Amouraq III: The Secret of the Dagger, Chapter 10

“We’re ready to begin,” a man with a headset and a clipboard popped into the room before the castle balcony to notify Emily of their status.

“Well, I’m not!” Emily responded anxiously. “Just get yourselves ready, and when I come out, start filming.”

The producer obliged, “Yes, your highness.”

As he left, Emily watched the door nervously. She began wringing her hands and pacing the room. After a minute or so, she heard the door open again and looked up hopefully. To her relief, it was Stephen! She walked up to him and eagerly queried, “Did you find him?”

Stephen’s gut wrenched just knowing he had to disappoint her. “We searched everywhere, and we came up empty. There’s not even a hint of where he might’ve moved everyone! We even checked the social media pages of known members of Alexander’s Dreamers, and we got nothing.”

Emily frowned to hear that news. Stephen could tell she gained some optimism about the situation prior to this, and now the bitterness of this reality set in for her. She sighed, “I really wish we could have found him that I didn’t have to do this!”

“Sorry!” Stephen apologized. “We did our best!”

“I know you did. Don’t beat yourself up over it!” Emily sympathetically gave him a pat on the back.

Stephen grinned as he half joked, “You know I will!” Emily shook her head, gave him a kiss, and took a deep breath before she ventured onto the balcony.

The crowd cheered as Emily approached the edge of the balcony, and Emily didn’t seem to relish it that day. As Hugo joined them, Stephen couldn’t see Emily’s face, but he could tell as she did a spell to herself that she didn’t look forward to letting down her adoring supporters. Once everyone quieted down, Emily’s voice boomed across the area as she spoke, “My fellow Amouraqians, I’m afraid I have to tell you something unpleasant. Someone on the island is masquerading as Xavier Ryder.”

The crowd murmured amongst each other in shock of this information, and as Xavier watched the scene from a bubbling cauldron, he reacted vehemently, “No, no, no! She knows that’s not true! She-!”

He cut himself off as Emily continued to speak, “It has come to my attention that he or she, whoever they really are, has fooled a number of people into believing that, somehow, he got brought back to life. Nothing on Earth can bring him back, so beware of buying into that lie!”

She‘s the one lying right now!” Xavier shrieked. “I know Slentersel must have told her that-!”

“It has also come to my attention…” Emily went on, “… that this fraud is training people in combat. Citizens of Amouraq, you have the fundamental right to gather as you please, and what you believe is up to you! You may even train in self defense, but you do not have the right to attack or harm anyone in this country! If your militia chooses that path, I’ll have no choice but to declare civil war!” The people watching fell completely silent from the sheer seriousness of the moment. “You’ve been warned!” Emily chanted another spell to undo the volume of her speech, and as Hugo and Stephen escorted her off the balcony, dozens of questions flew in their direction, but the three of them did not engage with anyone else as they went inside.

After Xavier watched them go back inside of the castle, their image faded from his view. Xavier mockingly imitated Emily, “You do not have the right to to attack or harm anyone in this country!” He abruptly stood up and shouted, “Well, guess what, queen! I’m not in your country!” He marched out the door and walked down the hall of what looked like an abandoned warehouse. He burst into another room without warning, which caused Simeon, Blythe, and a couple of others to jump in surprise. “Let’s go!”

“Right now?” Simeon questioned. When Xavier glared at him, he hastily corrected himself, “Yes, right now! We’re ready, your majesty!” Everyone in the room sprang up and followed Xavier out.

A parliament member remarked incredulously, “He’s back? He got brought back to life?”

Another parliament member asked skeptically, “You got that information from an alien?”

“I know, it’s hard to believe!” Emily answered her. “That’s why I’ll let you see the evidence for yourself! Slentersel, you can come in now!” A man that resemlbed Hugo walked into the room, which naturally startled everyone since Hugo was already standing before them. Emily chanted, “Avero consimulo!” Smoke surrounded the Hugo who had just entered, and once the smoke cleared, everyone could see Slentersel in his alien form! They all gasped, and Emily addressed the parliament, “Please don’t be alarmed! This one is harmless!”

“This one?” a different paliament member reacted. “There’s more of them out there?”

The parliament members scrutinized each other, wondering if any of their colleagues were actually aliens in disguise, so Slentersel clarified, “They’re with Xavier, wherever his is. He duped our colony into taking his side, but I saw evidence that contradicted what he claimed otherwise. When I confronted him about it, he tried to kill me and an innocent child who happened to stumble upon the scene. I came to help you in any way I can.”

One parliament member eyed Slentersel suspiciously, “And what do you stand to gain from helping our kind?”

“A clear conscious,” Slentersel replied. “I came to this planet because I believed a lot of lives were at stake. I wasn’t wrong! If Xavier carries out his plans, countless lives will get lost!”

“So, do you have a clue where Xavier might be right now?” Hugo inquired to Slentersel.

Slentersel hung his head and replied, “I’m afraid not. He didn’t give out any specific locations in case of leaks, but I can tell you that he has many people who’ve worked with law enforcement in some way, shape, or form, so he has a bit of an idea of your tactics and how to get around them. I can also tell you that my race has magic far more potent than yours, but we’re not without our weaknesses. For example, we have a violently strong allergy to steel.”

Emily pointed out to a certain parliament member, “That’s why those objects went missing from your district.”

That parliament member member seemed to find this information interesting, but it didn’t seem to give him a lot of comfort. “My district is closest to the Hidden Forest where you said that his previous hideout had been situated, so I guess it makes sense that his followers would want to keep your fellow aliens safe. I’m a bit confused as to why we’re being given this knowledge though. It’s fascinating, but why did you choose to declassify it for us?”

Emily explained, “A few reasons. For one, you need to know the truth of the current circumstances at home because it affects our budget and authorizations. We’ll need different resources to fight these aliens than we would if we were simply up against regular sorcerers and sorceresses. Second, if the general public catches wind of these aliens’ existence, you’ll have to help us steer their reasoning to something else. Just as we keep the existence of magic secret from coses, we need to hide the aliens’ secret as well. If non-magical people know the real facts, it would open up a world of trouble! Our own kind fights for power, let’s not endanger anyone else if we can help it! Lastly, I talked with my fiance, who heads the ICI, and since we weren’t able to find any trace of Xavier in Amouraq, his team believes he may have fled the country.”

“He fled the country?” a parliament echoed dismally. “Then we have a whole world to search! This could take days or even weeks! Plus, we’d have to enlist the help of cose governments. How are we supposed to tell them just how serious the situation is without revealing that magic and aliens are involved?”

“The same way we always do,” Emily asserted, “by saying that people with highly advanced weapons are loose in their country. That’s not even really a lie, Xavier has completely weaponized magic! We will have to warn our allies about this issue, but we’ll also have ask for their help. Xavier’s numbers are growing, and ours are not. We need to fix that.”

A parliament member, who seemed highly reluctant to accept that approach, objected, “I don’t think it’s such a good idea to call upon cose troops. They’d not only be up against our magic but also more potent magic from another planet! How do you expect them to survive?”

Emily rejoindered, “The same way Agent Knight has this whole time! Skills don’t always win battles, cleverness does! We can outsmart them without using any magic! We can’t do this alone! We’re a normally neutral country about to engage in warfare, so we need advice on strategy! Especially since Xavier has some idea of the ones we already use! We need something new, and they can provide us with that!”

“Absolutely!” Hugo agreed. “I’m sure there’s various things we can do to outsmart our enemies. Off the top of my head, I would think infusing combat uniforms with steel would ward off some of our adversaries.” The parliament members nodded and concurred with his idea. “If we put our heads together, we can come up with more methods to keep our troops and our allies safe. Or at least as safe as we’ll get during this crisis! This is a dark chapter in our nation’s history, so we simply must deploy every resource we have available to put an end to it!”

“I guess you’re right,” a parliament member acknowledged. “But before we talk to our allies, is there any way we could narrow down the possibilities of Xavier’s location?”

Stephen, as if on cue, entered the room at this exact instance. With a grim look on his face, he announced, “I can help with that! I know where he went, and I’m afraid it’s not good news…”

Amouraq III: The Secret of the Dagger, Chapter 9

“So, what do we do?” Emily asked Stephen.

Stephen didn’t have the foggiest idea of what course of action to take. The revelation that aliens existed flummoxed him more than when he first learned about the existence of magic! Of course, in that case, he had a couple of hints about it, so it sort of made sense when learned about it. Plus, he didn’t have a lot of time to think about it. At that time, Emily was under the threat of imminent attack, so he didn’t have much of a choice but to quickly accept it. Now, however, he had the opportunity to mull the situation over, and unlike before, his course of action didn’t seem very clear. His decision in April had been easy since he wanted to save the beautiful woman who would later become his fiance from Xavier, which brought him to another implausible feature of this moment. Somehow, this creature had information about Xavier. Xavier was supposed to be dead, so logically, it didn’t make sense to have anything particularly important about him. A more intuitive part of him knew that Xavier had found the means to break the natural law to come back, and it suddenly occurred to him that perhaps Slentersel must have had something to do with that. He knew what he had to do now. “I have to talk to him. I haven’t closed Xavier’s case yet, and if this… Slentersel… can provide us with something to put a stop to his mayhem, then I’m willing to consider it!”

“Be careful!” Emily put a reassuring hand on his shoulder, and for an instance, Stephen forgot about everything else. He still got a thrill from just her touch, and as she had her soft, warm palm on him, he noticed her engagement ring shimmering in the sunlight, and he couldn’t believe how lucky he was that she chose him! After he savored this moment for a while, he realized he had lingered too long, and his mind instantly snapped back into business mode. He glimpsed over at Slentersel, and he briefly felt nervous about talking to him. He had no idea what this entity was capable of, but just when he considered bringing someone in with him for protection, he watched Cara show Slentersel a picture she drew, and he knew that the extraterrestrial being was harmless. He responded to Emily with a playful smirk, “If that child can handle him, then I think I’ll be okay!” Emily jokingly glared at him for that quip, and he chuckled as he entered the room.

When Stephen came inside, both Slentersel and Cara looked up and watched him enter. Cara excitedly greeted him, “Oh good, you’re here! Now, he’s a good guy, so don’t be scared!”

