By: Lucky Swan
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” he yelled as they reappeared by a blood red lake, surrounded by ominous mountains. The fog hung low, slightly clouding his vision. It seemed as though everything had stilled around them, and even the wind didn’t move as though holding its breath. Sophie stood in front of him. Though her shoulders quivered, Sophie held his gaze with a defiant glare. Her blond hair seemed to radiate around her, though there was no wind and the golden flecks in her brown eyes seemed even brighter than usual.
Sophie can't be here right now. She's going to get herself killed. Scenarios ran through his mind of what could happen - none of them were good.
“I should ask you the same question. Are you serious right now? Were you actually thinking of breaking into an ogre prison by yourself?” Sophie asked her voice getting shriller towards the end.
Keefe almost laughed, but the seriousness of her expression and the situation they were in stopped him. She has to go now, before they come.
“Go home, Sophie.”
“I’m not leaving without you,” Sophie said. She was clearly not planning on backing down.
What am I going to do? His eyes landed on her home crystal. It was hanging from a long, delicate silver chain that wrapped around her neck. The blue crystal sparkled as though it was covered in glitter. It was almost as sparkly as Glitterbutt. His mind wandered to Glitterbutt, the Alicorn that Sophie had found and was going to set free.
I have to focus. I need to get Sophie back to Havenfield. The home crystal! If only I could create a path so that Sophie can light leap to Havenfield. Immediately and without thinking, Keefe grabbed it. The crystal was cold in his grasp and the sharp edges cut into his palm. He attempted to hold the crystal up to the light, but Sophie lunged at him, wrestling the home crystal away. What am I going to do now?
“Please, you have to get out of here.”
“So do you!” Sophie responded. Why doesn’t she get that I have to do this?
We continued arguing, both of us not willing to back down. Keefe was beginning to get desperate as both sides showed no sign of stopping. We can’t keep arguing. They could come any time!
He again attempted to steal the home crystal, but Sophie had learned from the previous attempt and held tightly onto it, her fingers going paperwhite from the pressure. Though her grip was tight it did not seem to be enough. Sophie and Keefe tugged at the home crystal, as though they were playing tug war.
All of a sudden it flew out of her hand, soaring through the sky. It glittered in the light as the crystal flew over the lake and landed with a quiet ‘Splash.’
Droplets of the dull red water flew in the air landing on the ground with a quiet sizzle. Despair filled the pit of his stomach. Keefe frantically searched through his pockets. In the case there might be anything that could save Sophie, but he was disappointed to find nothing of use. I should have been more prepared and brought my home crystal as a back-up plan. There is no way she is going to leave willingly now.
“You don’t have your home crystal with you? How were you planning to get back?”, Sophie asked, realization dawning on her face.
“He wasn’t,” said a voice behind them. They're here. I’m too late.
Sophie stared at Keefe with a mixture of shock and outrage. Her eyes were wide and her mouth parted as though she wanted to say something. This isn’t going to end well. Not at all.
They turned around to face Alvar, Fintan and Brant.
“I must say” - Fintan raised his hand, ready to call down flames - “you’ve really outdone yourself, Mr. Sencen. Miss Foster is an excellent addition to our bargain.” This can't be happening. I have to fix this.
He jumped in front of Sophie, ready to protect her from the flames. “She’s not supposed to be here.” It’s my fault she’s here. I should have been more careful.
Brant smiled, the scars on his face puckering and his disfigured features contorting. “Then we’ll just consider her an excellent bonus.”
Sophie all of a sudden began thrashing and flailing. Her legs kicked up in the air, causing dry red sand from the ground to cloud around her. She screamed, her voice echoing in the empty space. Oh no, Alvar got to her. How am I going to be able to get her out now?
Alvar reappeared, slowly fading back into existence. His lips formed a wicked smile and his meticulously styled features were as perfect as ever. Sophie’s voice faded away as her arms were pinned behind her back. How could my hero turn out to be so evil?
Alvar ripped off Sophie’s Black Swan pendant, breaking the silver chain. The curved black metal sparkled in the light with the magnifying glass set in the center that shined like a spotlight. She can’t even defend herself now. Despair coursed through his body; almost all hope seemed lost.
