Chapter 34: Terraforming
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Previously: Cheshire overheard the king’s plan, and now he’s in danger of being discovered and must get back to warn Madnes. He barely escaped the clutches of the Adviser, and strangely enough it was thanks to Oz, who hid him away. But why? Is there something Oz wants? And does he know of his father’s dastardly scheme?
Cheshire mreeowed as he was tossed down to the floor of a small room. Oz closed and locked the door behind him, then turned and faced the cat. “On the run from my father, are you, flaky cat?”
Cheshire stood upright, dusting at his waistcoat. “The better question, rude young man, is why did you save me from him? I won’t do anything for you, if that’s what you’re expecting!”
Oz sniffed. “As if I’d ask a favor from a cat,” he said brusquely. “I don’t like that Adviser. I simply thought it’d be fun to cause him some stress, and hide you away,” the prince briefly chuckled. “Though I am curious…” he bent half way down to the cat, a smirk on his lips, “Why were you on the run? Have you been a naughty kitty?” He leaned back from Cheshire’s claw swipe.
“How long has this scheme of your father’s been going on?” Cheshire growled—sounding more like a cat hiss. “And to think there was a time when I thought well of him, and of you, Oz.”
The prince tossed back the royal cape over his shoulder, and narrowed his gaze at the feline. “Scheme?” he turned his nose up. “I could care less what you think of me anymore, Cheshire. But I haven’t a clue what scheme you’re referring to.”
Cheshire’s tail swished back and forth, eyeing the prince. Oz had no more reason to lie; he must know Cheshire would never grant him the power from Madnes, now. So, was the king keeping his own son in the dark about the portals too? “In that case, I’ll tell you what I overheard,” he decided. “The balance of the portals has been disrupted, and Okinala is in danger. Your father is to blame—he’s broken our trust and betrayed the law of the portals. I fear everyone in Okinala is in danger…”
Oz’s shoulders shrugged nonchalantly.
“Your father mentioned something about a Terraforming Process. Have you heard the name before?”
Oz’s stare was blank.
“Anything about crystal focal points for a spell? And a crowv woman?”
A spark lit up in Oz’s eyes. “Crowv woman?” He moved towards the cat, his countenance suddenly dark. “Explain.”
“That was all I could hear. She’s being contained, but I haven’t a clue what for or who she is.”
“Could it be…” Oz’s gaze turned aside, staring into the room’s empty fireplace and leftover flakes of ash. “Mother…is that where she’s been?” he thumbed his chin in thought.
Cheshire watched the prince cautiously. “The queen?” Last he and Wonderland knew, the queen had died of an illness…but did Oz have reason to believe differently?
“I must know the truth.” Oz suddenly made his way toward the door.
“Wait, Oz!” Cheshire wasn’t sure what was going on in the young man’s head, but if he let on to the king that he knew about his plot, he could find himself in danger. “Even if you’re his son, the king might hurt you for knowing the truth, Oz. And either way, this crowv woman could be anyone. It’s highly unlikely for it to be your mother.”
The prince’s stride paused. “I don’t care about Okinala or Earth, but only finding Mother. And nothing will stop me.”
“You can’t trust that he’ll tell you. He’s lied to all of us, and he’ll lie to you!”
“…We’ll see about that.”
The king’s anteroom doors flew open. Oz strode in, crow wings spread out either side him and black feathers like a crown circling the base of his head—the crowv people’s half-human half-crow form. The king looked up from a royal chair.
“Is it true?” Oz demanded. The king raised an eyebrow at him in question. “Cheshire passed through here. He says you’re doing something with the portals, some spell, and that a crowv woman is involved.” He drew closer, step by step, black feathers swirling. “Is it her? Where have you been keeping Mother, all this time?” he growled. “Tell me!” His shout echoed the room, the marble floor rumbled.
The king looked up from the game he’d been playing: a tier of boards and chess pieces, a mechanical hand his opponent as it floated, awaiting its turn.
One glance at Oz and his show of anger, and the king looked back at the boards. “I suppose there’s no longer a reason to keep it from you,” he said smoothly, ignoring any threat Oz tried to pose. “It’s called Terraforming, and it’s a spell I’m using to cultivate the land on Earth. Okinala is the easiest place to start. Soon its land will be reformed and made into the likeness of our lovely home Wonderland: creating a second Wonderland, if you will. Won’t that be nice? Having a whole other world under my rule, a new other place our people can call home?”
Oz’s expression didn’t waver. “You know I don’t care about any of that.”
The king finally turned in his seat, facing him. “Your mother was ill, Oz. You saw for yourself how her health deteriorated. Why are you so set on believing she’s alive?”
Oz didn’t let himself answer, instead his lips tightened.
“There is a crowv woman, yes,” admitted the king. “But it is not your mother. The crystal she’s contained within is the only thing keeping her alive after battling the same illness that took your mother, the illness so many crowv people have perished from. She cannot leave it and live, at the moment, but we’re using the spell to draw in energy from Okinala and transfer it to help her recovery.” His somber frown lifted.
“You see, not only is the Terraforming spell giving us new land, but it’s also transferring all that gathered energy to heal the sick.” He stood, and in two steps reached Oz, planting a hand on his shoulder. “You and your mother’s crowv people may no longer be in danger of extinction, thanks to this spell.”
Mixed emotions whirred through Oz like a storm. Anger, distrust, sadness. He’d said it wasn’t Mother, but a gut feeling didn’t want him to believe anything the king was saying. Mother had to be out there, somewhere—and alive.
“The spell is helping her?”
The king tipped his head forward in a slight nod.
“Where is this crowv? I want to see her.”
“In time, son. There is work to be done; but once the spell is complete, you may.”
“I don’t want to wait,” Oz refused.
The king waved a hand, and an invisible force shoved Oz back skidding across the floor, tripping and falling over a carpet. “In time,” he repeated.
Oz’s hands clenched and forehead creased, but he relented. Father was powerful—he couldn’t force him to talk. But that was fine: now that he had a vague idea where this crowv woman was—somewhere within one of the spell’s crystals—he could find her on his own. He would find her, and see for himself who she was…if she held a clue to Mother’s whereabouts.
From the small room, Cheshire listened in on a voice-catcher gadget hidden under Oz’s shirt. “Healing the crowv people…?” he pawed his furry chin. Terraforming Process… Who would’ve guessed the king would be up to something so destructive—so willing to destroy Earth? “I must get to Madnes. We must find and destroy those crystals before it’s too late!”
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© copyright 2015 E. Rawls and Rawls E. Fantasy, All Rights Reserved
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