Stephen regarded Cara, “You know what’s scarier than Slentersel? We thought we lost you! Next time you want my help, just give me a call.” He handed her a business card and gently reminded her, “Your aunt and uncle have one too in case you lose this one. No more running away, okay?”

“Okay!” Cara sheepishly giggled as she took his card.

Stephen gave her a grin before he turned his attention to Slentersel. “Thank you for bringing her back!”

“It was my pleasure…” Slentersel peeked at the card that Cara held. “…Agent Knight.”

As Stephen took a seat, he realized that he had forgotten to bring a pen and notepad. In his haste to digest the excitement of the events that took place that day, he had forgotten a basic necessity to do his job! Just when he gave himself an inward lecture, a pend and notebook suddenly appeared before him! He noticed that it had Alastair’s name on it, and he felt relieved to know that his team had arrived. He wanted them to witness this for the significance of the case of this case, but he felt bolstered by the fact that if something were to go wrong that he had back up just behind the two way mirror. For a brief minute, he wondered if this scenario had been orchestrated as an elaborate set up to hinder their investigation, but something in his gut indicated to him that the creature would prove his authenticity and that he’d learn something vital for the process of taking Xavier down for good. He clicked his pen and readied himself to write. “So, the guards tell me that you know something about Xavier Ryder.”

“Yes,” Slentersel confirmed. “I know what he’s planning to do and how he’s planning to do it! I want to tell you everything so you can stop him before he takes away scores of innocent lives!”

“You keep referring to him in the present tense,” Stephen observed. He had a gnawing feeling at the pit of his stomach about the answer to the question he was about to ask, but he had to do it in order to proceed. “Does that mean he’s alive again?”

Slentersel grimaced as he replied, “Yes! He and his followers deceived us into thinking that he got unjustly murdered and that a lot of people needed him back. I’m so sorry!”

Stephen paused as he absorbed this fact. Ever since Xavier passed away, he always felt that he would find a way to return. He had really hoped that his fears were nothing more than just that- fears. A part of him expected this horrible possibility to get proven wrong, so to have proof of it happening threw him through a loop! He could practically feel the tension that this unwelcomed news brought to the others, and he couldn’t blame them! He knew that his return would bring back the same horrors as before, but now they’d get amplified with Xavier just knowing that he could come back to life if he got killed again! He imagined just how much this would inflate his ego, and that couldn’t spell out anything good! He could tell that his reaction made Slentersel feel more guilty than he already did, so he did his best to reassure him, “It’s not your fault! Xavier is a master manipulator, that’s how he gained so much power!”

Slentersel agreed, “It certainly seemed that way! He’s gotten a lot of people on his side by playing to their deepest emotions! He’s got many naive humans to believe that they’re fighting against an evil regime! They have no idea what Xavier’s true intentions are! The depth of his evil has no parallel!”

“Believe me, I know!” A flood of awful memories came gushing back to Stephen, and he had to shake it off to focus on his mission. “Now, you said you wanted to stop Xavier’s evil plot before it goes too far. What exactly are we stopping him from doing?”

“He’s gathered hundreds already!” Slentersel informed him. “His numbers grow every day! He’s convinced them that they need to fight for their freedom, but after it’s all over, he has no intention of giving it to them! On the contrary, he intends to enslave your entire race!”

Stephen inquired, “How does he plan on enslaving everyone?”

Slentersel replied, “He’s preparing to take the Amouraqian throne by force! And he doesn’t plan on stopping there either! Once he’s in power, he plans on waging war with the entire planet! He thinks that with the magic of your country on his side, taking over the world will be easy!”

“That was Alexander’s dream,” Stephen remarked. “After his people got ousted from their homes in Ireland, they searched for a new land so that they could build themselves up and take back their territory and then some! But, on the way, Alexander found himself shipwrecked on a strange land, and he almost died. His life got saved by the Nymph Queen of Good, and after she helped him survive the forest, he fell in love with her. With the goodness now in his heart, he lost interest in his global ambitions. Xavier thinks Alexander got tricked into giving up his dreams, and with his trace amount of ancestry to him, he got it in his head that he was destined to become king and fulfill the depraved desires that Alexander once harbored. He never believed that love could have the power or strength to sway anyone, so it makes sense that he’d want to inflict his dastardly worldview to the entire planet! I don’t know why I didn’t think of this eventuality before! I guess I just thought we wouldn’t let it get that far! Now our fate seems sealed! Xavier will get the war he’s always wanted!”

“Not necessarily!” Marcus commented as he stood at the doorway. “Cara has probably already told you, but I freaked out about this concept, but now that I’ve had some time to think about it, he hasn’t waged war yet! We can stop him before anyone has to step foot on the battlefield! The men and women of my unit can invade his hideout now that we have someone who knows where it’s at.”

He had indicated his statement towards Slentersel, but Cara piped in, “I know where it is! I can show you!”

Marcus wagged his finger at her. “Don’t think that any of this lets you off the hook for running away! You’re not leaving the house for a long time!” Cara pouted, so he told her, “Your feelings aren’t as important as your safety!”

“Speaking of which,” Slentersel brought up, “how would I be able to escort you to him without compromising my safety?”

“I’m sure they can disguise you,” Stephen asserted.

Marcus nodded. “We’ll keep you protected since you’re helping us! So, what do you say?” Slentersel contemplated this for a second…

In a military communication room, Stephen paced back and forth while Emily, Allison, Alastair, and Finnian watched all of the monitors nervously. Allison began chewing her nails, and Alastair snapped, “What’s taking so long? Why haven’t we heard anything yet?”

Finnian pointed out, “Xavier’s team isn’t going out without a fight! These things take time!”

“I wish we could have gone!” Allison fretted while still biting her nails. “Of course, that didn’t help last time! We killed Xavier, but he wasn’t dead enough apparently!”

“Slentersel is with them!” Emily reminded her. “He knows all of the aliens’ weaknesses, and it sounds like he knows some powerful spells too! He’ll help out in the battle, or, at the very least, if any of our people fall, he could…” She trailed off as a note suddenly appeared before Stephen. “What is it? What happened?”

With a perplexed expression on his face, Stephen revealed, “They searched all over the area, and they couldn’t find anyone! Xavier is gone!”

Amouraq III: The Secret of the Dagger, Chapter 8

She didn’t dare to speak or even move. Cara had never seen anything like the blue creature that stood before her, and she would have ran away, but she felt too shocked and terrified to move. She assumed that the awful voice she heard belonged to the monstrous entity in that room, but after listening to them speak more, she soon realized that the alien wasn’t the problem! Xavier growled, “I’ve already told you, I want the entire planet under one rule! We’ve all agreed that everyone would be better off this way! What’s the problem?”

Slentersel did not buckle under Xavier’s intimidation efforts. He spoke with passion, but his conviction had enough strength that he didn’t need to raise his speaking volume. “The problem is that innocent blood will get spilled! Loved ones will perish, and anyone left will only stay loyal from fear! What kind of perverse peace is that?”
“They’ll have their chance to cooperate!” Xavier snapped. “Those who perish do so by their own hands! And anyone who dares to defy me should feel fear! If they’re not afraid, then they’ll do whatever they want, and we’ll return to exactly the same spot we’re at now! The only way some people will cooperate is by force, so if they don’t fear the consequences of disobeying me, then they need to go! We only have room for obedience under my rule! If they value their life, they’ll get on the same page as everyone else! It’s the only way to get Earth under control!”

“So, you’ll take away their freedom for your control?” Slentersel surmised.

Xavier retorted, “Freedom is just another word for chaos! No one is ever truly free, we have rules to keep people safe from themselves! The average person isn’t smart enough to make good decisions on their own, so I, with my above average intelligence, must dictate their every move! For their own sake!”

Slentersel stared at Xavier incredulously. “That’s not how we do things in our colony! We persuade our inhabitants to respect and honor each other, and with these morals in mind, we don’t need to micromanage anyone! With friendship and familial loyalty, we can trust most citizens to do the right thing! When you run a society based on love, you don’t need to set a bunch of rules! Everyone knows what the right thing to do is! We don’t do harm to one another since it would create great anguish for ourselves to have hurt someone we care for! So-!”

Xavier spat, “You sound like that foolish cose! He and the ‘queen’ spread that propaganda to dull people’s minds into complacency! If our species is to survive, we need to keep moving, and we shouldn’t have any of that crap to distract us! Look, I’m done trying to convince you of this very simple concept! You work for me, so just do what I say! The consequences for-!”

“I’m telling Novem your true intentions!” Slentersel started to leave. “When he finds this out, he’ll-!”

“Dolete-!” Xavier began to chant as he raised his hands to curse Slentersel.

Cara instinctively called out, “No!”

Xavier and Slentersel whipped their heads in her direction when they realized she had been standing there. Slentersel seemed surprised, but Xavier’s eyes went wide and his facial expression looked as though she had violated some very sacred privacy. Cara tried to run, but Xavier was able to catch up with her in a couple of steps. He picked her up by her hair, and she moaned in pain as he dangled her in the air! “What are you doing? She’s just a child!” Slentersel objected.

Xavier sneered, “We can’t have you running off to tell anyone about me, can we?” He held up his hands and began to chant, “Exficio san-!”

Before Xavier could finish his spell, Slentersel chanted a spell of his own onto Xavier! Xavier lost his grip on Cara as he shrank down in size, and Slentersel seized the opportunity to scoop up Cara and fled out of the house.

In a cavern hall, two men in brown robes stood guard. They seemed pretty bored until they noticed some movement in the distance. They readied themselves to fight, but when they saw the perpetrator of the noise, they laughed. It was only a little, black chicken! One of them stopped laughing and nudged the other. “Wait! What’s a chicken doing here? It could be a decoy for another ambush!”

The other man agreed, “Oh, you’re right! Maybe we should kill it just in case.”

They raised their hands, but before they could chant a spell, Xavier’s voice came out of the chicken and yelled, “Don’t you dare hex me!”

