The Guild – Chapter 8 – Andrei

Andrei travels to the past, meeting… surprise! I won’t spoil it! ;p please enjoy!

 

Rain pelts my back, cold against my bare skin. Thunder rumbles in the dark clouds above. Night fell hours ago and the hills are dark and quiet except when the lightning strikes. In those moments I see the never-ending hills and no sign of human settlement nearby.

I decided hours ago that it was no use standing still in a storm, so I’ve been wandering the hills looking for people to shelter me. My socks are cold and muddy, and my feet are numb. My arms are folded across my chest, fists jammed in my armpits to keep them somewhat warm.

I lose my footing on a bare patch of ground and slip down the hill, crashing onto my hip hard. I slide a few feet down the slope before coming to a stop. My entire side covered in mud, I lay there, shivering. I struggle to get up, gripping the wet mud with my numb fingers.

Once on my feet I continue down the slope. Another hour goes by, stumbling around in the dark when a flash of lightning illuminates shadowy pointed structures of tepees in the distance. So, North America, probably before 1880. Joy.

I stumble toward the encampment, closer and closer as the thunder rolls overhead. I see no sign of anyone. Suddenly I’m thrown to the ground as something rams into my left shoulder. I have no strength to fight back. I try to roll over but my hands are grabbed and I feel something being wrapped around them. I grunt as they tie them tight. Then I feel the ground move beneath me and I think I’m being dragged towards the camp.

Worst welcome ever… I go limp in my bonds and let them take me. I’m too numb to care. I just hope they don’t kill me.

Soon enough I’m dropped before a large tepee as the men, I assume they’re men, , enter the tepee and begin speaking with someone inside. The rain on the side of the tepee is too loud to make out what they’re saying. It’s not long before one of the men comes back out and lifts me to my feet.

He pulls me into the tent, dripping water and mud and tosses me before a strong fire in the centre. The ground is covered in animal skins and the inside smells strongly of dried grass and some other plant I can’t make out. Across from the fire sits a bear of a man. He has a strong jaw, a wide nose and deep-set dark eyes. His hair is grey, and I see the end of a braid dangling at his elbow.

The heat from the fire feels like it’s burning my skin as it thaws me. I look at him, waiting for something to happen, thankful to be out of the rain.

“You are a long way from home, stranger.” The man states with a curious tone. “Tell me, what brings you to our home on such a night?”

I know he’s probably speaking some form of Native American. There’s hundreds of languages it could be. The strange thing about my magic is that I can understand him as if he were speaking flawless English, and he’ll be able to understand me as if I was speaking his own tongue. I hesitate before answering, wondering how I will explain that I know his language. First contact is always the most difficult when I time jump.

I look at the ground, staring until I come up with something to say. “I got lost in the storm. I’m seeking shelter from the rain.” I state simply. I hope it’s received well.

The chieftain watches me, vast wisdom etched into the many wrinkles on his face, “You come from very far. It is late. Rest now. We will speak in the morning.” I am shocked at the acceptance in his reply and relieved that I won’t be questioned further without rest.

The man who brought me in lifts me to my feet and leads me out back into the rain. We cross the camp to another tepee, I see now the warm glow of fires within the surrounding tepees. We stop before a darkened tepee and he lifts the flap open, pushing me forward into the dark interior. I feel fur on my feet and the man tugs and pulls at my wrists, untying the bonds. When free, I rub my wrists and turn to face him but he is already gone.

As my eyes adjust to the dark, I see I am alone and the fire is a cold bed of coals. Next to it lays a blanket of fur, maybe buffalo and a bowl with water. I strip my wet pants and socks off, desperate to get out of the wet clothes and flop onto the fur covered floor. After washing my face and hands of mud I throw the buffalo hide over me and shiver in the dark as sleep takes me. At least I’ll be dry tonight.

***

I feel stiff and sore and my shoulder throbs. I hear shuffling close by and I crack an eye open to see two women in my tent. The older one has her hair braided and hanging over her shoulder, the other much younger, perhaps her daughter. The older woman holds some tanned leather skins in her arms and the younger a bowl of something steaming.

I shift beneath the buffalo hide blanket, hesitant to pull it off as I’m nearly naked beneath it.

The older woman smiles, placing the skins next to the coals as the younger places the bowl next to it before shuffling out of the tent. Once the tent flap falls I scurry from the buffalo blanket and inspect the leather skins.

They are indeed a shirt and pants which look a little worn, perhaps an older set of clothes another man uses but doesn’t need. I pull them on quickly and move to the bowl of thick porridge. It’s a little bland but it warms the chill in my stomach.

I set the bowl down and with uncanny timing, the tent flap is lifted and I see the silhouette of a man framed by the bright morning sun.

“Come.” He says in a commanding tone. I stand and follow him out of the tent.

The camp is alive with morning activity. Women and children bustle about attending to various tasks like stretching skins, preparing meals and repairing other materials. The man leads me to what I assume is the chieftains tent I was in last night. Many of the women and children look at me as I pass. I feel their eyes like hands on my skin. I bow my head and quicken my pace.

