The reinstated lieutenant detective and first of the seven chosen had been getting better acquainted with the other passengers in the terrain dosser while they continued their journey to find the remaining six and the legendary armor. After his introductions, he reclined his seat and rest his eyes for a moment. Christian had return from the restroom in the vehicle and walked by the suit of armor that he had always seen outside the royal mystic’s chambers, as if standing guard. After seeing the hollow armor, he started wondering about the royal mystic’s thoughts on Seth. The young prince noticed the mystic drinking a soda from underneath his wicker hat while looking outside from his window seat.
“So, what do ya think of the first of the chosen?” he asked inquisitively.
The royal mystic was startled and spilled his soda in his lap. “Oh! What tha heck?! Look what’cha made me do! Ugh! This is gonna stain, this better not stain, this gonna leave a stain!” The mystic jumped up from his seat and did a light jog to the restroom to rub the soda out of his clothing before it stained his rob. He went inside and shut the door behind him, “Oh! Who forgot to flush the toilet?!” he whined.
Christian sat anxiously wanting someone to converse with. The prince leaned over and looked outside the window next to the mystic’s seat and noticed them traveling beside a large prison with many barbed wire fences. The terrain dosser began to slow down before coming to a complete stop near the entrance. Seth peeked his eyes open from his short nap and looked around before looking outside the window. He was definitely curious about their visit to the Vailstone correctional facility.
Christian noticed Raziel stand up and make his way toward the exit once again. The young prince began to follow until the grand duke turned around and faced him at the door.
“I’m going in alone on this one Christian, you don’t need to be exposed to the kinds of people in this place.” Raziel explained.
“Aw, please? I’ll be fine, I swear!” he begged like a small child.
“No, not this time. You can join me at next stop though, I promise.”
Christian sat back down in his seat slouching horribly. Seeing that his services were not needed at the time, Seth went back to sleep as the grand duke made his way inside the prison. Raziel had no trouble entering the building since his authority was only shadowed by that of the king. The warden made sure not to keep Raziel waiting once his presence was known. He hurriedly approached Raziel and shook his hand.
“Grand Duke of Vailstone, it’s an honor to shake your hand sir! Is there anything we can do for you this evening?” the warden asked.
“I need to speak with a couple of your inmates.” Raziel stated while handing the warden a small sheet of paper.
“Certainly, certainly.” The warden agreed after quickly glancing at the names on the list.
The massive prison was filled with low life scum and criminals of all varieties. The hallways were damp with cold pale grey colored walls and leaking pipes above. The Grand duke sat inside an interrogation room and had just finished talking with a scruffy inmate. He had written down information provided by the unscrupulous individual on a small note card which he placed in his coat pocket. The man was escorted out of the room by the security and nervously feared retaliation for talking with the grand duke.
Raziel remained seated patiently waiting for the next inmate to be presented to him while prisoners could be heard yelling obscenities at the security staff and fellow inmates. The keys of the guards could be heard echoing through the hallways as they were approaching the room. The door opened with two guards standing on each side of a twenty-two year old prisoner. The young man had extremely dark purple hair and had two triangular tattoos under each eye. The inmate squinted his eyes at the grand duke upon sight, trying not to appear intimidated.
Raziel relieved the guards of their duty for the moment, “Thank you gentleman, I’ll take over from here.” The guards respected the grand dukes wishes and shut the door behind them.
“Please, have a seat. We have to talk.”
“I ain’t got noth’in ta say.” defensively replied the inmate.
“Oh, but I think you’ll change your mind after to you realize I’m here to help you.”
The prisoner smirked, “Yeah, I’ve heard that one before, and look where it got me.”
“You don’t seem to understand, depending on how this conversation goes determines whether you remain here and serve out the rest of your sentence, OR if you get to leave here with me right here and now.”
Raziel’s words captured the twenty-two year old’s attention, so he decided to sit down in front of the grand duke on the other side of metallic table and hear what he had to offer. He placed his hands on the table while still handcuffed. Raziel opened a file in front of both of them and started looking through it.
“Let’s see, Wraith. Armed robbery, arson, drug possession, murder.........” he started reading.
“ATTEMPTED murder, they never found me guilty.” Wraith corrected.
“Come on, we both know you’ve killed, but look, I don’t care about that. The one in here that really got my attention was this one, assault with a deadly weapon.” he said pointing on the report.
“It says in here that you fancied using a sword back when you were gang bang’n.” prodded Raziel.
“Yeah, so?” Wraith failed to understand Raziel’s interest.
