Amouraq II: Curse of the Serpent’s Tongue, Chapter 1

His footsteps echoed throughout the cavern hall. A faint glow emanated from his brown, hooded robe, but still all he could see was a seemingly endless, pitch black tunnel. He cringed at the nerve-wracking passage that he had to embark on every time he needed to speak to him, but he didn’t dare voice his complaint out loud. His master would have condemned him as unfit for his job, and nothing would tempt him into losing that! He understood why he deemed it necessary to do it this way, but he wished he had a fraction of his courage to do this constantly! Perhaps he had a better grasp of how long it took to reach the entrance and knew what to expect, he thought. It felt never ending to him, and each passing second just built up his anxiety! Just when he thought he couldn’t take it anymore, he finally saw a light flickering in the distance! He breathed a sigh of relief as he rushed towards the illumination that was seeping out of a wooden door. He knocked, and a cold, booming voice responded, “Who is it?”

“It’s Simeon, your majesty!” he replied. The door opened on its own, and Simeon entered.

The source of the small bit of shine turned out to come from the fire that heated a cauldron, which had a nearly translucent liquid simmering inside of it. Curious, Simeon asked, “Were you able to see anything?”

The other person in the room answered, “Psh! Are you kidding me? That castle has the highest protection guarding it; there’s no way I’d have a chance to keep an eye on that so called queen! I’m reduced to finding out what she’s up to through those bloodhounds who relentlessly hunt information, which doesn’t help me much since most of them are on her side! Just look at this headline!” He waved his hands over the cauldron to show a a headline that read: Xavier Ryder Still at Large. After Simeon had a chance to see it, Xavier quickly took it away from view. Xavien then grouched, “When I’m king, they’ll be sorry for disparaging my name like that!” After he growled from frustration, he eyed Simeon in annoyance and probed, “Why did you ask me that? Do you dare question my judgment? What I do in my private quarters is no business of yours!”

“I agree, your majesty!” Simeon timidly jumped in. “I’m sorry if my intentions weren’t clearer. I only wanted to know if our newest recruit managed to break down a barrier.”

“New recruit?” Xavier’s attention peaked when he heard that. “Did you do a better job vetting this one?”

Simeon shifted uncomfortably at that reference. “We most certainly did, your majesty! We wouldn’t make that mistake twice! And this one won’t even need to come here! We found someone who works at the castle that’s willing to help us!”

Xavier raised his eyebrows in an impressed expression. “So, they’re willing to sneak in the…?”

Simeon nodded. “Yes, your majesty!”

“Wow!” Xavier reacted in relief. “Finally, some good news!” He waved his hands over the cauldron to convey a distant view of the royal castle. “They’ve been lulled into a false sense of security for far too long! Soon, they’ll see that it doesn’t pay to double cross me!” He cackled delightfully as he made the image of the castle disappear.

“Order! Order!” Emily banged her gavel on the small podium in front of her seat in a large room, and several people in professional attire stopped bickering and reluctantly took a seat. When they were all facing her, Emily calmly addressed them, “I appreciate the passion that you all put inot this cause, but please remember that no one will buy into your argument if you try to force them into it! At the end of the day, we all want what’s best for Amouraq, we just have different ways on how to get there. Please try to keep that in mind before you jump down each other’s throats!” The parliament murmured in a begrudged agreement. Emily sighed, and then she concluded, “Look, we all want this thing passed, but I can’t sign something that doesn’t exist yet. Why don’t we call it a night, refresh ourselves for a while, and come back on Monday with some compromises so we can get this thing done? You’re dismissed.”

After she banged her gavel, a balding man with small glasses and a thin body that emitted an aura of ardent enthusiasm for the academia announced, “Parliament will resume again Monday at nine!”

“Thank you, Hugo!” Emily acknowledged him.

“My pleasure, Madame Queen,” he replied courteously.

Emily reminded him, “I told you, you can call me Emily.”

Hugo very cordially disagreed, “No, I don’t think I can!” He gave her a small grin, and she chuckled in response.

Outside of the parliament doors, three people stood in a circle chatting. One was a plump, very genial-looking woman in a maid’s uniform, one was a gaunt, lanky young man in a custodian’s uniform, and the other was a stocky, middle-aged man with a bushy mustache and a chef’s hat. When they saw Emily emerge, the woman in the maid’s uniform commented, “Boy, you look like you’ve had a rough day!”

“I do? Oh no!” Emily rushed to a decorative mirror hanging on a nearby wall. She could see bags under her normally shiny, golden brown eyes, and her coffee brown hair seemed a bit frayed. She thought that her skirt suit flattered her well in the morning, but now she questioned it. She felt like it accentuated her thick, hourglass figure, but now she wondered if it actually complimented her like she thought.

The man in the custodian’s uniform reassured her, “Yvette didn’t mean that you looked anything less than your usual, lovely self. You’ve just been here long enough where we can tell when you’ve had a long day without you having to tell us, that’s all!”

“Oh!” Emily seemed a little relieved to hear him say that. “Thanks, Oscar! Sorry if I’m a little on edge! I’m just trying really hard to get something accomplished soon! Everyone keeps pointing out how little I’ve done since I’ve gotten here.”

“Not everyone,” Yvette differed. “Just a few reporters who don’t have anything nice to say about anyone! I actually just read an article about how well you’ve assimilated into your role; I’ll send it to you.” She pulled out her cellphone and proceeded to text her the link.

The chef shared her sentiment, “don’t let your critics get you down! You’ll never be universally popular, but most people really like you. King Patrick always said he’s doing his best, and if that’s not good enough for someone, then screw ’em!”

Emily smiled gratefully. “Thanks, Dagan! You’re right, I’m gonna spend the rest of the weekend relaxing so I can just forget about it!”

“How about I whip you up some nice comfort food for dinner?” Dagan suggested.

“That sounds great! Thanks for the support, guys! You’ve been really helpful to me this past month!” Emily appreciatively told them.

Oscar affably responded, “Anytime!” She gave them a gracious look as she walked away.

Later that day, Emily sat on a cushy couch in a posh but comfortable-looking living room while she watched a kooky-sounding show in her pajamas. She rested her head in her hand with a despondent expression. All of a sudden, the channel changed to a station playing a more serious show! Emily blew up, “Hey! I was watching that! Why would you-?” She turned to see who had committed that offense against her, expecting to argue with them, and instead, to her delight, she saw a handsome man with copper-colored hair, deep blue eyes, a strong jawline, and a nicely toned physique! “Oh, hello stranger!”

With a very toothy grin, he greeted her, “Stranger, huh? I guess that means you didn’t miss me much!”

“Obviously not!” Emily joked. They both laughed, and then Emily noted, “Usually, I just get a text message or a phone call from you, so you must be here for a more substantial message.” She paused and added, “Please don’t be bad news!”

“Well…” He sat down on the couch with a hand behind his back. “I heard you were having a rough day, so I brought you something.” He revealed that he had gotten her a small, white box with a chocolatier’s logo on it, and Emily’s face lit up to see that! “I hope it’s good! I had to rely on the sales person ’cause of the allergy.”

Emily beamed as he handed it to her. “I’m sure it’s delicious! You are so sweet! Thank you, Stephen!”

Stephen’s heart skipped a beat as she threw her arms around him to give him a hug. He had been so busy working on his case that he had almost forgotten how warm her body felt! He didn’t want to let go, but he certainly didn’t want to create an awkward moment for her either. After they broke apart, he playfully informed her, “I hope you didn’t get too comfortable with me being a stranger ’cause it’s my turn to bodyguard you this week!”

“Oh, that’s…” Emily trailed off as something on the television caught her attention.

A middle-aged woman with an outdated hairstyle and an ample amount of make up that failed to make her look younger boisterously told the camera, “I’m Penny Melrose, and this is Celebrity Tonight! We’ve got the latest on the reality show spat that has the whole world talking, but first, let’s go to Bernard Andrew for his exclusive interview with one of Queen Emily’s old flames.”

The camera panned to a good looking, well dressed man who eagerly spoke, “That’s right, Penny! Emily came to power as a single woman, but everyone wants to know who might join her on the throne! My next guest says she won’t stay single for long! Please say hello to her ex boyfriend from-!”

“Ugh, turn it off!” Emily stared at the the television in disgust.

As Stephen complied with her request, Emily’s sour mood prompted her to open up the chocolate he had gotten her. Her annoyance instantly melted away as she ate the candy, and Stephen felt pleased to see his gesture generated his intended effect. Before either of them could say anything else, an elderly woman with an elegant, gray bun and a knitted shawl over her dress entered the room and pleasantly remarked, “Oh, Judith wasn’t lying, you are here!”

