Crimes of the Fay, Chapter 3

Don’t worry, detective training school wasn’t as irksome as police academy! Quite the contrary, actually! For the first time in a long time, I felt like I learned something valuable, and I enjoyed learning some new skills. I had a better feeling about this route! Thank goodness! It would have drove me crazy if I had to go to a drudgery of a class while working full time at a job that irritated me! When I came home at night, my husband would have a glass of wine and some freshly cooked dinner waiting for me so I could vent about my day, and then we’d go have some boring sex. After coming home from detective training school, however, I didn’t have a lot to complain about. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t think of much to say at all because I got so exhausted from work and school that I pretty much just wanted to eat and go to bed. And by go to bed, I mean sleep. It’s not like his love-making required a lot of effort, but I barely had the energy needed to drive home! He seemed to miss our old routine, but I assured him that things would be different after graduation. He didn’t seem totally convinced, but I shrugged it off. I wasn’t about to quit just to go back to doing that! As time went on, he stopped waiting for me. I’d get fast food or a microwave meal and get my own wine. It hurt a little at first to eat alone, but after a while, it became more relaxing to have some me time. Did you know that chicken nuggets and rosé are amazing together? I hardly saw Ben until it was time for graduation, which I made him promise to attend. He seemed relieved that detective school had come to an end, but it made me a little sad. I could only hope that real detective experience mirrored my school training!

I stood at the back of the line because my last name placed me there (they had us receive our certification in alphabetic order). When I graduated from police academy, I wore my new police uniform. Since we didn’t have a uniform to wear during our shifts as detectives, we all donned a more traditional cap and gown. I felt so proud to reach this point, but I got a little nervous for my turn. Just like in high school, I had jitters about tripping on stage or dropping my certification, and I got more and more anxious as the couple dozen people went ahead of me. Finally, the presenter called out, “Shannon Vidette!” I took a deep breath and walked onto the stage. As everyone clapped for me, I kept thinking don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall! I reached the presenter unscathed, and my heart fluttered as I received my certification! As the audience applauded, I grinned and glanced out to where my husband sat. To my surprise, he wasn’t even looking at me! His eyes were glued to his cellphone, and his gaze remained fixed there as we closed out the ceremony. I could hardly concentrate on it. I just felt so hurt that he had no interest in one of the most significant moments of my life!

I never really got a good answer from Ben about his behavior that night. He just kept apologizing and claimed he got distracted by an emergency email at work. I found that hard to believe since he just worked at a pet supply store! I mean, he didn’t sell actual animals there, so what could happen there that would warrant immediate communication outside of working hours? Despite my suspicions, I decided to let go of the matter. I figured that me being gone all day probably made him detach from me a little, but I thought I could make up for it now that I had extra time again. We both lived out our lives pretty separately still, so I thought that perhaps it would just take some time for him to forgive me.

On my last day at the police force, I didn’t get a goodbye party. In fact, I hardly got a goodbye at all! A few people said a quick so long and good luck, and my chief reminded me to turn in my squad car keys, but that was about it. As I walked out of there, it felt a bit strange. I spent twenty-six years dreaming about becoming a police officer, so I never pictured myself in a scenario where I coudlnt’ wait to get out of there, and yet there I was doing exactly that! I reminded myself that I wanted to help my community, especially with constant attacks from the Fay Folks, and I could do that more in my new role. Police work involved more of a reaction to crime while detectives were more proactive about solving it. Like, if I arrested a Fay for harassing someone, my involvement in the case would stop as soon as he or she arrived at the station. With detective work, I could delve in deeper about their motives and future plans. I couldn’t wait to get started! As I stood outside of my old post after such a banal farewell, I thought good riddance! I walked away with the confidence that I had done the right thing!

On my first day as a detective, I stood near the entrance of my new headquarters feeling somewhat apprehensive. After the disappointment of my graduation and the total fiasco of my time as a police officer, I knew better than to get my hopes up. Despite all that, I had an intuitive notion that today would go well, and after all of the stress I had been through recently, I ardently hoped for a good day! I got told that a trainer would meet me outside at nine o’clock, and I came fifteen minutes early just in case. As I stood waiting, I wondered if my trainer would arrive late, and suddenly I wished I brought a book or something to occupy my time as I waited.

I didn’t have to wait long. A well dressed woman came out of the building, and she looked in the opposite direction from where I stood. “Excuse me!” I waved my hands to get her attention, which made me immediately feel dumb since all I saw was her platinum blonde hair and not her eyes. She heard my voice though, and when she turned around, her blue eyes sparkled as she smiled. She didn’t seem too much older than me, and the way she carried herself made me think she had a genial personality.

I could tell she had taken a moment to assess me too, and she seemed to have reached a favorable conclusion. “Are you Shannon Vidette?” I nodded. “Hi! Detective Sandra Nason!” She extended her hand, and I shook it. “I had a hunch you’d be early, I don’t know why! Come on in!” She re-entered the building, and I followed her inside.

When I walked in, I saw a couple rows of cubicles, and I heard a cacophony of keyboards clicking and voices talking on the phone. Sandra informed me, “This is the Bull Pen. All of our research and reports are conducted here. I’ll show you to your cubicle. If anyone doesn’t seem too busy, I’ll introduce you to them.”

As we walked through, I peeked into the cubicles and saw the occupants inside were already fast at work. One man reminded me of Officer Mazarine, so I asked Sandra, “What time do Officers Delbin and Mazarine get here? I heard they transferred to this unit.”

Sandra frowned and hesitated a bit before she answered, “Angelique had a mental breakdown a couple years ago. We don’t like to talk about it.”

“I don’t blame you!” I turned away feeling graceless for bringing that up. I briefly wondered what caused her to breakdown like that, but I didn’t dare to ask. I pretended that it had nothing to do with the job, and I cautiously broached a follow up, “And Officer Mazarine? I mean Dick.”

“I’ll take you to meet him at the end of your tour,” Sandra told me. “He’s been promoted to chief detective, and he goes by Richard now.”

I took a mental note of that as we arrived at the end of the row where an empty cubicle laid. Sandra let me know, “This will be your cubicle. Mine is over there on the other side. You’re in prime real estate! The break room is right behind you!” I turned around to see a small room with tables, chairs, a sink, a refrigerator, and a couple of vending machines. I watched as one detective used his wand to conjure some coffee from one of the machines into his cup. Sandra remarked, “You can decorate your cubicle however you like, just make sure there’s nothing too offensive on display!”

I agreed to those terms, “Got it!” At the same time, I realized I hadn’t even thought about what I’d decorate my space with. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t think of anything except for my work! Sandra motioned for me to follow her down a nearby hallway, so I decided to worry about that later and caught up with Sandra.

“On your right, you’ll see a supply room.” She pointed to a wooden door on the direction she had just indicated. “Over here is the bathrooms. These are all interrogation rooms. And that big office is Chief Mazarine’s!”

His door had been left open, and as I saw him gathering up some files, I got a bit of a shock to see that he had hardly aged at all! My inner child made me exclaim, “You’re Dick Mazarine!” I instantly regretted my poor choice of words. Sandra just said he went by Richard and introduced him as Chief Mazarine, so I had a couple of good options other than what came out! I worried that I might’ve offended him.

I did. He glared at me and snapped, “Don’t ever call me by that horrible name ever again!”

“Sorry!” I blushed furiously and then I tried to reassure him, “There’s nothing wrong with-.”

“I’m tired of the damn snickering!” Chief Mazarine bellowed. “I do something heroic, and everyone treats the headlines as a joke!” He reached into his desk drawer and pulled out some old newspaper articles. “Dick Comes Out Swinging, Dick Gets Tough, Dick Penetrates Deep…”

I tried to stifle my giggles, but after a while, I couldn’t help myself! Luckily, Sandra chortled a bit too. Chief Mazarine scowled as he tossed the articles back in the drawer and slammed it shut. I hastily apologized, “I’m so sorry, Sir! It won’t happen again!”

Sandra changed the subject, “We’re just here for her new hire paperwork.”

He became slightly less miffed as he responded, “Oh yes, I have them right here! Just read and sign each of them at the bottom.”

As I went through each one, I grew a bit concerned that my bad first impression would cost me in what kind of cases I’d get assigned to, but then I remembered that technically this wasn’t the first time we met. I decided not to bring up our encounter from my childhood though. I recalled him regarding me a bit coldly back then, so I didn’t think it would help my current situation to converse about it. After I handed him all of the signed papers, he filed them and hand me a manila folder. “Are you ready for your first case?”

Crimes of the Fay, Chapter 2

A decade later, while most of the seniors of Anaknock High School were fantasizing about who they’d take to prom or what they’d wear to graduation, all I could do was daydream about Police Academy! As soon as I turned eighteen, I put in my application and eagerly awaited for the results of my background check to come back. I didn’t have to worry about the criminal aspect, I made sure that I had a squeaky clean record there! I never cut class or broke any rules that would land me in detention or the dean’s office, which isn’t part of their criteria but something I did on my own out of an abundance of caution. I worried more about the psychological examination and social screening. To become a police officer in Slygow County, or any other county for that matter, they go through your life with a fine toothed comb. I didn’t live with my mother anymore, but I know she was constantly in and out of jail, so a part of me worried that they would think her felonious tendencies would get passed onto me. I also fretted that they would say that I didn’t have the right personality to join the squad, something that my father liked to point out a lot. He meant well, he just really hoped that his only child, a child that constantly got good grades and and demonstrated an adeptness in many valuable skills, would grow up to do a career that made tons of money. He didn’t give up on trying to dissuade me from the idea until I got that acceptance letter, then he just sort of kept praying for me. I think I was the only one excited about the concept. I didn’t worry about my safety at all, not with two years of academy training under my belt. I didn’t realize until later that my safety hadn’t been the sole source of their worry…

Even though I had spent several months obsessively studying my list of courses, I wasn’t totally prepared for what I’d actually experience when I got there! As I sat down in a large classroom for orientation, it truly shocked me to see rows and rows of poker faces! I figured that maybe some people were just nervous or that maybe they were already trying to show an air of neutrality. As I walked to the front of the classroom, I actually saw a few people who seemed depressed! I heard my classmates chatting about why they joined the squad, and I couldn’t believe how many people joined for reasons other than an eagerness to help the community! Some joined for job stability while others wanted to become a police officer for the advancement opportunities and benefits. It flabbergasted me to learn how many people had no idea why they were there! I sat next to a few people who were delighted to get started, but to my dismay, it seemed like they were excited for a chance to have a little power. They sounded more like contenders for a chance to become the world’s next big dictator, and I wondered why authoritarian personalities weren’t a disqualification for the psychological assessment! Despite all that, I still eagerly anticipated attending the academy classes, although I did ponder what I had gotten myself into!

