By the stream we wash off our charcoal around our eyes, then we walk through the water, knowing it will help cover our tracks. We left no one behind at the Hidden Temple. We needed everyone helping in our surprise attack to grab as many girls as possible.
With spears at the ready, except for myself, we stay silent approaching the Golden Palace.
It is already twilight by the time we arrive.
We were headed for the slave quarters, ready to infiltrate by the time the sun had finished its descent.
We wait, in the quiet of the forest outside the huge hall, waiting for a sign that the girls remaining would walk from the dining hall to their beds.
Almost an hour passes as we wait in the trees or stay crouched between shrubs, waiting. Celeste and I stay side by side against a huge trunk, Celeste growing the leaves over us to hide us as we watched.
Kaelyn was above us, crouching on a branch getting more and more impatient.
“Where the hell are they?” she mutters to herself.
“Perhaps the men already claimed them,” Celeste whispers back up.
“I don’t buy it,” Kaelyn swings off the branch and drops down next to us, her eyes alight with the eagerness to press forward, “It is unlike the Dark Gems to take them to bed so quickly, they would be focused on searching for us in the forest. Clearly there are limited people in the Golden Palace – hardly any lights are on. No activity,” as Kaelyn speaks, the other girls come over closer to listen in, everyone worried about the silence coming from the palace grounds, “I’ve had a nagging feeling this whole time, they’ve been locked up in the slave quarters all day,” Kaelyn suggests, “They are probably all in there already – we’ve wasted enough time – let’s go check it out.”
“You’re just going to assume that’s what Traegr decided?” I ask, cutting her off and stepping out of Celeste’s camouflage, “What if you’re wrong?”
“Then the slave quarters are empty,” Kaelyn shrugs, losing any sense of calm, she starts to hiss to everyone, “We are just going to check, nothing more. If the girls aren’t in the slave quarters – they are in the Golden Palace, being claimed. We have nothing to lose. They do not expect us to return when we have just escaped. They have no idea our memories are back. Let’s go, I’m done waiting,” Kaelyn turns without waiting for all our approval.
The girls follow while Celeste comes out of her hiding spot, to face me as we hesitate.
“Something’s not right,” Celeste whispers to me, worry in her eyes, “This could be a trap.”
“If it is, let’s wait here,” I say, “Ironic, if they get caught and we’re the only ones to actually escape.”
“Don’t speak too soon,” Celeste motions for me to get back to the tree and we both watch, as she grows the cover over us once more, to see how Kaelyn and the girls do.
With quick stealth they go to the windows, not the main entrance. At least Kaelyn wasn’t too impulsive that she forgot the ability to stay completely covert. That was one point for her.
We watch as the girls can’t pull the shutters open and they knock and whisper into the windows to gain the trust of the girls trapped inside.
“So far, so good –” I speak too soon as the distinctive high pitched whistle of Kaelyn, alerts everyone to retreat. Celeste and I go dead silent as we watch girls run for the forest and the shutters burst open with Dark Gem’s jumping out, chasing after them.
A trap after all.
I watch as Kaelyn is dramatically pulled around the side of the slave quarters to the front, Traegr gripping her by the hair. She screams and yells as he calls out Hraken and another Dark Gem. They exit the main entrance of the slave quarters, grabbing Kaelyn and slapping on iron shackles.
I watch with a stern jaw, wishing Kaelyn had used her magic but knowing Traegr was not King accidentally. He had abnormal draining abilities. He would have sucked up all her magic before she even had the chance to think of using it.
Just as I think that, he raises a hand and yellow, black fire shoots out towards the tree tops, even above us, lighting the forest on fire with Shadow magic. Celeste and I cringe away from the flames, falling on our butt-cheeks.
As we scramble to our feet, pulling ourselves out of the leafy cover, we can hear a loud menacing laugh from Traegr.
“Perhaps this will help light the way!” He proclaims to his Dark Gems, laughing and then smirking with evil intent at Kaelyn, who is made to kneel before him.