“Yup!” Stephen grinned at her. ‘Nice to see you again, Amelia! Tell me, how’s castle life treating you?”

“It’s a lot different than Hartwood!” Amelia sat down in a chair by them and began regaling him with her experiences in this new environment.

The next morning, an older woman in a maid’s uniform carried a stack of towels down the hall. Despite her age, she had a shrewd visage that gave off plenty of energy. She saw Stephen waiting outside of Emily’s chambers, so she queried, “What are you doing?”

“Oh, hi Judith!” Stephen requested, “Would you mind watching over Emily for a little while so I can go for a jog?”

“Not at all!” she obliged. “Enjoy your jog!”

“Thanks!’ Stephen left as she assumed his position.

Stephen could see his breath as he jogged through the cobblestone streets around the castle. He loved how going through Ovelstrofe felt like stepping into a time machine! The medieval buildings were still artfully in tact, and he didn’t see very many people with cars. He knew most people in the area would use a teleportation spell and didn’t need them, but regardless of the reason, he enjoyed how fresh the air felt without a bunch of exhaust hovering over the town! He was glad that Emily finally got a chance to sleep in, but he woke up early because couldn’t sleep at all the previous night. He had the same dread he usually faced before embarking on a new assignment, which was strange since he still hadn’t closed his case with Xavier yet. He didn’t understand it but theorized that perhaps it just stemmed from his general anxiety at the moment. He still hadn’t decided if he wanted to take over Alastair’s position at the International Crime Investigation headquarters or if he wanted to stay with the FBI.. He didn’t know which way his instincts were pulling him since all of his thoughts were preoccupied with his imagination going into overdrive from having Emily in the next room! His mind revisited a few of his enticing fantasies as he reminded himself of her curvaceous silhouette…

All of a sudden, a small, green creature with pointy ears and sharp claws jumped out of someone’s yard and snarled at him!Xavier's Vision

Amouraq, Chapter 19

Stephen felt both the sensation of falling and flying as the three of them were whisked through an air of nothingness. They were sucked into a beam of light, and in a flash, Stephen found that they had landed in an empty room in some kind of office setting. Going from outdoors to the inside of a building disoriented him for a moment, and his adrenaline was still pumping from narrowly avoiding danger. It hadn’t totally sunk in for him yet, so he asked, “Where are we?”

Allison answered him, “The International Crime Investigation’s main headquarters. Agent Allison Ramiro, at your service!” She extended her hand for him to shake.

Stephen shook her hand, but his brain could hardly process what she just told them. “Wait, if we’re in the main headquarters, that means…” He almost had it, but the idea just seemed too incredible to be true!

Emily guessed, “We’re in Ovelstrofe?” Allison nodded, and so Emily exclaimed, “We made it!”

Stephen’s heart nearly leapt out of his chest! As much as he swore that they’d make it to this point, it almost seemed unimaginable. After surviving that mystical forest for hours and hours, his body hard sort of adapted to that as a new reality. It stunned him to think they had actually made it to civilization again, and yet he couldn’t deny it any longer. Allison’s words coupled with what he saw with his own eyes made everything click, and when he realized their victory, he cried out in jubilation, “We made it!” He and Emily engulfed each other in a hug as they jumped up and down in celebration. He gratefully expressed to her, “You’ve totally perfected the whole rescuing thing! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

“Are you kidding me?” Emily reacted joyfully. “I would never had made it with out you!”

“You could have totally made it without me!” Stephen happily pointed out. “You just needed the confidence to know you could do it!”

Emily gleefully differed, “Yes, and you gave that to me! You’re my hero!”

Stephen’s heart swelled with pride to hear her think so highly of him, but when he noticed Allison out of the corner of his eye, he acknowledged, “And where would either of us be without her? Thank you!”

“We made a good team!” Allison observed. Emily and Stephen agreed, and they all formed a group hug.

Alastair had his head buried in his hands with a look of utter distraught as he leaned over his desk. Suddenly, he heard the sound of exuberant voices coming from the other side of the hall. He found that strange, so he curiously walked over to decipher what was occurring. He saw three people in the teleportation area, which perplexed him until he recognized one of the distant silhouettes as Allison! “Allison!” He rushed over to her, and she met him in the hallway to give him a huge hug. After a quick squeeze, he rejoiced, “You’re okay! Where’d you go?”

Allison smiled knowingly at him. “How about I let these two explain it?”

Alastair looked behind her and could hardly believe his eyes! “Stephen? Emily?” They both nodded. “You’re both alive! This is great!” He wrapped his arms around both of them in a huge wave of relief. “You’re still alive! I have so many questions for you! First, where did your plane go after…?” He cut himself off when he remembered something important. “Wait, we’ll have to discuss it later! King Patrick is dying as we speak, and he wants to see you both, so we gotta go!” He grabbed their arms and chanted, “Lanumaciae Alexendar’s castle!” They instantly disappeared.

In a large, stately bedroom with gray, stone walls, a group of servants stood around the bed with somber expressions. A few of them even wept as they gazed upon an elderly man who wore a ceremonial suit and a simple yet elegant gold crown. Stephen and Emily sheepishly entered, and both of them felt too uncomfortable to say anything at first. After a while, a couple of servants peeked their heads up and began whispering to each other, which stirred up a conversation throughout the room. The man on the bed picked up on the shift of focus and, in a weak but very kind voice, he questioned, “Who’s there?”

The servants abandoned all pretense and stared in their direction. Stephen broke the awkwardness of the moment by clearing his throat and introducing them, “Stephen Knight, FBI. This is Emily.”

One of the maids reacted, “Emily? As in the heir next in line?” Emily bashfully nodded, and all of the servants started buzzing about this eventuality.

“You made it!” The man on the bed then requested, “Please, come closer!” The servants cleared a path for them, so Stephen and Emily approached him. Even in his feeble state, Stephen thought he exuded sheer strength! And yet he still had an air of altruism and wisdom to him too. He addressed them, “I’m King Patrick, ‘though not for long! Soon, the throne will be yours. Dear Emily, you came from a neighboring land just as our beloved King Alexander did! He set out to dominate the world, but when he fell in love, he realized there was a greater way to spread his empire. Anyone can take over the world and force people into submission, but by offering friendship and brotherhood, more people will be drawn to you and follow your leadership. No force is necessary when you are truly loved! People will willingly come to your side when you need protection and will willingly uphold the laws that you decree. Their fidelity will come naturally so long as you never let them forget that you care! Please carry on Alexander’s legacy with pride and the utmost integrity!”

“I will!” Emily promised as her eyes brimmed with tears.

“Stephen, thank you for protecting our future queen!” King Patrick extended his hand, and naturally, Stephen shook it. As he did so, King Patrick motioned for him to come closer. Stephen leaned in, and King Patrick whispered, “Promise me you’ll always love her, even when she makes it difficult to do so!”

Stephen felt bewildered by his request. He couldn’t deny that he had romantic feelings for Emily, but he hadn’t crossed that bridge into calling it love yet. He hadn’t told a soul about how he felt about these feelings though, so he wondered how King Patrick knew to say that! He remembered Emily saying that he had strong intuition, and Amouraqians seemed to take royal predictions very seriously. The last bit of his words echoed back to him… even when she makes it difficult to do so… He glanced up at Emily, and he couldn’t imagine any scenario that would make it difficult to love her! So, he promised King Patrick, “I will!”

King Patrick regarded the entire room, “I want to leave letting you all know that I love each and every one of you in my kingdom! May you all have a peaceful and abundant future! Goodbye!” He closed his eyes, and after taking one last gulp of air, he stopped breathing. The servants all stared at his body forlornly, and some of them cried and consoled each other. Tears formed in Emily’s eyes, so Stephen put a comforting hand on her shoulder. She gazed up at him gratefully and wiped her eyes.

After a couple of minutes, some people in medical uniforms came in and requested, “When you’re ready, can you please clear the room so we can do his final examination?”

A few people left immediately, but some lingered for a while. Alastair entered with a balding man that had small glasses, a gentle grin, and a vibe of ardent enthusiasm for the academia, and Alastair informed Emily, “This is Hugo Boman, he’s deputy head of parliament.”

Hugo shook her and and told her, “Whenever you’re ready, we have a lot of paperwork to go over to officially instate you as queen before the coronation ceremony.”

Emily didn’t look pleased at the prospect, and before she left, she caught Stephen’s eye, and he mouthed the words, “I told you so!” She silently chuckled before following Hugo and Alastair out of the room. It made Stephen feel warm inside to see that the right person was set to take the crown!

