The Shadow

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“Caeli!” I couldn’t stop myself from shouting her name, not when I saw her collapsed on the ground. Chest tight, I ran over to her, dropping to my knees and touching her shoulder slightly. She was unconscious, but she was breathing. I looked up from her to Leopold, the Spanish asshole was smiling when I did. “What did you do to her?” I asked, my voice quiet as I looked at the assassins in the cavern with us. I didn’t want to give them any reason to attack. I looked back down to Caeli, pushing the hair off of her face. She looked so peaceful… “What did you do?” I asked again, my voice a little more venomous as I looked up at him.

“Syrus…” Vincent warned me with a hand on my shoulder, it made me look at the assassins once more. They were all moving in, trapping us. I didn’t care.

“What did you do?!” I shouted, my hands shaking from anger as I kept touching Caeli’s arm. I couldn’t leave her, not like that.

“Believe it or not, Dawson, we did nothing to her,” Leopold replied, a smirk on his face as he stood over me. An attempt at intimidation, but it wouldn’t work on me. I wouldn’t let it.

“Then how did she end up unconscious on the floor, asshole?” I asked next, my eyes flicking between the Temple assassin and the person who I now knew to be a friend, a part of my family. Someone who I had just finally begun to understand, there was no way that I would let them take her from me now.

“You really haven’t been paying attention to her, have you?” Leopold asked. I had to think about what he meant. But the way her hands had been shaking, the mood swings, the dimming of the torches… it all tied together. It had to. “Since you arrived here, landed in the lake, she’s been becoming weaker, and it’s not because of anything that we’ve done. This place has a special effect on a few, select number of people, but Caeli is one of them.” Leopold explained, but it left me with more questions.

“What are you on about?” Vincent asked. He hadn’t been as concerned until just now. As I looked up at him, I could see the worry on his face.

“The explanation can wait until she wakes up-”

“Like hell, this is my daughter you’re talking about. I get the explanation now.” Sinclair stated, and I had never heard his voice so venomous before. Nor had I heard him call Caeli his daughter before…

“She should wake up soon, we need to get her to the Priest. And in case you’ve forgotten, you’re in no position to talk back to me.” Leopold stated.

“He has a point,” Nylah spoke out loud, she was the only one of us still watching the assassins circling us and walking ever closer.

“We need to move,” Leopold repeated his point from before, looking to some of the assassins. “Grab her and let’s go.”

“Don’t touch her.” I almost growled the words as four assassins moved towards us, they must have seen the anger in my eyes because they all hesitated in their movements.

“Fine then, you carry her,” Leopold stated, and I didn’t hesitate to do so. I put an arm under her chest and my other arm under her legs, as I lifted her up, I looked around to the assassins. They couldn’t touch her, not after everything that had happened to her, after everything she had done for Nylah and for me. This was the first time since I had met Caeli that she wouldn’t be able to protect herself, and no matter how long it was for, I would do my best to keep her safe. I wouldn’t let her down. I couldn’t.

“Fall behind, and you die. I would prefer that we don’t have to resort to that though, we have to have Caeli in a good mood when she wakes up and if we kill one of her precious little family members, she might be pissed.” Leopold explained. I didn’t reply to him. Instead, I just stared and waited for him to move.

I was directly behind him, but there were assassins in between my sister and I and even more between Vincent and us. Separating us was a good idea, I understood that, but what I didn’t understand was why Leopold was at the front of the group. Why would all the assassins be following Leopold who was meant to be a trainee?

I understood that there was history with Caeli, it was probably a factor.

I couldn’t help but tighten my hold on her at that thought. Even though Caeli had told me she didn’t have feelings for Leopold, it was nigh impossible to sleep with someone as often as they probably did without something there.

She had let him go, twice, without damage.

From what I could gather, he would have been Caeli’s first. There would always be a soft spot… I wasn’t sure if that was reciprocated.

