Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 27

Gwynivara held up her arm and stunned everyone as she willed the orb to push past the pile of clothes and fly into her palm. Rafeneita’s jaw dropped and she gasped, “Where did you get that?”

“It came from Emorick.” Gwynivara gazed into it as clouds swirled around inside and began to form shapes. “Where he got it, I don’t know, but he does have a message for you…”

The clouds inside the orb the orb shaped into an ethereal form of Emorick, who’s voice echoed out, “Give her hell!”

Gwynivara taunted Rafeneita, “I can’t disobey a direct order!”

Rafeneita genuinely seemed frightened. The Rebel officers, especially Gwynivara, were all amped and ready for whatever she had in store for them. Rafeneita backed away slowly, giving them a very cold glare. When she reached the edge of the mountain top, it almost looked as thought she would jump off. Instead, she leered, “Have it your way then!” She sprang up as if she were about to do a back-flip off of the cliff, but what actually happened- she disappeared into a mystical portal! In the same instant, a dozen men in the same white clothes as the Rebels appeared all around them, brandishing swords. And with that, the battle began.

Kierram magicked the daggers out of their belts and enlarged them to become swords. Gwynivara had the utmost confidence that the Rebels would prevail in a sword fight, but she figured that this was just the first wave, that the attacks would prove more and more difficult as time went on. For this reason, she kept a weary eye out for signs of other danger as she fought. All of the training they went through made them motions of the battle simple, but actually striking down someone was a new experience. They didn’t have time to think about it though, right then, their entire focus aimed at survival.

After defeating the last swordsman, Gwynivara noticed how quiet the grounds became. She looked around and saw that the rest of the Rebel officers were also studying the area to check for survivors. None of her people appeared to have died or got seriously injured save for a few cuts and bruises! They could hardly move though because the mountain top floor was now littered with bodies! Gwynivara felt awful for taking a person’s life, so to see how many lives were now over was deeply unsettling. She had no idea that so many people worked for Rafeneita, an she briefly wondered what their perspective had been going into the battle. She reminded herself that none of them had a choice, and the important thing was that the Rebels survived.

No one moved or spoke for quite a while. Everyone had the same instinct, that this first wave got overcome way too easily, and their eyes darted back and forth looking for what was next. Max whispered, “I’m gonna call for back up.”

“Max, don’t!” Bernadette, who was closest to him, hissed.

Max didn’t listen and tiptoed through the bodies. The rest of them, still on high alert, silently prayed that he wouldn’t stumble across an ambush. He crept towards the pile of clothes, and all of their nerves were palpable. He found a radio pretty quickly, held down the call button, and whispered, “We need back up on the-!”

It happened too fast. Without warning, a beast twice as tall as them sprung up from the side of the mountain and clenched its jaws around Max’s torso! They involuntarily screamed as they watched the monster snap him in half! His instant death was shocking enough, but they didn’t have time to react to it. They soon found that creatures of great magnitude approached them from all different directions! As terrifying as their presence was, the Rebel officers had fought monsters before, and they were always ready to fight them. Today had been no exception. The Rebel officers got attacked from all different directions, so it took all of their concentration and skills. Gwynivara didn’t have time to keep an eye out for the other Rebels, but as soon as the mountain grew quiet again, it was the first thing she did. She spotted Bernadette, Kierram, and a few other Rebels, but to her dismay, a few more officers had been killed.

They didn’t have a moment to mourn for their losses. One second, they were completely surrounded by bodies of people and giant creatures, and the next thing they knew it all disappeared. Knowing that this could mean nothing good, the remaining Rebel officers stood in a back to back circle, waiting. Suddenly, Abigor and his cronies appeared from a small rip in the air near the ground. They strutted out in a very cocky manner in an attempt to appear condescending, but the Rebel officers wouldn’t let themselves get intimidated. Abigor leered, “You should’ve joined us when you had the chance! Look how many of your men have died just for you to make a point! What a waste!”

“I guess I should’ve been more like you and let dozens of my people die without blinking an eye!” Gwynivara retorted.

Abigor and his followers circled them like a vulture circling it’s prey. “It’s not too late. We’ll give you one last chance to change your mind.”

“Never!” Gwynivara, Bernadette, and Kierram replied in unison.

“Then so be it!” Faster than they could blink, Abigor conjured a ball of dark energy and hurled it towards them! Kierram reacted quickest and created a sheer barrier that deflected his spell from them all. Abigor and his team made multiple attempts, but Gwynivara and Kierram kept blocking them. Bernadette and a couple of others who were in the Rebellion long enough to know the theory of how to use their Venenatus Sanguis as an enchantment did their best to help Kierram and Gwynivara out, but they were definitely outnumbered in terms of people who possessed the ability. Their minds raced to think of a solution, but their heads were blank. No one was sure what they would do.

All of a sudden, Abigor stopped. His attention got drawn to a noise he heard in the base of the mountain. Abigor’s henchmen took this as a cue to cease as he investigated. A very loud hum reached the Rebels’ ears. It grew louder, indicating its fast approach. As rapidly as the noise came, it let up. Abigor and his men peered over the side of the peak, but they saw nothing. They turned their attention back to the Rebels, ready to strike again when suddenly, one of the henchmen got shot in the head! At that moment, dozens of motorcycle cops flooded the area, shooting at the henchmen! The Rebels all figured that their foes had the skillset to destroy the police in ways that they couldn’t even imagine, but Abigor and the others were still humans who would succumb to bullets just as anyone would. Considering this as well as the vast number of law enforcements present, they were properly distracted, which leveled the playing field for the Rebels, and the battle resumed.

Kierram sought out Abigor and found him firing off enchantments left and right. He threw one at him, which he easily deflected. Kierram made a couple more, and Abigor swatted them away as easily as if they were a bothersome fly. After a few rounds of this, he fired back. Kierram’s counter hit Abigor’s dark force, and for several moments, the two specters collided. Abigor and Kierram used all of their might to keep this force away from themselves, and they did all that they could to push it onto the other person. Kierram secretly didn’t know how much longer he could last, but suddenly, Abigor got a look on his face that conveyed blatant fear and pain. Kierram used this split second distraction to push back the spell onto Abigor. He fell face down onto the ground, revealing a knife in his back and Bernadette standing behind him. The gave each other looks of approval and headed back into the battlefield.

Gwynivara marched purposefully through the midst of it all, searching everywhere. She finally had enough and shouted, “Come out and fight, Rafeneita, you coward! Show yourself, you lousy bitch! You act so high and mighty, but you won’t show off your powers at all! You’re gonna let us kill each other off, just like always, huh? It’s ‘cause you’re weak! Your people don’t deserve-!”

Rafeneita manifested herself at that moment. “Don’t you dare insult my people! Weak, am I? You wanna see my powers? Well, you got it!”

Rafeneita hurled an energetic force towards Gwynivara, who not only evaded it but sent one back. The sheer strength of their craft halted the battle on both sides as they mesmerizedly fixed their gazes on the two of them giving it all they had. Gwynivara came in with great energy, but if began to wane as time went on. She did her best not to show it to her, but eventually, Rafeneita figured it out. Gwynivara started dodging her instead of fighting back, and Rafeneita delighted in the turmoil she was causing. Gwynivara felt her muscles weaking more and more. In a horrifying moment, she almost fainted, and that momentary distraction gave Rafeneita the upper hand. A dark cloud hit her, and pain shout throughout Gwynivara’s entire body! She couldn’t help but scream as she writhed in pain!

“No!” Kierram cried out.

“Shut up!” Rafeneita stopped torturing Gwynivara for a moment, sending her tumbling to the ground, in order to attack Kierram.

That stunt drew out Gwynivara’s primal side! The pure love that she felt for him strengthened her heart and gave her body strength. She saw that the orb had rolled out from the clothes she wore, and instinctively, she grabbed it, rolled over, and held it to the sky. Concentrating all of her energy, she willed it to absorb Rafeneita’s work, and when Rafeneita felt that particular enchantment leave her, she grew utterly terrified. Gwynivara didn’t stop there. The more energy she took from her, the more she felt in the orb. It quickly flowed from the orb into her flesh, and as it flowed into her veins, the great eminence lifted her into the sky. A pink and gold cloud enveloped around her, and even her eyes grew florescent. With a billowing voice, she roared, “You shall not have my planet!”