I trusted the system so blindly that I didn’t pay attention to what the system entailed until the teaching officer went over it. A lot of the classes made absolute sense, like law statutes and weapons training, but some courses really threw me through a loop! The teaching officer told us that our first class was reading slash writing comprehension, and it perplexed me to think that was even necessary. I mean, we did have to read and write a lot for the application, so wouldn’t that alone prove our abilities? I reasoned that perhaps they meant reading and writing police reports, but that was a whole other class! I didn’t understand why a class on such a rudimentary subject was needed until she informed the class that if they didn’t pass that class the first time that they would get eliminated as a candidate, and a couple of people looked scared! While it made me feel better that they would eliminate unqualified individuals, the potential tedium of it all filled me with dread, and I could hope that the classes were more interesting than they sounded!

They weren’t! Oh sure, a few classes here and there were a lot of fun (I particularly enjoyed non-magical combat!), but I couldn’t believe how much these classes were watered down! For example, in our diversity and human relations course, I expected to read about the various subcultures of a place as diverse as the United States, but no, it was literally about how to behave like decent human beings to each other! Day one, the teaching officer explained, “We don’t want to unfairly judge people based on their race, gender, sexual orientation…”

I frowned and puzzled as to why we needed to get educated on such an obvious fact, but the guy next to me raised his hand and asked, “Wait, we don’t do that?” Don’t get too concerned, he didn’t pass the class or become a police officer, but people like him made classes like that completely necessary!

Two years never felt so long to me! They over-explained everything! Not only did we learn how to file police reports, but we learned how to use a computer! I didn’t think driving a squad car was that different than a regular one, and it’s not, but it has a lot of little gadgets that we had to learn at nauseum. And no, I don’t mean cool gadgets like they have in spy movies, I mean we spent a whole day on how to use a cup holder properly! Any class that could have been mildly interesting became excruciating. Like in first aid class, we learned to properly apply a bandage, we had to first remove it from the wrapper! I actually slapped my forehead in frustration when we went over that! I had a few pleasant memories come from the police academy, such as the day I received my beautiful Red Alder wand! It’s such a powerful tool, and it does so much to enhance the magic within you, so it was an honor to receive one! Well, it was for me anyways. Some people couldn’t handle it and injured themselves, and one girl accidentally set the school on fire! They didn’t make it to graduation! Graduation felt so freeing! I thought the days of mind-numbing boredom and over-explaination were over! I was wrong again!

I guess I let my childhood fantasy of police officers fighting the Fay Folks day in and day out blind me from the reality of what their normal routine actually entailed. On my first day, my trainer spent almost an hour going over each detail of his squad car to make sure it all functioned properly, even the cup holder! Once we finally got started on patrol, I expected something exciting to happen, but it wasn’t until after lunch that we actually got paged. I had such high expectations for a trespassing call, but it turned out to be an elderly man complaining about someone’s cat entering his yard. We gave two people warnings about minor traffic violations, and we headed back to the station early so my trainer could over-explain how to fill out our daily paperwork. I guess my disappointment became really evident on my face because my trainer asked me what was wrong. When I described how I felt let down with such little activity in our day, he reminded me that a boring day for a cop is a good day since no one got put into a dangerous situation. I felt a bit flustered when I realized he thought I wanted someone’s life to get threatened so that my shift would be more enjoyable. I didn’t want to risk anyone’s safety, but I had hoped that my work would feel more significant than it did!

My first two weeks went pretty much the same. It took until day six for me to actually see an arrest, which ended up being that same elderly man I saw on my first day (he hit some kid with his cane when they wouldn’t control their cat). We got into a chase with a guy who stole a live chicken from this trailer park called Brigid’s Garden, and my trainer pinned down the guy while I had to chase the chicken! I got told later on that we got a lot of calls from there! Indeed we did, but usually it stemmed from a combination of drinking and mishandling their wands. One woman conjured a chimney on someone’s roof to try to steal their television, but she didn’t make it wide enough and ended up gettign stuck in it! I also got to see my first Fay Folk there! A mother called after her chihuahua attacked one. He wanted to sue the woman for personal injury, and I had to verify that his scaly, blue skin did, in fact, have a small blemish on it. When Officer Mazarine and Officer Delbin (who no longer served in that department) talked about fighting the Fay Folks, I didn’t realize that they meant legally! Most of our dealings with them had to do with shooing them away from people. With the tales I heard about them, I expected them to be involved with more heinous crimes! One of my trainers remarked, “Just like with humans, we don’t catch the smart ones!” I didn’t want to accept that and hoped to use more of my crime solving skills when I went out on my own.

That didn’t happen! When I got to the point where I could take the lead and merely got shadowed by another officer, most of my day got spent with every move I made getting judged, which made my trainer constantly question why I did what I did. I got in trouble with him for setting a pen in the freaking cup holder (a big no-no!). After a week, I finally got a call about a robbery! As soon as I arrived, a man threw down his wand and raised his hands up to surrender. As I cuffed him, I began reading his Miranda rights, but before I could lock the cuffs, my training came barreling out of the car shouting, “Hold it! Hold it! You’re not following procedure!”

“But he obviously did it!” I pointed to the wads of money in his pocket.

“That’s true, I did!” the suspect corroborated.

The trainer remained adamant in his point. “You didn’t conduct an investigation! You have to follow the evidence! Like this!” I stood by the suspect as the trainer used his wand to expose footprints on the ground. He followed a set that went straight from the door to the counter of the corner store, and then he saw the empty cash register and concluded, “Yes, there was definitely a robbery!” I sighed as he followed the footprints to the suspect. The trainer gazed up at him in surprise, and the suspect just waved at him. “He may have been present at the robbery!” I cringed, and the suspect requested to go to jail already. I really thought my first arrest would be a proud moment, but all it did was buy me more time in training!

I got so stressed out that once I clocked out, I headed right to the nearest bar! That’s where I met my future ex-husband, Benjamin. He saw me sitting by myself and inquired as to why I seemed so upset, and I knew that he only wanted to know so he could take me to bed, but I just had to vent to someone! As we started dating, he felt like a comfort to me, not due to his caring nature (he wasn’t very empathetic) but because he was always around when I needed to de-stress, which was pretty much every day! After seven years of seeing each other, we got married, and I really thought our wedding would mark a new chapter of my life, but I never really felt satisfied. I don’t mean in the bedroom (which wasn’t very thrilling), I just grew more and more dissatisfied as a police officer. I didn’t want to give up on my dream, but I didn’t know how to make my situation more substantial. After several years of gnawing monotony, I figured out that I didn’t need to give up law enforcement completely, there was another way to fight crime without staying in the same rut of policing… I decided to enroll in detective training, and that decision changed everything!

Crimes of the Fay, Chapter 1

It all began when I was seven. Miss Alvin, the school principal, walked up to the microphone on the stage and introduced two special guests, “Alright, boys and girls, quiet down! Today, Linnet Elementary School is proud to welcome two local heroes…” That got my attention right away. I spent much of my childhood obsessively reading myths and legends of ordinary people going on extraordinary adventures, and up until then, I didn’t know people could do heroic stuff like that in real life! “…Officers Angelique Delbin and Dick Mazarine!” My schoolmates all politely clapped, but I probably showed the most enthusiasm. In fact, I know I did because as the two police officers entered onto the stage, Officer Mazarine glanced over in my direction and gave me a particular look. I didn’t care though, I was just excited to be in their presence! Officer Mazarine stood on stage so proudly, and his russet skin really made his blue uniform stand out! His dark brown eyes stared with intensity, and his beard made made me think of the wise men that the heroes always sought advice from in my stories. Officer Delbin almost resembled an older version of me- long, coffee brown hair, light beige skin, and a tall, think frame (at that age, I had a skinny body anyway). Her eyes were blue and mine were more of a golden brown, but other than that, I felt like I caught a glimpse of my future self! Both of them intrigued me, and I hung on their every word.

Officer Mazarine spoke first, “Okay kids, we’re here today to talk to you about the Fay Folks! Who here can tell me what a Fay looks like?” I waved my hand in an overly enthusiastic way, which made the people around me stare judgmentally, but that didn’t bother me. I wanted to impress him so badly (a feeling that would return later on in life), but he seemed to view my eagerness as distasteful (that never changed!), so he called on another student, who replied, “They have weird skin! Like it’s pink or green or blue or whatever!”

“That’s correct! What else?” Officer Mazarine tried to ignore me, but I’m sure he must have seen me with how fervently I waved my hand. He pretended not to notice and called on another student, who told him, “They have sharp ears.”

“Yes, their ears are pointy!” Officer Mazarine responded genially. “Anything else?”

Once again, Officer Mazarine overlooked my ardent gestures and called on someone else, who replied, “They have sharp teeth and sharp claws!”

Officer Mazarine complimented their contribution, “Very good!”

“Now, who knows what to do if you ever see a Fay?” Officer Delbin inquired. No one else but me raised their hand, so Officer Delbin relented, “Go ahead.”