The two sorcerers gazed in astonishment for a moment, but soon, they roared in laughter! Xavier scolded them, “This is not a laughing matter! Slentersel betrayed us! He’s escaped and, most likely, is heading to the castle to tell our enemies all of our secrets! Bring me to Novem to change me back, and then help round up the others! We’re no longer safe here!” As they carried him into the darkness, he glared menacingly.

“My dear child, why would you seek out someone as dangerous as Xavier?” Slentersel asked as they hastily made their way out of the woods.

“Xavier? Like, Xavier Ryder?” Cara answered with questions of her own.

Slentersel deduced, “Well, if you didn’t know who he was, then you probably didn’t find him on purpose.”

Cara told him, “I would never have gone in that house if I knew it was him! Xavier Ryder is the bad man who took over Queen Emily and made her do bad stuff! He got my parents killed, and he wants to kill me too! But… I thought he was dead!”

“He was,” Slentersel grimly confirmed. “He’s back now, and it’s partly my fault! He summoned my planet to help him, and I thought I was doing something good until today! I’m so sorry!”

“It’s okay!” Cara forgave him. “Xavier tricks a lot of people!”

Slentersel agreed, “That’s true! He’s about to fool a lot of people into waging war against themselves, and we’ve got to stop him before it’s too late! Wait, what am I saying ‘we’ for? You’re too young to get involved in such dark affairs!”

Cara argued, “But, but, but! I want to help! That’s why I left my house! My uncle Marcus is in the army, and he’s worried about this war! I went to the castle to get help, but I got lost! I still want to help Uncle Marcus! I don’t want him to die!”

“Well, I’ll do everything I can to make sure that doesn’t happen!” Slentersel assured her. “I just hope these other humans are willing to listen to me.”

“Why wouldn’t they listen to you?” Cara wondered.

Slentersel explained, “Well, I’m different, and that may scare them. Sometimes when someone is scared, they don’t always act smart. All they can think about is getting away from whatever is scaring them, and they’ll do whatever it takes to do that, even if that means harming the thing that frightens them. So, that means-.”

Cara exclaimed, “No! I won’t let them hurt you! You’re my friend! They can’t!”

That statement made Slentersel gaze at her in shock. “You consider me a friend?”

“Yeah!” Cara affirmed. “You’re good, and you helped me, so we’re friends! Don’t you wanna be my friend?”

“Well, of couse!” Slentersel looked touched by her sentiments. “I just… I don’t even know your name yet.”

Cara informed him, “I’m Cara. Cara Fenmore.”

Slentersel relayed to her, “I’m Slentersel.”

“Slentersel what?” Cara inquired.

“I only have one name,” Slentersel replied. Cara giggled, and they continued to chat as they walked through the woods.

As two guards stood outside of the entrance to the castle, they saw Cara approaching, so one of them rushed to go retrieve her. When Slentersel came into view, the two guards froze and just stared in confusion. Cara blocked as much of Slentersel as she could, and she hollered, “No! Don’t hurt him! We’re here to help you!”

The two guards turned to each other in bewilderment, and one of them dug into his pocket. For a moment, Cara and Slentersel feared the worst. But then, he pulled out his cellphone and instantly made a call. “Hey boss, we’ve got a situation here…”

Stephen and Emily peered into an interrogation room, and it stunned them to see Slentersel! Stephen could hardly believe he was actually viewing a creature like this in real life and not from a cartoon or comic book! His head got consumed just trying digest this new reality, and he couldn’t think about anything else until he heard Emily screech, “Is that Cara?”

Stephen saw Cara innocently sitting next to Slentersel, and it completely boggled his mind! “Cara went missing? Did she get taken by that… thing?”

One of the guards reported, “Actually, he brought Cara to the castle. His name is Slentersel, and he says he has some vital information about Xavier Ryder!” Stephen and Emily’s eyes widened at the possibilities of this revelation…

Amouraq III: The Secret of the Dagger, Chapter 7

“It’s gotta be a trick!” Stephen expressed this thought out loud to the other ICI agents, but really, he wanted to convince himself of this fact. “It’s probably a transfiguration spell right? Allison once turned me into Xavier Ryder to fool his followers, and now his followers are doing the same to us!”

“That sounds plausible!” Alastair agreed, although Stephen could tell that he still probably had his doubts. “I mean, it’s not like anything can bring him back to life, so that’s the only reasonable explanation.”

The other ICI agents murmured in agreement, but no one sounded totally confident about the concept. After a very heavy pause, Allison cleared her throat and offered, “I’ll get to work on identifying the people who vandalized the library. With the large numbers of this crowd, there’s gotta be at least one lead! There’s no way all of them have squeaky clean backgrounds!”

Finnian volunteered, “I can interview some of the people who followed Emily when she was afflicted with the Curse of the Serpent’s Tongue. We know that Xavier reached out to the dungeon inmates, so why wouldn’t he infiltrate the regular prison with some seasoned devotees?”

“Yeah…” Stephen’s weary mind struggled to focus on anything but this latest turn of events. Every logical rationale iterated the fact that Xavier had died and nothing could bring him back, but he had a sinking feeling that, somehow, Xavier found a way to do it. His dying words haunted him, and his promise of “…powerful allies that could fix it…” kept echoing in his head. At first, he thought that Xavier had referred to Alexander’s Dreamers, but after a sloppy job of vandalizing a small library, he wondered if Xavier had more omnipotent accomplices in mind. “Yeah, good idea, guys! Bring a few people with you and find out who they’re all associating with. Before Xavier succumbed to his gunshot wound, he mentioned something about getting help. Alexander’s Dreamers could just be a distraction from his true intentions. Blythe Tanith didn’t evade authorities on her own! Let’s find out what else he had planned for after his death!”

From her set, Penny Melrose announced, “More trouble arose for Queen Emily and her fiance, Stephen, today as the protest levels skyrocketed! Hundreds of angry people flooded the streets in an outcry against rumors about our country’s founder, King Alexander. Bernard Andrew is on the streets with more. Bernard!”

Behind Bernard’s position on a cobblestone road, dozens of irate people with anti-government signs vehemently shouted about their cause. They got so rowdy that Bernard could hardly stand straight! “Hi, Penny! I’m live at a rally where a group of radicals who’ve dubbed themselves as Alexander’s Dreamers have gathered to shine a light to their argument that the current government hid some alleged facts about King Alexander.” He picked the least agitated person close to him and questioned her, “Ma’am, can you tell me more about your movement?”

“Amouraq was founded on a lie!” she exclaimed. “King Alexander never intended for our people to live in secret and shame! It’s time we let the world know exactly who we are!”

“You don’t believe it’s possible that King Alexander fell in love and sought to bring a little more peace on Earth?” Bernard probed.

“No way, man!” a guy behind the girl he interviewed piped in. “The world would have been safer if we became the empire that he he dreamt about! It just isn’t right what they did to him!”

The original interviewee added, “Yeah, and we’re not going anywhere until all the lies stop and we get the vision Alexander dreamed about going again!”

The crowd behind her cheered in approval of her words, and as their demonstration began to grow more and more furious, Bernard stepped onto safer grounds before he spoke again, “Back to you in the studio!”

“Stay safe out there, Bernard!” Penny’s face stared at the monitor in concern. She then turned back to the camera and finished the story, “Celebrity Tonight spoke with historians, and no one was able to corroborate the premise of the original version of our country’s founding lacked any details or facts, but that hasn’t stopped this idea from running wild! In other news…”

“I’m a terrible queen!” Emily stared at the television hollowly.

Her grandmother reacted in aghast, “What? How could you say that?”

She replied, “My country got divided under my rule! I’ve failed as a leader!”

“No, you haven’t!” Stephen disagreed. “This could have happened to any king or queen, it’s not your fault! The mark of of a good leader doesn’t come from having nothing happening, it’s from how you respond to it!”

“Exactly!” her grandmother said encouragingly. “If anyone can get us through this crisis, it’s you!”

Dagan chimed in, “Amelia’s right! You’ve already done so much good for Amouraq, and we trust you more than anyone to solve this problem!”

Yvette put in, “History will remember you as the queen who saved us before we got completely torn apart!”

“You’ll find a way to get us through this!” Oscar stated. “Don’t let your opponents overwhelm you! You can do this!”

Emily took a deep breath before she responded, “You’re right! This problem can get solved! I just hope we can stop it before it goes too far!” The other people in the room concurred with her on that sentiment.

A young girl sat in her room playing with her superhero dolls while a man paced in the nearby living room. A woman told the pacing man, “Calm down! It’s not that bad!”

“Uncle Marcus is upset,” the little girl conveyed to her dolls.

“I didn’t join the Amouraqian army to fight against my own people!” Marcus vociferated.

The woman reassured him, “You won’t have to! I’m sure Queen Emily will fix the problem before it comes to that!”

Marcus disagreed, “The protests are getting worse! We’ve already had to assist law enforcement in crowd control! They’re getting more and more violent too! You know they set a school on fire? If Queen Emily has a plan, it sure isn’t working!”

“Queen Emily is in trouble!” the little girl informed her dolls. “We have to-!”

“The country is divided, Irena!” Marcus went on. “The numbers are growing fast! Soon, these insurgents will have enough to form their own military!”

Irena countered with, “So what? Amouraq has a far more powerful army than those whiny jerks could ever form! What are you afraid of?”

The little girl commented to her dolls, “Nothing will defeat-!”

“Something else is going on!” Marcus ranted. “Something’s not right! Ever since that bastard, Xavier, died, the air just felt weird! It’s like when they killed him, they released his evil into the atmosphere, and now it’s infecting the entire country! The stronger their numbers grow, the stronger it seems to get! Something supernatural is in the air! Can’t you feel it? If I go to war with these people, I’m gonna die!”

“No! Uncle Marcus can’t die!” The little girl gulped.

Irena differed, “Don’t be ridiculous! You’re talking nonsense!”

Marcus didn’t seem to have heard what she said to him. “We can’t afford for me to die! How would you feed Markie and Mirela? And we got Cara to take care of now! You can’t do it all by yourself! How-?”

“Cequies tupse!” Irena chanted, causing Marcus to suddenly sink down onto the couch. “Sorry, you were getting hysterical!”

