Eighth Circle (Chapter 2, page 1 of 4)


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Chapter 2

Tom crouched beneath the rocky overhang and felt miserable. This was his second trip between realms and it hadn't gone as well as the first. On that memorable occasion he spent the evening in a pub and went to the designated spot in the hills near Cheltenham. It was where an ancient stone circle had once stood. He entered the circle, said the appropriate mantras and everything went like clockwork.

The sun slipped over the horizon and he felt himself falling. That continued for a while and, when it stopped, he found himself lying on his back at the bottom of a grassy slope. Nothing could have been easier. He had made the trip from the Sixth to the Seventh Realm and scarcely noticed it. A reception party was there to welcome him. They took him back to their place and he spent the evening boozing and getting to know people.

This time he spent a freezing day floating down an estuary in a dinghy. He had food and water but no way of controlling the small craft. Towards evening an island appeared and he was drawn towards it. There was a whirlpool at one end and he became trapped in its swirling waters. First he thought he would drown. Then he experienced the same falling sensation as before.

It stopped. The whirlpool spat him out and he swam ashore expecting to find a welcoming party with dry clothes and a comfortable place to spend the night. Instead, he found Balduur. The smelly little man had arrived from the Seventh Realm a few hours earlier and claimed his trip was sanctioned but Tom's wasn't.

That was a bad start to their relationship. He knew Balduur's sort. The man had been a warlord in the Seventh Realm. Tom had fought for people like him and they couldn't be trusted. One moment they would be singing your praises. The next they would be accusing you of taking advantage of their women.

Both of them were dressed in body armour and carried swords. Back home in Cheltenham, where Tom had once lived, they could be mistaken for actors in a film about the Celtic warriors who once lived in those parts.

Tom wondered what the people in his new realm would think of them. Balduur said they were in the Eighth Realm. The little man was huddled beside him with his smelly sealskin cape pulled down over his head. They had spent a cold night, sheltering beneath an overhanging rock, staring out over the water towards the lights of a big city.

Slender buildings towered into the sky. Huge domes covered immense areas. Everything looked more advanced than anything Tom had seen before. Balduur had never seen anything remotely like it ... but that didn't stop him arguing.

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