Chapter 15 Titan
Valeena had screamed, that much she knew. Her throat was sore and raw from the sheer power of it. She had refused to blink as she watched the sword swing downwards. Valeena saw Steel spin suddenly, switching the direction of the sword. The action was so quick, that it took Valeena a couple of minutes to piece together what had happened.
Aira had released the arrow, a straight shot to Steel’s heart- if it had made it. Steel had caught a glimpse of the attack out of the corner of her lovely emerald eyes. At the last second, she had swung the sword sideways, cutting the arrow clean in half, as a smug smile played on her pink lips.
The blade itself had nicked Rowan’s skin leaving a thin bead of blood that had escaped the wound to roll down his neck, staining the gray stone. Rowan released his breath that he had been holding, lifting his head towards the crowd.
His heart sank as he saw several of his followers in the mix of people, each wearing a look of disgust as they came to witness his death. Rowan stared in disbelief as he saw Mr. Norsewore, a man who had never missed a sermon was not standing among the crowd. Rowan suddenly realized how little his life truly meant to them, and he hung his head as his heart broke.
“Enough!” Queen Maylee’s voice commanded as she strolled onto the platform that could just as easily be called a stage. She was wearing a dress with a horrible multi-color gingham pattern on it that made her look like a walking quilt.
“I said not to kill him, did I not?” She snapped, ripping the sword forcefully from Steel’s hands and throwing it aside.
“I had pegged you as having enough brains to listen!” Queen Maylee continued her verbal assault. Steel tried to keep face her composed in a look of indifference, but her eyes were blazing with anger. The Queen had embarrassed her, and she would not forget it.
A second arrow sliced through the air, heading straight towards the Queen’s neck, but a flash of ebony and purple disintegrated the arrow instantly. A force field seemed to have been placed around her and protected her from any attacks. Thanos was somewhere nearby, and he was clearly more powerful than Valeena had originally thought.
Valeena was pushing her way through the crowd, people grunting at her in the process. A wall of hot, orange fire materialized, cutting her off, its flames dancing among the terrified people. She shielded her face from the heat with her arm, taking a step back, gasping. Had Thanos created the fire as well?
“Oh, for Heaven’s sake! Do you I have to do anything myself?” Queen Maylee used her fist to grab a handful of Rowan’s hair, lifting his head up off of the stone and smashing it down upon the altar forcefully. The fire ceased immediately.
“Can you not follow one simple order, Esmeralda?” Queen Maylee’s olive eyes burned into Steel’s crisp emerald ones.
“Steel,” Steel corrected the Queen despite herself, who merely narrowed her eyes at being spoken back to. Steel realized what she had done and her eyes widened.
“S-sorry your majesty,” Steel stuttered as she hung her lovely head, her cheeks burning red with embarrassment.
“Stop it!” Valeena shouted. The crowd was silent now as they watched the Queen reprimanded Steel thankful it was not one of them.
Valeena climbed the stairs quickly, stumbling in her haste. She ignored the hint of joy that crept onto Steel’s face, thankful for a distraction. That, and she was happy to have found Valeena at last.
“Valeena!” Queen Maylee said, her face red with rage. “You have caused quite a bit of trouble lately, have you not?” No one in the crowd dared to breathe for fear they might miss something. Valeena shoved Steel aside, who cried out, nearly falling backward on her heels, and positioned herself in front of the Queen.
“Stop this!” Valeena demanded as she tried to control her temper. But her breath was coming out in short jerks and her heart was pounding so hard in her chest that she was positive Queen Maylee could hear it.
“There is no need for this barbaric behavior!” Valeena continued, sweeping her hand towards the barely conscious Rowan. There was blood trickling off his forehead in small beads, and Valeena had to look away. “You have no right to treat people this way!”
The citizens of Costa Del Lágrimas were watching the scene in deafening silent, the tension thick in the air. Their eyes were wide, staring. They were even afraid to blink in case they might miss something.
Queen Maylee slapped Valeena hard across the face, the noise echoing in the silence. A bright red mark was forming on her swelling cheek as Valeena tried not to cry. She glared back at the Queen, hoping the tears that were welling in her eyes would not spill down her face.
“I see you have forgotten your place!” Queen Maylee nearly shrieked, her face shaking with anger. She had her hands in a fist at her side as she stared at Valeena. A soft snort of pleasure escaped Steel’s throat, a barely audible noise that the Queen either did not notice or cared not to acknowledge. Steel quickly regained her composure and stood still, the wind whipping her lovely hair about.
“You dare embarrass not only me but my kingdom as well?” Spit shot out of her mouth as she spoke, her voice dripping with disgust and hatred. She was glaring at Valeena so intensely that her heavily makeup covered eyelids were twitching.
