Chapter 18. // Home Sweet Home?
The four groups faced each other, the silence heavy with the words they refused to say. The Northern Royals and Guardians-in-training, Alice, and Violet stood with their backs to the ruins.
The sound of heavily beating wings changed their focus to the sky, where a great black dragon with an iridescent orange glow to his scales swooped in, landing behind the group of Northerners. A short burst of orange light, and in the place of the dragon was a man. A very naked man.
Genesis and Annora squealed and covered their eyes. “Come on T! I thought you said you had your shifts under control.” Eleonora yelled at the smirking man with hair the color of dancing flames and a muscular body to rival Tadhj, who was a few sizes smaller than Raphael, and had taken complete control of his reincarnation’s body. Taj was still there, but he was dormant, ready to leave the body to its rightful owner.
“I did have it under control... for like, two decades. Then I didn’t.” His voice was deep, slightly accented, and full of amusement. Gamaliel rolled his eyes, and with a flick of his wrist, Trouble was fully clothed. He groaned, but walked towards the gathering.
“Are we all set? Have you said your goodbyes? The Dragons are an impatient race. One even threatened to dismember me.” Trouble said, ghosting his fingers against his crotch. Alice rolled her eyes, as did Alessandro, Grey, Swithun and Jade.
“Maybe that threat was because you slept with one of their women.” Grey commented, folding her arms across her chest. Trouble shrugged, contemplating her accusation.
“Hm. Maybe you’re right Katherina. How’s the tiny one?” He was quick to change the subject, and with a playful glare, Grey pointed to Daisy-May, who gave a short, uncertain wave.
“Oh ho ho ho. Well, what do we have here?” Trouble smiled flirtatiously, and Raphael snarled behind Grey. “Come anywhere near my child, and I will dismember you for the Dragons.” He growled as he struggled to push past Grey, who held him back as much as she tried to hold back her laughter at Trouble’s frightened face.
“Yes sir. She will be left alone.” He stammered, then turned towards Alice, who was smirking devilishly at a flushed Gamaliel. “Alice, can we leave now? The Western Prince frightens me.”
Alice snorted. “You were thinking of bedding his daughter. He has every right to crave your dismemberment.” She flicked her hand out, lightly slapping his shoulder. “Shift. I’m beginning to have an unsettling feeling about the day.”
Trouble stepped back several paces, and with another burst of orange light, the great, black dragon stood before them again. The Northerners climbed on efficiently, and Alice mounted last. She faced the others, gulping down the ball that had formed in her throat.
“All of you, stay together, and stay safe. Should anything go wrong, and I’m hoping that it doesn’t, contact me or, ” Alice pulled something from her several hidden pockets, and laid it on her muscular thigh. Her tanned hand glowed sapphire for a few moments, then disappeared. Three, pinky-sized pieces of iridescent crystal was thrown towards the three Generals. “use this. It will get you somewhere safe.”
The three Generals smoothly caught the crystal, and nodded towards Alice after securing it in one of their hidden pockets. “You stay safe as well, Alice.” Swithun called, gracing her with a small smile.
“Yeah. We can’t have our General Supreme missing out on taking the Council down.” Jade affirmed with a smirk. Alice rolled her eyes. “Again with the ‘General Supreme’?”
Jade nodded. “I’m standing by it.”
Alice chuckled, swiping unruly strands of her hair away from her face. “I’ll see you guys soon.”
And with that, Trouble took off, catapulting them into the sky, bound east.
Swithun sighed as the Dragon disappeared from sight. His eyes turned towards the other two groups, feeling the Royals behind him shuffle. He inhaled. “I’ll head out first. Scope out the area.” Jade and Grey nodded solemnly.
Alessandro stepped forward, closer to the space his sister and the Northern Royals previously occupied. His eyes fluttered shut and he conjured the image of the Southern Kingdom. The behemoth castle of iridescent crystal, the Palace, a building of a similar material, but a thousand times more brittle than the castle itself; the estates and mansions of the nobles that could be seen as pinpoint specks even from the highest tower of the castle, all surrounded by a protective bubble and grounded to the bottom of the vast Hyluka મહાસાગર (ocean).
His fingers tingled as the magical essence stored in his core surfaced and spread. A sigil glowed on his right hand and the sound of tearing fabric filled the air. The portal opened, the swirl of the Void appearing before giving way to the image Alessandro had conjured: the Southern કેસલ (Castle).