“Don’t listen to them!” I eagerly explained. “They try to trick you into doing bad things so that when they kill you, you don’t go to Heaven or Hell, you become one of them! They won’t stop until they have enough Fay to destroy the world!”

Both Officer Delbin and Officer Mazarine bore expressions that clearly indicated that they were unwillingly impressed. Officer Delbin acknowledged my familiarity on the subject, “Uh, yeah, that’s true! The Fay Folks are extremely dangerous, so if you see one, don’t try to deal with them yourself! Find a grown up and have them call us!”

Officer Mazarine added, “That’s right! It’s our job to keep you safe! We fight the Fay Folks all the time, so if any of them show up in your neighborhood, leave it to us to handle it!” That did it. That statement sold me on the idea! The Fay Folks were trying destroy the world, and the police were the ones defending our planet against them! In my mind, they were all a league of superheroes, and I resolved then and there that I would join them! I wanted to help save the world, so I decided that when I grew up, I was going to join the police force!

All of a sudden, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and saw Miss Alvin with her old, knobby wand out pointed at me. The two police officers were still talking about safety measures, and it pained me not to have the opportunity to listen to them, but I begrudgingly went over to her. Once I reached the back of the cafeteria, she whispered, “Your father is here to pick you up.”

“Oh yeah! Mommy’s big surprise!” I recalled. I took one last look at the two officers before I skipped out of the room.

Out on the black top, I saw my dad holding up a mirror with his sleek, mahogany wand. He dressed up for the occasion, and clearly he wanted to appear nice for the occasion. He had on a svelte suit, or at least it was considered sleek twenty-six years ago, and he neatly parted his bushy, umber hair. He just started to check out the spots on his large glasses when he spotted me out of the corner of his eye. He made the mirror vanish, stowed his wand away in his pocket, and smiled at me. “Hey there! Ready to go, Shannon?”

“Yeah!” I chirpred happily as I took my father’s hand. As we walked to the car, I announced, “Guess what, Daddy! When I grow up, I’m gonna become a police officer!”

I expected him to swell with pride or excitement to hear that, but instead, he grimaced. “What? Why would you wanna do that?”

“Because I wanna be a hero and save people from the Fay Folks!” I frowned as he helped me into the car. I didn’t understand how everyone didn’t want to do that job!

“Yeah, but you’re a bright young girl, and that job is so dangerous!” my dad remarked as he got into the car.

I shrugged that notion off. “A little danger can’t stop me! I’m gonna stop those evil doers from destroying the world!” My father simply sighed and let go of the subject. I could tell he regretted delving out so much information about the Fay Folks, but he didnt’ say anything else about my decision. Perhaps he thought I’d grow out of it, but a little hint for the rest of the book, I never did!

When we got to the house, I helped my dad open the car door so he could carry an armful of roses in one hand and a dozen balloons in the other. I skipped ahead of him so that I could get the front door, and I exclaimed, “I can’t wait to see the beach! Mommy is gonna love our surprise!”

My dad agreed, “She’s never seen it either, which is why I wanted to surprise her with it for our tenth anniversary! Let’s stay quiet though so we can keep it a surprise.”

“Okay!” I quietly complied. When we got onto the porch, I totally forgot about his request. I heard some strange noises coming from inside the house, and I wondered out loud, “What is Mommy watching? It sounds gross!”

“Shh!” my father shushed me. If he had tuned in to the noises I heard, it might have made this next moment way less uncomfortable! We had no idea what we were about to walk in on!

I burst open the door and yelled, “Surprise!” I expected to see my mother watching TV on the couch or maybe just listening to it as she did chores. My jaw fell to the floor to see her buck naked with a man’s head in between her legs! I didn’t get the birds and the bees talk yet, so I had no idea why this was happening, but I got the feeling that she had done something extremely inappropriate.

I could see my mom’s golden brown eyes fly wide open through her stringy blonde hair. She brushed her hair out of her face and uttered, “Shannon! What are you doing here?”

“What are you doing?” I retorted. I seriously had no clue what she was doing, but I somehow knew that it would haunt my dreams forever! I still hate thinking about it, and this novel is the last time I ever want to remember that image again! Unfortunately, it became a significant turning point in my life, so I had to mention it.

My dad walked in and dropped everything that he had in his hands. At first, he just stared at her in shock. My mom hastily grabbed a nearby blanket and fibbed, “Oh, hey Bram! Did you know that they do gynecological exams at home?” She grinned at him in the faint hope that he bought that.

“They don’t examine you with their mouths, Trudy!” he seethed. The other man had stayed in the position we caught him in, too scared to move, and my dad asked, “Who’s that?”

The man slowly turned around, and my father instantly recognized him. “Damon? You’re screwing my best friend on our anniversary?” he roared.

Damon, without thinking about what he was saying, corrected my dad, “We didn’t get a chance to screw yet!” When he realized what he said, he winced. “Oh, sorry! I mean…” My father’s fists clenched, and my mother quickly ushered me out of the room.

As we could hear fist fighting in the living room, my mom apologized, “Oh, sweetie! I’m so sorry you had to see that!”

“But you’re not sorry that you hurt Daddy?” I challenged her.

“Actually, I think he’s hurting Damon a lot more than…” She realized what I meant and put a sympathetic hand on my shoulder. “I didn’t mean for anyone’s feelings to get hurt!”

I pushed her hand off of me and shouted, “Don’t touch me! I never wanna speak to you again!” I grabbed the bag that was supposed to be for our happy family vacation and tried to head out the door. I saw that my mother’s stance by the door would have made it difficult for me to get out, and even if I had, my father was still fighting Damon in the living room, so I really had no way out. I sat down on the floor and faced away from her until it was all over.

The neighbors had called the police, and awkwardly enough, Officer Mazarine and Officer Delbin were the first ones on the scene! They definitely recognized me, but they had too much to do to mention it. They used their exquisite alder wands to pry Damon and my dad apart. Officer Mazarine escorted Damon off of the property and arrested my dad for battery. Officer Delbin ran a background check on my mom and saw that she had a warrant for forgery. After both of my parents were in squad cars, Officer Delbin saw me standing in the doorway crying. She gave me a hug and told me that she would take me somewhere safe for the night. I slept in the Child Protective Services facility, which would scare most children, but I felt grateful to not have to deal with my parents’ drama for a while! My father got me the next day, and when we got home, we packed up our stuff and left. I didn’t see my mother much after that, and truthfully, I had never really forgiven her for what she did. My family life changed that day, but my dream of joining the police force sure didn’t! The kindness that Officer Delbin showed me in that moment really cemented my desire to work in law enforcement. I maintained that idealized image of crime fighters until I joined the police academy…

Amouraq III: The Secret of the Dagger, Chapter 16

The force field disappeared, and Stephen noticed that the celestial woman who conjured it had fallen to the ground. Stephen didn’t have the chance to save her though since Xavier came barreling at him at full force! Xavier kept repeating the same curse he used on Emily, and Stephen just kept dodging his hexes while pleading to Emily, “Please, please wake up!”

After Stephen repeated this plea several times, Xavier lost his concentration and raved, “You’re at death’s door and all you can think about is your lover? You stupid cose, be a man and fight for your life!”

Stephen didn’t want to give away any clues to his actual plan, so he decided to keep Xavier distracted by vexing him. “What? You think I should live like you do? Full of hate and all alone? Some life!”

“I’m not alone!” Xavier scoffed. “Look around! Do you see all of the people on my side? After I win this battle and take my rightful place on the throne, I’ll only have more! I’ll be the most famous man in the world! I’ll never be alone!”

“You didn’t deny being full of hate!” Stephen pointed out. “It doesn’t matter how famous you may become- no one loves you!”

Xavier argued, “Are you kidding? I have hundreds of people who adore me!”

Stephen corrected him, “They try to please you because they’re afraid of you! If they really cared about you, you wouldn’t have to force them to help you! You’re a nasty person that no one could ever truly love!”

“So what?” Xavier spat. “I don’t need that sentimental crap! I don’t want it! I can focus a hundred percent of my energy on myself and give myself everything I need to run the world! We won’t need that mushy garbage in my glorious future!”

“Oh, what glory!” Stephen retorted. “No family, no friendship, no romance, your people will have no other purpose than to simply exist just to serve your ass! You think you’re so beloved? No one likes you now, but if you take away everything they love, they’re gonna hate you!”

Xavier ranted, “People who love are fools! Their heartstrings get manipulated into doing things that are against their better judgment! That wench on the ground there tricked Alexander into making Amouraq weak, and that little hussy laying there has your mind so messed up that you’re about to die just ’cause your feelings got hurt! That’ll never happen to me! My people will know how to survive!”

Stephen shot back, “Yeah, but they won’t know how to live!”

“Enough!” Xavier shouted. “You’re not gonna get me to change my mind! You’re about to see that love does nothing but get you killed!”

“You’re wrong!” Emily mustered all of her might to utter those words to him. Stephen’s entire body flooded with joy to see that she hadn’t lost her life, and Xavier seemed too stunned to stop her from standing up to confront him. “The only reason I’m here now is because someone’s love gave me a purpose to come back. Multiple people’s love, actually. They gave me strength when I didn’t have any! If I didn’t have love, I don’t think I could have made it. There wouldn’t have been much point in existing just for myself! Love saved my life!”

Xavier’s initial shock of her return started to wear off, and he seethed, “You’re all idiots! I hope all this love was worth sacrificing your blood!”

He raised his hands to jinx them, but before he could get the words of the spell out of his mouth, Stephen interrupted, “Hey Xavier, you’re about to find out just how powerful sacrificing your blood can be! Emily, catch!”

