By the time the carriage rolled through the gates to the castle most of the day was already gone. Terra looked up at the blue sky starting to turn slightly gold as the sun approached the cliffs to the west. There was only a few hours left of daylight. Still, it was enough time to find Master Bell and show him the prophecy before she had to face Grey for dinner.
Diana continued to snore on the bench across from her. She had slept the entire way home, leaving Terra with no one to really talk to and nothing to do but look out the window and think about the scroll in the back. She thought about Grey for a while. All the things she had said to him and most importantly what he had said to her.
After a while she had stopped thinking about Grey. In truth she began actively not thinking about him. All she managed to do was think the same things over and over again. She knew what he had said and what she had said to him but none of that seemed to help her decide what to do or what to say now.
So pulling up to the castle should have made Terra feel better. She could start to make a real difference in things with her sister.
She didn’t feel happy or even excited.
Instead she felt this terrible sense of foreboding. It seemed to her that there was something terrible, just around the next corner. She could feel it there, she just couldn’t see it yet.
Not sure what was making her feel this way, but sure that she needed to get to Bell before anyone put together that the scroll she had wasn’t the one she was supposed to have, she decided to waste no time. So as soon as the carriage stopped Terra flew out, not waiting for anyone to help her step down or open a door. She didn’t even bother to stop the carriage door from swinging round and slamming into the side of itself.
She ran around back and started to undo the buckles on the back chest. Once it was open she pulled the scroll out, not thinking about the cloak covering it. She didn’t have time to worry about it, she needed to get it to Bell now.
Diana was awakened by the sound the door crashing into the carriage. She started awake and nearly fell off the bench. Sitting up quickly she straightened her dress and stood. Lucas was at the door waiting to help her down.
“M’Lady,” he said bowing his head as he helped her down the stairs.
“Thank you Lucas,” Diana said, her head held high. “Where is my sister?”
“Runnin’ off that way,” he answered inclining his head in the direction of Terra, running across the yard.
Diana watched, in disgust, as she ran like a common slut through the yard. Just then a man walking one her father’s hunters, darted in front of her sister causing her to stumble and nearly fall over into the dirt.
‘Would serve her right,’ she thought smugly, stepping away from the carriage and toward the main entrance to the castle.
It was then she saw it, tucked under her sister’s arm, half hidden by her cloak was a scroll. A huge scroll, nearly as tall she was and Diana would wager nearly ten feet long.
It couldn’t be.
Terra had left almost immediately after Diana had, she would have had no time to get a scroll out of there, especially not that scroll. It wasn’t allowed to leave the library; she’d heard that one boy say so. No one could remove anything from the library unless that really old guy said they could.
So there was no way.
It wasn’t possible.
Still Diana found her eyes fixed on Terra like a hawk. She watched as her sister recovered her balance by swinging quickly to her left and bouncing out of the way. As she jumped back, part of her cloak caught in the late afternoon wind and blew off the top of scroll. There, glaring in the suddenly harsh light of day was the ornate golden roller that belonged to only one scroll.
Terra had the prophecy.
Suddenly frantic Diana turned to Lucas, “Where is my sister going?!” She demanded.
“I couldn’t say,” he replied, ignoring the frantic undertones in Diana’s voice.
Outraged that Lucas would brush her needs off so dismissively and feeling every second tick by like a physical pain, Diana grabbed the man by his shirt collar and released enough magic into him to get her point across.
“I asked you a question,” she threatened through gritted teeth. “Do not make me repeat myself.”
Lucas winced as the magic hit him, causing him sharp pain with every syllable Diana uttered. “I think she said somethin’ about needin’ to see the Master Wizard,” he panted, “that’s all I know, I swear it.”
Diana dropped the man and turned back to find her sister. She had to be stopped. Once Bell saw that scroll it was all over. No one would ever believe that she was the still the golden princess. Not after the way Terra had been parading herself around the Kingdom lately. If Bell saw that he would call a tribunal and put her side by side with Terra and then let the people of the kingdom choose which princess they wanted for their savior.
