Chapter Fourteen: Is Anyone Else Getting Deja Vu?
The cell was cold and drab, a vast contrast from the elegant halls above. The only light source was from one of the few torches that lined the corridor outside of their prison, its orange light split into neat sections as it passed through the iron bars, stopping the four from being plunged entirely in darkness.
This wasn’t the first time the four had been thrown in a cell. And they suspected that if they made it out of this, it wouldn’t be the last. But this time, more than ever. Silence reigned supreme as they all digested what had just happened. The bloodied bodies they’d seen. Or what was left of them.
This story had taken a turn. They all missed when it was simple. When the only monsters they knew of were the shades. Not ones who cut down innocents. Or the ones who would order such an act.
None felt this sentiment as much as Jamal, who had been spent his time so far reliving that memory over and over again.
June and V had spent their time with Otis, who’d only recently regained his consciousness. And despite the crack he took to the head, he was probably the luckiest out of all of them. His brief nap had left him blissfully unaware of the events that had transpired mere moments before, something the others envied.
“We should try and talk to him again,” whispered June, her eyes glancing at Jamal’s slouched form.
Jamal hadn’t spoken to anyone since it happened. It was pointless, or so V thought. But June wasn’t gonna let her spin another excuse, so she shot her a look that would change her mind.
“I guess it’s worth another try,” V caved, catching June’s expression. She stood up and made her approach.
“What happened?” Otis asked quietly. Watching as V walked over to Jamal,
June didn’t know where to start.
V slowly slid down the stone wall next to Jamal. He didn’t acknowledge her arrival. His eyes stayed glued to the ground.
It wasn’t a brilliant start. It also didn’t help that V wasn’t good at consoling people when it came to meaningless stuff, so it was safe to say she was out of her depths on this one too. If anything, she was drowning in it.
“Why would he do that?” said Jamal abruptly. Taking V off guard with his sudden ability to speak.
“I-I don’t know. I…” V sighed. “I didn’t know he would be capable of something like that.”
Jamal looked at her. Silence returned, but this time it didn’t stay for long.
“My brothers were always braver than me,” Jamal said, pausing for a moment. Something that V would usually see as her chance to talk. But this time, she let Jamal have the spotlight. She’d had enough of it for now. “My parents would talk about them all the time. Their brave heroes. And then there was me. The one who stayed behind. And I hated them for that.”
“You are brave Jamal. They don’t give the title of Dragon Slayer to anyone,” V replied, placing a hand onto his shoulder in a way she assumed would be comforting. But it drew Jamal’s attention to something else. The cape he had been dragging around the kingdom.
“I don’t even deserve this,” Jamal said quietly, reaching toward that famous cape. Before V could say anything else, he tore it clean off his shoulders and threw it across the cell. All whilst June watched on. She had regretted sending V over for a heart to heart.
June got up, gesturing for Otis to stay put as she walked closer to pick up the discarded cape, returning it to its owner. Or trying to, anyway.
“You should’ve let me die back in Bellkeep,” Jamal said solemnly, cutting June’s retrieval short.
“Don’t say that,” replied June quickly, dropping the cape to the side. She kneeled down to meet Jamal’s eye level.
“You don’t get it. I’m not like you,” Jamal said, avoiding June’s gaze. “I never even touched that dragon. I’m a fraud. I can barely keep a hold of a sword, let alone swing it.”
The others were confused at first, but that’s when it set in. Their night in the cave. What Jamal had said. He was in the wrong place at the right time. The state they’d found him in when they arrived at the bar. He was trying to ease the guilt he felt. Now, with even more blood spilt. It must’ve been suffocating.
“Perhaps you’re not perfect, I’m not either…” June trailed off for a moment. She couldn’t believe what she was about to say. “In fact, I’ve made mistakes too.”
Jamal didn’t even dignify her with a response.
June dug deeper.
“Okay, alright. I’ve fucked up okay!” she said, taking them all by surprise. “You want to know something? I was supposed to return to the monastery months ago but I just couldn’t. The truth is I don’t actually know what I want to believe now. Not after everything I’ve seen,” she confessed, prematurely preparing herself for the judgement. What she got instead, however, was a little different.
V had started applauding. And whilst Jamal and Otis hadn’t joined in. Their faces lacked the disgust June had been expecting. In fact, she felt a bit better getting it out of her system.
“Me too. I fucked up. Me and my friend got involved in some messy stuff and it ended up hurting a lot of people. So, they kicked me out of the academy and I’ve been on the road ever since,” Otis chimed in.
“What happened to your friend?” Jamal asked.
Otis didn’t reply. But he didn’t need to. Jamal moments before had been wearing the same expression.
“And I don’t think I need to tell you about my boundless amount of fuck-ups,” said V, hoping to lighten the mood. And she succeeded, somewhat anyway. The aura of the room had now turned bittersweet.
Jamal had a question, however. One that had been bugging him ever since they were thrown into the dark cell. He turned over to Otis.
“Weren’t you gonna tell us something?” he said.
Otis didn’t know what he was talking about. But that’s when the gears in his head turned once more. With a gasp, Otis sprung up. Leading June to reach out in case he lost his balance again. But he was fine. Or as close to fine as he could be.
“Yes, yes. I talked to the warlock, or well, the warlock talked to me. It doesn’t matter, what does matter is that stories of the great four aren’t real,” Otis exclaimed. The others were starting to think he might have lost it.
“Of course they’re not, they’re exaggerated stories genius,” V said, returning to her default tone of sarcasm.
“Otis, I think you should sit down,” June insisted kindly, all whilst shooting V a discerning look.
“Guys just let him talk,” Jamal cut in. “What else Otis?”
“Every generation has its own version of the great four. But they’re not legends or chosen ones. And neither are we. We’re sacrifices. An offering is what the Warlock called it.”
“Wait, we’re what?” V said.
“Yeah, sorry Otis, but you’re losing me,” Jamal added, equally confused.
“There’s one thing that can stop the shades from coming in. They’re called the Overseer. They live outside of our world. The chamber under the castle is the only way to access it.”
“But why does it require us?” asked June, leaning in for an answer.
“Stuff like that requires power. It’ll have to drain us to pull it off. It requires four souls.”
And with that, June wished she hadn’t asked.
“So, that’s it. We die or the entire kingdom does?” Jamal said, letting out a sigh.
“Looks like I’ll be missing my boat,” V said, though she didn’t draw any chuckles. Not even from herself.
“I guess we were all in the wrong place, huh?” Otis said.
“Yeah,” June replied.
“Well, don’t you four look a bit down in the dumps?” said a familiar voice behind them. The four all turned to meet the source.
“It’s you,” Otis said as his eyes set on the figure.
It was the sage. And the four weren’t so happy to see her.
Despite there being an iron gate between them, they all got up and approached her. Though their intentions were unclear at first.
“So, I’m guessing you all know about the overseer now then,” she said, seeing their anguished faces. Ones she got to see really close up when she was pulled by her collar into the bars.
“Wait!” shouted the sage, lifting her hands up in surrender. “Listen, I know you’re angry and rightly so, but hear me out!”
The four looked amongst each other. They didn’t really have any other options. Hurting her would not accomplish anything other than some minor stress relief. So they released her.
“You better talk lady, and I don’t want to hear any of that melodramatic shit again you hear me?” V said, watching as the sage straightened her robes.
“Well, seem as you asked so nicely,” she said. “But it would be best if you treat me with a bit more respect. Because believe it or not, I’m going to be your only way out of this. So, do yourself a favour and listen up.”