* Lumarian Mountains *
Moving through the rift was far more disconcerting for Sharanel the second time because she was still gripping Henry tightly, unable to let go during the transport. It was clear by the look in his eyes that he was confused about what she did just before they were whisked away.
The moment she felt solid ground beneath her feet she let go of him. “I can explain,” she said quickly, but before she could justify her actions, another voice called out.
“Sharanel!” It was Honsmordin. “Are you okay? What happened? Who is this? Where is Fantasma?”
Pathos stepped forward. “Are you one of the ones who followed Fantasma through the rift?” he demanded of Henry, who coward under his glare.
“I…” Henry started looking around as if to find some explanation for what happened.
‘He’s not with Davron,” Sharanel said, having finally composed herself. “He’s a quickener from another world.”
“Sharanel, where are Thomas and Fantasma?” Honsmordin repeated, stepping forward.
“Tommy…” Sharanel faltered. “He was killed. I guess…he didn’t make it. But Fantasma,” she looked around, “he should be here. We all quickened together. We were in different parts of the caves though, maybe the others landed relative to where they were on the other side.”
Honsmordin nodded and turned to the soldiers behind him. “Search the entire mountain, every single tunnel.”
“There are others who would be with him, mostly teens, please don’t hurt them,” Sharanel added.
“Don’t worry,” Norman Rockwall had just arrived through the main tunnel, “my soldiers will find them; in the meantime, you need to tell us what happened.”
Fantasma found himself standing in a quartz cavern with Jandor lying in front of him unconscious. Just before the transport, they were both fighting pogs and the teen was struck hard by a mace. The force was enough to knock him out.
“You are one brave boy, foolish, but very brave,” he said with a light chuckle.
With the threat of Davron’s creatures now gone, Fantasma used mandamus to heal him. Fortunately, Jandor’s wounds seemed superficial despite the heavy blow, and they healed almost instantly. He then looked around for Sharanel or any of the others but saw no one physically or in the mentant realm.
“Sharanel!” Fantasma called. In theory, if she was in the same cave system, she would be able to quicken to him immediately, but there was no response.
Jandor began to regain consciousness. “Where am I?” he asked in a haze.
Fantasma helped him stand. “Well, I think we may be back on Mendala, perhaps somewhere in the caverns that I left from, though not in the same exact spot. It’s hard to tell.”
Jandor looked around. “Where are the others?"
“Perhaps in other parts of this cave system. Quickening displacement isn’t completely unheard of, but Sharanel is one of the best. What about your quickener? He did mention he was still learning, did he not?”
“I really don’t know what you’re talking about.” Jandor rubbed his arm, which still ached from the recent fight. “Let’s start over: where are we?”
“We’re on my world.” Fantasma walked to one of the tunnels that branched off from the cavern they were in, trying to determine which way to go.
“How do you know we’re not still on Earth or on another planet? We could be anywhere.”
“The rift only connected two locations, your world and mine, also,” Fantasma turned and pointed to his head, “I can sense some lingering energy in the mentant realm. It’s different than before.”
Jandor raised an eyebrow. “Come again?”
“On my world, use of our adimus to perceive the world around us is as common as our eyesight. It’s like a form of mental vision, giving us information that our regular eyes cannot see. All of that information is stored in an unseen realm that we call the mentant realm. Think of it as a layer of reality that can only be perceived using one’s adimus.”
“And the adimus is a part of the brain, right?” Jandor rubbed his head as if he might find the adimus.
“Yes, it’s the part that controls mentus, mandamus, and other high-level functions such as vision in the mentant realm, adimus immunity, telepathic communication, the list goes on. When I first discovered you and your friends, the adimus of your brains were all dormant, but I was able to activate it. So now, with some training, you too will be able to control your adimus energy and do things like see into the mentant realm, use mentus, and even possibly wield mandamus, if you have that rare gift.”
“Well, I’m sure that’s cool and all, but I really just want to find my friends and get back home,” Jandor said as he picked up the staff he’d been using.
Fantasma nodded. “I completely understand. I tried calling Sharanel, but she hasn’t responded. It could be due to quartz interference. It’s also possible something else could have happened. I’m not entirely sure to be honest. This is my first time dealing with a rift.”
“Let me try.” Jandor fished his phone out of his pants pocket. Though it was still working, he immediately saw there was no signal. “Guess I should have known that wouldn’t work,” he said, pocketing the phone again.
