The Five Wanderers

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Chapter 23

Hector stood in front of the door to the room where Jakob was imprisoned. Every once in a while he’d open the door and peek in on him, but he never moved. He was always sitting on the edge of the bed and staring down at the floor. He was shocked, he couldn’t believe what he had done, either. His fear for Jeriah’s safety had driven him to absolute madness. Hector always thought Jakob was very level headed so he was surprised that this had happened. And he felt guilty that he hadn’t gone along with him and Minhee to find Jeriah, because maybe he could have stopped this before it had gotten this far.


Hector looked up as he heard footsteps and he saw Dari approaching. She looked worried, but they were all worried.


“How is he?” Dari asked.


“I don’t know. I bandaged the arm that was petrified but he hasn’t moved since we put him in there,” Hector admitted. “How’s Oriana?”


“Levant and the others are doing what they can,” Dari said softly. “I think she’s going to pull through, honestly. She’s strong of heart, and she has the best care she can get.”


Hector sighed with relief. “Oh good,” he said softly. “What do you think the Royals are going to do with Jakob?”


Dari pursed her lips, and then she shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said. “They’re all angry about what happened, but we may be able to persuade them against violence towards Jakob.”


“We better be able to,” Hector said with a firm nod. “I know they won’t trust Jakob after all that happened, but I’m sure they still trust the rest of us. We never wanted this to happen.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “Maybe they’ll just focus on the contract again. Jeriah is here, after all.”


“And we should just hand Jeriah over like that? Is that really our place?” Dari asked. “This is the Royals’ business, it isn’t our place to even suggest that they focus on the contract in return for Jakob’s protection.”


Hector nodded and then held onto Dari’s arm. “Can you talk to Jakob? He’ll listen to you,” he said. “He shouldn’t be alone in his thoughts.”


Dari nodded and Hector opened the door and gestured for her to go inside. Dari walked in and saw the state of the youngest Monarch. He seemed like a shell of the man he was. Jakob was a hero of the ages, but right now he looked like a young boy who had made an incredibly awful decision.


Dari sat next to him, staying quiet for a moment or two as she watched her young friend. She could tell he wasn’t ready to start a conversation.


“Jakob,” she said softly. “Talk to me.”


Jakob glanced over at her and then lowered his head again after a moment. “What do you want me to say?” he asked softly. “I’m just waiting for my punishment.”


“Why did you do that, Jakob?” Dari asked. Her tone was gentle and not scolding. She just wanted to know what had been going through Jakob’s mind. “You know the Royals don’t want to hurt Jeriah.”


“But I just found him again! After so many years! And...and Jeriah says they might die if they have their Life Stones taken away. I just can’t risk that,” Jakob said as he stared down at his hands. “I felt like I had no choice. Even if the Royals weren’t trying to hurt Jeriah, I might lose him if they take him to Prudentius to return the Life Stones. I had to fight it. I had to.”


“But that behavior just didn’t seem like you at all,” Dari said. “You’re a critical thinker, you’re not a violent person if the situation does not call for it.”


“I am protective of Jeriah,” Jakob said as he looked at Dari. “And we were separated for so long. I had to fight to protect him. I’m sorry that...I lost myself in that mindset. I didn’t intend for that.”


Then they heard voices outside of the room before Dari could follow up with any other questions. She looked up and the door opened and Hector stood there holding the door open as Cetas walked inside the room. He had red eyes, as though he’d been crying, but he seemed to have pulled himself together quite well. He was the leader of the Royals, after all.


“How is Oriana?” Dari asked as she stood up. She couldn’t help but stand in front of Jakob, she felt like he had to protect him a little bit. She knew she ultimately could not protect him from whatever fate the Royals would unleash upon him, though.


“She’s going to be okay,” Cetas said with a nod. “She’s stable.” But then his gaze fell on Jakob who was still staring at the floor. “But we obviously need to discuss what happens next.”


“Right,” Dari agreed and stepped aside. “Jakob, I think now you need to explain yourself.”