“We gotta help Uncle Marcus!” Cara resolved to her dolls. I already lost my mommy and daddy to bad guys, I can’t lose him too!”

Somewhat sedately, Marcus remarked to Irena, “If this is Xavier’s doing, we know we’ll be targets since we’re heirs to the throne!”

Cara peeked out at them, and she saw Irena holding Marcus as she stroked his hair. “I know, honey! We’ll think of something if that time comes!”

As Marcus debated with Irena about whether or not it will come, Cara panicked. “This is serious! I gotta do something! But what can I do? I’m just a little kid!” She turned to her superhero dolls for answers, and, all of a sudden, the solution came to her. “I can go get help! That’s what I’ll do! I’ll go get help!” She stuffed one of the dolls into her pocket, took one last look at her aunt and uncle, and she snuck out of the house.

Deep in the woods, Cara fretted to her doll, “This isn’t the way to the castle! Oh no, we’re lost! We have to go to the castle and get a hero to save my family like they saved me! What if they don’t find us? How can I save them if I don’t…?”

She trailed off as she noticed an old, wooden house ahead of her. It looked as though it had been abandoned centuries ago, but Cara saw a light on upstairs and heard a couple of voices. “Maybe they can help us!” It took all of Cara’s strength, but she got the front door open and walked inside.

The antiquated floorboards creaked under her feet, but the occupants of the house didn’t seem to notice. Cara heard one of them shout, “You promised you would help me!”

As Cara crept up the stairs, the other voice yelled, “I agreed to help your planet achieve peace! I didn’t sign up for this!”

“This is war!” Cara didn’t like this person’s voice. It sounded cold and harsh, and she figured that it must belong to a bad man! She almost turned around and left, but the other voice felt soothing to her.

“It doesn’t have to be!” the more tranquil one differed. “War should be an absolute last resort, and you’re throwing your planet into chaos! It doesn’t have to be this way!”

The mean male laughed sardonically. “Do you really think that kind words will get what I want to achieve?”

The other voice questioned, “What do you want to achieve?”

Cara’s intention of asking for their assistance had vanished, and she had an inkling that someone was about to get into trouble! She needed to get a visual of the occurrence to gain a full grasp of the situation, so she stealthily caught a glimpse of what laid behind the door at the top of the stairs. When she finally saw the scene at hand, she gasped…

Amouraq III: The Secret of the Dagger, Chapter 6

The ball of light drifted towards the cauldron and settled just above it. It then began to expand until it formed an opening, and the brown-robed on-lookers gazed at it with growing anticipation. Finally, a figure emerged from the light! Once the individual touched ground, they could finally get a firm grasp on their visitor’s appearance. Besides their towering height, their guest had an orange, oblong face, black, insect-like eyes, and a thin frame with a long, black robe donned on it. This being stepped aside, and another entity emerged. This one had green skin, a trunk shaped nose, two tentacle arms, and the same black robes on its body. The next organism that emerged had a very human shaped body, but their skin had an almost see through, purple tint to it. The last thing to come out had the resemblance of a blue amoeba except for a more defined head and limbs. The last two creatures wore the same robes as the first two, but other than their outfits, none of these aliens had similar features. The light disappeared, and Blythe greeted them, “Welcome to Earth, my friends!”

The orange one spoke with interlocked fingers and a very calm, male voice, “Salutations! I am Novem, leader of the Timbonia colony. This is my esteemed council, Ecirava…” Novem indicated to the green individual, who curtly nodded. “…Fesshil…” Novem indicated to the purple entity, who also nodded curtly. “…And Slentersel.” The blue alien gave a small wave. “I trust you are the humanoid I’ve been corresponding with, Blythe?”

“Yes, I am,” Blythe confirmed. “Thank you so much for coming here!”

“It was our pleasure!” Novem articulated. “We’re happy to make peace with the inhabitants of your planet, and we understand that our assistance is needed in order to return peace to your divided race.”

Blythe responded, “Indeed! Our goal is to make the whole world under one rule, but we’ve been met with a lot of resistance.”

Ecirava, who sounded very deep and gruff, commented, “Resistance to uniting as one and creating peace throughout the land! How tragic!”

“I agree!” Blythe simpered.

“Where is the person we’re supposed to revive?” Fesshil wondered.

Blythe ordered, “Simeon! Bring him over here!”

Simeon obliged, “Yes, of course! Com on!” He gestured to the man who helped him in bringing over the trunk so that they could carry it together again. They lugged it over to the area between Blythe and the Earthly visitors, and after they set it down, they quickly darted out of the way. Blythe carefully opened the trunk and revealed Xavier’s body!

“This was the man who got killed by members of your government?” Slentersel eyed the corpse questioningly.

“Murdered, actually!” Blythe sniffed reprovingly. “They invaded our land and tricked our beloved leader into putting himself into a position where they could ambush him! It was a rotten thing to do! And we need him back!”

Slentersel seemed a little skeptical, and he turned to his comrades to gauge their opinion. The other three did not seem to share his view and accepted her version of the incident. Novem stated, “Very good! Let us proceed!”

Novem, Ecirava, Fesshil, and Slentersel pointed both of their palms at Xavier and began chanting in an indistinct language. Xavier’s body became surrounded by light, and it floated into the air. The aliens continued to chant, and the light kept getting stronger until a great flash swept over him. To all of his followers’ delight, Xavier’s eyes flickered open! They quietly cheered as the four aliens lowered him to the ground. Xavier stepped down in a pretty groggy manner, and he somewhat hoarsely asked, “Where am I?”

“You’re home, your majesty!” Blythe bowed before him.

“I’m…?” It took a moment for it to click for him, but once all of his memories and cognitive skills came rushing back to him, it suddenly became very clear to him what happened. “I’m back!” he leered.

Simeon cooed, “Yes, you are, your majesty! Our new allies came, just as you promised!”

Xavier looked over to Novem, Ecirava, Fesshil, and Slentersel and gratefully said, “Thank you for your assistance! I’m eternally grateful!”

“We’re delighted to help!” Novem told him graciously. “We’re eager to know the next phase of your plan too.”

“Come! We have much to discuss!” Xavier began walking away from the field, and everyone followed him out of the field.

Stephen woke with a start! His heart beat wildly, and he fell short of breath. Once it dawned on him that the dream had finished, he realized that Emily had woken up too. He turned to her and asked, “Did I scare you?”
Emily answered, “No, my dream did! I had this nightmare where Xavier was leading the protesters to storm the castle. He blocked all of the exits, and we couldn’t get out! It… Wait, why would you scare me?”

Stephen got a little spooked by Emily’s nightmare, and he took a moment to absorb this fact before he revealed his dream, “I dreamt that I got kidnapped by people in brown robes. They tied me to a table, and one of them came up to me with a scalpel. They took off their hood, and it turned out to be Xavier! He laughed at me and was about to cut me open when I woke up.”

“Wait, you had that dream just now?” Emily inquired.

“Yeah,” Stephen replied. “And you?”

Emily nodded, and then she furrowed her brow. “I just thought I had that dream because of my stress about Alexander’s Dreamers, but if we both dreamt about Xavier at the same exact moment, it’s gotta mean something!”

Stephen reasoned, “Not necessarily. We’re both stressed about Xavier, and we spend enough time together to get on the same wave length, so maybe it was just a coincidence.” He wanted to convince Emily of this argument, but as he heard himself say it out loud, he grew doubts about his own words.

“Xavier is definitely dead,” Emily asserted.

“Definitely!” Stephen agreed.

“And nothing can bring him back.”


“So, our fears about him are probably baseless.”


Emily took a big inhale and sighed. “I guess we should try to get some rest then.”

Stephen concurred, “Yeah! We both have a lot of work to do in the morning, and we’re not gonna be any good to anyone if we’re already exhausted coming in! Good night, Emily!”

“Good night, Stephen!” She gave him a kiss before she laid back down on her side. Stephen wrapped his arms around her, and she felt warm to the touch like a cozy blanket. Despite the comfort that this gesture gave him, his mind still raced and he knew he wouldn’t get any sleep that night!

In the ICI meeting room, Stephen needed to grip his coffee cup just to keep himself upright! It took every fiber of his being to summon the energy needed to concentrate on the task that they were working on at the moment! He posed to the group, “Okay, so what what do we have so far?”

Finnian reported, “Alexander’s Dreamers started out at the university by a student named Cecelia Campbell and two of her classmates. They all have clean backgrounds, and we couldn’t find any meaningful activity on social media. So, best we can tell, Xavier’s followers had to have talked to them in person.”

“Can anyone access the campus?” Stephen probed.

“They’re not supposed to,” another ICI agent explained, “but if someone looks the part and doesn’t do anything to raise suspicion, they’re not likely to get stopped by campus security.”

Stephen directed the group, “Let’s get a warrant to search through security footage. The group itself hasn’t committed any crimes, but if they’re repeating Xavier’s talking points, that could change!”

Alastair raised his hand, and Stephen called upon him. He then relayed to the group, “We’ve been going through the records of the people corresponding with the dungeon inmates, and we’ve found that some of the prison rights advocates have joined Alexander’s Dreamers. We can’t find anything directly linking them to Xavier’s followers either other than the fact that Judith told us he had influence over them.”

“Hmm…” Stephen contemplated this information for a moment. “Were we able to find out who’s visited these advocates?”

“Yes,” Allison addressed his query, “but a lot of people preferred to stay anonymous, so…”

Stephen instructed them all, “See if you can find some kind of visual of who’s entered their facilities. If we can identify…”

A law enforcement officer burst into the room and informed them, “We had a break in at a nearby library! Alexander’s Dreamers stormed the place and vandalized it! Don’t worry, I know you’re following this group, so we got surveillance footage for you!”

“Excellent!” Stephen grinned as the officer chanted a spell to make the video play. “We can get the identities of these radicals and find out…” He trailed off as he saw something disturbing on the feed. “Wait, pause it right there!”

The officer complied, and all of the ICI agents got a closer look. “Is that…?” Allison wondered.

“It couldn’t be!” Alastair exclaimed.