Fantasma gave him a confused look before peering down the tunnel once more. “It appears we’re no longer in danger, and though I cannot see the entirety of where we are, I do sense an exit in this direction. All we need to do is get out and then I can figure out where we are and possibly summon Sharanel or another quickener from the mountain.” He turned to Jandor again. “I know this must be confusing, but I promise I’ll get you back to your friends.”
Jandor shrugged, unconcerned. “Getting sucked through a wormhole and landing on another planet; just your average day.” He chuckled as he walked past Fantasma and down the dark tunnel. “All that matters is that my friends are safe. Let’s get going.”
Fantasma couldn’t help but chuckle as well. It was clear that this young man was not easily fazed by the calamitous situation, and he suspected that even if Jandor knew the full ramifications of their plight, he would still face it with a smile.
“I’m so confused,” Becky said. “What happened? Where are we?”
Mrs. Guardman was examining the rock walls of the dark underground tunnel they were standing in. “I remember running with you, then it was like we were pulled into darkness. This isn’t the same tunnel we were in before. It’s darker and just different somehow.”
Becky nodded in agreement. “It’s definitely darker and it feels bigger, like the ceilings are taller.” She pulled the knapsack off her back. “I wish we had a flashlight.” She rummaged blindly through the bag for several seconds before gasping in shock. “Awesome.” She pulled out a flashlight and clicked it on. “Great, it works. Good ol’ mom. She always kept everything in this bag.”
“Well, that’s one problem solved,” Mrs. Guardman said as she held up her hand to shield her eyes from the light Becky was now pointing in her direction. “Now we just have to figure out where we are, or better yet, where we should go.”
“I don’t hear anything. Maybe we lost those monsters.” Becky waved the wide beam of the flashlight around their new environment. “Let’s go this way,” she said finally, pointing the light to the path behind Mrs. Guardman.
She turned to look behind her. “Why?”
Becky shrugged. “Jandor always says: ‘When you don’t know, just go with your gut.’ My gut says: that way.”
Mrs. Guardman smiled. “Well then, ‘that way’ it is.” She waited for Becky to lead the way with her flashlight. Inside she had a feeling she knew what happened but kept this to herself for the time being.
“We’re looking everywhere, but so far there’s no sign of Fantasma or anyone else,” a soldier reported to Rockwall.
Behind him, Sharanel was explaining to Honsmordin and Franklin everything that happened during their brief stint on the planet known as Earth. Henry was standing next to her, clutching his staff as if it was the only connection he had to reality, still confused about what was going on.
Honsmordin and Franklin were listening in rapt attention but for different reasons. Franklin was amazed they found the Daughter of the Sun and proven his theory correct, while Honsmordin was more interested in the mysterious Davron. The conversation was brought to a halt, however, when Sharanel overheard the soldier.
“But they have to be here. They were connected; I know it,” Sharanel said frantically, pushing past Honsmordin and Franklin to address Rockwall.
“Well, if they’re here, can’t you quicken to them or at least sense them, or at the very least, Fantasma?” Rockwall countered.
Sharanel nodded and closed her eyes. “I can sense them, but they must be outside of these caves. I think Fantasma might have called, but I can’t really get a lock on him or quicken because of this rift energy.” She turned to Henry. “You can do it though.”
Henry gave a start. “Do what?”
“You’ve got to find Fantasma and your friends and bring them here from wherever they are,” Sharanel said in an almost demanding tone. “They have to be nearby, and you aren’t affected by the rift, so that means you should be able to quicken them easily with all this traveler quartz here. It’s practically a quickener cave.”
“I don’t know how to do that,” Henry said, shrinking a bit at her tone. “I don’t even know what you’re talking about or what’s going on.”
Rockwall gave them both a curious look. “I thought you said he was a quickener.”
Sharanel tried to calm her own mounting frustrations. ““He is, he just doesn’t know it yet.” She walked up to Henry who instinctively took a step back, not knowing what she was planning. “I’m not going to hurt you,” she said with a return to her normal, kind voice.
“Are you going to kiss me again?” Henry asked, not certain how he felt about that either.
Honsmordin raised an eyebrow at this statement, which didn’t go unnoticed by Sharanel, but she ignored it. “Henry, listen,” she took his free hand in hers. “I know you’re scared, and confused, but we really need your help; your friends need your help. You’re the only one with the power to do this; everyone is connected to your staff.”
