We arrived back at the castle within the hour. I have no idea how in the hell that happened, considering that it took a full day to get here. I looked up at the Demon King looking straight ahead, his eyes hard and rather mean in my opinion. We went through the gates and the knights dispersed, off to be with their families, I figured. The King and I continued deeper into the castle and into the garden.
He hopped off the horse and I tried to follow, but he stopped me. “Stay.”
HellFire and I stayed put while he went over into the labyrinth. I looked down at HellFire, “Do you know what is going on?” The horse looked at me like I was crazy and for a tick, I would have agreed. “I hope he is okay…” I hopped off the horse and the horse grabbed my shirt as I passed by his head. I looked at him, “I am just going to make sure that he is okay.”
The horse sounded like it sighed, before letting me go. I moved forward and the horse followed close behind. I looked at him, putting a finger to my lips, indicating we needed to be silent. We both looked around the corner of the labyrinth and did not see him there. We tiptoed down the row to the next corner and peeked around. He was not there either. I whispered to the horse, “Maybe he went to the center?” The horse shrugged at me and we continued, checking around every corner before continuing.
We reached the center of the labyrinth and we saw the King sitting beside the fountain, his hand in the water. His back was to us but we did not get any closer. I heard him speak to himself, “What is this? How was she able to do this but not able to remember it?” The horse walked into the center of the labyrinth center. He nuzzled against the King and he saw that I was not on the horse, “Where is she?!”
I came out from by the corner, “Right here.”
He turned and glared at me. “I told you to stay.”
“Sorry, but I thought that you needed something.” I looked at the ground and stayed where I was. “I was getting rather worried about you. You did not look at me once the whole time we were coming back here. But not only that…” I did not know how to put it, “I do not know how to say it…”
He looked at me, his face softening, “Come over here.” I walked over to him, not looking up. “Sit down.”
I sat next to him, “Sorry, but that is something you would have to get used to. I do not really know how to take orders very well.”
“So, I have seen.” He lifted me chin up, meeting my eyes. “I know this is going to be a huge change for you. You were strong before, but something I have noticed when your brother left. You were trying to go with him, and you almost broke our deal.”
“Sorry, but I guess I just did not want to see him go. It made me feel safer and better that he was here with me.”
He let my chin go, “I understand, but you have to realize that you are not in for an easy life. I do not love you like my father did with his wife, and I am almost sure that you do not feel the same for me. Am I correct?”
I thought to myself for a tick, “Yes. I have only loved one person in my life. And it would have never worked out, not now.” I looked at the silver ring on my finger.
He followed my gaze, “But he was your brother.”
Tears welled up in my eyes. “Not by my choice. He and I were best friends. If it was not for the fact that Dyne had found me, we could have been together. He promised me that he would come home and we would be together…” I took the ring off, “But that will never happen now…” I stood up and touched the fountain. I used it for balance, as I put it in the top tier of the fountain. I hopped off the fountain and looked at him, “Am I allowed to retire early today? We can start whatever it is you want me to do tomorrow.”
He stood up, “Sounds good to me.” He, the horse and I walked through the labyrinth in silence until we arrived at the entrance. “HellFire, you are dismissed.” HellFire snorted and vanished in a column of fire. “Please follow me, Twilight.” He led me through the door and into the castle. “You will be staying in my room until I am able to get your room ready.”
“How long should that take?”
“About one week. And I should warn you, I do have a pet and she does not take kindly to strangers.”
“What is she?” I looked up at him, thinking to myself, Then why are you taking me to meet her?
“She is a Skadi. I found her when she was a kit. She was a runt of her family, so she was left behind when I found her and raised her. She is a winged mane-cat, and though she does not have the mantis claws and serpent tail, as her male counterparts do, her bite is deadly.”
