Amouraq II: Curse of the Serpent’s Tongue, Chapter 15

No one spoke as the other three tried to absorb Stephen’s audacious claim. After several seconds went by, Alastair finally spoke up, “You… You what?”

He knew it probably baffled them for someone who couldn’t do magic to make such a wild pronouncement, so he knew he owed them an explanation on how he reached that conclusion. “Right before King Patrick died, he made me promise to always love her, even when she made it difficult to do so. At first, I didn’t think it was that significant for him to say that, but after Emily went missing, it became something deeper.”

“He knew she’d get cursed,” Finnian inferred.

“Exactly!” Stephen responded. “He knew about something that was gonna happen in the future. He didn’t give me advice, he gave me a prediction!”

The three of them found this tidbit interesting, but they seemed confused as to how it connected to what Stephen asserted earlier. Dagan commented, “He did use to offer a lot of foresight into important matters.”

Alastair agreed, “That’s true. That’s why he had me contact the FBI when we had no suspects in the murders of the heirs. He knew the key to solving the case would come from an American.” He nodded to Stephen, but then he furrowed his brow perplexedly. “That’s interesting that he knew that this would happen, but that seems more like a warning than a solution. What makes you think he gave you an antidote?”

“Think about it!” Stephen exclaimed. “The Sirvards randomly got spared, no plausible explanation for that. They’re the same age that Emily was when her parents were killed, and they’re being raised by their grandmother just like she did. I think the emotions stirred up from that drew out Emily’s essence for a moment, and she saved them!” Alastair, Finnian, and Dagan’s expression all showed an understanding of his logic but still displayed some deep skepticism, so Stephen went on, “Xavier tried to have Emily kill me with a spell that had already worked several times, but it didn’t even leave a scratch on me! She could have killed me in Leannastor too, but my life got spared. And right after the spell failed, she could have tried again, but she didn’t. Emily’s essence saved my life! Wow, I guess I really was important to her!” He sort of suspected that Emily had some romantic feelings for him, but he couldn’t prove anything until right then. He felt so unworthy to have earned the affections of such an amazing person, but it flabbergasted him to think that she might have felt as deeply as he did! His reasoning only made sense if she did, and it simply amazed him to know that! He would have been over the moon from this revelation if she hadn’t gone missing due to getting possessed by an evil sorcerer! His heart ached at what could have been.

Finnian remarked, “That’s an interesting theory on why a few people got spared, but, I’m sorry, I just don’t see how that could rid her body of the Curse of the Serpent’s Tongue! Her connection with you and the Sirvards won’t help us protect the other heirs.”

“It drew out her essence!” Stephen expounded, “I thought I saw a sparkle in her eyes before she attacked me, but I didn’t! For a moment, her eyes flashed back to their original color! The golden brown color flashed in front of the red! She intervened so Xavier’s essence couldn’t kill me!”

They appeared to accept the plausibility of his rationale, but the other three still didn’t seem totally sold on the idea. Dagan inquired, “So, what you’re saying is that you think eliciting her deepest emotions could strengthen her essence enough to expel the dark magic out?”

Stephen emphatically replied, “Exactly!”

Alastair asked Dagan, “Is it possible to get rid of a curse that way?”

“Get rid of a curse, sure!” Dagan answered knowledgeably. “But this curse? I don’t know…”

“Look, I know I’m a cose and a novice in the world of magic,” Stephen entreated them, “but King Patrick wasn’t! He was a very powerful sorcerer, everyone says that! Do you really think when he was minutes away from dying that he would bother to give me relationship advice or give an omen about one random setback? I don’t think he would have bothered if it wasn’t supremely important! You trust him, don’t you?” They all looked a little guilty over the thought of not trusting King Patrick, but they still didn’t seem completely resolved on Stephen’s point. Stephen turned to Alastair and reminded him, “You trusted me enough to have me take over your team after you retire, so why can’t you take my word on this?”

Stephen could see something inside of Alastair switch, and he acknowledged his point, “You’re right! I should trust you on this!” Finnian and Dagan seemed surprised to hear him say that, so he told them, “We’re still days away from finishing the potion to remedy her affliction, so why not give it a shot?” To Stephen’s relief, Finnian and Dagan finally relented! Alastair then queried to Stephen, “Alright, so what did you have in mind?”

“We need to meet face to face again. But how? Xavier doesn’t know what I plan to do, but he does know I’m trying to capture her, so how can I draw her to me without rousing suspicion?” Right after he contemplated this concept out loud, he felt his cellphone vibrate. He took a quick peek, and much to his chagrin, it wasn’t an urgent message, just an alert from social media. He didn’t think it was important, so he almost put his phone away, but suddenly, the solution to his dilemma became clear to him. He pointed to his phone as he regarded the other three men, “I think we can turn some enemies into allies!”

In a dark room with old, peeling, wooden walls, Allison could see her reflection against a bubbling cauldron, and it threw her off to see Blythe’s face staring back at her! This seemed like such a good idea at the time, but now she didn’t feel quite as sure. She hoped that Stephen had caught a glimpse of her before they teleported out of that burning house because, otherwise, her team would presume her as missing! She worried about the stress she put them through, but she knew they’d forgive her if she came back alive. That felt like a big if to her though! She faced four powerful beings capable of performing very potent dark magic, and if they caught wind that she was an impostor, she knew she would get killed in an instant! She had fought against Xavier’s loyalists before when she was outnumbered, but that group’s talent didn’t compare to what she now stood against! Plus, she had help from the Nymph Queen of Good, and while they were in the same house where they previously confronted Xavier and his lot, she couldn’t count on her coming to the rescue this time! She instinctively felt as though following Emily would lead to her capture or would at least unearth some important clues that she could pass on to the ICI, but now this idea felt less promising! She didn’t have a plan, and right now, she didn’t see any way out of this!

“Hey, pay attention here!” Anad snapped.

Allison inwardly scolded herself for forgetting that she was in the middle of healing Anad’s wounds, and she resolved to not let it happen again. She had been around Blythe before, so she knew how she behaved under normal circumstances, so with as much of her bravado that she could muster, she apologized to Anad, “Sorry, I got distracted! I just can’t stop thinking about how that stupid cose killed one of our guys!”

“I know what you mean!” Emily bitterly agreed. “I’m getting really tired of his interference!” She continued to chant some healing spells as Lonan laid before her.

Brent paused his own healing efforts to say, “We’re never gonna get through our mission with him constantly buzzing around! Maybe we could keep him busy for a bit while he’s examining their bodies!” He indicated to the other side of the room where Torunn and Elska watched them fearfully through their constraints.

The others reacted in support of that notion, but Allison knew she had to find a credible reason for them to keep the Sirvard twins alive. Putting as much disdain as she could into her voice, she shot down that proposal. “That’s stupid! He might get temporarily distracted, but once he figures out what we’re doing, he’ll come flying back to our trail!”

“She’s right,” Emily admitted. “He’s got the hots for Emily, so he won’t lay off ’til he captures us or he finally dies! Eventually, he’ll come after this body, and when he does, we’ll kill him! He keeps surviving on flukes, but eventually, he’ll run out of luck and we’ll get him!”

Everyone approved of her plan, but secretly, it made her sick to her stomach to pretend to enjoy the thought of killing Stephen! She had come to think of him as an older brother, and it hurt her heart to hear people relishing his demise! It also made her wonder just how far she would have to go while she maintained this ruse. If she accompanied them on their demonic quest, she resolved to find a way to get out of hurting anyone! Furthermore, if Stephen and Alastair hadn’t figured out what she did, she knew that they would try to kill her in an attempt to kill Blythe! She had left her in pretty effective restraints, but if the fire got to her before the ICI did, then they may not have been able to figure out what she did! She also considered the possibility that Blythe found a way to escape, and if she found her way back to Emily and her crew, she knew she would be done for!

Her phone vibrated in her pocket, and she applauded herself for having the foresight to swap her mobile device with Blythe’s before she made the transformation. Her curiosity got wrapt at the prospect of who would actually contact her at a time like this, and she really hoped that it would reveal a juicy clue. She frowned to see a notification from a social media page, and Brent eagerly asked her, “Any updates?”

Allison quickly noted the amount of news apps that she had on her phone, and she deduced that they must have been keeping track of the press to gain insight on their investigation. She had already begun coming up with a myriad of different lies she could tell them if the story gave off any pertinent information about the case, but they story she saw took her by surprise! She knew no one on her team would allow this to happen, and so she concluded that Stephen or Alastair must have planted this story for them to find. There was no other explanation in her mind! She revealed to them, “Penny Melrose reported that Cara escaped from protective custody, and police have no idea where she is!”

Anad, Lonan, Brent, and Emily all looked skeptical at the idea, and Emily promptly strolled over to the cauldron and waved her hands over it. She relayed to them, “There she is! She’s at her old house all by herself!”

“It’s a trap!” Anad figured out. “They’re trying to lure us there so they can take us down!”

“But if it’s true, then we can’t miss an opportunity to ambush an heir when they’re vulnerable!” Lonan pointed out.

Finally seeing a window of opportunity opening up for her, Allison spoke up, “She should go there, but we’ll take our guests here with us. They wouldn’t dare touch us if we had a couple of heirs nearby!” She really hoped that they would buy that argument for bringing them along because she planned on letting the ICI recover them. She also wanted to make sure she got placed in charge of them in order to protect them and prevent anymore senseless deaths. If her hunch proved right, she could sabotage their entire efforts and get them all apprehended!

To her relief, Emily liked the scheme she presented. “That’s exactly what we’ll do! This definitely feels like a trap set up by that stupid cose, but if he wants a showdown, he’ll get one!”Allison's Disguise

Amouraq II: Curse of the Serpent’s Tongue, Chapter 14

An Amouraqian police officer arrived on the scene and walked straight up to Stephen and his team to inquire, “What happened?”
Still dumbfounded by what he just learned, Stephen gave him an honest reply, “We’re still trying to figure out that for ourselves!” He saw a new truck arrive, and he told the officer, “Listen, we have a high profile subject here, and we need to get her to safety. I’ll have my superior email you a copy of the report.” Stephen suddenly remembered he had said almost exactly the same thing to an American police officer when he first met Emily! A pang of sadness struck him upon that realization, but he had no time to dwell on it. The officer nodded in understanding and then took custody of Blythe, who cussed up a storm as she got taken into the squad car. The three Amouraqian agents, Cara, and he all linked arms, and Stephen felt grateful for the expediency that their location brought as one of the agents chanted the teleportation spell to take them to castle.

The five of them arrived in a large, open, stone-walled room, and the guards, who instinctively raised their hands in defense, lowered their arms as they recognized Stephen and the other agents. The five of them ran down the front foyer, past the parliament room, and towards the conference room where all of the questioning of the castle employees took place. Alastair, who waited outside of the room for them, perked up to see their arrival. “Oh good! You got my message! I… Wait, where’s Allison?”

Stephen and the Amouraqian agents exchanged uncertain looks, and when Stephen saw Alastair’s worried expression, he quickly explained, “She disguised herself as Blythe Tanith and followed Emily.”

“She what? Why did she…?” Alastair seemed alarmed by her decision, but he had to quickly shake that notion off. “We’ll have to figure out what to do about that later! Right now, we-.”

“Where’s Mommy and Daddy?” Cara asked them with watery eyes.

The Amouraqian agents all appeared heartbroken over the subject, and Alastair gathered the worst based on their reactions. Stephen’s gut plummeted, and his body practically froze at that moment. He had been so keen on saving her life that it didn’t occur to him until now that she just became an orphan, and he knew all too well what that felt like! No one knew what to say to her; Stephen felt sure that they all had experience in delivering tragic news, but in this instance, no one could bear to do it! Stephen’s eye got drawn to Oscar and Yvette, who were watching the scene with looks of deep concern on their faces, and that gave him an idea on a small action they could take in handling the situation. “Um, could you guys take Cara up to my room? I have some comic books she can read while we wait for child services.”

Yvette obliged, “Of course! Come on, darling!” Yvette held out her hand, and even though she seemed really confused, she held onto her hand and followed them upstairs.