Gwynivara threw a bolt of lightning towards Rafeneita, who disappeared into thin air right before it hit her. Gwynivara fell to the ground as a small rift in the sky opened up and dropped something. Gwynivara used the last of her strength to grab it. She hit the ground, and everything went black.

The few remaining Rebels rushed to her side. Kierram knelt before her and desperately clutched her body. He gently shook and pleaded, “Gwyn! Please wake up! Please!” When she didn’t respond, tears began to roll down his cheeks.

As he sobbed, Bernadette unlatched Gwynivara’s grasp and discovered the ornate vile along with a papyrus note attached to it. She read out loud, “Keep your planet. There’s plenty more to choose from! Take this token as a peace offering.”

John, who appeared to have a broken ankle, limped over to see the note. “So, she’s going to do the same thing to another planet?”

At that second, Emorick’s face appeared inside the orb in Gwynivara’s hand, and his voice sounded, “Not if we can help it!” He conjured a ball of energy and shot it towards Gwynivara.

To everyone’s astonishment, immediately after Emorick made the gesture, Gwynivara’s eyelids flipped open, and she gasped. Kierram stared in dumbfounded amazement as she regained her breath and control of her body. His tears changed to those of happiness, and Kierram exclaimed, “You’re back!”

“I never left!” Gwynivara had never felt such relief in her life as she did right then! Her body healed, and she felt lucky to be alive. Waking up in his arms made the moment perfect! Her heart sang as she gazed into his eyes. Unable to contain herself, she flung her arms around him and passionately kissed him!

The other Rebel officers smiled warmly as they watched their loving embrace. Bernadette couldn’t help but tell Gwynivara, “I told you!”

Gwynivara turned to see Bernadette standing there with a playful smirk. She said gratefully to her, “I’m gonna let that one slide ‘cause I’m just so happy you’re alive!”

Gwynivara sprang up and gave her a huge hug. Bernadette rejoiced, “We did it! We survived!” Once it finally sunk in for everyone, the remaining Rebel officers celebrated with hugs, relieved sobs, and lots of joyous noise.

The policemen who were still living arrested the henchmen that survived. Kierram put his arm around Gwynivara and asked her, “So, now what?”

Gwynivara mulled it over for a moment. She realized that she had been absentmindedly playing with the orb, which gave her an idea. She said to the other Rebels, “Let’s go find Emorick!” Everyone nodded in approval, and with an air of total optimism, they headed down the mountain.

The End

(For now)

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Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 26

It sped so fast towards her that she didn’t have time to think. With every fiber of her being, she held up her hands and blocked the electric cloud from snatching her. The strength of the force behind it became too much for her, and against her will, it eventually it overcame her. She expected pain or even instant death, but instead, she found herself suspended in the air. She felt as light as a feather and she felt herself floating up the mountain, but before she got close, she felt a cold wind encircle her body. In an instant, the police uniform she had on got replaced with a flowing white dress. She didn’t have time to contemplate what it meant though because the cloud lifted, and she dropped onto the rocky ground.

She quickly looked up to see the other Rebel officers just as confused and startled as she felt. Bernadette had a dress like hers while the men wore loose, white pants with a matching vest that left their chests partially exposed. From behind her, a cold female’s voice greeted her with, “Congratulations! You found me!”

Gwynivara whipped around to see the same green skinned woman that she had seen in her dreams! Her black dress draped coolly over the dark stoned throne that she also had seen before. She leered arrogantly at them with a beast chained to each side of her. Gwynivara cried out, “You!”

The green skinned woman nonchalantly said, “Yes, me!” Gwynivara stood up in a ready position, a gesture that the woman laughed off. “Trying to give a brave face? How do you expect to fight me with no weapons?”

The outfit changes suddenly made sense to Gwynivara now- she had disarmed them! She could see their original clothes and belts in a heap behind the woman, but she didn’t let her eyes linger too long- the less this lady knew, the better! “So, why not kill us now and get it over with?”

She smirked, “That may not be necessary. I hate to waste a good resource.”

“Resource?” Gwynivara puzzled.

“Yes,” she divulged, “The point of my mission is to spread the disease, so it wouldn’t make sense to kill people who have it.” She surmised the Gwynivara would ask, so she explained, “My name is Rafeneita, and I’m captai nof a military brigade on my planet. My people have over-harvested minerals in our planet’s core, and it’s slowly disintegrating. If we don’t find a new planet to move our people to, our entire race will get destroyed, and I won’t let that happen!”

“So, to save one planet, you’re gonna destroy another?” Gwynivara probed.

“Do you really think your planet would tolerate millions of strange beings living alongside them?” Rafeneita asked pointedly. “No planet would, even if they had the room! This was the only way.”

“But why Earth?” Gwynivara inquired knowing she wouldn’t like the answer one way or the other.

Rafeneita revealed, “Because your planet is weak. Your species tears each other apart over the slightest differences- skin color, financial class, gender; such shallow, petty things, and yet these slight variances make some believe that they’re superior to the other. The more advanced planets bind together like a tightly woven piece of fabric, which makes it hard to break through. Your kind is so far apart that it’s easy to penetrate. Earth is divided, and since you’re already pitted against each other, it made it easy to use it to my advantage.”

“I can see how you manipulated your henchmen to do your bidding because of this,” Gwynivara calmly debated, “But why use Venenatus Sanguis? If your planet needs to get re-homed as quick as possible, there must be faster and easier ways to destroy a species.”

Rafeneita replied, “Like I said, why waste a resource? I don’t want to taint anything that may hurt my people. Some weapons leave scars that the land absorbs for decades to come. But why, as you called it, Venenatus Sanguis? Tell me, how long have you had it?”

“Over ten years.” Gwynivara’s interest peaked, but she still remained vigilant. She didn’t know why Rafeneita was telling her this. This knowledge could prove useful to the Rebels, but Gwynivara knew full well it didn’t benefit Rafeneita to tell them any of this. She kept them alive for a reason, and she knew better than to let her guard down.

“Ten years, and you have no idea what it is, do you?” Rafeneita watched Gwynivara shake her head, and when she glanced at the others, she saw that they seemed clueless too. “I gave you power.” No one expected to hear that, and with a devilish satisfaction, she went on, “Your thoughts and emotions emit an energy that can be felt by all that surround you. This disease simply amplifies it. When your heart feels something powerful, it has a powerful effect on this energy. Venenatus Sanguis simply gives this force life. Your planet is so vulnerable that when you do get power, you don’t know what to do with it! You can’t control it! It makes the division between you all much farther apart. You can’t share power, and your arrogance makes you underestimate your enemies. Especially females! The men on your planet underestimate them simply because they have a different set of genitals! No one suspects my involvement or that I’m even capable of such a thing! It made it easy to settle in and watch you all destroy each other! And the juiciest part, no one has any clue how powerful they actually are! Just by strengthening their mind and harnessing their emotions, they’re capable of doing extraoridinary things, and yet your species trains the powerful to think that they’re the weak ones! Earth already very skilled at destroying each other, and all I had to do was help speed it along!”

Gwynivara didn’t like her grim view of humanity, but she inwardly refused to let it get to her. Her explanation made the appearance of Venenatus Sanguis make sense, but she knew that Rafeneita would only sit and talk for so long. She pressed her, “So, you want to destroy the planet, but not all of it? You mentioned something about not wasting resources; how exactly do we fit that role? What exactly do you want with us?”

Rafeneita told her, “You’ve captured my curiosity. I’ve never seen a more diverse group of people bonding together for a single cause! And you, you fought back against my charm! Tell me, have you mastered the power of the disease?”

Gwynivara didn’t want to let Rafeneita know how much she knew about the incantations she had performed, and she especially didn’t want her to involve the rest of the Rebels if she could help it. If Rafeneita had any idea of how powerful they were, she would resort to higher defenses to counter this. If Rafeneita stayed under the assumption that they were still in the infancy of discovering the power of it, she would let her guard down a little, which could give them an upper hand. However, she guessed that Rafeneita could probably sense when people lied to her, so she decided to tell the truth, at least partially. She shook her head, “I haven’t been part of this group for that long.”

“How about the rest of you?” Rafeneita looked to the rest of the Rebels.

Everyone else shook their heads too. Max bravely spoke up, “I just got here days ago really. So much has happened lately that no one has had time to teach me anything.”

