Memories of Gaia: The Edge of Despair

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Chapter 8 Saving the wind

“Locked up again?”

Elden slowly opened his black eyes, seeing nothing but the stone wall in front of him. He had heard her voice so clearly and would have bet money she was with him again. His heart ached as he realized how impossible that was. Her voice only haunted him in his sleep now as her soul was no longer among the living.

Elden’s arms ached as they hung awkwardly above him. He was locked in a position that did not allow him to stand but did not allow him to sit either. He turned his head over his shoulder, forcing it further than what his muscles could allow. He could see the metal of the key that unlocked the chains hanging on a hook across the room.

He had no way of reaching the key as the chains did not allow him to move. The room he was in was lit by a dim bulb that flickered as the electricity buzzed here and there. A small bit of light lit up the crack under the door where shadows were passing.

“Toss her in here,” A gruff sounding male voice said. Elden strained to hear more as the muffled footsteps continued. “Her crystal is not ready,”

Elden wondered if they were talking about Valeena. He shook his head as he turned back around. The Princess was now locked up like he was. Good.

Elden sighed as he chuckled to himself. He had been hiding in Evil Forest for months, living quietly among the trees in peace. The forest animals avoided him and went out of their way not to travel near his makeshift home.

He knew it was wrong to blame Valeena for his mistake, but he could not help it. He had dared to travel outside of the forest, spying her as she stood on her balcony. She never saw him as he watched her, wondering why the rain came so suddenly. It was the first night that he had left the forest, feeling it was time to let go of the memories that had chained him to the trees.

Elden had barely walked to the edge of the ocean and raised his eyes skyward when she appeared. Her oversized blue eyes seemed bigger as she begged him to let her join him. He had not seen the moon that clearly in a long time and she refused to allow him to enjoy it. And the odd thing was, that no matter how cruel he was, she stayed.

Elden had vowed to never allow anyone to get close to him again. He would not have another souls death on his concision. A flash of the lost girl with her large emerald eyes danced in his mind.
Elden felt the pang of guilt as he realized that he had failed her again. Elden fought hard not to think about her, but her memories would not be ignored. It was his fault she was gone and he knew he would never forgive himself.

Elden pushed the girl’s memories aside, refusing to allow himself to say her name. He had had to get out of here, out of the darkness that whispered her name. He tugged on the chains hard, the metal cutting deep into his skin.

“Come on!” He groaned, ignoring the warm blood that was running down his arms. Elden cried out in frustration as he released the tension and let his arms fall limp. The beast had not plagued him in several nights and for once, he hoped that it would show up.


Valeena awoke to a brilliant pink and orange sunset illuminating the heavens. The beautiful rays of light shone boldly into her room. Her face was swollen from where the Queen’s anger had landed, and she winced quietly as her fingers grazed it.

Valeena glanced towards her bedroom door to find that only one of the guards was still there. He was trained to watch everything yet not react to any disturbances. Unless, of course, they were life threatening to the Queen. Valeena could make out audible snores emitting from the hallway. It was a clear sign that the guard was asleep at his post.

Valeena sat up stiffly as the room rocked slowly in front of her. Her body still weak from her adventures and she needed more sleep. Valeena debated whether or not she should head straight into her closet and out into the passage. But a snort from the guard caused her to abandon her plans. The guard had a bird’s eye view of her room, and would gladly report the passage to the Queen in hopes of a promotion. That’s if he even saw the passage all.

Valeena strolled over to her closet and decided on a new dress that was still on the floor. She groaned as she pulled the broken hanger out of the sleeve and tossed it aside. Valeena felt embarrassed as she realized she was still wearing the dress that was covered in dry mud and blood. She wished the Queen would allow women to wear pants in her Kingdom. But Queen Maylee had it in her mind that pants made women into barbarians and that it gave them too much power. Which was odd, since power is what the Queen seemed to seek.

Valeena picked out knee high wedge ebony boots that zipped up at the sides. She regrets her decision to only ever want boots and not flat shoes. Valeena realized that she had no comfortable shoes to wear for her impending journey. She gathered her things in her arms and turned to leave the closet. Valeena stopped for a moment to grab a small backpack style purse that still had the tags on the side. The angel still lay in pieces on the floor, and Valeena had no intention of cleaning it up.

