Fantasy Writers

Fantasy Character Castle Chronicles n.1

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    Gracie
    @kimlikesart

      This is a post for the actual writing/story portion of this castle (Fantasy number 1). Please do not comment on the thread unless you are a part of this castle and are adding the next portion to the story. (:

      (Also, if you don’t want to post your portion in the castle, then search for this to post it again? Tag me, and I can find this and post it for you.) 🙂

       

      The Castle

      By: Livi Ryddle @anne_the_noob14 , Ariella Newheart @ariella-newheart ,  Kristianne Hassman @kristianne-hassman , Dushuri Halad @christlover , Claire H @claire-h , Beth Darlene H @beth20, Tal @tal , Rusted Knight @rusted-knight , Gracie @kimlikesart , Grace @arindown , Joelle Stone @joelle-stone , Ella @writergirl101

       

      Dharin flicked his rapier’s blade in, out, around. He was balanced perfectly on the balls of his feet, and his face was rosy with the excitement he always felt when his sword was in hand. Kylian, one of the men Dharin commanded, was his dueling partner. Also balanced, also flushed, Kylian darted his own sword in and out, parrying his captain’s thrusts.

      Dharin feinted to the left, took advantage of Kylian’s momentary confusion to step forward, seeming to intertwine the two blades, then slashed out with the dagger he held in his other hand, forcing Kylian to drop his rapier or risk his arm.

      Kylian smiled grimly. “I fell for that same thing last time.”

      Dharin nodded. “In a real fight, there wouldn’t have been a ‘last time’. There’d be a ‘this time’, and that would have been the only chance you got.” He offered the blond man an encouraging smile. “Keep working on it. Marek?”

      Marek stepped forward, drawing his rapier, and shifted his feet around a moment, then settled into a relaxed stance. Dharin swiped his sleeve over his face and wiped his palms one at a time on his trousers, then found his own stance and was all business once more.

      As Dharin’s blade rung against Marek’s, he thought about the different styles of his two men. Kylian focused more on getting the strokes right and had a calm way of approaching. Marek didn’t give a flying fig about the strokes, and went in immediately, focusing on a much harder and forceful approach. Neither one had any particular weaknesses in their technique to speak of; they had both found something that worked for them.

      Dharin shook himself out of his musings, and found himself faced with— a stone wall? He stepped back and looked around him. He was in the main hall of a large building, a castle, presumably. Along three walls, there were many colorful wooden doors. In the center of the room was a round table on which a parchment of some sort was spread. A larger door was in the middle of the fourth wall, and Dharin went to open it but found no doorknob of any sort. He frowned, and slid his dagger back into its sheath, keeping his rapier drawn. There was a small crack in the door, about eye-level for most people, and Dharin stooped the couple inches required to see through. Outside, a narrow path leading down a mountainside thick with trees. Nothing unusual.

      Dharin turned back to study the room again. There were torches along the walls at reasonable intervals, but, other than the table, there was no furniture. He went over to take a closer look at the parchment and found a perfect copy of a map of the continent he knew so well. He quickly picked out the kingdom of Raldimar, with its winding river and great mountains. Perhaps this was one of His Majesty’s summer castles. That didn’t answer the question of how Dharin came to be here all of a sudden, but he knew that sometimes a wizard’s spell would go awry. Perhaps that was what happened. In that case, Dharin would be stuck here a few hours at most, then the wizard would fix the spell and bring Dharin back to his practice field where his men would be awaiting him.

      It will be an uncomfortable few hours, Dharin thought. He had sweated off some of the water he drank before and during dueling, and the rest had made it through his digestive system and was making its presence known in his lower abdomen. He shrugged it off, as he so often did the discomforts that arose with his job. While he was here, he might as well explore. It would be his only chance to see one of the king’s summer homes, and he wasn’t about to let the chance go to waste. He scanned the lines of doors, then picked a bright pine green one that reminded him of his horse’s eyes.

      He sheathed his sword as he opened the door, smiling as he thought about Dragon. She was a good horse, and served him well in his long trips. He knew she would be relaxing in her stall, probably being fed one too many apples by the stable boy.

      _

      Marlowe Reynolds was in complete control. She stood on a rooftop overlooking the assembly hall, taking note of each ambassador who walked in and out of the large, triangular gateway. Her list would be valuable. The Commodore wanted to know who was in the building at all times—who was present for votes and who skipped them. Who paid homage to the Empress and who did not. Her fellow Ensigns were off running minor errands, but Marlowe had worked hard to become the Commodore’s personal aid.

      “I am the one you need. No one else is so dedicated to the cause as I am, Commodore,” she had told him. He, pleased by her diligence, had given her the assignment.

      “Don’t be jealous,” she told the other Ensigns when they heard about her promotion. “You’ll gain enough merits someday, if you follow the rules and obey the Commodore.” They laughed at her, treating her with the same snobbishness that she did them.

      “You won’t be laughing for long,” she threatened when they had their backs turned. While she filed a fake account to the Commodore to cover up her unsanctioned activities, she reported two Ensigns for falsifying information and lying to the leadership that they had been at their posts on the night that a thief broke into the embassy. The ultimate hypocrisy.

      “There, that should stabilize your financial situation until you can get back on your feet. Is there anything else you need?” she had asked the refugees who sometimes came to the embassy for aid. They thanked her profusely, and she replied with a smile that was only another one of her masks.

      A beep came from Marlowe’s communicator watch. She tapped its screen, opening a holographic display of a name: Lyddie. Marlowe smiled and answered the call. “What is it, squirt?” she asked playfully.

      “When are you coming home, Marlowe? I like your cooking much better than Dad’s.” The little girl’s voice came clearly through the communicator.

      “I’m working hard for the good of the colony, Lyddie. Try to be patient with Dad. He’s trying his best.”

      “He wants you to call him.”

      Marlowe scowled, but continued talking in the same sweet tone. “I’ll call him once I’m off duty, okay?”

      “Okay. I miss you, Marlowe.”

      “I miss you too, squirt.” The communicator crackled with static. Marlowe stared at it. Had a solar flare disturbed the link? The world suddenly tilted as she lost all sense of time and space. When she opened her eyes, she stood in an ancient structure made of stone with tall, narrow windows along the rough walls. A map table was straight before her, displaying a map of her colony and the surrounding territory. Behind her was an old green door, which was locked when Marlowe tested it.

      She turned back to face the map table. In the shadows beyond it was a row of doors, each a different color. Marlowe had no liking for any particular color, but she did have preference for certain numbers. She counted the doors, squinting when the numbers came out different each time. She couldn’t have made a mistake.

      “Just pick a random one,” she said, envisioning herself speaking to Lyddie when she wanted advice about which hairband to wear. “I choose…” Marlowe’s eyes landed on a pine-green door of a paler color than the one behind her. It was halfway ajar. Someone else was here.

      “An ally might be helpful,” she reasoned. “An enemy might sneak up on me when my back is turned. Better I find him first and have the advantage.” She crossed to the door and eased it open.

      Connor O’Dan was in the middle of his most dangerous prank yet. If he got caught he was for sure going to lose some essential pieces this time. However, if he succeeded this would keep him laughing until the end of time.

      Peeking out from behind the mammoth pine, he quickly scanned for any of his teammates.

      “Coast’s clear! Operation: Blow the Crapper all to *** is a go.” He whispered to himself.

      I got to come up with better code names for these pranks. Oh well!

      Rolling out from behind his cover, Connor dashed over to the latrine that Theseus had dug earlier that week.

      Seriously, did nobody think this one through? Why did they put the latrine right next to the tents? Got to measure this out perfectly so I hit them with the maximum splatter. Man, I had my doubts about this camping trip bonding, but I’m definitely warming up to it. 

      As Connor slipped behind the shed which had been erected to cover their camp toilets, he slipped his stick of dynamite out.

      Alright, so if this blows it up at a 60 degree angle and they are 150 feet away, I need to send it about 150 feet up. That should take about ¾ of this stick of dynamite if I have calculated the weight correctly. OK, lets do this thing.

      Connor deftly cut the piece of dynamite he needed and attached the fuse to it, as he moved to light the fuse, an intense feeling of vertigo overcame him. After what felt like hours, his head finally stopped spinning.

      What the actual ***? Did I get caught? ***, I bet that Allie saw me and sent me into one of her pet freakizoid dimension thingies as a punishment. *** I hope this doesn’t last long! I got to talk with her about her sense of I in these places!

       

      After a couple of seconds, Connor stood and moved to explore the room that he had suddenly been transported to. The first thing to draw his eye was a large, weathered looking, green door.

      I bet that is the door to this pocket dimension. Oh well, no use trying that! Allie’s the only one that can get one of those things to work.

      Suddenly, he felt a slight draft on the back of his neck and spun around. His bow materialized in his hands as he saw that one of the other doors in this place stood slightly ajar. Opening his mind, Connor probed outward, searching for the thoughts of other beings.

      Kotoran! I don’t recognize those thoughts. Did she send me to a prison dimension by mistake? If they’re armed, I’m screwed.

      Nocking an arrow, Connor crept softly towards the door. Reaching it he heard a soft murmur of voices. Suddenly filled with a rage that he had been put in this position, Connor kicked the door open and spun into the opening, drawing and sighting as he moved.

      Charlotte could hear a baby fussing as she walked briskly down the street to the tenement building she had visited the day before. She looked down at her basket again to make sure she had all the herbs she needed. Yes, they were all there.

      The squalling grew louder as she approached the door of the rundown, mud-colored building. She wrinkled her nose in disgust at the acrid smell of smoke mixed with the odor of human waste. Even after all these years of living in Iema and serving the poor with her healing skills, she still wasn’t used to the filth. I guess I’ll always be a princess, she thought wryly as she knocked on the door.

      When no one answered, she hesitantly turned the latch to open the door. But as her fingers closed around it, the ground began to shake and turn and she felt herself falling. She suppressed a scream and pushed harder on the door, leaning against it with all her strength. What was going on?

      The shaking grew worse, and she shut her eyes to keep from getting dizzy. She grunted, pushing against the door. It burst open and losing her balance, she flew onto the floor.

      Opening her eyes slowly, she sat up and looked around. She frowned and blinked, confused by the unfamiliar surroundings. This didn’t look like the inside of a rundown tenement building. It looked like . . . a hallway. In a castle.

      She stood to her feet, brushing off her skirt. Surprisingly, she’d held onto her basket through all that. Some of the bottles had fallen and broken, but most of it was still in the basket, if a little crushed.

      Now to figure out where I am and how I got here . . . And how to get out.

      She started down the hallway in the direction of a door she saw in the distance. The hallway was dark and cold, dimly lit with torches placed at regular intervals along the wall. Typical of castles. And it pleasantly reminded her of her old home in Cherrywood Castle. Maybe . . . could it be? But how? How in the world had she gotten here?

      As she neared the door at the end, she noticed it was green. A nice deep green, like moss. She placed her hand on the knob, only hesitating a moment before she turned it. This time, nothing strange happened. Thankfully. It opened easily.

      It opened into a large, circular room full of the same green doors. What was with all the green doors? What did they lead to? More hallways? More doors? What a confusing place. It reminded her too much of the labyrinth of tunnels in Siognar Keep. She shuddered. That was a memory she didn’t want to recall.

      Well, the only way to find out what was behind those doors was to explore.

      But before she could move, a door on the other side of the room burst open. A young man sprang into the room, an arrow knocked in his bow, pointed straight at her.

      He sheathed his sword as he opened the door, smiling as he thought about Dragon. She was a good horse, and served him well in his long trips. He knew she would be relaxing in her stall, probably being fed one too many apples by the stable boy.

      Dharin continued down the corridor, noting how the torches on the walls cast odd shadows and light onto the floor and ceiling. He shivered, despite himself, wishing he had brought his cloak. Then he rolled his eyes at himself. He had no way of knowing that he’d end up here, and he wasn’t in the practice of wearing his cloak during dueling practice.

      He settled for counting his strides as he went, counting by fives. There was ten, then fifteen, twenty… Before long, he’d passed sixty, still seeing no end to this corridor. Then he heard a noise from behind him. He turned and saw a woman, wearing strange clothing, walking down the corridor towards him. The first thing he noticed was how tall she was, and the way she carried herself. For someone who usually towered over the women he met, Dharin was pleasantly surprised that he was only about six inches taller. She had her hair pulled up on top of her head, and had an air of importance about her. Perhaps she was the head housekeeper or cook. They were generally, in Dharin’s experience, the leader types, with the sharp and slightly judging look that this woman’s expression hinted at.

      As she got closer, Dharin decided that being a little extra polite might get him a good meal or an explanation of how the castle was laid out.. He donned a polite smile, and said,

      “Good afternoon, mistress. I seem to have lost my way in this place. Would you be kind enough to point me in the direction of the privy?”

      She stopped, seeming to scrutinize him. The look reminded him of one his mother used to wear, and Dharin felt the sudden urge to straighten his tunic and make sure his hair wasn’t awry.

      “I’m afraid I can’t.”

      Dharin knew he had a frustrated expression flit across his face. That was one of the hardest emotions to smooth over. He composed himself and kept the smile intact. “But surely since you work here, you know the layout of the castle?”

      Her face remained blank, but Dharin sensed her carefully thinking something over. The silence was just getting uncomfortable when she took in a breath, saying,

      Emory recited under her breath a few lines of the poem she was memorizing. “The tapestry woven of sorrow swayed in the icy wind. The hearth was dark and the room was cold…” Wait. Or was it “The hearth was cold and the room was dark”? She frowned in concentration, then gave up. Retracing her steps down the corridor, she entered her room and scooped up the book of poems. As she flipped through it, she sunk down into a chair by the window. It was an overcast day and a hawk was swooping through the crisp autumn air. The landscape fell away into gently rolling hills, dotted with houses. Emory found the line of the poem and smiled. She’d been right the first time. A shadow suddenly fell across the page and a tapping sound on the window pane made her look up. An evergreen was being tossed by the wind and its branches were hitting the glass. Emory blinked. What was happening? Her bedroom was on the third floor of the palace and there were no trees nearby! Quickly, she stood and turned around. Her bedroom had disappeared and in its place was a snug little chamber that only had room for a round little table and a few chairs. The painted wooden door was shut. Emory closed her book with a muffled thump. Peering out the window, all she could see was a forest of evergreens with some mossy boulders. What had happened? Confusion washed over her. Emory took a few tentative steps towards the table in the center of the room. On it was a map. Strange lights hovered in the air above it. Emory squinted at the parchment, tracing with her finger the various continents. The only one she recognized was Faran. Above it hung a star. Stretching out her hand, she touched the hovering lights and they blinked out. Deciding there wasn’t much else to find in there, Emory opened the green door.

      A hallway lined with more doors presented itself. The woodwork was elaborately carved and the ceiling was vaulted. Whatever this was, it was magnificent. Echoes came from further down the corridor. They sounded like voices. Trying to decide if she should be relieved or frightened, Emory tiptoed down the hall, peering through some of the doorways as she went. One opened to a garden, heavy with the scent of flowers. Another led into what looked like a kitchen. Emory sighed. She’d always longed to learn the art of cooking, but her mother wouldn’t have it. “Cooking is below your station, my dear,” she would always say. Emory pushed the remembrance from her mind and continued down the hall. The next room she peered into looked like a very sophisticated lavatory. Raising her eyebrows, she turned the corner and almost collided with two people. Both were tall, and, judging from their clothes, weren’t from anywhere she’d ever been. Emory blushed under their stares and took a step backward. “I beg your pardon.”

      _

      Jaylin looked around,

      Where am I?

      The room was scarce of furniture, save for a dresser with a mirror and the bed he was laying on. A turquoise door stood across from him, reminding him of the ocean. There was a mysterious aura about it, daring him to open it.

      He stood up shedding the bedclothes and walked slowly towards the door.

      Earlier he had fallen asleep in his house, but now waking up he realized he was no longer in his house nor anywhere else he recognized.

      He grabbed the door handle and pulled…

      What he saw amazed him. Rows upon rows of doors stretched out before him. He turned in a slow circle trying to take it all in.

      To his left was an old green door, but it quickly lost his attention.

      To his right were halls leading to who knows where. He saw two tall people standing in the middle of one of the halls and gasped. Suddenly a girl coming around one of the corners bumped into them. Blushing she took a step backwards “I beg your pardon,” she said.

      He turned around and jerking open the door he had come from hid inside.

      He didn’t know why he responded that way and chided himself for being silly.

      Wow, Jaylin, way to make a good first impression. Running away like that! Hopefully, they didn’t notice me!

      He took a deep breath and smoothed his hair. Plastering a smile on his face he stepped into the hall and advanced towards the group.

      Dharin knew he had a frustrated expression flit across his face. That was one of the hardest emotions to smooth over. He composed himself and kept the smile intact. “But surely since you work here, you know the layout of the castle?”

      Her face remained blank, but Dharin sensed her carefully thinking something over. The silence was just getting uncomfortable when she took in a breath, about to speak, when a young woman rounded the corner, at the same time a nearby door opened. Out of the door stepped a boy who looked to be about 16 or so. The girl, seeing the three of them, blushed and took a step backwards.

      “I beg your pardon.”

      The boy stepped back inside the door, closing it behind him as if embarrassed. Dharin stood there awkwardly, looking between the woman with the still blank expression and the blushing girl playing with a strand of her hair. The door opened again, and the boy stepped out, smiling now.

      “Hi there. My name’s Jaylin.”

      Dharin smiled back, thankful for conversation of some sort, and dipped his head. “I’m Dharin. Ah…” He paused, wondering if he could somehow escape the two women. Usually he enjoyed a woman’s company, but this was different. “I was just asking her-” he motioned to the tall woman, “if there was a privy somewhere close.”

      A rather uncomfortable expression made its way onto the lad’s face. “Uh, I’m afraid I don’t know. I’m not quite sure where I am.”

      Dharin frowned thoughtfully. Interesting. Perhaps many wizards had spells go wrong today. He turned towards the younger woman, who shied away a bit. Not surprising, since she was rather short, him towering over her. He offered her a smile. “What about you?”

      “Uh… I think I saw one back that way.” She pointed over her shoulder.

      Dharin nodded. “Thank you.” He turned back toward the other two. “I’ll just be going, then. Have a nice day.”

      He skirted around the girl and made his way down the corridor, heaving a sigh of relief as the group was out of sight. Footsteps made him stop. Jaylin was trotting towards him.

      “Is it ok if I come with you? It was weird back there with those two.”

      Dharin nodded again. “Of course. I don’t know where I’m going, but I’ll be happy for the company.” Just as long as he didn’t have to see the tall woman again, he was happy.

      “Thanks. Hey, is that a sword?”

      Dharin looked down at the lad and smiled. “Yes. Want to look at it?”

      “Yes, please!” he said eagerly.

      Dharin unsheathed his sword and handed it to Jaylin, hilt first. Jaylin took the sword and swung it in a few experimental arcs. He had never been very good at swordsmanship but had always admired those who knew it well.

