Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 22

His presence alone set off alarm bells in her head, but as he got closer, Gwynivara could tell from his grim expression that Riley had devastating news for her. “What happened?” She almost didn’t want to know the answer. She almost turned away and covered her ears. She didn’t know how much more stress she could take right now!

Riley, clearly still harboring some adrenaline from what just happened, told her, “They were followed!”

Gwynivara understood what he said perfectly, but her mind blocked the information from getting totally comprehended. She didn’t know how to respond, but luckily, she didn’t have to since Bernadette spoke up first, “By the police?”

“Yes!” Riley confirmed. “The officers thought they were alone, but when they got into the catacombs, they heard footsteps behind them. The policeman almost paged for back up, so Max had to shoot him! I was door guard and heard the whole thing, but I didn’t know what to do except to find you immediately! Are we in trouble?”

Gwynivara rubbed her forehead and tried to think. So much information just got relayed to her, and her head was still reeling from everything else that just happened. To clarify the facts of the situation, she asked, “Is the cop dead?”

Riley answered, “He wasn’t moving when I saw him, but I didn’t check his pulse or anything, so I don’t know.”

Gwynivara darted off instantly upon hearing this. The others tried to stop her, but she ignored them as she made a beeline towards the catacombs. They knew this was a battle they were going to lose though, so they trailed behind her and kept watch. She found the policeman slumped on the floor, motionless. A number of Rebels had gathered with expressions that conveyed confusion, fear, and curiosity. Gwynivara put two fingers to his neck as she heard his radio page him, “Officer Macanta, are you still in pursuit in the graveyard?”

Gwynivara’s spirits sunk hearing that, but it ligthened a little to feel a pulse. “He’s still alive!”

Should I…?” Max timidly asked her. “I mean, should someone finish…?”

“No!” Gwynivara asserted firmly. “Absolutely not!”

But he knows about our headquarters!” John objected.

“We’re not killing him!” Gwynivara exclaimed. “The point of the Rebellion is to find a cure so we can make the world a safer place. The origin is trying to kill everyone on Earth; if we execute him, we’re no better than them! We won’t sink to their level! Get this man out of the catacombs and call for help!”

The Rebels realized she was completely right and hastily picked up the policeman. As they carried him out, the police radio dispatch paged him again, “Officer Macanta, we need you to copy!”

Most of the others seemed to think the issue was resolved until they saw Bernadette, Kierram, and Gwynivara’s faces. Bernadette stood frozen as if she had seen a ghost. Kierram began pacing and periodically cursing. Gwynivara’s head fell into her hands. It took a while to sink in, but once it did, it crushed her. Everything they worked so hard for…This was their home…was…She didn’t want to say it, saying it would make it real. She craned her head up to see the Rebels trying to figure out what was wrong, so she knew she had to steel herself up to help them. Very hollowly, she addressed the others, “We need to evacuate headquarters immediately!”

Everyone got completely shocked to hear this. Cody was the first to speak, “Why? They won’t find him here, so the problem is solved, isn’t it?”

It was hard enough to say it the first time, and Gwynivara had to muster up the strength to say it again. Before she did, Kierram stepped up and answered, “Whether or not the cop lives to tell, the police know something happened in the graveyard. They know fugitives are in the area, and it’s only a matter of time before they search the area. They’ll figure it out eventually. We can’t stay here.”

Everyone began to object, and Gwynivara totally understood why they were upset. She gave them a moment, and then she loudly told everyone, “Listen! Listen! No one wants to go. I certainly don’t. This was our home, and it hurts like hell to leave, to abandon a place that was so good to us, but we got to go. If we stay, they’ll catch us and it’ll be the end of the Rebellion. We’re still in it, the mission will still continue, just not here.”

“But,” Rebekah sobbed, “where will we go?”

“We’ll figure it out,” Gwynivara reassured her. Truthfully, she had no idea where she would hide this many people, but she was sure something would turn up.

At that moment, Bernadette made a noise of utter reluctance. “I’ll have to give her a call!”

Everyone stared at her questioningly. Gwynivara asked, “Her? Who is she?”

Kierram and Gwynivara walked up to the address Bernadette had given them and got a jolt of surprise when they saw it. They knew it would have ample enough space to house the entire Rebellion, but they weren’t prepared to see a small mansion! It was only two stories, but it spread pretty far like a giant brick. Its pastel pink color reminded them of a Barbie’s dream house, but the ivy covering the exterior, fall leaves spread across the lawn, and the short, mossy fence surrounding it gave the place an abandoned feel. A woman with dark skin, an elaborate pink sun hat, and designer clothes walked outside the house and received them, “Welcome to the Ashling Boarding House! Come on in!”

Once they were inside, the lady who greeted them took off her hat, and when Gwynivara got a better glimpse of her face, she could instantly tell that they had just met Bernadette’s mother! They looked exactly alike except for the eyes. Her mother’s eyes were shrewd-looking and gave off none of the warmth that Bernadette’s did. Gwynivara remembered that Bernadette had been so reluctant to contact her, and suddenly she got a very strange vibe from this woman as if she were putting on a show to hide something dark. She gave her a very toothy smile and extended her hand. “Agnes Ashling!”

“I’m Gwyn.” Gwynivara shook her hand and noticed how strong her grip grasped her hand.

“Kierram.” As he shook her hand, Gwynivara could tell he had the same impression of her that she got.

Since they needed her space to house the Rebels, Gwynivara wanted to maintain a friendly relationship with her, so she said graciously, “Thank you so much for letting us use your home!”

“Actually, it’s my second home,” Agnes remarked. “I bought it shortly after my husband’s death. I was so emotional that I just couldn’t be around people, too dangerous!” Kierram and Gwynviara exchanged confused glances, so Agnes clarified, “I have it too. Venenatus Sanguis, I mean.”