Before he left the room, he took one last look at King Patrick. He wished that he had gotten here sooner so he could have asked more questions. He felt relieved to hear that Alexander had a change of heart about world domination, but he wondered why Xavier and his followers hadn’t accepted that view of him. He didn’t question royal predictions, but he didn’t believe that Alexander’s ambitions had been altered by his experiences. Xavier seemed to truly believe that he got robbed of his dream, and he became bound and determined to live out his original vision for the world. Stephen could only assume that Xavier didn’t believe in love, but King Patrick obviously did. His message of kinship seemed to guide his leadership decisions, and it obviously was effective. President Truett was only too eager to assist him in this crisis, and King Patrick was humble enough to ask for help from a cose. For an instant, Stephen thought that King Patrick must have hired him to really irk Xavier, who clearly viewed sorcerers as superior to anyone who couldn’t do magic, but then he remembered the prophecy that Xavier had shared with him. He figured that King Patrick must have heard it too, so now Stephen couldn’t tell if King Patrick hired him because he wanted to scare Xavier or if he truly believe in it also. Then, he recalled what King Patrick had asked of him moments ago, and he couldn’t figure out if King Patrick had foreseen some other role for him in the future.

Some of the servants were tidying up the room a bit with cleaning spells, and Stephen tapped one of them on the shoulders to inquire, “Was King Patrick psychic?”

“Psychic?” he repeated. “You must be a cose! No, sorcerers and sorceresses connect with the energy of the nature around them, so they’re more in tune with what’s happening in the universe. Coses can sense things too, but our instincts are a little more prone to picking up on things. And the more adept we are at our magic, the stronger our intuition becomes. King Patrick was the most powerful sorcerer I knew, so his predictions tended to be very accurate!” He paused and added, “Why?”

Stephen didn’t answer right away. He remembered that Emily had something similar, and now his mind began reeling with all of kinds of different possibilities! He became aware of the servant’s stare, so he quickly excused himself, “No reason. It’s been a long day! If you’ll excuse me, I need to have a word with the ICI.” The servant nodded cordially, and Stephen dashed out of the room. He owed Alastair an explanation, and he hoped he could give him advice on what in the world he would tell his boss about his ordeal!

A couple of days later, Stephen stood by the entrance of a huge ceremonial room. The pews were packed with people in colorful formal attire, and he could only assume that since they were in dark colors for King Patrick’s funeral that they wanted to wear something more vibrant and life affirming for today’s proceedings. He recognized some of the people as the castle’s servants, but it took him a while to make the connection since their moods were so vastly different. He saw Amelia waving to him, and he naturally waved back. She began whispering to the people next to her, and he knew that she must have talked about him because they all tried to subtly turn around to scope him out. The press had scattered throughout the room and hurried to make last minute adjustments since Emily was due to arrive at any moment. The entire room seemed to buzz with excitement to see the next heir take the throne.

“Oh hello, Stephen!” Allison chirped. Stephen turned his attention to her, and it took him a moment to register that it was her since she was wearing a much more conservative ensemble. She arrived with a group that Stephen could only assume was other Amouraqians agents since they stood in a guarding formation. “Would you like to sit with use during the ceremony?”

“Thank you for the offer,” Stephen politely declined, “but I have a plane to catch.” He indicated to a suitcase next to him.

Alastair entered the room, and he offered to Stephen, “Oh Stephen, before you go, I’d like to talk to you. I’m planning on retiring soon, and I’d like to nominate you to take my place!”

Stephen hadn’t expected to hear this! It wasn’t the first time he had gotten a job offer from another agency, but he never would have guessed anyone would pick him to head a magical law enforcement unit! “You want me to take your place? You want a…?”

“You’d be the first,” Alastair admitted, “but we’ve seen firsthand that you can handle it. My team would really benefit from your experience.” Allison vehemently nodded.

Stephen didn’t know what to say. He had spent his whole adult life working for the FBI, and he never really pictured doing anything else. Of course, Emily had been completely right in that he didn’t think much about the future. Everyone had gathered here today because she was their future, but he didn’t know about himself. He had been so busy in the last couple of days that he didn’t have time to think about his feelings for her. He still held her in high esteem, but after spending more time apart, he wondered if any of his romantic notions would go away. She was about to become queen, and he still had a job to do, so they probably wouldn’t be together much. If he took Alastair’s position, he figured that they would have to interact from time to time. If he did that and his feelings deepened again, eh didn’t think he could handle it if she didn’t reciprocate that sentiment. He wouldn’t be very effective at his post if he had to endure the heartache of seeing her constantly without becoming romantically intertwined. With her as queen, he didn’t see how she could desire him the way he wanted her! He also considered that their near-death experience just caused him to develop a crush. He thought that maybe after some time that this phase would pass. He didn’t know what to tell Alastair, so he started to reply to him, “Well, I’ll have to talk to…”

Emily entered the room, and Stephen’s breath almost literally went away when he saw her appearance! She wore an embellished white gown with gilded threads and ornate jewelry that had sparkling blue jewels on it. Stephen had never seen anyone so beautiful that he couldn’t speak, and yet here he was unable to say a word! She beamed at him, and his heart beat wilder than it ever had before! At that moment, he knew that his feelings for her weren’t just a phase!

Allison grinned at the other agents and suggested, “Let’s go have a seat! I think Emily is in good hands!” She winked at Stephen as she led the others to take a seat.

“Just let me know when you’ve made your decision.” Alastair pat his back and went to take his seat.

Emily approached him, but when she noticed his suitcase, her face fell. “Oh, you’re off to another assignment already?”

Stephen quickly explained, “Oh no! My case isn’t closed yet since Xavier is still out there! Actually, it’s my uncle Brian’s birthday today, and I’m taking him on a fishing trip.” Emily’s eyes widened in surprise, so he remarked, “Yes, I’m taking a few days off. After our excursion in the forest, I got to thinking… life is short, and I should spend time with my loved ones while I still can.”

“So true!” Emily smiled approvingly at this, which made his heart swell.

He almost got lost in thought staring at her again, but he was able to swiftly recover. “Anyways, I just wanted to stop by before your coronation to wish you luck. Oh, and here’s my new cell phone number. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to let me know!” He handed her a business card, and after she accepted it, he added, “Don’t you forget about me now!”

“I won’t!” She tucked his card into her clothes just as Hugo summoned for her to come on stage. She flung her arms around Stephen and squeezed him tight. “Just promise me you’ll come back!”

“Yes, ma’am!” He didn’t want to let her go, but he had no choice. She had to go, and so did he. He wished he could have stayed to watch the whole ceremony! As she walked towards the stage, he knew he had to tear himself away from there now or he wouldn’t have the nerve to do it at all. He couldn’t help but take one last look at her though. As they began the ceremony, he whispered, “I’ll never let Xavier get to you! I promise!” As he spoke, a vision of Xavier’s menacing eyes and haunting cackle flashed before his eyes. He shoot it off, grabbed his suitcase, and headed towards the airport.

The End

For now…The Crown

Amouraq, Chapter 18

Xavier looked paralyzed by fear, and Stephen could understand why. The woman who waked in had to be nine feet tall, and the black and red feathers and skull beads in her crown just heightened her further. The really transparent black veil attached to her headpiece had the flowy movements of a phantom, and her two-piece, toga-like outfit clung to her like spider webs. The deep glower on her face could intimidate a person immediately, and Stephen quickly figured out who she was- The Nymph Queen of Evil! She bellowed to Xavier, “What did you do with my nymphs?”

“I didn’t do anything to them! He’s the one who pitted them against each other!” He pointed to Stephen.

The Nymph Queen of Evil completely ignored Stephen and continued to glare at Xavier. “They were in your care! I trusted you would keep them safe, and you let me down!”

Xavier slowly backed away from her as he nervously reasoned, “They’ll regenerate! It’s not like they’ll be gone forever!” He instantly knew he had erred as her expression grew angrier. “I’m so sorry! I lost your trust, and I sincerely hope I can make it up to you! I do think our partnership is mutually beneficial, so if you’ll just give me some time, I promise I’ll rectify this grievance I’ve committed against you!”

“What is that? A line from your script of things to say to your clients?” the Nymph Queen of Evil spat. “You can’t charm me like you do with your floosies! Why should I give you another shot?”

“Remember what we discussed when you invited me here? I needed to use your forest to eliminate the heirs that came before me so that I could take over Amouraq, and after I do that, you’ll be able to expand your realm further. We can still do that! I’ve made tremendous progress, we’re getting so close to making that happen! If you let me stay, I can finish what we started, and with you as queen, I’m sure your influence will sway enough hearts to regenerate your nymphs in no time! Everything will work out in the end, and together, you and I will get what’s rightfully ours! So, what do you say? Are you still with me?” Xavier gazed up at her hopefully.

