Alaric hoped he was not too late. He crept along the dimly lit corridors, ducking into crevices whenever he heard a pair of trolls approaching, before slipping back into the passageway. He knew just how vindictive Phaedra could be and the idea that Isabel may be tortured or even killed before he could reach her made his stomach twist into painful knots. He could hear shouting and rushed towards the sound. The shouting grew louder and the prince discovered the voices belonged to Phaedra and Rakad. He spied a mountainous unholy creature hovering outside the door of the sorceress’ bedchamber and ducked back around the corner he had come. The prince crossed to a window and peered out. The ledge beneath it was just wide enough for him to creep along to the window of the bedchamber.
“Why not drain her essence and be done with it?” Rakad was saying. “We have the Silver Fleet and the Heart of Kendra, we have no more need for the Duke or his daughter!”
“Fool! We do not yet know how to wield their powers. We may still need the girl to fly the Fleet.”
“As it happens I have already maneuvered the fleet unhindered.” He snorted. “Once I drain the lady’s essence I suspect I shall have dominion over the vessels as well and I will have no use for you either. In fact, I do not think I have need of you now.”
Phaedra’s voice contained ice. “You forget your place, clod. While I have yet to determine what power the wench holds, your banishment to the Oblivion shall become a reality if you vex me further!”
There was a moment of silence before she continued. “I shall take her essence. You may have the husk to do with as you please, in the meantime the Duke of Kendra is yours.”
“Mm, a poor substitute but it will have to do, I suppose.”
Alaric crept closer to the window where he could see Isabel plastered against the wall, her face bruised and bloodied. Her father stood frozen as the Lord of the Underworld smiled, a hungry look entering his eyes as he took hold of the man. Omar suddenly sprang to life, kicking and screaming as the deity planted his mouth onto his. The room felt as if the air was being sucked out of it and Omar’s body suddenly went limp. It began to glow and shrivel and Alaric clapped a hand over his mouth to stifle a scream as he watched the Lord of the Underworld consume the Duke entirely. Across the room Isabel’s face was frozen in terror, her mouth open in a scream that would not come.
“Ah,” Rakad sighed, “that will suffice, for now. I will be back for the girl later.”
“Just be sure you organize your minions better and go find Torquil. His forces should be ready to join yours.”
Rakad disappeared and Phaedra turned her attention back to Isabel. She grabbed the amulet and tore it from her captive’s neck, but when she opened her hand she found the pendant had crumbled into dust. Phaedra screamed with rage and threw the dust onto the floor. She grabbed Isabel by the throat and pulled a long knife from her sleeve.
“How long?” The sorceress spat.
Isabel barely heard the question. In such a short amount of time she discovered the man she spent her whole life despising had been working as a spy for the Mirror Mages. Not the spineless unreliable coward she took him for, her father had given his life to save his people, to save them all.
“How long have you worn the amulet?”
“A-all my life.”
“Well my dear, it appears the amulet was a fake all along.” She hissed. “You are the power behind the Silver Fleet, you are the Heart of Kendra.”
The sorceress traced the point of the blade along Isabel’s cheek. Surprisingly, Isabel discovered she no longer felt any fear. Her family, among others, had been torn apart by this woman’s actions. Her entire life had been turned upside down by the whims of this evil bitch. Her mother had dedicated her life to eradicating the sorceress and others like her and her father, having redeemed himself in the end, gave his life to right a terrible wrong.
Suddenly, Isabel could feel the strength of her father’s love within her. The power of thousands of Mirror Mages coursed through her veins. No more fear, no more self-pity, now she was pissed! Isabel held Phaedra’s gaze and smiled when fear sprung into her enemy’s eyes.
“It seems then,” the sorceress was saying, “that my only recourse is to kill you and believe you me, that is something I will relish doing.”
Isabel replied, her voice steely, “You should have killed me when you had the chance!”
The sorceress cackled and raised her dagger but gasped when Isabel broke the bonds that held her to the wall. Suddenly Phaedra shrieked in pain. Dropping the knife and clutching her arm she discovered a dagger had pierced right through her wrist. She spun around to find Prince Alaric standing before her, his broadsword drawn.
“Mistress!” A voice cried from the other side of the door.
“Kerwin, to me!” The sorceress commanded.
The doors bobbed back and forth as the creature pounded against them but remained tightly shut. Phaedra glared at Isabel who smiled. “Will you look at that? It worked!”
“So it did,” Phaedra hissed. “As it happens, I have a few magic tricks of my own!”
From her sleeve she drew a wand, which grew into a staff, glowing as Phaedra raised her arms. Isabel lunged for her, throwing her to the ground and causing the staff to skitter away. Phaedra flung Isabel from her with extraordinary strength and charged towards the staff, which snapped and crackled waiting to be used. Isabel leapt forward, grabbing her foot, and pulled her to the ground. Phaedra kicked out but Isabel was on top of her and rolled her away from the staff. Isabel was on her feet but so too was Phaedra, who summoned the staff to her. As it flew through the air Isabel grasped it just as it reached Phaedra and they fought to wrench the staff from the other’s grip. A bolt of lightning shot out as Phaedra slammed against the wall sending shockwaves through the castle. Isabel stumbled back breaking her hold on the staff.
Isabel felt more than heard Phaedra’s laughter as bolts of electricity surged through her body. She could feel the blood pumping in her ears in time to her heartbeat, as the room seemed to slow and spin. Seeing only the sorceress’ eyes before her as Isabel began to writhe in absolute torment, she realized Phaedra was taking her essence.
“Isabel!” Alaric cried.
The prince hefted his sword and launched it at the sorceress like a javelin. She gasped as it sunk into her chest and threw her against the wall. The bolts disappeared and Isabel’s lifeless body sank to the floor.
Alaric rushed to her side and gathered her in his arms. He caressed her face and kissed her softly on the lips. His heart wrenched. No, he could not lose her, not again!
“Isabel? Come back to me, my love,” he whispered. “Please!”
Isabel’s eyelids fluttered and slowly opened. Her eyes traveled along the prince’s face and for a moment he thought she did not know him. Then she smiled weakly. “Alaric, still the hero I see.”
He placed kisses on her eyes and cheeks. “Of course, my damsel was in distress.”
An expression Alaric couldn’t make out flitted briefly across Isabel’s face and she slowly sat up, wincing as she tried to stand.
“What are you doing?”
“Well, we can’t stay here, Alaric.”
As if to validate her point, the savage sound of growling and deep roars in the hall signaled the arrival of more trolls, goblins, and other unearthly creatures. The bonds Isabel had placed on the doors started to crumble.
“You are right, the enemy will be upon us.”
“Besides,” Isabel said, steadying herself, “we have a war to win!”
The prince scooped her up into his arms, hushing her protests with a kiss that made her insides melt. As the monsters burst into the room Alaric ran towards the window and leapt out, landing on the back of a chameleonic dragon as it swooped by.