“And yet you’re here.” Rafeneita gave them a piercing look as if she were scanning the Rebels for their honesty. “You just went along with it because you like to help?”

“That’s right,” Max confirmed.

She seemed to have detected no signs of deception, so she accepted this answer. “That’s okay. I could teach you.”

Gwynivara got caught off guard hearing this and reacted, “Teach us? Why would you do that?”

Rafeneita enlightened them, “You’re not the first group of people to band together to try to stop me, and instead of spilling powerful blood, I gave them a chance at life. As capable as they are, they still get outsmarted by a group of Rebels who dared to defy societal laws to protect their kind. You take pride in doing the right thing, and that’s a very admirable trait to have, but tell me, how do you choose the lives of some over others?” No one responded. “By fighting me, you’ve sentenced my people to death. What makes one life more important than another? I can either demolish you and your entire family to save my planet, or I can spare you in exchange for your service. All you would have to do is spread this power more. If they seem capable of handling it, we will recruit them to join our side. If not, then we will spare them the agony of living with it. Either way, your kind will find peace. And do not worry about your law enforcement.” She glanced over at the pile of uniforms behind her throne. “We will protect you. So, can I count on your help?”

Gwynivara did not respond right away. She had no intentions of joining Rafeneita’s side, but she knew that by telling her no that a fierce battle would ensue. None of the Rebels had any weapons, and their enchantment skills were very limited. Kierram was very proficient, but Rafeneita didn’t seem to know that. She must have known one of them had attacked one of her men with the power of Venenatus Sanguis, but she probably figured it was a fluke. Rafeneita made a point of disarming them before she brought them up there, and so Gwynivara wondered if defeating her could be as simple as finding a clever way to grab their police belts. But she figured that Rafeneita must have a way to defend herself if she had refused her offer. She didn’t see any backup hiding anywhere ready to fight them at a moment’s notice, but that didn’t mean that they weren’t there. She also considered that Rafeneita had the capability to fight them all on her own. She knew one way or the other, she would have to draw the answer out of her. Only then could she decide if she should play along and sabotage her plans later or if she should stand up to her and never once give her the satisfaction of thinking she had won. Rafeneita’s patience clearly had started to peter out, and all Gwynivara could think to say was, “So, at the end of it all, we have to spend the rest of our lives with Venenatus Sanguis? If there’s no cure, then what would be the point of-?”

Have to?” Rafeneita responded. “I would think you’d want to keep it. It is pure power, after all! But I’ll tell you what, if you help me out and you really don’t wanna keep it, I’ll give you this.” She pulled out a cylindrical vile with ornate silver carvings on each that contained a dark green liquid inside of it. “If you help me, I’ll give you the cure.” She tucked it back into the clothes underneath her chest. “So, the fate of everyone you hold dear rests in your hands. I need a decision now. What’s it going to be?”

Everyone turned to Gwynivara, who still hadn’t made that decision. She closed her eyes and listened to what her instincts were trying to tell her. A swirl of possibilities danced around in her mind, and suddenly, she had an unexpected vision that made everything much more clear. She now knew what she had to do…

Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 25

Zoom! They raced through the city at top speed with the sirens on top of the car blaring at full volume. Gwynivara hadn’t realized how heave police belts were until that day! It briefly took her attention away from watching the scene as it passed by. She could only imagine what people were thinking as half a dozen police cars raced through their neighborhood! No one in the vehicle spoke but not because of nerves; their adrenaline pumped massively high from both the stunt person level of driving happening at the moment but also the speed that they were arriving at their destination. When they left for it the first time, the walk took long enough that their feelings had time to fester, but after what felt like an instant, they were already almost there! Gwynivara held some pride in her team’s ability to control their emotions at a time like this! If they had created a beast after fighting to prove that they weren’t dangerous, it would ruin their new alliance with Chief Forsythe. She felt so grateful to him for vetting his men to prevent any sabotage by the origin! However, she knew that he had been doing all of this on the contingency that they came back with the cure, so she silently prayed that if they lived through this that they returned with it.

They slowed down as they reached the point where they left off because the barrier that the henchmen created still remained. Gwynivara theorized that finding the tracking device must have really spooked them. Bernadette, Kierram, and she hid their faces discretely enough so it couldn’t get noticed by their adversaries but not enough where it would have been super obvious that they were trying to hide. The policeman driving the car they were in stopped and casually waved to Abigor. “Mornin’!”

Abigor didn’t match his friendly tone. Quite contrarily, he appeared completely on edge. “I got the page about searching the mountains. I don’t understand; we got them all last night!”

The policeman shrugged. “Our intel indicates that they had more Rebels waiting in the wings. The first wave was planned- they wanted to distract us so the rest could sneak in!”

“Unbelievable!” Abigor griped. “Well, they slipped past me once, they won’t do it again!”

After that firm statement, Abigor’s curiosity got roused and he began to peer into the squad car curiously, but luckily for the Rebels, the policeman averted his attention by telling him, “Well, we better get going. Every minute they’re out there is another minute they could be enacting their plan!”

“Right!” Abigor remembered where he was and returned his focus to the policeman. “If you find them, page us! You have no idea the destructive power they possess!”

“Okay then!” The policeman rolled up his window as Abigor gave the car a pat. Gwynivara’s heart pounded as they drove past the barrier. The last thing they needed was for Abigor to discover their ruse. Thankfully, he let them pass through. She turned back and watched the rest of the Rebels’ cars go through. If just one car gave away their cover, it could spell out disaster for the whole operation! She dreaded the idea of, after all they went through, their journey stopping right there! To her immense relief, all of the cars made it through! She didn’t know what awaited them on the other side of that barrier, but at least they were safe for a little while longer!

After driving down a very windy road, they came to a dirt lot just outside a closed path. Everyone got out of the cars they came in and convened in a circle for further instruction. The policeman that had transported Gwynivara, Bernadette, and Kierram addressed the Rebels, “This as far as our cars will go. We’ll use this as our base camp. If you need back up, radio for us immediately. Careful what you say though ‘cause they’re listening too!”

“Thank you, Deputy Cairdeas,” Gwynivara responded cordially. She then turned her attention to the whole group. “Just to review, we’re heading up a service road that hikers don’t have access to, so the nature around the path will look pretty undisturbed…except for the way the henchmen toke to get to the origin. Keep an eye out for signs of humans once being there. Also, don’t forget to keep an eye out for any potential traps. Okay, let’s go!”

“Good luck out there guys!” Officer Cairdeas told them encouragingly. They nodded at him to acknowledge that they heard him, but their concentration fixated on the final mission, so they didn’t say anything back. They all walked up to the flimsy wire that blocked the road ahead and just stared at it for a moment. The sign read: Restricted Access, Dangerous, Do Not Enter. They collectively took a deep breath, and then Kierram held up the wire so everyone could enter easily. One by one, everyone ducked under the wire and went onto the other side. Gwynivara went next to last and held up the wire for Kierram. After the last person crossed over, everything felt so strange. They had spent a lot of time talking about it and preparing for every possibility, but it didn’t feel real until this moment. After taking a moment to collect themselves, they started moving forward purposefully.

The dirt path they traveled on had lots of leafy trees and thick, green bushes on their right while the rocky side of the mountain stood solidly on their left. Birds chirped in the branches above them, and the sound of squirrels chattering periodically filled the air. If it wasn’t for their heavy burden, Gwynivara would’ve found the trail rather beautiful. It felt almost inconceivable that such terrible danger loomed close by! Gwynivara didn’t see anything that resembled what she had seen in her dreams, which made her question the validity of them. She didn’t dare bring them up again even though she felt certain they were accurate. She suspected that when they got closer to the origin, the environment would change dramatically, but she didn’t share this insight with the Rebels in case her hunch proved false. She feared pulling them in the wrong direction, so she let the scenery speak for itself.

The officers were diligent in searching for signs of humans straying off the main path, leaving no twig or stone unexamined, but after a lot of walking, it became a bit frustrating. John groaned, “Ugh! I need a break! My head hurts from all this concentration!” The other officers concurred with this opinion.