Stephen tossed Emily the ancient dagger that he found in the attic, and Xavier looked confused when she didn’t try to use it on him. Instead, she pointed the blade towards herself, and he watched in complete astonishment as she cut her left palm! She faced her wound towards the earth, and as soon as a drop of blood touched the dirt, a beam of warm light shot towards Stephen! That force formed a glass orb with billowy smoke inside it, and Xavier stared at it with a perplexed stupor on what it did. It soon became clear though as the bodies of Xavier’s followers all got sucked into the orb! Some of his most loyal subjects got taken in too, and Stephen smirked at Xavier as he said, “Goodbye, Xavier!” Xavier tried everything he could to avoid it, but the effects of the orb overpowered him. Stephen caught one last glimpse of Xavier’s cold, fearful eyes before he got completely engulfed inside the orb! As soon as he disappeared, Stephen threw the orb to the ground, making it shatter into several small pieces! The moment it broke, a wave of wind swept over the land, but it disappeared as quickly as it came! The sun seemed to shine brighter, the birds chirped more, and it took everyone a while to absorb all of the events that just occurred. The people left gave some tentative steps forward, and with nothing detrimental occurring as a result of their actions, they realized, all at once, that it was over!

The field roared with exuberant cries of joy! People clapped, cheered, cried tears of ecstasy, danced, and embraced each other in celebration. Stephen bolted to Emily and squeezed her tightly! Emily sobbed in happiness, and Stephen couldn’t help getting emotional himself! “We did it!” Stephen could hardly process this joyous news! Not only was Xavier unable to harm anyone ever again, but he and the love of his life both survived! He felt so lucky to feel her warmth as he held her close to him, especially since he almost lost her! They gazed into each other’s eyes as if they needed to verify that they had each other, and then Stephen got the overwhelming urge to kiss her passionately! Her touch made him feel lighter than air, and it simply amazed him that he lived to experience this moment!

Once the initial shock of victory wore off a bit, Stephen wondered if the rest of his team was okay or not. He looked around and saw the fox-like creature trying to help up the demigoddess, who hadn’t gotten up from the ground. Stephen and Emily rushed over to assist, and Stephen got relieved to see that she was still breathing! They each went onto one side of her, but her immense height made it too difficult for them to lift her by themselves, so a couple of people raced over to back them up. Once they got her standing again, Stephen’s heart leapt for joy to see that their aides had been Alastair and Allison! He wanted to rejoice for their good health, but he needed to make sure that the lady in front of them felt alright. Thankfully, she was smiling down on them! Alastair and Allison stared incredulously, and Allison questioned, “Is that… Is that the Nymph Queen of Good?”

“Yes, I am,” the Nymph Queen of Good replied graciously. Alastair and Allison hastily bowed down to her, and she gently responded, “There is no need for that! I owe you all a thank you for saving my land! I’m so proud of you all! Especially to you, Stephen, for figuring out the secret of Alexander’s dagger!”

“That was King Alexander’s?” Stephen ogled the dagger that Emily had in her hands. “Wow! Then you must have infused it with your magic so we could defeat Xavier!”

Emily asked her, “How did you know this would happen?”

The Nymph Queen of Good answered, “We didn’t know the specifics, but we knew that, one day, our descendants would face wickedness that would overwhelm themselves and everyone around them. It’s not the first time in history that it’s happened, and it won’t be the last! That’s how life goes. The Nymph Queen of Evil grew stronger with all of the darkness that Xavier brought, but now that you vanquished it, goodness will reign for many years, which will weaken my sister’s powers. Don’t worry, I’ll get my strength back! I can protect these sacred woods so that no one can use it maliciously again! Only kindhearted creatures of this planet and others will be permitted to enter the Hidden Forest!”

“The Nymph Queen of Evil helped Xavier find those aliens!” Alastair figured out.

“Is there anything we can do for you before go home?” Stephen posed to the Nymph Queen of Good.

The Nymph Queen of Good politely declined, “You’ve all done enough!” The fox-like creature playfully barked at Stephen’s feet, so she amended her statement, “Apparently my vulpecular disagrees!”

Stephen knelt down to pet it, and he commented to the creature, “You were so brave! Thank you for your help once again!” The vulpecular bore a happy grin as Emily, Allison, and Alastair all bent over to pet it. After it had enough, it skipped over to its owner. Stephen waved to them both. “Thank you!”

The Nymph Queen of Good waved back them and echoed back, “Thank you!” Everyone but the Nymph Queen of Good and the vulpecular turned towards the castle and merrily headed home.

As Stephen, Emily, Allison, Alastair, Marcus, Yvette, Oscar, Dagan, and Hugo headed into the attic, Allison reported, “Finnian is in stable condition, but the doctors say that he won’t be able to work again.”

“Well, it looks like you’re not the only one retiring after this, Alastair!” Stephen half joked, which made everyone chuckle.

“We’ll see!” Alastair expressed somewhat hesitantly. “If Xavier’s name isn’t off this list, I swear…!”

Dagan remarked, “Oh, it will be! I can feel it!”

Oscar suggested, “Let’s hurry and find out!”

Stephen opened the wooden doors that protected the document, and with a sense of mounting anticipation, everyone’s eyes found the bottom of the list. To their immense relief, Xavier’s name had vanished! They all exhaled in alleviation, and they reveled in this confirmation of the end of his reign of terror! Stephen still couldn’t believe that they would all get to back to their normal lives again! He had always hoped that this day would come, but it almost seemed like a dream to actually get to live in this reality!

“So, are you finally gonna take some time off?” Yvette queried.

“He has to! Emily won’t wanna honeymoon at the ICI headquarters!” Marcus jested. Everyone laughed, but Emily acknowledged the truth of his words.

Allison studied the list again and observed, “Xavier’s name is gone, but the length of the list is still the same. Why is that?” Allison started scrolling to the list to discover the reason for this.

Emily put her hand over the top of the list, and as everyone gave her a quizzical look, she explained, “When I told Xavier that multiple people’s love saved my life, I’m sure you all figured that I meant Stephen and my family and friends, and I did mean that, but there was someone else’s love that helped save my life, someone who I didn’t even know existed ’til right before the battle…”

Most of them seemed curious about who she meant, but Allison’s eyes lit up knowingly. Stephen’s insides churned. In his mind, the only way the list would have stayed the same length would have been if she found a new man to marry. The possibility of that devastated him, and if that was the case, he wanted to know right away to get the pain over with! “Who?”

Broadly beaming at him, Emily revealed, “Our baby!”

Everyone but Stephen reacted happily, but Stephen’s jaw dropped open! “We’re having a baby?” He had always been afraid to start a family of his own after his parents’ murder, but Emily changed everything for him. He couldn’t wait to do all kinds of wholesome things with her, but with Xavier’s constant threat of demise, he never thought he’d get the chance to experience a simply joy like that! Emily nodded in confirmation, and a surge of excitement cascaded throughout his body. “We’re having a baby!” He scooped Emily up and spun her around in exhiliration.

“Can I sell this story to Celebrity Tonight?” Dagan kidded. “Penny Melrose is gonna have kittens over this!”

“Especially since you would now get recognized as king,” Hugo brought up. “Once you’re formally married to the queen, and because you helped create the future heir, Emily has the right to give you the title of king!”

Stephen mused this revelation over. “King, huh? Wow! I guess the prophecy that Xavier always feared came to light after all! He said that King Alexander predicted that, one day, a cose will survive the Hidden Forest just like he did and that cose would become king! It’s funny, he basically made that prophecy come true!”

Hugo corrected him, “Actually, I think King Patrick did the moment he hired you to fight against Xavier.”

“Patrick would be a good name if we have a boy.” Emily grinned.

“Allison would be a good name if it’s a girl!” Allison winked.

They all pleasantly argued over baby names as they headed out of the attic. Stephen suddenly remembered something and doubled back into the attic. He put Alexander’s dagger back into the chest it came from, and as he headed out again, he knew that it would turn up for the next person who needed it!

The End

Amouraq III: The Secret of the Dagger, Chapter 15

Stephen’s heart pounded wildly as he followed Marcus onto the field. He anticipated this event for some time, but up until now, it didn’t feel real! He squeezed Emily’s hand to make sure that she didn’t let her fear overwhelm her, but truthfully, he did it more for himself! He had fought against small groups before, but he had never faced numbers like this! The outcome of this had much more significance than anything he had ever done before too! Bringing justice to families of violent crime victims fueled his passions, but his purpose here extended far beyond that! If Xavier and his militia succeeded that day, then, for sure, he would take over Amouraq! As if having that tyrant rule over this country wasn’t bad enough, but he knew that Xavier had global ambitions too! Stephen realized that if he died in this battle, the whole world would suffer! If they didn’t win, he knew there’d be no chance that Xavier would let him live, assuming that he survived the combat. He didn’t feel ready to go out at forty years old! He didn’t feel particularly young, but with the prospect of death looming over him, he suddenly felt as though he hadn’t had enough time on this planet! He had so many more people that needed help, and not enough people could do what he did to give them the assistance they needed. He caught a glimpse of Emily, and a pang really dug his heartstrings. He never thought he’d have the luck to find his soulmate, and now that he had, it seemed utterly tragic that he didn’t even get a chance to start a family with her! He didn’t want their story to end there, and the idea that it might tore him apart! He could sense that they were getting closer, so he inwardly prayed that something would come along at the last minute to make all of this unnecessary!

