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04-06-20 09:37 AM

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The Fire's Heart- Chapter Nineteen
Meagan's city is under siege and things are not going well.
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The Fire's Heart- Chapter Nineteen

 

10-19-13 11:09 PM
Dragonlord Stephi is Offline
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In the next installment of Meagan's adventures, the flash heralded an enemy army who quickly sieged the city. Whups.

This has got to be the longest chapter in the story. For that, I apologize. I suppose I could have split it into several smaller chapters, but I decided not to for flow, even though there are several scene changes.

Siege

Arya frowned. “The sky.”
Ayana looked up from her research. “What about it?”
Arya leaped up from the mattress and bounded down the stairs. “Carmen! It's here! He's-” Arya paused. Carmen held one of her pistols, cocked, pointed at a young boy. His hair was blazing white, and his eyes pits of deep indigo.
The boy laughed. “Well, good evening!” he mocked. “Ariana... and you.” He pointed to Carmen. “You baffle me. What are you doing with a Victura in your house?”
“Well, I say it's none of your business,” Carmen replied coolly.
The boy chuckled. “It is very much my business. I know everything about you. I can even feel your heart beating.”
Sweat rolled down Carmen's forehead, but she remained composed. “Why? You want it?” She shook her head. “You can't have it.” Carmen pulled the trigger. With inhuman speed, the boy was behind her. He grabbed her arm and forced it behind her back, rather rudely. She cried out in pain and dropped the gun, while he forced her to her knees.
“You're an idiot,” he said. He kicked her, and Carmen cried out again.
Arya took a step forward, and his voice cut through the air. “Don't you take another step. She's just a lowly human anyway. Would you really give up a prized Victuran life for hers? Especially the life of... oh, I don't know, your long-lost daughter?”
Arya's jaw dropped.
The boy continued, “I'm sure you remembered. Back when you lived in that little cottage with that elf. I have her, you know. She takes after you- beautiful music, she makes. She's quite talented.” He grinned again. “All these years, searching, and little Melody has been right under your nose. The poor girl grew up in an orphanage because of you. Leaving her like that... that was quite uncalled for, don't you think? Little girls should be able to trust their mother at least.” Arya's fists curled into balls, and he added, “Why don't you sing a requiem for lost years, hmm?”
“Requiem... are you telling me... that my little melody... my Melody... is Requiem?”
“You didn't notice? Tsk tsk.” The boy sounded amused. “My goodness, Ariana, you're slipping. Her essence alone should have tipped you off. Oh, no. She's only half. Did that throw you off? It is rather difficult to tell when they're half-breeds, especially since you Victurans aren't very fond of them. 'Pride in the pure,' you say.”
“Can it, Malum,” Carmen replied.
He kicked her again. “I don't follow orders,” he hissed. “Especially from humans. How'd you know my name?”
“I don't like to repeat myself,” she said. “It's none of your business.”
Arya frowned, jutting back into the conversation, “Malum, please give her back. What'd she do to you? Please!”
Malum grinned. “Our deal is still good now.”
“I can't do that.”
“Then live without.” He grabbed Carmen by the hair. “And you. What kind of human are you?”
A creak in the stairs made him turn around, but no one was there. He returned his attention to the sheriff. “Well? Who are you?”
Carmen lifted her chin and glared at him. Malum shrieked and let go. “Who are you? Why... how come every time I look into your eyes I see...?”
“Do I make you uncomfortable, Gate Boy?” She asked, standing and towering over him. “You can ask all you want, and I'll never tell you.”
“Frida! Quay!” Malum cried in panic. Shadows split from the walls, taking walking form. “Frida, take that woman! Lock her up until she says everything, you understand? Quay, decimate Ariana. I have to make a stop.” Shaking, he stood and walked to the door. “Don't even try to escape,” he threatened. “My army has Lewis completely surrounded.”
“You think I care?” Carmen asked, picking up another gun. “Bring your thousands. Bring your ten thousands. I don't give a hoot.”
“You sound confident,” Arya muttered. Clearly, she was feeling the opposite of Carmen.
“C... curse you!” Malum cried. “You Victura... and you sheriff! Whoever you are... curse you!” Then he walked out, slamming the door behind him.
Carmen grinned. “So... do some shadows want to have a little tussle? I had some practice in Dietum just a little while ago.”