Alastair, Stephen, and the Amouraqian agents watched her walk away with the utmost sympathy for her predicament. With a heavy weight in his voice, Alastair informed them, “The effects of the truth serum will wear off soon. You guys go ahead and question her while I make arrangements for Cara.” Stephen and the other agents had a hard time shifting their focus away from that devestation, but when Stephen’s mind prodded him towards Allison and Emily’s situation, he marched right inside that conference room.

Stephen entered only to find Dagan watching over a constrained Judith in total disgust. As he took a seat in front of what he assumed was Alastair’s notebook, he got a bit of a shock to see Judith staring at him with utter disdain! While he never really considered their relationship especially close, she had always been so friendly and helpful to him, so to see this new side of her really through him through a loop! He tried not to show that it bothered him as he took a quick glance at Alastair’s notes, which depicted how she slipped the potion into Emily’s tea. As the other agents took a seat at the table, Judith spat out, “Go ahead and say it!”

He picked up Alastair’s pen and prepared himself to jot down information. “Say what?”

“The question burning in everyone’s minds right now,” Judith spitefully responded. “Why did I do it?”

“Well, since you already know what we were gonna ask, why don’t you just go ahead and tell us,” Stephen coolly prompted her.

Judith judgmentally sniffed at his total disregard to her callous attitude, and then she explained, “You know what, fine! You wanna know why I slipped Emily that potion? I’ll tell you why! I value my life and my country too much to not do everything I can to help Xavier succeed! I know the truth about King Alexander! He had a Utopian vision and a brilliant plan on how to run the world, and that wench meddled with his heart and made him lose sight of everything that he once held dear! Thanks to her manipulation, we became a very passive presence in the world, a world overrun by greed, selfishness, and crime! I served King Patrick in hopes that he would bring about the power and recognition that Amouraq truly deserves, but sadly, he never did. When Emily took the throne, it became clear to me that she’d follow the same path! None of the heirs had the guts to do what Xavier has done! He deserves to be king! You’ve seen what good happens from opposing him1 Why would I wanna meet the same fate? One day, Xavier will rule the land, rule the world, and I wanna be on the right side of history when he does! You’ll all pay for betraying the true heir to the crown!”

Neither Stephen nor the other agents gave her a reaction other than to record her testimony for the record. With a nonchalant regard to her attempts at brazenness, Stephen addressed her, “I’m sure we will! In the meantime, tell us what you know about Xavier’s plans with Emily!”

Judith’s body lurched slightly, and then she maliciously grinned at him. “Too late! The serum just wore off, and I’m not telling you anything else!”

“Well, I guess you’re no longer of any use! Go ahead and take her away!” Stephen instructed.

A couple of Amouraqian agents picked her up, and as they dragged her out of the room, she sarcastically told Stephen, “Good luck finding the antidote! You’re gonna need it!”

“What makes you think we haven’t already found it?” Stephen smiled sardonically at her, and all she could do was look shocked and bewildered as she got taken out of the room. Stephen kept that grin planted on his face until he lost sight of her. He wouldn’t have dared to give her any indication that the results of her actions had any significant impact on him, but inwardly, his more primitive side wanted to kill her for everything that she put them all through!

As soon as she left, Alastair came in and posed to Stephen, Dagan, and the remaining agent, “What’d you get from her?”

“Well, we knew why she did it, but we didn’t get much else from her when the potion wore off,” Stephen answered him.

“So, where do we go from here?” the other agent inquired. “The whole point of questioning the castle employees was to figure out what Xavier’s plans are for Emily, and we didn’t get any information on that!”

Stephen corrected him, “Actually, we did get a clue about that. She discussed Xavier’s global ambitions, and coupling that with our groundwork with the heirs to the throne, we can infer that he’s gonna keep going until either he’s king or Emily gets killed.”

Alastair put in, “Maybe that’s why he kept the Sirvards alive. If something happens to Emily, he’d have them take over her work.”

“But why them?” Dagan probed. “He had her kill very capable sorcerers and sorceresses, even other children, so what makes these two so special?” Alastair shrugged.

“So, what are we gonna do then? Keep chasing her around the globe until we can get far enough ahead to capture her?” the other agent guessed. “And then what? Keep her trapped until we procure the antidote?”

Alastair questioned Dagan, “You seem to have an expertise in potion-making, any idea how long it normally takes to create the cure?”

Dagan mulled it over for a moment and then shook his head. “I remember reading about it, but it’s not something I ever thought I’d encounter, so I can’t give you an exact figure. The hospitals may have some, but it seems unlikely since it’s such a rare potion! To make your own, you’d have to hunt down some pretty unique ingredients. Plus, the brewing process itself is really complicated and involves a lot of advanced magic. I’d say it would take a couple of weeks minimum.”

“A couple of weeks?” the other agent reacted. “We can’t wait that long! A lot of people have already died from this, and it’s only been a couple of days! And if we do end up capturing her, how long can we keep her guarded before Xavier helps her escape?”

“Relax, Finnian,” Alastair advised. “Our labs have already started on the antidote. I haven’t had a chance to check in with them on their progress, but if we can capture Emily in the next few days, we’d only have to keep Xavier at bay for a week, week and a half. The real question is what heir will Xavier have Emily go after next? Cara is well guarded inside of the castle, but she certainly could attempt a more furtive method of getting her. But is she more likely to lay low and find a way to lure her out of the castle, or would she just skip her and go after the next person in line?”

Stephen pointed out, “He might have her kill the Sirvard twins too. We obviously didn’t comply with her demand of staying out of the investigation, so there wouldn’t be a lot of point in keeping them alive. Unless she already tried to and couldn’t. She tried to use the ‘Excificio Sancruis’ spell on me and it didn’t work.”

“It didn’t?” Alastair, Dagan, and Finnian all cried out incredulously.

“How is that possible?” Alastair questioned.

Finnian suggested, “Maybe Allison intervened and blocked it.”

Stephen considered this concept, but something felt off to him about it. “Before she chanted the spell, I saw a strange sparkle in her eyes. What could that mean?”

Finnian, Dagan, and Alastair all shrugged, and then Alastair exasperatedly commented, “Ugh! I forgot about Allison! Did you guys plan on her doing that, or did she do it on her own?”

“As far as we knew, she was fighting Blythe so Stephen could go after Emily,” Finnian reported. “Next thing we knew, three of the hooded people disappeared, and Blythe was tied up at the foot of the stairs! Then when Stephen and Cara escaped, he seemed surprised to see Blythe there because he was under the impression she had gone with Emily.”

“So, she did that on an impulse,” Alastair surmised. “She’s the real x factor in this! She could attempt to take them down immediately, or maybe she’ll play along until she can rescue the Sirvards. Well, until we can establish communication with her, we’ll have to act under the assumption that she can do nothing. We’ll place the heirs that come next after Cara in protective custody, and we’ll double down on security in the castle. Dagan, make sure that no one touches her food or drink except for you!”

Dagan readily agreed to that. “I’ll deliver everything to her myself! I’ll even test it to check for any unwanted potions before she ingests anything! That used to be a castle requirement, but King Patrick loosened some of the security measures since he was so good at reading people.”

As the three others went on about security details, Stephen’s mind started reeling at what Dagan just said. King Patrick knew nothing about Stephen except for his name when he implored the United States for help, and yet somehow he knew that Stephen would develop loving feelings for Emily. He always assumed that King Patrick sensed some romantic chemistry between Emily and him, but somehow, he now believed that there was more to it than that. He made a point to use those exact words before he died, and Stephen already figured that he somehow knew that Emily would get afflicted with the Curse of the Serpent’s Tongue, but it never really occurred to him why he felt the need to tell him to love her even when she made it difficult to do so. If he knew Stephen’s feelings were deep enough, he wouldn’t need to remind him to have faith in her no matter what, so he didn’t understand why he had to say it before he died! Unless… Suddenly, it all clicked for him! Why the Sirvards were spared, the look in her eye before Xavier had her try to kill him, King Patrick’s dying words… Stephen abruptly stood up and declared, “I know how to break the spell!”King Patrick

Amouraq II: Curse of the Serpent’s Tongue, Chapter 13

The hooded figures all craned their heads in his direction and raised their hands to hex him, but the Amouraqian agents as well as Vincent and Lucy all chanted a spell at them before they could hit him. Emily fought Lucy and Vincent at the same time, but otherwise they had enough people for an even fight. Nigel stood before Stephen and tried spouting spells at him, but Stephen managed to move quickly enough to dodge them. When Nigel took a breath, Stephen fired his gun. The bullets came within inches of Nigel’s face, but they fell to the floor as if they hit an invisible wall, which prompted Nigel to laugh derisively at him. “You fool! You tried that on Brent, and it didn’t work; why would I be any different?” Nigel attempted to attack him with another spell, but Stephen rolled away to avoid it. He got to his knees and aimed his gun towards his heart, but the bullets succumbed to the same effect as the previous ones. Nigel cackled delightfully again. “You stupid cose! You thought you could take on a sorcerer? You’re sadly mistaken! You could never-!” Stephen reached up and twisted Nigel’s hand in a way that broke its bones immediately! Nigel cried out in pain, but he ignored it for the time being. As he raised his hand to do more spellwork, Stephen noticed the fire had reached the wall behind Nigel. Stephen kicked his arm to get the trajectory of the hex away from him, and in the split second of distraction, Stephen pushed Nigel forward, sending him barreling into the towering flames!

Once the threat of that sorcerer ended, Stephen’s immediate thoughts turned to Emily. He naturally wanted to see her in order to capture her and cure her from the curse, but he actually felt more concern for the safety of the people she was fighting. He didn’t like that the next heirs to the throne had to face Xavier’s presence, but he knew that they didn’t have much of a choice. When the fracas started, they didn’t have a choice, everyone’s position made it impossible to have it any other way. He turned around with the intention of getting Lucy and Vincent out of harm’s way, but to his dismay, he saw their bodies lying motionless on the floor! He could see that Allison and the other Amouraqian agents were too embroiled in fighting against Lonan, Anad, Brent, and Blythe to have been able to save them, and he could see a pained look on their faces as they tried to win their duels. They were too late to save Vincent and Lucy, but they could still save Cara! Stephen saw Emily on the second floor, and he raced up to stop anymore innocent blood from being shed!

Before he could reach the top of the stairs, he heard Blythe chant, “Doleteum!” He tried to evade it, but he felt the force of the spell brush the top of his head! His skull felt a pain so sharp that he fell to the floor!

Before Blythe could utter another spell, Allison chanted, “Doleteum!” Blythe roared in anguish, and Allison coldly regarded her, “How do you like it, bitch?” Blythe rolled over and shot a spell back at her. As they went back and forth between each other, Stephen managed to collect himself and raced up to the stairs.

At the end of the hall, Stephen could hear Emily call out, “Cara! Cara! Where are you?” Stephen’s face soured as he reloaded his gun. It would kill him to shoot Emily, but if it got to the point where Cara was only seconds away from dying, he knew he wouldn’t have a choice. He instantly knew that Xavier had kept Emily alive for exactly that purpose, so he inwardly prayed that he could obtain a quiet capture before it came to that. As he crept closer to her location, he could hear her say, “Don’t worry, Cara! It’s just me, Queen Emily! You’re safe with me!”

“Don’t listen to him, Cara!” Stephen urgently addressed her. “That’s not the real Queen Emily! He’s trying to trick you!”

Stephen brandished his gun as he stood in the doorway of the room that Emily occupied. Emily had been crouched on the ground looking under a small bed with superhero emblems on it, and she slowly rose up when she sensed Stephen’s presence, she turned to him and leered, “That’s a damn lie, and you know it!”

“You’re not Emily!” Stephen argued. “You’re just using her! No, I’m not talking to Emily, I’m talking to the vile coward who’s too weak to do his own dirty work!”

Emily shot back, “Oh, you don’t think I could face you on my own? I think you forgot that I already have, and you couldn’t beat me by yourself!”

“Oh, so I am talking to Xavier, aren’t I?” Stephen smugly retorted.

Emily glared at him, but then she coolly inquired, “Okay, so now what? Are you gonna kill me?”

