Shadows

By Jennifer N. Bogle All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Romance

Ch. 12

Diana wandered forward in the strange swirling black mist. She didn’t understand where she was or what she was doing. She simply needed to walk forward.

So she did.

Until she got frustrated and stopped.

“Hello!” She called, “Where the hell am I?! Hello?!”

Hello Princess,’ A voice in her mind echoed.

Diana spun around quickly searching the mist for the source of the voice. “Who’s there?!”

A swirling in the mist directly to her left pulled her attention. A huge shadow rose up before her. Bigger than every other shadow she’d ever seen, it towered over. Its eyes were huge and gold and they bored into her very soul.

“What are you?” She asked.

I am the darkness.’ It replied. ‘And I have a message for you.

“What kind of message?” She asked as her eyes narrowed.

You must not let your sister read the scroll. If she reads the words, all of this will change. Nothing will be as it was.’

“What is that supposed to mean!?” Diana shouted. Slowly the world started to fade away as the princess stood and shouted at the shadow that had already melted back into the mist around her.

Diana shot up in bed like a bolt.

She was covered in sweat and her heart was racing.

What kind of dream was that?

What was that shadow?

What kind of scroll was he talking about?

Diana ran her hands through her long blond hair as she pondered about the dream and the warning the shadow had given her. She wondered what kind of scroll Terra might have found. What kind of trouble could it cause her?

Feeling restless and displeased about what her dream may have meant, she stood and bellowed for her maids. She had might as well get dressed and start the day.

Terra woke early, not able to sleep for too long. She got up and pulled her deep purple dress with the sliver accents out. It was her favorite dress and by far the most intricate. If she had to go as far as Titan to find the scroll than she had might as well look good. Creator knows it would make her mother happier to know she was going somewhere looking like royalty for once.

By the time she had dressed and started in on her hair Mammy was up and coming in.

“Good morning my dear,” she said coming in, eyeing Terra’s dress approvingly. “Would you like some help with your hair?”

“Yes please,” she replied smiling. “I’m going to Titan today. To the great library.”

“Is that so?” Mammy asked, going to work with on her mass of black hair. “What are you going there for?”

“I’m going to see the prophecy, to check it against signs my cousin has seen in her kingdom. If she’s right, then it could be we missed something before, something that will help Diana in the final fight. Or at least that’s the hope.”

Mammy was quiet as she finished putting the princesses hair up. It was beautiful and the little flowers she placed here and there really made it match the dress. Terra thought she looked really pretty.

“When is this little expedition set to take place?”

“As soon as I’m up and ready to go.”

“Well, you be careful,” Mammy remarked going around the room cleaning up as she went. “Will you take John and Eric with you?”

“I expect so, unless they have other things to do.”

“Don’t go alone!” Mammy cried, suddenly and passionately. She turned and grabbed Terra by the shoulders. “Please child, after everything that happened yesterday, don’t go alone.”

“Mammy,” she asked, surprised by her sudden change in behavior, “I promise I won’t go alone. Is everything all right?”

“Yes, dear,” she sighed. “I just worry about you so much.”

“I know,” she smiled. “I promise you I’ll be careful.”

Bell paced back and forth slowly, once again waiting for the King. This time he waited in the throne room and waited for not just the King but for Terra as well. According to Terra the princess from the Moon Kingdom was under the impression that more signs had popped up which could change the course of what fork to follow on the prophecy.

He had never seen the prophecy himself. It had been locked away in Titan’s library years before he was born. It made sense that it would be time to look at it again. Make sure that nothing new has come up.

“Good morning Bell,” a cold voice drifted across the throne room. “Aren’t you here early?”

“Good Morning Princess Diana,” he greeted, bowing formally to the princess as she sauntered across the room. She looked stunning in a sky blue dress filled with intricate gold detail on the bodice and sheer cap sleeved. She had a darker blue cloak wrapped around her shoulders and tied at her throat with a rope as golden as her hair. Her hair was swept up in a braid that wrapped around her head like a crown with the remainder trailing down her back. She had pulled fresh flowers from her mother’s garden and had them laced through her hair along with a ribbon the same color as her dress.

She looked quite beautiful.

It was a shame her eyes were cold and filled with malice.

“What are you doing here?” She inquired.

“Waiting for your sister and your father.”

“Why?” Dina asked, her eyes narrowing.

“Your sister is going to Titan today, to the Great Library there.”

“Why on earth would she do that,” she scoffed. What a complete waste of time, going to a library.

“She’s going to look at your prophecy. To see if maybe there was some information there that might help you in your coming fight. She’ll actually be the first to look on the scroll in some time.”

“Scroll?” Diana asked, the warning she’d gotten in her dream fresh in her mind. “It’s a scroll, the prophecy?”

“Yes, of course,” he answered, confused by Diana’s sudden interest.

She considered this for a long time. If the shadow from her dream was to be believed, something terrible will happen if Terra is allowed to look on the prophecy. She couldn’t deny her sister the right to go, not if her father was already involved. Even if she insisted to go instead of Terra, they would never let her just kick her sister off her little quest. Her only real option was to go with her.

As much as she hated the idea of being stuck in a carriage and then a library with her sister all day, there was little else she could do to make sure everything went her way. She would volunteer to go with her.

“Good morning Master Bell!” Terra called as she came in through the same door as Diana. “Oh, good morning Diana,” she added tentatively.

“Good morning Sister!” Diana replied brightly. “How are you doing this morning?”

“I’m well,” she answered cautiously. This was the most she had spoken to her sister in nearly three months. “How are you feeling, I heard you were feeling unwell yesterday?”

“Oh I’m fine,” Diana assured her, waving Terra’s concern off. “I was just hoping to speak with father about possibly going out for a ride. I think the fresh air would help my health.”

“Really?” Terra asked, excited about possibly getting to spend time with her sister. Their lives had grown in opposite directions for so long that she rarely had the opportunity to spend time with her. “I’m on my way to Titan today as it happens.”

“Yes, Master Bell was just telling me that. So you’re going to look at the prophecy?” Diana inquired, trying to sound light and casual.

“I am! I heard from our cousin that there might be more to the prophecy that could help. You know Diana, the prophecy is about you, you should come with me. It would give you a chance to get some air and you know how to read prophecy much better than I do.”

“Oh I don’t want to intrude on your plans,” she sighed smiling sweetly. She knew her sister well enough to know that she would fall into her trap like the gullible naïve fool she was.

“It’s no intrusion at all,” she all but shouted cheerfully. “I’d love for you to go. In truth I’ll probably need your help figuring the prophecy out.”

“Well that sounds like a great plan,” Diana muttered through gritted teeth, not sure how much longer she could force a smile.

“What sounds like a great plan?” King Sol asked entering the room.

“Oh Good morning Father,” Terra greeted curtsying.

“Father,” Diana remarked, curtsying to match her sister.

“Your Majesty,” Bell said formally saluting him.

“Father Diana was telling me that she wanted to go and get some air and I was telling her about how I was going to the library so she offered to come with me. Which is a really good idea since I can’t actually read prophecy.”

“An interesting proposal,” King Sol considered. “Who would you take with you?”

“My Guards,” Terra offered. “Eric and John.”

“We can take what’s-his-name, too,” Diana offered. “The captain of the guard.”

“Jones?” Terra asked. “I think he might have work to do here.”

“Indeed he does,” Bell offered. “I’m sure that Terra’s guards should be enough for a trip to Titan. It’s less than a half days ride. So long as they don’t take too long in town they should be back before it gets dark and there’s any real threat to their safety.”

King Sol silently considered what Bell and Terra had to say. Diana stood near the back of the group looking indifferently out a window. She knew if she looked at her father he would see that little sparkle in her eyes that meant she had ulterior motives.

“Is this what you would like Terra?” He asked her.

“Yes father,” Terra replied earnestly. “Diana and I so rarely get to spend time with each other. I miss my sister. And again, I kind of need her to read the prophecy.”

“Very well then,” The King said smiling kindly down at her. “But you must promise to be safe and not dawdle while in town.”

“I promise Father.”

