Vibrations: Harmonic Magic Book 1, page 37
Sam looked at the Gray Man and knew he was going to die. He had given it his best attempt, as did his two friends, but it simply wasn’t enough. He would die and even if Nalia had survived, he would never see her again. His mother would never know what happened to him. He would die failing, not in some heroic quest, but in a childish quest, trying simply to get home. Nevertheless, he thought he was ready.
The Gray Man raised a hand and the rim of his eyes glowed an even brighter red. He saw in those eyes the intent and the power to do as he had said he would. In seconds, he would kill Sam in some way that Sam couldn’t even imagine.
And then the Gray Man stopped, his hand lowering, his jaw going slack. Sam didn’t know what was going on. Why had he stopped? Then, before he had even finished the question to himself, images flooded his mind and he lost all sense of where he was.
He was looking out across the fortress from some vantage point high on a tower. The entire fortress was made of black stone, but that would never do. No, a different fortress, fitting his name, would be better. Concentrating for a long moment, he spread his hands and felt the vibrational energy flood into him and out of his hands. He placed both hands on the nearest stone and began changing the frequency of light the stone reflected. As he did so, he changed its color.
From the very base of the walls and buildings the color changed as if the structures were being dipped in an ocean of paint. No longer black, every part of the stone turned a dull gray. Yes, the Gray Fortress. A fitting name for the stronghold of the Gray Man.
One of the two Arzbedim who were currently torturing him made a mistake. A fatal one. The man had allowed him to rest for more than the seven minutes they usually gave him. What’s more, the incompetent captor had not bound him strongly enough with the shackles. They had no idea that as he had been tortured for these last twelve years, he had grown stronger, learned many new things, and had become more than a match for any of them. They would soon find out.
He waited until the two captors were talking, looking away from him. He closed his eyes, centered himself, and pulled in energy from his surroundings. He was careful not to take energy directly from the two men, though. He didn’t want to tip them off just yet.
When he held as much energy as he could, he coughed once, weakly. Both men looked toward him, seeing too late that he was glowing in their rohw-sensitive sight. As soon as they saw him, he crushed their hearts in their chests with his power and watched happily as their bodies dropped to the stone floor.
Fifty six. There are fifty six Arzbedim. Before I am done, there will be none. That will be their payment for my capture and my torture.
Using his rohw to snap the bonds, he dropped to the floor. He took the robes from one of the dead guards and set about his grisly task. Wherever he found Arzbedim, he killed them, simply and efficiently. He was in no mood and no condition to duel with them, to fight with them. No, he would kill them, plain and simple.
Some he killed by crushing their hearts with the power. Some he took a more personal approach and actually cut their throats with a knife. Whatever the method, by the time the night was done and he had made his way through the main areas of the fortress, fifty-three Arzbedim were dead.
He waited at the fortress, resting, eating, growing strong again. When the remaining three rogue mages returned to the fortress, he was waiting for them. He had no special punishment for any of them, not even their leader, Silicim Mant, but they all died. It wasn’t personal. It just needed to be done.
The torture lasted for years. How many years, he didn’t know. Enough. Enough to do to him whatever was needed to make him into who, or what, he was now.
At first, he didn’t understand why they were torturing him every day. He didn’t know anything, and he tried to tell them that, but soon realized it didn’t matter. They thought he had information they wanted and they would get it, eventually. He remembered being a regular man, a free man, but that was quickly slipping away. He knew he had a heartbreaking experience just before he came to this place, but he couldn’t quite remember what it was. All he knew is that he felt powerless to do anything and he didn’t like it.
Soon after he arrived, he caught a glimpse of himself in a mirror as he was being moved from his cell to a torture room. That was before they permanently moved him into a torture room for convenience. In the mirror, he saw a man that was of average size and in good shape, with brown hair and steel gray eyes. He hardly recognized himself, feeling as if he was trying to pull the memories through a fine filter.
As time went on, he started forgetting things about his past life. He forgot his name and why he was here. His existence consisted solely of torture for no apparent reason…and endless pain. A few years later, he saw his reflection once again when one of his captors showed it to him. He was hideous. All his hair had fallen out, his skin had turned ash gray and chalky, and his eyes had darkened while developing a red rim around them. It was from the power they used on him, the captor joked, saying that now he fit in with the rest of them. It was true. His captors looked the same.
While torturing him, they inculcated in him a desire to use power to straddle both worlds, the one from which he came and the one he was now in, to rule over one or both. That was, in fact, the Arzbedim’s entire purpose for being and the purpose for which they were torturing him. They still thought that he had some secret that would help them attain the power they craved.
It was years after his capture that he realized that he could see something happen just before one of his captors used their magic power on him. At first, it was just a feeling, then a shimmering. Soon, though, he was looking for it more carefully and he began to see a glow envelop the person torturing him, or at least a glow around a particular body part on that person.
He began to listen more carefully, learning things through idle conversation about his captors’ power. They called it rohw, a vibrational energy that could be used to great effect. Apparently, he was naturally gifted when it came to this energy because the more he paid attention and learned, the more sensitive to the energy he became and the more he was able to see what his torturers were doing to him. He was even daring enough to reverse some of the effects of particularly difficult torture sessions, being careful not to heal himself completely lest he be caught.