Bernadette and Kierram turned to Gwynivara, who wrestled with the desire to get this process done and over with versus her own growing fatigue. She wished she had some idea of where they were so she might have a clue to what she should do, and then an idea popped in her head. “A quick breather so we can get our bearings.” The Rebel officers breathed a sigh of relief. John found a rock to sit on while the others rested by leaning on a tree. Gwynivara pulled out the orb and examined the map. “Oh, I didn’t realize that the service station was on Obair Chrua! I thought it was its own peak! This mountain is definitely the entrance to the Athas Ridge, but the origin wouldnt’ be so close to the service station. The Cinealtas is north of here and the Misneach is due east. If the origin is on the latter, we should find the hidden pathway any time now.”

“Oh please let it be that one!” Bernadette clasped her hands together and looked to the heavens. “I just wanna get this over with! My nerves are killing me!” Everyone shared this sentiment.

“This place kinda reminds me of ‘Nam,” Kierram reminisced. “Sometimes missions got real tedious and you just wanna get it over with. But don’t think for a minute you’re gonna feel any better when you come across the enemy!”

Gwynivara put the orb away and said to them all, “It’s never gonna get any easier, but it will get harder if we don’t find this place by sunset. Let’s try to avoid camping in these woods overnight! As painful as it is, let’s keep going.”

They knew she was completely right, so they mentally prepared themselves to begin again. John sighed deeply, craning his head to the sky while doing so. At that moment, he noticed something in the branches above him. “Guys! I think I found something!” he called out excitedly. In an instant, everyone flocked over to where John sat and glanced up. They saw a branch of a tall bush inwardly bent and almost severed. “I don’t think any forest creature did that!”

“Not likely.” Gwynivara peered behind the bush, and she saw the valley covered in green, but between the brush, she noticed the grass had a small dirt path that could only come from frequent footfall. “This is it! Good job, John!” Everyone congratulated him as they followed Gwynivara into the woods.

As they walked through the flora, they saw more and more subtle signs of humans’ frequent travel. They made it down the mountain without incident. During their time traversing through the valley, the area had the eerie echo of total silence. They spoke very little as they maneuvered through the rocky grounds. Their pathway slowly got rougher and rougher as they went more and more east. No one talked unless they had to, and even then they were limited to a brief whisper. None of them had thought to bring a watch, probably because, like Gwynivara, they figured they would have found the origin sooner. None of them knew how long they had been out there, but they did notice the sun setting behind them. The anticipation just added to their bodies feeling totally drained. They kept going, inwardly praying to find out their fate at any second!

Just when they thought that they would never make it there before sunset, a peak came into view in the distance! They took a moment to study it, and once their eyes adjusted to the shadows, they noticed movement on the mountaintop that appeared to be human! Without disclosing this fact to anyone, Gwynivara saw that this scene mirrored what she saw in her dreams! She didn’t to say it though, everyone knew that they had found the right place! They quietly acknowledged this small victory before they ascended up to the origin’s location.

Shortly after they started up the path going upwards, Gwynivara stopped dead in her tracks. She had been in the back, and only Kierram noticed this. He went up to her and quietly asked, “What is it?”

“Something’s wrong,” Gwynivara answered him while she deciphered her feelings that kept her bolted to the ground. “It was…it was just too easy! I mean, we had a huge barrier in the beginning, and after that, nothing? It doesn’t make sense!”

“What do you..?” Before Kierram could finish his sentence, they heard commotion ahead of them. Their jaws dropped as they saw an electric cloud snatch up one of the Rebel officers! The rest of them scattered and hid as this force snatched them one by one. Kierram and Gwynivara ran and hid under a rock formation. Gwynivara couldn’t fathom how to fight this, and apparently Kierram didn’t either. He urgently told her, “Before we go, I gotta tell you that the night we first met, I was trying to die! You saved my life!” The dark energy got closer, so he swiftly revealed, “And one more thing…I love you!”

Gwynivara’s heart nearly exploded after hearing this! But before she could react, the thing snatched him away! Within seconds, she saw it coming for her too…

Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 24

A dull ringing pierced her ears, and Gwynivara couldn’t figure out where it originated from. She could feel something pressing against her cheek, something hard, bumpy, and cold. Darkness clouded her entire vision, and she briefly wondered if she had died. The feeling in her head started to come back, and it felt sore all over. At this point, she realized her eyes had been closed this whole time. When she tried to open them, her head throbbed sharply. She knew it would hurt, but she had to get her eyes open. They were so heavy, which made it difficult to lift her eyelids, but slowly, she did just that. At first, all she saw was a beige, brick wall, and that didn’t give her any clues as to where she had woken up. Memories slowly flooded back, and the last thing she recalled was walking down a dark street towards the mountain. She remembered seeing a bright light before everything went hazy. A shadowy figure had stood before her, and everything after that remained a mystery.

She heard groaning next to her, and it dawned on her that she had her people with her when she got attacked and didn’t know if they were safe or not. She bolted up and saw them laying in a heap on the ground. Thankfully, she felt a cascade of relief as she saw that they were all breathing and starting to stir. She wanted to reach out to them, but she couldn’t move her arms, and it then occurred to her that her hands were bound. Before she could process anything else, she heard a door open, and the light from the other room practically blinded her. A familiar voice observed, “Oh good, you’re awake.”

It took her a moment to recognize him, but her subconscious figured it out. Without thinking, she inquired, “Chief Forsythe?”

The door closed, and in the dim light of the room, Gwynivara confirmed that it was, indeed, Chief Forsythe. She felt fully awake now and after noticing the bars, she figured out that they were locked up in a jail cell. Chief Forsythe informed her, “While you were unconscious, we ran your fingerprints. We know who you are. I ordered my men to surround the place, so don’t try any funny stuff!”

As the Rebel officers woke up, Gwynivara felt comforted knowing for sure they were alright so that she could focus on finding answers on what happened and why they were there. She knew that Chief Forsythe didn’t keep them here for no reason. “What do you want?”

Chief Forsythe told her, “The only reason you’re not in quarantine is the FBI wants to talk to you. They’re driving down from DC as we speak.”

“The FBI?” Kierram questioned.

“Yes,” Chief Forsythe replied. “They believe that you’re in possession of illegal weapons.”

Bernadette objected, “We paid for those! You know who my father is! We have the money!”

Chief Forsythe argued, “One of my officers nearly got killed in an unnatural way. Don’t tell me you did that legally! Besides, why would innocent citizens possess a military level arsenal?”

“Not for any malicious reasons!” Gwynivara countered. “We’re simply training.”

“Training for what?” Chief Forsythe probed.

Gwynivara hesitated. She certainly didn’t owe him an explanation, and truthfully, she didn’t see the point of one. Either way, whether she helped him or not, they were going to get set to quarantine, so she didn’t see how telling him anything about the mission would help the Rebels out. Plus, she certainly didn’t want to give away where the rest of the Rebels were hiding or the weapons that they had. However, she remembered what Rebekah had disclosed with them about her father. He desperately wanted to find a cure, so much so that he got tunnel vision in an attempt to find it. He probably had no idea how much his officers were manipulating him. She didn’t know how else to help her people out other than get on his good side. It was a long shot, but she decided a small chance was better than no chance. She took a deep breath and revealed, “Partly, we have to defend ourselves against your men. Not because they want to hurt us, but they’re trying to use us to spread Venenatus Sanguis!”

“Bull shit!” Chief Forsythe clearly didn’t believe her, which she was the reaction she expected to get at first.

Bernadette put in, “It’s true. They’re just using you!”

Chief Forsythe refuted, “You’re spreading the disease by refusing to be quarantined. They’re helping us contain it.”

“Oh yeah?” Kierram disputed. “Haven’t you noticed things getting more hectic since they were sworn in?” Chief Forsythe didn’t say anything, but they could tell he was refusing to admit it to them. “They’re using their position of power to make it more widespread, and they’re doing it in plain sight!”

Chief Forsythe obviously didn’t want to believe them. Before he could debate the issue further, he got distracted by the noise of commotion outside. Everyone listened intently as it sounded like the policemen out there had encountered someone causing trouble, and the Rebels were especially interested in who it may be, hoping some of their comrades were coming to rescue them. Gwynivara didn’t have a clue how they would get out of this, but she hoped that the others had found a way to outsmart the police force. To their dismay, the noise died down, and Chief Forsythe turned his attention back to them. “Why would my men want to spread Venenatus Sanguis?”

Gwynivara explained, “They work for the one who created the disease! They’re double agents trying to stop us from getting the cure!”

