Shadows

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Ch. 4

Terra was dreaming, that much she could tell right off. Something about the way the walls seemed to shift around her told her she was asleep.

She was standing in a room that was completely dark except for the pool of moonlight that was spilling in from a window. In the center of the room there was a large ornately carved crib, a crib fit for a king. There was nothing else around that Terra could see, just the crib and the window.

Crying from the crib pulled her attention.

She walked slowly forward, not sure what she would find inside. As she got closer the crying got louder. Terra looked over the edge of the crib and sighed.

Inside was a tiny newborn baby with jet black hair and slate grey eyes. Once the infant saw her he cried louder and louder until Terra reached in and scooped the baby out. She held him in her hands and rocked him slowly back and forth until his crying subsided.

As she continued to rock him she closed her eyes, lulled by the simple rhythm of the movement. When she opened her eyes again she wasn’t holding a baby anymore. Now she was slowly dancing with a man. His face was turned away so Terra couldn’t see him, but he held her like she expected a lover would. Felling comfort in his arms she closed her eyes again.

This time when she opened them it was Diana in her arms. Only this Diana looked wrong somehow. She seemed dark and tainted. Her face was contorted in an evil glare and even her body radiated hate.

Terra tried to scream and get away, but Diana held her tight, pulling her into an embrace. Closer and closer she laughed. Just before Terra lost sight of everything she heard Diana whisper something. Try as she might she couldn’t hear it and before she knew she was completely swallowed up.

Terra’s eyes shot open and she sat up in bed like a bolt. She wasn’t sure how long she’d been out but it was still dark outside. Mammy slept soundly on the bed beside her, not even seeming to have noticed the princess’s sudden waking. A few feet away she heard the sound of a door being opened. Felling Eric before he was there, she was unafraid.

Eric emerged from the dark of the next room, his sword sheathed but still at his side.

“I’m sorry,” she said as he approached. “I didn’t mean to wake you. It was just a bad dream.”

“I know,” he said, laying the sword off to the side. He knelt on the ground next Terra and took both her hands in his. “I want you to know that I care about you, “he said brushing stray hair from her face. “I can’t stop actually. Terra I think I love you!”

Before she could react or say anything, he leaned forward and kissed her. Wrapping his arms around her, he held her close and kissed her again and again.

Terra’s heart was beating in her chest so fast she thought it might burst. She knew she had feelings for Eric but she wasn’t sure what they were or how to react to them. All she knew was he was holding her and kissing her and she was kissing him back.

For a moment they melted into each other’s arms. When she could finally put enough words together in my mind as to why she needed to stop him, she pulled back to talk to Eric and find out what was going on and did he mean what he said? How did he know he felt that way? What were they going to do if she felt the same? What were they going to do if Mammy woke up?

She realized then that she did love him. She could feel it in her heart; the way it fluttered so fast it was like there was two hearts in her chest. There was something about the way he held her and the way their hearts seemed to beat like one that told her how much she cared. “I think I love you too,” she whispered pulling away.

“I’m so glad.”

Terra froze. It was not Eric in front of her. It wasn’t her Royal Guard whose arms she was in and whose lips she had been kissing.

It was Grey. Kneeling on floor in front of Mammy’s bed, arms wrapped around her, eyes shining brightly at her declaration of love; it was Grey.

“Don’t worry princess,” he said, his face rippling slightly, “I’ll protect you for as long as you love me.” Suddenly he was a much younger looking man. Before he had seemed in his thirties or early forties, but now, now he looked no older than Eric. His face was softer and his eyes looked less like stone.

His face changed again and he was as she knew him now. Evil. He started to laugh like he was crazy. Throwing his head back and cackling like a madman. Suddenly he wasn’t Grey anymore but a shadow. Not just any shadow, but the shadow that had come at her in the west wing with its eyes bulging. It had its arms around her and was pulling her in.

Her skin burned where it touched her and she cried out in pain. She tried to struggle against it but it was too strong and too close. It was going to take her and she was going to die.

She was going to die.

“Terra WAKE UP!” A voice shouted.

She opened her eyes and saw a dark shape standing over her and screamed.

“Terra stop!” The voice shouted, throwing a hand over her mouth. As soon as he touched her she knew it was Eric. Something in their bond made her instinctually recognize his aura on contact. She stopped screaming and lay still so Eric would know she was alright.

“What is it, what’s happening?!” Mammy shouted, finally rousing. “Eric Reynolds what do you think you’re doing?! I don’t care whose guard you are you take your hands off her!” Mammy was out of bed and coming around to shoo Eric away.

He looked down at Terra, she could feel him try to reach through the bond to see if she was ok. Fumbling was more like it, but then Eric had very little experience with magic. She met his gaze and nodded. She was alright. It was then that she discovered he’d come running in wearing just a pair of pants. His chest was completely naked. It was a very nice chest. Terra had never realized just how nice until now. His captain’s uniform was fitted but not tight, and the sash he wore across his chest to denote his rank masked most of his definition.

Eric caught her gaze and flushed red making Terra flush an even brighter shade of red.

He stood back and raised his hand, not wanting to give Mammy any more reason to distrust him.

“What in the name of the creator is going on here?” She demanded of the two of them. Terra sat up and swung her legs over the side of bed. She tried to stand but wobbled badly on her feet. Eric reached out to steady her immediately. He put his arms around her shoulders and scanned her face to make sure she was well.

“It was just a dream,” Terra explained, head still spinning. “It was just a nightmare.”

“Eric Reynolds don’t you hold her like that!” Mammy snapped, “She’s not properly dressed! Princess you should know better, you’re in your dressing gown.”

Terra’s face flushed red, again. She hadn’t thought about the fact that she was in just a thin cotton shift. She had underwear on underneath of course, but that was all. There was only a thin layer of cotton separating their skin. It was suddenly very hot in Mammy’s little room.

Mammy herself, wasted no time stepping up between the two of them and helping Terra sit back down on the bed. It didn’t help much. She was now overly aware of Eric standing close by, shirtless. She was starting to think she would never get her face back to normal.

Eric let Mammy take Terra and set her on the bed. He didn’t think he could move at that point. When he had felt her distress he hadn’t thought about the fact that she was sleeping and wouldn’t be dressed. He just knew she needed him and he had to be there.

