Two days later, dawn was rising and so our little group was forced to stop walking. We walked at night to avoid the blistering heat of the sun and to fair better at night when we could be ambushed by either Skae or humans. I pulled out the blank book, quill and inkwell, opening the inkwell. I opened it to the third page, passing by the first two entries, in which nothing happened. I dipped the quill into the ink and wrote quickly, Day three of our journey: no sign of the others and so far so good, considering we have had no attacks from either Skae or humans. HellFire says if we keep our pace, we should be in the part of the desert the pendant had come from by tomorrow morning.
I have learned to make light to see well at night and fire without having to use the flint and limited timber from the landscape. I have come to grips that I can successfully use magick and speak other languages without my knowing. I wish I could learn about my guardian, the older woman who spoke through me the night before I left. As far I know, she only comes out when I feel hatred.
Mari’Anya says I should only use magick when I absolutely have do because apparently there are desert people who can track us when I use it in large amounts. The light is no problem to us, except able making us a target for attacks at night.
I heard a twig snap to my side and blades were out within the next tick. Mari’Anya burst out from the bush and came running to where I sat. “What is wrong?”
Humans are coming; we need to go now. She grabbed the bag of food as I grabbed my stuff together. I stuffed everything into my bag, throwing it on over my blades.
“Where is HellFire?” I asked her, knowing without him, we would not get to far.
Right below us. She ran in front of me, as we descended down the side of the small hill. I saw HellFire as she yelled to him, We need to get out of here fast!
I saw him nod as he bolted towards me. He passed by me, as I grabbed onto a saddle that appeared out of nowhere. I flung myself into the saddle and held onto reins that appeared in my hand. I held on as we fled from the hill.
I looked back and saw a glint on the horizon, feeling my stomach sink. I recognized who it was, my heart dropping as he lifted up a sword. I watched as the armies of humans gave chase. “Mari’Anya! They saw us!”
She looked back and looked to HellFire. You know where the location is. Get us there and you said no one can get in without the pendant, right?
He nodded to her. “Good.” I answered him, bending low on his back. “Mari’Anya, I can get them with magick.”
Do not even think of it. Most of those soldiers are just following orders and it is not fair to them if you killed them. We will just lose them in the canyon up ahead.
I looked over HellFire’s head, seeing the canyon she spoke of. “I have an idea.” Before Mari’Anya could disagree, I turned to face the armies. I reached out to them, feeling the warmth of magick course through my body. I spoke, my voice clear in the still desert. “Wind…Dniw.”
We felt the wind pick up around us, as the magick released out of my body. I watched dust and dirt fly towards the oncoming armies. The horses were disrupted, as I lost sight of them in the dirt. We continued bolting away from the scene, before I saw a single rider make it out from the windstorm. The glint off his armor showed me who the rider was.
“Hurry! The Prince is catching up!” I was not lying, though I do not understand how he was able to ride faster than us.
Mari’Anya shouted, HellFire! The cave is to the left!
HellFire veered his course, and I saw a small cavern to our left. He bolted to it, throwing me off his back. I landed on the canyon floor hard. I shook my head, the fall rattling my brain.
We walked into the cave and I realized that it was deep, burrowed deep into the canyon walls. They stood at the door; Mari’Anya listening to HellFire, before telling me, Hurry, HellFire says there is a hole that fits the pendant.
I pulled the pendant out and noticed it was glowing lightly. I looked by the cave entrance for the hole, using the light to look. I found the hole, as the Prince’s horse reared at the entrance. Our eyes met, and his voice was ice on my skin, “I will have my revenge and you will pay for choosing a monster over me.” He hopped off his horse, and I slammed the pendant into the hole. A column of rock dropped down between us, shutting him out. We heard him scream in rage, “I WILL FIND YOU TWILIGHT AND YOU WILL PAY!”
Mari’Anya and HellFire both looked to me, the glowing of the pendant illuminating my face. Are you okay?
I shook my head, pushing the fear farther into my soul, “He is no longer human, he is worse than what I have heard about Demons.” I shook my head, clearing the thoughts away. “But I do not what he has become.”
“That is because he sold his soul.” An unknown male voice came from behind us.
We all whipped around, saw nothing as Mari’Anya asked, Who are you? HellFire snorted, telling her. Apocalypha? A member of the Night-People?
“Yes, I am an Apocalypha. My name is Maadian and we have been waiting for you.”
“Waiting for us?” I asked the darkness.
“We knew you were coming. We saw the dust cloud from over four leagues away. Please follow the cave and you will reach my village. We shall talk there and leave the pendant, girl. You pull it out and the angry male will be able to come inside.” The voice drifted away.
