Who is she?
Reuben played with the War of the Kings pieces on the board. A frown marred his features as days became weeks. No sign of Samantha. It was as if she vanished into thin air. Even if someone tipped him that she had fled into the Court of Angels, Samantha still didn’t turn up. Upon hearing about the failure, he had the man flayed alive. A smirk curved up his lips as he spun the piece around and pondered. Was she still in the city? And if she was, who was hiding her?
He couldn’t help but wonder about her knights. There were three of them. Despite being bloodied and bruised, he had a good shot at all of them. One was a petite girl with pale blonde hair and creamy white skin. She had a pair of defiant icy blue eyes that shot daggers straight into his blackened soul and devoured it like a hungry demon. He licked his lips; she was quite a prize. The only turn off was that she looked like a little girl. Quite unfortunate, he chuckled in amusement. She looked too tiny for his tastes. Too tiny to him meant to tight.
Then there were the other two knights. One was distinctly recognizable. Not many people in the world had Neptune Steel Gunblades with mesmerizing lavender eyes. Brandon Hawthorne, he pondered on the name. He remembered the man showing up with one of his crew members, Lenard. They had the War Hammer constructed in Machinos and Ingeniare. After that, Lenard chose to stay while Brandon sailed the world. He remembered how fast the blades of the pirate flew. While the small girl rushed at him screaming bloody murder, the pirate said nothing but instead let his swords do the talking. The humming of the Neptunian steel was a sound like no other. It struck with the anger of a stormy ocean with the vengeance of many sailors lost at sea. A chuckle bubbled from his throat; a man worthy of the Machinos Gear.
And there was the other one. He looked ordinary. There was nothing special about him other than the rifle and the two pistols sheathed on his holster. He had been the one trying to stop both the small girl and Brandon from trying to thrash him. But whatever it was, he seemed familiar with more advanced technology. An amused chuckle bubbled from his throat. An ordinary foot-soldier with weapons from Militaris, Reuben chuckled while looking at the pieces. What could he possibly be doing here?
“Well, so that’s her elite.” He chuckled and rested on his throne, examining the War of the Five piece in his hand. “I see, Lady Machinos.” A boisterous guffaw burst from his throat. “You certainly know how to choose, milady! Though they are not from noble birth, they have bested many knights.”
He had to admit; the princess knew how to choose. It would have been disgraceful if she didn’t know how to choose. Other women he had met barely knew how to tell apart talent from hardwork. All they cared about was eating Lemon Cakes and gossiping about the in’s and out’s of the court gossips. He rolled his eyes. His dear mother was like that. And most of all, she always had her favourite son to brag about – Hayden.
Reuben clenched his fists at the thought of his brother. It was not because he had anything against his brother; what he hated was the attention the boy got. Hayden this, Hayden that, his mind cruelly mocked. Reuben began to crush the piece in his finger, not caring that it was starting to crack. But as expected, when his mother passed away – the younger prince had become inconsolable. The young man never the room where his mother’s corpse lay. Everyone refused to speak about her after her death. Not even the Congress or the governors of each of Machinos’ provinces. All of them believed that she died of natural causes. After all, she bled easily. Even a little flick would cause a black and blue bruise to form on her skin.
He cared naught about her. After all, she never did care about him either. To her, he was just a bastard child born from an extramarital affair. She paid him no heed and instead put all her stock and trade into Hayden. While she never did anything bad to him, the fact that she ignored him was good enough. It was good enough to give her what she thought was an elixir of life.
He heard a knock on the door. “Come in,” he said with clear disinterest.
The door opened and revealed one of the Machinos Gears, Jeremiah. A chuckle bubbled from Reuben’s throat. If there was one member of the Machinos Gear he could relate to, it was Jeremiah Havoc. A former squire of his father, the boy had been tossed back and forth between foster families due to his alleged “destructive” nature. Stories such as dead cats with their eyeballs gouged out found in the toy boxes, neighbours shying away from him and accusing him of trying to kill their pets, and all sorts of other things reached the judicial court. His birth father cared nothing for the sort. All he wanted was someone who was capable of killing.
And Jeremiah was simply that.
“Oh, what brings you here?” Reuben chuckled. “Did you finally find that whore that hid Samantha?”
Jeremiah gave him a slow smile. “Of course I did, Reuben.”
“Flayed and rolled in a bed of hot coal.”
“Brutal but a tad bit messy don’t you think?”
Jeremiah bowed. “Unfortunately, the electric chair was being repaired and the lethal injection loads were being refilled. So, I had to use more traditional means.”
“Well, it’s alright.” Reuben smirked and folded his legs. “It’s sometimes good to use the old ways to deal with treacherous bitches like her. How about that useless boy who handed that pirate the contraband? Where is he?”
“He refused to speak so I had beat him a little.”
“Yes, a good set. Apparently, the thing the pirate bought was a Mana Tracker.”
Reuben nodded. So the pirate was seeking out the princess, he thought. He half-expected that it would be Beatriz who had more loyalty would look for the princess. Then again, he smirked. The lady-in-waiting would stick out like a sore thumb. Her pale skin and icy blue eyes, not to mention her large mana pool, would have gotten her tracked down. He tapped the metal king piece in his hand and looked up at Jeremiah.
“Was anyone able to spot where the pirate went off to?” Reuben asked.
“Unfortunately no.” Jeremiah shook his head. “However, I do have a source that he went off into the slums.”
“I see. Well, we’ll just have to smoke him out then.”
“Shall I find a cat, sir?”
“All I need is some gasoline and a stray cat we don’t give a fuck about.”
Reuben smirked. There was a reason why he liked Jeremiah’s methods. “Make sure that no one tracks us.”
Jeremiah scoffed. “With a flaming cat, it’ll be impossible.”
The prince nodded. Brutal and old-school but effective, Reuben mused to himself. If you can’t find the princess then, find the servants. They’re bound to crack way faster, a sly smile curved up his lips. While they were talented in combat, outsmarting them should be no problem. After smoking them out, catching them shouldn’t be a problem. All he had to do was to find the weakest link.
Samantha yelped as her hand broke against the stone. She looked at the Stonegnasher as it dug its way through the rock. The other Earth Dragons used their horns and claws to interact with the earth. A frown marred her features. Her body couldn’t do that! Dragons had harder bones than humans! Most of all, they had scales to protect them! No, she shook her head. Stop making excuses for yourself! She chided herself and tried again. Her fingers bled and dust covered her fingers. Her nails chipped from the constant contact with the earth as she tried to burrow again and again.
