“Okay Team Hero, this is the plan,” Hugo explained in a low voice once lights were out and everybody was sound asleep under the bright full moon. “Ozur, you got a message from Thuggort saying that we should meet him at the third weaponry textbooks shelf in our school copper library,” Ozur nodded as he pulled out a flashlight and shined it around the dark quiet library, making a thumbs up to signal that the coast was clear.
“We have to be careful, who knows what Headmistress Olema will do to us if we get caught. Ozur, you’ll be walking with me, we’re going to need your nose to sniff anything suspicious. So are you guys ready?” Nodding to Hugo, he took the flashlight from Ozur and they wandered off of their beds and through the shadows of textbooks and scrolls that stood in their place, only they were witnessing what was about to happen.
They took cautious steps forward, the only sound that could be heard was the waterfalls outside of the school. The light from the flashlight was roaming around the area, tiptoeing in a line as their eyes wandered around for anything that could look like a camera; which Ulin gladly explained about in one of their lessons. So there they were, breaking, no bending several rules; if they call having any contact with a slave bending.
“Are you sure the little boy wrote to meet him at the third weaponry textbooks shelf?” Rashika questioned, lifting her tail up a few inches from the floor to avoid making any kind of noise.
“Of course I’m sure,” Ozur reassured, unfolding the message he got to reread it in a whisper so no staff member can wake up even though there’s an unlikely chance of one roaming around in this area. “I know you have questions and I know you moved into the Copper library. We haven’t seen each other since the incident, but meet me at the third weaponry textbooks shelf.”
“Okay if you’re done reading, the shelf is over there,” Eathelyn pointed to the dusty old self of giant encyclopedias about weaponry! “The perfect place to meet someone.”
“Shush!” Hugo whispered, stopping in his tracks to wait a moment for any out of place characters; there wasn’t.
They semi-circle around the shelf, skimming through the spine of the books to see any clue or book that was possibly out of place. After three minutes of skimming, Hugo turned to the group; if you count only Eathelyn and Rashika who were paying attention to him while Ozur began to pull out every book he comes across too. “You really don’t think that by just pulling out a random textbook will open a secret passageway right?” Hugo asked Ozur, “This must be the wrong shelf I mean the odds of one book being a lever-”
Suddenly there was small rumble as dust and rocks that fell on top of Hugo, but he wasn’t paying attention to that at all; because he was mainly looking at Ozur with a wide mouth since the wolf boy held out the smallest textbook he found! The wall that held the shelf disappeared slowly to the right side, revealing someone wearing a navy blue cloak, covering himself while he held a small candle. He used his other hand to motion Team Hero to follow him and once each member was in the secret passageway, the wall quickly closed behind them!
“So you found the right lever after all,” The stranger remarked, removing the hood to reveal his face. “You four must already know my name, but I’ll introduce myself anyway. My name is Thuggort, and the reason why I was in your room that day was because I was assigned to be what the Ethical ones call, house cleaner of your headquarters. I meant you no harm, I-I-I was just doing my job cause if I-I-I d-don’t, then my master will p-p-punish me again.”
“Punish you again?” Rashika gasped until she remembered how he looked the first time they met him. “But how exactly does your master punish you?”
“By beating his or her slave until they are satisfied.”A soft voice answered from the shadows which caused the group to gasp in panic, as Team Hero got into battle positions until the stranger came out of the shadow. Once again they gasped; the stranger was the girl who was claimed to be Thuggort’s sister. The one who was struggling to try to save him but was held down helplessly as she watched her brother slip until Team Hero saved him.
“Zeliah? What are you doing here?” Thuggort interrogated his sister, who just approached the group and explained to her brother, “Making sure you don’t do anything dangerous and don’t get caught in this crazy mission you guys are going to do.” She looked at the four teens who just stared at her in confusion. “Oh. My name is Zeliah and obviously, you know my younger brother Thuggort, and you four are?”
“Us? We’re Team Hero,” Hugo introduced as he pointed to himself and then to his friends. “I’m Hugo, and these are my friends, Eathelyn, Rashika, and Ozur.”
