Trench Wars by WantedHero | World Anvil Manuscripts | World Anvil

CHAPTER 7 - Past, Present and Future

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Be grateful for moments of ignorance. The Universe places a veil over our minds for a wise purpose. If we were able to see all of the challenges planned for us, in one panoramic view, we’d likely die of fright or run for the hills, never to return.

 

 

Deloris rolled off the table. “What happened?!” She yanked at the cords and tape binding her. Stumbling forward—her legs still felt weak from the sedative. Keeping a hold of the side railings of the beds, she worked her way to Nathan’s side. He was already working frantically on Wendell’s body.

Tapping the end of a syringe filled yellow liquid, he pushed the air bubbles out of the contents, then stabbed the needle into the hero’s neck. “His heart stopped! I-I don’t understand what happened…”

Deloris checked Wendell’s eyes, then started CPR. “Defibrillator—NOW!”

Chuck paced quickly, his eyes never leaving Wendell. He blinked rapidly and gnawed on his bottom lip, hands gripping and twisting in anguish. Alhannah helped Dax and Lili sit up.

“What’s going on?” asked Dax, “Why did we wake up?” But no one answered. Monitors beeped resentfully around Wendell and Dax, frowned. “Why isn’t the kid awake?”

Alhannah squeezed his arm, “We don’t know what’s going on, except that he stopped breathing, then his heart stopped.”

Dax yanked the cords from his chest and face, “No. No—this can’t be right! He was just fine a second ago!”

“Cryo!” yelled Nat, “Brain activity?”

I do not detect any brain activity in the Gnolaum,” Cryo replied. “I am sorry.

“No,” whispered Chuck.

“Do something, Chuck!” cried Dax, “Ya gotta help him…I’m telling ya he was just fine when we were in there. Something ain’t right!!”

Deloris and Nat continued CPR, pounding the rhythm of life into his chest.

Wendell lay motionless.

Morty shook his head, “I’m sorry Chuck.”

“No,” the wizard repeated, “this is impossible. I did everything I was asked to do.” He glanced down at Alhannah, a crazed look in his eyes. “I did everything I was instructed.”

“Of course you did,” she replied kindly, patting his hand.

“CLEAR!” shouted Nat, rubbing the two heavy plastic paddles together. Deloris jumped from the side of the table.

Wendell’s body jerked as electricity from the paddles surged through flesh.

 

****

 

The field had vanished.

Wendell stood in a sea of light and warmth, surrounding him, enveloping him. He squinted, trying to see, but the light was too much for him. It pulsed from the gem, like a steady heartbeat, which Wendell could feel within his own chest.

Relax your mind, came the words, trust yourself. You will then be able to see.

Trust myself? At first he thought it was the Ithari—but Wendell had heard her voice before. Felt the strength pulsing through his veins when she communicated with him. This didn’t have the same power. Trust myself. Staring at the chains, Wendell focused. He blinked once, then twice—and immediately noticed the light receding. Curious. The oversized links hung like slabs over the edges of the gem, weighing heavily on the entity that had chosen him.

Chose me, he repeated over to himself. She chose me, instead of waiting for the hero of the bloodline to return. It never made sense to him. A gawky, awkward kid from Earth, being chosen instead of denying him as a host and sending Dax back to round up Evan.

He looked over his shoulder. The landscape was gone and all Wendell could see was the radiant light. It was just the Ithari and himself. No, he thought, theres…someone here. He looked about him again—but there was nowhere to hide. Someone else.

“Very good.”

The voice wasn’t something Wendell could hear so much as something he could feel. His skin tingled and he was instantly aware of every hair on the back of his arms and hands. The words were all around him. They penetrated through flesh and bone…a warmness that trickled through his chest…distilling it at the very core of his heart.

“Very good indeed, Wendell.”

Rising from the center of the gem, where the chains overlapped, a face appeared. Though the Ithari blazed with its white light, the glare emanating from the stranger was even greater. It was blinding. Wendell could not see the details of the face—but he could see it rising. Shoulders and torso, hands gently outstretched. Wendell could make out the flowing robes, gently blowing in wind that did not exist. The figure continued to rise, until his entire body was free of the Ithari.

Wendell stood gawking.

The being stepped down, in front of the Ithari, the air solid under his feet. Wendell had to squint, the countenance was so brilliant—until the being stood directly in front of him. Large symbols he didn’t understand were embroidered along the cuffs, collar and hem of the cloth.

“Are you,” he started to say, but hesitated in awe.

“Yes,” the man said smoothly.

Wendell grinned. He had wondered what it would be like to meet an actual Hero from the past. Someone who would know and understand how the Ithari worked. How to make a connection and, most importantly, how to make sense of the incredible jumble of chaotic experiences since he’d arrived.

But he shook his head, No, this isn’t happening. I’m still dreaming…or, whatever I was doing when Dax was here.

“You are not dreaming, Wendell,” said the man, “—which is the belief that got you into this mess in the first place, isn’t it?” The faint outline of a smile appeared on the mans face, “You are here now, as am I…through the Ithari.”

