The Ring Bearer: Being Found

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Chapter 30

It was yet another shift in her nightmare, but she expected that. What she didn't expect, however, was the fact that this shift was a lot more drastic than the others she'd been faced with. It wasn't pitch black, like the first nightmare she had, but she was too busy running to look around her and notice her surroundings. Perhaps she knew the area well, because her feet were moving smoothly even without her guidance, and her eyes were constantly looking around her.

She wasn't being chased again. This was something she knew because there were no shadows following her. However, she knew she was in danger and had to keep moving in hopes of finding a safe space to hide in or at least to outrun whoever had been following her in her former nightmares. The hallways she was running in were long and had several turns into other hallways or rooms.

Something was weird about this nightmare, though. Each time she passed a corridor, a wall of earth shot up from the ground and molded itself into looking like another part of the wall, cutting her off from the direction in which she had just come. Knowing that, she continued forward hoping that she'd eventually find what she was looking for, whatever that would be.

The real nightmare started when she came across a fork in the hallway system. To her left, the hallway was bright and seemed to be the more optimistic selection, but the hallway to the right was dimly lit and eerie enough to make her think it was the very same hallway she saw in her nightmares. Naturally, she took a left and booked it down that hallway, convinced that the shadows would start appearing from behind her at any moment.

Charlotte was wrong, because the things chasing her in her nightmares hadn't been behind her at all, but in front of her.

She had been turning another corner to figure out where she was going when she saw them. How had they gotten into her nightmare? What did they have to do with her nightmare, anyway? Why did they choose only now to show up in her nightmare? Because she knew they only stayed within towns, she knew immediately that the last mage and the nightmare she had repeatedly were both set in her home town, in her castle.

Finally figuring out why the hallways always looked so familiar to her, it took her some time to notice that they noticed her and were hissing in her direction. Turning around immediately, she ran back toward the fork she had come across earlier, and while she took a glance over her shoulder to make sure they weren't right behind her, she ran right into the wall.

Her hands flew at the wall on their own, and she could feel a scream ripping out of her throat because though she put it up, she didn't have any idea on how to tear the wall down and get back to where she was safe. Then, her eyes flew over to a door and she remembered that the mage in there didn't want anything to do with her. He had already tried to kill her at least twice, but she needed a place to go and hide at least until they passed.

Charlotte ran into the room without hesitating any further and pressed herself against the door, taking in deep breaths. She didn't want those things to come into the room while she was there, and she sure as hell didn't want to face the mage that was no doubt waiting to attempt to kill her again.

Slowly, she turned around to look into the room, grimly noting that the light was on and that the ring box was still floating in the air as if it had nothing else to do- it probably didn't. She didn't step away from the door, because no matter what, she would end up dead because of either the mage, or them. Just as she thought it, the ring box started to glow and sent off a wave of wind to all corners of the room, and she was glad she already pressed herself against the door so she couldn't feel the strong wind. A second later, the lights went out and she was left in the familiar pitch black room she had first been in.

"Why have you come- you're crying." The voice was thick and had started out angry again, but the anger quickly faded out and she was left to stare at whatever was in front of be in bewilderment, because she had no idea how he knew she was crying.

"They made you cry?" A moment later, something was caressing her face, and though she couldn't see or feel anything because it was just a nightmare, she knew it was the mage. What she didn't get was why he was suddenly so gentle with her when he usually spent all his time trying to shoo her away, and she didn't know why. The others didn't trust her or even seem to care for her, so why would he?

"I don't want you to see the state I'm in now, but it doesn't mean I don't care for you." It was as if he could read her mind, and his voice now holding much less aggression than it had been earlier on, "Our destinies have been crossed ever since you found Mark."

"Beware if you choose to come after me. It will not be anything like the other rings you have claimed."

"Wake up!" Someone's voice had her eyes open immediately, and she looked around to see that Kaspar was squatting down on the ground before her, and that she herself was laying down on a couch in the living room. Percy and Angelo were discussing something serious a few feet away from her, and she could hear Nico's voice in the background, obviously scolding the youngest two mages for something they had done.