“Well then here, just take it then,” he said shoving the staff at her.
She shook her head. “It doesn’t work that way. It’s your staff, not mine, plus I don’t have dimensional sense.”
Henry wanted to point out that it was his father’s staff but thought that would muddy the already confusing conversation. “Listen, Sharon—”
“Sharanel!” she corrected again, clearly annoyed.
“Sorry.” Henry flinched. “Look, this whole thing is all new to me, I don’t know what to do. All I know is, my friends and I snuck into my basement, I found this thing,” he shook the staff, “then we got transported to some cave, then you and those other guys showed up, and now I’m here. You keep talking about me being a quickener, but I don’t know what that means. We don’t have that on Earth.”
“No quickeners?” Franklin asked, the scholar in him becoming intrigued. “So, you have not discovered quickening yet on your world. How do you travel long distances? Translifts?”
“Planes,” Henry said flatly.
“Frank, not now,” Honsmordin snapped.
“Listen Henry,” Sharanel continued, ignoring the other two and keeping the boy’s attention on her. “It’s just like what we did at the cave. Just close your eyes and focus on your friends. See them, and you’ll be able to bring them to you.”
Henry hesitated but did as he was told. “I can’t see anything; it’s not like before.”
“That’s because they’re outside of the cavern,” Sharanel said. “You have to stretch your mind further.”
“Wait!” Henry almost shouted. “I do see a few people, but it’s like they’re really far away in some sort of bubble.”
“A bubble? Does he mean—” Honsmordin started, but Sharanel waved at him frantically to be quiet so Henry could focus.
She was suspecting the same thing as Honsmordin but didn’t want to confuse the matter.
“Well just try to latch onto them and pull them here,” she said to Henry. “We’re bonded now, so I might be able to help you, but I’ve never tried this before.” She put a hand on his staff and closed her eyes as well.
Henry smirked at this. “Well good, that makes two of us.”
“I don’t understand what’s going on,” Rockwall said in a hushed whisper to Honsmordin and Franklin.
“It would appear that there was a much bigger complication with this rift transport than we suspected,” Honsmordin said. “Wherever they are though, it seems there must be more traveler quartz involved.”
“Traveler quartz?” Jandor said confused. “Never heard of it.”
“I wouldn’t imagine you have,” Fantasma said as he stared at the rock wall intently. “It’s fairly rare. Scientists say it occurs naturally when regular boulder quartz comes in contact with rift energy.”
Jandor couldn’t understand why Fantasma had stopped their trek to marvel at the stone wall. “Well, that’s cool and all, Fantasma, but I think we’re getting close to the exit.”
“The cave we left from had traveler quartz in it as well, but I’m not certain we’re in the same tunnel system we transported from.” He seemed to be talking more to himself than Jandor now. “I haven’t seen or sensed any of my staff or the soldiers. No, we must be someplace completely different on Mendala, but it’s another cavern with an abundance of traveler quartz. I wonder if there was a rift here at some point.”
“Well, if we keep going, maybe we can get out of these caves, and you can figure out where we are.” Jandor continued down the corridor.
“Wait, do you feel that?” Fantasma asked.
“Feel what?” Jandor asked, turning back to him.
“I thought I felt something, or heard something,” Mrs. Guardman insisted. “I don’t know.”
Becky turned and the beam of the flashlight hit Mrs. Guardman. “Well, nothing’s on you.”
The light, which was already growing dim, began to flicker.
“Let’s just keep going as fast as we can, I don’t think we have much time before these batteries die,” Becky said turning back in the direction they’d been walking.
“Who do you see?” Sharanel asked Henry for the third time. “Focus.”
Henry’s eyes snapped open. “You saying ‘focus’ over and over isn’t helping me focus.”
“Just try,” Sharanel said. “Come on, who do you see?”
Henry closed his eyes again. “Jandor, and I think Mrs. Guardman.”
“What about the rest of them?” Sharanel asked frantically. “What about Fantasma?”
“That guy? Yeah, I see him.”
“Well pull him here!” Sharanel said in an excited tone, tugging Henry’s staff in the process.
He opened his eyes again. “Well wait what about the others? Maybe I can get more.”
“We need Fantasma,” Sharanel insisted. “He can help. Just trust me.”
