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The Forbidden World Chronicles

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Caged Heart ~ The Last Heartbound
 
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The Traverse compound buzzed with activity. Members of the band’s road crew meandered in and out of the main house carrying equipment, instruments, and luggage to the caravan of trucks and buses parked out front. The clang of steel, squeaky wheels, jovial laughter and an expletive or three permeated the air. The band’s long-awaited Caged Heart compilation hit the stores only last week and they were readying to set out on their West Sector tour, ending a lengthy hiatus shrouded in mystery and controversy.

Upstairs in her apartment, Perrie Stevens packed the last of her own travel needs. Two of her personal roadies entered the sitting room as she folded a couple of camisoles and placed them in a carryall. They picked up the steamer trunk and heavier luggage. “Anything else?” one called into the bedroom in an East Sector brogue.

“One more trip.” Perrie answered.

“Bus or truck?”

“Bus.” she called back.

Perrie ignored their rant, but cringed when the trunk knocked against the door frame as they made their way out into the corridor. The only equipment marked, ‘Handle With Care!’ the one she’d taken the most time and care to pack, already tested her fortitude. Despite the irritation, Perrie held her tongue. She wasn’t in the mood for their, ‘Suck it up, Woman, and deal with it’ banter. Instead, she walked the carryall and a garment bag over and set them down just outside her bedroom door. On her way back to the dressing table, Perrie looked around to make sure she hadn’t forgotten anything.

She stopped at the bed when the brownish tiger-striped cat lying on the ivory brocade comforter, folded-down at the footboard, called out for attention. Perrie rubbed Queenie’s cheeks; but when she stopped, all too soon, the petite feline trilled melodically. As Perrie bent to sit on her heels, Queenie stretched her lithe neck. Her long black whiskers lurched forward and each met the other nose to nose. Perrie couldn’t help but smile as Queenie’s equally long and swoopy eyelashes tickled her face.

Queenie’s task as protector and constant companion during her sojourn here had now come to an end. “I will miss you little one.” Perrie whispered. The purring grew more audible as Perrie cupped her hand over Queenie’s delicate face, ran it down her back and along her silky plume of a tail. Reluctantly, Perrie rose to resume her packing. With whiskers drawn back to the sides of her face, Queenie laid her head down between her forepaws in a solemn resolve.

Perrie gathered and deposited the last of her hand baggage by the door. As she turned one last time, Perrie surveyed the room’s lush surroundings. After her release from the hospital, band members moved her into this suite to convalesce. Perrie would miss the comfort and security this place had afforded her. Joining Traverse on tour meant a loss of the most precious to her of all gifts, privacy.

Prior to her arrival, though they’d known each other only from Within, Traverse’s Frontman—a man who bore a striking resemblance to her former husband—kept the suite in a constant state of waiting and specific to Perrie’s known taste and interests. In a premeditated anticipation of her needs, the entire apartment—which included a design studio and the mysterious White Room where she wrote the forthcoming novel, The Last Heartbound—had been decorated in Victorian period antiques.

Furnished with ornate walnut and burl wood furniture, the bedroom had been dressed in lavish Battenberg lace and crochet bedclothes. Walls, papered in an ivory and muted floral print, added to the ambiance and warmth of the room. And the verdant boudoir garden brought the outdoors in until she recovered enough to walk those of the courtyard below.

‘Dellasseea …N’Syis,’ a tranquil voice beckoned from Within

Perrie closed her eyes, lowered her head—chin angled toward her left shoulder—and endeavored to search for the source. So many voices, commands, questions, and emotions—and, no answer to her silent query. Too much chaos; it couldn’t have come from any one downstairs.

At somewhat of a loss, Perrie went on with the matter at hand and gathered up the last of her more immediate, work-related items: a tape recorder; her portable workstation; and date planner. She slipped each inside their respective pockets of the tapestry portfolio that sat on the bench in front of her dressing table. She hesitated then reached for her most recent journal. The hand-pressed paper, of her own design, bound in sueded leather recounted the latest of her visions and moments Within.

Before securing it away, Perrie lifted the front cover and removed a neatly folded, yellowed news clipping. Distracted by the warm breeze wafting in through the French doors, Perrie laid the journal back upon the bench and made her way across the room. The tonal ivory and silk embroidered drapery billowed softly and brushed at Perrie’s leg as she walked out onto the balcony. She walked past the white wicker chaise and stopped to rest her hands upon the balustrade.

