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 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, Chapter 7

Who said that?” Stephen searched around and didn’t see anyone. Now that they were out of danger, his curiosity about who saved them intensified.

“I did!” The feminine ethereal voice boomed loud enough for her to be close to them, but neither of them could see anyone.

Emily and Stephen looked to each other for an explanation, but they had none, so Emily requested, “Can you give us a hint?”

The branch they were on suddenly swayed up and down, which made Stephen puzzle, “How did that move?”

Emily turned her head and gasped, “She did it!”

When Stephen saw what she was looking at, his eyes bugged out about as far as it could go. In the bark of the tree, they saw the soft features of a mythical woman! At first, Stephen thought it was just an ornate carving, but then he saw the eyes shift focus! The shock made him instinctively jump out of the tree. Emily followed him, but she didn’t appear as alarmed about the concept as he was. He had just started to get used to the idea of magic existing in the universe, and now he had to come to terms with the fact that a tree could speak! His mind went blank, he had no idea how to talk to a tree, but then he watched the tree as she hung her head and began to cry. While he felt guilty for possibly being the one to cause this, he did have a better of idea on what to say. “I’m sorry if I offended you, I’ve just never experienced anything like this before!”

“I’m not crying because I got insulted,” the tree told him. “I’m mourning the loss of the sacredness of this forest! It’s not enough to have that evil man’s presence here, now we must endure a bloodbath as well! For centuries, this forest lived in peace and harmony, and now we’re being used for his ill gain! And after it’s all done, what will become of us?”

In an awed tone, Emily inquired, “Are you telling us we’re in the hidden forest?”

The tree questioned, “You didn’t intend to come here?”

“No,” Emily responded. “We were heading to Ovelstrofe when our pilot got afflicted with Curse of the Serpent’s Tongue and crashed our plane in the ocean. We just came here because it was the closest piece of land we could find.”

“So, it’s true,” the tree sniffled. “He lured you here so you would meet your doom!”

Stephen queried, “By he, do you mean Xavier Ryder?”

The tree made a pained expression when she heard that name. “Please do not speak of him! He dares to taint the heritage of the Nymph Queen of Good with his acts of pure evil! He has brought much suffering to the world already, and I shudder to think of what he would do if he succeeds!”

“Well, we’re not going to let that happen!” Stephen avowed. “I’ve never failed a mission before, and I don’t intend to start now! As soon as we get to Ovelstrofe, I’ll gather a team and we’ll take down that son of a bitch before he does anymore harm!”

The tree sobbed, “I would dearly love that to be so, but it’s not so simple. You can’t just leave the forest, you must survive it first.”

“He’s set up traps for us,” Stephen surmised.

“Yes,” the tree confirmed, “and he knows that you’re a cose and you’re an inexperienced sorceress.”

Stephen turned to Emily, who had an abashed look on her face. “My father tried to teach me, but I didn’t want to learn when I was young. All I wanted was to be normal, so I tried to suppress my powers. After he died, I inherited his spell book and taught myself spell work to keep his memory alive, but I didn’t do it very often. I went to college and got my teaching certification, so I didn’t have time to study magic. I didn’t think I’d have to use it if I lived among coses. Once the killings started, I learned as much as I could, but I’m still pretty amateurish. I relied on that book, and now it’s gone!”

Stephen processed this information for a moment. “Hmm… Well, Amouraq is an island, so couldn’t we just follow the coastline until we reach the civilian part?”

“The beach is lined with bunyips,” the tree informed him. “They belong to the Nymph Queen of Evil and can only get destroyed by each other. They were designed to protect the creatures of the forest, so they’re not so easily beaten. You’re better off facing the creatures of the forest, but they’re quite dangerous themselves. King Alexander made it out of here alive, but you do not have the protection of nymphs of good. His evil has overtaken the forest, and their presence has become scarce. You can stay sheltered with me until a good nymph comes along to help you.”

Emily and Stephen briefly considered this offer, but they both seemed hesitant to accept this plan. Emily brought up, “You said that good nymphs were scarce though. How long do you think it would take for one of them to find us?”

The tree shook her head. “I used to think coming across one as being a sure thing, but these days, I’m not so certain. Sometimes days will go by without seeing any of them.”