Meagan watched the procession of soldiers march past her window. She couldn't recognize their country, and drew the curtains when once turned and smirked at her. Her mother was turning the radio to the newscast, dizzy with panic. “Enemy forces marching through all of Regnum, not just Lewis... troops appeared around time of flash in sky... Chief Sorceror Nathaniel Linius has yet to comment on this national crisis...”
Meagan's mother locked the doors, closed the shades, and sat down on a chair. She sighed heavily. Meagan's head was reeling. My goodness, if they came around the time of the flash and Malum made that... could he be involved? “I'm such an idiot!” she cried.
Mrs. Pronozuk looked up. “What?”
“The Gate! Somehow it opened, and now Malum is here...”
Mrs. Pronozuk's face whitened. “The... Gate? You've seen it? But... it's not supposed to exist!”
“Yes, well, technically, depending on where and who you ask, valkyries don't exist either. I'm sorry,” Meagan stood and pulled on her coat, then grabbed her sword, “but I think I just made a major mistake.”
           “Where are you going?”
           “To fix something.”
“In the middle of a siege? Don't go!” Mrs. Pronozuk grabbed her sleeve, desperation and sadness in her voice, and worry in her eyes. “Meagan, I couldn't bear to lose you too!” It occurred to Meagan that the past weeks had been difficult for her mother, and she chided herself for not noticing. Of course Meagan wasn't the only one grieving. Her mother had lost a husband and a daughter. How was that not supposed to take its toll? Meagan yearned to obey her and stay, but at the same time, she felt wretched and indebted, undeserving to do so. She had no clue how she did it, but Meagan knew that somehow, she had aided Malum. So, as much as both of them wished to just curl up near the fireplace and pretend there wasn't an army outside their doorstep, such a luxury was to be denied to the little valkyrie.
“I'm sorry, but I'm going.” Meagan spoke slowly, forcing the words out. “I have to fix a mistake, because I can't just tell everyone 'sorry' for this. Sorry doesn't cut it.”
Mrs. Pronozuk sighed. Her daughter had made her mind up, and Meagan stuck furiously to whatever she had decided to do. “Then promise me you'll...”
“I promise.” Meagan smiled. “I promise, and whatever it is, I'll come back to do it!” She bowed, showing utmost respect. It was almost never used in the household- far too formal- but only for politicians or the monarch.
It was also used when saying goodbye when one expected to never cross paths with the other again.
Tears welled up in her mother's eyes, but Meagan ran out the door without another word. She felt that if she said something, she would cry too.
Meagan tread softly. If she got caught, who knew what would happen? Creeping in the shadows, Meagan mentally laughed at the irony. To defeat an army of shadows, I crawl in them. Malum was either going to the Meeting Hall or the palace. She had a fifty-fifty chance either way, but she had a leaning towards the Meeting Hall since she knew at least Linius was there, and he had her sister. She unsheathed her sword, feeling warmth caress her fingertips and course over her body. The sword was spewing confidence, but in her gut, Meagan felt only deep fear.

Carmen ducked a swipe from Frida's dagger. A vertical slash came hurtling down, and she parried with her gun. The dagger embedded itself in the firearm, and Carmen searched frantically for another weapon.
Arya dodged and flitted about, defenseless. “Carmen!” she screamed. “I need help!” She may have said so, but it certainly didn't look like it. Quay's attacks were terrible, not hitting her at all, and Arya seemed to be dodging with relative ease, almost as if Quay was attempting not to hurt her.
A fireball raced out of nowhere and smacked into Quay. “Score!” Ayana grinned as her invisibility spell dropped. “That freak didn't see me coming! When the stairs creaked, I thought I was done for, especially when he talked about sensi- whoa!” She jumped over an attack and landed on Quay's shoulders. “Naughty little shadow. How'd you get physical enough to be a bother?”
“That's the question,” Carmen replied.
Ayana froze her in a chunk of ice and deftly flipped off, landing next to Carmen. “Now we deal with this bugger.”
Frida scowled. “If Quay failed, then she is weak to have failed to such inferior creatures. You will not render me unable to fight, vermin.”
“I don't plan to,” Carmen scoffed. “Surrender is enough. And inferior? That's rather rude.”