      “Are you pretty good?” he asked Dharin.

      Dharin nodded, “I suppose. I am captain of The Three Riders, and use a sword often.” He said.

      Jaylin handed the sword back and continued down the hall.

      Pretty soon they came to a door marked Privy Chamber.

      He smiled, “Here ya go!”

      Dharin laughed “Finally!” he opened the door and stepped in “I’ll be out in a second.” He called over his shoulder.

      Jaylin waited a few minutes, then Dharin appeared. “Much better!” he said. Jaylin laughed.

      They continued down the hall for a little bit. Not really sure where they were going.

      There were so many doors and Jaylin’s curiosity was rising with every new one.

      “Hey,” he said to Dharin, “you want to explore what’s behind some of these doors?”

      Isaac pulled the trench cloak closed. The dark alley was foggy. Reverberating off the walls were German commands and yell. The SS guards were more common than normal. Stowing his Mauser C96 into his chest holster, Isaac jumped out into the street. In five quick moves, the trench coat was turned inside out and the hat was thrown to the ground. Buttoning up, Isaac assumed a casual air. Now all he had to do was get out of Dresden before the bombing started.

      If it was tonight. He couldn’t remember. The migraine that came with the changing memories was not worth it now.

      His head began to swim and his stomach turned. Isaac reach for his gun but stopped himself. He had not been shot again. There was not stabbing pain. Turning back, he realized the whole area had changed. He was in a stone room, lit by a single candle on a table. On both sides were bookshelves. Across from him was a door and on the other side was talking.

      Leaping toward the shadows, Isaac threw a knife at the candle extinguishing it. Tipping a book on its side, he rested the heavy Mauser on it and waited. Should the people prove to be dangerous, he would fire.

      Stray beams of light found their way through the window and into Luke’s room. He began to shake the drowsiness clinging from his sleep, looking around his room. Something seems off. He got out of his four-poster bed, glanced at his two massive bookshelves, and sauntered towards the door. Gripping the handle, he stopped. Something is definitely wrong. I can feel it.

      For one thing – and Luke wasn’t sure how he hadn’t noticed this before – the door was blue. A strange feeling hung in the air, almost like…almost like I’m in another world. He stepped back and drew his sword, Tir Finit, from its ornate sheath, and held it out with one hand. Reluctantly, carefully, he pushed the door open.

      What greeted him was certainly otherworldly. A perfectly round map on a perfectly round table sat in the middle of a perfectly round room. Many doors of other colors, some even several colors, branched off the hall. Luke held Tir Finit out farther and inched towards the map.

      It seemed to be a very ancient map, marking places he had never seen before. It also seemed to be a very different kind of map from any he had ever observed, and Luke couldn’t quite make sense of it. Suddenly, a voice from behind made him jolt and spin around, now gripping the sword with both hands.

      From his hiding place, Isaac watches the door. The wound in his gut itches. Haunting memories of the Gestapo house creep back. The torture, getting shot by his own gun, the head of a girl who knew nothing about him.

      No, not now. He could not go back to those times. The monster he became in that moment should not return.

      The door opens and two figures appear. One is a tall man with a sword at his side. The creases in his clothing don’t line up. The weight of the sword is being countered by something. A second weapon? Not a gun. Too light. A knife? And the hilt is weird. It’s not a French rapier. Italian maybe. Can’t be. Italy has mobilized so fencing students are at war. Spain. Maybe but how. Had he fallen into a space rift? The other is short, a little shorter than himself. A boy.

      He doesn’t seem to have a weapon. Not a threat.

      Isaac looked at the eyes. The gateway of the soul and an ace he could use. The tall man’s eyes are clear, a little dim.

      He’s seen some action.

      The boy’s are glistening. Someone who is excited with no fear. Probably not a hostage. A reenactor and visitor.

      Holstering his gun, Isaac buttons up the trench coat. His knives are still in his sleeves. If they prove to be dangerous, he can still react in time. Remaining in the shadows, he repositions to the center of the room.

      Feint French.

      “I’m lost. Could you tell me the way out?” asked Isaac.

      There were so many doors and Jaylin’s curiosity was rising with every new one.

      “Hey,” he said to Dharin, “you want to explore what’s behind some of these doors?”

      But before he could answer a figure stepped into the middle of the hall.

      “I’m lost. Could you tell me the way out?”

      He glanced at Dharin before replying. “Um, well we just got here also…”

      What is with this place? Why is everyone so confused.

      The young man wore a long trench coat that looked like it concealed many weapons. His face was set resolutely and there was a hint of suspicion in his eyes.

      Dharin glanced down at Jaylin as the boy asked, “Hey, you want to explore what’s behind some of these doors?”

      He smiled, and was about to reply when a man stepped out of the shadows. “I’m lost. Could you tell me the way out?”

      Dharin felt Jaylin look up at him before saying, “Um, well, we just got here also…” but all Dharin could think was,

      Why in the world does no one know where they are? Perhaps this is an experiment that some of the wizards are doing. Maybe they created this place and brought people from all over to study our interactions. That would be the most logical answer to this mess.

      Dharin studied the man. He looked like he wished he was anywhere else at the moment, and his accent and clothing were unlike any that Dharin had ever heard or seen. The man seemed to be studying him as well, and Dharin made a quick decision, offering the man a small smile and a nod.

      “The lad is correct, my sir. We’re just as lost as you.” He made no mention of the two women they left further down the hall they came from. Something told him the man offered no threat to the women, but Dharin had found that it always paid to be cautious. Something in the man’s eyes changed, but Dharin couldn’t tell what. If he had to guess, though, the man probably just made a mental note to be wary of them. A reasonable thing to do.

      From behind them came a small cough. Dharin turned and saw a lad of about 13, with sleep-tousled hair, holding a sword uncertainly in front of him. He didn’t hold it as if he wasn’t sure of the weapon; that wasn’t it. He held it as if he wasn’t sure if he would need it or not. He wore royal robes, and Dharin’s mind went to King Vladimir. As far as he knew, the king’s son was a bit older, 17 perhaps, and he didn’t know any wizard who would use the crown prince as a test subject, but still… Dharin gracefully knelt and inclined his head towards the lad, saying,

      “My deepest apologies if our conversing has awoken you, your… Highness…?” he trailed off, looking up at the lad, and waited for his form of address to be corrected or accepted.

      Dharin glanced down at Jaylin as the boy asked, “Hey, you want to explore what’s behind some of these doors?”

      He smiled, and was about to reply when a man stepped out of the shadows, and said something in an odd tongue. It was posed as a question, and it sounded similar enough to Ikarialn that Dharin was fairly sure the man asked how to get somewhere.

      Dharin felt Jaylin look up at him before saying, “Um, well, we just got here also…” but all Dharin could think was,

      Why in the world does no one know where they are? Perhaps this is an experiment that some of the wizards are doing. Maybe they created this place and brought people from all over to study our interactions. That would be the most logical answer to this mess.

      Dharin studied the man. He looked like he wished he was anywhere else at the moment, and his accent and clothing were unlike any that Dharin had ever heard or seen. The man seemed to be studying him as well, and Dharin made a quick decision, offering the man a small smile and a nod, and said in his best Ikarialn,

      The lad is correct, my sir. We’re just as lost as you.” He made no mention of the two women they left further down the hall they came from. Something told him the man offered no threat to the women, but Dharin had found that it always paid to be cautious. Something in the man’s eyes changed, but Dharin couldn’t tell what. If he had to guess, though, the man probably just made a mental note to be wary of them. A reasonable thing to do.

      From behind them came a small cough. Dharin turned and saw a lad of about 13, with sleep-tousled hair, holding a sword uncertainly in front of him. He didn’t hold it as if he wasn’t sure of the weapon; that wasn’t it. He held it as if he wasn’t sure if he would need it or not. He wore royal robes, and Dharin’s mind went to King Vladimir. As far as he knew, the king’s son was a bit older, 17 perhaps, and he didn’t know any wizard who would use the crown prince as a test subject, but still… Dharin gracefully knelt and inclined his head towards the lad, saying,

      “My deepest apologies if our conversing has awoken you, your… Highness…?” he trailed off, looking up at the lad, and waited for his form of address to be corrected or accepted, as he heard the other man and Jaylin speaking again.

      Isaac looks at the boy. His eyes say he is not lying but how could they have “just got here”. There are no windows so this room must be deeper in the complex. Did the rift pull in others as well? He needed more information.

      “Then how are you here?”

      Isaac hears the newcomer. Another boy, roughly the same age as the one here now. A swordsman as well. The sword is covered with detail on the hilt. Too good to be anything but a relic of a bygone age. The wielder seems to be a little like himself. Cautious, sizing up the three. His clothing is also old. Old and detailed as the sword. A noble?

      He might be tougher to fool. Thought Isaac.

      “My deepest apologies if our conversing has awoken you, your… Highness…?” said the first swordsman.

      He doesn’t know the newcomer but he understands his rank using proper formalities?

      Where or quite possibly when did these people come from.

      “I’m lost. Could you tell me the way out?” said the voice from behind. He was about to answer, but he swiftly realized there were more people behind him. A boy, about his age, was answering who had apparently asked the question. Someone else stood nearby. One wore strange clothing, but the others were covered in more familiar garb.

      Where in Jolara could I be? This must be a dream, or maybe a vision. Or it might be one of Josiah’s pranks. That’s equally likely.

      Luke carefully held out his sword. He was in no hurry to use it, but was prepared to meet enemies of the King. He coughed quietly, and all attention came to him. The man who had spoken seemed to be analyzing him, sizing up his ability. The front most one showed uncertainty. Then, he bowed at Luke’s feet.

      “My deepest apologies if our conversing has awoken you, your… Highness…?”

      “Oh, no, you didn’t wake me up. And please —please, stand. Save your bows for the One True King.” The man gave Luke an odd expression and stood. “My name is Luke, anyways. Prince Luke.” He stopped and stared at the ground for a moment, then looked back up. “Do…do any of you know where we are? Back there—” Luke pointed vaguely in the direction he came from with his sword, “—is something that looks exactly like my room back home, but this is, obviously, not my home.”

      Dharin nodded to himself. Yes, this was definitely some sort of experiment that some of the wizards were doing. And this wasn’t King Vladimir’s son. Must be the prince of a kingdom across the Tridi [A.N. That’s one of their oceans].

      “I’m afraid we are all lost and confused as well, your Highness. I think this must be an experiment set up by some of the wizards, bringing people in from all over the earth to study our interactions. That is the only reasonable explanation I can think of.”

      Luke thought for a moment. Wizards? What are those? But he just nodded. “Well, perhaps we should look for a way out. There has to be an end to the hall, or maybe one of the doors leads out. Or, we might be able to break one of the windows and climb out.”

      Isaac could only remember the cat he had seen land on its back. Wizards? Experiment? Had he inhaled some form of  hallucinogen without realizing it? Or was this a play by the Gestapo or SS to lower his guard. He would continue to play the Frenchman for now and not reveal too much about himself. If the swordsman was right, the rift was more than a slight problem.

      Isaac had to return otherwise Operation Valkyrie would fail again. That would be his last chance. After that assassination attempt, Hitler would be too well guarded and there would be no one outside his inner circle to fill the power vacuum. There would be no way to force Germany out of the war. He had to return or everything he had done would have been for nothing.

      “Well, perhaps we should look for a way out. There has to be an end to the hall, or maybe one of the doors leads out. Or, we might be able to break one of the windows and climb out.” said the prince.

      Information was important. Anything might help.

      “There is a library back here. We may find a map of this place.” Said Isaac.

      Luke nodded agreement.

      We might also be able to find some books about this place.

      Now excited with the possibility of finding books from and about this strange new land, Luke said, “Lead the way.”

      Jaylin watched as the other guys talked of a way out.

      “There is a library back here. We may find a map of this place.” Isaac said.

      “Lead the way,” Luke said. Jaylin could tell his excitement was rising.

      Dharin’s words still rang in his head. “I think this must be an experiment set up by some of the wizards, bringing people in from all over the earth to study our interactions.”

      If that were true they were in trouble.

      He cleared his throat. “If what Dharin said was true, then we need to start thinking of this as serious. At least where I come from, the wizards, or the Graylick as they are called in Brarlock, are bad news.”

      Dharin and Luke looked at him while Isaac started walking off down one of the halls. “This way!” he called over his shoulder.

      “Come on we’ll talk as we walk.” He smiled and started after Isaac.

      Libby pressed her back against the wall, and shoved a couple more rounds into her clip. Orange Nerf bullets whizzed past, bouncing against the end of the hallway. Her brothers were getting closer. It was two against one, now that Asher was down.

      He always takes too many chances. Libby frowned and pushed her glasses further up on the bridge of her nose. The firing stopped for a moment. Hopefully they’re out. Libby cautiously stuck her head around the corner. She saw a flash of red as her twin, Ryker ran past.

      “She’s coming out!” He shouted.

      No, I’m not. Libby darted across the hall on all fours. She yanked open the cleaning closet and ducked inside. Nerf bullets pelted the outside of the door. Then they stopped.

      “They’re probably sneaking up on me.” Libby dug some foam bullets out of her shorts pocket and filled her gun. She squinted up at the crack of light that surround the doorway, waiting.

      Nothing happened.

      “Great. I guess I’ll just have to run for it.” Libby made her way to the door, switched her gun to her left hand, and flung it open. The door clanked against the wall, echoing in a wide, stone-walled room.

      Libby stepped into the light, padding barefoot. “Uh, guys?”

      Teagen Jath went to sleep one night on a sandy beach beneath the stars, his brow taut with worry for the marrow. However, his tense body awoke on a bed that rivaled the softness of the clouds. His keen, blue eyes cast about the luxuriant room as he sat up, the silk comforter sliding down his finely clothed chest. Where was he?

      The young man’s lips parted slightly as one of his calloused hands pulled aside the covers and he lowered his bare feet toward the floor. His toes fell into a thick carpet that sucked his heels in like fresh moss. Beautiful tapestries of dragons, knights, and ships battling serpents covered the walls. He slowly rose and stepped toward the smallest ocean scene.

      He cocked his head, dark curls falling over his eyes and ears, mussed from a fitful sleep. Which wasn’t unusual, it hadn’t been since his father,.. Teagen shook his head and looked back to the smallest wall rug.

      A lone man battled harsh ten-foot waves in nothing but a skiff. His face, though sketchy, was tight, and fearful. So much like himself, in more ways than one. The breathing male swallowed hard, tongue swirling about his mouth as he looked about.

      He, as well, was the smallest, the most insignificant image in his family’s place, battling higher than ten-foot waves that had threatened to drown him his whole life. Which is why he’d left, but jumping from the boat had done little to help.

      Then there was the beautiful sea! The young man took in a deep breath, face loosening slightly as he was almost able to smell the saltwater in his nostrils, and the wet, salty heaven on his face. The water was freedom,..until it wasn’t.

      He shivered despite the relative warmth of the room, casting his eyes into every dark shadow, but not every mystery. How on earth had he gotten here? He went to a large window set high on the farthest wall and looked out. His tall stature having no trouble with reaching his stubbled chin to the great height.

      He saw fields and fields of happy cottages and homes… People and children laughing, and toiling. He wanted to call to them, but for some reason couldn’t. It was as if his tongue was tied with a sure cord. He then turned away from the window and tested his voice.

      Strong, though scratchy tones came forth easily as a song from a lute.

      Then Teagen’s feet danced to turn him round as a loud creak and groan shook the tranquility of the space. One of the giant carved doors eased open, like a giant awakened from a hundred-year sleep.

      And then the figure which stepped through the door took his breath away.

      Isaac found the door. He kicked himself mentally for not properly clearing the room. There still might be something inside he missed. Opening the door, he skidded to the side. No one shot at him so that was good. Bending down he lit the candle and retrieved the knife. The others did not see the action because of the coat.

      “Here it is.” said Isaac as he put the candle on the table.

      Prince Luke looked around at the books. He seemed to be in his element. The other boy was more alert now. The talk of wizards must have been the trigger. The swordsman seemed to be more on a casual neutral ready to attack or defend in a moment’s notice.

      “What’s that?” asked the boy as he pointed.

      Following the finger, Isaac saw a mirror on the back wall. Using the candle to light torches on the wall, Isaac investigated. It was a cheval style mirror. Not a one way mirror, he would see through it with this light. Approaching at an angle, he looked behind it. No one there. Looking in the mirror, Isaac saw the distorted reflection. It was not his but that of a gargoyle. The chest was blacked with what looked like soot. The fangs and claws were red with blood maybe.

      Isaac smile thinly and wryly. Overall a good impression of his nature. A beast whose ugly nature was meant to scare off demons. This one was scarred by battle like himself.

      Marlowe was just a shadow among shadows. She passed unseen through the halls of this ancient castle, examining its rooms and listening to the voices of the people who were trapped just as she was. She had explored many ruins on her archaeological expeditions, but never found them singularly fascinating. What was crumbling stone when compared to the grandeur of modern architecture? The past was worth nothing to her.

      One of the fellows she had met treated her politely, though he seemed to think she was a resident or servant in the place. When he asked for directions, Marlowe’s mood shifted. Her mordant side smirked and said, Here’s a fellow who isn’t too full of pride to ask for directions. Outwardly, she displayed a stoic face. “I’m afraid I can’t.”

      The fellow’s expression flickered between frustration and that same politeness, evidence that he was being just as deceptive as Marlowe. “But surely since you work here, you know the layout of the castle?”

      Pretending to belong here was too transparent of a lie. Marlowe stared at the fellow long enough to make him uncomfortable, then said, “If I worked here, I would likely scream and throw a fit and call for the guards to throw you out, but in fact, I do not belong here any more than you do.”

      A girl with black hair, green eyes, and a sweet expression suddenly entered the corridor and nearly ran into Marlowe and the strange man. “I beg your pardon.” She blushed and took a step back.

      “Pardon is given,” Marlowe replied with a comforting smile, instinctively slipping into a more tender mask.

      As a third person stepped onto the scene, a boy with dark hair, Marlowe retreated into the shadows to watch, her hands clasped behind her back. “Hi there. My name’s Jaylin,” said the newcomer.

      The tall man smiled in a way that seemed genuine enough. “I’m Dharin. Ah…” He motioned toward Marlowe. “I was just asking her if there was a privy somewhere close.”

      Jaylin squirmed a little. “Uh, I’m afraid I don’t know. I’m not quite sure where I am.”

      Dharin glanced at the shorter girl. “What about you?”

      “Uh… I think I saw one back that way.”

      I suppose she is the curious sort who peeks into random rooms. Marlowe ignored the part of her that wanted to chuckle and point fingers like a six-year-old. Humor had its place, and that place was not here. Or, countered her analytical side, the door had a label.

      “Thank you,” Dharin said. “I’ll just be going, then. Have a nice day.”

      How polite. Don’t trust him.

