A Moment of Darkness

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Shadow-Walker

Seconds gave way into minutes that felt as if they stretched into eternity. After Oryn had disappeared into the Manor, I allowed myself to notice how scared I was. I hated that he had to go in there by himself, especially with five guards. He was completely outnumbered and I prayed to whoever was listening that they would let him get out alive.

Without Oryn, I don’t know what I would do to find Carena.

The realization slapped me across the face, leaving me speechless, and guilty. I slid to the ground, letting my head lean back against the fallen tree.

I hadn’t thought of it in such a light, that even though Oryn had made a mistake at the Manor, he had also helped me tremendously in my search for her. Without him, I would most likely be at Tricine and Carena would be dead. I looked down at my hand, watching the shadows curl around me. Without Oryn, I would have never faced my power, would have never started to learn to control it. I let out a sigh.

I was a stubborn fool.

I closed my eyes, promising myself that I would thank him for his help as soon as he returned. He may be many things, but he was loyal to a fault. How far was he willing to go to find Carena? To help me face my powers?

He left the Marked Guard to do so, even going as far as to go against Marilla’s orders. He just walked into a den of King’s Guard to get information, all while I stayed safely behind. I didn’t know why, although a small voice in my heart whispered the truth that I refused to acknowledge. I wasn’t ready to face that yet, and what that meant.

I needed Carena first.

The sound of a carriage approaching the Manor had me reaching for my dagger. I carefully peered over the trunk to find a dark carriage pulled by two horses, and followed by even more, approaching the gates. Vrunadia’s crest was painted onto the side, two swords crossing over the Pillar. My breath caught in my throat as I watched the gates being opened and the carriage roll inside.

When it came to a stop, I knew who was going to step out long before he even did.

Captain Ralph wore a scowl as he stepped out of the carriage. He barked orders at the other guards that filed behind him. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but I knew I only had a matter of seconds before Oryn was discovered posing as the Captain. What were they going to do when they found that there were two Captain Ralph’s within the same building?

Not only that, but there were now a total of twelve guards plus the Captain.

And two of us.

I sprang from the hiding place, letting the shadows cover me as I ran through the trees, avoiding bright patches of sun. I sprinted around the side of the manor where I knew a servant door was. I turned the knob carefully, not knowing what awaited me on the other side.

The door led me to a narrow staircase, the entire back portion of the manor seeming to be empty. Dust filled my nose, my eyes watering and my nose running. Taking the stairs up, I found myself before another closed door. I tried to get my labored breaths to be quiet so I could hear if someone was on the other side. I wasn’t sure where this door led. I never took the servant’s passages while I was here.

Safe. Move. Go.

The shadows urged me forward, so I turned the knob, cringing at the creak of the door as it opened. It opened into the kitchens, which I knew was close to the dining hall. My priority was finding Oryn, and trying to get him out of this mess in one piece.

I exited the kitchens, making my way to the foyer. From there, I would have a better idea of where everyone was. The foyer of the Manor was a big square with the dining hall on one side and a sitting room on the other. The grand staircase was also located in the foyer, which led to the upper rooms. Some hallways branched off to the kitchens and to the basements of the manor that flanked the grand staircase. I recalled one particular door that would lead to the sitting room, and I figured that would be my best chance at getting in.

Right. Left. Straight. Move.

I followed the instructions of the shadows as they whispered in my ear. They hadn’t misled me yet, and when I found myself before another doorway, I pushed it open and found myself in the sitting room. There was no one in the room as I stepped into it, keeping close to the walls. There was an open archway that gave me a direct line of sight to the foyer, and the dining hall beyond.

Where I found the Captain standing in the open entrance, frozen as he took in another image of himself.

Oryn.

“Well, isn’t this an interesting surprise?” The Captain said, his voice filling with macabre glee. The guards he brought stood a few steps behind him, their backs to me. They each had their hands on their swords, looking between Captain Marion and Oryn, who looked like Captain Marion. I tiptoed closer to the archway, my steps completely silent. I caught a glimpse of Oryn, who only mirrored the annoying smile the Captain wore.

How did he always look so relaxed?

“Looks like we have a Marked in our presence,” Oryn said, standing from the chair he had been sitting in. I could now see other guards sitting at the dining table as well, all of them staring with open mouths between Oryn and the Captain. “The question is, who is the real Captain?”