No one would choose Diana.
Terra was gone.
In the time it had taken her to question Lucas, Terra had slipped away. She had to catch her, she had to stop her sister. She was an excellent liar and Terra a gullible fool. She could think of something to say to stop her sister from showing it Bell, at least for now.
Diana raced forward, knowing she had no time to lose. She would run and check the school room. Bell was usually stalking around there somewhere.
It had taken less than five minutes to run to the school room, but to Diana it had felt like a lifetime had slipped past her. She ran to the door and shoved it open.
It was dark and quiet, not a living thing in sight.
Neither Terra nor Bell was here.
Diana sank down into a chair near the door. She had no idea where to look for her sister next. No idea if she was in her room or down it the prison with that idiot. Even if she did find her what would she say? How could she convince Terra to wait to show the scroll to anyone? How long would she even be willing to wait?
It dawned on Diana then, what she had to do. There was no way to protect herself from her sister as long as Terra had that scroll. She might be able to convince her to hold off on showing it to Bell for a time but that wouldn’t last long. Soon Terra would ignore her sister and show the scroll to anyone she thought might be able to read it. When that happened Diana was done for.
The only way to properly ensure that her sister and that damned scroll no longer threatened her was to take them out of the equation.
Terra would simply have to die.
It made sense the more Diana thought about it. If the scroll was right then Terra would be a threat to her one day soon enough. It only made sense to deal with it now. Nip it in the bud as it were. It would take care of so many problems she had. No one would love Terra more than they loved her, no one would question who the princess in the prophecy was and she would finally be done with all of Terra’s insistent goodness all the time. Most importantly of all, she could finally get her hands on the so called Shadow King in the prison beneath the castle.
Terra being dead was starting to sound better and better.
Still, how would she do it?
It could never come back to her.
People could never know it was Diana who had ended her.
Suddenly the room pitched around her and she flew out of the chair onto the floor. Diana shot to her feet as the room around her was plunged into darkness.
Spinning and frantic, she called out. “Who’s there?! Who dares to treat a princess of Sol this way?!”
‘Diana, Princess of the Kingdom of Sol!’ A voice inside her head boomed.
“Who’s there!?” She shouted again. A soundless thunder rumbled through the room dropping Diana to her knees.
‘Be not afraid Princess. We have come to help you.’
Diana scrambled to her feet and braced against the wall. She scanned the darkness trying to see anything that might tell her who was after her and why. It was so dark that her attacker could have been a hair away from her nose and she wouldn’t have been able to tell.
“I demand to know who is there!” She screamed, happy to hear that her fear wasn’t apparent in her voice.
Suddenly all the darkness in the room seemed to swirl into one spot. In a matter of seconds a huge shadow stood looming in front of her. It was taller than any shadow she’d ever seen before with huge golden eyes. It bent down and put its face inches from hers and hovered there.
It took her a second but then Diana realized that it was the same shadow she had seen in her dream.
She would have shrank away from the intense gaze of the shadow, but she was already up against the wall. So she kept her chin up and stared back. If it was going to kill her at least she would die like a princess.
‘We have come to help you with your . . . problem.’ A voice in her head echoed.
“I don’t know what you are monster, but I have no problem you can help with.” She spat at the shadow in front of her.
As odd as the thought sounded in her head, Diana would have sworn that the shadow was smiling at her.
‘What of your sister then?” It asked, almost mockingly. ‘What will you do with her and the scroll she carries with her? How will you handle that situation?’
Diana scowled at the face of the shadow. She wasn’t sure how this thing knew what was going on with Terra. No one could have found out in the little time they had been back. At first she wanted to spit in the monsters face and tell it to go back to the hell it came from.
Then she stopped.
If this monster somehow had knowledge of her predicament, it might do her well to hear it out. Even if it didn’t know anything useful, she didn’t have any better ideas right now.
“What would you suggest then Shadow? How best should I solve my issue?”