Stephen told her, “That’s up to you. If you come with me without a fuss, I won’t hurt you!”

Emily snickered, “And why would you want to do that? You’ve seen all the harm I’ve done, why would you wanna keep me alive?”

“I don’t give a damn about you, Xavier!” Stephen exclaimed. “You have more essence in another body, Emily doesn’t! I would rather not damage her body if I can help it, but don’t think for a second I won’t hesitate to stop you by any means necessary!”

“I have no intentions of complying with you, you foolish cose! If you want to stop me, you’ll have to kill her!” She held her hands in the air and challenged him, “Go ahead, shoot me! Come on, what are you waiting for? You can save that little brat right now! Go on, pull the trigger and just do it!” She could see Stephen’s trigger finger quivering, but it did not move from its position. “That’s what I thought! You can’t do it, can you?”

Stephen seriously contemplated going through with it. If it were any other case, he probably would have. He figured that she had the same protection that Nigel and Brent did, so he would have had to fire multiple rounds in order to identify the weak spot of that spell. He didn’t think he could hit any of her vital organs even if he wanted to, but he thought he could at least disable her enough to capture her. He then realized that after the first shot, Xavier would have her spout spells at him to avoid that happening. If he could survive her counterattack, he would have to be able to take her down pretty fast because he could sense the fire getting closer to their area. For a moment, he thought he had no other option, but then he remembered that Xavier wanted him alive so he would get forced into killing her, but if he refused to kill her… He put his hands in the air and dared her, “I could say the same to you. Go ahead, do your worst!”

Emily eyed him suspiciously. Stephen got the impression that she was scanning him to gauge his sincerity, and when she couldn’t unearth any deception, she raised her hand to enact a spell. Stephen prepared himself to jump out of the way, but before she uttered her intended hex, Stephen saw a glimmer flicker across her eyes. He became so mesmerized by it that he momentarily forgot about the circumstances that he faced. She chanted, “Exficio sancruis!”

Stephen felt a burst of intense pain that forced him to the ground, but, to his astonishment, he did not bleed out! In fact, aside from the initial pain, he didn’t detect any maladies in his body! As he concluded that the spell didn’t work, he could sense her presence directly above him. He considered pulling himself out of harm’s way, but something in his instincts made him lay perfectly still. Seconds later, he saw a set of black robes enter through the door. He closed his eyes, but he figured out that Blythe had entered the room when he heard her advise Emily, “We should get out of here! The fire is about to take this place down!” Stephen narrowly opened his eyes, and he observed the two women standing side by side. Emily chanted in such a low volume that he couldn’t hear where she directed the spell to take them, which irritated him but it also made him wonder why she took that course. He figured that she must have thought he got knocked out and left him to die in the fire, but he wondered if her choice had other implications…

He picked his head up, and he found that the flames had encircled the walls around him! He swiftly stood up and searched around for the little girl, but he didn’t see her anywhere. “Cara! Cara! We need to go!” A piece of the floor in the corner of the room rose up, and he saw Cara nervously emerge from beneath it. It surprised him to see that she used such a clever hiding spot, but he didn’t have time to ask about it. He held out his hand for her and instructed, “Come on!” She took it, and they dashed out.

They ran to the staircase, but they saw that the fire had practically destroyed it! “There’s no way out!” Cara cried out.

Stephen caught sight of the attic entrance, and he gave the cord a yank. When the stairs folded out, he pushed Cara to go up there. The fire hadn’t reached up there yet, which gave Stephen time to search between the boxes stored up there to find an escape. On the other side, he came across a large window facing the front yard, and he recognized the Amouraqian agents standing on the lawn. In that instance, he knew what to do. He bent down and held out his arms for Cara, telling her, “You’re gonna have to trust me!” Without hesitation, she jumped onto his chest. Stephen then got a running start and jumped out of the window!

Stephen twisted himself so that his back faced the earth in case the Amouraqian agents didn’t do their thing, but to his relief, he heard one of them chant, “Giant sponge!” Stephen felt a surge of gratitude as he landed on a soft, cushiony surface. One agent grabbed Cara right away, and the one who chanted the spell helped pick Stephen up. As they hurried to get to a safe distance, he asked him, “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine!” Stephen answered somewhat breathily. Now that the immediate danger had passed, his body began to succumb to the effects of everything he had faced in there. As Stephen’s vision adjusted to the sunshine, he noticed that he couldn’t distinguish any member of the team from one another, so he queried, “Did everyone make it out okay?”

“Not the two traitors to the throne! And no one knows where your slut friend went!” Blythe’s voice hissed.

Stephen thought he was hallucinating at first! Surely that couldn’t have been who he thought he had just heard! Once his vision cleared, he wondered if he had hit his head and dreamt up what he saw. In his mind, it just couldn’t be her! “Blythe?”

She glared intensely at him through the constraints that bound her. “Who does it look like, you prick!”

As the Amouraqian fire engines arrived, Stephen stuttered, “But… but… you went with Emily! I saw you!” He could see that the three Amouraqian agents that had accompanied them to the Fenmore’s house stood before him, but he didn’t see Allison anywhere! For a moment, he worried that she had gotten stuck in the house that the firefighters were working on saving, but when he connected her absence with what he witnessed in Cara’s room, it suddenly clicked for him. “Allison disguised herself and followed Emily!”

“Are you sure?” an agent replied while someone tended to her wound and the other read an alert on his phone.

“Positive!” Stephen affirmed. When the truth had finally set in for him, the weight of her decision nearly overwhelmed him! “Wow! That means that she…”

Before he could finish his thought, the Amouraqian that had read a message on his phone glanced up in shock, and he alerted the others, “We’ll have to discuss that later! Alastair just sent us a text… Judith confessed to slipping Emily the Curse of the Serpent’s Tongue!”Cara

Amouraq II: Curse of the Serpent’s Tongue, Chapter 12

Judith practically skipped up to the conference room door! Besides the fact that she genuinely loved the challenge of cleaning up a large mess, she got excited about the idea of what Alastair and Dagan might have left behind in there! She sincerely hoped that they forgot some important paperwork so she could not only slow their investigation down but she could also deliver something of value to her true master! She was already envisioning the pleased look on his face, and she wondered how mightily he would reward her as she opened the door with rising anticipation…

She had to blink twice when she entered the conference room. Not only was the area practically spotless, but Dagan sat at the far end of the table that took up most of the space! He had a bubbling cauldron with him as well as a tea cup and saucer. She noticed a pen and notebook next to him, but she quickly realized that the objects weren’t faced in a way for Dagan to write anything down. Just when she wondered if someone else also occupied the room, she heard the door close behind her! Alastair announced, “Have a seat, Judith!”

Judith didn’t comply with his request. She still felt too rattled by this encounter to fully comprehend what was happening. “Why? What’s going on?” She had the urge to run away, but Alastair stood against the only way out, so she didn’t dare.

Alastair told her, “You know what’s going on. Have a seat!”

“No, I don’t know what’s going on! Oscar said there was a huge mess in here, but there’s no mess! I don’t know…” She didn’t finish her sentence out loud, but it started to click for her why they had gathered there. She knew she couldn’t escape, she was no match for the head of the ICI, so she just went through the motions of absorbing the enormous pressure she felt to come up with a plan. She walked into a trap, and she started to panic. She had taken a lot of measures to not end up in this position, and so her mind went blank not understanding how it was possible that she had to deal with these circumstances now!

“Forget what Oscar may have told you!” Alastair snapped at her. “What have we been doing here for the last twenty-four hours? Do you think I’ve enjoyed talking to every goddam castle employee? Now, will you just-?”

Judith blurted out, “You couldn’t be questioning me! You ran out of the moon aster stems, and none are available for four days!”

Alastair clicked his tongue in annoyance, and then he begrudgingly divulged, “One of your vetted coworkers gave us some out of his personal stash. It was enough for one more draught, and it’s your turn. So, will you please take a seat so we can-?”

“If I had tainted Emily’s tea, don’t you think I would have cleaned up the evidence?” Judith argued. “Cleaning is my thing, and everyone in the castle knows that! Someone is obviously trying to frame me! It’s not right to treat me as a suspect when I’ve given the castle over thirty years of service and-!”

“SHUT UP!” Alastair roared. “I lost two agents today, and I’m not in the mood to put up with any bull shit right now! So, take a seat right now or I’ll have your ass arrested for treason immediately!”

As Judith slunk into a chair, she remarked, “Treason? Just because a little old lady got scared by your intimidation tactics?”

Alastair took a seat across from her and responded, “Don’t play innocent with me! You’re sure as hell not acting like you fit the part! Nerves are one thing, but if you flat out refuse to submit to questioning, we’ll know you’re hiding something! If you knew anything, you need to tell me!” Judith stared at him blankly, so he directed Dagan, “Administer the potion!”

Dagan used a ladle to scoop up the frothy, green potion out of the cauldron, and he poured it into the tea cup, which he slid over to Judith. For a moment, Judith simply gazed at it nervously. She didn’t want to take it and betray her master’s secret, but she knew she would get arrested for not cooperating with the investigation. She considered that option for a while though. She thought that they couldn’t prove she had anything to do with the crime without her confession, and there was reasonable enough doubt to sway a jury away from her direction. She considered pretending to be covering up the crime for someone else, and just when she opened her mouth to carry out that idea, she remembered that, eventually, Alastair and Dagan would interrogate the rest of the castle employees. She doubted anyone else would object to taking the potion, so her behavior would single her out. At some point, all attention would return to her, and she could just imagine the headlines that would come from that. She didn’t want anyone to catch wind of Xavier’s presence in the castle, not while the world set their minds on convicting him for murder! She decided to take the potion, but she had no intention of confessing her role in this ordeal! She reasoned with herself that her sheer adoration for her true master could overcome the effects of the truth serum, and if she felt that starting to falter, she supposed that she would just word her replies in such a way that might leave Dagan and Alastair confused. If the results of her questioning were inconclusive, they’d have to let her go. She also imagined by the time that they figured it all out, she could go into hiding. She knew Xavier would have preferred to have her in the castle so he could have someone on the inside, but she also felt confident that he would want to protect her after everything she did for him. She kept all of this in mind as she picked up the tea cup and drank the contents without anymore fuss.

After Judith finished drinking and set the tea cup down, she calmly folded her hands on the table and looked both of them straight in the eye, determined to show them no hint of remorse or fear. They seemed relieved that she had actually drank the serum, and Alastair clicked his pen to begin taking notes. He posed to her, “Do you know who tainted Queen Emily’s tea?” She pursed her lips and silently debated on the best way to answer that question…

Stephen and Allison knocked on a dark purple, wooden door, and Stephen announced, “Federal agents!”

After a few seconds of quiet, a male voice responded, “Show me your badges!” Stephen, Allison, and the Amouraqian agents behind them all pointed their credentials at the peephole. After the man studied them for a moment, he let them all inside.

Allison, Stephen, and the other agents stood in the modestly furnished living room while the man called up the stairs, “Lucy! Cara! Code red!”

After they heard a lot of scrambling coming from the second story, Stephen queried to the man, “Are you Vincent Fenmore?”

“Yeah!” Vincent confirmed while monitoring the flurry of activity above him. “My wife and daughter will be down in a little bit. We’re all ready to go!”

“Go?” Allison questioned.

Vincent replied, “That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?”

Allison acknowledged his assertion, “Well, yes, but expected to have to give an explanation before we took off!”

“There’s no time for explanation!” A woman came down the staircase carrying two duffle bags, and she was closely followed by a young girl with a bag of her own. “You’re here, so that means the Sirvards are dead. We’re prepared to go wherever’s safe!”

“Good!” Stephen commented. “We may not have long until-.”

Vincent asked, “What do you mean, ‘May?’ If the Sirvards are dead, we don’t have time!”
Allison answered him, “The Sirvards were kidnapped, but don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security! The Yaretzi brothers were killed this morning! We don’t know if they’re gonna go after the Sirvards or you next, but we know where you are…”

“Right!” Vincent took his bag from his wife.

“I’m ready for my adventure! Look, I got my special bag all packed up!” The little girl grinned as she proudly showed off her bag with a superhero symbol on it.