From what I had seen, Leopold was calculating, but he was also a great actor. The hotel room, when he had supposedly come to kill us, that night had confused me since it had happened. Leopold had been too calm, not just in terms of emotion but also with his actions. If he really had been tasked with killing us, he would have been stronger, brought back up, been on the attack more than the defence unless he had come that night for a different reason. To make Caeli come to Paititi, to drop the hint of the necklace, of who the Temple worked for. The only people who understand how Caeli works in that respect are those who have been close to her.

“You aren’t a trainee, you’re in control here, aren’t you?” I had to ask. When I did, I felt Caeli move slightly. I looked down at her, but she was still unconscious or at least pretending to be. Leopold continued walking in front of the group in silence, ignoring my question. “You wanted us here, wanted Caeli here,” I stated, I felt Caeli move again but ignored it as Leopold turned around to look me in the eye. Everyone else stopped moving as we stared at each other. “Tell me I’m wrong.”

“You’re not,” Leopold responded, he looked down at Caeli for a second. “I see why she keeps you around now, you two think the same way, albeit you are slower.” He told me, I looked down at Caeli’s face when he finished speaking. She was utterly relaxed, her eyes moving beneath her eyelids. Was that why? I knew we shared some similarities, but I never noticed we had the same thought process.

“I take that as a compliment, considering the fact she didn’t keep you around,” I replied as I smirked, Leopold sneered, but lacked a response. So, maybe there was something there… regret, perhaps he had a soft spot. He could hide those feelings behind the front of anger and hatred. To throw him off, all I had to do was get under his skin, which I was proud to say I was already doing swimmingly.

At least, that’s what I gathered when Leopold turned back around and kept walking without saying anything. I couldn’t push him for a few minutes, having him go off like a bomb while Caeli was still unconscious wouldn’t be helpful in any kind of way. I had to keep him worked up, just at the right amount.

After a short walk, we made it to another cavern, where we met another eleven assassins. I counted them accurately and note that one of them was wearing a white cloak instead of grey—a position of power, the Priest no doubt.

The assassins that walked in alongside me and the others all knelt on one knee for a few seconds. I watched them all with confusion on my face but didn’t move to do the same. Caeli wouldn’t have, so I wasn’t going to either.

“Stand.” The man in the white cloak stated so the surrounding assassins did just that. “It seems our prestigious guests have finally decided to join us.” His voice echoed around the cavern, projected well and in a tone that exuded dominance, control. He walked over to me, and my mouth went dry, he was terrifying and around him sat an air of power. That aura made me shrink inside, but I couldn’t on the outside. Defiance, that was one thing I was good at.

“Caeli, I know you’re awake. Stand up.” The Priest spoke in a commanding tone. Caeli groaned before she opened her eyes and looked up at me. I wish I could say it surprised me, but I guessed she had been awake from when I had spoken to Leopold. If not, she had been awake before that.

“Thanks for the ride.” She whispered as I put her legs down, her lips near my ears as she held me close to communicate before they could take us apart. “What you said about Leopold, it makes sense. I think I know what’s going on.” She added before she pulled away from me, and I already missed her warmth.

She turned to look at the Priest, and I could see him watching us. I was still holding her hand… I let go of it slowly. I didn’t like how he was watching the movement. I didn’t like how he seemed to see what I was feeling, how I felt about her. I could see him calculating how to use it against me.

“Restrain her,” Leopold stated simply, a few assassins moved to do so but stopped when the Priest held his hand up. Such a simple gesture, but there was so much power in it. “My Priest, I think it is best to-”

“We did restrain her.” The Priest stated, looking into my eyes. Shit.

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand,” Leopold replied, and even though it confused him, I understood what the Priest had meant.

“Leopold, look around this cavern.” The Priest stated, so the young assassin did so. “There is more than one kind of restraint, we have thirty assassins in this cavern and the only three people that Caeli cares about with us. She won’t do anything, not when it would result in them getting killed.” Caeli kept looking at the Priest, who had finally turned his attention away from me and to her. There was a second of silence, where I finally realised we would not be getting away for a while… but laughter soon filled that silence—Caeli’s laughter.