      The boy Jaylin followed the tall man, leaving Marlowe alone with the unnamed girl. But when Marlowe glanced back, her companion had disappeared without a trace. No footprints marked her passing. No sound of rustling fabric had indicated her retreat. She had utterly vanished.

      Marlowe glanced up and down the corridor. One less to worry about. Just make sure the others don’t accuse you of orchestrating her disappearance. With light footsteps, Marlowe became a shadow once more, lurking and listening to the tales told by the remaining visitors to the castle. They had entered a library.

       

      When Marlowe peeked through the door at the old tomes lining the walls, her nose wrinkled. Yet more dusty reminders of an inferior age. The strangers were hidden among the bookshelves, none of them looking at the door. To make her presence known, she slipped into the room, picked up a dusty book, and allowed herself to sneeze twice.

      They would think that she was a careless lurker who posed no threat. All was going exactly according to plan.

      Turning away from the mirror, Isaac hear the newcomer. It was a woman, not too tall, not too short. She was military. Her stance and the way she walked gave that away. Picking up a book, she looked through it and sneezed twice. Looking over labels, Isaac searched for one that could be a history book. That was more likely to have a map and would be easier to find.

      In the meantime, he opened the safety strap on his holster. The woman was watching them. It was two bit compared to the stuff Isaac had seen but she was on her own it seemed. That was more dangerous. With no support to cool her, if she was spooked, things could go south fast. If they could go any further south.

      No one seemed to know anyone and so would not trust anyone. Four fighters and a noncombatant with no support or alliance in a small hostile environment would only lead to a Mexican standoff. Top it off with this now likely interdimensional travel. What a mess.

      “Great. I guess I’ll just have to run for it.” Libby made her way to the door, switched her gun to her left hand, and flung it open. The door clanked against the wall, echoing in a wide, stone-walled room.

      Libby stepped into the light, padding barefoot. “Uh, guys?”

      A man swung around at the back of the room, his face just a silhouette against a large window. Libby took a step back, lips parting slightly as her brows hunched, Who was he? Better still, /where/ was she? Her chest tightened, and her eyes cast to every corner, hoping to reel in something feasible.

      “Who are you?” He spoke first, voice rough, like he’d been yelling too long, yet strong. The rich tapestries covering the walls sucked in his words, but her keen ears could recognize the tone was suspicious, and accusatory.

      She could tell he had muscles, and was quite tall. Though knowing it would do no good she lifted her nerf gun, and took a chance to glance behind her. A long hall… Where had the closet gone? Geez, When her eyes went back toward the man he’d taken a step forward, and her chest tightened. Not good, She pushed her glasses up, and looked around again, ponytail slapping her cheek at the quick motion. Run? She licked her lips, Definitely.

      “Wait,” He held out a hand, and she pivoted, her legs going faster than ever before…Even when she and Ryker had had their ultimate championship

      She didn’t risk a look behind her, she’d seen too many movies to do that. But she had little doubt he was following.

      Teagen growled slightly, and raced after her. His feet falling soundlessly as a cat’s on the carpeted floor. She was fast.

      He picked up the pace, and slowly gained. When his feet started slapping stones she turned at an orange door, wide eyes seeing his approach.

      “Wait! Please?” I held out an arm, then quickly pulled it back as she yanked open the door and stepped inside, pulling it shut behind her with a loud bang.

      Teagen’s teeth gritted and he growled again. Slowing, then stopping at the entrance Teagen jerked his arm forward to grasp the door’s handle and follow the child, sun-beaten cheeks flushing worse than usual. Then his fingers froze right next to the grip.

      He turned about. Forcing himself to get control.

      If he charged in there like the tiger he was the kid would build up walls, and there would be no trust…and no help. It had to be an inhabited island. Someone had found he and his companions on the beach, taken them all in, and clothed them… Yes, that had to be it. And scaring their host’s daughter was not the way to start.

      But why had the sailor not awakened while being transferred? Why all the secrecy? The hair on his arms lifted as one. Was this some mafia? A drug lord? Or… He didn’t know what to think.

      After running a hand back through his oily hair, his right hand moved forward and clutched the golden-like handle. Then with the effort to move a feather, the sunset-colored door pulled open. Teagen poked his head in, and looked in several directions. Overstuffed chairs and sofas, a single, well-worn rug. No wall carpets or paintings. An antique desk sat in the far corner, its sliding cover shut like a treasure chest.

      Entering on the balls of his feet, and heart jumping about like a hare, he shut the door with noise softer than a whisper. He had practice in such things after all. He didn’t see the girl, and his chest fell slightly as his lips buzzed. So much for that… He entered cautiously, then touched all the sofas and chairs, Cold. So she hadn’t come in here to tattle on him, nor to gain support to fight the strange man...

      Teagen crossed his jaw and approached the chairless desk, glancing over both his shoulders every few seconds. It was silent as a tomb.  His stiff fingers touched the cover, and lifted, nothing. He tried again, and met again with resistance. Locked.

      His nose flared and his almost navy eyes searched the numerous shadows of the room once more. If only

      He tried the drawer beneath the cowling, also locked, and he had the urge to smack it.

      His gut urged him to go on. To find where the girl had slipped to, and how. But the other part of him, that couldn’t stand failures or locked doors determined to open it.

      His dominant hand patted his hip where his pant pocket used to be for his pocket knife. Then he grumbled. His knife had been lost in the storm, further, these new clothes bore no purposeful holes.

      Maybe he should break it? It would be simple enough, if a little loud. He glanced around again; Then again, a broken desk would be hard to explain to a thorough host…There had to be key.

      Teagen, though doubting it to be so, checked beneath every cushion of the furniture. He was right, no key, but that didn’t mean there was nothing interesting.

      He found some sort of tarnished broach with a missing clasp. He didn’t know where to put it, he had no pockets, and no shoes… He moved to put it back. That is, until it broke open in his hand. The small green glass he’d thought was a gem slipped to the ground, and beneath it lay a small clear, almost circular, shiny thing.

      Teagen huffed, and glanced around again. Eat it? No, that was childish. Instead, he just held it, forsaking the broach as he had planned. He had no intention of stabbing himself. He then checked beneath the rug, and what he saw took his breath away. A trap door… Of all the

      The daughter must have known it was there and escaped, knowing none could find it. Teagen licked his lips, Follow? He gave the desk one more longing look, and just as he was about to fling back the rug, and pull open the hatch, he thought of something.

      The rug had been smooth and flat. She couldn’t have gone beneath the floor, and then straightened the cloth? Either someone had helped her or, his insides trembled. There was another way. But where?

      Libby couldn’t hear anything, but she knew the man was out there. Inside the desk, her breath clouded her glasses…not that she could see anyway. And her ear was itching. She refrained from scratching it. The Nerf rifle jammed into her thigh. If she moved the slightest bit, it rubbed on the wood.

      This was the stupidest thing I could have done. I should have checked to make sure it wouldn’t lock me in. She tried to calm herself. She wasn’t claustrophobic, but the air was becoming thick and hot. She wondered how long it would last.

      Someone touched the outside of the desk. Libby stiffened. The man was trying to slide it open. He paused, and then tried again. She heard him pulling on something below her, and then there was silence again.

      It was getting hard to breathe. Sweat dribbled down, off her chin. She couldn’t move enough to wipe it away.

      Something clicked. It sounded like someone opening a door.

      The sudden panic of being trapped, suffocating and alone, made her stomach tighten into a ball. Surely facing the man was better than this. Besides, he had curly hair, like her brother’s friend, Jimmy. Though not hair-gelled like Jimmy’s. Yuck. Libby rolled her eyes.

      Somehow, thinking of someone real…not that this didn’t feel real…made her feel better. Besides, she still had her Nerf gun. It would give someone a good welt at close range. That was comforting.

      “Hey!” She shouted, banging on the door. “Hey! I’m in here! Let me out!” She hoped he was still in the room. Having him, as frightening as he was, find her now was a lot better than someone else finding a Libby skeleton in 10 years. Just bones, glasses, and a Nerf rifle. “Hurry up! Let me out!”

      Nothing.

      Don’t panic, Libby. Don’t panic. She adjusted herself, so that her gun was the first thing the man would see. “Hey! Let me out!”

      Finally, she heard someone coming nearer. Her glasses were totally fogged. She pushed them up onto her head, and waited, squinting along the top of the barrel. “Open it!”

      Dharin followed the others into the library and watched as the man lit torches along the walls. A couple sneezes behind Dharin made him turn. He saw the tall, stern woman from earlier, flipping through a book. What was she doing here? He dismissed the thought as quickly as it had come. She was probably looking for the same thing as them: an explanation or a way out.

      Dharin turned back as Prince Luke pointed out a mirror nearby, and walked over to look at it along with the man and the prince. Instead of seeing his reflection, however, and the reflections of the others in the room, Dharin saw a sword, not unlike his own, surrounded by mist that floated about, absent-mindedly wrapping and unwrapping around the blade. In the pommel of the sword was set a compass with four needles, but no markings to indicate direction. As Dharin stared into the mirror, a locket floated down, settling beside the sword.

      Then a foreign whip of the Ikarialn make snaked its way out of the mist. It circled the locket, then snapped in the air, hitting the locket and breaking it into two pieces, the picture inside poking out. The sword immediately shattered, and the pieces fell to land around the broken locket. Dharin looked closer, and, recognizing the picture, took a shocked step backwards, his hand going to the neck of his shirt to clasp the chain that hung under it, that held a locket with an identical picture.

      He knew the others would be staring at him, but he didn’t really care right then. How did the mirror see that? How did it know? Dharin tore his gaze away from the mirror, feeling his heart racing beneath his sister’s locket that rested on his chest. He avoided the eyes of the others, and paced back out the door, down the hall a little ways and around a corner, then pressed his back against the wall, letting himself slip to the ground, his brow shining with sweat.

      The sword was himself. The unhelpful compass and the mist would be his own uncertainty as to where he should be going. The locket was his sister, and the foreign whip… Dharin shook his head angrily. The mirror did nothing but show him his biggest fear. How useful. He clenched his jaw, and forced himself to continue his mental list. The whip symbolized the slavery his sister was sold into. The whip breaking the locket, then the sword shattering- that was Dharin’s greatest fear, and what would come of it coming true. Slavery would finally break his sister forever, even kill her, and Dharin himself would be shattered. Pulse still racing, he dropped his head into his hands, trying to take deep breaths, trying to calm down. Really, it wasn’t like he didn’t already know all that.

      He stood up, and leaned against the wall. What made it so difficult was the fact that the mirror knew. And Dharin had always tried his best to never think about it, yet here was this stupid mirror, throwing it in his face, mocking him. He turned to glare at the wall, wondering if he would gain anything by punching it.

      He shook the thought aside, and drew his rapier, retreating a few paces into the center of the hall. He ran through footwork drills, making himself focus on light, graceful steps. He practiced everything he knew how to practice, and finished everything off with the most complicated set of movements he knew. By the time he was finished, he was dripping with sweat and had a raging need for water, but he felt better mentally. A voice behind him made him turn.

      “Impressive.” The man who hadn’t yet introduced himself was leaning against the wall with one shoulder, arms crossed. It was a relaxed, casual pose, yet Dharin suspected that the man could draw a weapon and be ready to use it within a moment’s notice.

      The rug had been smooth and flat. She couldn’t have gone beneath the floor, then straightened the cloth? Either someone had helped her or, his insides trembled. There was another way. But where?

      His head looked about the almost plain room once again. Nothing. Geez? Where could she have gone?

      Teagen bit his upper lip, and looked back to the old rug. He flung it aside, the bottom cracking like glass. The small gem was set aside. He then dug his fingers beneath the board and lifted. There was a small click, and it lifted upward with surprisingly little resistance.

      He glanced over his shoulder one more time, then lowered one foot into the pitch darkness. He wasn’t afraid of the dark. He couldn’t remember when he’d ever been. Shadows brought safety. And protection for those who belonged.

      But he didn’t need protection right now. Did he? Where were Elsie and Juan? Lucky and the nerdy, snobby, scientist guy? They had to be here somewhere… It would make more sense to check other rooms that looked like his.

      Then he heard a noise, like a child screaming into a pillow. His shoulders turned behind him, and his brows lowered. What? Was the kid in here? Invisible? He almost laughed at his joke. It wasn’t Narnia… This was real life after all

      But still? He pulled his leg back into the dim, gray light of the room, letting the door shut as he stared at the culprit desk.

      Then it rocked, and he nearly fell into the hole. She was in /there/? His lips parted in astonishment, then shut as he glanced around. As if asking if anyone else was seeing this? Have I gone crazy? Well, crazier?

      He shook himself and rose to his feet, knees popping. As his feet approached more muffled yelling came from the desk. Wow.,

      He doubled his pace, and stubbed his toe on the couch with the needlelike broach in it. He grunted, face twisting a second. The yelling from within the wooden antique grew worse and Teagen shoved on to it.

      Teeth gritted, he surveyed it. How to open it? His original plan of breaking it wouldn’t be advisable with something living inside. She was almost crying by now, “Hush up!” He hissed, “I’m trying to help you.”

      She then began banging the inside with something.

      “I’m sorry,” Teagen bent down and spoke into the keyhole. “I’ll get it open.”

      He thought about tilting it, and scaring her, but refused the thought. There was a time for laughter, and a time for seriousness or something to that effect… She was just a kid. If he were her? He couldn’t stand small spaces… It was too much like a closet.

      Chewing his cheek he grabbed the lid again and yanked several times. Hard. The desk trembled slightly.

      A muffled question came through, but he couldn’t understand it completely. “Sorry,” He hissed into the hole, “I had to try. These old things are quality.”

      “Just get me out.”

      He heard, Hmm. A bit impatient… Then again, would he not be? Then again, if he was doing drugs, would he not warn others to stay clear of them? A bit rash.

      He looked around. There was nothing in the room. Nothing but pillows, a gaping hole, a rug, and a pokey broach. Then back in his room? It had appeared that someone had removed anything that could possibly be used as a weapon. The walls in the hall had been bare aside from intermittent torches, and this room only had a single one. Though burning it wasn’t an option.

      If she was the nerd he would have threatened such. But she wasn’t…and he couldn’t regret it.

      “Hey,” He leaned back down to the level, “My name’s Teagen, and, uh, I need some ideas.”

      She kicked the inside of her prison in answer.

      His brows lifted, lips puckering as he nodded, “Okay,”

      Wait. The broach.

      “I have an idea,” Teagen’s voice lowered. Then he hurried back to the still uncushioned couch. The ornament with a long claspless needle stared up at him, and he grinned. White, though not completely straight, teeth showing.

      Snatching it up, being careful as he did so that the needle didn’t poke his flesh, he headed back to the old desk. “I’ve an idea,” a smile was still in control of his cheeks as his eyes twinkled.

      “What is it?” Came the hard, almost fearful reply from inside.

      “Well, this is a skeleton lock. Easy to pick for the experienced compared to most of our modern locks.”

      “Are you experienced?” Came the mousy reply.

      “Nah,” Teagen shook his head, “But Hessa, one of my big sisters? She can open almost anything. Hotel doors, bathrooms, bedrooms,… Almost anything. I’m gonna try, but I don’t know if it will work. If it doesn,”

      “Just try it.” She shot back.

      His face did the same action as the time before, but he then chewed on the corner of his bottom lip, “Okay,” He nodded once, setting his jaw, “stick your finger against the light.”

      “Why?”

      Teagen smirked, and stuck the needle in, “You’ll feel,”

      He then felt pressure for a fraction of a second, then a small squeak. “Don’t tell me what to do. I’m gonna help you, but not because I have to.” Then he got to work.

      Jaylin watched curiously as first, the man who he didn’t know, then Dharin looked into the mirror. Weird.

      It wasn’t weird that they had looked into a mirror, what was weird were their reactions. The man had at first seemed surprised at what he saw, then he smiled.

      Dharin had shown surprise at first also, but instead of a smile, horror took its place on his face.

      Jaylin watched him closely and tried to get him to meet his gaze. But Dharin wouldn’t look at him; instead, he turned around and stumbled out of the library.

      Jaylin also noticed that the man who had looked into the mirror first, was watching Dharin also, and when Dharin left, he followed.

      Jaylin didn’t like it, but before he could follow his newfound friend, the glass caught his attention.

      He turned and faced the mirror.

      He gasped. It was not his reflection that stared back at him, but a giant griffin protecting a wounded phoenix, as it lay on the ground. What was the griffin protecting it from? He wondered, and stepped closer.

      Advancing slowly towards the two was a black dragon.

      Then Jaylin understood. Each person saw what he was, metaphorically.

      He was the griffin, protector, and friend to, Marril, he realized. The dragon must be Aclabar. The black wizard and head of the Graylick.

      I hope I’ll never have to fight Aclabar like that. He thought. Then he realized, the griffin was bigger than the dragon. Under all the wizardry, Aclabar was just another, hurt and cowardly, person.

      He stepped away from the mirror and wiped his eyes. In just those few seconds, he had realized something that had changed his perspective.

      He turned around and noticed the older girl from earlier looking at him. He flashed her a smile and hoped she hadn’t realized he’d been crying.

      “I didn’t see you come in,” he said.

      Isaac watch the swordsman. The gargoyle was still on his mind. That was the last proof he needed. This place was in a separate dimension with its own rules. It had seen what was under the skin and in the heart. The mirror could provide invaluable information through shock and awe.

      The swordsman jumped away from the mirror. Whatever he saw had rattled him. Isaac had not seen much. There had been a kind of fog with a light in it. Maybe. It had been blurred. The swordsman alone understood the meaning and was looking at a necklace. A locket? Had the reflection insinuated something on a loved one?

      Turning, the swordsman went to the center of the room and drew his weapon. Isaac started for his gun but stopped. While the man was rattled, he did not seem like the type to go on a killing spree. As he started to swing his rapier, Isaac watched. At first he did not understand but he soon saw the pattern. Hands and feet returned to the same start positions. Each swing was part of some form of fencing. He was carrying out the forms to get his mind off of what he had seen.

      As the man continued to preform, Isaac noticed two things. First, with each swing, the man was increasing the overall speed of his motions. And second, a dagger had entered the scene, darting in and out. Parries and stabs from both blades danced in the air, carried out on an imaginary foe. And then, he just stopped. He was done venting out.

      “Impressive.” said Isaac.

      Turning, Isaac saw that the boy had looked in the mirror too. Another girl had slipped in too while he had been watching the swordsman. The boy now was hiding his tears with a smile. What he had seen had opened a door for him, a door to a new perspective. Now all Isaac had to do was lure the first woman to look at the mirror. From there, he could find out whose side she was on.

      The Teagan guy was digging around in the lock with some sort of needle.

      “Hurry up.” Libby pushed a lock of wet, sticky hair off her cheek. She kept the gun pointed at the door. Just in case.

      “So,” He was still fumbling around. His voice sounded like he was grinning. “What’s your name?”