I turned to the others, “Well, let us go and meet this Maadian character. Maybe he can tell us where Lumin and the others are.”
They nodded and we walked into the deeper darkness. Silence filled the cavern, our own footsteps not making any sounds. The darkness was suffocating, as we walked along the path towards where we were told to go. In the distance, we saw a small point of light.
I looked to where I thought the others were, “Think that is it?”
It would only make sense. We have been walking for over three thousand steps, which would put us at about two leagues from the door. Mari’Anya told me.
“Ah.” We continued to walk and the light became greater, before opening up to a much larger cave. We stood at the edge of the smaller cave, which ended in a cliff face. We saw a forest teeming with life, and in the distance, we heard a waterfall. “Wow… It is…”
“Beautiful.” Someone answered from behind us.
We all turned and a tall, moonlight male stood looking at us. He hair was long, raven black and braided down his back. He was a good foot taller than I was, putting me at his chest height. He wore all black clothing, accented by a silver circlet on his brow and a silver pendent that matched the one we put into the wall to close the door. “Welcome to my kingdom, light-walkers.”
I bowed deeply to him, “Thank you for giving us Sanctuary, your highness.”
His eyes shifted, as I felt my clothes slide, revealing my rose tattoo. “A Lady? What is a Lady doing all the way out in our desert?”
I stood back up, “We are looking for the Demon King, Lumin.”
He sighed, “You love him?”
I shook my head, “I was sent to be his bride, but we both do not share those feelings for each other.”
He looked at the ground, “Follow me.” He jumped off the cliff face and dove through the air. He floated for a tick, before reaching the ground. “Come on! We do not have all day!”
I looked to the others, “Well, if we do not survive this, I wanted to let you two know thank you for everyth-” Mari’Anya and HellFire both jumped off the cliff. “Fine, see how it is.” I jumped after them.
I watched Mari’Anya use her wings to glide to the ground and HellFire just fell. They both touched the ground gently. I, on the other hand, knew I was falling much to fast to do that. I felt fear well up in me, as I closed my eyes against the ground. I hit a pocket of air, slowing my fall, before hitting the ground. I touched down on my feet, before falling on the ground.
I heard Maadian and Mari’Anya snicker, while HellFire neighed lightly. I stood up and brushed myself off. “Well? You said we do not have much time.”
He nodded, no longer smiling, “Let us go.”
We followed him through a winding forest path that split every so often to a small area with a candle. After seeing three of these areas, I asked, “What are those altars for?”
He answered without looking back, “Those altars are for contacting the dead.”
“Contacting the dead? You can do that?”
“Yes, we are necromancers. We can contact, as well as raise, the dead. I thought as a Lady, you were taught all of this?”
“No, I was not.” I looked down, “I was not much of a Lady and the royalty were damned sure to make sure we knew nothing outside of our art.”
He did look back at me from this comment, “You have my sympathies. Especially since I can see the magick flowing through you. You have had no real training?”
“Well, considering that this has just started appearing recently, there was no need for it.” I shrugged and he turned back to the path, as a clearing opened up to reveal a quaint village.
The houses were made from the fallings of the trees, leaves, bark and mud. They were small, circular and surrounded a much bigger hut made of stone. He took us into the stone hut and we were surrounded by benches, gathered around a smaller room. Apocalypha sat on the benches, as if they had been waiting for us.
He turned to us, “Please sit here and wait.” He pointed to a stone bench, before turning, leaving us there.
I sat on the bench with Mari’Anya, while HellFire stood where he was. I whispered to Mari’Anya, “What do you think is going on?”
I do not know. She turned to HellFire, Any ideas?
He nodded and spoke to her, once again leaving me from their conversation.
What do you mean they only drink blood? They cannot have ours, if they want it!
I twitched at the thought of someone drinking my blood. “Should we leave?”
We cannot. HellFire says that once in, we can only leave with Lord Maadian’s permission.
“Joy, oh Joy.” I said as I thought of Lumin. I have to admit, I missed him and I hoped that if I did find him, all would be fine.
Maadian came back over to us, “Please, I just need the girl to follow me.” He looked to Mari’Anya and HellFire, “If you two would please just wait here, she will be back soon.”
I looked to them, as I stood up. They were not happy with the thought of my going alone, but I put them at ease, “Do not worry. If things get too bad, I will heat things up a bit.”
I followed Maadian, passed the people into the small room in the center of the hut. I did not realize how few Apocalypha there was sitting there, only about thirty by my count. He closed the door behind me, as I stood facing a fire and a priestess.
She was beautiful by my eyes. She had long silver hair that went to the floor adding to her glowing white flawless skin. She wore all white, adding to the illusion of importance. Her eyes were closed, but I had my bets that they were going to be as light as she was.