Frida snarled and attacked. Carmen moved aside and delivered a solid punch, but her hand went right through the shadow-flesh. Frida laughed. “You can't touch me, but I can totally rough you up!” She grabbed Carmen and thrust her dagger. Carmen coughed scarlet and kicked, but the shadow did not move.
Ayana racked her memory and released a spell she hoped would work. Esilanna had written it in her journal- how to turn solid to shadow and shadow to solid. With a sudden body of flesh, Frida found that Carmen's next kick hit, giving her a painful impact on the chest. She reeled back, and Carmen pulled the knife out of her abdomen. Wiping her mouth, Carmen pointed the knife at Frida. “You should not have done that. Silver can kill one of you instantly. What idiot brings a weapon that could be his destruction?”
Frida made a face.
“You pitiful creature; your master has not taught you well,” Carmen continued. “Run back to him with your tail between your legs and tell him I'm not an eight-year-old.”
“We haven't lost! We have the child queen, and the minstrel,” Frida shoved in their faces.
“I'm aware,” Arya hissed. “We haven't finished.”
“Yes,” Carmen agreed. “You will run to your master and deliver the message, and you will take me with you, so that I may give him his present.”
“What's that?”
“A solid fist in his face!” Carmen replied.
“What if I don't agree? What if I say no?” Frida asked. “Will you kill me?”
“Don't be stupid,” Carmen snapped. “I don't kill. Never again. But Frida... I can do worse than kill.” Looking into her burning, angry eyes, Frida could tell she meant it. So serious... and cold when she needs to be. What on Htam drove her to that?
“I'll do it,” Frida said.
“No double-crossing?” Carmen asked.
“No double-crossing,” Frida replied, and looking into her cold, empty, and scared eyes, Carmen knew she meant it.
“But first,” Carmen suddenly said in a much more cheerful and light-hearted tone, “Ayana, stick Quay in my freezer, will you? It wouldn’t do to have her thawing out.”

Donny (remember him?) was one creeped-out unicorn. He was downright shaking as the strange couple with the unnerving eyes stopped in front of him. “You should be inside,” the woman said. “Shadows and unicorns are not good to mix.”
“She's right,” the man added. “Scurry.”
“Who-who are you?” Donny asked.
“A king,” he answered, “and his lady.”
Donny shook his head. “Can't say you’re familiar,” he said. “But king… wow.”
“Oleander,” the woman said. “I sense an essence roughly 600 yards ahead, and one 1200 yards west.”
“Do you recognize them?”
“One is Ariana, and the other is... strangely close to Ascella's, but not hers. Ariana is the one west.”
“Let's take the forward one. It's closer. Put Jess and Joel on the west one.”
“You don't want to see Ariana?”
“I'm intrigued. Who could possibly have an essence close to Ascella's? But you honestly don't feel Catty's?”
“If I did, I would have told you,” she snapped. “How can you know she’s in the city but not where? That’s just pathetic, Ole.”
He nodded, and they continued onward without another glance in Donny's direction. “Wait!” the unicorn cried. These people seemed important. He had a feeling that he should follow them. “Take me with you!”
The woman turned. “Belladonna and Oleander live in harmony because both are dark. If night eats the lady's black berries, he is not harmed; but if the sun were to take one, the sky would die. Raspberry, the innocence, always fights belladonna. It does not let it roam free.”
“What?” Donny scratched his head. “I don't like riddles. Can I come or not?”
“No,” snapped Oleander, and on they went.
“We're closing in,” Mariale announced. “Less than fifty yards.”
“Oh, I would be so lost without you!” Oleander thanked.
“Don't I know it.”
“I didn't sense anything.”
“Sensing was never your strongest virtue,” she teased.
“Like you and cooking?” Oleander replied. “Remember that one time…”
Mariale turned red. “Now wait just a sec-”
“Shh!” Oleander drew his sword, tense. “I heard something.”
“Confound it!” Mariale whispered. “I can't see anything in this infernal darkness.” Sweat rolled down the side of her face. Mariale had a slight fear of the dark- it may have had something to do with being stuck inside a dark Gate for 500 years.
“Our people like light,” her husband whispered.
“Arguably, Oleander, we can barely count ourselves as Victura.” She groped out with her mind, trying to find an offending essence, then sighed. “It was a bird.”
“I thought you couldn't see anything.”
“I didn't see it. Again, sensing. It's great.”
