And The Lies You Never Told
By - Rizi213
After a deadly revelation and a promise of a future filled with heartbreak and destruction, Kara Hawkefire is forced to venture to the Banished Kingdom - her home - to retrieve two dangerous artifacts that are the key to save the world from a horrendous battle that lies ahead. Yet when the Grave Queen's foretelling starts to come true, dark truths are revealed and loyalties are tested. The villains aren't all they seem and Kara and her friends are pushed to put their faith in a group that may as well be out for their death.
In this thrilling second book of the And They Never Lived Happily Ever After series, unexpected truths unravel and a legacy not many can take on is put before Kara. Life unleashes its cruelty and chaos and destruction take hold of a world that's far from being saved.
Because, after all, when have we ever gotten the ending we've always wanted?
THE FADING COLORS of twilight melted into the inky blackness of midnight as the moon that glowed with silver light rose into high up into its place. The shining stars danced to the quiet melody of the still silence, creating a dazzling show of golden rainbows in the sky. It was a beautiful time to be outside, what with the sparkling jewels that glimmered up above and the peaceful lack of noise that made for a relaxing night.
This was what the girl racing across the cobblestone grounds thought as her feet hit the floor with obvious urgency. Her black cloak was pulled up, covering her waves of golden hair that were piled onto her head as a messy bun. The girl's angelic face was hidden by the dark shadows cast by the absence of light and her eyes, the color of the afternoon sky, nervously scanned the alleyway in which she was supposed to meet him.
The boy who she never wanted to see again, yet had no choice but to do so.
"Remember how we ran through the fields of grass with the world at our mercy?"
Taking a deep breath, the girl brought one timid foot to move a single, reluctant step forward, then another. And another. And another.
"Remember how we laughed, how we cried, how we whispered these lies during the dawn of our journey?"
Finally, blanketed by the shadows all around her, she heard a laugh. A laugh she had never thought she'd hear again. A laugh that made her heart speed up, made it pound so hard against her ribcage she was afraid that it would break out.
Taking in a shaky breath and mustering the tiny bit of courage she still possessed, she walked towards the source of the sound.
The sound of her doom.
"Remember all the secrets we shared? All the hearts we broke and how we never cared?"
"This really is a drastic change from where you usually ask me to meet you," the girl finally spoke, her musical voice echoing around the dim alley. A horrible stench of rotting trash found its way to her nose, but that wasn't what hurt her.
It was the fact that it only took a few months away from her to make him realize that she held no place in his heart.
"It really is, isn't it?" a deep voice that made the girl’s breath hitch answered. She shut her eyes in order to blink away the salty tears that were beginning to form after hearing him speak.
He wasn't worth them. He was never worth them.
"Tell me you remember how you were the light to my darkness, how your single smile could melt the ice that my heart was trapped in."
A lean figure emerged in front of her vision, but the girl didn't have to study him to know what he looked like.
So that was why when she did raise her head to meet his gaze, her eyes widened with shock that shook her soul to the core.
His usual dark, tousled hair that he had never cared to at least brush was now styled to perfection in a slicked back manner. His playful blue eyes resembled something close to pure frost, the teal flecks replaced by blood red ones. His once mischievous smile had now changed to a hideous sneer, an ugly stain to his otherwise flawless features.
The newly crowned Blood King really did live up to the elves and the original Blood King's expectations.
"Tell me you remember the way your eyes shone whenever I came by, the way the world seemed to vanish when your lips were on mine."
"You've changed since I last saw you," the boy continued, his eyes raking over her in a way that made her feel awfully naked. "Taller, prettier, and a bit more sensible, I hope."
Those last few words stung a lot more than the girl would like to admit.
"I assure you, I've grown a lot more than you might have expected," was her cold reply, her gaze hard as he stared right back, trying to shake off the emotion of hurt she was feeling so vividly.
"Tell me you remember how hard we fell for each other, and how you promised that we would always catch one another."
The boy smirked, and the girl found herself thanking that, as it wiped that sneer off his full lips.
The lips that - no.
She could no longer dwell on the past anymore. It would bring her nothing but pain and longing for the dreams that could have come true.
But, since this wasn’t a fairytale, they couldn’t. She would never get the happily ever after she wanted because this was the reality, and reality was nothing if not cruel.
"Remember how you were my prince charming, telling me that I was your princess and how it would stay that way forever?"
