Stone Warriors

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Chapter 41

The echoing screams from the fans could be heard all the way to my prison. That was the signal I was waiting on this whole morning since the sun rose. I screwed up last night, but I won’t make the same mistake today.

Father came in earlier and told me the guard outside has been granted permission to come in here if he hears anything suspicious, which I could care less about. I didn’t answer him, to his infuriation. I only stared into the mirror over the fireplace until he stormed out.

This simplified my escape plan slightly, but right now I’ll take any breaks I can get. After he left, I took the picture of my mother from the frame on the mantle and folded it up in her letter. Now that I have a picture of her, I’ll never let it go.

Afterwards, I searched for the heaviest object I could find, but made sure it was light enough to throw. There was a cast iron miniature family crest probably used as a paper weight I found under the nightstand that would be perfect to set my plan in motion. I listened for another round of cheers before I acted.

In my mind, the paper weight represented the ties I had to this family. When I threw it as hard as I could at the mirror, a phantom weight lifted off my shoulders and I knew as the shards of the mirror crashed to the floor, I was almost free. I heard the guard trying to get into the door, so I flung myself down behind the wardrobe and crawled through the delivery door.

In early preparation, I had already been through last night and silently cleared a path to the door because this room was cluttered with what looked like broken furniture, probably destroyed by my father. I heard my name being called, muffled by the wall, and heavy boots stomping up and down the room. Cautiously I opened the door and peeked out.

The hallway was clear, so I skittered along the wall until I reached the stairs, taking frequent glances back at the door of mine and mother’s prison to see if the guard had re-emerged. I could still hear him bellowing and turning over what sounded like the mattress and frame on the bed trying to locate me. It won’t be long before he moves the wardrobe and figures out how I got out.

Moving swiftly down the stairs, I didn’t stop until I reached the first floor. Hiding behind a pillar in an alcove, I surveyed the manor. It was deathly quiet and seemed deserted.

My hopes were high as I wondered if everyone was at the competition. I’ve never been here while a fight is going on, so I honestly didn’t know what all happens

here during it. I opted to just slink along the shadows until I reached the study.

Even when I make it I have no clue how to enter in. I never figured out how Rox was granted access when my father’s voice wasn’t there to let him in. Winging it was how I was imprisoned in that room upstairs and so this time I’m definitely going to have a plan before I act.

It was a short trip, but my fear of being caught made it seem like the longest distance I had ever traveled. As I looked around the study door, I couldn’t find anything that could even remotely be used to open it. There was no knob on the outside, no lock to put a key in. No handle that you could push or pull. It looks seemingly impossible to open.

Distant yelling and boots hitting the stairs hard made me panic and run into the first door I could open, which was small room with blankets and pillows. This is a family room to the servants. Hopefully I won’t see any of them as it would raise a lot of suspicions as to why a Tamminalin was entering the servants quarters. I kept the door cracked so I could hear.

“What do you mean you lost her? How the hell is that possible? She was locked in the same room as Xanthea! This incompetence is why I asked Lord Vyron for the task to stand outside her door because I knew you would screw something up!”

My heart sank as I recognized Rox’s voice. Oh no! Why was he here? He’s supposed to be with my father. He never leaves his side!

A trembling voice answered, “But Captain, she escaped through what looked like a food delivery door that was hidden behind a wardrobe! How was I supposed to know that? Lord Tamminalin said the room was completely sealed and all I had to do was stand outside it.”

Rox roared, “Yes! OUTSIDE it! When you opened the door and seen she wasn’t there you should have stayed OUTSIDE and called for back up plus you would have seen Xori leave out the adjoining room door! This ignorance will not be forgiven, but your punishment will come later. For now, get every man here to spread out and search for her. She could not have gotten far. If Lord Vyron finds out she escaped, he’ll kill you all.”

His bulking form stayed still, while I watched a handful of guards run in different directions. He turned my way and I wasn’t ready for it. I accidentally gasped and he froze on the spot.

Oh no, please no! Please don’t have let him see me! I looked around for a hiding place, but there were only a sea of covers and pillows so my options were limited. I heard him stop outside the door and I dived under a blanket and rolled against the far wall, knocking a stack of probably a dozen pillows over on me.

My breathing stilled as I heard the door squeak open. His slow, heavy steps entered the room and then stopped. I knew he was looking for movement or a sign to prove someone was in here.