Once at the Chieftains tent, the man announces his arrival and lifts the flap, gesturing for me to enter first. I’m met with a familiar sight of the strong jawed chief sitting across from the fire. I sit before him and wait anxiously for his questions.

The chief looks at the guards next to the door and waves at them in dismissal. So this is going to be a private questioning. I feel a little more at ease.

Once we’re alone, he smiles. “We meet again, stranger. You may call me Waaseywaa. What name do I call you?”

His friendly demeanor is offsetting. I did not expect this kind of reception. I remain on edge but comply with his questions. “I’m called Andrei.”

“You are far from home.” He muses. It’s not a question and I wonder how he knows this. I nod in confirmation. “Yes, I got lost in the storm last night.”

The old chief gets a mischievous smirk, “There is no need for that. We are brothers here. Tell me, how is it you found yourself here?”

I’m taken aback by his blunt assumption when I suddenly notice the faint orange aura surrounding him. It must have blended in with the glow of the fire. I blink my eyes in surprise. “How… how do you know?” I ask.

He waves his arms, in sort of a half shrug, “I see what you see. The gifted are revered among my people. You will not be harmed here.” He smiles. “But, you did not answer my question.”

I realize I haven’t and I struggle to explain how I came to be wandering the hills in the middle of a storm. “I’m sorry. I… I only just learned that there are others like me. I jumped through time unexpectedly and found myself lost in the middle of the hills with no clothes. I thank you for your hospitality.” I bow my head in thanks, not sure what their custom is but hoping to show I respect their aid.

He strokes his stubbly chin, thinking. “That is quite a problem for you, my friend.”

“Yes. In my time, my friends could be in danger, but now I cannot help them. I am afraid that I won’t be able to get to them any time soon. I don’t know how to jump at will.” I hunch a little where I sit, realizing how inconvenient this power can be at times.

The man nods. “In this, I may be able to help you.”  I drop my jaw in surprise.

“Really? How?” I ask a little too eagerly.

He sits up a little straighter, “You have a noble heart, young Andrei. Your concern for your friends shows me that you are a worthy man.” He slowly stands up, “I will pass on to you the knowledge of my father, and my grandfather before him. Come with me.”

He gestures for me to follow him out of the tent. Outside, he leads me through the camp past all the women and children working. As we pass they turn to nod at us and bow slightly. I watch him closely as he greets each of them pleasantly.

We leave the camp and enter the forest bordering the edge of the settlement. The trees are thin at the edge but grow denser as we continue walking. Before long I can hear the burbling of a small stream and the trees begin to thin again. Ahead, I see a small clearing and the stream, where a towering, ancient willow leans over it’s banks and dangles it’s branches into the clear waters.

I feel I’ve walked onto a set for Disney’s Pocahontas, but I force the image out of my head as I know this is very real. I never much liked the movie as it misrepresented the real story.

“What is this place?”

“This is our sacred tree. For many generations, the gifted have come here to receive the wisdom of our ancestors.” He explains.

“There have been others? How did they learn their magic?” I ask, I feel the questions bubbling at the edge of my tongue but I hold them back, barely.

He raises an eyebrow, “The knowledge is already there, inside your spirit. You need only to find it.” He sits at the base of the tree, legs crossed, back straight. He folds his hands and closes his eyes.

I shrug and move closer, watching what he does.

“This place has its own spirit. Magic, as you call it. Sit, clear your mind. Look within yourself. You will find the answers you seek.”

I join him beneath the tree and cross my legs. I look around, not feeling exactly comfortable but with some deep breathing, I begin to relax. I close my eyes and I think of the spirit the chief speaks of and try to feel it around me.

So many questions come to mind and I feel cluttered with worries. I try to clear my mind, thinking only of my breathing, but the sound of the burbling stream and the chirping of birds distracts me. I open my eyes, taking in my surroundings. I need to become familiar with them before I can be open to the spirit of this place. I let my gaze wander over every detail of the clearing, memorizing the trees, shrubbery, the stream’s path as it meanders off to the right behind us and the calls of the birds overhead.

I feel like hours go by and the chief barely moves. I wonder if he knows I’m struggling. I try again, taking a deep breath and close my eyes.

Time, though it ticks on a clock, doesn’t tick in the woods. However, I feel it ticking within me, like a heartbeat, ever steady. I feel this beat for hours and hours and soon I realize the sun has nearly set and the forest has grown dark. I hear Waaseywaa move next to me and I too stand and follow him out of the clearing, through the forest and back to the camp.

Only once the smells from the cooking hit me do I notice how hungry I am and how little I’ve eaten. My stomach growls angrily at me and I blush with embarrassment.

Waaseywaa nods to me and returns to his tent. I assume that means I am free to go to mine. I meander through the maze of tepees until I think I’ve found the one that is mine. I peek inside and see that someone has set the fire and left me a bowl of steaming stew and a dried stick of some sort of game.