Whatever they had expected to hear, it wasn’t that. Kierram inquired, “No one has ever…?”

“Never!” Agnes replied. “The only ones who knew were my family. I’m usually too busy to get too emotional. Feelings have no place in the business world! But if I need a release, I come here.” She glanced at her watch and informed them, “Oh, I have another arrival. Bernadette is waiting for you upstairs. Excuse me!”

They found Bernadette rearranging a closet in a small bedroom that had two twin beds in it. Bernadette kept working, but she told Gwynivara, “I hope you don’t mind, but I started pairing people up as roommates. Figured I’d save you some time.”

“It doesn’t bother me, but I can’t speak for Riley. That’s really more of his thing!” Gwynivara kind of joked but not really.

Bernadette grinned. “There! There’s enough room for your stuff now.” She saw Gwynivara’s surprised reaction and explained, “Everyone has to share a room, and I figured it made sense to pair up the only two female officers. And this room is so small that it’ll just be us in here. Everyone else has at least four to a room thanks to all of the bunk beds already here. Apparently it really was a boarding house at one point, so we got lucky there!”

“Yeah, lucky me, a bunk bed!” Kierram commented sardonically.

“What do you care? You don’t sleep anyways!” Gwynivara teased him.

Kierram tried to hide his smile. “Touché!”

From downstairs, Agnes shouted, “Bernadette! Riley is here! He said he’s gonna take care of the rooms now!”

Bernadette completely cringed when she heard her voice, but she composed herself before she replied, “Okay, great!” She shook off her feelings as she started making her bed.

Gwynivara and Kierram were both thinking it, but Kierram was the first to ask her, “What happened between you two?”

Reluctantly, Bernadette answered, “You know how I said my dad got murdered? They questioned one of his workers that witnesses played on the scene. Daddy was a landlord, and he used to help the community by giving homeless men a place to live in exchange for handyman work. The guy who killed him was a drug addict trying to get clean, so police chalked it up to ‘That’s what crackheads do,” as if he relapsed and just went nuts. The case never went to trial ‘cause the judge claimed that they couldn’t establish a motive. Before Daddy died, he and my mom were arguing. He kept our secret, but it was getting harder to hide, especially since my mom is an emotional basket case and would sprout beasts left and right. He controlled our money to really limit how much my mom left the house. She hated that and threw a fit if he said no to her request. A week before he got shot, she had a huge blow out with him, and he threatened to send her to quarantine. She kept muttering ‘I’ve got to do something! I’ve got to do something!’ I had a real bad feeling before I went on that yacht party, her behavior was just so odd! That murderer roaming the streets right now had a motive alright, she paid him to do it! She had motive to have him killed! The police questioned her but couldn’t prove anything with her either!” She stopped to take a deep breath and collect herself. “She did it! I know she did! I hate the fact I need her help right now!”

Kierram and Gwynivara listened to the story in astonishment. Gwynivara couldn’t imagine what she went through to have her father, whom she seemed to love very much, get murdered, but to think that her mother was responsible for it must have been unbearable! Based on her first impression of Agnes, she believed Bernadette, but she didn’t express this. Unfortunately, they had nowhere else to go right now, so they would have to pretend it wasn’t true for a while. She didn’t express this though, she didn’t have to. She knew that Bernadette knew all of this. Instead, she stated, “Well, we won’t have to be here for too long. I think I know the origin’s location!”

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Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 21

I can’t!” Gwynivara didn’t have a problem making important decisions for the Rebellion anymore. At first, it overwhelmed her, but after some time, it became more and more comfortable to do. This felt different though, and she figured out why- the people involved with missions knew the risks and accepted responsibility for any consequences resulting from that decision, but Emorick had no say so on this. He was dying and couldn’t give her advice on his fate. She held his destiny in her hands! The pressure twisted her insides into a knot. The wrong choice could have devastating results, and she didn’t know if she could live with herself if that happened.

“Yes you can!” Kierram gently encouraged her. “You always do the right thing. I trust you.” He pat her hand reassuringly.

His support at that moment was successful in bolstering her spirits, but she still felt on edge. Her nerves were still jangling, but she knew that a call must be made and that she had to be the one to do it. Kierram was his family, and his presence made the process easier because if he didn’t think it was the best idea, he would voice that opinion before anybody acted on it. She placed her head inside her cupped hands and took a deep breath to clarify her mind. She cast out all doubt and mentally prepared herself to do this.

She reviewed the facts of the situation. Emorick was knocking on death’s door, and if he had to pick a final resting place that would give him the most comfort, Gwynivara felt confident he would pick inside the Rebel headquarters. If she sent him to the hospital, he pass away without anyone he cared about by his side. He created the Rebellion, and his zealous passion to find the cure for Venenatus Sanguis brought them all together. The people here loved him and held such a high regard for his character. She witnessed how heartbroken everyone was when they couldn’t bury Kennith, and she knew that no one would want to go through that devastation again. For a brief moment, the choice seemed obvious.

She almost said it, but she couldn’t get the words out. Something was holding her back as if she was missing something. Her logic dictated that if she had to choose where Emorick should die, she knew the Rebel headquarters made much more sense than a hospital. She stared at Emorick almost as if she hoped that he would wake up and make this decision obvious. All of it sudden, it clicked for her- Emorick was dying, but he wasn’t dead yet. If he stayed here, it would totally seal his fate. However, if he went to the hospital, there was a small chance of survival. When he first went into a coma, she was sure he would wake up and want to be here when that happened, but now she was sure if he stayed here, he wouldn’t wake up. The medics couldn’t bring him back, not with the limited supplies they had here, but surely the doctors would have everything needed to save his life. He wouldn’t like waking up in side the hospital, but it was better than not waking up at all! Gwynivara felt a small glimmer of hope, and she didn’t want to dim this light inside of her.

