Chapter Thirty Nine
Sharzak walked out of his castle and marched passed his subjects and some of the few allies he still had. There were trolls and dwarves; even gnomes and ogres carrying out their duties. Weapons were being made and more soldiers arrived every day.
Sharzak didn’t stop to talk to anyone; he was just interested in seeing how things were progressing. He kept walking until he stopped at a great barred hole. Something enormous lurked beneath. Its shape and skin was indiscernible in the faint moonlight, but its footsteps made the ground shake and its heavy breathing drowned out all the surrounding sounds. By the sound of its groaning, this creature had been asleep for some time and had only just been awakened.
A wicked smile spread across his face. His plans seemed to be unfolding perfectly.
King Artemis was standing on the balcony of his bed chambers. He looked out at the world, far beyond his kingdom. Everything seemed peaceful enough, but he knew it would not last. He had become depraved of sleep; feeling uncomfortable in the very home he had grown up in.
He was becoming afraid of falling asleep, for when he closed his eyes, he felt a hand reach into his mind and poke around his thoughts, seeing things that no one else should ever see.
To make matters worse, he hadn’t heard anything from his brother since the day he left with the Ravens. He knew he had no reason to be concerned, but he had expected to be notified of the status of their journey by his brother, but instead it was Michael. It was in times like these that he missed his parents greatly, especially his mother. She always knew just what to say to ease the most troubled mind. Thinking back, he remembered how often he would seek her counsel, how often he had asked for her guidance. She had been a wonderful mother. She had raised her sons well. Artemis knew that he and Deryck were very privileged to have had such a woman in their lives. She had turned them into the men they were today. It was just a pity that she hadn’t been around for long. He remembered her well, but Deryck was very young when she died.
It was passed midnight when Artemis finally fell asleep. Though he still felt somewhat restless, he could no longer keep his eyes open.
Everything in his bed chamber seemed normal, until a shadow in a dark corner started swaying towards his bed. As it approached, Artemis became more restless. A hand reached out, with a black, yellow, red substance slithering all over it; and lightly touched Artemis’ head.
Artemis tried to open his eyes, but no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t. He felt his entire body go numb. He couldn’t move; couldn’t lift a finger. He wanted to open his mouth and scream, but his lips would not move; he could not make a sound.
In his mind’s eye, Artemis saw a figure standing in front of him; without any discernible features; without a face, though he felt a wicked smile beaming at him. He tried to run, but his legs would not move. His fear grew and grew; the figure approached him; he closed his eyes tightly, waiting for a strike; but nothing happened. He slowly opened his eyes, and blinked a few times upon seeing sunlight. He was lying on his mother’s lap. She was stroking his hair, softly speaking to him, but he couldn’t hear anything. He started to relax; he closed his eyes and rested, but when he opened them again, his mother was dead. Covered in her blood as he tried everything he could think of to bring her back to life. Suddenly he was standing over his mother’s grave, his brother and their father standing between them with a hand on their shoulders. The first time he had ever seen his father cry; a man who had always seemed so invincible was now so vulnerable.
Suddenly he was crowned King, even though he was still so young. He had ascended the throne. He felt himself smiling, looking at his brother, who bowed, then at his father, the grief-stricken man. His father seemed to have become an old man so quickly since the death of his mother. His heart deeply ached for his father; the man had lost the love of his life. He looked up to see the dark figure standing in the corner. He reacted, by heading in the figure’s direction, but before he took two steps, the scenery changed again. He was outside his father’s bed chamber along with Deryck. He was pacing up and down the hall. Deryck was sitting against the wall, still so young. A man stepped out of his father’s chamber, informing him that his father had passed away; he was devastated. His brother broke down in sobs. He comforted his brother, tears also streaming down his cheeks. They had lost both their parents in such a short time.
Suddenly he heard an evil laugh erupt around him. He looked around, but couldn’t see anyone. Then he was alone; the dark figure standing over him.
He finally realized that whatever had entered his mind, was not searching for information, but rather, just playing with him; taunting him. Going through his memories, reminding him of his pain, toying with him.
The dark figure came closer, preparing to attack him. He started struggling, determined to get away, but failing to do so.
Finally he let out a scream, opening his eyes; sitting up in his bed; sweat dripping from his body. He looked around the room frantically. He was alone.
‘What’s going on?’ he asked under his breath.