I stopped walking, “Then why am I staying with you? It seems to me that it is just a way to kill me off. If you did not want me-”
He cut me off and grabbed my hand, dragging me forward, “Will you stop? If I wanted to kill you, I would have done it already. You came here to uphold the deal and if I wanted to get rid of you, trust me, it would have been easy to do. I want you to meet her because she is pregnant and she would need another female there to help her with her kits. She loves me like a father, but when a Skadi gives birth, it is highly dangerous to any male in the vicinity of her kits.”
“And why cannot Kell do it?” I started to walk on my own, still looking up at him.
“Lady Kell is the doctor for my armies, and she cannot leave her post just to do this. You said you were willing to do anything I needed and I need you to take care of the Skadi.” We stopped at a large ornamental door with two guards standing outside of it.
“Can I at least know her name?”
He looked down and smiled, as the guards opened the door, “Her name is Erac’Laun.” He pulled me through the door with him, as the guards closed it behind us.
The room was dark, no source of light giving me a way to see. Thankfully, the Demon King could see and lit a candle for me to take a look around.
I saw a giant bed off to one side of the room and a bureau next to it. On the other side of the room was an altar full of candles and carvings in front of a huge mirror. I walked over to it and suddenly had a feeling to cut myself and spill my blood over it. Voices filled my mind, begging me to give me blood to the altar. I looked into the mirror and saw myself, but it did not feel like me. I saw a knife on the altar and started to reach for it.
The Demon King stepped in front of me, stopping me, “What are you thinking?”
I shook my head, clearing away the bloody thoughts and voices. I blinked, trying to regain my thoughts to myself, “I do not know. Something was telling me to slash my wrist and give my blood to the altar.”
He shook his head, “You do not want to do that. It would give whoever uses the altar a chance to use you as a sacrifice.”
My eyes widened, “What do you mean?”
“Demons use blood magick, and we are required to use a sacrifice to do it. Most of us just use our own bodies for it, but there are those who do not follow that law and use someone else. If the magick is powerful enough, the backlash of the magick onto the sacrifice could kill it.” He pushed me away from the altar. “I do not understand why it would call to you that strongly.”
“What do you mean?” I was confused and worried.
“I called you over to me four times and I do not think you heard me. It means you were called to the altar.”
“And the voices?”
“Voices? What voices?”
“There were voices telling me what to do. They hinted and spoke words I understood but cannot remember. They told me that I needed to spill my blood and repeat after them.” I looked down, ashamed for being weak.
“This cannot be happening…” He set me on the bed, “Please listen Twilight. You were being called to it to be used as an ultimate sacrifice. It not only would have taken your life, but your soul would have been torn to shreds.”
“How do I stop them from calling?”
He sighed, not sure about what to say, “You cannot. You were specifically chosen and until I learn who wants to use you, you cannot go near any altar in the castle. I can take this one out of my room until we get yours ready, but you need to be very careful. Not all altars look like this, some only need a single candle and a blade. If you come across any like that, you get as far away from it as you can. Do you understand me?”
I nodded. “I understand.” I looked around the room and then remembered, “Where is the Skadi?”
He looked around, “Erac’Laun, come out. She is the one I told you about.”
I saw a flash of wings before getting pounced upon and taken to the ground. She snarled at me, and I looked into her eyes. I felt the words inside of me and I spoke quietly to her, “I am not here to hurt you or your kits. The King had asked me to help you through the birthing process and if you need any help with anything else.”
Erac’Laun stopped snarling at me and assessed me. She spoke to me with growls, “I was not told of this. I do not want a human’s help in raising my kits.”
I answered her, “I understand, but please explain that to the King. I was just telling you what I was ordered to do.”
“He barely understands my language. I do not understand it though. How can a worthless victual like you understand it?”
“I do not understand, I am speaking human.”
Erac’Laun laughed full heartily, “You really think so?”
“Yes, I cannot speak in any other language but human, though Hiku and Dyne said differently.”
“Look to the King and look at his face.”
I did as she said and I saw the surprise on his face, “Why is he surprised?”
She hopped off me, “You have been speaking Skadi with me the entire time.”
“I have? But I do not know Skadi.”
