The Land of Impervia – One silver ounce
The front of the coin reflected the dim light as it had done over a hundred times until being mindlessly turned again so the back could have another chance to shine.
Free and Blessed, All of Us – 1212, Second Cycle
The music playing in the background grew louder. That, added with the drunken, boisterous laughs and hollers of the bar’s patrons was almost enough to jolt Jeremy Sebastian away from his thoughts, but not quite.
Impervia, he thought. The name was one of the first words he remembered learning. The shiny coin had been his for as long as he could remember. It was his first gift, given to him by his mother before his brain had developed long-term memory. He turned it again and again, over and over, wondering the same things he’d wondered for several spells of time at a go, every week of his twenty-two years of life.
What was Impervia? The Land of Impervia? Was it a kingdom like the old, rotting books described? Books that had come from somewhere far beyond the neighborhood. He swallowed, staring deeper at the coin. Was it a modern city? Did its people travel through space? What were the people like? Were they like us? Are we their descendents? Or were they alien? Perhaps beings from another solar system, another universe or another dimension.
All he knew for sure was that the coin was one of a kind, the only of its like in the neighborhood. Mr. Clark had personally told his mother that. Sadly, that was all he told her. Or at least, that was all she told Jeremy she was told.
“Pass me a cigarette.”
Jeremy finally broke from his daze and turned to look at his friend, Katie Lark. Her long hair stood straight up, jutting from the top of her head like an outrageous cone. It was colored green today. Her guitar was slung over her shoulder, the sight of which brought to his attention the band was taking a break. The music had paused.
Putting the coin away, Jeremy pulled two cigarettes out of their box and handed one to the woman before flicking his lighter to life and bringing the flame first to the tip of her smoke and then his own.
“Thanks.” She said after exhaling. She swigged a drink from her glass of what looked like black ale. “We’re starting our next set soon. You have any requests?” She looked around. “Looks like everyone else here is too drunk to care or even know the difference no matter what we play.”
Jeremy smiled before taking the time to really look around the place. He’d been at the bar more times than he could count so everything was as familiar as the back of his hand. Tonight, he’d been sitting in the same chair for over two hours, thinking and remembering. He finally realized how packed it was. Scanning the familiar faces as best he could, it became instantly clear there wasn’t a stranger in the lot. There were hardly ever any strangers in the neighborhood. Everyone was the same as he remembered, no one new, no oddities, nothing unknown. He reached into his pocket and felt the coin again. As usual, it was the only mystery in the neighborhood.
Newcomers arrived maybe once or twice each solar return. Whenever they showed up, his mother always met with them and she was sure to bring him along with her. He knew everything she, Julia Sebastian, thought necessary for him to know. Maybe it was everything she knew, maybe it wasn’t. She was his mother, his teacher, his protector and his guide. The knowledge she made sure to pass on were the names and identities of every person, every family and every group in the neighborhood. It was her job to know and Jeremy needed to know it was his job as well.
“Hey!” Katie called. “What’s up with you?”
“Lots.” Jeremy replied. “Sorry. Play what you like. It all sounds great to me.”
“Yea, sure.” She shot back with a snort. “You’re not even drinking? What’s wrong? Get a drink or something.”
He smiled. “Nah. I have to work, tonight and again tomorrow.” And every day from then on. He thought.
“What?” She didn’t need to speak the word, the expression on her face could ask the question on its own. “Work? That’s your mom’s job. She’s the sentry, not you. Not until…” She stopped herself and took another puff from her cigarette.
Jeremy pondered speaking, not only whether or not to but also what and what not to say, should he choose to produce any words. That was until there was a sudden crash in the back of the bar, near the pool tables. He was instantly on his feet, working his way through the crowd toward the sound which now included shouting and cursing.
“You fucking Valades!” A man bellowed from the deepest pit of his liquor filled stomach. “I’m so sick of your shit! Your whole clan is evil.”
Jeremy moved closer and made himself recognizable to the two sparing men, Karth Foote and Alez Valade. Studying them, he knew it was an even match, both in size and drunkenness.
Alez picked up his thick beer glass and jutted it out toward Karth who was armed with a cue stick. “Jehrahmee,” he slurred, “get yer mom. This Foote mother fucker is pissing me off.”
“We don’t need the sentry!” Karth stated. “We can settle up, here an’ now!”
Jeremy stepped between the men, confidently yet reluctantly. “What’s going on? I won’t let you two hurt each other.”
Karth pleaded his case first. “Damn Valades. They put a hex on my brother. He’s been haunted for a day and a half. Nightmares and shit flying all around his house.”
Jeremy looked at Alez with raised eyebrows. “That true?”
“I dunno!” Alez shrugged. “I s’pose. But his brother slept with Strike’s girl.”
“That doesn’t warrant a curse.” Jeremy stated. “Back down and cool off. I’ll visit Strike tomorrow.”
Karth spat. “No! Tell your mum to see him now. Punish that bastard!”
“I said tomorrow.” Jeremy said, coolly after turning to Karth. “It’s late and I’m not even sure where Strike is.”
“No good!” Karth shook his head. “Not fair! My bro can’t even sleep! He’ll miss work again tomorrow.” He stepped closer to Jeremy. “Get Julia to fix this or I’ll blow this prick to bits!”
By now, Karth had a small group of supporters behind him. They were angrier, drunker and rowdier than they should’ve been. The hoots, calls and comments from them showed their growing unease. Cursing was especially frowned upon and few families did it better than the Valade clan.
Alez tried to help. “Hey! Heeeyyy!” He put his beer glass down and raised his hands. “I’ll talk to ‘im, talk to Strike as soon as I see ‘im too. I’ll get him to pull it back.”
“NOT GOOD ENOUGH!” Karth hissed. “NOW!”
Jeremy turned his full attention to Karth and the men and women behind him. “Turn around and calm down. I said it’ll be handled tomorrow.”
Someone behind Karth, a woman, Sara Blime, scoffed. “What do you know, boy! Go tell your mom, now!”
“Tomorr -” Jeremy started before being interrupted.
“Say tomorrow one more time and I’ll bust your head open!” Karth threatened.
Vax, a man standing next to Sara, spoke up. “He’s not gonna get his mom. Bash the little prick!”
With that the small mob attacked. Jeremy was outnumbered nine to one. The nine didn’t stand a chance.
The threat, the danger, triggered the essence inside Jeremy. Drawing in the light, the power of protection, granted to his blood line generation after generation, he stood his ground. Karth brought the cue stick down hard toward his head. It shattered an inch before reaching his scalp. Blossoming with righteousness, Jeremy grabbed Karth’s wrist and twisted. The drunken man’s body followed the turn, completely uplifted, hefted off his feet before crashing down to the floor, landing hard on his face.
The others pressed.
Jeremy summoned a known power that saturated the ground around him with the heat of divine light. Those with enough sense had backed off. The eight attackers were too blind and stupid to do the same. Their feet and legs paid the price, feeling the burning sting. They cried and cursed. Five fell, three continued their foolish ambush.
With a sharp exhale, as Julia, his mother had taught him, Jeremy produced an ethereal shield of light that emanated from his left forearm. Charging the three, the shield rammed the remaining group, easily knocking them unconscious and to the floor to join their writhing friends.
The futile and easily avoidable skirmish was over in seconds.
“Gods!” Katie said after rushing up to Jeremy’s side.
“I thought only your mom could do that.” One of her band mates, Greg said.
Jeremy looked at both of them in turn. “My mother died. I’m the sentry now.”