Chapter Eighteen: Ghosts Of The Past Monsters Of The Present
He kept running, away from what was unsure but he didn’t dare stop not when he knew something was hunting him down.
The air around him was thick and suffocating, the sky darker than the deepest oceans and no matter how fast he ran the thin endless silhouetted trees was never-ending.
Thick mist puffed in front of his face like smoke, a crack of a twig sounded from behind him, it was closer than he anticipated but even when he spun around there was nothing there except the long lines stretching up to the sky.
Heart hammering, chest heaving and muscles aching as he frantically whipped his body in each direction following the snaps and crunches that seemed to circle around him, always keeping to the shadows and the rows of black columns.
A click came from behind him, he knew the sound to be the cocking of a gun.
He froze, his entire body rigid like a deer in headlights.
No other sound resonated from behind him but as he waited for the deafening bang the ground beneath him became unstable swaying like an ocean of grass, dirt and decaying leaves.
He lost his footing and soon started falling, he hit the ground but it didn’t stop his descent, he hit the ground making it ripple around him like a stone hitting a pond and he sank, he sank down into the depth of nothing.
The trees got taller and further away reaching the heavens, he could see the moon with its silver gleam above him but it was distorted like a reflection on a lake.
His body felt heavy, so heavy and so did his mind almost weighed down by the suppressing darkness surrounding him.
The silver sphere got smaller and smaller the further he drifted away, in a vast black void he waited for something to happen as he floated aimlessly, wings open at their fullest stretching out as if to find some stability.
Clothes and hair floated as if he truly was underwater but he wasn’t drowning just floating, then something glinted and caught his eye off in the distance.
He tried swimming towards it but it grew no bigger and got no closer, he didn’t know if he wasn’t moving or if the mysterious light was moving away but either way it didn’t matter.
The cocking of a gun sounded again this time closer, he slowly turned to face behind him to be met with the barrel of a revolver only inches from his forehead and the one wielding it was none other than Bregan.
He seemed older and the bullet hole in his forehead a red rose in a bouquet of white.
"You betrayed me Kaydence, you let me down you let everyone down” Bregan’s voice wasn’t kind like the one that raised him, it was worn, deep and accusing.
"No I didn’t, you told me to run I didn’t want to” he almost pleaded with him to remember.
"No, you ran you, coward, you left us there to die! You could have helped us! Saved us!” he yelled his eyes lifeless like the rest of him.
"I tried. I tried to save you I’m sorry I’m so sorry” he mumbled.
"You killed us all” Bregan said calmly raising the gun away from Kaydences head and towards his own until the barrel was pressed to his temple.
His words caught in his throat at the sight.
"You killed me Kaydence. That’s all. Your. Fault” he hissed before staring straight into his eyes and pulling the trigger.
Mayfel had been watching Kaydence sleep after being woken up from his head meeting the wooden deck, apparently, Kaydence had twitched in his dream moving the leg he was using as a pillow form under his head.
He wondered what Kaydence was dreaming about, but from the small twitches and quiet whines and cries, he didn’t know if he wanted to actually find out.
He was distressed he knew that much although the distress seemed to be growing with every passing minute.
The tossing and turning, muttering of incoherent words, his eyelids held together tightly almost like he was scared or trying to avoid Medusa’s whispers to open his eyes and condemn himself.
He had swapped their positions so Kaydences head was now resting on his legs instead, it was to try and make it easier as he comforted him with hushed whispers and handholding even drying the small beads of sweat gathering on his feverous forehead but nothing worked.
The ship rocked over the waves acting as a lullaby keeping Kaydence under, he didn’t know whether it was a good idea or not to wake him up but he was afraid if he didn’t then he’d cry out or make too much noise and attract the guard’s attention.
The guards had circled around the ship a few times, he could hear their footsteps now and again as well as chattering or the movement of equipment as sailors moved it or raised the sails.
Making the decision to wake him up before attention could be attracted he reached out to shake him awake only for his hand to fall to his lap as Kaydence sat bolt upright, breathing heavily.
“Kaydence are you alright?” he asked quietly, placing a comforting hand on his back.
“I’m fine. Just a bad dream” he whispered back.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“No, I’m fine. Do you know how long we have left?” he replied, wiping down his face and stretching.
“I’ll check the map”.
Kaydence looked out to the ocean seeing giant rock formations in the shapes of archways, all green with grass and moss, thick vines hung down from them like snakes entangled with each other.
He knew the name of their location; it was a large landmark, unmissable especially with it being miles away from any land leaving it standing alone amongst the waves and wind.
Maria Porta also known as the oceans gateway stood high above the ships themselves and for those who sailed these parts often became a useful tool almost like a lighthouse helping them locate their position and find their way either to Lirren or Nirvariten.
