Read Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV

 

Before their very eyes the homestead took shape; the forest, the hills and the small babbling brook. The stone took on detail, the field grew a fence.  Colors blended into everything; the rich brown soil, the dark grey wall, the rusting iron gate, everything full with detail, just as they had remembered, just as it had been.

“Everything is coming back,” Amana said, twirling in place.  “Just like my in dream.  There’s the orchard, and the garden is coming in with the peonies.  And there’s a little gazebo by the stream.”

 “What gazebo?” Oetho said.  “We did not have a gazebo.”  Yet there it was, old and withered, in need of a fresh coat of paint.

“I always dreamt of a gazebo just like that.”

Oetho felt a chill run down his spine.  “Oh, no,” he said.  He felt dizzy and confused, but it all made a vague sort of sense.

“What is it?” 

Oetho did not reply.  He took off running, leaving Amana standing alone in the field with her goats.  He took the cellar steps by two and threes.  The storage room was cluttered with crates and barrels and an assortment of tools.  On the back wall was an unfamiliar doorway, and through it a rough stone passage.  Oetho raced through it as fast as his old legs would carry him.  The corridor twisted and turned, leading nowhere in particular, in horrific parody of some nightmarish dungeon. 

Finally, Oetho reach a large open chamber with a high arched ceiling, great columns and tiled floor; the exact image of the room he imagined long ago when he first discovered the clues that led him to believe the seed could be real.  It had only existed in his mind, yet here it was now as real as he was, and in the center of the room, in the center of a starburst mosaic, on a pedestal outlined in a shaft of light from above sat the origin of it all, just as he imagined it would be.  It was large and white, like an egg of a giant bird, glowing, and he would have been overjoyed at the sight of it had he not already understood the truth. 

At the far end of the chamber stood a huge ornate door, decorated in crude metal thorns and painted in the deep burgundy of dried human blood.  This was a door he had seen before.  This was the door to the Ban-Tho underworld, and beyond it he was certain to find a labyrinth of underground chasms, running deep into the core of the world, a place no one could imagine, no one could call home except for them.

“Myztic, I know now where I am.”  It was the creature.  It stepped forward from the shadows with a fresh gleam in its eyes and a wide smile spread across its face.  “I have been beyond the door.  I have seen my people.”

“Is that so?”  Oetho moved cautiously, closer to the pedestal.

“You cannot abandon me, human.  Your world is mine now.”

“Oetho,” Amana said, emerging from the corridor.  “What is going on?”

The Ban-Tho mused.  “Our minds control this seed.  We shape the world with thoughts?  It is a powerful thing.”

“Amana, go back.”  Oetho yelled.  “Go back to your field.”

“This what Djookzin sought?  To destroy us?”

“Go back, Amana, please!” 

 “Oetho, look!” Amana shouted.

 The metal door was now open and large beastly shapes began to emerge from behind it, shadows stacked upon shadows, claws and glimmering teeth.

 

Continue to Part XVI - The Conclusion