“Romani!” Narice whispered loudly as he approached the meeting point outside of the castle. He used Rome’s full name in consideration to the circumstance. However, once he and Rome met up, he’d go back to calling him by his nickname.
Rome had had the luxury of using his magic to become invisible. Narice hadn’t worried that he would escape. Even still, until the barrier vanished and their campground appeared – Narice worried a little.
“Narice,” Rome replied as he ushered Narice into the side of the barrier.
“yeah…” Narice sat down. He was tired and hungry… but he looked at their campground and noticed that they already had food available.
Then he remembered the five kids that were starving for the next meal and felt bad.
“Hey,” he told Rome, “we should try and hunt some extra food…”
Rome responded, “why… what happened?”
Rome was a good listener. Narice spoke to him about Nick and the orphans and their situation while Rome took in everything. After Narice was finished, he asked for Rome’s input.
“Hm… i don’t think we should get overly involved,” He replied. “as hard as that is…”
“But Nick is the way to the castle…”
“Hm… that does change things doesn’t it…” Rome frowned.
Narice thought about it too. They would both be considering things. It wasn’t their fight to take on in the first place. However- it wouldn’t hurt to at least meet up with Nick.
They both decided it was best to at least meet up and give Nick a chance.
That night Narice had a dream.
Across from him stood a girl.
It looked like a pitch black room between them, with only her and himself to exist there. He felt that she was trying to reach out to him while being pulled away from a different reality
He tried to grab hold of her hand across from a table or something. She seemed like she had something serious to tell him…he wasn’t sure if it were only a dream.
“Head to the tree of time…”
“I’ve never even heard of it,” Narice responded. Even if he wanted to help this girl he had no idea where to go.
“It’s in the forest of mist,” she replied.
Rather than repeat himself, “I don’t know where to go…”
“I will guide you there…” she seemed like she was trying hard to send him a message… “To help you win and succeed against Ka’atra…”
Narice woke up next to the fire. While he couldn’t remember everything clearly- he did remember the girl and the conversation as if it really happened- which led him wonder if it was more of a dream.
Rome looked a little upset that Narice called him Rome again, but once again acquiesced.
“What is up?”
“Have you heard of the forest of mist?”
“The forest of mist is a legend…” Rome replied, “It’s said to protect a great tree and grant those who reach the tree a wish…”
Narice was impressed by the new information…
“So do you know where it is? I just heard about it in a dream…”
“oh?” Rome replied in response to the dream aspect of the last statement then …”sorry, even i don’t know where it would be.”
“Is it possible to send a message in a dream?”
“Dream magic was used long ago by powerful magicians.”
“What happened in it?”
“I met a girl… ”
“Oh? was it romantic?”
Narice looked at Rome- who seemed pretty unemotional about the topic.
Rather than answer, Narice put out the remaining coals of fire with his feet.
“You look flustered…” Rome spoke with a slight smirk in a smile.
“Well she was beautiful,” Narice replied.
“Aqayan males are so easily swayed.”
“Just you wait till you meet someone special, Rome.”
“I would never fall under the vice of a female,” Rome spoke uncharacteristically, “I will be wise and ready to lead her before I get involved with the opposite gender.”
Narice felt this answer was atypical for Rome- but perhaps there was a good reason. He remembered hearing from someone in the village that marriage was decided upon by the parents or elders- Narice assumed this lack of interest by Rome came from the background of arranged marriages. If Narice were assigned to be with someone without his own say in the matter… Even still he felt that if Rome met someone he was interested in he’d change his tone.
“Yeah, yeah… Let’s just get to the meeting place.”
Romani invisible- they walked up to the shack entrance where Nick was there to greet them.
“Hey!” Narice spoke. Romani from his invisibility, suddenly appeared.
“Hi,” Nick held out his hand to Romani, Narice noticed and remembered to introduce the both of them.
“Oh yeah,” Narice said “Romani, Nick. Nick, Romani.”
While Narice would typically refer to Romani as Rome- he felt it best to introduce him properly. Romani and Nick shook.
Narice and Rome came to the little shed where Nick came out to greet them after some rustling about within it.
They went inside.
The kids and even Nick were all thrilled when Narice and Rome brought in the leftover food from their last meal. The kids ate the food happily and the meal passed by with a lighthearted feel to it.
“I’ve never met an elf before…” Nick said after seeing Rome. The kids were curiously eyeballing the group as the three sat around the table sipping the remaining cider.
Rome noticed the wide-eyed looks and even a couple pokes from the younger ones.
Partly to change the topic and partly to get back to the task at hand, Narice spoke, “So, let’s put it all out on the table,” Narice spoke. “What do you know about the castle?”