“You ungrateful, little heathen!” The Queen continued hurling her harsh words like daggers as tiny beads of rain fell onto her hot cheeks. Valeena kept her head high, still fighting back the tears that welled in her blue eyes. She would not give the Queen the satisfaction of seeing her pain.
“You cannot treat people like this,” Valeena repeated, ignoring the flash of anger that danced in the Queen’s olive eyes. “We are not cattle to be raised and slaughtered!” Valeena heard several people inhale sharply. The crowd was holding their breaths as she spoke, fearing that if they made a sound the Queen’s wrath would fall on them.
Queen Maylee said nothing, her eyes burning deep into Valeena’s. She was trying to contain the situation, to show her subjects that she was still all mighty. She needed them to know that no one dared to step out of line without a swift punishment.
But Valeena was supposed to be her daughter after all, and that made her outburst worse. How could she control a kingdom when she could not handle her own daughter? Valeena was proud that the misty, drizzle of rain had ceased and that the sky was now more of an overcast of light fog. Even though the beast of fear was still nestled deep in her heart, Valeena managed to hide it.
“When we return to the castle, you are to pack your things and leave.” Is what the Queen had said, but what Valeena had heard was, “You are going to die a slow, painful death in the dungeon.”
Valeena thought at first that the shaking she felt was from her own anger until she noticed the Queen’s startled expression. Her eyes were darting to Valeena’s crystal then back to the ground were Rowan was still lying. Queen Maylee grabbed Rowan’s head and smashed it into the stone again to see if that would solve the issue. Valeena glanced at Elden on the rooftop, but she could not make out his crystal.
People began to shout and run in confusion as large pieces of the road shifted upwards as if an ocean wave was beneath it. A large, hairy, gray fist burst out of the ground, sending chunks of pavement and dirt sailing through the air as clouds of dust choked Valeena’s lungs.
A bear-like creature with two spiral horns sticking out of its head pulled itself out of the newly formed hole, releasing a deep, low growl. The eyes on the beast were a cold, gray color, and it wore nothing but a tattered loin cloth that looked one speck of dirt away from falling off. Its body was twelve feet tall and muscular. Its skin was covered in a thin, gray, matted fur. It walked on two feet, its legs more defined, human almost.
“Titan!” Steel choked out, her voice was barely a whisper as fear wrapped itself around her soul. She stumbled over her own feet once more, shoving Trevor and Seto out of her way as she raced for a location she deemed safe.
Queen Maylee was backing up, her jaw hanging open like a fish gasping for air. She rushed towards the stairs and wobbled down them, looking as if she may flip head over heels at any moment.
“Save your Queen!” She yelled, as a guard with white, powdered sugar in his beard dropped his rifle and tried to flee. His boot accidentally struck under the Queen’s wide heel causing her to fall heavily into him. There was an audible crunch as she broke several of his bones with the weight of her large body.
“Idiot!” Queen Maylee said, looking very similar to a turtle on its back as she struggled to get up. Steel ran to help the Queen in hopes of getting back into her good graces. Queen Maylee grasped Steel’s arm tightly and used it for leverage to host her body up, ripping the sleeve of Steel’s dress in the process.
The citizens of Costa Del Lágrimas were screaming in terror and bumping into each other as they fought desperately to avoid Titan's large feet. His fist smashed hard into a build just for the sake of smashing it as he released a mighty roar into the Heavens.
Valeena took the opportunity to rush over to Rowan, trying to move him his heavy, muscular body. But it was no use, she was not strong enough to life the Reap. Rowan lifted his head feebly as he came to, his scarlet eye’s opening and closing as he had difficulty focusing.
“Valeena?” Rowan asked disorientated. His head returned to the cold stone of the altar as his energy gave out and his eyes closed once more. His forehead was bleeding again, a trail of blood ran off his skin and onto the altar, staining it red.
Elden and Aira were by her side, and together they were able to lift Rowan off the altar and force him onto unsteady legs. The darkness evaporated from his eyes as he blinked slowly, fighting to stay conscious. Elden unbound his hands and managed to get the chains off his ankles as Rowan swayed on unsteady legs.
Titan smashed his large fist into a nearby building, sending bits of debris sailing through the air. One oversized chunk nearly struck an old man as he tried desperately to flee. Titan then turned towards the altar where seconds before, Rowan had rested. Growling, Titan narrowed his eyes as he staggered forward, slamming his fist onto the altar and smashing it to dust. The blow created a large crater with cracks splintering from the opening.
Valeena, Aira, and Elden had barely stepped off the final stone step when Titan had hit altar. He took no notice of them, instead turning his attention to Thanos. Thanos was standing to his right, a katana held tightly in each hand as sparks of blue electricity danced off his fingertips. Valeena had not seen where Thanos had emerged from, it was as if he had materialized in that spot.