Maadian bowed to her, “High Priestess, I have brought the human girl.”
Her eyes opened, and I was correct. Her eyes were a very pale, light blue that seemed white in the firelight. “Thank you, your majesty. You may leave.”
He stood up and left, without a word to either of us. I watched him open the door and close it behind him. I turned back to the priestess, “Hello, my name-”
“You are Twilight Dawn and you are on a mission to find your King.” She did not hesitate in cutting me off.
“Then if you may-”
“Kneel.” Her one word command swept through me, and my body did as she asked, without my permission. She came close to me with a long gnarled knife.
I felt myself grow hot in this room of fire, “Do not touch me with that knife.” I gave her warning.
“You will give an offering to the dead.” She grabbed my wrist and cut my arm with the knife, using one swift slash.
I watched the blood flow easily out of the wound. She bent over and licked the blood off my skin, before latching her mouth to it. “Let go!” I tried to move my arm away from her, but she was quite a bit stronger than me.
She lifted her head up, taking her fill. Blood dripped down the sides of her mouth, her teeth sharp as Mari’Anya’s. She spoke, “Stand up.” Once, again, my body obliged, though I did not want it to. She gripped my arm tightly, causing more blood to well up. She took the knife and gathered the blood onto the twisted blade. She let go of me, flinging the blood into the fire. I watched the fire change from its red-orange color to a dark blue flame. “As I thought.” She pulled a kerchief from her clothes and wiped the blood off her mouth.
I felt my anger rise, “What is going on?!”
She looked to me, her eyes scrutinizing my being. “Who are you to ask me?”
“I will be your death, if you do not tell me now.” I tried to reach my magick, but I did not feel it anywhere.
She smiled, her fangs showing one last glint of my blood. “You have overused your magick. I figured so, because he told me you had no formal training to learn about that. You are powerless here, and if you do as I say, you will learn much about yourself.”
I sighed, knowing she was right. “What do I need to do?”
“Stand here.” She pointed to a spot right beside the fire. Nothing forced me to do it, but I did as she said. “You are learning.”
“You have no idea.” I spoke to her in a harsh tone, taking in everything she says and does to use against her later. I did not like being treated as a child, and she was trying on my nerves.
She ignored my comment and continued, “Look into the fire.”
I turned and faced the fire, but all I saw were flames. “It is a fire. Black-blue fire, yes, but still only fire.”
I felt something heavy strike against the back of my skull and I felt the feeling of darkness creeping up on me. I fell forward and as the darkness took over, I realized I was falling into the fire.
“That vile whore.” I spoke, as I opened my eyes. I recognized this place as Oblivion and I stood up. I looked down and was annoyed to find my clothes gone. “What to do now…”
I heard something to my left, a rustle of clothing. I turned to face the Priestess’s shadow, though nothing stood at the base. “You wretched, vile woman!”
I heard her voice all around me, “Maybe you should be listening.”
I growled, “What do you mean?”
“You are not alone in this dreamscape. The King is here somewhere as well, and he is fading. Find him.” The shadow vanished from my sight.
“Lumin?” I turned and saw nothing. “Where…” I felt despaired as I realized I had no idea where to go to find him. “Please… Help me find him.”
“All you had to do was ask, child.” I heard the familiar voice of the Keeper.
“You told me to stay with him.” I looked at the ground, “And I still do not know the answer to the riddles you gave.”
“Then you will not be able to find him. May I ask a personal question?”
“It depends on what it is.” I answered him.
“What are your feelings for him?”
“He is a very good person, and I guess I will be loyal to him. He is well-liked and respected by his people and I feel as if I am willing to follow him to the ends of the earth.”
“How does he feel about you?”
“I…” I thought about everything that has happened, “I do not know.”
“Then he has not learned the answer either and he shall die in result.”
“What do you mean?”
“Demon Kings have only a limited time to find a bride. They have one hundred years to find one. If they are given one, they have to get the girl to love him. If she does not, he can get rid of her by sending her back. If he does not find one who he loves and loves him in return, he forfeits the crown and he will die. It is not only the law of the Demons, it is also the curse they all share.”
“Is there a way to break the curse?”
The voice was silence, thinking. “No one has asked that before. But I believe there is. I cannot tell you how it is broken or what it all entails. You will have to find that answer yourself.”
“I thought love could conquer all. It makes treaties, alliances and turns enemies into friends.”
The Keeper chuckled, “There are depths of love. The one you speak of is friendship, then kinship, lust, love, then there is one point no Demon King has ever found.”
“What is it?”
“True love. The love that lasts eternity, that transcends time, life and even death.”
“How long does he have?”
“This is his ninety-ninth year.”
I thought bout this for a tick. “Can you at least give me a clue of where he is?”