“Well go and gather your gloves and cloak, find those guards of yours and meet your sister out by the stable.”

“I will, thank you father,” she called as she curtsied again and back out of the room. She disappeared through the door all but skipping as she went.

“Diana,” King Sol said, turning to face his oldest child. “I’m glad to see you wanting to spend more time with your sister. Please be mindful of her limitations as well as your own. Neither of you had an easy day yesterday.”

“I’ll be careful father,” she assured him, “You don’t need to worry. I’ll take care of Terra.”

Terra rushed up the stairs toward her room as fast as she could. She was so excited to get out of the castle and spend some time with her sister and Eric and John that she could barely contain her glee. She needed something fun like this after everything that had happened to her in the past few days. It might get a little awkward with Eric there and the secret they shared between them. Still, she was sure that everything would be ok.

She stopped, struck by a sudden thought.

They should have a picnic!

If she stopped in the kitchen on her way back to her room she could have Jenny get it all ready for her. By the time she found John and Eric and got her cape and gloves, Jenny would have it ready to go. Jenny was good and she was quick. Terra would have to go a little out of her way to swing by the kitchen but it would be worth it.

“Jenny?” She called, walking into the kitchen. “Jenny I know it’s early but I need a huge favor!”

“Princess?” Jenny called emerging from the large pantry room at the end of the Kitchen. She yawned and rubbed her eyes. “It’s early for breakfast isn’t it?”

“Oh,” she muttered suddenly deflated. “I completely forgot about breakfast.”

“If you’re not here for breakfast than what can I do for you Princess?”

“I need a lunch basket made up, if you can,” she asked sheepishly. “My sister and I are going out to Titan today and I wanted to be able to stop and have a nice lunch with her along the way.”

“That sounds lovely,” Jenny said smiling. “I can have something made up for you if you like. When do you want it ready?”

“Um soon as you can I guess,” she considered. “It’ll take me about twenty minutes to round up the boys and get them ready. Oh and I’ve got to take breakfast down to Grey.” Terra made a face at Jenny who laughed goodheartedly at her obvious discomfort.

“Things not going well with the caged man?” She teased.

“Is it ever?” She asked glumly.

“I suppose that’s true,” Jenny smiled. “Do you want to feed him or shall we just starve the mean out of him?”

Terra laughed. “We’d have to starve him for a long time.”

“Forever would do it I’d say,” Jenny remarked. The two girls burst out laughing as they considered how hilarious it would be trying to starve the mean out of Grey.

“I guess I have to feed him,” Terra sighed when she could finally talk. She wiped a tear from her eye and said, “Can we just toss something simple together? I really don’t have time for much.”

“He won’t like it,” Jenny said warningly.

“Well as it happens I’m not super interested in what he likes right now.”

“Alright then,” Jenny smiled genuinely enjoying the drama that always ensued between Terra and Grey. “Just give me two minutes and I’ll have something ready for you ok?”

“Thank you Jenny.”

A few minutes later Terra had a tray of toast with jam and some sliced ham form the night before on a tray for Grey. She had requested some extra food for him since she would be gone at lunch time. As she had hoped, John was standing at his post outside the door.

“Hey,” he said smiling. “You look . . . good.”

“Thanks. Hey I wanted to talk to you about something.”

“What’s going on?” He asked, pleasantly.

“I’m going with my sister to Titan, to the great Library and I was hoping that as my newly appointed guard, you would be ready to do some guarding . . .?” Terra stopped and thought about rewording what she had said, but by then it was too late.

John laughed and said, “Some guarding?”

“Yeah, I know.”

“I’d be happy to come. Not that I have much choice though. I think when my princess summons me I have to go.”

“Well then consider yourself summoned,” she mocked, trying to sound like a royal.

“Yes Princess,” he replied with mock civility, “Right away Princess.” He formally saluted her, laughing then entire time. “I will go and let the Captain know.”

“Thank you,” she called as he walked past. “Hey do you know where Eric is?”

“I think he’s still sleeping, something about a really long day yesterday,” he called to her as he walked toward the door. “Wouldn’t know anything about that would you?”

Terra blushed up to her eyebrows as she stared at John wide eyed.

“Meet you at the stables,” he called as he ran off laughing.

Terra shook her head and set the tray down. She grabbed the door and pushed it open, picking the tray back up she headed in to the prison.

As she had been hoping, Grey was still asleep. It was early enough that he wouldn’t be expecting her and with the knife strapped to her thigh there was no way for him to detect her. She could slip in, leave his breakfast on his table, and slip back out without him waking up and bothering her about what was said last night. She was planning on using the long ride to think about everything that had happened to her yesterday and everything that was said to her. She needed the space and time to think.

She also needed to get away from Grey before he had time to wake and start talking.

Terra walked up and looked into the glass prison. He was rolled facing the door. He must have passed out. He was lying on top of the blankets and he was still fully clothed. She stalked quietly over to the glass and pushed her way through. She set the tray quietly down on the table and slipped back toward the wall. She glanced quietly back at Grey, still sleeping soundly. He looked sad and she couldn’t help but wonder if that was her fault.

Knowing it was unwise, she crept forward and knelt next to the bed in front of Grey. She watched him sleep for a minute while thinking over all that he had said to her.

“Oh Grey,” she whispered quietly. “Why do you have to be you?” She reached out and brushed a few stray hairs from his face. Like a ripple effect, his face changed and once again Terra was staring at a young Grey.

Well a younger Grey anyway.

Knowing she had to leave, Terra leaned forward and kissed him gently on the lips. “It’s an odd thing,” she remarked to the sleeping man, “loving and hating someone at the same time. It complicates so much. I’m not sure I can do it anymore,” she reached up and brushed away the few remaining strands of hair on his forehead. “Fate is a cruel and fickle thing.”

She kissed him on the forehead and stood. She pulled some paper from his writing desk and scribbled him a quick note. She tucked it under the tray and headed to the wall.

With one final look at the sleeping Grey, she slipped through the glass and out the prison, pulling the door closed behind her.

A pounding on the door pulled Eric up and out of bed. “Uh . . . what’s . . . going . . . who?”

“Eric!” John shouted through his door, “Eric get up we have to go, Terra needs us.”

“What about Terra?” He asked suddenly more awake.

“We have to go. Terra and her sister are leaving for Titan and if you don’t hurry up they’re going to leave without you.”

The door jerked open suddenly and John, caught off guard, nearly fell through the doorway into Eric.

“Where exactly are you going now?” He demanded.

“To Titan, with the princess,” John explained slowly. “They need us since we’re Terra’s guards.”

“Oh,” Eric yawned, still half asleep. “Just the two of us?”

“As far as I know.”

“Too light,” he muttered consideringly. “Where’s Jack? We’ll bring him along with us. Three of us plus a driver should be good.”

“You haven’t heard?” John asked in disbelief.

“Heard what?”

“Jack, he’s deserted.”

“He what!?”

John nodded. “He didn’t report for his night time duties a few days ago and no one has seen him since. We sent riders to his parent’s home but he hasn’t been there in over a year.”

“How do you know something hasn’t happened?” Eric called, pulling on his guard uniform and grabbing his armor from the chest at the foot of his bed. Since the shadows had become more active and the King had set down stricter rules about where and when he daughters could leave the castle, Eric hadn’t had much opportunity to use his armor.

“We don’t, I suppose,” John admitted, concerned.

“Did he take anything with him? Any of his personal effects or things like that?”

“No It’s all still around his bunk. Do you really think that something might have happened to him? And we’ve been acting like everything was fine.”

“There’s no way to know,” Eric remarked, quickly pulling all his hair back into a ponytail at the base of his neck. “But we’ll deal with it later. Let’s go.”

It took less than fifteen minutes for Eric to finish cleaning himself up and getting ready to go. He had wanted to shave that morning, seeing as the stubble on his face was rapidly progressing toward beard. But he knew the ride to Titan could be a long one and with just himself and John to guard the Princesses, it was best they get back before nightfall.

By the time he and John got to the stables the carriage was already sporting two of his majesties noble grey hunters with Lucas, her father’s personal driver. He was incredibly strong and quick, not to mention he was a force to reckon with when he had a club in hand.

