Chapter 37: Distant Threats

Properly communicating with telepathy over long distance is difficult. The energy needed increases dramatically with every league. — Masadon Stor, Psionic Storm

Kanéko dozed on the shore, her feet propped up on the raft and a pile of leaves underneath her head. A rope tied to the raft draped along her thighs and rested in her palm, just in case the raft broke free. She could feel the leaves and sticks packed between the logs on the back of her shins. The hot summer sun baked down on her skin and she let a soft smile cross her lips.

For a moment, she could forget all the pains and suffering of her trip. As long as she kept her eyes closed, she could pretend she slept next to the stream by the tower or even on the boulder at the milestone of her father’s land.

Thinking of home, her mind drifted back to the water screw that preceded her journey. She brought up the plans in her head. The hours of telepathy with Ruben and using the designs to shield herself from Damagar gave the design unusual clarity. She picked up the gears mentally and explored them, flipping them over and rearranging the patterns. She easily changed the gears in size and teeth and set them back down, assembling the water screw with her imagination. With a mental push, she set the gears in motion, feeling how one gear blocked another. A frown furrowed her dark forehead. She plucked a gear away, and then shrunk it. Setting it down, she followed through the mechanics, making changes from one central point until everything moved in perfect harmony.

A sense of elation filled her as she finished correcting the design. It worked perfectly and she memorized the alterations she needed to fix it for when she got home. That was assuming her father didn’t tear down the entire horse stable.

Homesickness gnawed at her heart. She sighed and cracked open her eyes. Above her, clouds rolled across the bright blue sky.

“This isn’t so bad,” she whispered.

She closed her eyes and let the dreams take her again. She thought about returning home and standing on top of the tower, looking across the fields. She remembered her father trying to explain why there were fields, but as a little girl, she was dreaming of flying not farming.

A ripple coursed through her dreams.

In the lands surrounding her parent’s tower, a darkness blotted out the fields and the leaves rotted away. She gasped, clutching the imaginary edge of the tower, and tried to open her eyes. She couldn’t, and she let out a soft whimper.

The darkness grew, and men rose out of the ash of the fields, dark men with sharp swords and shadowed expressions. Between two trees, an obsidian shadow pushed up over the leaves and stood up in the distance. Two eyes, crimson and terrifying, opened and bathed the entire tower in the ruby glow.

«We are Damagar.»

Kanéko’s heart skipped a beat. She raised the now comfortable shield against his intruding thoughts. Clockwork and gears rose from the ground, forming a shield of memories and obsession against his intrusion, but Damagar didn’t attack her. Instead, he hopped completely into view, his pitch-black skin shimmering in the light of some unseen sun.

«Kanéko Lurkuklan, Kosòbyo Kanéko, we are looking for you.»

The rumbling voice of Damagar echoed across the fields of her mind, cracking at the tower.

Kanéko could feel his presence beating on her, pressing down on her skin. “What do you want?” she snapped.

«We need the Broken Thought destroyed. You must kill R.u.b.e.n.» Kanéko could feel Damagar’s inability to visualize Ruben. The letters burned in the air and in her thoughts for a moment before fading. She found Damagar’s blind spot interesting but couldn’t see any way to take advantage of it.

“I won’t let you have him,” she declared.

Damagar’s emotions boiled up like a storm cloud behind him. She could see the dark clouds rushing toward her with the echo of a dozen voices in the thunder. «We offer you a trade, Kanéko Lurkuklan, Kosòbyo Kanéko. Your parent’s lives for the Broken Thought’s.»

A new image slammed into her, carving into her imagination with terrifying clarity. Damagar’s mind plucked her from the top of the tower and held her above it. The dark figures brightened into Sinmak’s and Cobin’s mercenaries. They charged with a deafening roar as her mother and father rushed out of the castle gate.

Her mother yanked up her ancestral bow and drew back the string. Light pooled between her fingers, forming an arrow of sunlight. She fired a single arrow which shot in a straight line before punching through the line of attackers. For every man who fell, three more charged forward. As she drew back another arrow and fired, Mioráshi’s dark skin reflected the sunlight. The arrow joined the first and together, the two arrows slaughtered men in a long line.

Ronamar stopped a rod in front of Mioráshi. He reached up between one arrow shot and another and clasped his hands together. Bringing them down, he punched the ground with incredible force. Magic burst from inside his fingers and chain-wide fissures ripped open from the earth. Dozens of men fell to their doom, but a hundred more replaced them.

Her nightmare froze, paused by Damagar’s terrible imagination. She felt his presence growing, a pressure that squeezed her chest. She shuddered at the feeling and whimpered as she tried to dredge up her shields.

Damagar reached out for her, his dark claws raking the gears that floated between them. «A trade.»

Her nightmare resumed, and the hordes of men swarmed toward her parents.

Her father pulled a massive stone sword from the ground, the blade easily two yards long. It glinted with crystals in the stone surface. He attacked. It sheared through man after man, but then one man got a lucky blow and jammed his knife into her father’s side.

“Papa!”

The nightmare froze again. Kanéko felt Damagar inspecting her, seeing how rage and frustration boiled inside her. His multiple layers of personalities, each one blending into each other, plucked at her mind. Then, he withdrew his thoughts, one last image fading behind him.

«A trade. The body of the Broken Thought for you parent’s lives. Choose well, Kanéko Lurkuklan, Kosòbyo Kanéko. My thoughts will return in one day. We have made the arrangements, only a trade can stop our plans.»