Shadows

By Jennifer N. Bogle All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Romance

Ch. 3

Seconds after the doors closed a small hoard of shadows shot up out of the floor forming a seething black wall of evil blocking the only visible exit. People started screaming and running around. Terra and Bell stood their ground. Without having to look up, she sensed when Eric was at her side. In seconds the other soldiers in the room had flanked their positions and put the king and queen behind them.

“Terra,” King Sol called.

“Majesty,” Capt. Reynolds called, “stay behind the soldiers and keep your eyes closed.

King Sol, too shocked to argue, did as his Captain of the Guard asked and pulled his wife behind him and closed his eyes.

There were at least twenty to twenty-five shadows blocking the door. Each of them had their eyes closed. Not slits or bulging. Closed. It made it difficult to tell where the eyes were at all. Terra scanned each shadow waiting for movement, looking for any sign of which might attack first. When nothing happened and none of them moved, she took a deep breath and sent her aura out, trying to sense the intent of the monsters before her.

Surprised to find it still surrounding her, and not behind the door as it should have been. She made a note to ask Bell as soon as things calmed down.

As soon as her aura ventured from her body the shadows seemed to zero in her. Every set of silver eyes bulged as their heads turned to face her. It felt like their eyes were boring into her soul. She could feel it then, the same evil aura as the man downstairs. They had been sent by him.

“Hello again Princess,” A voice rang out. Terra kept her eyes focused on the shadows but she could see most everyone else looking to find the source of the sound.

“Who is that,” Eric asked, glancing at her out of the corner of his eye.

“It’s him,” Terra said, her voice shaking slightly, “It’s the Shadow King. I’d know that voice anywhere.”

“Indeed. It is me.”

A shadow in middle of the group seemed to shimmer and in a moment the Shadow King stood before them. He was mostly transparent and at times the image of him seemed to waver.

He looked just like he did the first time Terra saw him in his cell. He was standing with his hands on his hips smirking evilly as he scanned the room. When his eyes came to Terra he held them there. He seemed fixated on her. Maybe it was her imagination, but he seemed to only be staring at her.

“Well, well, well. What have we here? Looks like the whole royal family all in one place. Makes delivering a message so much easier.”

“How are you doing this monster?!” The King called moving forward. He stepped up next Master Bell but was careful not to put himself farther forward than the wizard. “You’re locked away beneath our feet. How can you appear here?”

“Your Majesty,” the Shadow King said, bowing mockingly to the King. “You are correct. I am still locked safe and sound underground, just as you said. But the funny thing about taking a powerful being and locking them away in a box is that with as much power as I have, there’s going to being some lingering wisps for a while.

“Lingering wisps like this?” The King demanded.

“What do you want monster!?” Capt. Reynolds demanded sensing the rising fear not just in the room in general but more specifically in Terra.

“I want to make a deal of course.”

“A deal,” the Queen laughed. “What deal would we possibly make with the likes of you?”

Looking slightly annoyed at the Queens demeaning tone, he said, “Well I just thought you’d want your eldest daughter back.”

“What did you say?” Queen Elise demanded.

“Your eldest, goes by the name Diana, tall, golden hair, eyes blue like the sky, real spitfire. That eldest. Surely you’ve notice she’s missing by now. Ah so you have. Oh my, you’ve had quite an interesting evening haven’t you Terra?” He purposely dropped her title and flashed her an overly intimate smile. Terra shuddered and looked away. Not sure she’d be able to keep from getting sick again.

“I’m assuming the owner of the blood you’re wearing is dead now? He was killed by our young captain here and in front of your own eyes. How terrible for you. What was his crime I wonder?

“Attempted rape?” He laughed and slapped his thigh, “An actual rapist running rampant in the castle? What kind of place are you running around here Sol? Do you have any security at all?”

“So you can indeed read minds it would seem,” Master Bell observed.

“Indeed I can Master Wizard, although your nut’s a little tougher to crack.” The King of the Shadows spoke to Master Bell, but his eyes never left Terra.

“Where is my daughter you bastard?!” Queen Elise yelled, tears streaming from her face.

“Oh she’s safe and sound. If you want her back I suggest you come pay me a little visit in person. Oh and make sure you bring the princess and the Wizard. You may have need of them.”

Before another word could be spoken The King of the Shadows wavered before their eyes and disappeared. Seconds later his wall of shadows followed his example and they were gone. Silence followed in their wake as everyone in the room tried to process what just happened. It was Bell who spoke up first.

“King Sol,” he said, “we must go.”

“You can’t be serious,” the Queen shouted, outraged. “Why would we do anything that . . . that creature said?”

“If he is telling the truth and he has your daughter, we may be running out of time.” Bell replied calmly

“Time for what?” Terra asked.

“Time to save Diana.”

As rapidly as it could be done, the King, Queen, Terra, Bell, Reynolds, and a small army of the Kings personal guard were hurrying to the basement door. Everyone was under strict orders to only allow the King or Master Bell to speak to the prisoner. Reynolds would stay outside the last set of doors with Terra and the Guards. They would be called in if needed.

When they got to the last set of doors the King turned to his daughter before heading in.

“Stay out here and be safe,” he said. “We’ll get you sister back if indeed this monster has her.”

“Papa,” Terra whispered, “are you sure this is wise? That . . . monster is evil. He’s the most evil thing I’ve ever felt.”

Smiling at his daughter the King placed his hand on her shoulder. “We’ll be fine. Soon will have you both safe and sound and we can get you into a bath.”

“Alright,” she nodded, still unsure. “But please be careful.”

“We will. Captain Reynolds,” King Sol called, turning from his daughter. “I am leaving Terra in your care. I can’t say I understand what has transpired between the two of you, but I will find out. For now I expect you to use that bond you have to keep her safe.”

“I will my King,” Capt. Reynolds replied.

With that the King led the small party of three into the inner prison. Terra sank into one of the wooden chairs up against the wall and put her head in her hands. For a moment she thought she might be sick. As she bent and sat her dress creased and blood flaked off. Knowing it wasn’t the time to be ill she decided to instead send up a silent prayer to the creator to keep her sister safe.

She knew that the monster in the next room would most likely make outrageous demands of the King and Queen which they would have to deny. Terra worried that their denial of those demands would end up being the death of her sister. She assumed they would be in there most of the night arguing. So she leaned her head back against the cool wall and prepared to settle in for a while.

It was no more than ten seconds later that the door opened again and Master Bell stepped out. “Princess, Captain we need you, please hurry.”