Stephen smiled warmly when he saw that. “Oh, another comic book fan? I like them too!” He pulled out his keys to show his keychain with the same symbol as the one that the little girl had on her backpack, which made her look up in awe.

Vincent chuckled, and then he instructed, “Okay, Cara, put it on so we can get going on our adventure!”

Cara quickly put her backpack on, and everyone linked arms. Stephen felt a huge wave of relief sweep over him knowing that they managed to get to the Fenmores in time! Allison chanted, “Lanumaciae Michael’s Deck!” Everyone could feel the familiar sensations that came with the initialization of this spell, but then it suddenly stopped! Everyone looked startled, and Allison noted, “Something’s wrong!”

An Amouraqian agent glanced out of the front window, and he frightfully exclaimed, “They’re here!”

Stephen’s body got filled with dread to hear that terrifying pronouncement! They had pllaned for this eventuality, but now that it had come to pass, Stephen didn’t feel ready for this encounter! Lucy shouted, “Cara, run!”

Cara ran towards the back door in the kitchen, but all of a sudden, the wall in front of her burst into flames! They heard thumping at the front door as if it were getting hit with a battering ram, and Cara wailed, “We’re trapped!”

“Hide!” Lucy ordered. Cara seemed reluctant to leave her side, so she bellowed, “HIDE! NOW!”

Just as Cara started to run up the staircase, one of the Amouraqian agents that survived the attack in Sevgi and Ren’s dormitory hall yelled, “Duck!”

Everyone managed to get low just in time to miss the massive amount of debris that came flying out as their entire front wall blew into bits! Between the dust from the explosion and the smoke from the fire, the air became so dense that they could hardly see! It got difficult to breathe too, but they hardly had time to address that! They could hear spells get chanted at them, and since they couldn’t make out where the castors were situated, all they could do was roll away. The dust began to settle, and they could see the six hooded figures scattered throughout the vicinity. For a moment, both sides gave each other a hard stare. Stephen knew that someone had to break the silence, so he pulled out his gun and aimed…Fenmore House Explosion

Amouraq II: Curse of the Serpent’s Tongue, Chapter 11

As soon as they arrived, Stephen and Allison rushed over to the crime scene and found an Amouraqian agent shakily smoking a cigarette. “What happened?” Stephen urgently addressed him.

The Amouraqian agent took a drag off of his cigarette before he replied, “Sevgi and Ren are dead. Two of our own are too, and three more are going to the hospital. We got the other students out. Just when we got to Sevgi and Ren’s room, they… They…”

Allison put a comforting hand on his shoulder. “It’s okay, we can get the details later.” The Amouraqian agent nodded and continued smoking his cigarette with a very lost look in his eyes.

Stephen and Allison located another Amouraqian agent watching over an ambulance as it loaded one of the survivors, and they spotted the other uninjured agent speaking with police. An officer recognized Allison and Stephen, and he forewarned them, “Be careful, it’s a blood bath up there!” Stephen and Allison grimaced at each other before they went inside.

As soon as Allison and Stephen got to the top of the staircase, they saw a river of blood flowing down the hallway! A biohazard team had already started clearing a path for the Greenlandic detectives, who were all standing by off to the side, and Stephen and Allison joined them in observing what they could while they waited to get a closer look. Allison commented, “This doesn’t even feel real! I can’t believe two people on our team are…” She trailed off as she seemed unable to finish that sentence.

Before Stephen could offer words of comfort, a nearby Greenlandic detective consoled her, “Amouraq has always been good to us, so we feel that we have lost one of our own too. We will work extra hard to catch the monster who did this!” Allison nodded and tried to shift her focus on the Greenlandic detective’s goal.

As soon as the biohazard team cleared a path for them, a dozen investigators piled into Sevgi and Ren’s dorm room. Furniture and personal belongings had gotten scattered everywhere, and while Stephen could tell some of it came rescue efforts, it was apparent there had been a struggle. He really hoped that Emily left behind some clue that would help bring her home, and he ignored that part of himself that wanted to give up on that idea. He put on some latex gloves and sifted through every little object in his sight determined to find even a small hint that would get them a step closer! He picked up a teddy bear and almost tossed it aside until he noticed a strange sparkle in its eye. He took a closer look at it, and he felt certain he had found something!

He went up to Allison and quietly inquired, “There’s a spell in this object, isn’t there?”

Allison’s eyes went wide when she saw the bear, and she immediately whispered a chant, “Labura signar!” She then announced to everyone, “We found something!”

The other investigators gathered around them, and the detective that spoke to them earlier queried, “What is it?”

“A hidden camera,” Allison told him somewhat truthfully. “I have to say a… password to get it to play.” She then chanted, “Ostfesto sigmar!”

A screen-like image popped up over the bear, and although the footage of the room looked blurred, they could tell the people they saw were Sevgi and Ren. The two boys appeared to have heard some ruckus coming from down the hallway. They locked their arms together, and Stephen knew that they were attempting a teleportation spell, but to the untrained eye, it could have appeared that they were bracing for impact. The door burst open, and they could see six figures with hoods over their faces trickle into the room. Sevgi and Ren rolled in separate directions, and afterwards, with the blurring, it seemed like they were just arguing with wild hand gestures, but Stephen and Allison both knew the boys were using defensive spells. Sevgi fell down, and Stephen thought he saw rope wrapped around him. While a couple of hooded figures stoop Sevgi up, a few others took advantage of Ren’s distracted focus and grabbed him. Stephen knew in his heart the figure in the back that approached Sevgi was Emily, and even though her image had gotten distorted, Stephen could see a gleeful satisfaction as she performed the spell she used on Tristan! Ren screamed in anguish, and after she saucily strolled up to him, Emily used the same spell on him!After both boys were dead, Emily laughed maniacally. The video stopped there.

Everyone had an expression of pure shock and horror, but no one showed greater fright or revulsion than Stephen! Even as what they witnessed started to get absorbed in the rest of their minds, Stephen’s whole body still felt numb. After a moment of silence, one of the Greenlandic detectives finally spoke up, “Why did it end there? Why didn’t it show how they escaped? What did they do with the murder weapon?”

Allison shrugged. “No idea. I’ll get this to our labs to clear the images and see if we can get more.”

Another detective brought up, “Perhaps your colleagues saw something.”

“I’m sure they did,” Allison responded, “but we’ll have to make sure they’re ready to..”

Stephen suddenly became overwhelmed and marched out of the room. He brushed past the investigators in the hallway and went down a flight of stairs. He found an empty hall and used the wall to brace his back and head. As the images of what he just saw kept replaying in his brain, he slowly slipped down the wall until he sunk onto the floor. He gazed up to the ceiling with watery eyes as he clenched his knees just trying to slow down the searing pain that radiated from his heart. The world started to cloud around him, and for a while, he didn’t know what he was going to do. Allison came bounding towards him, and she very concernedly questioned him, “Are you okay?”

“She’s gone! I’ve lost her!” Stephen could no longer hold back the tears. He couldn’t help it, he had never felt pain like that before!

Allison sat down next to him and reassured him, “You haven’t lost her! We’re gonna catch up wit her and bring her home! It won’t take long to reverse the spell, and you’ll get her back!”

Stephen sobbed, “Did you see the look in her eyes? That’s not her!”

“Right, it’s not her!” Allison iterated. “It’s Xavier! Xavier is the one who gets pleasure out of torture and murder, that look in her eyes was really him! Deep down, Emily’s essence is still there, and we’re gonna get it back, okay?” Stephen sniffled, so Allison expounded on her point. “I know it must be hard to see her like that, but it isn’t real! You have to keep telling yourself that! This won’t last forever! Don’t ever forget that!”

“I wish I could forget!” Stephen bemoaned. “If I could forget everything, I wouldn’t have to go through this! I’ve never felt this way about anyone, and it just figures that the first person to make me feel this way gets taken away! That’s what I get for getting my hopes up!”

At that moment, Allison put two and two together, “So, that’s why you were so afraid to open up to Emily! You weren’t afraid of her rejecting you, you were afraid of losing her like you did your parents!” Stephen looked up at her in surprise, so she hastily apologized, “I’m sorry, I read your file! You were obviously important to her, so I wanted to make sure you were legit.” He got over the shock of that brief instant and gazed off into the distance. Allison boldly encouraged him, “Listen, if you had a chance to save your parents, wouldn’t you have done everything you could to rescue them? You have that opportunity with Emily! Don’t give up on her!”

Stephen sniffed a little, and then he recalled, “King Patrick must have known this would happen. Before he died, he made me promise to never stop loving her, even when she would make it difficult to do so. I didn’t break my promise, and I never will, but that’s what makes this so damn hard! I can’t stand seeing her like this! I know, you keep telling me that we’ll bring her home and find a way to undo the spell, but that makes it sound like no one really knows how to do it! What if she escapes from us before we find a way? Or what if Xavier comes to collect her before then? What if the curse buries itself so deep that it gets rid of Emily’s essence all together? What if we never even get to that point? What if she gets killed in the process? How many people actually survive this spell?” Allison didn’t say anything, but the grim expression on her face gave him his answer. “We’re fighting against the odds, aren’t we?”

“But we’re still fighting!” Allison countered. “You beat the odds before, why should this time be any different?”

Stephen knew the truth of her words, but it still wounded him to see her in danger. The possibility of losing her had never felt real until that day! He would never give up on her, but the longer that it took to get her back, the less likely it felt for a joyful reunion. He wondered if he would ever get a chance to spend time with the real Emily again! He hoped he would, but he wished that he felt more sure! “I just really miss her!”

“I know!” Allison gave him a hug, and he fell listlessly to her shoulder. He appreciated her gesture, but he didn’t think he could ever feel comforted again until he got Emily back.

Oscar searched around the castle, and he grew puzzled when he couldn’t find what he had been searching for. Finally, he spotted an open door, and when he got closer, he saw Judith humming as she did a sweeping spell in one of the rooms. Her actions in itself didn’t seem odd, but it bothered him that she had such a casual attitude about being inside King Patrick’s room! No one had gone in there in ages, and people regarded it as sacred ever since he passed, so her behavior certainly raised an eyebrow. She finally noticed him standing there, and she gave him a grin as she chirped, “This room hasn’t been cleaned in ages! It’s about time someone did!”

“Um, yeah, I guess so!” Oscar never had trouble talking to her before, and it did seem like a normality for Judith to get excited about a new cleaning project, but something about it just seemed off to him.

“What is it?” Judith had obviously taken note of his awkward disposition, and she put a pause on her cleaning efforts to discover the motive of his shift in mood.

Until that moment, he hadn’t thought of his task as a big deal, but now it suddenly seemed really important to get her down there! He had originally intended to just flat out tell her what was going on, and while he couldn’t totally pinpoint why, he worried that she might try to run away if he told her the truth. The concept really boggled him because he had never had any reason to suspect her, but he couldn’t ignore the feeling of apprehension now growing in his gut. Instead of giving her the facts, he lied to her, “Alastair and Dagan left a huge mess in the conference room.”

“I’m on it!” She delightfully headed in that direction, and after Oscar shut King Patrick’s door, he decided to follow her and make sure she went into that conference room!Stephen Breaks Down

Amouraq II: Curse of the Serpent’s Tongue, Chapter 10

No one spoke while everyone tried to wrap their heads around what they just learned. Finally, Allison broke the silence by asking, “She’s kidnapped the Sirvard twins? Are you sure?”

Stephen answered her, “That’s what it says on the note. We won’t know until we go to their home and verify it for ourselves, but that’s what it looks like happened.”

Stephen handed Allison the note, and as the rest of them read it, one of the Amouraqian agents reacted incredulously, “That doesn’t make any sense! The Sirvard twins weren’t next in line, and kidnapping just isn’t part of their M.O.!”

“Then why did she send the note?” Stephen challenged.

“It could be a prank,” another Amouraqian agent replied. “It’s not often that a sorcerer or sorceress will mislead investigators as a joke, but it happens.”

A third Amouraqian agent asserted, “It’s not a joke, it’s a trap! They’re trying to get us all to go there and investigate the kidnapping so they don’t have to face us when they go after the Yaretzi brothers.”

