Fantasy Science Fiction

Dyodara tilted her head and peeked out from behind the rose granite column, her raised right hand keeping the sun out of her eyes. At home by the coast, such a sight always promised a good catch. Sweet oceans! I should have brought my harpoon. Like tropical fish overcrowding a shallow lagoon, the colorfully donned courtiers, clerics, foreign dignitaries, and guild masters mourned the death of Voivode Skralar, supreme ruler of Puros—her biggest catch yet. One week ago at this very plaza she hurled a spear through his throat in the middle of his state address. Not the best place to be when you’re wanted for regicide, but then who’d expect me to actually return to the scene of the crime?

Not thirty yards away, on a dais in the middle of the plaza, Minister of the Left Trax eulogized the late king, characterizing his rule as benevolent—a gargantuan undertaking, even for the famed orator. The shadows cast by the colonnade on the sandstone had grown pronouncedly longer as he grandstanded. Dyodara mentally cursed the elements. Oh, for the big blue sea! We haven’t got all day.

Trax amplified his voice for dramatic effect—a sign he was steering the funerary oration to its climax. She tucked her head back in. It’s about time, you windbag! She pulled out a tightly packed sack of gunpowder from a fold in her grey robes. Mentally blocking out the thunderous applause of the audience erupting behind her, she brought the sack’s fuse close to the red jade woven into her string bracelet. Concentrating her thoughts on it, the stone shot out sparks, igniting the tip of the fuse. Handy little thing. Too bad I can’t send it back home. Could be useful on a fishing boat. Or I bet it could fetch a good price. She clasped her seashell necklace with her free hand, and took a deep breath. “Don’t take this personally, guys. You were all at the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s all.”

Leaping out from behind the pillar, she swung her arm back and hurled the hissing pack. It arced toward the stage where Trax basked in a standing ovation.

The explosion and ensuing chaos of people shrieking and fleeing in all directions diverted, as planned, the attention of the guards. Taking advantage of the turmoil, Dyodara scurried onto the plaza and darted past the devastated stage. Was Trax under the rubble? There was no time to check. The smoke and dust from the bomb camouflaged her as she hurtled towards an iridescent scrim of air marking the northernmost barrier of the plaza.

She still had about fifty yards to go. Not far, but having grown up in and around fishing boats, sprinting didn’t come naturally. She concentrated on the muffled sound of her sandals treading the stone. No one else was around. It’s only a matter of seconds, though, before the guards notice.

Framed by an edifice of pitch-black metals found nowhere else and impregnable to any known weapon, the opaque screen of air stood there unchanged since time immemorial. In time the rulers of this realm appropriated it as their divine right of rule. They not only worshipped the threshold for its wondrousness, but also cherished it for its deadliness. No one in recorded history ever came back after crossing into the threshold. Dyodara herself had witnessed executioners strap political prisoners on to dead-carts and shove them across the lethal threshold. And here I am, charging straight into it like a fool.

Her instincts demanded her to cease this suicide charge; but there was no turning back now. Not since she avenged her sister’s death on the tyrant a week ago, and certainly not now. Alarm whistles pierced the air and grew louder behind her. The well-trained guards gained on her, but she remained calm. She had trained for this and remained focused, paying no attention to the guards yelling behind her. A burst of air whizzed past her, dangerously close to her cheek. The arrow pursued its flight path until it hit the threshold, disappearing into it like a needle gradually sinking into a pincushion.

She ran zigzag, hoping to make it harder for them to aim. But something slammed into her from behind; she lost her balance but managed not to tumble. An arrow had bored into her left arm. She grit her teeth as the pain spread and bolted forward again.

In front of her, the threshold reflected prismatic colors. In spite of reassurances to the contrary, she never understood why the plan demanded she actually cross it. Would her body incinerate? Or would she simply vanish as she crossed the threshold? It didn’t matter. Her fishing community would never welcome back a fugitive. Sooner or later she would be apprehended. And I sure as heck won’t give them the satisfaction of shoving me through this thing on a cart. I’ll do the honors myself.

She shut her eyes and plunged into the threshold. It resisted and pushed back, but she didn’t relent. She pressed with all her might. The volley of arrows had stopped. No point wasting arrows on someone who’s gonna die I guess. She shifted her head and let air in through the corner of her mouth. Summoning all her strength, she gave one more push with her right leg. This time the threshold gave. Her right foot thudded on a flat surface on the other side. With that, the dam breached and the rest of her body slipped through. What seemed like alabaster flooring zoomed into sight as she collapsed and lost consciousness.


A bright light shone in her eyes and she started. She lay on a bed. Her left arm throbbed, but the pain had gone away. The light moved away from her eyes. It and other machines floated around her like massive beetles. Extended tentacles with various instruments on their ends emitted beams of light at her wounded arm. The skin twinged on her face, arms, and anywhere it had been exposed. The tautness reminded her of bad sunburns after long days out on sea. Am I dead and being prepared for the journey to the afterworld? She wriggled but an invisible force prevented her from sitting up.