Raziel smirked and closed the folder and brushed it off to the side neatly, he then leaned back in his seat and crossed his arms, “Hmmm.” he sounded as he prepared his proposal.
Wraith sat in front of the warrior still eagerly wondering what was happening before him. Raziel broke the silence and immediately gained Wraith’s full attention.
“Okay, here’s what I’m prepared to do for you. You come with me on a small quest for your country and in exchange, I’ll completely expunge your entire record, and you’ll be a free man again.”
Wraith was curious why the grand duke seemed to need him so badly. “Quest for my country?” he responded. “You wan’me to go to war or somethin’?”
“Nothing like that, but my terms will be explained later. My time is very short and I’m starting to run behind schedule. So, what I need from you right now is to know if you want to rot in here and take the chance of being jumped by rival gang members or if you want to start over again and leave with me.”
Raziel stood up and began walking to the door as if he were to leave Wraith behind. The inmate jumped from his seat quickly. “Wait! I’ll go with you!”
Raziel smiled knowing he has gathered two of the seven chosen and knocked on the door from the inside letting the guards know he was done. The grand duke and Wraith were escorted outside the prison by the warden and four security guards. After allowing Wraith to change back into the clothing he was arrested in the warden presented a legal document to Raziel which they had both signed which relieved the warden and the prison of all responsibility of the released inmate and into the custody of the grand duke. With the motion of Raziel’s wrist in the air, several soldiers came and escorted both him and Wraith to the terrain dossers, leaving the warden and his security behind.
“Damn, those things are huge.” Wraith said in amazement. Raziel looked at the younger man, “You will be sure to watch your tongue while with us. Your prince will be traveling with us.” he said in a low scolding tone.
Ordinarily Wraith would curse in every spoken sentence, but minding his manners was a small price to pay in exchange for his freedom.
“So, when do we take these off?” Wraith asked, questioning about his handcuffs.
“You’ll be wearing those until your services are needed.” said Raziel.
Even though Wraith agreed to join, Raziel wasn’t going to take any chances. Wraith was still an untrustworthy criminal and would be treated as such. The two of them had boarded the terrain dosser along with the soldiers. Seth had peeked his eyes open to notice the handcuffed hoodlum. Christian got up quickly and approached the newest member of their group acting entirely ignorant of the danger.
“Hi, I’m Christian!” he said introducing himself and extending his hand for a proper handshake before noticing he was in handcuffs.
Raziel stepped in and placed an arm between the prince and the young criminal.
“That’s enough Christian.” he warned.
Wraith was annoyed with this manner of treatment and low sign of trust and respect. He glared at the prince seeing nothing more than a spoiled little rich kid with no responsibilities or burdens. Back when Wraith was running around in his gang, he and his fellow gang members would have beaten and bloodied up a peer like Christian. The mere presence of the prince annoyed Wraith and made him sick.
Wraith was handed off to the general, who escorted him to the back of the terrain dosser and seated him, cuffing his handcuffs to a metal bar. General Grechov stationed a soldier to watch over Wraith as they continued their quest. The grand duke pulled the prince and his daughter off to the side for a moment.
“Look even though that Wraith guy over there will be traveling with us, I don’t want ya’ll to have anything to do with him. He’s not to be trusted understand?” warned the grand duke.
Christian agreed and nodded his head while looking back at the untrustworthy individual who just so happen to be watching the three of them talking. Wraith was not close enough to understand what was being said, but knew it was about him due to the look on the prince’s face.
Carmon respond to her father’s warning in an aggravated tone, “I know dad, I’m not a moron.”
The prince quickly turned his head back around and looked at the grand duke in response to his warning, “Yeah, not a moron.”
The grand duke skeptically walked away from the two teenagers and approached general Grechov.
“Ready to move out, sir?”
“An unexpected detour.” Raziel answered while handing the general a paper with directions written down.
Christian sat near Carmon when the terrain dosser began moving again. “So what’da think he was in prison for?” the prince asked.
“I dunno.” she replied as if letting him know it was stupid to question her about it. She looked back at him cuffed to a bar handle on the side wall. It was clearly oblivious they were talking about him this time. “He’s cute though, don’t cha think?” she asked.
“Huh?! Wha,....what’re ya ask’n me for?!” Christian had a look of confusion and turned around looking at Wraith wondering what it was that Carmon saw about him that she considered cute! Was it because he had face tattoos? The prince looked back at Carmon and noticed her smiling and biting her bottom lip playfully. “What’s with you?” he asked.
Carmon appeared full of enthusiasm all of a sudden, “Wanna go find out?”
“What! Wait, you heard your dad, he doesn’t want us even around that guy!” the prince tried reasoning with the young brunette.
