The first thing she had noticed when she came to was that her clothes were drenched, as was the survival pack hanging on her back. She still smelled faintly of blood, but she had to ignore the scent for the time being; there were things far more important than the blood on her.
Her pistols separated from her and were scattered at either ends of the cave, separated by the stream she knew from her dream. She picked up one of her pistols and crossed the stream, picking up the second one and tucking them into their holsters before allowing herself to look around at her surroundings.
The cave was almost exactly as it was in her dream, with the dim lighting, and the frozen stream of water- though she hadn’t seen the entire stream in her dream. Perhaps that was a good thing; if she knew about the perils she’d face looking for this place, she probably would have given up on it.
Again, she noticed the same things she had felt in the dream; the frozen stream, the velvet box, the fear and the power that it made her feel. Once more, she felt like she should just turn around and escape from the presence of the velvet box, but before she could even think about what she would do, she found herself in front of the velvet box once more.
Like in her dream, she pushed her finger through the stream of water that should have destroyed the box, but again, it was as if she hadn’t even touched the water. It was beyond puzzling, but her gaze had already wandered down to the box in her sight. Again, she felt like running away from it, as if it was something that shouldn’t be of any concern to her.
She thought back to senior Leo’s reaction when she told him of this and thought that maybe his actions were something that should warn her, and she didn’t want to be there with that box. Telling herself that she wouldn’t pull it into her grasp, she crouched down and looked closer at the box that had been in her dream.
Upon closer inspection, she realized it was only able to hold a ring; though the case had silver lettering that she couldn’t read properly. She had warned herself again not to get too close to that thing, but the power it held was terrifyingly addictive.
Charlotte hadn’t heard a voice in her dream, so she was surprised when she heard it then. She looked around the cave in panic, her hands already grazing her sides where her holsters were. She had stood up too quickly and felt a dull pained sensation on the back of her head. It was then that she remembered how she had gotten hurt so many times trying to find the mysterious object, but found herself distracted by the inside of the space once more.
There was no one around her, so she ruled out the chance of someone speaking around the cave, but the voice had definitely been real. She could feel that much, but she didn’t know exactly where it had come from.
The voice repeated those words, and for a moment, she just stood in plain shock as she took in those two words. It was a delicate voice, though it was certainly a masculine one. The most surprising thing about the voice, however, was that it came from the box.
She gaped down at the thing and slowly crouched in front of it once more. Her eyebrows furrowed at the thought that maybe she was just imagining the voice, but she found her hands reaching out for that box and soon, she cradled in her hands.
It was a reminding her of the voice that had come from it, and for a moment, she could only smile down at it gently as her fingers roamed over the edges of the cube. She was finally able to see the letters that had been haunting her, though they spelled out a word that both confused and frightened her, “BLOOD”.
In her fascination of the lettering, she had forgotten about the voice, and hearing it again so suddenly had her jump ever so slightly, the box jumping in her palms as she moved.
“Don’t do that.” She chided to the voice, though she doubted it could hear her. She took a deep breath before she opened the box, only to gawk at what she saw inside of it.
It was a thin silver band, though there were gems littered across the entire ring, and at the center of the ring, there was a peculiar pattern of an hourglass. She blinked at it rapidly, since it was certainly the strangest ring she’d ever seen, and then wondered if it could fit on any of her fingers; it was a big ring in comparison to the size of her fingers.
She picked it out of the box carefully and brought it close to her eye level, humming as she wondered how the thing would ever fit. Suddenly, the ring had shrunken so much that she knew just by glancing at it, that it would only fit on her pinky finger.
Blinking rapidly, she ended up jumping again and held it out in arm’s length. She was a little frightened of the ring, but then again, who wouldn’t be?
“This is a bad idea.” She muttered to herself, but she had already decided that whatever were to happen was bound to happen; and she slipped it onto her right pinky finger. Suddenly, the ring started to glow, and she panicked again and tried to pull the ring off.
It wouldn’t budge.
Then, the area in front of her turned white, as if she were staring directly at the sun, and she covered her eyes with her free hand, taking in deep breaths to calm herself down. However, as soon as the light appeared, it disappeared, and she had to blink repeatedly in hopes that her eyes weren’t going to go blind from the sudden change in lighting.
When she was able to look around again without white spots in her eyes, she noticed a male standing in front of her, his eyes staring at her in calm curiosity. Charlotte was so surprised by his appearance that she jumped off the ground and took up a fighting position, letting her eyes take him in to see if he was going to be an actual threat to her or not.