“Don't rub it in.”
They continued. “Essence is twenty yards...” Mariale said. “Ten...” She stopped. “Meagan?”
“Ah, yes. A valkyrie. What a bright sword. Looks like one of ours.”
“It is. Ascella's, to be exact. That's why I got confused. How on Htam did she get it...?” She paused, hesitant, then called, “Meagan!”
Meagan jumped two feet into the air and then whirled around, surprised. “Marian?!” She took in the Victura’s new appearance and appeared to be startled by what she saw. She’s changed. She’s standing straighter, with more confidence, and her eyes… like a snake’s…
“Mariale,” she answered, “but yes, it's me.” She beckoned. “This is Nikolas. Call him Oleander,” she introduced. “Don't stare at me like that; I'm not a ghost. Speaking of which, where's your obambo pal?”
“With a friend named Emma.”
Mariale took a deep breath, and then the dam broke loose. “Don't think I have no clue! That Malum is here because of you! I warned you! What did you tell him? How'd he escape the Dream World?”
Meagan cringed. “I'm not sure and I don't know,” she admitted.
“I'll tell you what you did!” Mariale raged. “You somehow opened the Gate without realizing it. You must have been the person who opened it when I escaped, and I promise you that not soon after you met me, you could actually see him- not just his voice, but his face... but how were you able? Never has a valkyrie ever been able to open the Gate...” She lifted Meagan's chin and stared into her eyes, just as Arya did in Dryadales. After an eternity, she let go, and Meagan shivered. Her gaze was unnerving, penetrating. “Your essence... is hidden and difficult to read,” Mariale said. “Something is hiding it; that's how I didn't realize before... Meagan, are you really a valkyrie?”
“Yes!”
“Of course you are,” Mariale replied, and smiled, though it seemed worn and rather forced. “How foolish of me to think otherwise.”
“Are you here to stop Malum?” burst Meagan. “That's what I'm doing. I'll need help.”
“Obviously,” Mariale agreed. “You can't take him on alone. Oleander, go find your sister. I'll go with Meagan from here.”
“Are you sure, Mariale?” he asked, dubious. “I mean, I know she’s in Lewis, but where exactly in Lewis is another story all together… Are you certain I can find her?”
“Quite sure.”
“I can't sense!”
Mariale sighed. “Southwest, 2000 yards. Ariana’s moved. You should too- chop chop!”
“But-”
“Move, for the Victor's sake!” she roared. “I'm sorry, but I can't take you with me. Oleander... it'd break my heart if you knew.”
“Knew what?”
“Meagan,” Mariale ignored him, “come on. We only have a few hours. At dawn, if we've really gotten a stroke of bad luck, his plan will reach his climax, and we'll be screwed.”
“Sounds cliché.”
“It is.”
“What's he want?”
“I assume to kill us all, though hopefully he has some other idea.”
“Why?”
Mariale laughed bitterly, though Meagan didn't see the joke. “Why, indeed?” mused the Victura. “We'll have to ask him.”
“I don't know what I did. Honestly.”
“Maybe it wasn't your fault, but then the question becomes: whose? Who else could have let Malum out?”
Striding forward, Meagan frowned as they walked. “Where is he? I guessed the Meeting Hall. Do you think he's there.”
“I know he's there. I can sense it.” Mariale scowled. “The place reeks of dreams.”

After Carmen had quickly bandaged her abdomen, refusing any magical aide, she had Frida lead them to Malum. Arya fingered the silver half-heart and groaned. “If only we had the other half,” she complained. “This is terrible.”
Ayana, deep in thought, tapped Carmen lightly on the shoulder. “Is it possible Linius was the only traitor in the Circle? The rest of them didn’t come off as traitors. Idiots, maybe, but not traitors. So… possible?”
“Very,” the sheriff replied. “And to think he had the nerve to accuse you of treason... it makes me sick. It's very possible the Circle is full of idiot politicians and Linius was the one sabotager, but one is enough.” She shook her head. “Power-hungry fools. All of them, not just him.”
“Excuse me!” a voice called. A man burst out of the shadows. He had curly brown hair, wore a black cape, and had cat-like violet eyes. At the sight of him, Carmen's hand flew to her rifle, which she had conveniently picked up before leaving, ready to draw and shoot. The man noticed. “Don't!”