“Hmm, how do we know you’re not just using us, slaves, just so you can get your information you want and put the blame on us?” Zeliah suspected, pulling her brother protectively behind her, darkened pupils staring down Hugo. “Thuggort is only nine years old, and I will not risk getting him taken away from me! He’s all I got...And I’m all he has too..”
“If we’re the kind to put the blame on you, then why did we save Thuggort from that avalanche while everyone else just watched your brother fall? Not to mention that we would have reported your brother for snooping around.” Eathelyn asked, causing Zeliah to tense up before realizing that she had a point.
A little hesitant at first, Zeliah released her grip on her brother’s shoulders, turning around as she lit up a torch, motioning Team Hero to follow. “The truths you guys seek is down this path, follow me.”
They soon found themselves walking cautiously through the passageway, the four teens eyes wandered around to see the dust and spiderwebs that decorated the walls of this passageway. “You mentioned that your owner beating slaves who get in trouble,” Rashika began, earning both Zeliah’s and Thuggort’s attention. “Is there a reason why you two are slaves? Did you do something wrong? If you don’t mind answering.”
The two remained silent for a moment as they continued to walk until Zeliah sighed and responded without looking directly at Rashika, or anyone else. “The only thing we did wrong was merely existing in this world. We were born as slaves, we have no one else to thank but our parents.”
“Your parents? But how?” Hugo never heard of something like this, sure parents can irritate their kids, tell them what to do, and do the wrong thing sometimes but cause their own children to live such a life like that? That’s that just inhumane! Some people might just laugh at the thought. If those people ever know about this.
“Yeah, looks like your instructor and headmistress didn’t tell you everything they know,” Thuggort commented, then shut his mouth when his sister started him down to indicate him to be quiet.
“What Thuggort means is that when you go to Lunar Star Academy for the four years of knowledge you need to know, do you know what you do for your final exams every year of those four?” Zeliah waited for an answer, which came out of Ozur’s lips.
“Well, I’ve heard Ulin tell us something about a battle tournaments against other teams of the school. Wait, does that have something to do with why you two and your other friends are slaves?” Ozur could remember clearly after the tracking lesson they had with Ulin that she began to lecture them about the final exams and the rules.
Zeliah nodded, stopping on her trail to see a dead end, but not for long. She tapped the center of the wall three times: tap, tap,tap. The dead end slowly disappeared into thin air, as if it was made out of dust as she continued to guide the group through the tunnels. “You see, your instructor didn’t mention what happens to you and your teammates if you fail the exams...Did she?”
“The failures get kicked out but they will end up getting low ranking jobs right?” Eathelyn guessed since that was what Ulin reassured to them when she asked a question like that herself.
Zeliah’s head shook as she walked on as her chains tagged along with her ankles, never letting go, never stopping it’s horror song. “That Ulin you speak off was lying. It’s true they get kicked out but the failures don’t get low ranking jobs. Instead, two things can happen to you if you fail: one is that you’ll be considered a slave for the rest of life and you’ll never be seen by anyone but your master. Once the failures become slaves, if the women give birth to children, then they too are slaves. It doesn’t matter if those kids didn’t get a chance to Lunar Star Academy, they are the offspring of those who have failed. We can’t do anything about it, our future has been decided by our parents. White or black; a demon or not, you’ll become a slave if you fail.”
“Are your parents with you, even if you guys are slaves? They still let you stay together as a family right?” Ozur looked at how saddened Thuggort became when that was mentioned as the boy answered almost in a whimper. “No...We don’t since we’re slaves were nothing but property and like property, we get sold in secret markets so the three worlds won’t know about this. We only get sold and separated to members of the Sun Gang, Demon Executors, and Lunar Star Academy staff members.”
“You got sold and separated from your parents didn’t you?”
Zeliah’s fists tightened once Eatheyln asked that as if she wanted to avoid the whole conversation but she let out a heavy sigh. “Yes. I was only eight years old with Thuggort, who was only three, we got sold to Headmistress Olema. We never saw our parents after that, and all I can remember from that day was our new master pulling our chains really hard, away from the protective arms of our parents. Even now, I can still hear the desperate cries of our mother, shouting for the sellers to sell her to Headmistress too. Our father trying to get us back by making a grab for us to run off but some Dark World guards took him and mom away. After that, we lived our daily lives working until our hands get blisters and when those blisters get blisters.”
