The House of Yeel
Author:Michael McCloskey

Chapter 5: Far from Home?





“Must we stop for the night?” Yeel asked.

“It would be unwise to continue in darkness,” Jymoor explained. “We could fall into a crevice, get stung by a shadow scorpion, any of a number of dangers.”

Yeel knows little of travel for one so wise, she thought. Or perhaps one as powerful as he needs not fear such dangers.

The light dimmed as the orb of fire started to disappear behind the horizon. The travelers had temporarily emerged from the forest to travel along a rocky ridge that rose from the surrounding trees.

“This is a simple problem, easily overcome,” Yeel said. “The need for light is very basic. Fortunately I am equipped to provide a substitute for our star’s emanations. I’ll need a few moments to combine the necessary agents, though.”

Jymoor watched Yeel as he fumbled through one of his packs. He took out two stones pocked with tiny holes and a small package wrapped in string.

“Fetch us two straight sticks, if you would, my friend,” Yeel urged. “I’ll prepare the stones, so that our efforts might take a minimum of time, and we can resume our journey momentarily. And thank you for your help.”

Jymoor carefully made her way into a break in the rocks where some dead tree limbs had accumulated. She broke some dry wood and found two branches that might serve. As she walked back to Yeel, she saw that the stones had started to glow softly in the waning light. Yeel put the package back into his larger pack and handed a stone to Jymoor.

Avorn stood well back, as if in fear of the phenomenon.

“Put the adhesive side against the stick to wield it,” Yeel said. “And hand me a stick, please. You see, one of these is for me and one is for you. In that way we will have one more than strictly necessary, a redundant setup, affording us extra protection in case of unexpected events which might deprive us of one source of light. We are, sadly, still vulnerable to the possibilities depriving us of two or more sources of light…”

Jymoor traded a stick for a glowing stone. She stared at the rock, wondering at its inner light.

“Adhesive side?”

“Just put the stick against the top, right there,” explained Yeel. The wizard placed the end of his stick against the rock and then released the glowing stone. It clung neatly onto the end of the stick. Yeel held the assembly up, casting a white light onto the ground before him.

“Now we can see,” he said.

Jymoor brought her branch into contact with the stone and the two connected firmly. She waved her stick about, lighting the area.

“Is it a magical torch? How long does it last?” Jymoor asked.

“It is what it is. Call it a torch if you like, and model it as a magical one if you wish. It depends on quite a lot. But the stone will almost certainly outlive the stick. The wood will eventually rot unless we treat it with certain chemicals to protect it.”

“What? The wood will rot? Well, yes, but, I mean, how long will they glow? Not how long will the rock and the stick last.”

“Ah, I see your thrust exactly. We were having a semantic mishap. You want to know how long the reaction will last. We can clear this up, I assure you. Now. Are you asking about yours or mine?”

“Either. Both. Are they different?”

“Yours lasts as long as mine. And mine, as long as yours,” Yeel said.

“They last the same amount of time…but wait. Why did you ask me which one? Oh never mind. Just how long do they last?”

“It seemed logical to charge them to last throughout the night,” Yeel said. “True, we may not press onward through the entire span of darkness, but it seemed prudent to ensure that we didn’t end up in a delicate situation with our lights suddenly failing us.”

“You are wise, Lord Yeel. Of course, I didn’t expect otherwise.”

“Well, in that circumstance I wonder why you asked. But in any case, communication has won the day. We now both know. And I assume you’ve even remembered it, judging from your previous mental acrobatics. So if I should want to know later, presumably you would share the information back with me? No matter, it is logical enough, and I should be able to independently deduce my previous actions on this matter. Unless, of course, I was to run short of necessary materials, then later forget that fact…”

The three moved through the trees for several more hours after sunset, guided by the glowing orbs Yeel had put together. The dual lights cast eerie double shadows from the twisted trees, revealing the landscape nearby in washed-out colors. Jymoor stopped to consult a journal she had recorded on her journey. Yeel contentedly followed her lead, confident that his guide would find the way.

Yeel also kept talking at length about every little thing they saw. So much so Jymoor found herself a bit strained to listen. Yet she could say nothing to silence the Great Yeel. She would just have to suffer his foibles.

They came to another rocky outcropping jutting up through the trees. The rocks formed a sheltered spot with a dry clearing between them. The trees hugged the formations as if trying to embrace the stone, forming a leafy ceiling to the area.

“I found it! I spent a night here on my journey out to the Far Coast!” Jymoor said. “I was having trouble keeping to my old path, because I can’t see any landmarks in the dark.”