      Libby wondered if it was a good thing that he was smiling. “Umm…” Should I tell my real name? “Uh, Liberty.” She said.

      “Nice.” He sounded a little distracted. “How old are you, Liberty?”

      “74.” Somehow, a little grin slithered across her mouth. “Are you almost done?” She adjusted her legs. Her tail-bone was sore.

      “Possibly.” He answered her question. She heard him grunt in frustration. “Come on.

      “Come on what? Where?” She demanded.

      “Nothing. I’ve almost got it.” He sounded confident, but the pin was still clicking around inside the lock the same as before. “Do you live here?”

      “No.” Libby kicked the inside. At least there was still air, even if it was super hot and stuffy.

      “Stop kicking it.”

      “Okay.” She shifted again, frowning. “Do you live here?”

      “Nope. I live in the US…kinda.”

      “I live in Iowa.” She stated. She rubbed the back of her wrist across her nose. She had lowered her Nerf gun. “What does kinda mean?”

      He didn’t answer. There was a louder click. “There. Got it.” A crack of light appeared at the bottom of the door as he pulled it up.

      Libby fumbled for her Nerf Gun. She raised it, and squinted, blinking in the sudden light. “I have a gun.”

      Teagan laughed. He was face-level with her, kneeling on the floor. “Is the air out here better?”

      She glared at him. “Yes.” She tried not to look like she was panting. He didn’t seem threatening at the moment, so she pulled off her glasses and cleaned them with her t-shirt. She shoved them back on her nose.

      “I like your glasses.” He grinned, and shoved a hand through his dark hair.

      She wrinkled up her nose. “I hate them.” Now that she could see Teagan up close, and that he wasn’t chasing her, he didn’t seem nearly as terrifying. He was tanned, rough, and athletic looking, with curly hair, and eyes that sparked with mischief. He obviously liked kids…she could tell from his smile.

      And he smells like Ultimate Frisbee. Libby lowered her gun. Must be because we always play frisbee at the beach. His particular smell was sweat, sand, and open water.

      “Do you play football?” She demanded.

      Teagen shook his head, a teasing grin on his face, “Nah, but I do like soccer…”

      Libby’s brows lowered, and seeing that she didn’t get the joke Teagen amended, “Not since I was a kid. It was fun.”

      She nodded, and looked around the room, “Now what?”

      The man copied the gesture and shrugged, “I don’t know. I suppose we should find the owner of this hunk of rocks, and ask him for a phone. Not to mention find my, um well, people.”

      “Family?” She cocked her head.

      “No. We were shipwrecked together you see, and,” Teagen waved a hand, “Ah never mind. We’ll find them when we find them.”  He then pushed to his feet with a slight groan. Then, turning to the girl held out a hand and gave her an exaggerated bow, “My lady Liberty,”

      She lifted her chin, eyes narrow. Take the hand, and play along with his game? Or not?

      He swallowed hard, looking sheepishly into her eyes. Right when the sailor was about to raise his back, and suggest they just hurry on, she took his ruff hand and hopped to the floor. “Where do we go?”

      His black brows lifted slightly, and his throat suppressed a chuckle. Then in the voice of a herald, Teagen waved an arm and bowed once more, “I darn’t say a word of opinion my lady Liberty. But, if ye shall spare my pitiable life I should dare thy beautiful feet to go into yonder abyss beneath the floor.” He lifted a chin to her while giving her a closed-lip smile. Brows jumping up and down like an old cartoon character’s might.

      Her eyes surveyed him like her life depended on it, teeth chewing on the bottom corner of her cheek.

      “Then again,” He cleared his throat and straightened his broad shoulders. “You might just be an ordinary farmer girl from Idaho.”

      “Iowa.”

      “Right.” Teagen gave her a knowing look… Then he shook his head, “Let’s go, this room smells of must all a sudden.”

      “It’s your trap door.” The child murmured.

      His head cocked at her a moment. Then with a flared nose his bare feet padded over and bumped the wood plank. It fell shut with a loud bang.

      Teagen sighed when the deed was done, rubbing his hands against his thighs as he looked back to the girl who reminded him more and more of Tryna… eleven years ago. Man, did that make him feel old?

      “Who are you here with? I know you don’t live here (quite a sneaky answer by the way), but where are your parents?… Surely, wait,” I pointed at her, “are you related at all to the owners of this place? Visiting, and exploring the place perhaps? My stomach’s been growling for days, and any food would be welcome if you could lead to the kitchen?…Maybe?”

      Her face was blank with a hint of shock. Her expression didn’t change, and his chest tightened, Teagen’s jaw clenching as he glanced about the room in bewilderment. “You don’t know any more about where we are than I…do you?” All his hair stood on end.

      _

      Libby waited for him to speak again. He seemed tense for a moment, then his blue eyes met her’s again.

      He grinned, and let out a laugh. “Okay, looks like we’re both new to this. What do you suggest, Lady Liberty?”

      Libby didn’t answer for a moment. What did she suggest? “I don’t know.” She glanced around the room again. “Maybe we should just explore, and try to find someone.” If it had been a store, they should have found the front desk…but this was just an old castle. There was no front desk. Duh, Libby. She was glad she wasn’t thinking out-loud.

      “That was what I was thinking. Only…” He rubbed the back of his across his rough chin. “…it could be dangerous, you know.” His mouth was curved upward, still optimistic. She was just a kid…just a normal American kid. She wasn’t used to this sort of stuff. Not that he had been lost in a mysterious castle before either.

      Her hands tightened on her Nerf rifle, finger on the trigger.

      He laughed, “At least one of us thought to bring a weapon.” His eyebrows lowered. “I should probably find myself something too.”

      She was obviously relying on him to make the first step.

      “Alright.” He shrugged. “We’ve already been in the hall, and we didn’t see any monsters down there. Let’s go that way, and try to find me something I can defend myself with.” He smirked. “A curtain rod or something, you know.”

      She cracked a little grin. “Okay.” She patted the side of her gun. “I’ll shoot anything we run into.”

      “Great.” He looked down at his bare feet, and then at hers. “And we’ll be able to sneak on the carpet, because neither of us thought to bring footwear.”

      She gave him a sassy smile, and flipped her pony-tail over her shoulder. “I didn’t think to bring anything. I don’t even know why I’m here.” She paused. “Do you?”

      “No.” He winked. “No matter, Liberty. Let’s go find me a weapon.” He moved toward the door.

      She trotted to keep up. “You can call me Libby if you want now.”

      “Sure, Libby.” He had won her trust.

      _

      The book in Marlowe’s hands was readable. The kings and queens of olden days kept their peace in warring ways… Some sort of history? No, just a poem. A poem in her native dialect. Either she had somehow returned to the Homeworld, or she had discovered a high-ranking citizen’s private vacation castle. I would almost rather believe that aliens abducted me. 

      Or that I am in a coma. 

      Or that this is all just a really, really weird dream. 

      Shut up. No more distractions. She snapped the book closed, then placed it down gently. When she glanced up, she found the other individuals eyeing her warily. Most of them were armed with primitive swords. One had a gun and several other weapons stashed away.

      Words are powerful, she considered, her expression unchanging. Especially if it comes to fighting for my life. 

      What am I talking about? They could kill me in at least five different ways. 

      So could I, and much more creatively. Marlowe chose not to revisit that train of thought.

      Three of them approached a mirror. Whatever they beheld in it caused them to react in various ways. Dharin’s reaction was particularly interesting. He appeared mentally disturbed and stormed out of the library. With a wary glance around, the fellow with the gun slipped after him.

      If I hear a gunshot or a death cry, that’s one less to worry about. 

      Shut up. They’re not stupid.

      What about Dharin? What’s wrong with him? 

      Obviously, he has a backstory. A very interesting one.

      Marlowe silenced the deliberations as the boy from earlier, Jaylin, glanced over at her. The mirror had caused him to shed tears, though he wouldn’t want to draw attention to that. He smiled at her—genuine but slightly uncertain. “I didn’t see you come in.”

      A serene smile flitted across her face, smoothing out the stern lines across her brow. Put him at ease. “I heard voices and followed them here. I was distracted by all these books.” She gazed around, feigning admiration. “It’s magnificent.”

      Jaylin nodded slowly. “What happened to that other girl?”

      The corners of her mouth twisted into a puzzled frown. “That’s what I’m wondering. She ran off, and when I tried to follow her, all I found was you, Dharin, and that other fellow. Any idea who he is?”

      The boy shrugged. “He doesn’t seem very talkative.”

      Too bad. Talkative people are always such founts of information. Marlowe brushed a speck of dust off the sleeve of her white Ensign uniform. “You’re Jaylin, right? I didn’t have a chance to properly introduce myself earlier.” Lying about one’s name was usually more trouble than it was worth. Lying about rank…not so much. She maintained her easy smile as she addressed Jaylin. “I’m Commodore Marlowe Reynolds. You can call me Marlowe if you like.”

      “Nice to meet you, Marlowe.”

      “Likewise.” She glanced at the mirror, which was distorted at this distance. “What’s the deal with that mirror?”

      He followed her gaze, his expression thoughtful. “It’s not an ordinary mirror, that’s for sure. I think it shows everyone a different reflection.”

      “What kind of reflection?”

      His forehead scrunched up. “It’s hard to explain. You would have to look for yourself.”

      A sense of warning tingled in the back of Marlowe’s mind. The mirror was something she didn’t have the ability to control. Her hand closed around the spine of a book on a nearby table. One instinct prompted her to shatter the looking glass. Another stayed her hand and instead moved her to flip absently through the book’s pages.

      Information in any form was power. As long as no one else saw what she would see in the mirror, she still had control. I must have control. This directive was the one thing all the players in the stage of her mind agreed upon.

      Teagen poked his head out the door, and glanced both ways down the hall. All was clear, aside from a few torches casting eerie shadows on the stones. “Let’s go,” He waved for Libby to follow, and held the door open for her as she followed.

      They took five steps in silence before Libby jumped in front of the man, and began walking backwards. Teagen halved his gait so she wouldn’t go to fast and trip. No telling how long it would take to get help if she cracked her head open.

      “Sooo,” her eyes widened as she surveyed him, “Tell me about yourself?”

      He took a hesitant breath, looking over his shoulder a second while nibbling on his cheek a second, “Uh, well.” He shrugged, when his eyes met hers the little trust he’d gained was already being tested.

      “I’m a sailor. The last ship I was on was called the ‘Darling’. She was fine, freshly painted white with red trim. She could really throttle, and maneuver really well.”

      She cocked her head.

      “Have you ever been on a ship?” Teagen’s brows lifted on the girl.

      She sucked on her lip, “No, but I’ve been to the beach.”

      “What’s your favorite thing about it?” Teagen’s eyes sparkled, and his heartbeat quickened. The sea was his favorite subject, and any who enjoyed and appreciated it couldn’t be all bad in his book.

      _

      Dharin stood there for a moment still, gathering his thoughts. The man was still looking at him, face blank. Dharin sighed mentally. The man would be a dangerous enemy and a strong ally. Best to try to make some sort of bond before the man decided Dharin was a threat. Dharin sheathed his sword and took a step closer to the man, extending his hand.

      “I don’t believe we’ve been properly introduced. Dharin Rider, captain of the fifth Trio, of the East Quintant.”

      The man glanced down at Dharin’s hand, then back up at his face before slowly reaching out and shaking the proffered hand.

      Isaac looked at the man’s hand. He had to answer for formalities sake but how would he. Then an idea went through his head. In the event that they did not return immediately to their own dimensions but all returned to one, he would need a name in case they returned to Earth.

      “Franz Fenrir. Unaffiliated.”

      He felt bad for fooling them but it would further his plans. Fenrir was not a name anyone used. The SS and Gestapo knew it as a codename for Isaac. He was enough of a problem for them that anyone using such a name as Franz Fenrir would become a person of interest at least. As long as they did not teleported near Rastenburg, the SS and Gestapo would be chasing a phantom name in another direction, away from his mission.

      _

      His forehead scrunched up. “It’s hard to explain. You would have to look for yourself.”

      Jaylin could tell Marlowe wasn’t very pleased about the mirror. She reached out her hand and started flipping through the pages of a book.

      He stood there uncertainty for a moment. “Did you see where Dharin and the other man went?” he finally asked.

      She shook her head. “I saw them leave, but I don’t know where they went.”

      His stomach growled and he blushed as he saw her try to hide a smile. “I wonder if this place has any food.” he said.

      The room was dark, and carpeted. Teagan held the torch out at an arms length, advancing slowly.

      Libby wouldn’t have admitted that she was scared, but she hung back a little, peering out from behind him. The room was furnished like a study and a lounge in one…just like the one she had hid in earlier. There was a cold fireplace at one end.

      Teagan quickly stepped to the side, toward the wall.

      “What is it?” Libby hissed, sounding more frightened than she wanted to.

      He shot her a wink over his shoulder. “Just lighting another torch.”

      “Oh.” Calm down, Libby. In the low light, the room looked almost identical to the other, except that it was decorated with a more feminine style. And the desk was still open, littered with papers.

      “Nobody in here.” Teagan said. Libby couldn’t tell whether he was disappointed or relieved.

      He stooped down and shuffled through the papers on the desk. “Just letters and stuff.”

      “Cool.” Libby tested out the couch, bouncing on it a few times, and then standing up again. She cocked her head to the side. Beside the fireplace, there were two wooden squares on the wall. Doors? Libby glanced over the back of the couch at Teagan, he was digging through the desk drawer. I’ll just check it out. She crept across the carpet and grasped the tiny door-handle, pulling it.

      It swung open easily. Light flooded through. Smells like books. Libby wrinkled her nose, and pushed the barrel of her Nerf gun into the hole first. She peered along the plastic sights. Shelves. Looks like a library.

      “Did you see where Dharin and the other man went?” A young voice said.

      There was a rustle of clothes as someone moved. “I saw them leave, but I don’t know where they went.” This time it was a woman that spoke. Libby wasn’t sure she liked the voice. Someone’s hand appeared, holding a closed book. They shoved it toward Libby’s face.

      Libby jerked back, slamming the tiny door shut. “Mr. Teagan?”

      “What?”

      “There’s people in there!”

      _

      Teagen straightened, jaw setting, eyes narrow as he looked to the little girl, “Move from the door,” He waved a hand then strode to the fireplace, snatching up a poker. If they were the owners he didn’t trust them. Anyone who could take a child from her home,.. But it didn’t make any sense!?

      He shoved those questions from his mind. The here and now was more important, “Who’s in there Libby?”

      Her eyes were large, and she swallowed hard before pushing up her glasses. “I heard two voices A boy’s and woman’s.”

      _

      “Franz Fenrir. Unaffiliated.” The man shook Dharin’s hand, then drew his own hand back to cross his arms again.

      Dharin noted some sort of change in Franz’s eyes as he spoke, yet couldn’t place it. And the name was decidedly foreign. Dharin gave a polite nod. “Nice to meet you. I beg your pardon for asking, but do you happen to be from Ikarial?”

      Franz shook his head. “No, I’m afraid I haven’t the slightest clue where that is.”

      Dharin felt slightly better. If Franz had been from Ikarial, associated with the slave-traders… He shook himself from those thoughts, and asked, “Do you enjoy swordplay? Or something else?”

      Isaac heard a tiny squeak. It was a door’s hinge, very close.

      “Something else. A bit more high risk.”

      Reentering the library, Isaac looked over the walls. There was no open door. A hidden door, where? Not a bookcase. The others would have noticed. There were not pictures so not peepholes in the eyes. Maybe one in the wall like a hidden safe behind the books. It wasn’t too far away. The sound came from the right side, probably in the near half at the most.

      Drawing a knife, Isaac began to pull it along the wall at eye level. Even if the cracks of the door were gone, the difference of material would give off two different sounds.

      “What are you doing?” said the boy.

      Motioning with his finger for silence, Isaac felt the knife sink. Pulling books off the shelf, he stacked them quietly on the ground. Should he use the flaregun grenades to open the wall? Tapping on the spot, he heard the returns. A wood panel without metal reinforcement. It opened outward into the other room. Good for disguising the seams of the frame. He didn’t need the explosives. A simple fist would do.

      “What is it?”

      The boy was jumping now. Of course he would. Secret doors were rare and mysterious to them. Turning the knife, Isaac struck the door with the pommel of the blade. It flew open. Peering in, Isaac dodged a blue and yellow blur. Catching the second, he looked at it. A simple foam dart. A child’s toy.

      Libby jerked back, slamming the tiny door shut. “Mr. Teagan?”

      “What?”

      “There’s people in there!”

      The man straightened, eyes narrowing on where the girl had just been. He then strode to the fireplace, whispering as he lifted a sharp iron poker from it’s stand, “What people? Who?”

      “I don’t know.” She answered, shaking her head, “A woman, and a boy definitely.The girl spoke of others.”

      Teagen’s grip tightened on his weapon. It could be his companions… But if not? He wouldn’t trust anyone in charge of such a castle. Kidnapping? If only he could’ve finished going through those papers…

      He gestured for Libby to step back. She obeyed, a little, waiting until he was close and standing right behind his left shoulder.

      He listened silently for a moment. Then cocked his head, and pointed to the doorway. She nodded, and he slowly bent, pulling the thing open. His face scrunched up as the hinges squeaked.

      Then he looked in, just a row of books. And, voices. Teagen’s nose flared and he shut the spyhole quickly.

      “What?” Libby’s brows lowered, “What’s wrong? Don’t you want to meet them?”

      Teagen chewed his cheek, no smile visible, “No.”

      Her shoulders slumped as her eyes squinted up at him through the glass lenses.

      He shook his head, teeth clenched, “All are guilty until proven innocent.”

      She lowered her chin, but her eyes still nailed him, “I’m not sure that’s how that goes.”

      A knife then sliced through the door. Both parties jumped, then looked to each other.

      Threat; Get outa here! Rang in Teagen’s head.

      Libby, on the other hand, stepped closer, though lifting her useless gun. Her lips were pressed together and she worked to struggle her breathing.

      Teagen fought a groan.

      The door flew from the wall! Libby gave a short squeak-like thing, and rapidly fired. Just seconds later Teagen had stepped forward, and shoved her aside, “Get back Libby!”

      Marlowe put the book back on the shelf. And the man that had followed Dharin came back into the library. Jaylin was about to ask the man where Dharin was, but he shoved past him and stared at the wall.

      Jaylin watched confused as the man with the trench coat ran his knife along the wall. “What are you doing?”

      The man motioned for him to be quiet. He frowned but obeyed the man anyway. The man was now pulling books off the shelf and stacking them on the ground.

      “What is it?” he asked impatiently.

      The man turned his knife and struck the wood wall with the pommel. It opened a hole and he could just see inside from where he stood. It was a whole other room, and there were two people standing on the other side.

      The man peered in and quickly dodged out of the way of a blue foam dart.

      The dart whizzed past and hit Jaylin squarely in the head. He winced but knew it had done no damage.

      Then someone cried. “Get back Libby!”

