You’ve entered the world of The Realm Jumpers. The adventure with Riley and his trusty gang continues…
“Come on. Do your thing,” Braeden said as he charged me. “Where have you been?”
“Long story. Where are we going? What’s happening?”
He held up my phone. “Don’t ever leave without this.”
A bunch of texts from Janet and Jeff filled the screen. They’d found some scientists and needed me to Jump to Janet immediately.
Oh boy. That was more than twelve hours ago. “Crap.”
Wind whipped around me and I faced skyward. There was a dark haze mucking up the normally blue sky. No clouds, just stuff whirling around. Leaves and other debris.
“What’s happening?” I asked.
“Remember that deadline The King gave you? It passed about thirty minutes ago!” He shoved me. “You’re in big trouble if Earth implodes.”
“You’re lucky I got home at all. Darn fairies tried to keep me there.”
“If the world wasn’t about to end, I’d freaking kick your butt. You shouldn’t have gone there. Not alone anyway. Now Jump us to Mom.”
I focused on Janet, and after a shaky landing, Braeden and I stumbled out of the Jump. Hot sand scalded my hand. I jumped to my feet.
We were in the middle of the desert. Sand and crazy weird looking shrubbery surrounded us. The sky was almost pitch black. The only breaks in it were—wait, that was smoke. Was the Earth on fire? Or had I dumped us on some random Realm?
“Riley!” Janet yelled as she charged at me from the side.
Maybe I didn’t screw up. Or I was seeing a mirage. I’d read about those. And I was pretty sure the fairy people drugged me, so it was very possible my mind was playing tricks on me.
Until she yanked me into her arms.
That was real. And it was awesome. I wrapped my arms around her and squeezed. This was home. She was home.
“You weren’t answering. Then Braeden told us what you did at the soccer field. Are you okay? Are you hurt? Where—”
I squeezed her harder. It actually reminded me of Sendew’s mother hugging me. Janet wasn’t as strong as Pelielia, but she hugged me good enough.
The frantic sound of her voice, didn’t sit well with me, though. She was scared. I’d never seen her afraid before.
I didn’t like it.
The ground shook beneath me, and I let Janet go. Hope, Tish and Jeff ran toward me. “Riley!”
Braeden pushed me forward and we went to meet them.
“What’s happening?” In the distance I saw a wide, black wall. I couldn’t see very well where it began or ended.
Wait, it was moving.
Those were people. No, they were creatures. Huge, red-eyed, spear-carrying creatures.
“Where are we?” It felt like we were on another planet. But I knew that couldn’t be possible since Janet and the rest of the gang were here.
“Way west Arizona. Desert.” Janet grabbed my hand. “The King appeared about thirty minutes ago.” She pointed. “That’s his army.”
It was a tide of darkness that would swallow us whole in a matter of minutes. Smoke filled the air behind them, sifting forward like a nasty warning of what was to come.
My eyes burned at the black soot floating around. Janet held up her phone. “It’s not just here.” Pictures of destruction filled the newsfeed. Death. Destruction.
“We’re too late.”
“We have the scientists, honey.” Janet nodded behind her. Jeff was coming, guiding four people, including the one we’d captured before.
“Only one is a scientist who worked directly on you and your project. He worked specifically with the two Realm creatures you’re made from.”
My stomach soured liked I’d eaten bad food. Oh wait, I had. Stinking fairy Realm food. “What’d they say?”
“Never mind that,” Braeden said. “They weren’t talking. Now can we get to The King please? Give him these people?”
Rumbling darkness approached. Lightning flashed above the travelling void. Thunder boomed so loud the ground rattled. Wind whipped through us and Janet fell forward. I caught her just as Jeff and the scientists made it to us.
“Riley?” Janet whispered.
“I can’t turn them over to die.”
“Then we die, buddy,” Braeden said. “We all die.”
“Honey.” Janet put her arm around my waist and pulled me close. “You have a heart bigger than this world. Made from parts other than this world. I’m sorry for that. Truly. But the fact that you, despite what these scientists did to you, want to protect their lives makes me so proud. You cherish life. That’s what makes you even more special than you already are.”
“What should I do?”
“I can’t answer that for you.” She cupped my cheek. “I love you, son, no matter what you choose.”
Tears stung at my eyes. I couldn’t let her die. My…mom. She was my mom. I had to save my family.
Hope rammed into me and gave me a hug. So did Tish.
“I knew you’d make it,” Tish said.
“Good job finding them.” I reached for Jeff.
Maybe I could take the scientists to The King and talk to him out of killing them. Make a deal or something. If not, I wasn’t sure what I’d do. Offering up four humans to save billions?