Jakob took in a deep breath, but he couldn’t lift his gaze easily. “I’m sorry, Cetas. I never intended...I didn’t…” he kept stumbling over his words. He obviously wasn’t sure what to say. “Ever since I caught wind that you were searching for Jeriah, I’ve become obsessed with it. It’s called ‘Twin Soul nature’, as I'm sure you've heard. I just knew I had to find him first so I could protect him, and I did. I found him first. I couldn’t let anyone take him from me, and I felt like Elidi and the others were going to...take him. I had to fight. I had to do whatever it took. Wouldn’t you do that too? If one of your Royals were going to be taken to Prudentius? To potentially be lost to the world?”


“We never came to you with violence, Jakob. Anything that happened was incited by your anger towards us,” Cetas said firmly.


“But you’re taking Jeriah away! And Jeriah said if he has to return the Life Stone, he might die! How can I...not fight for him…?” Jakob said softly as he looked down again. “He spent years waiting for me to wake up, and now that we’ve been reunited...we’re going to be separated again.”


“You don’t know if that’s the truth, though. Neither do they. I talked with Kiyah about their Life Stones and their situation,” Cetas said as he folded his arms across his chest. “He said it’s just something they’re assuming, but he doesn’t entirely believe that losing the Life Stones means they’ll die. He wants to be rid of the cursed objects, as far as I can tell.”


“But...those Life Stones have kept them alive all this time,” Jakob said as he looked up at him. “How could that be…?”


“I don’t know the details, but we already have a team prepared to take Jeriah and his companions to the Underworld,” Cetas said. Jakob looked alarmed, but Dari put a hand on his shoulder to keep him from reacting. “And we think you shouldn’t join them. You might put the entire mission in jeopardy.”


“What?” Jakob breathed as he stood up. “But this might be the last opportunity for me to walk alongside my brother! You’d take that from me!?”


“For the sake of my friends? Absolutely,” Cetas said with a firm nod. “You’ll stay locked in this room until they return. I’m sorry, but we can’t possibly trust you after all this.”


Jakob’s eyes flashed with anger, but Cetas just frowned back at him. He wasn’t going to back down, but Jakob knew he had to find a way to get out of here. That fear and anger was possessing him again, and he couldn’t do anything to stop it.


“Who will be going to the Underworld?” Dari asked as she tried to shift the subject.


“Minda, Laguna, and Darya,” Cetas explained. “The rest of us are going to stay here and take care of Oriana and ensure there aren’t any further issues between us and you Monarchs.”


“We’ll certainly have discussions about our alliance,” Dari said with a small nod. “But we understand there were outside circumstances that contrived this situation. The Immortals are always meddling in our lives and making them more difficult.”


“No doubt about it,” Cetas agreed and then he looked back at Jakob. “I’d suggest you relax. We’ll treat your petrified arm, but I’m not sure much can be done about it. Unfortunately it might be a burden you’ll bear forever.”


“You can’t keep me here,” Jakob said with that anger back in his tone. The shame and guilt had apparently passed in favor of finding and protecting his twin again.


“Elidi will sedate you if it’s necessary,” Cetas said. “We don’t have any time left to waste, so we’re not going to risk you joining them and making things worse for us.”


“We understand, Cetas. Thank you,” Dari said as she nodded and glanced towards the door. Cetas realized it would be better to go, and he’d said all he needed to. He turned and walked out without a second glance, and that somehow made Jakob more angry.


He was a mere human and he thought he could defy a guardian like this? Fate Gift or not, he wouldn’t win in a fight.


“Jakob,” Dari touched his shoulder. “Your arm...how does it feel? Do you think you’ll be alright?”


Jakob put a hand on the arm that Royse had petrified and he shrugged. It felt painful, like a heavy ache, but he didn’t have time to worry about it. He had to be near Jeriah and protect him from whatever fate might befall him. That was all he could think about.


“I’ll be fine,” Jakob insisted. “But you have to let me out, Dari.”


“Jakob,” Dari looked at him sympathetically. “You know I can’t. You’re not acting like yourself, you’re acting dangerous.”


“Dari, please!” Jakob exclaimed.