The Nymph Queen of Evil scoffed at him, “Do you really expect me to fall for that twice? I believed you once, and it got my most powerful nymphs destroyed! How do I know you won’t get more of what’s important to me destroyed?”

“I won’t, I swear!” Xavier sniveled. “It was a fluke! I’ll kill the cose who manipulated them into destroying each other, and then we can move on to the next heir…”

“So, the current heir is dead?” the Nymph Queen of Evil probed.

Xavier’s face fell, and he replied, “Well, almost…”

The Nymph Queen of Evil raged, “What do you mean, almost?”

Xavier tried to explain, “My men will find her soon, and I’ll-!”

“YOU LET HER GET AWAY?” the Nymph Queen of Evil raged.

“A simple miscalculation!” Xavier cowered behind his desk. “Last time I checked, she couldn’t figure out how to teleport! She couldn’t even figure out a simple cloaking spell! I don’t know how she suddenly figured out how to do both! But don’t worry, I doubt she would leave the forest without trying to rescue him!”

Once again, Xavier tried to shift attention over to Stephen, but the Nymph Queen of Evil seemed to have a single focus at the moment. “You’re just guessing! What if she finds my sister and brings her here?”

“She’s weak right now, you can take her!” Xavier assured her.

“Or what if she goes to Ovelstrofe and brings back a team to help her?” the Nymph Queen of Evil challenged him.

Xavier responded, “My team can fight them!”

The Nymph Queen of Evil brought up, “Your team couldn’t defeat her on her own, so what makes you think they could handle her when she has help?” Xavier stuttered but had no answer to her. “Or what if she goes to the castle and takes the crown?”

“We’ll find a way to get to her and remove her from there!” Xavier told her.

“You don’t have a plan for that?” the Nymph Queen of Evil seethed. “King Patrick is on his deathbed, and you don’t have a plan for the next person who’s set to take over? Did you expect to kill everyone that’s in front of you in the little bit of time he has left?”

Xavier’s eyes grew as wide as they could get. “I… uh… I….!”

The Nymph Queen of Evil’s voice grew demonic as she shouted, “Your incompetence will cost you dearly! You took my people away from me, so now I’m going to take something from you! Goodbye, Xavier Ryder!” She conjured up a ball of light, but before she could throw it at him, Xavier almost inaudibly chanted a spell. Suddenly, he disappeared! The Nymph Queen of Evil boomed, “NO! I almost had that bastard! It would have been perfect! It would have been sweet! And now there’s no way for me to know where his is!” She sighed and more calmly expressed, “Oh well! At least you’re safe, Stephen!”

Stephen felt utterly confused by that last comment. “Wait, you want to protect me? The one responsible for killing your nymphs? Why would you…?” The Nymph Queen of Evil turned around and looked at him with adoring, caring eyes, and that didn’t make any sense to Stephen. He didn’t understand how the embodiment of evil could possibly feel any kind of love in her heart, unless… It suddenly occurred to him that Xavier just got duped by a disguise! “Emily?”

The Nymph Queen of Evil smiled triumphantly waved her hands in front of her body and chanted, “Avero Consimulo!” A puff of smoke appeared and shrouded the Nymph Queen of Evil, and when it cleared, it revealed Emily standing there! “Sorry I’m late! After I teleported out of that room, I had to help that girl fight the other sorceresses. She’s still down there, so we gotta go!” She pointed at him and chanted, “Relashio!”

The ropes that bound him were released, and he quickly slipped them off. Emily offered him a hand to help him up, and he took it gladly. He knew they had important business to do, but it was so hard to be this close to her and not show her any kind of affection! She grinned at him, but she pulled herself away in order to keep moving. He knew it was the right thing to do and tried to shake off his previous sentiment. Before he followed her out, he noticed something glimmering out of the corner of his eye. He requested to Emily, “Wait!” She complied but didn’t totally understand why he was delaying them. He dashed over to Xavier’s desk, grabbed her magic book, and handed it to her.

Emily’s expression grew shocked to see it again. “My book! You found it! You don’t know how much this means to me!” She was near tears as she gazed up at him, and he beamed to see her feel this much joy. They heard a crash downstairs, and Emily’s attention snapped back into place. “We gotta go!” She grabbed his wrist and led him out of the room.

As they hurried down the staircase, Stephen’s mind returned to its professional track. “What happened out there?”

Emily explained, “That girl apparently saw us in the forest, and she told me to say the destination. That’s why the teleportation spell never worked for me! So, I teleported myself outside, and those bimbos found me! That girl blocked their spells, and we were battling it out a bit. Obviously, we didn’t have much of a chance, we were totally outnumbered, and then we ran into…”

She opened a door to the outside, and Stephen felt surprised to see a statuesque woman in a flowing white gown and a crown made of gilded feathers and sapphire-like beads hovering over the foray! Xavier’s sorcerers and sorceresses were fighting Allison and the vulpecular, and Xavier’s people kept trying different spells to hit them, but they seemed to always bounce off. Stephen could tell that the Nymph Queen of Good had found them, and she was clearly using the last bit of her strength to shield them. She looked tired, and it didn’t seem like she could carry on much longer. The vulpecular tried to bite the sorcerers and sorceresses, but they managed to avoid it for the most part. Allison had a number of spells to use against them, but no one was staying still long enough for her incantations to hit them. Emily held up her hand and started to chant, “Sercoup Stephen’s-!”

“Hold on!” Stephen put his palm on hers to block the spell. “I have an idea…”

Emily jumped into the battlegrounds next to Allison, and Allison hastily asked, “Where’s Stephen? Did you find him?”

Xavier’s voice answered, “No, she didn’t!”

The sorcerers and sorceresses turned to him with surprise, and the head sorcerer addressed him, “Your majesty! We have her cornered! We can take care of the Nymph Queen of Good while you-.”

“Shut up!” Xavier hissed. “Didn’t you see the cose run out here?”

“Uh…” The sorcerer shifted guiltily. “We were too busy fighting them! We’re so sorry! We-!”

Xavier bellowed, “Go find him! Now!” He pointed to his right, and all of his sorcerers and sorceresses hastily obeyed.

When they were out of sight, Emily pointed to his right, and all of his sorcerers and sorceresses swiftly obeyed.

When they were out of sight, Emily pointed at Xavier and chanted, “Avero consimulo!”

After the poof of smoke disappeared, Stephen ran up to Emily and Allison and remarked, “We don’t have much time until they figure it out, so we need to leave immediately!”

“I’ll get us to a safe spot!” Allison affirmed. She linked arms with Stephen and Emily, but before she got them out of there, she gazed up to the Nymph Queen of Good and said graciously, “Thank you for your help!”

The Nymph Queen of Good smiled fondly at the three of them, and in a divine, almost echoing voice, she addressed them, “Thank you for frighting for the sanctity of my forest! You three area always welcomed back here!”

Stephen, Emily, and Allison each briefly thanked her. At that moment, they could see a couple of Xavier’s people pointing at them in the distance. Allison quickly chanted, “Lanumaciae Michael’s Deck!” Before the other sorcerers and sorceresses could reach them, they disappeared!Good vs Evil

Amouraq, Chapter 17

The robed sorcerers carried Stephen up a flight of rickety stairs that led to a bare hallway, and the head of the pack knocked on a closed door at the end of the foyer. A cold yet booming voice replied, “Come in!”

The sorcerers entered into a room that was pitch black save for a cauldron with a bubbling, translucent liquid inside of it. The main sorcerer gazed behind the cauldron, but Stephen couldn’t see anyone there. The sorcerer informed the figured, “Your majesty, we got the cose!”

The man in the shadows asked, “And the girl?”

The sorcerer shifted uncomfortably as he answered, “Your ladies went after her.”

“She got away?” the shrouded male seethed.

‘She couldn’t have gotten far!” the sorcerer reasoned. “I mean, she barely survived the-!”

The dark figure commanded, “Go help them! We can’t let her get away!”

The sorcerer obsequiously bowed. “Yes, your majesty!” He and his colleagues scrambled out of the room.