"Of course I'd expected that," he told her with a slight glint in his hard eyes. "After all, you're anything but one to hold on to the past for long, are you?"
The girl’s voice trembled as she asked the question that had been on her mind ever since the new Blood King had come back from his absence that had lasted a whole three months. "What happened to the boy I knew, Ian? Where did he go?"
Only she knew of the boy she was talking about. The other side to the Blood King, the side he never let anyone else but the girl see.
For he wasn't always the cold, harsh elf he was now. The Blood King used to have a heart of gold and a soul that seemed to be made of pure kindness. His sweet and caring personality made him loved by every citizen of the Dark Kingdom.
And also made him hated by the first Blood King.
"Remember how I asked if you’d changed your mind, and how you answered with a smile that said never in a million years would that have been right?"
The boy’s face fixed into a blank one, void of any emotion. "He's gone, sweetheart, and he's never coming back."
"Tell me, my love, the soul that you once owned, why did it leave? Don't you care now that I feel so alone?"
Her tone turned pleading. "Ian, I mean it. What happened to him? To you? Everything we had, was it all for nothing? Something that you can just-just-" Her fragile voice finally broke as she struggled for the right words to say.
"Tell me, everything we shared, is it something you can just throw away into the trash? Without a bother to even look back?"
"I forgot it, so why can't you? Why do you have to make everything so much harder?" For the first time, a hint of emotion could be heard in his voice as he asked her that question. A flash of something that was too quick for the girl to catch flared in his eyes, warming and melting just a bit of the ice, letting her see an inch past the wall he put up.
And she saw pain.
"Remember how I promised I would always be there?"
"How I promised that if I was threatened to leave, I would still never dare?"
And worst of all, guilt.
"And how I promised that even if you did the worse of things, I would never care?"
And that was the last straw.
The girl stomped up to him and grabbed his arm, glaring up at him. "What did he do to you? What did he say? Tell me, Ian, and I swear, if he even dared to lay a finger on you, I'll-"
"Stop," he growled, cutting her off in a sharp manner. "Not another word, you got it?"
Stunned, she took a wary step back, afraid of the monster in front of her
The boy took a deep breath, shutting his eyes, then all of a sudden, something that glinted silver was in his hand and he reached out to snatch the girl's hand, slashing the silver thing across her wrist with a speed that was inhuman.
Only then did she realize that what was in his hand was a knife made of raw steel.
And it hurt so, so bad. Both physically and emotionally.
She cried out and jerked her hand free, the stinging pain causing black spots to cloud her vision. With a dazed mind, she stared at the boy with emotions of fear and shock in her terrified eyes.
But he wasn't just a boy anymore. Oh no he wasn't.
He was the Blood King, and the scar on her wrist proved that.
Drops of crimson blood fell to the ground, coloring the grey slabs below a bruised scarlet as the two regarded each other, one afraid and one solemn and smug.
"I am who I am, darling," the Blood King finally told her as he walked around the girl, taking her scarred body in. "My father had nothing to do with it, so don't you dare say a word against him, you go-"
"I came here to give you a second chance," she interrupted with tears brewing in her eyes again as she looked down, staring at the stains of her blood. "I came here to see if there was the boy I knew still in you, that there was still hope that you could be good again, that we could have what we did in the past again."
The girl looked up suddenly with an expression of pure hatred and boiling rage - directed right at him. "But I was wrong. You're nothing if not like him. You promised me that you would never follow in his footsteps, but I was a fool to trust you."
"Remember how you said that my trust was the most precious thing you'll ever hold?"
"After all, you've done nothing but break every single promise to me, right?
"What we had meant nothing to you, so why should it mean anything to me? You're right. I have grown. I'm growing right now by realizing that you're not worth it. You were never worth it."
"Remember how I said that to me, you were worth more than gold?"
The Blood King widened his eyes as he digested what the girl was saying, but she ignored him and continued. "I don't know what magic you used on me to get me to love you like I did, but the spell is now broken."
She choked while thinking of what she had to do, the thing she should have done a long time ago, but was just now realizing it. Summoning an indifferent demeanor that hurt her more than it should, she looked him right in the eyes and told him what she should have after he did what he did before his coronation.
"I'm done trying to convince myself that the other side of you is still somewhere in your soul because it's not. I'm over you, Ian, and when you realize that you were wrong to let go of the only person who was truly worth it, don't come crawling back to me, because I won't take you back with open arms."