“Yeah, I know. That’s what makes it so exciting.” she grinned and leaned closer in toward Christian.
Christian leaned away from her and further into his seat, “I dunno.”
Carmon grabbed a hold of the prince’s hand, “Come on, you’re my friend right?”
“Of course!” he replied without hesitation.
“Then you’ll come with me, right? You can protect me.” she said playfully, knowing full well how to manipulate the prince.
The prince was nervous, not only about disobeying the grand duke, but also a pretty girl who he’d had a childhood crush since before he can remember, was holding his hand. The desire to please Carmon out-weighed the warning of the grand dukes and so he caved. “Okay.”
Carmon scrunched her nose as she chuckled. She had risen from her seat dragging the prince with her by holding his hand the entire time. The two of them walked between the rows of seats passing by the napping detective, who opened one eye as they passed.
Seth noticed the two teenagers holding each other’s hand and Christian’s flustered appearance. The lazy detective just absorbed the information and continued napping.
Carmon approached the ex-convict and the solider who stood by him. The sneaky girl coughed to gain the soldier’s attention. “My father said for you to remove yourself from back here while the prince discusses matters with our friend here!” she spoke with convincing authority.
“Yes, ma’ma.” the soldier obeyed his supposed orders and had a seat in the back row.
Wraith looked at the two apparently wealthy teenagers and in and rude manner replied, “I ain’t talk’n noth’n with him!”
Carmon sat beside Wraith, “That’s too bad, we just wanted to get to know you better. Wraith, isn’t it?”
Christian raised an eyebrow at how flirtatious Carmon was acting toward the new guy.
Wraith was suspicious of their behavior, but was pleased with Carmon’s apparent interest in him. “Oh yeah? What do ya wanna know?”
Carmon looked upward and thought for a moment, “Ummm, okay, like how long where you in prison and what for?”
The ex-gang banger looked Carmon in the eyes, “A year and a half, and I don’t really remember what I was in there for. I’ve done so much shit I can’t remember what charges they actually got me for.” Wraith was actually boasting that he had been involved with criminal activity.
“Wow, you must be really bad then huh?”
“They don’t get much badder then me, babe.” he replied, trying to entice the interested girl. “Let’s just say, people respect the name Wraith out there.”
Christian felt ignored and was definitely not happy with the attention Wraith was getting from Carmon!
“I bet they do.” she agreed. She then rubbed her hand down his face and stopped under his eye, “Did this hurt?” she questioned asking about his tattoo.
The prince opened his mouth in aw, “So it WAS the tattoos!” he thought to himself out loud.
Wraith kept a tough guy face the whole time, “Na, it didn’t bother me, I actually enjoy pain. What about you? What’s your name?” he asked leaning toward her as much as the handcuffs would allow.
“Carmon.” she said with a sparkle in her eyes, “And this is my friend Christian.”
“Oh? Just a friend?” Wraith prodded.
Christian nervously interrupted, “Well, we kinda have a bet going on right now!” he chuckled.
Wraith snapped at Christian, “DUDE, who’s talk’n to you?! I’m talk’n to your friend here, so lose it!”
Christian was startled and caught off guard for a moment, and then thought, “Lose what?”
“Ya know, when I was walk’n back here I saw you had a sword by you. Is it yours?” Wraith inquired.
Carmon removed her hand from resting on his thigh, “Yeah.”
“Why didn’t you bring it with you, ya don’t feel scared of dangerous men? What if I tried to hurt you?”
Carmon smiled deviously and ran her finger through Wraith’s hair, “The only man I’m scared of is my daddy and he kills all the other dangerous men. But my daddy loves me, so he won’t kill me but if YOU tried to hurt me...............he’d probably tear your head off and rip your face open.”
Wraith smirked, “Oh yeah? Who’s yur dad? That old guy take’n a nap?” he taunted.
“My dad is the guy that got you out of prison.”
Wraith nervously swallowed as he could actually picture Raziel capable enough of doing as Carmon predicted! Christian smiled as he could read the nervousness of the ex-convict’s face. The grand duke’s voice belted throughout the entire terrain dosser, “CARMON!” The prince’s stomach sank instantly upon hearing Raziel’s angered tone of voice.
Seth and the royal mystic peered around their seats as Raziel marched to the back of the vehicle. Raziel grabbed Carmon by the arm and pulled her up from the seat next to Wraith.
“What tha hells the matter with you, huh? I specifically said not to come back here and that’s exactly what you did! Why do you enjoy testing me?!” His daughter refused to make eye contact with him as he vented, but the prince’s eyes only opened wider as Raziel’s anger was directed towards him. “And you, I can expect this sort of disobedience from her but YOU! If you cannot listen any better than this then you won’t be joining me on any more of these quests, understand!”