“Ok…” Nick said as he gathered himself explaining the situation readjusting his frames, “Along the street, a sewer line stretches from underneath the city to below the courtyard of the castle…”
He continued. Night-time would be best, the guard wouldn’t expect someone to be inside of the castle- AND it would be a good way to get to the king’s quarters with the least confrontation.
Nick tucked the last of the kids in bed.
“What’ll happen to them if something happened to you?”
“They’ll be fine… nothing’s going to happen…but I already made arrangements,” Nick said.
Narice, Nick and Romani walked along the edges of the sewer line. Thankfully at this point, it was large enough to avoid the filth in the center.
“The best that I can do is keep the smell down,” Romani said holding his hands to push the fumes downward with his magic.
“Thank god for your magic…” Narice spoke, still covering his own nose regardless.
They walked for a ways before a split occurred.
“Right,” Nick spoke directing them to a side path. The sewer line was like a maze that stretched across the city, each adjunct pipe smaller than the last. At each path, Nick was able to direct them, also covering his nose.
“Left…” he coughed beneath his shirt.
A few more turns back and forth until eventually Nick stopped them.
“Are you sure you’re not lost?” Narice said.
“There is nothing here…” Rome spoke. The sewer line had reached a dead end. All the group could see were small pipes attached to the main pipe they were crawling in. On Rome, one of the small pipes drained out a bit of sewage. He looked at the shirt where the sewage had fallen and made wet.
“Oh goodness…” Rome said, he could only hope that it was simply water. Narice watched the pipes, hoping not to catch the same misfortune. Nick was abosorbed in searching along the edges and either ignored them or pretended not to listen.
“We’ve reached below the castle. There’s a false cover installed here…” Nick pushed along the edges of the pipeline. By this time they were crawling to fit inside, the sides of their legs avoiding the center path that drained out to the larger sewage section.
After feeling around, Nick was able to find a small plate and pushed it up at the end of the pipe.
“How did you-?”
Nick shushed him and started climbing upwards. It seemed a section of ladder extended upward from the false cover.
Romani and Narice followed behind him, climbing up.
Narice, behind the other two, pulled himself up to a trapdoor that had been opened above him. As he got inside of the room the trapdoor led to, he found himself hidden behind a couple crates of a small closet.
“We’re in…” Nick spoke.
“Where are we?” Rome responded.
“It’s my old room…” Nick said.
“What do you mean- ‘your old room? were you a servant here?” Narice asked. That was a viable reason that he knew about the trapdoor. Rome looked at Nick intrigued.
Nick spoke with a more serious attitude, “Let’s just go.”
Rome looked strangely towards him. Narice gave a pensive glance before Nick opened the door.
A small creak escaped with its opening.
The footsteps quickly followed the noise and the shape of a blunt object came down on the head of ‘Nick’.
“Prince Rowan…” dressed in a tuxedo, an elderly gentleman pulled back his cane in shock, “Excuse me!”
“Please stand, Victorious…” Nick responded to the man teary eyed.
“You look so frail young sir…”the man responded with a cracked voice, “have you eaten since you left?”
“Do not worry about me…” Nick responded, “Worry about the kingdom.”
“Yes…young sir… your brother… no one expected Covian to be this cruel.”
“Who from the Guard would help me stop him?”
“Ten are still loyal to you, sir. We would give our lives gladly.”
“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, I must ask for you to get them, Victor.”
“Young Sir!” the man bowed and hastened away.
“Narice!” Nick said, “I apologize for not telling you the truth… I have something I have to show you.”
In his pocket, he pulled out a glowing stone, blue, with an essence of flowing water… the water jewel.
“I knew more than I let on. I wasn’t sure how much of the guard was still loyal to me so I used you to get into the castle.”
All the information Nick bombarded them with was a little hard to take in.
“This was passed down from my family for many generations… I am a guardian… I will give it to you if you help me to defeat my brother.”
Defeat his brother… A prince?
“I am no longer royalty…” Nick said, “I denounced my rights to the throne and live as an outcast.”
Narice had a lot of questions but first things first.
“What’s the plan?”
“At the most four to ten guards will be at their ready to stop us- depending on who’s joined us,” Nick spoke, “We’ll be entering into my brother’s quarters… I’ll take care of the rest.”
The old man came up to the group. Beside him a couple of the Guard were prepared as they bowed to Nick.
Ahead of Nick on both sides, the guards took the lead.
“Who’s there?! Sound the alarm!”
However, Romani quickly cast a spell around the area, silencing the sounds of the whistleblower.
The guards in front moved ahead first. To support them, Nick threw out his hand and captured the two in a water prison, similar to the one Narice himself had been trapped.