“You would be wise to stay still.” An all-too-familiar voice echoed in the darkness. The clopping of footsteps grew nearer. “The machines haven’t completed their treatment of you.” The room gradually lit up in a faint pink light, reminding her of the ocean at dawn.

But rather than the sun, it was Minister of the Left Trax who gradually became visible, instantly ruining her mood. He had tied his flowing black hair in the back, revealing a Borathian tattoo—marred by an old scar—on his forehead. His narrow face peered at Dyodara and furrowed its brow. “Oh dear, your skin must feel ghastly. That’s what you get for not passing through quickly enough.”

“Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind next time I ram my body through a deadly wall of magic air with an arrow stuck in my arm.” Her sarcasm notwithstanding, she still needed getting used to the idea of not being dead. “So you were right all along…sweet oceans! You know I never really believed you. I just went along with the plan because I had no choice, being wanted for regicide and all. But here we are. Actually on the other side.”

“Indeed! Nothing quite like palpable proof to shatter millennia of superstition now, would you not agree?” Trax squinted his eyes at something he held in his hand and jabbed away at it with his lanky fingers. His fumbling didn’t inspire confidence.

The threshold of light she came through made up one end of the hall. A blue-metallic wall curved around the threshold, in the form of an amphitheater. No light or sound passed through from the other side. Hard to believe there’s a plaza out there. Recalling the remains of the stage she destroyed, she turned to Trax again. “Hey, how’d you get here anyway? I didn’t see you at all. I was kinda hoping you were caught under the rubble.” She contemplated his saffron robes all covered in dust and torn in places. She smirked. “Must have been a close call, though, by the looks of it.”

Trax gave her a steely look. “My meticulous plan worked perfectly, I will have you know. Thanks in no small part to the stone on your bracelet.” He reached out and removed the bracelet from her wrist and hid it in his robes together with the device he had been fiddling. “And how I got here is neither here nor there now. What’s important is that the guards witnessed you coming through the threshold. Everyone now believes the assassin wanted for murder of the king is dead. You no longer exist, Dyodara. My condolences.” He bowed his head with mocking ceremony.

“Oh knock it off! Deep down I honestly thought I was gonna die. I figured you had told me stories as a ploy to recruit me for the attack at the plaza.” Not wanting to be a fugitive for life, she had chosen to go along and even hoped to die. “That was one heck of a long speech by the way,” she said, changing the subject. “Had you gone any longer I’d have speared you like I did Skralar.”

“But would it not have been unnatural had I not lived up to my reputation as a skilled, if occasionally prolix, orator? It was, after all, the late king’s funeral.” The levitating machines pulled in their tentacles and quietly floated away out of Dyodara’s sight.

“Can I get up now? I feel fine.”

“Yes, of course, please do. The restraining force has been removed.”

Dyodara got up and walked around in the cavernous space. Behind her the bed descended and disappeared into the floor elegantly, like a sinking boat.

“What is this place with all these machines and things? Are we in a divine realm? Only a god could heal me so quickly. And don’t tell me you’re a wizard.”

“Nobody knows. I’ve been investigating this facility for the larger part of my career, but it’s only in the last week that I actually gained access inside. The facility seems to run all on its on, and responds to the wishes of the one who holds the key.” He pulled out the curious device again and held it in his hand.

“And how did you get your hands on that?”

“The rulers of this land have passed down the key to their successors, along with other gadgets like the red jade you used today. But alas the late king had not yet passed them on to anyone, seeing that he still did not have a direct successor.”

“So you’re telling me you nicked them from him after I killed him?”

“Yes, thanks to you I had the opportunity to, shall we say, take custody of the key and gadgets. The late king was never much interested in this facility, save its symbolic significance. He was more interested in wars. So when I had the chance I took it.” He smiled like a child showing off a new toy.

“But why involve me in all of this?” she asked. After the assassination, capitol security combed the city and caught her by the next day. They threw her in a dungeon, but during the night a trio of operatives clad in black broke in to her cell. They tied, gagged, and covered her head and carried her off. When they removed the head covering, there stood Trax with his smug face. They had brought her to his secret chambers, where he offered safe harbor in return for carrying out his plan. She still didn’t believe he did all this out of sheer good will.

“It was necessary to distract my detractors. Some suspected I was behind the king’s assassination, which we both know is simply not true—that was all your doing. But I seem to have this effect on people—curious. So when I heard of your capture, I realized I could use you in staging an assassination attempt on myself. And seeing that you were slated for death anyway, I assumed I would be doing you a favor. But have I not explained all this to you before? You really must learn to pay more attention.” He patted his robes down, releasing clouds of dust.