Stephen’s mind reeled between the dreams that he and Emily shared last night and this sight. He couldn’t comprehend how it was possible, and yet he always knew his fear could come to light! “Is that… Xavier Ryder?”Xavier's Resurrection

Amouraq III: The Secret of the Dagger, Chapter 5

Down with oppression!” a young, frizzy-haired protester shouted out into a crowd of like-minded people who applauded her message. “They’re trying to hide the truth from us to fit their propaganda, but we won’t take it any longer! Alexander had a grand vision for our country, and it got taken from him! The further away we got from his original rule, the further away from his dream we got, but that stops now! We’re here to revive his intentions, and we’re not going anywhere until we make it happen!”

The crowd cheered for her, and Emily stepped away from the window in an irate disgust. She turned to the parliament and ranted, “None of that is true! King Alexander didn’t have his dream taken away! He just changed it! And no one is hiding anything! It’s not my fault these people didn’t pay attention in history class!”

A balding man with small glasses and a thin body that emitted an aura of ardent enthusiasm for the academia reassured her, “I know that! We all know that! Most of our country knows that! They represent a fringe minority. Try not to take it personally!”

Emily, who couldn’t help giving the gathered protesters the eye, responded to him, “Thanks, Hugo! I know you’re trying to help, but I have to take this personally! They’re a minority right now, but how long will that last? Just look at their numbers! A few weeks ago, they were a group of about three people, and now look at them! They’re growing rapidly! If this trend continues, it could really divide our country up! I don’t want Amouraq to end up in a civil war!”

“I don’t think it’ll go that far!” a parliament member put in. “People tend to lose interest in new ideas as quickly as the idea appears. This’ll probably be over in a week or so.”

“And what if it doesn’t?” Emily challenged. “Xavier wanted to get to the throne, and he couldn’t do it by force, so this is his way of getting to the crown! He created a message so powerful that it could change the hearts and minds of scores of people, and it’s already starting to work! These are his talking points, this was his doing! We have to stop his plan before it gets too far!”

Another parliament member timidly pointed out, “Um, Xavier Ryder is dead. His message can’t get far without him.”

Emily felt like she got a punch in the gut upon hearing that statement. She had a habit of continuing to deal with Xavier as if he were still alive because, somehow, in her head, he hadn’t died yet. She saw his body before it got buried, and yet something deep inside of her wouldn’t register his death. She couldn’t explain why, but she had the strongest feeling that he’d come back in some way, shape, or form. She would never voice this opinion to her subjects thought. Besides the fact that she didn’t want to scare them, she also didn’t want them to start suspecting her of losing her grip on reality, especially in the face of her opposition right then! Even if he truly had met his end, she knew his influence still presented a problem. “He died, but his message didn’t! He planted a seed before he left, and it has the power to grow faster and stronger than we can handle if we don’t nip it in the bud right now! If we don’t, then our victory over him will have meant nothing!”

The parliament members were swayed by her viewpoint, and they began to contemplate the matter. A different parliament member remarked, “I think the only way to quiet their message without infringing on their rights is with strong branding of our own. We need to find a way to make our side more well known than theirs so that Amouraqians disregard the message of their never-ending protests.”

“That’s a good idea!” Emily complimented the parliament member that suggested that. “I do have some friends at Celebrity Tonight that we could consult with. I just hope we can do this subtly. Things feel weird enough at the moment without adding that!”

“Tell me about it!” the first parliament member chimed in. “In my district, we’ve had several white flags pop in people’s yards. I don’t know what it means.”

The second parliament member who spoke brought up, “In my district, we’ve had several random objects go missing, like vehicle rims, drums, pans, it’s weird!”

The third parliament member that voiced her opinion commented, “I’ve had a lot of apothecaries sell out of rare ingredients. People are panicking, I’m not totally sure why!”

Hugo piped in, “Perhaps people are just upset about Xavier’s death. Some people may not be able to accept it, which is why I think his numbers are continuing to climb despite his demise!”

“That’s probably true!” Emily agreed. “But somehow, I think it’s more than that. The electricity in the air makes it seem like his supporters are planning something big!”

Before anyone could muse as to what that could possibly be, Stephen unexpectedly burst into the room! “Stephen! What’s wrong?” Emily asked.

He answered with trepidation, “Xavier’s grave got broken into, and his body is missing!” The parliament members stared at each other incredulously, and as soon as they let it sink in, they all scrambled to their feet to investigate the situation.

Stephen led Emily and a few parliament members through a secured graveyard feeling slightly agitated from the event. He already had an uneasy feeling about Xavier’s death, and this didn’t help allay his concerns! The other ICI members were already at the grave site waiting for their arrival so that they could examine the scene, and they watched as Emily viewed the scene for herself. The dirt that had covered his coffin had gotten scattered in multiple directions, and his tombstone had been smashed to bits! When she peered inside of the burial ground, she saw that it was completely vacant. Stephen told her, “They made it so you can’t even tell a body ever laid to rest there!”

“Which is exactly what all the conspiracy theorists out there will say!” Emily frowned became more pronounced. “They’re already accusing my reign of lying and covering up certain facts, so this isn’t gonna help!”

“Do you think that’s why they did it?” Allison posed. “To make the government look bad?”

Finnian speculated, “Maybe it was a super fan of Xavier’s, and they’re keeping his body for sentimental reasons.”

Stephen didn’t seem convinced by either theory. “Those are the best case scenarios! They also might have some darker purpose for doing this! I really wish we could have destroyed his body when we had the chance! I know, I know, it was an officer involved shooting and you had to keep it for a certain amount of time in case of any legal demands for an exhumation, but this is exactly the reason why mass murdering bastards shouldn’t get a grave or a burial!”

“Calm down, Stephen!” Alastair advised him. “There’s only so much a person can do with a corpse! Nothing on Earth can bring him back!”

“Then why haven’t you retired?” Stephen pushed back. “You said you wouldn’t feel right doing it until the matter with Xavier was settled. Well, he’s dead, but you stuck around! Why?”

Alastair stammered, “Well, there’s still some loose ends to tie up with this case! Blythe is still missing, and…” Stephen gave him a very disconcerting look, so he relented, “Okay, okay! I get the feeling something isn’t right! I can’t leave until I know for sure that he’s gone!”

Emily suggested, “There’s one way to find out…”

Back in the castle attic, Stephen and Emily brought the ICI agents and parliament members to the magical list. With baited breath, they all scanned down to the bottom where his name situated itself. To their astonishment, it was still there! “That can’t be right!” Alastair gasped.

“The other heirs who were killed got erased,” Allison reminded them all. “Cara’s parents, the Yaretzi brothers, the Connelly’s, they’re all gone, but not him! Why?”

“Maybe the list takes a while to update,” Finnian theorized.

Stephen affirmed, “Well, I’m not officially closing this case until his name is off this list! Something is going on, and we need to find out what!”

In another open field, a young woman with fiery red hair and cold, dark eyes strolled over to find the perfect spot. She wore the same brown robes as everyone else, but everyone there seemed to be following her lead. A feeling of icy numbness swept through her body, so she commanded to the others, “Stop right here!” Everyone halted, and the two men carrying a large trunk set their burden down on the ground. Two others set a cauldron down in front of her, and as she began pouring in some potions, the others encircled her and began chanting a spell in an indistinct language. Blythe closed her eyes and hovered over the pot as the chanting around her grew louder and louder. All of a sudden, her eyelids flew wide open, and she announced, “They’re here!” Everyone watched as a ball of pure light floated down from the starry sky and headed towards them…Blythe Visiting Xavier's Grave

Amouraq III: The Secret of the Dagger, Chapter 4

After twilight, in an open field followed Alastair and the other agents as they traversed to the precise spot where they could glimpse the emerging moonbeams at just the right angle. He felt odd wearing the same ceremonial, white robes as the rest of them considering he couldn’t participate in the ritual other than to provide emotional support, but since he was part of the team, they insisted. He heard an owl hooting from the nearby trees, but other than that, the only sounds came from their movements through the grass. No one had spoken in a while just from the solemness of the ancient magic that they were about to invoke. Finally, after several minutes of quiet, Alastair declared, “This is a good spot right here!”

As the agents carrying various tools put their belongings down to where Alastair indicated, Stephen gazed at the scene with an eerie reverence. The custom fascinated him, but he had never participated in anything like this before, so it felt sort of weird too. He could hardly believe that such an irregular activity related to an extremely important business matter, but if this would help them finally defeat Xavier, he was willing to give it a shot. As the agents set everything up, Allison had apparently assessed his mood since she asked him, “Feels kind of strange, doesn’t it?”

“Strange doesn’t begin to cover it!” Stephen answered honestly. “I mean, I know it’s a rare occurrence for you guys too, but considering six months ago I didn’t even know that magic existed…”

“And you probably didn’t know how much work went into creating certain potions,” Allison presumed.

Stephen agreed, “Nope! I also didn’t really think about how powerful a potion could be!”

Finnian piped in, “Like we said in planning, Xavier has used every protection and concealment spell known to man, and this is the only thing powerful enough to break past those barriers. It may seem a little drastic, but so are Xavier’s actions, so…”

Stephen remarked, “Right! It’s an extraordinary thing to do, but I suppose I don’t need to get used to it since this’ll work and I only need to witness it once…”

Alastair cleared his throat, and they snapped back into attention. Stephen could see smoke coming out of the cauldron already as everyone joined hands. He planned to step to the side and observe the operation, but Allison pulled him in to participate. He didn’t see how it helped, but he thought perhaps the symbolism of their leader standing by their side during an important event would help embolden their magic, so he did not object. The smoke shifted between the multiple colors of the galactic pyrite, and Alastair began chanting, “Toninpip acoliton fode Xavier Ryder!” The rest of the group began chanting this in unison, and Stephen could practically feel the force of their magic leaving their bodies. The concoction in the cauldron developed an almost electric quality to it, and the more that they chanted, the stronger the electric cloud became. It started swirling faster and faster, and although Stephen couldn’t contribute any magic to the spell, he began chanting with them. The cloud compressed itself into a ball that got smaller and smaller until it gained so much energy that it suddenly burst, knocking everyone off their feet!