Terra shot out of the chair and was running past Bell before Capt. Reynolds could even process the request. Once in the room she stopped short. Her father was standing near the glass prison holding her mother who had dissolved into manic sobs. The Shadow King was leaning against the wall of his cell staring at the King and Queen with his evil smirk on his face. The floor seemed to be covered in a thick black smoke that swirled around the ankles of all who stood in the prison.

Next to the cell there was another, smaller, wall of shadows. This time there was a transparent image of Diana.

She was lying on the floor not moving. Only the slow, steady rise and fall of her chest gave any sign that she was alive. There was a small gash on her forehead and a scratch or two on her arm. For the most part she seemed unharmed.

As Terra stood and watched, the image of Diana wavered and nearly disappeared twice. Each time it happened she felt an over whelming sense of dread. She couldn’t tell where her sister was and if this image of her was current or somehow manipulated to make them think she wasn’t dead.

Terra could feel her knees suddenly go weak at the thought of her sister being dead. It seemed like she couldn’t get enough air.

A hand at her elbow helped her stay standing upright. A sudden rush of strength and energy flowed into her from the contact at her elbow. Without needing to look up she knew it was Eric. He had felt her sudden weakness and come rushing to her side. She couldn’t put into words how grateful she was for his support.

“Terra,” he whispered to her as he helped make her way to her parents, “you can do this. Your family needs you and I’m here for you, whatever you need. Just breathe.”

Terra straightened up and looped her arm through the Captains. She felt stronger just having him nearby, but by her mother’s reaction, she might need more of his strength then she yet knew. She would be strong for her sister and her parents. It was the least she could do. After all, this was all her fault.

As if he suddenly realized she was there, the Shadow King’s eyes focused on the princess and the Captain. “So we’re all here then. Good. Let’s begin.”

“Just give me my daughter,” the Queen sobbed from her husband’s arms.

“Oh I will, in time. But first I want something’s from you.”

“No matter what you say I will not release you from this prison,” King Sol said firmly. It might have only been Terra, but she felt she could hear her father’s voice waver.

“Oh don’t worry about that,” he said touching the walls of his cell, “I’m perfectly fine where I am. My demands for you aren’t about freedom.”

For a moment Terra could feel the evil in the room weaken and the image of Diana nearly disappeared. Alarmed, she shot a look to Mater Bell who was on her other side.

Meeting her eye, the wizard nodded ever so slightly. He too felt the evil weaken.

When she looked back to the cell, the Shadow King was staring at her again. His smirk was still there but something seemed off. He didn’t seem as confident as he had a moment ago. Not to mention the evil that was suffocating seconds ago now was barely more than a whisper. Even the strange darkness swirling on the floor had nearly dissipated. Something was happening. She just couldn’t put her finger on what.

“I get it,” she realized quietly, staring back at the monster. “You’re power is weakening. The seals and runes are starting to work.”

An ugly grimace spread across his once cool and collected face. “Well, well, little shadow. Look at how sharp you are,” he hissed bitterly. “I’m afraid young Terra here is correct. The longer I’m in this box the more my power weakens. Soon I’ll be unable to call the shadows to bring your darling ray of sunshine home.”

“What!?” The Queen demanded as her head flew up out of her husband’s embrace. “What do you mean you can’t bring her home!?”

“Elise,” King Sol said under his breath. “Calm yourself. I’ll handle this.” Turning back to face the cell he said, “Tell me your demands monster.”

“Firstly, this slop you call food is unacceptable. I am a king in more than one right and I will be treated as such. Prisoner or not, I will be treated as my station dictates.”

“Your food can be changed. Is that all?” King Sol demanded.

“Oh no,” he said smiling. “These meals will be hand delivered by your darling daughters, every meal every day. If I’m to eat in this hole in the ground, I’ll require some . . . shall we say delightful company.”

“No,” the Queen shouted, “not my Diana. I won’t have you tainting her with your evil. You can’t have her.”

“I agree with the Queen,” Master Bell added, “exposing the princesses to this kind of man three times a day would be more than enough to taint them. Or worse.”

“Well that’s too bad then,” The Shadow King said. He turned to look at the shadows projecting Diana’s image. In the blink of an eye she was gone. One by one the shadows followed.

“NO!” The Queen cried out, “Please not her! What about Terra?! We’ll give you Terra every day if you want. Just don’t take my daughter!” Elise broke down into sobs and the rest of her words became lost and garbled.

Terra felt her mother’s words slice through her like a knife and stab her in her heart. She had always known her mother loved Diana more. It was obvious in everything she did and said. Terra understood. Diana was going to save the world from this monster and she needed every advantage she could get. Including most of their mothers love.

To hear her mother so carelessly and callously throw her at this man for the sake of her sister made her feel so small and so unwanted. She thought for a moment she might actually fade away to nothing the same as her sister’s image had. Perhaps that would even be best.

Capt. Reynolds wrapped his arm around Terra’s shoulders and laced the fingers of his other hand through hers. He knew that he was overstepping his boundaries with the young princess by miles, but he could feel the heart in her chest break at her mother’s words. She needed him and he was happy to do all he could for her. Maybe it was the bond they were sharing, maybe it was something else, but Eric Reynolds was not going to allow this girl to suffer if he could help it.

King Sol glanced to his young daughter and could tell by look on her face just how much her mother had just hurt her. As he watched, Capt. Reynolds grabbed her hand and held her. He wasn’t sure he was happy about how familiar the Captain seemed with his daughter, but at that moment he was glad she wasn’t suffering alone.

“I suppose one Princess is better than none,” The Shadow King muttered contemplating. “I accept your counter offer.”

“Majesty I must object,” Master Bell blurted. “Terra is young and this man radiates evil the same way the sun radiates light. Exposing her to that three times every day would most certainly corrupt the strongest of us, let alone a young girl. If it doesn’t corrupt her it will surely kill her.”

The man in the box sneered at the wizard. “Now, now wizard, there’s no reason to but in when you’re not wanted.” A twitch of his eye sent a huge wave of something dark at Bell.

The Master Wizard fell to his knees. He began cough and struggle to breath.

“Master Bell!” Terra shouted. She knelt down next to him and went to place her hands on him to try and help. For just a second there was a small shock and a bit of resistance, then it disappeared and her hands fell lightly onto his shoulders. “Are you alright? What can I do?”

“Princess,” Bell coughed, sounding better. “Truly amazing.”

“What is?” She asked confused.