Old tales spoke of them actually being portals to other realms in the early beginnings of their race, no one knew if it was true and all depictions or references to it were sealed within the inner sanctum of Evangelis.
Even though they lived close to their people, they knew nothing of the world they lived within, everything was kept secret or just hidden from them by the High council of Evangelis.
Many histories and ancestries were lost to their arrogance and madness for knowledge and to be the elite race among them all, with the knowledge they possessed a lot of the illnesses and difficult surgeries could be improved if only they’d come to their senses and fly down from their nest where they shun the rest below them.
“We’re over halfway, you were asleep for quite a few hours it’s almost noon now we should get there around nightfall” he concluded folding back up the map swapping it out for some snacks from his bag.
“Do you believe the tales, the one’s about Maria Porta?” he mumbled
“Well, all tales have to have some truth to them I suppose, who’s to say it wasn’t real? The only way we’d know is if we found a book but that’s a long shot” he responded as he dug into a cereal bar.
Ocean spray glided through the air giving everything a damp feeling, even the air he breathed felt heavy with moisture, it was a freeing feeling having the vast ocean surrounding you but at the same time, it was terrifying being so far away from civilisation and being so vulnerable at the hands of mother nature.
Not to mention there were stowaway’s who could be found at any moment and killed by either the guards or dragged to the king’s feet and beheaded without giving them a reason.
His dream haunted him even in the daylight, the water around them reminded him of the floating sensation that had felt so real but had seemed to look like an abyss of nothingness.
“You called out Bregan’s name in your sleep” Mayfel stated.
“What else did I say?” he asked, willing himself to make eye contact with the indigo.
“Nothing I could understand, just mumbles but you said his name pretty clearly”
His breath caught in his throat at the hazy memory of Bregan, gun held against his head like the night he died.
It made him question himself, was he a coward for running? Could he have done more to save him? He was pinned down he did try, of course, he did he was family he wouldn’t just let that go.
Bregan had been the one to tell him to go, it wasn’t his decision he would have stayed, he should have stayed.
He opened his bag pulling Acuere out of its sheath and placing it on his lap letting his fingers run over the flat side of the blade, small droplets of the ocean spray gathered on the silver distorting the reflections almost like the souls it took were trapped within the steel.
He felt connected to Bregan like this, having his once-beloved item in his hands simply proved as a comfort like a teddy would to a young child or a ring to a wedded couple.
He felt as though the sword was Bregan’s way of saying he’d always be there to protect him and for the most part he was, it had protected him so far on their journey but then so had Mayfel.
Mayfel had protected him too, saved his life countless times from enemies, injuries and infection so he could say that in a way Mayfel was comforting too.
* * *
Her bag was packed, her weapons belt filled with knives of different sizes and shapes, both holsters strapped to her sides filled with two pistols fully loaded, her clothes as mundane as they come topped with a scarf to hide her lower face if necessary and an oversized jacket concealing the bullet belts slung over each shoulder crossing across her chest and back.
After the brief argument with her brother and with him dismissing all their running missions to get the manpower for new ones including finding a boy who just happened to be at the village which had been attacked and probably had nothing to do with what they were doing, she’d taken it upon herself to complete the original one she had been assigned.
She’d tell no one she was leaving or where she was going, it would be relatively easy to sneak out during daylight since everyone was too busy with jobs or their own business, besides she was the sister of Zachariah, leader of the Raven so she wouldn’t be questioned.
Her time in the military with her brother had taught her a lot, stealth being one of the skills she picked up quicker than others with her slimmer but toned body and her smaller height standing at roughly five foot seven.
Even as she moved down the concrete hallways not even the rubber soles of her combat boots made a sound, a light clinking sound could be heard from her weapons belt but unless someone was listening out for it specifically it could be easily missed especially with the meeting still going on and others going about their day.
No one would know she was missing and no one would think to look, Zack knew that when she got frustrated and aggressive it was best to leave her be so he wouldn’t risk going to find her or talk to her until at least morning.
Everette would be the most likely to raise the alarm since she was her best friend and often comforted her or tried to cool her down at times like this so she probably had until the meeting finished to get as far away as possible before people were sent out after her.
Or maybe no one would look, she knew she had risked Zack’s reputation and respect, maybe he’d be happy she was gone at least he wouldn’t have any other risks since she was - as far as she knew- the only one who knew both of his secrets one of which people might guess at and figure out but the other, it was his darkest secret and if it got out who knows what would happen.
She stopped at the end of the corridor keeping cover behind the closed door of the two, she surveyed the area making sure to use her hearing as well as her sight.
Distant scuffing and shuffling of shoes were audible, discussions and light chatter too all of which was good for her, the sight was clear and the entrance door ahead of her was clear as well.