Swithun inhaled deeply. “Okay. I’m going in. Ash?” the ashen haired male nodded, and matched Swithun’s strides into the portal, armed and ready to defend.
They stepped through, shaking off the familiar vertigo that came with portal travelling. Swithun inhaled deeply, blinking away the tears that sprung into his eyes at the scent of home. Even with the scent of despair clinging to the cold, salty air of the South, he was home. Finally. His eyes scanned the area, taking note of how dilapidated and battle-ruined the place looked.
Taking a few cautious steps forward, he realized that the portal spat them into the minor Throne Room, where the Royals would gather privately to converse among themselves without worrying about prying ears.
Spreading out his senses, he searched the room, coming up clear. “સુરક્ષિત (Safe).” Swithun murmured, and Ash relaxed, sheathing his weapon. He spun around slowly, allowing his mind to clear away the soot and repair the cracks on the walls, restoring the room to its former glory.
A loud creak snapped him out of his reverie and flipped on his defense mode. He relaxed his fighting stance and nearly dropped to his knee once his eyes took in the person at the door.
“Gwyn...” Swithun breathed out, and before he knew it, the woman was in his arms, weeping with joy. Gwyneth Contos, the Southern Kingdom’s head Healer, and his baby sister. “Swith... દેવતાઓ ઉપર (Gods above), I was so worried about you!” she cried, raising her head off his shoulder to rub her wet cheek against his.
“હું તમે ચૂકી, પણ બાળક બહેન. (I missed you too, baby sister.)" Gwyn stepped away looking at the other occupant of the room. “Ashlyn!”
Ash grimaced but smiled, spreading his arms for a hug that Gwyneth gave with surprising strength. “Is everyone okay?” she inquired, ready to get to work. Ash nodded, taking a step back towards the portal. “Is the place secure?” he shot back, and Gwyn sighed.
“As safe as it could be.”
“Good.” With that, Ash hopped back into the portal.
Everyone’s eyes snapped to him and he nodded towards the Southern group. “It’s safe, let’s go.” They glanced at each other, then took off running, giving swift goodbyes and “be safe”’s to the remaining two groups. Ash ducked back into the portal before the last Southerner went through, winking at his twin.
“See you on the other side, Katty.” Then he was gone, and Alessandro sealed the portal, gasping and dropping to his knees.
Grey rushed forward, easing him to his feet as her hands glowed white, loaning him the much needed magical essence. “તમે ઠીક છે? (You okay?)” she asked as her hands lost its glow. “Yes, yes. Thank you, Kat.” Came Alessandro’s breathy reply as he straightened his stance and rolled his shoulders.
They stood in silence for a few more moments as Alessandro composed himself, allowing Grey’s magic to strengthen him. “Let’s move out. That unsettling feeling Alice mentioned is beginning to get to me as well.” Alessandro stated, moving towards the group of Westerners.
“You need to split up,” he turned to the Easterners, “as do you. I didn’t go to the Monks for nothing, and they’re expecting us.”
Three groups stood now, and Alessandro inhaled deeply, shaking away the remaining fatigue and spreading his fingers out as both hands glowed with a sigil, opening the portals. One to the Monks, one to Luna Palace, and one to the Netherworld, where the Dark version of the Northern Kingdom is and Ares, the Dark ‘Alexavier’ resides.
“One group per portal. Go through, quickly.” Alessandro ordered, panic seeping into his voice as the threatening auras grew stronger. He knew those auras, and the sheer shock from the fact that the Council was coming for them themselves made him freeze.
"Now!" Alessandro yelled again, sprinting to one of the portals as an unpleasantly familiar head of silver hair crested the hill. ”Where is the abomination!" he bellowed, breaking into a run as he saw the portals and fleeing Royals.
“તમે વાહિયાત! (FUCK YOU!)" Grey screamed, flipping off the head Councilman and ducking into the portal as Councilwoman Bellatrix fired an electric green beam at her. The portal closed before it could hit its target.
Panting, Grey surveyed her surroundings. The Palace was built from moonstone, and it glittered in the light of the planet below it. The front doors pushed open, and a figure ran out, blinding white robes and snowy white hair billowing behind them.
“આન્ટી! (Auntie!)” Her melodious voice called out in excitement, “આન્ટી Kat! Welcome!” The woman jumped into Grey’s arms, and she twirled them around, giggling along with the young Princess.
