Mercy put the book down and gripped the blanket on the bed, clenching her fists and releasing them, clenching them again...in a ritual of anxiety.
Oh my God, he's headed to the south. To where the dragons and smilodons and T-Rexes are!! And he's not told me because he knows I wouldn't want to go a step further if I knew it!
He's the one. The powerful sage in the book! He has to be....he has the Eternal Dragon! He WAS the one commissioned by this prophet dude to...what? Go find a king...and start a WAR? Oh, man...I don't want any part of that mess...
Mercy got up and started pacing up and down the room...thinking.
What are my options? Leave. I could go back to that lake right now and wait there for that Spin Hole to come back. Maybe it appears in the same location at certain times. Some of them do. Domus said so, and I've seen it in Crope. And I just know that one would take me home. To Garrettsburg. I mean this town is called Garrett, right? Maybe there is a singularity, a warp in the space/time fabric that connects the two. That's why the Slater's daughter disappeared. In order not to cause a paradox. It was a trade. I came to this world, she went to mine. Maybe she went to my own house. She's probably just as confused as I was...except she's from Burr and probably knows all about Spin Holes, so she would have figured it out.
But if I can find that Hole again...that same one. I could go through to home and she would have to be snatched back through to here. She could be with her parents again, and I would be with mine. I feel bad about leaving Tom...but I don't owe him anything! Not really. So he rescued me from Crope and a life of hell.
And he also kept me from going crazy the night the sprites attacked us in the woods. He told me later that they feed on people's panic until it drives a person mad.
But...I want to go home!! And Tom has already said that he's not going to help me go through a Spin Hole. He'd probably try and stop me again.
What am I going to do?
She was pacing still, when Tom swung the door open and bounded into the room. He shut the door and rushed over to her. He took her in his arms and held her close to him, just like the night in the woods...with the sprites. At first she struggled against him...twisting in his strong embrace.
"Stay the fuck out of my head, Tom Stranger!" she hissed.
"I wasn't in your thoughts, Mercy. But I could sense your...distress...pain..."
"Then you don't know what's bothering me?"
"No, little one. But I want to calm you. What have you read in that book that has disturbed you so?" Tom stepped back and rubbed her arms. They looked into each others eyes and for a second, Mercy thought he was going to kiss her, like he did that night in Crope when he thought she was Ruby. But instead, he pulled her over and sat her down on the bed, then pulled up a chair to sit across from her. He took her hand.
"What has upset you, Mercy?"
"You didn't read my thoughts?"
"No, Mercy. I think it's best if we stay out of each other's minds...don't you?" When she nodded, he continued. "Besides, you've gotten extraordinarily brilliant at keeping me out." He smiled at her, but she didn't return it.
"Why can I read minds? Why can I keep you from reading mine? I've never..."
Tom got up and walked over to a small table in the corner of the room. He picked up a small charm of a flower that had been lying there...probably a favorite trinket of the girl who had lived in that room before she mysteriously vanished. The girl who resembled Mercy. He returned and sat down in the chair again, holding the charm out to her in his hand. When she started to pick it up, he moved his hand away.
"Just watch this..." he said. He held his palm out again and whispered "Levitato."
Mercy watched in amazement as the charm rose into the air about three inches from Tom's palm and remained hovering there.
"Descenda," Tom whispered and the charm floated back to rest on his palm once more.
"I know your a sage, Tom," Mercy sighed. "Probably capable of taking the roof off this house with a single word, if you wanted to. I know you're the most powerful sage in Burr." She looked questioningly at him, then glanced at his index finger and saw that he wasn't wearing the ring. "The Ouroboros! Where is it, Tom?"
Tom lowered his hand with the charm and with his other hand he reached into his pants pocket and pulled out the ring. The green dragon with the red eyes. "I've been keeping it hidden. I see you've read about the Eternal Dragon, then?"
"Yes..." she said. Then, she looked away from him, no longer able to meet his eyes. "I don't want to go to the south, Tom!" she started to weep. "I don't want to see a smilodon again, or a dragon...or worse—a T-Rex! I want to go home, Tom!" Then she looked at him, tears spilling down her cheeks. "I want to go home."
"Mercy..." Tom said, in an almost scolding tone. "The Spin Holes are dangerous."
"I don't care, Tom. I'm going through the next one I see...these people need their daughter back, and I think if I go home, she'll come back. Isn't that right?"
Tom sighed. "Possibly. But Mercy...there's a reason for it."
"A reason for what?"
"Why you're here. Spin Holes operate in a strange way. Crossover's have been known to shape the course of history here. It may very well be that the mages were once crossovers, creating a bridge, one Spin Hole from their old world to this one...then creating more and more Spin Holes once they were here..." he paused and looked toward the door...at the crack where the door met the floor. There was no shadow there. "I have to make sure this is not overheard by anyone, Mercy. And you must promise not to repeat it to anyone. Do you?"
"I already know that you're the one that has to find this King-dude."
"That's not what I'm talking about," Tom said. He took a deep breath. "The Prophet Bob was a crossover."
Mercy's mouth dropped. "He was what?"
"A crossover, Mercy. A fact that he concealed to almost everyone. But there was a reason he was...brought here."
"Brought?" Mercy didn't like the sound of that.
"Yes. Brought. I believe he may have even been from your world. He discovered a talent for seeing the future when he came here. He could see the future without a seeing stone, Mercy."
"They're made from a gem called Sagestone, mined primarily in the south. Sages can scry the future in them."
"So, you think a Spin Hole brought me here. Why?"
Tom shook his head. "I don't know. I only know that some crossovers have been important in our history."
"Aye. Some, but not all of them."
"How do you know I'm important, then? There's nothing special about me."
Tom lifted his hand and held out the charm again. "Try it," he said.
Mercy just stared at him, bewildered. She couldn't do magic! Why was he asking this of her? To make a fool out of her? She shook her head 'no.'
"Go on," insisted Tom. "'Levitato' is the word. Say it."
She stared at him...becoming furious that he actually thought to make her look stupid.
The charm shot off of Tom's hand, hit the ceiling with a bang and embedded in the plaster like a bullet.
Mercy turned wide, unbelieving eyes to Tom. He simply smiled.
"You never knew you had it in you, did you?"
To read more of the excerpts, click on the text below:
Prelude: Boy at the Edge of the World
Part 1: The Spinnerlands (An Epigraph)
Mercy at the Gates: an excerpt from Chapter 1
Mercy Spins: an excerpt from Chapter 3
Coming soon: Interlude: The Stone