“Earth is a stubborn element. It will not budge; it will not move.” Khanara explained kindly to Samantha. “Think of someone who refuses to yield to you no matter what happens.”
There’s Bea, Samantha thought. But when she thought about it, the Dark Knight proved that she had more ferocity than most people. In fact, her anger dwarfed those who supposedly were more ferocious than she was. She looked at the rock before her and focused all her intent at it. The mana began to pulse inside her with the impact shivering through each nerve in her body. Unlike the times she felt manipulating water, her mana now had more force and demanded submission from the element. She looked at the other dragons interacting with the earth. Some brushed the stone wall with its horn. Others brushed their scaly skin against the smooth cavern wall. They kicked it, brushed it with their tail, and even sniffed it. It was as if they were doing more than just moving the rock; they were interacting with the earth.
With these in mind, Samantha focused on the stone wall before her. She threw her fingers forward and much to her delight, cut through the rock. Her eyes lit up as she began cleaving her way through the rock little by little. Each cleave cut a hole and the other Earth dragons near her began burrowing with her. Her enthusiasm fuelled her and more stone and dust flew behind her. Her arms flew faster. More dust and debris flew behind her. It was amazing! Samantha giggled in delight and continued to make a cave hole through the wall.
“This is amazing!” She hollered among the walls. Suddenly, her hand smacked into something. “Ow!”
She pulled back only for her eyes to widen. Right before her, there was a large Platinum ore before her. Oh, Samantha brushed her hand against the ore. It was huge for a chunk of ore; she hadn’t seen Platinum deposits that large in any book she had read.
“I see you found what Reuben’s been attacking this mountain for,” a quiet voice said.
Samantha jumped and turned around to see Khanara looking at the ore with sad eyes. “What do you mean?”
“Platinum is the only element that refuses to yield to Earth. It is what people call the purest of metals,” Khanara shook her head. “Any pure metal will refuse to yield. No matter what.”
“Not even melting it?”
“We have tried but even combining basic elements didn’t work.”
Samantha nodded and looked at the large chunk of Platinum ore before her. “But even if there’s no magic that can force it to bend, all we have to do is disarm the enemy right?”
Khanara shrugged. “It can be seen that way. However, there is a problem.”
“What would that be?”
The Sorcerer Dragon slithered past Samantha and huffed before unleashing a large blue flame. Jumping back from the sudden heat, Samantha yelped with fright when the blue flames exploded against the Platinum’s surface. Khanara continued breathing on the Platinum ore for the next three minutes until stopping. The princess coughed from the smoke as the flames cooled down to orange embers when she saw the Platinum. Her eyes widened with admonishment. The Platinum ore showed no signs of burns or damage at all!
“This is the only known metal along with silver and gold that could withstand Dragon fire.” Khanara hung her head shamefully. “And the worst part is, this whole mountain is full of it.”
Samantha shook her head. “If any empire discovered this, it would begin the evolution of weapons.”
“Exactly. As is, weaponry and war machines have developed to the point that even magic is soon becoming obsolete.”
“We have to destroy it!”
“Destroying it is no easy task. This is why Kevyn refused to leave the mountains. She did it for our safety.”
The princess fell silent. Is this all change had to offer? Did change always have to begin with conflict? Her heart sank when she remembered the many places she had gone through. The empire of Azaleth, the once wonderful empire of magic, sank into the depths of the earth and history due to a war waged by the Odissea. She was of no throne; her brothers instigated a war that demanded the throne. All this had been created from conflict. And it wasn’t just a small conflict over who stole the last cookie; it was a conflict for power.
She clenched her fists tight. “There has to be a form of magic. Any kind; and the only kind of magic that could possibly obliterate that kind of metal is divine magic.”
Khanara raised an eyebrow. “Holy magic, you mean?”
“Not necessarily. It is a magic that has a divine attribute. Its source, according to the tomes, comes from a different world. It comes from the beings themselves.”
“Ah, magic used by the Primordials, you mean?”
Samantha nodded and then had a crestfallen expression. “But that race had gone extinct.”
“Not necessarily,” Khanara said, “the Primordials may not necessarily be dead either.”
“What do you mean?”
Khanara beckoned the princess to follow her out of the tunnel that Samantha. “According to the last records of the Primordials, they found a way to preserve themselves. They may have lost their bodies but they managed to save their souls. Because of this, they are in a way alive.”
Samantha treaded behind Khanara. “What do you mean? You can still talk to them?”
“In a sense yes. But they only manifest when their most powerful emotion is met.”
“Most powerful emotion?”
“Beings such as we feel a variety of emotions. Pain, love, compassion, happiness, care, temperance, and many others – these things are powerful enough to trigger the magic within them. And when it is triggered, they take on a physical form.”
“A physical form?”
“Yes, according to Kevyn, it seems you already met one Primordial.”
Samantha shook her head. “I did?”
“Yes, and her name is Azaleth.”
Upon hearing the name, the princess froze with a mixture of astonishment and disbelief spread across her face. How could that be, Samantha wondered. If Azaleth was what Khanara said she was then, what emotion did she trigger within them? Pain? Sorrow? She frowned for a moment and looked at the ring of Azaleth on her finger. Now that she looked at the ring again, she realized how the crown and the ring looked extremely gaudy. But for the gem to house the intentions of all the Azalethians to call forth the first Queen of Azaleth, she realized how much power lay in one little chunk of rock. Suddenly, a realization hit her. She remembered when the true Lady of Azaleth spoke to her.
I entrust to you, the will of my people. For we yearn to see the sun, at least once. For we thirst for freedom more than anything else.
At first, she didn’t take the woman’s words seriously. However, Khanara’s words changed everything. No wonder Azaleth herself had so much power. Another question however bothered her. How did she gain that much power to summon a Primordial in the first place? She looked at her hands and then at Khanara.
“I understand what you’re thinking,” Khanara said. But she shook her head. “I unfortunately cannot answer your question. People are gifted with different amounts of mana circuits within them. Perhaps, you are one of the few lucky ones who are born with many enough to withstand the stress of summoning a Primordial.”
Maybe, Samantha thought to herself. As much as she wanted to be content with the answer, a part of her wasn’t. There was something about summoning a Primordial. She read it in the many tomes in Xychosia’s and Sofiene’s libraries that said that summoning a Primordial could only be accomplished by high ranking magicians, sorcerers, wizards, or any high ranking practitioner of magic. Even then, some Primordials were known to be fickle. She remembered how Azaleth easily put aside her love for her brother. Didn’t it hurt to fight her family?
