The Shadow Path, Chapter 14

A dull ringing sounded in her ears, and she could feel a throbbing pain on the back of her head. Yasmina could only see pitch black, and it took a moment for her to realize that her eyes were closed. Her lids were so heavy that it took great effort to open them. When she did, she saw metal bars on a wood floor. She also noticed that they were moving. She didn’t totally understand what was going on, but she remembered Aidan and Ardeshir and immediately attempted to bolt up to find them. At that moment, she realized her hands were tied behind her back. She grunted from frustration and used her stomach muscles to flip herself over. To her relief, she saw Aidan and Ardeshir laying next to her and still breathing! They were still alive, but now she needed to figure out what happened.

Ardeshir woke up next and gasped when he saw his paws were bound together. He sniffed the air and observed, “We’re heading towards Rogamaith!”

“Rogamaith? So that means we got captured by knights!” Yasmina figured out. “They must be taking us to the dungeons. They ambushed us at Bothar Ri! But how come they didn’t kill us?”

“Try not to complain about that decision too much,” Aidan weakly joked. He rolled over and came face to face with Yasmina. “They must want some information from us, like who we are and why we were heading to Duanolc.”

“They probably want to confirm our idenities too,” Ardeshir added. “They were under orders to find three travelers, but they won’t know it’s us that Daeva wants. The longer we hold out information, the longer we’ll stay alive.”

“Unless they send Dorian down to the dungeons; he’d probably recognize us.” Yasmina frowned. She closed her eyes and concentrated hard on sending powers to her fingertips, but she found that the magic coursing through her veins hit a road block. “Ugh! The rope is slowing down circulation to my hands! I can’t use my magic to get us out of here! Sorry guys!”

“It’s okay,” Aidan responded gently. “We’ll figure out something.”

“How can you be so calm?” Yasmina probed. “Even when all evidence is to the contrary, you always have faith that things will work out! How can you continue to maintain optimism no matter what?”

Aidan replied, “Well, my mother always told me when there’s a will, there’s a way. I’ve always found that to be true. In case you haven’t noticed, it keeps proving itself right. Our instincts helped us survive the Shadow Path. It’s also how I found you. I trust them completely, they’ve never steered me wrong!”

Yasmina’s heart skipped a beat when he mentioned finding her as a victorious feat, but she didn’t have time to contemplate what it meant because they suddenly stopped. The three of them instantly fell silent, and their nerves were palpable. The back door swung open, and a pair of armored hands grabbed them and stood them up on the ground. Yasmina saw a tower with light-colored stones, and its simplistic beauty left her awestruck! She didn’t have much time to marvel at it because a knight pushed her forward and gruffly ordered, “Move!” She saw a wooden door at the bottom of the tower, which she could only assume was the dungeon entrance. As they walked, Yasmina ardently tried to conjure her magic, inwardly echoing Aidan’s sentiments on never giving up, but it was to no avail. She knew once they passed that door, their odds of escaping were a lot slimmer. She wondered what miracle would save them now.

The knights took off their ropes and threw them inside a dungeon cell that had stone walls and floors, hay strewn about the space, and a small window with metal bars high above them. The knights shut the heavy, wooden door but opened a rectangular, metal peephole to address them. One knight questioned, “Who are you?”

Yasmina responded, “Does it matter? No matter what we say, you guys will just convict us as if we were who you were hoping for!”

All but two knights left, and the two remaining ones turned their backs to them in order to guard the door. For a moment, no one said anything, but after a while, one of the knights couldn’t help himself, “We found your wand. We know who you are.” Yasmina, Aidan, and Ardeshir stayed silent, and so the knight added, “They’re going to kill you, you know!”

“Sarid, don’t!” the other knight hissed.

Sarid argued, “Eamon, they’re going to find out soon anyways, what are we supposed to do? Let them sit in the dungeon all night wondering what’s going on? Let their worries fester to a maddening level?”