Standing there now, it was all he could do to not openly stare at Terra. She was usually wrapped in yards of fabric like all proper young ladies. When she had come down the stars in that green dress yesterday he had nearly fallen over. It was the first time he’d ever seen her in something figure fitting and something that was cut low enough to reveal her . . . her . . .

Eric glanced over at her again, the shift was loose to be sure, but it must have been made for her when she was younger and not as full chested.

Flushing red from the base of his neck to the roots of his hair, Eric looked away. He was starting to feel things for the young princess that he really shouldn’t be feeling about a fifteen year old. Especially one that was now in his charge.

“Well if you ladies are all right I’ll return to my room,” he said all but running to the door.

“Eric,” she said, not looking up from the floor.

“Yes T . . . Princess?” He said correcting himself.

“Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome.” He stepped through the door and pushed it closed. He collapsed on his make shift bed and held the pillow over his mouth. He screamed into it at his unimaginable idiocy. He was acting more like an awkward teenager than a man. It wasn’t like he’d never been with a woman. He was nearing his twenty sixth birthday, he’d been with several women already.

It was something about Terra. Maybe it was her innocence and awkwardness that made him feel this way. He really wasn’t sure how things worked with this bond of theirs. He knew if he was quiet he could feel what she was feeling. While he slept, he kept getting these flashes and images from Terra. He was sure he was seeing her dreams. He had seen the Shadow King holding her in his dream and seen when he changed to a shadow. As soon as he was able to wake he was in the room waking Terra.

It just timed out that as he woke her she started to scream.

From the other room Eric could hear Mammy talking to Terra.

“I’m sorry Mammy,” the young Princess said. “The nightmare had me scared and Eric felt it through the bond. He was just trying to help.”

“I know dear,” Mammy said, climbing on to the other side of the bed. “But I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t do everything I could to take care of you. Even if it means I have to yell at your Royal Guard.” She reached out and placed at hand on her shoulder.

Pain seared through Terra’s body.

She screamed and fell forward into her own lap.

The sound of a door being kicked open signaled Eric’s arrival.

He was shouting something and Mammy was saying something else. To Terra’s ears it all sounded very far away. She bit down on the inside of her cheek, trying to keep from crying as a hot red pain ripped around her shoulders.

“What happened?” He demanded again.

Mammy turned to Eric, pale as a sheet, “I have no idea. I just touched her.”

He walked to Terra, careful not to touch her, he knelt down and tilted his head so he could see her. Her face was buried in her knees. Her eyes were shut tight and it looked like she was biting down on her shift.

“Terra I need you to tell me what’s wrong. I can’t help you if I don’t know what’s wrong,” Eric pleaded trying to keep his panic in check. Taking the chance, he set his hand on her knee.

Through the bond Terra could feel the pain Eric was feeling along with hers. In the back of her mind she was impressed that he could bear so much pain without showing it. When his skin touched hers, however, the hot pain returned, burning away any other thoughts in her mind.

“What happened?” Mammy asked alarmed.

“I don’t know,” Eric said, nursing his hand. “I touched her and she burned me.”

“Are you alright?” Mammy asked.

“Yea, I’m fine, but it’s not me that I’m worried about. Mammy, I know it’s a lot to ask, but will you please try and touch her. I need to know if it’s just me.”

“Of course,” Mammy said. “Terra, baby, I’m gonna touch you now ok?”

“Please, don’t,” she pleaded, her voice muffled through her knees and shift. “It hurts so much.”

Eric nodded to Mammy to go ahead. She reached out and, with just the tip of her finger, touched Terra on the arm.

She pulled her finger back immediately, cursing under her breath. “Like touching a hot coal,” She confirmed with Eric.

Terra had asked them not to touch her and still they had. Her whole body burned. She could feel herself starting to get light headed. The pain and confusion was more than she could bear. She forced her eyes closed and prayed to anyone who was listening to take the pain away.

Let it go,’ a voice in her head whispered. ‘You have to stop holding on to the pain. Let it go.

Let what go?’ Terra thought frantically.

The pain, let it go. Let the darkness in. The darkness will make it better.

Darkness? What darkness?’ It was then Terra could feel it. Just beyond Mammy’s window, a sudden feeling of evil. It wasn’t close enough to see, but it wasn’t so far away that it couldn’t be there in a moment.

Just let it in. The darkness will take away all the pain. No more suffering. Just let it in.’

‘No!’ She screamed in her head. ‘I would rather die than allow that monster to touch me!

Too bad,’ the voice said, starting to fade. ‘It would have been so much easier that way.’

Suddenly the pain was too much to bear. Everything around her went quiet and dark. Her vision started to double and then the world around her faded away.

Diana laid in bed waiting.

It was getting later and later. Soon the castle would be asleep and she could sneak out. Ever since she’d gotten back her father had insisted on their being two guards outside her room at all times. She wasn’t to go anywhere without the two of them in tow. Her plans for tonight would be nearly impossible if she didn’t do this just right.

She pulled her door open ever so slightly and peeked outside. Both guards were standing at attention. Neither moved nor even blinked it seemed. Diana pushed the door closed and cursed at her bad luck. She had wanted to avoid taking the tunnels. There was no way to get where she wanted to go from the tunnels. It would actually take her further away from her ultimate destination.

Not that Diana would admit it to herself, but she didn’t want to go back in the tunnels where she was attacked. Her trip to Terra’s room was hard enough as it was. To have to go through the tunnels this late, alone, it wasn’t something she really thought she could do.

Diana decided the only way to get out was to trick the guards.

She glanced at herself in the looking glass. She pulled a few strands of hair away from her face and lifted each breast so that they almost fell out of her bodice. She would be more than enough to distract both guards.

She opened her door again, this time all the way.

“Princess,” both guards said, falling to a knee saluting her.

“Thank you,” she said, signaling them to rise, “I hope you won’t find this rude but I’m so hungry.”

Both the guards’ eyes went wide. Diana was stunning in her tight dress with her extremely low cut bodice. “Hungry princess?” The older one asked.

“Yes,” she said starting to whine. “This whole day has been so long. I think I just wasn’t feeling well enough to eat. But now . . .”

This time the younger one stepped forward, eyes going up and down the sight of her. “Princess it would be my honor to bring you something to eat.”

Diana smiled, she had them. “I’m afraid I’m just so picky I wouldn’t know what I wanted unless I could see what was in the kitchen.”