“Ask the High Priestess, she knows where you need to go next.” With that last spoken word, he was gone again
I woke up and shook my head of the last thoughts from the Keeper. I opened my eyes and found myself still in the fire. I stood up and stepped out of it, not being burned by the dark flames. I found the High Priestess on the ground bleeding, a knife in her back. “Who?”
Twilight! Get out of there! The Prince and the armies are here! The Prince killed the High Priestess! Mari’Anya yelled, but she was to late.
“Well, well, well. I was wondering how long I would have to wait.” The Prince’s cold voice came from the shadows behind me.
I whipped around, drawing my blades in a smooth motion. I swung around, leading with the blades, before colliding with his sword. “You.” I growled under my breath. “Why are you still after me?!”
His cold smile was devilish and I noticed the change in his features. “I sold my soul to have my revenge on you.” He swung his sword high, going for my shoulder,
I blocked him with the Sun and tried to hit him with the Moon, but he dodged back. “Why? I was out of your hair once and for all.”
He laughed sinisterly, his voice deepening an octave. “I do not want to kill you. I want you to be mine forever.”
I could not believe what I was hearing. After everything, he still wanted to own me and was willing to go to great lengths to get me. “You will never have me. I belong to the Demon King now.” I tried to feel my magick to get rid of him, but it was still not there. How long does it take for it to replenish?!
“But when I kill him, you will belong to me. I will own you, break you and make you beg for mercy.” He swung at me, but I was faster than him.
I blocked his blade to the side, slid to the floor, swinging my foot around, catching his ankle. He fell backwards, catching himself on a tall candelabrum. I took this chance to kick the candleholder and the Prince into the fire.
I ran to the door, to see him rise of the ashes, the fire becoming a blood red. “I am a Devil. What makes you think fire would hurt me?”
I saw his features physically change from human to something from the Depths. His skin matched the fire, as a crown of eight horns erupted from the sides of his head. His eyes became black, as a third eye appeared in the middle of his forehead. He took one step out of the fire, his foot a cloven hoof. I saw a tail swat about, as he stepped out with his second cloven hoof. His lower half became a goat, while his body stayed human. His hands became claws, as his grinning smile became highly sharpened teeth.
I felt myself grow white as fear crept into my soul. I did not notice the High Priestess stand up until she was right in front of me. She handed me a bloody parchment, before turning to face the Prince. She coughed, blood spilling out of her mouth, “Twilight, get out of here.”
Without a second thought, I bolted out the door. I saw no Apocalypha sitting in the benches, but I also found no blood. I held onto the hope that they had all gotten out and were safe. I found Maadian, Mari’Anya and HellFire waiting for me. He spoke, “Hurry! Get out of here!”
I nodded and ran to them. HellFire’s saddle appeared once again. “Will you all be alright?”
He nodded, speaking quickly, “We have our hiding spots. Only the High Priestess was killed and even then, I doubt she is truly dead.”
“You have no idea.” I put my fist to my chest, “Be safe.” I looked to Mari’Anya. “Let us go!” HellFire and Mari’Anya did not need to be told a second time, as we leapt forward, into the village. We ran through the forest, away from the village and the entrance. “Where are we going?”
Lord Maadian told us of a few other ways out of the caverns. We are taking one of those ways.
“How did the humans get in?”
They used another entrance. Apparently, they had been looking for this place for a while, to annihilate the Apocalypha. They have the same feelings towards them, as they do for all other non-humans. Her mental voice was mean.
I spent this time to think to myself. Was I ever like that?
No time to think about it. Mari’Anya read my thoughts. We need to know where the next place is.
“The High Priestess gave me a bloodied parchment.”
I thought the Prince killed her.
“He did. She was on the ground with a dagger deep in her back, but she stood up and gave me the parchment before ordering me out. The Prince is no longer human…” I described him to them, by giving Mari’Anya a mental picture.
Then he has transcended to the Devils. This is not good. She ended the conversation, as we found the end of the forest and the start of a cave.
I kept low to HellFire’s mane, as we sped through the cave. We reached the end and found ourselves flying through the air. I held onto HellFire tightly, as he glided to the ground and as Mari’Anya used her wings. We landed and did not see anyone, beside ourselves. I pulled out the parchment and looked at it. “It is a map.”
“I do not know. You have to remember, I have never been outside of Ancial.”
We need to find someone who can read it.
“HellFire, where is the nearest town and what is it populated with?”
Mari’Anya listened to him, before speaking outloud. He says it is in the Jungles of Sasmung and the people are Elfin.
“So, I finally get to meet Hiku’s mother’s people.” I felt a little bit better about meeting them, than I had about the Skae and Apocalypha.