“You fools.” The Captain growled as he pulled his sword from its sheath. “He’s the imposter.”

“Am I?” Oryn asked as he faked pulling a sword from its sheath, mimicking everything the real Captain was doing. The guards still looked between the two, some with weapons drawn and others still looking dumbfounded. I crept my way closer to the archway. For a brief moment, Oryn’s eyes looked past the Captain’s shoulders, his eyes meeting with mine. I gave him a nod towards the direction of the kitchen, showing him where I wanted him to go. He wouldn’t be able to get past the guards that stood between him and the front door. Thankfully, there was another servant’s door in the dining hall that led into the kitchen he would be able to escape through. I would be able to meet him there through the servant’s passages. Oryn’s grin grew wicked as he looked back at the Captain, letting the illusion drop. The guards that had been sitting yelled with surprise, pulling their swords from their sheaths and pointing them at Oryn who watched it all with supreme fascination.

“Let me guess.” The Captain said, “You must be Oryn, the illusionist.”

Oryn gave a bow, his eyes never leaving the Captains. “Glad to see my reputation precedes me.”

“Oh, you didn’t think we weren’t aware of who you were?” The Captain continued, “The King has known about you for a long while. We’ve been trying to catch up with you for some time. I have to give you credit, you cover your tracks well.”

“I didn’t realize I was so popular amongst the Vrunadian crowd.” Oryn replied, “I can sign a few autographs if that’s why you’re here.”

“Ah, that’s right.” The Captain said, taking a step further into the room. I held my breath as I waited for the right possible moment. “You’re the one that hides behind humor. I get you mixed up with the other. What’s her name?” The Captain faked thinking, letting his finger tap against his chin. “Ah, that’s right. Kova, the Witch Bitch. We’ve known about you for a while. Just like we know about Marilla, Arryn, Edward, and even your little dog Brina. Your whole little posse has been on our radar for some time.” The Captain said, the smile he wore evident in his voice.

The smile Oryn wore faltered, his eyes widening ever so slightly at the name of every single one of the Marked Guard. Every muscle in Oryn’s body tensed as he reached for the dagger that was strapped to his side. It was a long, wicked-looking blade that I hadn’t seen before.

“How?” Oryn asked, the humor now stripped from his voice.

“We’ve been after Marilla for years. I’m sure you’ve heard of her counterpart Meira? We got her a few years back, but it didn’t stop Marilla from continuing her little group. We’ve spent years trying to track the so-called Marked Guard down. But it seems all we had to do was wait for one of you to walk right to us.”

Oryn’s eyes widened as he realized who stood before him. His gaze didn’t dare slip to mine, but I could feel the realization settle into him.

Captain Ralph was the man who murdered my mother. I had made the connection in the closet the other day, but I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone else. I didn’t think it was important enough to include in the conversations afterward, partially because I wanted to make sure that when the time came, I was the one that plunged the dagger into the Captain’s heart.

Anger burned in me as I willed my ability to stay down.

“Anything else you’d like to mention before I leave this lovely party?” Oryn growled. The Captain drew his sword, the sound echoing through the rooms.

“What makes you think you’re going anywhere?” The Captain asked, and this time, Oryn genuinely smiled.

“Because I didn’t come alone.”

I struck.

I let darkness fall over the entire manor, the guards shouting in confusion.

“She’s here!” I heard the Captain yell, followed by a heavy thump and groan. I didn’t even register the utter darkness that enveloped me. I turned and ran through the servant’s passages, the shadows guiding me back towards the Kitchen where I found Oryn trying to feel his way towards a door. I reached out to him, letting the light in as I came into contact with his arm. I threw my arms around him, crushing him in a quick embrace.

“Remind me never to leave you outside again.” He said as he squeezed me back and then began pulling me towards a door that led to the forest. We had just passed the tree line when a shout from behind us had us racing through the woods, yet again.

“There!” The Captain shouted as he ran out of the door we had just come through. The sound of footsteps chasing after us propelled me forward, forcing me to run faster. Oryn kept beside me, his head glancing back to see where they were.

LEFT.

“Left!” I shouted to Oryn, reaching out and pushing him in that direction. A loud thump sounded, an arrow now protruding from a tree where Oryn’s head had been.

Oryn grabbed my arm, yanking me towards a tree. He pushed me against it, my back to the tree, Oryn’s hands resting on either side of my head. He closed his mouth as he tried to stop the heaviness of his breath.