“It does. To fight the people who claim that they love you.” Khanara let out a sorrowful chuckle. “Kevyn went through the same thing. When they tried to kill us, they had to choose. Kill us or kill her bloodline.”
Samantha swallowed hard. “What did she choose?”
“She chose not to kill. But all her cousins were sent to eliminate her immediately.”
“It’s clear they didn’t succeed.”
“Yes but the guilt of having your own blood hate you is a heavy burden. Nonetheless, the little girl did tell me something important that day.”
Khanara smiled. “I may have the blood of a human. But my heart and soul is that of a dragon. Family is not always defined by blood. They are defined as the people who are capable of caring for you unconditionally.”
The princess saw the fond smile on the Sorcerer Dragon’s face. “You’re really proud of her, aren’t you?”
“I am. I raised her as if she were my own flesh and blood as well. She took to us like a hatchling to the air.”
“That is good. She really loves being a dragon… from the way it looks.”
Khanara chuckled and asked. “Samantha?”
“After I teach you the elements, there is one thing I must ask of you.”
The princess turned to face Khanara and much to her surprise, the Sorcerer Dragon bowed before her. Her eyes widened. Why would she need to bow? There was no need!
“I want you to teach Kevyn about humans,” Khanara pleaded, “and show her that humans are capable of goodness. I do not want her to become a villain who seeks to destroy all of humanity.”
The princess blinked in surprise. “But, why me?”
It was the ever important question. As is, Kevyn out-maneuvered her every step of the way. The dragon-tamer also seemed so set in her ways. She hated humans; Kevyn had no qualms in torturing them or beating them. I witnessed that first hand, Samantha shuddered. She remembered not only the time Kevyn treated her roughly but also fought off the soldiers during the raid. The woman spared them no mercy. She called down lightning bolts and let Blitzkrieg devour the soldiers before they even had a fighting chance.
“It’s because you are pure of heart.” Khanara rebuked the princess’ thoughts. “Kevyn may be a bit hard headed but she is willing to listen.”
“I hope so.”
“Oh no need to be cynical, Samantha. Kevyn will eventually listen to you.”
Keyword being eventually, the princess laughed sheepishly. A few weeks back, Kevyn didn’t care about her. In fact, the woman preferred kicking her and beating the lights out of her. Then again, to have an ancient Sorcerer Dragon bow down to her, it meant that Khanara was serious. She sighed; while the princess didn’t want to teach the dragon-tamer, she figured that Kevyn’s combat skills would be an invaluable asset to the team. I wonder how she’ll get along with Bea, Brandon, and Daniel though, she pondered. While she had no doubt Kevyn could hold her own, her social graces left much to be desired.
“I’ll do what I can,” she said.
“Thank you. I also want Kevyn to grow amongst her kind. Perhaps, it would somewhat curb her hatred.”
“I don’t know if it will happen. But, Kevyn seems to have a long standing grudge against humans.”
“Well, I cannot blame her. Humans have constantly attacked here.”
Samantha nodded as they finally emerged from the tunnel. She turned around to look at the entry point and how perfectly chipped the entrance looked. A sense of achievement welled up inside her. Before, she relied on random probability for whatever spell. What could she have done? Nobody ever taught her how to battle! Not even Beatriz! Come to think of it, the princess wondered to herself. Why did Beatriz never teach her how to fight? If anything, Beatriz didn’t like covering up for people. In her words, she said that she was just “selfish” that way.
She looked at her hands all covered with dirt and dust. But somehow, she didn’t mind. If she had to get dirty to learn then, by all means she would. She saw the other dragons smashing the boulders into smaller pieces. She looked at a small rock before focusing the mana into her hand. A green aura enveloped her hand as she lifted her hand up. The rock soon followed as she began to mould her mana around it. Her eyes widened when she saw green lights swirl around the rock before compressing on the rock. Soon, cracks appeared on the rock and tiny debris fell on the ground. After a few moments, Samantha crushed the rock into tiny specks of dust. She nodded before trying to focus on the specks of dust instead. The threads were small but she could see her mana trying to link up with each and every speck of dust. She moved her hand one side but the moment she did, the dust fell onto the ground. A sigh bubbled from her throat as Khanara approached her.
“Hmm, trying a more precise way of controlling things?” Khanara looked at what Samantha tried to attempt.
The princess nodded. “I was wondering that if I could manipulate water into moulding into something, wouldn’t sand be able to as well since it has smaller particles?”
“Possible but let’s go from big to small, alright?”
Suddenly, she heard someone holler. “I’m back!”
Samantha looked up only to see Kevyn return with a long rod strapped to her back. That can’t be her weapon, the princess frowned, noticing the dragon-tamer’s more intricate weapon strapped to her waist. When the dragon-tamer descended the stairs, she watched Kevyn reveal the weapon to her.
“Here.” Kevyn handed the staff to her with a smirk. “This oughta work.”
Samantha took the staff from the dragon-tamer and brushed her fingers against the woodwork. The wood had been cleanly carved and polished with not a single chip in sight. She recognized the white wood from an Aspen tree. The shaft shone with a bit of varnish and the head had a gem embedded among the twigs. The princess brushed her hand against the gem, feeling mana pulse from within it.
“The gem inside your staff is called Magium. It’s a normal beginner gem,” Kevyn explained. “Most beginner sorcerers use it because of its ability to filter mana and regulate its flow.”
Samantha nodded. “Wow, where did you find this?”
“Remember the Stonegnasher?”
“It has a cousin known as the Gemsniff. The Gemsniff can find gems through scent. How it does that, I have no idea.”
Samantha nodded and then heard a squawk. She looked up to see the Wavesniper she tamed trotting down the cavern stairs with a grin.
“Oooh! Bubbles!” Samantha beamed in delight.
Kevyn raised an eyebrow. “… Bubbles?”
“What? I have to give it a name!”
“I thought you’d name it something nicer like Jetstream or Shellshocker.”
Samantha laughed as her Wavesniper thrust its snout into her arms. “Aww,” she squealed and petted its head. “You missed me?”
Bubbles squawked happily.
“Don’t worry, I’m just down here. I’m still learning the element of Earth.”
The dragon blinked.
