Element of the Abstract: Chapter Nine
Another day, no more than a week later, there was a rapid knocking at the front door. Osryn was in bed, reading with a glass of mead, when he heard it–– at first he’d thought it was simply the house settling or a branch creaking outside. Then, again, a rapping. Osryn narrowed his eyes and put down his book.
“Was that you?” He yelled, not wanting to get up to ask either of his children.
“No!” Two voices replied.
“Can you get the door!”
Rolling his eyes, Osryn hopped out of bed and threw a cloak over his shoulders, not bothering to get dressed. Another unannounced Macron drop-by? Osryn, however, did not see Daniela, Hector or one of her children through the glass panel of the door. It was not his brother either, and he wasn’t sure if he should be thankful or not. He froze, uncertain how to proceed.
Swallowing, Osryn opened the door a crack. “Who are you?”
The man on his doorstep was a stranger–– tall and strong, with patchy-looking almond and beige skin and dark hair tied back in a small bun. His right arm was clutching onto his left, and his eyes darted back and forth, unconfident, before settling on Osryn. “My name is Urta. Please understand, I mean no harm.”
“Prove it.” Osryn said, readying a plasma ball discreetly in his palm behind the door. The man was playing coy, but Osryn didn’t trust it. “What do you seek? Why are you here? How much do you know?”
Urta shifted back slightly, holding his hands out sheepishly in front of him. “I- I just want to talk to you… and the children.”
So, he knew. Osryn gritted his teeth and exhaled through his nose, pulling away and shutting the door in Urta’s face. As he considered his options, Adelaide and Sebastian were making their way down the staircase. Curiosity was evident in Adelaide’s wide-eyed expression.
“Is somebody there?” She whispered, adjusting her long hair and straightening out her blouse. Sebastian remained quiet and put his hands in his pockets, leaning against the foyer wall, watching as the gears in his father’s head turned.
“Yes…” Osryn mumbled, and opened the door a crack again and spoke through it. “What exactly is it that you wish to talk about?”
“There's trouble in the valley,” Urta said, dark eyes glinting in the early afternoon sun, “and I believe your children are the only ones that can help me.”
Before Osryn could decide whether the man was safe enough to let enter, Sebastian had weaseled his way to the door and pushed it, and his father, out of the way. He locked eyes with the stranger, whose mouth immediately fell agape.
“My sun and stars…” Urta murmured, raising a hand to his mouth, but he quickly snapped it back. His stupefaction was quickly replaced with his same nervous apathy as before. “Hello. My name is Urta. It’s amazing to finally meet you.”
Sebastian narrowed his many eyes, but before he could respond, Osryn jabbed a finger in Urta’s face. “Nygel told you, didn’t he! That bastard!”
“I have known of your existence for some time,” Urta tells them, offering a subtle smile. “Where is the girl?”
Adelaide walked to the doorframe and raised her hand. “I’m the girl.”
“Can we maybe let this poor guy in? It’s getting chilly…” Sebastian said, and it’s true that the cold November air was truly setting in. Urta did look like he’d been out in the cold for some time. With a sigh, Osryn gestured for Urta to enter. He nodded thankfully and entered the foyer.
“Tell me what you need, now,” Osryn demanded. “Before I change my mind about your welcomeness here.”
“I’m sorry my father is being so rude,” Adelaide held out her two right hands for Urta to shake, and he looked at them for a moment, unsure which one to take. Realizing her bi-lateral muscle memory had kicked in again, she lowered one of them. Urta shook it. “We don’t get many guests around here, and never strangers who know… about us. He’s just being defensive.”
Urta nodded, adjusting the collar of his jacket. “Yes, it must have been hard, living in secret for all those years.”
“You get used to it,” Sebastian muttered. “Being isolated.”
Urta pressed his lips together and nodded. “So you do. Anyway, as I stated, I am here because there’s a problem in the valley.”
“Of what sort?” Osryn asked.
“Insects. Giant ones, and a whole lot of them. But, I think you knew that…”
“I thought they were only coming for us…” Adelaide almost sounded disappointed. “They’re attacking the whole valley?”
Urta nodded. “Well, they’ve been reported between here and Solelio. I fear there may only be more and more attacks. Insects have a tendency to rapidly multiply.”
“You’re just coming to us with this now?” Osryn scoffed. “This has been happening for seven years.”
Urta sighed. “I know… unfortunately, for a long time I was unable to take action as I didn’t know enough about the situation. However, I now believe I know where their lair is.”
Adelaide’s eyebrows rose, her eyes sparkled and she stopped chewing on her thumbnail. “A den of mutant insects?”
“How’d you know, Urta?” Sebastian chuckled. “Something like that is like crack pixie dust to Laidie.”
“Laidie,” Urta repeated. “That’s a beautiful name.”
“My name is Adelaide,” she corrected, flashing Sebastian a glare. “Laidie is for family.”
Urta nodded and looked away. “Of course. My bad.”
“My father here is Osryn,” Adelaide continued, gesturing at them each. “And my bratty brother is Sebastian.”
Osryn wiped his brow, overwhelmed with how quickly the day had turned from mundane to incredible. Who was this guy? He didn’t believe a word out of his mouth, but his children both seemed enchanted with him. Not only was their little insect problem apparently more widespread than they had thought, but someone knew it was connected to his children. Even with all his suspicions, he could understand why they were eager to converse with a new person. After all, he had deprived them of more than a handful of friends.
“It’s nice to meet all of you,” Urta said, “but unfortunately, it’s not under the best of circumstances. I’m afraid I come with not only information, but with a call to action.”