I enter the warm tent and begin to eat, wondering how my friends are doing without me. Has Caroline flooded the apartment completely? Or has Kaitlyn found a way to help her? Is Kaede behaving himself? And Kaitlyn, is she worried? Or did she take off? Has Logan found them?  All the worries return to the surface and I feel a headache.

The meditation by the tree really helped, but now I feel I’ve undone everything we achieved. Will I get back in a timely fashion? Or will I be gone months? Perhaps they’ll leave without me. That would be best. They’d be better off. I could manage on my own. I’ve done it this long… They don’t really need me.

I realize my stew is gone and I’m still hungry but I can’t bring myself to ask for more. I gnaw on the dried meat and remove my clothes, folding them nicely and using them as a pillow. I guess we’ll see what tomorrow brings.

***

The next two days follow the same routine. The women leave porridge in my tent for my morning meal and a man retrieves me. I meet Waaseywaa and we go to the clearing and meditate the entire day. Each time I feel the ticking of time stronger and stronger. My worries continue to haunt me when I return to my tent and eat the evening meal, but I feel stronger each day.

At the end of third day I lay in my tent, restless. It’s long after the evening meal and the wind howls outside. It’s been so long and the ticking is stronger than it’s ever been before. I feel the energy pulsing beneath my skin.

I think about the others, worried about them, and I want to return to them. I’ve never been able to force a jump before. I’ve never directed the energy, never turned my own clock. I’ve always let it take me where it will. I’ve submitted to the clock all my life – but not tonight.

I ball my hand into a fist and stand. I throw on my leather skins, as my jeans lay in a muddy heap in the corner of my tent. I take a deep breath and concentrate on the ticking. The sound resonates in my ears like a pulse. I focus on my time, my friends. My earnest need to return.

I feel a static charge. Once, twice. It begins to jump all over my body, but this time it doesn’t jump erratically. It feels more steady, more controlled. I open my eyes with a smile and then my body is thrown from the tent. The camp blurs around me and everything becomes a blur of light, like falling stars all around me.

This time I force myself to look, to see the lights and follow them. They shift around me and I see them pulse. I realize they are places and times. The times I can go to. I twist where I am, feeling like I’m floating, but normal physics don’t seem to apply here. One small movement causes me to spin in circles. I focus my thoughts on my time and I see a light ahead of me, one that pulses a different colour from the rest. In fact, the rest seem to be stemming from this one particular light.

I know instantly this is my time and that’s where I need to be. I reach my hand towards it and I feel the jarring motion of time settle around me. I land on the floor on my bedroom, standing, my arm outstretched towards the darkened light fixture above me.

It’s dim in my room with only the yellow light of my lamp, and as I look out the window I see that it is about the same time of night as It was before I time jumped. I look around with a smile. I can’t believe it worked! I make a fist and pull my elbow in, shouting, “Yessss! I can’t believe it! I did it!”

That’s when I notice the girl sleeping in my bed, a book laying open next to her bandaged arm. My excitement quickly turns to raw embarrassment as I realize what the book is. I read the messy handwriting effortlessly and I feel naked again. The journal entry date reads; October 23rd, Campus library.

I stare, unbelieving at her, fast asleep. I reach for the book and see the dark circles under her eyes. She’s stopped wearing the thick eyeliner I first met her in and, despite the bags under her eyes, I think she’s beautiful. I turn back to my desk and return the journal to its place on the shelf. In the light of the lamp I notice the lack the dust they once had.

Oh my goodness! Is she for real? I can’t even begin to imagine what she thinks. Each of these had my personal reflections of each of my jumps, my opinions of the people I met, the events that happened. I described in detail how I felt during each of my jumps and every injury I received.

I shake with the amount of exposure I feel. I barely know this girl and I feel she can see right through me now. I think I’ve gone pale, because I can no longer feel my face. I turn and look at her, still sleeping, unaware that I’m standing here.

It’s actually a little funny. For someone who was so skittish when I first met her, she sleeps like a rock. I feel a smile come to my lips, and for the first time in my life, I can’t really explain the things I feel. I kneel on the floor of my room, suddenly feeling heavy and worn out from the jump. I notice that my dirty clothes have also been moved.

I lay down, laying my head on the hard floor. I guess I’ll deal with these emotions in the morning. I’m too tired to sort them out now. Much… too… tired…

 

By Kayla West

Kiki's Tales

    Rain pelts my back, cold against my bare skin. Thunder rumbles in the dark clouds above. Night fell hours ago and the hills are dark and quiet except when the lightning strikes. In those moments I see the never-ending hills and no sign of human settlement nearby.

    I decided hours ago that it was no use standing still in a storm, so I’ve been wandering the hills looking for people to shelter me. My socks are cold and muddy, and my feet are numb. My arms are folded across my chest, fists jammed in my armpits to keep them somewhat warm.

    I lose my footing on a bare patch of ground and slip down the hill, crashing onto my hip hard. I slide a few feet down the slope before coming to a stop. My entire side covered in mud, I lay there, shivering…

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