“What are you doing here? Civilians should be indoors.”
“Ah, quite right... sheriff,” he replied, having seen the badge. “I'm looking for someone.”
“So is half of the world,” Carmen shrugged, and turned away. “Head to the police station to file a missing persons report.”
“No, you don't understand! Do you know where I can find Cattallus?”
Carmen's eyes widened and she pivoted, firing several shots. The man dodged with feline reflexes. “I asked you not to shoot!” he exclaimed. “I'm Oleander. Her brother. Please! I've been looking everywhere.”
“There's no one by that name in this city,” Carmen said coolly. “Go home.”
“Of course there is. Otherwise you wouldn't have shot at me.”
Carmen turned her back to him. “Lead on, Frida. He's spouting nonsense.”
“Please!” Oleander cried. “She needs me!”
“Then why, pray tell, did you not look for her earlier?” Carmen asked. “And no, she does not need you. She hasn't needed you since she’s last seen you, and chances are, she'll never need you again.” Carmen walked away.
Oleander watched her disappear and cursed. “Stupid, stupid, stupid!” He sighed. “Where are Jess and Joel? Didn't they head this direction?”
There was a muffled scream, and a beating of wings. Jess landed in front of Oleander and dropped a rather irked Carmen. “Joel's getting the other three,” she reported.
“Thank you. Now... sheriff, you know something, don't you?”
Carmen scowled. “So what if I do? I wouldn't help a jerk like you.”
“Don't make me-”
“What? Hurt me?” Carmen interrupted. “As if. You wouldn't even come close to my breaking point.”
Oleander groaned. “You're wasting my time!”
“And you are wasting mine, sir.”
“Not to be rude, sheriff, but my time is a wee bit more valuable than yours.”
Carmen smirked. "I doubt it."
Joel appeared. “Sir,” he said. “Ariana has been accompanying the sheriff.” He gestured.
Arya curtsied. “Hello there, Oleander.”
“Ariana!” Oleander greeted. “Oterra’s younger sister. You’ve… grown.”
“You haven't changed a bit, Oleander,” she said.
“Being immortal has its perks,” he grinned. “I see you have taken an elvish form; it seems to have served you well. Poor Esilanna, though...”
“If you want to badger me like Carmen here, my answer's the same as hers.”
“Why won't you help me?!”
“Because Cattallus requested that we don't.”
“But Malum is here!”
“We know,” Carmen interjected.
“She knows?” Oleander asked. “You told someone who's not one of us?”
“Shut it,” Ariana snapped. “If you really want to be a pain and follow us, go ahead, but don't get in our way.”
Oleander scowled. “You're going after him?”
“You bet,” Carmen retorted. “I'm not going to let a public menace like that walk around unrestricted.”
Carmen tossed Oleander a spare pistol she had picked up after she had tamed the shadow-being. “Here.”
“I don't need that piece of cra-”
“Take it!” she snapped. “Now can it and either go home or help us!”
Oleander sighed. “What'd I do to you?”
“That must be the stupidest question I've ever heard,” Carmen answered. She laughed, and Oleander saw that her left sleeve was ripped- she had a prosthetic.
“What happened to your arm?”
“I lost it.”
“No duh. How?”
“It doesn't matter. What matters is that you are wasting my time while an idiot is trying to destroy this city, and I can't let him do that.”
“I'm sorry.”
“You should be.”
“You're right.”
“Then leave us in peace, for Regnum's sake!” Carmen shouted.
“No! I made a promise. I promised I'd find her. I can't break that promise!”
Carmen nodded. “All right. If you're so passionate about it, Ariana and I will take you to her soon as the pest infiltrating Regnum is gone. I don't know how happy she'll be to see you, but it won't be very much.”
“It doesn't matter. A promise is a promise.”
“Frida!” Carmen called. “Now that this is sorted out... lead us to Malum.”
Ayana grinned. “Come on!” she paused. “You coming too, kitty?”
“I am a were-lion,” Joel growled.
“Cats are cats,” Ayana joked.
Carmen smiled at the wave of nostalgia the phrase brought. Once upon a time, someone had told her that, but she was gone. Dead. Once upon a time, Carmen had said that to someone too... but he wouldn't even recognize her, though he was close and she recognized him. In truth, she didn't care for many people from her past, with the possible exception of Esi, someone she cared about so much that she didn’t even care Esi was hundreds of years old and a Victura. Other than Esi, who was there? In fact, she despised almost everyone she once cared for immensely.