Before the younger of the two could speak the older stepped forward. “I would be honored to escort her Majesty to the kitchen.”

“Would you?” She asked, bouncing around a little for effect.

He bowed, “It would be my greatest honor.”

Diana looked to the younger guard. “Could I ask you to stay and guard my room? I don’t think I could sleep tonight if I knew my room wasn’t being watched. I’d toss and turn all night thinking that somehow another shadow got in.” She trembled slightly, knowing they couldn’t resist the thought of a princess in distress.

Looking slightly upset about being left behind, the guard nodded. “I will wait for you here then, majesty.”

“No, not here,” Diana said. She reached out and grabbed the guard’s hand. “What’s your name?” She asked, stopping midstride.

“Jack,” he stammered, eyes fixed on her hand.

“Ok Jack, in here.” She pulled him into the room and dragged him toward the bed. Turing she pushed him onto the bed and “fell” on top of him.

“Oh I’m so sorry,” she said, pretending to struggle to get up. “I’m so clumsy today.” She struggled a little more, making sure she was rubbing all the right parts against Jack the guard. When she could feel that he was good and hard she carefully got back up.

“I’m so sorry. I need you to wait right here, where I sleep every night. This is where I want you . . . to wait. Can you do that for me?” She put a hand on each of his knees and pushed herself up slowly.

Even in the dark she could see how hard he was. He wasn’t going anywhere.

“Yes princess,” he said breathlessly, “I can wait here.”

“Thank you so much,” she said. “I feel better already.”

Diana left Jack the guard on the bed and went to face her next challenge. This guard was older than Jack. Meaning he would be harder to sway to her side. So, just to be safe, she walked out and closed the door.

“Jack has kindly agreed to wait here,” Diana said. She reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder. Letting lose her aura she sent her magic through her arm and into the man. She pulled every ounce of energy he had, which considering the hour wasn’t much. Looking horrified the guard crumpled to the floor.

He wasn’t dead, just passed out. He would sleep for a while.

Smirking, she walked away.

Diana stood in front of two huge wooden doors, another guard passed out at her feet. It wasn’t personal; she just needed to deal with some things and deal with them alone. She stepped over the man and pushed the door open and walked inside.

Sleeping on a small bed at the back of a giant glass cell was the monster whose very existence consumed her every waking moment. The supposed Shadow King, a monster so terrifying her entire life was put on hold. So absolutely horrifying as he slept on his bed, wrapped up in his blanket like a boy no older than ten. Diana couldn’t even find the words for her disappointment.

“Why so sad, Princess?” The man called from the box. “Not what you were expecting?” He sat up and got out of bed. “Oh yes, I can read your mind just like you’ve heard.” He walked to the edge of the cell and leaned against the glass.

“If you can read my mind than you know why I’m here,” Diana sneered.

“Oh I do,” he confirmed. “But I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.”

“Oh, how so?”

“Well for one, you can stop calling me monster, I have a name.”

“Do you?” Diana scoffed. “I’ve never heard it.”

“It’s brand new, got it just today in fact. From your darling little sister Terra.”

Diana’s blood boiled at Terra’s name. She had a score to settle with that little rat. It caused her great pain to know that she had escaped what was coming to her for a whole day and had somehow managed to get an audience with this monster before her.

“Oh, did I strike a nerve? Not our sister’s biggest fan are we?”

“Shut up,” Diana barked, “stay the hell out of my head!”

“Well look at that Princess,” Grey said. “Look at how dark your heart is. You know you’re almost making this too easy.”

“My heart is not dark,” she said laughing. “Don’t you know who I am? I am Princess Diana, of the kingdom of Sol. I am the princess the prophecy has foretold would come. I am the savior of the world.” She felt herself swell with pride at all her titles. That should show this fool.

“Sure you are.” Grey said, turning to go back to bed.

“Where do you think you’re going?!” Diana demanded. “I’m not done with you!”

“But I am done with you princess,” Grey called over his shoulder, lying back down.

Diana was infuriated. Her temper completely boiled over and her vision went red. She stalked over to glass box and raised a fist to beat against it. She didn’t care at all who the hell this man was supposed to be. All that mattered to her was that this arrogant bastard had dared to turn his back on her. He had dared to treat her like less than she was.

As soon as her fist made contact with the glass there was a sound like static or lightning.

Diana was thrown from the glass prison. She flew back nearly ten feet and skidded all the way back to the door. She laid there for a moment, dazed.

Grey sat up on his bed and laughed.

“How dare you laugh at me,” she growled, sitting up. “What the hell did you do to me?”

I didn’t do anything,” Grey said mockingly. “It’s this box. Look at the runes, no one gets in this thing and no one gets out. So all your thoughts of murdering me while I’m weakened and telling everyone I managed to escape in the night because Terra weakened my cell, those thoughts you can kiss goodbye.” Grey was gloating. He could see every dark thought and evil intention in her heart and mind.

If he was being honest he was a bit surprised to see all that was in this young girl’s heart. Hate for her sister, so intense it rivaled anything he had ever seen in a human. Then the way she viewed anyone who wasn’t her! Not for the first time, Grey was a little alarmed about their impending battle.

Diana glowered at the man in the box. Wishing she could get her hands on him. She scanned the box for some crack or a weakness. Anything she could exploit to get in and get her hands on that monster. As she looked over the cell she noticed something that made her smile.

“If no one gets in or out, then explain to me how you ended up with my mother’s polished silver tray? Number one of a set of four, if I’m not mistaken. Given to my parents as a celebration gift to commemorate my birth.”

Grey’s cocky smile disappeared. “Did I say no one?” He asked, “I meant no one but your sister.”

Diana couldn’t see. Her vision had gone completely red at the thought of one more thing that Terra had that she didn’t. It felt like her skin was on fire. Like she was fire.

“How,” was all she could manage.

“The box is specially tuned to your sister’s magic. Only she can manipulate the barrier and pass. Terra, and only Terra, has the power to reach me.” Grey walked forward and leaned his back against the glass, turning away from Diana. He could feel how angry his turning away made her.

Without knowing what she was doing, Diana walked forward and held up both her hands. Without touching the barrier, she sent out her magic. She had never been good at releasing her magic away from her, but right then it didn’t feel like she was in charge of her actions.

