“You’ve memorized the spells I gave you?”
“And you’re sure that your invisibility spell will work for both of us?”
“I’ve made the necessary adjustments, and tested it multiple times. It works, as long as no one gets too close to us, and we don’t go too far apart.”
“That should be sufficient then. Will we be able to talk?”
“I wove in a sound dampening spell. We’ll be able to talk quietly without people hearing us. We shouldn’t be too loud though. I can’t guarantee they won’t hear if you decide to shout.”
“I have no intention of shouting. We’re only going to investigate for now. I’d like to know more before trying to find the mage. I’d rather we not disturb the timelines any more than they’ve already been disturbed.”
Hethurin nodded. He’d like to know more too. He’d especially like to know why he left a teenager in his room and teleported away. Having the kid here was causing problems, even with Lani watching him. Just earlier today, she had accused him of ‘experimenting’ when he was younger, having a child, and hiding it from everyone. The sooner they found out where, and when, the kid really belonged, the better.
“I’d like to start with the most recent portal residue.”
“The one with the dead dragon? Are you sure?”
Renner frowned, “Yes. It’s the most recent location they stayed that we know of. Maybe there’s some clue to tell us where they came from that we weren’t able to find just from the vision. We likely won’t need the invisibility and the sound dampening spell this time. I don’t think we’ll see anyone else there, but it will be good practice.”
Hethurin nodded. It would be good to practice since actually going to an alternate timeline wasn’t something he had done yet, nor had he any practice with the invisibility and sound dampening while in another reality. That was one of the reasons he hadn’t told Desdeyliri about this lesson, and instead had given her his class to teach. He liked that she could sit in on his lessons with Renner, but this wasn’t just a vision. This was for real, and they didn’t know what would happen there. He glanced at Renner and seeing him nod, he cast the invisibility spell, then cast the spell to send them both to the other reality.
It was quiet and overcast as it often was in the Ghostlands. Renner and Hethurin looked around at their new surroundings. They were in the building at the bottom of the hill next to the stable. In his reality, this was his sister’s home, but here, it had been abandoned. Although there was no one there now, there had been someone living there recently. Hethurin walked over to where some drawings hung on the wall over an old sofa. He had looked at them before when they looked into the vision of this place, but now that he was really here, he could touch them. He unpinned one from the wall. It was signed like the others. Vaildor had drawn them. This showed an elf in combat against a dragon. The drawings had all been done on scraps of paper. Hethurin turned this one over to find an old bill of sale for two hawkstriders. He didn’t recognize the names and the paper looked fairly old. The date indicated that the sale had taken place just before the Scourge attack.
He glanced out the window towards the stable. The large, bronze body still lay out there. He looked back at the drawing on the opposite paper. If the boy was to be believed, it was his own alternate self who killed the dragon. He looked up as Renner spoke.
“I don’t think we’ll run into anyone here. You can drop the invisibility. You look around the house. I’m going to look outside.”
“You’re sure that no one’s there?”
“No, but it seems unlikely. I just want to check to see if any of the other buildings look lived in. Check around here for anything to indicate how long they were here, and where they came from. I’ll be back shortly.”
Hethurin frowned, but started up the stairs as Renner left the house. Each step creaked as he went up, some seeming to bow under his weight. Though he was not a heavy elf, he stopped to cast a spell to make himself lighter. It was better to be safe than sorry, and he did not want to fall through the stairs.
After reaching the second floor, he went into the first room. It was the smaller of the two bedrooms. In his own reality, it was Lani’s spare room. Nessna had been staying in it, but now Vaildor was. Here, it didn’t look like anyone had stayed there in quite some time. There was a poorly patched hole in the roof over some pots in the middle of the room. They appeared to have been there for some time, all of them displaying rings along the inside where the water had risen to before it evaporated. Some old clothing and blankets had been placed around them. They reeked of mildew. There were not many furnishings in the room. In one corner, there was a dresser with two missing drawers. A third hung open and empty. A broken bed with a partially decayed mattress was against the other wall.
Hethurin quickly checked the closet, the only place he could think of that something of use could be hiding in this room, but it was empty. Only a few lonely hangers remained. He moved on to the next room.
The second bedroom was larger than the first, but only by a little. However, this one looked like it had been used. There were pinned up drawings lining the wall on one side. A blanket and some pillows had been arranged over a thin cushion on the floor underneath them. Along the opposite wall was a small bed which looked like it had been used fairly recently, as well. Down the center of the room, someone had strung a cord of thin rope, and placed blankets over it, dividing the room into two sections. One of the blankets lay on the floor below the cord, and another was crooked and rumpled along the line. It was obvious that they had shared this room, probably due to the state of the other room.
There was one dresser in the room. Hethurin quickly got to work checking through the drawers, which were surprisingly empty, though by the evidence, they left in a hurry. The boy had even mentioned that he woke up after the portal, after being left in Hethurin’s room. If his alternate self was dragging sleeping teenagers through portals, then Hethurin figured he must have been in a real hurry. He checked the drawings on the wall, taking each one down and looking at the opposite side. None of them seemed important, and none of them gave any clues as to where the two had originally came from. Most were receipts for hawkstrider feed and such. He paused and looked back at the bed. If he wanted to hide something, he’d hide it under the mattress. He went to look and that’s where he found a stack of half-written letters. They were all to Vaildor, and were only one or two sentences in before being discarded for a fresh start on another paper. Hethurin flipped through them, reading over each one quickly.
The time is nearing when I’ll no longer be able to take care of you. The dragons will catch up to us soon, and I fear I am already weakened from the chase. I want you to be safe.
You are not who you think you are. I’m taking you back where you belong.
I will be dying soon, and I wanted you to know the truth.
If you’re reading this then my time has come to pass. I’ll leave this letter where you can find it in the event of my death. I only pray they don’t hurt you as well.
There’s no easy way to say this. I love you as though you are my own son, but you are not.
“I knew it!” Hethurin muttered as he folded the letters and carried them with him back downstairs. He had just reached the bottom step when he heard the flapping of large wings outside. He rushed to the door, which had been left open, and smiled as the dragon landed on the ground in front of him. The dragon was large, at least, he seemed that way to Hethurin, though he had seen larger dragons before. The dragons bronze scales gleamed even with the lack of sunlight.
“Did you find anything, Renner?” Hethurin asked as the dragon shifted into a smaller, elven shape.
“I found no evidence of anyone living in any of the nearby buildings. It does appear the town is populated, but less so than in our own reality.”
“I found these.” Hethurin showed him the papers.
“Interesting.” Renner commented as he read through them. He raised a brow as he looked up after reading the last one. “Let’s go back for now. I need you to rest well and be prepared to maintain invisibility for the duration for our next visit. I think it’s time we tried to get through that ward.”
Hethurin nodded and cast the spell to take them back to their own reality.