“Morning Lucas,” Eric called brightly.

“Good morn’ young guard,” Lucas called back, his accent thick in his voice.

“Eric, John,” Terra called from the seat next to Lucas. “Glad to see you finally made it.”

“What do you think you’re doing?” Eric called up to her.

“Sitting, obviously,” she replied snarkily.

“Not up there you’re not,” he countered climbing up the side of the carriage. “Here give me your hand and I’ll help you down.”

“You can’t be serious,” she laughed.

“Terra you can’t sit up there, it isn’t safe,” he explained taking her hand. “I’ll help you down.”

She pulled her hand out of his and leaned away from him. “I’m fine up here.”

A frustrated look passed over his face. “Terra,” he muttered irritated.

“Don’t let him speak to you that way,” Diana called as she approached the carriage. “He’s your guard and he can’t tell you what to do. You tell him what to do.”

Everyone stopped what they were doing and bowed to Diana. She smiled and soaked it in as they worshiped her. It was things like this that she loved. Things like this also terrified her. One day, when that idiot of monster in the basement was dead, all of this would end. They would still love her, she was a princess after all, but not like they worshiped her now.

Terra climbed down the opposite side of the carriage and, with a hand from John, she stepped in and sat down. Diana was helped in next and sat on the opposite side of the carriage. She stretched out and settled in. It was only after she was all but laying down that she looked up at Terra.

“I would fire him,” she remarked casually.

“Eric?”

“Whatever his name is,” she yawned dismissively. “If you let them talk to you that way they’ll walk all over you.”

“He just cares,” Terra explained awkwardly. “He’s not trying to boss me around or walk all over me. He just cares.”

“That’s even worse!” she shouted outraged. “Don’t’ let them care about you! He’s a guard Terra. A guard! He’s nowhere near good enough for royalty. If he cares it’s even more reason to fire him.”

“It’s not his fault,” she started, “It’s our bond; it makes things crazy and blows things out of proportion. That’s all.”

Diana scoffed but didn’t say anything else. She glanced out her window and didn’t seem all that interested in Terra anymore.

“Princess Terra,” John called. She turned and glanced out the window. John was riding Zeus again and looked ready to go. “Are you doing alright in there? It looks like we’re ready to go when you are.”

“Oh John! When did you find Zeus?”

“He made his way home once the storm subsided. He’s a good boy that way,” he answered patting his mustang’s neck. “So are we ready?”

Terra glanced to Diana who kept her eyes out the window. “I guess we’re ready.”

“Alright I’ll let Eric and Lucas know.” He nudged Zeus forward and the carriage jerked forward suddenly. Diana grumbled something under her breath but didn’t’ say anything more. Slightly disappointed, she leaned her head against the wall of the carriage and started out the window.

In a couple of minutes they were moving through the courtyard and out into the city. Terra’s spirits lifted as she saw people rushing out to greet the carriage. She smiled as they waved from the sides of the street, women curtsied and men doffed their caps as they passed.

“Princess! Princess!” Children called as the raced alongside the carriage. “Where are you going princess? Can we come along?”

“No not today I’m afraid,” she called reaching out and touching the children’s hands as the raised them toward her. “I’ll be home before dark, we’ll play then.”

“Awwww,” the children exclaimed, disappointed that the princess couldn’t play.

Terra watched as the children fell away and as the people of the town continued to wave and salute the carriage. Happy and feeling loved by the people of her kingdom, she turned to see if her sister was enjoying the ride so far.

Diana’s eyes were closed and she was leaning against the wall of the carriage, her color was bad and she seemed to be in some kind of pain. Every time the carriage hit a bump in the road or a dip her sister cringed.

“Diana,” she asked, her worry for her sister making her feel brave. “Diana what’s wrong? You look like you’re in pain.”

“I’m fine,” she lied, cringing as the carriage hit a particularly large dip in the road.

“You’re lying,” she countered, “Tell me what’s wrong.”

“I said I’m fine,” Diana replied more firmly. “Just leave me alone.”

Terra, not letting anything alone, carefully reached out with her magic, trying to carefully asses her sister. A shock went through her body as her magic came in contact with her sister’s aura. It felt like it had burned her, like her sister’s aura had become fire.

Confused she looked up to see Diana glaring at her.

“I said leave me along,” she repeated bitterly.

“Not until you tell me what’s wrong!” Terra insisted. “Now, either tell me what’s the matter or I’ll keep poking at you until I find a weak spot. One way or the other, I’m going to find out.”

“Why do you care so much?” Diana shot at her.

“Because you’re my sister and I love you,” she replied as though it was obvious.

Diana scoffed. “Love,” she muttered the word like the very idea disgusted her. “What a waste of time.”

Terra laughed, “Don’t be so weird. Let me see what’s wrong? Maybe I can help. My healing isn’t great but it’s better than suffering through the whole trip.”

She regarded her sister with cool eyes. “Fine,” she sighed. She didn’t really like the thought of opening herself up to anyone else or their magic, but there was no way she would survive the ride all the way to Titan and back feeling the way she did.

Terra smiled, glad to be able to help her sister. She stood as much as she could and shot over to the other side next to her sister. Carefully she placed one hand just above her sister’s head and another above her stomach. Taking a few deep breaths she focused on the area of Diana’s aura that was stressed and angry.

She could see almost instantly the point of pain.

Diana was having her courses, and painfully at that. It looked like she was suffering a great deal in the carriage. It broke Terra’s heart to think of her sister going through so much pain just to spend some time with her.

She closed her eyes and focused on healing and calming the angry parts of her sister’s aura. It didn’t take long for Diana to start to visibly relax. All the strain went out of her face and her shoulders drooped. She sighed contentedly. Terra felt so happy she could cry. Diana had so much weight on her shoulders and so much pressure on her all the time from everyone. It made her happy to know that she could do this one thing to make her sister feel better. Even if it was as simple as taking away the pain she felt from her monthly courses.

Diana lounged comfortably in the carriage as Terra slowly took away the pain she was feeling from the potion the old hag had given her. She’d been having pain for over a day now. That was to be expected though. This wasn’t the first time she’d had to deal with things like this. Things were a little different this time, the pain was stronger and it seemed to be hanging around longer. Thankfully Terra’s idiotic need to help her was making that pain seem like a distant memory.

She snuggled down into the thick blankets and furs that lined the seats of the carriage and felt herself drift off.

Grey sat up in bed slowly, stretching and yawning as he went.

He looked around the room, it was empty. He couldn’t detect anyone around him, just a guard at the other side of the door. It wasn’t the usual guard, what’s-his-name, the one always pinning over Terra. This was the lecherous one that usually hung around at night thinking things about Terra that made Grey want to burst out his cell and commit some homicide.

Another glance around the room and he noticed the silver tray on his table, piled high with food. He got up and walked over; under the tray there was a small piece of paper that read:

Dear Grey,

I’m afraid I will be unable to bring you lunch today as I will be in Titan visiting the library there with my sister. I will see you tonight for dinner.

Terra Elisabeth Sol

Grey read the letter several times before folding the paper carefully and sticking it into a pocket on his belt. If Terra was in Titan with Diana, something was going on. What, he couldn’t say for sure. But he knew enough to know that it wasn’t going to be good.

He had banked on her avoiding him today, maybe even the rest of this week. He hadn’t wanted to say what he’d said to her. Unfortunately the unusual shadow activity yesterday had expedited his plans. Terra’s trust in him, something he had worked very hard to build over the course of four years, was suddenly shattered. If he didn’t do something, and fast, to fix it, he would have lost her forever.

Grey simply didn’t have time to go back to the drawing board and figure out another way to come at Diana. He didn’t need to be outside to see the signs or read the stars to know that the end was coming, and coming quickly. He could sense the change in the air all around him, most especially around Terra. She seemed to radiate change.

Still, catching her off guard the way he did might actually do more good than harm.

She wasn’t expecting anything like that from him. She was expecting something angry or some kind of fighting. Catching her off guard made it all the more shocking. Hopefully she was sitting somewhere thinking about him and wondering if he really loved her.

