Mythical Beast The Roc pictured above.
Previously, Skyler was in Cape Cod with Qbit looking for the old man from which Skyler had purchased the hidden gate detector. Just before he stepped through the gate, he learned he was going to have to go by himself.
The first thing Skyler noticed when he stepped into the field of tall, wheat colored grass was the odor. It smelt like a mix of wet dirt and something his dog might roll in.
Stepping forward he also noticed how strange the grass he was standing in looked. It was tubular shaped, starting out fat at the bottom then becoming thin and pointy at the top. He looked around and could see that most of it was laying down like a huge wind had blown it over. Something wasn’t right about it. He looked a little more closely at the grass he held in his hand then followed it down to where it sprouted out of the ground.
“That’s a weird way for grass to end, there’s no roots anywhere.”
He stood back up and walked forward winding his way through the waist high grass but stopped when he felt the ground start to slope downward. By standing on his toes, and straining his neck, he could see the ground fall away steeply. Looking around he saw more grass which ended at a grove of mostly dead trees. A low fog hung in a dull grey sky making him feel slightly depressed and very much alone.
Suddenly the ground started to rise up, he frantically reached out and grabbed the grass to keep himself from falling! The ground rose further, lifting him almost equal with the tops of the trees. A loud sound filled the air, forcing Skyler to drop to his knees and cover his ears. It was a high-pitched sound, like someone blowing a trumpet as hard as they could. Then, just as quickly as it had risen, the ground fell, and the sound ceased. Still holding on, he waited, unsure if the heaving would happen again.
Just as he was about to stand, from somewhere in front of him, came the unmistakable sound of an animal snorting. It was so powerful that it blew what was left of a bunch of dead leaves off some nearby branches. Skyler had no doubts that he had just heard an animal snort because he had heard plenty of moose and elk make the same noise at home in Resolute.
Suddenly it dawned on him, the trumpet sound, the snort, the stinky smell, the weird grass with no roots! He looked around frantically and realized that what he thought was wind-blown grass was actually fur! His eyes grew wide as he realized he was on the back of an enormous animal!
What happened next confirmed his wildest fears; he watched as a pair of giant antlers rose from the other side of the “hill” he was standing on. They had to be about a hundred feet from tip to tip, large chunks of velvet swayed as they slowly swung over top of him. A huge head with eyes as big as Skyler was tall, came into view followed by a long snout with flaring nostrils. The animal snorted again, spraying out a mist of mucus. Its large ears flicked back and forth as it searched for any signs of immediate danger.
Skyler sank to his knees, hiding himself in the fur. He couldn’t believe that he had stepped out of the gate onto the back of a giant moose!
Before Skyler had a chance to think of what to do next, he was once again lifted into the air as the moose started to get up. It knocked him off balance and caused him to lose his grip on the grass, sending him sliding down the slick side of the giant beast. He felt himself fall through the air as he fell off its back toward the ground below. Luckily, he landed in some soft grass (the real kind) which cushioned his fall and allowed him to roll over onto his back. From this vantage point he could watch the moose rise up on all fours, towering over top of him. Skyler was frozen in place as the animal lazily looked toward the trees and yawned. Luckily, it didn’t seem to notice him lying there.
A loud, sharp bang followed by a shrill whistle made Skyler and the moose jump. The ground shook as the moose took off in the direction of the trees, its hoof barely missed stepping on him.
Skyler sat up quickly and tried to figure out where the sound was coming from. He looked up and from out of the corner of his eye, he saw something shiny pop into view. It was moving toward him at a tremendous speed, too fast for him to get out of the way, Instinctively, he turned his head away and threw his arms up, waiting to be pulverized.
But nothing happened.
There was an eerie silence as Skyler slowly opened one eye, then the next. He turned his head slightly skyward and lowered his arms a little. Something round hung silently in the air just above and to the right of his head.
He froze again, afraid to blink or even breathe.
But the object didn’t do anything, it just stayed right where it was.
Skyler lowered his arms and peered at the frozen sphere. It was about the size of a basketball with a clear, glasslike outside and a smaller, dull metallic looking sphere in the center. Thin lines of black-smoke-looking stuff circled the core, flowing as if moving through thick water. The sphere’s silence was eerie, intimidating, and at the same time, remarkable.
Skyler decided to take a chance on moving in order to get a closer look. He slowly released the breath from his lungs and summoned the courage to take a step forward, ready to jump back if anything happened. Which turned out to be a good idea because something did happen!
It wasn’t anything drastic like the sphere suddenly bursting into flames or exploding, it was more of a subtle change. Skyler watched as the thin wispy lines of black smoke started to slowly rotate around each other. It reminded Skyler of a satellite image of a hurricane. He watched, mesmerized as the lines continued to come together. Individual groups formed then pulled closer together to form new shapes. Those shapes joined with others to form larger shapes, then those shapes joined to form a…
… a stick figure man, complete with two black eyes and a wide smile set in a yellow, oversized head waved at him.
Skyler pulled his head back in surprise. He raised his own hand and slowly waved back.
The stick man looked pleased as he rested his stick hands on his stick waist.
Skyler was dumbfounded, he didn’t know what to say or do!
As if he read Skyler’s mind, the stick man stuck a finger in the air as if he were just struck with an idea. He reached behind his stick back and pulled out a bag. He reached into the bag and pulled out a hat, which he put on. The hat would have been tall and pointy except the tip hung down at a sharp angle. He reached into the bag one more time and pulled out a pipe which he stuck into his smile.