“That you could resist an evil so strong and purify it. Amazing.”

“I didn’t do anything Master Bell. I just wanted to make sure you were ok.”

“I know princess,” Bell reassured her, “Thank you for your kindness.”

Terra blushed, unsure what to say.

“As touching as all this is, are we making a deal or not?” The Shadow King said, sounding bored.

“I’m afraid I must agree with the Master Wizard. I would not expose any of my daughters so carelessly,” King Sol countered.

“Even if it means losing your precious princess forever?”

“No, Henry we can’t lose her,” Elise begged, pleading with the King. “Not Diana. What about one meal?! Would one meal a day suffice?”

There was an uncomfortable silence all around as everyone considered the Queen’s words. As people looked around considering, no one looked at Terra. Even the Master Wizard couldn’t look at her. Everyone knew Diana was essential for the survival of not just the kingdom but the world. Would exposing one princess to save another really be so horrible? Could Terra really say no when her sister’s life was on the line?

No.

She couldn’t put herself above her Diana.

No matter the cost.

She stood silently and faced the monster on the other side of the glass. She met his gaze head on and didn’t blink. She knew what she had to do. In a way she was grateful that no one in the room had jumped up and agreed for her. Even though a few of them could have. They were allowing her to make this decision on her own.

She had made it.

Terra would endure this. She had to.

This was her punishment.

This is what she deserved for all the mistakes she’d made today. She stood there, still covered in blood, and faced her future. Until Diana was ready to fight this monster and kill him, Terra would sit here in this dark hole and break bread with him. Even if it meant that every day, little by little, he corrupted her soul. At least Diana would be safe and the world would go on.

“Well, it seems little shadow here has made her own decision,” the Shadow King said, the wicked smile on his face spreading from ear to ear. “Why don’t you tell them princess?”

Unwavered by his smirking sense of victory, Terra held her head high and her gaze. “I’ll do it. I’ll do what he asks if it means we get Diana back.”

All three men outside the box spoke at once.

King Sol said, “Terra I understand you want help save your sister but I can’t ask you to make that kind of sacrifice. But if you’re willing . . .”

Master Bell said, “Princess I can’t in good conscience let you do this. The risk to your person is too great to be allowed no matter the cost.”

Capt. Reynolds said, “NO! Terra you can’t!”

Ignoring them all, she kept her eyes locked on the man in the glass box and he kept his eyes on her.

“What meal?” She wasn’t shouting, but the room fell silent when she spoke all the same. “I’ll need to know when to be down here every day, so what meal will we be sharing?”

“Let’s say dinner? Last meal of the day, certainly the most important,” he decided smiling. “I choose dinner.”

Before anyone could raise an argument Terra said, “Very well. We can start tonight assuming my sister is returned immediately.”

“Very well indeed. You’ll find your darling princess returned to her room. Safe and sound, no harm done,” his smile was wicked and clearly displayed his feelings of victory. “Oh and just so we’re clear, the princess and I dine alone or no deal.”

Again Terra spoke before anyone else could, “as you wish.” She turned to everyone else in the room. “We should go and make sure that Diana is well. She’ll need us to be there when she wakes and I’d like to not be down here anymore. I’ll have to be back soon enough.”

Everyone moved to her, even Queen Elise. The King put his hand on her shoulder, silently conveying his thanks and his pride at her sacrifice. Queen Elise wrapped her arms around her youngest daughter for the first time Terra could remember. “Thank you,” she whispered quietly before quickly letting her go.

Master Bell stepped up to her next. His eyes were full of concern and possibly pride. He pulled her into a hug and whispered in her ear, “Before dinner meet me in the school room. I have something that may help you.” Terra nodded slightly before releasing Master Bell.

Taking a deep breath she readied herself for what Eric would say. He walked up to the princess, saluted her as her position dictated he should and walked away.

Not a word.

Hanging her head she sighed. She could feel through her bond with him that he was angry and hurt and possibly betrayed by her choice to dine with this monster every night.

Terra accepted his anger. As she knew she would have to accept many thing before the battle between her sister and this monster was finished. Not sure how she knew it, she was sure that this was only the beginning of the change this man would bring to her life.

“Oh Princess,” The Shadow King called as she turned to leave.

“Yes,” she replied turning back. To depressed to say much.

“You and that Captain, you’ve bonded haven’t you?”

“Yes.”

“How?”

“Don’t you already know? Can’t you look into my mind and see what’s happened? Why bother asking me questions you already know the answer too?” She snapped at him. Normally she wasn’t usually so rude, but she hated this man and she felt too drained to be polite to anyone.

“Funny thing, bonded the way you are makes that whole reading your mind thing a little harder. That’s why I ask.”

Terra stared at this man for a moment. He was being honest with her and not the least bit cocky or arrogant. Not caring enough to figure out why she simply said, “Well, at least there’s that.” She turned and started walking away.

“Oh and Princess, one more thing.”

“Yes?” She asked, not turning to face him.

“You might want to clean yourself up first, you’re a bit of a mess.”

Feeling her last reserves of strength abandon her. Terra put her hand against the door and whispered, “Very well.” She walked through the door and pushed it closed. Everyone had gone from the adjoining room already. Seizing a quick moment of privacy, she sank down to the floor just outside, put her head in her hands and cried.

She wasn’t sure how long she sat crying outside the door. She knew at one point she made a note of how private it was down here. There was only the monster in the next room. Even he couldn’t bother her since her bond to Eric kept him out of her head. Part of her was glad he was unable to see what she thought, while on the other hand she didn’t know if being bonded to the captain of the guard was a good thing.

An image of Eric with his sword raised over head flashed in her mind. He was so full of rage and hate and he never even knew his name. Terra didn’t feel sorry for the man who had attacked her. He was a dark man with a twisted aura. What bothered her was how frightening Eric had become. He had resonated hate. It was hard for her to admit, but in that moment, she was more afraid of him than the man he was supposed to be saving her from.

As a child Terra had seen the young captain rise through the ranks and at all of the royal functions she would see him and when he made captain there was a big ceremony where he was introduced to the royal family as the new Captain of the Guard. So she had known him for a while. In all that time she’d never seen anything from him like this. She wasn’t sure she could carry on the kind of friendship she had originally thought they could.

After a time the sound of footsteps coming down the stone stairs drew Terra’s attention. Looking up she saw Mammy rushing down the stairs flanked by two guards she didn’t recognize. Mammy’s eyes were filled with tears as she rushed towards her.

“Princess?” She asked, “oh little princess are you alright? What happened?”