The prince tried defending himself, “I was just, …...”
“I don’t care to hear excuses.” Raziel sighed. “Just sit back down.”
Carmon, Christian, and Raziel began walking away from Wraith and back to their seats until Wraith spoke out.
“Shoot man, you need’a chill.” he said in a low voice.
Raziel stopped and did a slow full-bodied half turn, and then turned his head the rest of the way and glared at Wraith with a murderous stare. Wraith recognized the look in a killer’s eyes and had immediately regretted opening his mouth. Raziel just stood staring at Wraith for what felt like forever and said nothing before turning back around and sitting back down. Silence reined throughout the machine until they had reached their next destination.
Eventually the terrain dosser had come to a complete stop in the middle of a heavily wooded forest. Lieutenant Brookes continued sitting in the driver’s seat and flicked small switches near the steering wheel of the behemoth vehicle. “We’ve reached our destination General.”
General Grechov sat nervously in his seat looking at an envelope with the Vailstone royal seal. “Very well.” he stated before standing up. He then looked over toward the grand duke, “How should we go about this one?” he wondered.
Raziel stood from his seat and walked over to Grechov and took the envelope from him, “I’ll handle it.”
Christian jumped from his chair and hurried over to the grand duke as he made his way to the door. Raziel stopped the prince in his tracks, “Where do you think you’re going?”
“You promised I could join you at the next stop! Remember?” Christian reminded.
“That’s before you disobeyed a direct order, and so now you’re sitting this one out.” he scolded.
Christian was frustrated that it seemed he would be sitting on the terrain dosser the remainder of the venture. He mustered up a facade of bravery and responded back to Raziel in a manner at which he had never done with him before, “Well, I’m the prince and I say I’m going with you.”
Raziel looked down at the prince with a bewildered look upon his face. “Excuse me? What did you say?” Raziel asked leaning inward to Christian.
Seth opened his eyes to see the power struggle while Wraith watched in anticipation of a violent attack.
The teenage prince was more nervous than before and was unaware of what direction to go from this point. Christian’s thin body stood motionless.
“I don’t care, YOUR father put me in charge of this operation and YOU. I don’t know what’s gotten into to you all of a sudden, but we’re playing this by my rules, understand?” he said in a stern authoritative voice.
“Yes, sir.” Christian replied in a weak timid whisper.
The royal mystic stood up from his chair and placed his fingers to his face as if touching his mouth. He began reflecting on the current situation, “I dunno bout this. It could be too dangerous, or a trap!”
“Look your magic said we needed the assassin, so I’m gonna go out there and get’em.”
Christian was blown away, “An ASSASSIN?”
Seth was fully out of his nap at the sound of this new bit of information, “A what?!”
The general extended his arms to settle the others down, “Everyone just calm down for a second.”
“The royal mystic’s magic here said that we need to recruit this person.” Raziel explained.
Seth was disturbed with the route this journey was taking, first a convict and now an assassin? “Magic? Yeah, right. What’s the point? How did you manage to find this assassin, anyway? Looked him up in the phone book?” Seth exclaimed sarcastically.
“Once we were notified that Cain was required for our mission, we gathered information from an informant of his within the maximum security prison. He told us how the procedure works if we want to contact him and we intend to follow his instructions very carefully. Nothing should go wrong.” the general explained.
“Go wrong?” the prince asked, but was ignored.
“Cain? His name is Cain? Like the biblical murderer who killed his brother?” Seth deduced in an agitated manner.
“I hadn’t even though of that, it’s a good guess but honestly we don’t know. We’re not even entirely convinced Cain is a “he”.” the grand duke replied.
Seth sat back in his seat and ran his hand through his hair, “Well this sounds like an all-around good idea.” he stated sarcastically.
“Keep the door ready for me.” Raziel alerted the general.
“Won’t you take any men with you sir?” Grechov questioned.
“No, I don’t want to send the wrong signal if we’re being watched.”
Raziel stepped outside the large machine in a very slow and steady pace. He held a concealed gun on him just in case of a surprise attack. Thirty yards away from Raziel stood a relatively new mailbox, but unlike the rest of the forest, it was the only object in the center of a perfectly orchestrated circle of trees. Small limbs snapped underneath the grand duke’s feet while small colorful leaves danced gracefully from the trees to the ground below. It had gotten later in the day and a dim light struggled to shine through the trees. Cautiously, the man slowly shortened the gap between him and his destination. A crackle in the distance forced Raziel to stop in his tracks and look around. He was a bit unsettled by the mystery of the unknown, but was fully capable of slaying whom or whatever might attack him, if anything.