It pulled away and looked down at her in a way that made her veins run cold as ice. For a brief moment Diana greatly regretted not attempting to destroy the monster and be done with it. Now it was too late.
‘We will give you the power to handle the situation your sister poses to you, permanently.’
Diana eyed the shadow up and down. Scrutinizing it and what it had said. If what it had said was to be believed, then it would be the solution she was looking for. Terra had to die, that much was decided, but if it was a shadow that killed her, this shadow. There would be an outcry from the kingdom the likes of which had never been seen. It would be perfect.
Keeping her chin high she stared the shadow down and said, “What exactly do you get out of this?”
‘We would simply request that after you receive the power we will bestow on you that you allow us to continue to live in your realm.’
“That’s all? You just want to stay here?”
‘Yes. Give us your word that we will be allowed to stay. Servants, if you will, in your kingdom. Then we shall grant you the power to destroy your sister and any enemy who would stand against you.’
Diana considered the offer for less than a moment before she nodded and said, “If you can do all that you say then prove it. If I can destroy my sister and the scroll she carries, as you say I will be able to. Let me see this power of yours in action. If I am happy with the outcome then I will accept your terms.”
‘Very well. We will grant to you our power and the ability to locate your sister. We assume you will want to handle this situation personally.’
“Indeed I will,” Diana said smiling at her luck. “Indeed I will.”
Terra raced down the hall. She knew based on the time that Master Bell wouldn’t be in the school room, but if she hurried she might be able to find him in his room meditating. He liked to spend a little time in the afternoons by himself. She just needed to hurry and she would be able to catch him on the way out. *
She rounded the corner that lead from the main hall into the servant’s hall that ran along the corridor that used to house her and her family’s old rooms. Down at the end of the hall Master Bell still stayed in his old room. He had passed on an opportunity to move with the royal family stating that he and his room had a connection he enjoyed.
Terra was nearly half way down the hall when she fell.
As she went down she rolled carefully, making sure she fell onto her shoulder and not onto the centuries old scroll she was carrying. She hit the stone of the hall hard, sending shocks of pain through her shoulder and down her arm. She cried out instantly and then bit down on her lip to keep from making any further noise. If people came out into the hall to see what the noise was and found her on the ground she would never be able to get away.
She scrambled to her feet quickly but was thrown down again. It took her brain a few seconds to process the fact that it wasn’t her feet that were tripping her up; it was the fact that the ground was moving.
Making her way to the wall she got to her feet. The floor continued to shake as she stood there, terrified. It was a gentle shaking at first but as she stood it started to shake harder and harder. A chunk of ceiling, roughly the size of Terra, broke off and came crashing down a few feet to her left.
Like a slap in the face, the celling crashing into the floor woke her out of her frozen fear induced stupor. She ran back the way she came, careful not to fall again. She wasn’t sure where she was going but she knew she needed to not be standing where she was.
Turning she saw Eric running toward her.
“Terra we have to get out of here,” he shouted grabbing her wrist and started leading her down the stairs.
She only nodded and let herself to be lead away from the danger. Half way across the main hall she stopped dead in her tracks, nearly pulling Eric to the ground.
“Terra what are you doing we have to go,” he said, panic coloring his voice.
“Diana,” she stated simply, as though the one word would be enough to convey to Eric what she needed to do.
“Terra we don’t . . .”
“Help!” Someone shouted off to their left.
A woman ran toward them, wobbling due to the shaking and bleeding from a huge cut on her forehead. “Please,” she shouted grabbing Eric by the sleeve. “You have to help me, my son is trapped and I can’t get him out!”
Eric looked to Terra, clearly not sure what to do.
“Go,” she told him, “I have to find Diana and make sure she’s safe. Help him.”
He nodded and said, “I will meet you by the stables, wait for me there!” He took off with the woman in tow and head back toward the main dining hall.
Another violent shake sent Terra to the ground again; the scroll fell out of her hands and rolled away. She went to get it but a sudden rush of people, frantically trying to escape the castle, caught it up like the tide and swept the scroll out of the main hall and away. She watched it go, knowing she should go after it, but also knowing that she had to save Diana.