She now felt that taking him to the hospital was the right thing to do, but part of her wondered if she was being selfish. She didn’t know if it’d be right to keep him alive if he awoke to a tortuous life. If he did recover, there was still a chance that he would get his identity revealed and spend the rest of his days in quarantine. It would be cruel to send him back there when he worked so hard to escape that place. They held dozens of people here who chose to stay in the Rebellion than risk going there, no one wanted that. She wondered if it would be more humane to just let him spend what little time he had left at the place where he felt the happiest…

Before she could make a call, a snarling beast that somewhat resembled a reptilian tiger skulked onto Emorick’s bed, snarling at them! From the corner of her eye, she saw a crossbow glimmering in the first aid station’s supply closet. Instinctively, she grabbed it, stood up, and shot the creature right between the eye! It sprawled across Emorick’s bed and became motionless. Gwynivara gazed at the weapon she found curiously and asked the medic, “Why is this here?”

He answered, “When people get badly injured, emotions run high. The risk for monsters are extremely high, so we keep a small stash of weapons here, just in case.”

“I’m sorry,” Kierram apologized. “My dad’s dying and I couldn’t help it! I-!”

“Don’t ever apologize for being human!” Gwynivara cracked a smile, her head brimming with warm memories. “Emorick told me that my first day here. Before I even entered the catacombs, I started crying and created a beast. The thing got killed easily, and I apologized, but he didn’t make me feel bad for it. Then we toured the Rebel headquarters like nothing happened.” Both she and Kierram chuckled while they reminisced. “Funny, when he showed me this room, I never thought I’d seem here like this.” Suddenly, it dawned on her- Emorick already told her what to do!

“What?” Kierram reacted with concern for her sudden change in mood. “What is it?”

She turned to the medic feeling almost giddy from relief that Emorick had made the decision, and now all she had to do was relay his message. “That first day, he told me that if anyone here gets hurt or injured, but our supplies are limited, so if they’re injured enough, they gotta go to the hospital! So, don’t you see? He already gave the orders! We’ll take him there immediately!”

Bernadette peeked out from under a manhole cover with he eyes barely visible above the ground, and when she saw no one around, she sprung up and quietly exited the sewer. She scanned the area, and when she confirmed that no one was around, she motioned to others to come up. Kierram and a couple officers darted out while Gwynivara and a few more officers maneuvered Emorick’s body up the metal ladder and out of the sewer. Kierram and Bernadette received him by grabbing his arms, and the other officers all hovered around him one by one. Everyone hoisted him up and moved him across the factory floor as quickly as possible. This part of the plan made Gwynivara the most nervous. Their uniforms would easily explain their presence at the bakery factory, but it would be awfully hard to explain why they were carrying a body! Luckily, after a very long few seconds, they made it to the back of the truck fast enough! They opened up the back and heaved him inside. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief; they were safe, but their job wasn’t over yet.

Gwynivara quietly ordered, “Okay, now we gotta find a phone and-”

Before she could finish her sentence, an elderly custodian came shuffling into view. Everyone stood still like deer caught in headlights silently praying that the darkness would conceal them. It did not! The old man hobbled over to them and inquired, “What are you doing here?” Before they could blurt out the excuse that they rehearsed, the old janitor jovially remarked, “They sure have been working you guys to death!”

“You don’t know how right you are!” Gwynivara responded. “There’s a half dead man in the back of that truck!”

“Wha…?” the old man reacted in shock.

Bernadetted urged, “Quick! Call 9-1-1!”

He understood the sense of urgency and moved with a surprising amount of agility. The officers took this moment to escape. They all flew back into the sewer, but Kierram, Gwynivara, and Bernadette peeked to watch the scene unfold. After a couple of minutes, they saw the old janitor shuffle back out there, who looked a bit confused about where everyone went. It didn’t take long for police to arrive. They went to the back of the truck and confirmed the old man’s story. Shortly after that, paramedics arrived, and the Rebels took that as their cue to leave. They quietly covered the manhole cover and sped away to catch up with the others. They had done it, Emorick was on his way to the hospital!

On the way back, when they were at a distance safe enough to avoid detection by the police, Gwynivara, Bernadette, and Kierram slowed their gait, walking with heavy steps and long faces. Gwynivara thought out loud, “I wish there was a way we could’ve done this better. I mean, I know that this was the fastest way to get him to the hospital, but it feels so impersonal. I know, I know, when we planned this out, it logically made sense to keep his cover as a John Doe, but it happened so fast! If we could’ve brought him to the hospital ourselves, we could’ve had a chance to say-.”

“We didn’t need to say goodbye!” Kierram reminded her. “He’s still alive, and we’ll see him again real soon!” He aimed these words for her, but she could tell he was also trying to convince himself to believe this.

Bernadette sadly put in, “He’s gonna pull through this, I know it! He’s a fighter! He will…” She had to stop mid-sentence to stifle a sob. Gwynivara put a sympathetic hand on her shoulder, so Bernadette said, “I’ll be alright. It just made me think of Daddy. He got shot and he almost made it.” Gwynivara and Kierram fell reverently silent as she revealed a piece of her past that she had been so protective on keeping secret. “I was at a yacht party when it happened, I had no clue that the last time I saw him was the last time I was gonna see him. You don’t always get a warning when someone leaves us forever. We all wanna have one last sweet moment with the people we care about, but life doesn’t always give us that option. You have to do it in your own time in your own way sometimes.” She paused and added, “Not that you’ll have to worry about that with Emorick. He’s gonna make it, I can feel it!”