Didn’t seem fair I had to decide that.
“I’m coming with you,” Tish said.
“That’d be a no,” I said.
“I’m supposed to.” Tish grabbed my hand and held up the stuffed monkey, Alastair. “It’s gonna be okay, Riley. It’s not just Alastair who’s the Defender of Mankind. You are, too. We all are.”
“Grab on.” I drew in a deep breath as everyone shifted around me, touching me somehow. I hugged Tish the closest. She seemed to know what was going on and we did share the Mark so… “Here goes.”
We blasted through the dark portal, my lungs burning and my eyes tearing up like crazy. But I actually stayed on my feet when I stepped out of the darkness.
Spears pointed at me from all angles. I put up one of my hands, keeping my free one around Tish. “I have the scientists.”
One of the spears sliced through my bicep.
Enough with the Riley kebobs.
The creatures looming over us had gray skin. It almost looked like a Rhino skin, but most of their chests and arms were covered by their armor. They held gold shields with a purple symbol etched into it. The same symbol on my hand.
Their big helmets were also gold with purple, but just enough space to see black, beady eyes.
Braeden waved his hand and three of the five guards around us stumbled back. He got to his feet, Jeff, too, and lunged.
I huddled Tish, Hope and Janet close to me, leaving the scientists on the ground a few feet away.
A creature charged us, but he bounced back, suddenly, like he’d run into a wall.
Another one attacked. Same thing happened, but this time I heard a ping from where his spear made contact.
He plopped onto the hot sand. Wait a minute. Hot sand?
Way to go, Riley! I’d Jumped us to the middle of the wave of black we’d seen coming at us.
A metal sword bounced off our shield. That thing was the size of a hockey stick.
Tish held up her stuffed monkey, Alastair. “Maybe he is the defender of mankind after all! Did you see that?”
“Oh, honey, I think you have something to do with it.” Janet pointed to Tish’s hands.
A subtle glow came from them and surrounded us. It was almost white. Kind of like the melted butter Janet poured on our popcorn. A little yellow but mostly white.
She was producing this protective bubble around us.
“Enough!” A voice boomed and it seemed to be in the wind, the ground below us and from above. It blasted through the thick soot the monsters were causing.
The creatures parted, their heads bowed. Some had long black hair. Some were bald. But all of them were armed and straight out of a horror movie.
Yep. My life had become a horror movie.
The King strode down the path created by his warriors. He towered them all by at least a foot. He seemed even bigger than the last time I’d seen him.
He was using a thick, shiny walking stick, and it had some sort of crystal on top. And his matted, dark hair was still uncombed and messy from the last time I’d seen him. The vampire-slash-tiger fangs, though, weren’t there. Maybe they’d come bursting out when he ate us all up.
“Your deadline has passed.” If thunder could talk, this was what it would sound like.
“Please, wait.” I pointed to where the scientists lay.
They were handcuffed together and in a mess of a pile on the sand. That had to be hot, but they only stared at the towering creature before them. One was crying. That shouldn’t have made me feel good, but it kind of did. For all the pain he’d caused. It was their fault we were in this situation.
Why I was created.
“Earth’s time has come.” The King leaned on his staff, his thick black claw tapping the crystal.
The sleeves of his brown leather-like shirt stretched over the bulging muscles. Orange and gray filled the sky above us. Smoke. Fire. He’d already started destroying earth, and he didn’t seem at all upset by it, either.
I had to stop him. But—
“You have brought the scientists too late.” He glared at me.
Jeff and Braeden shuffled toward the rest of my family.
“Look. Earth isn’t perfect. What little I know of it, yeah, not all good. But neither are all the other Realms.”
A collective growl sliced through the air. The King put up his hand and they quieted.
“I was just with the fairies. They tried to trick me. Get me to stay past the deadline so Earth would be destroyed.”
“The Realm of Fairies. You went there.” The King closed his eyes briefly. “To return a lost boy.”
“To his mother.”
“You risked missing the deadline for Sendew’s family?”
Whoa, he could read minds, too?
“I couldn’t let him die with us, if that’s what was going to happen.” I cleared my throat. “He was taken so long ago. They should be together.”
“Because you were not going to turn over the scientists.” The King towered over me. “Interesting.”
“There has to be another way to save Earth, please.”
“You have no mother, don’t know what that is like, yet you risk everything to get a stranger back to his mother. Jumping Realms untrained. And then they betrayed you. Tried to keep you.”
“Sendew helped me get free. He didn’t know. His mother didn’t either.”
Janet’s arm wove around my waist. “Oh, honey,” she whispered.