What good was a scroll without Diana?
With a shake of her head she got up and ran toward the kitchen. It had been a few minutes since she had seen Diana but her hope was that she was still somewhere near the kitchens and the stables.
Coming around another corner Terra’s heart leapt as she sighted her sister running toward her.
“Sister!” She shouted grabbing her by the arm. “Diana we have to go! It’s not safe here anymore.”
“Terra what’s going on?” Diana shouted as she let her sister lead her back the way she had come.
“No time!” She shouted. She pushed past the large kitchen door and pulled Diana out into the afternoon light. A crash behind her made both princesses turn to see the large stone archway that was once the largest doorway into the castle, crash to the ground.
Not wasting another moment, Terra dragged Diana away to the stables as more and more chunks of their home began to rain down from the sky around them. It was a quick walk, less than two minutes at a run. Still by the time they reached the stables most of the castle had come down and the only parts still standing didn’t seem like they would hold up much longer.
Terra took Diana all the way to the far wall and pushed her down behind some of the hay bales kept on hand for the horses. It wasn’t an ideal waiting spot but this was where Eric said he would meet her. She just had to keep Diana safe until he got there. As a former Captain of the Guard and a Royal Guard, surely Eric would know what to do in this situation.
Sensing the worst was on its way, Terra glanced around for something, anything she could use to protect their heads. With nothing in sight and time running out, she knew what she had to do.
She jumped down next to her sister and stretched herself out over the top of Diana as the shaking seemed to come to a head. She protected Diana as bits of rock and debris rained down on them. She knew it wasn’t much, but she had to protect her sister.
Diana laid on the filthy smelling hay as Terra lay over her. She couldn’t believe that she was now powerful enough to bring the entire castle down! Better than that, Terra, being the fool she was, had run right to her! Diana, who was currently planning the perfect way to kill her! Seeing the way everything was turning out so perfectly, Diana knew her plan was blessed by the creator. Even the almighty knew Terra had to die.
An incredibly loud boom tossed Terra off of her and nocked Diana to the ground. Terra was thrown to the wall, flipping head over heels as she rolled. Her skirt flew up and for a moment her bloomers were exposed and Diana caught a glimpse of the knife Terra had shown her earlier.
With a smile, she nearly laughed out loud. She now knew how she would handle her sister.
Terra’s head hit the wall and everything seemed to swim around her. She shook her head clear as the last of the shaking seemed to finally stop. She scrambled up to her feet and rushed over to help Diana. She was lying on her side and didn’t seem to be moving.
As she got closer Diana jumped up and looked at her sister.
“Thank the Creator,” Terra sighed. “We have to go, it isn’t safe here.”
“Safe?” Diana asked laughing. “What makes you think anywhere is safe. If the shadows can do this they can do anything.”
“Shadows?” She asked confused, “what makes you think this was the shadows?” Terra’s mind jumped to Grey, sitting alone under the castle. With the way she ended things last night there was no way to know what kind of mood he might be in. Still she didn’t know if it was possible for him to be this mad.
Mad enough to bring the whole place down? To kill all these people? Oh and the people! She hadn’t even thought about that yet. There were so many people in the castle at any one time. If only half got out hundreds of people would be dead. Maybe more.
Could he have done that?
He’d killed so many people before she had met him all those years ago. A few hundred castle workers would be nothing to him.
“I saw the shadows,” Diana stated standing and brushing the hay off. “Just before I ran into you I saw that King of theirs in the hall. I was coming to find you when you found me.”
“Grey’s out?” She asked more to herself than to her sister. “How is that possible?”
“I don’t know,” Diana said eyeing her sister completely confused. Seeing an opportunity she grabbed Terra by the shoulder and pulling her quickly behind a stack of barrels. “Quick!”
Diana pushed her sister behind her and poked her head up over the rim of the barrel. “Shh,” she said turning back. “He’s right over there.”