Eamon differed, “I’m sure they have a vague idea of what’s going on. If you open your mouth, we could get in trouble! Our jobs, or worse, our lives, aren’t worth it!”

“Why do you do it?” Aidan inquired. “Why work for people who are so sinister?”

Eamon replied, “What choice do we have? There isn’t a lot of work out there, and we have families to feed!”

“But you once worked for a noble king and queen,” Aidan disputed. “How could you carry out their orders? That makes you just as culpable for these monstrous acts as they are!”

“Hey! That’s not true!” Sarid objected. “We have no choice but to obey their commands. Besides, if we weren’t here, the situation would be so much worse. We were the ones that convinced them not to kill you on the spot! I couldn’t do it, it was just wrong!”

“Plus, if we weren’t here, the kingdom will have less protection,” Eamon explained, “and right now, Caragsona needs as much protection as it can get! Especially if King Kahlil does declare war on us!”

Aidan’s eyes widened in shock and agony upon hearing this. “Our country is on the brink of war with a trade partner?”

Sarid confirmed, “His kingdom for sure, and I suspect others may follow suit.”

Aidan slumped to the floor with a very far away look on his face. Yasmina could completely understand why Aidan felt so much anguish at the idea of Caragsona possibly going to war. His kingdom was already falling apart from within, so an outer threat could destroy the country! She loathed the thought of it too, but she couldn’t think about it right then. She could sense a vulnerability in Sarid and Eamon, and she wasn’t sure how, but she had a hunch that this could lead to their escape! She went up to the peephole and probed, “Doesn’t it bother your conscious to sit back and let this happen?”

“Of course it does!” Sarid snapped, clearly stung by her remark. “Our will doesn’t matter though; we’re subjects to the king!”

Yasmina countered with, “Did you swear an oath to protect the king or the kingdom?”

Eamon answered her, “We’re sworn to protect Caragsona, but what difference does it make? Dorian rules the kingdom and-!”

“There is a difference!” Yasmina interrupted. “You can something to protect the kingdom! You know why we were on the Shadow Path. It had nothing to do with whatever lies that Dorian told you! I’m sure he painted a horrible picture of us wreaking havoc without real purpose except to sow seeds of mayhem against a supposedly innocent and pure king. You know that isn’t true, don’t you?” Sarid and Eamon didn’t say anything, but they hung their heads guiltily. “You know what needs to happen to save the kingdom! You can make that happen!”

“No we can’t!” Sarid said ruefully. “We have a responsibility to our family and to the land. Without us, everything would become so much worse! We need to preserve our lives, and defying Dorian would get us killed!”

“If you don’t help us, you could end up dying anyways from all that is happening!” Yasmina pointed out. Sarid and Eamon didn’t say anything, but she could see on their faces that they knew it was a possibility. She prodded them further, “How long do you think you’ll last? You’re a mortal, and you work for a king that’s controlled by a witch. Do you really think they have your best interests in mind?”

Near tears, Eamon croaked, “We can’t just let you out! How would we explain that without losing our heads?”

“You’ve already figured out that I’m a witch,” Yasmina told them. “And I’m sure you think that because you took away my wand that you disabled my powers. What you don’t know is that while the wand channels our powers, our magic lies within us. I don’t need to have my wand to curse you!” She pointed her entire palm on the peephole and inwardly concentrated on letting out a bunch of energy. It didn’t take long to create an electric bauble that shot out of the dungeon cell, hit the wall on the other side of the hall, bounced back, and knicked each knight in turn. They felt a sharp sting as the spell dissipated. Yasmina leered, “So, like with Dorian, you have no choice but to obey me. If you don’t open this door, I’ll destroy this door and take you with it!”

