by M. Vance
“You have to come and meet my family! My father doesn’t even believe that there are overworlders. Won’t he be surprised! And my mother – you’ll love my mother. She’ll make you the best hassab stew you’ve ever had.” Already he was dragging Joel back with him. Joel was forced to trot along, unable to get a word in edgewise to protest.
“And Great-Aunt Nimia will be pleased as a yekim’s babe when she sees you! She and my father go round and round about whether the stories about overworlders are true. Aunt Nimia could argue the dew back into the sky if she took the notion. Our place isn’t much, but it serves us fine. It’ll keep the rain off your hood for the night, anyhow.”
At these words, Joel panicked, and he jerked his arm out of the man’s grasp to run back towards the rainbow.
It was gone.
“It’s gone!” Joel shouted.
“What?” the stranger asked, turning back to see what Joel was looking for.
“Well, you didn’t expect it to stay there forever, did you?”
“But how will I get home? When will it come back?” Joel was still shouting. He was no longer worried about getting home in time for dinner. He was worried about getting home at all.
“Oh, only the leprechauns can predict the whereabouts of rainbows. But don’t worry, you can stay with us.” Joel’s thoughts were whirling too fast to reply. Instead, he followed the stranger in silence.
The “house” was a hut constructed of some sort of reed-like material, weaved together with blue cord. “Aunt Nimia!” shouted the stranger as they got close to the house. “Aunt Nimia! Guess what? I’ve found an Overworlder!” Three people spilled out of the house, all dressed like Joel’s companion except without hats.
“I told you, Horus! I told you!” The oldest woman seemed even more excited than her nephew. She rushed forward and shook Joel by the shoulders. “Call me Nimia, sir,” she gushed. “We are very, very pleased to have you as our guest.”
The younger lady came forward next. “I am called Lemeyil, sir,” she said rather shyly. “May I be so bold as to ask your name, sir?”
“Uhh...Joel.” He’d never been called ‘sir’ before.
“We are honored, Sir Joel.” She gave a deep curtsy.
The man came forward slowly, eyes narrow. “So you’re an Overworlder, are you? You seem a lot shorter than the Overworlders that I’ve heard tell of.”
Joel laughed. “Well, I’m only twelve.” They all looked confused. He tried again. “I’m still young.”
“I saw him come down the rainbow, Father,” the stranger said. Horus only grunted.
“Well, don’t lets all stand here jawing,” said Nimia cheerfully. “The sun’ll bed down before long, and we haven’t even had dinner yet.”
Dinner consisted of stew served in orange plants like those that Joel had passed by earlier, and bed was simply a woven mat on the floor. Joel had a hard time getting comfortable. He was surprised to realize that he missed his brother's snoring, and he spent a long time wondering if he would ever hear those snores again, but finally Joel fell asleep.
He didn’t wake until sun-up when Kalin (Joel had finally learned his name during dinner) tripped over him. “Sorry!” Kalin said brightly. “Well, now that you’re awake, what do you want to do today? I could show you around our farm, or you could stay here and chat with Aunt Nimia, or I could take you to town. No one in these parts has ever seen an Overworlder,” he said with a broad grin.
“I – I can’t,” Joel said. “I’ve got to get home. Mother will be worried sick by now.” The smile slid from Kalin’s face. “Sorry,” added Joel. “Look, you said that leprechauns know when the next rainbow will show up, right? Are there leprechauns in town?”
Horus laughed. “Leprechauns in town! Doesn’t this Overworlder of yours know nothing?”
Kalin shot his father a frown before explaining. “Leprechauns live under the hills. You can’t find their homes unless you’ve been invited.” He saw Joel’s frustration and went on. “But they do sometimes visit the towns to trade. Next week’s market day. I can take you to town then, and–”
“Next week! I can’t wait until next week! I’ve got to get home today! Please, Kalin, can’t you take me to town today?” Kalin finally agreed. Aunt Nimia insisted on going too, so the three of them started walking to town.
When they got there, though, Joel was disappointed. There weren’t any leprechauns in town. He did, however, get some good news. The weaver told them that rumors reported an Overworlder in the village two days down the road. The leprechaun chief, Dermot, was supposedly visiting him.
“Right,” said Joel. “Let’s go.”
“No, no, we can’t,” said Kalin, who seemed positively thrilled that Joel would have to stay longer.