“As much as I missed you, મીઠી છોકરી (sweet girl), we need to run. The Council isn’t far behind.” Yue sighed sadly, her combination sapphire-magneta eyes fluttering shut, then flying open a few moments later.
“Let’s go then.” Yue turned her back to the group, walking back towards the Palace. “I can’t wait for this stupid fucking war to be over. I want to spend time with my fucking family.” She grumbled on the way, stomping angrily as she ascended the carved stairs.
Without wasting a moment longer, Yue swiftly lead them through the halls, her dress bunched up in her hands and her bare feet slapping against the floor. They reached a gilded door that she shoved open, and pattered down the steps, skipping a few at a time.
They spiraled down, the air growing colder and colder as they descended. Finally, just when everyone was beginning to get dizzy, they arrived at a landing with another gilded door. “Okay, the portal is here. I took the liberty of setting it up while I waited for one of you to arrive. It leads straight to the Southern Great Hall within the Castle.” She said as she pushed open the door.
The portal was as wide as two of the gilded doors that guarded it. It swirled with the colors of the Void, and glittered with stars. Grey inhaled deeply, shaking with nerves. “Alright everyone, this is it. I’ll go first, you trail after me. Yue?” Grey glanced at her, and the Princess gave a determined nod, a weapon sliding out of the sigil that glowed in her palm.
Grey inhaled deeply again. Steeling herself, she took the first step into the portal. She felt the familiar cool rush and tug, then nothing as her feet touched solid ground.
Sure enough, they were in the Great Hall. The walls were darkened with soot and splintering with cracks. The chandeliers were crooked or missing and lacking the usual warm yellow light, making the room look and feel cold; abandoned. But with the lingering essences of refugees from all four Kingdoms, Grey knew that it was only empty for the time being.
Cautiously stepping forward, Grey surveyed her surroundings, noting that the room was clear. Yet, her senses wouldn’t let her sigh with relief. Everyone stepped through, yet the portal remained open behind them.
All they could hear was distorted water sounds, the soft whirl of the portal, and their own breathing. Her heart started and leapt in her throat; Grey unsheathed her weapons strapped across her back. A rusty orange flash was all it took.
Councilwoman Florence and Councilman Torin, along with a hoard of Ravagers and soldiers, wearing the colors and bearing the crests of the North, South, East and West, their eyes glazed over and murderous.
“Well hello there, Obscura-- oh, sorry. I mean General Katherina.” Councilman Torin sneered, taking a step forward, causing them to take a step back towards the portal.
“Torin. Florence.” Grey greeted curtly, looking each in the eye. “I would say that it was nice seeing the two of you again, but that would be untruthful of me.”
Councilwoman Florence’s expression remained neutral. But her eyes, those rust-colored eyes; they looked sad, bordering regretful. She said nothing, her mouth twisted into a grimace.
“Let’s get all this over with, shall we?” Torin said, then flicked his wrist towards the group, unleashing the Ravagers and soldiers. Grey spun around, shoving Azula and Valentina back into the portal, their surprised screams cut off as they disappeared.
Tadhg joined in, pushing Circe backwards before being restrained by an Eastern solider. Raphael, before he was bombarded by Ravagers, kissed Daisy-May on the forehead and pushed her backwards, the look of heartbreak in her teary hazel eyes disappearing with the rest of her. The usual sound of a bag zipping closed filled the air, and the portal disappeared.
Grey turned around, joining her siblings as they fought defensively, avoiding injuring the soldiers, but cutting through the Ravagers. Emotions raged inside of her and tears slipped out of her eyes, even as her face was blank.
They made quick work of the Ravagers with the amount of rage they carried in their own bodies; the soldiers were rendered unconscious, sprawled out of the cold gilded tiles.
Now, it was them against the two Council members. Torin look livid, and Florence still had the same blank face with regretful eyes. An outside presence tried to breach Grey’s mind. Skeptically, she brought down her walls, geared to seal them up again.
“I am sorry, Katherina.” Councilwoman Florence lamented, and before Grey could react, a painful electric current shot through her, ripping a scream from her throat.
A loud ringing and the screams of her remaining group filled her ears as she crumpled, her head smacking against the gilded tiles. Darkness started from the corner of her eyes and grew, consuming her vision.
Before being completely swallowed by the darkness, a pair of shoes appeared in her line of vision. “I’d like to say we won, General.” Torin said with amusement.