Sarid and Eamon looked startled at what just transpired, and Yasmina suspected that the fact that she went from a helpless victim to a formidable adversary in mere minutes probably disturbed them. The knights looked to each other, and Sarid reasoned, “We can tell him she overpowered us and we had to do it.” Eamon clearly had misgivings about the idea, but he relented and slowly cracked the door open…

The Shadow Path, Chapter 8

The birds that she heard were not only giant but they were made of metal! As shocked as she got from seeing a flock of these beasts staring at them hungrily, their sight and behavior triggered a memory for her. Yasmina, at the same time as Aidan and Ardeshir, shouted, “Be loud!” The three of them hollered at the creatures as they flew towards them one by one, but after a while, their voices were starting to get hoarse, and so their defense was starting to get less and less effective. The three of them looked to each other, but none of them seemed to have any ideas.

Suddenly, a flurry of pots and pans flew over their heads and banged together loud enough to create such a ruckus that the metallic birds all flew away. Once they left, the pots and pans were recalled back to an area just ahead of them on the Shadow Path. They discovered that the ones who came to their rescue were a group of rough, disgruntled men and one equally intimidating woman. The man who led them had a tall, slender frame, pale skin, piercing blue eyes, and stringy black hair. He smiled warmly at them and joked, “Prince Aidan! You didn’t come prepared!”

“They don’t usually come in droves in like that!” Aidan said in his defense, but he didn’t sound terribly angry.

The man lamented, “They’ve been doing that a lot lately. They know something’s up.”

As the man spoke, Yasmina felt as though she recognized him, and yet she was sure that she had never met him before. She inquired, “Why do you look so familiar?”

He replied, “Ah, well, you probably know my brother, Duke…I’m sorry, ‘King’ Dorian. What different lives we led! My older brother married a duchess and later became the so called king. Before any of that happened though, I discovered that I was a warlock and got kicked out of the family. Luckily, the Thieves of Mitthuscint took me in! We both rose to leadership, but unlike him, I kept my soul! Jakan, at your service!”

“At our service?” Yasmina reacted quizzically. “Sorry! When you told us you were thieves, I thought you were going to rob us!”

Yasmina thought she had offended him, but Jakan laughed, “What would we steal from you, your cat?” The other thieves reacted jovially at his joke.

Ardeshir half kidded, “If you’re looking for valuables, look no further! How often do you find a talking cat?”

The thieves gasped when they heard him talk, but then Jakan rubbed his chin contemplatively. “Hmm…that does seem rare!” Aidan cleared his throat, which shook Jakan from his thought. “Before you ask, the answer is no.”

“I wasn’t going to ask again,” Aidan retorted. “I found a witch to help me.”

Jakan gave Yasmina an incredulous look. “Why would you do that? It’s a suicide mission!”

Yasmina flushed a little. She had always feared this possibility but never really entertained it. Aidan kept such a positive attitude towards it that it sort of shocked her to hear such pessimism. Despite this grim outlook, Yasmina’s instincts solidly assured her that she was doing the right thing, so she refused to let this slight sway her. “Someone has to take a stand against her!”

“True!” Jakan agreed, “but that’s why our mission is to steal from and wreak havoc against the evil witches and warlocks that support her. We’re not accepting their tyranny lying down! The more they oppress this kingdom, the more miserable we’ll make them!” The other robbers emphatically concurred. Jakan then offered, “You’re welcome to join us if you want.”

Yasmina was surprised to hear him say that, and although she could see the appeal of such a lifestyle, she refused to give up on their quest. “I appreciate the offer, but we need to continue on this mission, it’s too important!”

Jakan differed, “There’s other ways to resist that are a little less deadly! You could settle down somewhere and be happy, which is exactly what she’s trying to take away from you!”

Aidan put in, “I could never live peacefully knowing that a tyrant sits on my rightful throne! My family has a duty bound deep in their blood to protect this land at all costs, and it would be an insult to their memory to go against our code of honor at such a crucial juncture!”