“You slept out here? On those rocks? I thought your culture encouraged sleeping in shelter, inside those crude dwellings you construct,” Yeel said. “Ah, but of course. You don’t have any means of…of course. I think now you slept here because you had no choice!”

“Uh, yes. Well, this was the best spot in the area. I’ve grown tired, my lord,” Jymoor said. “Could we perhaps break camp here, and seek some rest? You must be tired as well…or do your powers keep you strong?”

“We can rest if you wish. My, ah, powers keep me from needing any sleep. But I comprehend your need for recharging your mental agents. A necessary part of your biology. We all have our natural strengths and weaknesses. Classify sleep under the weaknesses.”

Avorn grunted. He wandered the perimeter of the clearing, as if assessing it on his own terms.

Jymoor sat down and began to unload her sleeping pack. “I’ll set up camp here, then,” she said. “This little niche will make it easier to stay warm and safe.”

Yeel watched Jymoor for a moment.

“I can understand your desire to sleep under the stars, at peace with nature, but what of the dangers you spoke of? Wouldn’t it be wiser to seek real shelter for the night?”

“That would be the best option, but we’re far from civilization,” Jymoor said. “We must make do with what we have. I realize, my lord, that you’re probably used to the amenities of your palace, but we will have none of that on the hard road we travel.”

“Why’s that? We could simply stop in at my house for the night,” Yeel suggested. “No need to create a fire or risk the nocturnal predators. Your nose is not producing enough mucus to protect you from the shadow scorpions you mentioned, I feel. Of course, I’ll defer to your judgment. I’m prepared to withstand the elements if you deem it necessary. Wait. Is it some kind of bonding ritual?”

“What? How?” Jymoor stammered. “We can’t head back now.”

“I couldn’t hope to achieve great missions without the resources provided by my domicile! We have to have food, equipment, chemical agents, and a place to shelter. It only makes sense that we should pop back in from time to time. I can only carry so many artifacts on my person at once.”

Yeel reached for his belt and freed his roveportal. Placing the device upon the ground before him, he spoke the command word.

“Nibleetzak!”

The tiny device hummed and a rod of light rose just higher than Yeel’s head. A two dimensional doorway opened in thin air, displaying a view of Yeel’s water chamber.

“Here we are! Won’t you join me? Or did you find my guest chamber to be inadequate? I could send some supplies out if you’d rather stay here.”

“My lord! I’d underestimated your powers. I’d heard the stories, of course, but I never realized. You can bring us back to your house? That’s fantastic. Why are we traveling at all? Perhaps you should simply have used magic to take us to my homeland!”

“Ah, well. I don’t have that particular magic. The roveportal is a very ancient artifact that I’ve mastered that allows me to return home from time to time, but I can’t go just anywhere, you understand. The portal goes with me. I have to carry it to your nation of Riken.”

“I see,” Jymoor said.

“You see? Ah, you understand. I see. Ha! A joke! You see, I see you see! Ha!”

Jymoor nodded politely. “Very funny,” she assured Yeel, but she did not laugh.

“That reminds me, I’ll keep an eye on the portal while we’re gone,” Yeel said, dropping something small on the ground. “If something comes along we’ll want to be aware of it. Most creatures instinctively fear the portal but you never know what awful monster might be lurking about. The Far Coast is a dangerous place, much worse than the civilized areas you hail from.”

“What did you drop there just now?” Jymoor asked. She swung her light orb around, trying to get a better look.

“It is a…I have means of watching places. It’s a charm, a magical knickknack if you will. A natural artifact. Intrinsic device?”

“Oh. It looks sort of like a plant seed.”

“Not really a seed, although I do grow them,” Yeel said, holding back his amusement. “Just please remember not to step on it. I find that most disturbing. You can remember that, right?”

“Yes, my lord,” Jymoor said. Yeel stepped through the glowing doorway and his light was gone. Jymoor tried to catch a glimpse of Yeel through the shimmering image of the other side. She caught some movement, a large shadow moving away. She saw a flicker of green like a rope waving through the air. Then there was nothing but the fountain.

“Are you really stepping into that?” grumbled Avorn. The knight carried his helm tucked under his arm, shifting from foot to foot nervously.

“Well…I suppose so,” she said uncertainly.

Jymoor took a look around the tiny grove, and caught sight of a discoloration of the ground. She knelt down, holding her glowing orb close to the surface of the rocky earth. She stood in a wide track of clear slime, barely visible, leading through the area and to the portal.

The tracks of Yeel.

“Unbelievable,” she muttered.

She shrugged and went through the gateway.