Her voice turned into a whisper. "I'm glad you proved me wrong, because it’s time for me to face reality, and the reality is that you and I were never meant to have the happily ever after you've been promising me ever since we first met."
"I've figured out that you did not, because we can live once upon a time, but never a happily ever after."
The girl turned on her heel and stormed out the ally way, wiping away the tears that the Blood King still managed to get out of her, not noticing the expression of naked pain and raw guilt as the boy watched her walk away from him, the only elf that could make his non-existent heart beat with an emotion he still didn’t understand.
Or how the trees swaying softly in the light breeze as they whispered their pitying remarks on what could have been if the girl had just given the Blood King another chance, if she had just waited for a little while longer.
Or the poison from the knife that had slashed her as it seeped inside her, mixing with the bright red of her blood and slowly making its way towards her bruised and broken heart.
Or the way the original Blood King smirked from the shadows he had draped over himself as he mentally checked off one more obstacle that was blocking him from taking full control of his lovesick son.
MY MIND IS still reeling from the shock of the news I’ve been told, but I force the broken pieces of my mind to fix the shards back in place and compose myself into somewhat of a controlled state.
It’s better than nothing.
The Grave Queen has also returned to her cruel and vengeful demeanor from before and I silently praise her acting skills. I can tell that Maya learned from the best.
Her eyes glow with green mist that, despite knowing her true intentions, make my insides churn with fear. I really can’t see the resemblance between my mom and her other than their appearance.
The appearance that reminds me all too well of some other elf, yet I can’t place my finger on who. It’s so frustrating I have to bite my tongue to stop from screaming out in annoyance.
It also seems like my sassy and confident reign has come to an end, which I find myself disappointed about. I really hope that the other side of me comes out again - and soon.
I realize that I’m a lot closer to Maya, Mason, and Jackson than I was before and find that I had been inching closer to them subconsciously.
Jackson notices the fake blank expression on my face and touches my hand with his, his eyes silently asking, You okay?
Suddenly, my heart has warmed up with emotions of surprise and happiness and something else. It’s been so long since someone so genuinely wondered those two words that I’ve forgotten how it feels like to be worried over and how to answer.
I’m dying to tell him everything I’ve been told, to take off this heavy burden that’s been placed on my shoulders which can rival the gesture of placing the whole sky on my back. But something deep inside my gut is warning me against it, so I prevent myself from doing that and just give him an illusion of a nod and force a weak smile onto my face. It’s a pathetic attempt to hide the truth, but what else can I do?
I know that Jackson probably doesn’t believe the fragile facade I’ve put up, but he doesn’t push me any further and just gives my hand a squeeze, causing butterflies to explode in my stomach.
But the effect vanishes the minute the solid warmth of his palm leaves mine.
I shake off the dazed state of my mind, returning my attention back to the front of the room where Aunt Alyssa is still lecturing the Blood King and his guards. There is an expression on the King’s face as he watched her speak, but it’s replaced by his usual sneer too quickly for me to catch what was graced on it before.
“She is a disgrace to me and those that share my blood,” she is saying with a disappointed shake of her head. “Kara doesn’t deserve the throne that rightfully should have been-”
You know the plan, right? A voice that sounds a lot like Mason’s transmits to me.
The Queen already told you of it? I ask back in a quiet whisper, afraid that the King would pick up on our silent conversation.
Yeah, I know that I have to lead you guys to the portal that will take us to the Banished Kingdom and that I am supposed to inform you of when to run.
Do Jackson and Maya know of this plan too?
I’ve already filled them in- NOW. RUN.
His sudden change of tone stuns me and I just end up freezing before Maya gives me a tiny shock that jolts me out of my trance and forces me to take action.
The ceiling suddenly cracks open and I look back to see Mason controlling it, not even a tiny bit of sweat on his face. His eyes glow as he throws the huge stone onto the guards, who immediately try to fight back, but are unsuccessful and end up being crushed under the weight of the ceiling.
A noise from behind me makes my head whip around and I I see the Blood King preparing weapons with telekinesis - directed right at us.
I fully turn and create balls of flaming light in my hand and toss them into the King’s face, which causes him to stumble back, momentarily blinded.
This way! The Queen’s voice cries in my head and I look around once more to see her ushering us out the door. I quickly follow suit, turning back only once, wanting to the defeated scowl of the King.
But instead, I’m only rewarded with a deadly smirk and eyes the glint dangerously with the thirst for horrible revenge.
