Master-Key Book 1: The Journey Begins
PrologueA young man, about fourteen years of age, stood at the front of a small cart, staring into the thick fog. His eyes darted back and forth, searching for any unnatural movement. All he saw was swirling mist in all directions. Ricter hopped down from the prow and sat on a small wooden crate.
The cart was like a small boat on wheels with a sail hoisted up on the mast. It was pushed along by the wind. The only thing that kept it on course and from falling into the blackness below were skinny train-tracks that extended as far as the eye could see, which unfortunately was only two feet.
About five feet under the suspended tracks was a thick black tar-like substance. Garbage and boat wreckage floated on the boiling sticky surface, though most of it was covered in sludge and unrecognizable. Any unlucky object or person to fall in was immediately consumed by the dark gunk. Then about ten years later, after being burned and ripped apart, it would resurface, covered in sludge. If you fell in.....you're doomed.
This was the dreaded Sludge. No one knew where the ooze came from, only that it appeared a long time ago. It started in the north, but then flowed southward toward the middle of Saxton. It burned a canyon about 8,000 feet deep when it moved. There was only one way across the slime, and that was the Tracks.
“You were smart to sit down, Ricter,” said another figure in the cart. He was tall and had a cloak with numerous pockets. Ricter glanced at the man through a mop of messy dark brown hair.
“What aren't you telling me?” He met the man's gaze. “I know we’re running from someone. But I want to know from whom and why.” The tall figure opened one of his pockets. He lowered his hand, groped around a little, then found it. Uncurling his fist, he revealed the small object to Ricter. The young boy gasped.
“An eye of the newt!” Ricter weighed it in his hand, “I didn't think the newt existed.”
“It doesn't. Well, it does, but Sskarre has mutated it into a creature of darkness.”
Suddenly there was a sloshing noise from behind them. The man turned quickly, but there was nothing to see. Only mist and darkness. Then, a large dark and deformed silhouette approached from the mist.
“Faster! Ricter! Faster!”
“We're going as fast as this thing will allow!” Ricter yelled back. The tall man pulled something out of one of his pockets. The white, powdery substance crackled with electricity. Ricter's teacher rubbed his hands together and muttered an unintelligible incantation. The man’s hands began to glow. He raised his hands to his mouth and blew the glowing powder off of his hands. Electricity harmlessly crackled around the creature.
The man desperately threw spell after spell at the monstrosity but nothing seemed to affect it. Finally Ricter's friend and master collapsed of exhaustion. It was the end for the two friends.
The man with Ricter had much experience. He could see that he was dealing with an opponent to powerful to beat. He had fought with faeries, contended with elves, escaped the leaf-eaters, fought alongside legendary warriors, collected numerous magical items, befriended kings, fought against hundreds of differing magical beings, and even ridden a drakove. With luck, he had survived for decades. But not this time. Even before the fight had begun, he knew it was a fight that they could never win.