As they hastily exited the area, a flood of relief coursed through Stephen’s body. She managed to escape, and so far, she was able to elude the sorceresses’ capture! He hoped that she would find a way to get to Ovelstrofe rather than trying to rescue him because he cared much more about keeping her safe than his own life, and the torture of seeing her pass away right in front of him would be more than he could bear! He never did find out what spell he used on his numerous victims, and a part of him really didn’t want to know, but now he felt curious about what to expect from here. He wanted to believe that both he and Emily would make it out of the hidden forest alive, but he couldn’t fathom how that would be possible given the circumstances. His only hope at this moment was to keep Xavier preoccupied with him so that Emily would have enough time to get away!

When the others were out, he heard the man chant, “Claudostium!” The only door in or out of the room clicked as if it were being locked. “Lumenia modeo!” The room suddenly lighted up as if someone had turned on a lamp. The room was small and fairly unadorned, and behind the antique desk and classic, cushioned office chair, a long speech had been pinned up in a language that Stephen could only assume was Amouraqian. He never bothered to learn the language since it was said to be an archaic one that no one used anymore, but now he wished that he had so he could gain insight into Xavier’s character.

Stephen had expected Xavier to have revealed himself sooner and felt surprised he waited so long. He thought perhaps Xavier believed that he was building up suspense for him, so to show that he hadn’t phased him, Stephen cheekily regarded him, “Your majesty, huh? Nice palace you’ve got here!”

In a very measured tone, he responded, “You have no idea where we are right now, do you?”

Stephen shrugged. “Some shack in the middle of the woods?”

His slight obviously got to him as he saw his feet hit the floor. “Some shack! This house once belonged to King Alexander! He used it when he came to visit his wife’s family. You know, you sound awfully cocky, Mister Knight! Don’t get too pleased with yourself! Emily is a foolish little sorceress, and we’ll find her soon!”

Stephen prodded him, “I hope you didn’t set up one of your stupid booby traps to catch her! She got through the last ones pretty easily enough!” He could see him slam his hand down onto the desk, and he swiveled his chair around. His dark, beady eyes narrowed down in a glare, and his pale, thin lips were pursed up into a scowl. He had almost too much gel in his get black hair, and he could smell expensive cologne wafting off of his fine suit. Stephen almost rolled his eyes at his initial impression of him- he obviously tried very hard to show off his elite financial status! He boldly greeted him, “Hello, Xavier!”

A mischievous smile etched out onto Xavier’s face. “Oh, you did your homework! Not enough of it though or you wouldn’t have found yourself in such a predicament, would you?”

“But I didn’t put myself here, did I?” Stephen shot back. “Captain Lefevre could have killed me a long time ago, but you had him keep me alive. You designed it so I would come here and we could meet face to face! The only thing I don’t understand is why. You’ve killed so many other people who stood in the way of your prey, but not me? Why keep a stupid little cose alive?”

“When you did your research, you looked at all kinds of maps and news articles, but did it ever occur to you that you had the answers right in front of you?” He reached under his desk and plopped Emily’s magic book in front of him. “Your case was all about ancestry and history, but you didn’t even bother to look here? Did Emily even tell you the full story it tells about my people?” Stephen didn’t have a clever response to that, so he just shook his head. Xavier explained, “King Alexander didn’t set sail to explore the world just for the hell of it! His clan ruled over a large land with aims of founding an empire built on intellectual discovery and technological advances, but a group of ruthless vikings destroyed their territory and drove the survivors out of their homes. They discovered Amouraq, and their global ambitions were renewed again. That didn’t last long though because of the witch hunts that occurred back home. They became too afraid to reveal their true abilities, and our cowardly royals decided it was in the country’s best interest to keep our magic secret. The people that took the crown after that carried on this tradition until historians later discovered that the original royals made many predictions about the future of Amouraq, one of which was that one day, one of their descendants would renew their noble efforts, and I have. They also predicted that a cose, much like King Alexander, would survive the spells and mythical creatures of this forest, and after he put a stop to the one who carried out Alexander’s original intentions, that man would get crowned king!”

Stephen hated to admit it, but Xavier had a point about him not reading Emily’s spell book when he had the chance! He just assumed that it simply listed spells like a recipe book, so it never occurred to him to read it. Emily had recounted Amouaq’s history in a brief summary, but he thought that she had gotten the information from her father or some other source. If he knew the book expanded on King Alexander’s life story, he would have read it immediately! He didn’t have any way to verify Xavier’s claims now! He had a hard time believing his version of the events, but he had now way to prove him wrong. He felt as though Emily would have mentioned it if King Alexander had any dark intentions, so he just presumed that he was a decent guy. Emily had proven herself as a good person who actually didn’t want the power that came behind becoming royalty, and it seemed logical that she was a reflection of her ancestor. It sounded like the book gave further insight into the mindset of Amouraqians’ past leadership, and Xavier obviously had a high opinion of their visions. He could understand how Xavier might have gotten spooked by him surviving the forest after reading a prediction of a cose retracing Alexander’s path, but his logic seemed flawed. Emily was destined to become queen, and even if he married her, he would technically become a kingly consort. She would have most of the power, so it seemed strange to him that Xavier would find the situation threatening except for the fact a kingly consort would still have more power than Xavier would as a civilian. Xavier eyeballed him as if he were trying to match Stephen’s reaction with the theory that he implied through the information he divulged. Stephen tried his hardest not to give him the satisfaction of a strong reaction. “So, now what?”

Xavier pointed his fingers at his stomach and chanted, “Doleteum!” Stephen felt a sharp pain his his gut, and he tried not to react to it, but it was severe enough that he couldn’t help but wince. This made Xavier smirk, but he quickly got more serious as he stood up and orated, “How is it a stupid cose could help defeat some o the most powerful beings on Earth? You pride yourself in providing justice to others, but where’s their justice? I’ll bet you haven’t given a thought about justice for my people! You’re fighting to keep us hidden in the shadows, do we deserve that? We’ve already done so much good for the world in secret, using our magic to provide critical information that coses could never find on their own and to create cures and treatments that your people never could have made on their own! Imagine how much good we could do if we were in charge of the world! Would an evil cose dare to commit a crime if he knew a sorcerer could take him down in an instant? I’m fighting for a better, safer world, and I’m not gonna let your misguided antics stand in my way! You may have gotten past my traps and creatures, but you’ll never get me! I will have my empire, mark my words!”

Stephen sagely pointed out, “You can’t build a solid empire on top of a blood bath! It won’t last, and neither will you!”

Xavier glared at him and again chanted, “Doleteum!” Stephen grunted from the pain, but Xavier’s ire prevented him from enjoying that moment. He went in front of his desk, stared him dead in the eye, and, with a very icy tone, informed him, “You’ll never become king because you’re not leaving this room! Before you die, I’ll give you one thing, a piece of evidence you’ve been missing: the spell that killed all of the heirs, Nervascam Nimcalgo! It bakes your nerves until all of your organs and bones melt inside your skin! Normally, it’s an honor I only reserve for the wrongful heirs that I eliminate, but today, I’ll make a special exception for you!”

He pointed his palm at him and chanted, “Nervascam Nimcalgo!” A cloud of green electricity engulfed him, and he suddenly felt every nerve fiber in his body light up! It caused him so much agony that he couldn’t help but cry out in pain! The heat began to course through his body, and he wished it would finish him off faster because he couldn’t endure this unbearable pain any longer! Suddenly, it stopped! Stephen saw Xavier’s face as he listened to some banging noises coming from downstairs, but as soon as it ceased, he resumed his spell again. He cried out in anguish as endured the spell once more! Just when he thought he got to the point where his inside would have gotten damaged permanently, Xavier stopped again! He watched Xavier stare at the door in fear as it instantly got immersed in flames and disappeared! His eyes widened as a mysterious figure marched into the room…Xavier Ryder

Amouraq, Chapter 16

Stephen and Emily stared at the building in a cowed awe. The structure itself didn’t give any reason for an admirable impression. It was two stories high, and the material seemed somewhat flimsy. The wood looked weathered and worn enough that it erased any sort of notion of comfort that it may have once offered, and without any landscaping or personal touches, it seemed unlikely that anyone would want to live in this abode. And yet it somehow gave the sinister aura that someoen with ill intentions haunted the area. The air around it felt cold to Stephen, and even though he knew very little about magic, something about the dense energy around it made him think that a lot of dark magic was present there. He thought his hunch had merit based on the aghast expression on Emily’s face, and neither of them had to say it out loud- they had found Xavier’s hideout!