Swirls of fog lingered in the shadows of the grounds and a hint of salt rose up from the bay. The terra-cotta tile felt cool underfoot as Perrie stood and let the warmth of a new day caress her. Loose wisps of hair fluttered about her face as she stared across a cloudless autumn sky.

Perrie raised her right hand and drew it up her breastbone. Her fingertips traced languorously at a circular indentation; a scar left by a would-be assailant. Nearly a year to the day since the shooting, scars left by the entry wound and the surgical removal of the projectile and fragmented bone was all but hid by the couture, baroque-style bustier of linen and fine lace. Up until this morning, she’d kept them entirely hidden from public view. Today, Perrie chose to wear her scars.

Taken aback by a sudden pang to her chest, Perrie let out a soft grunt. As she closed her eyes and drew a clenched hand, fisted to her heart, Perrie inhaled deep and released a long, hard-drawn breath. In an attempt to refocus on the moment, Perrie exercised her breathing to a slower pace and concentrated on disconnecting from the others; but, given the gravity of their circumstance, her heart remained unsettled.

Truth be known, she didn’t really want to disconnect. It made everything all the more real— And besides, she couldn’t ignore or even be sure how much of her own all-consuming angst factored in to the emotions this particular day fostered. Somewhere throughout the compound, three other Heartbounds engaged in the day’s goings-on and all were feeling exceedingly anxious. The suffering of any one Heartbound increases ten-fold upon the others. On this day it grew in intensity the closer it gets to actually hitting the road.

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Upon remembering the warmth that bathed her face, Perrie opened and fixed her eyes—long marked by its fire—to the mid-morning sun. Feeling the heat envelop them, she watched as the sky changed to its truer affect. Something that went unnoticed by the masses, unless they shunned their societal conditioning and looked, eyes wide, upon the sun. The yellow-orange orb radiated into a rosy-pink that spread vast into the outermost atmosphere of brilliant blue. A color combination utilized by the Allied Bands—primarily as cover art and a key piece of the ever-growing puzzle during her Awakening.

‘Dellasseea …N’Syis,’ the serene voice beckoned once more.

Perrie stood breathless; hesitant—to think it could be—

‘Good morning, Our Daughter. My Daughter...’ the most ancient of the FirstOnes greeted.

Of all that could have VoiceThought a greeting, Perrie had not expected his. Waited for— always, but not expected. As she closed her eyes once more, a slow-forming smile broadened across her face. Perrie welcomed his Touch with the greatest of affections.

‘You have done well, My Daughter.’

Tears welled behind her eyelids and Perrie lowered her head out of a residual of orchestrated shame. To remind her that none of what she survived was of her doing, Perrie felt his ethereal hand under her chin; lifting her eyes back upon him.

As the instigator of the search and rescue of her true self, the Old One had exacted an extraordinary coming together of The Ancients. The FirstOnes. The Primal Elements of all that is. Unfortunately, the rudiments set down by The Gathering denied him direct contact with any of the Awakened. Accepted upon one condition— though any of the FirstOnes could, the Old One would not allow the re-bonding of those so bound to the heart of the FirstBorn Daughter, to be done by any other but him. He would not allow those in control of her current circumstance to sully the purest of intentions by their darker precepts.

Perrie’s first experience with the Old One’s limited role in her Awakening, was the re-bonding of her ancient heart to that of her Protectoriot’s. Followed, in time, by her being re-bound to the three Heartbounds known by their adoring fans as key members of Traverse.

The intervals between his sole responsibilities were intolerably long. When Perrie stood and held in sight, the point of her origin, the Old One could not help but speak. And today of all days, as she launched her book signing tour in conjunction with the Caged Heart tour, she cherished the wisdom of his consult.

‘You need remember, there exists no precedent to how you were Awakened. You had not the first notion, here, of your true self, and did not know the concept of privacy had never been allowed you. You said not a word or lived a single action that went unsurveilled. And those, whom allied themselves to you, could not get in close proximity to offer the physical means of proof that could have made all the better understood.'

'The Awakenings exposed the unknown war that rages still, upon clandestine battlegrounds. It introduced the warriors, its casualties, and yourself as the ultimate prize.