After the guards inside fell unconscious. The two guards working alongside Nick pinned them down.
The old gentleman, Victorious, rushed ahead.
He turned a corner, however, the next thing Nick saw was Victorious stabbed with icicle spears.
Nick rushed to Victorious’ side.
Narice and Romani rushed alongside to protect him.
“Hello, brother,” a voice came from the direction of the icicles.
To the left, outside of the master chamber, stood the king, his wife and a single guard looking at them. His wife held out her hand towards Victorious.
“Covian…” came Nick’s reply.
“Kill the other two,” Covian said. “I want Nick alive…” he turned back towards his quarters.
“You’d endanger your wife’s life over your own?”
“You’re mistaken, Nicholas… She’s the reason for the blizzard. Meet Sari, one of the strongest wizards I know- perhaps it started politically. She started with nothing, through will alone, now she’s the queen of Jubilee. But I love her now.
He gave his wife a passionate kiss.
As Covian turned back around, Nicholas made one last effort while holding a dying Victorious.
“You had the throne why do this to our people?”
“I have it, yes… now that they’re afraid…because they’ve seen my power.”
“This power. How do you justify all the lives you hurt in the name of power?”
“I’m sorry, Nicholas…” Covian gave him a hurt look-the remnants of his humanity showing- “I didn’t want all of this…”
“I don’t believe you…” Nicholas whispered under his breath.
“Your fight is with me,” Sari said.
“Fine,” Nick unleashed an aura. In his hand he maKa’atralized a sort of spear made of water. “If you two don’t mind going ahead…”
His eyes looked intently ahead at Sari. It seemed he needed a sense of justice for Victorious.
Sari threw out her own set of spells around her.
Nick pulled out a spell with fingers and directed the circle at her, “Prism.”
Sari touched the walls, turning the entire hallway into a prison of ice. “Chill.” She breathed out a wind from her mouth, which became freezing cold. Both Narice and Romani could feel it. Narice however, was still able to move and walked ahead.
“How are you not frozen?” Sari asked.
“I don’t know,” Narice replied. Behind him he noticed Romani giving his best effort to melt the ice frozen to his being. Nick had somehow broken through the ice with a piercing spear. It seemed his talent with weaponry would help him win this fight.
Narice moved on ahead while the guard pulled a gun on him. Narice maKa’atralized his own weapon. It was the moment of truth.
From the sword he felt a light guiding him as the bullets fired, he was able to split them as they came to his being.
The guard looked at Narice for a moment
“I am Ka’atra’s foremost assassin…” the guard spoke and his visage became mostly black. His hat removed, underneath showed a mask covering. Two blades, both holding a dark aura appeared in his hands.
It looked like this would be a real fight.
Narice held up his sword, while the assassin seemingly vanished from in front of him. He closed his eyes to focus and sensed a presence behind him. He spun with his sword and it struck. The two blades dropped beside the assassin and then vanished.
Sari too, seemed to have her hands full as she was fending off attacks from Nick and Romani.
“Let’s go…” she spoke as she plummeted the room in dense fog.
The assassin looked at her and followed by making a portal. By the time the fog left, the three were left alone.
“It looks like we won…” Romani said. Narice looked ahead. It seemed he and Nick were in agreement.
Nick moved forward.
“We have to reach my brother…” he spoke, “-it may not be too late…”
He raced ahead… Narice tried to catch up to him.
- Chapter 7.5 – Six and a half years ago
“Sari has failed the project- put your efforts onto Elera,” Devon spoke.
“What about Sari?” Jaggat felt bad for the girl, but the commander knew best.
“Give her marry Covian,” he replied. “Maybe that failure will be of some use to the family of Jubilee.”
In the testing chambers, Sari was heavily breathing.
“Sari… we’re going to stop the project now…” Jaggat spoke.
“Why?” she responded, “Was I not good enough for the commander?”
Jaggat thought it sad that she called her father, commander. With all his heart he wanted to tell her something positive, he loved her.
“We feel it’s better to try Elera… and that you’d be best in support of the Jubilee family…” his attempt at consolation was terrible, but he tried regardless. Not only did he have to deliver a blow to the girl he loved, but she’d soon be married to someone else. With a smile- “just be grateful it’s over.”
Sari gave him a difficult smiled, “I am…”
Jaggat couldn’t help but pity the girl who’d just lost her pride and dignity, but he’d try his best to win her back from her arranged marriage to Covian.
“..Will Elera be ok?”
“I’ll make sure to watch over her…” Jaggat responded.
Sari bowed before the commander, Jaggat. The man she cared about seemed to be trying his best to cheer her up- the least she could do was smile.