Henry tugged his staff back. “I’m more worried about my friends; they could be in trouble.”
“Henry, stop fighting me and let me help you,” Sharanel growled in frustration, pulling his staff again.
“Stop telling me what to do. You and that guy are the ones who got us into this mess. Why should I trust you?” Henry retorted. “I’ll get my friends back myself.” He yanked his staff, and it struck the ground hard, causing a flash of yellow light that blinded them both and sent them toppling.
For the second time, Sharanel found herself in an embarrassing situation with Henry. He was flat on his back, and she’d fallen on top of him with her knees on either side. Henry was dazed, having hit his head hard on the ground. Sharanel scrambled to get off of him.
“I’m sorry; I’m so sorry!” she said but was soon distracted as she looked around. “Fantasma!”
Fantasma and Veda Guardman stood next to the two teens, looking a bit disoriented.
It was Fantasma who regained his bearings first, realizing he was back where he was supposed to be. “Sharanel, thank the heavens.” He looked around seeing a relieved Honsmordin and Franklin.
“It’s good to have you back, sir,” Honsmordin said, beaming. “We were very concerned.”
“What happened?” Mrs. Guardman was also looking around, expecting to see Becky. “I don’t understand. Where’s Becky? I was with Becky. Where are the others?” She looked down and saw Henry on the ground. “Are you okay?”
Henry’s vision was blurred but he recognized her as he tried to raise himself. “Mrs. Guardman? Did I do it? Did I get everyone?”
Fantasma leaned down and used mandamus healing on Henry. “I was with the young man named Jandor,” he said as he helped Henry stand. “Is he not here?” One quick glance around told him the answer.
“And I was with Becky,” Mrs. Guardman repeated. “I don’t understand what’s going on.”
“It would appear we were both surrounded by traveler quartz,” Fantasma surmised, “which allowed us to be easily quickened through the quartz barrier.” He turned to Sharanel. “I’m surprised you were able to make the transport work; I thought you said the rift caused problems?”
“Henry has dimensional sense; the rift doesn’t affect him,” Sharanel reminded him, “but he’s untrained. He caused a displacement, and we’re having trouble getting everyone back.”
“I’m right here, you know,” Henry said in agitation, “and yeah, I don't know anything about any of this quickening, or whatever, so maybe you can explain what happened?”
“Well, you know how quartz normally blocks quickening and vision in the mentant realm—” Sharanel started.
“I did not actually know that,” Henry said dryly. He was tired of these strange people talking about crazy things and thinking he would just understand.
Sharanel seemed a bit wrong-footed but continued. “Well, okay, this is what happened: you were able to see them and bring them to us because they were surrounded by a special type of quartz called traveler quartz. Traveler quartz can be used to make a quickener cave, which is what allows you to quicken through quartz barriers. Make sense?”
“Not at all,” Henry said with a resigned sigh.
“More importantly though,” Fantasma interrupted. “How did we end up so far apart?”
“I think I understand what happened,” Sharanel said pensively. “When we traveled through the rift, everyone was scattered to other caves with traveler quartz. They could be anywhere.”
This revelation did not sit well with Mrs. Guardman. “How?” she asked, though she knew she wouldn’t understand the answer.
“It’s known as displacement. It’s common with new quickeners,” Sharanel said with a nod to Henry, who scowled at her.
“If I might hazard a guess,” Honsmordin interjected. “I would say this is not completely the young quickener’s fault. The removal of the Sun Stone combined with that other quickener’s tampering must have made the rift unstable and contributed to the displacement.”
“The others are most likely fine,” Fantasma assured. “It’s just a matter of finding them. Perhaps if we get outside of the mountain and the quartz interference---“
“But I was with Becky just now,” Mrs. Guardman said in an insistent tone. “She’s probably scared to death. We have to get her. Can’t you do whatever it is you did to bring her here too?”
“It’s possible, perhaps even Jandor too if he’s still in the same place. We’ll need your young quickener’s help though.” Fantasma gestured to Henry.
“What, me?” Henry took a step back. “I keep telling you guys I’m not this quickener thing you’re talking about.”
Sharanel sighed and walked up to him, trying to sound comforting. “Henry if you just work with me, we can get the rest of your friends. I can help you learn how to use your…” but she was distracted as she looked down. “Oh no.”
Henry followed her gaze. On the ground, about a foot away from him, his quickener staff lay broken in three pieces.