‘Though I could not intervene, I watched and saw that none could shadow your will. You said not a word to validate what you learned and refused to yield what they suffered you. Your beautiful stubbornness and trust in your own doubt made easy your belief in that which could not be seen. You denied and supplanted their control--- and broke free.'

With that said, Perrie felt her shoulders relax. When she lifted her right hand to retrace the circular scar, the Old One continued, ‘the final effort to discredit you came by way of forcing you to trial.’

'I filed for divorce.’ She interrupted, heatedly. ‘I served them the perfect opportunity to do so.’

‘Needed they use it as they did?’ he questioned harshly.

Perrie did not answer. She knew several unspoken events that need not have happened. Deaths of those whom needed not die. Acts done against her that needed not be done.

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Before Perrie could determine a response, she sensed an abrupt and unwelcomed disquiet. Though uncertain of its direction, it did seem beyond the current goings-on of the compound.  As her eyelids tightened, her breath lessened and became shallow.  More focused.  Slowly the darkness faded and a very faint window opened.  The location appeared— familiar; but, not a pleasant place to be.

 

Though she sensed an uneasiness that went beyond the normal day’s goings-on, Perrie, members of Traverse and their entourage made their way to the judge’s chamber to wrap up the in-camera sessions. 

 

Her Counsel walked up ahead.  On her right the band’s frontman and the EeDellon-born bearer of the missing shard of her heart.  To her left the keyboardist; an elder brother, a Crystalline-born son of The Ancients, and witness to her creation.  Both had an iron-man grip of each hand and also sensed a suffering.

 

They turned down a corridor just off the atrium.  Perrie noticed a tall, gaunt-looking man step out from a doorway.  He stood there— motionless with his head lowered and seemed to stare at nothing but the floor.  He also stood directly in their path.  As she watched her legal team split and walk around him, Perrie could see his worn and crumpled attire.  His short, dark hair appeared equally unkempt.  

 

When he took a sideways glance in their direction and the distance between them closed, Perrie registered the empty look to his face.  As Perrie’s eyes met with his, he raised his head and straightened tall.  The corners of his mouth took a wicked turn and he drew in long deep breath.  As he cocked his head back, his eyes widened and an unquestionable look of contempt greeted her. 

 

Perrie watched as he pulled his left hand from the coat’s pocket.  Slowly, he raised his arm…

 

“Gun!” a disembodied voice shouted.

 

Another voice reverberated, “He’s got a gun…”

 

Perrie heard the pop.  Saw the flash and billow of smoke— and watched the projectile speed toward her.  Upon piercing her chest, she felt the searing heat of the steel and its jolt to a stop.  She heard choruses of loud voices as her knees faltered and buckled. 

 

In a seemingly slowed motion, Perrie hooked forward and lurched back.  She heard the scuffle that ensued; wrestling the gunman to the wall.  She felt a tightened grip of her upper arms as those on either side, lowered her to the cold marble floor.  Amid the shouts to subdue her attacker, frantic voices called out her name.  Blinded by the luminous lighting, Perrie narrowed her eyes and turned her face into the hand supporting her head.

 

Barely conscious of the ongoing struggle, Perrie convulsed involuntarily when another shot rang out and echoed throughout the close hallway.  A warm liquid rose in her mouth.  Her eye-lids blinked, uncontrolled.  

 

She heard her name called from more than one source.  Both physically and Within.  She saw worried faces hovering over— but, could not force her lips to voice a response.  And while the gun powder settled and stung her nostrils, Perrie also smelled the blood that flowed beneath her blouse.  Felt it trickle the length of her side and pool underneath.

 

Her eyes continued to close slowly and reopen.  She focused her blurring vision on her beloved as he lifted her head to rest upon something soft laid at the back of her neck.  As the frontman lowered her head, his long black hair hung as a shroud about his face.  When the fear in his eyes register, Perrie tried— but could not raise a hand to meet them. 

 

Perrie choked abruptly, when someone pressed an article of clothing to her chest.  Blood pooled in her mouth.  The Frontman wiped the blood from her mouth and throat.  As her cough subsided, Perrie reached a frantic hand and he took it quick into his own.

 

'Is this how it ends…?’ she cried Within.  There was no response.