“He is?” Terra asked, thrilled and terrified simultaneously. “What’s he doing?”
“I can’t tell,” Diana whispered turning back to her sister. “He’s surrounded by those damn shadows of his.”
“Oh,” Terra whispered, deflated. As much as she hated to admit it, it looked like Grey might actually be the one behind all of this. It shouldn’t have surprised her. Every day that went by took them closer and closer to the end. After everything he had said to her yesterday Terra was starting to think she could do it. She was so close to cleansing his heart!
Maybe that was what had prompted this.
Maybe he had felt the impending end to his darkness and took steps to ensure Terra was unsuccessful.
“Can you handle the shadows?” Diana asked looking back at her sister. “I know you handled some the other day, do you think you can do it again?”
“Yes I suppose so,” she answered feeling hollow.
“Good. Draw the shadows off and I’ll handle the rest.”
Diana had to struggle to not fly at her sister right then. She had a plan and she needed to stick with it. “The knife Bell gave you,” she said recovering. “Give me the knife and I’ll end this once and for all.”
“Right,” Terra whispered uneasily. She pulled her skirt up and removed the knife from its sheath tied to her leg. For a moment she hesitated. Something felt very wrong. Diana stood in front of her, her blue dress tarnished from the dust and debris floating around. Somewhere there was a fire going, she could see the Colum of black smoke behind her sister. From where she stood she could hear the cries of people either stuck in the ruble or those who had started searching it.
So many people would be dead.
Of course things felt wrong! Everything was so horribly wrong.
Diana looked at her waiting, her hand extended.
Taking a deep breath she pushed the hilt of the knife into Diana’s palm and pulled her skirt back down. She knew this day was coming. Sooner or later people were going to demand action and Grey would have to die. Terra had always hoped that she would help him become better before that day came.
Now it was too late and Diana had the knife. All she could do was stand by her sister and do as she was told.
Diana looked her up and down and asked, “Are you ready?”
Terra nodded standing up straight. “I’ve got this.” She turned on her heel, knowing that when she rounded the corner she would look upon Grey for the last time. Would he be happy to see her, she wondered. Would he feel the same as she did? Hollow and dead inside at the thought that this day had finally come? Or would he stand there and flash her that same wicked grin of his.
Caught up in her own little world of thought, Terra marched out past Diana to face her destiny. She had taken two steps past her sister when she felt Diana’s hand on her shoulder. Before she could react her sister had spun her by the elbow and pulled her in against her, almost hugging her.
Terra froze as a sharp, unexplained, pain pierced her abdomen.
“Poor, stupid Terra,” Diana whispered singsong in her sisters ear. “To dumb to see the snare set in front of her.”
“Diana?” She asked convulsing slightly.
Slowly and smiling triumphantly, Diana stepped back to take a good look at Terra. She wanted to see her face, to fully grasp the pain and betrayal in her eyes. “Couldn’t see the forest for the trees, could we?”
Terra looked down to see the magical knife Master Bell had entrusted to her, the knife she had just handed her sister, sticking out of her stomach with Diana’s hand still grasping the hilt. For a moment she couldn’t make her brain process what was going on. She could see everything happening but she couldn’t make the pieces fit.
Then it all came together.
“You . . .” she started. Diana twisted the knife, spun her sister around and pushed Terra back. She cried out in pain and fell to her knees. Diana took a few more steps back, laughing the whole time. Once she was a few feet away she stood and folded her arms, content to watch her sister die. Not because she was evil of course, but because she had to make sure that the deed was done.
Terra reached out to grab the knife sticking out of her gut but before her fingers could touch the hilt it vanished, pushing the knife deeper into her abdomen. She coughed and nearly balked when she saw the dark red blood that came up from her throat.
“Why?” She asked, looking up at Diana. “Why would you do this?”
She scoffed and rolled her eyes. “You just don’t get it do you? Poor simple Terra, there was only ever enough room in this kingdom for one princess. Once I knew that you were evil, it became glaringly obvious that you had to die.”