In this way, he practiced and developed his power, logically thinking through its uses and coming up with new ways to use it that the Arzbedim could not even begin to dream up. So it was that he prepared as he waited for the right time to escape.
The man frantically made his way to the cave opening before the flood waters swallowed him up. He had just watched his fiancée, the woman he loved more than anything in the world, along with his best friend, die horribly in a flash flood while on an archaeological expedition. He was the sole survivor and now he was trying to escape a similar fate.
He stumbled through the cave, frightened that the water would rise enough to fill the cave and drown him, afraid that he would get stuck and die in the cave, afraid some creature would find him. He was just afraid. Making his way by headlamp light, he came to what seemed to be the end of the cavern. He huddled there, shivering, waiting to die.
The sound around him was deafening. As he huddled, trying to stay warm, he covered his ears to soften the shrieking of the wind through the cave. Curiously, the shrieking changed, almost sounding musical, before his world turned inside out and he found himself surrounded by robed figures.
The man was taken into custody by the robed figures and through some act of musical accompaniment, he was transported far away to a fortress made of stone. Still weeping over his lost love, his best friend, and his comrades, he was too much in the grips of shock to respond to the new circumstances. He only knew that he did not have the power to stop the death of the people he loved and never wanted to feel so powerless again.
All those ideas d
The toddler with a mop of sandy blonde hair and gray eyes that seemed too intelligent for his age ran to his uncle and hugged his leg fiercely. “I lud yoo, Uckle Grayman” the child cooed happily.
Grayson Wepp picked up his nephew and hugged him tight. “I love you, too, Sam.”
After a long hug, the little boy swiveled his head excitedly from left to right. Spotting what he was looking for, he screeched, “Stefnee!” and put his arms out toward the woman next to Grayson.
“Oh, sure,” Grayson teased, “he can say your name well enough, but not mine. Sam, say my name. Grayson. Grayson. Uncle Grayson.”
“Grayman, Grayman, Uckle Grayman.”
Ruffling the boy’s hair, Grayson laughed. “Well, maybe I’ll just change it to Grayman.”
Stephanie leaned over and kissed him. “Too many more of those gray hairs, and it will fit.”
Grayson smiled at his fiancée. A feeling of love washed over him and not for the first time, he felt like he was the luckiest man alive.
Turning as his best friend Mark walked into the room, followed closely by Grayson’s sister—and Mark’s wife—Nicole, Grayson beamed. This was his family. This was where he belonged.
“Mommy, daddy! It’s Uckle Grayman an’ Stefnee!” Sam shrieked as he reached out to his father.
“I know, Sam,” Nicole Sharp said. Her smiling face reflected that she felt the same way Grayson did. Of course, whenever Sam was involved, smiles were never in short supply.
Turning to the small boy again, Grayson took a small present from his bag. It was a box, wrapped in bright green paper, with a yellow bow and ribbons tied tightly around it. “Here, Sam, I brought you something. Your daddy is going to go with Stephanie and me to do some work in Turkey. I want you to have this so that you will know I’m always thinking about you while we’re there. Maybe I can find something there to bring back to you, too.”
The boy’s eyes dropped toward the ground as he suddenly went limp, realizing the implication of what he was just told. “You going away? And eat turkey?” he said sadly.
Grayson laughed. “Just for a few months. We’ll be back before you know it. Turkey is the place we’re going to. Here, I’ll show you.” Taking the boy to the antique globe resting on its stand on the other side of the room, Grayson pointed to where they would be traveling. “We have to dig in the ground to find an old city.”
Big gray eyes looked up sadly. “You be back soon?”
“Definitely,” Grayson said.
“Ok.” Then, remembering the present, the boy grabbed for it. “Thackyu, Uckle Grayman,” he said as he tore into the wrapping, and then quickly removed the box lid. Inside the box was a small statue of a man seated with his legs crossed and his hands resting in his lap. Grayson wrapped one of his hands around Sam’s tiny hands and with the other rubbed the statue’s head.
“Rub his head for good luck and any time you feel sad. It will make your sadness go away and make you happy.” Sam, eyes wide with wonder, put his tiny fingers on the statute’s head and rubbed it.
Sam felt as if the whole world had just exploded. Grayson? Uncle Grayson, a man he barely remembered. The memories came flooding back. How was this possible? Skitter, Sam sent, was that you? Did you do that?
Yes, Skitter sent back. I was surprised I could speak to him, mind to mind, like I can with you. The memories I pulled up were lost somewhere in there. I think he had forgotten them.
“Sam?” the Gray Man said, weakly, almost pitifully. “Sam, is that you?”
“Yes, Uncle Grayson, it’s me. I can’t believe you’re still alive, after all this time.”
The Gray Man chuckled softly, though there seemed to be no humor in it. “Alive? Is that what I am? There is little left of Grayson Wepp in me now. I have been corrupted, changed. The torture has made me into a monster, though I did not know that until just now. I have done horrible things, Sam, unspeakable things.”
“But things will be all right now. Now that you know who you are, we can make things better.”