Dari just shook her head and walked to the door. “I love you, but I can’t help you right now,” she said. “The Wanderers have to pay for what they did all that time ago, and the Royals have to finish their contract. This is not something for us to interfere in.”


“Dari!” Jakob screamed as he charged at the door even as she walked through it.


Dari turned quickly and with Hector’s aid she slammed the door shut. Jakob threw himself against the door, his fist pounding on it, but he couldn’t break through. Dari looked at Hector with concern in her eyes, and Hector looked frightened, too.


This was not their sweet, foolhardy Jakob.


“Hector,” Dari said. “I’ll stay here and protect the door. I think we need to make a ward to ensure he doesn’t get out. I need you to find a book on wards in the library. Please hurry.”


Hector nodded and then ran off immediately. Dari leaned back against the door and let out a long sigh as she closed her eyes.


“One of the Heavens, why have you created him like this? Why do Twin Souls have to suffer like this?” Dari questioned desperately. “Please...if you can calm Jakob’s soul so he can endure this...please, do that.”


It broke her heart to see him like this, and she knew Hector was hurt, too. All of them were feeling the pain of Jakob’s unnatural behavior. It was worse to know there was nothing they could do about it.


Jeriah was standing outside with his companions and also with the three Royals that were accompanying them to the Underworld. The Royals seemed wary, but the one named Darya still had a rather cheery attitude and even asked them questions about how they had been living.


“It must have been hard living in the mountains all this time,” Darya said with a small smile.


“It was,” Zhai said with a nod. “But we had each other. That’s all we needed.”


“That’s how I feel about my friends,” Darya said. “Well, we’re all experiencing the struggles of our destiny together. We’re bound to be close because of that.”


“I’m sorry we caused you so much trouble, too,” Kiyah said with a small nod. “I can’t help but feel responsible for how Jakob reacted.”


Jeriah glanced at Kiyah, but he also felt that way. Why hadn’t he been able to stop Jakob from acting out like that? Well, even Minhee couldn’t stop him. It seemed he’d already had it set in his mind that he had to save Jeriah and his Twin Soul nature had kicked in. Perhaps he shouldn’t have mentioned that losing the Life Stones might mean losing their lives, but he wasn’t sure if there would have been a better time to bring that up, either. Jakob might have reacted violently in any circumstance where that was brought up. He wasn’t sure.


“Don’t be sorry. We don’t need an apology from you,” Laguna responded.


Jeriah looked at Laguna and nodded a little. She seemed quite cold, but perhaps she was just wary. I mean, even the taller woman named Minda hadn’t so much as cracked a smile since they had met her. But, of course, they had met under quite dire circumstances.


“Well, I think we have all of our supplies now,” Darya said after Tallis came out with the last of their packs. “Grab your packs and let’s go!”


Jeriah looked up at the castle again and his heart ached. He could sense Jakob’s distress, but he knew he couldn’t go in there and find him. If he did, it would only make it more painful for him when he finally had to leave. But his own heart was broken in this moment.


Minda took her pack from Tallis and gave him a long kiss in return. Laguna scoffed and started walking. “We don’t have all day, Minda,” she grumbled. “Get your tongue out of his mouth and let’s go.”


“I wasn’t kissing with tongue!” Minda shouted back at her.


Tallis had a smug smile and he patted her back. “You better go. I’ll miss you. Be careful.”


Minda looked at him and smiled softly, taking just a moment to memorize all the sharp lines of his face because she had no idea what kind of dangers were going to be ahead of her, and then she let him go with a small wave and followed the others.


Jeriah felt that his stomach was in knots as he followed the group, and he reached out and held onto Verity’s arm. He needed support, because it was too hard to move his feet.


Verity looked at Jeriah. “What’s wrong?”


“I can feel him crying out,” Jeriah whispered. “They must have him locked up somewhere still. He can’t see me and he’s scared.”


“I’m sorry,” Verity kissed the top of his head. “But maybe you’ll see him again. We really don’t know what’s going to happen.”


Jeriah nodded. He really hoped so. All he wanted in life was to live peacefully and have his brother live peacefully, but that must be impossible.

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