Before Chief Forsythe could respond, they heard commotion in the hallway. Chief Forsythe stood up in a ready position as a couple of policemen burst in. One of them frantically apologized, “I’m sorry, sir! We tried to stop her!”

They could see a female push past the group of policemen, and everyone’s curiosity peaked. When her presence came in to view, Chief Forsythe gasped, “Rebekah!”

As he stepped towards her, Rebekah brandished a dagger to her throat and warned him, “Don’t come any closer!”

“Rebekah!” Chief Forsythe said in complete astonishment. Some policemen pointed their guns at her, and so Chief Forsythe bellowed, “Stand down! That’s my daughter!” After the policemen reluctantly put down their weapons, Chief Forsythe took another step towards her, “Rebekah…!”

“I’ll do it!” She furrowed the dagger further into her neck, which actually drew a little bit of blood.

“Okay, okay!” Chief Forsythe stepped back, viscerally scared. “Why are you doing this?”

“You’re keeping the cure from us!” Before Chief Forsythe could object, she went on, “If they’re in here, the origin will get away and we’ll never get the cure! I’m not spending the rest of my life trapped like a rat! I won’t do it!”

“What do you mean by the origin?” Chief Forsythe asked.

Gwynivara nervously answered, “The origin of Venenatus Sanguis.”

Manically, Rebekah commanded, “Listen to them or I’ll do it!”

Chief Forsythe turned to the Rebels with a grave look on his face. “Talk.”

Gwynivara told him, “The origin is hiding in the Athas Ridge. That’s the reason we were in that neighborhood and that’s why they ambushed us there.”

“They told me you were hiding there,” Chief Forsythe remarked.

Bernadette commented, “They did that to keep you away from the one with the cure! They’ve been deceiving you from the beginning because they work for the origin. They use the badge to help spread the disease without consequences.”

“They’re also using it to suppress what you know about Venenatus Sanguis,” Kierram added. “They have people on the inside of the Public Health Center who destroy any research people find relating to the truth of the cure.”

“That was them? They told me you did it!” Chief Forsythe shook his head. “I don’t know! I can’t just release you! You’re criminals and you make our streets unsafe!”

Gwynivara calmly responded, “With all due respect, the only real law we broke was evading quarantine. We got the weapons to protect ourselves against your men, but we also have been training to fight against the origin. We don’t really know what to expect though. She’s from another planet, so our weapons could end up being useless. We don’t know! We would love to have a peaceful negotiation with her, but considering she’s trying to destroy the planet, I highly doubt that’ll happen. The Rebellion exists so we can find the cure and save lives. We’re no threat to the public!”

“You may not intend to hurt the public,” Chief Forsythe debated, “but you still create those monsters. That makes you dangerous, and I gotta protect the citizens of this city. No one would stand for your kind being around them!”

“That’s not true!” Rebekah vehemently disagreed. “My boyfriend doesn’t have it, and-!”

“Boyfriend?” Chief Forsythe certainly didn’t seem to have expected to hear that.

“That’s right!” Rebekah confirmed. “”He loves me and wants to be with me; he doesn’t care that I have the disease! He cares about all of the Rebels! He even risked his life to follow them tonight and make sure that they were safe!” Gwynivara and the others were surprised to hear this, but it did explain how Rebekah knew that they were in trouble.

Chief Forsythe didn’t look totally sold. “That’s great he accepts you, but don’t you think it’s irresponsible to be around people who don’t have it? You’re putting them at risk!”

“No I’m not!” Rebekah exclaimed. “If we’re happy, we don’t create beasts! Actually, they can harness the Venenatus Sanguis to do their bidding!”

“Is this true?” Chief Forsythe asked the Rebels.

Gwynivara answered, “Yes, it’s true. That’s how I defended myself outside of the military supply store.”

“Why haven’t you shared this with the Public Health Center?” As soon as the sentence came out, he figured it out. “Oh, right.” He furrowed his brow as he contemplated everything. “What if you’re lying?”

“If you give us a chance to confront the origin and get the cure,” Gwynivara explained, “and if after everything, you still feel like we’ve deceived you, we will happily return to our jail cell. But if we’re right, we can save a lot of lives!”

Chief Forsythe took a moment to really wrestle with his decision. He glanced at his daughter and finally relented, “Fine. Now, is there anything you need from me before you go?”

Inspiration striking her, Gwynivara replied, “Actually, there is one thing…”

Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 23

Are you serious?” Kierram asked her.

“Like I would joke about something like this!” Gwynivara pulled out the orb, which showed a crude map with a red dot resting just outside the area that Rick lived in. “It’s been sitting there since last night.”

Bernadette inquired, “You think the origin is somewhere in that neighborhood?”

“No,” Gwynivara replied. “If you were the origin, would you let people visit your house willy-nilly?”

“Of course not,” Kierram agreed. “They must have some kind of security check.”

Bernadette surmised, “They found the tracking device.”

“Exactly!” Gwynivara analyzed the evidence, “They would stop somewhere on the way to their hideout but still far enough away so that if they were followed they wouldn’t give away the origin’s location. What would you do if you found a tracking device on your property? Take it off and immediately chuck it right?” Kierram and Bernadette nodded in agreement. “It’s the natural human reaction if you find something unsettling. Once it was off, they probably thought they were in the clear. They could have gone anywhere from there, in theory, but what lies just beyond that neighborhood?”

“The Great Dismal Mountains!” Bernadette exclaimed. “The mountains would be the perfect place to hide, very secluded!”

“There’s a few trails and camping grounds in that range,” Kierram contemplated. “But it starts to get pretty gnarly along the Athas Ridge. If the origin is in a place to avoid detection, it would be there.”

“Totally,” Bernadette concurred. “But there are three peaks in that area- Cinealtas, Obair Chrua, and Misneach. We couldn’t scale them all ‘cause the origin and their henchmen would figure out what we’re doing and stop us before we found the correct one. So, how do we know which one is the right peak?”

“There would be signs before we got there,” Gwynivara reasoned. “When we get there, we can narrow it down.” Suddenly, it all became real to her. She knew all along that this was the end game, but now that the time had come, it frightened her. She thought out loud, “We’re not prepared! I just got here, I don’t know all the battle plans! I only got a couple lessons on harnessing my Venenatus Sanguis! I barely know what I’m doing! And the others- I didn’t get enough skills to teach anyone to do it too! And a lot of the officers are brand new! They didn’t even get weapons training yet! I can’t… I mean, right now? I-!”

“Hey, hey, hey!” Kierram cut her off. “It’s okay! We can wait and do more training if that’s what you think is best, and if this was a military operation, that’s exactly what I’d do. But really, we don’t know what the enemy is capable of. We could be dealing with weapons that we can’t even fathom, so all of that training could be a waste of time. When we get there, if we get a chance to do some reconnaissance, we will, but I think the only way we’re going to know for sure what to expect from the origin is to confront it head on. We need to act quickly, lives are at stake!”

“Kierram’s right,” Bernadette added. “We can train the officers and make them experts at everything and still have shit go wrong. Either way, this could be a suicide mission. The important thing is that we take a stand, let the origin know that what they’re doing isn’t acceptable! No matter what, if we all live or die, the origin would hear our message. The fact that we stood up to them at all would let them know they’re not infallible and someday, our planet will stop them! We’re all capable of telling them that, so, I would say we’re all ready for this.”

Gwynivara knew they were both right and calmed down as much as a person could in a situation like this. She mulled it over for a bit and concluded, “We’re not all going to die. If all of the officers perish, we still have Rebels staying here who would carry on our message. And we could appoint a designated survivor to recruit more officers. We could tell him where we’re going so if we don’t return, he could find us. Oh, and we can let the origin know this so she knows even if she slaughters us all, she’s not safe! We could use that as leverage for…”

She stopped mid-sentence as she heard footsteps approaching. She quickly stashed the orb away as Agnes poked her head in. “We got lunch for all of you if you’re hungry.”

“Oh yes, thank you!” Gwynivara tried to maintain a normal tone, but she could tell Agnes suspected something was up. Agnes didn’t say anything though, and after she left, Gwynivara whispered, “How are we going to do this?”

In a large dining room, several Rebels ate sandwiches with Agnes in an awkward silence. Gwynivara couldn’t tell if it was due to a similar sense of wariness that they all picked up on or because she was a stranger to them. Riley broke the spell by saying, “Great sandwiches, Mrs. Ashling!”