Everyone’s footfall froze at the sight across the field. In the distance, Stephen spotted Xavier! Xavier appeared frightened to have met them sooner than he expected, and he grew as still as a statue. Stephen remembered all of the swagger that Xavier presented previously, and although he had already figured that a lot of it had been fabricated to inflate the impressive image he wanted to convey, Stephen used to feel that some of his arrogance was merited due to his formidable skills. Staring at him now though, Stephen could really see him for the pathetic, sniveling coward that he truly was! His supporters all bore a similar expression, and Stephen didn’t find them so intimidating anymore. He spotted more than the three aliens that Slentersel described, but he didnt’ very them very daunting. He could already see them recoiling from all of the steel that his side donned, and he didn’t find them very threatening anymore. They had weaknesses just like any other opponent he faced, so beating them didn’t seem so impossible. Xavier did gather a lot of sorcerers and sorceresses, but he reminded himself that he had taken on people who could do magic before, and this lot didn’t seem to carry the same confidence that the others did. He spotted the lackeys that he recognized from his investigation, and his blood began to boil just thinking about all of the horrible crimes that they committed against so many innocent people! Xavier’s wicked deeds were especially revolting, and as he saw pure malice starting to form on his face, all of the doubts he just had vanished. Every fiber of his being awakened with rage, and he couldn’t wait to take on these evil dastards!

After glaring at Stephen and Emily’s side, Xavier suddenly broke the heavy silence by snapping at his crew, “What are you waiting for? Get them!” With a hideous shriek, Xavier’s followers all rushed towards them. The Amouraqian fighters all shouted in a courageous fury, and they ran towards their advancing adversaries. Xavier’s people stopped to perform spells, but the cose warriors charged closer to them, which threw them off completely. Stephen pulled out his gun and aimed it at one of Xavier’s men, who caught the bullet in his head and fell to the ground! The battle had officially begun!

Stephen used all of his senses to maintain a keen awareness of all that was occurring around him. He kept himself moving to avoid getting hexed, and each split second he could stand still, he took another shot. Things were going smoother than he imagined until he felt his steel vest start to lift. He kept it pinned down, and he momentarily gazed across the field only to see some of Xavier’s sorcerers and sorceresses trying to magic the steel off of them! To his dismay, he saw that their efforts were successful among many of his allies, which allowed the aliens to enter in parts of the battlegrounds! This distraction almost get Stephen hit! He was able to dodge most of it, but part of it clipped him a bit. His arm seared with pain, but he pressed on. The two sides appeared evenly matched, and Stephen zealously stove to get their advantage back!

“Where’s Xavier?” Alastair demanded to Simeon as he dodged a hex from him. “And don’t tell me you don’t know, you son of a bitch!”

“You should have retired when you had the chance, old man!” Simeon stated spitefully. “Exficio…”

Before Simeon could finish his spell, Alastair quickly chanted off a counter spell, “Abdevrio resmanpia!” The effects hit him before he had a chance to dodge them! He clutched at his throat, unable to breathe, and a few seconds later, he fell down and laid motionless! “He was right about retiring though!” Alastair said to himself before jumping back into the foray.

Marcus led some troops to a spot where several aliens had clustered, and as they battled it out, Marcus didn’t see Ecirava and Fesshil advancing towards him. Before they could strike him, Slentersel chanted a spell in an indistinct language, which made Ecirava and Fesshil both tumble down! Marcus turned to thank Slentersel, but instead his eyes widened and he cried out, “Look out!”

Slentersel ducked, but part of the spell still hit him. The pain from the hit caused him to buckle, and as he felt the extent of his injuries, Novem came and glowered over him. Slentersel pleaded, “Don’t do this!”

“You just killed your own colony members!” Novem coldly asserted.

“I had to protect innocent lives!” Slentersel croaked. “What you’re doing isn’t right!”

Novem argued, “I’m protecting the humans!”

Slentersel shot back, “You’re killing the humans! Xavier tricked you into this for his own personal gain! He’s-!”

Novem cut him off by chanting a spell. Marcus howled, “No!” and ran to him before he could hurt him, but he didn’t make it! Slentersel collapsed, and as Novem went to confirm whether or not he died, Marcus ripped off the steel best he had on and used his magic to shove it down Novem’s throat! Novem violently convulsed before taking his last breath! Satisfied with his demise, Marcus knelt down to check on Slentersel and felt relieved to see him breathing. “You’re okay! Thank god!”

“I’m not going to make it!” Slentersel weakly told him.

“Yes, you will! There’s still time!” Marcus desperately shook him to keep him awake. “What can I do to help?”

Slentersel breathlessly uttered, “Go help defeat Xavier!” He stopped moving after that! Marcus choked back some bitter tears, but he complied with his final request.

Blythe got surrounded by cose soldiers, and she laughed as she set fire to each and every one of them! More of them came towards her, but before she could conjure another curse, she heard a familiar voice chant, “Abdevrio resmanpia!” She ducked before it could hit her, and she could see Allison marching in her direction. She chanted her fire spell, but Allison evaded it. Allison tried to jinx her again, but Blythe had enough protection around her that it all bounced off. She let her grow tired, and then Allison tripped! Seizing the opportunity, Blythe chanted her fire spell one more time. Allison didn’t have time to evade it, but she didn’t have to. Finnian dove in front of her and took the spell! As his whole body got engulfed by flames, Allison wailed, “Finnian! No!” Blythe cackled as he fell by a couple of her other victims of arson, which created an even larger inferno! Incensed by this depraved act, Allison angrily chanted, “Venteurus traducho!” A powerful wind pulled Blythe towards Allison, and she tried to hold onto the earth beneath her to stop it. Her efforts had no effect on her magic, and she screamed as Allison magically threw her onto the flames! After a few seconds, the fire suddenly went out, and Allison knew that it was over. She bent over to check on Finnian, and to her surprise, she felt a pulse! She wondered how long it would last as she headed back into the fight.

Emily called out, “Xavier? Xavier? Come out, you piece of-!” She cut herself off as she saw Anad, Brent, and Lonan appear before her!

Before Emily could react to their presence, Judith stepped out in front of her and sneered, “Surprise Jail break! These guys look familiar?” Emily didn’t respond to her quip and instead tried to hex her, but Judith easily blocked it. “You’ll never get to Xavier! Not so long as I’m alive!”

All four of them tried to curse her, and Emily could evade them all, but barely. She saw that Stephen had gotten separated from her, and both sides seemed pretty evenly matched, so no one could assist her. She worried about her chances until a white, fox-like animal jumped out from the trees behind them and barked furiously to Judith. This distracted Judith enough for Emily to chant, “Magrascop desarage!” A giant boulder appeared from the sky and speedily fell on top of Judith! As Anad, Brent, and Lonan stared in shock, Emily pointed at the boulder and chanted, “Rupe!” The boulder exploded, and the three of them each got instantly killed as the pieces hit them!

Once that danger had passed, Emily resumed her hunt for Xavier. “Come on, you coward! You’re hiding as everyone else does the work for you? That’s typical, you’re pathetic! Why don’t you-?”

Stephen managed to fend off his attackers just in time for him to witness Xavier appear out of nowhere and chant, “Doleteum!” This caused Emily to fall to the ground!

“Noooo!” Stephen’s heart shattered! He ran to help her up and simply refused to believe she wouldn’t make it! He remembered surviving that spell, and although she didn’t move, he adamantly rejected the notion that she couldn’t overcome this!

“Dolet-!” Xavier raised his hand to strike Stephen when, all of a sudden, he got srrounded by a dome made out of blue electricity!

Stephen felt confused until he glanced up and saw a statuesque, ethereal woman in a pure white gown floating above him! With a gentle yet forceful, almost echoing tone, she informed Stephen, “My powers are weak, I can’t hold him much longer! You know what to do!”

Stephen aimed his gun and fired, but the bullet bounced off of Xavier. Stephen could see the force field starting to fade, and he began to panic. He truly didn’t know how to finish Xavier off as she claimed, and his mind raced on what solution he could possibly offer. At that moment, Stephen felt something could touch his leg, and it suddenly became clear to him! He knew exactly what to do to stop Xavier and save the kingdom, but he worried that it might be too late…

Amouraq III: The Secret of the Dagger, Chapter 14

“Not so tight!” Emily requested as a soldier used a spell to dress her in a steel vest. “I’ve got a bit of a sour stomach.”

“Yes, ma’am!” The soldier loosened it a bit, and after she did so, Stephen expected Emily’s muscles to relax more, but she appeared just as tense. “How’s that, your highness?”

Emily croaked out, “Fine! Thank you!”

As she stiffly walked over to Stephen, who already had his armored vest on, he questioned her, “Are you alright?”

“No, I’m not!” she blurted out. “I’m nauseous, my arms and legs are numb, my heart is beating a mile a minute… I just keep thinking about everything that could go wrong, and it’s scaring me to death!”

“Then stop thinking about it,” Stephen advised. “Whenever I prepared myself for a dangerous mission, I kept my cool by just putting my fears to the side and focusing on everything I needed to do.”

Emily thought about this piece of wisdom, and then she regarded him, “You’re right! I need to do that! When Xavier held you captive in his hideout, I didn’t really have time to feel afraid. All I could think about was what I needed to do to rescue you. If I’m gonna save my kingdom, then I need to think about how to prepare and not about all of the negative outcomes! Just the possibilities seem so real, and they’re daunting enough to overwhelm you!” She pulled at the collar of her shirt as if she were letting out some hot steam.

Stephen inquired, “Do you remember what I told you before I got captured in the Hidden Forest when you started to get nervous?”

“No matter what the chances are against you, you have to keep believing that you’ll succeed!” Emily recalled. “Even when you’re inches away from death, you can’t stop believing!” Emily let out a big exhale, and then she hugged him tightly. “You’re my rock! What would I do without you?”

“Go to Hawaii by yourself?” Stephen joked. Emily giggled, and it thrilled him to see her smile. Not only did it signify that her panic was starting to ebb, just knowing that he caused a bit of happiness in her elated him! He savored the warmth that he absorbed that her compressed body generated onto him, and he momentarily wondered if he would ever get to enjoy a touch like this from her again. He quickly veered his thought train away from that notion by commenting, “Man, a cocktail on the beach sounds real good after this!”

Emily concurred, “Mmm-hmm! We should book a couple’s massage too!”

Stephen agreed, “Yeah! Then after that, let’s never leave the honeymoon suite!”