One silent foot in front of the other she moved smoothly almost like gliding over ice, the closer and closer she got and the more her breathing picked up as well as her thoughts battling for and against her decision.
She crossed the threshold and made a beeline for the dirt hill that dipped steeply down on the other side leading to luscious green pastures, a big difference to the desolate and dusty land their base sat on or the concrete and tarmacked ground within the city.
Scrambling up the dirt was tough, it upturned dust that quickly polluted the air she breathed in causing her lungs to restrict and spasm resulting in heaving coughs.
She reached the top and let her body roll down the other side, out of sight and hopefully on her way to find out the main stronghold of the weapons.
She knows that he just reassigned her mission and didn’t ditch it completely but it was her mission and she knows she can pull it off better than half of the people in that room, she had to prove to him she wasn’t just his little sister who needed protection, she could do this.
She’d show him she could.
She’d get them the information before they had the chance to find it out themselves, she’d get respect and hopefully, her brother would be proud of something she did.
It was now or never she thought as she grabbed her bag and started to jog slowly picking up her pace to a slow sprint.
Although there’s a lot of equipment to carry which aren’t exactly light she carried on, the sheer determination was enough for her to power on and ignore the metal weighing her down.
Her gaze was locked on the horizon at the hills, she planned to get to the compound they’d attacked because from there she could look for something everyone overlooked.
If you could find them and follow them she hoped it would take her straight to the source but if not then she’d have to think of a plan B and right now she didn’t want to have another plan, one plan that goes without fail or obstruction would be ideal.
The further away from the base, the better she felt not to have a constant and scrutinizing gaze from her brother as well as having to follow orders, out there there were no rules unless she set them and no one ordering her around, it was a beautiful feeling.
Demolished buildings peeked over the mound ahead, cracked and splintered concreted walls, shattered and completely blown out windows as well as crackles of small fires indicated by not just the sound of it gnawing at twigs or surrounding materials but also because of the thick grey and black gushing smoke rising up into the clear skies.
She could smell the burning of rubber, plastic, explosive powders and rubble, it was a bitter smell and didn’t taste any better with the suffocating fumes.
She carried herself with care down the slope avoiding jagged rocks that jutted out of the barren ground, dirt and small rocks tumbled around her with each step creating a dusty plume in her wake.
It definitely looked more disastrous in the daylight, the only light they had to go by when they had blown it up was the flames but the orange glow was misleading and so were the shadows dancing against the walls.
Rubble crunched beneath her boots, feet turning to compensate for the uneven ground and loose debris, she kept her sight on the ground ahead for safety reasons but mainly in case you caught sight of tire tracks she could follow.
She wondered what was going on at the base, it had been around half an hour since she’d left but then again knowing her brother he’d still be discussing details and roles so everything is completely understood.
No one would know she was gone which was better for her sake but there was the nagging voice in the back of her mind telling her how frantic and paranoid Zack was going to be when he found out she was gone, he’d cover all possibilities like kidnapping and probably end up hurting someone without realising it.
But this was her mission and like he said, emotions cloud judgement so she couldn’t think about her brother or anyone for that matter her whole thought process and focus had to be on her aims and objectives.
Helena continued over slabs of concrete and shattered bricks until she was on flat land in a small clearing like a crater, she scanned for any signs of prints even partial ones but she was only finding footprints that were of no use at all.
Moving forward the footprints died down and there leading from a wide metal loading dock door lay a pair of truck prints, slightly interrupted in patches but clearly leading away from the compound and down a dirt road leading towards the border.
This was it, she’d find the main compound and she’d destroy it; she had the power sitting in her backpack, all four packs of C4 – courtesy of Rowan – which she stole from the armoury under everyone’s noses.
Sure she was a walking bomb but she concluded that if she didn’t think about it then it wouldn’t be a problem.
Helena reached the building and crouched down to observe the tracks, they were definitely old and from the right vehicle, the mud had already hardened so it had definitely been a while since a truck had last left here.
As she stood up and looked at the long road ahead her body fell back colliding with something firm and before she could react a gloved hand holding a white cloth clasped over his nose and mouth.
Panicked, her breathing escalated as her body thrashed desperately trying to find some leverage to fight back.
Chemicals burned her sinuses, eyes began to water and not because she was crying, each minute passed and her mind and body felt heavier, she clawed at the small bit of clothing she could reach, scratched and grappled at the hand holding the cloth, she kicked a limp leg back in the hopes of connecting with a knee or any part of the assailant’s leg, but she connected with nothing but air and dirt.
The world swirled and contorted, the wind sounded like distant wails ringing in her ears in a high pitch, she could only smell the searing chemicals and as for sight well it was now none existent as her mind plummeted into white and her body fell limp.