“I have to learn how to talk to rocks.”
Her dragon tilted its head a bit, clearly confused.
Kevyn smirked. “You dumbass, it don’t speak human.”
The princess pouted; the nerve of her! “I knew that!”
“Suuure you did.” Kevyn rolled her eyes and folded her arms. “You were cutesy talking it and now its name is Bubbles. Any sane dragon would have chuffed at you for your lack of creativity.”
“Blitzkrieg isn’t creative!”
“Well, it sounds definitely better than Bubbles!”
The princess scowled and turned back to her dragon, stroking its snout. She smiled in nostalgia. Back in Sofiene, normal animals such as horses were in the stables. She remembered all the riding lessons; how she had to cross her legs while side-sitting, how to balance, how to keep her posture while riding, and many other things. But here I am – riding and taming a dragon, Samantha thought. However, she couldn’t help but wonder. What happened if the sanctuary they were staying in completely went under siege? While there had been a siege a few hours ago, Kevyn managed to quell the attack. But what if it was bigger? What if they had more of those long-nosed metal beasts again? She clenched her fist. She had to be ready. No matter what it took.
Samantha then looked at the rock and then remembered how Kevyn turned one of the rocks into a metal ore. She remembered how Kevyn’s fist seemed to glow blue for a moment before she opened her palm to reveal a metal ore. Samantha took note of the pebbles lying on the ground and crouched down to pick up a few. That being said, Samantha thought.
“Khanara,” Samantha started, “you said that the purest of metals refuse to yield.”
“That’s what we know, yes,” Khanara replied.
“But Kevyn was able to change Earth into Metal.”
“Via heat and pressure, yes.”
The princess pondered for a moment and looked at the rock. “Is it possible to maybe – I don’t know – change its properties from within?”
Kevyn raised an eyebrow. “If you mean like from water to ice, the metal still won’t yield.”
“No, I mean – if you subject it to enough heat and pressure, it will change. When I saw you change that rock into metal, it altered in form. It wasn’t that same rock. It was shiny and harder than rock.”
“That’s only physical change. You’re asking to change its very composition.”
“So,” Samantha became a little crestfallen. “It’s impossible then?”
“At the moment, yes,” Khanara sadly shook her head. But, she reassured the princess. “However, I understand the principle.”
“But altering the chemical state is currently beyond our knowledge. It’s either decomposing it or creating the very fibres of its existence.”
“Oh, I see.”
“But no need to be disheartened. I’m sure there will be a way soon.”
Samantha nodded. “I hope so.” She smiled. “I’ll continue working on Earth.”
Seeing the Sorcerer Dragon nod, Samantha returned to what she was doing. She focused on the little pebbles on the ground and let the vibrations guide her. She recalled Kevyn’s exercise of listening to the ground. Every step of the dragons shook the ground and even their breathing became loud in her ears. She crouched down for a moment and pressed her palm against the floor.
Khanara chuckled at Kevyn. “She’s learning fast.”
Kevyn shrugged. “She has to. Fights don’t give you time to learn slowly.”
“That’s true. I hope you didn’t try to kill her the first time.”
“You’re a bit harsh.”
“I had to be. The world’s a shitty place.”
Khanara, as much as she hated to admit, agreed with Kevyn’s cynicism. While she tried to believe that there were some humans capable of goodness, many of the humans she and Kevyn came across wanted the common human desires. They demanded magic, fame, glory, and most of all – they desired power. The power to stomp on those who dared to oppose them; the power to avoid feeling weakness ever again – it was that kind of greed that destroyed much of her faith in humanity.
However, there were a few who had restored some of it. Kevyn, her apprentice and Bahamut’s child, did. She looked at the princess who calmly began meditating while squatting on the ground with her palm pressed against the earth. She could feel the warm mana pulsing through the earth from the princess. Can it be, Khanara wondered. As far as she knew, those people were extinct. Could they have survived? While the idea itself seemed incredulous, Khanara knew no other theory to confirm how Samantha could have an affinity to all the elements.
Suddenly, the ground beneath her began to rumble. Sand and dust swirled around her. Khanara’s eyes widened when something flashed before her. There were markings covering Samantha’s skin. Ancient characters and writings from years before began to glow on her expose arms and legs. Some markings glowed blue and the others began to glow green. All the dragons stopped and her black hair began dance and toss around. The sand around her whirled and suddenly, the ground began to rumble.
“Kevyn!” Khanara called out.
Suddenly, water burst from the ground with water snakes swimming through the air. Much to their amazement, the water even began to change colours. But what amazed Khanara more was the fact that Samantha seemed to be conscious while she was doing it. A smile adorned the princess’s face as she began redirect the sand and the water with her hand. She began saying a spell in a different dialect before moulding it into a ball with water rings swirling around it. The princess twitched slightly, trying to compress the ball even further. At this point, Khanara had become completely convinced.
But the next question was: who was she really?
If she knew the Sofienian bloodline, they had a more powerful affinity to Earth. She had met the queen herself, Queen Tricia. The woman would always borrow books about Earth Spells and faced her trials as a Sorcereress in the Yartengar Mountains. Now that she thought about it, Samantha was nothing like her. Other than some aesthetic features, Samantha’s powers jumped past hers. Her father had no magic; he prided himself in being a politician and military man while balancing his life as to being Samantha’s father.
So where did the powerful magic come from?
Her eyes narrowed for a bit while Samantha giggled in delight and played with the other dragons.
“You can feel it too, can’t you?” She heard Kevyn ask.
Khanara chuckled. “Yes, her mana’s that vast.”
“I haven’t met anyone with a mana that vast before. And to think, she’s barely tapping into it.”
“I’m actually more amazed how her body hasn’t burned out.”
Khanara nodded. “If her magic were too much for her, she would have died way before her time.”
“She wouldn’t have survived to being an early adult,” Kevyn added, “but, what about the elemental affinity? You can have a shit ton of mana but not know how to use a single damn spell.”
“That can be attributed to her learning in the castle, I suppose,” Khanara guessed with a shake of her head. “But somehow, it can’t be just that either.”
“The Sofienian family’s known to be a talented family of wizards.”
“That’s true but, none of them ever mastered all four elements.”
Kevyn shrugged. “Lucky draw?”
“I doubt it. Elemental affinity is something that has been passed down for generations through bloodlines.”
“Then maybe she’s adopted…?”