“So much, Mammy,” Terra said getting to her feet. “It feels like lifetimes have passed since this morning. And . . . I’m afraid the dress you got me is . . . ruined.” She wanted to cry again. She wanted to throw herself in Mammy’s arms and weep her problems away.

There were no more tears. It seemed she had cried them out.

“My dear,” Mammy soothed, trying to brush some of the dried blood from the princess’s face. “I would rather the dress be in tatters than you be hurt.”

Terra nodded and let Mammy start to lead her away from the door and toward the stairs. “He was certainly right. You do need some help, and a bath,” Mammy said idly. “But don’t you worry we are gonna get you all cleaned up.”

“Who told you what Mammy?” Terra asked.

“Captain Reynolds,” she replied. “He came into the throne room and said you would be down here and that you would need help. He said that the blood makes you sick so you’ll need help bathing. I laughed at him and asked him if he knew who he was talking to. I’ve known about your weakness to blood from the first time you scraped your knee as a child.”

“Eric told you I needed help?” She asked too tired to use his title.

Mammy didn’t miss a beat. “Eric told me you were in bad shape and needed help. He said it had to be me because I would know what you need.”

“He did?”

“He did.”

Diana woke on her bed. For a moment she wasn’t sure what had happened, but the room was dark and the last thing she could remember it was only afternoon. She was going somewhere . . . Terra! She was going to find Terra and give her a piece of her mind. She’d gone into the passageways and then . . . and then . . . and then what? What the hell had happened to her?

The shadow,’ she thought suddenly.

She had been in the passage outside her room when she felt something behind her. Thinking it was Richard come early, she turned.

It was not Richard.

It was a shadow.

Somehow one had gotten in and it had come after her.

It must have known who I was,’ she thought. ‘But if it knew who I was, why didn’t it kill me? Why am I here?

Diana got off the bed and walked to the window. She pulled the curtains back and looked around outside. There were people everywhere. Groups of soldiers were running around in organized lines combing through the streets. There was even common people running around with lanterns and torches. It felt like everyone was in a frenzy.

Diana laughed. She could tell they were looking for her.

Fools.

Let them go crazy looking. She was going to find Terra and lay into her before anyone could think to look in her room. Treading carefully she made her way to the passage and closed the secret door tight behind her. If anyone went looking for her they would find her room empty. Let them keeping looking for her everywhere. She enjoyed thinking about everyone thinking about her.

Heading down the passage Diana could see that Terra’s door was open. She must have just gone back to her room and forgotten to close the door. It was a perfect opportunity for her to get in unheard and strike some fear into her sister’s heart.

Diana leapt through the door and passed the tapestry that acted as a cover for the secret entrance to her sister’s room. The room was empty and only a single candle burned on her writing table. At once she was overcome by the smell of blood and death. There was a pile of clothes on the floor in front of her. Diana kicked them with the toe of her shoe. They seemed oddly familiar, but she couldn’t place them.

Scanning the rest of the floor she found the source of the smell. She walked up alongside the bed and found the body of a man, naked and burned on the floor with his head removed. Surrounding the body was a puddle of blood so large she wondered for a moment if perhaps two people had been injured here. She walked all the way up and nudged the head on the floor. It rolled around and Diana found herself face to face with Richard.

“You idiot,” Diana scoffed. “You went too far down! How could you possible miss-count the doors? And at this hour?! You’re lucky it wasn’t my hands that found you.”

She kicked his head across the room and continued looking around. There were two spots where there was no blood, where the blood must have hit something or someone. On the floor next to the body was a pile of vomit. Diana knew it must have been Terra. She was so weak. She could barely handle a bloody nose. This much blood must have almost killed her.

She smiled at the thought.

She deserved at least this. Traipsing about in her trashy new dress and flaunting how much their father loved her and then daring to sit at a place of higher honor then her. It was a shame she didn’t have to go through more.

Diana had to go through so much. People were always demanding things of her. Asking her to save the world and kill all of these shadow monsters. People didn’t understand how hard it is to be the first born in a royal family and the savior of mankind. So many demands, so many people constantly on her about the things she did. People just don’t understand.

It was all Diana could hope for that Terra might have gotten hurt. Then she would understand how much it hurt her to see her sisters placed above her. She was first born and the princess from the prophecy. All she wanted was to be treated with the level of respect her position afforded her.

Deciding there was very little to do here. Diana walked back across the room, kicking Richards head again as she went. She was sure someone would wise up and come looking in her room.

She paused at the hidden door and turned back to the pile of clothes on the floor near her. She knelt down and rifled through them until she found what she was looking for. The small scroll Lord Howe insisted his son carry with him. If it was discovered in the clothes then Richard would be identified and that would raise too many questions.

Questions Diana couldn’t have coming back to her. She pulled the scroll and, after thinking better of it, she laid her hand on the clothing and lit it on fire. Once the flames had engulfed the material she tossed the scroll on the blaze.

Satisfied the clothing and scroll was beyond recognition, Diana put the fire out and left.

Eric stood on the side of the castle next to the kitchen doors. It was the same place he had seen Terra in tears, looking like a woman for the first time. He had been so overcome when he’d seen her. From the time he enlisted he had always known who the princess was. It was only since last night that he had gotten to know her on a personal level. Sure in a sense everyone who worked at the castle knew about the princesses and their general attitude and behaviors. But nothing personal.

Last night he had stood right where he was standing now and seen this young girl in a new light. More than that, there was something about that light that had drawn him in. Much the same way he was drawn to fireflies as a child, he was drawn to her now.

He knew it was wrong. He knew she was young and royal and special, while he was none of those things. In his heart he knew he would never act on those feelings. Not now anyway. When she was older and able to make her own decisions things could be different. He might be a general by then. Possibly even a landowner. Maybe then . . .

No.

He would be lucky if by then there was anything left of the princess he was drawn too. Tonight she had made the choice to dine with the enemy. Not just tonight, but every night until her sister could finally put an end to his evil. However, according to the Master Wizard, by then the evil that he resonates might have completely corrupted Terra. Leaving nothing left. It might even be possible that when the final battle goes down they’re on opposite sides.

Eric decided then. No matter what he felt or thought he felt for Terra, he would never let himself be with her the way he had been today. He would respect her as the princess and keep a respectable distance from her. That was only thing he could think to do. Certainly the only way he would keep from going insane at the thought of that monster getting his hooks into her.

No matter what it cost, or what he had to do, he would no longer allow himself to be around her.