When they got up, they could see a piece of parchment floating above the cauldron in place of the cloud. For an instance, everyone simply stared at the parchment, including Stephen. He could see text on it, which meant that they finally had their answer! They finally had a shot of ending Xavier’s evil regime once and for all! It seemed too incredible to be true! Everyone seemed to nervous to want to read what the parchment said, and Stephen inwardly couldn’t blame them! A part of him feared that, somehow, Xavier had gotten past this barrier too and that he couldn’t be found, and Stephen really didn’t want to hear the news if that was going to be the case! Still, someone had to read it, and as head of the ICI, he supposed it had to be him. He got up and cautiously walked over to the parchment.

A part of Stephen felt worried that if he reached out to touch the parchment that he would unleash something that would reach out and attack him or that he would get sucked into the swirling vortex that had been their previously, but because everyone there watched him and did nothing to stop him, he figured that it must be safe to go near it. When he picked it up, he noted that it felt warm to the touch and had a dry crisp to it as if it were a newly discovered manuscript from yesteryear. His heart beat wildly as he mentally prepared himself to read what it had to say, preparing himself for bad news so that the sting of devastation wouldn’t feel as strong if that became the case. To his delight, the parchment not only had the name of Xavier’s location but its exact coordinates too! With a broad grin, he told the rest of his team, “We got him!”

Xavier strolled into the meeting room with an exuberant look on his face. As soon as he walked in, his followers grew instantly silent. He took a second to savor the fact the room had expanded again, and it made him swell with pride to know that his numbers were continuing to grow each day! He then addressed the group, “My devoted men, I have exciting news to share! We’ve found the final ingredients that we need to summon our new allies here!” The group cheered for a moment, and then they grew silent again to allow him to continue, “Now, I know we’ve been over this a lot, but I can’t emphasize it enough; these allies aren’t from around here, so they’re going to have a vastly different appearance than us. I don’t want any ogling or anyone making them feel uncomfortable. We need them on our side for the siege against Emily’s regime, so treat them as you would a normal Earthling! Does everyone…?”

Xavier trailed off as he noticed a wisp of fog seep into the room. He immediately ordered, “Everyone, run!”

All of the men and women in the area got up and linked arms as one of them chanted, “Lanumaciae… Lanumanciae.. I can’t… Sir!”

The fog grew stronger and stronger, and Xavier himself began to grow a bit dizzy. He could hardly see straight, and he suddenly knew what was happening. “No!” he cried out.

Alastair and his team suddenly burst into the room, and Xavier’s followers began to defend themselves. Alastair and Xavier both fired off as many spells at each other as they could. Xavier felt rather flabbergasted as to how the ICI even found him, but he didn’t have time to ask questions. He resolved to ask the survivors once his followers finished off the main people, which he didn’t think would take long. He had battled it out with them before, and although the timing was a bit tedious, he felt confident about his odds. Alastair sneered, “I’ve waited to officially retire just for this moment, Xavier!”

Xavier didn’t feel deterred by this jibe. “You think you can defeat me? In all your years of heading the… Wait, you’re not in charge anymore! Where is that bloody cose?”

Before Xavier could do a proper search for Stephen, he suddenly felt a sharp pain hit the back of his head! He didn’t think much of it at first; it felt as though someone had hit him with a small rock or something. He felt blood rushing out, and all of a sudden, he lost his balance. He fell to the floor, and he felt the energy from his body slowly draining out, and he realized what had happened- Stephen had shot him, and he was dying! Stephen stood above him, and Xavier no longer had the strength to hex him. Very weakly, he muttered, “That was a cheap trick!”

“You won’t be able to hurt anyone anymore, Xavier!” Stephen regarded him sternly.

“That’s where you’re wrong!” Xavier exclaimed. “This will not stop me! I have powerful allies that can fix it! Blythe is summoning them right now! You’ll see! You haven’t heard the last of me! I’ll be…!” He no longer could muster the ability to move or speak. As he lost consciousness, he assured himself that he was merely falling asleep for a while…

Stephen and Alastair watched the light go out in Xavier’s eyes, and they knew he was gone! Stephen announced, “He’s dead!” The ICI agents celebrated for a moment, but they cut themselves off pretty quickly. Stephen could understand why. He always imagined that this moment would feel more triumphant since a mass murderer finally received justice, but it didn’t. Something felt odd as if it weren’t actually true. He could see Xavier dead in front of him, but somehow, it didn’t feel over yet and he couldn’t understand why. “What did Xavier mean by that bit about his powerful allies?”

Alastair shrugged it off. “It was probably just one last bit of bravado before he passed. Don’t let it phase you! Let’s take a look at what secrets he had hidden here.” Stephen agreed to do so, but he couldn’t take his eyes off of Xavier’s corpse. Something was definitely wrong, but he couldn’t figure out why he felt so strongly about this notion. He left the room feeling very strange about what transpired.

Emily stood on top of the balcony located in front of her castle as a crowd of onlookers and reporters watched in anticipation. Emily triumphantly revealed, “Xavier Ryder’s reign of terror is officially over! He is dead!” Most of the people attending cheered, but she also heard some loud boos coming from one corner. She glanced over to see a group of protesters with signs reading, “Alexander’s Dreamers,” and messages declaring their allegiance to the founder and against her reign. Stephen made a page to his team, and as they worked with law enforcement to hush the protesters so that she could continue speaking, Emily remarked to Stephen, “Something’s not right!”

“I know!” Stephen shared her sentiment. As they gazed out onto the scene celebrating their victory, he had the strongest feeling that they weren’t done with Xavier yet!

Amouraq III: The Secret of the Dagger, Chapter 3

Retevol foria!” Emily chanted. Stephen, Allison, Yvette, and Oscar watched as a door on the ceiling in the castle hallway opened up and revealed a dusty, wooden staircase. Emily chanted, “Lumenia modeo,” and the attic above them lit up. Emily went up first, and as the others followed her, she exclaimed, “This is kind of exciting! I haven’t explored the attic yet!”

“It’s not as interesting as it sounds.” Yvette clearly didn’t share her enthusiasm on the prospective project. “It’s mostly a bunch of old boxes.”

Emily’s fervor for the idea wasn’t shaken. “Yeah, but really, really old boxes! This castle has been occupied for hundreds of years now, so there’s bound to be some cool stuff inside!”

Allison probed, “You guys are sure that there’s galactic pyrite up here?”

“I swore I saw some up here!” Yvette insisted. “I just don’t remember where exactly.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Oscar assured Allison. “Yvette’s got a knack for remembering little details like that, things just tend to shift around up here…” He glanced up at the imminent attic nervously.

Yvette asserted to the others, “It’s not haunted! Just the inherent magic in some of the objects makes some of the boxes shift around.”

Stephen remarked, “I’m sorry, this attic holds a bunch of objects so steeped in magic that they don’t stay still, and you don’t think it’s very interesting up there?” Yvette shrugged, and Stephen attributed their lackluster response to their magical upbringing.

When Stephen finally set foot inside the attic, he had really high expectations for what he’d see up there. To his dismay, he just saw a large room with rows and rows of cardboard boxes. Yvette saw his facial expression and chimed, “See?”

“Oh, I’m sure the contents of the boxes will be a lot more interesting for you!” Allison ensured Stephen.

“I bet!” Stephen surveyed the room with his imagination reeling from the different possibilities of enchanted items that almost literally lurked there. Despite his great interest in the subject, he shook off this notion in order to stay focused on their mission. “Let’s split up and start searching. If you find the galactic pyrites, get it to the ICI headquarters immediately.” Everyone agreed to his terms and picked an area to start searching.

Stephen felt drawn to the boxes under the window, so he chose a random box, pulled out a pocket knife, and cut it open. With their main goal of searching for very specific, powerful stones, he expected to see all sorts of random things used for spells up there. As peeled off the flaps of the first box, he truly thought he’d find feathers, scales, candles, or something along those lines. Instead, he came across some old bed sheets. “Oh! I should have known this wasn’t it. It’s way too light to be any kind of stone!”

Emily, who had been searching near an antique trunk behind him, commented, “It’s not all potion ingredients up here.”

“Oh, of course not.” Stephen hoped that he successfully hid the disappointment in his voice. “Sorcerers and sorceresses have to store stuff in the attic just like any other person.” Stephen felt duty-bound to find the galactic pyrites, but his curiosity had roused at the idea of seeing ancient, magical objects flying around, so a part of him hoped to stumble across these things. He reasoned with himself that it was better if they weren’t distracted by that, but he less eagerly opened up the next box.

“Can we listen to music while we work?” Oscar requested. “It’s a little bit too quiet in here…” He caught Yvette’s face, but before she could say anything, he jumped in, “Don’t even start!”

Yvette smirked a little. “I wasn’t gonna say anything…”

Oscar didn’t buy her claim. “Uh huh, sure!” He then pointed to the roof and chanted, “Adcanto musympha!” A lively pop song sounded throughout the room, which seemed to relax Oscar a little.

“Oh, I haven’t heard this song in ages!” Allison recalled. “Didn’t they use it in that alien movie?”

“Yeah!” Oscar replied to her. “The Mars Diaries! I love that movie!”

Stephen politely differed, “I know people loved it, but it personally bugged me a little. The way they portrayed federal agents was pretty off!”

Emily teased him, “So, not how you’d handle an alien invasion?”

“We wouldn’t handle it,” Allison informed them. “The military handles defense, not us! Now, if aliens do exist and start committing crimes against our planet, then maybe we’d have to help enforce our laws.”

“Only until we created an interplanetary agency,” Stephen added.

Oscar conversed, “You guys don’t believe in aliens?”

Stephen shrugged. “To be honest, I’m usually too busy to think about it much.”

“I think anything’s possible,” Yvette voiced her opinion. “If they do exist, it probably won’t be anything like they portray them in the movies!”

“I’d love to see their reaction to The Mars Diaries!” Emily joked, which made everyone laugh.

Allison started to state, “Assuming they speak our… Woah!”

Stephen asked her, “Did you find it?”

“No,” Alllison answered. “I was moving around some boxes when I found… Well, take a look!”