“So now you get to play the poor loyal Minister who nearly became a victim of the same assassin who killed the king.”

“That about sums it up.”

The cool detachment with which Trax spoke of all this chilled her. But who am I to speak. I was the one who threw the bomb today.

“Did anybody die today from the explosion?” She easily justified killing a tyrant. Stralar deserved it. It was revenge. But randomly killing people in an act of terror was something else all together.

“Like I said, the plan was perfectly executed. Did you think I would not have meticulously calculated the amount of gunpowder? Several people were bruised and wounded in the chaos after the explosion, but nobody was hurt seriously, much less killed.” Trax fixed her with a stare. “Except for you, of course. You are the single official casualty of the day. But that was thanks to the threshold, rather than the gunpowder”. Amused with himself, he chuckled.

Dyodara ignored him and walked around the hall. “What about all those political prisoners who were pushed over to this side at public executions? They all must have survived just like I did. So where did they go?”

“Indeed. They would have all survived the crossing. But not having the key, they would have been unable to open the passageway out of this room, assuming they could somehow unstrap themselves from the dead-carts. And one cannot cross the threshold from this side. It goes only one way. I have tried it myself. Even with the key it would not let me pass through. So they all must have starved to death. Many probably went mad, and perhaps killed each other when several were trapped in at once.”

Dyodara shuddered at the thought. “But where are their remains? I don’t see any carts or skeletons anywhere.”

“That I am not sure of myself, but I suspect the autonomous will of this facility cleans up the remains, as it were, much in the same manner it hid away the bed.”

“So this was one large prison cell, where people slowly died of starvation. How awful.”

“Yes, a most unfortunate stain on our realm’s history. But that was not the original purpose of this structure. That is my working theory at least.” His eyes widened and he spread out his arms. “Is this not exhilarating? There is so much to investigate and learn here! Is this a relic of an ancient civilization far more advanced than us? Or could it have been created by gods or beings not from our world?”

The histrionics aside, Dyodara had to admit the threshold and the facility behind it intrigued her. “This place could be used to heal people suffering from disease.

“Exactly! Imagine what we could do if we unlocked the true potential of this place. Think of all the benefits to the realm and its subjects!”

Dyodara inwardly implored the oceans to prevent Trax from plunging into a speech.

“So you see, it is imperative that I stay in my position. Were I to be ousted, I would no longer have access to the facility—and what a nightmare that would be! Sadly, though, and for reasons I simply cannot fathom, I have many political enemies vying for power. The nice assassination attempt we staged today will help me gain sympathy for a while, but my enemies are always waiting in the wings. And I would much rather spend my time studying the workings of the threshold and its wonders rather than constantly devise ways to foil the attacks and intrigue of my enemies.”

He paused and set his eyes on Dyodara. “That is where you come in to the picture. I need you to watch my back and be my eyes and ears.”

“You mean be your henchman? Like those guys in black robes that whisked me out of jail?”

“Exactly!” Trax beamed. The question of whether Dyodara agreed to this arrangement didn’t appear to cross his mind. But she admittedly preferred it to living as a fugitive.

Dyodara sighed. “Okay, I’ll do it. But on one condition—I get free access to this place and help you figure out how this place works.”

“But of course! You are most welcome to do so. Having a body guard close by would be immensely reassuring.”

“Something tells me I’m gonna regret this...”

“Nonsense! You may not be able to go home or live the life of a fisher or a political agitator again, but imagine being able to witness the secrets of the threshold!”

“Okay, okay. So what now?”

“For now, Dyodara, we shall leave this hall and head back to my chambers. The facility is connected to the catacombs of the royal chapel. From there we can return to my secret chambers by way of a tunnel. There we shall record your experience of passing through the threshold and how the medical machines healed you.”

He led the way to the wall. Perfectly smooth, no markings or hinges hinted at the location of a door. But as they approached, part of the wall vanished, revealing a doorway. Trax lead the way out.

Dyodara turned around one last time. The threshold shimmered, not unlike the sea she grew up fishing on. But that life lay behind her now. She would never go back home.

June 18, 2021 13:53

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Tom D
19:06 Jun 21, 2021

Well - to use fishing parlance, after reading this I'm 'hooked' - the concept of the threshold and the hidden facility behind it are intriguing and I have to ask whether you will return to them in a future story, or whether it's origin and purpose will remain a mystery! Really enjoyed the ocean imagery deployed throughout this - it gave an effective glimpse into Dyodara's life before getting entangled in politics, as it were - and also the rather grim images conjured up by the idea of prisoners being pushed through the threshold in the dead-...


Jon R. Miller
11:09 Jun 22, 2021

Thank you for reading and I'm glad you liked it! You're kind words are always so encouraging. Yes, I am planning on writing more stories of Dyodara and her adventures. It's an interesting world, and so many things can happen. I want to see her outwit Minister Trax as well!


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