Vale of Shadows: Plains of Giah
Mariah’s flight across the Bermuda Triangle turns into the adventure of a lifetime when she’s captured by the warrior, Alexius—Chief of the Centaur Tribe known as the Demosthenes.
Mariah hadn’t expected to become another victim of the Bermuda Triangle when she set out for a weekend of fun with friends. And she certainly never would’ve guessed she was about to be sucked into an alternate universe where the creatures of Earth’s mythological past lived.
And yet the moment she realized the’ herd of horses’ she spotted were actually centaurs she knew that something was definitely very wrong with her flight path.
Word Count: 40,435
Genre: Sci-Fi/Futuristic/Fantasy Romance
Available formats: PDF, RTF, Epub, HTML, Mobipocket (.prc)
© Cover art by Jenny Dixon, November 2013
New Concepts Publishing
Lake Park, GA 31636
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are of the author's imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.
The flight from Miami to Bimini should only take half an hour on a good day, but after an uneventful first half of her flight, the instrument panel lights of Mariah Evans's Cessna lit up like a Christmas tree. With dials spinning and various buzzers and alarms sounding, Mariah's focus snapped to attention. She reached down for the radio handset and quickly sent an alert to Miami airport, which she had just taken off from less than 15 minutes earlier.
"Miami Tower, this is Cessna Light G123 heading South."
The radio crackled for a few seconds. "Cessna G123...this is Miami. Go ahead."
"Miami, it looks like I'm having a little trouble here."
"What's the problem, 123?"
"Uh, my instruments are going haywire. What does the weather look like up ahead?"
Mariah waited, holding her breath but the radio continued to crackle. The sky had been perfectly clear on takeoff but once she was in the air, the clouds started to spiral around her, and quickly formed into a swirling tunnel that made the plane pitch from side to side.
"Miami? Do you read me? Over."
"123 -- What -- position?"
Mariah watched the dial on the directional indicator spin clockwise then almost immediately, it whipped counter-clockwise.
"Miami, you're breaking up. My instruments are out of control here. I have no idea where I am. Are you tracking me?" She looked at the airspeed indicator. "I think I'm in real trouble here.”
The radio continued to sputter and wheeze with static.
"Miami? 123 heading...," she checked the attitude indicator but even though the artificial horizon on the dial still seemed to be parallel to the natural horizon, she wasn't sure whether she could trust it or not. "It appears I'm heading east, but...I've got a primary attitude indicator that's not reading properly."
Mariah could feel a cold sweat percolating on her brow. During her training, she had learned to control her emotions, even in the simulated crash landing scenarios, but this was no simulation. Something was wrong and not having a clear connection to air traffic control was testing her resolve to stay calm.
She scoured her sightline outside the windshield, hoping the spiraling ribbons of clouds would break so she could find a landmark, a coastline, something that she could use as a point of reference. She should have still been able to see Miami or at least the faint outlines of Bimini by now, but the sky continued whirling around her, obscuring the land below.
"Miami?" she radioed again, but the air traffic controllers were not on the other end of the line.
An intense rumbling of thunder sounded all around her before rain started pelting the plane, turning the sky a sickly grey-green. She had been in a storm like this one summer driving through the countryside and remembered having to pull off to the side of the road until it passed. But she couldn't exactly do that at 10,000 feet, so she decided to try the radio again.
"I have an emergency situation, Miami! The rain is heavy. I've lost visual contact; I repeat the rain is too heavy!"
"G123 -- 1200 meters."
"Tower, I cannot understand you. Check my position please!"
"230 degrees, five knots, altimeter -- position-- Runway 18R! Contact tower!"
Mariah shook her head frantically. "I can't see anything, Miami! My visibility is zero!"
She tried to keep her emotions in check and flicked various switches, waiting for the plane to respond but nothing happened. Her stomach somersaulted as she finally admitted to herself that she was really in trouble. She felt sick. Unable to do anything but continue forward through the tunnel of clouds, Mariah directed the plane forward without knowing which way was up and which was down.
She tapped the small piece of plastic covering the altimeter, but the dial didn't move. It was no use. For all she knew she was plunging toward the ocean and any moment she would go crashing into it at full force and sink to a watery grave.
Finally, the radio sputtered and she could faintly hear the air traffic controllers trying to relay some information to her.
"123, we're -- not getting anything -- however -- wind shift --."
"Say again, Miami?!"
An intense lightning strike lit the crowding of black clouds around her, highlighting the menacing scowl of the stormy sky. Her skin prickled with electricity as the radio crackled, then sputtered and died. She jabbed at the dial, at the receiver, but it gave no other sound, and the power lights on it had stopped glowing. It was dead. She sat in silence for a few moments, nearly jumping out of her seat when two clunks sounded from beneath her. The body of the plane made a ratcheting noise that ended with a heavy clunk.
