Burn the Map

...and the atlas and the guide book and the GPS and everything else that thinks it knows where you're going. 'Cause I'll tell you a secret, friend: They don't have a clue.

Welcome, traveler!  Is it a new world you're looking for, or perhaps a very old one?  Either way, your journey begins as soon as you click one of the links to the left (or up above, if you're inclined to the mobile devices).  Think of them as portals to other times and places... I mean, you could think of them as simple navigation buttons, but if you're going to do that, there are zillions of websites you could visit.  But you didn't.  You came here.  So saddle up, suit up, buckle up...  Grab your blaster, your sword, your spellbook...  Basically do whatever it takes to feel ready for adventure and dive into stories where no explorer or mapmaker has dared set foot.  Oh, and I almost forgot...  Where you're going, you might as well burn the map. 

Chapter 10

Trumpets and symbols clanged through his head, but this was not the rise of the sword's triumphant war blast.  Instead, the noise hammered in Daniel's skull like a frantic squawk.  It's startled, he thought, maybe even afraid.  So it doesn't know everything.

"Rebekah, run!"

Daniel had opened his mouth to say the words, so it took him a moment to realize that he heard them bellowed just above his ear, not from his own voice…and that he had no breath to scream anything, for the matter of that, as the arms tightened around his chest like some terrible torture device.

"William, keep quiet," Rebekah hissed, "and let him go, you're crushing his ribs."

Air filled Daniel's lungs with a rush as the brute behind him immediately relaxed his grip, but scarcely another blink had passed before he was grabbed by the back of his belt and the hood of his cloak and frog-marched around the corner of the bakery as the man, apparently called William, followed Rebekah's coaxing.

"William," she huffed, "I said let him go; what part of that was confusing?"

"You said I was crushing his ribs, so I thought you just meant to let his ribs go," the giant of a man, head and shoulders taller than Daniel and thrice as wide, answered, his basso voice seeming to rumble the air even though he clearly tried to keep his voice down.

"Well, I didn't," Rebekah answered, "so let him go."

"But he's trying to kill you!"  Any attempt to stay quiet was suddenly abandoned, and Daniel had to resist the urge to clap his hands to his ears.

Rebekah shushed William again, then continued her lecture.  "Don't be ridiculous.  He's saved me twice since I last saw you lot, and thank you most kindly for leaving me behind, by the way…"

"Why would you thank us for leaving you behind?"

"…so why…sarcasm, William…so why would he try to kill me?  For that matter why would anybody be trying to kill me?"

William's eyes went to the ground, his face turning a bright shade of red under his bushy black beard.  "I'm pretty sure I'm not supposed to tell.  I wasn't supposed to hear."  The giant seemed to lose his concentration, and along with it his grip, at last allowing Daniel to twist away.  The sword called an indignant horn blast, but after the initial screech, it had never escalated to war music.

Daniel quickly considered Rebekah's words in the bakery.  I wasn't really in danger, and the sword didn't spur me to attack…  Maybe there's hope I won't be damned after all…  He quickly disciplined his thoughts, however, for William's words, sparse as they were, were more than alarming, and that alarm showed on Rebekah's expression as well.

"William," Rebekah replied after a deep breath, "I'm sure everything is fine. You're just getting confused.  Tell me exactly what you heard, and who you heard it from."

"I can do that," William beamed.  Then he glanced at Daniel.  "I remember good," he explained, "I just don't do so good understanding what I remember."  He looked at the ground again with a sheepish air.

"But you remember good," Rebekah encouraged him.  "So go on."

"I was up early this morning," William began, "taking care of Iris and Lily…"

"The horses," Rebekah whispered to Daniel.

"…and I overheard Boss Richard say to a stranger, 'I got word only an hour ago.  The girl was rescued from my associates by some errant do-gooder.  She'll be here by mid-morning.  You control the muscle in this town, and neither one of us wants her meddling in things.  Get her off the main roads and silence her…permanently.'  The stranger asked, 'How will I know her?'  And then boss Richard said, 'She's of regular height for a young woman, thin, dark hair, wears bright colors.  Her name is Rebekah.'  Then I knew they were talking about you and I ran off to find you because I was afraid you might be in trouble and I didn't know what else to do.  I'm sorry if I did something wrong."

"No, William, you didn't.  Not for me, anyway."  Rebekah's words were kind, but her eyes were far away, and her tone changed to one of bewilderment as she continued.  "Feel better, Daniel.  Those men weren't after you or your sword.  They were after me!"