      “Did you see where Dharin and the other man went?” Jaylin asked.

      Marlowe shrugged slightly. “I saw them leave, but I don’t know where they went.” Closing the book, she placed it in a space on a nearby bookshelf. A muffled thud sounded from the wall. Had she knocked a hidden book onto the floor? She squinted at the bookshelf.

      The unnamed stranger returned to the library, marching purposefully along the perimeter of the room. Marlowe backed away into the shadows to witness his strange performance. He worked quietly and quickly, as if he’d done this many times. Jaylin stood just behind him, asking questions.

      Since both were distracted, Marlowe took the opportunity to approach the mirror. Ignoring the voices that rose in volume behind her, she peered into the depths of the looking glass. At first, she saw nothing but two silver glints that shone out of the shadows like points of steel. She squinted, and the glints flickered. Eyes.

      Gradually, a shape formed out of the mist; a brief, ghostlike reflection of herself that faded out of existence—or perhaps melded with the creature lurking behind it. Its glowing eyes blinked, and a forked tongue flitted out. Marlowe’s brow creased at a realization. The reflection was a changeling lizard, not a native species of the Homeworld. Its scales could change color depending on the creature’s situation. Some colors attracted prey; others warned predators away. Pale colors were soothing to all who saw it. Threatening colors filled hearts with terror.

      No one had ever discovered what color a changeling lizard’s scales truly were, yet when Marlowe looked into the mirror, all she saw was a changeling with faded, colorless scales. Was it saying that deep inside, she had no true form? Without her changing personalities, who was she? Was she a rebellious daughter? A crafty manipulator? A tenderhearted sister? A dutiful conformist? A bitter seeker of vengeance? Or were all these personas carefully crafted as tools to help her become master of the events around her?

      Who was Marlowe Reynolds? As she gazed at the image in the mirror, she could honestly tell herself that she did not know.

      “Get back Libby!”

      Isaac heard the man. American English. How long had it been since he had heard anyone from home. Three years? Four years?

      Suddenly, he saw a black blur. Moving too slow, he felt the object strike his chest. Coughing, he heard the clang. He was going to feel this one. Falling to the ground, he felt the area. There was a dent below his shirt collar. Isaac was lucky. His vest had caught the blow. Good thing he had chosen to put metal plate in it for stab protection.

      Rising from the ground, he drew the pistol. He was not going to risk a second hit. Taking aim, Isaac saw the two. The man was older than him, in his twenties. He was holding a poker from a fireplace. That would work as a basic weapon. Not a problem anymore. The girl was kid with glasses, early teens maximum. She held a brightly colored dart gun. The man stepped in front of the girl. He was shielding her with his body.

      “Who are you?” asked Isaac in English.

      “Mr. Teagan!” Libby shouted. Someone was trying to open the door in the wall. “Someone is…”   There was a crunch, and the door flew open. Libby got a glimpse of someone’s fist, and a face behind it. She raised her Nerf gun and pulled the trigger.

      “Get back, Libby!” Teagan yanked Libby’s shoulder from behind. She landed on her side, clutching her Nerf gun against her chest.

      Her elbow banged on the floor. “Ouch!” She looked up in time to see Teagan jam a fire poker through the doorway. He looked like someone in a movie, with his brown hair falling over his forehead and his jaw in a firm line.

      Someone on the other side grunted, someone else exclaimed.

      Libby climbed to her feet. Teagan was standing right in front of her.

      “Get out of the way.” She peered out from under his arm and saw the barrel of a pistol looking back at her.

      “Who are you?” A man’s voice asked.

      Libby looked up at Teagan’s face. He was tense.

      He turned his head slowly, and met her wide eyes. “Run.” He mouthed.

      Libby glanced back at the door leading to the hallway. Her fingers tightened on the gun.

      “Don’t move.” The man on the other side of the wall commanded.

      “Who are you?” A man’s voice asked.

      Teagen almost lifted his hands above his head, as he had every other time when facing a gun. But he would have to drop his weapon. He wasn’t willing to do that. Then there was Libby…

      He glanced to the girl’s face, and mouthed, ‘Run.’

      Then the barrel faced her head, “Don’t move.”

      Teagen straightened his chest. “I’m Teagen Jath, this, this is, well, that doesn’t matter.” Teagen shook his head, tempted to lift his poker and take another jab at the man, but even for him that would be foolish. “Who are you sir?” His tone was mocking. “Where are we? I doubt you own this place, why destroy your own wall? But, who do you think we are that you would destroy a perfectly good wall to get to us?” Teagen’s nose flared, He was doing this terribly wrong… He licked his lips. How to remedy this? 

      “If you just back off, we’ll leave you be.”

      Isaac looked at the two. Teagan was a fighter. The only reason he stopped was because of the gun and the threat it posed to the girl. It would be wise to make him an ally rather than a foe. The more allies, the better off they would be. Holstering the gun, Isaac backed away from the window.

      “Personally, I don’t know where we are. I doubt any of us does. If I had to bet, it is a wormhole that has cut through time and universal space.”

      “Yeah. Right. I’m not buying it.” said Teagan

      “There is a way to prove it. What is the date, specifically? Where I can from it is July 6, 1944, A.D.”

      “There is a way to prove it. What is the date, specifically? Where I came from it is July 6, 1944, A.D.”

      Teagen’s brows nearly jumped to the ceiling, “What?”

      “July 6, 1944 A.D.”

      Teagen’s Adam’s Apple bobbed, and he glanced to Libby face. Her eyes were giant, and her shoulders slouched. Then he flicked his gaze back to the stranger. “June, 2020.” Teagen shook his head, mind racing. Then his eyes fastened onto the other man’s for a second. “A.D. mind.” What in the world?!!! This was impossible? It had to be a joke.

      Teagen’s jaw set as his narrow eyes ran over the man from history, “How can you prove you’re from the 1900s?”

      How could Isaac prove he was? He had knowledge of the future because of his time travel and he had knowledge of the past from living there. What existed then but not now? Then he remembered something. When he had been in Norway helping the Resistance blow up a shipment of heavy water, he had seen some comics smuggled in from America. One of the passwords was from the comic.

      “Have your read the Phantom comics?”

      “Never heard of him.” said Teagan.

      Isaac felt his jaw twitch. He’s not a comic reader. Maybe history was better. Hopefully, Isaac’s was not too different.

      “Italy surrendered in September of 43. Mussolini is stood trail and was executed for his crimes. The Allies landed in Normandy June 6th. Cherbourg and the Cotentin Peninsula fell June 26 to the Americans. Caen has yet to fall to the British and Canadian forces. On June 11, the Allies landed in China. July 2nd, combined American, Japanese and Nationalist Chinese forces crossed the Yangtze and retook Nanking. Rumors say that the Axis forces are going to make a big push on all fronts.”

      Teagen’s eyes widened and he glanced to Libby. Her brow was equally wrinkled. He then looked back to the speaker, “Uh,.. cool. The only things I got from that were the words ‘America, Italy, and Japan.'”

      The man looked slightly stunned, Not know of the war? How could people ever forget?

      “Fine,” Teagen swallowed hard, and looked into the younger man’s face. Sure, the man looked younger, all except his eyes. They put Teagen to shame. This guy stood for something, something better than himself. That made Teagen feel guilty, “Fine.” He repeated, “I’m not saying I completely believe you, but, that doesn’t matter. I lie too,” He cleared his throat.  “Where were we? Oh yes, I was asking where we were, and no one knew. So,?” Teagen nodded, thoughts trailing off, “Do you know where some food is?” He hadn’t had anything more than clams for two days after all

      Isaac looked at the man. Food. He could use some. The ration cards he took from the bombed apartment were just about gone. The last bit of meat came from a rabbit three days ago. Anything bigger than that would do. How to find a kitchen? It wouldn’t be in this dungeon. It had to be above ground in an outer wall in case of a fire.

      “Has anyone seen a window?” asked Isaac. “I’m getting sick of this tunnel.”

      Teagen’s brows lowered a momment, then he glanced to Libby and nodded. “There was one back in my room, down the ‘tunnel’. But there were people when I looked out so we need to be careful. Oh and, how do you plan to get in here? No offense, I mean, I couldn’t squeeze through either, but, yeah. But, how does that help us find food?”

      Libby gave him a hard glance then rolled her eyes.

      “Unless,” he couldn’t be quiet to save his life, “Do you hope to eat plants or something outside? Geez, no offense, again, but, a mansion like this has gotta have some sort of food, and, at that, real good food. A wine celler too,”

      Libby glared again, and she took a step toward the strange man, rolling her eyes and putting her small hands on her hips. “What do you want to do sir?”

      Isaac reach into his pocket. The cube was wrapped in a black plastic.

      “You guys mind moving to one of the corners of this wall.” Turning to the others, Isaac continued. “Y’all too. This will be messy.”

      Ripping open the package, he began to kneed the material.

      “What’s that?” Asked the boy.

      “Plastique. Get to a corner and stay there. And build any kind of barricade you can.”

      Placing the lump on the shelf, Isaac mashed it against the wall. Looking around, he saw the others were hiding suitably. Pulling a item like a cigarette from his pocket, Isaac put it in the lump and broke part of the tip. Stepping back, he surveyed the work. It was all done well. The wall did not seem like it was supporting much.

      “Everyone, cover your ears. Close your eyes and shield yourself.”

      Jumping into a gap between bookcases, Isaac waited for the blast.

      Libby glared again, and she took a step toward the strange man, rolling her eyes and putting her small hands on her hips. “What do you want to do sir?”

      Only the man’s head was visible through the hatch, he glanced down a moment before looking up and through to Teagen and Libby again, “You guys mind moving to one of the corners of this wall.” It wasn’t a question as his eyes first met the girls, then the other man’s.

      Teagen nodded, and reached forward to grab Libby’s arm. At the slightest touch she jerked her arm away and nailed him with a glare before flouncing with a lifted chin around and behind the couch.

      Teagen’s jaw set, and his hands clenched a second. He didn’t like being disrespected, by anyone. If she wasn’t a kid… He then followed, and knelt behind the couch.

      The pair then watched the stranger through the small opening as he seemed to work something into the opposite wall. After a few minutes he stepped back and surveyed his anonymous work. Teagen’s dark brows lowered as suspicions tickled his mind.

      Then the man ordered to where those in both rooms could hear, “Everyone, cover your ears. Close your eyes and shield yourself.”

      He then disappeared from sight. Teagen put a hand on the back of Libby’s neck and forced her head down, “Stuff your,” A loud concussion muffled his words.

      The couch nearly toppled over on top of the refugees, who curled up into balls like pill-bugs.

      Teagen’s ears rung in a steady tone, like a flat-line in a hospital. His whole being trembled; but not from rage or fear. He couldn’t stop.

      Teagen’s head lifted slowly, his chest coughing slightly. Dust and flakes of paper floated about the room like dirty snowflakes. He then looked down at the girl still curled in a fetal position.

      “Libby?” He put a hand on her shoulder and she shook it off. He tried again, attempting to make his hand gentle as it graced her arm and he rolled her over. She still had her elbows pressed against her ears. Her lips parted just a crack, her eyes wide, and her glasses on the floor.

      “What, what was that?”

      Teagen swallowed, An explosion, almost rolled off his tongue, But she knew that.

      The man in the next room was not to be tempered with. If he had some kind of bomb, he likely had other weapons. Best to be nice to him, “Better be nice to the new guy.” He then glanced over the cushion, Where was his poker?

      She swallowed hard as her jaw tightened. Eyes running over Teagen’s, this stranger’s, face.

      Dharin was still recovering from the sudden shock to his eardrums when he saw Franz toss an odd object to the man, calling it something in a strange language, it seemed.

      “What’s that?” asked Dharin, rubbing one ear.

      Franz looked at him briefly. “A gun.”

      Dharin tried to remember if he had ever heard of anything called a gun before, and decided he hadn’t. But if everyone had been brought in from all over the world by the wizards, then it could be a foreign weapon he had no reason to know about. But the new man seemed at least somewhat familiar with it, though his clothing was different than Franz’s. And there was the discussion of “comic books” earlier… whatever those were. Dharin shook his head slightly a couple times, and studied the newcomers. The girl looked to be around thirteen, and the man looked a few years younger than Dharin himself and seemed very solemn about everything.

      “Well,” said Dharin, “we should introduce ourselves again, for the sake of these two, and perhaps what continent we’re from. If indeed this is the work of a wizard, gone awry.” He smiled cautiously at the man and girl, wanting to seem friendly but not overly so. “I’m Captain Dharin Rider, from East Triste.

      Teagen’s gaze had narrowed on the man with the sword the second he’d entered. He spoke in a strange language that apparently the gun-blaster-man knew. Well, okay…

      The man in the trench-coat nodded in assent to the words.

      “What did he say?” Teagen looked to him, trying to make his voice sound a bit respectful and not too hard.

      “He wants us to share our names and continents.”

      Teagen’s brows came together, “Okay,” His voice stretches while glancing to Libby. “Well,” He swallowed hard and then shrugged. Everything’s just fine. You’ve been shipwrecked, and Lucky has busted your head in your sleep. (Just like he’s always threatened). Elsie has somehow saved you from destruction, everything’s just fine and dandy… “My name is Teagen Jath, I am from North America, and it’s been just a few hours (or minutes) sense I last understood anything.’ Madness, might have been a better option.

      “Well,” said Dharin, “we should introduce ourselves again, for the sake of these two, and perhaps what continent we’re from. If indeed this is the work of a wizard, gone awry.” He smiled cautiously at the man and girl. “I’m Captain Dharin Rider, from East Triste.”

      Jaylin watched as the man with the girl introduced himself next. “My name is Teagen Jath, I am from North America, and it’s been just a few hours (or minutes) since I last understood anything.”

      Jaylin smiled. At least he wasn’t the only one to not understand a single thing that had happened.

      He cleared his throat. “I’m Jaylin…Storm,” he said. “And I’m from Ninjanaria.”

      He purposefully ignored the girl, even though she was just standing there.

      Isaac nodded his head. The places were not from Earth. His theory was confirmed. But other matters took precedent.

      “Walk and talk.” he said as he started for the far entrance. “I’m Franz Fenrir. I don’t have a real home so all of Europe is, sort of.”

      “What’s the rush?”

      Isaac didn’t take the time to look back.

      “That explosion was heard throughout this place. If anyone lives here, they will come and I have no time or will to explain myself.”

      Or why I have all these weapons in the first place.

      He had to get out of this place. There were too many unknown people, too many possible enemies. If the woman officer was still paying attention, he would have to find a time to find out who she really was. Above ground would be the best place for that. Plenty of space for quiet talk without prying ears and to hide bodies if necessary.

      Libby looked from Teagan to the stranger, and back again. This was definitely not what she had expected. What did I expect anyway? Not guns and explosives.

      The man stepped through the gaping hole in the wall, gun still drawn. There were people behind him. Libby didn’t recognize any of them.

      “You know,” She said, trying to sound confident. “there is a door. You didn’t have to blow the wall.” She pointed at the doorway. “There’s other rooms.”

      No one said anything. With the other man in the room, Teagan looked even more stern than before.

      He picked his poker off the floor in a smooth, cautious movement. Libby could tell he wasn’t messing around. “How many of you are there?” He asked.

      “We’re not together.” The other man said.

      Libby frowned. Her gun was gone…little orange pieces of plastic littered the carpet. “We’re together.” She struck the ‘Jimmy’ stance, with her arms folded across her chest, and looked up at Teagan. “Aren’t we?”

      Teagen glanced to the girl, Really? She’d acted so high and mighty, and now… “Yeah, we’re together.” He straightened, the metal felt good in his hand. He gave her an imperceptible nod, dark eyes meeting hers.

      He then looked back to the newcomers as Libby picked up her glasses and stuck them on her face. He repeated his question, tone not as stern, “How many of you are there?” His legs slowly brought him next to Libby again.

      Isaac moved fast. The blast woke up everything in the castle. He had to move otherwise an angry owner would descend on them. It reminded him of the early days of the war, when the most action he had was stealing the pins from train couplings. Leaping through the breach, Isaac saw the others. The man had picked up the poker again. He had trusted Isaac and just about got blasted. Isaac had to show him some trust now to win him back to his side. Reaching into his pocket, he drew his secondary pistol and threw it to the man along with several magazines.

      “This is a better choice. It’s a Beretta M1934. Seven shots a mag.”

      The man picked it up and looked it over carefully. Beside him was the girl, looking rather sullen. The crunch under his foot gave away the reason. Her gun was toast, well done. Pulling a long stiletto from the trench coat, he passed it and the sheath to the girl.

      “Sorry bout the gun.”

      Teagen’s eyes widened as the gun slid beside the couch and several magazines. He looked from them to the man, Wow,

      “This is a better choice. It’s a Beretta M1934. Seven shots a mag.”

      Teagen nodded and knelt to retrieve it. His right-hand’s fingers closed around the barrel, as he laid the poker on the ground with his left. He craned his neck and watched as the man handed Libby a knife.

      “Sorry bout the gun.”

      Teagen grabbed the mags and stood. His eyes surveyed the gathering as he tried to put the cases into his pocket. Then he remembered he didn’t have any pockets. Great.

      His eyes then went over the people who had gathered. There was a woman; beautiful, but too old. A boy; in clothes that resembled his own. And another boy; wearing clothes from medieval times? What,

      Another man raced in, sword drawn, and also wearing clothes from a bygone age. Though his were far more plain than the boy’s.

      What? Teagen took a step nearer to Libby again. Had the blasting man been telling the truth? Really? Time-travel, inter-space travel? Teagen didn’t know which sounded more impossible. But,.. here they were?

      Jaylin watched the two men and the girl talk. He didn’t want to intervene but he was starting to get queasy with hunger.

      Dharin ran in brandishing his sword. “What’s going on?” he demanded.

      Jaylin was overjoyed to see him. He walked over and stood next to him.

      Lytt cupped her wings and harnessed the wind beneath them. The wind always felt like a living thing to her; she ran her fingers through it as if stroking a dog, then laughed a little when it tickled her face, and breathed deeply when it blew her hair far out behind her.

      The movements of her flight were instinctual. She didn’t think as her wings beat the air, carrying her higher, or when they leveled out to allow her to hover. They tilted slightly with every minor adjustment the wind made. How wonderful it was to fly.

      Suddenly, her body shot higher, propelled by some unseen force. She struggled, flapping her wings wildly, pushing against it with everything in her, but it pushed her higher and higher until she finally felt as if she was being shoved out of her world and into the emptiness beyond.

      Then she really was being pushed against something: a hard stone ceiling. She was plastered to it, but as soon as she realized she was there, the gravity stopped being mean and she face-planted onto a lush, tan rug.

      What in the world? Lytt picked herself up and shook her wings, keeping them half-raised in a defensive posture. She drew both of her long knives, because she had no clue where her bow had gotten to. Just as she thought that, it materialized out of nowhere on the floor beside her right foot. She sheathed her daggers in her quiver and picked up the beautiful weapon, quickly nocking an arrow as her dark eyes scanned her surroundings.