“Oh, I forgot about your family,” Jakan admitted.. “I can see why you would be driven to vengence! I sincerely hope you’re successful and that Caragsona could be set free again! I only worry about your odds. It would be devastating to lose people with so much good and potential in them!”

“Let us worry about the odds!” Aidan responded. “Don’t get too shocked when we beat them! The only thing I want you to worry about is my offer of knighthood when I get crowned as king!”

Jakan guffawed, “I had forgotten your offer of honest work for my men and me upon your success! Well, we’ll cross that bridge when when we get to it. Speaking of bridges, when you come across the bridge and see a village, don’t go there! Their people are starving and yet they’re giving away all of their food! It’s sad!”

“Thanks for the tip,” Aidan told him.

Jakan nodded cordially, and then addressed the other thieves, “Let’s carry on with the hunt!”

“Good luck!” Yasmina chimed.

“To you as well,” he said seriously. The thieves all non-verbally acknowledged them as they headed in the opposite direction. Ardeshir, Yasmina, and Aidan continued forward down the Shadow Path.

Back in the castle Rogamaith, Dorian sat cockily in the throne room as a group of scribes hastily took notes. Dorian decreed, “And therefore, anyone who is caught stealing shall be sentenced to death!”

All of the scribes stopped in mid-sentence and murmured in confusion. One man queried, “To death, sire? For stealing?”

“Yes!” Dorian confirmed.

Another scribe inquired, “What is the minimum value that would constitute-?”

Dorian replied, “If a twig from someone’s house gets taken from them, the person responsible will immediately get captured and brought to the dungeons for a beheading!”

The scribes all stared at him in shock. Another scribe questioned, “A beheading for thievery? You don’t think that’s too harsh?”

“Too harsh?” Dorian grew incensed by their position on the issue. “I was just accused of not caring about peasants, and here we are with a huge robbery problem in our most impoverished villages and I’m being too harsh? If these people are truly starving, they can spare no expense, therefore any resource stolen from them is tantamount to death for them. So, the punishment is fitting! The scribes all looked to each other to confirm their confusion on his logic, so he snapped, “Don’t just stand there gawking! Go! Do your jobs and tell your towns!” The scribes all hastily scrambled out while Dorian chuckled maliciously.

As they traveled, Ardeshir gave Yasmina more lessons on properly using her magic. She held a stone in her hand and pointed her want at it. Ardeshir suggested, “Perhaps it would help to say an incantation.”

“How do you say an incantation?” Yasmina inquired.

Ardeshir explained, “Just say what you want to happen. Some people find it easier to concentrate their energy by saying a spell out loud, but the disadvantage is that when you’re fighting or trying to be sneaky, people can hear what you’re intending to do, which gives them time to evade or offer a counter-curse. A few warlocks and witches will make up a word to avoid this, but it’s important that your body and mind knows exactly what you mean by this word or it would become more of a hindrance.”

Concentrating as much as she could, Yasmina commanded, “Float!” Nothing happened. “Float! Float!” The pebble wiggled a little, so she asked, “Did I make that happen? Or did something on the road make it move?”

Aidan answered, “I would hazard a guess that it was your magic. The forest is pretty still right now. There’s a river coming up, but it seems pretty calm.” Something clicked for him, and so he remarked, “This must be the bridge that Jakan had referred to! Oh, I know the village that’s coming up. It’s Baile Daonna, a town of mortals who got lost in the woods, either accidentally or on purpose, and stayed there. They’re pretty protective of themselves, with good reason! It’s not a place I would have suggested stopping to visit!”

Yasmina puzzled, “So, why did Jakan say that they were giving away all of their food?”

“Something’s not right,” Ardeshir noted. “But if we got involved, it would take precious time away from our quest. Of course, as people with hearts, we can’t just ignore people who need our help. What should we do?” The three of them looked to each other for answers, but none of them knew what to do.

War of the Mystics: Frozen

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War of the Mystics: Frozen, the Novel

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