“Captain,” a solider said coming up and saluting Eric. “The King is looking for you.”

He nodded and followed the man back into the castle.

All the kitchen staff had returned and was busy preparing a late dinner for the castle. Eric looked at the food and felt his stomach turn when he realized that Terra would be sharing that meal with the so called King of Shadows.

Shaking off such thoughts, he followed the solider as he wound his way up the stairs to the Kings chamber. Saluting him one more time the solider informed Eric that the King was waiting in his presence chamber for him.

Returning the salute, Eric thanked the man and went in.

King Sol stood in front of his large fireplace, leaning heavily on the mantel, staring at the flames. He had a glass of something brown in his hand and fresh decanter of the same liquid sitting on a polished silver tray nearby. His shoulders were slumped and by the way his head hung the young captain could tell the King was nearing exhaustion.

“Your Majesty,” Eric said, saluting the King. “You summoned me?”

“I did Captain. Please, close the door.”

Eric pushed the heavy door closed and turned back to the King. He had turned to face Eric and the captain could see the dark circles under his eyes. It was clearly taking all the strength he had to stand before him now.

“Today has been one of the most trying days in all my years,” King Sol said being frank. “However, my father always taught me that it is through struggle and hard times that you see who is truly faithful and who simply wears the mask.”

Eric nodded, keeping silent.

“Today, at every turn, you were there for my Terra, for my little princess. Even when I, as her father and her King, could not be. Captain I don’t need to tell you how dear my youngest daughter is to me.”

“No Majesty.”

“Then you understand why the deal that was struck tonight pains me in a way only a father could truly understand.”

“I understand that this decision has hurt many people. But no I do not understand the pain of a father as I am not one.”

“You will be one day,” the King said, “It’s the most wonderful and terrifying experience a man can ever have. That aside, Terra is going into a very dangerous place, and there is very little I can do to help her.”

“I know Majesty. It is an untenable situation.”

“That it is Captain. But this is why I have called you here. As I told Master Bell earlier, I do not pretend to know what kind of magic has passed between you and Terra. Certainly I do not understand the nature of your bond with her.”

Eric lowered his gaze. His bond with the princess was confusing for everyone involved.

“But it seems to me that a well-trained guard who can instinctively feel when my daughter is in danger might be the best thing for her. It isn’t much, but it is all I can do.” He met Eric’s gaze and the tears the King was holding were threatening to break loose. “So Captain Eric Nathan Reynolds, I, your King, grant you the honor of becoming my daughter Terra’s personal guard. Will you accept this duty?”

Eric felt his heart soar while simultaneously sink. He needed to stay away from Terra, not be around her every minute of every day. On the other hand, if he was with her every day he could use his bond with her to keep her pure and chase away the darkness and shadows that monster would certainly set in her mind.

“Take a moment to decide if you need it,” King Sol offered, seeing the perplexed look on Eric’s face.

He nodded his thanks to the King, even though he knew the King was not a man to be kept waiting.

Being a personal guard for a royal family member was at least two ranks above his current standing, he realized. Still, this wasn’t about ranks or money or power. Eric had promised himself he would stay away. Things got overly complicated when the princess was around.

“Tell me Captain, have you made a decision?”

“I have sir.”

Terra had been taken to Mammy’s room to be bathed and redressed in something fitting. It had taken nearly an hour for her to really feel like all the blood was off her hands. Even now she was sure she kept seeing spots from the corner of her eye. The dress they had brought in was one of Diana’s old ones. It was a lovely Lilac color with dark blue trim. It was a beautiful dress that mammy had altered to fit her.

Between the long bath and the freshly altered dress, Terra knew she should have been happier. However, the knowledge that this lovely dress would only be seen by the Shadow King made her sadder than she could say. Not to mention that Eric had taken off and said nothing to her. She doubted a pretty cut dress would make much difference now.

Still, she had agreed to the terms of her punishment and must adhere to them no matter what. News had come as soon as they had found Diana. In her room just as he said she would be, safe and unharmed. She had told the people who had found her that she remembered nothing from her time with the shadows. Only that she had been terrified the entire time.

With one last glance at her appearance in the looking glass, she headed to the door.

“Terra,” Mammy implored, “You don’t have to do this. You could just stay.”

“No Mammy. As much as it pains me, he held up his end of the bargain, so I must hold up mine. As a princess I must hold the honor of my word above everything else. Besides, if I don’t do this, he could take Diana again.”

“You said yourself his power outside the box has waned. For all we know he can’t touch her.” Mammy was pleading now and it hurt Terra’s heart to hear the pain in her voice.

“He has before, Mammy and I can’t take that risk. I must go.” Before she could say anything else, Terra opened the door, stepped into the hall, and pulled the door closed behind her. Leaning against the old wood, she took one last deep breath and started down the hall. She would head down through to the kitchen and then down to the prison.

As she approached her parents room, Terra could hear talking and the sounds of footsteps. She hesitated for a moment, she wasn’t sure who was coming out, but she knew she wasn’t in the mood to talk. Her father would congratulate her on her bravery; tell her that she was doing her kingdom a great service. Her mother might hug her again and that would be more than she could bear. Diana . . . she didn’t really want to see her sister at all.

Standing where she was, there was nowhere to run. As the door started to open, Terra just kept walking. Hoping whoever it was would understand her need to be alone and leave her be.

Eric walked out, right in front of her. She had to stop short to not walk right into him.

They both froze.

Neither would look the other in the eye and neither could think to speak.

Terra looked around, desperately trying to think of something to say. Part of her wanted to throw herself in his arms and ask him to forgive her. She wasn’t sure what she did wrong but she didn’t want him to be mad. She needed his friendship, now more than ever. On the other hand, he had stormed past her without so much as a goodbye or anything. She could tell thorough the bond that he was mad at her. She didn’t do anything wrong. She did the only thing she could think to do.

Then on yet another hand there was the fact that she and Eric had only really known each other for less than twenty-four hours! Felling like this at all seemed ridiculous to her.

Yet she still stood there, feeling like she might die if Eric was still mad at her.

Eric bowed to the King and left. He wasn’t even through the door when he nearly ran into Terra.

She had recently bathed and her hair was still slightly damp, though wound up onto her head again. She was in a different dress now, something purple that made her eyes shine.

She was beautiful.

But sad.

She looked so incredibly sad.