Gwynivara had so many questions for her that she didn’t know where to begin. Just before they got to their exit point, Gwynivara tried to narrow it down to what she wanted to ask Bernadette first. She didn’t get a chance to ask anything though because her pocket began to get really warm. She stopped to investigate while Bernadette and Kierram stared curiously. She fished the orb out, which felt almost hot to the touch. She found it so strange, but when she saw what it displayed, she gasped, “Oh my god!” She didn’t get a chance to explain herself. Her heart nearly dropped as a figure ran towards them…

Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 20

Once again, we have gathered here to honor the fallen,” a clergyman, who stood at the head of the ceremony room, addressed the crowded room of Rebels. “Another officer has tragically lost their life in the line of duty. It is a hurt that never gets any easier, and today, we must take a moment to let our hearts bleed for him. Losing a member of our community aches as much as losing a string to our heart. Time may heal our wounds, but the scars will last forever. We will never fully heal, but we will make sure that those who sacrificed their life for this cause did not die in vain! We will not stop until we find the cure! Only then will the perished rest in peace! Today, Kennith joins the souls who also died for the mission, and his spirit will watch over us as long as we live. In a way, he never left us. Still, today we gather to say goodbye to his Earthly presence. Let us take a moment of silence for a final farewell.” Gwynivara and the others all bowed their heads, staring at the candles in their hands. After an appropriate amount of time had passed, the clergyman went on, “Thank you, Kennith, for all you’ve done for us as well as mankind. Your efforts will not get forgotten.” A tear rolled down Gwynivara’s cheeks from both the clergyman’s words and the people who gathered here for Kennith today. Kennith was no saint, but his life meant something. The clergyman concluded, “We each hold a candle symbolizing life, and we will each take turns placing them into the fireplace. Our flame may tarnish, but it then becomes part of something greater that does some good for the world. We will honor Kennith’s life in this way and pray that our own flames within stay burning brightly to carry on the wishes of the fallen.” One by one, everyone put their candles into large fireplace behind the clergyman. The combination of his words and a growing fire left everyone feeling warm.

After the service, Gwynivara sat glumly at stone table setup outside of the kitchen. She stared at the orb, wondering why it changed from glowing purple to green. Riley and Bernadette abruptly sat down at the table in front of her. She came out of her funk just as Bernadette inquired, “Any new movement?”

“The creature never seems to visit the same place twice,” Gwynivara replied. “It’s a smart strategy on their part; if it was kept in a place over and over again, eventually someone will notice. Eventually, they’ll take it to a remote location, I know they will! I highly doubt the origin will risk leaving their stronghold to go into our territory, so eventually the henchmen will go to her. I was hoping they would go there straight after the incident, but I guess I have no choice but to stay patient.”

Riley remarked, “Don’t you hate it when the enemy is smart? Though I suppose if they weren’t, we would have gotten them a long time ago!”

Gwynivara chuckled, “Yeah, that would’ve been nice!”

Cody came over carrying a map, which he plopped in front of Riley. “I looked up the addresses you gave me in the phone book. None of them popped as businesses except for one- the Addleson Apple Orchard.”

“The apple orchard?” Riley cried out.

His response peaked Cody’s interest. “Why? What does that mean?”

“Nothing. I just love that place.” Upon seeing Cody’s crestfallen expression, Riley told him, “By the way, good work!”

Overhearing the last part of the conversation, Rebekah commented, “Oh, Cody, I didn’t know you were an officer!”

Cody was about to deny it, but Riley stepped on his foot to stop him. “Oh yeah, he’s been a huge asset to our administrative efforts! Plus, he’s in charge of weapons distribution!”

“Yeah, I am,” Cody responded bashfully. “But they make my job sound way more important than it actually is!”

“But it is important!” Rebekah disagreed in a very admiring tone. “Without our weapons, we couldn’t fight back! So, how do you decide who gets what?”

Riley took the reins of the conversation and said, “Oh, I’m sure he’d love to explain it to you! Here, you two take a seat. We gotta go do the thing…!”

“Oh yes, the thing!” Bernadette played along.

“Yeah, we gotta do the thing!” Gwynivara chimed in.

The three of them got up as Cody, who now seemed pretty pleased with himself, described to Rebekah the process of renting out weapons. Riley, Bernadette, and Gwynivara got to a spot well out of their immediate eyesight, turned back, and watched the scene unfold for a moment. Both of them were smiling broadly while maintaining constant eye contact. “Aw, they’re flirting!” Riley noted delightfully. “Is it cool that I made Cody an officer so he could pick up a chick?”

Gwynivara grinned. “It’s fine. But don’t do that again!”

“Well, obviously!” Riley saw Gwynivara’s face, which portrayed some playfulness but did raise her eyebrows. “And by that I mean yes ma’am!”

Gwynivara and Bernadette giggled. Rebekah and Cody glanced in their direction, so they all scattered to pretend they weren’t staring. At the fork, Riley had gone left towards the training room while Gwynivara went right towards her room. Bernadette fell into her footfall and remarked, “They’re so cute!”

“Yeah,” Gwynivara agreed, “They both obviously like each other. It’s about time they admitted their feelings for each other and become a couple!” After she spoke, she realized that she was walking alone. When she looked back, she saw Bernadette staring hard at her, saying without words ‘Really?’ Gwynivara, now confused, asked, “What?”

Bernadette rolled her eyes in exasperation. “Seriously? That doesn’t ring a bell of truth for you?”

“Truth about what?” Gwynivara genuinely did not understand what she had been referring to.

Bernadette made a noise of slight annoyance, and then she whispered, “When are you gonna admit you have feelings for Kierram?”