As soon as we’ve burst through the gates of the Crystal Castle with the Queen manipulating each and every guard in our way, a ghastly silence is placed over us all before I break it by asking, “Why isn’t the King’s mind broken yet?”
The silence returns.
I look back and forth between all their grave faces. “Seriously? No on-”
“That information is something you’re not ready to handle, Kara,” Queen Alyssa interrupts, her face solemn. “When the time comes, you’ll understand why.”
I open my mouth to speak again before Maya cuts me off. “Are we going to go now, or stand around like pigeons waiting to die?”
“She has a point,” Jackson agrees. “If we have to get to the Banished Kingdom before sundown, we need to act fast.”
“How are we going to get to Sarcolia by sundown?” I wonder. “It’s more than fifteen thousand miles from here!”
The Queen pulls out a long wand-like stick and thrusts it into Mason’s hands, who stiffens a bit. But whether it’s from the thing placed in his hand or the fact that the Queen touched him, I can’t tell.
“That is a pathfinder,” Queen Alyssa explains. It will lightleap you to where you need to go which, in this case, is the portal to the Banished Kingdom.”
I stare at it. “How’d you get that? Pathfinders are literally the rarest things in the world! Did you-”
“Now’s not the time,” she interjects. “Now, like Maya said, hurry up! And don’t fret, this won’t be the last time we meet.”
Jackson nods. “Right. Everybody, join hands.”
We all do ask, my hand joined with Mason’s and Maya’s. Jackson takes Mason’s other hand, and soon, with one more nod from the Queen, we’re whisked away by the light.
We arrive at the portal in Sarcolia, which apparently is hidden as a sewer and it causes quite an argument amongst us.
“There is no way I’m taking one step into that- that man-hole of destruction!” Maya shouts, backing away. “Who knows what kind of germs are in there?! Ew, ew, ew, ew!”
Jackson groans. “Stop being so stubborn, May! We have to-”
Mason shudders. “She’s right. There could be all kinds of creepy-crawly things in there!”
“I’m always right, you idio-”
“I’ll go first!” I yell, tired of the endless fighting. “Maya and Mason come together, and Jackson comes last because you need to make sure those two actually go in.” I glare at the two elves in question. “Just one minute. That’s all it’ll take. Now stop bursting my eardrums and let’s go!”
Jackson nods at me and I hesitate for only a second before climbing down the sewer, bracing myself for the terrible stink.
But there’s no stink because as soon as my foot touches the bottom of the sewer, a sense of vertigo overtakes me and suddenly, I’m flat on the ground, groaning because my stomach feels the need to empty out the tiny breakfast I had that morning.
The cold marble underneath me starts spinning as I try to get up and I fall back down again.
“Clumsy? That isn’t like you at all.”
My head jerks up and I find myself staring at a true beauty. The woman’s hair is a raven-dark shade that clashes with her eyes, a soft baby blue. Her elegant crimson lips and carved into a frown as she looks down at me, her expression morphed into one of disappointment.
An expression I know I’ve seen before.
Then, suddenly, it all clicks.
Jagged shards of flashback fix themselves together into a somewhat deformed memory. Broken sentences float around my mind, but I can’t catch them.
Yet one thing is for certain as I study the elf in front of me. I know her.
Her eyes narrow. “Kara Hawkefire, aren’t you going to bow before your queen?”
The last piece fits in and I suck in a breath.
MEMORIES OF TORMENTING arguments erupt in my mind once “Grandma” slips out of my mouth. Light flashes before my eyes like lightning as flashbacks explode in my brain.
“She is the only heir to the throne, Diana. She must remain in the Dark Kingdom!”
The woman’s - my Grandma’s - shouts ring in my ear as I cower behind the marble wall, my tiny legs shaking at the thought of being caught. This is obviously not something meant for my ears, but my curiosity gets the better of me and I remain where I am.
“Mother, you know how dangerous this is for her!” Mom protests, her blonde locks swinging over her shoulders. The rage in her eyes can rival the fury of fire. “She is the most powerful descendant of Sophie Foster alive. Do you realize just how many assassins would come after her? Especially that rebel group and the royal family of the Dark Kingdom and- and-” Her voice breaks like a fragile building that collapses under the weight of the heavy rain and howling wind. “And especially Alyssa.” There is something else in her voice that makes her tone shake, and I can tell she’s hiding something else.