Where her magic hit the barrier, sparks flew. Somehow the magic pushed through the barrier and made contact with the glass, the glass Grey was now leaning against.

Crying out in pain, he fell forward on his hands and knees. The part of his back that had been touching the glass was now on fire. It was an odd black and gold fire that burned on his skin for a few seconds and then disappeared, leaving angry dark patches on his flesh.

Diana looked down at this supposed monster, now writhing on the floor in pain.

She laughed.

She threw her head back and laughed.

For nearly a minute Diana stood and watched this man suffer, laughing so hard she could hardly breathe. Tears ran down her face as she finally managed to stop.

“I have to say I certainly feel better now. Thank you, whatever you name is now,” Diana said. She turned to walk away. She was in such a good mood that she didn’t even think about the fact that Jack was sitting on her bed, still waiting for her return.

“Princess,” he said, “I’ve waited, as you asked.” He stood and saluted her again.

“Good boy Jack,” Diana said, closing her door. “How about I give you a reward?”

Grey lay on the floor, unable to move as Diana disappeared from the room. His shoulders felt like they were on fire and his whole body ached. He was trying not to move as he contemplated all the ways he would make that bitch of a princess pay, when he felt a strange sensation. It was like before, the second heart in his chest.

He could sense it then.

Terra.

Somewhere she was suffering just like he was. Hurt as he was he couldn’t pass up an opportunity. He had shadows still around the castle, with just a thought he could sense one move up to be near the princess. Close but not too close.

Then through the strange link between them he reached out.

It was like talking to someone at the other end of a dark tunnel.

He tempted her with darkness, told her that she could be free of pain if she just said yes. All she had to do was agree and the shadow would sink into the dark crevice in her heart and she would be his. He would slowly widen that crack. Little by little he would corrupt her. Blacken her heart and turn her against her friends and family. He would use the so called “Shadow Princess” to kill her sister. Then nothing would stand in his way. He would rule this world without opposition.

He just had to make the crack.

I would rather die than allow that monster to touch me!’ Terra thought, nearly shouting in her mind.

Too bad it would have been so much easier that way.’ Grey thought, not the least bit disappointed that she’d chosen the long route.

Then there was a blinding light coming from the other end of his connection to Terra. It was a nearly pure white light, except it seemed to be tinted purple and it felt like the Princess was standing there with him.

To Grey, it seemed like the light materialized into the shape of the princess. She stood before him, a being of purple and white light. She knelt down and placed her hands on his shoulders. In a moment the pain that had kept him pinned to the floor was gone.

He shot up and spun around.

She was gone.

Carefully he peeled his burnt shirt off and looked at his reflection in the glass. He had two burn marks wrapping around his shoulders. They almost looked like black wings burned onto his back. He rotated one shoulder, only to feel it pinch tightly and sting. He wasn’t sure what Diana had done to him but he was damn sure she was going to pay for this.

Eric paced nervously back and forth in front of Mammy’s door. After Terra had passed out he had run to get the master wizard. It was early; dawn hadn’t even started to brighten the sky. Still, the master wizard was up and it seemed that he was waiting for Eric to knock on his door.

“Master Bell, it’s Terra, we need you!” It was all he had to say. In the next instant they were running down the hall at top speed. When they returned to Mammy’s room Bell went in and told Eric to wait outside. Something about the bond and his energy messing with things, he wasn’t sure. It was hard to hear and comprehend anything they said.

When Terra screamed last time, right before she blacked out, he had felt the pain she felt. After that, nothing. It was like the bond was gone. Ever since he had scooped her up off the floor of her room and carried her across the castle he could feel her. He knew where she was what she was feeling, everything. Even after she’d fallen asleep he could still feel her. Now there was nothing, he was alone in his own head.

His worst fear was that she was dead.

It made the most sense in his mind.

Something had happened to her, maybe while she slept, maybe when she was dealing with the prisoner under the castle, he didn’t know. He just knew that all of a sudden she was gone. Like she had died.

So he paced.

Waiting for someone to come and tell him what had happened.

After what felt like an eternity, Bell opened the door.

“Come, Eric. We need you.”

Nodding he followed Bell in.

Terra was lying flat on her back, her arms folded over her stomach, raven black hair brushed out to the side. Mammy was on her right, running her fingers through the princess’s hair. She was mumbling something Eric couldn’t hear and there were tears silently running down her face.

It looked like she was dead.

“Please no,” he whispered.

“She’s not dead,” Bell said reading Eric’s expression. “But she’s closer to it than I would like.”

“What happened to her?” He asked.

“She’s expended all her energy somehow,” Bell explained. “Her body has gone into a hyper-recovery mode. Basically her body has shut down all non-essential functions until it can recover enough energy for her to awaken.”

“So what can I do?” Eric asked.

“You can give her energy.”

“How?” He turned to face Bell, more than eager to help.

“Your bond,” Bell answered simply. “Even though I’m sure you can’t feel it right now, you are still bonded to the princess. That makes you uniquely qualified to help her.”

“Tell me how.”

Bell grabbed a hold of Terra and carefully lifted her up off the bed. Then he instructed Eric to lie on the bed with his back propped up against the headboard. Then, with only a minimal argument from Mammy, he laid Terra in between Eric’s legs so that her back was lying on his chest. He then told Eric to wrap his arms around the princess and hold he like he had before. After he had done so Bell walked around the bed making sure everything was right.

“All right Eric,” he said. “I’m going to help you out just a little, but I need you to understand one very important thing.”

“What’s that,” he asked as he worried about how cold Terra’s skin felt.

“You must not give her all of your energy.”

“Why not?” Eric had fully intended to give her all he had if it would help.

“If you give her all of your energy you’ll die.”

“Die? Won’t I just go into a hyper whatever mode?”

“No. The princess was able to manage that due to the impressive amount of magic she controls. You would not be able to do what she has done.”

“Oh,” Eric said, still contemplating giving her everything.

“Now, lean your head back and close your eyes,” Bell told him. Placing a finger in the center of Eric’s forehead, Bell released a small wave of energy, knocking the young man unconscious. Carefully he felt around in the young man’s mind until he found his “door”. Using a minimal amount of his own magic he managed to open Eric’s door and release his magic. He guided this small stream of green and dark blue magic on to Terra.