Skyler suddenly recognized him! It wasthe old man from the barn in Cape Cod! The guy who tried lighting his fake tobacco with a fake match! What did he say to him before he stepped into the gate? Something…about…darn what was it? Something… Something will be there to help you! That was it!
Hoping he was right, Skyler asked the stick man, “Uh…did an old man arrange for you to meet me here?”
He gave Skyler a thumbs up.
Skyler let out a breath. “Whew, that makes me feel a lot better!”
They stared at each other for another couple of seconds then Skyler asked, “Okay, so what do I, or we, do now? Nobody told me anything about what’s going to happen once I’m here.”
The stick man leaned to one side and pointed his finger at something behind Skyler.
Skyler turned his head and looked but didn’t see anything. He turned back. “What? I don’t see anything.”
The stick man pointed again motioning with his whole arm this time.
Skyler turned himself around for a better look, but still didn’t see anything. “Could you give me a hint about what I’m supposed to be seeing because there’s nothing there!”
The smoke swirled into the shape of a bird.
“A bird? There’s a bird out there?”
The bird gave him a feathered thumbs up.
Skyler looked again. “I’m telling you there’s nothing…oh… wait.” He could see a faraway speck in the sky.
“Is that it? Is that the bird?” Skyler watched as the small speck quickly became larger and larger and larger! “That’s one heck of a bird.”
It was close enough for him to see that it was a bird! “Ya know, (he looked at the stick man) that thing looks awfully big!” He suddenly felt very exposed. “Um, should I be worried?”
The stick man shook his head no.
Skyler watched as the massive bird blotted out the sun as it zoomed past directly overhead.
It looked like an eagle, complete with a large, curved beak and huge talons tucked up against its body.
Skyler ducked a little. “That things gotta be the size of a moon shuttle! He watched as it slowed and made a sharp turn back towards them. It lowered its legs and opened its talons. Skyler sighed. “Why does it have to have a such sharp beak and long talons? I mean, why can’t it be a bird that’s less, oh I don’t know, rip-you-apart looking? Like a dove or something?”
Out of the corner of his eye he saw something new flash up on the sphere. He looked and saw the outline of an oversized dove with a stick figure person hanging from both sides of its beak.
Skyler shook his head. “Great, a globe with a sense of humor.”
The bird settled to the ground, folded its wings against its body then turned its head to one side to look down at them.
As terrifying as it appeared, it was also magnificent. Skyler could see now, up close, it looked more like a hawk than an eagle. It was mostly white underneath but the rest of it was covered in feathers that were a mix of dark and light browns. The eyes were riveting; large black pupils surrounded by a band of bright yellow. Perhaps the most striking feature was a plume of bright multi-colored feathers that started at the top of its head and streamed back along its neck, almost to its back.
Skyler whispered, “What does it want? Do you know?” He looked at the stick man.
This time he pointed directly at Skyler.
“Me! What does it want with me?”
The giant bird shifted its weight to one side, lifted a leg, clenched its claws in a loose ball then extended the leg toward him.
Skyler was afraid to say out loud what he was thinking. But, seeing no other choice he turned to the stick man and watched as the lines of black smoke inside the sphere confirmed his fears. They formed the shape of the loosely clenched claws and, next to it, the stick man. Skyler swallowed hard as he watched the stick man walk to the claws and step up into the middle of them.
Skyler’s shoulders dropped. “That’s what I was afraid you were going to say.” He looked to the bird then back to the sphere.
“I don’t suppose I have any other choice, do I?”
The stick man shook his head no.
“That stinks.” Skyler was unsure about what to do. He didn’t believe Qbit and the old man would intentionally put him in harm’s way. He just wished there was something that would tie everything together and make him feel as if this was all part of their plan. His thoughts drifted back to when he first met the old man. If he hadn’t bought that device at his garage sale none of this would be happening… Wait! The power supply! The old man said it needed a new power supply!
Taking a chance, he reached for his bag and pulled out the device that detects hidden threads. He turned to the sphere and asked, “Do you know what this is?”
The stick man looked at it then gave him a thumbs up.
“The old man said I would need a new battery, a more powerful one to make this work properly.”
The stick shook his head “yes” then made a point of squatting down, scrunching his eyes closed and making little fists. A small hatch slid open under the sphere and something dropped to the ground.
Skyler made a face. “Really? You couldn’t think of any other way to do that?”
The stick man stood up shrugged his shoulders.
Skyler bent down and picked up a rectangular box. He turned it over in his hands. “It doesn’t look much different than the other one. Let’s give it a try.” Skyler removed the worn-out power supply from the detector then inserted the new one. Immediately, the thread detector chimed. Skyler pulled open the screen which displayed a map with a blinking red light. He assumed this was his current location. Next to the light was written, Recent gate activity. Expected gate re-arrival- 1year, 12 days, 1 hour, 5 mins.
The gate re-arrival part didn’t make Skyler feel much better but, it confirmed to him that, what was happening now, was something that he could begin to trust. He shut the device down and said, “Okay, let’s hope I’m right about trusting you and that overgrown bird.” He put the device back into his bag, threw it over his shoulder then turned to the stick man and asked, “I guess we should be on our way. Are you coming?”
A smile and a thumbs up.
“Cool.” He shifted the strap and started walking toward the waiting bird. “Let’s hope Mighty Eagle doesn’t decide that it’s easier to eat us than give us a ride.”
The stick man dissolved back into the thin wisps of black smoke as the sphere silently glided through the air next to Skyler.