He could feel it, through their bond. Feel how sad she was, how hopeless and forlorn things seemed. Eric had been so busy being angry with her and mad about her choices and, if he was being honest, the fact that she didn’t’ seem to care about what he thought or what her choices made him feel. He hadn’t taken time to stop being mad and see what she was feeling.

He was almost overcome by her despair. So much so, he couldn’t even speak.

Terra fidgeted nervously as she and Eric continued to stand in silence. Knowing that her duties required her to be elsewhere, she decided she had to go.

“Captain,” she said quiet and awkwardly.

“Pr . . . princess,” he stammered as she started forward.

“Yes?”

Eric hesitated, “I’m not a Captain anymore.”

Terra’s heart dropped, “Tell me father didn’t discharge you because of me?! Because of our bond!?” She felt frantic. She couldn’t possibly handle destroying one more person’s life tonight. Her heart would stop and she would die.

“No,” he said, a smile playing at the corner of his mouth. “He didn’t discharge me. I’ve been promoted.”

“Oh,” Terra said not sure if that was better. She knew that after Captain of the Guard you became the Guard Major and then a Lieutenant or maybe then it was a Royal Guard. Meaning he would be by her father’s side every hour of every day. He would be higher in rank, but she would hardly see him.

Maybe that was for the best though.

“I’m now a Royal Guard.” She nodded, it was as she expected. “I’m now your Royal Guard.”

“I’m sure you’ll do a wonderful job protecting my father,” she whispered, suddenly finding tears in her eyes. She hung her head and started to move quickly passed him. “I’m happy for you,” she lied starting to run.

“Terra?” Eric asked, not understanding anything she had just done or said. He pushed the King’s door closed and ran after the princess.

She couldn’t take it. She just wanted to get this day over with. Before she could go too far, Eric caught up with her. He ran in front of her, stopped and grabbed her by the shoulders. Before she could react, he had pulled her against him and was holding her. Not the way a friend hugged friend, more like the way one lover held another.

Eric held Terra against his chest and wrapped his arms around her. He put a hand behind her head and just held her. She needed him. He could feel it. She needed someone to hold her and tell her it was all going to be ok. Someone who was going to be on her side and support her, in so many ways she was still a child. Only fifteen and already so much was expected of her. She was becoming a beautiful young woman and she couldn’t even see it.

“I said I am your Royal Guard,” Eric said, putting specific emphasis on the last three words. “Not your mothers guard, not your father’s guard, and not your sisters guard. I am your personal guard. My whole job, my whole existence now, is only to protect you.”

Terra buried her face in his chest and cried. She tried to say something but between his uniform and her sobs, Eric couldn’t understand her. So he just held her close.

“I know I was mad before. But the last twenty-four hours have been to most exciting, difficult, gut-wrenching, and heart lifting I have ever had. I’m sorry I overreacted.”

She nodded.

“I’m your guard now. So no matter what, I’ll be here for you.” He squeezed her tightly one more time. He put his hands on her shoulders and gently pushed her back until she was an arm’s length away. “So right now we’re going to go down the kitchen, we’re going to go get the food for that damn monster, I’m going to walk you down and wait outside the door and when you’re done, I’ll be waiting to walk you back.”

Terra only nodded, not trusting her voice to convey her gratitude.

Taking the Princess by the arm, he led her down to the kitchen.

Eric knew when he took the position he was going back on everything he had promised himself before. He had wanted to stay away; he had wanted nothing more to do with this crazy complicated situation. Unfortunately it seems the Creator had other plans for him. He will be more careful now, though. He will keep distance and he will be professional.

Terra stood at the wooden doors collecting herself. She and Eric had exchanged apologies all the way down to the prison. They even talked briefly about their bond and what they think it means. Eric noted that he would be the best Royal Guard any royal had ever had. He would know in less than a second when something happens to her. Terra noted that it might make things awkward for him and his personal life.

Neither really felt like talking after that.

With one more glance to Eric for support, she pushed against the door, slipped in, and kicked it closed behind her. She walked slowly toward the wooden table that had been placed in there for her and set down the heavy polished silver tray. Eric had carried it most of the way for her and she was very grateful. Fine silver trays like this were heavy enough without an entire dinner for two on them.

Standing next to the table was Master Bell. He had been in the prison overseeing all the preparations that were being made for Terra. He stood tall but she could tell that the darkness swirling around in the room was starting to wear on him. He looked tired and older somehow. Like the dark was enough to age the man.

“Master Bell,” she said nodding to the wizard. “Tell me how this works.”

“Oh yes, do tell,” the Shadow King sneered leaning against the glass with his arms folded. “I’m starving.”

“If I had it my way monster, you would starve,” Bell replied calmly. “Now Terra this cell is one clearly made of magic.”

“You’re kidding?” the Shadow King jeered.

“I understand,” Terra said ignoring him.

“No magic can enter or exit so long as the glass is unbroken. He especially cannot pass through the glass. However, in keeping with your father’s wishes, this cell is a humane one.”

“How do you mean?”

“There is a way to get food in and out to him without putting anyone in unnecessary risk and without giving him a thrice daily opportunity to escape.”

“Alright,” she said, “I understand. Tell me what I must do.”

“It’s very simple,” Bell explained. “This cell and all its magic can be set to recognize the aura of one person and one person only. That person would have unrestricted access to the prisoner. They can pass objects in and out of these glass walls at will. But nothing living can ever pass these walls.”

“Especially not him, right?” Terra asked, worried that something so evil couldn’t really be alive.

“No, not him,” Bell confirmed. “The only way he’s ever getting out of there is if the glass is completely destroyed. And that is physically impossible.”

“Ok then,” she sighed feeling relieved.

“All you have to do princess is come in, set your food on the table out here and place the tray with the rest of the food on the table in the corner of his cell. That’s it.”

“That’s not it,” the man in the cell chimed in. “Don’t leave out the best part Wizard. Tell her how not only does she have to serve me dinner, but she’s also practically my maid now too!”

“Maid?” Terra asked confused.

“Oh yes princess, my maid. Tell her wizard!” Despite being imprisoned, the man in the cell seemed to be greatly enjoying himself.

“I’m afraid he isn’t mistaken. Once the cell is keyed to your aura, you and only you can add or subtract anything from his cell. Meaning that . . .”

“I understand what it means,” she cut in quietly, drawing on her last reserves of strength. “It means that I will be in charge of everything that happens in here. When he is fed, it will be me bringing the food. When his sheets or clothes are to be laundered, it will be me who retrieves them.”

