Flame and Shadow

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Chapter 44

Several minutes later, we arrived at the location I had in mind. The sun had set, with only a fading pink glow as a reminder of its presence. The still-warm summer night was exclusively lit by several yellowish streetlamps. We stood on the north-west edge of the town, away from any sort of traffic or activity. The steepled building before us was completely dark, without a single light in the windows.

“A church?” Sera questioned skeptically. Milo was silent.

“Is there something wrong with hiding in a church?” I asked her.

“Well, not exactly. I believe in God and everything, it’s just, all of my time at Nahalore, religion and stuff just seemed like a way to control people. It made them feel all self-righteous and better than everyone else, like they were the ‘predestined ones’. Not such good memories.”

Then Milo added his thoughts.

“At Tsalderek, religion was all about working hard to do good things and earning your righteousness. That didn’t work, and it turned almost everyone there into ambitious, conniving, prideful monsters. I don’t want anything to do with that crap. I’m done with God stuff.”

This was going worse than I had expected. My cheeks reddened slightly, but I maintained my calm.

“I’m not asking you to sing in the choir or be an altar boy or anything. We just need a place to stay for the night. The church is completely abandoned at night, and no one would ever think to look there.”

Milo’s arms were crossed, and Sera looked displeased, but they didn’t say anything else.

“Plus,” I offered. “I think there’s a small room in that steeple that someone can use to keep watch for any attackers.”

Milo nodded his approval.

“Alright. We can stay here.” Sera affirmed. “Have you ever been inside?”

“No.” I admitted. “But I’ve seen it for a few years now. I just thought it would be a good place to hide out.”

The three of us walked up the stairs to the front door. When I attempted to open it, it was locked.

“Hm. Well, maybe we can try the side door over there.” I suggested.

We headed around the south side of the building, and pulled on the handle of the secondary door. It was also locked.

“Great. Now what?” Sera asked. “Do you want me to burn the door down?”

I shook my head and opened my mouth to make a statement, but Milo cut me off.

“I don’t think so, sis. I’ve got this.”

Sera developed an extraordinary expression of embarrassment and anger on her face as he pushed past us toward the door. The strong young man pulled back the sleeve of his shirt to expose the gadget on his forearm. With the push of a button, a thin, knife-like projection flipped out. It wasn’t until he began putting it to use that I realized what it was. It was a lockpick!

After a moment, the lock popped, and Milo swung the door open.

“After you.” He gestured with his hand.

I nodded thanks as I passed through the door. Sera did not look at him, and had an irritated disposition as she entered. Once the three of us were all inside the dim church, we headed to the sanctuary. A small amount of light from the streetlamps came through the tall windows, giving enough illumination to have a conversation.

Milo had his arms crossed and gruffly demanded more information.

“OK. We’ve followed you this far with having no clue who you are or why you would help us. We’ve found safety, but we’re not going any further until we get some answers.”

I nodded.

“Um, OK. Fair enough.”

He continued.

“For all we know, you’re just some weird girl covered with…tattoos of some kind…running around with force field powers. We’ll start with the basics. You said you knew I was the Shadowy One, and she was some kind of Fiery One. How do you know about the prophecy?”

“The same way you do. Someone told me.”

“But you’re not from Nahalore or Tsalderek, are you?” Sera enquired.

“No, I’m not.” I answered, shaking my head. “I’m from another organization entirely. My family’s passed the prophecy down for generations. That’s how I knew about both the Shadowy One and the Fiery One.”

“Is there more to the prophecy? How much do you know?” Sera pressed.

“There’s so much more, but I don’t know most of it. I carry it with me…here.”

I held out my hand, palm up, and pulled back my sleeve.

“You’ve already seen these, but these aren’t tribal tattoos. They’re the words of the prophecy.”

“How does that work?”

“Well, there is a Book of Prophecy, written thousands of years ago. No one knows who wrote it, or where it came from. But my ancestors have been protecting it ever since then. In order to prevent people from abusing it, they performed a ritual to strip the words from the book, and attach them as markings to the chief’s wife. Ever since then, these black markings appear on the wife of the current chief. When she dies, they disappear from her body, and appear on her oldest daughter. So right now, I’m carrying every word of the ancient prophecy on my body.”

“Is there any way to read it?” Milo asked.

I shook my head.

“The only way is to use the book. If I touch the pages, I can put the words back into a form we can read.”

“Well, where’s the book?” Sera wondered.

“Yeah, that’s the problem. Those guys who attacked us, the ones you call Teklos, they have it.” I explained. “They’re afraid that if the prophecy is fulfilled, it will mean the end of their organization. So they’ll stop at nothing to prevent it from becoming complete. That’s why they want to kill you. They know that only the Fiery One and Shadowy One can bring about their end.”

“So if those guys want to keep the prophecy from being fulfilled, then that’s exactly what we’ll do.” Milo stated. “You know the prophecy. How do we go about finishing it?”

“Honestly, I don’t know. But I know where we have to start. We need to get the Book of Prophecy.”

“How? Where could it possibly be?” Sera interjected.

“I’m not sure, but I have a map. I’ll show you tomorrow. It’s too dark tonight.”

Both of the twins looked a bit skeptical, but there was nothing I could do for now.

“Let’s get some sleep.” I recommended. “We can start our new adventure in the morning.”

“Fine.” Milo conceded. He then started walking away.

“Hey!” Sera exclaimed. “Where are you going?”

“I’m going to go keep watch. In the tower.”

“What! I’m going to keep watch! I’m the big sister! It’s my job to take care of you!”

“Whatever. I’m the man here. It’s my responsibility.”

Sera attempted to push past Milo, but he pushed her back.

“Cut that out! You get some sleep, and I’ll keep watch!”

“I don’t think so sis. You couldn’t handle staying up all night looking for enemies.”

“I TOLD you, don’t call me that!!” She exploded. “And I can too!”

“Hey, um, why don’t you take turns keeping watch?” I proposed. “Then you could both…”

But they didn’t listen to me. They continued arguing throughout the church, and as they climbed the stairs to the tower.

Oh dear. This is going to be harder than I thought.

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