She watched as Thanos swung the long blade into Titan's arm, the blade bending against the tough flesh. An energy orb pulsed out of Thanos’s palm, striking the beast in the face. Titan smacked at his cheek and swung a mighty arm at Thanos, nearly hitting the tall man in the head. Thanos had ducked, sending another orb towards the beast. Titan ignored the attack and instead, he ripped the colorful red and pink rooftop off the café and dropped it on top of Thanos.
“Is he really trying to defeat the mighty Titan?” Valeena asked in disbelief. Thanos still had not emerged from the wreckage as Titan pulled a tree out by its roots, using it like a broom to strike the terrified citizens.
Elden shrugged, “Let him. It’s his funeral.”
Valeena tried to watch more of the fight as they drug Rowan away from the chaos. She strained her neck to see as Thanos, (who had appeared on a rooftop to the beast's right) slashed his katana once more towards Titan. The beast struck Thanos hard in the head with his oversized paw, crumpling the mage. The pink sign of the donut shop blocked Valeena's view as they made their way back down the alley. Valeena stared longingly at a chocolate cream filled donut that was sitting on the ground before it was smashed by the boot of a guard fleeing.
Valeena sighed and looked away from the crushed pastry, straining to hold Rowan’s arm as she stumbled to keep up. Elden was holding his other arm as Aira walked blissfully behind them, not offering to help.
A light, dizzy rain danced in the air as more screams came echoing from the fight they had left behind. A loud boom, like a cannon being shot, shook the world. Valeena craned her neck to try and see, knowing it was futile as the buildings blocked the scene.
The sound of cheers could be heard in the distance as they arrived at the old, worn down cemetery. The familiar angel stared at them with its stone, lifeless eyes. A fence made of iron spikes was barely still standing, surrounding the sunken dirt where people were buried. Tombstones stood at awkward angles as they disappeared into the soggy terrain. Most of the words had been worn away by the elements over the years, leaving rough, stone faces behind. Valeena spied a few wisps dancing in the shadows of several grave markers and she forced her eyes away.
Aira led them to the mausoleum that contained the entrance to the labyrinth. She had the map tucked into the palm of her hand but was acting as if she knew the way by heart. It annoyed Valeena how she strutted over to the door, leaving Elden and herself to half drag Rowan through the thick mud.
Aira grabbed the iron door and forced it open, coughing as the stale air rushed out at her, choking her. Some of the cobwebs tangled themselves up in her long, silvery hair as they pulled away from the wall. Valeena smiled as Aira slapped wildly at an overgrown, red spider that was not too pleased to have its web destroyed.
Once safe inside the ancient crypt, they collapsed, rolling Rowan onto his back as he groaned softly. They shut the door tightly, casting the world in shadows.
Rowan groaned once more and a torch burst to life behind Valeena, startling her. She stepped back, not wanting to catch fire as Aira sneered at Rowan’s head, not touching it. She was hunched over him, her fingers inches from his swollen skin.
“It’s a flesh wound, he will be fine.” She announced indifferently, making Valeena feel as though she did not care if Rowan lived.
Valeena noticed that there were no caskets in the mausoleum. Instead, the walls were covered in ancient hieroglyphics, the pictures depicting scenes of people in robes bowing to the sun. She saw a beast being attacked by more people with spears on the next panel, followed by a pit where people were being tossed in.
“The War of the Gods,” Rowan answered Valeena’s unspoken question. “This mausoleum is the starting place of the labyrinth, built by my people.” He continued, coughing and groaning as he fought to sit up, Aira side stepping away from him.
Rowan touched his head gingerly, sighing at the beads of blood that stuck to his skin. He glanced towards Elden, then to the wall. “Your people too, I sense.”
Elden looked startled, glancing at Valeena, then to Aira before looking back at Rowan, who held up his hand to silence. “Do not worry. I will not say a word.”
“You’re a reap?” Valeena asked startled, her eyes searching Elden’s head for horns like Rowan had.
“Amar-gwad!” Aira said as though the word itself tasted foul.
Valeena felt angry and embarrassed as she realized she was wrong. Even Rowan knew what Amar-gwad meant and had just made a promise not to speak of it. Valeena made a silent vow to find the meaning of that word, searching the wall for answers she would not find among the pictures. She heard Aira huff, brushing off the dust from her shoulder that had settled there.
Rowan reached into his pocket and removed a tin, applying some mint green topical cream to his injury. He then closed his eyes, lying back on the tiles of the mausoleum and resting his head on his hands.
Valeena knew he would need to rest and stared at the tiles on the wall, determined to learn their secrets.