Terra leaned out the window watching the rolling green hills of the country side as they sped past. Every so often John would ride up next to her window and see how she was doing. At first she was fine. Diana was sleeping soundly stretched across the other bench and she loved having the wind in her face. After a while though she started to feel cooped up in the carriage and she longed for lunch time so she could stop and stretch her legs.

After a few hours on the road John road up alongside the carriage again.

“Princess,” he called.

“John, do I really need to tell you again?” She asked.

“Sorry, Terra,” he corrected smiling. “Are you two ready for lunch?”

Terra glanced at her sister, still sleeping soundly. Her stomach rumbled and she longed to be out of the carriage and move around. Diana looked so peaceful, and she had been hurting before, she didn’t have the heart to wake her yet. She needed rest.

“I don’t think so,” Terra answered, sounding a little disappointed.

“Why on earth not!” Diana shouted. “I’m starving.”

“Oh you’re awake,” she cried elated. “Do you feel like stopping for lunch? I had Jenny pack us a nice basket so we could stop on the road.”

“Then let’s stop,” she said irritably.

“I think we’re ready John.”

Lucas found a nice shady spot along the bank of the Hailey River. There was a large group of trees that cast the entire side of the bank in shadows. Hailey, which usually ran as fast as the deer that frequented it, was slow in this spot, making it a perfect place for the royal carriage to stop.

Terra bounced anxiously on the seat as she waited to get out. When Lucas finally called the horses to stop, she burst from the carriage and ran out onto the grass. She knelt down and rolled over onto her back smiling and laughing like a crazy person.

“Are you alright Terra?” John asked, dismounting Zeus and tethering him to a tree.

“She doesn’t like to be cooped up for too long,” Eric called hitching his horse next to John’s. “She gets all squirrelly and crazy if she’s forced to be contained for too long.”

Terra, so happy to be out of the carriage, she forgot all about being angry at Eric for being bossy. “I don’t know what he’s talking about,” she called at John. “He’s crazy. I’m just enjoying the grass. It’s lovely in this part of the kingdom.” Together the three of them laughed.

“Terra, really?” Diana scoffed as she emerged from the carriage. “Can’t you at least act like royalty for a few minutes?”

“I am acting like a royal,” she laughed. “All good royals love their land. That’s all I’m doing. Just loving the land.”

Diana rolled her eyes but didn’t say anything else. She stood and waited for Lucas to set up the folding chairs and table for the princess’s. Then she sat down leered at Terra, Eric, and John. She needed to bring better company next time.

John walked over and set down the picnic basket on the table and quickly set up lunch for Diana. There was ham and grapes, plus some cheese and bread. Diana took the best of everything and the turned away from the group to face the water.

“Terra, are you going to come eat?” John asked walking over.

“Soon,” she replied, still lying on the grass in the shade. “You guys eat, I’m ok right now.”

John laughed and lowered himself down next to her. He looked up at the blue sky with its few wisps of clouds passing overhead. “So why are you laying on the grass?”

“She needs to stretch,” Eric answered feeding the horses.

“Hey John,” she stated, “Did you know that Eric has changed his name to Terra and now answers to Princess?”

“What?!” Eric shouted as John and Terra laughed. “What did you just say?” He walked over to them and stood, towering over their heads, hand on his hips.

You don’t even answer to Princess most of the time,” he mocked.

“I don’t know to what you are referring to,” she scoffed with mock indignation. “Now be gone servant, you’re blocking my sun.”

“Oh really?” He asked flopping down on Terra’s other side. He turned and lay down, folding his arms behind his head.

“This is surprisingly comfortable,” John commented as a breeze blew over them, ruffling their hair and clothing.

“Yup,” Terra sighed happily.

“Someone should get the food,” Eric commented.

“Yea,” John and Terra agreed in unison.

Feeling much more at ease, she sat up and stretched again, hearing loud popping sounds coming from her back, she smiled.

“Dear creator was that you?” Eric asked sitting up.

“Yea,” she laughed getting to her feet. She brushed the grass off her cloak as both the boys hurried to their feet. “I’m starving. Let’s eat.”

Together the three of them got food and spread out in the shade to eat. They passed the hottest part of day blissfully cool under the tall sweeping oaks that grew along the river bank. Diana sat in her chair and regarded her sister and her guards like they were some nuisance that she couldn’t be rid of. For a while Diana wondered if it was a wise idea to have come.

When she had the dream she was sure she needed to be with Terra all day to ensure that her cryptic warning didn’t come to pass. She hadn’t realized at the time that it would entail being dragged across the kingdom to a library or being stuck with her idiot sister’s guards all day. She hated the way things were between Terra and her Guards. People that served you needed to respect and to fear you, that was the only way to keep them in line.

Looking at Terra and the way she laughed and joked with them, Diana realized that they didn’t fear her at all. Quite the opposite actually. It seemed that these poor fools actually loved her sister.

Idiots.

She almost felt bad for them.

Almost anyway.

For a moment all Diana could think about was how to destroy the three of them. How could she take their happiness and rip it away in a way that would hurt the most?

No. She shouldn’t destroy them, that would be to obvious and she’d had a hard enough time dealing the last man who had crossed her, and there was only one of him. She couldn’t be so easily rid of Terra. Not that she really wanted to, Terra served several purposes for Diana.

Firstly, she was the best scapegoat. Anytime Diana knew she was going to be in trouble she would go to Terra with some completely dramatized story and tell her she needed her help. Terra would jump up to do anything for her. She loved her, and that made her weak. Her love and the way she loved made her weak and made it easy for Diana to exploit her.

Secondly, as she’d proven today, she was handy when Diana was hurting. As much as it pained her to admit, she was good with her magic. It made her useful.

So she would just make a mental note of Terra and her two guards and the feelings they shared, it might just come in handy later.

After lunch Terra packed everything back up into the basket and hauled it back over to the carriage. She took the plates and silverware down to the river to wash them off. Jenny would give her an earful if the plates and forks came back gross and sticky. She kneelt down carefully and rinsed them in the casually running water.

“I’m sorry,” Eric apologized walking up behind her. “About earlier, I was out of line.”

“I appreciate you apologizing,” Terra said not looking up. “But I would be much more interested to know why you reacted that way.”

“Truth?”

“Always,” she answered looking up at him and smiling.

He sighed and said, “I had this dream last night, a nightmare really. About you and today and this trip.”

“What happened?”

“I don’t really know,” he answered honestly. “I remember you being there with me and I know I was terrified for you. Part of the dream, the only part I can really remember, was you telling me about the trip you were taking. You didn’t say where you were going or when but when John woke me I knew it was this I was dreaming about this trip.”

Terra considered this for a moment, “So you thought that I might get hurt like in your dream?”

“Something like that.”

She shook the water off the last of the plates and wrapped them in a towel. She stood and looked at Eric. He was clearly sorry and he felt bad about what he did. Which she appreciated. Her only concern was that he was getting more and more comfortable acting less like her Guard and more like her intended.

She loved him and he loved her and that made her very happy. However, if anyone else were to find out about them and the way they acted together, he would be hung for treason and she would be sent off to live in shame somewhere as the house pet of a lesser Lord or Duke. Assuming her mother didn’t just have her completely exiled.

“Eric you know you can’t do things like this,” Terra tried to explain kindly. “If people know about us, or what we felt for each other . . .” she let the sentence fall away. He was more than aware of what would happen to them if they were found out.

“I know,” he sighed. “It won’t happen again. It’s just hard being your guard and feeling like this. But it’s only because it’s so new. Things will get better with time.”

A sudden chill ran down Terra’s spine. Something about what Eric had said, something about time the two of them, something bad. She couldn’t’ put her finger on it but the princess was sure this sudden shadow that passed over her heart was a warning of some kind.

“Terra are you ok?” He asked, concerned by her sudden change in demeanor.

“I’m fine,” she replied, shaking the last of the dread from her mind.

“Are you sure you’re alright? You’re very pale,” he observed.

Terra could hear Lucas getting the horses ready to go, it was time to head out. She turned to Eric and forced a smile. “I’m fine, I promise.” Together they walked back to the carriage and piled everyone in. Terra laughed as Eric and John fought momentarily about the best way to get to the library while Lucas barked orders at them like they were children.

