The convoy of terrain dossers had long since moved on from the location of the explosion in the woods and had settled miles away to set up camp. It was very late in the night once the decision had been made to rest. The large machines were parked in a circular pattern with tents of the soldiers pitched in the center. A few lanterns were posted outside the tents to illuminate the darkness. It was a starry night sky and the moon was bright. The royal camp was set up far outside Vailstone and not a single sound could be heard from the forest except a light rustling of the leaves from a spontaneous breeze every now and then. Armed soldiers created a perimeter for protection against enemies and wild beasts. The grand duke was treated for bruises and a few scratches he obtained from the explosion and was looking over a map with his general and lieutenant for the quickest route to take to reach their next destination.
Inside the lead terrain dosser was a small shower room in which the young prince bathed. The small room was hot with condensation all over the walls. Christian’s eyes were closed while he washed his hair. He braced himself against the shower wall with his arm and lowered his head, allowing the shower to rush water over his head and rinse the shampoo out. He breathed deeply trying to calm his nerves, reflecting over the traumatic events of the day. He remembered wanting to aid Raziel so badly, but feeling helpless and weak once he was out of the protection of the terrain dosser. His mind would not allow him to forget the over whelming since of fear when the grand duke used himself as a body shield, feeling the heat of the massive flame as it swarmed around them. Recalling the grand duke carrying him as a small child and being handed off to Seth and two soldiers with first aid kits. A large sense of doubt began to fester in the teenager’s gut until an image flashed in his mind’s eye! Christian opened his eyes with the hot water flowing down his face. The image he had envisioned was his father’s face.
The prince thought to himself about his father’s bravery and the epic tales of danger and heroism that he and the grand duke had faced together and overcome. This first actual brush with death had caused Christian to do some serious soul searching. He thought deeply, surely there have been moments when his father or Raziel had doubted themselves, or times where they were scared and uncertain. Christian had made up his mind and strengthened his resolve. He would not allow this one incident to waver his dreams of becoming an adventurer and a true hero. The prince dried himself off and looked at the fogged mirror in the small room. He wiped the mirror with his hand so he could see his reflection. He looked deep into his own eyes.
“You can do this. You’re strong enough. Be fearless.” he said to himself in the mirror.
Seth walked over to Carmon and sat down beside her while she ruffled through one of her carry-on bags. He sat with his elbows resting on his knees as he was hunched over in his chair, he remembered seeing Carmon with a hollow expression on her face after the explosion earlier that day. The look in her eyes, the callus expression, it was almost as if she was void inside. Seth thought maybe she was in shock or traumatized by the event in some way.
“You okay?” he asked her.
“Yeah. Why wouldn’t I be?” she answered with a sense of emptiness.
“Well, that was your old man out there. I’m sure you were probably scared out of your mind for him. I just wanted to say that, if you wanna talk, I’m here for ya. When I was on the P.D. years ago I heard lots of stories and, well........, I would usually get stuck with kid cases, cause they’d say it was easier for the younger people to talk to me about their problems. So, I’m just say’n if ya feel the need to talk, you can come to me.”
Carmon stood up holding her carry-on bag and moved in the aisle between the row of seats. She looked down at the recently reinstated detective, “He’s a big boy and can handle himself. And I’m not a kid.” she replied in a callous tone.
Carmon left the terrain dosser leaving Seth, the royal mystic, and Wraith, who had managed to lay down and fall asleep while handcuffed. Christian stepped out of the small shower room and continued to dry off his hair.
The royal mystic chuckled to himself, “It’ll take more than that, ya know.”
Seth turned around in his seat, “What do ya mean mystic?”
“Carmon is a strong gul. It’ll take more than just a bomb ta rattle her cage.” he explained.
Seth crossed his legs and looked at the royal mystic who was reading an old dusty looking book.
“Lemme ask you a question, was that YOU earlier? With the fire? Turning around the prince and duke. You stopped that fire from reaching the both of them, didn’t you?”
“Ya.” he answered quickly.
“How did you do that? Was it really magic?” he inquired.
“Ya. I could explain how I did it, but’cha wouldn’t understand any of it. Was that chur first time see’n magic before?” asked the mysteriously faced mystic.