“Now we wait,” Bell said looking to Mammy.

Terra’s eyes opened slowly. She blinked heavily as she tried to clear the fog of sleep away. For a moment she was still, trying to remember what had happened the night before and why she felt so weary waking up. She moved to roll over and a sharp stinging across her back brought the night back into frightening clarity.

Careful of her shoulders, Terra pushed herself up in bed. She was in Mammy’s room, as she had been last night. Mammy was gone, no doubt tending to her morning chores. She looked to the door across the room. It was standing open and Eric was nowhere to be found.

Slowly she swung her legs over the side of the bed and wobbled to the dressing table. She picked up her faded blue robe and wrapped herself up.

There was something in the back of her mind that plagued her. There was something she couldn’t remember, something very important. She went over last night in her head. She had that crazy dream about Eric and then Grey. She woke up Eric came in . . . shirtless no less . . . and they had a very awkward moment. Then . . . then what?

Pain.

She had that searing, burning pain all over. Mostly it had been her shoulders that burned. She assumed that was why they hurt this morning.

After the pain there was nothing. No memories or dreams. Just a blank, until now.

Terra had a strange feeling that there was something huge missing from her memory. Something happened last night and she couldn’t remember, but she needed to.

She sighed miserably and went to go through the dresses Mammy had pulled out of her room for her. There were a few dresses she had never seen before. She wondered if Mammy had gotten them or if they were ordered up after last night. Either way Terra found a lovely pale silver dress to wear. She was sure it had at one point been Diana’s. She could see now where it had been let out in the bust and along the bottom seam.

It was a beautiful dress and Terra felt this was the dress for today.

Careful of her shoulders, she dressed herself quickly.

As she was pulling the dress up something in the looking glass caught her eye. Stretched out across her shoulders were two pink-ish white scars. They looked old, like she had had them for years, even though she knew she hadn’t. Either she had healed herself or healers had attended her while she was sleeping.

Neither was a particularly comforting thought.

Looking at her back again she couldn’t help but notice that the scars seemed to stretch out across her back like white wings. If it hadn’t been for the insane pain they had caused, they would be a little interesting.

Sighing, she pulled up her dress and continued to get ready.

As she did up the buttons and adjusted everything, her mind began to wonder again. Trying to figure out what happened last night and why she couldn’t remember.

A knock at the door drew Terra out of her train of thought.

“Come in,” she called as the door was opening.

“Princess?” It was Mammy.

“Mammy!?” Terra said shocked. She looked terrible. Her face was pale and drawn. There were worry lines all over her face and bags under her eyes. “What happened?”

“Just a long night dear,” Mammy said, her face brightening at the sight of the princess up and around.

“Was it me? Did I snore? Or was I a bed hog? You can tell me Mammy.”

“No nothing like that,” she said smiling, “Just a long, long day and longer night.”

“I’ll agree to that,” Terra said. “Hopefully today is better.”

“Let’s hope,” Mammy said.

Terra smiled as she thought about what she would do with the day. Then the realization that she had to take breakfast to Grey, the idiotic child monster, down in the prison under the castle. Just like she would have to take him his lunch and his dinner. Well dinner she would have to actually eat with him. Today and tomorrow and every day until Diana fulfilled her destiny.

Her outlook on the day much changed, Terra sat down at Mammy’s dressing table and contemplated how to get all of her hair on her head. It was a lot of hair and she really wasn’t very good at making it do things. Regardless, Terra picked up her brush and started working it through her tangled raven colored mess.

“What are you doing dear?” Mammy asked.

“I’m getting ready,” she replied, “I have to take breakfast down to that monster under the castle.”

“Terra, it’s nearly one in the afternoon,” Mammy said carefully.

“One!” She exclaimed. “Oh no Mammy I’m so late! I have lessons with the new martial arts expert father brought it and then I need to check in with my economy professor. Not to mention by now that man is in a way about his lack of food.” She sighed, “I’m so late.”

“My dear most of that has been canceled due to yesterday,” she said kindly. She went to put a hand on the girls shoulder and stopped. She knew the pain it might cause her.

Terra saw Mammy’s face in the looking glass. She knew about the pain in her shoulders and was looking pretty grim about it. This thing that she couldn’t remember, the huge nagging she felt in the back of her mind, whatever that thing was, Mammy knew. Judging by her face, it was bad.

She set down the brush she was holding and turned to Mammy. Her face was still drawn in concern as she looked the princess over. Mammy was looking at her the same way a person watches a tea cup teetering on the edge of a counter.

“Mammy, tell me what’s wrong.”

“It’s nothing dear,” she said trying to force a smile. “Just a long night is all.”

“Mammy I have known you all my life. You’ve never lied to me. Not once. So why are you lying to me now?”

Her face seemed to fall; it became filled with worry and concerned. “Oh Terra,” she said, tears in her eyes, “He told us not to say anything to you. Said the guilt of it would tear you apart.”

“He who Mammy?” She asked, feeling the icy fingers of dread on her heart.

Mammy shook her head, she was sobbing so hard now she couldn’t get the words out.

Terra, feeling inexplicable panic, reached out with her bond. She needed to feel Eric and know that he was safe. She needed to feel him out on rounds or training with the other guards or even eating lunch. She just needed to feel him.

She couldn’t.

He was gone.

She couldn’t feel him at all.

“Mammy what’s happened?!” Terra demanded frantic. “Where’s Eric?!”

At the sound of his name Mammy completely dissolved into tears.

Terra turned to the door and ran, hair down, barefoot, she ran out the door and down the hall. She could hear Mammy calling after her but she didn’t care. Her heart was beating so loudly in her ears that she couldn’t really comprehend the sounds Mammy was making.

Not sure where she was going she ran down the hall. Angry at herself for not noticing that the bond was gone, she ran. Tears in her eyes because she thought he was dead. It was the only thought that made any sense in her head.

She was so upset and so distracted that she didn’t even see Diana until she nearly barreled into her.

“Terra!” Diana exclaimed, caught off guard by the sight of her sister running full tilt down the hall. “What the hell are you doing?”

“I’m sorry sister I don’t have time to explain,” She uttered frantically. She moved to sidestep her sister and keep running, but Diana stepped in front of her. She moved again and again her sister copied the move.

“Diana I need to go, move!” She yelled.

