The Secret Twilight

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The last couple of days at home mostly consisted of me finishing up my homework and training with Ari out on the fields around my town. I had to keep my fitness up, and such was hard without the harsh school routine. We would head up to the fields, set up tones of invisibility shields, enchant some dummies and stick on the tunes. I don’t know about other warriors, but I was brought up on music. Before I went to school, I used to study with relaxing music in the background, and when I’m in the common room, I allow the music from downstairs to play in the background. My maths teacher back in my old school used to continually play the radio during class and the other human children love it. My training music was slightly different from my study music, thanks to an awesome playlist put together by Mary. I also made sure to look out the box my wand formerly resided in; it gave no clues. But it could be from the age of Queens, it certainly looked old enough. Yet, there were some initials scratched in tiny letters on the wood on the inside with a fading inscription.

Trusted to the protection of M.E. signed…

I couldn’t quite make out the signature, but this could mean something. It meant that someone must know something about my powers and this wand was entrusted to them for protection, however, entrusted by who was evidence fading into history.

Returning to school after the new year was a relief. I had gotten so used to living with the team, I couldn’t wait to return to it. One thing on my mind was desperately trying to stay hidden from the Council even though I planned to enter the Inter-School Championships. With all this new information on the Governor, I wondered if he would recognise a royal just by their fighting style. I knew that mine was quite unique in that I would aim as much force with as little energy I could in whatever way possible. It’s probably an understatement that I like to take risks, but I wanted people to see me. I figured that if I entered the Championship, people might get the hint. Yet, I was still figuring out how to reveal the Queen existed without revealing that I was her. The team and I again used the portal system to get to school. It wasn’t essential to enter through customs unless we planned to travel around America, in which case we might have to pass through some form of security.

The first thing we did was have a proper discussion with the other girls. We had left so abruptly after the dance that I never fully got a chance to see what they knew. Mary and Starlight were the first to figure it out, and Poppy was self-convinced she could smell we were royal. Charlie quickly followed their assumptions and confirmed them through her demigod links. But she spent the holidays fighting monsters in the desert, which is why she never turned up to the solstice party at camp. Laura, on the other hand, took her time coming around, as she was torn between family and belief. She wasn’t raised by the Council itself. Still, she was taken to dinners and parties frequently, and such turned out to be very political events. It wasn’t until she found out that the Council were issuing death sentences out to people just for existing, that she considered a review of her beliefs. She was especially shocked to find out that if she was born to one of the Councilmen, she would be dead already. She considered herself lucky she was a once-removed Council child. Finding out they all knew was a relief, as it was good to have people who were simply friends fighting alongside me. I didn’t, however, tell them that Ari was Avalonian, I just showed her to them in her shrew form. It was the one secret I wanted to keep, as revealing it might place her in more danger. I had no idea if you could put a Power block on a Drakon and I didn’t wanna risk anyone getting a chance. This new knowledge drew us closer together but made Rachel dwell on her most recent prophecy. Knowing that someone close was going to die, just made me want to cherish each friend I had.

When Saturday came around a few days later, I had a ton of questions lined up for Nicolas as we went on our weekly ride. He was never usually late, but that particular week he ran in just as I was going to give up on him.

“Sorry, my father called,” he gasped for breath. “Something about a prison breakout and all traces leading to a rebel base that can never be found.”

“I didn’t know that I was authorised to receive Council secret intelligence. Anyway, why did you run here? It’s not like this is a scheduled meeting, we never arrange to ride together we just happen to ride at the same time.”

“I suppose I just assumed you liked riding with me. Also, my father asked me to tell you, he was curious about how you would react, especially after what he told me what he told you at the dance. You were neither surprised nor showing knowledge of such an event, so I don’t really have anything to report back. So, shall we ride?”

I agreed and got onto Ari’s trembling back and prepared to take off. I could tell that the escape of Ella and her sister was an uncomfortable subject for Nicolas, as he wished to dismiss the conversation so quickly. It made me wonder again on his true intentions as the future Governor of Cantainia. This was the second time; he spoke in a way that wasn’t typical of a Council leader.

