The Card Dealer: Part 6

Part 6: A Frightening Turn of Events 

 

I woke up from my nap with a sense of dread.  I was excited about going to the future, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something terrible was about to happen.  The dread hung over me like a terrible cloud.  Obviously, I was the only one who felt that way, because Leon, Lex, and Adrian seemed as cheerful as ever.

They were gathered around outside of the shop.  Adrian had a satchel slung over his shoulder, and he was in the middle of convincing Lex to take us all.  I hated to make her do it, but I was too curious to stay behind.  I needed to know what Adrian was after.  Leon was sitting on the ground, plucking strands of grass out of the dirt and smiling as they withered at his touch.  He didn’t seem to be in any hurry to go anywhere.

When I joined them, they all looked at me.

“Ah, there you are,” said Adrian.  “Ready to go?”

I shrugged.  “I mean, if Lex is ready, yeah.”

Lex huffed a sigh.  “Can we make this quick?  It’s going to take a lot, even if Adrian shares his power.”

Adrian grasped her hand.  “I’ll share as much as I can.”

Lex took a deep breath, then held out her other hand to me.  “Come on, then.”  I held onto her hand.

“Leon, let’s go!”  I said.  I heard him mutter a curse before he jumped up to scurry over to us.

“Okay, okay, I’ll go, geez,” he said.  He grabbed my hand, and Adrian’s.

“Alright,” Lex said when we were ready.  “Close your eyes, and don’t open them until I say.  It’s different for non-Time Travelers to do this.  Some say it would drive a person mad to see the In Between.  Oh yeah, and whatever you do, don’t let go.”

My stomach turned at the thought.  The In Between was was separated the past, present, and future.  I had heard that it was possible to get stuck there, doomed to roam through limbo for the rest of your life.  I almost changed my mind about going, but I felt the ground pulled out from under me like a rug.  I held back a gasp as I tried to keep my balance, but I found there was none to be kept.  I had my eyes squeezed tight, but I could feel that we were not in Jadeshaven.  The In Between even felt weird.  It wasn’t cold or hot, stable or void.  There was no sound, which I thought was strange.  It was like nothing – like I was nothing, suddenly.  I knew for sure, I didn’t want to be stuck here forever.

And just like that, I felt ground beneath my feet again, but I was scared to open my eyes.  It was loud, whatever future we were in, and I didn’t really wanted to see it.

“You can open your eyes now, Pink,” said Adrian.  I realized that Lex and Leon had let go of me, so I slowly opened my eyes.  I gasped.  It was nothing like Jadeshaven.

Tall buildings rose into the sky, and people – dressed rather oddly – were driving strange vehicles, a lot bigger than wagons pulled by horses.  And a lot louder.  Tons of people walked the streets in groups or alone.  They seemed to pay us no mind.

“What the heck,” I blurted out.

“Welcome to the future, Claudia,” Lex said.  Her voice sounded tired.  “I hope you like it, because we’re not leaving until I feel better.”

“It’s pretty wicked,” said Leon, nodding to himself and looking around.  He looked down at himself.  “Check it out, we’ve got new clothes!”

I looked at myself, and sure enough, my clothes had changed.  I had on shorts, a black tank top, and a black jacket over it.

“But why?”  I asked.  I wanted my old clothes back!  This wasn’t even my style!

“Because the In Between will leak into the different eras if we don’t look the part,” said Adrian.  He had one hand in the pocket of his new olive green jacket and his other arm around Lex.  He had gotten a pair of jeans and T-shirt as well.

“But you bring back things from here all the time,” said Leon, turning to Lex

“That doesn’t count.  Inanimate objects have no real impact on time, but people who use them do.  As do your actions, so be careful what you do as well.  So no magic, guys.” said Lex.  “Anyway, if you don’t mind me, I know what I need.”  She left Adrian’s side to stagger down the street.  I turned to Adrian.

“Are you going to go with her?”  I asked.  He shook his head, but I could tell he was hesitant.

“N-no, she’ll be alright.  If not, I’ll know.  Gift of Foresight, you know,” he said.  “Well, you and Leon go have some fun, I’ve got some stuff to take care of.”  He turned to go down the street opposite of the way Lex went.  “Meet back here by sundown!”  He yelled.

I looked up; sundown was already coming, but whatever.

“Come on, Claudia, I don’t wanna waste time,” said Leon, pulled on my hand.  He seemed thrilled, for someone who hadn’t seemed to want to come.

“I’m coming,” I said.  “Where do you want to go first?”  His black eyes searched the streets, then he pointed to a tall building, even taller than the other ones.  It was all black with a spire running up into the clouds.  It was kind of ominous looking if you ask me.

“Um, okay?”  I said.  I let him lead the way.  He seemed to fit in perfectly here, with his ripped up jeans and skull print shirt.  I wondered what would happen if we left him…

From there, my mind wandered.  It was hard not to let that happen these days, with so much on my mind.  When I was suddenly brought back to reality when someone ran into me (and rudely kept running without apologizing), Leon was nowhere to be found.  I spun in circles looking all around me.  The tall building he wanted to see was a little way behind me, so I had missed it.