Grandma’s eyes turn a furious shade of blue as if it they are the icy hail during a snowstorm - the complete opposite of my mother’s flame-ridden ones. “Do not dare to even breath her name. She is no longer any daughter of mine.”
“But Mother, there has to be a reason-”
“Silence!” the older lady bellows, her strong voice echoing over and over again like a broken record someone has kept for too long. “We no longer see her as one of us. She has made her bed, now she must lie in it.”
This confuses me. Why does Grandma hate Aunt Alyssa so much? All my young brain can recall is her playing with me and reading human princess stories out loud to me. She used to visit every week with new gowns trimmed with shining gold and necklaces that cast a multitude of dancing rainbows that twirled in the sunset.
All of that stopped a week after Aunt Alyssa’s marriage to the Blood King.
Suddenly, Dad is cursing her name, Mom’s once-cheerful eyes are void of emotions, Grandma’s become someone who won’t tolerate anything that isn’t exactly what she wants and Grandpa lost his humorous touch.
My family collapsed and now I’m forced to face the consequences of it all.
Taking a deep breath, Grandma composes herself. “If Kara doesn’t take the crown, the Banished Kingdom will break, Diana. Ian will take it over. We’ll be slaves in our own home. Is that what you want? To see your own people, the most superior elves alive, bow down before someone like the Blood King?”
“There is still the option of his child,” Mom argues. “He is also an heir! But whoever you choose, it will not be my child. Kara is too precious to be put under this risk.”
Grandma shakes her head. “Not even Kara knows just how powerful she is. If we can hide it from her, we can hide it from the kingdom. No one needs to know how valuable she-”
“Stop talking about her as if she’s just some tool you can play with and throw away whenever you like!” Mom cries, her eyes burning hotter than before. “I will not let her be crowned heir to the kingdom. It’s a death sentence. I’ll do whatever it takes, Mother. Just please- please don’t put her through this.”
Her voice turns soft as if it is a light feather blowing in the summer breeze. “You saw what it did to Alyssa’s child. I won’t let that happen to mine.”
I immediately scramble up to my feet, demented by the yet another confusing memory that just adds to the mysterious jigsaw my life has become.
Taking a look around, I realize that I am in a dungeon area, a dark, haunting place that causes chills to creep down my spine. A chilling slap of wind encircles us, playing with my hair in silent whispers. Splashes of off-white paint are splattered in random places, with the bars of the long line of cells coated in dust. A foul smell arises, much like the one in the dungeons in the Crystal Castle, and it makes me scrunch up my nose in disgust.
I once again take another look at my grandma who stands behind the bars of a damp cell. She still looks like a true beauty, yet I notice tangles in her raven hair and the fact that her lips are painted not in scarlet lipstick, but rather stained with crimson blood.
This makes me take a scared step back.
Just then, a portal of golden light bursts open above me and Maya falls out, followed by Mason and then Jackson. The three groan and get up, taking in the surroundings with narrowed eyes.
“Well, Kara, I see you’ve made some... friends.” Grandma’s voice cuts through the silences air like thunder ripping through the sky.
“You sound surprised,” I note, stating the obvious.
She laughs. “You were the most socially anxious child when you were little. Of course, this comes as a shock to me. I never expected you-”
“Cut the bull,” Maya sharply interrupts. “I’d love to hear stories about Kara as a child, but right now we have more important things to discuss. Like, let’s say, why the heck is the Banished Queen behind the bars?”
That question has me nodding, and I turn to my Grandma with questioning eyes. “What happened to the Banished Kingdom?”
“Also, we haven’t heard a single word about the Queen being thrown into prison, nor have we head any news about the kingdom,” Mason adds. Jackson stays silent as he studies the area, his eyes sometimes wandering back to us.
To be honest, this revelation doesn’t really shock me. At the very least, I was expecting some crazy thing to have happened in my original home while coming here. Today’s been awfully exhausting.
Well, isn’t that an understatement?
“I suppose I do owe you a lot of answers,” Grandma muses. “I’m assuming you haven’t been out on the roads of the Banished Kingdom or heard of the Exiled Queen?”
We simultaneously shake our heads and I ask, with a bewildered expression, “Are you the Exiled Queen?”
“Well, what does it look like?” she snaps a bit too forcefully, her eyes simmering with hatred.
“Let’s take that as a yes,” I hear Mason mumble under his breath. He proceeds to bomber Grandma with a million questions and she answers them with an annoyed expression plastered on her face.