Oscar, Yvette, Emily, and Stephen all very interestedly flocked over to Allison’s spot to see what she discovered. They saw a gilded stand with a glass case that encased an aged piece of parchment with a long list. Upon closer inspection, Stephen saw Emily’s name at the top of the page, and beneath that, he saw Torunn and Elska Sirvard as well as Cara Fenmore. “It’s the list of heirs to the throne!” Stephen noted.

“It must automatically update who’s at the top,” Allison observed. “I don’t see any of the heirs who were killed on here.”

“Ugh! There’s Xavier’s name!” Oscar pointed towards the bottom where Xavier’s name almost seemed to hover.

Everyone gazed at the name in disgust, and just seeing his name and knowing how much he valued this position thoroughly disgusted Stephen. It also reminded him of why they went to the attic in the first place. “Come on, guys, let’s keep looking for that galactic pyrite so we can find that son of a bitch!” Emily, Allison, Yvette, and Oscar all shared his sentiment and returned to their stations.

When Stephen got back to his area, he noticed that the boxes had shifted around slightly. This threw him off for a second, but then he reasoned, “Well, at least I know the boxes I’ve already done since I left them open!”

“Oh, you’re probably close to a powerful object!” Emily reacted to him as she continued to work.

“Good! ‘Cause so far all I’ve found is old bed sheets! I doubt I’ll find any magic in bed sheets! Except maybe in ours!” Stephen said with a wink.

Yvette piped in, “We can hear you, you know!”

Stephen and Emily giggled as they returned to work. His lighthearted mood got interrupted when he came across a box that felt cold to the touch. No one mentioned anything about the galactic pyrite’s temperature, but something in Stephen’s gut prompted him to believe he was about to unearth something deeply important, so opened the box with great interest. A chill ran down his spine as he lifted open the flaps, and to his surprise, he unearthed a plethora of medieval artifacts! Emily must have sensed his ebbed attention and went over to see what he found. “Wow! This is amazing!” Emily expressed as she poured into the box.

“Do you think it belonged to King Alexander?” Stephen probed as he peered at an ornate, bronze chalice.

“If it did, then it belongs in a museum!” Emily replied while studying a heavy ring.

Stephen spotted a small, very simple, green chest, and he could feel the source of the iciness coming from inside of it. “I gotta see what’s in this! Do you see a key?”

Emily told him, “No, but I don’t need one!” She pointed at the box and chanted, “Retevol serclostum!”

The chest unlatched, and Stephen commented, “You gotta love magic!” Emily smiled at his remark, and then both of their eyes gravitated to the chest. With mounting anticipation, Stephen lifted up the lid.

They saw a small dagger wrapped in a cloth sheath inside! On the inside of the lid, they could see a note that read:

The greatest power lies in your blood,

unleash it with this.

When evil seems unstoppable,

use this, and the other will receive it.

“Hmm! What does that mean?” Stephen questioned.

“No idea!” Emily responded.

Stephen gently picked it up and unsheathed it. The blade appeared a little jagged and worn, but otherwise, it still seemed like it could get used by someone. After a moment of staring hypnotically at it, Stephen queried, “Mind if I keep this?” He couldn’t explain why, but he felt as though this dagger meant for him to find it and keep it. He hoped that Emily wouldn’t ask a lot of questions about his motives since he wasn’t entirely sure about them himself, but it felt important to him for some reason.

Emily relented, “Go ahead.” Stephen stored it by his gun, and then he glanced up and viewed Emily’s expression. She had a look of pure understanding, and as she grinned at him, he felt a surge of gratitude for accepting his needs without hesitation or explanation. He couldn’t find the words to say how much he appreciated her, so instead, he gave her a passionate kiss!

All of a sudden, Allison cleared her throat by them. “A-hem! When you two are done, we found the galactic pyrite!”

Emily and Stephen beamed at each other before they picked themselves up. Stephen regarded the entire group, “I think we have everything we need for that spell to work now! Come on, let’s go find Xavier!”The Dagger

Amouraq II: The Secret of the Dagger, Chapter 2

Stephen ran outside the ballroom and immediately looked around for where the explosion had come from. He glanced down the castle hallway and saw people running in one direction outside, so he led the other agents towards the pandemonium. They went in the opposite direction that they bystanders were fleeing from, and Stephen could only hope that the grim expressions that they bore stemmed from panic and not any fatalities! When they rounded the corner, they saw a black tinge on the freshly charred ground of the once verdant lawn that surrounded the castle, and everyone’s insides plummeted as they feared the worst. “It looks like it came from the dungeons!” Alastair observed. A part of Stephen agreed with his assessment, but he really hoped that they would stumble across the crime scene and find a much less detrimental scenario!

When the dungeons finally came into view, Stephen didn’t realize he had even come to a stop as his mind tried to process the horror of what laid before him! The bodies of several guards were sprawled across the grass! Alastair, Allison, and the others stared in pure appall as well, and one of the agents uttered, “My god!”

“How is this possible?” Allison wondered.

Stephen couldn’t fathom an explanation for this at the moment. His attention got drawn to the gaping chasm that once held part of the castle’s structure, and at first, he thought the dungeons got totally obliterated. Soon, he began to realize that he heard noises coming from living humans! “Search for survivors!” Stephen ordered, and they all carefully crept into the dungeons’ remains.

At first, they only saw more bodies, but Stephen noted that some of the prisoners had perished too. When they ventured a little further, one of the other agents called out, “Agent Knight!”

Stephen whipped his head around to see one of the more seasoned agents kneeling beside a prisoner struggling to catch his breath. Stephen directed, “Stay by him, Finnian, and page a paramedic!”

As Finnian chanted a spell to call for medical assistance, Stephen and the rest of the team found that the further away from the entrance that they got, the healthier the victims became. A few other agents stopped to help with first aid as well as securing those who were potentially able to break out. Towards the end of the dungeons, Stephen, Allison, and Alastair came across a familiar hand reaching up to them from the ground. They stared at the older woman who, despite her weakened state, still maintained a shrewd visage, and she weakly rang out, “Alastair! Thank goodness you’re here! I needed to talk to the head of the ICI!”

“I’m not the head of the ICI anymore, Judith,” Alastair regarded her in a cold tone. “I’m staying with the agency as a temporary adviser. Whatever you have to say, you can say it to Stephen.”

“Really?” she reacted in surprise. “You hired a cose to-?”

Stephen jumped in, “You’re losing points here! Whatever you have to say better be good!”

Judith hastily apologized, “I’m so sorry! It just caught me off guard at first that someone with no magical ability would head-.”

“We’re wasting our time!” Allison interrupted her. “After we shackle her, let’s gag her as well!”

“No, wait! Please!” Judith pleaded. “I have information that can help your case!”

Stephen highly doubted that claim and felt inclined to disregard anything she conveyed to them. “And why should we believe you? We trusted you before, and it nearly got us killed!”

Alastair added, “Plus, as I recall, you hero-worshipped Xavier Ryder, so why should we believe that your loyalty has changed?”

“Today changed everything I thought I knew about him!” Judith remarked. “I gave up my entire life for him, and when I needed help, he just left me for dead! I’ll tell you everything now!”

Alastair and Allison appeared skeptical, but they turned to Stephen for a cue on the course of action that they ought to take. Stephen took some time to consider it. His blood boiled just seeing her face, just at the sight of the person that betrayed the kingdom by slipping Emily that potion that caused Xavier’s essence to possess her! Furthermore, her devotion to that mass murderer caused several innocent lives to be lost! After all of that, he didn’t think she had the capability for sincerity, but they really didn’t have a lot of clues about the incident. He needed facts quickly, and he felt tempted to listen to what she had to say. “What do you think?” Alastair whispered to them.

Allison quietly hissed, “We can’t trust her! She’s one of the worst criminals in Amouraqian history!”

“So are all of the other inmates of the dungeon,” Alastair pointed out. “If they weren’t, they’d have gone to a normal prison. They needed the added protection of the castle guards, all of whom were killed. Our only witnesses to what happened are the prisoners, and only a powerful sorcerer or sorceress could have penetrated the castle defenses like this. No one here is trustworthy, but no one else has so much information on Xavier as her. If he’s really behind this, we could gain valuable clues to his whereabouts.”

“This could be a trick,” Allison argued. “She could be throwing us on a wild goose chase to buy Xavier some time, or worse, she could be leading us into a trap! We shouldn’t give her any benefit of the doubt!”

Alastair turned to Stephen and told him, “Well, as head of the ICI, it’s your call. What action would you recommend?”

Stephen contemplated the matter briefly, but before he could voice his decision, Finnian came up to them and reported, “Blythe Tanith is missing.”

Allison, Alastair, and Stephen all caught a glimpse of Judith, who did not seem surprised to hear that news. That response made Stephen’s course of action very clear. “I’m almost certain she’s a double agent, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn anything from her. Let’s see what she has to say.”

In a prison interrogation room, a couple of guards brought Judith in. They shackled her to a chair and then stood watch at the doorway. Stephen, Alastair, Allison, and Finnian all sat on the other side of the table with their pens ready to take notes, but before anyone could ask any questions, each of them thoroughly studied Judith’s demeanor. Stephen notices that she seemed a little tense, which a lot of people would probably attribute to nerves, he thought. Stephen suspected that she didn’t have any reason to feel any angst. She got sentenced to life in prison, so she didn’t have the anxiety of waiting for the judge to seal her fate anymore. With her charges of treason, she couldn’t negotiate for less prison time, and yet, she had an air of discomfort to her. He thought perhaps that she could feel troubled by turning on someone she once swore an unshakable allegiance to, but something in his gut made him think that she had an ulterior motive for doing this. The only way they could unearth her true motives was to let her carry out her intentions. Stephen wouldn’t let her get anything of value for her cause, but he intended to let her fall for the notion she could in order to extract even one little clue about Xavier’s next move. Stephen instructed her, “Alright, tell us about the attack in the dungeons.”

Judith stated, “First, I should tell you what was going on in the dungeons before the attack. For months now, Xavier’s people have been in contact with the prisoners in there!”