“Yeah, I’ve never actually seen anyone use magic up close before. I know it sounds a bit silly seeing as how we’re in the northern part of the continent, but I’ve always lived my life here in the cities. I never really ventured out to see spells or magical creatures.” Seth confessed.
The royal mystic leaned against the wall of the terrain dosser and tilted his wicker hat downward. He then used a large soft blanket to cover his body. “Well yur certainly in fur suprises on this trip.” The royal mystic was warm and cozy, he then closed his eyes to fell asleep.
Christian walked over to where he was seated on the terrain dosser and pulled some royal slippers out of his bag. He slipped them on with a big smile, “These are always so soft.” The prince noticed the royal mystic had fallen asleep, then looked at Seth, “What were you guys talk’n about?”
The detective reclined his seat back, “Magic. I was telling the mystic that he’s the only one I’ve ever seen wield it before. I suppose you’ve seen magic a lot growing up with him around, huh?”
The prince grabbed the towel around his neck and dried his hair off more, “Yeah, sometimes on me and my sister’s birthday’s he’d summon fireworks or something. I’ll never forget this one time he made one of my action figures come to life. I always thought that was pretty cool.”
“That does sound neat.” he replied. Seth looked back at the heavy suit of armor near the back of the vehicle. “Made it come to life, huh?” he asked himself under his breath.
Despite the terrain dosser’s thick plates of armor, a loud thud was heard on top as if someone was on the roof. Christian and Seth both looked upward when they heard the noise.
“The grand duke must be stationing guards to watch over us from on the roof.” the detective deduced. Seth looked outside his window and noticed there was some sort of commotion outside. Four soldiers ran by their terrain dosser as if trouble was a foot.
“Hm,........I’ll be right back.” Seth got up from his chair and stopped at the door. “Be sure and stay inside for a minute.” he stated before walking outside to investigate. He grabbed the side ladder and climbed up to the top of the terrain dosser. He got on the roof and looked around a moment. There, on the roof, was a large cannon on top with an unidentifiable object behind it in the darkness. Seth made sure to step quietly and breathed calmly as he inched closer to the mass in the darkness. He sighed and lowered his guard once he realized it was a broken limb that had somehow fallen on top. He grabbed the large branch and dragged it over to the side, he looked down to make sure it would not land on anyone. As he took a firm grip, he prepared himself to toss it over until he noticed that the broken branch appeared to have been severed rather than snapped. It was a clean slice, as if with a strong blade. He figured it seem odd but threw the branch off the side anyhow.
Meanwhile, back in the terrain dosser the prince sat comfortably while Wraith and the mystic slept quietly. A small wrenching metallic sound could be heard from behind. Christian sat up and looked behind towards the back of the vehicle. Another mysterious sound was heard, which started giving him the feeling something else was in the vehicle with him.
“Carmon?.......Mr. Seth? You there?” he asked softly.
Another metal sound echoed from inside. The prince stood up and remained in one spot. He squinted his eyes and moved his head about trying to see through the dark end of the machine. The young prince nervously leaned over to the sleeping mystic to wake him up.
Christian slightly nudged the sleeping magic user to wake him up, “Mystic, I think something’s inside.” he warned in a soft whisper as not to alarm the intruder.
The sleeping mystic waved his arm at whoever was trying to wake him, “Bllafer-shreb.” he muttered in his sleep as if replying back.
“What?” Christian wondered unclearly.
“Chu.” the mystic respond falling completely back to sleep.
The prince rolled his eyes realizing the mystic was not going to be helpful. This time another obvious sound was heard from behind, there was no denying another presence was on board. He stayed frozen perfectly still nearly two minutes before taking a step to investigate.
He slowly walked closer and closer, he passed up the sleeping criminal before reaching large boxes and wooden crates in the back. Christian heard another noise and turned around only to see the royal mystic’s suit of armor. The prince was frozen and could not move. Was a childhood fear of his coming true? Was the armor really watching him when he would walk by it in the castle? Has it come to life like the action figure did on his birthday? Something in Christian’s gut was telling him to get away, so he slowly took a few steps backward while still watching the angry looking armor. He moved back and bumped into someone’s body. The person placed their gloved hand over the young teenager’s mouth and put a rusty blade to his neck. All Christian could see was an arm with multiple scars up and down it. He listened intently as the mysterious person spoke in an almost demonic sounding voice.