“Days?” Stephen repeated. “So, you’re proposing that we sit here for an indeterminate amount of time just waiting for someone to come rescue us?”

“Or perhaps someone on your side will break past the seal,” the tree suggested. “He has let a number of dark sorcerers and sorceresses penetrate our boundaries, so it’s only a matter of time before someone good figures it out. They could provide you with tools and guidance to survive the forest. They did not grow up in the coses’s world, so you would fare better with their assistance.”

Emily pointed out, “That’s assuming we survive here! If a monster doesn’t kill us first, he will. He’s waiting for us, and if he doesn’t see any sign of us, after a while, he’ll come looking for us. He’ll find us here, and you’ll face consequences for helping us. You’ve already been so kind to us, we can’t let that happen!”

“If you face the creatures of the forest, you’re sure to perish!” the tree argued.

Stephen countered with, “If we face the creatures of the forest, we might die, but if we stay here, we might also die! At least if we face the forest, we have a shot at getting out of here before King Patrick passes! We need to get there before he does so she can become queen and the throne of Amouraq doesn’t fall into the wrong hands! If his henchmen can get out, then so can we!”

Emily recalled, “King Alexander got out of here too! After the Nymph Queen of Good helped him defeat a monster, she led him out of the forest to the area now called Ovelstrofe, which is exactly where we’re trying to go! If we follow their path, we might make it to safety!”

“The path is brimming with dangerous creatures now!” the tree conveyed to them. “If you manage to survive them all, then you will run into him. He’s already slain some of the most talented sorcerers and sorceresses in the world. What makes you think you can best him?”

“I’ve bested people more talented than me before!” Stephen expressed vehemently. “No matter how powerful a person is, they always have a weakness! If you can’t match their abilities, you beat them with cleverness! We’ll find a way to take him down one way or another!”

The tree fretted, “But you may be destroyed in the process!”

Stephen had an impassioned response to that statement, but to his surprise, Emily spoke up first, “Some things are worth dying for!” Both Stephen and the tree stared at her in astonishment, so she went on, “I’m next in line for the throne, so he would go after me no matter where I went. Ever since he started targeting us, I’ve been thinking about what I would do should this day ever come, and I decided I wasn’t gonna go down cowering in fear! That’s exactly what he wants! If I’m gonna go down, I wanna go down fighting! Who knows, maybe I can take a few bad people down with me, or maybe I’ll weaken him to make it easier for the next one who faces him. Others may have ran away in the hopes that he would never find them, but I always planned for this moment to happen! There’s no point in delaying what’s inevitable! I need to face him, and I’m not gonna give him the satisfaction of knowing her made me hide in the shadows to avoid him! It’s not gonna be easy, but it has to be done! I’ll never feel right if I die not knowing how far I could get! This has to happen!”

Stephen felt a surge of admiration rise up in him upon her hearing her say this, but he tried not to linger on this feeling for too long. He reassured her, “You have to tell yourself you’re going to succeed even when you’re inches away from death! We’re going to win this!” Emily didn’t say anything, but she smiled at the thought. The tree still looked worried, so Stephen reasoned, “We might run into a good nymph along the way too!”

“That’s possible,” the tree acknowledged. “Well, I wish the two of you luck! You’re going to need it!”

The tree held her branches back, revealing a small trail. Stephen turned to Emily and asked, “Ready?”

Emily answered, “Wait!” She chanted, “Relashio!” and both of their life jackets came undone. After they slipped them off, she chanted, “Seccium!” Stephen felt a warmth envelope him, and in a matter of seconds, they were dry. “Retrievo… No… Recoup… No, ugh! Wait, sanoup Stephen’s cellphone!” When it didn’t work, she exclaimed, “Damn it!”

“It’s okay.” Stephen put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “We’ll get a new one on the other side.”

“Right!” Emily collected herself and focused on the road ahead. They both took a deep breath and set foot down the path.

The Shadow Path, Chapter 1

She’s coming! She’s coming!” one of Yasmina’s young friends shouted gleefully into her ears as she slept. Yasmina woke with a start as her friend scampered out of her cottage. She ran to the mirror by the door, which had some cracks and blemishes but still did the job. She quickly brushed her long, blonde hair with her fingers and used her fingers to get the smudges off of her fair skin. She straightened out her dress to make the coarse material as neat as possible. She didn’t expect to get chosen since she was still a child, but it did happen once in a while. She glanced across the room and saw that her parents were still asleep in their bed. She decided not to wake them as she ran out of the house.