As he neared my hiding spot, the door creaked open again and a gruff voice called, “Captain Rox, sir? We’ve found Miss Xori’s hand maid trying to sneak upstairs. She claims she was just bringing Miss Xori an outfit for the day, a blanket and her favorite book. Do you want to come question her, or did you find something here?”

Rox huffed, “No I’ll go question her. There is nothing here except the stench of peasants.” I dared to make a small opening in the blanket to where I could see if Rox was really leaving. He took another dubious glance around the room and walked out, shutting the door behind him.

Scared to move, I laid under the blanket until I could no longer hear any sounds on the other side of the door. Deeming it safe, I rolled out from under the blanket and made my way to it. Slowly, I pushed the door open until a clear view of the downstairs all the way to the staircase was seen.

On tip toes I inched my way to the study door, eyeing it with curiosity as I looked for a way Rox could possibly enter without any outside means. I was stumped and with a sigh, I put my hands in my dress pockets. My fingers felt my mother’s note and I pulled it out as a desperate last attempt for an answer to this dilemma.

Upon quickly scanning it, there was nothing that even remotely mentioned how someone other than father could get in. Frustrated, I started folding it when I seen the new addition I wrote down last night. Three stones down, two across. There were no stones out here so that couldn’t be what that was for.

Absent-mindedly, I whispered the next part, ”Our blood rules all.” I jumped as a click struck the silence and the door slid open.

That was the password? Our damned blood rules all? My father’s conceit is ridiculous.

I’d never been in here, but I wasn’t allowed either. There was an ornate stone fireplace and on the mantle sat none other than his assassination sword in it’s rack. Suppressing a shudder, I kept looking around.

Two leather couches sat across from each other and were separated by a black coffee table. A drink stand was set up by the couch closest to me that had father’s favorite whiskey and bourbon, ready to pour at his demand. There looked like what was an adjoining bathroom to my right and that was it.

This study was lacking in grandeur, unlike the rest of the house, which made this room immediately suspicious. Why was this room so plain? I walked around looking for anything out of the ordinary and couldn’t find anything that stuck out.

Pulling mother’s note back out, I seen those five words again, three stones down, two across. I sprung into action looking for stones. Perhaps, I was expecting stones to be sticking out of the wall or under something, but no matter how hard I looked I couldn’t find anything.

The only stones I could find were the ones in the fireplace. Running my hand across the stones, I felt a row that had a different texture than the rough surface of the others. I figured out instantly what the phrase meant. I traced my finger down three stones and then across to the second one and gently pushed down. It sunk into the fireplace and a circular opening immediately appeared on the floor beside me.

A yellow, bright light shone out of it and what sounded like soft, musical voices were heard within. It was difficult to tell what gender the voices were, but I had to find out. I came this far thanks to my mother’s clues and had to keep going, if only for her.

There were stone steps winding down into the yellow light that disappeared after a few turns with no way to tell what was at the bottom unless you descended. Taking a deep breath and picking up the hem of my dress, I stepped down. When my head was no longer above the floor, a grating sound of stone sliding on stone caused me to almost fall down the rest of the stairs as the opening to the study closed, giving me no option except to keep going.

After what felt like hundreds of steps, I emerged in a torch lit dungeon with mildewed and molded stone walls. The dank, wet smell was overwhelming, seeming as if no one had been down here in a long time. I covered my nose and kept walking down the dungeon corridor.

The bright light became more prominent with each step I took and soon I could see this light was not lit by a torch, but some other source. The voices reached a crescendo to where I could deduce they belonged to women. Their haunting melody chilled my bones and gripped my heart. They were singing, but it didn’t sound happy, it was like they were in mourning.

Immediately, I picked up the pace. I was convinced these were humans imprisoned by my father. However, as the light brightened even more and the ladies became visible I came to the conclusion I was only wrong on one account.

They weren’t human. They were too beautiful to be my species. Three identical woman with golden hair and almost translucent, shining skin were standing in a circle with their hands joined together. Robes of black and yellow adorned their bodies and their hoods were thrown back to rest on their shoulders.

Wind whipped around them as a mix of black, yellow and gold were billowing in the gust that I could not feel. Their hair looked like gold silk that had been thrown into a windstorm. The display kept me speechless and I could do nothing to announce my presence, for it seemed as if I forgot how to speak.

The song reached my heart and soon I had tears running down my face. One of them finally noticed me and signaled to the others, ending the song. Whatever wind that surrounded them stopped as their hair laid perfectly straight on their backs without one stand out of place.