Ayana appeared next to her. “How do you think we'll get in?”
“Frida will show us.” Hopefully, Carmen added mentally.
Ayana nodded, though the answer was not very satisfactory. Whatever Carmen planned, she hoped it was well thought-out.
Carmen hoped so too. I hope Frida is absolutely certain this will work. She very much wanted to crawl into her attic and hide there with the items of her childhood that she'd stashed in her trunk, but the thought of vengeance being so close drove her forward. She understood Ayana's driving force. How was one to explain the feelings coursing through the two of them? Losing a mentor, a best friend.... it wasn't something that everyone understood. Ayana was going through it for the first time, and she was reacting as Carmen had. But the sheriff was... not used to it, but had been through it a bit. She was no longer sentimental and crying over every little death. She hadn't even shed a single tear when she discovered Esilanna was dead. Now, she hardened her heart and prepared herself for the road ahead, because she knew that if her resolve was not of stone, she would never be able to exact her revenge. Ayana would have to learn that soon.
She thought, This road is not for those with weak wills.

“Ugh! The place is crawling with idiots,” Mariale hissed, hiding behind a corner. She glowered at the guards pacing to and fro in front of the Meeting Hall. “How on Htam are we supposed to get inside?”
“I don't know.” Meagan reached for her sword, intent on fighting her way through, but Mariale stopped her.
“The second you touch that, they'll know we're here,” Mariale warned. “There's something about that sword... it absolutely spouts its essence. Ascella was able to control it, but you... you have no clue what you're holding, do you?”
“Um... it's my grandma's sword.”
“Your grandmother's?” Mariale said with with a tinge of amusement. Meagan stared. What was so intriguing about her sword? It was obviously magical- she figured that out in Dryadales- but she had no idea how she was able to detect its attributes- after all, she wasn't able to use magic.
“Um, what do we do now?” Meagan asked.
“That's a good question. Isn't there some secret entrance of sorts? There always is...”
“As if I'd know it!” Meagan exclaimed. “I don't have a very good connection to the Circle. Ayana was the only wizard even close to it that I know.”
Mariale sighed. “That's no good... whoever built this stupid thing was a genius. The River bends, so I can't use it to enter.”
“River?”
“Space and time... it's a River, and each moment is a little stone in its rushing course. It bends, just like any other river, and that building... time must be hectic there. I assume there are rumors of hauntings?”
Meagan nodded.
“Have you ever lost track of time and noticed hours have passed when only minutes seemed to?”
She nodded again, recalling the night Annalise had died- she and Ayana had sworn only minutes had gone by, but found themselves looking at several hours passing.
“That makes perfect sense,” Mariale muttered, “because the River only reaches it a little bit... only its spray can even gloss over that building. Someone built this to keep Victura out... or to keep them in. And the hauntings... glimpses of the past fall onto the rock of the moment, like a stray raindrop.” She shook her head. “Never mind that, though. The question still remains: how do we get inside? I was going to use the River, but that's useless to get us in.”
“I can help you with that,” someone declared behind her. Mariale straightened, not turning her head, and her eyes widened. “I must say, your very presence is as unsecretive as that sword,” the voice continued. “What brings you here, Mariale Domina Belladonna Regina?”
Mariale pivoted. “You are?”
“Oh, don't say you've forgotten me already. Ebbony at your service,” the newcomer answered, and bowed. She wore a loose white blouse with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows, and black pants that seemed to be made of a synthetic, almost glowing material. She had long, black hair and hazel eyes that looked very amused. “You're standing on my ground. Are you lost, little Victura? You don't really stray from your River.”
“Shouldn't you be near your volcano?” Mariale snarled. “It's rather cold up here for fire-witches.”
“Oh, you've mistaken me for someone else. That Ebbony no longer exists. This one is no longer a fire-witch but... well, she hasn't decided yet. Or has she? You'd love to know, wouldn't you, Domina Belladonna?” Ebbony(?) laughed. “In any case, I can get you in and hide your essence from those who can sense.”
“Yes, please!” Meagan accepted.
“Wait,” Mariale said, and put her hand in front of Meagan as a bar. “I know you, Ebbony. It's been a while since you came so close to the River.”