“Sounds good to me!” Emily purred. She looked into his eyes longingly, and Stephen sorely wished that they were in their hotel room right then! He stroked her hair, and he mused how only she had the power to sway his thoughts from such an arduous task! Tears began to form in her eyes, and she stated sweetly, “I love you so much!”

“I love you too!” Stephen gave her a kiss, but then he had to pull himself away from her. If he lingered too long, he could tell he would let his emotions get the better of him. He held onto her hand though because, in this dark moment, he needed that sort of comfort!

Emily ruminated for an instance, and then she concluded, “We’ve been waiting for Xavier’s forces for a while now. We should make sure our fighters haven’t let their anxieties fill in the time!”

Stephen complimented her, “See, this is why you’re queen! You have great ideas!” Emily smiled, and she gave him a quick peck on the cheek before they ventured into the next tent.

After passing through a canvass-covered walkway, they came into a tent that contained nothing but Slentersel in it. Stephen approached him and jovially greeted, “How’s it going?” Slentersel jumped away in revulsion, which confused Stephen until he remembered, “Oh, right, we’re wearing steel.”

“You know, you don’t have to do this,” Emily pointed out.

“Yes I do!” Slentersel differed. “I’ve revealed as much relevant information about my species as possible, but there’s always a chance that I left out a detail that I didn’t realize could help. I wouldn’t feel right if I let you find out for yourselves! Besides, I could use my powers to help heal your soldiers. I can’t bring them back to life without help from more of my bretheren, but I’ll do everything I can to fix it!”

Emily asked him, “Do you understand the risks you’re taking by stepping onto the battlefield?”

Slentersel answered, “I recognize that I may never see my planet ever again. I may not live to see my family one more time, but at least I can find comfort in knowing that they’ll get to cherish the memory that, when given the choice, I did the right thing!”

“You’re a good man, Slentersel!” Stephen remarked to him. “Or a being or however you define yourself, you’re good!”

“Thank you! If we should see each other again, please remove the steel so that I may shake your hand!” Slentersel gave them a bow, and they bowed back before moving on to the next tent.

Stephen and Emily came to a large area full of various military members from all over the world, but before they could check on them, Allison swooped in and embraced them both! “In case I don’t get to see you guys again, I just wanted to say you’re like a brother and sister to me! You’ve taught me so much, and it’s been an honor serving you! There’s no one I’d rather follow into battle!” Emily’s face contorted in a way that conveyed a surprising disbelief, and Allison took notice of it. “Why are you surprised? You’re an amazing leader!”

Emily explained, “I’ve always felt like I’m doing a mediocre job! I mean, I didn’t have a lot of time to learn the job, and half the time, I feel like I’m just guessing at it! When I was a school teacher, I could measure my performance by seeing my students’ progress, and now my people are at war with each other, so…”

“This war was inevitable!” Allison asserted. “I’m glad you’re leading us through it because you truly care about us! You can tell how much you care because your face lights up when you talk about our country! You just walked in here glowing! Your passion makes you a great queen!”

“I keep telling her that!” Stephen chimed in. “I’ve met a lot of world leaders in the past, and I’ve never met anyone who…” He trailed off as Alastair and Finnian came up to them with somber expressions. “What’s up?”

Finnian reported, “We were just talking to some of the soldiers, and, well, morale seems a little low.”

Emily and Stephen urgently walked over to the soldiers, and Emily queried, “What’s going on?”

“We feel like animals going out to slaughter!” one soldier complained.

“Yeah!” another soldier added. “This is our first time dealing with magic or aliens, and it just seems so impossible for us to get a victory here!”

Many of the soldiers shared his sentiment and began yelling their opinions loudly. It annoyed Stephen enough to see trained fighters adopt such a callous attitude towards their mission, but when they didn’t respect Emily, the queen and supreme commander of the military, enough to let her speak, he had to say something! His voice boomed as he bellowed, “What’s wrong with you all? Most of you are experienced soldiers who didn’t know what your enemy was capable of, but you fought and won anyways! Is this the attitude you carried when you were on the battlefield? Of course not! You’d all be dead if you thought you were doomed to failure! I have no magical skills, but I still defeated a number of powerful creatures, so you can too! Quit focusing so much on your burden! Yes, it’s heavy, but so is your job! You have to keep your spirits up so you’re the ones we turn to protect everything we hold dear! Your family, your friends, your country, your city, your home, your grocery store, your library, your trash can, your mailbox, every little thingis at stake! If you want your life to ever go back to normal, think about the actions you take today! The future of humanity depends on you! We know we can count on you to do the right thing, that’s why you got sent to us! You’re the finest group the world has to offer and nothing- not Xavier, not his aliens, no one will stand in our way! So let’s go out there and fight with every last breath that you have!”

The entire room got jacked up from his speech, and they loudly hooted and hollered in a fervor after he finished. AS they reveled in this voracity, Emily whispered to Stephen, “You’re gonna make a great king!”

Stephen had almost forgotten about that concept. Nothing would stop him from marrying Emily, but it felt strange to consider the fact that his social standing would get elevated! It humbled him to know that Emily trusted him to help take care of her kingdom, and he sheepishly responded, “Well, technically, I’d be a kingly consort!”

Emily seemed to politely disagree, and she started to tell him, “Well, actually, you…”

All of a sudden, Marcus burst into the room, and he announced, “Xavier is here!” Everyone grew quiet for the exact same reason- the battle had begun!

Amouraq III: The Secret of the Dagger, Chapter 13

“She’s gone!” Xavier shrieked.

Everyone froze when they heard that level of venom in his voice, and after a long pause, Simeon timidly asked, “Are you… Are you sure?”

“What do you mean, am I sure?” Xavier answered vehemently. “Do you see anyone around? Your mistake of letting lose all that time just cost us dearly! That stupid cose obviously got to her before we did!”

Blythe inquired, “But, how would that be possible? This lady isn’t even in the top ten! Or twenty! How could they have possibly rescued all the people ahead of her in such a short amount of time?”

“Perhaps she simply stepped out to get supplies of sort,” Ecirava suggested. “We may have been slightly unlucky in our timing.”

Xavier considered this notion for a moment, and his expression softened a bit. “Maybe. She might have stepped out of the house for some reason… Blythe, gather a few people and wait here while we go get her kids and grandkids. If you get her, come find us right away. If you run into anyone from the ICI, take them down immediately!”

“Even that cose?” Blythe questioned.

With a very wry smile, Xavier replied, “No, just knock him out. I’ll deal with him myself!” Blythe cackled slightly before she grabbed a few people to stay behind. They watched as Xavier went outside to link arms with everyone else, chanted a spell, and disappeared.

Yvette weaved her way through a crowded hallway with an armful of towels, and when she found herself in front of Emily and Stephen, she took advantage of how much space people gave them and set her burden down. She exhaled in relief, and then she told them, “Whew! There’s hardly enough space to do any cleaning spells around here!”

“That’s a good problem to have!” Stephen responded. “Our operation was a success! We got all of the heirs here alive! I can’t believe how smoothly that went!”

“I guess Xavier really thought he could outsmart us!” Emily remarked. “He was arrogant enough to slack off a bit! I wish I could see his face the moment he realizes that he screwed up!”

Yvette chuckled, and then she wondered, “So, what are you two doing just standing here by yourself? I mean, obviously, you’re allowed to, it just seemed a little strange for you two!”

Emily explained, “We’re here for two reasons. One, it’s sort of amazing to see nearly all of Alexander’s descendants under one roof! And two, we-.”

“Excuse me, Emily, dear!” Amelia went up to them and politely brought up, “There’s a lady that is under the impression that she’s sleeping in my room while she’s here. She seems to speak English well, but I thought that maybe something got lost in translation…”

“Actually, I’m the one who instructed her to go in there!” Stephen informed her. “I’m fluent in French, so she got the message right. Emily and I actually came here to tell you that you’ll be sleeping in our room.”

Amelia looked puzzled to hear this. “Your room? I mean, I guess it’s big enough to squeeze in another bed in there, but that won’t leave you with a lot of privacy!”

Emily let her know, “Grandma, we’re not sleeping in our room. We won’t have time to sleep.”

“I understand you’ll have a lot to do tonight with a number of foreign soldiers coming in, but is that really going to take all night?” Amelia had a look on her face as if she actually knew the answer to her question but dearly hoped that the inkling she had would prove itself incorrect.

“It won’t take us that long to get everyone situated, but after we do that, we…” Emily trailed off as the guilt she felt began to surface and became evident to Amelia.

Amelia queried hopefully, “You’ll have to stay up all night monitoring everyone?”

Emily couldn’t bear to say the truth to her, so Stephen gave it a try, “Well, it’s only a matter of time before Xavier figures out what we did, and then we’ll have to…”

“You’ll have to deal with him, I know! What a thing to have to deal with right before the country goes to war with Alexander’s Dreamers!” Amelia gazed at them with an earnest sparkle in her eye, clearly beseeching this to be the case.

“Grandma, Alexander’s Dreamers aren’t the worst of our problems!” Emily sadly relayed to her. “This country has a history of righteous indignation when it comes to standing up for the oppressed. Xavier played with that emotion to manipulate the public onto his side. He’s building a militia to take over Amouraq!”

Comprehension slowly began to dawn on Amelia. “Oh, the civil war is with his army! Wow, that’s insane that he brought it to this level! So, what, are you guys going to hide in an underground bunker or something?”

Emily expounded, “No, Grandma. No matter where I go, he’ll come looking for me. I’d spend my whole life running, and I’d put whoever’s near me in harm’s way. I have to confront him!”

“You mean… You’re going to fight in this war?” Amelia gasped. Emily nodded, and then Amelia objected, “No! You can’t do that! You’re queen! Your country needs you!”

