The Shadow Path, Chapter 15

Yasmina, Aidan, and Ardeshir dashed out the door before the knights changed their minds. As they ran down the hallway and headed up the stone staircase, they heard Sarid shout, “Hey!” Yasmina’s heart beat wildly. She wondered if they actually had changed their minds as she feared or worse, they set them up for a trap. She turned around expecting the worst, but instead, Sarid tossed her wand to her! Eamon stared incredulously, so Sarid justified himself, “She overpowered me and took it!”

“Thanks guys!” Yasmina regarded them as they ran up the stairs.

They cautiously exited the dungeon and looked to see if the coast was clear. At first, it seemed as though they were safe, however, as soon as they tried to head back to the Shadow Path, they heard knights coming. They weren’t going to assume that these knights were as generous as Sarid and Eamon, so they ran in the other direction. The three of them ran behind the castle with the intention of going the long way back to the woods that they came from, but Yasmina heard a voice in the distance that sent chills down her spine say, “Where are they?”

“It’s Kadera! Hide!” Yasmina whispered.

The three of them dove into the shrubbery next to the castle and waited with bated breaths. Yasmina had her wand ready just in case, but inwardly she hoped that she wouldnt’ have to use it. The sooner they got away from Rogamaith, the sooner they could get to Daeva. She didn’t want to delay this any longer than she had to, so she inwardly prayed that Kadera would give up and fly back to Duanolc. They watched her slowly fly pass by, astutely scanning for any sign of them. Thankfully, she rounded the corner towards the dungeon area, but they weren’t out of danger yet. They heard her tell the knights, “She’s here, I can feel it!”

Dread filled Yasmina’s body. She sincerely didn’t want to face Kadera, but she didn’t see any way out of it. Just as she began to mentally prepare herself to fight, Aidan quietly told them, “This way!” They quickly darted out of the bush and followed him to a small corner between the castle and another tower. He pushed a certain stone, and a secret door opened up! They swiftly went into this entrance, and Aidan immediately shut the stone door. They couldn’t hear Kadera or the knights, so it appeared that they had narrowly avoided peril!

Or had they? The three of them realized they faced a new problem. Ardeshir softly asked, “How do we get out of here?”

“Follow me!” Aidan instructed. As they walked up this staircase, Aidan explained, “Rogamaith has many exits. The public enters through the drawbridge in the front, but the servants have entrances all over the castle. And there’s secret entrances like this one for the royals to escape in case of an emergency. I think those are probably our best bet. The next closest one is by my old chambers.”

“That’s the one you…that day…!” Yasmina remarked.

“Yes,” Aidan confirmed somewhat gruffly. Yasmina could see the haunted look on his face from reliving that horrifying day, but he quickly refocused his attention to their escape. At the top of the staircase, Aidan cracked open another secret door, and the three of them peeked into the castle hallway. Yasmina saw that they appeared to be in the corner between two hallways. The floor was lined with red carpet, and the walls had a wooden door that was presently closed. This part of Rogamaith seemed to be empty, no noise came from the rooms and no one roamed the halls. Before they entered, Aidan explained, “The hall lining the back wall leads towards the king and queen’s chambers, so we don’t want to go down there. Dorian most likely claimed the space.” Yasmina and Ardeshir nodded in understanding, and they tiptoed out of the secret entrance, heading towards the other hallway.

They slowly crept and kept a vigilant eye out for any sign of movement since any person in castle could purposefully or accidentally alert Dorian or Kadera to their location. They didn’t move far, but it felt longer than the Shadow Path at that moment! Yasmina kept expecting something to jump out at them from every corner, and she wished that the escape door were closer! All of a sudden, they heard a noise ahead of them, and the three of them hid behind a suit of armor. They expected an adversary, but they soon discovered that it was a few chamber maids gossiping about all of the excitement happening right then. It didn’t seem like the chamber maids were going to leave that general area, so they reluctantly followed Aidan down the other hallway.