“So you’re…”

“Here to turn the mantle over to you.”

The pit of Wendell’s stomach lurched. Even in death he couldn’t escape the drafting process of this job.

The Hero chuckled, “You’re not dead,” but he paused, “Not yet, anyway.”

Woah, he can hear…Wendell bit his lip and stared up at the hero.

He nodded.

“But I’m not the Hero,” Wendell challenged.

The smile vanished. “No, you’re not.”

Wendell shook his head, his hands clawing at his temples. “This is…all wrong. You know this isn’t the way it was supposed to be, right?”

“Yes.”

Wendell was quickly becoming sick to his stomach, memories he didn’t want, growing in the back of his mind. “I…I tried,” he whispered to himself, then louder, “really I did.”

“I know, Wendell.”

“Then…why not let me go?” he pleaded.

“Because you can be the Hero.”

Wendell stepped back, shaking his head. “No. You’re wrong. People have already suffered because of me.” Painful memories grew in his mind. Screaming in the village, Hiram being pierced by an arrow that was meant for him. “People have…died, because of me.”

The being matched Wendell’s movements, keeping within arms length. The light faded slightly around his countenance so that more of his features came into focus. His hair hung to his collarbones, a thick beard ending at mid-chest. Though he had broad shoulders, he wasn’t overly muscular, but he looked rugged…especially with the patch over his right eye.

“They died in spite of you, Wendell…not because of you. There is a great difference.”

There was something about him that held Wendell firm. His feet ceased retreating and the fear in his stomach subsided as the man spoke. The feelings of dread and doubt were replaced with peace. A tingling sensation, starting from the base of his spine, working its way to the back of his neck and into his skull. Questions flooded his mind.

“Yes,” the last Hero smiled, “you can ask. I will answer if I can.”

What should I start with? he wondered. I need to know about the Ithari…and about Mahan…maybe even Thule. Where am I supposed to go? What am I supposed to do…even if I did have the powers of the gem. Good grief! What are the powers of the gem? Can I…

“Which would you like me answer first?”

Wendell paused. “Would you…not do that, please?” He scratched his scalp, “I’d actually like to have a chance to ask a question before you answer it.”

“Sorry.”

“Let’s start at the beginning.”

The Hero nodded.

“You’re the last Hero?”

“Yes.”

“So you know about the Ithari and understand her?”

“Intimately.”

Wendell looked over the Heroes shoulder, “Why does she have chains around her?”

“You put them there.”

Wendell frowned, “Excuse me?”

“Those are chains of your own making, Wendell.”

“That…doesn’t make sense.”

“Doesn’t it? Chains of doubt, disbelief and ignorance? How about anger and confusion? Arrogance, pride and especially fear.”

“That’s a lot of chains.”

The Hero grinned, “You’ve been busy.”

Wendell stared at the Ithari. There was pressure in his chest…as if something was tugging. She’s the key. He looked back, “In your letter, you said that the powers of Ithari would grow over time.”

The Hero nodded, “Your abilities Wendell, grow in proportion to your relationship with her. The more you learn to work as one, the more powerful you will become. It’s a unique and beautiful symbiotic relationship. She compliments your strengths and shields your weaknesses until you learn to overcome them…as she has done for every Hero before me.”

“How do I…,” but he clamped his mouth shut, nervous to ask what he already knew.

“You must learn through time and experiences.”

Wendell grit his teeth.

The Hero laughed, “No, there’s nothing I can do. This is a journey for you to walk alone. Choices you must make. Consequences you will have to endure.”

“I said I wanted to ask the questions.”

“Habit. Forgive me.”

Somewhere in the back of Wendell’s mind, he’d found a measure of peace when he thought he was dead. To know that he didn’t have to make any more mistakes or live up to the crazy expectations of others. But if he wasn’t dead, it meant this was just the beginning. The burning village, death, violence…it was all just starting for him.

The Hero watched him for long moments. Stared at him patiently as his face contorted, his mind weighing and considering the consequences of possible futures. He had been asked to become something he’d never thought he could be. To do things that only weeks ago were, quite literally, impossible. To be the last defense against the literal embodiment of evil. His head dropped forward with a heavy sigh, This really sucks.

A hand reached out and gripped Wendell’s shoulder. “Why don’t you ask the real question?”

Wendell looked away.

“It’s alright to be afraid. We all experience fear at one time or another. Fear isn’t bad. It has its uses. It’s what we do with that fear that matters.”

No, he shrank away, I don’t want to know.

The Hero cocked his head to the side, watching Wendell intently. His eyes narrowed.

Oh, alright…I DO want to know…but I don’t want to know.

The Hero smiled.

“Why me?” he blurted out, exasperated, “Of all the people that could have been chosen—the people on THIS world…why me?”

The Hero stepped directly in front of Wendell. Thick, dark brows rolled forward as powerful hands gripped his shoulders, “Because you are more than you think you are.”

The words burned into his soul.

Wendell could not look away. He’d lost all desire to run and hide, to retreat from this being that emanated duty, honor and power. Instead, he wanted to surrender himself to that power…for it contained endless knowledge.