“But wait, you mentioned that there are two things that’ll happen to the failing teams, what was the second thing to happen if you fail and not become a slave?”
Thuggort looked back at Hugo, his eyes full of dullness once the subject was brought up as his sister answered in an emotionless voice. “If you failed really badly and don’t fit slave qualifications, the headmistress sends you to the Dark World, where the demons can kill you in however way they please.”
The group soon became predator quiet the moment the answer was spoken, not even predator quiet. The kind of quiet a scared child who is hiding from someone who murdered their whole family and hunting them down would make.
That was all the four teens could register at the moment; the horrendous sights of failing students getting slaughtered for not being the best! Who knows how they got killed; burned, stabbed, poisoned, hanged, drowned or much worse!
“The way the failed students get killed is a mystery to us,” Zeliah continued as if she read their minds and was answering their questions! “But compared to our lives as slaves, we would much rather get killed than life now.”
Team Hero looked at Zeliah with befuddlement, the chains continued to sing as they ventured deeper in the tunnels. The silence was tagging along until Thuggort broke the silence. “Even I rather not exist than live a life as a slave, you four have no idea what we go through. Being treated like you’re some sort of piece of trash, feeling worthless in life while you’re being shunned by everybody.”
“Oh, believe me, I know how that feels already,” Rashika muttered as her fingertips met the golden feathers of her wings. “I’m not a slave but even your background can have some effect on how people treat you.” Her thoughts trailed back to her childhood memories that weren’t ones she would consider remembering.
Once again, another dead end greeted them as Zeliah turned to the group, pointing to the shadowy corner to their right. “This is where the traps are armed and ready to kill any trespassers. Team Hero, I know you would want to help me but this time you have to stand down! Thuggort, take those four to that corner while I take care of this, and wait for my signal to tell you when it’s safe to follow!”
Her brother nodded as he led the team members to the location as they heard the crumbling of the wall moving away to reveal the deadly traps. They waited while the music of claws, blades, and explosions can be heard which seemed to be taking an eternity. Hugo as leaning against the wall until a thought came firing into his mind, making him look down at the little slave boy sitting down as he curled into a smaller ball. “Thuggort, your sister told us that when a slave gets in trouble they get beaten right?”
“Yeah, those beatings give slaves the scars of a lifetime.”
“But how come you don’t happen to have any on you, while your sister is practically has a collection of them? And you told us that you didn’t want to get punished again so what’s going in between you and your masters? If you don’t mind answering if it’s not too personal.”
Eathelyn shot a glare at Hugo, as she elbowed his chest while growling under her breath. “What’s wrong with you! You can’t just ask Thuggort a question like that!”
“No, no, it’s okay,” Thuggort reassured, looking at the ground, breathing in a breath of confidence before he continued. “It’s about time I tell someone besides other slaves about why I’m so scar free. I’m not punished physically, but more like mentally punished..”
Rashika, Ozur, Hugo and Eathelyn sat down beside Thuggort, each placing a hand on his shoulder for friendly support. The boy was quiet and tensed before he calmed himself down and began to tell his tale.
For starters, I was born several months early so you could say I was a premature baby which can sometimes be cool if I wasn’t a slave. Being born early has its downfalls because I was born sick and weak in the process, you’d wonder why the masters let me live. Zeliah wasn’t born early and she was lucky to be born with those leather wings that demons rarely have, and our parents were hoping to use her ability to fly to at least get the two of us away from this life once she was old enough. For the first three years if my life, Zeliah watched over me while our parents did their daily slave lives until we were sold off to Headmistress Olema. I can remember being dragged away by chains while our mother was crying to be sold as well, and our father shouting to Zeliah to promise him to take care of me. Of course like any sister, well any sister I would know, she’ll keep that promise; but I never knew how much trouble it’ll cause.