Valeena walked back to her room and entered the bathroom and she prepared to take a much-needed shower. Valeena glared at the guard and with a fresh wave of anger as she slammed the bathroom door forcefully, cracking the frosted glass tiles.

The bathroom was a simple, small room with the toilet resting directly behind the door. The sink and shower sat side by side on the adjacent wall with a small, round, brown rug resting beside it. The rug was the only decor in the entire bathroom.

Valeena set the purse on the ledge of the round sink and began undressing for her shower. The lukewarm water felt great on her tired, aching skin and she was thankful that the Queen at least allowed her this one small luxury. Even if the water did run cold after several moments and she had learned to wash quickly.

Valeena was surprised, (and a little disturbed) at how much dirt ran off of her skin and hair. She had only been away for two days but the shower water suggested it had been much longer. The porcelain under her feet gave the illusion that she had spent the day out enjoying a sandy beach. She let her thoughts wander back to Elden with a smile. He was oddly handsome for someone extremely moody. He had been right about the Elements, however. She thought of Elden’s eyes, those dark, black eyes staring at her with a slight spark of joy.

Valeena felt her face burn as she began to blush. A woman should not be thinking about a man while in the shower. It was not proper at all! She felt a pang of guilt as she realized that Elden could be sitting in a pool of his own filth as she stood in the warm shower. The heat of the water had lasted much longer than usual and it had given her more time to think. As if on cue, the water changed abruptly and Valeena quickly turned the water off as it shot cold drops at her. Valeena was not able to feel the cold temperatures like her mother or sister. But she still preferred the hot water over the cold while showering. Valeena stepped out of the shower and grabbed the dingy towel that was folded on the toilet lid. She took her time drying off as she was in no hurry to leave the bathroom.

She dressed slowly, trying to come up with a plan to get passed the guard, but her mind was blank. Valeena sighed as she packed her hair brush after running it through her tangled locks. She grabbed some tissues, feeling frustrated that she had not thought of a plan yet.

Valeena pulled open her bathroom door and jumped back a scream escaped her throat. Her blue eyes fell upon the grotesque scene before her and she nearly slammed the bathroom door. The guard that had once been standing outside her bedroom was now lying motionless in a pool of fresh blood. His neck had been ripped open and the flesh hung in torn pieces revealing the bones underneath. The smell of fresh blood was strong in the air.

How did this happen? Would it have been me if I had not been in the shower? Valeena felt like she was going to vomit as the questions bubbled in her confused mind.

Valeena side-stepped passed the lifeless body, leaning backward as she closed her eyes. She held her breath and groaned as she left her bathroom. The way that the body was positioned showed that he had been attacked from behind as he exited her room. She froze in her steps as she realized that someone else had been in her room with her! Valeena spun around as she searched the room for any signs that the attacker was still present. She clamped one hand tightly over her mouth as she saw the bloody paw print stamped on the arm of the dead guard.

An animal did this? Valeena turned around again as she surveyed her room once more. Her eyes fell upon a second, faded, bloody paw print that was on the rug in the center of her room. The print indicated that the animal had fled out the open balcony doors. Had an animal entered her room through those doors as well? But what animal could leap that high?

“No,” Valeena breathed as she tried to push away the unpleasant thought. But it circled in her mind like a shark circling its prey. Valeena did not hesitate this time as she fled into her closet and into the secret passage. With the door shut firmly behind her, she slid slowly down the wall, shaking and crying. Her heart was beating like a drum in her ears and she could feel it pounding against her ribs. It was as if her heart were trying to escape her body.

Valeena remained in this position until her legs felt strong enough to carry her. Her heart had returned to a mostly normal pace and her breathing was normal again. She composed herself the best she could as she pulled herself to her feet. Valeena cursed herself for packing only a hair brush and some tissues. Those items would be useless for finding Elden.

Valeena knew that the passage did not lead to the dungeons, but she had to get close to them. She could not leave Elden behind to rot. ’If I could just somehow make it past the guards on the first floor then I might be able to make it to the guard’s quarters. Everyone knows that held the stairs to the dungeon are there!’ Valeena told herself. She was proud of herself for forming a plan before continuing her journey. Even if the plan was full of holes.

