For Felix Colley – I’m eagerly awaiting your next novel!
Three to five years: no parole
Javin stared at the sign, head tilted as he tried to make sense of it. The air smelled old and stale, and he shivered in the chill, his thin tunic not really suited to the inhospitable environment.
“Can we go now?” Nena whined, tugging at the hem of his tunic.
“Go where?” Javin asked, his eyes never leaving the poster. “We have no idea where we are.”
“I know where we are,” Nena said.
That drew Javin’s attention, and he looked down at his precocious companion, a young girl with short brown hair and bright eyes. Her dress was different than Javin, because she was from a different realm, and her thick woolen clothes were more suited to the place the pair of them found themselves now. “What?”
“We’re in one of the interrealms.”
Javin looked around. It was not exactly pleasant, and though he had traveled through frequently, it was like looking through the window of a speeding train. He wouldn’t be able to describe what the interrealm looked like, except maybe blurry.
“How do you know?” Javin searched the old, green eyes of the girl.
In answer, the girl pointed at the sky. A solid black expanse hung over them like a blanket devoid of stars.
“And what does that mean?”
“It means we’re in the interrealms.” She gave him a hard look. “Look, you brought me along for a reason. The reason is I know things. I don’t know any more how I know things than you know how you travel.”
Javin sighed. “So, how did we end up here?”
Nena gave him a reproving stare. “Do you really need me to answer that question?”
Javin sighed again. “No, I suppose not.”
“You suppose not?” Nena shot back. “Maybe if you stopped supposing so much and looking before you leap, maybe we wouldn’t end up in places like this.”
“I’ve told you: I can’t stop to think or look or consider. I just have to go, or else I don’t go at all.”
Nena pursed her lips and frowned, but her eyes weren’t angry. “So how do we get out?”
“That’s a good question,” Javin replied, putting his hands on his hips and gazing around.
The land was flat and barren, stretching out to the grey horizon in every direction. The only interesting thing in the whole place was the sign, outlined in white candles, the words glaring out at them without sympathy.
“This sign is here for a reason,” Javin said. “It’s a message for me.”
“Specifically for you?” Nena ventured.
“Yes,” Javin said, now certain. “It’s a message from him.”
“How does he know where you are?” Nena asked, and for the first time trepidation colored her tone. “I thought you were able to stay ahead of him.”
“I thought I could,” Javin said. “I’m not sure what’s happened, but he’s expecting me.”
“You mean he’s here?” Nena shrieked, then clapped her hands over her mouth. “He’s here?” she hissed.
“I…I don’t know,” Javin said, and gazed around. “I don’t think so.”
“Then why is this here?” Nena gestured at the sign.
A light dawned in Jevin’s eyes, and a twinge of something squirmed in his stomach. “Three to five years; no parole. He’s trapped us here.”
Understanding blossomed on Nena’s face, and she looked around at the the bleak landscape with new respect.
“You can get us out of here, right? He can’t actually keep you here, can he?”
Jevin considered that for a moment. Was it possible? Could the Scarlet Jack actually trap him here, for years? Others could travel the interrealms via portals, natural and man made, but so far, Javin knew of only two that could travel though the interrealms at whim – him and the Scarlet Jack.
“You can get us out of here, right?” Nena asked again.
“I don’t know,” he said at last. “I think I can.”
“You think you can?” Nena asked.
“I think I can because he’s trying to make me think that I can’t,” Javin explained, pointing at the sign. “So I just have to figure out what he doesn’t want me to know.”