Gwynivara nearly had a heart attack from the shock of her accusation. She couldn’t understand how Bernadette even came up with that theory, but the thought of it made her feel a very awkward pressure. “Ugh, I don’t feel anything for him except for a close friendship.”

Bernadette clearly didn’t believe her. “This is a little deeper than friendship. When you talk about him, you smile-.”

“I do?” Gwynivara reacted in surprise.

“Yes!” Bernadette insisted. “And you always find reasons to get close to each other.”

“Only as part of the mission! It’s important to partner up with someone you feel comfortable enough to get close to,” Gwynivara refuted.

“I think you wanna get a little closer than that!” Bernadette said slyly.

“Closer?” Gwynivara puzzled. “We were literally standing against each other! How can we get closer than…?” She caught on to what she meant mid-sentence and blushed furiously. “No! No! No! I’ve never thought about him like that!”

“Maybe you should!” Bernadette suggested. “He is pretty handsome.”

“Well, yeah…” Gwynivara felt a slight temptation to explore the idea of it, but she halted that thought immediately. “No! I’m his superior! That’s not very professional!”

Bernadette teased her, “Your knees are getting weak!”

To her horror, Bernadette was completely right, but Gwynivara would never admit it to her. Instead, she scanned the area to find an excuse to get out of this conversation. She saw the medic coming out of the first aid station with a look of disappointment and frustration. “I should go check on him.” She didn’t look back, but she knew Bernadette was smirking from satisfaction of their conversation. She dashed away before she could say anything more.

Gwynivara approached the medic and inquired, “Are you alright?”

When the medic realized who was speaking to him, he breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh, I was about to send for you. You have a difficult decision to make.”

She knew that this could mean only one thing. “No!” She ran into the first aid station to Emorick’s bedside only to see that he had lost consciousness. “No! He can’t be…!” She couldn’t finish that sentence.

“He’s not dead,” a hollow voice from behind her sounded. She turned around to see Kierram slumped in his chair and wallowing in tears. She slowly made her way over to him as he sobbed, “Not yet anyways.”

Gwynivara put a sympathetic arm on his back and pat him gently. “He could still…there’s still a chance…”

“He’s dying, you know it!” Kierram snapped a little. Gwynviara knew what kind of pai nhe was in right then, so she didn’t flinch or get offended by his temper. She continued to hold him as he wept. After a moment, Kierram lamented, “I don’t deserve any sympathy! I’m a terrible son!”

“That’s not true!” Gwynivara emphatically denied.

“I wasn’t nice to him,” Kierram went on. “I pushed him away. He wouldn’t want me here right now!” Kierram cut Gwynivara off before she could object again. “This is just like when Mom died.” Gwynivara fell silent upon hearing this. Kierram so rarely spoke about his past, so she treated this moment with reverence. “She never forgave me for following in my father’s footsteps and joining the military. She kept saying her heart couldn’t take it. Every news story about ‘Nam made her think I was hurt. Every phone call she got, she claimed she had a mini episode thinking that it was the call. I thought she was exaggerating, and she wouldn’t speak to me for years…Then one day, she had a heart attack! The doctors wouldn’t let me see her after surgery. They claim her condition was too awful for visitors, but I’m not an idiot. She told them not to let me in! I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, but maybe I didn’t deserve one after all I put her through!” Gwynivara tried to refute this, but he stopped her, “You wouldn’t understand! Your parents are still alive, and you probably have a close relationship with them. If you didn’t, you would’ve mentioned it by now, I know you would!”

Kierram had just been honest with her, so it was her turn to divulge about her past. “Actually, I’ve been avoiding the subject ‘cause it’s too painful. When I first got Venenatus Sanguis, I became a fugitive. They kept sending police to my childhood home over and over and over again. They followed them everywhere- to work, to the grocery store, the post office…They were so sure I’d meet them in secret. I couldn’t let them live like that, so I wrote them a letter telling them to change their names and get out of town. I told them not to come back until they saw a headline about the cure. They listened, and I never saw them again. I have no idea what name they go by now or where they went. I’d like ot think they went to Florida ‘cause we have family there, but really, I have no clue. That’s the whole idea though, they can’t associate with a fugitive. If I had any idea where they were, I would at least check the paper everyday just to know they’re still alive. You’re lucky you got all this time with your parents! I’d give anything just to hold them one more time!”

Kierram sniffled. “I had all this time to spend with my parents and I blew it! I pushed my mom away and then I did it again to my dad. Maybe it’s just me! Maybe I’m just too messed up! Maybe I’m just too difficult to love!”

“That’s not true,” Gwynivara stated firmly. “I…” She didn’t finish her sentence because she realized what she was about to say what she just got through denying. For a second, she wondered if it was the grief talking or if she meant it. He looked at her incredulously, and her heart raced. He was in so much turmoil, and he didn’t deserve it! She admired his character- smart, incredibly brave, so thoughtful…Her instincts wanted to shower him with affection until he healed his emotional wounds, and with that, she knew that she felt more than mere friendship for him! She didn’t say a word though, she couldn’t tell if Kierram shared this sentiment or not. Tears welled up in his eyes again, and she couldn’t help herself- she pulled him in close and held him tight as he broke down.