“Oh no little sister,” Diana said, loving every moment of her sisters suffering. “We have things we need to discuss.” She reached out and grabbed a hold of Terra’s arm.

Enraged that Diana would try to stop her when she so clearly needed to get going, Terra slipped her hand from her sister’s grip and flipped it around on her. She grabbed her arms and pushed her against the closest wall.

“Diana you need to MOVE,” she screamed, “You are my sister and I love you but I swear to the Creator that if you do not get out of my way I will hurt you until you do. Not a lot because you’re my sister and I love you but enough so that you fall down and move.”

Not realizing she was doing it, Terra sent out a wave of magic that pinned her sister to the wall. Once she was sure her sister was done trying to stop her she ran again. She was nearly to the great hall when someone else stepped up to block her.

“Terra,” a familiar voice said. “What’s going on?”

Unable to stop, she ran straight in to Bell. He held onto her as she tried to break away and keep running. She struggled for a moment but she was frantic and couldn’t see well through tears that had sprung up from somewhere.

“Please Master Bell,” Terra pleaded. “I have to find him.”

“Find who?”

“Eric I have to find him, something’s wrong. I can’t feel him through the bond. I can’t . . .” she completely dissolved into manic sobs.

“Come this way,” Bell said, leading the princess out of the hallway. He had his arm around her shoulder and he spoke lowly and quietly as he hurried her along down another hallway. Terra could tell he was trying to calm her down, but she couldn’t understand a thing he was saying to her. It just sounded like water crashing against the rocks.

After a time, and she couldn’t say how long exactly, they arrived at a door. At Bell’s urging she went through door into a dark room. There was a heavy smell of incense in the air and it was nearly impossible to see. Terra walked forward slowly, not sure where she was or what was going on.

It struck her then that Eric must really be dead. That’s why the room was so dark. It was a viewing room. She was going to walk forward and find Eric’s body. He would be lying on a bed, ready for a grave. She stopped. She couldn’t walk forward anymore. She couldn’t see him lying dead because of her.

She still had no idea what was going on with her and Eric.

She knew that they had been thrown into an odd situation that resulted in them being bonded to each other and him being promoted to her Royal Guard. Still, there was more than that. It had truly felt like maybe, in time when she was older, there might really be something between them. Her dream last night had showed her that she cared a great deal for him. Terra felt so stupid now. She had never known any boy or man for that matter, long enough to care for him.

With Eric it seemed like things were moving at lightning speed. It was only two nights ago that she had her first real conversation with him. She had felt so grown that night. Walking in the cool evening air with a man and having a real grownup conversation. Even though there were a few points where things got a little rough, and they fought a little. Still the whole night seemed like a dream.

She thought about it all night and all the next morning as she got ready. Then Mammy gave her that dress and she must have looked nice. Eric’s jaw had nearly hit the floor when he’d seen her coming. She felt beautiful for the first time that day.

Eric made her feel beautiful. He made her feel like a woman not a girl. No one had ever treated her that way. She wasn’t the shadow princess to him.

To think that all of that could be over, that she would never see his smiling face again, or hear him laugh at her or see the face he made when he got embarrassed. Just the thought was more than she could handle.

“Terra,” a weak voice in the distance called.

Her head shot up, flinging tears out of her eyes.

“Eric?!” She shouted, voice cracking.

“Terra, you’re awake. Oh sweet creator, I can’t tell you how happy I am.”

Terra squinted her eyes, trying to see in the dark room. She could just barely make out the bed and maybe a shape on it. She rushed forward wishing there were more lights on so she could see or at least a few less drapes on the windows.

A candle next to the bed sputtered to life seemingly on its own.

There was Eric, lying in bed looking up at Terra. His skin was pale and waxen and he had black bags under his eyes. He looked sick and exhausted. But there was a smile on his lips and a sparkle in his eyes. He was so happy to see her that he didn’t even seem to notice, or care how unwell he was. For a moment it seemed like she could actually hear her heart break. That he would be able to smile at her and be happy she was there, when it was she who had put him there.

“Eric I’m so sorry,” she said. She rushed forward and threw herself onto the bed so that she was still standing but the top half of her rested on top of Eric. “This is all my fault! You haven’t even known me for three days and already you’ve been hurt so many times. I’m so sorry!” She sobbed into Eric’s chest.

Reaching up he stroked the Princess’s long dark hair. It was down today and it was getting so long it seemed. This poor sweet girl was so worried about him. It made him smile and despite himself, he chuckled.

Feeling the shaking in Eric’s chest Terra sat up to make sure he wasn’t hurt worse by her foolishly throwing herself on him. He wasn’t hurt, oh no. He was laughing, or as close to laughing as he could manage considering the fact that he was almost completely exhausted.

Smiling at the absolutely shocked look on Terra’s face, Eric reached up and put a hand on the side of her completely shocked face.

Eric smiled at the way Terra’s face went from shock to completely unsure in less than a second. He reached up with his other hand and cupped her face in his hands. She was beautiful. Not just beautiful, but smart and funny and tougher than most other people he knew. When he thought he had lost her, when he thought she had died, he realized that in this short space of time, Terra had found some way into his heart.

It was ludicrous, he knew that. To think that in the span of a few days she went from being the shadow princess to being part of his heart. He cared about her a good deal, probably more than he really wanted to admit to himself. He knew she was a princess and only fifteen, and he was a royal guard and twenty five. But here and now, in this room, he was just Eric and she was just Terra. He grabbed her wrist suddenly and pulled her toward him. She landed mostly on top of him with her face inches from his.

“Terra,” he whispered searching her eyes, “I thought you died. For a moment I thought you had actually ceased to exist. Now I don’t know if it’s the bond, or if it’s something else. But I know that I care about you, more than I should care about you. I know that ever since that night with the fireflies, something about you stuck in mind and in my heart.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen but I know that I needed to tell you. Just in case something else happens and I never get the chance.

“Oh and I needed to do this too.” Leaning forward Eric closed the gap between them and kissed her.

Terra froze.

She’d never been kissed before.

It was amazing.

Eric’s lips met hers and she froze. Her whole body seemed to suddenly be on fire. Without knowing what she was doing, Terra jumped back suddenly. Away from the kiss, away from Eric and even off the bed.

“Eric I can’t . . .” she stammered. “I’m sorry but I can’t.”