Yet I’m not paying attention, still staring at my grandma with narrowed and confused eyes.
What has happened since my last visit here ten years ago?
Okay, probably a lot, since it’s been a decade, give or take.
“When?” I suddenly blurt out, cutting in the conversation the four are involved in. “When did this happen? When were you put in prison?”
Grandma’s eyes form glassy tears and she hastily blinks them away, obviously trying to be strong. But behind that determined face, I see memories of broken sorrow and it hurts my heart to see one of my only living relatives so… hurt.
“A few months ago, if I remember correctly.”
“And Grandpa?” I continue curiosity and worry burning in my eyes. “What happened to him?”
She looks away, this time not bothering to hide the moisture trailing down her cheeks. “I- I-” Her voice falters and my worry increases by a million. It shows in my voice because my tone has turned frantic. “What? What happened to Grandpa?”
Grandma takes a deep breath; I can tell she’s reluctant to tell me the truth and my need to know the answer arises.
“Your grandpa has-”
But before she can fully complete her sentence, a loud boom shakes the foundation of the palace and the dungeons.
Grandma’s eyes suddenly widened with urgency and fear. “You need to get out of here!”
“But what’s happening?!” Maya screams, and another explosion can be heard. The ceiling starts to crack and we all look up, scared out of our wits.
“They’re here!” Grandma cries, deciding that now is the time to spout out random nonsense. “They’re here and they won’t leave until they’ve got it!”
“But what is happening?” Jackson hollers, crashing into a wall. My own balance fails me and I fall flat on the ground, shaken by the impact.
“It’s them!” Grandma yells hysterically again, her voice shaking with terror. I’ve never before her like this before. She’s usually so calm and collected in these types of situations, and seeing her in such frenzy is dismaying.
“Who are they?” I shout, furiously trying to regain my balance again, but I fail each and every time, as I keep on falling back. “Grandma, what is happening?”
Grandma is about to start screaming out more gibberish when another explosion of which I suspect is caused by a blazing ball of fire hit the ceiling again, and it starts to cave in. Fire - no, Everblaze, begins to trail in through the cracks, quick to ignite the stone on the ceiling. White-hot flames scatter above us and, with astonishing speed, spread across the ceiling. Much faster than I realize, they start coming at us.
My mind races as Jackson, Maya, Mason and I back up to Grandma’s cell, watching as the flames make their way towards us. The other parts of the dungeon are already on fire.
I hit the wall beside Grandma’s cell and press my back against it, desperately trying to think up ways to save us all when an idea hits me. I vaguely recall Mason telling me that Maya’s a Conjurer on our way to Sarcolia.
“Maya!” I cry. “Conjure up some buckets of water! Now!”
I see her shut her eyes, the heat from the fire causing beads of sweat to drip down her forehead. Smoke is starting to fill up the area, the grey, thick fog making me cough.
“I can’t!” she yells back at me, panting heavily. “Something’s interfering with my ability!”
“It’s them!” Grandma repeats with wide eyes once again. “They've functioned the fire so that every ability expect that fire one can’t work! We’re doomed!”
“There has to be a way!” I shout, not wanting to give up so easily, and I hastily try to create an illusion, just to see if Grandma’s theory is right.
And it is.
It’s as if I’m trying to jump over a very tall and strong wall, but can’t jump over it. No matter how high I jump, I’m still stuck at the other side.
Mason’s head is buried in his hands as he whimpers, “I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die,” when suddenly his eyes whip towards Jackson, who’s pressed up against the wall as well, his eyes shut as if deep in thought. “Jacky! You have to use it!”
“Use what?” Maya and I both question at the same time but the guys ignore us.
Jackson’s eyes shoot open and he stares at Mason as if he had just told him to go jump off a cliff and fly by flapping his arms. “You know I can’t! I’ll be executed if I show it. You know that.”
“But we’re going to die anyway if you don’t!” Mason argues, coughing as smoke invades his lungs. The fire is just a few meters away from engulfing us and burning us to crisps.
Well, isn’t that a nice way to go? I think to myself at the same time I question, What the heck are those two going on about?
“I don’t know what Mason’s talking about, but whatever it is, do it!” Maya jumps in and I nod alongside her, not being able to speak because I’m too busy coughing.
Jackson’s eyes flash. “I-”
“Do it, son!” Grandma adds on a bit too enthusiastically. “It’s either you die, or we all die, and I’d rather we go with the former.”