“Let’s leave the fires to the professionals, shall we?” Brant asked as he crushed the monocle under his heavy, shining black boots. It broke with a resounding ‘Crack!’ The frame of the Black Swan was bent, while the glass from the magnifying glass had shattered, leaving glittering pieces of it scattered on the ground.
“I’ll take yours, too,” Brant said as he reached for the pendant that still hung on Keefe’s neck. What the— He jerked away instinctively, but Brant had successfully ripped it off his neck. Why would he need my pendant?
“Must we really do this again?” Brant asked with a slight hint of annoyance as he snapped his fingers, creating a sphere of Everblaze that burned so bright it was practically blinding. What is he going to do with that?
“Not if you let her go,” Keefe said.
“Now I’m finding it rather hard to believe your commitment,” Fintan told him. “Surely you’ve realized that switching sides means betraying your friends.” Of course, I just thought I would be able to tell them, without making it sound like I was some sort of enemy. Now Sophie knows and she is going to hate me. Why did Sophie have to follow me? Why couldn’t she have just left this all alone.
“What is he talking about, Keefe?”, Sophie asked her voice quiet.
“You can’t guess?” Brant asked in a condescending voice.
“Where’s the cache?” Fintan asked, not wanting to delay the inevitable any sooner. Now she is really going to hate me. How am I going to fix this?
There are better ways to save your mom, Sophie transmitted to Keefe, her voice nearly causing him to jump out of his skin. Let’s get out of here and we’ll figure it out together.
Keefe almost laughed. How could she not know this wasn’t about his mother? This was about making up for all the horrible things that had happened. How else was he going to be able to fix everything and bring down the organization that had killed so many innocent people and taken away the people he loved most. Anyways, there was no way they were going to be able to get out of here, at least not together.
“We should finish this at the hideout,” Alvar said impatiently. “Ruy will be wondering where we are.”
“Not until he proves he can deliver the item,” Fintan answered. “Show us the cache.” I am not going to do anything until Sophie is let go.
“Let her go first,” he responded his voice sharp.
“There you go again, making it hard to trust. So let’s make this easier.”
Before he could respond, Fintan shoved Keefe downward. His body thudded against the ground leaving him breathless and sore. He stared at Sophie helplessly from the ground, unable to move. Fintan lunged for Sophie, grabbing her arm so tightly it started to turn red. Everblaze erupted in his free hand in all its fiery glory. He held the flames under Sophie’s nose, just barely far enough so that it wouldn’t burn. “Give me the cache,” Fintan said, “or I’ll start giving her scars like the ones she gave Brant.” This is not going as planned. I should just give him the cache.
“Okay,” he said as he stumbled to his feet, his legs still shaking.
“I’ll get it right now.” Will Sophie ever be able to forgive me? He took a deep breath, preparing for the betrayal of the century. “221B Baker Street,” Keefe said, mimicking Sophie perfectly.
The cache fell into his hand with a resounding plop. It was a small marble-like object made of clear glass with small hairline fissures covering its round surface. Small jewels were surrounded by threadlike rings. Some were silver, while others were gold and black.
Sophie’s jaw fell open. Many emotions crowded on her face as though she couldn’t decide what to feel. I will fix this. I have to. I will take down the Neverseen and then everything will be okay and then maybe she can forgive me.
“How did you…” Sophie started, her voice trailing off.
He looked away, filled with shame. “I pieced it together after I heard you training with Fitz. And mimicking is easy.” Why did I have to do this?
“Give it here,” Fintan commanded, his voice leaving no room for argument.
Don’t do it, Sophie transmitted almost pleadingly. Doesn’t she get it, I have to do this.
He kept his focus on Fintan, knowing that if he looked at Sophie he might break. “You’ll honor the rest of our deal?”
“If you prove your loyalty,” Brant snapped back. What else did they need? I have already given them everything.
“I brought the cache—what more do you need?” he asked.
“You haven’t actually given it to us,” Fintan said as though trying to remind him. Fintan pointed to Alvar, the only one with free hands.
Sophie held her breath and stared into Keefe’s eyes. He could feel them boring into him as though reading his every thought and feeling. How am I going to be able to do this?
“Don’t do it,” Sophie begged. “The cache could destroy everything.” Doesn’t she know that I know that? Neverseen has the upperhand and I have to do something to fix that.