Allison brought up, “But if the Sirvard twins really are kidnapped, their lives are in danger! We can’t just ignore them and let them get slaughtered.”

“We can’t just let the Yaretzi brothers get slaughtered either,” the third Amouraqian countered. “They’re next on the list, their lives are in danger too!”

“So, we’re gonna continue to investigate?” the second agent queried. “Shouldn’t we lay low for a while so it seems like we’re complying with her demands? We could resume the investigation after they’re released.”

The first Amouraqian agent objected to that, “We can’t pull ourselves away from the case! That’ll leave all of the victims totally exposed and vulnerable! She can’t have expected us to actually comply with that demand! She’s setting us up!”

Stephen proposed, “What if we split up? There’s eight of us and six of them, so if six people stayed here, it’d still be an even fight. We could continue our plan here while we gather evidence on the Sirvard’s kidnapping.”

Everyone thought that he had a valid point and agreed to it. Allison suggested, “Stephen and I should go to the Sirvards’ house. Xavier has a vendetta against the two of us, and none of the victims are at that crime scene, so it’s probably safer for us to lure them away from the Yaretzi brothers.”

The first agent probed, “What if Emily and her team are at the Sirvards’ house waiting to ambush you?”

“We’ll bring a local police officer to stand watch outside the house,” Stephen stated. “If something goes wrong, we’ll make sure they notify you guys immediately.”

“That sounds good to me,” the third agent commented.

The second agent told them, “Good luck!”

When Stephen and Allison arrived at the Sirvards’ house, they didn’t see or hear any movement, so Stephen inwardly prayed that they were not about to encounter another grisly murder scene! He knocked on the door and announced, “Federal agents, please open up!” For a moment, nothing happened, but to their relief, they soon heard footsteps approaching the door! They stepped back and had their hands on their weapons in case Emily and her team decided to ambush them. The door slowly opened, and the thankfully, an elderly woman came out. Stephen and Allison showed her their badges, and Stephen introduced themselves, “I’m Stephen Knight, FBI, and this is Allison Ramiro, ICI. Ma’am, are Torunn and Elska here?”

She stared at them confusedly, so the officer that drove them there jumped in and spoke in Greenlandic. Stephen could have smacked himself for forgetting that they were not in an English speaking country! In his defense, they had been up all night working on their case, and most of the police here had communicated with them quite fluidly. Stephen knew a few different languages, but he never did learn Greenlandic. He never thought something like this would happen in such a peaceful country, but people had thought that about Amouraq too until recently! The woman almost went back into the house, but the police officer appeared to have instructed her not to. Though she didn’t seem to understand why, she went over to where the policeman stood. The officer filled Allison and Stephen in, “She intended to check on her grandchildren, but I said that she should wait outside. You wish to secure the place, no?”

Allison smiled gratefully at the police officer. “Thank you!” The policeman tipped his hat cordially, so Allison and Stephen drew out their weapons and began to search the house.

They went down a small hallway and came to a tiny kitchen first. They checked it quickly, and then they moved on to the dining room next to it. Next, they went down a couple of steps to an intimate living room, but since they saw nothing out of place, they went back up and ventured down another hallway. They saw that the master bedroom was open, and Stephen surmised that the kids’ grandmother had been woken up by their arrival. He wondered if she heard anything noteworthy last night, and while they would still have to question her later, he assumed that she didn’t sense anything unusual or she would have gotten out of bed to check it out. If she had done that, she probably would have reported the kidnapping well before Emily sent them that note, or Emily would have killed her before she had the chance. He felt thankful it wasn’t the latter as they scanned the bathroom to rule it out. All they had left were the bedroom doors, and they both knew without saying it out loud that if Emily and her team left behind any evidence, they would have left it there. With that in mind, Stephen gingerly opened the first door.

The room seemed to be empty. With the posters of soccer teams and wrestling gear strewed about the area, Stephen presumed that they had come across Torunn’s room. Allison pointed to a crumpled set of pajamas on the floor and observed, “He got himself dressed.”

Stephen went to the nightstand next to his bed and saw a charger in the outlet behind it. “I don’t see a cellphone. Maybe we can use its GPS to find them!”

“Hopefully he still has it!” Allison commented.

After they finished in Torunn’s room, they nervously walked over to Elska’s room. When Allison opened the door, Stephen expected to see something more dramatic waiting for them, but it appeared to be empty as well. They searched around the plush animals and girly decorations, but they didn’t see a thing. They were about to give up on finding any evidence until Stephen saw a small light flashing from under some magazines. He dusted the periodicals off and came across a glittery cellphone! Allison watched with great interest as Stephen opened up the phone to its home screen, and they saw a recent message from Torunn. Knowing that this was significant, Stephen opened up the message.

They both gasped when they saw Torunn and Elska bounded and gagged in some kind of dark room! “They really were kidnapped!” Allison concluded.

Stephen shook his head sadly. “Hopefully the lab will get a clue to their location from this! Let’s get it to them quickly and then go back to help the team in Revutoel!”

Allison took the phone and chanted, “Missimoto duen ICI lab!” After it disappeared, they left the house.

As they walked outside, they saw that the police officer that was guarding their house now instructed a few reporters to keep away from both the kids’ grandmother and her yard. When he saw Stephen and Allison emerge, he inquired, “We have a crime scene?” Not wanting to elaborate in front of the press, Stephen curtly nodded.

The reporters tried to bombard them with questions about the incident, but Stephen ignored them as he made his way to the police car. Allison, however, caught wind of a reporter asking about their relationship status, and she grew irate! Stephen advised her, “Don’t do it!”

Allison didn’t give any indication that she had heard Stephen and marched right up to the press, yelling, “Listen, we’re professionals out here trying to solve a serious crime! Can’t you show us a little respect?”

“Our viewers have a right to know all the facts on the case!” a familiar female’s voice rang out.

“Penny Melrose?” Stephen questioned.

Penny Melrose beamed at him. “In the flesh! I heard on my police scanner that Asvakavitt had a possible kidnapping. Can you tell us why these kids were kidnapped instead of murdered like the other heirs?”

Stephen curtly regarded her, “We’re not commenting on an open case!” He motioned for Allison to come with him to the car.

“What about your relationship? Do you consider it a conflict of interest?” Penny queried to them.

Allison looked as though she were about to blow a fuse, so Stephen turned her towards him so she could see him indicate that she shouldn’t do it. She took a deep breath, turned back to the reporters, and fibbed, “Listen, we’re about to chase a lead at the library. If we don’t find anything there, we’ll give you an interview.”

Penny chirped, “Thank you! Come on guys, let’s go set up outside there!”

As the press dispersed, Stephen gave Allison a reproachful look. She shrugged and defended her action, “What? If they can spread lies about us, we can throw some right back!”

Stephen couldn’t help but smile at her humorous logic, but he still shook his head in disapproval. “You shouldn’t have done that! You don’t wanna give them any reason to-.”

“Shh!” the police officer shushed them as he listened to his radio.

“What happened?” Stephen could tell something serious had happened, and the small bit of lightheartedness they had enjoyed had vanished as Stephen watched the policeman’s face practically lose all of its color. He sincerely hoped that nothing too detrimental occurred, but he feared the worst.

The officer had a look of dread on his face as he informed them, “Four people were killed and three injured in Revutoel!” Stephen and Allison’s eyes grew wide, and all three of them ran inside the police car immediately!

Oscar found Hugo as he was about to enter the parliament floor, and he called after him, “Excuse me, Mister Boman!”

“Can it wait?” Hugo asked while trying to balance the armful of notes and paperwork.

“No, it can’t! This is important,” Oscar answered him.

Hugo reluctantly gave in, “Very well! What is it?”

Oscar probed, “You know how the moon aster stems went missing?” Hugo nodded with an expression clearly indicating that he didn’t want to get reminded of that fact. “Well, when I went home last night, I went to make a sleeping potion in my kitchen. As I reached for an herb I needed, I just happened to notice this.” He held up a small vial of moon aster stems!

Hugo’s mood seemed to buoy up upon seeing this. “Oh, my dear boy, this is wonderful news!”

“It’s only enough for one draught,” Oscar said bashfully, “but I thought it would help a little!”

“Every little bit helps!” Hugo reacted encouragingly. “I’m going to inform Dagan and Alastair of this update. Would you mind retrieving the next person on the list?” He sifted through his papers and found the list of castle employees that he needed. “Oh, Judith is next.”

Oscar looked hesitant about that. “Judith? We only got one shot for the next four days, and you want to question her? She’s worked int the castle for, like, the last thirty years, and she’s so rigid about following the rules! There’s no way she did it! Wouldn’t it make more sense to pick someone more likely to have committed the crime?”

Hugo addressed his concern, “We cannot deviate from the rules based on personal opinion! We made one exception fro Dagan so he could assist us with the truth serum, but we cannot cherry pick the rest! We need to send a message to the traitor that no one is safe! I never thought anyone in the castle was capable of such an atrocity, but now I can’t trust anyone until they’ve been vindicated through this process. I’m glad we were able to clear your name, let’s do the same for Judith!”

“You’re right, I’ll go get her,” Oscar complied. Hugo gave him an encouraging grin, and he smiled back before he left.Elska Kidnapped

Amouraq II: Curse of the Serpent’s Tongue, Chapter 9

As Judith passed by the lounge, she heard someone crying in it. When she walked back to the room, she discovered Amelia sobbing as she watched TV. Judith curiously viewed the screen as she asked Amelia, “What happened?”

Amelia sniffled as she answered, “Another heir got killed! This is just like before! People kept dying left and right, and I kept wondering if Emily would be next! How long will Xavier keep her alive?”

“I don’t know!” Judith said truthfully. Amelia wept more, so Judith sat next to her and consoled her, “There, there! I know it’s scary to think of her out there facing all kinds of danger, but you can take some comfort that she has Xavier’s abilities, so with that much power in her, she’s well protected!”

“I guess that’s true,” Amelia responded. “but I don’t want Xavier to have his clutches in any part of my grandbaby! I wish they would hurry up and find the disgraceful wretch that did this to her! Why is this truth serum so complicated to make?”

“It takes powerful magic to defeat powerful magic,” Judith explained. “We have to have strong protection to keep the deepest secrets of the royals that we serve. Well, we gotta keep the small ones too. Did you know one reporter had the gall to ask me if King Patrick wore boxers or briefs?”

Amelia tittered a little to hear that bit of humor, but she still watched the television set with a heavy heart. “I understand why it’s taking so long, but I can’t take much more of this! We need to find who did this so we can break the spell!”

Judith commented, “They’re not questioning the castle employees so they can break the spell, they’re doing it so they can figure out what Xavier’s end game is for Emily and get ahead of him before he gets there.”

“So, they’ll bring Emily home and then… what? Make another complicated potion to cure her?” Amelia inquired.

“Something like that,” Judith replied. “It’s not easy to purge the Curse of the Serpent’s Tongue once it’s taken over someone’s essence. A lot of people can’t do it.”

Oscar stood in the entrance and added, “That’s why it’s a banned substance from our country! Well, one of the reasons. It deprives people of their freedom and usually forces them to do dangerous things, so anyone who gets caught using it gets sentenced to life in prison! But in this case, the person committed high treason, so this may be one of the rare times they issue the death penalty!”

Judith hoped that her face didn’t show her inner fear at the thought. While she would nobly die for her cause if she had to, the prospect of it really disturbed her! It didn’t help to hear Amelia vehemently express, “Good! I normally don’t support the death penalty, but I hope the son of a bitch who did this fries for giving her that curse!”

Oscar assured her, “Well, we’re well on our way to making that happen! Chef Dagan is making plenty of that serum, so it’s only a matter of time before we-!”

Dagan suddenly burst into the lounge and urgently questioned them, “Has anyone seen my moon aster stems?”

“You lost them?” Judith cried out incredulously.

“I just turned my back for a second and they were gone!” Dagan exclaimed. “I bought every stem in stock in every apothecary on the island! If we can’t find them, we can’t question anyone for five days! That’s the soonest anyone can get them to grow back! What are we gonna do?”