Diana scoffed and said something about men under her breath as she went back to lying in the carriage. Terra just laughed, pure and happy.

It was only an hour later when they rolled up to the city gates. Diana sat up and leaned out the window. She had always like Titan. It was the biggest city in the Kingdom. It sat in the flat planes area nestled safely inside Aries Bay. All the tall hills around the bay kept the harsh winds from the sea away from ships seeking the safety of port. It was a huge trading city. People from all over the continents came here to buy and sell. It made the city so large that it had to be split into districts.

There was always a party or a huge event going on somewhere within the city. It was the place to be for anyone under the age of fifty. Naturally Diana frequented the city as often as her mother would allow.

Which sadly wasn’t often.

Diana wondered if she would able to slip away from the library and see what was going on elsewhere in town. She doubted it but at least she could try.

Terra watched the city pass as they drove on through first three districts and on to the fourth where the library was located. She didn’t really care for Titan. It always seemed too busy to her. There was always something going on somewhere and it all seemed so loud. She preferred the quiet peace that came from being up against the forest the way the castle was.

Thankfully it took very little time to get to the library.

Terra was shocked at the sheer size of the building.

It had to be nearly the size of the castle. Except that the castle had turrets and towers whereas the library seemed to be one huge rectangular building. Filled with books and scrolls and knowledge. She couldn’t wait to get inside and get started.

When the carriage came to a stop Terra had her hand on the door ready to fly out and up the side set of steps that led to the large wooden doors. They stood nearly ten feet tall and were at least as wide. She couldn’t wait to get a look inside at all the books and scrolls, all the knowledge of their kingdom was stored there and she couldn’t wait to see it.

Just before she could fly out the door, a hand on her arms stopped her.

She turned to see Diana looking at her annoyed and frustrated. “Terra you can’t go flying out of the carriage like some common idiot. You’re royalty and you have to act that way.”

“Oh,” she stammered, not sure what was wrong with the way she was going to get out. “What should I do?” She asked not wanting to upset Diana.

“I will exit first, and you will slide to my side and exit behind me. Then together we will walk up the steps like the princesses we are.”

“I guess we can do that,” she agreed as her door opened up and Eric poked his head in.

“Princess,” he said smiling offering her his hand.

Terra smiled and looked at Diana. With a roll of her eyes she waved her away. Smiling she grabbed Eric’s hand and stepped out of the carriage into the warm afternoon sun. She could hear John on the other side helping Diana out and commenting about her dress. Together the four of them walked up the long flat steps as Lucas took the carriage around to the stable near the side of the library.

As they got close to the top of the stairs, the doors opened and three men came strolling out toward them. One was very old with long grey hair and a long grey beard. He wore a simple brown robe with a dark green belt tied around his waist. He walked with a slight hunch in his back but the use of a large staff seemed to help him.

Directly to his right was a slightly younger man, maybe in his late fifties, his hair was salt and pepper and the black of this moustache was the only thing that spoke to his original coloring. He was thin and tall and wore all black with only a thick gold belt around his waist.

To the left there was a much younger man. He was maybe as old as Eric, but no older. He had dark red hair and eyes so blue Terra could see them before she even got close. He wore pale blue robes with a purple belt.

“I heard once that the guardians of the library must wear colors that correspond to the colors of their magic,” Eric whispered into Terra’s ear.

Once they reached the top step the old man with the staff stepped forward and together the three of them bowed.

“Princesses Diana and Terra,” the oldest man greeted. “My name is Arthur and this is Dominick,” he indicated to the man in black, “and Alexander,” now the man in blue. “We were most pleased to hear that you would be joining us today. What can we do to help?”

Terra stepped forward, “We’ve come to see the scroll that concerns my sister and the Shadow King. Our cousin from the Moon Kingdom has seen signs that we believe may lead us down another fork and aid my sister in her coming battle.”

“Princess Terra,” Alexander said stepping up next to Arthur. “We have heard stories of your power; we’re honored to help you in any way possible.”

With an exasperated sigh Dominick stepped up next to the other two men and said, “We three are the guardians of the library. Nothing comes in and nothing goes out without our expressed say so.”

“If you will please follow Alexander he will take you to the section we have set aside for prophecy,” Arthur said kindly. “It may take some time to find it though. As I recall that prophecy hasn’t been looked at in nearly a decade.”

“Over, sir,” Alexander offered. He smiled brightly at Terra who blushed and shifted her weight from side to side. Eric took notice of his gaze and scowled. He started forward, deciding that the best course of action was to lead Terra in, keeping this Alexander as far from her as possible.

He slammed into something.

Looking bewildered, he turned to stare at the three men before the door.

“I’m afraid the Library has denied you entrance,” Dominick said smirking. “The weapons you carry prevent you from entering.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“I’m sure you have heard that the library was built upon a naturally occurring magical well.” Dominick remarked.

“What’s that?” John asked leaning in to ask Terra.

“A magical well is a deep reservoir of magic that occurs in nature,” she explained, remembering the book she had read about this kind of thing very well. “No one knows exactly how they were formed or where the magic comes from. They’re very rare and most are hidden under buildings. It’s not exactly something you advertise if you’ve found one.”

“Exactly,” Alexander said his smile for her widening.

“This particular well is unusual in that it causes physical changes in the world around it,” Dominick explained. “Sometimes it simply alters the coloring of a person’s clothing.” He gestured to Alexander and Arthur. “Other times it won’t let certain people pass its bounds. Usually it has to do with the weapons a person carries. So I suggest stashing the swords or get comfortable waiting.”

“You can’t be serious,” Eric demanded exasperated. “I’m Princess Terra’s Royal Guard. It’s my duty to protect her. How can I do that if I’m unarmed?”

“She is perfectly safe within the walls of the library,” Alexander offered.

“Outrageous,” he complained pulling the sword off his belt. He reached down and grabbed the two daggers he kept hidden in his boots. He set them on the stairs at his feet and tried to walk forward again. Still he couldn’t pass.

“I’m sorry my lad,” Arthur said, “The well doesn’t seem keen to let you pass. You will have to wait out here.”

Eric took a deep breath, like he was preparing to say something, loudly.

He stopped, let the breath out and turned to Terra. “I don’t enjoy the thought of you going in there without me. However, I know that this is very important. So I will wait out here if that is what you want.”

Terra couldn’t help the grateful smile that spread across her face. Eric was keeping it under control. Even though through the bond she could tell that all he wanted to do was scoop her up and leave this place. He was keeping his temper under control for her.

“Thank you,” she whispered, “I do need to do this. I need to go in and try and find a way to help Diana,” she glanced back at her sister, love clear in her face, “she has so much on her shoulders that I have to do all I can do to help. Including this.”

Eric’s face remained passive but she could feel his disappointment. “Then I’ll wait here.”

Terra nodded gratefully and walked forward with Diana who was already making her way leisurely up the steps.

Diana, intent on ignoring her sister and her guards, continued forward. There was a moment when she hit the invisible wall of the well. She pushed against for a heartbeat, not being able to move. Finally, after less than a second of resistance, she pushed through the wall and blew past Terra and the three guardians.

“Let’s go,” she hollered.

“I’ll stay out here with Eric,” John offered.

“Thank you,” Terra said. “I’m ready to get going.”

Alexander nodded and said, “Follow me.”

Terra nodded to Arthur and Dominick as she passed and they bowed to her.

As she passed through the double doors of the library she came to a stop. She looked up at the large celling, sitting nearly forty feet above her, made entirely of fractured glass. Each pane was different size and shape but they all fit together making beautiful patters above her. Some panes were angled just right so that they caught the sun and shone brilliantly. It was one of the most beautiful things she had ever seen.

“It’s an amazing celling, right?” Alexander asked.

“It’s breathtaking,” she whispered.

“Yea,” he agreed. “So the library is split into different sections, sort of like how the city is split into districts. There are two major sections, one is for books and the other is for scrolls. Each major section is split into two smaller sections. One for current and new additions up to twenty years ago and the other one is for anything older than that.”

