Warp Riders – Chapter 28

The Stowaway had pulled themselves up one of the alien trees within eyeline of the cave mouth. They’d watched the two of them crawl out and leave, and they knew that meant that he’d be coming out too, hunting for the person who dared disturb his tomb. They’d need to be smart now.

The Witches had been very clear about the signs; it was going to have to be the Navigatrix. Honestly they weren’t really even that sorry; they’d never really liked her. The Stowaway would describe her, at best, as overeducated. Maybe all navigators were? Or just ones with Orbs?

But to lead him to the Navigatrix, without getting caught by either party, well, this was going to take some creative cat and mouse work.

Which was, they had to admit, their specialty. They pulled their homemade bow tight, salvaged arrow notched, and aimed above the crevasse.

The sound was getting louder; and despite the rising planet’s light, they thought they saw a bluegreen glow in the darkness of the tunnel. Just stay focused, they thought, aim at something that will make some noise, that brick will do, let fly as soon as he’s within earshot….

They weren’t ready, even after everything the Witches had told them.

He emerged, blue tendrils of time sweeping the ground ahead of him, withering plants back to seedlings, back into the ground, then reversing, growing them too fast, then abandoning them to fall over from age.

He looked like an old man, or a young man, or possibly a withered corpse; there were too many arms, uncountable, with nimble hands, pulling power into and out of an Orb so dark it glowed, so bright it was a black spot in the world.

The roar of time was musical and horrible.

A tendril was sweeping down the slope, and the earthquake-like shudder as a nearby tree shrank to nothing backwards in time shocked the Stowaway back to themselves, and they drew in a breath, held it, and let their handmade arrow fly.

It rung like a bell as it hit that brick.

The universe held its breath for a moment, and then he turned uphill. The tendrils swept ahead of him, organized now, pulling time back and clearing his path, revealing the monumental architecture that had once stood before where the Stowaway clung to a limb in horror.

He moved slowly, inexorably, up, over, through the ridge, buildings rising around him and falling to ruin again behind, pointed like a terrifying arrow directly towards the camp.

They had done it.

They had called the Chronomancer back into time.

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