“Listen to me,.......... don’t yell,.........and answer my questions. You’d better tell me the truth,........understand.” the scary voice warned the prince by pulling the rusty sword closer to his neck.
Christian was scared out of his mind and muffled a, “Yes.” in response.
“Good,................earlier,.....in the woods. It was you and the grand duke from the Vailstone kingdom that set off that explosion?” he asked loosening his grip over the prince’s mouth so that he may answer his questions.
“Yes,.....that..that was you?” he replied nervously.
The intruder grabbed hold of his mouth once again and leaned in closer. “Shut up! I’ll ask the questions. Now, why has the king sent a small army after me?”
After he loosened his grip again the prince answered in a scared and near whimpering voice. “We n...need you. Our mystic,.......he said, ...he said that you were needed. You and,.....and six others,.....so we can get a legend,.......legendary armor! We’ll pay you! Whatever you want! Please don’t hurt me!” he requested as he started to tear up.
Seth returned and tried opening up the door to the terrain dosser, but he was locked out. He tried looking inside through the window, but he couldn’t see anyone. He was starting to get worried and started knocking on the door, “Christian, you still in there?” he asked through the door.
He didn’t get an answer and started getting more worried. He remembered the perfectly severed limb and was starting to wonder if it was just a decoy. “Christian! Mystic!” he yelled out.
A soldier walked over to Seth beating on the outside of the door, “Do you need some help sir?”
Seth looked back at the soldier, “I think something’s wrong! The prince is inside, but nobody is answering! Can you unlock the door!?”
“The grand duke has a key. I’ll be right back!” the soldier answered back and took off towards the grand duke’s tent.
“Hurry!” Seth pleaded.
Raziel was still looking over a map with the general. “This Kaz person the mystic said is required is the only one who is out of our way. It’ll save us time if we split up.” the duke figured.
Within moments a soldier rushed over to the lieutenant, who was keeping guard outside the main tent. “Whoa, slow down there soldier.” she warned. “What’s your hurry?”
The soldier informed the lieutenant of Seth’s concern and the prince’s safety. Lieutenant Brookes poked her head inside the grand duke’s tent and interrupted their conversation to inform them of the situation.
Back at the terrain dosser a faint echo of Seth’s pounding outside the door could be heard. The intruder could hear the detective from outside and knew his time was running short before his cover was completely blown.
“I,.....I can prove it to you!” the prince pleaded.
The assassin ignored his distraction and leaned his head in closer to Christian. He gave him a little shake and in his demonic voice asked, “How? Tell me!”
“Be,...before the explosion.....Raziel was gonna give you a,......a letter!” he explained. “That,....that it’ll explain everything! I swear!” Christian blubbered cowardly.
“Where is the letter now?!” the intimidating man growled.
“I,....I don’t know! It should still be in his,....his jacket!”
At that time the grand duke and general arrived at the terrain dosser and immediately unlocked the door. Raziel, Grechov, Seth, and many soldiers poured into the machine to save the prince if he was in fact in any danger. The assassin positioned the prince in the direction of the others coming to his aid.
“Do not scream. Say nothing!” the murderer warned.
In less than a minute the grand duke made his way to the back of the terrain dosser where Christian and the mystic’s armor were. He stopped as soon as he saw the prince. Standing perfectly straight with his entire body quivering and tears in his eyes, it was obvious something had happened. “Christian? What’s wrong?” he asked shifting his eyes to see if someone was near, “Why didn’t answer when you heard Seth outside?”
The prince nervously turned his head and looked behind himself. Once he saw the assassin was no longer behind him, he darted into the grand duke’s arms crying his eyes out. “Hewashereandhehadaswordtmahythrtn,...n,..ntoldmee!” the prince slurred his speak together as he tried to quickly explain what had happened.
“Slow down, slow down. Take a few deep breaths, okay?” he said brushing the emotionally wrecked teen’s hair. Seth and Grechov approached behind them, curious as to what exactly was going on.
“Search the entire vehicle.” Raziel ordered while waving his arm for the soldiers to continue. “Was somebody else back here with you?” the grand duke asked in a calm and comforting tone.