Amelia volunteered, “I can help you look for them! What do they look like?”

Oscar described them to her, “They’re skinny, green stalks with long, narrow leaves on them.” He then inquired to Dagan, “Have you tried using a summoning spell?”

“Of course! It didn’t work! Why didn’t it work?” Dagan fretted.

“It’s okay, we’ll find them!” Oscar affirmed.

They all split up and immediately began searching for the moon aster stems. Judith checked under the rug in the hallway and behind some paintings while she made her way to the guest bedroom. Once she had total privacy, she took the plants out of her apron pocket and cackled slightly as she watched them get flushed down the toilet!

“Relevia delero!” Allison chanted as she held her hands over Stephen’s ankle. She saw Stephen wincing, so she informed him, “It takes a while for the pain to go away.”

“I know!” Stephen grimaced and took a moment before he expounded on his thought. He listened to the whir of the helicopter’s blades and the roar of it’s engine for a few seconds in an attempt to clear his mind from the emotional wound she had inadvertently opened up. “Emily used that spell on me once.”

Allison looked remorseful when she heard him say that. “Oh, I’m so sorry! It must hurt to remember that she once healed you when she was the one who…” She paused and amended her statement, “Xavier did this to you! Emily would never hurt you!”

Stephen sighed, “I know!” He stared at the ceiling as he mulled over everything. “I’m surprised he didn’t have her kill me!”

“It does seem like it would have fit his M.O. more to have her, out of all people, to do the deed!” Allison agreed with him. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad he didn’t kill you, it just seems odd that he kept you alive.”

“He’s done it before,” Stephen recalled. “Captain Lefevre could have killed us both, but he didn’t. He kept us alive to put us through the torture of surviving the forest, and he wanted to murder us himself so he could get answers from us, especially me. He believed that by me making it to that point that I was fulfilling some prophecy made centuries ago. I would think that removing Emily from the castle would negate the prediction, so why is he keeping me alive now?”

Allison shrugged. “Let’s just use it to our advantage.” Stephen assumed that he found the motive behind this decision more significant than Allison did, so he didn’t broach the subject any further. Allison took her cellphone out and remarked, “Let’s see, no updates from the Amouraqian team so far. We’ll probably beat them there. Wait, what’s this alert for?” After she opened up the notification, she gasped.

Stephen tried to bolt up as he queried, “What? What happened?”

“Oh, nothing urgent,” Allison reassured him. “But apparently Penny Melrose wrote an article about you and me. It says that you quickly moved on from Queen Emily and found yourself a girl whose younger and thinner than her. She speculated that if you’re interested in me that you must have only dated Emily for her power. She also wonders if you’re actually trying to find her or if you’re hoping she’s never found. She thinks you’re now choosing love over money and influence. That is just ridiculous! If Alastair had gone with you, no one would make such a stupid claim! People think if you’re a good-looking woman that you must also be a boy crazy homewrecker! Like I can’t have any male friends! I would never do that to Emily! How dare they bring me into this bull shit! How dare they-!”

Hey, hey, hey!” Stephen cut her off. “Emily didn’t take this gossip-mongering seriously, and neither should we. We both know the truth, that people of opposite sexes are perfectly capable of having a platonic relationship, and if someone isn’t wise enough to believe that, then they’re not worth worrying about!”

Allison calmed down a bit, but she still seemed slightly miffed. “But how do you just ignore this crap? It’s so insulting! They act like going out with Emily would be a downgrade! What are they gonna say when you do get her back?”

“Who cares?” Stephen reacted with a sparkle in his eye at the thought. “I’ll have her back, and nothing else matters! They can think what they want! To me, she’s the most beautiful person in the world! My life has only gotten better since I met her, and I’ll never feel this deep about anyone else but her! They can call me all kinds of names if they want if they don’t understand my intentions, I don’t care! All I care about is that she’s an upgrade to my life!” He listened to the words come out of his mouth and made a somewhat sour face. “What is it about this spell that makes me sound like a Disney prince? This happened last time too!”

“I think its the effect of the dopamine and endorphins the spell releases to ease your pain,” Allison giggled. “What happened when Emily performed the spell?”

Stephen confessed, “I almost kissed her! Ugh, I should have! Why didn’t I tell her how I felt when I had the chance?”

Allison gave him a reassuring pat on the shoulder. “You’ll get another chance! We’re getting close to bring her home, I can feel it!” Stephen smiled gratefully but still didn’t seem optimistic. Before Allison could give him more words of encouragement, she got another alert on her phone. “Alastair says that he has a task force on their way to Greenland now. Looks like we’re definitely beating them there. I should unmuffle our conversation so the pilot can talk to us.”

Just as she chanted a spell to reverse the muffling effect, the pilot announced, “Wake up, you two! We’re about to land in Revutoel!” Stephen and Allison hid their snickering about his assumption as they began descending into a small airport.

A teenage boy burst into a nearby bedroom and saw his sister fast asleep on her bed. He pulled a random dress out of her closet and threw it to her, which made her stir in her sleep. He quite seriously demanded, “Wake up, Elska! We need to get out of here!”

Elska grumbled, “Go back to bed, Torunn! We don’t have school today!”

“No, Elska! We need to go!” Torunn insisted. “The Connelly’s were killed, and it’s only a matter of time before they get to us!”

“Torunn, Sevgi and Ren are ahead of us.” Elska groggily sat up in her bed. “They’re both still alive, and even if they were attacked, it still gives us some time. Let me sleep!”

Torunn argued, “Revutoel isn’t far from Asvakavitt! They could be under attack right now, and if they are, it doesn’t give us much time!” Elska still seemed reluctant, so Torunn iterated, “Do you remember how much it hurt Aanaq when Ataata and Anaana were killed? Do you want her to lose us too?”

Elska finally relented, “Ugh, fine! If it makes you happy, we’ll go now.” She started to get out of bed but stopped when she saw him watching. “I won’t undress with you in the room!”

“Fine! But we need to hurry!” Torunn stepped out of her bedroom and shut the door.

You’re telling me to hurry?” Elska griped. “You’re the one who usually takes forever to-!”

Her sentence suddenly got cut off, and Torunn grew worried. “Elska?” When he got no response, he rushed into the room to check on her. When he saw why she had stopped talking, his eyes grew wide!

Stephen and Allison stood with six other agents from Amouraq behind a police barricade outside of an old, brick dormitory. Allison reported to them, “We got eyes all around the building, and no one has gone in or out yet. We need to evacuate the building in case Emily and her team ambush us. As soon as we get to Sevgi and Ren, we’ll form a protective…”

She trailed off as a piece of paper suddenly appeared above their heads, and everyone watched with the utmost interest as it slowly floated down towards them. When it came within his arm’s reach, Stephen grabbed it. The others stared him with intense curiosity as he read it. All of a sudden, he seemed too shocked to speak, and one of the Amouraqian agents very concernedly asked him, “What is it?”

Hardly able to get the words out, Stephen answered him, “It’s from Emily. She’s kidnapped the Sirvard twins and says she’ll kill them now if we don’t get off the case immediately!”Torunn and Elska

Amouraq II: Curse of the Serpent’s Tongue, Chapter 8

You shouldn’t have done it!” Stephen admonished Allison as she drove a silver sedan through the busy streets of downtown Leannastor.

“Hey, I saved our hides!” Allison defended herself. “If I told them we took a cab, we’d get in trouble for breaking protocol. Their house is too far away from the airport to walk there, so it was either this or tell them we used magic to travel to the Connelly’s.”

Stephen still seemed uncomfortable by the idea. “I know we didn’t have a lot of options, but we have enough to worry about, and now we gotta add car theft to the list!”

Allison corrected him, “It’s official business, we commandeered it! They’ll get it back when we’re done!”

“Yes, but how will they get it back if we don’t survive this ordeal?” Stephen challenged her.

“If we don’t survive this, then who cares about the car?” Allison pointed out. As they pulled up to a red light, Allison was forced to stop due to the traffic ahead. She felt a little impatient by this, but when she caught a glimpse of Stephen, she noticed the emotional turmoil on his face and attempted to reassure him, “We’re gonna get through this! We’ll save Tristan and get Emily home, and our worst problem will be listening to Penny Melrose tell the world how we stole a car in Ireland!” As the light turned green and Allison resumed driving, she noted that he hadn’t responded to her, so she inquired, “Are you okay?”

Stephen glanced over to the GPS, and when he saw that they were almost there, he steeled himself up and bravely replied, “I’ll be alright.”

Allison advised him, “You make things worse by bottling it up for too long, and we have about a minute until we arrive, so get some of it out now!”

“I just…” Stephen didn’t want to talk about his feelings when they were about to embark on a dangerous mission, but this issue had persistently occupied the forefront of his mind, so he knew she had a point. If he wanted to concentrate on this assignment, he had to let it out now! “I didn’t know how much I’d miss her until I lost her! Suddenly, the world seems less warm and cheerful with her gone! This is the first thing that’s ever made me feel… stable…No, it’s like a comforting stability, like she’s…”

“Home?” Allison suggested.

The truth of that statement really stung deep for Stephen. “Losing her makes me feel like I’ve lost everything!”

As Allison pulled up to their destination, she stated firmly, “You haven’t lost her yet! Let’s go get her back!” That reminder lit a fire in his belly, and his adrenaline began to kick in so he could fight for her. He signaled his readiness by nodding to Allison, and that prompted both of them to burst out of the car.

Police had already surrounded the long, multi-storied building that Tristan lived in, and some of the officers had immediately begun to evacuate people. Stephen and Allison walked up to the person directing the operation and flashed their badges to him. “Any sign of them yet?” Allison asked.

The policeman answered, “We’re combing through the entire structure. If they’re there, we’ll find them!”

Stephen and Allison didn’t share his optimism. They hung back a little, and Allison whispered, “They can’t teleport her, there’s too many people!” Stephen observed several residents coming out from various exits of the complex to watch the excitement unfold, and he agreed with Allison’s assertion. If Emily or anyone helping her hadn’t already done it, they would find it impossible to do it now! If they were already in there, they had too many potential witnesses around to commit a murder without getting seen. He studied the crowd and didn’t spot anyone that resembled the sorcerer that stood guard outside of Shannon Connelly’s house. As he scanned through everyone, a handwritten sign suddenly caught his eye. It read: Laundry Room A out of order. He didn’t know why his instincts prompted him to focus on this, but he grew curious about the other laundry room. When he spotted it, it looked dark and totally devoid of people. Even still, his gut compelled him to go in that direction. He silently motioned for Allison to follow him, and with everyone’s concentration on the operation, they were able to slip away unnoticed.

A man that bore similar features to Shannon walked through an empty hallway with a large laundry basket, and he began to grow irritated by the length of the trek he had to take. Under his breath, he muttered, “I really need to learn that cleansing spell!” At that moment, the cellphone in his pocket rang, and he grumbled, “Ugh! Again? Can’t they leave a bloody message?” He slammed down his laundry basket and forcibly dragged his phone out of his pocket. “Who is this?”

The voice on the other end immediately informed him, “This is Agent Pamela Dulcie of the FBI. You’re in great danger! Where are you?”

“I’m heading back to my flat. What do you mean, I’m in..?” His words trailed off as he saw a few people in dark hooded robes heading towards him! He dropped his phone and started to run in the other direction, but more hooded people were behind him too! He was trapped! He fell to his knees and begged, “Please, don’t kill me! I don’t want the throne, you can have it! I won’t say anything! Just let me live!”

“I don’t trust you!” Emily narrowed her serpentine red eyes and raised her hand above her head. Allison and Stephen came within their vicinity just in time to hear Emily chant, “Exficio sancruis!”

Stephen and Allison watched in horror as a slash appeared on Tristan’s neck and blood came flowing out of him like a river! “No!” Stephen cried out.

Anad, Blythe, and Lonan turned around and instantly began spouting off aggressive spells. Allison hit back with defensive magic of her own while Stephen avoided the trajectory of the hexes as he kept himself moving. He delivered some physical blows of his own as he made his way down the hall to get to Emily, and as Nigel and Brent joined the fight, he felt glad that Allison had the foresight to put protective spells around them. He kept in mind that she warned him that there were vulnerable parts around these spells, and he hoped that they wouldn’t figure them out until after he got to Emily. He didn’t know what she would do when he got to her, but he had to try everything he could to get her away from them! This encounter had been the closest he had gotten to her since she disappeared, and he refused to let her get away again!