“Do it already!” we all bellow, Mason the loudest.
Suddenly, the smell of burnt-sugar is a lot closer than it is and I look down to realize my leggings are on fire. I scream and try to bat it away in hopes of extinguishing it, but it’s no use.
The fire crawls around us slowly. It’s almost as if it has a mind of its own, I note, finally noticing that the Everblaze hasn’t been traveling at the speed regular Everblaze would have.
It’s like it has been programmed into some sort of robot and the fire is enjoying our torment, thinking that it should relish in it for a bit longer.
It’s that moment I decide to look back at Jackson. “It’s now or never.”
Taking a deep breath, he raises both hands and before I can blink, the Everblaze around us are suddenly separated by a wall of flames that seem to keep the Everblaze at bay. My eyes widen; I stare at Jackson like a gaping fish, as if he’s a mutant creature that landed in front of me.
Maya, too, seems as shocked as I am, giving her brother a look of distrust and betrayal.
Jackson seems to ignore us and keeps his chin high, not looking tired in the slightest bit. The fiery wall obeys at his command, sheltering us from a near-death.
Mason’s expression is solemn and I know as soon as I meet his eyes that my assumption is correct.
But even as I say it, my voice is feeble, still trying to grasp the reality of this and knowing that my new friend is already on a death sentence.
“Jackson’s a Pyrokinetic.”
THE FIRE AROUND us tames and is controlled, then soon put out, but that only vaguely nudges my mind.
I’m still reeling over the fact that Jackson’s a Pyrokinetic.
Back during the Great War, Pyrokinetics sided with the Neverseen and were their most powerful assets. They were undefeatable and it was nearly impossible to get within a five miles radius around them and not be burned to crips.
One was even responsible for the capturing of Sophie Foster and her friends, but the elf’s identity was not disclosed.
Ever since the Great War ended, the five nations - the Dark Kingdom, the Banished Monarch, the Mortal Domain, Moonlark’s Dynasty, and the Forgotten Realms, once known as the Thunderfall Empire until it fell a decade ago - all signed the Golden Treaty. Amongst many other peace declarations and vows of quiet rules, one rule declared that there are to be no free Pyrokinetics roaming around in any of the nations - each and every one must be bound with chains in the darkest parts of all dungeons. Pyrokinetics are the deadliest, most unstable ability any elf can have. Excluding the Mortal Empire, the only place where humans dwell, each nation of power signed to this. An untold sighting of someone with the talent to control fire can result in death for both the witness and holder of the ability.
Yet here I am with one of my very own companions with the talent of Pyrokinesis, saving our lives, despite knowing this may as well be a death sentence for him.
Alongside the knives of sorrow and pity, I can’t help but feel a little respect towards Jackson for doing this. Especially since he’s going to a quest with a girl he’s known for only a few hours.
But it seems like Maya has other thoughts.
Once the fire has completely vanished, Jackson turns around with his chin held high, as if daring each of us to expose him of his stunt. Our eyes find each other - mine filled with sympathy, his with hard determination. Jackson then ruins the moment by breaking our eye contact.
Grandma’s lips twitch into a scowl as she regards Jackson with a hint of suspicion; Mason, seeming to have already known this, simply gives his best friend a look of sadness and understanding; Maya takes up the challenge Jackson is giving us all.
“What is the meaning of this?” she cries, storming up to her brother and grabbing his arm, jerking him towards her. “What- how- I-”
“May…” he softly starts. If it’s one thing I’ve noticed, Jackson’s only soft spot is for his sister. The siblings look as if they’d sacrifice themselves if it means that the other would be safe.
Though it seems like a small quarrel is about to rise between them, and Mason, Grandma and I are forced to be the spectators of it.
“Don’t May me,” Maya snaps, her fingernails digging into Jackson’s tattered sleeve. I’m sure that will leave blood red marks afterward. “You- you promised nothing would be a secret between us! You’re supposed to be my big brother! You promised you’d always be there for me! But you lied.” Her voice breaks at that, making my heart thunder heavily. I can only imagine the feelings racing in those sapphire-emerald eyes of hers.
The exact same eyes that belong to Jackson soften a bit, letting loose a flood of emotions that crashed through them, and I notice him struggle to say the right words. “Maya, I had no choice. If I told you, you know he would’ve found out.”
“But what about Mason?” she pushes and Mason’s face whitens into a pale. “How does he know?”