“Won’t that make finding the scroll we need difficult?” She asked as they walked to catch up to Diana who, having gotten lost, was waiting for them up ahead.

“It won’t be easy,” he admitted.

“Alexander,” she started.

“Alex,” he said smiling at her.

“Alex,” she corrected herself. “Do you know, approximately where the scroll is?”

“I wish I could say that we did but there was a problem a few weeks ago and things have been a mess ever since then.”

“What kind of problem?” She asked, curious.

Alex made a face. “Someone broke in and messed up a number of things. Books got moved all over and scrolls were unrolled and everywhere. The prophecy scroll was hanging up in the middle of the library in a room were we keep the most valuable of all our editions, it was gone when we came in the next morning.”

Terrified, Terra reached out and stopped Alex. “Is it possible that it was stolen?”

He smiled and patted her hand where it was still holding his arm. “It is impossible to take anything from this library without Arthur’s consent. His staff does more than aid him as he walks, it’s imbued with a kind of magic that gives him control over the entire library. Everything in here is magically linked to the staff and only that staff can allow things to pass.

“So we know it’s in here somewhere, we just don’t know where.”

“How long is this going to take?” Diana asked irritably.

“I can’t say princess,” Alex admitted sounding genuinely upset that he couldn’t answer her. There was a brake in the thirty foot book cases that made the walls. Alex took the left and led them down a hallway made of shelf after shelf of scrolls. After about fifty feet of solid shelves there was a break, a kind of clearing amidst the tall shelves with a large round table and a dozen chairs. There were already scrolls rolled out on the table and some stacked off to the side. Next to that there was a very comfortable looking sofa with a large fur rug rolled out in front of it.

“So somewhere in this area,” Alex said, “We’ve been searching for it for a day or so now. This is the only section we haven’t checked.”

“You two have fun,” Diana sneered walking toward the clearing. She sauntered slowly down the aisle and then flopped down on the sofa and covered her eyes with her arm.

“She’s not feeling very well,” Terra explained sheepishly to Alex.

“I understand completely,” he said smiling. “So how about I take left and you take right?”

“Sounds good to me,” she agreed. She turned right and stopped. “What does it look like, the scroll? What does it actually look like?”

“Oh,” he laughed, “I forgot. Its rolls are gold with intricate carvings on them. If you find one you think it might be, pull it out and it will say what it is on the front. Just be careful, these shelves stand thirty feet tall. If you fall it could be fatal.”

“I will, thank you,” Terra said as she turned and headed into the forest of book shelves off to the right. If the celling hadn’t been glass, she was sure that she wouldn’t have been able to see at all. It seemed like there was so many scrolls on so many shelves that it would nearly impossible for her to search all of them in one day. Even with Alex’s help and help from everyone else in the library, there was no way to search half of where she needed to in the time she had.

With a sigh bordering on defeat, Terra approached the first humongous book case before her. She glanced up, leaning all the way back trying to see if anything looked gold or even gold-ish. As far as she could tell she would need a ladder and literally the next week to look everywhere. Something inside, something she didn’t understand or fully comprehend told her she didn’t have a week.

Bell paced nervously back and forth in his room. King Sol had excused himself from their meeting to see his daughters off and then to deal with his nephew. Prince Charles had proved to be more of a handful than anyone had expected. Bell understood why he needed to go, but he still needed quite desperately to talk to his King.

Something was coming. It was something huge and dark and terrifying.

He had felt things stirring for some time. Nothing huge or major at first, just little things here and there, until Bell woke up this very morning and was so overcome by the sudden and terrifying feeling that he was unable to move. He had wondered out into the hall, shocked and amazed that no one else seemed to feel it.

Whatever this impending darkness was, it was coming soon, possibly even today.

Terra and Diana seemed to be at the heart of this coming storm. There was darkness swirling around the two of them. For Terra that was normal. Her exposure to Grey every day left a strange residue on her. She was still as bright and pure on the inside as ever, or as far as he could tell anyway. Still, there was something that seemed to hang on her, even hours after she’d left him.

Diana thought, that was something that worried Bell. She was usually a little dark and not quite right. Most of the time she just seemed slightly off or off colored. Today however, she was dark, darker than Terra. It worried him that she was out with her sister and only Eric and John to keep her safe. It was more than unsettling, it was quite harrowing.

Bell knew it was preposterous to be concerned about Terra when she was with her sister. Diana was meant to save the world. Surely she could be trusted with keeping her sister safe. Bell knew she had a dark side, and had even run into it from time to time, but it wasn’t anything that was dangerous. She certainly wasn’t a danger to Terra, who was one of the single most gifted people he had ever met.

Perhaps he had seen darkness swirling around the princesses because this terrible darkness that was coming, this thing that set the hair on his arms and neck standing upright, maybe it was the final battle. Diana was of age now and her training had made fair progress over the years. Granted she wasn’t where he had hoped she would be, but she was strong. With Terra by her side, Diana could take him.

She could end this.

Not today, but she could start the process.

All the death and destruction that monster had caused could be ended.

So why couldn’t Bell shake this terrible feeling of dread when he thought about Terra alone with Diana today? Was he so immersed in his studies of Terra and the man she now called Grey that he was seeing the darkness everywhere?

That had to be it.

It was the only explanation that made any sense to him.

After forty-five minutes Terra was starting to lose hope. She’d made so little progress searching the shelves. At thirty feet tall, each shelf took over ten minutes to search and that was just when she searched with her eyes. If she had to get up and search them by hand she would be here forever.

“Are you having any luck princess?” Alex called from somewhere to her left.

“Not much,” she called feeling frustrated. “There has to be a better way to do this Alex. I can’t be here all night.”

He was quiet for a moment as he considered what she was saying. “Princess may I be frank?”

“I would appreciate it.”

Terra could hear him walking over to her. “I have heard that you have some remarkable magical skills. Why not simply try to seek it?”

“Seek it?” She asked confused. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“A seeking spell. Their easy I believe,” Alex explained as he came around the corner. “I don’t have much magical skill, but I think I could do a seeking spell with your help.”

“Alright,” she agreed, happy for the small glimmer of hope. “Just tell me what to do.”

He closed the distance between himself and Terra and said, “Give me your hands and close your eyes.” She did as he asked. He took both her hands in his and said, “Take a deep breath and relax. Keep breathing deeply and focus your mind on the scroll we’re looking for.”

“I don’t know what it looks like,” she pointed out not opening up her eyes.

“You don’t have to,” Alex said calmly. “I know what it looks like. You just have to focus on what it’s about. Focus on the content.”

Terra took another deep breath and focused on everything she knew that the scroll said. Everything about Diana and her being chosen and the shadows and the signs. She didn’t know any passages by heart, but she knew generally what it said. As she focused she could hear a strange kind of humming.

“What’s that sound?” She asked.

“What sound?”

“It’s like a loud humming. Like a large hive of bees is nearby.”

“That’s the spell working,” he assured her, “focus on the sound. When the humming gets high pitched open your eyes and look around. You should be able to find it.”

Terra nodded and closed her eyes. She could feel the humming more than hear it. It vibrated everything in her, even her teeth seemed to be vibrating. After a few more minutes the humming became more of high whining. She opened her eyes and looked around.

There was this faint band of light that seemed to be hovering above her head. It vibrated with the whining she heard. Not needing anymore instructions, she released Alex and started to follow the light. It led her down and around several cases, left here and a right there, over and over until Terra was lost in the isles of scrolls.

Finally the light came to a stop in a book case, all the way at the top. It shinned there for a split second and was gone. Terra looked around for one of the mobile stair cases she could use but found none. With no other option and feeling like time was against her, she grabbed her skirt and tied it in a knot at her side. She kicked off both of her shoes and started to climb.

At first it was hard to find her footing with all the scrolls around, but this section seemed to be comprised entirely of new scrolls so they moved for her feet with ease. After a few seconds it seemed easy to keep going. When she got about halfway up the height of it started to get to her.

“Keep breathing,” she whispered to herself. “You can do this Terra, you have to do this.” She clung to the case and made her way slowly up.