Valeena knew that getting passed the guards and the soldiers would be no easy feat. She was sure that every guard in the castle knew she was supposed to be confined to her room. With a heavy sigh, Valeena began her descent down the dreaded stairs.

Valeena reached the first floor much quicker than the first time it seemed. She stood near the heavy wooden door and paused for several seconds. Valeena bit her lip as she built up her deflating courage before she pressed on the heavy door, the wood groaning in protest.

Valeena only opened the door wide enough for her body to squeeze through. She peered cautiously around the frame to find that the door was hiding behind one of the Queen’s dragon tapestry. Tiny dust particles flaked off the ancient material as the door brushed the material. Valeena pushed her body through the narrow opening before pressing on the door to shut it.

“About time,” A gruff voice said as Valeena touched the tapestry to delicately move it aside. She jerked back in alarm, slamming her arm on the door as she saw the wolf. The creature was sitting behind one of the many dragon statues to her right. His yellow eyes were narrowed in disgust as he glared at her and shook his head.

“No!” The wolf hissed through clamped teeth as it stomped one of its large paws on the floor. Valeena had opened her mouth to scream as hers locked on the wolf. “You’ll ruin everything if you scream now you stupid girl!”

Valeena once more placed a hand firmly over her mouth as she pointed upwards to her room. The wolf shook its head no, indicating that it was not about to discuss the crime scene. But Valeena squeezed her eyes shut as she tried to dismiss the image of the torn neck from her mind.

“Listen!” The wolf barked. He waited until Valeena had opened her eyes again and was looking at him. “On my mark, you run to the dungeon, and do not hesitate to use force if need be!” The creature growled as he bared his teeth. He raised his hind legs in preparation as the fur rose on his back. He resembled a puppy wanting to play ball. But Valeena knew better. She nodded quickly as she slowly lowering her trembling hand from her mouth, hoping her legs would cooperate.

“One... Two… Three!!” The beast commanded leaping out from behind the statue and howling.

“It’s Fenrir!” One of the armed guards shouted, aiming a rifle at the wolf’s gray head.

“Run, damn it!” Fenrir shouted at Valeena as it leaped sideways dodging the bullet. The beast then lunged forward, clamping its mouth tightly onto the arm of the guard who shot at it. Fenrir jerked his head roughly, snapping the limb in two with a sickening crunch.

“Get him!!” The guard screamed, cracking Fenrir in the head with the butt of his rifle. Fenrir fell back for a split second before lunging forward again. His massive paw hit the guard’s face and cut the skin as blood seeped out of the wound.

Valeena felt the fear that had paralyzed her legs release her as she pushed the tapestry aside. She gagged as she spied blood pouring out of a fresh wound on one of the guard’s necks. She sprinted with all her might across the room towards the guard’s chambers, relieved to find it was empty. Every guard and soldier were now in the main room fighting, having been alerted to Fenrir’s presence. No one was concern about Valeena.

Several dirty looking bunk beds lined three of the walls. A long table that was overcrowded with chairs and empty mugs sat at an angle in the center of the room. Flies buzzed above the plates that were covered with rotting food. The air smelled foul, like mold and sweat, causing Valeena hold her breath as she scanned the vacant wall. Her heart stopped at the sound of gunfire and a sudden howl that came from the ongoing battle.

She wondered if Fenrir was going to be safe, but knew better than to check. A low growl followed by more gunfire confirmed he was alright- for now.

“After it!” A distraught voice sounded, followed by the thud of heavy boots on the stone floor. Valeena knew she had little time as she rushed over to the copper door knob that was resting on the stone wall. She grabbed it and tugged it towards her gagging as a rush of stale, dry air flew out of the new opening. Valeena wasted no time as she entered the passage. She slammed the door shut behind her for fear someone may see her, and rushed towards the blasted stairs.

Unlike her secret passage, this one was well lit by several large torches that lined the walls as they spiral downwards. Valeena knew that her legs would grow weak long before she was able to descend the entire length of the stairs. She peered over the polished wood banister and groaned. A daring thought crossed her mind and she smiled to herself as she swung one leg over the banister. She carefully straddled it as she began to slide down, using her hands to try and control the speed. She groaned again as the polished wood burned the skin on her palms. Valeena giggled to herself as she rode the banister down. The Queen would have had a heart attack if she had caught Valeena doing this. The idea of her mother getting angry at her caused her to laugh harder.

