Please visit the Sinner Series page to read the story in order.
“So, this is it.” Sinner watched as a plume of vapour exited his mouth with the words.
“So it is,” Kara said. “I’ve heard stories, but never thought to see it.”
They had risen with the dawn and hiked up the mountainside to the pass. The elevation made it colder than the valley below. Since forsaking the orbs several weeks earlier, Sinner had regained his strength. It had been really tough at first, but the orbs pull had gradually subsided the longer he was away from them. Subsided, but not disappeared altogether as Sinner had hoped. There was nothing to be done for it though; he could only hope that he was done with the orbs forever.
The sight before the pair of adventurers was enough to steal Sinner’s thoughts away from the orbs. It was as if a giant mirrored sheet had been placed across the pass. It stretched the entire width of the pass from rock wall to rock wall. He could only guess how high it reached. The mountains loomed on either side of the pass, their peaks reaching into the clouds. High overhead, an eagle expertly navigated the invisible air currents. Sinner envied the great bird. He had always dreamed of flying.
“Do you think we’ll find them on the other side?” Kara asked.
“What?” Sinner pulled his attention away from the soaring eagle and back to Kara.
“Rayn and Tinker. Do you think we’ll find them through there?”
“If anyone could survive what happened back there, it’s Rayn. Besides, two groups made it out of that valley.”
Kara nodded, looking grim. She had lost her uncle; now all that remained of her childhood home was ash. She had suffered much already. Sinner wondered how much more she would have to endure before this was all over.
It had been her tracking skill that had discovered the two trails leading from the scorched valley, the valley that Kara had once called home. Something terrible had happened there. From what they had pieced together sifting through the rubble and the charred remains around Kara’s cabin, a group of Tier’n had been holding captives in a newly constructed pen. They had found seven newly dug graves on the rim of the valley, human sized graves. They had surmised that the prisoners were probably from the village on the other side of the mountains. Whether the fire had been accidental or deliberately set, it had indiscriminately taken lives on both sides. Sinner was certain that Rayn had been involved. He couldn’t say how he knew, he just knew.
“This cold is starting to seep into my bones,” Kara said as he pulled her cloak tighter around her. “We should pass through and make for lower ground before nightfall.”
“You’re right,” Sinner said as he tried to stomp some feeling back into his toes. “I’ll go first, just to make sure it’s safe.”
Kara set her jaw. “We go together.”
Knowing that he would not win this argument, Sinner reluctantly nodded his head.
Relief flashed across Kara’s face.
Tentatively, Sinner reached out. His hand met its reflection and pressed against the barrier. It felt smooth and slightly cool. His touch sent ripples across the reflective barrier, much like a pebble cast into still water. He had thought of the barrier as a solid sheet earlier. Now, he realized it was more like a curtain, rippling at the slightest disturbance. He pressed harder. His hand sank into the barrier and then pushed through with a slight popping sound. It was like pushing through gel. A cool, tingling sensation enveloped his hand. He pulled his hand out again. It made a sucking sound as it came free of the barrier. “See, nothing to it,” he said.
Then he plunged through ahead of Kara. He knew he would pay for it later, but he would go first. After all, they had no way of knowing what nasty surprises might await them on the other side. He had expected to pass through the Great Divide quickly, but it wasn’t like that at all. Instead, everything seemed to slow as first his face, and then the rest of his body hit the barrier. As his face pressed into the barrier it stretched and molded itself to him, clinging to every detail. The cooling sensation he had felt on his hand now enveloped his face, then his whole body. A low rushing sound filled his ears. A surge of panic seized him. What if he was stuck and The Great Barrier did not release him! He tried to force himself through, but it was like pushing against a mighty current; he exerted a tremendous amount of effort for only a small shift in forward movement. The barrier continued to stretch and mold to his form. Then, abruptly, with a loud snap, the barrier released him and Sinner fell headlong into the dirt, his staff ripping from his grasp. Everything happened so fast, much faster than it should have. True, he had walked briskly into the other side of the barrier, but he tumbled out as if he had been in an all out sprint.
Spitting the dirt from his mouth, Sinner picked himself off the ground and turned to find Kara, who should have been right behind him. Only, she wasn’t. Puzzled, he shook his head. It was as if time flowed differently on this side of the Great Barrier somehow. He wondered what else might be different.
While the other side of the Great Barrier was like a giant mirror, this side was more like a murky window. He could see everything on the other side, but it was drab and lifeless; the sky, the ground, Kara; all just different shades of grey. Kara moved into the barrier, leading with her axe. The barrier began to stretch, ever so slowly. Sinner could see the frustration on her face as she pushed, yet the barrier held and stretched taut across her features. Then she burst through and barreled into Sinner. Knowing what would happen, Sinner had braced himself to catch her, but he badly misjudged her speed. The two went down in a tangle of arms and legs. Once again, Sinner tasted dirt.
To be continued…
©Peter Wiebe 2013