“That’s a long journey. We didn’t pack enough food. We’ll have to go back home first.” But Joel was determined, and the weaver was more than happy to supply them with food for two days, so, much to Kalin’s disappointment, they went on.
The village two days further was much like the first: a group of rough-looking huts centered around a sort of village square. The one difference, however, was the presence of a larger building made of stone. Kalin explained that it was a fortress built during the time of Bolimite raids. It didn’t look much like a fortress to Joel – more like a one-room schoolhouse, but the villagers were building on to it. It looked as though they planned to make it about eight times bigger.
“What are you doing to the old fort?” Kalin asked a woman passing by, carrying a load of reeds.
“We’re improving it,” she answered. “Can’t you see that?”
“Have you seen an Overworlder?” Joel called after her.
“His Highness is inside,” she replied, not looking back.
“What’s an eye-ness?” wondered Kalin. Joel strode up to the door and knocked. A man carrying a spear opened the door slowly and bowed them inside. Before them was a pile of skins on which a boy sat.
“Why, you’re hardly older than I am,” exclaimed Joel, surprised.
The boy sprang to his feet, looking first at Joel, then at Kalin and Nimia behind him. “Joranites?” Kalin and Nimia nodded. “I thank you for bringing this Overworlder to me,” he said, speaking slowly. “I would speak to him alone. The man in charge of the building will make sure that you have a place to rest.” The guard came forward and escorted Kalin and Nimia back outside, shutting the door behind him.
“So,” the boy said with a grin, his manner changing completely, “are these Underworlders great, or what?”
“Yeah,” said Joel. “They seem really nice.”
The boy laughed. “That’s not what I meant. I mean, these Underworlders are so gullible. I thought to myself, man, these people will do anything for me. So now I’ve got this palace – not much, but I’ve put these people to work on it. I’ve got all the food I want. It’s like heaven. I’m King, you know. I’ve convinced them that Overworlders are meant to rule Joran. Don’t worry, you can be King too. I didn’t know that there were any other real people here. They told me there weren’t.”
“I just got here four days ago,” Joel interrupted.
“Oh, okay. I’ve been here nearly a month now.”
“A month! Won’t your parents be worried about you?” Joel asked.
“Nah,” the boy said, unconcerned. “Besides, why would I want to leave? What’s your name, anyway? How old are you?”
“Joel Sanders. I’m twelve.”
“I'm Matt,” said the boy, grinning. “King Matt Baylor. Fifteen and a half years old. So, Joel, you hungry?”
Before Joel could answer, the door opened again. “The two visitors were given the drugged drink, Your Highness,” the guard said, bowing. “They are asleep in the barracks.”
“Kalin and Aunt Nimia?” asked Joel, surprised. “Why would you drug them?”
“Thank you, Serus, you may go,” Matt said. Once the door was shut, he turned back to Joel.
“It’s hard finding new recruits,” Matt said. “We need people to build the palace, but most of them don’t want to.” He frowned. “They were so helpful the first week or so, but they all wanted to go back to their farms. I’ve had to threaten them and lock them up at night. I’ve got soldiers now who guard the workers and see that they do their job.”
“You mean they’re like slaves?” Joel asked, aghast. “But these people haven’t done anything to you. Kalin and Aunt Nimia have been wonderful.”
“Look, Joel, we’ve got to have workers. And people don’t just volunteer. We can't have a palace without people to build it.”
“You’re not a king, Matt,” Joel snapped. “You can’t enslave people just to build you palaces! Do you think you're better than them? Well, you’re not. They don't deserve this. And if you’ve been telling all these people that you’re something great, some kind of king, then I’m going to go and set them straight!” Joel marched toward the door.
“Joel, wait!” Matt was running after him. “Look Joel, maybe you’re right.” Joel stopped and turned around. “I was wrong. These are good people.”
He stopped in front of Joel, standing awkwardly. Then suddenly Matt’s fist shot forward and Joel felt something hard hit him on the chin. He realized groggily that Matt had punched him just before blacking out.
© 2007 by M. Vance
Original fiction debuting at Residential Aliens.
M. Vance is a University student who enjoys reading, writing, and discussing Harry Potter. A member of Scribes & Scribblers, a writing group at church not very familiar with fantasy, Vance decided to give them something different.
Read Part 1.
This is Part 2.
Read Part 3.
Read Part 4.