This tender moment got interrupted when the medic walked in and gingerly brought up, “I hate to intrude, but this is important.” Both Gwynivara and Kierram turned to face him. “Emorick probably has a blood infection. His only shot would be at a hospital. So, my question is do you wanna take a chance with an emergency room or should he spend the last of his days here?” Kierram and the medic turned to Gwynivara, who was dumbstruck. She didn’t know what to do…

Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 19

Gwynivara knew that he intended to intimidate them, but she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction! She craned her neck to confirm that the man was the same dirty cop that tried to attack them outside the military supply store, and indeed he was. She turned back around quickly, hoping that he wouldn’t recognize her. If he did, he may attack them sooner than they planned, and she couldn’t have that. She really thought that she had killed him with her Venenatus Sanguis outburst! She did notice a slew of bandages scattered throughout his body, which did put a slight smirk on her face. It fell pretty quickly though- she didn’t see Kennith with him.

Kierram obviously observed this too and, cutting straight to the chase, asked him, “Where’s Kennith?”

“You’ll be with him soon enough!” he leered. He watched their faces, and when he saw such a lack of emotion coming from his captives, he remarked, “Oh, are we putting on a brave face? That’s cute! We’ll see how long that lasts!”

Gwynivara had to fight the urge to give him a snappy retort. If she opened her mouth, she knew that he would figure out her identity and would change his tactics, so she had to bite her tongue. She trusted Kierram completely though, so she knew he would he would take the reins and do the right thing to keep their plan in motion. This belief got confirmed when Kierram snidely commented, “There’s two of us and only one of you. I think we can take you!”

“You think I would come alone?” the man laughed him off. He motioned behind him as if he beckoned someone to enter. Gwynivara heard a floor board by the door creak three different times, and she had to fight her curious desire to see who they were. It was still too soon for her to reveal her presence, so she had to conceal herself as long as possible.

Unexpectantly, Rick poked his head inside the kitchen and asked, “Hey Abigor, you want me to guard this one?” Gwynivara’s interest peaked, wondering if she would finally be able to put a name to the face of the orderly turned police officer that kept popping up in the course of the mission.

Her suspicions were confirmed when she heard him snap at Rick, “No! Go guard the front door like I told you to!” Rick started to object, and so Abigor bellowed, “Do as I command!” Rick reluctantly slinked away. Gwynivara had already figured that Abigor must hold some sort of leadership position in the origin’s ranks, but Rick was a fairly powerful man himself, so she wondered what sort of leverage Abigor had on him.

Abigor ordered, “Sam, guard the female.” A very lanky young man in a monk-like robe stood before her harboring a creature somewhat resembling a dog, who snarled at her. She discretely dug into Kierram’s pocket as Abigor spoke, “I recognize you, brotha! You helped her escape the Public Health Center. you’re her little stooge, aren’t you?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kierram lied.

Abigor made a noise of irritation. “Sam, is that her?”

Sam tried to study her face, but she hid it by looking away and partially covering her face with her hand. Adrenaline surged throughout Gwynivara’s body. This was her favorite part of the plan, the part where it appeared as though they were loosing control when they were actually gaining it! Same tried to pry her grip away with his one free hand, but she stiffened her muscles so he had to struggle. When he finally pried her hand away, Gwynivara had to take action before he could confirm who she was, and so she spat in his face! While he reacted as if she had spilled something life-threatening in his face, the dog-like creature became defensive. It barked and put its forelegs on top of Gwynivara, who pretended to fall and cower down to it, holding its jaws so it couldn’t bite her.

At that moment, the doorbell rang, and their captors grew as still as statues. Their nervousness was palpable, and even the beast’s attention waned. Abigor whispered, “Get it off her.” Sam’s face protested the idea, so Abigor hissed, “Whoever’s there could hear a girl getting ripped to shreds. Get it off!” Sam reluctantly did as he was told. Gwynivara sprang up and waited for the rest of their plan to unfold.

Rick popped his head back into the kitchen, and he inquired, “You want me to get that?”

“No, you idiot!” Abigor spat. “It could be a threat!”

“It’s just a little old oriental lady,” Rick reasoned.

Abigor relaxed a little upon hearing this. “Fine. See what she wants and send her away.” Rick obeyed the instruction, and then Abigor warned everyone, “Stay quiet until they leave!”

Everyone remained silent and listened intently at the interaction. They heard Rick’s muffled voice but couldn’t make out what he was saying. They heard Niqun’s voice asking something frantically. Gwynivara and Kierram knew that she had a map with her, and at any second, she would point to it, making him bend down to see what she was referencing. Once that happened, they would hear…whack! Something hit Rick’s head hard, making the captors go on guard. The doors burst open, and the first thing they saw was a a shot gun being brandished towards them. Bernadette declared, “Don’t move! We have you surrounded!” Kierram and Gwynivara linked arms and concentrated fiercely as she made her entrance. As soon as she finished speaking, the walls of the house fell down as easily as a house of cards, revealing a dozen Rebel officers surrounding the scene!

Gwynivara finally faced Abigor, whose expression fell from shock. “You!”

Very coldly, Gwynivara told him, “You’re only alive right now ‘cause we need to know…where’s Kennith?”

Abigor scoffed at her, “You’re bluffing!”

The Rebel officers surrounding them, which he just now noticed wore all black with shirts that said ‘FBI,’ all cocked their guns. Abigor also realized that the people who lived in the nearby homes gathered outside and watched the scene totally astonished. He knew he couldn’t do anything out of the ordinary or else a witness would report him, so he knew there would be only one way out of this. “See that well in the backyard? He’s in there.” Gwynivara could’ve prevented what was about to happen next, but they needed the captors to think that they had outsmarted the Rebels, so the officers all turned their attention to the crumbling well in the weed-filled backyard. The captors used their distraction to push past the Rebels and shrieking neighbors and ran out of sight.