I doubt it, Khanara shook her head. But she couldn’t help but entertain the possibility in her mind. The idea of Samantha being adopted; if she entertained that thought then, it would lead to so many more questions. Who were her parents? What happened to them? Most of all, how did she become a princess? The dragon sighed. If she had hair like Kevyn, she was certain that she would be trying to rip them off her head. Suddenly, an idea hit her.
“Kevyn, I suggest you be the one to teach her Fire,” Khanara remarked offhandedly.
The dragon-tamer gawked. “What!? I can’t teach her shit!”
“Kevyn, you should have more confidence in yourself. You managed to teach her how to fight.”
“Yeah by threatening her!”
“I’m sure you can come up with a better plan.”
Kevyn scowled. “Yeah, I can,” she grumbled with a fold of her arms. “I’m not teaching that moron how to use fire.”
Suddenly, Khanara saw a water snake slap Kevyn at the back of her head.
“Ow!” Kevyn snapped and turned to Samantha. “Bitch!”
Samantha sheepishly smiled with a shrug. “Sorry, I lost control…?”
“You lost control!? I’ll show you loss of control,” Kevyn roared before coating her hands with blue lightning.
“SAMANTHA! YOU’RE GETTING YOUR ASS KICKED NOW!”
Khanara chuckled. Even if Samantha could fight against a few soldiers, having an angry Kevyn screaming bloody murder was rather terrifying. However, she had seen Kevyn on her worst. The girl would show no hesitation; she let out no sound before slaughtering the human who dared to harm one of the dragons. She watched with an amused chuckle as Kevyn unleashed a volley of lightning bullets at Samantha. When the bullets closed in, Samantha dropped down to the ground and cast a green glyph.
“Earthen Shield,” Samantha yelped.
The ground shot up with two stone pillars. However, that wasn’t enough to stop the raging Kevyn. With one lightning-powered roundhouse kick, the dragon-tamer shattered the pillar into pieces. Khanara laughed as Samantha screamed and the other dragons laughed at the sight. A sigh bubbled from the Sorcerer Dragon’s throat. While she wanted Kevyn to stay with her, she knew that her little hatchling had to fly one day. Her hatred of humanity – if she didn’t curb it now, the girl would have probably set on a quest for a complete one-side obliteration of humanity.
I just hope Samantha can teach her, Khanara thought.
Beatriz raised an eyebrow at the pirate. “So let me get this straight, you managed to find an item that can help track Samantha?”
Brandon nodded. “Pretty much.”
“You sure it works?”
“Only one way to find out.”
Beatriz nodded. “We’ll do it at night then. We should have an easy time.” She looked around. “Speaking of which, where’s the new guy?”
Brandon raised an eyebrow. “Who?”
“You know, Daniel.”
“I dunno. Thought he was with you.”
Beatriz scowled. “Why would that punk be with me? I don’t trust him.”
“Don’t you know the saying of keeping your friends close but your enemies closer?”
“I prefer having my enemies in pieces, thank you very much.”
“And this is why he’s probably spooked shitless by you.”
“Oh stop being such a stick in the mud, pirate. I thought you were looser than that.”
While he and Beatriz both had their reservations about Daniel, he still couldn’t understand what made Samantha accept him the first place. On Bea’s note, she said that it was because Daniel had protected Samantha before. But the other one was most likely because she was desperate for knights. He frowned. At the rate it took to find knights, somehow he understood why she insisted on taking in Daniel even if – personally he thought – he was the weakest among the three of them. Even Luke had more combat potential, Brandon scowled.
Suddenly, the door opened to reveal Daniel walking in. “Sorry I’m late.”
Beatriz snickered. “Where’d you go? Went out for a good fuck?”
Daniel frowned. “Just because I’m a guy doesn’t mean I think with my dick all the time.”
“You never know. They say prude people are more repressed and play with themselves until they soak their bed sheets.”
“Ugh, does your vulgarity know no bounds?”
“Who the hell are you? My mom? What do you care?”
Brandon chuckled. Beatriz always being direct to the point, he thought to himself. But he hadn’t expected Daniel to come back earlier either. “So, what are you doing here? I thought you’d still be sneaking around like some shady murderer.”
Daniel shook his head. “I may have found a way to get some transportation to speed up the search for Samantha.”
“Oh? How did you do that? If you must know, we’re not going to hack and slash our way through.”
“Of course not, it means relying on Lenard.”
Brandon pursed his lips. This ought to be interesting. “Oh? You did now? How’d you get him to agree?”
“I somewhat altered a few things,” Daniel explained before pulling out a map. “Right now, we have to come up with a battle plan.”
“More like a stealth plan. We can’t fight all those Sentinels surrounding the castle.”
“That’s true,” Beatriz pointed out, “I may like chopping things but robots get boring to kill after awhile. Besides, they don’t feed my scythe the way humans do.”
“That’s where Lenard comes in,” Daniel said, “I’ve asked him to hack into the Sentinels’ programming and make them turn on one another.”
Brandon nodded; he had to admit – it was a pretty impressive idea. “Okay so let’s say Lenard does succeed. Do you even know where to get the transports?”
Daniel nodded and pulled out a map, unrolling it before them. Brandon spotted several structures such as the citadel of Machinos, several hangers, a few rooms, and some places which he thought were the dungeons. He brushed his hand against the old, dusty paper to see the floor plans to get a closer look. While the ink had faded over time, he could still see some of the outlines that could possibly lead elsewhere.
“So, what’s the plan?” Brandon asked and raised an eyebrow at Daniel. “You do have a plan, right?”
Daniel paused for a moment before nodding. “Yeah I do.”
Sure you do, Brandon scoffed in his mind. He saw the hint of hesitation in Daniel’s eyes. And as far as he knew, it meant Daniel had no plan. He groaned and resisted the urge to smack the agent’s face. He glanced at Beatriz who kept her eyes focused on the map.
“We can go through the backdoor where the kitchen is,” Beatriz pointed to one area, tapping it. “At least if we do so, we’ll be able to sneak unnoticed and give Lenard more time to annoy the Sentinels.”
Daniel nodded. “Sounds like a plan.”
“Besides, we can grab their food and stock up on our own supplies. It’s not as if Reuben’s gonna need it.”
“Hayden will though.”
“Meh, nobody cares about him.”
Brandon exhaled sharply and looked at the map again. While he trusted Lenard’s skills, he couldn’t trust his morality. He knew that Lenard had the skills to shut down the entirety of Machinos. But he didn’t know if Lenard would stay on their side for long. After all, he did have the morality level that of a five year old, Brandon thought. But if Daniel managed to sway him then, he may as well take advantage of it.
