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

6 thoughts on “Amouraq II: The Secret of the Dagger, Chapter 2

    • Prutha Pimpalgaonkar says:

      Hi! I nominated you for the Sunshine Blogger Award. Hope you accept it😀😀

      • Thank you! Sorry I haven’t replied. I’m in the middle of moving, and things are a little hectic right now!

      • Prutha Pimpalgaonkar says:

        Ah thats alright. No pressure in doing the tag. Hope you move safely.💜

      • Thanks! I’ll do the tag when I can sit down and think more clearly 😊

      • Sorry I still haven’t done it. I do a little writing to keep me sane, but it’s kind of hard to think. I could answer your questions, but my mind goes blank thinking of questions of my own. We’re moving everything officially tomorrow, so I should be able to do it soon.

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