Around twenty feet the case started to creak under her weight. Terra thought she could feel it start to sway under her. She clung to the case, feeling like the biggest idiot in the world for trying to climb a thirty foot case all on her own. Now she was frozen, clinging to her case like a fool. She needed to move and she needed to do it now.

“Princess!?” Alex called from bellow her. “Princess what are you doing?”

“I’m trying to get the scroll,” she shouted, too afraid to look down. “It’s just up a little further.”

“Wait right there I’ll get a staircase and come back!” Alex raced away, hoping Terra could hold on long enough for him to find a staircase and get back to her.

Terra sighed; happy she wouldn’t have to climb back down. Still she needed to get up and get the scroll. She was close now if she could just climb a little higher she should be able to reach it. Then Alex would come back with the stair case and she could climb down and be done with the whole mess. Reaching out through the bond she found Eric and pulled from him. Strength came flooding through her with no resistance.

Her arms and legs stopped shaking and her breath started to come easier. She stretched her left hand up and grabbed the next shelf. Slowly and carefully she pulled herself up. When her body responded with little difficulty, Terra moved up quicker. In seconds she closed the distance to the shelf and found herself staring at beautifully ornate golden rollers. She knew as soon as she saw it that it was the scroll she had been searching for.

She reached in and pulled it toward her.

“You can’t be serious,” she muttered as she pulled the scroll and realized it was nearly four feet long! There was no way she could pull it out with one hand and hold the book case. She glanced around trying to find a way to get it without falling to her death.

“Princess I’m back,” Alex called. There was a sound of something being scrapped across the floor and then the whole case shuddered and swayed as something hit it close to her feet. “Just hold on Princess I’m coming,” he shouted as he started to climb up to the stairs he’d just brought.

“I found the scroll,” Terra called, “I just can’t get it out. It’s too long for me to grab and still hold on to the case.”

“Ok,” he said, “Princess I’m right behind you, with your permission I will uh . . . put my . . . hands . . . on you . . . and help you down.”

Terra, ignoring the obvious discomfort in Alex’s voice said, “I’m going to grab the scroll and pass it to you first, is that ok?” She turned as much as she could comfortably and looked at Alex. His face was red and his eyes were huge as he stared at her legs. “Alex,” she sighed, I need you to pay attention.”

“Right,” he agreed, his attention snapping back up. “Pass me the scroll I’ll get it and then you.”

Terra nodded and grabbed the ornate rollers again. She pulled it out as far as she could. It teetered nervously half of its weight in Terra’s hand and the other half still balanced on the shelf. Just as she feared it might fall, she felt a hand overlap hers and pull the scroll from her hands.

“I’ve got it,” he assured her. He pulled the rest down and set it carefully on the step in front of him. “Now you,” he said reaching up awkwardly. She took a deep breath and leaned back as far as her arms would stretch. She felt Alex grab her by the waist and literally lift her off the case and set her on the step next to him.

“Wow,” she exclaimed, “Alex you’re incredibly strong!”

“Not exactly,” he admitted blushing, “my magic manifests as physical strength. So I’m not exactly that strong.”

“You are strong,” she told him reassuringly. “Now let’s get this scroll to a table.” Alex nodded and scooped the scroll up off the stairs and followed behind Terra as she carefully made her way down to the bottom. Once safely down she stepped into her shoes and smiled up at Alex.

“Let’s go tell Diana we found it,” she smiled, pleased to have finally made progress.

“Follow me, she’s just over here,” Alex told her, lifting the scroll onto his shoulder. “This way.”

Diana yawned and stretched out. This small couch was quite comfortable and if she didn’t’ move too much her stomach didn’t hurt so badly. That damn woman had given her something too strong! How was she supposed to function and keep her secret if she could barely move for two days? It was outrageous and if the woman wasn’t already rotting in the ground, Diana would kill her again.

“We found it!” Terra called obnoxiously chipper as she ran around the corner followed by the library attendant carrying a large gold scroll. “We have it, come and see!”

Suddenly Diana’s stomach pain faded away as she looked at Terra. It was as though the very sight of her sister holding that scroll filled her with a dread so powerful that all other pain seemed to vanish.

She stared as she realized that she had her skirt tied up. Not only that, but there was a knife strapped to her thigh! Terra with a knife?! The very thought was preposterous.

“Terra what in the world have you done to your dress?” Diana demanded.

“Oh,” she muttered sheepishly, “I need to tie it up so I could get the scroll.” She started to untie her skirt quickly.

“And the knife?” Diana asked. “Did you need that for the scroll as well?”

“Uh . . . no.” She stopped untying her skirt and pulled the knife off, holster and all. “Master Bell gave me this, for protection.”

“Let me see it,” Diana insisted sticking her hand out. Obediently Terra handed the knife over to her sister. As soon as her fingers touched it, Diana could feel the power of the blade. It was a dark kind of power that left burning sensation in her hands. At the end there was a particularly lovely purple stone. It shone brilliantly in the light streaming through the glass ceiling. Diana was fascinated by the blade. She loved the way it seemed to hum with energy.

“It’s for Gr . . . the Shadow King,” Terra corrected herself. “The blade is magic. Master Bell told me it creates a vacuum inside a person, sucking up all their magical power and holding it there. Then the hilt disappears and blade burrows so deep that there’s no way to get it out. You die . . . slowly . . . and painfully.”

“Really?” Diana asked, liking the sound of what this knife can do. “It can do all that?”

“Yes,” she answered, her voice growing forlorn.

“Why did Bell give it to you?”

“To protect you during the final fight between you and the Shadow King,” she answered, sounding as thought she might cry.

Diana turned her attention away from the knife and stared at Terra long and hard. A knife like this could kill not just the Shadow King, but anyone. A knife like this could kill her. If she doubted her sisters steadfast loyalty for even a second she would take the knife and never give it back. Something about the heartbroken forlorn look on her sister’s face comforted Diana.

If Terra had plans to use the knife against her, she wouldn’t look so unhappy. She would be shifty and uncomfortable. Instead she was sulking because she was going to have to kill that idiot in the basement. Satisfied that Terra was not a threat to her, Diana handed back the knife.

“You think you can do that?” She asked her.

She looked up and met Diana’s gaze, her dark green eyes hard and unwavering. “I can do whatever I have to do.”

Diana decided that was all she needed and said, “Let’s unroll this and see what we can find. I want to be home by dinner.”

Terra nodded and took one roller as the boy, Alexander she thought, took the other. They started to spread across the table. Except that it was too large for the table. Confused Alex stared at Terra and raised his shoulders.

“Take it to the floor,” she said stepping around to the side of the table. Alex walked with her and the rolled it out. After it was all rolled out on the floor it sat nearly ten feet long and four feet wide, every inch covered in writing.

“Dear creator,” Terra whispered, “this whole thing is the prophecy?”

“I’m not surprised,” Diana remarked, “I was told once by the man who taught me how to read prophecy that this one was lengthy.”

“How will we even know where to start looking?” She asked.

Diana laughed. She’d been trained to read prophecy and could very easily see past the false forks and the things that had already come to be. She marveled for a moment at all the things that had to come to pass for her to be born who she was when she was. All the signs that had been read and all different pieces that had to fall exactly into place.

She truly was an amazing human being.

As her eyes traced down the forks that had already happened, the dread set back in. Like a rock in the pit of her stomach it sat with her. She traced the lines down and down. Here it talked about the sign of the goddess and the golden princess and . . . she froze.

There was a fork branching off here, where it talked about the sign she was born under. It was never fully explored, she could tell by the fact that there were no notes scrawled next to it. It was a fork that stopped her heart and made her blood run cold.

This fork talked about what changed if two princesses were born under the same sign. It read:

“If two princesses born under the sign of the Goddess subsist,

One shall be of light while one shall be of night,

Only one to save the world,

With one to cause its fall

Two sides of the same coin battle for dominance

Gold corrupts

Night embraces

Things are never what they seem.”