“I’m afraid so princess,” Bell said sounding genuinely displeased about the situation. “Originally we were going to key it to the aura’s of at least three people. Your father, myself, and your sister Diana.”

“Why can’t you do that now?” She asked.

“Because they messed it up!” The Shadow King all but shouting with enthusiasm. “In their rush to complete this damndable box and throw me in it, they only left a small enough gap for one person. No . . . wait,” He said, his demeanor changing instantly. He stalked to the other end of his cell near to wear Bell and Terra stood. He stared intently at Bell for a moment before making a noise under his breath and walking back over to sit on his bed.

“Hurry this up already will you? I’m starving!”

“Master Bell?” Terra asked confused. “What was that about?”

“We may never know child,” Bell said. “My time here is growing short so I must show you what you are to do before I go. Here on this pane of glass there is a gap in the runes that bind his magic. I expect this is how he was able to maintain his hold on magic outside for so long.”

“How do we fix that then?” She asked.

“We don’t, you do. I know you’ve never been taught to read runes, but these ones here,” he indicated to a group of runes that ran up to the gap, “they deal with the limit of magic going to and from the box. Your name goes in the space between the lines. So it will read that only you and your magic can pass to and from the magical barrier.”

“How do I do that? I don’t know how to read or write runes.”

A scoffing noise came from inside the box.

“Send out your aura child. When it sees the gap it’ll know what to do,” Master Bell instructed.

Nodding, she closed her eyes. She felt the magic around her, swirling around her body. At this distance she could also fell the cool breeze that was Master Bell’s magic. Taking a breath, she opened the “door” only to once again find it already open. So she sent her magic out again. It brushed past the Master Wizard who took a deep breath as it flowed around him. Then her magic hit the glass box before her like a wave crashing against the rocks on the beach. It flowed up and over the whole of the box until it was completely surrounded by her aura.

“This can’t be right?” Came a stunned voice from inside the cell.

Terra ignored him.

In her mind she could see the entire box. Every rune and every etching were clear as day in her mind. While she couldn’t read the markings, she did understand their meaning. At last her magic found the empty place in the line of the spell. Without needing to be told, her power set to work.

In moments her name was carved elegantly in runes across the side of the glass.

“You never cease to amaze,” Bell commented as Terra opened her eyes. “It would have taken me a better part of an hour to do what you did.”

She smiled. “Master . . .” Terra cried out suddenly in pain. Just like before it felt like there were two hearts beating in her chest. She clutched her hands to her chest and sank to her knees.

“Terra!” Master Bell shouted.

Behind her, somewhere, she heard the sound of the door flying open and footsteps running in. Before she was on the ground Eric’s arms were around her. He lowered her gently and started shouting at the Master Wizard.

“What the hell is going on Bell!?” Eric shouted. “What’s happening to her?!”

“I don’t know,” Bell stammered, sounding as though he was losing his legendary cool. “This is not supposed to happen. She was to write her name and be done. Nothing more should have happened!”

Terra’s head was spinning; she couldn’t make the pain stop. Her eyes rolled over the prison and stopped. Lying on the floor, clutching his own chest, was the Shadow King. He had fallen off the bed and was holding his chest the same way Terra was clutching hers. In a moment their eyes met and an unspoken understanding passed between them.

They both felt the same pain.

For a moment there was a voice in her head, a voice that was not hers.

You feel it too,’ the voice said.

‘I do,’ she responded.

Then, just as soon as the pain came, it was gone. She could suddenly breathe again. She sat up out of Eric’s arms and looked around.

“I’m ok,” she said, starting to stand.

“Careful,” he cautioned helping her to her feet. “What just happened?”

“I’m not sure,” she said, shooting a glance in the cell. The Shadow King was sitting on his bed same as he was before.

Did I just imagine that?’ She wondered.

Ever so slightly the so called King shook his head. Before Terra could express some kind of gratitude for his answer, he shot her a disgusted look and scoffing he turned away.

“You must be exhausted,” Bell said concerned. “It’s been a very trying day for you and writing your name there must have taken the last of your strength.”

She only nodded. She didn’t want to lie to Bell or Eric, but she couldn’t explain to them what had just happened, especially when she didn’t know herself.

“Then let’s get this over with,” Eric said. He led the wobbling princess over to the table and helped her sort through the food. Once the tray ready to be handed off Eric looked at Bell and both nodded.

“If you need me I’ll be just outside,” Eric said, placing a hand on her shoulder.

“I know,” she said smiling, feeling grateful for his concern. “I should be along in a while.”

With one last menacing stare at the man in the box, Eric went with Bell out of the room, pulling the door closed behind them.

Wasting no time, Terra rounded on the so called king.

“What was that?” She demanded.

He walked to the glass and sat down on the floor as close to Terra as he could get. “I don’t know.”

“How do you not know?” She asked. “Wasn’t that something you did?”

“No.”

“I don’t understand then.”

“Terra, while you think can I have my food?” He dropped her title again, not evening bothering to ask if she was alright with that level of familiarity.

She eyed the man suspiciously. Seconds before he had been treating her and every other person in the room like they weren’t fit to be around him. He even had the gall to call her his maid! Now suddenly he was sitting on the floor and asking nicely for food? Even the darkness of the floor had dissipated.

His sudden turn around made Terra nervous and more than a little suspicious.

“Of course,” she said finally. She lifted the tray and walked to the prison. Not sure what to do she moved the tray to the glass. As if there was nothing there, the tray passed through the wall and into the prison.

“Impressive Terra, for a princess,” he said smirking. He took his tray and pulled it the rest of the way through. Setting it at his feet he began to eat as though he hadn’t eaten in years. Mildly disgusted, she walked to the table and began to eat her dinner too.

After a few moments of silently staring at her food as though it might save her, Terra looked up to find the man looking at her. “How’s your dinner Terra?” He asked, amused.

Annoyed at his constant and deliberate dropping of her title, she asked, “Since we are going to be dinning together every day for the foreseeable future, may I ask you a question?”

“Of course,” he replied intrigued.

“Since you insist on being so familiar and not addressing me with my title as I am do; what am I to call you?”

“What do you mean?” He asked, still smiling.

“I’m assuming you’ll want to have conversations while we eat, yes?”

“As lovely as you are to look at, I was hoping for conversation.”

“So, since you insist on calling me Terra, what am I to call you? Or would you prefer I call you Shadow King? Or maybe The King of the Shadows. It’s a little long winded is all.”

“Did you know that I was taken from my home as baby?” He said suddenly.

“I . . . well I’ve heard similar stories. But I can’t say I knew that, no.”