      She was in a large, circular room with an arching ceiling. It was far above her head, yet not far enough for her to feel comfortable taking flight.

      The room itself was spacious, empty except for a perfectly circular wooden table, on which rested a circular map. It sparkled as if laughing, and tiny stars seemed to hover above it. One stood out sharply against all the rest, and as Lytt cautiously approached, she noticed the name it hovered over: VaSerBo.

      Interesting…

      Along all the walls were colored doors: deep greens, vivid blues, fiery oranges, blushing pinks, pitch blacks, blood reds, and sunny yellows with every hue in between. Lytt spun around, counting, her brows furrowed. She was sure she was right, but when she double-checked herself, there was always another door or one had gone.

      Magic. The whole place smelled of it. The dancing doors and hazy map showing places she’d never even heard of, not to mention the huge blast that suddenly rocked the room and threw Lytt to the floor. The castle groaned as if displeased, and Lytt managed to back into a shadowy corner as a round yellow door opened. Through it, she saw the back wall of the room exploded, with rubble littering the floor around it.

      That was not what got her attention first, though. It was the man that stepped through the door. He wore a long coat and had a cautious look on his face. Right on his heels was a rather handsome young man carrying an elaborate rapier and looking as if the whole world had stopped making sense. Directly behind him was a young boy in royal robes, looking a little confused but excited. Four more people filed in, a young woman with glasses sticking close to a young man wearing strange clothes and carrying a stranger weapon, another young boy carefully avoiding the girl, and a tall, imposing yet beautiful woman that looked ready to impale anyone who stood in her way.

      The boy in royal robes was speaking. “I’m Luke, from Visra.”

      The man in a trench coat groaned. “We’re back where we started!”

      Lytt decided it was time to make an appearance. She slowly stepped forward out of the shadows, bow and arrow held in one hand, wings slightly raised, other hand clenched into a fist.

      “Um.” The young boy avoiding the girl said. His eyes got wide as he took in her wings.

      Oh, no. Lytt thought. Humans. All of them.

      “My name is Lytt, daughter of Pinon and Talaine. Who are you, and where am I?” She quivered inside, wishing Rebere or someone was here to speak for her.

      Teagen’s jaw dropped. What the?  He took an involuntary step back. What was it?

      Libby took a step closer to him. And Teagen was shocked by the aching warmth that filled his chest. But it was there none the less.

      Teagen wanted to lift his gun, but the hunted look in the (woman’s?) eyes, and the sharp arrow on her bow made him hesitate.

      Why risk life and limb with something that could be won peacefully?

      Will smelled the rain before it fell.  It was early morning, still dark.  His feet hit the pavement, creating a rhythm that matched his rapid heartbeat.  Sweat dripped into his eyes and onto the asphalt.  The hilt of his gun cut into his lower back.
      Headquarters wasn’t far away, but Will knew that the rain would fall before he got back.  He pulled his hood up and pushed his loose earbuds into place.  The sounds of the city were blocked out by the music, loud and low.
      Will kept his eyes ahead, never looking behind or to the side.  He didn’t need to:  he could sense it all.  The approaching cars, the occasional early riser.  It was a sixth sense that he’d always had.
      The first drops began to fall, splattering large spots on the pavement.  Will continued down the sidewalk, keeping cover under the big oak trees encroaching over the park fence.  He came to a crosswalk and waited, jogging in place.  The traffic and the lights blurred together as the rain began to fall more heavily.  He slipped a wet hand over his eyes and crossed the street.
      On the other side, he picked up his pace again, falling into a quick run.
      Five minutes passed before he reached Headquarters.  The tall, chain-link perimeter loomed up like a prison fence in the darkness.  Will passed by the guard shack with a salute to the yawning sentinel.  He knew the compound like the back of his hand, and didn’t want to see it again.  Every single day was the same.  Run.  Work.  Repeat.
      It couldn’t be all there was to life.  Could it?  Inside every part of that routine, beneath his every action, the question lay there.  No one answered it.  No one had an answer.  All there was to life for them was to liberate the Citizens.
      After that, what next?
      Will didn’t know.  He wouldn’t know until it was over with.  And he hated it.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      An hour later, he slumped in the bathroom doorway, scarlet from the hot shower and wearing a gray sweatshirt and shorts.  He ran a hand over his jaw-line, staring blankly at his bedroom.  There was the bed, neatly made.  A lamp without a lightbulb rested on the nightstand.  The desk in the corner was empty.
      The place was plain, simple, and aggravating.  Will’s eyes fixed on the lamp.  It was visibly chipped and scratched, and Will had no recollection of where he’d found it.  But it was always there.  Like everything in his life.  There, but useless.
      Then the shaking started.  Soft, at first, but getting stronger.  The lamp teetered on the edge of the nightstand, then fell and smashed on the floor.  Will dropped into a crouch, hand clutching the gun in his waistband on impulse.  His head spun and his fell to his knees, blinking and shaking his head.  Dark spots appeared in the corners of his eyes.  The world spun, so, so fast.
      He remembered no more.
      Silence.
      Then…
      Tick, tock.
      Tick, tock.
      Tick, tock.
      Will found the hilt of his gun before he could open his eyes, his fingers combing through soft carpet.  When he looked around, he swore under his breath.
      He was in a wide, circular room.  The light was dim—too dim to make out much but the underside of a table and doors all along the wall.  Uniform, except for the colors.  There were too many to count at once.  It had to have been the fall that had blurred his vision, but every time he looked at the doors, they moved like the tide, ebbing and flowing in a confusing array of color.
      The ticking clock was nowhere to be seen.
      I’m dreaming, he tried to convince himself.
      Will shook his head to clear it and got to his feet.  Where was he?  The shiny tabletop had been empty when he arrived, but now it sparkled to life.  Some sort of holographic image was projected on the surface.  As Will looked closer, small words labeled each of the dots on the image.   Will squinted at the labels, his vision still muddled from the fall.
      Then a gust of wind blew him backward, knocking him into the table and to the ground.  A giant figure appeared across the room, falling to the ground in a tangle of feathers and hair.  Will scrambled back, heart pounding against his ribcage.  His back hit the nearest door, and he scrabbled around for the handle, keeping his eyes on the figure, who now had opened it’s…wings.
      Will shut the door as the figure spun, brandishing twin knives.  He gasped for breath, finger resting on the trigger of his gun.  Blood pounded in his ears, blocking out all noise.
      Will slumped against the door and turned to face the room.

      Isaac saw the newcomer. Angels now. This castle ceased to follow ANY laws. But then again he had broken one by time travel so did it count anymore? Straitening his coat, He prepared to move when he felt it. A gnawing warning deep inside of him. Someone else was here. The angel was not a threat. Like everyone else, she was unsure of whether to fight or flee. The other presence was equally unsure but more crafty by avoiding the unknown.

      “My name is Lytt, daughter of Pinon and Talaine. Who are you, and where am I?”

      Isaac ignored her. He had to find the other person before they chose to attack. The room failed to offer enough cover for a gun battle. Out of the corner of his eye, Isaac saw a cracked door.

      “I know you’re there. Come on out.” he said as he pointed at the door.

      It was too narrow to be called a room, but too short to be called a hallway.  There appeared to be no ceiling; all that Will could see was fluorescent light, reflecting off of the white walls and floor.  The room was completely empty.
      Will shivered, still breathing hard, and got to his feet.  The room was freezing, but he barely noticed, his mind racing.
      What was that thing?
      It had to be a dream.  It wasn’t possible to have an angel…  Then it hit him.
      I’m in the sims.
      The simulations were what kept the Citizens preoccupied as well as satisfied, in his world.
      Why am I here?  I’m not allowed to be in the sims.
      He pinched his arm——hard——but nothing happened.  His curse echoed off the walls,  coming back to him louder than before. He glanced over his shoulder at the door, pale wood, stenciled with green to resemble ivy.
      Did the angel hear me?
      Will’s hand crept toward the gun in his waistband, the other resting on the doorknob.  He couldn’t stay in there for too long——the temperature was dropping, as if the room itself sensed a disturbance and was determined to get rid of it.
      Will turned the frigid iron handle, clutching his gun’s grip with sweaty fingers.
      Then a tremor shook the ground beneath his feet.  It wasn’t as strong as the one back at Headquarters, but Will froze.
      Not again.
      But nothing happened.  All he could hear was his rapid heartbeat and loud breathing.  He opened the door a crack, startled when voices reached his ears.
      “——you, and where am I?”
      Will didn’t risk closing the door for fear of them seeing him.  His fingers curled around his weapon.
      Then a low, gravelly voice said from outside, “I know you’re there.  Come on out.”
      Will frowned.  The second voice couldn’t be talking to the angel, could he?
      Will flung open the door and pressed against the wall, keeping the gun close to his chest.  Nothing happened, except for a few gasps outside, which bounced off the walls and back into the circular room.
      Switching the gun to his right hand, he pushed off the wall and stepped forward so that his left side was protected by the door frame.
      The angel caught his attention first.  She was tall, beautiful, and light in stance, but the reflexive movement as she turned her bow towards Will told him that she was dangerous.  And her wings, large, speckled with black, and flared with surprise were a turn-off, too.
      He aimed the gun at her, quickly scanning the others for weapons.  The only other threat seemed to be an older man in a heavy trench coat, pointing a huge gun almost lazily at him.
      Behind him, another man wore a rapier at his side, but Will didn’t know if he would be much of a threat.
      It’s probably just for show.
      The other’s were a mix of women and younger men, but Will fixed his eyes back on the threats.
      “Who are you?”

      No. No, no, no. There was another human, with another strange weapon. Lytt didn’t like the look of it, especially since it was pointed straight at her head. She glanced around. The young man with the sword had drawn it and was surveying the scene with a half-smile on his face. The other young man with the girl looked totally freaked out – she didn’t blame him. Where she came from, humans were a threat to her people, almost a predator. And her people were monsters to humans. Probably because human’s weren’t half-animal.

      “Who are you?” The human that had just come out of the adjoining room was speaking. His light brown hair complimented his dark blue eyes nicely. Lytt wondered what to do.  She didn’t want to make a sudden move, because that would probably mean getting impaled by a dagger or arrow or whatever the weapon the young man was holding used. He didn’t look to be much older than she was, but the way he held his weapon made it clear he knew how to use it.

      “My name is Lytt, the daughter of Pinon and Talaine.” Lytt responded when no one else did. After all, the weapon was pointed at her and she’d already voiced her name. Why keep it hidden?

      Cautiously, she pulled her arrow from the string of her bow and placed it in her quiver in a show of peace. She felt vulnerable doing that at first, until she realized she did have her powers. She was still getting used to that. Got to remember those. She thought. Now, how did the Bestower say to stop an arrow from hitting you? You have to be fast and weigh the arrow down right away. Oh, boy.

      Isaac looked over the man. He already had drawn his gun. His eyes spoke of some experience using it. It would be wise to try to talk to him first.

      “Easy pal. We are all on the same boat. We have no idea where we are so you have two options. You can start shooting and turn this place into a bloodbath. Or you can put the gun back and try to learn some more before you kill your best chance for information.”

      Libby had no idea what everyone was talking about. Just blubbering about guns and such. Like adults.

      Everyone was focused on the girl in the middle of the room, wings spread, who had just introduced herself as Lytt.  She looked like something straight out of a Marvel movie, or Chronicles of Narnia.

      There was another guy on the far side of the room, with a gun, but only the bomb man was talking to him.

      Libby pushed her glasses up onto the bridge of her nose and stepped forward. If the grown-ups weren’t going to take responsibility, it was up to the kids…and Luke had already introduced himself. “Hi.” She announced. “I’m Libby. I don’t know where we are, in some creepy castle.” She waved a hand. “Can you fly?”

      Lytt’s heart thudded. Why was she here? She was needed in VaSerBo, right now. Everyone would be freaking out that she was gone! They’d probably think she was dead, then think there was a trap, and then things would go wrong and everything would fall apart. Everything they’d lost Indarra and nearly Jistis for.

      She wanted to fly. Needed to fly was more like it. She felt trapped, something all Fethar hated. Without the sky above her, she was beginning to panic.

      The girl with the glasses and brown hair got a look on her face that made Lytt a little nervous. She pushed her glasses back up onto her nose, looked straight at Lytt, and said, “Hi. I’m Libby. I don’t know where we are, in some creepy castle.” She waved her hand around vaguely. “Can you fly?”

      Lytt’s eyebrows shot to the ceiling. She hadn’t expected to be directly addressed, not with this many people in the room. “Yes, I can. Sorry, excuse me!”

      She was feeling very sick. Quickly, she ran to the other side of the room, not even caring if the back of her wings were impaled with an arrow or other missile from one of the strangers’ weapons. A window was over there, one she could stand at and see the sky through.

      As soon as she glimpsed the sky, she felt much better. All nausea disappeared like steam. The girl stared at her strangely, and Lytt smiled. “Sorry. I get a little claustrophobic at times. Comes with being trapped inside, I guess.” She looked around her surroundings, then back at the girl, who she was beginning to like. “Just Libby, huh?”

      The bird-girl smiled. She reminded Libby of Liz at school…only Liz was annoying. “Sorry. I get a little claustrophobic at times. Comes with being trapped inside, I guess.”

      Libby wasn’t claustrophobic, but dark images of the inside of the desk bounced before her mind.

      “Just Libby, huh?” The lady asked, folding her wings behind her.

      “It’s actually Liberty.” Libby said, grinning back. “Is yours actually Lytt? Is it spelled like a light? Like L-L…” Stink, how do you spell that word? “L-I-T-G-H…E?” Libby wrinkled her nose. She knew there was a gh somewhere in there, but she couldn’t remember where.

      The lady laughed. She had a nice laugh.

      “It’s L-I-G-H-T.” The boy, Luke said.

      Libby looked back at him, pooching out her lip and frowning. “I know that.” She grouched.

      He grinned wide.

      Libby couldn’t tell if he was showing off, or just smiling to smile. She narrowed her eyes at him for a long moment, and then decided on an important question. “How old are you?” She hoped he wasn’t younger than her…she hated being outdone by younger kids. Especially Jack.

      At least Luke didn’t have big ears.

      Dharin stood there in the same room he had started in, feeling incredibly confused, and not a little amused, to tell the truth. The names of the places that had been mentioned were strange to him, and he didn’t recognize any as being on any of the maps he’d looked at in his lifetime. And now there was a woman with bird wings, and another man with a strange weapon. None of this made any sense. How would the wizards have gotten such a variety of people mixed up in their spells? He shook his head, laughing to himself. It didn’t matter. They were here, more people seemed to be popping up every time he turned around, and there wasn’t anything he could do but wait and see how things worked out.

      He stepped forward a few paces, clearing his throat. “Welcome.” Everyone in the room turned to look at him, including the bird woman; Lytt. Dharin found himself mesmerized by her eyes, and had to pull his thoughts back to what he was saying. “I was going to make a grand introduction speech to fan away this awkwardness, but I seem to have forgotten the script.” He laughed softly, and saw a few people crack a smile. “So instead, I ask that we all keep in mind the women and children in the room, whatever actions are taken.” He ended on a smile, and stepped back out of the inadvertent circle that had been made.

      As a few hesitant conversations started up again, Dharin allowed his feet to carry him to one of his favorite spots; a corner. He found corners comforting. No one could sneak up on you from behind or beside. You could see everywhere there was to see at once. Nobody usually payed any attention to what was in the corner: it was too small and dark to care about. And there was still enough room to draw a sword or dagger.

      Everyone was focused on Lytt and the other man, so Dharin leaned against the wall and let his mind wander to his sister. Theresa would have loved to see Lytt. She was always fascinated with birds, and wished that she could fly.

      Ironic, isn’t it? asked a part of his brain. Ironic that she wished for wings, but was put in a cage.

      Shut up, Dharin thought. But it didn’t shut up.

      She wanted to fly. But she was chained. She was caged, like a feral cat.

      Dharin clenched a fist in the fabric of his sleeve. He tried to think of something else; anything else. But still that part of his mind kept going.

      You watched her. You saw her being drug aboard the ship, shoved into the cage. You saw her tears as the ship pulled away from the docks. You heard her cry for you; for Mother; for Father not to do this. But you stood still, and did nothing to help her.

      Dharin pulled so hard on his sleeve that he ripped it. He yelled back at his own mind, furious, nearly in tears himself. I WAS FIFTEEN. I WOULD HAVE BEEN CROSSING FATHER IF I TRIED TO DO ANYTHING. THERE WAS NOTHING I COULD DO.

      He took a few deep breaths, wishing he was sitting in a field of grass that he could rip up by the handful. He settled for drawing his dagger, sinking down to sit on the floor, and scratching designs into the stones. There was a time that he would have scratched obscenities, but he found that it didn’t help him deal with his feelings any better than scratching flowers and vines, and flowers were generally preferable over curses.

      The guy with the sword suddenly stepped into the middle of the room. Lytt turned to face him, tense, wondering what was going on. She wasn’t too terribly concerned, since she was beginning to trust these people, but Malvat could manipulate anyone. Who knew? Maybe Rebere and the others were somewhere in the castle, wandering around wondering what had happened. Or maybe Delernious had finally gotten overzealous with his power experimenting and had somehow teleported her here. That wouldn’t be good.

      “Welcome.” The man said, running a hand through his hair. “I was going to make a grand introduction speech to fan away this awkwardness, but I seem to have forgotten the script.” He laughed a little, and Lytt smiled slightly. She was beginning to like this guy. He reminded her of Jenis. “So instead, I ask that we all keep in mind the women and children in the room, whatever actions are taken.”

      Huh? What does that mean? As Lytt moved aside to allow the guy to step out of the circle that she and the others had formed around him, she frowned slightly. Was he expecting a fight? She appreciated his willingness to protect her and the other women and children, but was still slightly confused.

      Small conversations started up, and Lytt noticed that Libby had begun talking with the well-dressed boy. He’d called himself Prince Luke. Odd. There hadn’t been a prince since Malvat’s takeover. Unless she’d somehow been placed in a kingdom he was still working on conquering.

      Lytt retreated to the window again. She breathed deeply, becoming more accustomed to her surroundings. She could do this. There was plenty of room to spread her wings for a short flight if needed.

      The guy who had given his speech was sitting in a corner, his eyes unfocused, lost in thought. Curious, Lytt sneaked another glance – she didn’t want to be caught openly staring. He looked almost angry, yet sorrow so deep she could barley fathom it warred with the anger. He was clenching his sleeve. Suddenly he jerked, and ripped it. Concerned, Lytt now watched him without reservation, hoping to catch his eye and give a smile or something to cheer him up.