Young people who were as young as as Yasmina stood alongside men and women who were as old as twenty. Those who had already gone through this gathered on the sidelines of the town square as they all waited eagerly for her arrival. A few people did some last minute cleaning, shining the water well and clearing away the clutter, when the town crier appeared and announced, “Here ye, here ye! Citizens of Neodrach, please welcome Kadera, the soothsayer of Caragsona!”

Everyone stopped what they were doing and stood at attention. An old woman with stringy, gray hair and a tattered black cloak hobbled towards them, relying heavily on a knobbly cane. She poised herself before the gathered youth, eyeing them as if she were reading text above their heads. Yasmina silently prayed that she would get chosen, and excitement flooded her veins as Kadera slowly inched forward. Kadera stopped in front of a young woman and told her, “You shall be a farmer’s wife. You will work hard but be very happy.” The woman beamed as she rejoined her family. Kadera hobbled down the line and suddenly stopped in front of a boy. “You shall be a blacksmith. You start as an apprentice but one day you will get the higher position.” The young man celebrated quietly as he got out of line. Kadera hobbled closer and closer to Yasmina, whose heart pounded wildly. Her hopes were, however, immeasurably dashed as Kadera past her and stood before another child. “You will grow to be a servant for the future king!” The child seemed too stunned to move, and his family had to fetch him. The rest of the of the youth waited with high hopes that she might pick a fourth, but Kadera instructed someone in the distance, “Prepare my horses, that will be all!” She turned to leave, and the youth who weren’t chosen groaned in disappointment. Despite their dejected feelings, everyone still glowed just to be graced by her presence.

The villagers all turned to each other about the recent fates that were given. Yasmira met her friend under the shade of a yew tree and chirped, “That was so exciting!”

Her friend remarked, “I know! I can’t wait to get chosen! I wonder what I’ll end up doing with my life!”

“Me too!” Yasmina agreed. “I’d rather find out sooner rather than later. Still, it was really interesting to see others find out their fate.”

Her friend disagreed, “Two of them are going to stay in our peasant village, and one will get close to royalty. No one is going to become royalty. Maybe next time someone will! Ooh, better yet, I hope next time she says someone will go down the Shadow Path!”

“Saphra!” Yasmina exclaimed. “No one in our village is that evil!”

“You never know!” Saphra commented. “Evil comes from the most unexpected places sometimes!”

Yasmina stated, “I hope that she says the Shadow Path will get destroyed so the other villages will visit us again.”

Saphra scoffed, “Why would you want that? Our town runs just fine without them!”

“Not really,” Yasmina argued. “We barely make enough to survive. If we got more business, we could see all kinds of different fates! Like, maybe some of us would become a noble! Or a sailor! I mean, don’t get me wrong, it will be exciting to learn what we’ll do in Neodrach, but we kind of already know what we’re going to do here. There’s only so many jobs here. So, unless they venture down the Light Path to work for the royals, we’ll all work hard just to survive here.”

“Unless one of us goes down the Shadow Path!” Saphra giggled. Yasmina rolled her eyes and laughed.

Several years later, Yasmira stood in that line again. She had done this so many times now that she had stopped feeling so nervous, but now that she had reached adulthood, she felt her time had come. She was one of the oldest in the group, but that didn’t bother her much. Everyone would get their turn, so if she didn’t get chosen this time, she knew her time would come eventually. She spotted Saphra in the crowd with her husband gave her a little wave. Saphra and her infant daughter waved right back. Suddenly, a chill went down her spine as if the weather had abruptly changed, and she knew it was time!

Kadera hobbled over to a young man and predicted, “You will work in the horse stalls and mary the stable girl.” Upon hearing this, he excitedly ran off. She went in front of a young woman and told her, “You shall marry the grave digger and bear lots of children with him.” The girl practically squealed as she jumped and clapped with delight. Yasmina silently wished them well but secretly didn’t envy them. She did feel a twinge of jealousy that they now knew their fate, but neither option sounded so lucrative. She needed a vocation, but the idea of the humdrum lifestyles that her village offered didn’t thrill her much. She secretly hoped that Kadera would promise a life of adventure, but she didn’t know how that was possible.