“After we get the transport, we start searching for Samantha,” Daniel explained. “Any questions?”
Brandon nodded. “Yeah, one: does anyone know how to drive?”
“I do,” Daniel offered.
“I’d like to live to me next birthday, mate. Not willin’ to die anytime soon.”
“Yeah,” Beatriz scoffed and leaned against the wall. “It would be bad if the princess outlasted her knights.”
Brandon raised an eyebrow. “Isn’t that usually the case?”
“Yeah and for me, it’s damn sickening.” Beatriz folded her arms with an indignant snort. “So, when are we doing this?”
Daniel pulled out his phone. “I’ll get a message from Lenard and he’ll be the one to tell us when we can go in. After all, we’re talking about the Machinean Security system. This isn’t some walk in the park.”
“He’ll probably make it a walk in the park,” Brandon chuckled.
However, there was an unsettling feeling in his stomach. He looked at the citadel out the window and saw many other ships floating around. Majority of them appeared to be transporting things while others looked more for reconnaissance. Even if Lenard had the ability to deactivate those, what about the Machinos Gears? They were not machines but humans just like them. Just how powerful were they? If Machinos thought of keeping a human elite battalion, they would at least have high standards.
“There’s one thing though we’ll have to kick around,” Beatriz said and folded her arms. “We’re gonna have to take out the Machinos Gears.”
“The Machinos Gears are known to be the Elite Force created by the queen,” Brandon added. “These people are not just some useless scallywags you pick off the streets. These guys are hard-core fighters.”
Beatriz nodded. “Yeah, especially that guy I heard about – Jeremiah. Nobody knows who he is. All they know is that anyone who faces him is good as dead.”
“Is he as powerful as they say he is?”
“I’ve only heard rumours but according to many, his power is not exactly magic. It’s his personality.”
Daniel nodded. “The personality of pure sociopathy – he can kill without remorse.”
“It’s who he is,” Beatriz added and folded her arms. “I think I’m the only one best equipped to fight him. If he wounds me, I get stronger.”
“What about the others?”
“You guys can handle the potatoes. I’ll handle the meat.”
Brandon nodded, agreeing with the plan. He had only heard about Jeremiah but not of the other members of the Machinos Gears. His fists clenched tight. He hated not knowing something. It drove him mad; jumping into battle without the proper information heightened his chances of dying. He had to admit however, Daniel’s plan did seem sound. Just not very well thought out.
“As much as possible, we want to avoid confrontation with the Machinos Gears.” Daniel pointed at one of the rooms in the Machinos Citadel blueprint. “The moment we end up confronting one, it’s going to give away our location.”
“As if stealing a form of transportation won’t.” Brandon rolled his eyes at Daniel.
“Well, at least that one all we have to do is run over the people.”
“Yeah, like that will be easy. The only thing that can take bullets at the moment is some bullet proof armour or magic which we don’t have.”
Beatriz snickered. “I do but I never did well in defensive magic,” she admitted with an amused snort.”That was usually Sam’s forte. Defensive magic, buffing magic, healing magic – she literally aced through those tests without even studying.”
“And you did more hacking and slashing.” Daniel scoffed. “That’s pretty much making you a glass cannon.”
“Besides, I’m like a honey badger. Honey badger don’t care, honey badger don’t give a shit.”
“Well, you’re gonna give a shit the moment you’re bleeding all over the place and in pain.”
Brandon snorted. “Dan, if you haven’t noticed – Bea thrives on pain and blood.”
Daniel visibly twitched when he saw the pale girl give him a maniacal smile. “Yes… I seemed to have forgotten that she does thrive on it.”
With that, Beatriz smirked and pulled out her scythe. “Well then, what are we waiting for? Let’s go!”
With Water and Earth obeying her, Samantha began to integrate what she had learned from her tutors back in the castle. She began doing enchantments while trying to mould the elements. Closing her eyes, she focused on the water in front of her and began her enchantment.
Gele froidea, gele’eau …
As the words left her mouth, a freezing aura crept out from beneath her foot. She exhaled sharply as the cold feeling licked against her skin and her hairs began to stand on their ends. The princess breathed deep again and felt her breath tickle the skin on her chin. She could feel her mana cooling down the heat around her as she raised her head up to get a better feel of the water and earth. Ever since Kevyn threw out the blockage in her mind, Samantha had never felt so free. It was as if she had more access to her magic now more than ever.
It didn’t feel like any rush of power. Instead, it had amore nostalgic feeling to it. The water around her seemed to flow towards her and follow her will. The earth supported her weight and opened pathways for the water to pass. Samantha opened her eyes and found a big snowflake floating in front of her as the water continued to knit and form in the air. A smile beamed from her lips as her Wavesniper squawked with a spread of its wings.
“I know right!? Kevyn really did something awesome,” Samantha giggled in delight. “I honestly didn’t know I had this much power!”
The Wavesniper bobbed its head a bit, nodding.
“Yes, I still have to learn how to control it. It’s kind of hard keeping this thing suspended in mid-air.”
Samantha focused her efforts on keeping the snowflake in its form. She rolled her eyes to the side to see Kevyn also controlling her lightning magic. She observed the he dragon-tamer practice as the lightning flowed in her body. I wonder if I can do that with Water too, Samantha wondered to herself. She took note of Kevyn’s stance and also how her breathing was. She stood tall and closed her eyes while feeling the moisture and the water around her. The water in the air soon began to turn into a large puddle in mid-air. She remembered how she formed the tentacles on her arms and let the water cover her entire arm before forming a tentacle on both arms. She looked in surprise before trying something new. Focusing her mana into the water, the water slowly began to freeze to reveal two ice blades.
“Cool!” Samantha beamed in delight. “Ice blades!”
Kevyn chuckled. “That’s pretty big though and hard to use…”
“No it’s not.”
“It’s heavy and you can’t bend your elbow.”
“I can,” Samantha protested. “Watch!”
Determined to prove that she could, Samantha tried swinging the blades. The princess’ eyes widened as she began to stumble because the blade dragged her along. She tried swinging her left arm only to narrowly miss the dragon-tamer. She yelped as her Wavesniper could only cover its eyes, afraid to watch. Samantha grunted and tried to bend her elbow only to trip around her two feet and fall flat on her back. The blades shattered from the impact and Samantha lay on the ground. Her dragon chuffed at her and Kevyn smirked.
