Khamet stepped out into a grassy glade behind the Jack. They both stood looking around.
“Where are we?” The Jack said puzzled.
Khamet’s head rotated completely around and he looked into the forest. After all his adventures in Heere he again found himself puzzled. He moved to a tree and scratched, trying to open another path. Nothing. Now he looked worried. He ran and leapt towards an extremely high branch. He went up, arched in the air and dropped right back to the ground. “Well it seems that whatever power I had, I don’t have it any longer.”
“No?” The Jack asked.
“I have no power.” Khamet thought about it, “Or the land is not listening to me any longer.”
The moonlight was shining into the glade, but the trees were quite dark and ominous. In the past the trees would at the very least have a glow to their foliage so that the darkness would not be quite so thick, but beyond the glade, the darkness was so prevalent it seemed to swallow everything.
The Jack readied his baton which had been damaged from the fight with his father and the Ace of Clubs and stood at the ready.
“Well, it seems we can stand here and wait for something to happen or we can start moving.” Khamet said.
“By your lead.” The Jack motioned the cat forward.
They moved into the darkness and Khamet found it strange. His vision, which being of the cat variety was quite good. When he first arrived it had gotten even better as he got stronger. Now it was terrible. The dark didn’t become clearer as he entered it and it seemed as if the moonlight could not penetrate the trees.
“I will say this is very disturbing. I can’t see any sort of distance.” The Jack of all Trades said. He sounded disturbed and more than a little worried. “I am certain you can see far better than I.”
“No,” Khamet said. “For some reason I am just about blind.”
“Then perhaps we should abandon this course of action.”
“Go back?” Khamet asked.
“I think that would be the wisest choice, perhaps wait until daybreak.”
“Very well.” Khamet turned and began making his way back. They traveled some distance, but were unable to find the glade. Khamet felt his way through the trees, then stopped as the Jack nearly tripped over him. “Something’s wrong?”
“I agree.” The Jack sounded disturbed.
From one direction in the dark forest there was a great galumph galumph that began to move nearer. The Jack and Khamet both stared into the darkness as the sound grew. Whatever it was the galumph galumph was becoming louder and louder. The crackling of trees, the grunt and growl or some other bit of uncomfortable utterance that was unlike anything they had ever heard, increased as it got closer.
“Perhaps,” the Jack said taking a step in the opposite direction.
Khamet sensed rather than saw, and felt the Jack moving away from him. “Agreed,” he said and began to follow. His whiskers and ears pricked too help him navigate with his eyes so blinded.
Each galumph came with a grunt now and sounding like ‘galumphagrunt’ ‘galumphagrunt’ which increased with their retreat. It was close behind them now. There was a hiss followed by a ‘chittering.’ The sound seemed to creep through the air and brought their blood to freeze. Fear was overcoming them and there was no telling the temperament or intention of the thing that was chasing them. The only thing they could tell was its ‘galumphagrunt’ ‘galumphagrunt,’ sounded extremely large and terrible.
The Jack could obviously see a bit and was moving at a steady jog using his hands and baton to keep from hitting trees. Khamet was right behind the Jack and had no trouble following.
The Jack swept around a tree and missed the next colliding headfirst into it, then crumbled to the ground. Khamet moved beside the Jack who was about to speak and placed a paw over the Jack’s mouth. The two waited as the ‘galumphagrunt’ approached, then suddenly stopped.
There was a ‘cracksnackling’ of trees and a wheezing hiss followed by a ‘chittering’ sound that crept over their skin. A rustling was followed by an enormous galumph that exploded right beside them in the darkness.
Khamet could see something because the big whatever it was, gave off a hazy glow and Khamet could make out a misshapen foot or claw that stomped past them and continued on. He waited with his hand over the Jack’s mouth for a while as the ‘galumphagrunt’ faded into the darkness.
Khamet leaned close to the Jacks ear. “We are in the Tulgey Wood,” he whispered taking his paw off the Jack’s mouth.
“How do you know?” The Jack returned the same tone.
“Because,” Khamet said pointing to the footprint that was glowing. Two dead mome raths were lying in the ground.
“Did you see it?” The Jack asked anxiously.
“I saw its foot.” Khamet said. “And from what I’ve heard there is no mistaking it. That was the Jabberwock.”
Khamet and the Jack followed the path as fast as they could in the opposite direction with dead mome raths guiding their way. The Tulgey Wood was already repairing itself from the Jabberwock’s passage and after a while there was no distinction but the faint glow of the mome raths on the ground.
“There’s something up ahead,” The Jack said.
The forest opened onto another glade that was bright with moonlight. The area was very familiar. Khamet vanished and reappeared several feet away. “That’s better.” He said looking around, “Now onto the castle.” he stopped.
“Cat?” the Jack called.
Khamet was stepping up to a ruin of a building. The structure was still there, but everything had been smashed.
On the pile of rubble sat the Tweedle woman crying as the two babies played ferociously, striking each other on the head with broken boards. “Deedumb, deedumb,” the two played in their black and white striped diapers as if they hadn’t a care in the world.
Khamet shot forward and reappeared beside the woman, “What happened?”
“Oh,” she sobbed. “It came back.”
She nodded. “And this time, this time…”
“Where’s your husband?”
The woman looked stricken and began sobbing heavier.