      Still not noticing, the guy drew his dagger and sank down on the floor, his back to the walls he was sitting between. His jaw was clenched, but he still appeared more relaxed. Lytt averted her eyes, deciding she wouldn’t catch his. Still, her heart hurt for him. Worry about your own problems. Lytt told herself. But she always had a knack for knowing when people wanted to talk, and if she let that person sit by themselves, just walked away, the thought of them haunted her for weeks.

      Sighing, Lytt turned and walked over to the man. He was scratching designs into the stone: flowers, vines, the like. Curious.

      “Hey.” Lytt said softly. “Nice speech.” Unsure how he’d react, she shifted her weight from foot to foot, ready to fling her wings into his face or just turn and walk away depending on his reaction.

      Isaac surveyed the situation. The gunslinger was still hiding in the door way. He was very cautious. He feared something. The children were talking with Lytt and had broken the ice. Dharin had gone off to a corner. Whatever he had seen in the mirror was still affecting him. Everyone was too wound up with tension.

      Walking across the room, Isaac opened the window. It was a first story window, tall and rounded at the top. Outside was a courtyard with gardens. About 1oo yards away was the outer wall or it looked like one. Stepping out, he breathed in. The lush smell of the dew filled his lungs. birds were singing in the trees.

      When had he been able to enjoy life? His youth was shattered by his mother’s death. Then came the war and time travel to another war. He had lived a life filled with destruction and had become destruction. And then he had found God. In the most illogical moment, He had found a tiny piece that had survived the fires of a troubled soul and called it.

      Laying down on the grass, Isaac rested. The hunger could wait. This was an even rarer gift. Peace that he fought for, not only himself but for all who would live after him. Isaac’s true mission.

      Teagen’s mind was everywhere. The man off to the side, the strange bird thing, Dharin, with his sword, as he stepped to the middle of the room and gave a speech. Teagen’s whole body was taut as a bowstring ready to spring.

      He needed to do something!? And though he didn’t want to get attached to Libby, he agreed with Dharin that they needed to keep it peaceable

      And what was the girl thinking? Talking to that bird thing?! But Teagen didn’t rebuke her. Who was he to tell the child what to do? So he clenched his jaw and was silent.

      As exchanges between bodies went on, Teagen stepped closer to (Franz?), silent, and finger ready to slide down to the trigger and start a war. Alliances were definitely needed here. No doubt about that.

      When Franz carefully left the cacophony of silence and sound, the tension and madness of thoughts and words… Teagen slowly followed, walking backwards. Franz seemed solid.

      But what about Libby,..? He couldn’t leave her here with them, could he? Teagen’s dark eyes stared hard at her profile. She had chosen to stand beside him. Dare he leave her? Brake a child’s trust?

      Turn, please? Look at my eyes.

      Then she did. Libby’s face moved, and her glassed-in pupils registered that Teagen was leaving. He jerked his jaw in the direction Franze had gone. Then Teagen disappeared after the loaded man. Feet moving quickly, and sure, not checking to see if she followed.

      He hoped Libby wouldn’t, and yet, he did

      Teagen paused as he entered the outdoors, and he couldn’t help the deep breath of shock and joy. It was beautiful! Then, after a content smile had stolen over his ruff face he saw Franze laying down in some lush grass.

      Teagen brows lowered, but his smile didn’t disappear. How could the man be at peace in this crazy place? With mythological creatures that dropped from the sky? Perhaps this calm exterior was an illusion? (As Teagen’s almost permanent smiles were.)

      —-

      Jominkreesa

      Passion means to be willing to suffer.

      #116884
      Livi Ryddle
      @anne_the_noob14

      Dharin added another flower to the stones, then became aware of footsteps coming towards him. He jerked his head up, not really expecting a threat, but careful still. It was Lytt.

      “Hey. Nice speech.” She offered him a small smile, and Dharin felt his heart flutter slightly. It was a new emotion he felt… and it confused him.

      He smiled back, cautiously. “Thank you.”

      He saw her glance down at the designs he carved on the stones.

      Dharin winced. She would think him crazy. But he didn’t want to lie to her. Maybe, just maybe, she would think it was a reasonable way to deal with his emotions.

      “I was just…” He trailed off. How to phrase it?

      Lytt sank down to the floor beside him, hugging her knees to her chest, wrapping her wings around her shoulders a bit. Such a simple movement, but it sparked that flutter again. An unwelcome warmth made its way into Dharin’s face, and his mind refused to give him the words to finish his sentence.

      “I… was letting some feelings out. That’s how I’ve done it before. Carving designs into wood, stone, whatever.” He saw Lytt look at his ripped sleeve, then meet his eyes again. Dharin flushed, pulling some of the fabric over the rip.

      “That was related.” He looked down at his hands, and realized that, for only the second time in his life, he was speechless. The first time was when he watched Theresa be taken away.

      NO. Stop thinking about that.

      Too late.

      The woman is still watching you. Stop thinking about Theresa.

      To his horror, Dharin felt tears rise in his eyes. He tried to blink them back, but one fell. He heard Lytt catch her breath. Furious at himself, Dharin dashed his sleeve across his eyes, wiping the rest away, clearing his throat.

      “Sorry. Unwelcome thoughts. I guess I didn’t carve enough.” He chanced a glance over at Lytt, and found an unreadable expression in her eyes. She hesitated, then scooted over and wrapped him in a hug. Dharin stiffened, and she pulled back, uncertainty and apology in her eyes now. He felt the loss of warmth next to him, and had to fight the urge to pull her back into another hug.

      “I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have done that. Should have asked first.” It was her turn to look at her hands, her cheeks pink.

      Dharin shook his head. “No, no. It’s fine. I… I needed that.” He smiled slightly at her.

      "Reck not."
      ~Sir Nicholas Beauvallet

      #116890
      Joelle Stone
      @joelle-stone

        Lytt felt Dharin tense as she hugged him. She quickly withdrew, wondering if she’d gone too far. “I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have done that. Should have asked first.” She glanced at her hands, uncertainty and embarrasment making her cheeks redden.

        Dharin shook his head. “No, no. It’s fine… I needed that.” A little smile flickered across his lips.

        Lytt met his eyes. “Good. I’m not a socially graceful person; kind of like a snad swimming, or a hedgehog flying.”

        Dharin nodded, seeming to understand.

        There was a moment of awkward silence. Lytt twitched her wings and noted that two people were gone from the room; the man in the long coat and the one that Libby hung around with. They looked different and acted different, but Lytt wondered if they were siblings. Perhaps one was adopted, or something along those lines. Orphans were in abundance, after all.

        “So.” Dharin cleared his throat. Lytt turned her attention back to him, just before one of the kids – a boy – coughed, interuppting the silence. Everyone turned to look at him.

         

        “I feel funny.” he muttered, patting his stomach as if to make sure all of him was there.

        Lytt stood, unsettled by the look in his eyes. Slowly, he began to fade, replaced by steam.

        “What’s going on?” Dharin asked, half-drawing his sword.

        “I don’t know.” Lytt replied, preparing herself for something bad.

        The boy/steam evaporated, and no trace was left of the human that had just stood there moments before. He was gone.

        “What in the world…” the tall woman murmured – right before the floor collapsed beneath everyone in the room.

        On instinct, Lytt spread her wings and caught herself. Libby was nowhere to be seen, and neither was the two men that had left.

        The ceiling was closing in. There were three holes in the floor in front of Lytt – tunnels by the looks of them. Dharin had fallen down one, that much she knew. As for the others, she didn’t know where they were. What was up with this crazy castle?

        Looking up, Lytt began to panic. There was no other option. The ceiling was falling more rapidly, although it maintained its shape. Apparently the castle was intent on forcing her down one of the tunnels.

        She knew Dharin the best, if exchanging a few words with him could be considered knowing a person. Tucking her wings, Lytt plummeted feet first into the mouth of the pitch black tunnel he’d fallen into, desperately hoping she hadn’t just made the mistake of her mistake riddled life.

         

        (I hope it’s ok that I did this. Dharin doesn’t have to be in Lytt’s tunnel; she could have easily mistaken another person for him or something like that. I thought it’d be cool if we all got separated and had to work our way out of a maze, or something. Maybe there’s different dangers for each group/pair in each tunnel. Maybe Teagen, Issac, and Libby get sucked into a tunnel as well. Maybe Vrahe can be at the end of one, and wolves at the other, and who knows what at the other. I just thought this’d be a cool way for us to disappear Connor and get some conflict going. You know? I might have been a little controlling, so if it doesn’t work we can strike it. 🙂 )

        "A writer's life consists of either writing their book or thinking about writing their book." ~?

        #116940
        Rusted Knight
        @rusted-knight

          Isaac heard a sudden commotion. So much for peace. He stood in time to see the other drop. Not good. Grabbing Teagan, he ran for the window. The floor was gone and the ceiling was falling down. Isaac didn’t wait. Throwing Teagan into the darkness, he followed. It was a dicey move but he could not allow children to die. If someone had to, it might as well be him though he would make whoever it was pay with blood.

          Hitting the ground, Isaac rolled and drew his pistol. From his knees, he cleared the area. No enemies. This tunnel was a good choice but fun and games were over. That pitfall was most certainly an attack. Someone or something was out to kill. Reaching into the back of the trench coat, he drew the StG44. The grandfather of the AK47 or so he remembered.

          Looking around, Isaac surmised his immediate situation. The room was another tunnel, box shaped rather than rounded like the others. It was straight and opened sharply about 10 yards away. Teagan was beside him, dazed from the landing. Growling was coming from the other room. Wolves. Bring it on.

          “Pull yourself together Teagan. We got company.”

          Two wolves appeared in the opening. Two shots dropped them. More appeared. This would be a long fight.

          The Devil saw me with my head down and got excited. Then I said Amen

          #116942
          Gracie
          @kimlikesart

            The earth rumbled. The peace of the trees and grass ruined in one horrible groan.

            Teagen swung about and Franz was on his feet in less time it would take a cat to stand. Teagen’s eyes held fear as he gripped the barrel of his gun and charged back from where they’d come. Libby.

            His throat closed and his mind twitched. You left her. You abandoned that child just like you did Tryna.

            The voice spoke those words in under a second. That voice Teagen rarely, if ever, heard. Freudians called it a conscience. Teagen saw it as a painful curse he’d almost dispensed with.

            But then something like /this/ would happen.

            He turned the corner and almost barreled out into a dark abyss. A firm hand grabbed his collar, yanking his feet back to solid rock. Libby was gone. There were screams, shouts. The bird thing was flying, face terrified. The floor was gone. People missing. The ceiling lowering.

            “Libby!” Dumb, dolt that he was!

            A dust cloud was forming. The bird thing dropped. Franz pressed beside him, eyes narrow as he looked down into the darkness. The man’s hand still clutched Teagen, as if afraid the man would jump.

            He wasn’t wrong.

            The ceiling came to where Teagen had to bend down to look beneath it.

            Jump! His heart skittered, but he was willing.

            But as he tried to drop through the crevice Franz wrenched him back, using the full weight of his body to pull the larger man. They collapsed to their backs with a thud.

            The ground made a coughing noise. The passage was sealed.

            There would be no getting to Libby. She was gone. That beautiful child who had put her faith in him was gone. Emotion crowded his body, his chest heaving. He bit his lip and trembled with internal sobs. No tears threatened.

            After the gray cloud of chalk settled, the room was exactly as they’d left it. The table in the center. The colorful doors. But everyone was gone.

            The pair sat in silence a time. Both catching their breath. Teagen clenching, then unclenching his jaw. He finally growled out. “Do you think they’re alive? Is there even a chance that we can find her?” He didn’t look at the man next to him.

            Jominkreesa

            Passion means to be willing to suffer.

            #116946
            Gracie
            @kimlikesart

              The earth rumbled. The peace of the trees and grass ruined in one horrible groan.

              Teagen swung about and Franz was on his feet in less time it would take a cat to stand. Teagen’s eyes held fear as he gripped the barrel of his gun and charged back from where they’d come. Libby.

              His throat closed and his mind twitched. You left her. You abandoned that child just like you did Tryna.

              The voice spoke those words in under a second. That voice Teagen rarely, if ever, heard. Freudians called it a conscience. Teagen saw it as a painful curse he’d almost dispensed with.

              But then something like /this/ would happen.

              He turned the corner and almost barreled out into a dark abyss. A firm hand grabbed his collar, yanking his feet back to solid rock. Libby was gone. There were screams, shouts. The bird thing was flying, face terrified. The floor was gone. People missing. The ceiling lowering.

              “Libby!” Dumb, dolt that he was!

              A dust cloud was forming. The bird thing dropped. Franz pressed beside him, eyes narrow as he looked down into the darkness. The man’s hand still clutched Teagen, as if afraid the man would jump.

              He wasn’t wrong.

              The ceiling came to where Teagen had to bend down to look beneath it.

              Jump! His heart skittered, but he was willing. Then he was shoved.

              Franz had pushed him!?

               

              The air left Teagen as he thudded on the chalky ground. He spluttered, mind cloudy as the ceiling above made a coughing noise. The passage was sealed.

              There would be no getting to Libby. She was gone. That beautiful child who had put her faith in him was gone. Emotion crowded his body, his chest heaving. He bit his lip and trembled with internal sobs. No tears threatened.

              Then he was snapped from these thoughts at Franz’s frustrated order,

              “Pull yourself together Teagan. We got company.”

              Two wolves appeared in the opening. Two shots from Franz dropped them. More appeared.

              Teagen stumbled to his feet. Wow.

               


              @rusted-knight
              How’s this?

              • This reply was modified 1 week, 2 days ago by Gracie.

              Jominkreesa

              Passion means to be willing to suffer.

              #116955
              Livi Ryddle
              @anne_the_noob14

              @joelle-stone OOO I like it!!

              (Btw, I’ll ask you a question over on the general character castle thread in a sec, to keep this one as muchly just writing as possible)

              _____

              Lytt glanced over at Dharin. “Good. I’m not a socially graceful person; kind of like a snad swimming, or a hedgehog flying.”

              Dharin nodded. He felt that way a lot, as much as his usual happy-go-lucky attitude would have people believe.

              Silence fell between the two, and Dharin fingered his dagger awkwardly, trying to think of something to say. He cleared his throat. “So.” He was about to say more, ask her about herself, when one of the boys coughed.

              “I feel funny,” he said, quietly. He pressed his hands on his stomach, then began to… fade into smoke? Lytt jumped to her feet, and Dharin stood, drawing his sword halfway. He wasn’t sure what he could do with it; it was just an instinctive reaction whenever something was going wrong.

              The boy completely disappeared into steam, leaving everyone staring at the spot he’d been standing in shock.

              Then the floor dropped. Dharin found himself falling down what seemed to be a verticle tunnel. He resheathed his sword and put his dagger away. It wouldn’t do for him to stab himself when he landed… if he even survived the landing. He was falling feet-first, luckily. Maybe he would get a broken leg instead of a broken neck.

              Finally he saw light below him. He prepared himself as much as possible for the landing, and winced as he cleared the ceiling of the room below, seeing the floor come up at him. But as he hit the floor, it seemed to give way a little underneath him, cushioning his landing. He stumbled a bit, and had barely regained his balance before someone else fell from the tunnel. Wings extended, but not fast enough. Lytt crashed into Dharin, knocking them both to the floor. He lept up quickly, extending a hand to her. She took it, and he pulled her to her feet, looking over her for any obvious injuries. The tunnel was rather small, and if her wings got caught on the sides…

              Lytt still held onto his hand, catching her breath. She noticed his worry, and smiled.

              “I’m ok, I think… Where are we?”

              Dharin, who was still thinking about the soft, warm hand in his, took a minute to realize she asked him a question. “Uh…” He looked around for the first time. There was no furniture, and there were candles along the walls, but hardly enough for sufficient light, in his opinion. There were too many shadows that could conceal an enemy of some sort. He drew his sword, thankful that Lytt had taken his left hand, which left his sword hand free. “I’m not sure. But I don’t like it.”

              Dharin made note of a plain wooden door at one end, slightly open. It was the only obvious exit, besides the tunnel that was fifteen feet above their heads. Dharin looked down at Lytt, and nodded towards the door. “It appears we can wait here for something to happen, or see what’s on the other side.”

              Lytt hesitated, then sighed. “Let’s go.”

              Dharin led the way as much as he could while not drawing attention to their joined hands, and nudged the door the rest of the way open. It was pitch black on the other side, and Lytt took a candle from the wall beside the door, hesitantly holding it out as they stepped through the doorway. The door slammed shut behind them, and they looked at each other apprehensively. Dharin held his sword a bit higher, and Lytt tucked her wings closer around herself nervously.

              Dharin could vaguely make out a table of some sort, and he led Lytt over to it. There was a candlestick with three unlit candles, and Lytt reached out to light them. The room became a bit brighter, and she blew out the first one. Dharin looked around them, noting how small and prison-like the room looked. Lytt seemed to notice it as well, and became a bit pallid. Dharin looked down at her worriedly, remembering how she had to look out the window to fight back what he assumed was claustrophobia.

              “Are you ok?”

              Lytt nodded slightly. “I’ll be fine. Is that another door?”

              Dharin followed her gaze, and saw she was right. Another door, this one open all the way, was directly across from them. A cool draft of air came from it, and suddenly Dharin felt like something was wrong. He thought it might be just the fact there were so many shadows for something to be hiding in, but this felt different. His nose twitched involuntarily, and he reluctantly let go of Lytt’s hand to step more in front of her.

              “I don’t like this. At all.”

              Lytt looked up at him, and something in her eyes made him pause from trying to decipher his sense of dread. He wasn’t sure what it was exactly. But he sheathed his sword for a moment, wrapping her in a quick hug, then drew it again. The corner of his mouth twitched up at her curious expression.

              “I just wanted to return the one you gave me earlier. C’mon, but stay behind me.” He walked quietly over to the new doorway, sword at the ready.

              "Reck not."
              ~Sir Nicholas Beauvallet

              #117002
              Dashuri Halad
              @christlover

              Alright, Vrahe is joining now. Let’s see how this goes.

               

                                                            

              Vrahe woke to his alarm blaring a familiar song.

              Enter Sandman by Metallica. Today will be a good day. I love it when I wake up to a classic. 

              Mentally dismissing the alarm through his implant, Vrahe sat up and looked around his room. Despite the almost total darkness around him, Vrahe could see his surroundings as though they were bathed in noonday sun.

              Leaning over, he gently kissed Laguna on her forehead and then slipped silently out of bed. Dressing swiftly, Vrahe left the room and padded down the stairs. Stopping momentarily before the door, he slipped into his runners and settled his pack onto his shoulders. Sliding out of his door, he instinctively flattened himself against the wall and surveyed his environment in the faint light of the setting moon.

              Content that there was no threat in his immediate surroundings, Vrahe took off into the woods that encroached on the back of tavern. Settling into an easy lope, Vrahe split his mind. He left a part of himself in charge of his body, reacting to the changing scenery as he moved through the forest like a wraith. Another part of him began to run through mental exercises, designed to make sure that he was mentally ready for any situation he might run across. A third piece of his brain began deciding what he planned to do that day.