“Leon?”  I called.  That made people give me looks, but they kept on walking.  Why was there so many people here?  I doubted I had ever seen so many people int my life.  I backtracked to see if I could find him.  I went into the building, I searched outside of it, and he was still nowhere to be found.  When I couldn’t find him, I ducked into an alley so I could think.

“Okay, the first rule of getting lost is staying put, right?”  I said to myself.  But I wasn’t the one lost!  And Leon didn’t follow rules!  As old as Leon seemed, he was still and eight year old child!  I couldn’t bear to think what could happen to him!  I ran my hands through my hair.

“Think, Claudia, think,” I said.

“Are you lost, little lady?”  I heard a man’s voice behind me.  I spun around to see someone who couldn’t have been much older than me, but he didn’t look very kind.  A hat covered his head, and his clothes were torn and patched in some places.  I shook my head vigorously.

“No, no, I’m fine,” I said.  “I was just leaving.”

“Really?”  Said the man, crossing his arms.  “What did you come here for?”

“I’m just looking for my friend, I’m not doing anything wrong,” I said.  The man closed in on me, and my mind raced to find what I should do next.

“Don’t touch me!”  I shouted when he reached out to me.  “I don’t have anything you’d want!”

“That’s what they all say,” he said with a wry smile.  I wanted to blast this guy away with my magic, but Lex made clear what would happen if I did that.

The next few seconds happened so fast I barely had time to register what was going on.  I backed into the corner, squeezed my eyes shut, and shielded myself with my arms just as I heard angry shouts and a thud.  I opened my eyes to see the man on the floor and Leon standing over him with his right hand glowing blue.

“Leon!”  I screeched.  “Did you drain him?”

“Not yet I didn’t,” he said.  But I could see that he clearly meant to.  “I just knocked him out with that piece of wood.”  He pointed to a wood pile next to me with his left hand.

“Wait, don’t do it!”  I pleaded.  “You heard what Lex said!”

“She said no magic,” Leon said.  His eyes, flickering with the reflection of the glow on his hand, never left the now unconscious man.

“You don’t consider that magic?  I’m sure it will have the same affect on time!”

Leon let his hand drop to his side and turned to me.

“Seriously Claudia?  Who knows what this guy would have done to you if I hadn’t showed up!  I wasn’t going to kill him, anyway.  I was just going to make his feel sorry.”

“You’ve already done enough!”  I said.  And that’s when a realization hit me; I had never seen Leon drain a human being before.  When he drained plants, they withered and died.  But did a human do the same?  Or would they look perfectly normal, as if nothing ever happened to them.  I thought of the Nymph who had been supposedly murdered…did Leon know something about it?

I was silent for too long.

“Well, what are you waiting for, let’s get out of here before he wakes up!”  Said Leon.  I shook myself out of my daze and nodded.

“Right…let’s go.”  The two of us got as far away as possible from the alley, and when I was sure we were safe, I turned to him.  “Where the heck were you, anyway?”

“Looking around.  You started daydreaming, so I went on ahead without you.  You were slowing me down.”

“You’re still a little kid, you can’t go wandering off by yourself!”

Leon rolled his eyes.  “Whatever, I don’t want to hear it.”

We walked in silence for the rest of the time.  I wanted to ask him what happened when he drained humans, but I had a feeling that he wouldn’t know…unless he did have something to do with the Nymph.  But what would Leon do a thing like that for?  It just seemed so far fetched…but I couldn’t rule anything out.  Not when there were lives at stake.

“Say…Leon?”  I asked as we walked down the side walk.

“What?”  He replied flatly.

“Have you ever drained person before?”

“Pfft, what do you take me as, a jerk?”  Leon said.  He stuffed his hands in his pants pockets.  “Of course I’ve drained a person before, why?”

Okay…what did I expect?  It took awhile to recover from his bluntness before I could speak again.

“I’m not criticizing you or anything, I just want to know what happened afterward.  Did they change in appearance?”

“I didn’t kill them or anything, I just drained them a little.  And they were asking for it anyway, they tried to kill me!  But yeah, they changed.  They start to look a little like me – dead!”  He turned around ( I hated when he walked backwards)  and stuck his tongue out, pointing to his sunken in eyes.

That ruled out my hypothesis.

“Why do you want to know, scared I’m going to do it to you?”  He grinned.

“No, I was just wondering.  Watch where your going before-”

I couldn’t get the sentence out before he collided with a woman.

“Oh, I’m sorry!”  She told Leon before hurrying away.

“Geez, watch where your going, lady!”  Leon yelled.

“Leon!”  I scolded, swatting his shoulder.  I shook my head with a long-suffering sigh.

“The sun’s almost down, Leon, let’s just go meet up with Adrian and Lex.  I want to go home.”  What I really wanted to say was “I want to get out of babysitting you”, but he’d kill me for sure.