The Hero smiled then.

“You are exactly what this world needs, Wendell. No matter what others will say, listen now to a fellow host.” He released his grip and Wendell suddenly felt weak. “You are meant to be more.” With a thick finger, the Hero tapped the Ithari under the mägoweave, “You have talents and abilities you’ve yet to discover, young man—and if you can believe that, accept it for face value,…you will become exactly what you were meant to be.”

Wendell flinched and clamped his eyes shut. These were alien words. They were the opposite he’d been told his entire life, other than from his own parents.

“…and they were right,” the Hero whispered, “More right than you can imagine.”

“How can you say that?” Wendell shouted, the Ithari pulsing with his passion and anger, “How can you know me at all? You’re dead!”

The Hero drew back, folding his hands into the sleeves of his robe. “I can say it, Wendell, because mine is the power of past, present and future. It was my calling to step out of time, just this once, to speak with you.”

Wendell put his palms to his temples, pushing. The pain grew within his mind. No, no, no…I was a mistake. I’ve always been a mistake. I’m no one important. I’ve never been anyone important! This is wrong. WRONG! His mind and heart surged like fire, leaping beyond its bounds, consuming all in its path. He could feel the beat of Ithari intensifying, pulsing through his veins.

Wendell’s eyes popped wide open and he gasped loudly, “Wait a minute! What did you just say?”

The Hero grinned wide, baring his teeth, “I am not dead.”

 

****

 

“CLEAR!” Deloris yelled, jolting Wendell’s body with another charge. She looked desperately to the monitors.

Nat reached out and grabbed her arm, “Deloris, it’s over.”

“NO!” she yelled, knocking his hand away. Everyone was staring at her now, though no one stopped her. It wasn’t until Morty walked over and put his hand over hers that she broke down. Dropping the paddles to the floor, her head fell against Wendell’s chest. “No, no, no. This can’t happen.” She looked up at Morty as his fingers stroked her hair, “It just can’t.”

“You did all you could, my love,” he said softly.

But tears fell nevertheless. “Call it, Nathan,” she choked.

“Let it be recorded that the Gnolaum flatlined at 25 chimes, two ticks.”

Lili let out a sob. Alhannah led her away from the body.

“Noted,” said Cryo, “and logged. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

Nat shook his head.

“Then I shall retire.” The blue apparition turned to the wizard, “My deepest condolences, Morphiophelius.” And with that, the light from the camera switched off.

Dax and Chuck stood on the other side of the bed, both motionless.

“What do we do now?”

Chuck swallowed hard, his dry throat causing him to cough. “I don’t know, monkey.”

Dax chuckled half-heatedly, “Come on old man, ya always got something up yer sleeve.”

The wizard pulled the wide rimmed hat from his head and looked down at the elf. His face was long and solemn. “Not this time.”

 

****

 

Wendell fought to breathe. The fire in his chest threatened to consume him.

“What do you mean you’re not dead? That’s…impossible!” His eyes twitched and for a moment, everything fell out of focus. A sharp pain stabbed at the back of Wendell’s head. He stumbled forward.

The Hero caught him by the arm, “We don’t have much time left.”

“What…are you talking about?” Wendell slurred.

Lifting him up, “The strain of this meeting is too much for Ithari to endure. Even she has her limits.”

Wendell’s arms reached out, grasping at air. Beads of sweat rolled across his brow, collected on his lips. Thin fingers of fire scraped up from his chest and into his throat.

“I’m here because you need to know how important you truly are.” Grabbing the back of Wendell’s neck, the Hero raised it to meet his gaze. “Stay with me, Wendell! I’ve seen the end of times, and all that becomes of this world, should you succeed. You need to see it. You need to know, because it will not happen without you.”

Wendell’s eyes fluttered and closed. His head falling back.

The light of the Ithari dimmed.

With a last breathe, Wendell’s body went limp.

Laying him at the base of the gem, the Hero knelt at his side. “I’m sorry it has to be this way, but this gift—to know, comes with a price. I must show you the good and the bad. The glory and the pain. You must understand, Wendell—so when the darkness comes, you have hope to draw from…to succeed when all else will fail you.”

As the final darkness closed in on them, the Hero reached out with a single finger…touching it to Wendell’s forehead.

He screamed.

 

****

 

“AHHHHHH!” Wendell shrieked. His chest arched, hands clawing at his sides.

“AHHHHHH!” Chuck repeated, dropping his hat and falling backwards, knocking the monitors, instrument trays and the defibrillator over with a crash and a bang.

Dax ignored the prone wizard and jumped to Wendell’s side. “Kid—you’re alive!”

His body shook violently, eyes bulging in their sockets, mouth wide open. Dax quickly noticed the rapid rise and fall of Wendell’s chest, followed by loud gasping—his skin, cold and clammy to the touch.

“Deloris! Nat! Get in here!!” Dax yelled, then softer, “Hang on kid, I’ve got ya. It’s gonna be ok now. I promise.”

Wendell’s eyes found the smiling green face, but his expression did not change. “No,” he gasped, “…it’s not.”

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