 

Perrie felt a sudden curious warmth course through her.  And, as the clamor dimmed, her eyelids fluttered erratically.  Her vision grayed and those about her faded into the encroaching darkness.  Here, Perrie slipped into what became a long, but much guarded unconsciousness. 

 

Due only to her part in filing for divorce, Perrie had finally been delivered into the hands of her Allies.  And all who knew her for her true self understood well the fear of vulnerability.  But, she could not have been more protected.  But— had anything remotely similar occurred but six weeks prior, Perrie would have feared the outcome.

 

‘That beautiful stubbornness…’  The Old One’s voice ended the vision, ‘is why you stand here this day.’

 

Perrie drew in and released a deep and labored breath.  She opened and refocused her eyes once again upon the Here and Now.  To the fire that burned bright in the morning sky.  A brisk breeze rose up over the balustrade and grappled the paper still held in her hand.  Perrie opened the clipping gingerly and read,

 

Gunman killed by own gun during scuffle after courthouse shooting

 

A man pulled a gun in a hallway of the courthouse and shot the Stevens woman, as members of Traverse, escorted her to the judge’s chambers for closing statements of the highly-publicized divorce proceedings. Having been shot in the chest, she was rushed to the county hospital were her condition is listed as critical. 

 

There is no apparent connection between the unidentified assailant and…

 

‘How could he hate me so?’  Perrie questioned.

 

‘Hate drove not his actions that day.’ The Ancient answered.  ‘One’s fear does this. The ignorance this world fosters is deep set and will not be easily abandoned.’

 

“Are you ready?” a hesitant voice called from behind.

 

Perrie stood so lost in thought, she wasn’t sure whether she heard it physically said or VoiceThought.  Once again her attention shifted as she heard quiet footfalls approach from behind.  Drawing in a deep breath, Perrie recognized the aftershave as two hands touched softly and firmly grasped her bared shoulders. 

 

Knowing that the Old One had released her, she looked to the gaseous orb and whispered, ‘Thank you, My Father…’ 

 

‘I meant not to disrupt ...’ her brother apologized. ‘I did not know he … It is time, My Sister, to leave.’

 

Perrie refolded the news clipping and let the images of what she’d just relived flow into his mind.  She heard a short, hard breath escape him.  Felt his hands move across her shoulders; resting his thumbs at the nape of her neck. Just under the long tress of hair trailing down her back.  Perrie closed her eyes and leaned her head back.

 

‘By the time an ambulance arrived, Geffen sat cradling your head in his lap.’

 

With that said, he let pass his own memory of that day; seen for the first time through his eyes.              

 

The steel clang of gurneys echoed loudly as EMTs hurried through the hallway.  As the keyboardist kneeled beside his sister and picked up an unresponsive hand, he called to her, Within.

 

‘You did not answer.’ Her brother whispered in a labored breath.  His grip tightened. ‘Even this time, I believed … I would find there.  Waiting…’

 

On that fateful day, though she and Geffen had Touched and knew each other well—during her Awakening—they’d only each just stood face to face; felt the warmth of one’s physical arms around the other.  She lay that day, on a cold marble floor, very near death.

 

Geffen sat straddling Perrie’s lifeless body.  He’d moved her head to rest upon his thigh and cradled it there with his bloodied hands.  Blood streaked and dried in her auburn hair after he brushed a few stray wisps from her face.  A legal aid continued to hold the wadded shirt over her chest.  The white silk blouse Perry wore that day now glistened of crimson. 

 

Having heard him call, Geffen bellowed, ‘she’s NOT THERE.’ 

 

Delstau placed his right hand on Geffen’s forearm to appease him.  Straight away Geffen wrenched his arm free with a force that pitched Delstau back on his heels. 

 

Geffen looked up and met his eyes, ‘You tell me AGAIN … why I had to let this happen…’ he demanded as a few flashes of light filled the now close hall.

 

‘You know why…’ Delstau’s calm had no effect on his friend’s anger.

 

‘Do you know for sure that his aim did NOT improve?’  Geffen interrupted.

 

‘If it had, neither you nor I … nor anyone else for that matt…’

 

As one of the gurneys forced their way behind her brother, Delstau looked to those still standing around the slain gunman.  He could barely see through the many pairs of legs. The Police, witnesses, and other courthouse officials, all stood giving statements or barking orders.  It did look as though someone had folded part of dead man’s crumpled coat up and over his face.

