“Come out! Come out you Ten Royals of Fate!” a man standing at the head of a large and angry crowd called out to them. His voice reverberated around the massive hall they stood in, but it seemed the people he was calling out to weren’t present, or weren’t willing to answer the call.
The man stepped forward. “You must come out! You must face what you have done!” he shouted in a tone that only grew in anger. The crowd roared in agreement, some were holding baseball bats and other items to perhaps intimidate these Royals with.
One Royal was indeed peeking out at the crowd as he cracked open the door just enough to see. He quickly leaned back and shut the door fully, looking at his companion who had been staring over his shoulder. “They really seem mad,” he said softly. “What are we going to do?”
She glanced to the side thoughtfully, and then tugged her friend away from the door. “I think we have to go out there,” she said.
“Darya, are you nuts? They want our heads,” Levant whispered, shaking his head firmly to make a point that this was an awful idea. “We need to escape out the back door, or something.”
Darya smiled a little and patted Levant’s shoulder. “Maybe you and the others can, but me and Cetas...come on, you know we can’t. We’re the leaders of our groups, and we represent who we are. I can’t run from that, and we clearly haven’t been doing our jobs very well. It’s time to face the music.”
“You have been! Both of you have been good leaders! What happened has nothing to do with your leadership skills! We all need to get out together,” Levant said urgently. He felt desperate to make her understand that this situation wasn’t going to improve if she went out there to face the angry mob.
Darya just shook her head, but before she could say anything else the door was yanked open and a group of people suddenly reached in and took hold of Darya’s arm and the back of her shirt, yanking her backwards into the angry crowd.
“Darya!” Levant shouted as he grabbed her other hand, desperately trying not to lose her. “Let her go! She didn’t do anything wrong!”
“Levant! Go and get Tallis! Get Cetas if you can!” Darya shouted before being dragged out into the massive hall and being thrown into the midst of the crowd where there was much shouting and the sounds of violence.
Levant panicked but he knew he couldn’t go against Darya’s wishes. He turned and bolted down the hallway even as tears pricked at his eyes, and started throwing open doors to find Tallis and Cetas.
“Someone! Help! Darya is being held hostage by...by...by the people of our city! Please, we have to save them! Tallis and Cetas! Please help!”
But for some reason the hall kept going on and on and no one was in sight. That was impossible! There was always at least one of his friends lingering in the hallway or in a room. Someone was always within sight. Were the hallways getting darker? Were the sounds of the crowd getting louder?
Levant cried out and covered his ears. “Someone! Help me! Tell me what to do!”
“Levant! Lev, wake up! Oh my god, you scared the hell out of me.”
Levant’s eyes opened quickly and he gasped. He sat up, and stared at his hands for a long moment, and then looked at the figure sitting on the edge of his bed now. Royse was sitting there looking half asleep. It was still dark out, but it had been dark for as long as he’d been alive. There were rumors that the sun had once helped humans keep time, but he had no idea what that was like and without a clock he had no idea what time it was.
“Another dream about Darya?” Royse asked between a yawn.
Levant glanced down and nodded. “I don’t know if I’ll ever stop having nightmares about it,” he said shyly as he rubbed the back of his neck. The tension and stress was starting to make his neck ache, but he couldn’t exactly shake it off.
“She’s going to be okay. Cetas promised, remember?” Royse patted Levant’s knee and then stood up and walked back over to his own bed to sit down. He checked his cell phone and then sighed. “Oh, it’s 8am. Do you think the others are up?”
Levant shrugged and stood up, pulling a warm hoodie over his head. “I dunno, but I’ll find out,” he smiled a little before walking out, his smile fading from his lips once he was out of view of his friend.
It seemed that most of the house was quiet still, which was fine by him. He sat down on a stool and set his elbows on top of the counter, cradling his head in his hands. He just wished he could stop thinking about it and figure out an actual solution, but Elidi said they had a solution now. That these ‘Monarchs’ from this place were the answer to saving Darya and restoring their honor as Royals. He wasn’t sure of any of the details, it all seemed to be too complicated, but as long as the others knew what was going on he would gladly follow.