Sebastian had read a fair amount on literary analysis, and couldn't help but chuckle at Urta’s phrasing. “Oh? And what might that be?”
“You two are connected to the insects––”
“Insectera.” Adelaide interrupted. Urta blinked. “That’s what we call anyone… buggish.”
Urta smiled brightly at that and nodded. “Yes, yes, Insectera! Well, given that you’re Insectera, you have more know-how than most on how the creatures we’re facing might behave. I must ask for your help in my attempt to... deal with them. I’m afraid I am simply not strong enough on my own.”
“You want us to help you eradicate an army of Insectera? Doesn’t that seem a little overkill to you?” Adelaide scoffed, and it made Osryn smile. He still didn’t trust the man, but he was glad his daughter was so outspoken and confident. “After all, there’s no telling who might be related to us.”
“Cousins, uncles...” Sebastian mused, counting on his fingers and pursing his lips. “Parents, maybe?”
Osryn was sick of hearing that word thrown around. “You have some nerve coming here. Why should we believe a word you say? Maybe you only know about the bugs in the valley because you’re one of them. You seem a little relaxed about all this.”
“I don’t know what to say, man,” Urta sighed, shrugging his shoulders. “I’ll leave if you want, and I’m not asking anyone to kill anyone. You may be able to communicate with them. I’m… just worried what might happen if they start getting worse. People are already starting to go missing…”
“You really think you know where this insect den is?” Adelaide pushed, crossing her arms. “And you really think this is something we need to do?”
“Yes! I really need you both… I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.” Urta’s eyes did genuinely seem weary and tired, like someone who truly had gone through a lot of effort to get out to them. Osryn wavered, but he would not allow himself so easily to form sympathy.
“Why both?” Osryn countered. “Couldn’t just one go if the aim is to talk with the enemy?”
“Dad, shut up!” Adelaide groaned in frustration and turned to Urta, stomping her foot with the motion. “Urta, sir, we’re going with you. All of us, including my father.”
“Of course the sorcerer is welcome,” Urta assured, and Osryn admittedly felt challenged by his amiability in the face of Osryn’s blatant hostility. “The more power we have, the more likely we are to win in the face of adversity. I’ve heard of you, Osryn. You’re a skilled alchemist, I hear, and also in the art of plasmamancy. I’m not from Lunora, but I looked into you when I realized I had to come here.”
Osryn’s guard fell slightly and he blinked, adjusting his glasses. “You’ve heard of me? Well, that’s just wonderful… I suppose if we must go, I can go along.”
“I think we must, father,” Adelaide’s tone grew solemn and she put two hands on his shoulder. “These things are causing problems for us, whether or not the valley is at stake. Plus, it’s possible we’ll get some leads into who our real family is.”
The words cut into Osryn like a knife. Real family? What was he, then, after all these years? Simply a nuisance, providing shelter, a house they clearly are itching to get away from? Suddenly, he felt as though agreeing to let them go may have been a mistake. He clenched his fists. No, he was catastrophizing again. Adelaide had every right to find whoever had created her, and Osryn would be cruel to disallow that. That said, he was still unsure if he fully trusted this Urta character.
“That’s wonderful, oh stars, I’m so glad you agreed,” Urta seemed to release a breath he’d been holding in. “I was getting real worried there, haha.”
The children both vibrated with excitement as they raced upstairs to pack go-bags. According to Urta, the den was likely located in Solelio, which was a three day journey by foot from where they were, so they made sure to pack camping gear. Osryn was thankful that it had yet to become the truly freezing part of fall, though it would certainly be chilly. He had never been to Solelio, and he couldn’t help but remember that’s where Nygel had set up camp when he returned to the east. It put a sour taste in his mouth to think that perhaps they would meet along the course of this journey, but somehow it felt inevitable. Urta knew about the children somehow, after all, and who else could have told him but Nygel?
Adelaide crouched in the kitchen and laid out large bowls of food and water for Flea, petting her and assuring her that she'd be back soon. Against Osryn’s wishes, she insisted on leaving a vague message for the Macrons for when they inevitably decided to stop by. Osryn thought it would do nothing but concern them more, but there was no stopping her; she wanted them to know they were okay, and to provide more care for Flea. Sebastian grabbed the pin Greer had given him and pinned it to the breast of his coat. Soon enough, all three of the Selds had gathered up what they felt they needed for their travels and reconvened in the foyer.
“Well, if everyone’s packed, we should probably get going as soon as possible," Urta said. "We should cover as much ground as we can today before we have to stop and camp. There are roads, but unfortunately, as you may guess, we must take the long route through the valley in order to not be seen.”
“Are you ready, dad?” Sebastian asked as they all stepped outside, and Osryn smiled sheepishly and nodded.
“Ready as I’ll ever be, kids.”
Adelaide twirled her staff in her hands and jumped up and down, a pot bubbling over with excited energy. Osryn had his doubts about the legitimacy of this adventure, but it was the first opportunity the children had had to truly go out and experience the world.
He sighed. Had he deprived them of a normal childhood, or were they simply deprived of it from the start? Society simply wasn’t ready for Insectera. That was why they were doing this after all. As they climbed over the rock wall and crossed into the forest, his knees were aching already. Were it not for his magic, he might have truly been too old for this.
“Strap in everybody,” Urta said, hoisting his pack further up onto his back and taking the lead. “We’re in for a long and arduous journey.”
And so it began.
Insectera Book Two: Matters of the Heart, coming... eventually.
© 2022 Rychard Collins