Gynea wasn’t feeling very well.
She felt like her belly was rolling down a hill. Her head spun and she thought she might be sick at any moment. And to top it all off, she could feel a lump on her shoulder. She must have knocked it being transported to the estate. It burnt like crazy and was hot to the touch.
At this moment all she wanted to do was stay still, not be dragged out the cell and to Laird Quentin’s audience room. The guards were not gentle and pushed and shoved her along with her friends. She told them to be careful but they did not listen.
If she was going to be sick she’d make sure she threw up on their boots.
“Are you OK?” asked Jaxx, being pushed alongside her. “You look a little peaky.”
She faked a smile. Good old Jaxx. He was always looking out for her.
She looked over to where Drummond was being herded forward and decided to hold off giving Jaxx details until the old soldier was out of earshot.
The audience room was busy for the dead of night. Laird Quentin stood at the far end talking with McArthur, the glowing blue orb by his feet, while some of his guard milled around one corner.
There was something over the walls, red and green, stretching up onto the high ceiling. Gynea noticed that some of the soldiers were sitting down trying to wipe the same mixture from their face and armour.
One soldier was being comforted as he retched uncontrollably, his dinner pooled at his feet. Gynea’s stomach churned even more. At this rate she might be joining that soldier.
Marli didn’t seem to notice as she strode forward upon entering the room.
“Ahh, Marli,” Quentin said dryly. “How nice of you to join us.”
“I demand you let us go,” Marli said. “We’re done nothing wrong and broken no laws.”
Quentin raised an eyebrow.
“Really?” he said. “You were found with large quantities of fruit in the bog.”
“That did not come from your estate,” she shot back.
“And the orb? Are you going to claim that it, like this supposed tear in our world… just appeared.”
“You had no right to take that from us,” Marli spat. “That was rightfully ours.”
“Everything on this estate is mine,” Quentin said. “You should know that. I’ll not have you steal from me again.”
“Is that so?
“Marli; my lord,” Freeman pleaded to the both of them. “Please, this is serious.”
He threw a stern look to his Laird.
“We need their help in figuring this all out,” he said softly.
Laird Quentin stared at his daughter and then sighed.
“Very well, Freeman,” he said, turning and sitting back on his chair. “Ask your questions.”
Marli crossed her arms.
“We’re not answering any questions,” she said defiantly. “Not until we’re freed.”
“Freed?” scoffed Quentin, pulling himself up. “I’ll hang the lot of you.”
“How fatherly of you.”
“I’ll never be a father to the likes of you,” he spat back. “I should have had you dashed against rocks when you were born instead of letting you sully this estate’s good name. The gallows is all you and your reprobate friends are good for.”
“My laird,” Freeman pleaded. “That time has passed.”
Laird Quentin was taken aback.
“That,” he said coldly, “is not your decision to make, Freeman. I’m in charge here.”
Gynea watched as Freeman’s face turned scarlett. The head of the guard pointed to the mess on the walls.
“I’ve just had three men,” he yelled. “Good men…explode on me. I need to establish what happened.”
“It’s simple, Freeman. They ate the fruit. You saw how they clutched their stomach before they exploded. The fruit’s spoilt. And if you shout at me again…”
Freeman didn’t seem to care. Gynea put her hand on her grumbling belly, her concern growing. She was starting to feel hot and was breaking out in a sweat.
“Spoilt fruit does not cause people to explode,” Freeman stated. He pointed at Marli, Gynea and the rest of the group. “And beside, they all ate the fruit and none of them exploded. If we’re to make it through the winter, we need to establish what threat this fruit presents.”
“I’m sorry,” McArthur said. “But I’m with Laird Quentin here. Given how dreadfully ill that fruit made those unfortunate soldiers, I’d say there’s no hope of us using it to supplement our food supplies for the winter.”
“Then people will starve. Uncooked meat will make you ill. Maybe you prepared it somehow, Marli?”
Quentin sighed and sat back down with a look of defeat on his face.