“Monster!” she yells up at him, but he just leans down and snarls something back at her that we can’t hear. Probably another insult.
“Perhaps,” Celeste blurts, grabbing my hand and pulling me with her, “Getting caught was a really, really, bad idea! Let’s go!” I nod, gulping down my fear as we run away from the flames of the forest.
We run in the opposite direction of the slave quarters, not directly heading away from the Golden Palace just yet because that would be too obvious. Celeste makes head way by clearing the forest with her power, making the path of our escape quicker than would be normally possible.
With each step we take along the cleared ground, she cleverly covers our tracks as the forest abruptly grows back over.
All we can hear is the burning forest and the screams of girls.
It was making it impossible to accept we would actually escape when the screams sounded so close.
“Stop,” I come to a halt when we are near the bedrooms of the Golden Palace, looking out over the forest. Celeste turns and faces me, “Perhaps we should go where they least suspect us to go.”
“Inside?” She asks with disbelief, “But –”
“When they all come back, we’ll leave, we can keep an eye out from the window from my room,” I suggest, “It’s a good plan, come on, we’ll get caught out here.”
Celeste looks over my shoulder and then does a 360, looking for signs of us being followed.
“It doesn’t look like they know where we are,” she says, unconvincingly, “We shouldn’t go back in there, it’s too risky. We’ll be in their playground, at their mercy. My power lies with me here.”
“But –” I only need to glance at her terrified eyes to know she won’t budge, “Ok, fine. I can see you refuse to willingly go back into the palace. We should at least find a tree to hide in and wait for them to retreat,” I say, “We have to hide somewhere.”
“I agree, but we aren’t going back in there!” she snaps, refusing to approve of my original plan.
I shrug, feeling uneasy as we turn deeper into the forest, away from the Golden Palace as we decide to stay in the cover of the trees. We go slowly now, far enough away from the fire to give an allusion of safety.
But we don’t get very far.
Only a few steps deeper into the forest and small metal ball drops from one of the trees, right between me and Celeste.
Just as we turn to inspect it and its unfamiliarity, light flashes out of the metal ball. It scans over both of us from head to toe.
“What the hell is –” I start but Celeste cuts me off.
“Get away from it!” She yells and as we simultaneously try to leap away, smoke shoots out of the device; a grey fog that encases us immediately. A foul, acid like smell fills my nostrils and then my lungs... and my blood and...
I don’t pass out, but I drop to my knees, feeling numb and delirious as I crawl my way to Celeste.
I can’t see her through the fog and my senses seem to switch off, my hearing drones out and I can’t keep my lids open. I just find myself blindly crawling, my blood feeling hot and tingly under my skin.
I keep moving on hands and knees, eyes closed, hearing, quite simply – fucked.
The next moment I feel strong hands under my arms, lifting me up. I’m supported as I lean back against a hard, tall, masculine chest I knew all too well.
“Caught you, darling,” Sabir growls into my ear, close enough for me to make out the words. The sarcasm couldn’t be more obvious with the endearment.
I try to moan out a response but it’s incomprehensible. I try to open my eyes only to immediately want to shut them again. I do get a glimpse of Celeste being held by Traegr. It seems we had been followed this whole time!
“Oh, you’ve been a very bad girl, Celeste,” I faintly hear Traegr snarl at his own captive, only managing to catch on because his voice carried so damn well.
My senses remain dulled as I’m pulled around and dragged towards the palace, slowly stumbling along behind, wishing Sabir would just carry me.
Unfortunately, Sabir wasn’t so kind. I wasn’t surprised.
But I was surprised by the trap that had been set off.
Clearly the last 1000 years the men had been inventing ways to subdue us if we ever returned.
It was anyone’s guess how many other traps were waiting for us out in the forest.
For now we had failed at our first rebellion in 1000 years. We had to step up our game.
Dark Gems – 1. Us girls? – 0.