A more primal part of Stephen wanted to burst in there with guns blazing with the intention of just pulverizing the dastardly villain responsible for ruining so many lives and for threatening a person as a good as Emily, but his sense of logic overtook his judgment, and he knew that his primitive desires wouldn’t prevail as a good idea. He knew he had to take a much more subtle approach for his attack strategy, but he sort of felt confused on where to go from here. He had been in similar situations before, but the person that he got assigned to guard usually stayed outside while he went inside the criminal’s hideout, but he knew that Emily would never agree to that. She would want to come in with him so he wouldn’t have to face a sorcerer without magic on his side, but it seemed reckless to bring the mass murderer’s next intended victim right to him! If he had managed to convince Emily to hide outside, he didn’t feel totally confident that she would remain safe. The monsters that had been chasing them before began to dissipate, but he didn’t feel totally confident that no other creature could break through the barrier. Plus, Xavier could have some kind of animal of his own guarding the place. He could imagine Emily had some kind of desire for revenge brewing in her gut, so she probably would find it satisfying to get the chance to confront him. Stephen didn’t think it would be so bad to give her that opportunity, and he might have ended up needing her magical skills in this operation, so he decided that the best option seemed to be to let her go in with him.

Emily whispered to him, “What do we do now?”

Stephen mulled it over for a moment and came up with, “We need to find some kind of back entrance. Come on!”

They tiptoed up to the house, and Stephen studied the details of the walls to see if he could spot any kind of hidden door, and when they didn’t see anything, they snuck around the building’s perimeter. They came to a window, but when they tried to open it, they found that it was sealed pretty tightly, so they decided to move on. They groped around but didn’t see any kind of secret entrance. They found another window, but it, too, wouldn’t budge. When they ventured around the corner, to Stephen’s delight, there was a window with a hole in the glass. It looked big enough for them to reach inside and open it, so he thought that they had finally found the key to penetrating the interior! Just as he wondered whether or not Xavier would have been hanging out close to the room that this window led to, the ground beneath them disappeared!

Stephen immediately felt foolish for not checking for any trap doors on the floor, but the terrain didn’t give away any kind of clues that something laid beneath it. In addition to that, the rudimentary structure seemed basic enough that he didn’t think that this scenario would even be a possibility. As they plummeted down a dark tunnel, he knew that he had gotten lulled into a false front! They landed on some hard tiles with a thud, and he felt grateful that their fall hadn’t been high enough for them to break their legs again! As he drew out his gun, he inwardly prayed that whatever was waiting for them here wouldn’t be hard for them to defeat!

When they looked up, they saw a group of large men wearing hooded, brown robes staring at them with a gleam of malicious delight sparkling in their eyes. For a moment, Stephen readied himself to start fighting for their lives right away, but then he remembered that Xavier liked to torture his victims before he killed them, so he decided to, for now, let the events unfold as they may. By keeping them alive for even a short window of time, he thought a chance to escape might present itself. One of the hooded men pointed his palm at him and chanted, “Sancroup gun!” It didn’t matter how tightly he had griped it, the gun flew straight out of his hand and into the robed sorcerer’s palm! Stephen found the loss of his best weapon disconcerting, which the other sorcerers picked up on, making them snicker. The sorcerer who took it taunted him, “Don’t feel too bad! We have protection spells around us, so your weapon would’ve been useless anyways!” The men alongside him laughed derisively.

To his astonishment, he heard the sound of female laughter behind them. Grouped just after where the sorcerers stood, a number of young women in alluring clothing watched in amusement, and Blythe ushered another girl in gold into the room, excitedly hissing, “Pay attention! This is how we handle traitors to the crown!”

Stephen got the impression that the girl in gold was new to the gang, and at first glance, she fit right in. They briefly made eye contact, and his opinion of her changed. Her face showed no fear, but she couldn’t hide the look of appall that she clearly felt deep down inside. She almost seemed as though she were trying to send a signal to him, like through her disgust at their actions, she truly cared about the innocent and was trying to calculate a way to help. Stephen suddenly realized that she must have be an agent! He hoped that he had conveyed his understanding to her before he shifted his focus. He wouldn’t dare risk her life by giving any clues to his suspicion, so instead he responded to Blythe’s snide remark, “What are you talking about? It’s Emily’s rightful throne, you’re the traitors!”

They all got offended by his statement, but they didn’t really seem surprised. Blythe seethed, “This isn’t even your fight, you stupid cose! How dare you, you-!”

“Easy, Blythe!” the sorcerer that headed the pack calmly interrupted her. “He’s just tragically misinformed.” He turned to Stephen and, in a very condescending tone, educated him, “We don’t mean the pathetic excuse for an empire that King Patrick and his line developed! We’re here to fulfill the vision that King Alexander designed centuries ago! It’s long been abandoned, and we’re here to restore dignity back to our noble island!” He saw the confused expression on Emily’s face and scornfully regarded her, “You don’t even know what we’re talking about! Well, we’ll let Xavier explain it to you!”

“Because you can’t?” Emily goaded him, which sent a rush of pride throughout Stephen’s body.

Allison strutted up to her and probed, “Just who do you think you are talking to him like that? He’s been practicing magic longer than you’ve been alive!” She went up to her face and shouted, “How dare you!” The sorcerers and sorceresses didn’t see it, but Stephen noticed her whisper something to Emily. He strained his ears to hear what she said, but he didn’t catch anything. Emily raised her eyebrows but otherwise didn’t comment on the transaction.

The main sorcerer pulled her back and gently chided her, “Now, now, there’s no need for that! I like your fire, but don’t let your enemies see your emotions!” He faced Emily and Stephen as he went on, “Besides, we have the upper hand here! They have no choice but to come quietly!”

“We’re not gonna do that!” Emily and Stephen retorted in unison.

The sorcerers raised their hands to strike, but Stephen and Emily rolled out of the way. Stephen didn’t see where Emily went, which worried him for a second. He didn’t have time to think about it as he had a dozen hands raised and ready to strike him with a spell. All Stephen could think to do was keep moving as if he were evading bullets. The sorcerers grew frustrated by their inability to hit him, and Stephen took advantage of how stationary their spell work made them and threw a few jabs out as he passed them. When ducked low, he managed to get a couple of kicks in too. He felt pleased to see a few of them go down, and for a while, he believed that he would win the battle!

All of a sudden, he felt his legs lock, and he fell to the floor. A warlock yelled, “Ligabeum!” Out of nowhere, a set of ropes appeared in the air in front of him, and he couldn’t get himself out of the way in time. The ropes wrapped around him and bound him tightly! He scowled as he landed on the floor and realized that they had succeeded. He wondered if they had gotten Emily too and desperately tried to search for her in the room. He didn’t see or hear any movement, and for a moment, he feared the worst. He dismissed that idea and reminded himself that he had to have faith that she was alright if he was going to get through this!

The sorcerers picked him up to face them, and Stephen seized this opportunity to gain perspective on Emily’s welfare. He didn’t see her in the room, nor did he see any of the other sorceresses in the area. He didn’t know if that boded well or not. As he gazed at the men in front of him, he saw that some of them had visible injuries from his defenses, and he hoped that it caused them a considerable amount of discomfort. The head sorcerer sneered, “Was that worth it?”

“Was it worth it to fight back against evil?” Stephen boldly replied. “Always!” The sorcerer scoffed at that, but before he could say anything, Stephen asked, “Where’s Emily?”

“That’s none of your concern!” he answered. “You’re coming with us!”

As they began dragging him out of the room, Stephen felt unsettled by his assertion. Before he faced Xavier, he urgently needed to know that Emily was alright! Hoping to see some signs of where she went, Stephen called out, “Emily! Emily! Emily!” He saw absolutely no movement around him, and as they exited the room, Stephen’s heart dropped. He didn’t care what happened to him at this point, he just hoped that she was okay!Xavier's Sorcerers

Amouraq, Chapter 15

You got something?” an agent queried Alastair, who got a notification on his cellphone.

Alastair checked his phone and grinned. “Check it out!” The two other agents peered over his shoulders and saw Allison posing in a joyous photograph with a mix of large men in all black and young women in provocative clothing.

The other agent commented, “I guess they didn’t recognize her face from their surveillance of us in Portland!”

“I don’t think they’re looking at her face!” Alastair haf joked. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed movement on his map. He set his phone down, but when he took another look at the map, he saw that the dot he had monitoring had disappeared! “Where did she go?”

“They must have teleported somewhere,” the first agent guessed.

Alastair disagreed, “No, the map would show us anywhere in the world where she went, so either she found out about the spell and removed it, or…” He took a second look at the selfie Allison took, and his eyes went wide when he made a startling realization. “She didn’t take this picture in the club!”

The second agent questioned, “Are you sure?”