Gwynivara wondered how she would convey vital information while Agnes was present, but she suddenly got an idea. “Oh yes, they remind me of the ones we ate by the Athas Ridge, remember Riley?”

“Athas Ridge? We never ate any sandwiches by the…” In the middle of his sentence, it clicked for him what Gwynivara meant. “Oh right! I remember now! Yes, these are very similar.”

Catching on to Gwynivara’s tactic, Kierram casually suggested, “We should take the Rebel officers there for a hike.”

“When?” Riley replied.

“How about tonight?” Bernadette proposed.

Trying to hide his growing anxiety, Riley probed, “Tonight? So soon? Shouldn’t we wait to do an outing like that?”

“If we don’t do it soon, it could be too late and we’ll never get another chance.” After Bernadette spoke, she saw her mother glance up, so she quickly added, “The first snow of the season is due anytime.”

Riley remarked, “I understand. I guess it makes sense to do it tonight, but some of your Rebels aren’t very experienced with…hiking. Are you sure you want us all go tonight?”

Gwynivara told him, “Actually, I was thinking that you should stay here and teach them everything you know. Then if we…get lost or something, you can lead them to where we went.”

“You want me to stay behind?” Riley’s eyes widened and his voice crackled a little, but he did his best to maintain a normal tone. “But if something happened to you all, that would make me in charge! Are you sure I’m the most qualified person to-?”

Kierram interrupted, “You’ve been with the Rebellion the longest. You know what needs to be done. If you can’t do a specific task, you know who to appoint for the role. No one could do it better than you. So, we’ll take the Rebel officers tonight, and you can hold down the fort here, okay?”

“But…!” Riley saw the logic, but Gwynivara could see that emotionally, he didn’t want to let them go.

Unexpectedly, Agnes put in, “Oh, come on boy! There’ll be other hikes! You can handle things on your own for one night! Personally, I’d take any excuse to stay home! Hiking is too much work! But whatever floats your boat, I guess. Just make sure you bring something to fend off those mountain lions!” To their relief, Agnes appeared to have totally bought that hiking alibi.

Riley sighed, “As long as it really is just one night!” Gwynivara, Bernadette, Kierram looked to the other Rebel officers in the room, who all nodded at each other. It suddenly got hard to eat the rest of their meal normally, not now that it was official- they were going to confront the origin tonight!

As the Rebel officers walked down the street in that neighborhood leading to the mountains, no one spoke. They were naturally a little nervous, but the tension didn’t really surface very much. The whole situation felt like a dream, and as they traveled, they wondered if they would ever get a chance to see any of it again- the houses, the flowers, the trees…A cold wind blew past them, making them tighten up their black hoods. Gwynivara glanced at the others and saw that her theory on walking in the middle of the road to avoid the streetlights had panned out, but from what she could see, she could tell everyone was lost in thought. Gwynivara remembered the old cliché that a person’s life flashes before their eyes when he or she approaches their time to die, but she didn’t feel that. It felt more like nostalgia, thinking about who played a large role in her past, wondering what could have been. John and Max just got here. They escaped a horrible fate in quarantine only to come to this days later. She wondered if Rebekah and Cody would end up married. Niqun would probably adopt the children that Kennith had saved, she had been thoroughly enjoying watching over them lately. Riley would probably hire new leaders and continue his administrative role. She hoped she would get to find out for herself someday!

She glanced to her left and discretely watched Kierram. Her heart fluttered just to have him there at that moment. She longed to hold his hand and receive the comfort of his touch during this harrowing ordeal. She wondered if they had the opportunity to have more time if they would ever have gotten together. She had no idea if he even felt the same about her. It saddened her to think that she may never know. Gwynivara mused about actually achieving this mission successfully and how nice it would be to run off with him. Or would they separate when it was all over? If they accomplished this, she thought, she had no idea if any of the Rebels would stay friends actually. Kierram looked in her direction, so she quickly switched her gaze to Bernadette. She didn’t want him to know she had been staring at him for a while. If he didn’t have feelings for her, she would hate to have an acute awkwardness to distract them at a crucial time like this. Still, even though she looked away, her heart pined for him.

Bernadette let out a soft sigh. Gwynivara felt a surge of gratitude for her presence. She didn’t need to take part in the Rebellion at all; she could have taken her mother’s money and hid like she did. She chose her morals over material goods and personal safety, which Gwynivara found to be a very selfless and admirable choice. She was incredibly kind and loyal, a great teacher…Gwynivara wouldn’t have made it this far without her! Interrupting her train of thought, Bernadette pondered reflectively, “When we were kids and dreamed about the future, we sure didn’t think we would end up here!”

Gwynivara slowly nodded. “When you and I were kids, we couldn’t drink out of the same water fountain or swim in the same pool! Thank god people fought back against society on that! Those rebels made the world a better place!” She realized how much her words tied into their current situation, and it became an odd moment between them all. Without saying it out loud, everyone wondered if their won Rebellion would have that kind of impact. Gwynivara reminded them all, “That’s why we’re here! Don’t forget, that’s why we’re doing…”

Before she could finish her sentence, a bright light ahead of their path blinded them all. Gwynivara’s mind had already been in a dreamlike trance, and this haze added to her confusion. She didn’t understand what was happening until a figure emerged that made her blood curl…

Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 22

His presence alone set off alarm bells in her head, but as he got closer, Gwynivara could tell from his grim expression that Riley had devastating news for her. “What happened?” She almost didn’t want to know the answer. She almost turned away and covered her ears. She didn’t know how much more stress she could take right now!

Riley, clearly still harboring some adrenaline from what just happened, told her, “They were followed!”

Gwynivara understood what he said perfectly, but her mind blocked the information from getting totally comprehended. She didn’t know how to respond, but luckily, she didn’t have to since Bernadette spoke up first, “By the police?”

“Yes!” Riley confirmed. “The officers thought they were alone, but when they got into the catacombs, they heard footsteps behind them. The policeman almost paged for back up, so Max had to shoot him! I was door guard and heard the whole thing, but I didn’t know what to do except to find you immediately! Are we in trouble?”

Gwynivara rubbed her forehead and tried to think. So much information just got relayed to her, and her head was still reeling from everything else that just happened. To clarify the facts of the situation, she asked, “Is the cop dead?”

Riley answered, “He wasn’t moving when I saw him, but I didn’t check his pulse or anything, so I don’t know.”

Gwynivara darted off instantly upon hearing this. The others tried to stop her, but she ignored them as she made a beeline towards the catacombs. They knew this was a battle they were going to lose though, so they trailed behind her and kept watch. She found the policeman slumped on the floor, motionless. A number of Rebels had gathered with expressions that conveyed confusion, fear, and curiosity. Gwynivara put two fingers to his neck as she heard his radio page him, “Officer Macanta, are you still in pursuit in the graveyard?”

Gwynivara’s spirits sunk hearing that, but it ligthened a little to feel a pulse. “He’s still alive!”

Should I…?” Max timidly asked her. “I mean, should someone finish…?”

“No!” Gwynivara asserted firmly. “Absolutely not!”

But he knows about our headquarters!” John objected.

“We’re not killing him!” Gwynivara exclaimed. “The point of the Rebellion is to find a cure so we can make the world a safer place. The origin is trying to kill everyone on Earth; if we execute him, we’re no better than them! We won’t sink to their level! Get this man out of the catacombs and call for help!”

The Rebels realized she was completely right and hastily picked up the policeman. As they carried him out, the police radio dispatch paged him again, “Officer Macanta, we need you to copy!”

Most of the others seemed to think the issue was resolved until they saw Bernadette, Kierram, and Gwynivara’s faces. Bernadette stood frozen as if she had seen a ghost. Kierram began pacing and periodically cursing. Gwynivara’s head fell into her hands. It took a while to sink in, but once it did, it crushed her. Everything they worked so hard for…This was their home…was…She didn’t want to say it, saying it would make it real. She craned her head up to see the Rebels trying to figure out what was wrong, so she knew she had to steel herself up to help them. Very hollowly, she addressed the others, “We need to evacuate headquarters immediately!”

Everyone got completely shocked to hear this. Cody was the first to speak, “Why? They won’t find him here, so the problem is solved, isn’t it?”