“That’s the point,” Fintan responded. “Three seconds, Mr. Sencen, then things get ugly.” She will understand why I had to do this, eventually. Once this all over, once I end this, everything is going to be okay.
As he handed the cache to Alvar, small sobs escaped from Sophie’s lips. Keefe could see Sophie attempting to grab it telekinetically, but it didn’t budge in Alvar’s tight grip. As soon as it was in his position, he leaped away, disappearing with the cache. Tears welled up in the corner of Sophie’s eyes, but they didn’t fall. Her shoulders shaked and she seemed so scared and frail. Just looking at her hurt.
“Now we’re getting somewhere,” Fintan said with a smile. The flame still stood underneath Sophie’s nose, flickering in the dull red light. He can’t hurt her now, not after I gave him the cache. “But you still have one more test before I’ll trust you. And since the strongest bonds are created with fire…” What else does he want me to do?
Brant smiled a horribly sickening smile that churned Keefe’s stomach. He bent down and picked up the bent frame of Sophie’s monocle pendant. His marred hands wrapped around the bottom of the pendant, careful not to cut himself against the small pieces of glass. What is he going to do with that?
As Brant passed the dented metal through the flames of Everblaze, a realization hit Keefe. He is going to ask me to brand her. Keefe was filled with sickening horror. Was he really going to do this? If I can just get her away then I won’t have to.
Keefe’s eye landed on the bead he had painted of the Panake with its different colored petals. A small blue jewel was set in one of beads with a small stream of light shooting out from it, so light it was almost impossible to see. I just have to get her to step into the light. “Brand her a traitor and maybe we’ll believe your commitment.”
“Why are you doing this?” asked Sophie with pain in her voice as he took the burning, red-hot pendant. “How can you join them after every they’ve done?” Why doesn’t she still understand that I’m to trying to fix everything. I’m trying to lead my own fate. Not the one I was set on. I need to find Nightfall. I need to find the mysterious door that could very well be the reason for my existence. I need to destroy it. I wasn’t born to be hero, but I won’t be a villain.
“I can’t pretend I’m who you want me to be anymore.”
“What does that even mean?” Sophie screamed back at him. It means I’m not the boy who everyone thinks I am.
“It means I got more memories back,” he said, his voice choked and shaking. “I’m not like you. You were made to be the hero. I was raised to be something… else.” But I have to fix that. I am going to get her out of here.
He reached for her face. She winced, but wasn’t able to move away. He touched the necklace he’d given her. The flowers were painted with painstaking detail and the beads was smooth under his touch. “I wanted you to have this before I left,” he whispered. I thought it would be good for you to have something to remember me by. In case someday…” I die.
“I’m growing impatient, Mr. Sencen,” Fintan warned. I need more time.
“Give me a second!” Keefe traced his fingers over the beads, lingering on the one with the multicolored Panake. I have to give her some sort of clue or something.
“I know why my dad hated it now. It looks like our Exilium necklaces, doesn’t it? That’s why my mom must’ve liked it. She knew I was meant to be the outcast. You keep trying to fix everything, Sophie, You even fixed Exilium. But you can’t fix me.” I’m already broken.
His eyes met Sophie’s. He could feel the uncertainty radiating off of her. He glanced to his left. Sophie’s eyes followed his gaze to the faintest trace of a light path, glinting out of the tiny crystal on the bead he had painted for her. After a few moments, a look of understanding registered on her face. Finally! She is going to be able to get out of here alive.
“You understand, right?” he asked, as though pleading for forgiveness.
“No,” Sophie responded, but Keefe could tell she didn’t completely mean it.
“I have to do this,” he said. “Please don’t hate me.” Though right now I hate myself for doing this.
Their eyes met again and he nodded towards the faint trail of light that he still held in place. He could see the indecisiveness in her eyes, but it was quickly turned into reluctant resolve. Sophie’s many conflicting emotions hit him, but the most prominent of them all was fear and the cold feeling of helplessness. I wish I could tell her everything is going to be okay. I wish I didn’t have to do this.
Sophie twisted out of Fintan’s grasp falling towards the path. Keefe stared at Sophie, watching the light he had created for her pull her away.