“There’s no time to explain! I need to go!” Emily jumped out of the car and made a beeline for her house.
“Wait!” Stephen got out of the car and quickly followed her. He felt a little hurt that she apparently decided that she didn’t trust him, but he also felt deeply concerned that Emily showed signs of wanting to go rogue. He couldn’t have that happen! It was his job to protect her so she can restore stability to Amouraq and quell the anxieties of the countries that depend on it, but more importantly, he didn’t want her to isolate herself because that’s exactly what the other heirs did before they were murdered. He knew Emily had been correct in her assessment that he had no idea what the Amouraqians were capable of, but he did know that it was always safer to have an extra set of eyes around. He wouldn’t let her face this alone, so he vowed to himself to always keep her in his sight no matter what.
He let himself into the house, and he saw Emily march right past Amelia, who looked utterly bewildered at her demeanor. “Emily! Emily?” When she saw Stephen, she inquired, “What happened?”
“I’ll explain later!” He brushed past her to make sure Emily didn’t escape through a back door or window. He went down a small hallway to a little bedroom with a queen sized bed, an antique dresser, and compact desk all taking up the majority of the space. Emily pulled a gray duffle bag out of her closet and flung it onto her bed. He could see that it was mostly full, but she unzipped it to add to it. She pulled a large, ancient looking book out from under her bed, and as she packed it away, without looking at him, she sourly remarked, “I suppose it won’t do any good to tell you to stop following me, will it?”
“Nope!” Stephen affirmed. “The FBI assigned me to the high risk division for a reason. I’m willing to lay my life on the line to bring justice to those who deserve it, and I’ll do the same to protect the people who need it!”
Emily stopped packing as she dourly expressed, “I don’t want you to die protecting me! I feel bad enough about that other agent getting shot trying to keep me safe! I shouldn’t have let her stay with me!”
Stephen debated her, “She wouldn’t have lived with herself if she neglected her duty and let something happen to you. She did her job, which comes with risk no matter what assignment she gets. The same goes for me. I got assigned to this case, and I’m going to see it through to the end no matter what!”
“You’ve done your job though,” Emily argued. “You saved my life once, and I’m grateful for that. But I couldn’t, in good conscious, put you in a situation where you don’t stand a chance! Thank you for your help, but I can’t take you with me!”
She slipped past him, but he closely tailed her. “Look, my superiors warned me that this assignment would be more dangerous than normal, but they didn’t have to. I knew going into it that Amouraqians have skills that no one else can match, but I took the assignment anyways! If King Patrick didn’t think I could handle it, he wouldn’t have let me take the job!”
Emily froze at his last statement, and she slowly turned to him and cautiously asked him, “King Patrick knows about this?”
Feeling hopeful at this change of attitude, Stephen answered, “It was his idea. Amouraq exhausted their resources trying to solve this case, and King Patrick personally requested our assistance.” He paused as he watched this information sink in for her, and then, in a stroke of inspiration, he added, “I’m going to Ovelstrofe with or without you, but I don’t think King Patrick will be too pleased if I show up and you’re not there, don’t you think?”
For a moment, she stood as still as a statue, but to Stephen’s relief, she suddenly dropped her duffle bag to the floor. She looked totally perplexed as she sank into a chair beside Amelia. “King Patrick wanted a cose to protect me? I don’t understand!”
“What did you just call me?” Stephen curiously wondered.
Emily’s eyes grew wide as if she had revealed something she shouldn’t have. Amelia calmly yet firmly put a hand on her knee and advised her, “Emily, you need to tell him. He’s going to find out sooner or later, and it’s better that he knows now instead of figuring it out when it’s already too late.”
Emily seemed uneasy about the idea. “I’m not supposed to say anything about it to anyone though!”
“I’m good at keeping secrets,” Stephen reassured her. “I’m a secret agent, it’s what I do.”
After taking a deep breath, Emily relented, “If King Patrick wanted to hire you, I suppose he’d want you to know. Okay, I’ll tell you! I don’t know where to begin though!”
“How about at the beginning,” Stephen suggested as he sat down on the couch.