It was hard enough to say it the first time, and Gwynivara had to muster up the strength to say it again. Before she did, Kierram stepped up and answered, “Whether or not the cop lives to tell, the police know something happened in the graveyard. They know fugitives are in the area, and it’s only a matter of time before they search the area. They’ll figure it out eventually. We can’t stay here.”

Everyone began to object, and Gwynivara totally understood why they were upset. She gave them a moment, and then she loudly told everyone, “Listen! Listen! No one wants to go. I certainly don’t. This was our home, and it hurts like hell to leave, to abandon a place that was so good to us, but we got to go. If we stay, they’ll catch us and it’ll be the end of the Rebellion. We’re still in it, the mission will still continue, just not here.”

“But,” Rebekah sobbed, “where will we go?”

“We’ll figure it out,” Gwynivara reassured her. Truthfully, she had no idea where she would hide this many people, but she was sure something would turn up.

At that moment, Bernadette made a noise of utter reluctance. “I’ll have to give her a call!”

Everyone stared at her questioningly. Gwynivara asked, “Her? Who is she?”

Kierram and Gwynivara walked up to the address Bernadette had given them and got a jolt of surprise when they saw it. They knew it would have ample enough space to house the entire Rebellion, but they weren’t prepared to see a small mansion! It was only two stories, but it spread pretty far like a giant brick. Its pastel pink color reminded them of a Barbie’s dream house, but the ivy covering the exterior, fall leaves spread across the lawn, and the short, mossy fence surrounding it gave the place an abandoned feel. A woman with dark skin, an elaborate pink sun hat, and designer clothes walked outside the house and received them, “Welcome to the Ashling Boarding House! Come on in!”

Once they were inside, the lady who greeted them took off her hat, and when Gwynivara got a better glimpse of her face, she could instantly tell that they had just met Bernadette’s mother! They looked exactly alike except for the eyes. Her mother’s eyes were shrewd-looking and gave off none of the warmth that Bernadette’s did. Gwynivara remembered that Bernadette had been so reluctant to contact her, and suddenly she got a very strange vibe from this woman as if she were putting on a show to hide something dark. She gave her a very toothy smile and extended her hand. “Agnes Ashling!”

“I’m Gwyn.” Gwynivara shook her hand and noticed how strong her grip grasped her hand.

“Kierram.” As he shook her hand, Gwynivara could tell he had the same impression of her that she got.

Since they needed her space to house the Rebels, Gwynivara wanted to maintain a friendly relationship with her, so she said graciously, “Thank you so much for letting us use your home!”

“Actually, it’s my second home,” Agnes remarked. “I bought it shortly after my husband’s death. I was so emotional that I just couldn’t be around people, too dangerous!” Kierram and Gwynviara exchanged confused glances, so Agnes clarified, “I have it too. Venenatus Sanguis, I mean.”

Whatever they had expected to hear, it wasn’t that. Kierram inquired, “No one has ever…?”

“Never!” Agnes replied. “The only ones who knew were my family. I’m usually too busy to get too emotional. Feelings have no place in the business world! But if I need a release, I come here.” She glanced at her watch and informed them, “Oh, I have another arrival. Bernadette is waiting for you upstairs. Excuse me!”

They found Bernadette rearranging a closet in a small bedroom that had two twin beds in it. Bernadette kept working, but she told Gwynivara, “I hope you don’t mind, but I started pairing people up as roommates. Figured I’d save you some time.”

“It doesn’t bother me, but I can’t speak for Riley. That’s really more of his thing!” Gwynivara kind of joked but not really.

Bernadette grinned. “There! There’s enough room for your stuff now.” She saw Gwynivara’s surprised reaction and explained, “Everyone has to share a room, and I figured it made sense to pair up the only two female officers. And this room is so small that it’ll just be us in here. Everyone else has at least four to a room thanks to all of the bunk beds already here. Apparently it really was a boarding house at one point, so we got lucky there!”

“Yeah, lucky me, a bunk bed!” Kierram commented sardonically.

“What do you care? You don’t sleep anyways!” Gwynivara teased him.

Kierram tried to hide his smile. “Touché!”

From downstairs, Agnes shouted, “Bernadette! Riley is here! He said he’s gonna take care of the rooms now!”

Bernadette completely cringed when she heard her voice, but she composed herself before she replied, “Okay, great!” She shook off her feelings as she started making her bed.

Gwynivara and Kierram were both thinking it, but Kierram was the first to ask her, “What happened between you two?”

Reluctantly, Bernadette answered, “You know how I said my dad got murdered? They questioned one of his workers that witnesses played on the scene. Daddy was a landlord, and he used to help the community by giving homeless men a place to live in exchange for handyman work. The guy who killed him was a drug addict trying to get clean, so police chalked it up to ‘That’s what crackheads do,” as if he relapsed and just went nuts. The case never went to trial ‘cause the judge claimed that they couldn’t establish a motive. Before Daddy died, he and my mom were arguing. He kept our secret, but it was getting harder to hide, especially since my mom is an emotional basket case and would sprout beasts left and right. He controlled our money to really limit how much my mom left the house. She hated that and threw a fit if he said no to her request. A week before he got shot, she had a huge blow out with him, and he threatened to send her to quarantine. She kept muttering ‘I’ve got to do something! I’ve got to do something!’ I had a real bad feeling before I went on that yacht party, her behavior was just so odd! That murderer roaming the streets right now had a motive alright, she paid him to do it! She had motive to have him killed! The police questioned her but couldn’t prove anything with her either!” She stopped to take a deep breath and collect herself. “She did it! I know she did! I hate the fact I need her help right now!”

Kierram and Gwynivara listened to the story in astonishment. Gwynivara couldn’t imagine what she went through to have her father, whom she seemed to love very much, get murdered, but to think that her mother was responsible for it must have been unbearable! Based on her first impression of Agnes, she believed Bernadette, but she didn’t express this. Unfortunately, they had nowhere else to go right now, so they would have to pretend it wasn’t true for a while. She didn’t express this though, she didn’t have to. She knew that Bernadette knew all of this. Instead, she stated, “Well, we won’t have to be here for too long. I think I know the origin’s location!”

Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 20

Once again, we have gathered here to honor the fallen,” a clergyman, who stood at the head of the ceremony room, addressed the crowded room of Rebels. “Another officer has tragically lost their life in the line of duty. It is a hurt that never gets any easier, and today, we must take a moment to let our hearts bleed for him. Losing a member of our community aches as much as losing a string to our heart. Time may heal our wounds, but the scars will last forever. We will never fully heal, but we will make sure that those who sacrificed their life for this cause did not die in vain! We will not stop until we find the cure! Only then will the perished rest in peace! Today, Kennith joins the souls who also died for the mission, and his spirit will watch over us as long as we live. In a way, he never left us. Still, today we gather to say goodbye to his Earthly presence. Let us take a moment of silence for a final farewell.” Gwynivara and the others all bowed their heads, staring at the candles in their hands. After an appropriate amount of time had passed, the clergyman went on, “Thank you, Kennith, for all you’ve done for us as well as mankind. Your efforts will not get forgotten.” A tear rolled down Gwynivara’s cheeks from both the clergyman’s words and the people who gathered here for Kennith today. Kennith was no saint, but his life meant something. The clergyman concluded, “We each hold a candle symbolizing life, and we will each take turns placing them into the fireplace. Our flame may tarnish, but it then becomes part of something greater that does some good for the world. We will honor Kennith’s life in this way and pray that our own flames within stay burning brightly to carry on the wishes of the fallen.” One by one, everyone put their candles into large fireplace behind the clergyman. The combination of his words and a growing fire left everyone feeling warm.

After the service, Gwynivara sat glumly at stone table setup outside of the kitchen. She stared at the orb, wondering why it changed from glowing purple to green. Riley and Bernadette abruptly sat down at the table in front of her. She came out of her funk just as Bernadette inquired, “Any new movement?”

“The creature never seems to visit the same place twice,” Gwynivara replied. “It’s a smart strategy on their part; if it was kept in a place over and over again, eventually someone will notice. Eventually, they’ll take it to a remote location, I know they will! I highly doubt the origin will risk leaving their stronghold to go into our territory, so eventually the henchmen will go to her. I was hoping they would go there straight after the incident, but I guess I have no choice but to stay patient.”

Riley remarked, “Don’t you hate it when the enemy is smart? Though I suppose if they weren’t, we would have gotten them a long time ago!”