“So much for those blades being useful.” Kevyn snickered in amusement and folded her arms, looking down at the princess. “If you wanted those blades to be useful then, maybe you shouldn’t have covered your elbows?”
The princess frowned. “Don’t say it.”
“I told you so.”
“I told you not to say it.”
“No you didn’t. You just told me to not say it. The word ‘it’ can be so many things.”
Samantha sighed as Kevyn helped her up. “I at least tried,” she said with a pout.
“Yeah, I suppose.” Kevyn gave her a light-hearted chuckle. “If you want to go moulding, you have to learn how to compress them and control the amount you’re taking in. Heck, that’s basically conjuration.”
Samantha nodded. “I know it’s conjuration but I want to learn enchantment.”
“The thing you were doing awhile ago.”
The princess groaned. “You know, the one where you let electricity flow through your arms and legs?”
Kevyn blinked for a few moments and then her mouth formed a small ‘o’. “Oh you mean this?” Blue electricity sparked around her arms and legs and wrapped itself around her limbs.
“Yeah, that.” Samantha pointed to the blue electricity. “How did you do that?”
“It’s easy. It’s kinda like enchantment except you’re enchanting your limbs.”
“But don’t limbs have a limit as to how much energy you can put in it?”
Kevyn shrugged. “Yeah but, there’s a way to control it. As long as you can control the amount of energy flowing into it, there shouldn’t be a problem.”
Samantha nodded and tried focusing the water again. She recognized the flow of water around her in the air as it began to materialize before her. The water swirled before moving towards Samantha’s arms, covering it until her elbows. She began her incantation again as a glyph appeared right beneath her. The water violently swirled and encased her arm before freezing her entire forearm in ice, forming a blade on both arms.
“You mean like this?” Samantha showed her the two ice blades with a beaming grin.
Kevyn nodded. “Yeah and that would work, if you’re trying to beat a sea sponge.”
“Will it kill you to be nice?”
“What? I’m just saying you could do better.”
The princess shook her head with a small giggle. Despite Kevyn’s being brusque, she came to appreciate it. She didn’t hold back when it came to giving constructive criticism. However, she couldn’t help but wonder why Khanara wanted her to bring Kevyn with her. The girl was already happy living with the dragons. Why push a bad position? The princess frowned for a moment and saw how at home Kevyn was with the dragons. She would never abandon her people, Samantha shook her head.
“Kevyn, I have a question,” Samantha asked.
“Ask away,” Kevyn replied.
“Are you happy here?”
“Is that a rhetoric question?”
“No, it’s a serious question.”
Kevyn shrugged. “No shit, I’m happy here. I wouldn’t leave the dragons for anything.”
Samantha nodded. So why did Khanara insist? Kevyn loved dragons more than anything; asking her to leave the dragons would be trying to rip her away from her home. It was at that thought that Samantha froze. She learned by leaving her comfort zone; it was when her brothers waged a civil war against her in Sofiene that she found herself in the middle of nowhere. A bitter smile curved up her lips; maybe Khanara wanted the same for Kevyn.
“I see,” Samantha murmured with a wistful smile. “I’m glad you have a home here.”
Kevyn chuckled. “Way better than sticking around with humans.”
“Mm, yes. Humans can be… incorrigible?”
“Incorrigible’s actually being nice.”
“Is that so?”
“Yeah and you know what?”
“You talk too formally.”
“I was taught this way.”
Kevyn rolled her eyes. “No wonder people figure out on first hand that you’re some hoity-toity princess. It’s in your speech and mannerisms. You need more ruggedness.”
Samantha blinked. “What?”
“You need to talk like a normal person.”
“I am talking like a normal person!”
“No you’re not! You’re talking like some gosh-blasted princess stuck in her ivory tower!”
Samantha groaned; was there ever no pleasing this woman? “So how do you want me to talk then!?”
“For starters, you can shorten your words. Instead of saying ’I am”, make it ‘I’m’.”
“Yeah, and instead of yes – you say ‘yeah’.”
Samantha blinked; such a peculiar way of saying it. She hadn’t expected that her mannerisms would make her that obvious. “Hmm, interesting.”
“You’re a goddamn airhead, you know that?”
“No I am not!”
“There you go again, using your crazy ass formal speech!”
“How is speaking human tongue formal speech!?”
“It’s called the Laws of Grammar, dumbass!”
Samantha scowled and let out an indignant huff, folding her arms. “And you’re not better either – speaking like a brute!”
Kevyn smirked. “At least I speak like a normal human being and not some hoity-toity weirdo.”
The princess frowned at the dragon-tamer before pouting. “Fine,” she conceded. However, Samantha instead demanded. “Then teach me how to talk normal then.”
“I’m in the process. You’re not listening.” Kevyn gave her a disgruntled snort and rolled her eyes. “Haven’t you learned anything after living with me for the last two damn weeks?”
“I have! I just didn’t know that I was supposed to pick up your coarse language!”
“Coarse? Ha! Lady, you don’t know coarse ’til you’ve heard the deepest slums of Militaris!”
Samantha frowned at Kevyn; somehow, she now understood why Khanara wanted Kevyn to go with her. “Ugh!” She stomped her foot in annoyance and flounced away. “You’re so vulgar!”
Kevyn smirked and folded her arms. “Yeah, whatever Your Highness,” she added while bowing mockingly.
With her blood boiling, Samantha turned around and stomped the ground. “Cut it out!”
The ground beneath her foot rumbled as she took her stance, spread both her arms and began to pull the ground upward. Kevyn smirked and jumped back while condensing all the electricity around her body. Samantha began her incantation quickly before making a few shortcuts and slamming her palm to create a glyph below.
“Stalagmite!” She cried out.
A large stalagmite shot out of the ground while Kevyn jumped away. Samantha pulled up more earth to unleash more earth spikes. The dragons around her squawked and fled in terror as she continued her assault. She watched Kevyn bounce around the room with the electricity coating her body before throwing a few boulders at her.
“Not bad,” Kevyn chuckled and lunged at her. “Let’s see what you’ve learned!”
Samantha narrowed her eyes and kicked the dirt to throw a sand blast at Kevyn. The dragon-tamer swerved in mid-air, navigating through the boulders. The princess called out more stalagmites and tried to slam Kevyn down. Much to her annoyance, Kevyn just bounced through them and got closer. The princess leaped back and hit the ground with her fist, causing an earth spike to throw her staff towards her. She caught the staff and slammed the rod onto the ground, causing more earth spikes to fly at Kevyn.