“Terra,” he faltered, unable to keep the hurt from his voice. “I’m sorry I shouldn’t have done that. I overstepped. I crossed the line and it was a mistake. Please forgive me.”

“Forgive you,” she repeated. She could have laughed if it wasn’t so devastating. “You don’t have to apologize to me. I should apologize to you.” Tara sat down and grabbed both of Eric’s hands. “Look at what’s happened to you in the last few days. Look at how many times in the last three days something bad has happened. Eric you almost died. All of that was because of me, because of your proximity to me.

“If this happens, if we give in to these feelings and get closer, I’m afraid you might actually end up dead. We simply cannot feel this way.”

Eric took a deep breath. He was still so worn from everything that it was hard to keep up with everything that was going on. “Terra, I care about you. You telling me that you don’t want me to because it could be bad for my health isn’t going to stop that. Trust me I tried to stop it. You’re only fifteen. I’m ten years your senior, not to mention your Royal Guard. I tried to stop myself from looking at you this way, but it doesn’t work.”

“Eric,” she pleaded miserably, “you have to stop. I can’t have your death on my conscience.”

“No,” he replied smiling. “I can’t stop. Honestly, I don’t think I want to.”

Terra sighed. She was hoping he would understand. She wanted him to get that he was in danger if he cared about her. Why couldn’t he see that? She was trying to protect him! She cared about him, like he cared about her. But she wouldn’t allow herself if it meant she was putting him in danger. She would have to expose herself to the darkness in Grey’s heart every day. It was more than possible that one day she might try to hurt him, or herself.

“Terra,” Eric said, “I won’t stop. You understand that don’t you? I can’t. I don’t know how and I’m not sure I would want to anyway.” He put his hand on her face again. This time when he pulled her face closer she knew what was coming.

“Don’t ask me to do the impossible.”

He kissed her again. Terra didn’t pull away and she didn’t freeze either.

This time she kissed him back.

He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her against him.

Terra let him.

When he pulled back, joy and something a little darker, sparkled in his eyes.

“You can’t tell me that you didn’t feel anything,” Eric said, sounding breathless.

“I can’t,” she uttered miserably, silent tears streaming down her face. “That’s the problem.”

Without warning Terra jumped up again and ran from the room. She was out the door and down the hall before Eric could even think to react. She ran down the main hall and around corner after corner. She didn’t know where she was running she just knew that she had to get away from him. She couldn’t take this feeling in her heart. It was more than she could handle right then.

“Princess?”

Terra skidded to a stop and looked up. There was a young kitchen maid in front of her looking more than a little alarmed. Somehow she had run all the way down to the kitchen and not realized it.

“Jenny,” she said.

“Princess,” Jenny replied, bowing. “Have you come to take lunch to the prisoner?”

“Prisoner?”

“Yes ma’am. The prisoner you have to serve food to,” Jenny said in a whisper.

“Oh right. Yes that’s why I’m here. Where is the tray?”

“Right here princess,” she said, she stepped back and indicated to a tray sitting on one of the kitchen tables. “Will you be taking it now?” Jenny asked eyeing Terra’s bare feet and her loose hair.

“Yes. Like this, right now.” Terra snatched up the tray and headed for the basement. She passed by a number of people, all who stared openly at her and her odd appearance. Terra hardly took note. She moved through the common areas and down into the basement as fast as she could.

Diana stood pined to the wall.

She had never seen Terra so angry. She had certainly never felt Terra’s magic so intense before. Her little sister wasn’t exactly quick to anger. In her lifetime Diana couldn’t say for sure if she’d ever seen her sister the way she had been just then. She had certainly never dared to attack Diana before. Just thinking about it made her vision go red.

She tried again to get off the wall.

Still stuck.

Diana was furious.

Aside from the fact that it was humiliating being stuck to the wall like some kind of idiot, the nerve of Terra treating Diana like this. She was already going to get a beating like she wouldn’t ever forget. Now to add this on top of all of that?! Diana was going to have to get really creative. She wanted her sister to know just how much she had messed up. She wanted Terra to cringe at the thought of ever overstepping her bounds again.

Like the snapping of fingers, Diana was released.

She pushed herself off the wall. She was too mad to go to lunch. She didn’t want to see anybody and risk murdering the next idiot who was foolish enough to cross her. Deciding she needed to think of how best to handle Terra, Diana returned to her room and to her spell books. She had always thought the dusty volumes Bell made her study were outdated and not worth her time.

As she picked up the book that dealt with curses and hexes she started thinking she might have been mistaken.

Terra approached the large wooden doors at the bottom of the spiral staircase. As she made her way across the floor the two guards who had been posted outside the room jumped up to attention. One of them nearly knocked over the table they had been playing cards on.

“Princess,” they said simultaneously, giving her a formal salute and bowing.

“Is everything alright?” One asked, looking over her strange appearance.

“Yes everything is fine. I just want to get this over with as soon as I can.” Terra added seeing unconvinced faces of the two guards.

“We understand, highness,” the other guard said shooting his partner a shut-the-hell-up face. “We understand you’ve had a hard few days. Let us get the door for you.” They stepped aside and each one grabbed a door and pulled them slightly apart. Terra nodded to both guards and slipped through.

As soon as she was through the door she could feel Grey’s eyes on her. Ignoring his very probing stare, she walked to the table and set down the tray. There was no food on it for her right now so she didn’t have to sort anything.

“Princess, is it just me or do you feel somehow less . . . bonded? Is it safe to assume than that our dear Captain Reynolds has perished? Or is it too early in the afternoon for good news?” Grey asked, probing at Terra’s exposed mind.

“I hate to disappoint,” she said, “But Guard Reynolds is fine. He’s just weak and so the bond is weak. Can you please pass me the tray from last night? I’m afraid if I don’t return it to the kitchen, the chef will have me drawn and quartered and then severed for dinner.”

“Oh no,” Grey said, “There’s something more going on than that. Look at you, hair down, barefoot, eyes red from crying no doubt. You, Terra, are a mess.”

“And you, Grey, are nothing short of a cad.”

“A cad? Seriously, that’s the best you have?” Grey laughed, grabbing the trey from his table and walking to the wall. He tried to push the tray through but it hit the glass and glanced off. “Convenient.” He muttered.

“How do I get it out?” She asked aloud.