“Why are you surprised? It is mine, after all.” Ebbony grinned at the glare Mariale gave her. “What? You don't agree with me?”
“That Gate isn't yours, Ebbony. It's not mine either, and the River chooses its own master. You can't control them.”
“Oh, you're still blinded by that delusion,” Ebbony frowned. “My dear, that's just simply not true.”
“Who are you to say that?” Mariale retorted. “You didn't create the River. You didn't build the Gate.”
“I know that. The River isn't my work at all, but the Gate... that's definitely artificial and definitely my project. Man-made. I see you're still angry about the scar; that must be why you're so antagonistic.” Ebbony sighed. “I can't dream up another reason.”
“Let's go,” Mariale whispered. “I don't want her help.”
“But I do!” Meagan responded vehemently. “No offense, but she has a better idea as to what to do next than you, and I think Linius is in there. He has my sister.”
“She's got a point,” Ebbony cut in. “I'm far more knowledgeable than you. Don't forget that I'm the one who taught you, Domina Belladonna- or would you prefer Regina Belladonna, even though we both know you don’t deserve the title? I could take her and leave you, if you don't wish to come. The choice is entirely yours.”
“Meagan, she's not the amazing chance you think she is!” Mariale said. “She always has a price, and it's not one you can pay. Trust me. You didn't listen before, but please do this time. Think, for Htam's sake! Meagan, you can't risk it!”
“I'm sorry, but she can help and you can't. I need her,” Meagan replied.
“Of course you don't need Mariale,” Ebbony sniffed. “No one's needed Belladonna's help for anything honorable. The only thing she knows how to do is poison words.”
Mariale scowled. “She's not a Victura, Ebbony. She can’t help you return.”
“I know that. Still, this girl interests me.”
Meagan raised an eyebrow. “I what?”
“None of your concern, dearie. Leave the lady to stew here angrily. Come.” She held out her hand, the palm facing upwards. It was pale, and had no creases or even a hint of fingerprints, looking unnatural and strange.
“Don't take that hand, Meagan,” Mariale pleaded. “Run. Go find your friend who might know another entrance. Get help from the police. Anything. Just don't take her hand.”
Ebbony grinned. “It's true I have a price... but I haven't decided what it is yet. Will you take the risk, little one? I get angry when I'm double-crossed. Your friend there, Domina Belladonna, was once whole, and now she's broken.”
“I'll do it,” Meagan decided. “I'm willing to risk it.”
Mariale scowled. “Fool,” she uttered in disgust. “Fine then. I'll find my own way in.” She turned and walked away, without a second glance.
“Have fun with that,” Ebbony called, and then grinned to Meagan. “So, little one, will you take my hand?”
Meagan nodded and put her hand into the smooth, seamless one.
“Oh yes. One more thing. I've decided that this Ebbony... has wings.” Feathered appendages unfurled from her back, feathers glistening in a shimmering black. “They're straighter than yours.”
Meagan hadn't really forgotten the awkwardness of her wings. It was more like she tried not to think about it. She didn't appreciate Ebbony's bringing it up again. Ebbony laughed. “They're just for show. This Ebbony can't fly. She only wants to look like she can.”
“Aren't you Ebbony?” Meagan asked, confused. What on Htam? This Ebbony, that Ebbony... what is she talking about?
“I'm an Ebbony. Who's to say there aren't thousands more? Are you implying there is only one Ebbony and only one Meagan in the world?”
“No.”
“Of course there are more! Therefore, you are a Meagan, and I am an Ebbony, and who's to say any different?”
“I don't know.”
Ebbony leaned in closely and whispered, “You know who? I'm to say. There aren't. I am the only Ebbony. This Ebbony is the only Ebbony. The River is mine, and until you pay your price, Meagan, you too are mine.”
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11-10-13 10:04 PM
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Dragonlord Stephi : Thought I forgot eh ? Well I didn't  Dias--...  Nice story . A bit lengthy but beauty comes with a price eh ? As does the entrance to the City Hall? Can't wait to see what that price is  Oh I do love the suspense you created in this one . And I agree that joining them would build it up way better than dividing them . Good choice and Well done  
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11-10-13 10:47 PM
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Splendid. This was a huge chapter. But worth it. You did a good job with it. It was very suspenseful. I liked that bit with Donny. xD
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