Valeena rode the banister smoothly down to the bottom, hopping off as she reached the end of her journey. The dungeon was not at all what she had expected. For one, it was well lit with many hanging lights from the high domed ceiling. The walls were as smooth as glass and made from cut gray stone blocks that were polished to a shine. Two large, ebony dragon statues sat on either side of a large archway that led into another grand open room.

Several men in lightweight white lab coats bearing the Dragon Star emblem were rushing about as they held clipboards. Each one was writing vigorously as they crossed the polished, white floor. Valeena could see long, white tables that lined the center of the room. Each one of the tables contained empty glass beakers, microscopes, and other scientific-looking equipment. Everything was clean without a speck of dust in sight. It appeared that nothing had ever been touched. As Valeena saw several scientists pass by the tables without even glancing at them. Their movements gave Valeena the impression that the equipment was just for show.

An idea bubbled into her mind as Valeena flipped her hair up into a quick bun. She grabbed one of the white, starchy lab coats that had been hanging from a silver hook on the otherwise bare wall to her right. The men took no notice of Valeena as she slipped into the silence of the room. She did her best to fit in by taking a clipboard and doodling on it. She stole a pair of black glasses off a nearby table and placed them on her face, startled to find that they had no lenses.

“Your majesty,” A timid voice rang out, alerting Valeena to the Queen’s presence. Valeena panicked and hastily dropped the clipboard down on the corner of a nearby table. She then rushed to duck beside a large, open cabinet filled with papers as the Queen casually strolled into the room. Today, she was wearing a dress that made her look like a walking chess board. Her face was twisted into a scowl.

Valeena felt a fresh wave of hate crash upon her as Queen Maylee strolled by. The Queen reeked of a sickening combination of cookies and body odor. The scent nearly caused Valeena to gag as she held her breath. A guard rushed in behind the Queen, tripping over his own boots. He had a look of panic on his thin, handsome face.

“Yo- your majesty, the- there is a disturbance up-upstairs in the main room. A, um, a wolf-” The guard sputtered, having a difficult time catching his breath. The Queen raised a hand to silence him, causing him to recoil in fear.

“I cannot be bothered with petty animal problems.” She interrupted, turning her attention to one of the scientists as the guard fled without another word.

“How’s the specimen?” Queen Maylee demanded and she grabbed the clipboard out of his hands and peered at the papers. Her jaw fell open and she proceeded to use the board to strike the scientist repeatedly in the head.

“Do you find this humorous?” The Queen spat as she threw the clipboard across the room where it skidded to a halt near Valeena’s feet. She saw that the scientist had mistakenly picked up her clipboard as the doodle of the Queen dressed like a dragon met her eyes. In the drawing, the Queen was screeching, “Bok! Bok! I am the Dragon Queen!”

“I’m sorry!” The man cried out, confused. He fell to his knees and covered his head protectively with his hands as the Queen demanded to know about the specimen. Valeena strained her ears to listen, wondering if Elden was the so-called specimen. Elden was no more than a number now, lost in the Queen’s greed.

“She’s stable, but I have bad news.” The man sputtered, shaking in fear as he glanced up at the Queen. Before he could continue he was saved by the appearance of another scientist waltzing into the area. He had his hands behind his back with his body slightly hunched over. He was skinny, with a handlebar mustache and thinning hair. He looked young, however, making one wonder if he was growing old before his time. The man cowering on the floor took the opportunity to crawl away, not standing up until he had reached the threshold of the door on the other side of the room.

She? Valeena knew they were not referring to her or Elden and could not help but wondered what poor soul they had now.

“Oh?” Queen Maylee replied coolly, her eyebrows narrowing as he removed a stack of papers from the nearby desk and tried to offer them to the Queen. When it became clear she was not going to reach for them he began talking.

“She is not sixteen yet. She and the crystal will perish if we proceed. We really thought she was older, given her background...” The scientist’s voice trailed off as he turned the clipboard over and over in his hands as he delivered the bad news. Irritated by his words, the Queen slapped it out of his fingers. She sneered as the papers freed themselves from their binding and scattering like snow on the polished floor.