Gynea wondered if she should mention that she still wasn’t feeling well. She decided against it. Jaxx might be sympathetic, but Drummond would just make fun of her. She, like the others, looked at the mess on the wall and started to worry.
Don’t let it be the same, she thought to herself, as she reached back and scratched her still swelling shoulder.
“Please,” Freeman pleaded to Marli. “What do you know about that fruit? And this orb?”
Marli looked at him suspiciously, then to Quentin and then back to Freeman.
“Tell me, and we’ll let you go,” he said. “You have my word.”
He looked towards Quentin, perhaps expecting to be challenged, but the Laird stayed silent.
“We just plucked it off the bushes,” Marli said. “We didn’t do anything other than eat it.”
“How interesting,” said McArthur. “Perhaps the orb somehow played a part?”
Marli recounted their story. She explained how they’d found the crystal, how it had exploded and how Jaxx had created the tear after picking up the orb. Gynea noticed that she made no mention of Professor Brennan and why they’d been digging in the bog in the first place.
Freeman walked over and picked up the orb. It continued to glow blue but nothing happened.
“Show me how you held it, Jaxxon,” Freeman asked.
“I don’t think it’ll do it again,” Jaxx said, taking the orb.
As he said it, the air rippled and cracked. Everyone stopped what they were doing and took several steps back as reality seemed to split open once again.
Laird Quentin sat up in his chair.
“What’s happening?” he asked McArthur by his side. “What is that?”
“That,” said Freeman, “was what we found in the bog.”
Gynea peered into the tear, her head starting to throb. It was dark on the other side but the light of the torches in the audience room caught something, and caused it to sparkle.
Quentin noticed it too.
“What was that?” he said.
From deep within the tear came a sound. There was a growl the like of which Gynea had never heard, followed by the scuttling of feet. She began to feel a stabbing pain in her stomach.
“There’s something in there,” Quentin said.
“Stay back, my laird,” Freeman said, taking a lantern in one hand and drawing his sword with the other.
He stepped through the tear, his lantern lighting the cave he entered. It was about half the size of the audience room, and at the far end, the ceiling had collapsed.
Gynea’s lump on her back started to pulse. Was she going to end up like those soldiers sprayed across the walls?
Drummond looked across to her and could see the beads of sweat running down her face. His eyes went wide as he came to the same conclusion as Gynea as to what was happening.
“I really don’t feel well,” she said, but her voice was too quiet for anyone to hear.
“No way out,” said Freeman looking around the cave for the source of the noise.
However, everyone’s attention was on the walls. They glistened and sparkled, the rock filled with gems and veins of yellow.
Laird Quentin’s eyes went wide.
“Is that… gold?” he asked.
Gynea’s feet gave way under her and she would have fallen to the floor, had Drummond not been there to catch her.
“Easy,” Drummond said.
Tears filled Gynea’s eyes. She was going to explode, like those soldiers, she knew it. She wanted to tell Drummond and everyone else to get away before she did, but the pain in her back intensified, causing her to arch her back in spasm.
From the corner of her eye she saw Freeman investigating the walls.
Drummond went to call out for help but as he did so there came a yell from the cave.
Freeman screamed as a creature the size of a small dog and looking like a cross between a spider and an ant, dropped from the ceiling and flattened him to the ground, snapping at him with its mandibles.
At the same time, Gynea felt the skin down her back tear open. She screamed in unison.
“Gynea!” Jaxx shouted as the soldiers who’d escorted the five of them tried to push them back.
“She’s about to explode,” they shouted.
I said this on stream, but I think I chose the wrong POV character. I knew that I want Gynea as POV on chapter 7 but I wasn’t sure where that chapter would begin and this one start. So who would I have used? Freeman was the obvious choice but I might want to limit my POVs to only key characters and as such it might have ended up being Quentin.
I layered this story, working on one thread, then weaving in the other and that went pretty well. However, if I was to revisit this for a second draft, aside from the usual work on making sentences more concise and fixing typos, I think I would have put a little more horror here as foreshadowing (and sensitising the reader) for what’s to come.