“How should I know? This isn’t my pretty glass box, you tell me.”

Ignoring him, Terra walked to the box and placed her left hand on the glass. It was smooth and cool under her hand. It seemed to almost hum with power. Taking a deep breath, she pushed against the wall harder. Then, like it was as solid as water, the glass gave way and her hand pushed through.

Alarmed, Terra yanked her hand back.

“I guess it really is keyed to you,” Grey said under his breath.

“I guess so,” she muttered. “Well now that we know how that works, hold up the tray and I’ll pull it through.”

Curious, Grey did as she asked.

Again Terra put her hand to the glass and pushed through it. Her hand came through the other side and grasped the tray. Grey released it and she pulled it through. There was no sign on the glass that anything had passed through, and both Terra’s hand and the tray were fine.

“Amazing,” she marveled, the faintest smile playing on her lips. It was the closest she’d come to smiling since Mammy came in the room this afternoon.

“Yes, truly remarkable,” Grey quipped sarcastically, “now can we get on with the food. I didn’t get breakfast today ya know.”

“Of course,” she said, her smile vanishing. She set down the polished silver tray and picked up the one with Grey’s food on it. She passed the tray through the glass and handed it off to him. He sat at the table and started to devour the food.

Terra walked back to the other table and looked at the polished silver tray. Her reflection stared back up at her. Grey was right. She looked terrible. Her eyes were puffy and red and her skin seemed unusually pale. Her black hair was down and a mess from running all around the castle as though she was a crazy person. She reached up and pulled her hair over her shoulder. She ran her fingers through it until it looked alright and started to braid it.

A strange sound drew her attention back to Grey. For a moment she was afraid he might be chocking. ‘Please don’t be dying,’ Terra thought frantically as she turned. ‘I don’t know if I can get in there to help.

Grey was still sitting but his face was different now. He was seemed to have stopped halfway through chewing the chicken that had been served for lunch. As soon as she turned to face him he changed back to his usual cocky self. He kept eating but now his eyes were intently focused on Terra.

“What’s wrong?” She asked sensing something was off.

“Nothing,” he said through a mouth full of food.

“Something’s wrong,” Terra said studying his face. “You didn’t look right a second ago.”

“Look this isn’t dinner. You can take you pretty tray and leave. I don’t want to have to look at you anymore right now.” Grey was bitter and angry, so much so that Terra was actually shocked.

Shocked and hurt.

Which she knew was stupid.

This man was a monster. Not just a monster, but a murderer. Countless lives had been lost because of this despicable man. He was darkness incarnate. That’s what everyone always told her. Shadows killed so many people. One had almost killed her and another had taken her sister.

This man was the enemy.

There was nothing good inside him anymore.

Maybe there never was in the first place and that was why the shadows took him so young.

Terra knew all of that. But there was part of her that refused to believe that a person could be all bad or be all consumed by darkness. She could sense the darkness in him. It was like looking down a dark well. It was pitch black and she couldn’t see the end.

Still, she refused to believe there wasn’t even a spark of light in him.

All people had light in them. She had to believe that.

So, standing there, listening to the words he had said, Terra felt her eyes start to water, she felt like an idiot. She grabbed the tray and turned away. Not bothering to look back she walked slowly out the door.

Grey watched Terra go. It was all he could do not to laugh at how pathetic she looked head down, shoulders slumped. This princess was nothing short of an idiot. She stood there and thought on and on about how he was a good man inside and he couldn’t be all bad.

Ridiculous.

He was nothing but darkness. He never had been and never would be anything other than the darkest shadow the world would ever see. If Terra was so sure he could be saved, than corrupting her and turning her against her friends and family might be easier than he thought.

Done with his food, Grey stood and started to pace the length of his glass cell.

Without her bond to Reynolds, the little shadow had been much more vulnerable. Like the first time she had come wondering down into the basement, with just a bit of work he was able to get into her mind and see her thoughts.

Reynolds featured predominantly. He wasn’t able to see all of it, but he could tell that Reynolds had made a move and she had shut him down. He could also see the feelings she had for him. There was something about the situation that tickled him. She cared for him and him for her but she wouldn’t make the move to protect him.

It seemed that the best way to get to Terra might be through Reynolds. Which would take care of two of his problems for the price of one. Reynolds was the one had led the group of men that had fought and caught him. Then he went and got himself bonded to the princess that he needed to use to get to Diana. At every turn that simpleton seemed to spring up to complicate his plans.

After another moment or two of careful thinking, Grey decided. He would use Eric to make the crack in Terra’s heart. Once the crack was there, he would pour his darkness into it and widen it. Little by little every day he would darken her obnoxiously bright heart and corrupt her. Then she would be his little shadow and he could use her to get to Diana.

All he had to do was get to Reynolds.

That shouldn’t be too hard.

His only real problem was that, for whatever reason, Terra now bore the same scars he did. Except that hers were white and his were black. He had been so caught off guard his breath had actually caught in his throat. He knew that she was in pain last night; he had felt her feel something. He wasn’t sure how much she felt or even if had known where the pain came from.

In truth, he was more surprised that she felt anything at all.

Typically you had to be bonded to feel the pain of another. Well, bonded or hexed. As far he knew he wasn’t either. Still, somehow she had felt his pain so much that she was scared the same as him.

The pain and the scaring aside, he was sure Terra had appeared before him. Not physically of course, more like her aura took from and appeared to him. He’d never heard of something like it happening before, at least not without the person knowing they were doing it.

She appeared before him, all silvery white and purple. Her very being seemed to radiate light and purity. It was the first time he had experienced such a radiating purity. If he hadn’t been so distracted by the pain he was pretty sure her light might have actually burned him.

Despite the fact that she was his enemy and the fact that he was planning to brutally murder her entire family, she chose to take away his pain.

Then, just now, she had walked in dressed in silver. She looked so much like she had the night before. He actually stared, openly in fact. It was a very good thing she had been ignoring him when she came in. If she had seen his face then she would never have left. He knew so little about what had happened last night and the last thing he needed was the so called shadow princess demanding answers of him that he didn’t have.

Worse than that, if she had seen his face and he had refused to tell her she could go back on her word and stop coming down. That was something he could not allow to happen. She was instrumental to all that he had planned.

The more he thought about it the more he realized that the sooner he started to corrupt that girl, the better off he would be.


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