The Echo Worlds
Joshua C. Cook
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Date of Publication: September 12th, 2016
Number of pages: 238
Word Count: 64731
Cover Artist: S.A. Hunt
The Bridgefinders have won a battle they never expected to walk away from. The Slyph has been pushed back, and now faces open rebellion from Grellnot.
War is brewing on the Echo World, a war that has large implications for us. Within the Bridgefinders something rotten has taken hold, as one of their own starts down a dark path of jealousy, anger, and hate.
When a woman from a mysterious group known only as the Shrouded, comes with a warning, her appearance proves to be a tipping point as the Bridgefinders face a new challenge, the evil within.
Silence fell. Heather, Jasmine, and Cendan all exchanged glances at each other, and the nearly foot-long flying thing lying on the floor.
“Marcus had to have heard that.” Jasmine was the first to break the silence. “I’ll get Heather outside. Make something up to tell him until we can figure this out.” Grabbing Heather by the arm, despite the start of protests, Jasmine quickly ran out of the room towards the exit.
“What was that!?” Marcus came barreling into the room, focus held up. Cendan could only wonder at what he thought of the scene in front of him. A dead flying grub of large size; the smell of pepper spray in the air; and Cendan holding a wall-light like a two handed club with bits of… whatever the thing was still sticking to the glass on the light.
Eyes narrowed, Marcus lowered his hand slowly. “Ok, talk.”
Cendan sighed. Jasmine should have stayed and talked to Marcus, not him. Got to think fast, he told himself.“Well… Jasmine and I were talking about the map, about how we hadn’t seen any Bridges since that day, right? I was talking to EVA and realized her and the map were linked somehow. We came in here, and while we were seeing if EVA could find anything wrong with the map, that thing,” Cendan paused and pointed at the remains of the creature on the floor.
“That thing came out of the map. You can see the crack it made. Jasmine had the forethought to spray the thing with pepper spray, and I whacked it.” Cendan held up the wall torch.
“Marcus, I think the map is broken. I think that it’s been broken since that day.” Cendan wasn’t looking at Marcus. His eyes were glued to the map in front of him. “I don’t know how to fix this yet…”
The blow came fast, hard. Cendan went down involuntarily, grabbing the side of his head as pain exploded.
“You broke the map! It was fine,” Marcus yelled, standing over Cendan, rage written across his face. Cendan was stunned. Through the pain, he fumbled to think to something; anything to say. Instead, Marcus continued.
“You and that damn machine broke it!” Marcus slammed his fist into the map, his focus, the ring digging into the wood. “I used to dream about that thing coming back online. I used to wish for it, and now, like everything with you, you’ve ruined it.”
Cendan slowly came to his feet. He could feel a small drip of liquid on the side of his face - blood? Maybe from the ring.
“Marcus, calm the hell down. That thing broke the damn map. Not me, not EVA - that!” Cendan pointed to the remains on the floor. “It probably got there the day the Slyph attacked and Sal died! Think for a damn second, Marcus!” Cendan watched Marcus carefully. He wasn’t sure what had triggered this rage, this level of anger, but he wasn’t about to get sucker punched in the head again. Marcus he knew would be angry about the witch, but violence?
Marcus’s face, tightened, his lips a thin line on an already drawn and sharp face.
“Don’t you talk about the Bridgefinder that you got killed. For the last two weeks I’ve sat and thought, each day realizing more and more that you, Cendan, you are the cause of all of this ... this falling apart of the Bridgefinders.”
“Sal’s death, the map, the breaking of traditions, the tainting of Jasmine, all of it. It’s your fault. We should have let Grellnot damn well have you. I wish I could go back in time and take that focus of yours that day when you dropped it, the first night we all met. Take it and send you away. That would have been better than this!” Marcus held up his fist, white knuckled and pale. “I have been a Bridgefinder all my life. My parents were, and their parents before them. I honor this with my very life!”
“You, Cendan Key, you mock it. And now, your stupidity and carelessness have broken the very tool we need to keep this world safe.” Marcus spat on the floor. “That thing I’m sure was something you brought back from your little trip to the Slyph’s world.”
Cendan reached out to EVA mentally, but once again found her hard to reach. Prioritize! he told himself. Cendan opened his mouth to respond to Marcus, but closed it again.
Jasmine saved the day as she walked into the map room and stopped short.
“What is going on?” Jasmine rushed to Cendan, checking the mark on his face. “What happened?”
Not taking his eyes off Marcus, Cendan let out a slow breath. “Marcus here blames me for the map, sucker punched me in the head. Apparently I’m the worst thing that ever happened to this place.”
Jasmine turned to Marcus, eyes wide. “Marcus?”Marcus pointed at Cendan. “I want him gone, Jasmine. Don’t you get it? Everything we’ve done, everything we’ve worked for, our parents worked for, everything the Bridgefinders is under threat because of him!” Marcus turned to walk away, but instead stopped and stared Jasmine down. “Where were you just now Jasmine? I know you were here..”
Jasmine grabbed Cendan’s arm. “Marcus, you're being ridiculous. Cendan is—”
Marcus cut her off. “Gone Jasmine. I don’t care about anything. You’re staying, he’s going. Forever.”
Jasmine stood up straight. “Hell no. What is in your head? Cendan is a Maker, remember? You want to send away the only Maker we’ve had in over a thousand years?”
Marcus barked a short laugh. “Maker? He’s only making a mockery of us. Of all of us. Don’t you see it, Jasmine? In the short time he’s been here; this talk of magic; breaking things; getting Sal killed. He’s the cause of all the pain we’ve had.”
Jasmine and Cendan exchanged glances. Marcus didn’t know about Heather at least. Whatever was going on with him that knowledge would probably push him even farther down this dark path he was on.
“Cendan isn’t going anywhere, Marcus.” Jasmine answered quietly. “I don’t know where you are coming from, you're one of my oldest friends, and I’ve been proud to call you such, but this… this is insanity.”
Marcus grimaced in response. “Jasmine, I know you and he once dated, but get away from him. Just... stay here, and he leaves.”
Jasmine looked at Marcus and blanched. She turned to Cendan and whispered. “I think Marcus is... jealous.”
Josh Cook grew up in a highly literary family, with an English Professor mother who taught rhetoric. Having a long term love to fantasy and science fiction, Josh began writing three years ago. Outside of writing, Josh enjoys politics, cooking, hiking, and a good argument.