"Now what?!" she shouted, glancing quickly behind her and expecting a hole in the back of the plane or something, but everything seemed to be in place, not that that was much comfort. Just as she turned back around and tried to make sense of the dials on her panel, the plane pitched forward and she felt the air pressure in the cabin drop. An alarm above her head started screeching intermittently and the motors started wheezing as she felt as though she was dropping into an empty chasm.
"May Day! May Day! May Day! This is G123! May Day! May Day! I'm going down!"
Lightning flashed on all sides, making her throw one hand up to shield her eyes for a moment. The electricity in the air made the hair on her arms stand up, but she steeled her jaw and allowed her adrenaline to kick in.
Outside the dizzying vortex of clouds continued to snake angrily around the plane, but up ahead she thought she could see a small circle of blue in the center of the storm.
"I can make it. I know I can make it," she told herself. She had never believed in the power of positive thinking more than she did in that very moment.
After flicking a few switches, she directed the plane down slightly, aiming her nose for the circle of blue at the end of the cloud funnel. Even though she had the engine at full throttle, she could see the circle of blue sky slowly growing smaller, and the clouds around it closing faster than she was flying toward it.
The engine revved as she steered it forward. Ignoring the continual flashes of lightning and fierce rumbling of thunder around her, Mariah gripped the gear tightly, using both hands at one point, as it started jittering and vibrating violently. After a few moments, she managed to make some headway and she could almost see clear sky on the other side of the storm.
Just as it looked like the clouds were going to swallow her whole, she managed to direct the plane through the darkness and came out on the other side of the storm. The plane burst through the clouds with an intense revving of the engines so that all of a sudden she had to squint at the intense glare of bright blue sky all around her,
"Jesus!" she said, still with her hands clutched around the throttle.
Immediately ahead of her at her six-o'clock, Mariah spotted a land mass settled directly in the center of a wide expansive azure ocean.
"That can't be Bimini already," she said surveying the mass and spotting a sentry of mountains rose straight up out of the land like a jagged spine. "Especially not with those mountains."
This wasn't her first solo flight to the islands. She'd done this same route a number of times, and knew its every curve and contour, but suddenly it looked foreign, like she had been transported to some other corner of the globe.
This can't be right, she thought, trying to make out exactly where she was. Maybe I'm more off course than I thought.
She had to be traveling east still, but even if she had gone either too far North or South, she couldn't think of any place that had a mountain range like this one. She shook head, not sure what to make of it, but right now she almost didn't care. She was just glad she had made it out of that storm unscathed.
"This is crazy", she said aloud, taking her first deep breath in what seemed like hours. Mariah hoped talking to herself would calm her frazzled nerves. "You must have taken a wrong turn somewhere, girl, because those mountains? They shouldn't even be there."
As she steadied the plane, she filtered through her knowledge of the area, but there was no island in this part of the US, and certainly nothing with a mountain range, not here. It was as if they just appeared out of nowhere. The flight path from Florida to Bimini should have taken her toward Grand Bahama Island first, so it made sense that she would be over water for a portion of the flight. She shouldn't be seeing land yet.
"Unless..." she said to herself, snorting as headlines and brief snippets of conversations played over in her mind.
She'd had countless conversations with people when they learned she wasn't just a pilot, but that she often took the Miami to Bimini route. Everyone had an opinion on the Bermuda Triangle, even her friends, whom she was flying to Bimini to meet for another of their Girls' Weekends. She always expected that to come up in conversation anytime she told someone what she did and she had always laughed at the suggestion that it even existed, not to mention some of the crazy theories she'd heard over the year of alternate universes and magical hidden worlds. She just never thought she would ever entertain the idea that it could possibly truly exist.
"You're being crazy now," she said, watching as her instruments started to stabilize. "Letting your imagination run wild. It's just the adrenaline, nothing more."
Maybe the storm had thrown her so far off course that she had been spun around and she was approaching the island from a direction she had never flown in from before. That had to be it. It was in the right place but it looked off somehow, different. And those mountains definitely should not be there. She glanced out her side window, but she didn't even see Florida anymore.
Pushing down on the throttle, Mariah figured getting lower might give her a better bearing on where she was, or maybe even spot a runway or some other place she could put the plane down.
As the aircraft descended, something out of the corner of her eye moved. She glanced sideways toward one of the mountain peaks and saw a flash of gold and green. She glanced quickly at the peaks and thought she saw a figure, but it was difficult to tell. Just as she was about to turn her attention back ahead of her, he object moved again, and she was able to pinpoint where the movement came from. Then...she spotted it. Perched on the side of one of the cliffs was a dragon, sitting prone and with its head tilted, curiously up at her.
"It can't be a--."
Before she could even finish the thought, the creature crouched forward, leapt from the cliff and soared downward, its scales shimmering in the sunlight. It sailed toward her quickly, forcing Mariah to yank the throttle to one side to avoid hitting it, but as the belly of the plane tilted upward, she clipped the dragon with her left wing, sending her jolting to the side.
The instrument panel erupted in a flurry of shrieking alarms and flashing lights, sending Mariah and the plane into a searing descent plunging directly for the strange land mass below.