Yasmina, Aidan, and Ardeshir heard more noise coming from the floor below, so they moved more quickly. They managed to reach another corner, but just when they were heading down another hall, they heard more noise from ahead of them. They hid behind a large vase as the cacophony grew closer, and as it approached, they could hear a number of servants searching for them. To add to their distress, they heard the chamber maids’ voices growing louder, which could only mean that they were heading in their direction. Seeing no other way out, the three of them dashed into the room closest to them.

After they quietly shut the door behind them, they immediately turned around to scope out the room behind them. To their relief, the room appeared empty. Yasmina kept a weary eye on the door in case the servants came in, but she couldn’t help but study the place they had just sheltered themselves in. A four poster bed stood diagonally from where they were stationed, and while it seemed very comfortable, it didn’t look like it had been rested in for quite a while. Two purple gossamer curtains were shut on the other side of the room, making the room very dark despite the sunlight outside. They were close to a very large, wooden bureau, suggesting the owner of the space had an expansive wardrobe. She grew curious about whose chamber this was, but she didn’t think it was prudent to ask while they were hiding. She hoped its owner wouldn’t return while they were there!

The clamor softened, but they could still here people in the hall. Ardeshir whispered, “We can’t stay here!”

“I know!” Aidan said quietly. “The secret door is really close to here, but if we open the door, we will probably give away our position. We’ll be okay for a little while. They didn’t put any escape doors in anyone’s chambers in case an enemy caught wind of it and decided to go after someone in their sleep. So, if someone enters this room, we’ll know. Be ready to fight off whoever does come in. I know we don’t want to hurt an innocent servant, but we may not have a choice…”

Yasmina stared at the bed and suddenly got struck with an idea. “What if we used the sheets to make a rope and we went out the window?”

Aidan contemplated this notion. “Hmm…I don’t hear anyone outside right now. They must be searching the nearby woods as well as the inside of Rogamaith to figure out where we went, so that area could be clear by now. Okay, Ardeshir, keep listening at the door incase someone comes in or if the hall is clear. Yasmina, you watch the window to make sure it stays clear as I make the rope.”

Ardeshir and Yasmina agreed to his idea. While Ardeshir fiercely listened at the door and Aidan began to roll up the sheets, Yasmina silently debated between the two sets of curtains and arbitrarily decided to pick the one on the left. She had assumed that the drapes had covered a window, but when she peeked behind it, she saw a painting. Puzzled, she opened it further and gasped. Ardeshir and Aidan turned to see a giant portrait of Dorian as king! Other than its large size, the style was realistic, and although they couldn’t quite pinpoint the reason, something about it gave a creepy aura. The three of them shook off this feeling and continued on their tasks.

As Yasmina lifted up the curtains to the actual window, she noted, “We’re in Dorian’s chamber! This seems dangerously reckless!”

“Dorian is a tyrant and a puppet of Daeva, but he isn’t superhuman,” Aidan assured her as he quickly worked. “If he tries to come in the room, he’ll use the door . We’ll hear him coming and have the upper hand so we can ambush him.”

Yasmina gingerly asked, “Is this…was this your parents’ chamber room?”

“No,” Aidan answered, “I guess he didn’t have the guts to take over their chambers after all! Deep down, I think he knows that he isn’t the proper king! This was always his chamber, but I believe that painting is new. It must have taken a while to finish, so maybe he always had ambitions to rise to royalty. But if it were old, I couldn’t see his wife approving of artwork without her in it. She died that day too. I guess he loved power more than her!”

Suddenly, Ardeshir interjected, “I hear something!”

Yasmina and Aidan fell silent as they listened. They heard footsteps in the distance, and for a moment, the three of them were ready to go out the window to get away. As it grew closer, it almost seemed as though the sound was coming from in the walls. They stood in confusion as the noise stopped. Their hearts nearly jumped out of their chests as the bureau drawer opened and a foot stuck out. To their horror, the person entering the room was Dorian!

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Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 26

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Resource?” Gwynivara puzzled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s right,” Max confirmed.

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

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

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

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

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

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