              Suddenly, he felt a sharp tug on his ankles. He stumbled and reached out a hand to steady himself against the ground. The leaf covered forest floor that he set his palm against had no substance!

              They finally caught up to me! How did they know I would run this path? How did I not notice the trip wire and the pit trap? I hope Parrin never finds out about this!

              All these thoughts flashed through Vrahe’s mind as he tumbled into darkness. Suddenly, he felt a strong impact against his shoulder and a bright light flashed behind his eyes followed by a wave of blackness.

               

              Struggling up through the fog of unconsciousness, Vrahe began diagnosing his predicament before he was even fully awake.

              Bruised left shoulder and a scraped right knee. Nothing serious and I should be able to fix them quickly, although they wouldn’t hinder me if I need to leave them. Hold up! I’m not in the bottom of that pit anymore. I’m laying on cold stone! How long was I out? Who caught me? Was it the government or the gangs? I need to make collecting information my first priority!

              Keeping his breathing even so that his captors would not suspect that he was conscious, Vrahe cautiously cracked an eyelid and took in his surroundings. Quickly realizing that there was no one in the room with him, Vrahe sprang to his feet and began taking inventory of his environment.

              The must have had a teleportation ring in the bottom of that pit. They can’t know that I am here, or I wouldn’t still have my tools and weapons. I don’t like that there is only one way out of here, but I guess I will have to make do with what I have. Is there anything useful I can scavenge from in here?

              Drawing Eldur and summoning its blaze, Vrahe inspected every corner of the room for anything out of the ordinary. The only furniture in the room was a large oaken desk and a straight backed wooden chair drawn up in front of it. Ransacking the drawers, Vrahe found nothing. No papers, no pencils, nothing except lint and dust. Satisfied that there was nothing of interest in the room, Vrahe turned his attention back to the circular green door set into one of the walls.

              This looks exactly how I imagined the door to Bag End. What a strange coincidence. Vrahe thought idly. No, I can’t afford to think of things like that. I have to stay focused!

              Slipping over to the door, Vrahe sheathed Eldur and pulled his Glock from its shoulder holster. Positioning himself to the left of the door, he threw it open and then ducked behind the stone wall. When 10 seconds passed without any sound of alarm from outside the door, he peeked around the corner, prepared for anything. Seeing that there was no one in the next room, he stepped through the door. With a quick glance around, he realized that this room would tell him nothing. There was not a scrap of furniture in this place. It was just a bare stone cube. Suddenly, however, a strange noise drew his attention. Moving over to plain brown door opposite him, he pressed his ear up against the planking. He heard muffled growling. Stepping back to think for a second, he suddenly heard two sharp cracks.

              There are either wolves or wild dogs on the other side of this door. Someone is attempting to fight them off, thus the gunshots. Should I help them? They can’t be the people who captured me. The dogs would obey them! I guess the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Oh well, looks like it is time to fight some four legged fiends!

              Returning the Glock to his shoulder holster and drawing Eldur from his sheath, he willed it to catch fire. Taking a deep breath to prepare himself, he kicked the door open and charged into the next room. His first glance took in two men standing with their backs to a wall. Each had a gun in hand and was furiously attempting to keep a pack of at least 40 wolves at bay.

               

                                                      

              Alright. There is Vrahe’s introduction. I will leave the next part up to Isaac and Teagan.

              "When injustice becomes law, rebellion becomes duty."
              -V

              #117004
              Gracie
              @kimlikesart

                Two wolves appeared in the opening. Two shots from Franz dropped them. More appeared.

                Teagen stumbled to his feet. Wow.

                Sweat broke out on Teagen’s arms and upper-lip as he scrambled to stand beside Franz while lifting the gun and firing. It hit a wolf, but didn’t kill it.

                Teagen had always been more of a fist fighter. Now he was about to pay for it.

                Franz looked disgusted as he fired again, and another dog dropped.

                Teagen leveled the gun and fired again, this time at the opening where the never-ending line of wolves were emerging from. That worked better, one couldn’t miss unless blind.

                Franz hit the ones that came on closer. He never missed. (Not that Teagen was really paying attention.)

                Teagen’s eyes then caught a bright flame and a hooded figure from the corner of his eye. Great, demons now. His mind was only half kidding as his gun clicked, the mag was empty. Almost without a second passing one of the mags Teagen had returned to Franz was tossed back into the elder man’s sweaty hands.

                Teagen’s fingers fumbled, Nothing but dumb and ignorant you are. His mind only half registered the flaming sword cutting through thirsty hounds. Franz’s gun almost never stopped firing. Then Teagen’s was up again, and he blasted a dog that was almost to the demon’s back.

                A trench coat, and a human’s face. Eyes glowing from the flame of his sword.

                Then Teagen’s eyes caught on the door the man had come from. Retreat! Screamed in every part of him. He was a coward, he knew it. But really, fourty(ish) wolves? Why fight when you could flee?

                Jominkreesa

                Passion means to be willing to suffer.

                #117089
                Rusted Knight
                @rusted-knight

                  Isaac saw the newcomer. He was armed and approaching with the wolves. Foe. Maybe the controller. Isaac was outnumbered. Should he use it? He shot several other wolves. Could he return from using it? His back was against a wall, figuratively and literally. He might survive but his cover would be blown. Would Teagan survive if he lost control? A wolf jumped at him. Firing at point blank, Isaac threw it aside. Now or never. He had to complete his mission.

                  “Whatever happens don’t shoot me, Teagan.”

                  Isaac didn’t check for the response. He was out of time. Opening his coat, he returned the rifle to his shoulder. He would use it. He would return to his former self, hopefully for a minute or two. After breaking out of that cursed Gestapo house, he had snapped killing officers from the SS and Gestapo. He had become a serial killer for all intents and purposes. In those dark days he had found how to terrorize a target without harming them. Posture, eyes, tone. Manipulating these would make the beholder feel afraid. And Isaac had mastered it.

                  Letting loose, he advanced with his pistol. The wolves felt the terror and began to back away snarling. Taking aim, Isaac fired. A wolf dropped. An unspoken warning to flee or die.

                  The Devil saw me with my head down and got excited. Then I said Amen

                  #117123
                  Joelle Stone
                  @joelle-stone

                    Here’s Livi’s post:

                    Dharin paused before stepping through the door. He pulled his dagger from its sheath and handed it to Lytt behind him.

                    “Here. You have a bow, but this will be better for close-range. Quicker, too.” As an afterthought, he said, “And hand me the candlestick.”

                    If she ended up having to fight, he didn’t want her to catch her wings on fire trying to keep the candlestick from being in the way. Lytt took the dagger and gave him the candlestick, trying to peer over his shoulder at this new room.

                    It wasn’t a room, exactly. There were five winding stairwells leading down from the small landing they stood on. From one, a horrible stench arose. Dharin shook his head at it. The second smelled like dust and mildew. The third was where the draft of air came from. The fourth wound down clockwise; very bad for a left-handed swordsman. And the fifth… Odd noises, reminiscent of rats scuttling on stone, came from it. Dharin looked down at Lytt.

                    “Which one?”

                    "A writer's life consists of either writing their book or thinking about writing their book." ~?

                    #117126
                    Joelle Stone
                    @joelle-stone

                      Nice posts, y’all!!

                      _______________________________________________________

                       

                      Underground. For Lytt, that was a synonym for torture. She shivered a little. Dharin seemed to notice.

                      “Are you okay?”

                      Lytt swallowed, and forced a smile, nodding slightly. She could do this. “I’ll be fine. Is that another door?”

                      Another open door stood directly across from them. A cool draft of air came from it, and suddenly Lytt got a bad feeling in her gut. She wondered if it was her animal instincts going haywire, or if there really was danger involved.

                      Dharin released her hand and stepped slightly in front of her. He scowled at the door. “I don’t like this. At all.”

                      There was something else Lytt didn’t like. Dharin was beginning to attract her. She tried to shrug it off. So he’d be a cool friend. So what?

                      He’s worth being more than a friend, though, right?

                      Of course not. This isn’t the time or place to start courting. Be quiet.

                      Lytt glanced at Dharin, deciding to let him make the choice. He returned her gaze, then abruptly wrapped her in a quick hug. Startled, but curious, she furrowed her eyebrows in a quizzical look.

                      “I just wanted to return the one you gave me earlier.” Dharin answered, a tiny smile appearing. “C’mon, but stay behind me.” He walked quietly over to the new doorway, sword drawn.

                       

                      They stepped through the door. After a moment, Dharin turned and offered her his dagger.

                      “Here.” he said. “You have a bow, but this will be better for close-range. Quicker, too.”

                      Lytt smiled to herself. He clearly didn’t know that she had two long knives hidden in her quiver. Ah, well, it was a generous gift, and honestly, the dagger looked pretty awesome. She’d like to use it.

                      Like it was an afterthought, Dharin added, “And hand me the candlestick.”

                      Unsure what the advantage was of having a candle over a dagger, Lytt swapped, studying her dagger. It was a masterful work of art, well balanced yet strong and sharp. Slender too; great for hiding anywhere.

                      “Thanks.” She smiled at him, then immediately scolded herself. Give him the cold shoulder and get over it, Lytt. You need to get back to VaSerBo, remember?

                      Lytt managed to peek over Dharin’s shoulder. They stepped into the new room – except it wasn’t really a room, per say. They stood on a small landing, from which five staircases led to five different openings. From one, a horrible stench arose. Dharin shook his head at it. The second smelled like dust and mildew. Something old. Lytt thought. The third was where the draft of air came from. The fourth wound down clockwise; they couldn’t see very far down that one, which made Lytt worried. And the fifth… odd noises, reminiscent of rats scuttling on stone, came from it. All faded into darkness after the first glimpse.

                      Dharin caught Lytt’s eye. He seemed very serious. “Which one?”

                      How was she supposed to choose? The one with the air was tempting, but Lytt knew all to well that something like that could only be a trap. The first one was out of the question – who knew what could stink so bad? Lytt weighed the others in her mind. None were appealing. None were unappealing, except the fifth. Better take that one out. Maybe they should just split up.

                      She had to make a choice. “That one.” Lytt pointed at the third opening, the one that seemed fairly level and smelled like old things.

                      Dharin nodded, and proceeded to begin to light a torch he’d found in a sconce on the wall by their landing. Lytt put a hand on his arm and shook her head. “I can trust you, right?”

                      He seemed taken off guard by the question. “Yes…” he answered slowly.

                      “We won’t need a light. I mean, might as well take a torch, just in case, but don’t light it.”

                      “Why? Can you see in the dark?”

                      Lytt shook her head. “No. I’m not that kind of Aves. But… it’s easier just to show you.”

                      She handed him his dagger with a smile. “Hang onto that for a little bit, please.” Concentrating, she raised her hands, palms upward, and a white light began to emanate from them in a soft circle. A snowflake as large as Dharin’s hand floated above her palms, and whenever she turned her hands, it stayed on top. The light from the snowflake let her see fairly far, and was brighter than the torch.

                      Hopefully she hadn’t scared Dharin out of his wits. He seemed brave, but she knew humans considered her kind monsters, and this was probably too much. But it was an emergency. Hopefully the others would understand.

                      Lytt smiled back at Dharin uncertainly, reprimanding herself again. Cut it out! “Coming?”

                      "A writer's life consists of either writing their book or thinking about writing their book." ~?

                      #117163
                      Livi Ryddle
                      @anne_the_noob14

                      Dharin looked on in amazement as Lytt conjured a glowing snowflake from her hands, much brighter than the torch would have been.

                      A *Mirrali? Not surprising, actually… The wings should have given it away from the start. But what did she mean by “I’m not that kind of Aves”? What is an Aves? Maybe her family name? 

                      Dharin shook the thought off and followed Lytt into the third opening. All his instincts screamed for him to get in front of her, not to let her go first, but he reluctantly pushed them aside. They needed the light, and if Lytt could produce it without a torch, that would eliminate the possibility of an out-of-control fire. So Dharin settled for keeping his sword drawn, and his eyes and ears open.

                      They continued down the tunnel, which was relatively straight, with only a few twists and turns. It widened out, so that three men could stand abreast without touching, and Dharin immediately took a position beside Lytt. He felt better then, not being stuck behind her should an enemy approach.

                      The hallway now widened farther, into a large cave with a grand ceiling. It was some forty paces wide, and perhaps sixty long. Stalagmites dotted the floor, and stalactites reached down from the ceiling. Even the longest stalactite left twenty feet between it and the floor. It was a beautiful place, but that sense of worry was back. Dharin turned in a circle, looking around the place. There were many rocks in places around the walls, and he could see openings behind the rocks. Not doors, exactly, but big enough to be. There were too many. He couldn’t cover them all at once.

                      Lytt was looking around as well, and had taken a few steps farther into the room. Dharin looked at the floor now, and saw a crack in it, right in front of Lytt’s feet. it wasn’t big enough to fall down, but certainly big enough to trap a person’s foot. He took a step forward, meaning to warn Lytt of it, when she saw it herself, and took a bit of a skipping step backwards to avoid it. The movement caused a stone to fall into it, and it tumbled down for a ways, bouncing off other things. The noise it made echoed off the walls, magnified. Dharin winced, and Lytt looked at him apologetically.

                      “Sorry,” she whispered.

                      “It’s all right. Better a stone than your foot.” But Dharin was narrowing his eyes at something behind one of the rock piles near the wall. The thing moved.

                      Dharin saw more movement out of the corner of his eye. More things were appearing from behind the rocks. He turned in a slow circle, counting. Six total. Lytt had seen them now, and had drawn a knife from somewhere. Dharin looked around again, trying to find a place for her to be safe. He saw nowhere. The things were coming closer. They looked like wolves. Dharin took a place back-to-back with Lytt, who had opened her wings a bit.

                      Then an idea hit him.

                      “Can you fly?” he asked. The wolves came closer.

                      “What?”

                      “Can. You. Fly?” Dharin could see their eyes glinting in the light from Lytt’s snowflake.

                      “Yes, I can fly.” Lytt drew another knife.

                      “Then fly! You have a bow.”

                      Lytt hesitated, then nodded. “Light the torch.” She put her knives in her quiver, nocking an arrow in her bow.

                      Dharin turned back to the first wolf that sprang. It got his sword in its chest, and fell. He heard one behind him fall from an arrow’s strike. The third came from the left, and Dharin side-stepped, slashing across with his dagger, coming back with his sword. He was tempted to throw it aside and fight with just a dagger. Rapiers were not made for fighting wolves. But it was better than nothing, he supposed.

                      Another wolf fell from Lytt’s arrows. That made four. Dharin was facing one still, leaving one for Lytt. They could do this. Dharin didn’t wait for this one to charge, but stepped forward, light on his feet, to back it against a wall. It growled low in its throat, and Dharin was about to step into a stab when he heard Lytt cry out. He whipped his head around, and saw her wing caught in a close-knit bunch of stalactites, a wolf balanced atop a rock pile beneath. Lytt’s feet were within reach of it: and her neck, with a good jump.

                      Images of his sister flashed in Dharin’s mind. The way she struggled as their father handed her off to the traders. Her screams as they whipped her, driving her into the cage.

                      Dharin would not lose Lytt.

                      He turned from the wolf in front of him, dashing across the room to Lytt. The wolf beneath her had just enough time to look at him in surprise before Dharin’s sword ran through its neck, followed by his dagger. Lytt got her wing free and dropped into Dharin’s waiting arms. He set her on the ground, where she slumped down to massage her wing, wincing. Dharin started to bend over her, when she pointed behind him.

                      “Look out!”

                      "Reck not."
                      ~Sir Nicholas Beauvallet

                      #117175
                      Gracie
                      @kimlikesart

                        Don’t shoot him? What did he mean ‘don’t shoot him’?!  Teagen’s already strained mind went berserk inside him.

                        Then Teagen saw why. Franz suddenly stepped out, walking toward the hounds. What?! Teagen trembled, but fired again, hitting another wolf. Kay, don’t hit you while in the midst of the target. Great. Do you not see how dumb I am with this thing?!

                        Teagen’s nose twitched, then something happened. Teagen’s lips parted slightly, and his forehead wrinkled, What the

                        The wolves were cowering before Franz. The gunman fired his pistol and one dropped.

                        A terrible aura was around him, floating. Deadly. Not that Franz hadn’t been before

                        Teagen swallowed hard as Franz fired again. Another dog down. More cowering. The man/thing with the flaming sword took a step back too. Stunned. Then the light vanished.

                        Oh boy, Teagen took a step forward, lifted his gun, finger hovering over the trigger. But he stopped. Don’t fire you louse. It’ll just bring all the dogs back to you. You’re easy meat. Not like him.

                        It would be heroic? Or dumb. Maybe both.

                        Tis strange how a million thoughts can go through one’s head in a manner of seconds. Which is what happened here.

                        A few wolves retreated back down there hole and vanished, but ten still remained. They circled Franz, heads lowered, shoulders spiked, teeth barred like a million daggers. He was gonna die, But Franz didn’t act like it.

                        His posture exuded power. Control. As if he were the master. As if he the /victim/, was the perpetrator?

                        Teagen re-aimed his gun. Once again moving his finger to the trigger. He wasn’t the best aim, But the mutts weren’t that close to Franz, were they?

                        Franz struck again, and a wolf died. The two next to it backing up like wounded puppies. But the ones behind him suddenly got bold.

                        With a curse Teagen fired his piece. A dog dropped with a loud whine. Then eyes turned to him. Both dog and man. He cursed again. Retreat! More filth came from his lips, Yeah right, And he cursed his lily-livered gut.

                        Dogs moved. Franz shot dead two more. Teagen got another. Suddenly the blazing sword reappeared and the cloaked man cut down more dogs.

                        Jominkreesa

                        Passion means to be willing to suffer.

                        #117176
                        Dashuri Halad
                        @christlover

                        Vrahe immediately entered the fray, his sword swinging in precise and deadly movements. He had a split second of surprise, taking the wolves from behind. Unfortunately, his advantage did not last long. The wolves turned on him, flinging themselves at him with the recklessness of the starving animal. Letting his instincts take over, Vrahe turned his mind to analyzing the situation that he had thrust himself into.

                        Those two men will most likely be allies, or at least opposing whatever faction has captured me. That one with the rifle appears to have extensive training. He will likely make a strong ally or a difficult enemy. I must ensure that I win his trust. The other looks lost. Perhaps the soldier brought him along to help infiltrate this place. No matter, I will have to lose him quickly but make it look like an accident. I don’t want to worry about protecting him constantly. 

                        Suddenly the soldier dropped his rifle and pulled out an antique looking pistol. Advancing upon the wolves, he seemed to become more threatening, exuding an air of danger.

                        Oh Kisama! It’s a berserker. Well, this just got a whole lot harder. Now I am going to have to keep him from killing me. I hate berserker soldiers!

                        "When injustice becomes law, rebellion becomes duty."
                        -V

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