“If you say so,” said Leon.

We got to the meeting spot first, then Lex was next, and it was a few minutes before Adrian joined us, his satchel stuffed with…well, something.

“What did you get?”  I asked.  He patted his satchel.

“Something you can’t find in Jadeshaven,” he replied.  Why was I not surprised about an answer like that.  I bit back an argument and sighed.

“Can we go home now?  I never want to come back again,” I said.

“Fine by me,” said Lex.  “Remember, don’t open your eyes and don’t let go.”  We all nodded and held onto each other’s hands.  It was pretty much all the same going back as it was to get to the future.  Bizarre feelings, no ground, no gravity, no air.  And then poof!  We were back home.

Lex practically fell into Adrian’s arms from exhaustion.  Adrian, without saying a word, picked her up and headed for the shop.

“Do you want me to take you home, Leon?”  I asked, happy to be in my own home and in my own clothes again.  Leon didn’t look as pleased as I did, however.

“Nah, I’ll manage,” he said.  It was already night, but I figured he’d be fine.  It wasn’t like the Card Dealer was out or anything.  As Leon walked away, I looked up at the moon; it still had a ways to go before it would be full again.  Shaking my head, I went inside.

~~~

It felt like ages before the next full moon came, but when it did, I couldn’t get out of the shop fast enough.  A few minutes before I knew the Card Dealer would arrive, I left Adrian to close the shop and ran down the street.  To ensure I could catch him, I’d have to miss his show, but I didn’t mind.  I had waited too long to miss my chance to talk to him.

I waited at Jadeshaven Creek for what seemed like an eternity, but I knew I would only have to wait thirty minutes, if Hyacinth’s research proved to be true.  I wasn’t usually an impatient person, but I was practically dying from the wait now.

A cloud sailed over the full moon, and the light dimmed.  I heard footsteps nearby, but I couldn’t tell where they were coming from.  I jumped to my feet as my heart quickened.  It was too dark to see much of anything, but I could hear the footsteps echoing.

“Hello?”  I said.  My voice trembled.  Now that I was so close to meeting him…I was a little afraid.  The clouds parted, and a silhouette stood against the pale light.

I now stood before the Card Dealer.  His fake mouth was even more terrifying up close, and the front of his hat was pulled down so low I could barely make out his eyes, except for two little glints of light on his face.  He was staring right at me.

My mind raced with the many questions I had for him, but my body froze in place.  I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak.  I was going to lose him!  For a good few moments, neither of us moved.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t breath that entire time.

Then, he stepped forward, breaking me out of my shock and fear.  I almost stumbled backwards into the creek.  I took a deep breath, straightened my posture, and spoke.

“M-Mr. Card Dealer,” I said.  “I…you have no idea how long I’ve wanted to meet you…to talk to you.”

His head titled lightly to the left, like he was sizing me up.

“I…I have so many questions…”

I couldn’t tell what his expression was with the mask over his face, and from how dark it was this far from the town.  He knelt and started drawing something in the dirt.  When he stood back up again, I called a ball of light to my hand and got down on my knees.  He had written something in the dirt

                           I Can’t Speak 

Again, I almost fell into the creek.  All that time I waited and the guy couldn’t even speak?  I stood and held my ball of light up so I could see his eyes.  They were fixed on me, looking sad.

“You…you can’t talk…” I said.  He nodded slowly.  I thought, okay, so he’s mute.  But there was something else here…a strange magic…dark magic.  This man…this man was not simply mute.  He could talk…but something…someone has taken his voice away.

“What…what kind of magic is this?”  I whispered.

The sound of the Emergency Horn filled the air.  I started, then whirled in the direction of the town.  I could hear people beginning to shout as the horn continued to blow.  Something terrible happened, I could feel it.  I turned back around to face the Card Dealer, only to find that he was gone.  Wonderful.

But I had no time for that now.  I would have to find out what kind of spell the Card Dealer was under before he came back anyway.  With that in mind, I ran back into town as fast as I could.  I followed the sound of shouts down to the docks, where everyone was crowded around the shore line.  I shoved past people until I could see what was the matter.  When I reached the front of the crowd, I gasped, covering my mouth with my hand.

A merman’s body had washed up on the shore.

~ ♠ ♣ ♦ ♥ ~

 

Wanna know a secret?  Claudia was never supposed to meet the Card Dealer this early, but I thought it would be a fun little scene to write.  I got the idea that he couldn’t speak a few weeks ago, and I literally got the idea that it was a spell that made him mute while talking to a friend (hi Cody *waves*) last Thursday.  It all fits together so well though!  I’m super, super excited for all these mysteries to be revealed, and I can’t wait to see your reactions to all the plot twists!  This part was really fun to write, and the next one is going to be good…just hold on to your hats, because I’m about to take you on a rollercoaster. 😉 I’d love to hear your thoughts on this chapter, so start up a conversation in the comments below!  I want to see any theories that you might have!

Part 7 will be released on November 16!

5 thoughts on “The Card Dealer: Part 6

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