“No! There is no redemption from this. It is too late for that. Besides, I cannot live with the pain, with the guilt. Your father, my best friend, is dead. The love of my life, Stephanie, is dead. The other members of our expedition, they’re all dead. The only way I kept the insanity from taking hold was to be someone else. I can’t live with it, Sam. I won’t live with it.”
Sam felt like his heart had stopped beating and dropped into his legs. After finding his uncle, whom he loved but hadn’t remembered until just now, he was facing having to lose him again. “Please, Uncle Grayson, there is always hope. Please, come back to us. Mom would love to see you.”
Head in his hands, the Gray Man chuckled mirthlessly again. “I’m sorry Sam. I’m sorry to leave you again, but I can’t live with the things I did, with the things I failed to do. I’m so tired. I need rest.”
“No, please,” Sam begged. “I have just found you again. Please don’t leave.”
Ignoring his pleas, Grayson Wepp, tears in his red rimmed eyes, looked into Sam’s gray eyes, ones that looked so much like his used to look. “Tell your mother I love her and that I am so sorry that I was responsible for her losing Mark. Anything in the fortress you would like is yours, Sam, to do with as you will. The fortress itself is yours. Try to do some good with it.”
“And Sam, the trick to getting back home is simple. You are already attuned to our world…” he paused for a moment. “Yes, our world.” A small, sad smile appeared on his face. “All you have to do is let go. Find someone to help you, someone that you trust, and let all your defenses down. Surrender. You will see what I mean. The book open on the pedestal here in front of me will be of interest to you as well.
“I love you Sam. I’m sorry things couldn’t have turned out better. Try to think well of me in the end.”
Sam’s eyes were locked on Grayson’s red rimmed dark eyes. For a moment, the red flared and the eyes widened, and then they closed as his body slumped forward. Sam’s prison disintegrated at the same moment.
Sam rushed forward to catch his uncle’s lifeless form before it hit the ground. Checking for a pulse, Sam found none. The Gray Man, no, Grayson Wepp, Uncle Grayson, was dead.
I’m sorry I couldn’t do anything, Sam, Skitter sent. It was so quick. He thought of causing his heart to burst and then he made it happen. He could have done that to any of us at any time.
Sam stood, holding the body of his uncle. I know, Skitter. We couldn’t have stopped him. You saved us all with what you did to bring out his memories. Most of all, I think, you saved him. In the end, he was my uncle again.
When Nalia finally burst into the room, she found Sam cradling the body of the Gray Man, tears streaming down his face, and Skitter crouching close by. Her father was moving, softly moaning in pain.
She rushed to her father first, propping him up and removing the sword that was protruding from his back. Thankfully, it had not damaged any organs, but simply went through muscle and skin. Binding his wound, she started to dress his other cuts when he put a hand on her arm.
“Go and release Dr. Walt from his constraints. See how badly he is injured.” She did so immediately.
After all of their wounds were cleaned and dressed, the party sat around the large table and Sam told them what happened. Through his tears, he explained the memories that Skitter had extracted from the Gray Man and projected into Sam’s mind. After stopping briefly several times when the emotions overwhelmed him, he finally repeated the things Grayson had told him about how to get home and that he should look at the open book on the pedestal. He off-handedly repeated Grayson’s permission to take anything in the fortress, including the fortress itself.
Dr. Walt, lucid after drinking and eating a little, hobbled to the book and started reading. He began to mumble to himself, “Hmmm, yes, ok, I see.” Suddenly, he exclaimed, “Sam, you will want to loo
Sam unfolded himself from Nalia’s arms, where he had found comfort from his pain. He kissed her hands, one at a time, forced a smile that he didn’t quite feel, then went to look at the book.
After reading, some parts with difficulty, he looked up to Dr. Walt. “Is this what I think it is?” he asked. “Does this explain how to teleport using vibrational energy?”
Dr. Walt nodded. “I believe it is. If we study it, perhaps we can learn how to do it. It seems to be geared toward using groups of energy wielders to accomplish it, but it will give us a start. We may be able to adapt it. That would be remarkable.”
The next few weeks consisted of exploring the fortress and studying some of the information in the book the Gray Man—no, Grayson—had left for Sam. The few remaining soldiers had fled the fortress when they realized their master was dead, leaving only a handful of servants. These did not care who they served, so they stayed and continued in their work. Dr. Walt carefully interviewed each of them and assured them they could remain if they so chose.
The dungeons in the depths of the Gray Fortress held fifteen prisoners. They were in varying stages of neglect, torture, and illness. In the weeks following the Gray Man’s defeat, all of them but one died regardless of the efforts by Dr. Walt and the others to bring them back to health.
The one prisoner who lived was named Lahim Chode. He was so close to death that though he slowly and gradually got better with the care Dr. Walt was giving him, he was still unable to speak about why he was interned or who he was.
The fortress was massive and it would take months just to make a cursory visit to all of it, but there were some surprising things found almost immediately. Besides the excellent libraries, the most extensive of which was near the current master’s rooms and the room the fateful battle had occurred, there were storerooms with ancient artifacts and devices that defied explanation and begged for study.
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