“What are you doing?” I gasped, trying to push against him to keep running. He pressed into me, keeping me where I was.

“Trust me.” He whispered into my ear. I glanced over his shoulder and took deep breaths. “Watch.”

I gasped as I watched about five different versions of Oryn and I run in different directions. The guards didn’t communicate and they all split off from one another, running in different ways. Even the Captain followed the illusion blindly.

I looked back at Oryn, who was watching me, his breaths coming fast and hard. A chuckle escaped me, and then a laugh, and before I knew it. I was gasping for breath. Oryn watched as if I had lost my mind, but the way his lip ticked up in the corner betrayed him.

“I can sign a few autographs?” I repeat his own words to him, laughing at the idea of it. Oryn chuckled as he grabbed my hand and we began to make our way back to the manor.

“I have a knack for saying whatever comes to my mind,” Oryn says, scanning the area around the Manor. “Thankfully it’s usually brilliant.”

“What you did was incredible,” I remarked, looking back and meeting Oryn’s eyes. He pulled me to a stop by another tree, leaning down a bit as he said,

“No. What you did was incredible. You saved me back there.” He said, his eyes scanning my face. “Did they hurt you?”

“No,” I said, the laughter dying away as reality settled back in. “What do we do now?”

“Our best bet is to head back towards the manor and then follow the main road again to Abberton.”

“Won’t they be searching the main road?”

“Right now they think we just ran deeper into the forest. I don’t know how long my illusion will go, or how far, but we can’t go back into the forest.” Oryn said. We continued our jog back towards the manor, Oryn’s pace much faster than my own. By the time we crossed the tree line, I was already gasping for breath. I had to get in better shape if running like this was going to be a daily occurrence.

“Go around the manor.” Oryn pointed to the right, to where a trampled footpath waited. It was strange being near the manor again. I didn’t get to think of it much earlier, but now that we were back and the danger wasn’t imminent, I felt the sharp pang of longing. I wanted nothing more than to go back to the days where Carena and I would be sitting in the library, reading or painting. The days where Tristan would force me to go to breakfast so I wouldn’t seclude myself.

But now the manor seemed like a hollow shell. My home no longer felt like home because I knew that my family was no longer inside.

“Hurry. I’m not sure if there are more guards around.” Oryn said, his steps wide and fast, turning his head to check behind us.

His eyes widened, his mouth dropping open to shout something as he grabbed my arm and pulled me behind him as if to shield me.

Something tugged my arm, pulling me off the path into the dark shadows of the brush and overgrowth. I felt my body pass through something cold and thick; my body tensing from the sensation. I fell to the ground from the pull, and when I looked up, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing.

Everything moved as if it were much slower like it was passing through a thick liquid. Oryn’s body was still in the motion of pulling me behind him, even though I was no longer there.

I glanced down the path and found a guard at the opposite end holding a bow that was aimed right for where I was. The arrow was still flying through the air, at a much slower pace, and was now headed straight for Oryn.

No, no, no, no.

I heard a male voice that distinctly sounded like Oryn float through the air.

I didn’t give it much thought as I watched the arrow get closer to Oryn’s chest. I jumped towards him, letting my shadowy body collide with his. As soon as I made contact with him, an explosion of thoughts and feelings ran through me. It was as if the physical contact allowed me to see and hear things that were only kept inside his mind.

Like I was able to hear his thoughts and read his emotions.

We collided to the ground, Oryn shouting in confusion from the strange encounter. The dagger he had been holding had fallen a few feet away. Without thinking, I grabbed it, watching as it immediately turned to mist. I ran over to where the guard was trying to notch another arrow, and when I stood before him, I took one more step.

This time I stepped back into the real world.

I thrust the dagger into his stomach, watching as his eyes went wide in shock and disbelief.

I let the guard drop to his knees who tried to reach out and grab me as he fell.

He died quickly once he hit the ground.

I rushed over to Oryn, who was still on the ground, watching the guard and then looking at me. A mixture of fear and awe collided behind his eyes as well as a heavy dose of disbelief.

“What. Just. Happened.” He said, standing to his feet, wincing as he rubbed his hip. I grabbed his arm, noticing that I didn’t feel the overwhelming flow of his emotions or thoughts, and pulled him down the path, the urgency now thick around us as we took off into the forest.

“I have no idea,” I said as we continued running.

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