Gwynivara and the other officers ran after them…very slowly. The idea was that the origin’s henchmen needed to think they were in the clear. After a while, they lost eyesight of them and stopped. They had to play the part, and FBI agents would go after an escaped criminal. But this alos gave them the perfect excuse to escape the scene. Eventually, the Great Dismal Falls police department would catch wind of what was happening and would head to the area to investigate. They couldn’t risk staying there because they were all wanted criminals, and Gwynivara couldn’t risk anyone going to jail or quarantine. This rescue mission was challenging enough! The Rebel officers all marched back towards headquarters as planned. Most of their plan went down without a hitch, but everyone walked dismally for the part of the plan that went wrong- Kennith was supposed to be returning with them.

Gwynivara’s heart ached for the Rebels’ fallen comrade. Abigor hadn’t been dishonest, Kennith’s body was indeed stuffed in that well. She had really thought that they would keep him alive to bait the Rebels properly. She wondered at what point they killed him. It was hard to say if they murdered him right away and staged him being alive because they knew that the Rebels were watching or if they had done it while the search party’s back was turned. She could only hope that whenever they did it, however they did it that his suffering was minimal! She admired Kennith immensely for acting so heroically for their cause! If he hadn’t stepped in, those children may have been stuffed in that well! He died doing the right thing, which made the whole situation so tragic. She knew that it was a possibility going into the predicament, but that didn’t stop her heart from hurting.

When they got to the graveyard, everyone rushed in hoping to find Niqun. To their great relief, she was in the catacombs waiting form them! “Oh thank god, Niqun! You’re okay!”

“Of course I’m okay!” Niqun responded. “You think I would go down so easily?”

Gwynivara couldn’t help but to grin at her spunky attitude. “Did they give you much trouble?”

“Nah,” she replied. “They asked me what I saw, I pretended not to speak English, and they let me go. Works every time!”

Bernadette probed, “Did they…did they bring him out of the well?”

Niqun sadly nodded. “They put him on a tarp on the grass to examine him as they searched the well. I left before they took him away.”

One officer exclaimed, “We have to get his body back and give him a proper burial! We can’t let them throw him into a potter’s field!”

Kierram opinionated, “He does deserve a proper burial, but he wouldn’t want us to risk our lives for this. I know it’s hard, believe me! Do you know how many men we had to leave behind in ‘Nam? So many heroes got left in the battlefield! It’s an unfortunate frequency in times of war.” Everyone seemed disappointed at the idea, but they had to accept that he was right.

Gwynivara put in, “Maybe when this is all over, we can go back for his body. But for now, we gotta put all our energy into another risk.” She pulled the orb out of her pocket, which showed a blank, black canvas with a small, red dot.

Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 18

We think he got kidnapped!” Bernadette revealed.

“Kidnapped?” Gwynivara couldn’t wrap her head around the idea. It just didn’t seem possible, and her mind just wouldn’t accept it. “Kennith is a big, strong dude who could easily fight off an attacker! With or without his Venenatus Sanguis abilities! He’s one of the least likely people for this to happen to! Are you sure?”

Riley explained, “When you all left for the mission, I formed a search party like you said. We hadn’t even left the graveyard when we ran into two kids, scared to death, hiding behind a couple of tombstones. They told us after they escaped quarantine, they were trying to run to their grandmother’s house when some really tall man snatched them up and tried to bring them in his house. The kids were kicking and screaming enough to slow the man down, and Kennith heard them. He held a sword up to the guy’s neck and ordered him to let the kids go, which he did, but then he slapped the sword out of his hands! They started fighting physically, but the other guy was so big that it was easy for him to get the upper hand. At one point, he threw Kennith to the ground by where the kids were, and he whispered to them, ordering them to run to the graveyard. The man used this split second distraction to knock Kennith out. The kids did as they were told, but before they got out of eyesight, they looked back one more time and saw that he was gone.”

Gwynivara knew that the kids more than likely didn’t lie about the situation-they’d have no motive to do so, but something still didn’t feel right to her. “You said you think he was kidnapped. Kidnapped, not killed. How do we know he’s still alive?”

Bernadette told her, “The search party staked out the place. They saw what looked like a backhand slap to someone on the couch. No one actually saw him, but they heard some banging around. We were waiting until you started the officers’ meeting to determine what to do about this situation.”

Gwynivara found this so odd. She tried to comprehend what would possess the man to capture Kennith and hold him against his will. She mused whether or not the man got off on pain and torture or if he had a more sinister desire. She briefly considered calling the police and letting them do some good for a change by putting this prick behind bars, but that would risk Kennith getting arrested for quarantine evasion. She concluded that they would have to rescue him themselves, but something still gnawed at her. Before kidnapping Kennith, he tried to take the kids…that’s when it clicked for her. She uncermoniously got out of her seat, brusquely telling the others in the room, “Come on!”

They followed Gwynivara as she marched into the training room. The officers that had already assembled got startled by Gwynivara’s abrupt determination and snapped into attention. As soon as Bernadette, Riley, and Cody fell into place, Gwynivara stood before them and stated boldly, “It’s a trap!”

The officers were surprised by her assertion, and one of them reacted, “How do you know?”

“Because,” Gwynivara justified her belief, “the man tried to kidnap the kids first. He didn’t try to take them to authorities to claim the reward for capturing quarantine escapees. Then, when he’s stopped from doing that, he kidnaps someone totally different than who just tried to nab. Who does that? Criminals who prey on people stick to a type, and yes, I suppose it’s possible to kidnap anyone who just happened to be available for the sole purpose of torture, but how likely is that? The victims do have one thing in common though- they all have Venenatus Sanguis. If the man knew that, why would he risk his own life by putting them under extreme stress and making them conjure up a beast? What are the odds a kidnapper would pick up people at random not knowing that they all have this commonality? The only other explanation is that this guy works for the origin, and they’re trying to lure us in. They know we’re getting close to the truth, and they’re hoping we’ll feel we have no choice but to go in and save him. As soon as we’re inside that place, they’ll give us nowhere to run and do us in. That scenario seems more likely, don’t you think?”