The forest was so thick and full of wild life, yet everything seemed so quite. Everyone inside the terrain dosser was placed beside a window watching in suspense, while the general stood posted in the doorway in case of any sign of trouble. A light breeze had blown through the grand duke’s hair as he continued his way. He stopped only a few feet away from the ominous mail box and noticed singed tree bark on a surrounding tree. Raziel couldn’t ignore a bad feeling in his stomach and so took a quick look around from where he stood. He reached inside his jacket and pulled out a sealed envelope with the royal seal on it. He then extended his arm to open the mailbox until a small detail caught his eye. One of the forest trees behind the mailbox also showed a charred burn, Raziel stopped and took a deep breath as he paid closer attention to the detail around himself.
He realized that all the surrounding trees bore charred markings on the sides facing the mailbox. Raziel put the envelope back inside his jacket pocket and took a deep breath as he calculated what to do next. Christian and the others continued watching from the terrain dosser.
The general slightly leaned forward while watching Raziel, “Why is he just standing there? Something’s not right.”
Christian was getting worried, “What do ya mean?” he asked looking back and forth between Grechov and Raziel, “What’s wrong? What’s happening?” he worried. Christian was fretting over what danger maybe lurking near the grand duke and started getting more anxious.
The royal mystic walked up and stood behind the young prince, “Well, if somethin’s wrong then shouldn’t someone do somethin’ ta help’em out?”
“No, he’s a skilled warrior, he knows how to handle whatever’s going on out there. We’d only get in his way.” the general explained.
Tension was rising quickly as they watched and did nothing to aid Raziel. Christian started getting fidgety as a guardian who’s been a role model for him his whole life could very well be in danger. His mind started racing thinking of all different sorts of danger that could befall him, and wondering why he was standing perfectly still and not moving at all. Christian was feed up with waiting around without doing anything and didn’t want to just stand by if something threatened to kill him. The young prince looked inside himself and had seen this as his moment to step up and show he was a man and somehow rescue the grand duke. The teenager bit down and mustered his courage before moving around the royal mystic, running past Grechov, and sliding down the ladder to race to the grand duke’s aid! The general reached out for the prince to hold him back but was not quick enough.
“GET BACK HERE!” Grechov demanded!
“Raziel!” he shouted while hurrying towards him.
The grand duke turned his head quickly and looked over his shoulder, his eyes widened as he realized his time for figuring out the trap he had walked into was up. Something needed to be done before the prince was in danger as well! Christian was in full sprint to help Raziel until the grand duke turned and charged directly at him. “NO! GET BACK!” he shouted.
Christian stopped in the rain of dancing leaves that fell from the trees. For that small moment in time it had felt as everything had become still and quiet, it was obvious something terrible was to befall them. The grand duke suddenly ran from the inauspicious spot and caught up to the prince who was petrified where he stood in the cascading foliage. Raziel swept him off his feet and carried him as far away from the ominous mailbox. Instantly the mailbox ignited into a massive ball of flame. The trap had been set off which activated a trigger causing a huge explosion in the center of the circle of trees where Raziel was standing. Raziel leapt to the ground and shield the prince with his body. A large wave of flame from the explosion disintegrated the leaves and loomed over to the prince and grand duke. The fire circulated the two of them, leaving them stranded in a tornado of fire. Raziel lifted his head while continuing to protect the prince and looked at the dancing flames as they whirled around them. He was confused, wondering how the fire from the explosion could fly around them in such a manner. He looked forward and noticed that the royal mystic was standing outside the terrain dosser and whirling his staff around in sync with the flow of the fire which had them trapped.
The royal mystic then lunged his staff upward in the air at which time the flowing fire did the same and disbursed in the sky above them. Everything around the grand duke and price was scorched except for themselves and the grass around them. Flaming leaves danced in the air around them and drifted to the burned ground below.
The general and lieutenant hurried out of the large machine with multiple soldiers to the aid of the grand duke and prince. Raziel looked under his arm at Christian to see if he was injured before standing to his feet. He carried the young prince in his arms back to the terrain dosser before handing him over to Seth and a few of the soldiers. Christian was shaken and terrified by the whole event. They carried him inside the terrain dosser swiftly and gently for medical aid in case he was injured. Grechov and the lieutenant saw to the aid of the grand duke, Raziel looked the royal mystic in the eyes and padded him on the shoulder as he passed by as if telling him, “thank you” and entered the terrain dosser.
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