The ride itself went as normal, chasing centaurs, diving in and out of the water. I felt so much better being back in America than I did at home, even if I did have to keep watching my back for the Council. Afterwards, as we were brushing down the horses, Nicolas asked me about the School Championships as the final try-outs were that week. I told him that I was entering, and it wasn’t because I wanted to see if I was good, it’s because I knew I was good. It only happens once every three years to give seniors at least one chance to enter and to avoid the same person winning twice. Three are chosen from each year to fight each other, and from the whole school, the top seven are chosen. They, along with each champion’s selection of fans and prep team, are then taken to a host school to compete against the other schools. Anyone from any year can enter, as battle training is the only subject where one develops at their own pace. Apparently, a few championships ago, a 13-year-old won it against all the odds. I must say, however, that people are not supposed to die on the field (some die in hospital later though). Still, there’s always one champion that pushes too hard and lets their weapons deliver a fatal blow. Obviously, they are disqualified and punished accordingly (whatever that means). This year the host school was Arianna Academy. Which I thought would be an adventure to fly all the way to the Alps and experience another picturesque location like the one I was looking at that moment.

Before I could even think about the try-outs, though, Professor Kingsley had an interesting lesson for us. She was the only one I really paid attention to. That day she was taking over biology to do her annual history collaboration class.

“Last semester, you learnt how our Powers allow us to dominate humankind and the difference between our genes and theirs, as well as the basics on the different kinds of Cantainian creatures. This semester you’ll be learning about the limitations of such Powers and to do so we begin with a lesson into deep history. Concerning the source of our Powers, we simply do not know, and such knowledge is beyond the myth. It was said that a tree that was forever in season nested outside the city walls within a mountain range. It was to such a tree that people believed kept the enchanted world separate from the rest, as many enchantments were fuelled by its life force. A shield of concealment, warnings of intruders, protection of crops, etc. The most significant of these being an enchantment more powerful than Power itself. How it was cast, we do not know, but it placed five limitations on Cantainian Powers. One, Powers cannot kill or torture another living soul, such was only to be done with arrow and sword to emulate guilt and create mercy. Two, a Cantainian cannot become more powerful than what they are born with, to limit greed and lust for Power. Three, each Cantainian shall only be issued with as many Powers as their mind can handle, to limit how much power one can hold over another. It also creates a sense of worth and equality. Four, the emotion of Love can never be manipulated. Finally five, a person cannot be totally possessed to the point of not having any free will. As a result, Cantainians have an embedded sense of how to morally use their Powers, and very few people have inherited more than three Powers. Any more and you’re slipping into the questionable monarchy.”

Now here I can see why some people don’t like the idea of a monarchy, we’re just too powerful. For a start, I have at least ten Powers that I know of, and that doesn’t look good against your average citizen. But then there’s the question of moderation and modesty, surely, I can limit my daily usage to that of a normal Avalonian and just use my full Power for fighting. These rules are all well and good, but it makes no sense when compared to Tiberius. He is well known to have unusual forms of torture, the reports that laid in my room at that moment stated he killed without leaving a trace of a cause of death. Also, he has obviously learnt many new Powers, and many are obviously used to make others feel inferior. How could he have accomplished breaking three, maybe even four, of the unbreakable rules and still be alive? Plus, he doesn’t seem to have a recorded magical signature either, which makes it even harder to prove all this. I was determined to find out more about this area, but I had no idea where to start.

Turns out I was closer than I thought to finding this out. I was swimming one night in January, and as I was pulling myself out on one side of the cliff of which the school stood, I felt another mind just on the other side. The beach was tidal, and so there was only a short ten or so minutes at mid-tide at which to dry myself. If I could learn to transform in the water, it would be useful, especially in this situation. I was debating whether to wait till the next tide or dry up now and take my chances when the voice came shouting around the corner.

“If it pleases you, I would like to speak on political terms of feminine nature. I’ll wait for you to dry off,” a boy said.