It was about Terra. Both she and Terra were born under the sign of the Goddess. She couldn’t be sure but it seemed like this fork was saying that one of them would save the world and one would destroy it. Diana looked up at Terra, she was watching her sister very intently as she realized that the love she felt for the monster, for the man she called Grey, that’s what would corrupt her. He would turn her against not just herself, but the world.

She could tell her parents, tell everyone. They would lock her in the box right along with the man she loved. It would be so much of what she deserved that Diana nearly shouted it out right there.

“Princess,” Alex asked walked over to Terra’s side. He was looking at her shoulders, no at her scars. Those damn scars were such a nuisance. People were fawning over her and those scars before everything had happened yesterday. Now everyone stopped and stared at them, a lot of people actually touched them.

Diana had tried to squash the rumors about Terra having been touched by the creator as soon as she heard them. Still they somehow managed to persist. If she went to the King and Queen and the people of the kingdom with this information now, no one would believe her, especially not after what happened yesterday. They would look at her like she was crazy.

Worse than all of that, they would look at her like she was the princess who would bring the world down. No one would believe that Terra was capable of anything like that. Hell Diana didn’t even believe it.

She couldn’t let anyone see this scroll. Not until everything from yesterday blew over.

Terra watched as Diana studied the scroll. Her face seemed to fall slack. She was just about to ask what was wrong when Alex walked over to stand by her.

“Princess,” he asked timidly, “can I ask you something?”

“Of course,” she said still not taking her eyes off Diana.

“Is it true?”

“Is what true?”

“Did you truly defeat an entire field of shadows all by yourself?”

“Oh,” she sighed looking up. “It wasn’t like that. There certainly wasn’t a field of shadows.”

Alex looked at her shoulders again.

“You can ask,” she said kindly.

“Is it true? Were you touched by the creator?”

“I’m afraid not,” she explained. “Just an old scar.”

“Still,” he observed, “it’s lovely.”

“Thank you,” she smiled turning back to Diana. “Have you found something?”

Diana glanced up at her, eyeing her slowly. She blew her breath out and stood up straight. “I’m afraid I can’t find anything that will help us.”

“Are you sure?” Terra asked, sure she had seen a look on her sisters face.

“I’m the one who knows how to read prophecy, not you. If you think I’ve missed something . . .”

“No,” Terra said cutting her off. “I didn’t mean to say that you missed something. I just can’t believe that we came all the way out here for a dead end.”

“Well I can only read prophecy so well,” she explained making an excuse. “I’m going to find Lucas and get him to get the carriage ready. We’re leaving.” Without another word she stalked off toward the door, leaving Terra and Alex to stair off after her.

Disappointed, Terra walked to one end of the scroll and said, “Will you help me roll it up?”

“Of course,” Alex replied. “What will you do now?”

“I’m not sure,” she answered honestly. She had been banking on finding something, anything, in the prophecy. She had wanted to buy more time for Seph, at least a couple of days. This would buy her less than a day. She needed more time. There had to be a way to prolong her stay.

“I wish you guys had found something,” Alex commented as he rolled his end towards her. “You could have stayed longer that way.” He added almost too quiet to hear. “Maybe if you came back with the Master Wizard he might see something?”

“Master Bell?” Terra asked quietly to herself. A master wizard could easily read the prophecy. He would see anything that Diana might have missed. With everything going on at the castle and everyone preparing for Diana’s battle, Bell would never have time to come all the way out to Titan to look at the prophecy.

If she could somehow get the scroll to him, he could look at it then. It would buy more time for Seph and it might actually help Diana. She just had to get the scroll out of the impressively guarded library, into the carriage, and all the way home without anyone seeing it. If she could convince Arthur to let her borrow it . . . maybe then.

If Diana saw it though, she could take it the wrong way and explode at Terra. She had blowup at her for so much less before. She would think Terra was questioning her abilities, and fly at her in a rage. She really didn’t want to start a fight with Diana right now. She had too much on her mind to worry about a fight with her sister and they had just made up. She just needed to keep it hidden.

Except that the scroll was four feet wide, there was no way she could smuggle that thing out of here past her sister. However, if she said it was a different scroll. Maybe she could borrow a different scroll and then trade it out for this one. There were so many scrolls in to choose from here, she just needed to find one that was the same size as the prophecy.

“Alex I need your help,” Terra told him taking the scroll and setting it up on the table.

“Whatever I can do princess,” he said.

“I need to get this scroll to the Master Wizard.”

Alex made a face, “Princess . . .”

“I know there’s no way Master Bell will have time to get down here so I have to get the scroll to him.”

“Princess this scroll hasn’t left the library in well over a hundred years. I don’t even think Arthur would let it leave.”

“I know,” she sighed. She grabbed Alex’s hands and held them in both of hers. “I have to help my sister fight this battle and I can’t shake the feeling that this scroll is instrumental in my being able to do that.

“So I know I’m asking a lot of you and I know that I don’t’ hardly know you. But I’m your princess and I’m asking you for your help. Not only would be helping my sister and the kingdom but you would also be doing me an enormous favor. I would literally be in your debt.”

Alex let the thought of having the princess owe him a favor sink in. He could call on her at any time and for anything. She was beautiful and if the rumors were true, she was also kind. There were so many things he could think to ask her for. There was one thing that more than anything else he needed.

“I’ll help you,” he agreed. “But I want to call my favor in now if I can.”

“If it’s something I can do for you now I will be happy to,” she said, relieved that he was willing to help.

“There’s a girl . . . a woman I mean. Whom I love, greatly. I’ve been wanting to ask her to marry me for so long but . . . being a guardian is a calling, not really a job. So I have very little money to purchase a proper ring.”

“Is she about my size?” Terra asked.

“I . . . don’t know,” Alex stammered. “I suppose.”

She smiled and pulled the sliver ring from her finger. A diamond sat in the center of the setting flanked on either side by emeralds. It had originally been Diana’s but she found the diamond in the center too small for her taste and had passed it off to Terra.

“Here,” she said handing it too him. “I’ve never really cared for the ring. Honestly I didn’t even know why I put it on this morning.”

“Princess,” Alex said breathless. “I can’t accept this. It’s too much.”

“Then sell it and buy a better ring and a whole wedding.”

“Still . . . it’s so much . . .”

“Honestly I’m happy for you to have it. So long as you promise to help me.”

He took the ring and slipped it into a pouch at his waist. “Ok here’s what we can do. I’m going to grab a scroll that’s similar in size to this one and ask Arthur if you can borrow it. Then we’ll find a way to wrap this one so no one can know.”

“Here,” she offered, pulling her cloak of her shoulders. She handed it to Alex and together they wrapped the scroll as best they could.

“This would be easier if you weren’t so short,” he commented.

“Ha ha ha, you’re so funny,” she laughed mockingly. “Still, you are right. My cloak can’t cover it completely.”

“What do you want to do?”

Terra thought for a moment. “I’ll wait until everyone is loaded in the carriage and then load it in to the chest in the back. That way no one will see it.”

“That could work,” he agreed smiling. “I’ll go and find a scroll, you wait here.”

Ten minutes later Terra was closing the trunk on the back of the carriage and making sure it was secure. John was talking to Lucas and Eric was making sure his horse was saddled properly. Arthur came walking slowly toward her smiling and waving at people as they passed by.

“Princess,” he said smiling. “You’ll be sure to take good care of our prophecy?”

She froze. “You know?”

“Of course. I’m old, not daft,” he joked with a twinkle in his eye. “Just make sure she finds her way back to us, won’t you?”

“Of course. And I’m sorry . . . I just didn’t know . . .”

“No need to explain,” he assured her, turning to leave. “Just take care.”

“I will, thank you.” She watched Arthur walk back up the stairs as Eric came over.

“Everything ok?” He asked.

“Yea,” she replied. “Just ready to get back.”

“Good, me too,” he said smiling. “Hop in and we’ll get going.”

Terra nodded and climbed in. Diana had already stretched out across the opposite seat and was actively ignoring everything she started to say to her. With a sign, Terra leaned back against the wall of the carriage and wondered what the scroll, tucked safely away in the chest behind her, might tell them. Maybe it would tell them how to save Diana and Grey.

Maybe it would help Diana win.

Maybe it would change everything.


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