“Apparently, you do. But since you look perplexed, I think you could not have realized it. We will discuss about you helping later, but first, I need to speak with the King.”
“You just said he could not understand you.” I sat up and against the bed.
“He does not understand my speech, but he and I can communicate through thought.”
“Oh. Ok. I will leave you be to speak then.” I looked to the King, “She wants to talk to you now.”
“You are full on wonders…” He spoke, and looked completely shocked to me. He turned to Erac’Laun and I saw his face change.
I took this time to get a good look at Erac’Laun. She was a big cat, about six foot long and her shoulders stood about four foot off the ground. Her wings were gray and as big as she was. She was black and white striped and had a mane around her neck. I looked to her stomach next and realized just how huge she was. I thought to myself, Holy hell, she looks like she is about to give birth any day now. I sat there patiently waiting for their conversation to finish.
“What do you mean she did not understand that she was speaking Skadi?” The King growled out loud.
She must have told him our conversation. Apparently, all these people are delusional. First the King with the fountain, then Kell with the healing and now Erac’Laun with the languages.
“Fine then. I will destroy all of Ancial and enslave those who could be used as slaves, killing the commoners.” The King told Erac’Laun.
I stood up and turned to him. “You will not!”
He looked at me sideways, “And who are you to tell me what I can and cannot do? You were stupid to think I would leave your country alone. You were supposed to bring royal blood and instead of following simple instructions, you arrived.”
I growled at him and tackled him to the ground. “You swore…” I let off a longer series of profanity and curses to him than I ever had before.
He looked to Erac’Laun, “Told you.” He pushed me off him without any trouble. “I think she knows every language in the land, but she does not realize that she does. From what I have seen, she does not realize when she uses any kind of high level magick, besides when talking with her mind or teleporting.”
“What?” I was now really confused.
He looked to me, “Sorry, child. I needed to get you to curse and so I did it the best way I knew was possible. And no, I am not going to attack Ancial, unless they attack first.”
I looked to the two of them, “You two must be delusional…”
“Twilight, what do you remember before you arrived at Dyne’s?”
I thought back, trying to remember, but nothing came. “Nothing. I do not have memories from before the day I met Dyne and Hiku. Why?”
“Well, Erac’Laun and I were thinking that maybe you had visited all these places with your parents and along the way, you got lost somewhere along the way and ended up in Ancial. You will most likely will not believe me, but you know all of the languages of the world, as well as the Elden tongue. You could probably communicate with stone, plants and beasts if you so wished. But more than that, you know magick and humans were never supposed to be able to have that ability. That is why those who are half-born who do have it are usually burned for witchcraft later in life or are taught by the non-human side of the family.”
“What does this have to do with me?”
“Twilight, I do not think you are human for part of it and the other part, I think you know things that are hidden from you. You never seem to remember what you do whenever you speak in the Elden tongue and from what we just heard in your curses, you do not speak like someone who learned the language later in life. You have the exact pronunciation, accents and even use words that are too complicated for anyone trying to learn the language.”
“Okay? But how can I speak a language without knowing I am?” I spoke to myself, but I know they heard me.
“I guess that will be something we will have to try to figure out tomorrow. But it is time for sleep, now.” He stripped off his shirt and I saw scars dance across his well- chiseled, muscular body.
I felt heat rise in my cheeks as I turned around and saw Erac’Laun lay down on a giant pillow off to the side of the room, next to the door. She took one look at me and I saw a phantom of a smile on her lips. The King touched my shoulder, “Are you coming to bed?”
I spouted off with the first thing in my mind, “Where do I sleep?”
He looked at me confused, “What do you mean? You sleep with me.”
I turned and looked at the bed. Sure, it is big enough for about eight people, but what if he thinks I am going to-
He interrupted my thoughts, “I am not going to ask you to do anything of the sort. I know where the boundaries lie and I think it is time for you to put away those kinds of thoughts. We do not rape the innocent nor do we touch the unwilling. And as I stated before, I do not have those feelings for you and this living arrangement is just until we have a room for you.”