I was curious, this was the exact same expression the demigod boys used when they came to our table, yet they didn’t, nor did anyone besides the Eternal Ones, know that I was Queen. Talking to me at night would mean real secret information, but in the school grounds, it wasn’t safe. So, I called Ari to keep an eye in the sky, while I would use my wand for self-protection. Dragging myself onto land was not pretty, and it never is. I’ve had a couple scratches from stones, and there is no quick way to do it or get back into the water. I suppose I could roll it, but my coordination is rubbish. Anyway, after I’d dried off, I stood up, brushed my jeans down and ensured my charm was secure. I then placed my hand to my necklace and brushed my finger over it, a habit I’d built up every time I felt worried or prayed. Sometimes it was to God just to be there and others it was in the hope the Eternal Ones were watching and would rescue their Queen, even though I knew this would never happen. Ari was far more reliable. I took my wand out and walked confidently around the corner where I found, to my surprise, Kayson.

“Innanma,” he said with a slight bow, then he paused obviously waiting for me to speak first. This was the first time I’d ever been met on a level of royal respect.

“Kayson, I accept your wish to speak to me. However, you must refrain from any formalities, it’s not safe around here.”

“Of course, Inn… sorry, my la… Alaїs.” He obviously wished to converse in formal terms, and this was the first time we had spoken. I wished we were in safer conditions, but I suppose there was nowhere else he could get me alone. “I’m sorry I’ve kept myself hidden from you, but I wasn’t entirely sure how to approach you,” he continued. “First, I wish to tell you how I found out and then I will listen to how we may proceed. I figured most of it out by watching you after that answer you gave in history, back at the start of the year. I knew you were a rebel, so I looked you up on the records, which are kept under the highest forms of security. When I couldn’t find your name, I anonymously contacted the two demigods that approached you, as they have often recruited people in the school. I didn’t tell them who to approach until the day before I saw you in the lake. That night I was tracking a Shadow and came upon you by coincidence. What I saw was surprising. I don’t know how much you know about Shadows, but they are wildly different from the ones cast by light. A Shadow is created when an Avalonian uses their Powers to kill someone and takes pleasure in it, showing no regret or remorse. I know there are unbreakable laws against it. Still, the Laws of Power doesn’t judge using telekinesis to push someone off a cliff, for example, as killing, as it is the landing that kills them. It would, however, prevent using Powers to stab someone with a knife to the heart. However, as long as they kill and do so several times, a Shadow will be created when they die. It passes from host to host; each time gaining Powers and strength and causes the host to use their Powers to kill. This is the last Shadow known to still exist and has destroyed and taken on the Powers of other Shadows. I have been tracking it for three years now, coming close twice. I know it’s been lurking around the school lately, which signals that the host is in the school.”

“What, like one of the teachers?” I asked, understanding that it must take on the person’s true form as well as the Shadow’s.

“Yea, I’ve got a few suspicions. Like Professor Peterson of the politics department, he’s on the Raider’s reserve list and serves with them during the Summer. Then there’s Professor Huntley of combat training. She’s got a special skill for picking out rebels and giving them extra hard challenges, likely to kill them and often succeeds. I’ve lost a few good warriors, thanks to her. Anyway, seeing the Shadow just stand there made me wonder, I was ready to shoot a lightning bolt at it, but that split second of hesitation and it was gone. Seeing how your Drakon’s shields didn’t faze it, both confirmed my suspicions that you were the Queen and that my tracking has led me true.”

“Well on the notion that each mind feels different, thus every Shadow feels different, I may have more information on this particular Shadow. It knows me, not just who I am, but what I am and what I can do. I first saw it the night I discovered my Mer heritage, it helped me to figure it all out. It knows something about my Mum but will not speak to me because that will require its host’s form. It’s been following me, showing up in all places. Yet, I don’t think they’re working for the Council, as nothing has happened. With what you’ve told me, I would suspect it odd for a Shadow to be on the rebel side. I believe it wants to help on some level. Yet doesn’t trust me with its host form.”