Another officer inquired, “So, you’re saying that we shouldn’t rescue Kennith?”

“No!” Kierram refuted that notion. “She has a plan to use this knowledge to our advantage. We’re going to pretend to buy into it and spring a trap of our own!”

“Exactly!” Gwynivara didn’t expect Kierram to rush to her defense like that, but she felt so grateful to have that kind of solidarity. She continued, “We’re going to use this opportunity to plant the tracking device. We’ll deliver them what they want, at first…”

If it wasn’t for the adrenaline from anticipating an ominous mission, Gwynivara would have been exhausted! The walk took longer than she thought it would, and she wished that it wasn’t so far out so that they could get this done and over with! To keep her nerves from paralyzing her, she made small observations about her surroundings. The houses lined some grassy hills, and she guessed that the residents here liked being nestled close to town while simultaneously living almost within walking distance to the mountains. This neighborhood seemed like it was lower middle class, and she briefly wondered if they stood out walking through the area with their crisp, black suits. Kierram noted, “We’re almost there.” Butterflies fluttered through her stomach. She rubbed her head slightly, wondering if the wig would stay on during the battle. She didn’t know for sure what would happen, but she had a feeling it wouldn’t be so easy to rescue Kennith or to outwit the origin!

They didn’t need to see the address to know that they had come to the right spot. The house looked as though it had never been painted, and the wood was so dilapidated that Gwynivara was surprised that it stayed structurally sound. The fence, made of the same shabby material as the house, was lopsided in some areas, and the holes gave them a clear view of the unkempt grass on the side of the yard. When they rounded to the front of the home, they saw a void in the grass by the backyard gate, and the two of them instantly knew that this was where Kennith got knocked and dragged into the house. They both exchanged worried glances and tried not to think about it as they entered the front yard.

The pathway to the front door, made of that same rickety lumber, buckled slightly under their feet. Reaching the front porch didn’t provide much relief for them. Dirt covered everything except for the dead plants, and the state of the windows and door gave the place an almost abandoned feel to it. The only personal touch came from the slender, white figures dangling from the low hanging ceiling that made an unusual clinking sound in the wind. Kierram commented, “Wow, what strange wind chimes!”

Gwynivara studied them, and a sickening feeling rose in the pit of her stomach. “Those aren’t wind chimes!” Kierram took a closer look and realized that they were pieces of bone! He practically jumped away from fright, and Gwynivara inquired, “Do you think they’re human?”

Kierram pulled himself back into focus and replied, “Either way, it’s not a good sign!” Gwynivara grimaced and knocked on the door.

The few seconds it took for someone to answer seemed to last forever. Gwynivara heard footsteps creaking towards them, and she quickly fell into character. That didn’t stop her heart from pounding wildly as the door swung open. She expected to see a stereotypical convict, but what she got was a very tall man with straw-like hair matted down by a cowboy hat with alligator teeth around the base, which clashed terribly with the olive-drab green zebra striped vest he also wore. For a second, his cartoonish appearance threw her off, but the pronounced scowl and intense glare let her know that they had found the right guy. He growled, “Can’t you read?” He pointed to a sign that said ‘No Trespassing.’ He seethed, “Get off my property!”

Gwynivara coolly pulled out a piece of paper and informed him, “FBI. We have a warrant to search the premises.” While he read the sheet in total astonishment, Gwynivara pushed him aside and entered the building with Kierram.

Kierram and Gwynivara pulled out their flashlights and scanned the small living room. Bernadette had told her that the search party had seen the man slap someone in this room, but all they could see was old-fashioned, hardly used furniture. Gwynivara reasoned that he must’ve moved Kennith to somewhere less conspicuous, but that didn’t comfort her much. Although they had planned for this, she had partly hoped to get in and get out quickly. While they roamed the living room, the man staggered over and remarked, “I ain’t hiding no quarantine children!”

Kierram responded, “A witness placed them in your yard the night of the fire. If you’ve got nothing to hide, then you don’t have anything to worry about.” He saw some mail on a coffee table and casually glanced at the name on the address. “So, I assume you’re the homeowner, Rick Actaeon?”

He answered snidely, “I dunno, am I?”

“That’s him,” Gwynviara confirmed. “If he wasn’t, he’d deny it.” Rick pouted, not being able to refute her logic. As she peered at the couch by the window, she noticed blood spatter on its arm. “What happened here?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Rick said spitefully. “It ain’t kids’ blood.”

From behind a pair of wooden swinging doors, Gwynivara and Kierram heard a loud bump. Kierram asked, “What was that?”

“None of your business,” he retorted.

“We’ll see about that!” Gwynivara stated. They each took a door and slowly eased it open. The doors revealed a decrepit, neglected kitchen with flies hovering around a sink full of dirty dishes. The room appeared empty, but they were not so easily fooled. They tiptoed into the room, ready for an ambush. They heard another bump coming from a room in the nearby hallway. While Gwynivara crept towards the hallway, Kierram put his back to hers and eyed the room before him.

Gwynivara peeked down the hallway, which seemed dark and empty. She knew that they had not fully vetted the kitchen, but there was no signs of Kennith there. However, she did not budge. Something didn’t feel right. She thought, perhaps, it stemmed from the lack of escape routes in that part of the house, but her instincts seemed to indicate that they weren’t done in the kitchen. She heard another bump sound from what looked like the bedroom, but this area gave off an aura of being completely vacant. Puzzled and unsure of what to do next, she stayed rooted to the spot. A split second after she made that decision, a familiar male’s voice leered, “Well, well, well! What have we got here?”