Drummond had never had so many people intently watching him eat.
He tried to ignore them and savour the taste of the blue fruit they’d pulled from the first tear. After months of living on rabbit, hare and occasional deer, he relished having something sweet. As much as he liked the winter berries that would start to appear with the first frost in a few weeks, they always gave him gas.
Quentin and some of his lackies stood a good few feet back as Drummond sat at the great hall table. He munched on the pear, letting the juice run down his bearded chin and onto the silver platter the fruit had been presented to him on.
How fancy. He wondered how many of those watching secretly wished for him to explode and how many wanted him to grow another arm.
He didn’t care either way. It was worth the risk. As much as he hated Laird Quentin, the lands he hunted had been pretty barren these past few months. The wildlife had headed south after the poor summer. He should have done the same.
What had stopped him was this little crowd he’d fallen in with. They were good people and round here that was a rarity. Jaxx annoyed him with his unfunny jokes, and Gynea seemed to do nothing but moan, but Marli was fair – a woman he could respect – and Red… Well, if he was honest with himself, he was the real reason he stayed.
He finished the fruit and waited, hoping that any reaction, good or bad, would not take as long as last time. As he suspected, his body had now become accustom to the strange transformation the pears brought about and almost instantaneously he could feel a knot on the back of his shoulder. It seemed less painful this time. Less churning of the guts.
Everything about the last day had surprised him but nothing more than how, after his mutant arm had crumbled, it had left him without so much as a mark on his skin.
He waited until he could feel the arm ready to burn out his flesh before letting his eyes go wide, staring at Quentin and saying, “Oh no!”
He laughed as Quentin and his men jumped back, expecting the worst.
“Boom!” he laughed, waving his third hand at them.
“Moonfather,” cursed Gynea. “I genuinely thought you were about to explode, Drummond.”
“Will take more than a fruit to kill me, darlin’” he said, pushing the platter away and standing up. “What’s next?”
Next was another experiment, this time seeing if Red could open a tear like Jaxx had done twice before.
Freeman sat just outside of the barn on a chair. He’d been bandaged up and had insisted he be present. Andrews had tried to protest, but there was no telling Freeman. Anything came through the tear, he instructed soldiers to bolt the doors and not open them until those inside had dealt with the menace.
Those inside consisted of half a dozen soldiers and Drummond’s crowd, armed with blue pears.
“Make sure to search for valuables,” Quentin insisted. He’d had serfs working through the night to prie what they could out of the cave from the second tear. So far, there’d been no repeat of the attack they’d faced.
“If I find any valuables,” Drummond muttered to himself, “I’m keeping them for myself.”
Jaxx overheard him and smirked.
“Is this a good idea?” Red asked, eyeing the bag containing the orb that lay by his feet. “Anything could be behind that tear.”
“Probably not,” said Marli. “But I figure if things do go to shit, we’re best placed to fight our way out.”
“What if there’s an ocean,” suggested Jaxx, “and it just pours and pours until it fills the entire Clandlands? What do we do then?”
“Get wet,” suggested Drummond.
Red gave him a little smile. Drummond gave him a wink back. He’d do fine.
“Just find that motherfucker enough riches that we can carry on about our business,” he said, loud enough for Quentin to hear. He didn’t give a shit. That little prick give him any trouble, and he’d be using that mutant hand of his to knock more than ant heads of their bodies.
He looked over at Quentin and gave the scowling man a little smile.
Red took a deep breath, and reached into the bag. He brought out the orb with both hands and held it in front of him.
“Am I meant to feel anything?” he asked Jaxx.
In response, the air before him started to ripple.
“I’m doing it,” he said excitedly as the world split and a new tear formed in the middle of the barn.
Jaxx looked over and stared into the new world.
“Any riches?” Quentin called in through the doors.
“Looks like a desert to me,” Jaxx said, edging forwards.
Marli grabbed hold of his shoulder and held him back.
“Let the troops go first,” she said.
They waited as the six soldiers nervously stepped through the portal and looked around.
“Looks clear,” one of them said.
“I’ve heard that before,” Drummond grumbled. Just because they couldn’t see anything, didn’t mean something wasn’t lurking underneath the surface.
He didn’t wait to be told. He took several large bites from his pear, and stepped through. If there was something deadly in this new world, he wanted to be ready.
The air was warm, the sun beating down from a clear sky. Sand dunes rippled out as far as the eye could see. No mountains, just the occasional bit of rock protruding through.
“Pretty barren out here,” he said, looking across the dunes for any sign of animal tracks. There was nothing.
The others stepped through after him.
“It’s too hot,” moaned Gynea.
“Nothing here,” one of the soldiers said.
Drummond heard Quentin on the other side of the portal swear.
“Then come back and let’s try again,” he shouted.
“Bad luck, Red,” Jaxx said, patting his friend on the shoulder, “you gave us a duff world.”
They all turned to leave. All except Drummond and Marli.
“What is it?” she asked.
Drummond waited until everyone was through the portal before he pointed to a nearby outcropping of rocks.
“That,” he said, “is man made.”
“You mean there are people here?” Marli asked.
“Were,” he said, making sure that their conversation could not be heard from the other side of the tear. “These look like the ruins of a building.”
He walked the twenty or so feet to the outcropping and started brushing at the sand surrounding them with his hand.
“What are you doing in there?” Quentin called out.
“Drummond needs to pee,” Marli shouted back.
Drummond gave her a wry smile as revealed a wall with markings on it.
“It’s some sort of frieze,” he said pointing to the figures depicted. He uncovered more to reveal a battle. It was primitive, the people little more than stick figures, but they were battling what looked like giant crabs. The crabs appeared to be winning as well. They held men in their pincers, blood and body parts pooled below them.
“The creatures of this world?” Marli asked.
Drummond shook his head as he unveiled more of the mural.
“Look,” he said. There was the undeniable depiction of a tear, from which the crabs streamed. “Those clackers came into this world like we did.”
And there in front of the crab army was what looked like a spider, except it had the torso of a man, and a huge fanned head.
“Clackers?” Marli said, raising an eyebrow.
“But if they came through a tear, where is it now?”
Drummond was thinking the same question.
“How much does he have to pee?” Quentin’s voice sounded from the other world.
“Nearly finished,” Drummond shouted back.
It would be a while before Drummond would see those creatures again. He’d come to know them as the Drove and if he had any wish over the course of the rest of his life, it was that he wished he’d taken the warning from that frieze more seriously. Maybe then, he might have been able to save his own world from being destroyed.
I really think that this and the next couple of chapters serve similar purposes and could eventually be combined into one. But sometimes you need to write it bad before you can write it good. If I were revising this, I’d take all the chapters and try and construct one out of all of them.
Drummond’s an interesting character to write, but at this stage I really don’t know him well enough to really make him shine. That too would come in any revisions