“That may well be right,” Kayson replied “but don’t automatically trust it, there’s no telling what they’ll do. The host may wish to help and be powerful enough to overcome and control the Shadow, but occasionally the Shadow must take charge. Unless of course, they’ve got some power over it, that it won’t burst out Anyway, just to let you know your secret is safe, I tried to give you a sign when the Governor was here, but I would like you to have verbal confirmation. After the Shadow left, I’m sorry to say, but I took a picture of your necklace as you turned around. I promise it wasn’t your face, but I just had to show the rebels you were alive.”

“Wait a minute, you’re the rebel leader?” I exclaimed “a friend to the Governor-to-be, the leader of the rebellion?!” Kayson nodded and explained.

“I was fourteen when the rebel meetings were first conducted by Percy and myself, but now it’s mainly me. He and his family have other responsibilities to attend to. That same year Nick appointed me his advisor, and I was able to work as a double agent for both sides. Percy knows my true loyalties lie with the rebels, but Nick believes me to be a spy trying to find the location of their bases. I do get around to telling him, but I’m always leading them to the fake camps. It frustrates them, but they believe it’s the rebels’ fault, not mine. I met up with Nick when I was travelling with my father. Nick and I became friends, I gave him my intelligence, he gives me weapons training, but he never had a chance to persuade me to his side. When I was thirteen, I went to a human summer camp and met Edmund, and that’s when I joined the rebels. So, there you go, now you know my story.”

“Well it’s a pleasure to meet the rebel leader, I hope we can work together on this.”

“I could hack into the records any time if you want me to, I’ve already done so, to protect your brother when he discovered that new Power back before Christmas,” he suggested

“Well thank you, I was surprised when the teachers dismissed it as transfiguration. I’ll let you know if I require that skill again, but I would like to think about it and discuss it with the rest of the team.” He nodded, realising the sensitivity of the situation. This was definitely the person I shouldn’t be trusting, on account of his Council persona; this could be the answer to Apollo’s prophesy. The advisor to the Governor was the last person I would trust. I was convinced. This is my greatest ally, I thought. I was now one step closer to defeating the enemy. But that step of trust wasn’t the end of that night’s conversation, there was more to be said.

Kayson continued “Just one more thing before I go. When you meet that Shadow again, and I’m sure you will ask them from me ‘Are you the Shadow known to evade Hades?’ I’m not exactly sure how, but only one Shadow has met Hades and not died as a result. Hades has laid traps over the centuries for Shadows, yet one keeps escaping. If the answer is ‘yes’, it may be harder for me to defeat it. This one has been around for so long; I wouldn’t be surprised. One rumour even says that one of its hosts came on the ship, suggesting it’s over a thousand years old. I would like to know, however, if they’re the enemy or not. Anyway, it’s late, and I’m sure my lady would agree with me that we’ve already spoken for too long.”

Sensing it was safe, I called Ari down from her position in the sky, and she landed onto my outstretched arm as a kestrel. I may not have been wearing much protection, but my jumper was enough to minimise the scratches. I’m used to her claws by now anyway. “Nice Drakon you’ve got there, her skills are very advanced.” He then leaned in closer to her and spoke to her directly, “take care of your Queen now, but then I probably don’t need to tell you that.” He then proceeded to stroke her head and then straightened up to face me. “By the way, what form did she take that night?

“Dolphin,” I replied confidently, not wishing to disclose the truth.

“Hmm, well it was a pleasure meeting you, Innanma. I hope to do so again,” with a smile, he turned and disappeared into the darkness of the night.

I like him Ari said, staying in her kestrel form just in case; however, I don’t think he’s told us everything.

“No one’s ever gonna tell us everything,” I explained, “this is an untrusting world where information is only exchanged as a last resort. It’s the Council, they’re so secretive and oppressive that it’s been reflected back on the people. We need to teach people to trust again and believe in the monarchy.” Ari nodded, jumped onto my shoulder and together we turned invisible and flew back to the dormitory.