I gotta admit; she got better.
Kevyn sailed through the air and dodged past the spikes before kicking them down with an electric-powered kick. The stones shattered in her face before finally closing the gap between her and Samantha. The princess stepped back as she threw her fist while Kevyn ducked to avoid another earth spike. Suddenly, a stream of water whipped out from underneath and swept her off her feet.
Tch, Kevyn slid and fell only to kick Samantha back. The princess herself fell but soon, more water spears flew at the dragon-tamer. She narrowed her eyes and coated her arms with electricity before blasting them one by one. She kicked one that tried to snag her foot and blasted the other before unleashing the condensed electricity in her shoulders. A smirk curved up her lips as she slammed her foot on the ground on the running water from Samantha’s feet. The princess immediately leapt away the moment she saw the blue lightning crackling towards her.
She’s relying on jump instinct, Kevyn noted to herself. The moment Samantha created more distance between them; she immediately began compressing all the electric energy around her body again. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath while letting the electricity compress around her. Thunder crashed and the electricity exploded around her as the mana rushed into both her limbs.
“Alright, time to wrap this up,” Kevyn declared and narrowed her eyes. “It’s shock time!”
She jumped high into the air before moulding the electricity around her body before kicking from the air. Kevyn spiraled straight down with the electricity coating her body forming some sort of javelin. The electricity crackled in her ears and the adrenaline rushed into her veins. She could see Samantha below forming the water octopus she created awhile ago. A smirk curved up Kevyn’s lips as she created two pairs of wings forming an ‘x’.
“Blitzkrieg Schrei!” Kevyn stormed towards Samantha.
The princess’ eyes widened at the sight of Kevyn’s body covered with a shocking aura. She had never seen that much electricity burst from one person! How am I gonna stop that, her mind wailed. Suddenly, she recalled Kevyn’s amusement when she had created the water tornado. When she rode the water tornado, the dragon-tamer didn’t hesitate to show the flaw in her attack. Water conducts electricity, Samantha thought to herself. Realization struck her like a lightning bolt when she pulled up a wave of water from all the water splattered on the ground in puddles. With a large wave, she sent it flying towards Kevyn. She could have sworn that the dragon-tamer’s eyes widened when the water smashed straight into her and sent her sprawling onto the ground.
“Yay!” Samantha beamed in delight, clapping her hands.
“Ugh,” Kevyn groaned and pushed herself off the floor with a grunt, shaking her hands. “Damn it, I’m soaking wet!”
“Now that you’re wet, you can’t use your electricity now can you?”
“Tch, you figured that out?”
“T’was a wild guess.”
Kevyn smirked and shook her head. “Not bad. That’s true; can’t really use lightning this way.”
Samantha nodded. She finally got one on Kevyn! Not nice feeling isn’t it, her mind cruelly mocked. The princess gasped. When did she start thinking that way? As far as she was concerned, this was simply play or training. But she never wished any ill-will towards anybody! But fighting down someone for the first time exhilarated her. She hadn’t expected that kind of adrenaline flowing through her body whenever she fought! So this is what Bea feels, the princess thought to herself.
“Well, I have to admit: you’ve grown some nerve.” Kevyn squeezed the water out of her hair. “But I also have to thank you for giving me the opportunity to use something I’ve been working on.”
Samantha watched Kevyn’s eyes as it eerily began to focus on her. She noticed her eyes suddenly glow into a bright amber gold and something began tickling inside her body. Her nerves began to jump; her muscles began to twitch and spasm by themselves. Her eyes widened when her arms started to move by themselves and her mana inside spiked. The princess felt her core temperature rising and sweat poured down her face while her knees buckled beneath her. Her throat began to swell up and choke her while Kevyn stood up, dripping wet but, with a triumphant smirk on her face.
“This is an ability that stems from my original ability. It’s called Mana Control.”
Samantha yelped as her arms and legs began moving by themselves. Her body began saunter towards Kevyn against her will. Terror flooded her as she tried to resist and pull back her body. However, her legs and arms refused to obey. She remembered the trauma of facing Reuben and how he violated her. She struggled to get at least a small part of her body to obey her but nothing twitched. Suddenly, the air around her and Kevyn became thick. The light outside darkened as a thunderous roar echoed throughout the cavern.
“YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME, DRAGON-TAMER,” the voice boomed.
Suddenly, a bright array of rainbow coloured lights flashed in both Samantha’s and Kevyn’s eyes. The dragon-tamer staggered back while the princess found herself in control of her body again. However, the sheer force of the mana knocked Samantha back and sent her falling to the ground. Her eyes widened she recognized the bright light that shone in the cavern, revealing the lady of one of the greatest magic empires in history.
“Azaleth!” Samantha gasped in surprise.
“For starters.” Brandon shook his head. “Are you sure this plan will work?”
“Of course it will,” Daniel reassured him. “It just took a little prodding on my part to convince Lenard.”
“And just how did you convince him?”
“Do you really have to know now?”
“It’d be nice to know within this millennium!”
Daniel groaned. He hated explaining plans. It was why he learned how to work alone. He looked at his watch that read 5:30 pm. By six ’o clock, according to Lenard, it was when the security system had become most vulnerable. He didn’t explain why but all he said was for them to wait at the citadel by 6:00 pm. By 6:00, everything would go down and they would have 10 minutes to find a good mode of transportation. The agent sighed; he hoped what Lenard said was true.
“Ugh, how long do we have to sit here,” Beatriz snarled in exasperation. She folded her arms and let out a disgruntled snort. “I hate waiting!”
“Bea, relax.” Daniel tried to calm her down. “Sofiene wasn’t built in a day.”
“I guess. You wouldn’t pop even after a day of screwing.”
The agent rolled his eyes at her comeback before looking towards the citadel again. He pulled out a pair of binoculars hidden under his poncho and took a closer look. Hovering over the citadel, the drones surrounded the castles with large spotlights shining on different areas. Each parapet had its own gattling gun turret. He winced at the thought of getting shot. If he remembered right, those kinds of guns could riddle holes through even the toughest of armours. A sigh escaped his throat when suddenly; the lights went out in the citadel. His eyes widened and he tapped Brandon’s and Beatriz’s shoulders.
“It’s show time, guys.”