Gwynivara chuckled, “Yeah, that would’ve been nice!”

Cody came over carrying a map, which he plopped in front of Riley. “I looked up the addresses you gave me in the phone book. None of them popped as businesses except for one- the Addleson Apple Orchard.”

“The apple orchard?” Riley cried out.

His response peaked Cody’s interest. “Why? What does that mean?”

“Nothing. I just love that place.” Upon seeing Cody’s crestfallen expression, Riley told him, “By the way, good work!”

Overhearing the last part of the conversation, Rebekah commented, “Oh, Cody, I didn’t know you were an officer!”

Cody was about to deny it, but Riley stepped on his foot to stop him. “Oh yeah, he’s been a huge asset to our administrative efforts! Plus, he’s in charge of weapons distribution!”

“Yeah, I am,” Cody responded bashfully. “But they make my job sound way more important than it actually is!”

“But it is important!” Rebekah disagreed in a very admiring tone. “Without our weapons, we couldn’t fight back! So, how do you decide who gets what?”

Riley took the reins of the conversation and said, “Oh, I’m sure he’d love to explain it to you! Here, you two take a seat. We gotta go do the thing…!”

“Oh yes, the thing!” Bernadette played along.

“Yeah, we gotta do the thing!” Gwynivara chimed in.

The three of them got up as Cody, who now seemed pretty pleased with himself, described to Rebekah the process of renting out weapons. Riley, Bernadette, and Gwynivara got to a spot well out of their immediate eyesight, turned back, and watched the scene unfold for a moment. Both of them were smiling broadly while maintaining constant eye contact. “Aw, they’re flirting!” Riley noted delightfully. “Is it cool that I made Cody an officer so he could pick up a chick?”

Gwynivara grinned. “It’s fine. But don’t do that again!”

“Well, obviously!” Riley saw Gwynivara’s face, which portrayed some playfulness but did raise her eyebrows. “And by that I mean yes ma’am!”

Gwynivara and Bernadette giggled. Rebekah and Cody glanced in their direction, so they all scattered to pretend they weren’t staring. At the fork, Riley had gone left towards the training room while Gwynivara went right towards her room. Bernadette fell into her footfall and remarked, “They’re so cute!”

“Yeah,” Gwynivara agreed, “They both obviously like each other. It’s about time they admitted their feelings for each other and become a couple!” After she spoke, she realized that she was walking alone. When she looked back, she saw Bernadette staring hard at her, saying without words ‘Really?’ Gwynivara, now confused, asked, “What?”

Bernadette rolled her eyes in exasperation. “Seriously? That doesn’t ring a bell of truth for you?”

“Truth about what?” Gwynivara genuinely did not understand what she had been referring to.

Bernadette made a noise of slight annoyance, and then she whispered, “When are you gonna admit you have feelings for Kierram?”

Gwynivara nearly had a heart attack from the shock of her accusation. She couldn’t understand how Bernadette even came up with that theory, but the thought of it made her feel a very awkward pressure. “Ugh, I don’t feel anything for him except for a close friendship.”

Bernadette clearly didn’t believe her. “This is a little deeper than friendship. When you talk about him, you smile-.”

“I do?” Gwynivara reacted in surprise.

“Yes!” Bernadette insisted. “And you always find reasons to get close to each other.”

“Only as part of the mission! It’s important to partner up with someone you feel comfortable enough to get close to,” Gwynivara refuted.

“I think you wanna get a little closer than that!” Bernadette said slyly.

“Closer?” Gwynivara puzzled. “We were literally standing against each other! How can we get closer than…?” She caught on to what she meant mid-sentence and blushed furiously. “No! No! No! I’ve never thought about him like that!”

“Maybe you should!” Bernadette suggested. “He is pretty handsome.”

“Well, yeah…” Gwynivara felt a slight temptation to explore the idea of it, but she halted that thought immediately. “No! I’m his superior! That’s not very professional!”

Bernadette teased her, “Your knees are getting weak!”

To her horror, Bernadette was completely right, but Gwynivara would never admit it to her. Instead, she scanned the area to find an excuse to get out of this conversation. She saw the medic coming out of the first aid station with a look of disappointment and frustration. “I should go check on him.” She didn’t look back, but she knew Bernadette was smirking from satisfaction of their conversation. She dashed away before she could say anything more.

Gwynivara approached the medic and inquired, “Are you alright?”

When the medic realized who was speaking to him, he breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh, I was about to send for you. You have a difficult decision to make.”

She knew that this could mean only one thing. “No!” She ran into the first aid station to Emorick’s bedside only to see that he had lost consciousness. “No! He can’t be…!” She couldn’t finish that sentence.

“He’s not dead,” a hollow voice from behind her sounded. She turned around to see Kierram slumped in his chair and wallowing in tears. She slowly made her way over to him as he sobbed, “Not yet anyways.”

Gwynivara put a sympathetic arm on his back and pat him gently. “He could still…there’s still a chance…”

“He’s dying, you know it!” Kierram snapped a little. Gwynviara knew what kind of pai nhe was in right then, so she didn’t flinch or get offended by his temper. She continued to hold him as he wept. After a moment, Kierram lamented, “I don’t deserve any sympathy! I’m a terrible son!”

“That’s not true!” Gwynivara emphatically denied.

“I wasn’t nice to him,” Kierram went on. “I pushed him away. He wouldn’t want me here right now!” Kierram cut Gwynivara off before she could object again. “This is just like when Mom died.” Gwynivara fell silent upon hearing this. Kierram so rarely spoke about his past, so she treated this moment with reverence. “She never forgave me for following in my father’s footsteps and joining the military. She kept saying her heart couldn’t take it. Every news story about ‘Nam made her think I was hurt. Every phone call she got, she claimed she had a mini episode thinking that it was the call. I thought she was exaggerating, and she wouldn’t speak to me for years…Then one day, she had a heart attack! The doctors wouldn’t let me see her after surgery. They claim her condition was too awful for visitors, but I’m not an idiot. She told them not to let me in! I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, but maybe I didn’t deserve one after all I put her through!” Gwynivara tried to refute this, but he stopped her, “You wouldn’t understand! Your parents are still alive, and you probably have a close relationship with them. If you didn’t, you would’ve mentioned it by now, I know you would!”

Kierram had just been honest with her, so it was her turn to divulge about her past. “Actually, I’ve been avoiding the subject ‘cause it’s too painful. When I first got Venenatus Sanguis, I became a fugitive. They kept sending police to my childhood home over and over and over again. They followed them everywhere- to work, to the grocery store, the post office…They were so sure I’d meet them in secret. I couldn’t let them live like that, so I wrote them a letter telling them to change their names and get out of town. I told them not to come back until they saw a headline about the cure. They listened, and I never saw them again. I have no idea what name they go by now or where they went. I’d like ot think they went to Florida ‘cause we have family there, but really, I have no clue. That’s the whole idea though, they can’t associate with a fugitive. If I had any idea where they were, I would at least check the paper everyday just to know they’re still alive. You’re lucky you got all this time with your parents! I’d give anything just to hold them one more time!”

Kierram sniffled. “I had all this time to spend with my parents and I blew it! I pushed my mom away and then I did it again to my dad. Maybe it’s just me! Maybe I’m just too messed up! Maybe I’m just too difficult to love!”

“That’s not true,” Gwynivara stated firmly. “I…” She didn’t finish her sentence because she realized what she was about to say what she just got through denying. For a second, she wondered if it was the grief talking or if she meant it. He looked at her incredulously, and her heart raced. He was in so much turmoil, and he didn’t deserve it! She admired his character- smart, incredibly brave, so thoughtful…Her instincts wanted to shower him with affection until he healed his emotional wounds, and with that, she knew that she felt more than mere friendship for him! She didn’t say a word though, she couldn’t tell if Kierram shared this sentiment or not. Tears welled up in his eyes again, and she couldn’t help herself- she pulled him in close and held him tight as he broke down.

This tender moment got interrupted when the medic walked in and gingerly brought up, “I hate to intrude, but this is important.” Both Gwynivara and Kierram turned to face him. “Emorick probably has a blood infection. His only shot would be at a hospital. So, my question is do you wanna take a chance with an emergency room or should he spend the last of his days here?” Kierram and the medic turned to Gwynivara, who was dumbstruck. She didn’t know what to do…