Here is the second part of chapter two, Scions of the Sphinx. I hope you like it. Feel free to post comments and don’t forget to check out the previous posts at RScottBoyer.com/blog
Jinx noticed it before Bobby did. Waving a hand before his face, Jinx scrunched up his nose and blew heavily out of his mouth. “What is that nasty smell?”
Bobby took a whiff to see what his cousin was referring to and instantly regretted it. They were now deep in the grove of sequoias that towered over the area northwest of their hilltop base camp. The normally crisp scent of alpine held a taint, like moldy broccoli left to rot in the summer sun.
Chief stepped over to a nearby tree, a majestic redwood with a trunk as big around as Bobby’s bedroom back home. “Come,” said Chief, gesturing for the boys to gather close.
Bobby stepped up to the tree, noting how the thick bark twisted and bubbled, with wide gaps in the otherwise impervious trunk. “Is it sick?” he asked, placing a palm gently on the coarse exterior.
“I got this image from the deer,” said Chief. “They know the forest far better than you or I. Now tell me what you feel.”
“I feel…darkness,” said Bobby, lightly grazing the bark with his fingertips. “Not a disease or insects…More like a stain. I can’t explain it.”
“The tree is weeping,” said Chief, “trying to expel through its bark something that it has absorbed from its surroundings.”
Jinx crinkled his forehead, and Bobby noticed for the first time that, of the dozen other redwoods in sight, nearly all of them had similar cracks in their thick wooden hides.
“How can that be?” asked Jinx. “I thought this entire biodome was sealed so that no ambient energy can get inside.”
“The whole point of enclosing this facility in its polycarbonate dome, rather than simply leaving it as a giant underground cavern, was to prevent exactly what you describe. We coated the exterior of the dome with a special shielding that acts as an insulator: an artificial barrier of sorts. Unlike anywhere else on earth, this ecosystem is immune to the energies of the outside world. Only the Nexus has access to regions beyond the shield.”
“But that means…” Jinx let his words trail off as Chief removed his palm from the tree and turned to look at Bobby.
“That’s right,” said Chief. “It means the source of the disturbance is coming from somewhere within.”
Bobby let his hands drop to his waist, the dull ache in his fingertips slowly receding as the link faded. “What could possibly cause this?”
“Certain actions can cause ripple effects when performed out of balance with nature. Bobby, I believe you are intimately familiar with this phenomenon from your very first arcane event.”
“You’re talking about the basketball game where I made the final shot go farther than it should have, and how I got violently ill afterward?”
Chief nodded. “That is a rather localized and—if you don’t mind my saying so—trivial example, but an accurate one, nonetheless. There are other kinds of events that can have far greater impact, not just on the originator, but on the surrounding environment.”
“Such as?” Jinx stared at Chief, eyes wide, a sense of wonder plastered across the boy’s bookish features.
Chief scratched his head. “To cause something like this?” He paused for a long moment. “As you both know from your lessons, the energy we feel is not just here, it is everywhere, not just in place but in time as well. This ‘temporal energy’ connects past, present, and future, making it quite literally the most powerful force in the universe. If it were to be abused or misdirected somehow…I suppose it’s possible that not even the Eagle’s Nest’s shielding could prevent it from seeping in. Still, it would require a conduit inside the dome to cause such localized damage.”
They stood gazing at one another, each lost in their own ruminations. Finally, Chief said, “Come. It is getting late. I have much still to do this night and have yet to partake of those monster tacos you children were so zestfully consuming.”
“That reminds me,” said Jinx. “What’s the secret ingredient in your salsa?”
Chief placed a hand on the young boy’s shoulder and steered him toward the plateau. “If I told you that, it wouldn’t be a secret, now would it?”