That was the last thing Grey remembered.
Alice knew that something terrible was going to happen, and the uncomfortable shock that came from Grey’s connection just proved it.
They’ve been breached.
The Dragons circled them as the stood before the portal, growling low in their throats in impatience. Alice gulped, pulling her group towards her. “We’ve been breached. The Council knows that we’re heading to the Southern Kingdom, but if we stay here, we have a losing hand.”
Grabbing Genesis’ hand, Alice drew her closer. “I’ll stay here, but as soon as you clear the portal, use the crystal and find Serilda.” The iridescent crystal was placed in the younger woman’s hand, who shook her head vehemently.
“I’m not leaving you, Six.” Genesis said firmly, and Alice rolled her eyes, ignoring the painful pang in her chest. She opened her mouth to argue, but she was cut off by Annora.
“Alice. I’ll go, along with the twins and Elric. We discussed it.”
Emmanuel spoke up. “They want you and Alex. If we go, we’ll by you time to do whatever it is that’s cooking up in that brain of yours.”
Eleonora spoke next, cutting Alice off from her protest. “Go, Alice. We’ll be alright.” She said with conviction, and Alice sighed, trying to formulate an argument to make them all go through to find Serilda.
“We won’t leave without you, mother.” Gamaliel murmured, an ancient book taken from the Dragon’s archives hovering in one hand, while the other lay limply at his side. He looked up, matching Alice’s sapphire eyes with his own sapphire-jade combination.
Alice huffed. “Fine then. Alicia, Aurora, Genesis, Gamaliel, Alexavier, Trouble. We stay behind.” They separated themselves, and Alice stared at the rest of the group. “Elric, Annora, Danielle, Elizabeth, Emmanuel, Eleonora, Violet.” She met each pair of eyes.
“Stay safe. As soon as you clear, use the crystal, find Serilda. Understood?” Alice was grateful her voice didn’t crack. A chorus of “Got it.“, “Understood.” and “Yes.” rung out.
With a final nod, the group turned their backs and stepped through the portal. “Aurora, go with them.” Her eyes met the cotton candy pink haired woman. “Please.” Alice whispered. After sharing a glance with Alicia, Aurora nodded, giving her red-haired counterpart a quick hug and jumping into the portal after Danielle.
With a roar and a blast of Dragonfire, the portal was sealed shut.
The portal sealed shut behind them, but relief didn’t course through Jade. If anything, his hackles rose more. “Stay close to me.” He murmured, taking slow, tentative steps forward.
They appeared in the blink of an eye. Councilman Horace, a hoard of Ravagers, and puppeteered soldiers from each Kingdom.
Malice shone in his near-white eyes, and an ugly sneer pulled at his lips. “Where is the abomination, Christos?” Horace inquired lowly, taking languid, predatory steps towards them.
“I’d appreciate it if you stopped calling my friend an abomination, Horace.” Jade snapped, glaring at the silver-haired man.
“હું નથી કાળજી ચોદવુ. (I don't fucking care.)" He growled, gritting his yellowing teeth. "I just want to know where she is."
Jade shrugged nonchalantly. "Not sure. For all I know, she could be on Raveen." Horace snarled at his words. He stepped closer, nose-to-nose with Jade.
"I'll find her eventually, Christos. Even if I have to pull the location out of your teeth."
Jade chuckled darkly. "When you do find her, she's going to kick your ass, Horace, and it'll be the beat down of your life. The last fucking thing you'll see is her, you-"
With heavy swing, Horace smacked Jade across the head with a chunk of the Castle's walls. Darkness consumed him instantly as he crumpled to the ground. The Royals went down with an electric shock aimed at the heart.
Horace huffed, swiping a finger beneath his nose. "I'll find you, Alice." He spat out the name like acid on his tongue. "And I'll use your friends to lure you."
He followed behind the mindless soldiers as they hauled the unconscious Royals and Guardians from the room. "Better yet... your family." The Northern Kingdom's head Healer popped into his mind.
"Yes," Horace murmured evilly, a scheme already devising itself. "Family."
~Greetings from the Void!
Best believe that the story is done... for now.
Thank you a million times for giving this book a chance, and helping me complete two milestones (for me, I suppose).
1k reads, and my first completed book! 🎉🎉
Thank you all so much, and I hope that you stick around for the other books. Sad to say but, they might take a while. But they're coming, I promise.
Again, thank you so much, and see you soon.