Wasn’t long before our master had me and Zeliah switch slave positions since I was supposed to be the slaves who do the heavy duties but I wasn’t strong enough to be fit for the job. While Zeliah did slave men work, I was indoors with the slave women doing housework, very tired but no one can complain. I was five years old when it happened when I discovered that I don’t need to get beaten to get tortured.
I was making a snack for Master Olema’s daughter, who you four obviously know who it was. Sundria asked for warm milk and a peanut butter sandwich but by the time I finished and was ready to serve it to her, she tripped me. I fell with the expensive plate shattered to pieces and as for Sundria, she faked an injury that was supposedly caused by me. Her mother came rushing with the whip that’ll soon meet my back for the first time, her face totally convinced that I hurt Sundria.
I knew that I was in for a world of pain, and the fact that if I ever get a torturous beating then I’m as good as dead with the weak body I have! So I waited for my death to approach my back, but before the whip hit me, Zeliah came rushing in as she blocked Olema’s way from getting near me! I can recall Zeliah on her knees, begging our master to let me be, and I can remember myself being totally convinced that nothing she’ll say won’t stop my punishment from being fulfilled. However, Zeliah was willing to do anything to keep me from harm’s way, so without any hesitation, she stood her ground and offered Headmistress the right to punish her instead of me! That anything I did that seemed to deserve punishment, she’ll be the one who’ll take those punishments from my master,
Being five but knowing the rules of slaves, I immediately knew what was about to become of Zeliah, so I tried to beg her to reconsider but Master Olema seemed to like this offering. Her guards forced me down, making me watch her whip Zeliah as her screams of agony made me scared enough to cry in silence! Sundria begged her mother to torture Zeliah some more, by then my sister had scars covering almost her whole body, so I was afraid for her life! Olema raised her whip once more and that time, the weapon met her left eye, causing the X scar she has now but that wasn’t the worse part. I thought the torture was over, until Sundria handed her mother a sword, while Zeliah looked like she was going to die!
Without warning, the blade met Zeliah’s wings!
I watched my own older sister scream with ultimate pain as blood began to pour from where her pair of wings once were attached! At long last Olema ordered the other slaves to take me and Zeliah back to our tents, where we sleep. Our friends couldn’t do anything but bandage Zeliah up and hope she wakes up from such trauma, and as for me, I never left her side while I waited for her to wake up.
What seemed like forever, she finally woke up, asking me if I was okay as if she forgotten about all the pain she’s been through! Even though some scars can heal, her wings can never grow back, and her left eye lost its sight for good. She kept telling me that it wasn’t my fault but I know deep inside that I caused her to end up like that, but every time I brought it up, she would just tell me that it wasn’t my fault. But I know it was my fault, that promise is a burden to my sister! After that, I was sure to be extra careful with my work as a slave, making sure I never ever make a mistake again so Zeliah won’t go through any kind of suffering like that again. I just hope that I won’t screw up and have her get punished, because while they beat her; she’s in physical pain while I’m in mental pain. I’m just a burden to my sister to be honest..
“You are not a burden Thuggort,” a voice reassured the young boy, causing them to jump a bit before realizing that it was Zeliah, who seemed to have heard every last detail. “Like I told you for a million times, you’re not the reason for what happened...If anyone should be blamed, it’s that awful daughter of our master’s. I’m willing to do anything to keep you safe Thuggort, it’s just brother and sister love.” She pulled her brother in a quick embrace before she looked up at Team Hero, who gave her eyes of sympathy. “And don’t tell me otherwise because I’ll be sure to give you a hundred more reasons why you shouldn’t get the blame.”
“You always say that Zeliah, but..” Thuggort silenced himself for that moment before gaining his voice back. “I just don’t want to lose you.”
“You won’t lose me,” Zeliah reassured again, ruffling his hair at the process as she smiled. “How can you lose such a big strong sister like me? I’ll stay with you until the end of our days.”
The room was quiet again, which was getting a bit annoying but worth it when Zeliah kissed the top of Thuggort’s forehead to comfort the little boy. “I promise.”
Releasing herself from the hug and getting up from the ground, Zeliah faced Hugo as she pointed to the pathway that looked like a war zone full of broken traps! “I managed to destroy all the traps in there, the secrets you seek are just down that path.”
“Are you ready?”