“I just wish I didn’t have all these regrets all the time,” he whispered to nothing in particular. There must have been something he could have done to prevent Darya from being injured that day. There had to have been something, anything! He just wasn’t quick on his feet when it came to such things, and despite being knowledgeable in self defense...well, he wasn’t a fighter. Even his special Fate ability, a gift of healing, didn’t give him a way to fight. He just accepted that he was meant to stand in the back and support his friends, making them laugh and finding joy in watching out for them, but he realized he really couldn’t do that anymore. He had to make sure he could save his friends if it came down to it. He wasn’t going to be content to stand back anymore.
But he wasn’t sure how to be able to stand up to his own fears and take charge like the others could. It just seemed to come naturally to them, and sure he could be stubborn in his own way when he wanted to be, but now they were in a fight for their lives and he didn’t want to get in the way like he felt he would.
“Levant? Why are you up right now?” Tallis walked up to the kitchen sink, pouring himself a glass of water. It looked as though he had been on a run already; sweat on his brow and he was wearing shorts and a shirt with no sleeves. Typical exercise attire.
“Bad dream,” Levant admitted as he looked up at Tallis. “How was your run?”
“Fine. No sign of the Monarchs yet,” Tallis sighed as he sipped his water. “I don’t know how long this is supposed to take, but we’ve been waiting for them for a year. We know they’re awake, why aren’t they coming?”
“I...I dunno,” Levant admitted. “What’s...going to happen when they show up, anyway? How are they going to fix what we did?”
Tallis sat down on the stool next to Levant, tilting his head a little. “Well,” he started. “They understand curses, and they might understand how to break ours. I guess that’s really what it comes down to.”
“What about Darya?” Levant asked.
“Elidi said that the poison that’s infecting Darya is something ‘otherworldly’, so we need to seek out people from the other world. Essentially ‘the gods’, or Immortals as they’re called in this country, and it seems like they are pretty active in this area of the world or they were in the past. And basically these Monarchs know this world better than we do, and we need their help,” Tallis explained slowly. He didn’t seem to understand all of it, either, but he was trying to make sense of it. Elidi and Cetas seemed to keep their plan close to themselves and weren’t sharing as many details as they likely should be. Perhaps they were just afraid that their plan might not succeed.
Levant picked at the trim of his sleeves, nodding as he tried to make sense of it. “We all took that poison. Why is she the only one who...is being affected like this?” he asked.
Tallis shrugged, looking upset even as he thought about it. “That poison seemed to take things from us that kept us strong, right? It made us weak, it brought out our worst fears, things like that. I think...the poison somehow knew how important Darya is to us. Honestly, I think the poison tried to take those we rely on most for guidance from us, but I don’t know why Cetas and Elidi aren’t sick. Maybe they’re hiding from us what was really taken from them.”
“What if the Monarchs think we’re idiots?” Levant smiled a little. “What if they won’t help us because they’re gonna be like, ‘You took poison on purpose? Forget it.’ Boy...that would be...really bad. I don’t even know how we’re gonna explain ourselves.”
Tallis chuckled a little as he sipped more water. “We’ll explain the whole story. It’s not like we knew it was poison before we took it. We just thought we’d become more powerful. I think the Monarchs might understand us very well, actually. I’m sure they did some shady things while trying to protect the people most important to them, right? I mean, most of the stories that still exist about them are about the curses the gods put upon them for being so prideful.” he sighed and stood up, patting Levant’s back. “We were too prideful. We just have to hope they can help us.”
“I just want them to save Darya,” Levant muttered. “I wouldn’t care if they helped me, anyway.”
“We’re all gonna be helped. Don’t talk like that. Come on, chin up, alright? I know it’s not easy, but we can’t give up before we’ve even begun,” Tallis said firmly. “We’ve waited a long time, and I know it doesn’t look good, but they’ll be here soon. Runi said they would be.”
Levant nodded a little and offered another smile. Tallis was right, he couldn’t give up before this even started. He wasn’t sure the Monarchs would be able to fix everything they had messed up by taking that poison, but if they could fix the physical ailments and restore their connection to their gifts so they could use it like they used to protect others and each other, then that would be all he would need.
Runi said they had to restore their status, too, but Levant wasn’t as worried about that. Sure, he wanted to go home, but as long as his friends were alive and well...that’s all he really needed.
He hoped the Monarchs would understand. He hoped they would be here soon.