“Do not fidget while speaking to me, you fool!” Queen Maylee snapped as spit flew from her angry lips. Valeena watched as one of the scientists scrambled to collect the papers that had been dislodged from the clipboard.

The hunched man placed his hands back behind his back, tilting his head to the side as he took a step away from her. It was clear he was afraid of her but he refused to panic as the others had done.

“Perhaps I can find another specimen. Unlike you pitiful morons, I have a plan.” Queen Maylee spoke as she glared at the scientist who refused to cower in fear. His intelligence far surpassed that of the Queens, but he knew his place. He nodded slowly, forcing an apology.

“Oh, shut up!” Queen Maylee said as she raised an arm into the air to scratch her back. A passing woman shrieked and slipped on the polished floor in a feeble attempt to escape. She had mistakenly thought the Queen was going to smack her.

“Oh, for the love of the Gods…” The Queen muttered as she lowered her arm. “I do not have time for this.” She informed the room before storming across the tile floor, her heels clicking on the stone. She paused to poked at a stack of paperwork before striking a stack of beakers. The glass shattered to the floor as she made her way to a sliding door, disappearing behind it.

Valeena waited until she was sure the Queen was gone before heading to a door on the adjacent wall. Several of the men and women scrambled to clean the chaos the Queen had left in her wake.

A long, narrow area that seemed to serve more as a guard’s station came into view. Valeena was relieved to find that it was empty save for a small square table and chair resting against the wall. The chair was facing the door that had a sheet of paper with various names written on it. Six dingy looking doors lined the walls, three on one side and three on the other. A single door sat in the middle of the wall at the end of the room with half an ancient exit sign hanging on a nail.

Valeena scanned the corridor once more before she made her way towards one of the doors. She kept her eyes peeled for any sign of trouble. She forced the door open roughly, surprised that it wasn’t locked, and peeked into the room. A single chair lay on its side next to a disgusting looking bed. Valeena shut the door and pulled open a new one, the iron handle breaking loose from the door. This room was more primitive than the previous one. The floors were made of dirt and links of chains dangled from the ceiling. A single lamp fixture that was dimly lit by a flickering bulb illuminated the room. The light allowed her to spy a man that was chained in the corner with his back to her. His legs were bent against the wall not allowing him to sit or stand.

“Val?” A male voice asked curiously from within the darkness.

“Elden!”

“The key to the lock is behind you, shows you how smart the Queen really is, leaving the key in the room with the prisoner.” Elden joked dryly, his voice sounding hoarse. She knew it was left there to taunt to him, to show him how close, yet so far from freedom he was. Valeena did not return his smile as she removed the key loop from the aged hook and walked towards Elden. She tried her best to ignore the thin, brown rat that sat in the opposite corner of the room, watching them with beady black eyes.

“Queen Maylee had mentioned a girl with a crystal as well,” Valeena said in a whisper, as she made her way to Elden. Her feet were kicking up dust that had settled on the stone floor as she moved closer to him.

“I have not seen anyone, but I did overhear a similar conversation. She should be in one of the other rooms.” Elden said as Valeena fumbled with the key but managed to unlock the chains. She helped Elden to his feet as he groaned, his knees cracking painfully. He had only been locked up for less than a day, but he appeared as if he had been here for weeks. He stretched his arms across his chest revealing dried blood that was caked on his wrist. The blood had flowed from several cuts that had been caused by the chains. Elden’s face was covered in dirt and dried, brown blood as well. A bruise was visible on his left cheek.

’The one time the curse didn’t help.’ He thought miserably, cracking his back. He acted like he had not noticed Valeena looking him over. She would never ask about the blood and he knew it.

They slid out of the room quietly, making sure there was no one watching. They headed for the next door over, hoping that the girl was in there. The room was similar to the one Elden had been held captive in, but the girl was nowhere in sight. Instead, they found the skeletal remains of an unfortunate soul that were still chained to the wall. One of its arms had detached from the socket and was lying inches from the body.

“Where can she be? Do you know?” Valeena asked out loud softly as she cast her eyes away from the morbid sight.

“We just need to keep checking the rooms.”

Valeena had hoped that they would have found her by now as she pulled open another door. She was disappointed to find that the room was empty. A rat emerged from a hole in the wall and Valeena almost slammed the door, catching herself before the door made contact with the frame. She ignored the glare from Elden as she had nearly blown their cover.