“Sari!” a joyful Marx spoke to the girl. He called upon her after the council members discussed the recent events. Marx had become something completely different over the past month. Rather than a stoic stale figure, a livelier Marx.
“It’s a shame about the trials, I was really rooting for you to pass them,” he winked, “and personally, I’d love to have you as one of my guardians.”
“I’m sorry,” Sari responded, although her tone was hollow, “I’m to be married soon and a ‘guardian’ in the Jubilee’s family.”
“Don’t you wish to find Justice?” However, despite the lively persona, a sort of shadowy aura seemed to come off of him. As if the suggestion was more than just a suggestion, it was being influenced.
“And if I do?”
“I could make it happen…” Her interest already belonged to him.
Ka’atra, as Marx, smiled.
After Sari left the council room- Jaggat, from the side of the conference hall.
“If I’m not mistaken, I sensed shadow coming from you,” Jaggat spoke to Marx.
“Very perceptive, Jaggat…” Marx responded. “And what do you intend to do about it?”
“I have a proposition-“he waited, “if you’ve just awakened… you should be too weak to take the council on by yourself…”
“What is it?”
“I’ll help you defeat Devon IF…”
He discussed his plan.
“And what per say do you get in return?”
“…under the condition that you give Sari to me.”
“I don’t think she wants to be ruled by whoever tries to claim her,” Ka’atra said sensing her earlier feelings.
Jaggat considered, “If she doesn’t love me, that’s fine…but I want her.”
“And how do you think you can pull this off…”
“Cast a spell to make the Jubilee heir think he’s married to Sari.
It was the nature of his element, he guessed. Oh well, he thought, regardless, it was almost too easy.
“The room to the king’s chambers…” He pointed to a side room within the throne room- and Narice and Romani followed him into it.
They saw a couple guards- Nick rushed up to them and used his water spear to knock one over the head.
“Who’s there?!” the other said. He knocked the other over the side of the head too.
He looked back at Narice and Romani- and motioned that it was clear to follow. Narice and Romani joined up with him at the door and they opened it up.
“Hello Covian,” Nick said after entering inside of the room after shutting the door. Narice and Romani took the sides.
“So, you’re here…” Covian replied resignedly. “
Covian held a gun up, ready to pull the trigger at the appearance of Nick.
A single shot fired. Not from Covian’s gun, but from Nick’s. Pulled out from under his cloak.
Covian looked down at the blood that began to pour. Upon realizing the fatality of it- he sighed.
“Nicholas…” Nick ran up to Covian.
“Brother,” Nick responded sourly. There was nothing left to do.
Covian whispered into Nick’s ear. After which Nick gave a nod.
Covian then looked up, “Is it only upon death that i realize the error of my ways…”
Nick held onto Covian’s hand as he slowly faded. After checking his pulse, and then turned around to Narice and Rome, “We have to go. That shot will have brought the Guard.”
Narice pulled out first, Nick and finally Rome. It was quiet between them. They heard footsteps of the Guards but Rome used his magic to create a perception barrier, and they slowly escaped to the hidden passage leading to the sewers.
After finally being able to stand underneath the city in the sewer system’s main line, Nick spoke.
“He deserved it. The citizens shouldn’t suffer for my weakness…”
Narice and Rome were silent. There were no words to unburden what transpired.
They pulled themselves up and blended in with the walkers in the night, making their way to the slums and Nick’s house.
“When this comes out, the children here won’t be safe if they are with me,” he said, “I will take my leave here. I made preparations to have them relocated with some of the town’s people- that will be best thing for them.”
He pulled out the water amulet from underneath his cloak and placed it in Narice’s hand, “You have the right to hold this. I will part with you here,” Nick said and he turned around.
“Wait!” Narice said. Nick took pause in his steps listening for what Narice had to say.
“Come with us.”
“You won’t be s-”
“Safe?” Romani spoke. “We’re already in danger. I think it wouldn’t matter.”
Narice replied, “Don’t worry about that. We can handle anything they throw at us as a team…”
Nick took a moment, “If you insist.” “There are many reasons to kill,” Romani said. “Your reason was ok- even if I don’t like it, I respect what Narice says. We will not worry that you killed.”
“Well then,” Narice said to the other two, “We’d better head out.”
Narice took the jewel and handed it back to Nick. “Like you said- you’re the rightful owner. It belongs to you.”
Narice picked up his sack and started heading out, “You coming?”
Nick adjusted his glasses, took a look at the home he’d be leaving behind and then nodded with a smile.
Narice nodded, “Let’s go.”
Dawn was already upon them as they left the Jubilee’s walls behind them. While it was still cold it seemed somewhat warmer than before.