 

He watched as the technicians unfolded a black body bag and then let it drop carelessly to the floor.  When the hallway filled with more flashes of light, Delstau returned his attention to Perrie. 

 

Another set of EMTs had just arrived and currently worked to force Geffen out of their way.  When someone else removed his sister’s hand of his—

 

The vision ended.

 

‘None present in that hallway, the courthouse…‘ He hesitated to finish, ‘None knew how dangerously close we all came to suffering unimaginable dark  ...’

 

‘No more, … Delstau.’  Perrie knew of what he spoke and refused to hear more.  “Please!” escaped her lips in a deep breathy whisper.

 

She pulled herself free from his hands and turned to stand opposite him.  As he brought his hands back to her face, his thumbs wiped at the tears just beginning to fall.  Being over six foot tall, Perrie’s head fell just under his chin as she moved in and took her arms around and up his back.  Folding his own about her, Perrie felt his head turn slightly to rest his cheek upon her hair.

 

Once in his embrace Perrie sensed his concern.  Living out of suitcases, months on end, had been a major part of his life.  This tour would be her introduction to a whole new life-style.  Had he not left The Brood—an East Sector band he’d played with just prior to joining Traverse—they may never have come together.  And though he’d been critical to Geffen’s Awakening, he played a crucial role in bringing the two together, Within. 

 

‘Are you ready for this, Little Sister?’  He inquired.

 

Pulling out of his arms in order to see his face, ‘Yes,’ she replied with a firm conviction. ‘I am ready.’ Finishing with a smile that broadened across her face,

 

Perrie turned to take in one final look across the serene view her balcony had afforded her over the past year.  She drew in order to savor one last breath of the salted air, pungent sage, and the numerous pines of the gardens; took in one last sound of the waves crashing upon the isolated shore below.  It will be a good seven months before she is able to return to what she’s come to know as sanctuary.

 

Back inside, Perrie replaced the clipping inside her journal and slid it in the portfolio as she lifted the strap up an over her shoulder.  She took a quick glance in the mirror and smoothed back her hair.  Tugged at the buckle of the belt to her well-worn jeans and slipped on her favorite earth shoes.  After a quick adjustment of the long, scrunched off-the-shoulder sleeves, she turned to find her brother collecting her baggage from the outer room.  And with glance over her shoulder, Perrie whispered, “Good-bye Little Queen.” 

 

The little feline, still atop the bed, replied with a staccatoed chatter and flipped her tail about; content with her surroundings and reign of a soon-to-be-emptied household.

 

Perrie took hold of the raw linen, tailored jacket that hung on the doorknob and joined her brother.  As they made their way down the long carpeted stairway leading to the foyer, she heard the band’s frontman and owner of the compound, giving instruction to the housekeeper.  He stood bare foot in jeans, a simple white t-shirt under an aged brown leather bomber jacket.  With an old fedora in his hand and his long black hair framing his face, Geffen looked up to watch Perrie descend at her brother’s side.

 

When she saw the same concern in his dark eyes, she VoiceThought, ‘Yes, My Love,’ she smiled, as she reached the last few steps, ‘I am ready for this.’  As she stepped closer, he reached for her hand and offered only a slightly reassured smile in return. 

 

The housekeeper moved in and took her hands about Perrie’s face and said, “Vaya Con Dios, Mi'ha!”

 

Perrie renewed her smile and replied, “Gracias, Senora…” and with watery eyes, “I will miss our Spanish lessons together.”

 

Everyone hugged and said their final good-byes.  Once inside the lavish tour bus Perrie sat in quiet contemplation while the rest of the band slowly filed in.  Suddenly that ever-present pang in her chest overwhelmed her.  In that moment, Perrie came to terms with another realized moment in Time.  This company of men—most of whom she long ago believed dead—embarked on more than just a book-signing and concert tour.   History would record it once again, as a long and very dangerous journey home.  But first— before they escape, one last Heartbound needed to be found.

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PART ONE
 
 

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The Forbidden World Chronicles
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Copyright 2013 The Forbidden World Chronicles ~L.L. Abbott,
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