

“My bed! Do you have any idea what they did with it?”

“They said that they’d come back later.” Pallor motioned towards Chris’s car. “Are you moving in today?”

“Yeah, I just arrived from New York,” Chris said as he unlocked the trunk of his car. The car and trunk were both jam-packed.

“New York? As in the City?”

Chris nodded.

“That’s a long drive,” Pallor said. Then he pointed towards the car. “My girlfriend is running late. Do you need some help?”

“I’d love it, but you might want to reconsider your offer,” Chris said and tipped his head towards the building. “I have a third floor apartment, and I don’t remember seeing anything about an elevator in any of the material the agency sent me.”

Pallor shrugged. “Hand me a load and point me in the right direction. I may not be able to help you get it all upstairs, but I can take a couple of loads.”

While they unloaded Chris’s car, Pallor found out that not only was Chris single, he wasn’t even seeing anyone. All the girls he’d dated in New York had been more interested in building their careers than in working on a long-term relationship, which had suited him just fine. He was from a large family, and although he got along okay with his parents, brothers, and sisters, he wasn’t particularly close to any of them. Each of them had moved out of the house when they’d gone to college, and after college, they’d pretty much gone their own way.

When Pallor asked Chris about his job, Chris said, “I’ve been working for the same firm ever since I graduated from college. I was getting bored with my job, and a couple of weeks ago I realized that I was as high in that company as I was going to go. It was family owned, and only family members could be project manager, which was the next rung on the ladder, so I started looking for something else.”

“Any particular reason you chose Omaha?” Pallor asked.

Chris shook his head. “I had already decided that it was time to get out of New York. I know it’s supposed to be the most exciting place to live in the country, and there is a lot to do there, but to be honest, it can be depressing at times. I wanted some place new, some place different. And then I saw an ad in the newspaper for a marketing director out here. I sent my résumé to a post office box, and the next week I got a phone call. It was a conference call and I’m not sure how many people were on the line, but I was interviewed right there and then. I got another phone call the next day, offering me the job, so I took it.”

“Just like that? You didn’t want to come out here and check things out first?”

“No, not really. They told me that I would be heading up a marketing campaign for a new line, which was what I wanted to do, and they offered me more money than I was making in New York, so I figured it was worth a shot. If I don’t like it, I’ll start looking again.”

The more Pallor heard, the better he felt about Chris as candidate for Terah. After a couple more trips, they were pretty much done. When they went back downstairs, Pallor made a few admiring remarks about Chris’s car.

Chris smiled. “I don’t know anything about cars. Fortunately one of my brothers does. He found this one for me last week. The price was right and he said that it would get me out here, so I bought it.”

BOOK: The Master's Chair (The Chronicles of Terah)
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