Parts: 1-11, 12
Damn the looking glass . . .
Penn’s first conscious image came under familiar voluptuous breasts.
“Jessendra,” Penn’s voice rasped, “How long has it been?”
Sadly, the breasts moved away revealing a pale lined face above it. “Oh, you’re awake” Jessendra’s broad face peeled to a small smile, “ I was afraid I wouldn’t get here in time. It’s been two hours now and I thought I’d lost you.” Her dark hair glistened and she swayed a bit. “I’m a little tired now from mending you and the others,” she licked her lips slowly. Her deep brown eyes glazed over and she said softly, “did you ever know Penn that I really-“ The ample breasts pressed down onto his face. The moment of pleasantness passed when Penn realized he could not breathe. His body felt like boneless mass of flesh and he was so weak. Jessendra’s breathing deepened to the regularity of sleep.
Great, after all of this, I’m going to be killed by cleavage.
Panic set in with grim teeth and Penn struggled helplessly only wedging himself further into the soft smothering crevasse. And suddenly the weight was gone. Ro’ja’s pale blue eyes glittered before him. Penn gasped and gobbled in the air. Penn was so happy to see him, at least, until, Ro’ja fell over laughing. The tall elf laughed and laughed until his ribs began bleeding again. Portia came over and shushed him by tightening the dressing on his side. Tears still running down his face, Ro’ja said, “The naughty nipple almost got you.”
Penn glared at Ro’ja, until he stumbled off still chuckling.
“You loved her once didn’t you?” came Allura’s quiet voice. Penn blinked for a moment and with great effort rolled onto his side. The big blue eyes waited. “Who?” Penn said.
Allura chuckled and then coughed up some blood, “who do you think?”
Penn looked at Jessendra’s sleeping form lying in between them. “I really liked her at one time, yes,” Penn said.
“Ah” said Allura closing her eyes.
Allura said nothing and her breathing began to even out. Penn sighed impatiently, “ah what? What is that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing,” allura said with a smile. “Nothing my ass,” was all he could manage.
She opened her eyes again. They were so big and blue. Penn got nervous,
“what the hell are you trying to say? I don’t need some half
breed dictating to me about what I do and don’t know.”
“You’re a coward,” she whispered and limped off without looking back.
Someone started slowly clapping behind him, “Wow, you really know
how to do it don’t you.”
Penn chuckled hollowly, “I don’t know if you’ve been riding the pony of current events lady, but we just got our ass kicked.” Penn’s voice began rising, “There is no magic book. No Elven Way. Get it?” Penn gestured at the Grove and put the fist into his voice, “There’s a pretty little tree of Life on the left and then there’s the dead tree on the right that smells like a cow’s ass, oh, and a blank green book in between them. They got us. They suckered us out. The Prefects will come in here trace our auras and it’s over. They’ll track each of us down and we will get nothing, but a slow torturous death. We lose. They win.” Penn sighed, closing his eyes.
“The Prefects are the least of your concerns Penn. “I can only offer you the hand, but you have to take it,” Portia said, helping Jessendra to her feet. “I will leave you with this” she turned and faced Penn.
“This is not the end,” she said her voice calm and firm. “This is only the beginning. The dead tree must be cut down and a new one planted for all.” Portia looked up at the fading stars, “We do what we must to give that choice.”
She looked down at him, “The choice is what matters and if we have to take foolish risks to have even a chance . . .” A tear slid down her cheek, “ I will take it, every time.”
She wiped her face and smiled sadly, “You saved us all tonight. Good luck Penn.”
Portia turned and walked off supporting Jessendra.
Ro’ja’s face appeared out of the fading gloom and he stared at Penn for a moment, nodded and then jogged off after Portia.
Ignoring his screaming body, Penn stood up slowly and stared at the brightening sky. This place would be crawling with the Crimson guard soon and then the Prefects would come and scour the area for auras and . . . Penn tried to let the thought go.
A new tree, Penn thought disgustedly, what kind of crap is that? Ooo, let’s plant a new tree and start over as if it was that simple. Penn snorted at the thought as his eyes fell on the dead tree. Like anything would be that simple —his eyes flicked to the beautiful tree on the opposite end of the Grove. Penn slowly drew the Maker’s Mark, it’s long black blade glistened darkly in the rising light.
“Our time is at hand,” said a deep gravelly voice.
The two great yellow eyes of Ana did not blink as the response pulsed inside of the Maker’s head.
-I have one thing left to do-
The Maker turned to face the great wolf and raised his shaggy brows.
-I would not have done unto him what was done to us-
“Then leave him. Else the cancer of conscience will,” the Maker picked up the wooden bucket and limped over to the furnace. The coals hissed angrily as the Maker doused the embers and a great cloud of smoke filled the cave.
“Their kind deserve nothing but gray ashes,” the Maker muttered.
The black ears twitched on the waiting wolf,
-You would abandon him now? -
He whirled and glared at Ana, “Have you forgotten what they did to us?”
The Maker curled his hand into a fist, “I’ve had 2 millenia
of imprisonment to think of it.”
-So now, on the precipice of freedom you would decide his fate?
“I give a quick death,” the Maker snapped.
-I give choice
The yellow eyes blinked once and then black form was gone.
Penn stared at the Maker’s Mark. It seemed to twist in his grasp when he realized his hand was shaking. His thoughts whirled. The Maker, the shaker, the blues, the reds, and greens all collided in his head, a kaleidoscope of possibility that could be. His father’s dead eyes bored in, stabbing him again and again. His father’s callused hand drew wide and came across in a flash of white. He saw all of the Elloreans, eyes wide and waiting like hungry mouths, Ro’ja’s thin head bobbing up and down, and Allura laughing. Her laugh reached down and down and squeezed Penn’s heart until he gasped.
It was the tree of Life, the rich brown limbs reaching and aching for the sun. The shinning leaves rustled lightly in the breeze.
Penn looked, he looked beyond the tree, deeper, down into the roots.
Above was only a smiling veneer hiding the ruthless machine of madness below.
Penn sighed, took a deep breath, and threw the Maker’s Mark right
at the Tree of Life.
The Maker felt it. He felt terror that had not touched him in eons, the
cold shaking unknown of fear. He smiled for a moment until the white pulse
roared into his cave, blowing everything apart.
The creature’s body sang only of one word,
Penn was falling and falling. He could feel nothing and he could see less, until he saw those great yellow eyes bobbing towards him.
Who? Ana? What are you doing here?
Her great black form appeared as she ran gracefully towards him.
I knew you could understand me, Ana. I knew it.
She stopped and sat before him, her tail flicking back and forth.
-There is not much time, Penn, and I have a question for you-
-You know you will be blamed, but do you want to try?-
It was a simple question, so simple that it roared up in front of him like a great black wave, crushing him, tossing him back and forth, shaking him. The moment dragged out like an angry stare from a loved one.
Anna stood up and ran through Penn. He felt himself being sucked upwards. Penn’s face started twitching and he felt his body bend impossibly backward like a reed in the raging wind.
Cold stone was the first thing that Penn thought of as he became aware— cold stone, colder water, and the awful sensation of his testicles being bare on the frigid, damp stone.
end of series