The prince nodded his head as he struggled to maintain his nerves. Raziel turned his head to Grechov and motioned for him to secure the area. The general nodded and quickly did as he was told.
“Come on, let’s go outside for a second. Okay?” Raziel asked.
For an hour and a half Raziel stood outside the terrain dosser with Christian and Carmon nearby. The royal mystic, Seth, and Wraith, who was still handcuffed, waited outside as well. Giving the general and his men time to search the entire terrain dosser and surrounding area for any intruders. Christian sat on the ground with a blanket on his back and over his shoulders, Seth sat down beside him and gave him a pat on the back, he then handed the young prince a cold soda.
“You gonna be okay?” he asked.
The prince took a deep breath and sipped the cold refreshing soda. His nerves had managed to start settling down, “I think so.” he replied with half a smile.
The royal mystic stood waiting and tired, “I still don’t see why the boy didn’t jus wake me up?” he questioned to Wraith while flailing his hands about as he always does when talking with someone.
General Grechov and lieutenant Brookes walked up to Raziel and informed him that they were unsuccessful at locating the offender. The grand duke was less than pleased that someone could willingly slip in and out of such a heavily guarded area.
“This was Cain’s doing. It has to be him.” Raziel concluded. “Have the soldiers divide into groups, have one group continue searching for the intruder. The other half, have them remove these tents and pack it up, we’re moving camp. This whole area is compromised.”
“Yes, sir!” the general replied, he then proceeded to follow the grand duke’s orders and began dividing the soldiers into groups.
The grand duke looked at Christian and motioned for him to follow and stay close to him. The two of them started walking through the camp as the Vailestone army men began disassembling the tents around them. Raziel stopped once he had a bit of distance from everyone, Christian stopped beside him wondering if something else was preparing to strike. The young prince saw a look of concern on the skilled warriors face as he faced him. “Is,....is something wrong?” he asked.
The grand duke looked off in the distance at nothing, “It’s too soon, Christian, I never should have brought you on this ridiculous quest. I can’t always be there to protect you,.....like I promised. And you’ve nearly been blown apart or had your throat cut and,....” Raziel stopped in mid-sentence and took a hard breath, “It’s only the first day. Things will certainly get more dangerous the further we go.”
Christian understood the grand duke was trying to get the young teenager to back out and return home. “NO!” The prince shook his head in disagreement. “We can’t stop now! I can’t stop now! I, I know, yeah, maybe I screwed up a bit and some really bad stuff happened, but it’s not like anybody’s gotten hurt or anything!” he pleaded, trying to persuade the grand duke.
“Is that what it will take?” he asked. Christian gasped as he understood how selfish he made himself sound. The grand duke turned to walk away, but the prince grabbed the back of his sleeve before he took his first step. In an emotional voice he pleaded with the grand duke.
“Please. Father thought I was ready for this. He believed in me and...........I need to show’em that he was right. I NEED to do this.” Christian revealed.
Raziel was silent and not looking at the prince at all, he then tilted his head and looked at him in his peripherals. “Come on, we need to gather the maps and stuff outta my tent.”
The prince was thankful that Raziel didn’t seem determined on sending him back to the castle. The two of them arrived at the grand duke’s tent and started loading up supplies. Raziel noticed that the envelope he intended to deliver to the assassin was missing from the table where the maps were laying out.
“Christian? Do you see the envelope I was going to give Cain?” he asked looking under a map and underneath the table.
The young prince looked around the floor, “He must’a came and got it.” he said surprisingly.
“How would he have known about the envelope?” Raziel wondered. “How would he have even known that envelope was intended for him, unless he’d been watching us this entire time.”
“I told him about it. I said he could find it in here.” Christian informed.
Raziel was stunned, “What else did you tell him?” he inquired.
Christian swallowed nervously before answering his question, “I, told him about the armor.” he replied in a regretful tone. The prince realized his fearful rant to save his life had been too informative.
Christian could see the disappointment on Raziel’s face once he heard the bad news. The grand duke glanced for anything missing before he realized the location of the armor indicated to be in the forest of darkness on the largest map. Certainly, the professional had noticed this crucial detail, the only comfort Raziel took was that the exact location is not yet been pinpointed. But still, with a professional assassin knowing the location of a legendary armor, Raziel knew that their quest had become a race against yet another enemy!
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