“Look at the wood in the picture!” He zoomed in so the other two agents could see the detail he had indicated. “That club is geared towards a hip, young crowd, and the room they’re in here has old, dilapidated walls. I don’t think they’re in the club anymore! They must have teleported to another building!” He pointed to the map and chanted, “Apando Ostracium!” The map glowed green for a moment, so Alastair concluded, “The spell is still active. That means they teleported somewhere that’s not on the map! But… how is that possible?” Alastair looked to the other two agents, who shook their heads and shrugged, so Alastair just stared at the map in perplexion.

“Cabraeco!” Emily chanted with her hands over her head.

Stephen curiously asked her, “What are you doing?”

Emily explained, “It’s a concealment spell. I’m sure that Xavier is watching us, so I thought I’d give it a shot.”

“How do you know if it worked?” Stephen inquired.

“I’m not sure,” Emily answered. “Hmm, maybe I should try practicing something else.” She paused and chanted, “Lanumaciae!” She waited to see if the spell took effect, and when it did not, she tried again, “Lanumaciae!”

Stephen watched her attempt the incantation multiple times, and while she didn’t have any luck, she didn’t stop trying. She didn’t get as frustrated as she did the last time, so Stephen found her behavior cute. When he caught himself thinking this amorous thought, he tried to quickly dismiss it. He blamed the high emotions that came from going through a dangerous situation together at first, but the more he got to know her, the more he admired her. He couldn’t help it if he had a growing reverence for her as a person! And with so much time to learn about each other, he thought it was reasonable to develop an attraction to her impressive nature! Plus, he couldn’t exactly ignore her beauty when she was right in front of him! He couldn’t see her pretty face at the moment, but he couldn’t deny that he enjoyed seeing her from the back! As he watched her voluptuous curves move as she attempted this spell, he wondered if she had any magic that she could use in a more private setting…

“I felt something!” Emily exclaimed.

Stephen had to shake himself out of his trance again. “Huh?”

Emily expounded, “It didn’t work, but I think I made some progress ’cause I felt a tingle. Did you see any tingling?”

“Uh…” Stephen suddenly felt hot under his collar and had to turn away from her to get his mind of of its racy track. To clear his head, he took a deep breath and concentrated on the scenery ahead of him. Just then, it occurred to him that he could actually see some of the trees without her light, so he surmised, “Hey, I think the sun is rising!”

Emily studied the sky and agreed, “You’re right! Wow, we’ve been here all night? I would’ve thought we’d have gotten there by now!”

Stephen concurred, “Yeah, me too! ‘Though at least we won’t have to face Xavier in the dark!”

“True!” Emily nodded.

“Then we can arrest that son of a bitch before lunch!” Stephen sort of kidded, which made Emily chuckle a little. “I bet they’ll have a huge feast for us too!”

Emily somewhat glumly commented, “Yeah, I’m sure it’ll be nothing but fine dining from now on!”

Stephen found her morose attitude odd, so he probed, “Why do you sound so bummed out about that?”

“I dunno…” Emily responded thoughtfully. “I guess I’m being ungrateful, but I never wanted to be famous! I mean, I wouldn’t mind lavish parties and stuff once in a while, but all the time? All my time would be spent either in front of parliament or doing other public appearances, so when would I get to do what I want? My whole life will get taken over by this, and it’s not like a bad life or anything, but it doesn’t seem like I’ll ever get the chance to have a normal life!”

“First of all, what you described won’t eat up the majority of your time,” Stephen told her. “You’re gonna spend most of your time doing paperwork. You have no idea how much the government runs on paperwork!” Emily tittered, and he went on, “Second, and more importantly, you’ll be queen, you get to call the shots! If you wanna take the day off to binge watch a TV show or bake cookies from a new recipe or whatever you think of as a normal day, there’s no reason why you can do that! There’s no reason why you can’t have ordinary moments while living an extraordinary life!”

Emily took a moment for his words to really sink in, and when they did, she nodded in agreement. Stephen felt pleased that she took his advice to heart, but another thought seemed to have crossed her mind right afterwards. She posed to him, “So, how come you don’t do that?”

“Do what?” Stephen reacted quizzically.

“Take some time off to enjoy ordinary moments?” Emily clarified.

Stephen gave that some serious consideration, and he couldn’t’ really come up with a plausible explanation. “It just feels natural to jump from one assignment to the other, like my mind’s constantly in work mode, so I never lose my edge. If I take too much time off, I get too relaxed and unfocused, and it’s harder to solve a case.”

Emily didn’t really appear totally satisfied with his reasoning. “That makes sense, but it doesn’t seem very healthy. If you’re always going fast, don’t you get burnt out?”

“I guess that’s why I never slow down,” Stephen supposed. “I don’t give myself time to think about being burnt out.”

“Maybe you just need a reason to slow down,” Emily speculated. She saw the look of surprise on his face and immediately apologized, “I’m sorry if that was too personal. It just seemed a little lonely. I know how that feels!”

She lost eye contact with him, and Stephen could tell that she felt embarrassed for admitting that. She didn’t realize that what had shocked him was how accurate her assertion had been. He never really gave it serious consideration before, but truthfully, he knew that if he didn’t bury himself in work, he would be alone. He truly had a passion for his job, so he hadn’t really considered having a life outside of the FBI until now. After their adventure in the hidden forest was concluded, he realized that they would probably go their separate ways, and suddenly going back to his apartment all by himself didn’t seem so appealing! Emily needed someone by her side during her transition into royalty, and he knew he could probably help her through that process. She hung her head sadly, and that made his heart ache! She didn’t deserve to feel lonely! She needed someone to constantly remind her about what an amazing woman she was, and he knew he could do that! He saw her hand dangling within reach of him, and he longed to hold it and let her know she wasn’t alone and that he’d be there for her if she needed him. He still didn’t feel worthy of her affection, but his desire to help her overrode that notion. He reached out his hand, and his fingers brushed hers…

All of a sudden, they heard the trees rustle above them, and they turned to face the perpetrator of the noise. Multiple trees were shaking, and they stood at the ready. All at once, creatures like he’d never seen came teeming out from the branches! They had the scaly structure of a lizard, but they also had the segmented body of an ant1 A swarm of them scurried towards them, so Emily pointed at Stephen and chanted, “Speed!” She pointed at herself too and repeated the chant, “Speed!” She quickly added, “Run!”

Stephen and Emily moved with superhuman speed, but the team of strange creatures were close behind them! Stephen asked her, “How do we kill them?”

“We could kill one easily,” Emily answered, “but we’re a little outnumbered right now!”

They managed to get a little ahead of them when the spell wore off. They kept going, but they could hear the creatures catching up to them! To their horror, they saw something massive now blocking their path ahead, so they had no choice but to stop. They stood ready to fight off as many as they could, but they both had a look on their faces as if they were doomed. Stephen couldn’t think of a way out of this, and he dearly wished that he could say goodbye to Emily before they were barraged! The creatures came too rapidly, and Stephen prepared himself for the worst…

Very unexpectedly, the creatures all came to a screeching halt! They wouldn’t cross a certain point on the path and screeched from frustration as if some kind of fence were holding them back. He felt utterly confused, but something dawned onto Emily. “It’s a protective spell! But who would…?”

Stephen turned around and studied the barrier that they had encountered. His eyes went wide when he discovered what it was, and he reported to Emily, “That’s why they stopped!” She turned to see what he meant, and her jaw nearly dropped to the floor! They had come to a wooden house!Sweet & Scary

Amouraq, Chapter 14

I’m not waiting anymore!” Emily exclaimed. “If that vulpecular’s owner shows up, they can finish the job, but I can’t take this anymore!” Stephen watched her raise her hands up to perform a spell, and he expected to watch her heal herself, but instead she put her hands over his legs and chanted, “Relevia delero! Medio ospin!”

“No, no, no!” Stephen objected as she repeated the same phrases and worked on a section at a time.

Emily retorted, “What, you’re the only one allowed to be selfless?” She again chanted, “Relevia delero! Medio ospin!” She paused and added, “I’m not changing my mind, so don’t even try!”

Stephen had intended to argue the point, but he knew that her determination had made up her mind. In addition to that, he knew the more he debated the issue with her, the more time she would take away from her healing herself and he wouldn’t let her stay in agony any longer than necessary! As he watched her weave her way up his leg, he could tell she was hurting a lot, and yet she chose to work on him first without hesitation! As she reached the top of one leg and made her way down the other, he noticed her wincing became more and more pronounced. Despite her obvious discomfort, she never once looked tempted to stop. It amazed him that she didn’t fuss or grumble once! Her unselfish concern for others buoyed up even more respect he had for her character, and he now believed that she was as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside!