He was a lot taller than she was; that was for sure, and had a thin, lean body. She was sure he knew some sort of fighting skill, for the way he had his legs positioned as if he was anticipating an attack at any moment. He had the short brunette hair of an Englishman falling gently on his scalp, and his eyes were naturally wide with dark pupils dancing in them.
“Who are you?” She asked him, “How did you get in here?”
The stranger seemed to be moving forward toward her, and she took a large step back in fear. She had just fought those things and was not prepared to fight another creature of any sort; but it seemed she had nothing to worry about as he dropped onto one knee; his head bowed in… submission?
“My name is Mark, master.” He said, and she felt taken aback by the delicate but piercing voice he used to speak with, only faintly recalling it from the box she was still holding in her hand.
“Did you come out of the box?!” Her voice was raising in pitch, and she had to take another deep breath. This was all crazy, and she was starting to regret coming after this box.
Mark looked up at the box in her hand and nodded once, his face stoic, “Yes, master. Once you came into contact with my ring, you’ve summoned me.”
Though it was still crazy, she had started to calm down, knowing that panicking wasn’t going to help her, “What are you, exactly?”
“I am a mage, master.” Mark answered, though his voice and face remained emotionless.
“That can’t be true.” She muttered, and though it was supposed to be to herself, she knew the male could hear it, “Mages were wiped out first.”
“I am the mage of time, master.” Mark said, his voice turning harder as if he was trying to make her stop thinking about the fact that his existence was supposed to be impossible.
“Time?” She asked dumbly, her gaze drifting off to the frozen stream. She almost choked on her saliva when seeing that the stream was now flowing smoothly across the cavern, and her eyes turned back to the strange male, “So you’re the one that froze the stream?”
Mark’s nod was so slight that she thought she was imagining it for a moment.
“Yes, master. I froze time so when I would be found again, I would be found easily.” His tone had changed from the stoic tone to a more bitter tone, and she found herself letting out a sigh of frustration.
“Why do you keep calling me your master?” She asked, her hand rubbing the back of her neck awkwardly, “It makes you sound like a dog or something.”
“You found me. That makes you my master.” He said it as if it were obvious, but she only groaned at his words.
“First of all, I refuse to be called master. You are not a dog.” She crossed her arms over her chest as she looked at him, raising an eyebrow, “Also, why are you on the floor?”
Mark started looking a little annoyed with her as he stood up again and took a few steps forward so that he could tower over her in an intimidating way. He noticed her slight fear, of course, and his lips turned up into a smirk- though she could see the hesitation in his eyes.
“Are you afraid of me? Most “masters” are, and thus we revert to acting the way we do. We wouldn’t want to upset our “gentle masters”, now would we?” The way he spoke made her eyebrows furrow again and she couldn’t help it when her shoulders dropped in disappointment.
“I’m frightened because my town was just attacked by those things; and I don’t know if you’ll attack me the way they did.” She shook her head as she explained to him, though she doubt he’d listen to her words even if she repeated them a hundred times, “And why do you speak as if you expect me to cut your arm off or something?”
Immediately, Mark hid his arms behind his back and stared at her in utter horror, “Please don’t cut my arms off. I’ll behave, mas-”
With a sigh, she leaned forward and gently placed her hands on his shoulders. He tensed, and his eyes widened, but he stared down at her anyway.
“My name is Charlotte, not master, and I refuse to let you believe you’re my slave.” Mark looked like he wanted to interrupt, so she held her hand out to silence him, “I will not harm you; heck, the only reason I’d attempt to hurt you is if we’re in combat training, and even then, I’d expect for you not to go easy on me.”
She slowly pulled her arms back and both of us relaxed, though his remained on guard as he watched her, “Do you really mean that? Can I really expect for you to treat me like… a friend?”
Smiling gently, she walked over to the wall of the cave, sitting down with her back against it, “I’ve never really had friends, so I hope you and I can become friends someday.”
He didn’t pry into what she said, but his eyes were curious as he sat down beside her, leaving almost a yard of space between them.
“There’s just one thing I need to ask you.” She turned her head to him, with her bottom lip between her teeth.
Hesitantly, he turned his gaze toward her and nodded, “Go on, then.”
“Exactly when were you put into this cave?” She asked, unsure of how he’d react to the question. She didn’t exactly have the right to ask him personal questions, after all.
He didn’t seem to think it was too personal, thankfully, and he hummed in thought, “I think it was 2002 when I was separated from the rest.”
She was curious about “the rest” that he spoke of, but she stared at him in surprise, and he seemed to be fidgeting under her gaze, “Mark. You’ve been in this cave for over three hundred years!”