Year 1015, Age of the Redeemed
He felt breathless. He was standing before the castle where his brother had once lived and ruled with the other Monarchs that he stood alongside. He stared up at the windows as he looked for any sign of life, but there were no lights within the castle at all. He wasn’t sure what to think about that yet, but he knew there was trouble.
“What do you want to do, Jeriah?” Emersyn asked in a low tone after they had been standing before the entrance for a few minutes. She sounded concerned, but she was leaving the decision up to Jeriah whether he wanted to go inside or search elsewhere.
“I have to see if he’s inside,” Jeriah said with a firm nod as he finally walked forward and pushed open the massive doors that would lead him into the entrance way.
Both him and his brother were guardians of the human race, but Jakob and his companions had gained great love and support from the humans and therefore became the very public leaders and protectors of the human population, while Jeriah served the humans in a different way.
Him and his companions were known as the Wanderers. They never stayed in one place long and they served people wherever they went. They didn’t need a big base like the Monarchs did, because the world was their home.
But now there was a darkness in this castle that Jeriah didn’t like. The Monarchs had been plagued by curses and battles and worries ever since Ari turned his gaze upon them, and Jeriah hadn’t been able to reach Jakob because of all these awful things.
But now he was here, and he was afraid of what he was going to find.
“By the Immortals, what happened here?” Kiyah questioned as he looked around curiously. “It seems terribly cold in here, like no one has lived here for a long time. Are you sure the Monarchs are here?”
“Yeah,” Jeriah nodded and started walking through the foyer towards the nearby staircase. “They went into hiding after winning that ten year war, but I was given information that the Monarchs came back here.”
“I don’t know who gave you that information, but it doesn’t look like anyone has lived here since the Monarchs were first sacrificed to Ari,” Zhaohui said as he looked around suspiciously. He ran his hand along the top of a shelf that held a vase with dead flowers hanging out of it and then he looked at his fingers. They were caked with dust and grime, which just proved how long this place had been empty.
“What exactly is the timeline here, anyway?” Verity asked as she peeked into a room and then looked back at Jeriah. “The Monarchs have been chased by Ari for a while, but I don’t really know what’s going on right now.”
Jeriah kept walking, moving towards the stairs and beginning to ascend them. “The humans sacrificed the Monarchs to the Immortal Ari and he gave them a curse and then exiled them into the deepest corner of the world. We tried to save them during that time, remember? Then the servants that went with the Monarchs turned on them and they fought that war against them to protect a child with a great destiny and it lasted for ten years. Then...I don’t know, something happened with Ari and he’s angry at the Monarchs again. I heard they came back here, though.”
“I don’t know about that, but this castle is pretty big. Let’s be thorough and look around,” Emersyn said with a firm nod as she followed Jeriah up the stairs. “Verity, Kiyah, why don’t you check the first floor and we’ll go up here.”
Verity gave a salute and walked off into another room with Kiyah at her heels. Jeriah came to the top of the stairs and then looked at the hallways and doorways and wondered where to begin.
“I’ll...check this room,” Jeriah said as he gestured towards one doorway. “Zhaohui? Emersyn? Can you just check the rest of the upstairs?”
“There’s a weird energy down there,” Zhaohui said as he tilted his head a bit. “Are you sure you want to go in there alone, Jeriah?”
Jeriah nodded and then started walking towards the doorway without another word. He heard the footsteps of his friends receding as they went to investigate the other rooms, and he felt his heart beating a little faster as the hallway became darker and darker.
“Jakob?” he called out softly. He felt like he couldn’t raise his voice here, he felt like it was dangerous. There was something ominous about this place and that frightened him. He had been worried about Jakob for so many years and he had wanted to find him many times in order to protect him, but now Jakob was involved in such dangerous things that he could barely comprehend it, and he wasn’t sure how to protect him anymore. In fact, he wasn’t sure there was any way for him to even keep his brother safe anymore.
Immortals cannot die, and how could he protect his brother from an enemy that cannot die?
He stopped in front of a doorway and placed his hand on the door lightly. This was where the energy was coming from, and he had a feeling this was where the Monarchs were. He wasn’t sure why, but he knew there was going to be something scary beyond this door.
He closed his eyes, his brow furrowed with worry. “Please, Jakob...please be okay,” he whispered to the air before finally pushing the door open and looking inside the darkened room.
His heart dropped at the sight before him. He saw the Monarchs were inside the room, trapped within some sort of dungeon made of rubble that must have been contrived by Ari. He hesitated for only a moment before leaning out of the doorway and shouting down the hall,
“Everyone! They’re in here!”
Then he turned back to face the scene before him and he ran inside the room. He saw Luca first, and he was twitching and flinching as though he was being hurt or threatened by something, but his eyes were closed. As Jeriah walked around the cage he saw that they all had their eyes closed and seemed to be in dreams. What was this? Another curse by Ari?
“Monarchs!? It’s me! It’s Jeriah! Can you hear me?” he called to them, but none of them responded. It seemed they hadn’t heard him at all.