Khamet placed a paw in her hand, “I’m sorry.”
The two children continued to play, bashing the boards and bricks as they laughed.
“Jack,” Khamet said. “We need to stop this. It’s eating everything in the Tulgey Wood and terrorizing everything else.”
“I heartily agree, but what can we do against a foe such as this Jabberwock?”
Khamet didn’t answer, but something began to occur to him, “Stay here with them,” and was gone in a wink.
The Delirium was silent with all the Saedi gone. There was no fog or ominous feeling it was just simply a forest. In the middle of the room the Roadscholar sat at a table across from his brother playing a game. “What’s that?”
“It’s called cribbage.” “A game of chance.” “A game of luck,” the old man said. “Doing this for you.” “Figuring it all out.” “The coming together.” “Two brothers and us.” “Figuring how.” “How it’s going to turn out.” “The endgame.” “For me.” “And you.” “For us.” “Nothing in stone.” “No, never was.” “Not yet anyway.”
This startled Khamet. “What do you mean?”
“Quite simply.” “Simply as we can put it.” “To the core.” “Bottom line.” “You are not.” “Nothing settled.” “Nothing ventured.” “Nothing gained.” “Inventing the conclusion.” “Fat lady singing.” “Eyes on the sky.” “You will rise.” “As will we.” “The end.” “But.” “The beginning.” “Hopefully.” “I’m not finished yet!” “Oh yes you are, captain!” “Fraulein.”
“You mean the lady or the Queen of Hearts?”
The Roadscholar began laughing now, laughing loud with an uproarious craze, so hard that he was about to go over and perhaps be sick. “She is of another mind my friend. You have changed everything and we are trying to figure out what the land has in store for you. Everything is upset and late. Terribly late, but that’s my fault, a wide spread chaos has erupted by your actions.”
“What? Freeing the Saedi? Stopping the war?” Khamet was upset.
The old man was smiling now. “War.” “Battle!” “Smack your hand.” “Petty squabbles.” “Fighting with each other.” “Bad children.” “Over both right and wrong.” “Territory and space.” “Need some elbow room.” “Don’t matter.” “Not at all.” “In the least.” “To the land of Heere.” “Not there.” “This place versus there.” “The land.” “This land of Heere and not here has always been.” “And ever shall be.” “World without end.” “And a conduit for Yonderland and the wonders.” “Held it the minds.” “The Saedi are to be made.” “Created and brought forth.” “For the soul purpose of manipulating.” “Changing things as they need changing.” “But as someone locked then away.” “That change didn’t happen.” “Nothing.” “No movement.” “No evolution.” “Start the revolution without me.”
The Roadscholar bowed his head in shame.
“Now you have released.” “Let out.” “Set forth.” “Let loose the Saedi on the land.” “Very like a plague.” “Very much a plague.”
“What does that mean?” Khamet asked looking from one to the other.
“That,” The Roadscholar said. “That very thing is the question we are trying to understand. We need a solution before things go too far.”
“What is the Jabberwock?”
Both stopped playing and stared at the table frozen.
The Roadscholar turned to Khamet. “This,” he said holding up his hand and making a fist that crumbled with dirt and debris falling to the ground. He raised his arms and they crumbled as well. “There cannot be light without dark. Wrong without right. There needs to be balance.”
“Two.” “One plus one.” “That is two are called and the land decides.” “The land brings the wonders.” “The changes.” “Flips the script.” “Makes judgments.” “Conflicts in duality.” “Yin and yang.” “And all of that…”
“We were called.” The Roadscholar interrupted. “And we began to change, but if there was only one, then…” he looked towards his brother waiting for him to speak, but he remained silent. “I stopped listening to the land and began to change. To stop this change I created the Delirium and locked my brother away.”
The old man looked sad.
“One for the sake of good, one for the sake of bad.” The Roadscholar said. “I would have become the Jabberwock, but I became the Roadscholar and then I was the only one.”
Khamet stared from one man to the other, “And?” he said. “And so…?
“You were chosen to be Heere.”
“As was your brother.”
Khamet suddenly realized he hadn’t thought about his brother in quite a while and the picture suddenly became clear. “No.” He said with alarm recalling the strange sound the thing made and the great galumphing of its feet. “You are not suggesting that…”
“The Jabberwock is your other.”
The words hung in the air. Khamet’s body sunk, his shoulders dipped and he crouched low to the ground starring ahead at nothing. “I was coming to ask you both how to defeat him, how to destroy him.”
Both the men looked at each other. “The two of you must remain.” The Roadscholar said.
The old man piped up suddenly, “Why is that?” “Yes why?” “Why must one remain?” “After the change?” “The change is done.” “And the Saedi released.” “To be free.” “To wreck the havoc of the land of Heere.” “Things are changing.” “I see turmoil arriving.” “A queerness erupting.” “Too madness.” “Yes madness.” “Insanity for a time.”
“I cannot defeat the Jabberwock?”
“Well…” The Roadscholar began.
“No.” “Must not.” “Do not.” “That would be wrong.” “Would spell the end.” “Quite possibly.” “The doom.” “The end of the line.” “For us and everyone else.” “All…”
The Roadscholar ignored this. “But if someone else were to…”
The Roadscholar gave Khamet a grave look.
Khamet’s eyes flashed and he was gone.