“What’s so funny, Caeli?” Leopold asked. He took a stride towards her in what was probably a horrible attempt at intimidating her, it didn’t work.

“The Priest thinks you’re a good option to be his heir,” Caeli said, tilting her head to the side. This was what she meant when she said that she knew what was going on. She knew why he was in control; because he wasn’t just a trainee to be an assassin, but to be a leader of the organisation. “Do you remember what I said I would do if you double-crossed me?” She asked, and as she did the mood in the cavern went from humour to anger. I remember it what she said to him that night at the hotel. She would kill him, and she had meant it.

“To double-cross you, I had to be on your side in the first place. Besides, Caeli, in your current state, I don’t think you’re capable of much.” Leopold responded, and, to my ears, it sounded like Caeli growled in reply.

“We have more important things to focus on,” the Priest said, his voice slick as silver.

“Like why you want me here,” Caeli stated. Even though she was exhausted and confused, her personality was filling the space, competing with the Priest’s for power and attention.

“Yes, and why I wanted to buy you from the Order. They’re interconnected.” The Priest explained, and I saw Caeli’s body physically tense at the mention of her past. Her entire arm tightened, her muscles defining themselves. She was strong… it was almost easy to forget.

“How so?” She asked, pulling the hair tie out of her hair so her hair would fall down around her. She always had her hair up when something was going to happen, she hated having her hair in her face during a fight. There was a reason she took it out… she signaled that there wasn’t anything she could do yet. When she puts her hair up, it could be a signal that she’s going to do something. I smiled, it was precisely what she was doing.

“Because of what you are. The Order wanted a child for one reason, to make a weapon. An occult one.” The Priest said, Caeli’s arm visibly tensed again.

“I don’t have powers.” She said with finality, her hand clenched.

“Yet.” The Priest added, any movement in Caeli’s body stopped. She wasn’t even breathing. “You weren’t just trained to be a physical weapon, your parents were chosen specifically for their ancestry. They fed you specific items from their stores to give you power, to change something inside of you to make you into a lightning rod for magic.”

“Magic?” She scoffed, her body relaxed again.

“Magic is just science we don’t understand yet…” I whispered. It was a quote I remembered from something but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Caeli turned to look at me, a smile falling from her face.

“The boy has a point.” The Priest stated, but Caeli was still looking at me, our eyes locked. I always knew the colour of her eyes meant something, I didn’t think it would be supernatural. “Around the world, there are blessed places that have unimaginable and currently unexplainable power. This power was labelled magic by those who found the places throughout history. Andres Lopez, our friend who found this place, said it was one of them. To know for sure, we had to bring someone with your talents here, and we already have. They went through the same phases as you did, Caeli, but when it came down to it, they couldn’t control the power. Once they realised what we wanted, they tried to fight against us, but the power consumed them, and they died. We tried again, this time with someone that didn’t have alliances like the last one. You.”

“They worked for the Pope…” I trailed off, the Priest nodded.

“Whatever this power is, you want it for yourself.” Caeli turned to look at the Priest once more.

“Always so observant.” The Priest said, he walked to stand between Caeli and I. A barrier. Separating us. We worked well together, and he could tell. “You will help us find this source of power, because if you don’t…” The Priest trailed off as his assassins readied the voracious and various weapons that they had. Nothing had to be said, the action was enough to terrify me…

And terrify Caeli as well, whose face paled. She looked like she might be sick. She looked at me, I nodded slowly. We would work this out, we would find a way out, but not right now. We needed the right moment, a point when we weren’t separated. She nodded back, probably thinking the same things as I was. She took a breath and looked at the Priest once more, a resolve in her voice I hadn’t heard before.

“What am I looking for? And how do I find it?”

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