“The beginning?” Emily recalled, “I suppose it all started in the middle ages when Europeans began exploring the world. Before Alexander became king, he led a fleet of ships west of Ireland to see how far the ocean stretched. Suddenly, there was a storm, and Alexander’s boat got engulfed by the waves. He washed up on the shore of an uncharted island, and while he didn’t see any sign of the rest of his crew, he went looking for them anyways. He went deep into the nearby forest and almost got killed by a monster. His life was saved by the Nymph Queen of Good, who led him through the forest to the other side of the island where the surviving fleet landed. After a joyous reunion with his crew, he and the Nymph Queen of Good realized that they had fallen in love with each other. They couldn’t go back to Ireland because his new bride had other nymphs to watch over. They founded the country of Amouraq and sealed off the forest so the mystical creatures would remain safe. No man could enter the forest, but many of the creatures found their way out, including the other nymphs. Many of them created children with the men who arrived there, and their children were half human and half demi-goddess. Each generation passed on the gift to manipulate the environment, so that’s why, to this day, the people of Amouraq can do magic.”
Stephen had found this story interesting, but the conclusion raised a considerable amount of skepticism. He knew that Emily was an intelligent person, so he found it hard to believe that she would suggest such a preposterous idea. Trying not to sound disrespectful, Stephen questioned, “Amouraqians can do magic?”
“You don’t believe me,” Emily referred. “I know it must seem like an outrageous claim to you. Amouraq has gone through great lengths to make it the stuff of legend. The people who discover its reality go through great lengths to get access to it.”
Stephen thought about it for a moment and noted, “That would explain why so many people are trying so zealously to get on the list of heirs, but…” He couldn’t finish his sentence, it just seemed too outlandish to be true!
“I didn’t believe it at first either,” Amelia commented. “Not until I saw it for myself. One explainable incident could be a fluke, but it became very clear the more time I spent with her father that he could make miraculous things happen on a whim!”
Since Stephen still seemed unconvinced, Emily brought up, “Did you feel a wind go by you before that assassin started blurting out the truth?”
“Yeah, that was weird,” Stephen acknowledged. “But I-.”
Emily told him, “I’ll give you another demonstration.” She pointed two fingers at him and chanted, “Opieum Clerivol!” Stephen felt that same wind envelope him, and all of a sudden, the scuff marks and stains he got from the pursuit had vanished! His mind raced trying to come up with a logical explanation for this phenomenon, but he came up blank. Emily continued to explain, “When I say a spell in Amouraqian, the effect is permanent. When I say it in English, it’s temporary.” She pointed both of her palms at him and chanted, “Levitate!” Stephen’s heart nearly leapt out of his chest as he found himself floating above his seat! He didn’t have any kind of harness or wire, the air just raised him up as if it were a natural occurrence!
After about a minute, gravity kicked back in, and he landed back on the sofa. His mind had trouble absorbing this revelation. Everything he thought he knew about the natural world and logic appeared to be wrong, and it sort of felt unsettling to accept such a supernatural concept. After watching him for a moment, Emily folded her arms and scoffed, “You don’t wanna help me anymore, do you?”
When Stephen heard that, his sense of duty kicked in and took control over everything else. “This doesn’t change anything! Forty six innocent people were brutally murdered, and it’s my job to find the person responsible! I have a duty to stop them from hurting anyone else, including you! I may not know a lot about this… weapon they use, but that’s not gonna stop me from completing my assignment! You’re my top priority right now, and I won’t let anything, not even this, keep me from doing what’s right!”
Emily’s expression softened by his speech, and after a moment, she spoke up, “So, now what?”
Stephen mulled it over, and he came up with, “King Patrick doesn’t have a lot of time left, so we need to get you to Ovelstrofe immediately! Let me give Seatac the heads up, and when can go.”
As he pulled out his phone and started sending a text message, Emily probed, “We’re going by plane?”
“Don’t worry, we’re not going on a commercial flight. Airport employees see well dressed people boarding a private jet, so they don’t ask questions. And the FBI has taken extra precautions for agents’ safety. It’s the least dangerous way to get you to Amouraq.” After he sent his message, he saw Emily still looked doubtful, so he added, “Can Amouraqians fly in that altitude?”
Emily admitted, “Well, no.”
“Alright then, let’s go,” Stephen directed.
Amelia and Emily both stood up and gave each other a tight hug. “I’ll let you know if we get there okay!” Emily promised.
“Not if, when!” Amelia gently corrected her. Emily grabbed her duffle bag and then gave Amelia another hug. Amelia said to her, “Stay safe, child!” She turned to Stephen and addressed him, “You as well!”
“You can count on me to make that happen!” Stephen shook her hand. He looked to Emily and inquired, “Ready?” She took a deep breath and nodded. Amelia watched as they took one last look at her as they shut the door behind them.