When she went over every inch of his legs, she finally shifted over to herself. He felt relieved to know that soon she wouldn’t suffer from her injuries anymore. He could feel his own maladies slowly ebbing, so he knew that it would work on her too. He heard a twig break in the distance, and he realized that, for a moment, he had forgotten where they were! He kept vigilant for any signs of danger, but he also really hoped that nothing attacked them while she nursed her broken bones. Every bit of noise made him paranoid, and he didn’t know how effective he would be against vicious, mythological creations in this condition! He positioned himself so that he could get up and fend off whatever threat came their way. He knew he would risk worsening his injuries by putting weight on it too soon, but he didn’t care! He would do anything to make sure that she stayed safe!

Luckily, she finished the mending process without incident! She exhaled and leaned back with an exhausted expression on her face. She glanced over at Stephen and informed him, “It’ll take a few minutes to work.”

“It’s starting to feel better already!” Stephen remarked as he bent his knee slightly. It still felt a little stiff and tender, but he could already feel a huge improvement!

“I knew it would!” Emily commented confidently. “Obviously, I practiced these spells a lot!”

Stephen playfully teased her, “Oh, how often do you injure yourself?”

Emily grinned at that. “I hurt myself a lot when I was a kid. It opens up a world of trouble knowing you can heal yourself almost instantly!”

Stephen chuckled, and then he asked her, “Is that why you healed me first? You’re used to getting hurt?”

Emily laughed, but then she shook her head. “You deserved to go first. I mean, it’s my fault you’re even in this situation!”

“You didn’t make the plane crash!” Stephen disputed. “It’s not your fault!”

“Yes, but you wouldn’t have been in the plane at all if you didn’t have to protect me!” Emily differed. “If I could have learned the teleportation spell, I wouldn’t have needed to fly to Ovelstrofe. I’m the one that put you in all of this danger! I’m really sorry!”

Stephen emphatically responded, “Emily, listen to me… None of this is your fault! Those other heirs probably knew how to teleport, and it didn’t lessen the danger for them! I got assigned to fight a mass murderer and to protect the current heir, so I would have been on that plane regardless of who was next in line for the throne! If I had to go through this ordeal with anyone, I’m glad it was you! You work hard without complaint, and you’re talented enough to get us through anything! You’re easy to talk to, and not everyone I’ve had to protect has been such enjoyable company! Anyone else might have made this difficult journey even worse, but not you! So, don’t feel bad for any danger I face while we’re here; it’s been an honor to serve with you!”

Emily’s eyes sparkled as if she were holding back tears, and Stephen could tell she didn’t typically get a lot of appreciation, which just didn’t seem right to him since she really deserved it! He had this urge to put his arms around her and give her a hug tight enough to show his support, but before he could, she softly spoke to him, “I’m so glad you feel that I’ve helped you, but you’ve helped me more than you could have imagined! I never could have gone through this without your help! Your bravery and kindness has made me feel more hopeful for the future than I’ve ever been in my life! You’ve got a gift for seeing the good in people when they need it the most, and I’m so lucky to have gotten the chance to experience your invaluable wisdom! I’ll probably never been able to repay you for all you’ve done for me! Thank you for everything!”

Her praise really touched him! He devoted his life to helping people, but if he got any thanks for it, it was aimed towards the job he did and not for the person he was! His heart beat wildly to hear someone he admired so greatly think so highly of him, and for a brief moment, he savored her appreciation so much that he wanted to give her a token of his gratitude. He felt an impulse to kiss her, but that thought put him into a panic. He didn’t realize it until right then, but he knew now that he had developed feelings for her that were deeper than admiration! He admonished himself for crossing professional boundaries like that! It wasn’t against the rules technically, but it did have improper implications for the legal side of things. Besides all of that, he couldn’t imagine such an amazing woman would actually feel anything romantic for someone as unworthy as him! A goddess destined to become queen, he didn’t think he stood a chance! He supposed that the difficult nature of their predicament may have stirred up his emotions, and he also speculated that the spells she used on him may have had some side effects that made him act foolish. Regardless of the case, he resolved to squash these feelings and focus more on the mission.

Suddenly, the noises Stephen had been listening to grew louder, and he felt sure that something was approaching them! He tried to stand up, and while he was able to bend his knees, his legs weren’t strong enough to prop himself up. He flipped himself over and crawled towards a nearby tree to use it for support, but he could sense a heat coming from the bushes nearby Emily, so he moved back towards her direction. That’s when he spotted a pair of yellow eyes staring at them! Before either of them could react, a large, dark creature suddenly pounced on Stephen! He saw an almost dog-like feline with oversized, pointy ears and sharp claws glowering over him, but instead of attacking him, it opened its mouth and brutishly uttered, “Give it back!” Stephen’s nerves were too shocked to let him speak, so the creature repeated, “Give it back!”

Stephen didn’t know what to say to it except, “Give what back?”

This had been the wrong answer to give to it. The creature howled in anger and brandished a claw to strike! Stephen grabbed a nearby branch and held it over himself. The beast’s claws tore right through it, but Stephen was able to use this as a momentary distraction. He pushed the strange animal away from him and rolled out of its way. He reached for his gun, but the creature caught up with him pretty quickly. Before it had a chance to assail him, Emily chanted, “Tamulta delero!” The beast’s spine straightened out, and it doubled over in pain. Stephen pulled out his gun, but the creature swatted it out of the way, which spun Stephen onto his stomach. The beast lunged onto his back, but Emily chanted, “Consciti pello!” A huge gash appeared on its side, and it decided to turn its attention towards Emily. Stephen quickly dove for his gun and immediately shot it. The bullet hit its shoulder blade, and Emily backed away from it as far as she could. It recovered quickly and managed to hop out of the next shot’s trajectory. Before it could maul her, a light bulb seemed to go off in Emily’s head, and she cried out, “We don’t have it!”

The creature seethed, “You lie!”

“Tail!” She pointed at its bare hindquarters, and a long tail sprouted out of it! “If we could give you your real one, we totally would!”

The beast looked to Stephen, who nodded in agreement, which only confused it. “But humans take!”

“We’re not with those humans!” Stephen assured it. “We’re different people!”

The creature had to really contemplate this concept, but after gazing at its temporary tail again, it finally put all of the pieces together. “Okay!” It scampered off into the darkness, and the two of them didn’t hear it make anymore sound.

Stephen and Emily each used the tree closest to them to pick themselves up, and then Stephen noted, “It headed towards the path.”

“That’s okay,” Emily responded unconcernedly. “It’s not looking for us anymore. If it had its tail, it wouldn’t be vicious at all, so obviously Xavier took it so it would attack us.” She bore a disgusted expression at that thought.

Stephen shook his head at the cruelty of that thought. “Well, if we’re lucky, it’ll find them before we do and destroy them before we have to.” Emily smiled at that thought, and with a slight wobble to their step, they walked back towards the pathway.

As a hit song blared out from the speakers, a bunch of well dressed young people danced on a packed dance floor. A couple of large, muscly men gruffly made their way around the room and closely watched the patrons that they passed by. All of a sudden, the one on the right hit the one on the left’s chest to get his attention, and he pointed to a group nearby. The guy on the left didn’t have to ask who he had been thinking of, he instantly knew! He saw a woman with long, wavy, blonde hair dance very skillfully in a gold sequined dress that amply displayed her very finely shaped figure, and even though he couldn’t see her face, he nodded in agreement. They strolled over to her and tapped her shoulder, and the man on the left invited her, “Excuse me, miss! Would you join us in the VIP section?”

With a pitch higher than she’d normally use, Allison replied, “Okay, sure!”

They escorted her to an opulent staircase led to a lounge with several cushy seats rested. A couple of other men wearing all black were up there watching over a few other scantily clad women, including Blythe. Allison recognized her instantly but did not dare to let her eyes linger. In any case, she didn’t see their potential victim around, so she stayed focused on the bouncers that brought her up there. They pulled a bottle of champagne out of an ice bucket and poured her a glass. The guy on the right requested, “Please join us in a drink!”

“Okay!” She eagerly took a sip and gushed, “Wow, it’s super yummy!”

The guy on the right bragged, “It’s made from the finest grapes grown in Amouraq!”

Allison pretended to be really impressed by that, and the guy on the left inquired, “What do you do for a living?”

“I’m a hostess at Splendor’s,” she fibbed.

“Are you happy there?” the man on the left asked.

Allison came up with, “I hate my job! No one’s ever nice to me! Not the customers! Not the staff! Nobody!”

The man on the left proposed, “What would you say if we gave you an opportunity to do a job that’ll not only make you rich but really well respected?”

Allison answered, “I would say that I’m listening…” The Tailypo Attacks