They checked two more rooms, each one holding nothing but disappointment. Valeena was still straining her ears, listening for any sign of the Queen or a guard making an attempt to stop her. She reached the last room and glanced over her shoulder as one of the scientists scurried by. He was carrying a large, brown box that concealed most of his body and head. He exited the area via the ancient looking door without glancing their way. He mumbled something about the Queen as the door slid shut behind him.

“She’s here!” Elden hissed through his teeth, trying to keep his voice down as he grabbed the keys off the metal hook.

Relieved, Valeena followed close behind Elden. Her sank as she saw the young woman chained to the wall, on her knees with her hands behind her back. She was small and frail looking with creamy white skin. She had long silvery blond hair that was pulled back in a loose braid that was held in place by a yellow flower. The rest of her hair was hanging on either side of her lovely face beside pierced, pointed ears.

She wore a green top that was covering only her chest, being held on by a woven band that went across one shoulder. The top seemed to have been fashioned from lush evergreen, leaves. On her bottom, she wore a matching half skirt with a yellow, floral pin on the side. She had on dusty brown shorts that appeared to be made of braided grass and matching ankle bracelets with vibrant yellow flowers.

Valeena helped the girl to her tiny feet when the last lock was undone. She grabbed her arm as she wobbled on unsteady legs, her silver colored eyes looking up in confusion.

Valeena felt a jolt of excitement as her eyes spied three thin, white crystals in a wave-like pattern on the girl’s forehead. The inside of the crystal was changing from different hues of white, glittering as though she had trapped the wind within. Her heart sank, however as she noticed the brown dried blood that trailed down the girl’s face. The blood had stained the crystal beside two small grooves. It was as though someone had tried to dig it out of her head and gave up.

“Come on, we can talk later,” Elden spoke in a hushed voice, indicating that he too, had spied the blood. Valeena nodded, but a new thought had found its way into her mind. Is this what the Queen had in store for her? Valeena felt her heart beat begin to speed up as it beat louder and louder in her head. An image of her being strapped to a table with several scientists poking and prodding her burst into her mind.

“Val, we have to move! Come on!” Elden’s slightly annoyed voice cut through her thoughts bringing her back to the cell.

“How?” Valeena snapped as panic danced through her soul. She had realized that they were trapped, as there was no other way out besides the way she came. “We cannot very well march back upstairs and out the front door!”

Elden opened his mouth to protest, but no words came out. They stood there, thinking, as they supported the woozy elf. Valeena noticed a tattoo of leaves and purple flowers wrapped around her arm like a bangle. Under it was fresh looking wounds that were more than likely to scar. She turned away, hating the Queen even more.

“The shipyard!” Valeena thought out loud. Elden glanced at her with a look that suggested she should explain further.

“The dungeons are connected to the shipyard! And from there we could drop into the ocean and swim to shore.” Valeena formed the plan as she spoke, wondering if they could actually swim to safety in the choppy, ice-cold waters.

“Are you able to swim?” Elden asked the new girl gently, who managed to look insulted at the question.

“Yes, I can swim.” She spoke in a firm voice that held a soft accent.

“Then let’s go,” Elden replied as he grabbed the elf’s arm. A look of disgust crossed her thin face, but she reluctantly allowed him to assist her to the ancient door.

“What is your name?” Valeena asked as she dropped the keys down on the dusty floor with a clink of metal.

“Aira,”

“I’m going to need you to try and walk on your own. It will be faster if we are caught,” Valeena told her, watching Aira nod as Elden released her arm. She stumbled a moment before regaining her balance.

“There is a stairwell leading back upwards behind the door that we can use,” Aira informed them as she reached for a bow and quiver that were propped against the adjacent wall. It had sat there, taunting Aira when she was the Queen’s prisoner.

The three of them silently made their way through the ancient door and up a small, spiral stairwell. The stairs were made of a rusty metal material that groaned loudly underfoot. Aira paused on the stairs, turning to face Valeena and Elden as though she were checking to make sure it was not a trap. The skin on her face seemed too pale with a sickly white tone. Her light silver eyes narrowed and she whipped her head away, clearly unhappy about something.