He got close enough to Nigel to punch him in the face, which knocked him down to the floor. Stephen finally saw her, but he got horrified by her appearance! He knew that Captain Lefevre’s visage had been altered by the spell, but somehow he hadn’t mentally prepared himself to see it in her! Besides her golden brown eyes becoming crimson, her skin had sallowed, and the warmth of her smile had gotten replaced by a cold sneer. For a split second, they each stared at one another. Suddenly, from behind them, they heard a few Irish police yell, “Freeze! Don’t move!”

Anad, Brent, Lonan, Nigel, and Blythe all raised their hands to strike the officers. Allison chanted, “Teluta murceria,” and it appeared to block most of their hexes. Allison gazed above her head, and Stephen feared that a spell broke through her barrier. His theory got confirmed when all three officers caught on fire!

Allison swiftly worked on putting them out, and Stephen noticed Emily’s team started to disappear. Stephen tried to grab them before they could get away, but they slipped through his fingers. He fell to the floor, and his heart fluttered to see Emily standing over his head. With cautious optimism, he remarked, “You stayed!”

His hopes of her return were dashed as she icily regarded him, “I just wanted to give this back!” She pulled a bullet out of her pocket and chanted, “Rivga!”

The bullet flew from her hand and into his ankle! As he braced the pain, Allison attempted to counter with a spell of her own. Emily chanted something under her breath simultaneously, and she disappeared before Allison’s hex got to her! “Ugh! Son of a bitch!” Allison bellowed. She heard Stephen groan, and she fell to his side to make sure he was alright. “Where are you hurt?”

“Just my ankle. I’m o…” He trailed off as a pool of blood reached his hands. He craned his head up and saw Tristan’s blood gushing down the hall!

More police officers arrived, and they surveyed the scene with total revulsion! One of them exclaimed, “Holy shite!”

As Allison helped Stephen up, she reported, “We had six suspects, and they all fled the scene.”

More officers entered the area from both sides of the hallway, and the one in charge of the operation hollered, “What in the bloody hell happened?”

Though the agony from his wound coursed throughout his body, Stephen briefly explained, “We were outnumbered and they got away.”

“That’s not possible!” the officer refuted. “We have all the exits blocked, and no one jumped out of the window! How did they escape?” Allison and Stephen hesitated, and before they could come up with a story, the officer angrily surmised, “You don’t know!”

One of the other police officers confirmed, “They’re all gone, sir!”

“Gone?” The one in charge examined the area and became overwhelmed with confusion. “They’re… How did… How did this happen? They’re burnt, he’s bleeding out, and you got shot! How is that possible?” Allison and Stephen couldn’t think of a plausible explanation, so he confronted them, “Why can’t you tell us anything?”

“You think we had something to do with this?” Stephen shot back. “We’re on your side, damn it!”

“I think you’re hiding something!” the officer accosted him.

Stephen ardently argued, “I’m a federal agent, I can’t tell you everything! I did try to warn you guys that Amouraqians have advanced weapons and that we should have waited for the ICI to handle this, but you didn’t listen!”

The officer exclaimed, “Oh, so this is my fault?”

Before either of them could say anything else, Pamela’s voice rang out, “It’s my fault!” Everyone had a look of surprise to hear her, especially Stephen, and when they turned towards the direction of the sound, they realized that Tristan had been on the phone with her and never hung up. Stephen inwardly panicked knowing she had witnessed the foray and wondered what repercussions might come from that. “I made the call based on the immediacy of the situation and should have been more strategic about their capabilities. Agent Knight and Agent Ramiro did everything they could to try to prevent this. If they hadn’t intervened, the situation actually could have been worse.”

Stephen and Allison felt somewhat vindicated by Pamela backing them up, but their hearts broke to see the Irish policeman looking downright distraught. Near tears herself, Allison apologized to him, “I’m sorry we couldn’t save them!”

He busted out into tears, and other crestfallen officers consoled him. A couple of paramedics came to tend to Stephen, and Stephen directed them, “Just wrap it to stop the bleeding. We can have Amouraqian medics work on it when we meet them in Greenland.” The paramedics understood and began wrapping his ankle.

Stephen leaned on Allison as they exited the building, and they were blindsided by a score of reporters who were stationed outside the entrance! They started snapping pictures and hurling questions at them right away.

“How many bodies are in there?”

“Why are you covered in blood?”

“Did you catch the killer?”

“Who is this girl you have your arms around?”

“Have you already moved on from Queen Emily?”

Stephen found the questions about Emily more hurtful than his bullet wound, but he decided to ignore them. He couldn’t bear to relive his interaction with her again, and now that he had a better idea about what they were dealing with, all he could do was think about ways to combat her defenses so he could get her home.Fire Spell

Amouraq II, Curse of the Serpent’s Tongue, Chapter 7

With a curious look on her face, Judith walked into a large ceremony room. She got surprised to see what looked like the entire castle staff waiting in there! When she had gotten the notice of a mandatory meeting, she worried that perhaps they had found some evidence pointing in her direction, but if they had such a high amount of people gathered there, they obviously hadn’t narrowed it down yet. She knew that they were watching everyone to spot any unusual behavior, so she tried to act as if she had no idea why they were all called there.

Alastair walked onto the stage with Hugo, and the crowd grew silent. Alastair’s voice boomed throughout the room, “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for coming! I’m sure you’re all aware of Queen Emily’s disappearance. If you’ve seen today’s headlines, you’re also aware the theirs that came after Emily got murdered yesterday.” A small murmur rang out upon hearing this, and after giving those who didn’t know time to react, he moved on, “It appears that Xaver Ryder’s killing spree has resumed…” Judith hoped her annoyance at this mention didn’t show on her face, but she didn’t see how they could definitively tie this to Xavier! “…and until a proper heir sits on the throne, Mister Boman is in charge of the castle.” Hugo waved his hand to indicate himself to those who weren’t aware of who he referred to. Alastair went on, “As for Emily, her disappearance stemmed from a potion slipped into her drink. We found the evidence in her tea that she had the night before she vanished, and since only castle employees are authorized onto the grounds at that time, it means our culprit is one of you.” Everyone’s expression seemed shocked by the allegation, and Judith did her best to match them. “I”m sorry, we have no other choice but to consider you all persons of interest, and you’ll all be subjected to questioning. We’ll proceed alphabetically, and you’ll be notified when we’re ready to talk to you. If any of you leave town before you’ve been questioned, you’ll do time in prison. No exceptions! Thank you for your cooperation!”

As they were all dismissed, Judith exhaled with a load off of her mind. She felt glad to know that her handling of the tea cup didn’t bump her to the top of the suspect list! If anyone else had been available to deliver the tea, she would have let them do so. It didn’t seem to matter at this point, so she shrugged it off as she made her way over to Hugo. She politely regarded him, “Excuse me, Mister Boman. I was looking to get some extra hours. May I come into work today?”

Hugo seemed a little flustered by the amount of work he had ahead of him, so he spouted, “Yeah, fine, sure!”

“Thank you, sir!” She smiled cordially at him, and he moved his lips as if he were trying to return her gesture, but he didn’t quite pull it off. As he dashed out the door, Judith walked out of the ceremony room confidently. If they were testing people alphabetically, she had a little bit of time to figure out a way to avoid getting questioned. With Hugo giving her permission to work overtime, she had an excuse to be on castle grounds, which just made it so much easier to scope out a method to protect her beloved master.

A genial-looking man strolled to the trunk of his car and took an armload of groceries out. He couldn’t get his trunk closed while holding all of his bags, so he sat them all on the ground in order to get it shut. At that moment, he heard a strange whooshing noise behind him. Although it was hard to see through the nightly fog, he didn’t see any movement on his lawn. He scanned the entire neighborhood, and none of the cozy town homes appeared to have anything out of place. He still felt uneasy, so he decided to gather his groceries as quickly as possible. He didn’t know what was out there, but he still sensed the urgency to get to the safety of his home immediately! Just when he got close enough to his front steps and thought he was scot free, something hit him on the back of his head, and all he could see was darkness…

A little girl woke up screaming, and her very pregnant mother came rushing in to see what happened. “Deirdre! Are you alright?”

Deirdre shrieked, “No, Mummy! I had a terrible nightmare!”

“Oh!” Her mother sniffled and put a tissue up to her nose. “Listen, Deirdre love, Mummy isn’t feeling well, so how about I just share the bed with you until your father gets home.”

“No, Mummy!” Deirdre tried to push her mother up as she laid down. “We have to get out of here! We’re in danger!”

Her mother exhaustively moaned, “Don’t worry! I put the best protection spells around our house, so no one but your daddy can get in!”

Deirdre resolutely argued, “No, Mummy, you don’t understand! They’re coming to kill us!”

“It was just a bad dream!” her mother sleepily assured her. “No one is-!”

“They’re already here!” Deirdre’s eyes grew wide, and her muscles stiffened up as she stared into the dark.

Her mother pulled herself up, but when she didn’t see anything, she somewhat impatiently told Deirdre, “There’s no one there! Deirdre, darling, who exactly do you think is coming?”

Deirdre fearfully whispered, “The robed people!”

Her mother echoed back, “The robed people? What are you…?” She suddenly heard the sound of footsteps behind her, and when she turned around again, all of the color drained from her face…

Allison and Stephen appeared on the sidewalk in front of the Connelly’s house, and they immediately heard a man chant, “Doleteum!”

They rolled out of the way before the spell could hit them, and they each saw a man neither of them recognized. Since they were now spread out, the sorcerer could only focus on one of them at a time. He tried to hex Allison, but Stephen took three shots at his head. The bullets grew close to him, but when they were inches away from his face, they bounced to the floor as if they had hit an invisible wall. Allison took advantage of his momentary distraction and chanted, “Veneurus valiforbus!” A gust of wind blew so strongly at him that he had trouble standing. She then chanted, “Freeze,” but her spell bounced off of him. Stephen tried to aim at his trajectory to hit different parts of his body while Allison did the same with her freezing spell.

All of a sudden, they heard a shrill scream come from inside the house! All three of them unintentionally gazed up towards the upstairs room where the noise had come from, and a second later, they saw the window get splattered with blood! Stephen and Allison became so horrified by what they witnessed that they momentarily forgot about the sorcerer they were fighting, who seized the opportunity to mutter a spell under his breath. Stephen automatically fired his gun again, and a bullet managed to hit the man’s ankle before he disappeared into thin air! “Damn it!” Stephen exclaimed.

Allison chanted, “Veneurus refusisto,” and the wind stopped. They stared at the ghastly scene in front of them, and Allison lamented, “We were so close!”

Stephen had to look away from the house to grieve over the loss of this innocent family, and his insides ached just knowing he had been feet away from Emily and didn’t get a chance to save her. He found it imperative to think of a way to save the next victim, and he hoped that he could spare Emily from getting forced into committing another atrocious act. He caught a glimpse of movement from one of the Connelly’s neighbors, and he suddenly remembered the danger they had put themselves in. He turned to Allison and urgently told her, “We need to teleport back onto that plane before-.”

A police care pulled up to the house, and Stephen groaned. The officers jumped out of their vehicle and drew their weapons. “Freeze! Put your hands up!”

Allison and Stephen complied, and Allison addressed them, “We’re federal agents! I’m Allison Ramiro, ICI, and this is Stephen Knight, FBI.”

The police officers looked suspicious. “Show us your badge!” They both obeyed the officer’s command, and upon verifying their claim, both policemen put their weapons away. “What happened here?”

“We just got here,” Stephen explained. “We found at least one D.B., but we believe there’s two more inside. Three, actually. Missus Connelly was pregnant.” Stephen’s gut wrenched at the tragedy of it all.