As I came down to breakfast, I saw none other than Kayson, Nicolas, and another boy, I’d often seen with Nicolas, having a very hushed conversation. Out of sight of the others, Kayson was sure to give me an encouraging smile, which slightly assured me everything was alright. That weekend, it was announced that all new students would be allowed into town over the February half-term. This meant parents could take their kids out rather than be restricted to the school grounds. Students who had been here for years were already allowed out. It was only to ensure we had control over our Powers and could keep the secret, that we weren’t allowed out previously. Now, that might be sensible for 12-year-olds but here was me and the gang, 16-years-old, being able to hide for years and not allowed out. I bet there’s a brain-washing clause to this rule. That weekend was also going to be Peter’s 18th birthday, so the girls and I were busy planning how to incorporate the two. Mary just about got put in charge, thanks to her visioning genius, as Jason was busy trying to keep Peter distracted.

Another thing that happened in the days that followed was the try-outs. As expected, I soared to the top of the girls’ leader board and was now fending off guys to get picked as the top seven. They had no chance. They were all disarmed in minutes. Although, I must say my brother can undoubtedly take a lot of cuts and bruises, as I found out when I went against him. I should have known that Jason would give him a healing stone, as he is such a trickster and a cheat. Anyway, after ensuring I’d broken no rules or shown any un-registered Powers, I was free to get placed against anyone in the competition.

I never got to face off Nicolas, but I did get put against Leonidas for Power combat. There was no way I could beat him in a strength test, so I was slightly glad it was only power combat. However, then I remembered what Kayson said about the combat teacher who tried to catch rebels out. I had to appear to lose until the last minute, then overpower him, or I would be caught. This was a dangerous game this teacher was playing, and one she could have won have Kayson not warned me. Starlight was right, the signs were all there. People were soon gonna find out who I am. I needed to tone down my Power level if I wanted to get in the top seven. I know some people would tell me not to enter or even show interest in combat. Still, if the signs were there, I wanted to give out enough hints so that those who were looking could have a chance at knowing I existed, yet not enough to alert the enemy. Only two girls have ever won the Championships, and both were brutally killed in their end of school tests. Turns out dragons are the Council’s weapon of choice when it comes to covering up the murder and maybe throw in a few maluma as well.

Leonidas was pretty hard to beat, but I was ready for it. His shockwaves were the worst, and I could only appear to be using my four registered Powers and hope no one thought to take a Power scan afterwards. A wand can create shields, but these are one use only and shatter as it takes on the force of whatever hits it. Plus, spells use energy, just as every Power does. So naturally, Leonidas had to quit after three shock waves. Tip No.1 never use up all your energy in the first few minutes. Leonidas may be powerful, but he lacks strategy and forgets to assess the skills of his opponent. I only had to cast three shields and then stunning, and knockback spells and he was down in minutes. After using all his energy too soon, he had little left to fuel his reflective defence Power. It’s not a shield or absorber, it merely directs the force elsewhere. Ultimately this kicked him out of the competition, so much for Vice-Governor’s revenge. If he can’t learn to beat me, he’ll have no chance against Nicolas, regardless of how Nicolas fights.

The day before half-term, the leader board was announced. I was the only girl, and surprisingly I was in fifth place. Yet that was because I was placed against the low rankers as if they were trying to kick me out. Nicolas was top, no surprise there and someone called Kaer was in second. We were all called to the front of the Grand Hall, and when Kaer and Nicolas stood together, I realised this was the other boy I saw with Kayson. When the headmaster read my name, I immediately noticed the lack of cheers I got. The girls and the Twilights were obviously on their feet, alongside Professor Kingsley. But aside from them and a few outgoing rebels, no one else made a sound. The head barely even clapped. I never realised people could be so sexist or think that this was what expected of them. A few more rebels I knew gave me a supportive pat on the back in the corridors, but only because I was a girl representing the school. Not because they thought I was Queen or even a rebel. If this was the reaction of the people, my people, I was really gonna have to convince them to gain the army I so desperately needed. That was going to be easier said than done.

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