She had been so lost in thought that it took a while to notice that Kadere was standing before her! Everyone waited with bated breath, and the tension from the villagers was palpable. Yasmina hadn’t realized it before, but Kadera never smiled. The many lines on her face actually gave her an almost menacing demeanor. She never noticed her eyes before either. They were a very light gray and almost milky, and yet they had a shrewdness about them that sent shivers down her spine. They were deep, and she could almost see her celestial thoughts swirling. The more she stared at her, the more uncomfortable she became. She wished that Kadera would reveal her fate and get it over with! The crowd murmured a bit, clearly questioning why she took so long with Yasmina. Just when Yasmina thought she couldn’t take it anymore, Kadera unexpectedly announced, “You are a witch!”

The crowd gasped, and Yasmina’s thoughts hadn’t registered the reality of what just happened yet. It almost felt like a sick joke. Everyone stared at her in shock, and all she could think to say was, “What?”

Kadera elaborated, “You are a witch. Soon your powers will grow, and you will try to kill the king!”

“No!” Yasmina refused to accept this. “I’m not a murderer! I’m a good person! Surely, there’s a job for me! Don’t I at least find true love?”

“No,” Kadera insisted. “You will be penniless and very lonely.”

Yasmina’s heart sunk, and it hurt her so much to hear such insulting predictions. “No! You made a mistake! You-!”

“I do not make mistakes!” Kadera snapped. “I have spoken, and my word is final!” Kadera hobbled away, and all of Yasmina’s hopes were dashed as she watched her leave.

Once Kadera was out of sight, Yasmina turned to the villagers, who stared at her in horror. “Look, I’m not a witch!” She took a step towards them, and they all backed away. “You’ve known me for years, you know it isn’t true!” Everyone stared in disbelief and a growing distrust. She found Saphra and pleaded, “Saphra, tell them!”

Saphra scooped up her child and scowled. “Stay away from my baby, witch!”

Yasmina felt utterly bewildered by her friend’s betrayal. As she saw everyone’s loathsome expression, she started to grow frustrated. “Just because Kadera said it doesn’t mean it’s true!” They all look insulted at her criticism of the soothsayer, which caused her to bellow, “Ugh! I am not a witch!” She felt the anger course through her veins, and it flooded to the tips of her fingers. To her astonishment, green shots sparked out! She stared at her hands incredulously; she had never done that before! She refused to comprehend what it meant and turned back to the crowd, but they were all gone. Despite her disappointment and new obstacles, she vowed to find a way to have a real life.

Her parents had gathered her things in a box and had it waiting for her when she got home. She tried to open the door, but it was locked. She knocked and begged to come inside, but her parents refused. With tears rolling down her face, she picked up her meager possessions and walked away. She went to almost everyone in town searching for someone who would take her in, but not a single soul did. She stood outside the entrance of Neodrach and stared forlornly. She didn’t want to say goodbye to her home, and she bitterly regretted thinking such ill things about their humble lifestyles. She sighed and turned the other way.

Before her stood a fork with two paths. The one on the left had gnarly trees, dark leaves, and storm clouds overhead. No matter what Kadera said, Yasmina refused to go down that path! Her only alternative seemed to be down the Light Path. She saw plenty of sunshine and lush, green plants down this way, and she knew that the king’s castle was located down this way. In her heart, she knew she wouldn’t kill the king, so she felt perfectly safe going down to Rogamaith to ask for help. She steeled herself and headed down the Light Path.

Not that long after setting foot on this path did something catch her eye. On the right side of the path, between some trees, she saw a small cottage. She didn’t realize that anyone lived outside of Neodrach until this moment! She treaded the lawn and walked up the rickety steps carefully. When she knocked on the door, it swung right open. She could instantly tell that the house was abandoned, and she realized that she had found her new home!