More police arrived, and one officer commanded, “Search the premises.” As a few officers entered into the building, a couple others began examining Mister Connelly’s body while others began taping off the area. The officer closest to Allison and Stephen took out a small notepad and jotted down their names. “Ramiro, Knight… Wait, I remember getting a notice of your arrival, but we weren’t expecting you for hours!”

Stephen and Allison tried not to look uneasy at this subject, and Allison casually remarked, “We had to use body doubles because Xavier is still at large. He’s crashed his plane before, so we used extra precautions.”

“Oh right, I remember that! No one ever did recover that plane!” The officer seemed to buy her explanation, which made them both secretly feel relieved.

Stephen’s cellphone rang, and the caller ID notified him that it was Agent Pamela Dulcie. “Oh, it’s my superior. I should take this.” He stepped away from them, but only slightly so since teems of police officers had now swarmed the area. “Agent Knight here!”

Pamela inquired, “Stephen, where are you? You don’t sound like you’re on the plane!”

Stephen bit his lip, and then he replied, “We arrived early.”

“That’s extremely early!” Pamela reacted credulously. “How is that even possible?” Stephen tried to cook up an answer, but before he did, she commented, “Oh, obviously Amouraq has advanced technology that allows for extraordinarily fast travel!”

As she said it, Stephen could tell she didn’t believe her own words. He knew she must suspect something, and he appreciated her for not expressing her suspicions in front of the Irish police. He made a mental note that he would need to ask Alastair’s advice for how to handle it when she inevitably started to ask questions about magic. ‘Yes, we sent body doubles on the plane so we could arrive in Leannastor undetected by Xavier.”

Pamela responded, “Excellent! Were you able to save the Connelly’s?” Stephen paused; he just couldn’t bear to say it out loud. Pamela interpreted his silence as an affirmation. “I see… I’m sorry to hear that! Shannon Connelly’s brother, Tristan, is next in line. He lives in Leannastor, so Xavier wouldn’t have far to go! You guys should head there immediately!”

The Irish police officer who had questioned them overheard their conversation and volunteered, “I’ll see a team to secure his home immediately!”

“No!” Stephen cried out a little too eagerly.

“Why not?” Pamela probed.

Stephen hesitated a bit, and then he came up with, “Xavier and his team have advanced weapons from Amouraq. We need to wait for more members of the ICI to-.”

Pamela interrupted him, “We don’t have time to wait for them! Xavier and his team are probably heading to Tristan’s house right now! Get over there and stop them!”

As the policeman got on his radio and relayed this information to his dispatch, Stephen saw that the press had already started to gather as close to the crime scene as possible. The Irish officer suddenly spoke to Allison and Stephen, “Our team will meet you there. Say, where did you guys park?” Stephen and Allison turned to each other to wordlessly discuss what they should do now.Shannon Connelly

Amouraq II: Curse of the Serpent’s Tongue, Chapter 6

Thank goodness! We’re almost there!” Allison exclaimed as Stephen drove a black sedan throughout a modest, middle-class neighborhood during a rainy afternoon. While Allison maintained a very relieved demeanor, Stephen looked rather morose. “I know, I know! I gotta get used to cose travel methods, but this is my first international assignment, so I’m just not used to how slow the process is without magic! I’m glad we’re finally able to stretch our legs for a while!”

“Yeah, but who know what we’ll find when we get there!” Stephen couldn’t share her sentiments right now. He knew that the best case scenario would have been to find the Carwen family alive and to capture Emily before she does any harm, but he didn’t look forward to that eventuality. Emily was basically possessed by Xavier’s evil spirit, so he knew she wouldn’t surrender without a fight. While they were on the helicopter, they worked out a lot of different strategies to capture her alive, but he knew that she would go after them first, and he’d be forced to hurt her. He couldn’t stand the thought of that! He had a hard enough time killing the copiebomb that mimicked her exact appearance, and the only reason he could bring himself to do it was because he knew he stood before a fake Emily. The memory of shooting the impostor image of her haunted his memory, and he didn’t look forward to having to do that again! And that was the best case scenario! He also knew that I could have been possible that Xavier had her kill the Carwens, and since she had served her purpose for him, they could stumble across her body. He didn’t want to even fathom that idea, but he had to mentally prepare himself for every possibility. Unless the Carwens had some kind of powerful cure lying around the house, he didn’t think he would find Emily as her old, delightful self, so no matter what they came across here, he knew it wouldn’t be easy to handle!

Allison picked up on his despondent mood, so she tried to reassure him, “Don’t worry! We’re gonna find the clues we need to find Emily, and we’re gonna get her home!” Stephen didn’t seem to buy that, which made Allison’s empathetic nature share his sorrow.

They pulled up to a quaint, two-story home, and while Stephen saw two cars in the driveway, he didn’t see any lights on or hear any noise coming from inside, which did not bode well. Allison opened her umbrella, and as they exited the car, she marveled at it curiously. “Such a strange device! It doesn’t even totally work!” She peered at her pant legs and noted their dampness.

Stephen briefly had the urge to smile, but he couldn’t quite summon one to come up. He somewhat hollowly responded, “Don’t let people hear you say things like that!”

Before they reached the front porch, Stephen stared at the building hesitantly. He got overwhelmed by his anxiety, and he suddenly had the urge to flee. Whatever laid inside of this house, he felt as though he didn’t want to see it! Allison put a hand on his shoulder and encouraged him, “It’s gonna be okay!”

“You’re right!” He remembered that wherever Emily had gone to, her life was in danger, and her only shot at survival rested inside this home. He took a deep breath, shook off his nerves, and stepped onto the front stoop.

Stephen range the doorbell, and he could hear it echo throughout the house. They waited for a moment, listening for the sound of the residents coming to answer the door, but all they heard was the raindrops plopping onto the ground behind them. After a few seconds had passed, Stephen tried knocking on the door, desperately hoping to hear someone moving inside, but they still got no response. Stephen tried to open the door, but it was locked. He prepared himself to try another door, but Allison quickly glanced around, and when she saw that the coast was clear, she pointed her palm at the knob and chanted, “Rescludo!” He heard the door unlatch, and he gave Allison a stern look for the risk she took. “We can argue about it later!” She opened the door for him.

All of the lights were turned off, so after they were both inside, Allison chanted, “Lumenia modeo!” The spell lit up the entire house, and they both stood in the foyer to survey the scene. To their right, they saw a small living room with a sofa, chair, and a coffee table all facing a television that sat over a little fireplace. To their left, they saw a small dining room that stood before a clean, modernly furnished kitchen. Neither room showed any sign of of the Carwens or of Emily. Stephen pulled out his gun in anticipation of an ambush, and he announced, “Federal agents! If anyone’s in here, make yourself known!” When no one replied back, Stephen sighed. It seemed like a long shot, but he had hoped to find a living person as opposed to the alternative. Allison set down her umbrella, and they stepped away from the foyer to begin searching around the place.

Stephen and Allison walked slowly through the living room and drank in every detail they spotted. Next to the television set, Stephen saw pictures of the family. They had two sweet, young boys, and Stephen dearly wished to find the poor kids alive! In a glass cabinet, they saw Amouraqian memorabilia underneath the flag, and among the memorabilia he noticed a framed picture of a newspaper article featuring Emily’s coronation ceremony. It pained him to remember such a joyous day that he shared with her! They obviously held her in high esteem, so he sincerely hoped that Emily hadn’t murdered them. Even though she had no control over her actions, it still felt disturbing to think about. He peeled himself away, and they moved on to another room.

They came to a staircase, and Allison queried, “Should we check upstairs or the kitchen first?”
Stephen mulled it over for an instant, and he concluded, “We can always circle back to the kitchen. We’ll probably learn more from their bedrooms than anywhere else.” Allison nodded in agreement, and they crept up the stairs.

When they reached the top of the staircase, Stephen half expected Emily or perhaps even one of Xavier’s sorcerers to dish out a blitz attack since the structure would have made it difficult for them to escape, but they didn’t see anyone there. They practically tiptoed on the red carpet that adorned the hallway with the intended purpose of opening each of the four shut doors. Stephen held up his gun as he opened the first one on the right, but all he found was an empty children’s bedroom. Allison held up her hand as she burst into the second room on the right, but she came across the same thing that Stephen did. Stephen opened up the first door on the left, and he saw that he had found an empty bathroom. Stephen started to wonder if the Carwens somehow caught wind of the situation and managed to escape, and as Allison prepared to open the last door, he gazed at the ceiling to see if they had an attic. Just as he spotted one, he heard Allison gasp as she stared at her shoe. “What is it?” he inquired.

Allison winced as she replied, “I’m so sorry! I just thought it was part of the rug!”

Before Stephen could ask her what she meant by that, she lifted her foot to reveal a puddle of a thick, crimson fluid! Stephen sincerely hoped that it was anything other than blood, but as he took a closer look, he saw a trail of it coming from the last room that made it difficult for him to believe otherwise. Allison seemed paralyzed by her apprehension, so Stephen offered, “Do you want me to…?” Allison stiffly nodded, and Stephen braced himself to face whatever waited for him inside. He didn’t believe he would find anything good in there, but he thought someone could be clinging onto their life, and that person deserved to get saved! With that in mind, he brandished his gun and burst into the room!

When Stephen finally saw the contents of the room, he stopped dead in his tracks! On the bed, he saw the parents’ bodies, and on the floor, he saw two deceased kids! All of them laid in a pool of blood! Allison peeked inside and had to physically repress the urge to vomit. Neither of them could speak as they stared at the devastating tragedy in front of them. After they both had enough time for this to sink in a bit, Stephen flashed back to the crime scene photos of the heirs that came before Emily, and suddenly this occurrence seemed strange to him. “Xavier used to kill his victims with Nervascam Nimcalgo, and all of his victims’ organs and bones were melted inside of their skin until they were just a puddle of flesh. The Carwens were exsanguinated. That’s different than the other heirs. Why did they get treated differently?”

Allison thought about it for a moment, and she came up with, “Xavier doesn’t want the murders to get pinned on him. I’m guessing he plans to slowly make it more and more apparent that Emily did it so he could disgrace her name.”

“And to torture us. He wants to remind us that he’s using her to carry out his sadistic pleasures.” That point brought Stephen to another conclusion. “They brought the kids in here so the parents could watch them die! One last piece of torture they had to endure before they died!” Stephen looked utterly revolted at the thought. “Well, we better alert the Portland police. But we have to get our story to the coses straight…”

“I remember what we discussed on the helicopter,” Allison assured him. “I’m ready.”

Dozens of police arrived at the residence, and Allison as well as Stephen talked to detectives as investigators combed through the house. “So, these people are next in line for the throne?” one of the detectives questioned them. “What happened to Queen Emily?”

Allison steeled herself as she fibbed, “She was kidnapped. We believe a castle employee may have help him do it.”

“Xavier Ryder?” the other detective queried.

“We don’t have definitive proof, but it fits his M.O,” Stephen told him.

The detectives scribbled down this information, and the first detective asked them, “How did you gain access to the premises again?”

Allison lied, “The door was unlocked.”

As they jotted down more notes, Stephen noted that they did not seem surprised by any of the claims that they had given them, and he felt relieved at their effectiveness. After they had put their pens down, the second detective relayed to them, “Alright, if we have any more questions, we’ll be in touch.”

As the detectives went to talk to the officers surrounding the house, Allison whispered, “It takes four hours to fly to Ireland! The Connelly’s will be dead by the time we get there!”

“Actually, I had an idea about that,” Stephen said quietly to her as they walked to his car.

Before they got inside, he saw a flash coming from down the street. He gazed over in its direction, and he saw a gaggle of reporters had gathered behind the police tape. They started shouting questions at him. “Over here! What can you tell us about the case?”

“Do you have any suspects?”

“Are you a person of interest?”

One reporter exclaimed, “Hey, I recognize you! You’re Queen Emily’s mystery man! Who was that other girl you’re talking to?”

Stephen rolled his eyes and made a noise of annoyance as he got inside the car. As he buckled up, he felt quite sure that he would get subjected to more gossip about himself, but right then, he didn’t care. He drove away from the area as fast as he could, silently praying that the strategy he came up with would give them enough time to save the Connelly’s and hopefully Emily too!Allison & Stephen Investigate