“It’s the youngest Tamminalin. We haven’t seen you in person since you were a baby. I did not know Vyron was letting his daughters know about us now.” The lady in the middle of the three spoke in a suspicious, but jovial manner. It’s like she knew why I was here.

Speech finally returned to me, “My name is Xori Tamminalin and yes, I’m the youngest in our family. I’m here because my mother left me hints on how to find you. She believed you could help me, and I you.”

The one on the left spoke, “Your mother was a brilliant woman. I’m afraid to inform you we were forced to have a hand in her demise. It was not a choice we would have made if we were not bound by a curse.” She looked sincerely doleful and hung her head.

The third spoke up, “Tell us, please child, what all your mother explained to you.” I relayed everything about what my father told me of my mother, the letter in the jewelry box, the writing on the wall and that the stones on the fireplace was the key to coming down here. They looked thoughtful as I spoke.

After I finished they beckoned me forward to a lone table next to the wall. “It is true dear. We are mages tricked into servitude by your great grandfather. Come child. It’s best we show you our story. It will be easier for you to understand this way.”

The mage on the right waved her hand along the table and a yellow, shimmery haze surrounded it, then a picture appeared in its depths. A man who looked exactly like my grandfather was kneeling in front of someone I couldn’t see. I held my breath in anticipation.

The mage began, “Our names are Oscilla, Cordele and Runadell. We are triplets born in a land where no one grows old and magic runs wild. Our older sister, Jylrina, became queen about the time Vyren, your great grandfather, traveled to our land. He came under the pretense of learning about magic. My sister explained that only one born to our land could wield the enchanted power that flowed through the air, for that was what our ancestors taught us. He lied further explaining his wife was ill and carrying a child. All he wanted was to save her and the baby. Our sister has a huge heart for children because she was cursed by a dark elven king to have a barren womb when she refused to mate him. She allowed Vyren to stay while she searched for a way to save his family. But Vyren was a crafty liar and while my sister toiled away over spell books for him, he was breaking into our sacred vault full of dark magic and binding curses. It is an evil, selfish creature who would bond another’s life to their own. Your great grandfather took it to a new level and created a spell that night binding all three of us to his family. We learned a hard lesson that day, you don’t have to be born in our land to use our magic. All you need to have is a sharp mind and the right spell. We were led away and my sister vowed revenge on the Tamminalin bloodline. So far, all these 100 years, she’s yet to find a way to break this curse. She did find a way to break the blight on her womb and has had a child. We have a niece we have never gotten to know. We found out years ago that it must be a Tamminalin to break this bond after Vyren had a child and linked Vyross to us. Once Vyron, your sister and yourself were bound we figured out how to reverse it. The breaker must be Tamminalin and must be willing to sever the bond.”

Excitement bubbled up inside me, “I’m both of those! That’s what I’m here for. I want my father stopped, I want Cicatrix to not be able to kill anymore and this competition shut down. I want to release you from your servitude.”

The mages smiled, “Little one we are thrilled, but you must understand the consequences of breaking this curse. Evanyl, as you see it now, was created through us. It was a tiny trading port before we manipulated it with magic to turn it into the popular city it is today, as well as the control your father has on everything. Cicatrix is only that strong because we made him that way. Evanyl is inescapable because we were forced to create a boundary spell. If someone tries to leave without permission, that person will become sick and die slowly within weeks. If you want this broken, everything around you will be destroyed. This manor, every building and everyone who doesn’t escape in time. Your father’s trance he put on the upper class will break and chaos will ensue. They’ll not know why they are here and stampede to the borders in confusion. Cicatrix will lose his strength and there is a chance your father will be destroyed along with Evanyl. This land will be nothing, but rubble. Understand?”

Nodding automatically, I didn’t really let what they said sink in. I was scared I would have second thoughts. I couldn’t afford hesitation right now.

The mages circled me and Cordele spoke, “We are ecstatic that you are releasing us, but we must warn you. This blood breaking spell will not be pleasant on you. We’ll draw the Tamminalin strain out of your veins and it can get intense. I’ll ask you again. Are you sure?”

Holding out my hands, I put on a brave face, “I have to. I can’t let anymore people suffer and I have to finish what my mother started. Do what you must, I can take it.”

They began to chant in words I’ve never heard in a language I didn’t understand. As they circled me, the worst pain I’ve ever experienced took hold of my body. I was sure my vocal cords ripped as a violent scream tore out of me that pierced my eardrums and made me drop to my knees.

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