Jackson’s face turns emotionless as he stares Maya down with nothing in his eyes - a stark contrast to the emotions racing through them before. “A stroke of luck.” He doesn’t provide any further elaboration.
There’s got to be more to that than “a stroke of luck”, I think, stealing a glance at Mason who is just staring at the floor. A feeling of knowing that Jackson is hiding more than the others’ can tell settles over me, leaving me with a lingering suspicion that there is more to these three elves than they’ve let on.
Maya is about to open her mouth and speak until I step in and let myself snap. “Guys, we have more important things to focus on rather than your family issues! For example, like what has happened to my grandfather, why Grandma is in jail, and most importantly, what happened to the Banished Monarch?” My words fall into the air, cutting through the sudden silence like a knife through butter.
Jackson takes a deep breath, seemingly grateful for the distraction from his ability, and nods. “Kara is right, we need to get to the bottom of all th-”
“Hands up!” a voice suddenly orders in a tone that demands to be followed. “Don’t move unless you want your next breath to be your last.”
I whirl around in a desperate attempt to see who issued that command, but it only results in my hands being tied and a gag stuffed into my mouth. I try to kick my captor in a way to get them off me, yet I end up failing.
A muffled scream I recognize as Maya’s comes from my left and a growl from Mason on my right. With a blindfold covering my eyes, I hear someone pleading, “But Sir! He was the one controlling the flames! I saw it! He’s a Pyrokinetic!”
Mason stiffens and Maya lets out what seems like a strangled breath. My hands clench as I silently plead, Don’t let him get caught, please don’t let him get caught.
Someone - the same person crying his accusations on Jackson - is shoved against the wall. “Shut it with you and your pathetic lies, Granden. You’ve already broken our trust once, and I have no idea what had possessed His Royal Highness in keeping you here, but mark my words when I say that you’ve already dug your grave!”
One part of me is thanking everything good out there in the world that Jackson is seemingly safe and the other is demanding, Who is His Royal Highness?
And unfortunately, my question is answered sooner than I would’ve liked.
The skeptic man, from what I can hear, lets go of Granden and starts stalking towards us. I begin thrashing against my bounds but strong hands grab my own and force me to still.
“Come on, we have a few gifts to present to our king.”
After being stuffed into a huge sack and carried down to what I can tell is the throne room we’re finally dumped onto the marble floor beneath. Grandma had managed to look unconscious behind her bars so the guards - I presume they’re guards - had let her in peace. While I’m thankful for that, I still wish we could have gotten some more information to help us.
I hear a few more thuds beside me and my blindfold is ripped off from my eyes. I blink the dark spots away and take in my surroundings with a dazed mind, unable to fully comprehend anything except the fact that the throne room looks, much, much different from when I had been there years ago.
The pristine marble below and the stone-grey bricks smashed into the walls have remained the same, but everything else is different. Gone is the Banished Monarch’s flag, a stark blue with a single, golden crown laced in diamonds, and is replaced with plain, glowing red ones that scream power. A ten-foot tall statue of a handsome-looking elf carved out of quartz with lips graved into a sly smirk is placed in the middle of the room, a figure that demands attention. Gold-encrusted swords hang from the walls - weapons that are meant to be admired, not used.
Once the major details of the chamber are memorized in my mind’s eye, smaller things catch my attention. A stain of crimson splattered on the wall. A tear in one of the red flags. The statue blemished with scratches and scars. The steel of a sword bent, making it no longer usable. If it ever was.
And my friends all pulled up against three scary-looking officers with mean eyes and a sword held at Maya, Jackson, and Mason’s throat.
“My my, long time no see, Kara.”
My head whips to see what’s in front of me, and my breathing stops. The ancient Banished Throne sits regaly on a raised platform, shining diligently like a sun on a stormy day. And sitting on it is the last elf on Earth I ever want to see.
The Jeweled Crown sits crooked on his mass of dark hair. Cruel mirth dances in his eyes, playing around as if those midnight-blue irises of his are an extravagant ballroom. A malicious smile curves his lips upwards in a manner that makes me shiver inside.
“You- you’re supposed to be dead,” I manage to grit out through clenched teeth, my breaths coming back at a rapid pace
“What can I say?” says Aeron Orlando, son of my deceased uncle and unstable aunt - and my long-lost cousin. A chuckle escapes his lips. “The crown will always find its rightful owner one way or another.”