I watched him walk over to where the pillows were and climb in. It was only then, I realized that he was till wearing pants and this put my mind at ease. I stripped out of my clothes, into only a pair of shortened pants and an undershirt I had worn under the clothes he had given me for the day. He must have seen the rose tattoo of a Lady on my shoulder, because I felt him reach up and touch it with his fingertips.
I climbed into the bed, staying as far away from him as physically possible without falling out of the bed. I heard Erac’Laun purr next to the door, and her soft purrs calmed me down and helped me fall into Oblivion.
I looked around, the landscape unfamiliar to myself. I looked to the left and saw a wide expanse of white sand, dirt and rock. I looked to my right and the image was mirrored into forever. “Where am I?” I asked the vast emptiness.
I did not expect an answer, but I received one, “How did you get here?”
I whipped around and saw no one; I was alone. “Who is there?”
“I should ask you the same.” The voice answered.
I looked down and saw the shadow get closer to me. I looked up and saw two giant wings spread out across my sight. I dove out of the way, as the wings explode into millions of falling feathers. I caught on in my hand and saw the blood at the tip. I watched as the blood touch the ground, turning it blood red. “What are you?”
“I am you.” The voice answered as a violent wind swirled the feathers up into the air.
I held onto the feather I had, as the wind whipped around me. “But you cannot be me. I am me.”
“But who are you?” The voice’s question echoed.
“I am Twilight Dawn, adopted daughter of Dyne, sister of Hiku and currently owned by the King of Demons.”
“Are you sure?” The voice questioned me.
I looked at the ground, as the feathered wind came to a stop, “Yes, I am as I said.”
“Then why is there doubt?”
“The Demon King spoke differently. He says I am not what I say I am.”
“Who is he to tell you differently?”
“He is my current master. He saved me from the Hell I was trapped in.”
“From one Hell to another, but what is your purpose here?”
“To do his bidding. I helped Hiku get home, thus fulfilling my promise to Dyne.”
The voice was silent. I looked at the feather I held and watched it become a sharp dagger against my palm. I felt the feather pierce my skin, slice it open a little. I dropped the feather onto the ground beside me.
I watched my blood drip down onto the surface of the red ground, turning it back to white.
I heard a whisper in the dying wind, “More blood…”
I knew it was a bad idea, but I could not stop my body as it reached down to the feather. I picked it up and held it against my neck.
More whispers added themselves to the first one, a maelstrom of whispers, “Do it… More blood…”
I felt the tip of the feather bite into my neck, as a warm liquid dripped down. I touched the spot where the liquid was and found warm dark blood on my fingertips.
The voices continued to urge me on, “Yes… That is it… Spill all of your blood… Do it… More blood… Give your blood to the Shadows…”
I felt the feather ripped from my grip by an invisible force. I heard a male voice in my ear, “Appease not the shadows that plague. Protect her from the fires of Oblivion and the influence of Darkness. By the elements and my orders, so mote it be.”
The whispers around me stopped and vanished in a flurry of screaming.
I heard the male voice again, “Think not of the past, child. You future is here and may you learn the knowledge lost to you by the binding.”
I shook my head, clearing away the thoughts, “Binding?”
“You are bound to this plane from a punishment not deserved upon you. Knowledge given to others is hidden from you. Stay with the Demon King for as long as possible. Only one emotion can destroy the binding…”
“What is it?”
“One that has been told to never exist between the forces of Light and Dark. Only in the night, one day a cycle, will the Sun rest with her lover and only in the day does the Moon catch sight of his love. Forced apart by the jealous stars, they are never allowed to embrace except for one day.”
“Who are you and why do you speak riddles?”
“I am neither of the dark nor the light. I am the Keeper of Oblivion, the dreamscape. You know the answers to the questions I have given, in your heart and soul. Be careful of the jealous stars, daughter of the Sun… And remember, you only have limited time to find the Moon before the stars destroy him…”
I felt a shiver crawl up my spine and I knew he was gone.