Valeena shed the lab coat that she had forgotten she was wearing and draped it over the edge of the rail. She smiled to herself as she also tossed the glasses aside. Valeena shook her hair free of the bun and immediately felt embarrassed as she caught the displeased look on Elden’s face.

The landing was connected to a narrow metal catwalk that was suspended over a concrete floor. The floor itself was full of boxes, shipping crates, and other assorted items. Aira strolled along the bridge on sure, nimble feet, as smooth and graceful as a model on a runway. The catwalk did not make a sound as her bare feet crossed the rusty surface.

Elden followed suit, the metal groaning and creaking under his heavy boots. He made a sour face as Valeena stepped on the bridge, the structure buckling inward from the added weight.

“Get back! We will cross one at a time!” Elden hissed, not seeing the hurt that spread in Valeena’s blue eyes as she stepped back, head hung.

Elden continued to cross, the metal groaning loudly with each step he took. He reached the other side and entered the archway without even waiting for Valeena. She walked the structure alone, wincing as the metal protested loudly under her feet.

‘Why did he not wait?’ Valeena thought miserably, watching as a fat, green, mucus looking slime-toad jumped under the bridge.

“Ew, ew!” Valeena gagged dancing on tiptoe in disgust even though the creature far below her. She waited until the ugly slime toad had hopped out of sight, leaving splats of slime in its wake. Valeena released her breath and finished crossing the bridge as her thoughts went back to Elden. She blushed as a smile toyed on her lips despite herself.

The sound of angry shouting and rapid gunfire up ahead tore her from her thoughts. She ran the rest of the way towards the archway, the sound of her boots echoing off the empty walls as the metal swayed underfoot. Valeena entered the battle scene as an arrow cut through the air from the sure hands of Aira and her bow.

Elden was dodging bullets as he swung the dull blade of the sword, elbowing a guard in the throat. He swung again at a group of soldiers that had their own swords drawn. Their swords were much sharper, their blades catching the sun in brilliant sparks.

Elden used his fist as well, punching a soldier in the face. Bright, red blood sprayed from his mouth as he counters the attack. It seemed Elden was just as skilled without his sword as he was with it, a born fighter. His crystal was glowing, but Valeena could not tell what it was doing or if it was doing anything at all.

Bullets ricocheted off the large, paneled glass windows that gave a breathtaking view of the beautiful blue ocean. The sight was distorted by the massive, white sails of several large ships that rocked on the salty waves.

Another ship, that was much larger than the ones at sea, sat in the middle of the massive room. A group of scientists and engineers were huddled together on the bow, holding up their clipboards as shields. They were shouting at the soldiers to take the battle outside, fearing they will damage the ship. An engineer threw a wrench at them, the tool striking a soldier in the head, causing him to curse in pain.

Valeena did not wish to join in the chaos as she realized she was once again weaponless. Instead, she used what little time she had to survey the area, searching for a safe way out. The room was shaped like a half circle and there were no other openings that she could see. She glanced up and saw a vent in the ceiling that was far too high for her to reach. Valeena scanned the walls again, this time finding a red button concealed in a clear glass case. The button was to the right of her shoulder and she did not hesitate to press it.

Several overhead lights began flashing an angry red as an alarm sounded. The glass paneled doors began to separate noisily in the middle as the panels slide in opposite directions. The salty sea-scented air whooshed into the area, knocking a few of the guards off their feet in its wake.

Aira released another arrow at a soldier before doing a perfect backflip towards the water. A bullet sailed just past her lovely face, missing her skin by a hair. Elden elbowed an approaching guard in the jaw while stabbing at another with his dull sword. He quickly ran across the polished white floor, yelling at Valeena to do the same.

A soldier aimed his rifle at Valeena, ready to fire but quickly lowered it. He knew better than to shoot Valeena, and held his rifle against his shoulder instead. A few of the other soldiers did the same thing, unable to shoot as they recognized who Valeena was.

“Val, hurry!” Elden screamed loudly as the glass doors were beginning to close. He dropped to the floor and slid out of the closing space on his legs, shooting into the water like a bullet from a gun. A soldier had smashed his fist into the red button, trying to cut off their escape route. He was smiling in victory as blood oozed down his chin.

Valeena ran quickly across the smooth, floor, squeezing between the glass panels a second before they connected once more, sealing the men inside.
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