“Evil?” Terra asked confused, clapping her hand to her wound as she struggled to stand. “How could you think I’m evil?! I’m your sister!” She was shouting now.
Diana looked around, startled. She had expected the knife to kill her almost immediately. If Terra could stand and talk she could tell people what had really happened. Even if one person believed her it was one to many.
She looked around frantically, trying to find anything she could use to finish the job. She couldn’t use magic because she was only really effective with physical contact and she didn’t want to get to close to Terra just in case she decided to try for some retaliation.
Like a gift from the creator in her hour of need, Diana spied a barrow of oil for the kitchen right next to Terra. She took a step forward and kicked the barrel over. If fell on to its side and began to soak the hay spread across the ground. It rolled into another barrel and then into another. Within seconds the entire area was coated in oil.
Before Terra could make a move to stop her, Diana lit a spark in her hand and threw it to the ground.
With a deafening roar the fire roared to life around Terra. She tried to reach out with her magic and quell the flame but the knife in her gut pulled the magic from her body and made her defenseless. She backed away as the fire gained ground in front of her. Diana looked at her and smiled.
“Diana!” She shouted. Again the fire roared up around her and Terra stepped back.
She looked back up to yell at her sister. The words she had formed died on her lips when she saw Diana wasn’t alone anymore. Her parents had run up to find her and they were flanked on either side by a handful of guards, Eric included.
“Eric!” She screamed! He looked at her and then to Diana who was suddenly in tears and leaning heavily on her father. Terra couldn’t make out what they were saying over the sound of the fire. She stumbled back again as it roared toward her.
“NO!” She screamed. “I have done everything you ever asked of me! I have sacrificed all my life to better yours! Because you were the princess in the prophecy! Because you were the chosen one! And because I loved you!” Terra coughed and her body was racked with pain. Her vision was beginning to grow dark around the edges.
She was dying.
Whether by the knife stuck in her stomach or by the fire burning around her, Terra would be dead in a matter of moments. She looked at Eric and reached out to him through the bond. She tried to will him to feel the truth through the bond they share.
She couldn’t even do that.
Again the fire roared closer and again she backed up, this time her back hit the wall of the stable. She was trapped, fire all around her as she bled out slowly. This was the end. So many thoughts raced through her head as she watched the fire dance before her. Diana stood wrapped safely in her father’s arms as everyone looked down at Terra with disgust and shame.
She wondered about Eric, would he ever know the truth about what happened? Would anyone? What about Master Bell? Would he know the truth when he heard it? Oh and what of Mammy!? The news of Terra’s death would be a devastating blow to her. What would she think? Would she know the truth?
The fire was closer now, so close it was singing the hairs on her arms. Not too much longer and it would all be over. Terra looked up at the sky, she prayed to the creator to take her quickly and not prolong the suffering.
Inexplicably her thoughts turned to Grey.
Knowing that all of this was Diana’s doing meant that Grey had never left his cell. Her sister had used her connection to him to blind her about what was really going on.
Was he safe, she wondered? Was he still trapped under the castle? What would happen to his prison when she died? What would he think when he heard she was dead? Would it matter to him?
Terra screamed as her skirt caught fire. She slapped at it frantically, desperately trying to put it out. Her swinging sent another wave of pain through her body. Her knees went weak and buckled beneath her. She was going down and it was all over. For the second time in as many days Terra came face to face with the realization that she was going to die.
This time though, it wasn’t the evil of the shadows that would claim her life, but the sister she had loved and admired all her life. She would succumb to Diana’s deadly game having never known she was playing.
Seconds before she hit the ground, and arm came around her pulled her up and away from the deadly fire surrounding her.
It was Grey.
“How?” She coughed through the soot and the smoke.
Grey shook his head, and taking her face in his hands he said, “This place holds only death for you now, come with me and live.”
She nodded. She could distantly hear Diana yelling something at her as Grey wrapped his arms around her. The fire roared a final time and closed the distance between them. She buried her face in his chest as the whole world went black.