The more Nisa saw of this world—Glacea, she’d finally remembered—the more she longed to see of it. Another part of her leaned against Oliver’s chest and relished in the feel of his arms around her, gently resting on her hips, while she held the reigns and controlled the blue thoa they rode together.
Ena rode right behind Oliver and Nisa as they trailed along a narrow road that followed the side of a mountain. To their right was nothing but a void. Vanmor informed them that far below that was a river, but a person’s chances of hitting it if they fell was at basically zero. So, they urged their thoas to hug the mountain towering up on their left and followed Vanmor who took the lead. Once they crossed this pass, they would come to a particular forest where they could finally stop and rest.
“So, how come you don’t know anything about Glacea?” Ena shouted up at them. Nisa turned back to glance at her. The woman’s white hair with blue streaks was so tightly braided to her head that even the cool breeze didn’t blow it. Nisa wished she had put up her hair; it whipped around her face, furiously smacking and tickling it.
“We’re from another world—somehow, a portal took us here and we’re trying to get home!” Nisa shouted back.
In front of her, the pirate—whose name was Aelyr, Nisa finally remembered—laughed and turned to meet her gaze. “Right. What’s so wrong with settling down here? Sounds way too tedious to try to find your way home again.”
Nisa half expected him to not believe her, but then, if he really was a pirate on this world, he might have traveled a lot and seen many things. “Not if Vanmor is right. I mean, you’ve traveled a lot, haven’t you? Have you seen anything that could travel or take people to other worlds?”
Aelyr shrugged. “I’ve seen a lot of things, sweetheart. Not any that took me to another world though.”
Oliver’s hands gently squeezed her waist. Was he getting jealous?
Nisa shifted her eyes to glance back at him. “I think he calls everyone sweetheart.”
Oliver growled. “The man’s a pirate, Ni. If he’s anything like the pirates on earth were—“
“I’ll be fine.” She gently kissed his cheek.
From above them, small rocks and pebbles fell down and one of them smacked Nisa on the head. “Ow!” She rubbed her head in the spot where it had hit her and she glanced up there. The mountain towered too high for her to see anything.
“Ambush!” Kor’ok shouted from way behind them. His voice was muffled but Nisa could still make out the world.
Oliver tensed, snatching out his gun as he raised it. “I only have two shots left.”
Ahead of them, Vanmor pulled his thoa to a halt and brought bright silver flames to his hands as he glanced upward. Aelyr held his crossbow and cursed. “I can’t see anything.”
Suddenly, something whooshed through the air and a loud buzzing made Nisa’s ears ring. Oliver took the reins and jerked their thoa back in just enough time to avoid a magical cube that burst out in front of them. If they hadn’t moved, it would have been large enough to capture them and their thoa.
Someone screamed from behind them.
Nisa glanced back to see Susie and her thoa trapped inside one of them. Chris shouted and fired several shots at it, but from what Nisa could see, the bullets didn’t nothing against them.
“Don’t! They’re magical traps! No attacks will free them!” Vanmor shouted, but Chris and Susie were at the end and couldn’t hear him.
Nisa whirled back around and cupped her hands. “Chris, it won’t help!”
The cube started lifting into the air and Susie screamed. She hopped off her thoa, which screeched as Susie lay down on the bottom of the cube and pounded her hands against the energy.
Chris stood on top of his and leapt up into the air as high as he could. He caught the edge of the cube with a grunt, dropping his gun.
“Chris, you idiot,” Oliver muttered.
“What’s taking them?” Nisa asked.
Aelyr cursed. “Bandits. Should’ve known this place was perfect for an ambush. Their camp’s probably higher on the mountain. They usually don’t drop those things more than once, so we’re safe.”
Nisa’s eyes widened and her heart panicked. There was nothing they could do except watch as the cube was hauled higher and higher up the side of the mountain.
“What’s going to happen to them?” Bea screamed where she was at the very back of the line.
Ena shook her head. “The bandits will probably sell them.”
“Our best bet to rescue them,” Kor’ok began, “is to finish crossing the pass. There should be a trail we can take at the end toward the camp and we can make a plan to rescue them both once we get closer and can observe it.”
Nisa squeezed Oliver’s hands, breathing heavily. If he hadn’t reacted quick enough, it would have been them captured by the bandits. “We have to get them back,” she cried.
“We will,” he whispered in her ear. “We will.”
The thoas were all stirred up from the chaos, so it took everyone several minutes to finish calming them down. Nisa wondered if the mountain side was climbable. Unfortunately, not only did it look to have no hand or footholds, but if they tried to climb it, the bandits would just be waiting for them at the top. If they were taken too, then no one would be able to rescue them.
Oliver holstered his gun and he, Kor’ok, Ena, and Aelyr divided up the weapons that Vanmor had bought. It didn’t look like Aelyr needed anymore weapons, but Nisa didn’t say anything. They even gave her and Bea both daggers to defend themselves with.
“Do you even know how to use a sword?” Nisa asked Oliver.
Oliver nodded. “A bit. It’s not like I took fencing or anything, but my uncle was a bit obsessed with ancient weapons.”
Nisa pursed her lips, nodded, and then they hopped back on their thoas and continued down the pass. It was much quieter with two of them missing and worry for her two friends gnawed away at Nisa’s insides. What if the bandits decided to kill them, or do worse? All kinds of terrible scenarios ran through her mind but she closed her eyes—since Oliver was up front, directing their thoa because she was far too nervous to. Dear God, please keep them safe and let us rescue them, she mentally prayed. In a hopeless situation like this, her faith in God was all she had. They were in another world, complete strangers—aliens, even—and they had no idea what they were about to face or how to get Chris and Susie back. Whatever happened to all of them, it was in God’s hands.