He heard the footsteps of his companions rushing into the room, but his focus was only on one thing. He had moved around the dungeon of rubble until he finally saw Jakob. His brother was asleep as well, and Jeriah wondered what he should do to wake them. Then Jakob cried out in the midst of his dreaming. He was afraid! Whatever dreams he was having, they weren’t pleasant.
“Jakob!” Jeriah ran up to the cage, but he hit an invisible wall which sent a shock through his body and caused him to fall backwards. He winced in pain and looked back up to see what he had run into, but it didn’t look like anything was there.
“Jeriah!?” Kiyah ran over and knelt down next to him. “Are you hurt? What happened?” he helped him back up to his feet, and Jeriah felt shaken. He couldn’t take his gaze off of Jakob.
“There’s a...a magical barrier, or something,” Jeriah said as he leaned on Kiyah while he regained his footing. “I can’t reach him.”
“What is this?” Zhaohui asked as he stared at the Monarchs with horror and confusion.
“Another curse from Ari, no doubt,” Verity said solemnly. “This must be why the Monarchs disappeared.”
“What do we do now? We can’t get them out,” Emersyn asked as she looked at the others. “Jeriah…?”
Jeriah watched quietly for a moment and then he looked at Emersyn. “We need to find a way to free them,” he said. “If Ari has done this to them, then maybe we can ally with another Immortal to stop him.”
“That...that does not seem like a good idea,” Verity said quietly. “Don’t you think we could end up like them if an Immortal decided they didn’t like us?”
“Fine, then we don’t have to make an alliance,” Jeriah said. His emotions were rising, he couldn’t help it. Seeing Jakob and the other Monarchs trapped in this sleep and nightmares or whatever it was...it was traumatizing, it was enraging. “But we have to find a way to save them, and I imagine we’ll have to find an Immortal we can talk to for that information.”
Kiyah followed at Jeriah’s heels as he paced back and forth and took hold of his shoulder, pulling him to a gentle stop. “This is bigger than us, Jeriah. Whatever we do, we have to be careful. We can’t just rush into anything,” he said. His tone was sympathetic, but Jeriah didn’t want his sympathy. He wanted to save Jakob.
“But we don’t have any time to wait,” Jeriah said as he looked at Kiyah directly. “Does it look like they have time for us to be patient and cautious?”
“But if we aren’t, we could end up like them,” Zhaohui agreed. “Their own desires to become the leaders of the humans is what got them into this mess. I don’t doubt their sincerity, that they truly only wanted to do good for humanity, but guardians are not meant to lead humans. This is proof enough.”
“This isn’t their fault! Ari is just jealous of them! Perhaps guardians aren’t meant to be leaders, but Immortals aren't leaders, either. They're childish and kick and scream when they don’t get what they want,” Jeriah snapped back at Zhaohui.
“But when an Immortal kicks and screams it causes great pain to everyone around them,” Verity muttered as she looked on sadly at the Monarchs.
“We must hold our own kind accountable for their actions, Jeriah. I’m not condemning them, and I’m certainly not saying we ignore their plight. But we have to be careful or we’re going to get ourselves in as much trouble as they are in right now,” Zhaohui said as he folded his arms across his broad chest.
“Yeah, I don’t want to end up like this,” Emersyn agreed as she watched the Monarchs sadly. “But I think we should get out of here. This place is cursed, and we could be affected by it.” She started guiding the others towards the doorway, but it was difficult for Jeriah to leave knowing Jakob and the other Monarchs were suffering so much.
“We have to go,” Verity said when she saw Jeriah looking back. “It’s dangerous here. We’ll be back when we can help them, okay?”
Jeriah finally tore his gaze away from the scene and he wiped his sleeve across his face, trying to prevent his tears from being too obvious. He couldn’t help but cry, though. He was afraid because Ari kept escalating the curses that he was putting upon the Monarchs, and what if he couldn’t get Jakob out of this?
No, he would. He would get Jakob out of this if it was the last thing he ever did.
He rubbed his eyes with the heel of his palm since his eyes burned with the pain of tears. “We’re going to do anything to save them, right? We have to,” he said. His voice was choked up, too, but he was talking through the tears.
“We’ll do whatever we can,” Kiyah assured him as he put an arm around Jeriah’s shoulders. “Just have faith in the process. I know that looked...really scary, but there must be something we can do.”
Jeriah nodded firmly as he followed his friends out of the castle. He looked back only once because he felt so sick about leaving Jakob and the others inside. It felt like he was leaving his brother in a cold tomb that was frozen in time.
But he wasn’t going to leave him there for long. He was going to save him. Somehow, somewhere...he was definitely going to save him. He just had to find a way to do so first. But he wasn’t a guardian for nothing, and he had his friends to help him, and he was going to confront an Immortal if that meant ending the curses the Monarchs suffered.
Jeriah was not the type to do dangerous things, usually, and certainly not the type to risk his friends or put them in unnecessary danger, but he would do whatever it took to get Jakob out of there. He was willing to risk himself. He just hoped his friends would understand.
The risk was worth the reward in his eyes. Not only did he want to save his brother and the Monarchs because he cared for them, but the world needed them. Even if the world had forgotten their importance, they still needed the Monarchs.
And Jeriah needed Jakob. That was that.