“The correspondence in and out of the dungeons are heavily monitored,” Allison brought up. “Everyone communicating with the inmates there get a full background check, and if anyone tried to plan a crime, we would have caught them immediately. Try again.”

“Xavier wasn’t foolish enough to relay his message to where authorities could easily catch wind of it it,” Judith countered. “He’s recruited more people with squeaky clean backgrounds, including prison rights activists. Anything they said to each other would have sounded so innocent, like the conditions of the dungeon, how the guards were treating them, et cetera.”

This revelation intrigued Stephen, but he wouldn’t let one act of goodwill lull him into a false sense of security. Instead, he simply asked, “What purpose did Xavier have in recruiting people who have no legal grounds to ever set foot outside of the dungeons?”

Judith explained, “I’m sure he promised them some kind of immunity in exchange for their information. I’m not sure if he ever intended to honor that commitment, but he did get some useful facts out of them.”

“Such as…” Alastair prompted her.

“They inadvertently revealed the weaknesses of the dungeons,” Judith expounded. “That’s how the explosive spell managed to get inside.”

Finnian requested, “Now, tell us about the explosion itself.”

Judith shrugged. “There’s not much to tell. It was an ordinary day until it suddenly wasn’t. Once all of the debris cleared, I laid on the ground in pain, but no one bothered to help me. They ran in, got something, and left.”

“Did they say anything to you before they left?” Stephen inquired.

“No.” Judith fidgeted slightly as she replied. “I did hear one of them mention getting the help of some powerful allies, but I’m not sure who they meant.” She paused and added, “Do you have any idea who they meant?” When no one responded, she pressed on, “Do you know where Xavier is? Or maybe what he’s planning next…?”

Stephen paged the guards, “You can take her back now.”

Judith’s eyes went wide at the prospect. “No, wait! I just wanted to know because I want you to stop him!” She continued to berate them with questions as the guards dragged her out of the room.

“She was fishing,” Alastair concluded.

“Did she really think we would be so naive as to give away our secrets to a traitorous rat?” Allison queried.

Stephen deduced, “Definitely not. She only gave us that information as an intimidation effect, letting us know just how far Xavier is trying to go. But we did learn one thing from this! Instead of keeping his circle small, he’s growing his numbers! We need to find him immediately! Good thing his team isn’t aware of our new plans…”600-02201372

Amouraq III: The Secret of the Dagger, Chapter 1

He flipped through the newspaper eagerly. He realized how hopelessly old fashioned this method of information gathering had become, but he didn’t have much of a choice. He certainly couldn’t risk getting tracked through a technological device, and most of his potion ingredients had gone to a more prominent part of the project. For now, the printed press would do. Typically, he didn’t gather much from a source with such limited space, but he had a good feeling about it today! After several pages of fruitless effort, he finally found something useful! After a gleeful, celebratory clap, he gladly folded back the page to discuss it with the others.

He heard a knock on the door of his cavern office, and his cold, booming voice responded, “Who is it?”

“It’s Simeon, your majesty,” the man on the other side told him.

“You may enter,” he permitted.

A tall, nervous man timidly stepped inside, but he didn’t move much farther than the doorway. “Your majesty, your men have all arrived!”

He relished this update. “Excellent! Tell them I’ll be there shortly.”

“Yes, your majesty!” Simeon bowed and hastily exited.

After Simeon left, he quickly dashed over to a small mirror hanging on the wall. His jet black hair stayed smoothly in place, and other than his dark irises, his eyes didn’t show a hint of color. His formfitting tee shirt and loose khakis didn’t have the same commanding effect as his imported suits, but he found that dressing more uniformly swayed more people in their current situation. Some people may critique him for spending extra time pouring over his looks, but he knew all too well from his business experience that the right image played a powerful role in persuasion. Satisfied with his visage, he left the room.

Down the rocky halls, he could hear the chatter of a couple dozen men and women. He couldn’t make out what their topics of conversation centered around, but it pleased him to hear that they sounded excited. Keeping this in mind, he comfortably stepped inside.

The room fell silent upon his entrance. Simeon obsequiously announced, “Presenting… the future king of Amouraq… Xavier Ryder!”

After a brief applause, the room got quiet again as they gave Xavier their undivided attention. Xavier held his newspaper behind his back and stood before them like a general. “Good afternoon, everyone!”

“Good afternoon!” the room echoed back in unison.

Xavier firmly addressed them all, “Let’s never forget why we’re all here! Alexander’s original plan for Amouraq got stolen, and his reputation fell apart with all this nonsense about falling in love with the Nymph Queen of Good! Ever since he passed, each generation continued to take our land further and further away from his dearest ambition. After our previous sovereign, King Patrick, passed, our hopes for a brighter future got dashed when Queen Emily took the throne. Her radical ideas about quote end quote fairness and equality are doomed to failure, and if we want to save our country, we need to fight back against her insipid reign!”

“Here, here!” the room chimed.

“Now,” Xavier continued, “our secret allies aren’t due to arrive yet, and we’ll need their assistance to win against this wretched regime. I can see I have a talented group standing before me, however, the castle dungeons hold some people with invaluable skills that could help us expedite some of our efforts. We need to save them so they can help us win our noble cause! Normally, the castle is too full of workers and tourists to really pull off an efficient rescue, so we’ll need a massive distraction to keep as many people as possible out of our way, especially that good for nothing boyfriend of hers! Today, I think I’ve found a way to do that!”

Xavier held up the newspaper article, which featured a woman with coffee colored hair, golden brown eyes, and a curvy physique standing side by side with a man that had copper colored hair, deep, blue eyes, a strong jawline, and a fit body. The title of the piece read: “Queen Emily & Her Beau, Stephen, to Hold Ball in Celebration of Founder’s Day.” Xavier explained to everyone, “This is a huge event held every fall, and most of the kingdom will be celebrating all the lies they’ve been taught about King Alexander. Can you think of a better time to attack than during this event?” The room appeared to agree with him, and Xavier smiled maliciously.

“Stephen? Stephen!” Emily searched throughout the castle halls slightly miffed that she had to so much searching in her high heels and floor length gown. She sincerely hoped that when she found him that he would be dressed and ready to go! She saw a light in the lounge room, and when she stepped inside the room, she saw that the balcony outside contained the glow that she had seen. “Stephen? What are you doing? We’re gonna be late!” He didn’t reply, and she started to become annoyed that she had to all the way out there just to get some answers from him. She thought that he he better have important reasons for this or she would really get mad at him!

As soon as Emily went outside, a bunch of fairy lights illuminated the area, and Emily suddenly felt as though she had walked into a wonderland! Stephen’s heart beat wildly as he emerged in front of her, and she gasped as he got down on one knee! He held her left hand as he ardently spoke, “Emily, ever since I met you, you filled my life with unending adventure! I didn’t realize how lost I was until you made me feel like I found my true home. You’ve made me happier than I’ve ever been, and I hope you’ll do me the honor of becoming my wife!” As Emily’s eyes began to water up, he reached into his pocket and revealed a small, velvety box with a diamond ring in it! “Will you marry me?”

Once Emily wiped the happy tears from her cheeks, she croaked out, “Yes!” Her hands were trembling as he slipped the ring on her finger, and afterwards, they gave each other a passionate kiss. For a while, Stephen just held her and basked in the glory of the moment.

Later on, in the grand ballroom, several tables were set up with exquisite linen and porcelain plates. The guests all wore their finest as they mingled, and a string quartet played an elegant tune. A stocky, middle-aged man with a bushy mustache paced a bit as a plump, genial-looking woman and a gaunt, lanky young man tried to chitchat with him to calm his nerves. The room suddenly began to hus as Stephen and Emily arrived arm in arm. The pacing man grew relieved, and as Stephen and Emily took their place in the center of the head table, the man pointed to his throat and chanted, “Grandsomo!” His voice reverberated across the room as he requested, “Ladies and Gentlemen, please have a seat. We’re ready to begin!”

Everyone took their seats and gave the man their undivided attention as he speechified, “Before we enjoy our Founder’s Day feast, I’d like to thank all of the people who made this evening possible. First of all, thank you to my good friends, Yvette and Oscar, for helping with the decorations” He indicated to the man and woman who were talking to him before Emily and Stephen arrived, and the room applauded. “Thank you to Allison and her mentor, Alastair, for helping with the security details.” A pretty, thin young woman and a man with silver hair and a matching beard briefly waved their hands as the crowd acknowledged them. “Thank you to Penny Melrose and Bernard Andrew for the press coverage of the event.” A middle-aged woman with an outdated hairstyle and an ample amount of make up that failed to make her appear younger and a sharp, good-looking man did a half bow as everyone clapped. “I don’t want to sound anything less than humble, but our beloved queen wouldn’t let me go on if I didn’t take the time to recognize myself for cooking the food tonight.” Emily non-verbally communicated the truth of his words, and the crowd applauded for him. “And last but not least, I’d like to thank the hosts of the evening, Queen Emily and her boyfriend, Stephen!”

Emily corrected him, “Actually, he’s my fiance!”

She held out her hand to show off her ring, and the room buzzed with excitement. Penny and Bernard directed their camera crew to get shots of the ring immediately, and Penny asked Emily, “How’d he propose? When do you plan to hold the ceremony?”

Emily answered, “I’ll give you all of the details later. I’m sorry, Dagan, I didn’t mean to steal your thunder!”

“It’s okay, I understand!” Dagan delightedly grinned at them. He cleared his throat to refocus his attention to the last part of his speech. He waved his hands, and champagne appeared before everyone. “A toast, to the man who, without his effort, made this evening possible, King-!”

His words were deafened when the sound of an explosion erupted, and the vibrations of the occurrence shook the whole room! Some of the guests fell down from the force of the vibration, and a few people screamed. Stephen instructed to Dagan, Yvette, and Oscar, “Keep her safe!” He turned to Emily and promised, “I’ll be back!” He gave her a quick kiss and bolted away from the table.

“What just happened?” Allison inquired to her colleagues, who had sprang up and were ready to go into action.

“Let’s go find out!” Stephen replied. He drew out his gun, and Allison, Alastair, and the other federal agents followed him out. Xavier's New Plan