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Chapter 9

Beware the past, it’s always close behind.
– The Proverbs of Shedey’uwr

“I was born in a place called Dallas, Texas, on January 1st, 1900 A.D., as time is reckoned there. My name was Mark Strumbull and I looked the same as I do here. What they called, The War to End All Wars came along and I lied about my age so I could enlist in the Marines. It didn’t end all wars of course, but that’s what everyone hoped when it began. My wife, Lydia, and I got married while I was home on leave. She was a good woman and a better wife than I was a husband. We had four boys and three girls, all of them long since grown and married, usually while I was away from home. After the Battle of Belleau Wood, I was given what was called a field commission and became a Lieutenant. After the war was over I decided to stay in the Marines until I retired.

“But later, some madmen named Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito came along and we had to fight another huge war. By the time it was over, I was a colonel and ready to retire. Lydia and I started a small business to keep ourselves busy, but mainly we just spoiled our grandchildren, but again, she was better at the family stuff than I was. Then, in what was called the year 1968, she died of cancer. After I got over her death I spent the next twenty years running around the world like an old hippie; climbing mountains, sailing on distant rivers, visiting strange countries. It was wonderful, but I was already sixty-eight when she died and I didn’t get any younger as time went on. By the time I was eighty-eight, I was getting too old, slowing down, joints giving me pain, strength fading, and I was taking more medicine than you could shake a stick at . . .”

“Wait, wait a moment,” Ralt interrupted suddenly. “How could you be getting old when you were only eighty-eight? Most people live to around two hundred.”

Storm frowned heavily at the interruption. It had taken him years to get to the point of being able to tell anyone and now the stupid wizard was butting in on him! “Well we don’t live that long on Earth, okay?” He started to carry on with his story then paused. “I guess I won’t live as long as you then.”

Durin shook his blocky head. “I’ve heard of folks claiming they come from Elder Earth. Nothing was ever said about ’em dying quicker than the rest of us. Mey’be ye live longer when ye come here.”

“Gerald once mentioned people from Elder Earth are adapted to Gaia when they come here,” Ralt added, obviously struggling to recall a long-ago, half-forgotten conversation. “Something about the portal or gate or whatever changes you somehow. Maybe you’ll have the same lifespan as the rest of us.” He smiled helpfully.

Storm heaved a sigh, “Fine, whatever. Do you want to hear this or not?” They both nodded. “Alright then,” he continued, “rather than wind up in a nursing home for old folks I decided to, as they say, die with my boots on. I bought a small sailing boat and headed out into an area of the ocean called the Bermuda Triangle, right in the middle of hurricane season. I figured; one good hurricane at my age and I’d be a goner for sure.

“The Bermuda Triangle is famous for more than just hurricanes though. It’s also known as a place where people just disappear, even whole ships just up and vanish. One moment they’re there and the next – poof! – they’re gone. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, no way to predict it; sometimes it just happens.”

Ralt nodded. “One of the gates or portals,” he said quickly. “Sorry,” he added at Storm’s answering scowl. “Go on.”

“Annny-way,” he sighed in exasperation, “that’s what happened to me. One moment I was fighting the outer winds of a hurricane, the next thing I knew I was laying on a rock outcropping, still in the middle of a storm but now I was naked and stuck in the body of a baby. I still knew everything, who I was, still remembered it all, but I was only one year old again. My coordination was shot, everything was all mixed up. I could barely make myself crawl. I didn’t even realize I was crying until a woman showed up out of the rain and grabbed me.”

“It was Nadia, my adoptive mother from the Bear Clan. Since she found me in the middle of a storm that’s what she named me. I had to learn to walk and talk and everything all over again, although I learned it faster than normal since I was actually relearning it.”

“I was with the Bear Clan for years until I looked like a normal 15-year-old. My adoptive father, Vamer, and I had one argument too many and I took off on my own. I didn’t even take time to go back to the village to say good-bye to Nadia.” Storm waved a hand in the air. “After that, I wandered around in the wilderness for several weeks until I finally joined a caravan. I’ve been doing that ever since,” he concluded. He could tell they believed some of it, but how much? And what would their reaction be?

Before he had a chance to find out Thomas interrupted to tell them the prairie fire had gone out and rain was headed their way. “Thanks,” he nodded curtly. “Get camp set up and we’ll sort it all out in the morning.” The last part was aimed at Ralt and Durin as well as Thomas.


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