“That’s exactly why I have to be there!” Emily countered. “What kind of queen would I be if I didn’t stand by my people at such a critical juncture?”

Amelia protested, “But you could get killed out there!”

Emily rejoindered, “I could get killed in here! If I stay, then I put everyone in danger! I need to keep the heirs protected so Xavier can’t get his hands on the throne! Besides, the first time Xavier went after me, I decided that I didn’t wanna die cowering in hiding somewhere. If I have to die, then I’d rather die with honor on the battlefield!”

“But you can’t die!” Ameila began to sob. “What will I do if you get killed?”

“I’m sure the next heir would let you stay in the castle,” Emily reasoned. “Or you can always go back to the United States. I know you sold your home in Hartwood, but Aunt Liona has room at her place! Or Uncle-.”

Amelia interrupted, “No, what I mean is how can I lose you? You’re all I have left of my Sylvie! I had to bury a husband and a daughter, I shouldn’t have to bury three generations of my family!”

Stephen jumped in, “You’re not gonna bury her! I’ll make sure of that!”

“You’re going too?” Amelia cried. “No! How could you? You’re family too! You were gonna get married, and-!”

“We’re still getting married!” Stephen refuted. “We’ve faced Xavier before, and we’re still standing, aren’t we? It’s not gonna be easy with more people on his side now, but we’ve overcome the odds before, and we can do it again! We gotta go! We don’t have much of a choice! Emily would never live with herself if she let her citizens fend for themselves, and most of my team volunteered for this battle, so I can’t let them do this alone! Xavier wants our blood, and I’m not willing to put innocent lives at risk just for my personal safety! Neither is Emily! It’s hard for us to do this, but it’s the right thing to do! Our two lives aren’t worth sacrificing thousands of others! Not that we’ll have to sacrifice anything, we’ll be back!”

Amelia sniffled a little, but she appeared to have finally accepted their decision. “You’re right! I was just being selfish! It’s just that… I’m going to miss you two so much!”

With tears in her eyes, Emily flung her arms around Amelia. “Thank you so much for taking care of me all these years! I never would have made it this far without you! I love you so much!”

“I love you too!” Amelia softly wailed. “Thank you for saying goodbye before you go!”

“This isn’t goodbye!” Stephen hugged her too. “We’ll return before you know it!”

Amelia squeezed him tightly as she said, “You better!”

Yvette, who had watched the scene unfold before her, wiped her cheeks and gave them a quick embrace as well. “We’ll watch over the castle for you ’til you get back!”

Unable to take these heavy emotions anymore, Stephen put on a brave face as he expressed, “See you soon!”

“See you soon!” Yvette and Amelia both echoed back to him. Stephen found Emily’s hand, and they both had to peel themselves away before they lost their nerve. Stephen couldn’t bear to look back at them, but he felt both of their gazes linger on them as they dashed out of the castle. Stephen’s mind was resolute on what he needed to do, but it pained him to wonder if he’d ever see them again!

“They’re all gone!” Xavier roared. He punched the stucco walls of the empty house he stood in, and his followers grimaced as the impact of that gesture made the entire building quake.

After to him, “Xavier had a moment to cool down, Blythe posed to him, “Where could they all have gone?”

Xavier glanced up, and he seethed, “Where do you think?” He mulled it over for an instance, and then he concluded, “If that conniving little witch wants to do this the hard way, then she’s got it! Gentlemen… and ladies… prepare for battle!”

Amouraq III: The Secret of the Dagger, Chapter 12

“Anything you want! President Truett, at your service!” President Truett told Emily graciously. The other seven people on the other screens agreed with his sentiments.

“Okay! I…” Emily took a deep breath before she continued, “Well, I’m sure you all remember earlier in the year when the heirs to Amouraq’s throne kept getting murdered, and I’m sure you’re all aware of the brutal attack in Prime Minister Vieno’s country yesterday.” Everyone nodded to confirm their familiarity of the subject. “Agent Knight and his team have concluded that the people behind the chaos in Amouraq right now were the ones responsible for the deaths in Asvakavitt, and they don’t believe that the group will stop there. After interviewing the witnesses and thoroughly examining the crime scene in Greenland, the ICI learned that the purpose of the invasion of that police station was to seize the heirs were in protective custody there. These radicals think that Xavier Ryder is still alive, and they want to do more than just overthrow our government, they’re after the heirs that come before Xavier because they want him to take power.”

One of the world leaders asked her, “So, you want us to protect the heirs that live in our countries?”

Emily answered her, “Yes, President Frederic, but there’s more to it that that. We would like to move all of the heirs into my castle. Just temporarily though! When this insurgence is over, they can return, of course. You all know how advanced our defenses are. There’s nowhere safer on this planet than right here, and it’s vital that we keep them safe!”

“No doubt that your weapons and intelligence blows ours out of the water, but wouldn’t it be reckless to move everyone to one spot?” another world leader questioned. “If these insurgents get past your defenses, than they can annihilate them all at once!” Some of the other world leaders shared that concern.

“I considered this, Prime Minister Candon,” Emily replied, “but this castle is virtually impenetrable as it is, and it’ll be even more protected when our troops surround the place. No harm will come to them!”

Another world leader brought up, “Weren’t you kidnapped from the castle a few months ago?”

Emily flushed a little at that reference, but she quickly recovered. “King Mateo is right, I did get taken from the castle, but not by an ordinary Amouraqian’s hands! An employee who worked for the castle for over thirty years turned to the enemy’s side and helped them do it. Since then, we put our employees through rigorous security measures, and now there really isn’t a way for any adversaries to enter the premises unless he or she were to take the crown. That’s why we need to give all of the heirs the best protection possible! That’s why I’m asking you to do this.”

Most of the world leaders seemed skeptical, but President Truett defended the idea, “During that time when Xavier was killing all of those heirs, don’t you think he would have killed off King Patrick if he could have? The man was dying, he was physically weak, he would have been a very vulnerable victim, and yet Xavier couldn’t get close to him! I’m sure they’ve got amazing protection there! And I’ve known Agent Knight for years, I’d trust my own life with him, so if he says it’s the best course of action, then, by golly, I think we should do it!”

The other world leaders’ expressions softened by President Truett’s words. One of the world leaders who hadn’t spoken up yet very measuredly inquired, “It’s very noble for you to take on the burden of protecting everyone, but that would focus the attackers solely on you. Shouldn’t we all share this responsibility?”

“Normally, I would say yes, Prime Minister Shirliat, but not with this enemy!” Emily responded to her. “Not only are they Amouraqian, but they’re greedy, selfish, spiteful, and relentless enough to murder anyone who dares to stand in their way! We’ve already lost enough innocent lives on foreign soil, don’t let our battle become yours!”

“We’ll send the heirs we have in Canada right away!” the Canadian prime minister promised. The others followed suit.

Emily reacted with hesitation, “Thank you, Prime Minister Gupta, but that brings me to the most unusual part of my request. We need to get the heirs to the castle as quickly as possible, and Amouraq has the technology to do that faster than you can imagine, but it can’t be traced. Nothing that you use to detect activity on the ground, in the air, or by sea will be able to track us. I’d like for Agent Knight’s team to be able to retrieve the heirs anonymously so we can use this technology, and then we’ll inform you when they arrive safely in Ovelstrofe.”

Another world leader objected, “You want your agents to take our citizens without any monitoring? You’re asking us to let you just operate freely in our countries?” Some of the other world leaders shared his concern.

“I know it’s a lot to ask, Prime Minister Callahan,” Emily tried to assure him, “but this transportation… We just…”

“It’s like she said, this transportation has stealth settings that are undetectable by any of your technology,” Stephen jumped in. “By the time we register it into your system, the insurgents could come and go from your country! Plus, they’re capable of hacking into your databases, so there’s a high chance that anything you see they will too. My team isn’t planning on perusing around random parts of your countries doing who knows what, you know where the heirs are, and you’ll know when we’ll be there because we plan to enact this mission as soon as you give us permission. We’ll be in and out faster than you think! We’ll save you guys from using your own resources to do this, and we’ll keep the citizens of your country safe. So, everyone benefits from this!”

The world leaders appeared to have gotten swayed by his reasoning, and Prime Minister Vieno stated vehemently, “I do not want these insurgents in my country ever again! If you can retrieve the remaining heirs quickly enough to remove the threat, then you have my permission to do so!”

President Truett chimed in, “Of course you have my permission! Do what you gotta do!” Prime Minister Shirliat, President Frederic, Prime Minister Candon, King Mateo, Prime Minister Gupta, and Prime Minister Callahan all consented to the operation as well.

After everyone agreed to this plan, Stephen spoke into his cellphone, “All systems are a go!” To the untrained eye, it simply appeared as though he were talking into a walkie-talkie app, but Stephen’s team had put a spell on it so his voice would branch out to everyone at once. He knew that the moment they heard the signal that they would teleport to their assigned heirs, and he needed to swiftly get to the ICI headquarters to monitor everyone in case Xavier met up with them in the process, but before he left, he felt compelled to lean in and whisper to Emily, “I’m sorry I spoke for you, it just seemed like you…”

“I did, and it’s fine!” She gave him a kiss before telling him, “Keep me posted!”

“Of course!” Stephen obliged before he dashed out of the room. He could hear Emily telling the world leaders not to mention this mission to their other allies before they joined them, and Stephen figured that with these eight on board that recruiting them to assist with Amouraq’s impending battle should be a cinch. With that worry out of the way, Stephen returned his focus to the operation and inwardly prayed that all of the agents could get to the heirs before Xavier did!

Xavier woke up with a start, and for a moment, he forgot that he had traveled anywhere! To reorient himself, he visually scanned the area. He saw cushy, antique seats, refined bookshelves, and gray, stoned walls, and for an instant, he believed that he had already won his quest of becoming king! He felt relieved to think he didn’t have to do anymore work, and just when he began to muse about what kingly tasks he would tackle first, he noticed all of the dust and cobwebs sprinkled everywhere. He took a closer look at the books near him, and when he saw that they were all in French, his high spirits deflated quickly. He remembered exactly where he was and what he had to do, and he let the irritation of this disappointment add fuel to the bane he needed to execute this scheme!