Suddenly, Kaspar was pushed aside and Dale was there in his place with a hand pressed against her forehead and his lips quirking into a sheepish grin, "You spent so much time with Percy that you started to catch a fever. I would have healed you but she wasn't sure if you'd want it or not."

Charlotte shook her head to let him know that she actually didn't want to be healed and slowly got onto her feet, catching the attention of both Percy and Angelo immediately. The tall goofy male ran up to her with his arms out uncertainly to catch her if she fall, and though she was still wounded by the mages, she remembered how Percy held her until she fell asleep.

"I'm fine, Percy.” She smiled up at him, and after he smiled back, he stepped away and allowed her to walk into the kitchen. She wasn't hungry, but it felt like her throat had been squeezed dry by her nightmare.

When she stepped into the kitchen, both Erik and Darius were there, and both turned to her with widened eyes before Erik turned away. Darius stared at her for another moment before he moved toward her.

"I'm sorry, Charlotte." His voice was just above a whisper and his arms were wrapped tightly around her with his face buried into her hair. She would have pushed him away and continued on her search for water, but Darius was being vulnerable again and it made her think of when she had first found him.

A few moments later, Darius was pulled off her and instead of Darius, she was facing Erik. Considering the fact that being around Erik usually meant danger for her, she took a step back and gulped when his eyes narrowed.

"I'm telling you now. If you don't finish everything on your plate, I'll shave your hair off.” She watched as Erik turned away and sauntered back to the stove.

Darius took her hand then, leading her to the dining table. A majority of the other mages were already seated there and waiting, so she allowed herself to be pushed into an empty seat in front of a large pile of food and waited with the rest of them for Erik to join.

"Charlotte, I apologize.” She slowly looked over to Nero, but his gaze was on Nico and the two of them were conversing with their eyes, "You trusted me enough to tell me a secret you were terrified of, but we were too afraid to tell you our own secret. As an elder, I am ashamed of how we have been treating you."

Mark dropped his hands onto the table and leaned forward with his head bowed in shame, and she already knew he was tearing up again, "I had no idea you were really alone."

To her, the dinner table wasn't really the best place for apologies or confessions, since they were supposed to eat there, but she knew she would have just locked herself in her room again if they hadn't gotten her down there first.

"Can you tell us what you meant by alone?" Nico's voice was quiet, and almost hesitant. It was as if he was too worried for the answer to ask for one.

But Charlotte told them anyway. She told them of how she was raised in a castle and her parents were very influential so she ended up alone most of the time so they could continue working on their town's defenses. She told them of how at school, she was always at the bottom of their ranking system and thus no one liked her or would talk to her. Even though she didn't have to, she even told them about senior Leo and that he allowed her to go after the rings.

Mentioning Senior Leo's name had her thinking of him, and of the rest of her town. Was Cook Park still alive? Were her parents still running the town? Were all of their warriors going into battle and coming back in one piece, or have they lost many of their brave warriors? Was one of the mages really hidden inside of their castle, and if so, why? What were they doing inside of their castle, and how can she get them out?

"What are you thinking of? Charlotte?" Mika reached forward in order to shake her arm, and she snapped out of her thoughts immediately to look over at him.

"I always warn her about thinking so hard." Nero mused, and a couple of the other mages chuckled, but her eyes had gone over to Angelo and she was watching the thoughtfulness cross his eyes.

"Do you know where those things came from?" Though she was looking at Angelo, she was asking all the mages, and after someone asked her to elaborate, she did, and she watched the mages look at each other with discomfort and hesitance. It was another secret they couldn't trust her with, huh? Just as she began to stand up, Dale held his hand out, and she turned to him, knowing he had more understanding about the mages than the others.

"When the people who created us saw how powerful and strong we were, they had become drunk with power." Dale explained, his eyes darkening and his face tilted down towards his plate of food, "So they extracted gallons of power from the Gems of Eternity and used it on other people, creating mixes with stronger power traces than our own. But it was too much power, and it wasn't until it was too late that they realized it."

"They are failed versions of us."

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