Far up ahead, beyond where Vanmor and Aelyr rode, Nisa could see the edge of the pass. It narrowed downward and would take them back down to the ground. The forest stretched out below them, but Vanmor stopped and gestured to his left. “Here’s a path. It leads higher up the mountain. Voices carry, so we have to be extra quiet!”
“Here!” Aelyr said. He tossed Oliver three pieces of fruit. “Pass them back. Feed them to the thoas. They’ll chew them for a while and it will keep them quiet.”
Oliver handed the three pieces of fruit to Nisa, who took a deep breath and tossed them one at a time back to Ena, who could hand them to Kor’ok and Bea. The next group Oliver took, he fed to their thoa.
Vanmor led the way up the path and it was a sharp turn onto it. Nisa panicked as they rounded it, but their thoa did well. She turned around to watch Ena, Kor’ok, and Bea to make sure they all made it safely. When they did, she clenched Oliver’s waist tightly and leaned against his back.
It didn’t take them long to reach the top of the path. Vanmor and Aleyr had jumped off their thoas, so Oliver and Nisa did the same. Ena, Kor’ok, and Bea did shortly after. Vanmor led them to the right where they found a log that they tied their thoas too. Silently, he gestured to a hole that covered the top of the peak and Nisa wondered what it was. As they crept closer, she realized it had been carved out to form a circular, natural skylight in the ceiling and that the bandits hideout was in a cave beneath them. They must have been here for several years to cut out the ceiling of the cave like that.
Vanmor closed his eyes and his skin lit up with energy. Nisa watched him in awe for a moment and flinched when she heard his voice in her head. “I can’t keep this telepathy spell up for long. There’s a lot of shrubs on the other side of the cave—I can smell them. Anyone who can’t fight needs to sneak around there and start a fire to draw them out. The rest of us will storm the cave, fight them, and save Chris and Susie.”
Nisa gripped Bea’s arm. No doubt she and Bea would start the fire. Ena and the four men all had their weapons already out and ready. To their left, on the left side of the circular open ceiling, was a path leading down passed the cave entrance, which was where Vanmor pointed—probably leading to the shrubs. The only question was how would she and Bea start a fire?
Vanmor’s hands filled with the same silver flames and he reached a hand out toward Nisa. Oliver’s eyes narrowed, but Vanmor nodded.
Nisa swallowed deeply and shakingly held out her hand.
“This is a fire-spell. I can give it to you this once. Once you use it, you can never use it again, so do it wisely,”Vanmor telepathically told her.
Nisa held her breath. That was way too much pressure. Their hands touched and her hand erupted with the silver flames, but surprisingly they didn’t burn.
She nodded to Bea and, together, they made their way around the left side of the ceiling and followed the path down to the same level as the cave entrance. Around the other side of the cave, sure enough, small mushroom-bushes and other strange shrubbery littered the side of the mountain. Nisa found it odd, but released a sharp exhale and then touched her hand to one of the trees as Bea did the same. Immediately, silver flames erupted along the trunk and quickly consumed the top of the mushroom dome. When it did, it exploded with a loud pop!
Bea jumped, so she and Nisa gripped each other’s hands and darted down the side of the cave entrance. “There has to be a place to climb,” Nisa said.
“Here!” Bea reached out and grabbed a loose stone. Nisa copied her and fortunately, it only took them a few minutes to scale the side of the cave and stand at the top of it again. This time, they stood at the back of the circular open ceiling.
Bandits poured out of the entrance, but they were quickly met by Vanmor, Oliver, Kor’ok, Aleyr, and Ena, who launched into action. Nisa’s heart hammered in her chest and she held her breath, eyes watching Oliver’s every move to make sure he didn’t get hurt.
His sword clanged with one of the bandits, but he ducked beneath them and kicked the man’s knee out. The force of it sent the man flying over the side of the mountain.
Vanmor held spells in his hands—silver fireballs and streaks of lighting. One of the lightning strikes hit three bandits at once and they collapsed onto the ground, unmoving.
Ena darted in between the bandits quickly, daggers slashing at each one quicker than most of them could react. Meanwhile, Aelyr stood in the back and shot at any of the bandits with a crossbow who seemed to be giving the others any trouble.
Nisa crept to the edge of the cave’s open ceiling and glance down.
Inside, Chris and Susie were both tied up in the back, with a buff leader that had white hair with golden streaks. He shoved another bandit forward, toward the entrance. “Kill them!” he shouted. The leader glanced at stacks of jewels and gold with a profane curse. On the side of the room, he grabbed something—a device that Nisa couldn’t fully see and then aimed it at the front of the ceiling.
She and Bea pulled away just before he saw them. Whatever he had made a thwacking noise and Nisa swallowed deeply. A hook landed at the edge of the ceiling, connected to a line—it had just made a zipline for the man to make his escape.
Breathing heavily, Nisa clenched her dagger and Bea did the same. They crouched on either side of the zipline. She tried cutting it, but whatever it was made of was too strong for their daggers to cut.
The device in the man’s hand drew him toward the end of the hook in a split second. As he landed on his feet and gathered his bearings, Nisa plunged her dagger into his chest.
The man’s eyes widened and he stared at them both in shock. He reached his hands out toward Nisa’s neck, gurgling as blood fell from his mouth. Nisa kicked his crotch and Bea shoved him backward.
The man screamed as he fell and, seconds later, his body slammed against the ground inside the cave with a hard thud.
“That’s the last of them!” Oliver shouted. “Ni, you alright?”
“Yeah,” she said, breathing heavily. Her entire body trembled. Physically, she was fine, but her eyes refused to leave the leader’s broken body on the floor of the cave.
Below them, Kor’ok and Ena cut Chris and Susie free of their ropes who thanked them.
At least they were safe.