“I was,” he said, “I was only a few days old when the shadows took me from my crib. My mother had had a very difficult delivery and was unable to get out of bed. So my father decided to wait for her to recover and then they would name me together. But I was gone before they had that chance.”

Terra sat silent and stunned a piece of bread halfway to her mouth. She had heard stories about when and how the shadows had found him and taken him. Other stories told that he had sought the shadows out, knowing that he belonged with them. To hear that he had been robbed from his cradle while his mother still lay in her delivery bed. It hurt her heart to hear something so sad.

She looked up him, feeling her eyes water. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know . . .”

“Don’t feel sorry for me.” He said simply but firmly. “I don’t need or want your pity.”

Terra nodded. “If . . . if you don’t have a name what do I call you?”

“I’ll tell you what,” he said, setting the bone of his chicken on the tray. “Since you have been so gracious though this whole thing, and since I don’t think you’re going to drop the subject anytime soon, you may select a name for me. Any name you chose. And it will be my name, at least between us.”

“Any name?” She asked.

“Any name.” Pushing the tray aside he stood from the floor and sat in one of the chairs at his table.

She leaned back in her chair and thought. There were a lot of possibilities for a name for a man like this. He wasn’t a good man and at first Terra considered naming him something that spoke to that. Then it dawned on her that he was denied the right of being named when he was still a baby, still pure and innocent. She should name him something that spoke to the man and not his nature.

She looked at him for a long time, completely forgetting about the dinner she was supposed to be eating. He was leaning back in his chair, hands behind his head and feet stretched out and before him. He kept his eyes closed and his face turned away from her. Knowing what she knew now, about who and what he was, Terra was still struck by how good looking he was.

He seemed slightly taller now than he had the first time she’d seen him. His face was well cut with a noble brown and strong chin. His dark hair was long, down past his shoulders. Those very broad shoulders looked very well defined, even under his loose shirt. As she watched he turned his head and looked at her.

“Grey,” she said.

“Grey? Like the color?”

“Like your eyes,” she said. “Your eyes are as grey as the stone our walls are made from. They are by far your most striking feature.”

He stood from his chair and walked to the glass. He eyed her suspiciously, not sure how to respond to what she said. “You choose the name Grey then? Not something else?”

“I choose Grey,” she confirmed.

“Not monster, or evil or something else to that effect?”

“You gave me the option to choose and I chose Grey. That is what I would like to call you, unless of course you’ve changed your mind?” Terra could tell what she had said had struck a nerve. She wasn’t exactly sure what she had said that set him off, but she was enjoying her small moment of victory.

“Of course I haven’t changed my mind. If that is the name you choose, than that’s what you’ll call me. My name is Grey. Or Lord Grey if you’re feeling formal,” he added, flashing her his wicked smile.

“Well then, Grey, I’m afraid my dinner has grown cold and I have grown weary. I will take my leave.” She stood and walked to the glass. “May I have the tray please?”

Grey stalked away from the glass and flopped down on his bed. “Get it yourself,” he said rolling to face the other wall.

Shocked at his sudden childish behavior, Terra threw her hands up in frustration and stalked out of the prison, much the same way Grey had stalked to his bed. She pulled the door open, stepped through and pulled it closed so hard it slammed, sending loud, angry echoes through the prison and the adjoining room.

Eric jumped at the silence of the small room was suddenly shattered by the sound of a slamming door. Recovering, he quickly rushed over from the rut he was cutting in the floor. “What happened? Are you ok? Why do you feel so angry?”

“This is going to be so much harder than I thought,” Terra said. Too tired and frustrated to explain. “I really want to go to sleep . . . I can’t go to sleep.”

Eric was about to ask why when he remembered that her room was still covered in the blood of the man who tried to rape her. He now knew that there was no way she could stand blood at all. Her room would most likely kill her.

“What do I do?” She asked him.

“I’m not sure,” he said honestly. “Could you stay with Mammy tonight?”

“I don’t know. I guess I could ask.”

Mammy was, of course, more than willing to share her bed with Terra and was happy that she wouldn’t be spending a night like tonight alone. Eric had wanted to set up another bed in Mammy’s room for himself, stating that it was his job to protect her so he should be nearby. Mammy gave him and a stern look and a told him that only improper ladies sleep in a room with a man and she would die before she let the princess be an improper young lady.

Terra had smiled at the sight of the two of them arguing back and forth about her. Mammy so stern and loving, like a mother and Eric over protective like a good soldier. She felt loved. Loved and exhausted. It was time for sleep. She laid her head down and before she knew it she was asleep.

“She’s sleeping,” Eric said without turning away from Mammy.

Mammy looked over and her face softened. Eric could see the love she had for that child. She was more like her mother than her mother. He was happy that Terra had someone like this in her life. He didn’t know what she would face in the next few months, possibly years, but he knew she would need a good deal of help to get through it.

“Alright Mammy,” he said, “You win. I won’t try to sleep in here. But I do need to be close. It’s my job to protect her.”

“It’s not just your job,” Mammy said, placing a hand on the young man’s shoulder.

“I know.”

“Well there’s a storage room that connects to this one. It used to be a room for the Kings personal servant, but that was back before the remodel. Now it holds all of the girls’ old furniture. There won’t be much space but it would be a place to sleep and it would be just a room away from Terra in case she needs you.”

“I’ll take it,” he said nodding.

Mammy wasn’t wrong. It was dark dusty and cramped. He pushed a few beds together and was able to make a mostly comfortable place to sleep. After the day he had, he was almost certain he could have slept on rock and still been fine. He laid his head down, closed his eyes, and slept like a man who’d been awake for days.

Grey turned over on his bed, mulling his new name around in his head. He had given the princess and opportunity to choose a name for him, any name. It could have been cruel or worse. He half expected that it would be. Instead she had named him for his eyes. He had never had a proper name. More than that, the entire time the princess was with him, he had scanned her heart over and over again. He could find no darkness. Not even a hint of it.

It wasn’t possible.

It wasn’t human.

More than that, it annoyed him. There was clearly something wrong with this princess. While he wasn’t sure what that something was, he was sure he would find out. Then he would use that oddity to weaken and corrupt her.

Everything was coming together precisely as he had planned. True he had to settle for the shadow princess instead of the one foretold of. Maybe that would prove to be the best. After all he was the Shadow King and she was the Shadow Princes.

Grey stretched out and prepared to sleep. He was starting to think that this Terra would be the key to everything.


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