Xavier found his crew cozily sleeping in the chambers, and he bellowed, “Why didn’t anyone think to wake me?”

Everyone scrambled to their feet, and Blythe hastily groveled, “I’m so sorry, your majesty! We deemed it best not to disturb you…”

“Eight hours!” Xavier shouted. “We lost EIGHT HOURS! WE could have eliminated several of our enemies in that span of time! And what did you do? Enjoyed the French countryside?”

Fesshil timidly spoke up, “I thought humans required several hours of sleep in order to function properly!”

“Shut up!” Xavier snapped. “You can all sleep when I’m king! Now, we got a lot of lost time to make up for! Come on, let’s go!” Everyone rushed to catch up to him as he headed out of their hideout.

When Xavier and his followers appeared before a quaint, rustic cottage, everyone but Xavier prepared themselves to go inside. Xavier held out his hands to stop them. “Something’s wrong!” He peered at the house as if he could see through the walls, trying to use his intuitive insights to get a grasp of why something felt off to him, but he couldn’t figure out what his instincts were trying to tell him exactly. He shook his head and ordered his crew, “Let’s find out what happened!”

They all entered into the house cautiously, but they couldn’t spot anything suspicious. Xavier opened a bedroom door, and what he saw made his eyes grow wide…

Amouraq III: The Secret of the Dagger, Chapter 11

“What happened?” Emily walked up to Stephen full of worry.

“There was an attack,” Stephen reported, and the parliament members stirred in distress. The dark nature of the news made it hard for Stephen to voice it out loud, but he knew he had no choice. Everyone in the room needed to know what occurred, especially Emily. As queen, she’d have to take action immediately. Besides, his team was already there investigating it, so he felt duty-bound to hurry up and join them. He bit the bullet and elaborated on the information he just gave, “It happened in Asvakavitt. The home that the Sirvard twins reside in got ransacked, but they were able to teleport into a police station. They gave them protection, and I think Torunn and Elska figured that with so many witnesses present that Xavier and his team would leave them alone. They didn’t. The invaded the police station and killed over a dozen officers looking for the Sirvard twins! The only reason they stopped is that they realized Torunn and Elska had vanished.”

Everyone took a moment to absorb the fact that several people just got killed, and once the hurt from their empathy ebbed a bit, the rest of the facts of the situation began to sink in. Hugo commented, “Well, it appears we have no choice but to seek cooperation with the cose countries. Magically skilled or not, they’re involved now!” Most of the parliament members did not relish this point, but they had no choice but to bitterly accept it.

Emily urgently probed, “Do you know where Torunn and Elska went? Are they safe?”

“They are safe!” Stephen assured her. “They teleported to Amouraq, and they ended up manifesting in the Ovelstrofe airport. They actually ended up in front of some coses, and security had to do some memory spells to fix the panic. When they realized who they were and why they were there, they made sure to get them to safety immediately!”

“So, Xavier isn’t in Greenland anymore?” a parliament member asked.

Stephen answered, “It doesn’t appear so. My team is there investigating the incident, but so far, it doesn’t seem like they left any evidence to give us any clues where they might be heading. I’m going to go assist with the case now, I just thought you guys should know this first!”

Emily regarded him, “Keep me informed the minute you find anything! And remember to-!”

“Be careful,” Stephen finished her sentence for her. “I know!” He gave her a kiss and headed towards the door.

“Bring some steel to protect yourself from my brethren!” Slentersel advised. Stephen nodded in agreement of this idea, and then he swiftly headed out.

When Stephen and Alastair teleported near the crime scene, Stephen got thrown off a bit to see a large fence with a canvass surrounding the police station. Stephen inquired, “Did the Greenlandic authorities do this for the victims’ privacy?”

Alastair replied, “Actually, we probably did it for ours.” Stephen looked at him with slight confusion, so Alastair added, “You’ll see in a moment.” He gestured towards the bystanders watching the scene close by, and Stephen figured it must have something to do with magic, so he didn’t press the subject any further. As they entered the vicinity, people began throwing questions at them, but if Stephen could speak their language, he still wouldn’t have a lot of answers for them. They passed by a couple of their fellow ICI agents, who briefly caught a glimpse of them before they returned their attention back to the gathered crowd. Stephen knew that they must be keeping an eye out for Xavier or any of his followers. He wondered if they were walking into a trap, and he sincerely hoped that they didn’t sacrifice innocent lives just to bait them! He inwardly prayed that they wouldn’t attack them now so they could comb through this place properly, but then he figured that he if he did show up now, maybe they could put an end to this ordeal once and for all! As they entered the crime scene area, Stephen fervently desired to find the key to putting a stop to this conflict!

To Stephen’s surprise, he saw a number of ICI agents doing spellwork on people who seemed to be in good health! It stunned him at first, but then he realized, “Oh! They’re doing memory spells!”

“Yes, they are,” Alastair confirmed. “As you know, if unauthorized coses accidentally witness magic, we can perform these spells in private. If they’re doing it out in the open, then an extraordinary amount of coses must have seen Xavier and his followers hex people!”

“They did!” Allison exclaimed. “We haven’t been able to sift through a lot of the crime scene because we had a lot of traumatized police officers to deal with! Apparently, Xavier and his team began firing off spells like they belonged there! It’s insane!”

Stephen reasoned, “He’s asserting his dominance. He’s done following our rules, he’s gonna act however he pleases! He wants the world to know of the existence of magic, so he doesn’t have an issue exposing coses to it. Plus, he’s probably tickled pink over how much work he’s making us do! Come on, let’s go find something to catch that son of a bitch!”

As they walked through the facility, Stephen felt relieved that the bodies of the fallen officers had gotten moved. It always pained him to see people who dedicated themselves to serving their community die just trying to protect people! He didn’t get completely spared from from enduring this grief though because he could tell where all of them were positioned when they got killed. Aside from the furniture and fixtures of the station strewed across the building, Stephen also noted the many scorch marks on the ground, which he figured came from Xavier and his followers. He also saw scorch marks that were red, lime green, and purple, and he didn’t know if sorcerers and sorceresses could make that sort of imprint or not. He supposed it didn’t matter much at this point, the tragic events that took place there came from the same group of enemies! Alastair remarked, “As if we needed further evidence that Xavier was here!”

“They made a mistake somewhere!” Stephen asserted. “With this many people that have cocky attitudes and surging adrenaline, there’s no way they were completely careful! There’s evidence around here somewhere! Keep going! We’re bound to find it soon!” Alastair and Allison seemed less confident about their odds than Stephen did, but they continued searching nonetheless.

They came across a holding cell that had clearly been violently forced open, and they surmised that the Sirvard twins had hid in there. Stephen glanced down the hallway, and this section of the police station appeared neat and still in tact, so Stephen concluded, “The Sirvard twins were definitely here! Xavier and his cronies stopped pillaging the place because they knew that Torunn and Elska weren’t there anymore.”

“Xavier must have heard their location when they did the teleportation spell,” Alastair guessed. “I don’t think he would have risked such a showy invasion if he didn’t feel absolutely sure that they were here. If he heard it second hand, he probably would have exercised more caution. He’s probably extra paranoid about sabotage after Slentersel escaped.”

“He must have watched them leave too,” Allison put in. “Otherwise he would have continued searching the area.”

The three of them entered the holding cell and examined it thoroughly, but after carefully combing the room, they didn’t find a thing! Stephen sighed, “Well, we know they didn’t follow the Sirvard twins to the airport. They must’ve teleported out of here though because none of the surviving officers saw them leave. So, where on Earth did they go to from here?”

Allison queried, “Do you think they hid outside of Earth? Maybe the aliens let Xavier and his followers hide on their planet.”

“I doubt it’s so easy to travel back and forth between the two different worlds,” Alastair responded. “We should talk to Slentersel about this though. Our top scientists have yet to find life outside of Earth, and yet Xavier was able to not only find them but he brought them here! How did he do this? Is their colony close enough to travel to and from quickly? He only mentioned a few of this peers’ presence here, but are more coming to help Xavier’s mission?”

“Before we figure that out, we need to figure out what his mission is,” Stephen pointed out. “He went after Torunn and Elska again. He did that before when he wanted to push himself to the top of the list of heirs to the throne, but why would he…?” Suddenly, it became obvious to him. “He’s trying to legitimize himself as the rightful king! If he were to simply murder Emily, someone else could claim the right to the crown!”

Allison concurred with his theory, “That makes sense. The castle probably has extra protection for the person at the top of the list. We’ll have to double our efforts in their protection. But… He’s the most wanted person in Amouraq, would he really try to hide there with everyone looking for him? I’m sure Alexander’s Dreamers would protect him, but I thought most of them went with Xavier for this attack…”

Stephen mulled this matter over for a moment. “Hmm… This is the same dilemma we’ve had before with this case- Does he go for the heir that’s next on the list but has extra protection, or would he find an easier target somewhere else?” Allison and Alastair didn’t have any instant answers, so the three of them contemplated the matter for a while.

In a communication room, Emily and Stephen stood in front of eight different blank screens. The first person to show up was a man with a youthful face and gray hair. “Queen Emily! Agent Knight! How’s it going?” His broad grin morphed into a pronounced frown when he remembered the subject of this video conference. “Oh right, it’s bad! That’s why we’re here. Something tells me that we’re not here to discuss your wedding plans!”

Emily reacted sadly, “I wish!” Once all eight world leaders appeared, Emily addressed them, “Thank you for meeting us on such short notice! I’m sure you all know about the civil unrest in my country, but before we discuss that, I have an unusual request…”