The house stood close enough to the village for her to walk there, and after giving them a little time to recover, she did venture back. In time, a few people acknowledged her without flinching. When people were desperate, they gave her work to do, helping them with their vocations when they were swamped. She managed to earn enough to keep herself from going hungry and even had a little leftover to fix up the house a bit. She didn’t have much space, but she did what she could to make it feel like home. She even cleared the brush away so she could see the village from her back window. Her successes weren’t frequent, and she didn’t get to stay at any job for too long. Often times, she went months without finding work. Despite her struggles, she took some solace in the fact that although she sometimes emitted magic, she had refused to succumb to her predicted fate.

The years rolled by, and she watched generations grow and form their lives. She grew to her thirties, and she began to lose hope of ever having a happy life. No one seemed to be motivated to give her a permanent position, and she wondered if she really would struggle her whole life as foretold. She even dared to hope that she would find a husband who could help her with the house and consistent money, but she was no longer young with a taut little body. She was growing older, and the more time that went by, the more she doubted that she would ever become a bride. She agonized over different plans to change her situation, but she was at a point where she drew a blank. She had tried so many different things, and nothing ever worked out, so she didn’t know what more she could do. All that she came up with was to keep searching for work and hope for the best. That’s all she could do right then…

…Or so she thought! The possibility never occurred to her, but it came on a seemingly ordinary night when she heard on a knock on her door…

War of the Mystics: Frozen

Attention Readers: the free version of my novel, which I posted a chapter at a time on my blog, is no longer available. However…you can purchase it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble online, Createspace, and eBay. So please, check it out and spread the word!!!

War of the Mystics: Frozen, the Novel

For anyone that read chapters of my novel, I want to thank you. Each individual is appreciated for your support. If you’re a fan and would like to purchase a hard copy of the book, it is available here: https://www.createspace.com/6854358. In a few days, it will be on sale in Amazon. Thanks so much!

Forgotten Society, Part 4

INT. REBEL HIDEOUT. EVENING.

Curtis enters looking proud. Renee enters looking angry and embarrassed.

MIGUEL:
Warner! You’re back!

Renee does not say anything.

CURTIS:
She’s pissed that she didn’t get
to kill her boss. I told her to give
it time!

RENEE:
And I told you that now we’re
murder suspects and it’ll be
impossible to kill him. They’ll
increase security.

MIGUEL:
If he’s a dragon, we’ll find a way.
Seriously, it takes a lot of
courage to come back, so thank you.

Renee does not say anything.

ABDUL:
I went out and got a tray of spaghetti.
Please, dine with us!

Renee and Curtis sit with them.

CURTIS:
So, what’s your plan to get rid
of the dragons?

SMITH:
All we know right now is we’ve
got to get rid of the ones that
infiltrated society by disguise.
At the same time, we are
trying to find the source of
their origin.

RENEE:
So, the answer to your question
is we have no plan.

SIMPSON:
Don’t be so negative. The less of
these creeps there are, the
better off we are.

CURTIS:
What makes them so evil anyways?
Is it just the desire for control?
I mean, what exactly are we
fighting against?

MIGUEL:
Our struggle is not against flesh and blood
but against the rulers, the authorities,
against the power of this dark world and
against the spiritual forces of evil. We are
fighting against an evil being in an arrogant
man’s body. In his arrogance, the
wicked man hunts down the weak,
who are caught in the schemes he
demises. His victims are crushed, they
collapse, they fall under his strength.
His grip will reach further and further.
His mouth is full of curses and lies,
and trouble and evil are under his
tongue. Beauty and self expression
will vanish, and we will become less
than servants. We are fighting for
freedom in our future.

RENEE:
You saw my apartment, and my job,
so imagine a whole society like that.

CURTIS:
And you were going to stay there?

MIGUEL:
Let’s not judge each other. Now,
tomorrow I want you to buy
Curtis some weapons. Tonight,
we will patrol. Did you bring
your car, Renee?

RENEE:
Yes.

MIGUEL:
Good. Take everyone to Georgetown.
I’ll stay here and guard the compound.

CURTIS:
Maybe I should stay. You’re probably
better with weapons than I am.

WILLIAM:
Best way to learn is from experience.
We can teach you here too, but
trust me, it’s a hell of a lot
different out there.

Everyone nods in agreement.

WILLIAM:
Okay, I’ll give you a quick lesson now.

He takes out a dagger and throws it to him.

WILLIAM:
Step one, stab. Step two, stab again
if necessary.

Everyone laughs as they leave.