“I will deal with that deceit.”
“They wanted me, sir. Wanted a Jumper.”
Sweat dripped down my forehead, and the smell of dust and burgers cooking filled the air.
The King fixed his gaze on the scientists. I thought a laser beam might blast out of them and burn them to a crisp, but it didn’t. The King didn’t say anything for a long time. The sun beamed down, but we all stood silent for a long time.
Fire crackled around us, and even though I couldn’t see the flames, I knew Earth was burning. I looked at my family surrounding me. Braeden was bleeding on his forehead. My brother. My family.
“It’s okay, honey,” Janet said to Tish as she kissed her forehead. “I’m here.”
Jeff and Braeden stood together. Jeff’s eyes scanned the area. I could tell he was calculating how to escape. But I could see the defeat in his eyes, too. Hope grabbed Braeden’s hand, tears plowing a trail down her dirty cheeks.
The King rammed his staff into the sand once again, and all the warriors were gone. He and I stood in a huge room.
As in no family.
“Tish!” I turned a circle. “Where’d they go?”
Marble replaced the sand. The smell of fresh cut grass filled the now cool, crisp air. The walls were painted gold, or they may actually be made of gold.
The King sat on a throne. The back shot up toward the ceiling at least five feet above him and it was decorated with every color of gem I could imagine. Despite being seated now, he still held the staff off to the side. I could see it more clearly now without the soot-filled haze distorting everything.
It was pure gold with purple jewels and designs all over it. And at the top, a huge purple gem pulsed like a heart beat.
Not mine of course, because mine was going crazy.
“My family,” I said. “Where are they?”
“You have no family, boy.”
“I do. Please—”
He waved his hand, and a shimmering bubble appeared behind me. The image was wavy like the heat waves radiating from a steaming hot car top. But then my family appeared within the bubble.
They were huddled together. Creatures crept toward them, swords raised.
“You are not willing to turn over the scientists to save them. To save Earth.”
I put my hands up in surrender but stayed focused on the horrible movie unfolding before me. Tish crouched near Janet. Jeff held them close with Hope at his side. Braeden stood, knees bent, a knife in one hand and his gun in the other.
“They will not defeat my army. Earth has had its chance.”
“You just want revenge for your son!” I yelled. “You’re wrong for doing this. You—”
“You dare question my rule?” The King’s voice boomed like he spoke into a megaphone. Echoes of his anger ricocheted off the marble walls.
The force of it rammed into me and tossed me onto my side. I slid into the wall across the room.
“Yes. I question it!” I rolled and hopped to my feet. “Demolishing a whole world because of scientists? Because they killed your son. That’s revenge. Not ruling!”
He growled. “You know nothing about—”
Heat bloomed deep in my chest. My heart started pounding so hard it hurt. I had to keep going though. I had to save my family. “You’re right. I don’t know much about anything other than what I read or watch. Scientists stole my memories, but I don’t want them killed for it. Who are we to judge? They’re like those fairies who tried to trap me.” I inched toward the flickering screen showing my family surrounded by creatures.
Tish’s bubble of protection was still up, but she sagged against Janet. I could almost feel her fatigue. Her fear. Heck, maybe I actually did feel it for how much my chest ached.
Or it was because I knew I was about to lose my family.
“And the Barbarians! Look what they’ve done. They were going to steal Hope and turn her in to someone for a reward. I thought Realm Jumping was illegal!” I shouted, getting madder and madder by the second. “They’re obviously doing it if they know about humans. Turning them in for rewards! How’s that any different from the humans killing your son?”
“People reap what they sow,” The King said. “Evil deeds have consequences. They must suffer the consequences of their actions.”
“Fine. Let them. Not the entire Earth.”
“Humans are selfish. Power hungry. They must learn.”
“Then teach them.” I pointed to the screen and screamed, “Teach them, don’t kill them.”
“I would never kill you, young Riley.”
Okay, that didn’t make sense. “You were just about to!”
“That is why you are here. You were never going to be destroyed with Earth.” The King sat back. “You are a Jumper. Those are rare and very valuable.”
“So is Tish.”
He narrowed his eyes at me. “Indeed.”
Tish appeared beside me and fell onto her side with a squeal. “Riley!” She pushed herself up then looked around. “Mom? Dad?”
I faced the screen expecting to see my family attacked since Tish’s bubble of protection was gone.
Lightning flashed. The floating screen vanished.
My family was gone.
Join us Wednesday for Chapter 31 of Watcher of the Realms. Be sure to subscribe to the site to not miss a single chapter of Riley’s adventures.
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See you soon….