A Moment of Darkness

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The Past Returns

I walked into the basement of the church, stopping in the middle of the room. I wasn’t sure what to do now that we were back. My mind was moving so fast I couldn’t seem to slow it down enough to focus on one thought. Oryn came in, shutting the door behind him, his breath coming hard and fast like mine. I spun, meeting his gaze.

“Why didn’t you tell me about the Captain?” He demanded, his entire demeanor now completely changed. I had come to recognize this Oryn as the business Oryn. The one that came out when there was the information to be discussed and was very different from the Oryn that offered to hand out autographs. It was this Oryn that infuriated me, made me want to slap him. I felt my spine straighten at the tone, the sheer command of it.

“Because it was none of your business,” I retort. “I didn’t think it was important.”

“Oh,” Oryn started, his tone dripping with sarcasm. “You think it’s not important to mention that there was a history between the Captain of the Guard and your mother? You thought you’d keep that information to yourself so that you could...what, exactly?”

“I didn’t think it was important,” I repeat, the words annunciated.

“Of course it is!” He almost yells. “Everything you know about the Captain of the Guard, about how he relates to your family is just another piece of the puzzle we’ve been trying to solve for months now! The King is after you, they have Carena, and it seems they know exactly where to hide for you to find them, so I think it’s about time you tell me everything you’ve been keeping secret.”

“You want to know the truth Oryn?” I seethe, my anger completely unleashed. “When I was nine the Captain stormed into my apartment and took everything I ever loved. The King’s second decree was finally being enforced, and they were rounding up all the Marked in the Reb District. My family was just a drop in a sea of hundreds that lived there. But for whatever reason, the Captain of the Guard decided to show up and pay my family a special visit.” The images flashed through me, and I let them play out instead of hiding them away. Oryn’s eyes widened as the shadows around me morphed into scenes, showing him one of my darkest memories.

“Get in the closet…” My mother’s voice echoed through the room.

“I was only nine.” I repeated, “And Carena was four. My father was long gone at this point. He left when I had turned eight, running off to who-knows-where. We were alone and had nothing to defend us. My mother’s ability was weak, damaged. I was too young to understand that, but now I understand it had something to do with the battle at the Pillar. So she fought the best she could.”

“Meira, Meira, Meira…” The shadows whispered the words in the Captain’s voice. I closed my eyes at the sound of it, at the terror it still brought to this day.

“I hid in that closet with Carena holding my shirt over her mouth to keep her quiet. I watched the whole thing go down.” I told Oryn, who only watched my mother being held between two guards, the Captain looming over her with his gleaming sword.

“Go to...hell.” My mother spat.

“Already made it darling.” The Captain snarled. A wet sound filled the air, a thud of a body, the guards filing out of the apartment.

The shadows showed a much smaller version of myself creep out of the closet, Carena clinging to my neck. I set her down, walking over to where my mother lay, her chest heaving with labored breath. I knelt next to her, reaching out to brush a few strands of dark hair away from her face.

“Tristan…” Was all she said as she took her last breath.

The shadows melted into the floor, the images fading away. Neither of us said anything for a moment, and I found that instead of anger that filled me, sorrow and relief swelled through me. A tear ran down my cheek, and then another. Oryn walked up to me, pulling me into him.

I burrow my head into his chest, breathing in the pine scent of him that reminded me so much of home. His heartbeat was loud in my ears, a sweet reassurance that the arrow had missed its mark, that he was still here.

“I thought they were going to kill you,” I whisper, voicing my fears. It was too quiet for him to hear, but it was true.

“Thank you for showing me,” He said, setting his chin on top of my head, his arms wrapping around me. He held me tight, and I let all my frustration towards him flow out of me. I let everything drain away as he held me, because the truth was, none of it mattered.

I just witnessed how short life could be. I didn’t have time to carry around that bitterness, not when so much of it should be directed towards those that truly hurt my family. I took a deep breath, reminding myself that we were here and alive, that we had made it out.

“Tell me what you heard,” I say, pulling away from him. He eyed me carefully, checking to make sure I was okay before he continued.

“I know why the King is after you.” He said. I stood, dumbstruck in the middle of the room. One little illusion and the guards spilled everything? “It’s only a rumor they heard, and it seems very unlikely for it to be true, but I think the King wants to tear down the barrier.”

“You mean the barrier that was put into place by the Krations? The one we signed a treaty to never try to breach or else bring war upon our land?” Every history book I ever read came to mind. It was insane. Everyone in the Kingdom knew that if the barrier were to come down, the Krations would come in with all their might and power. I remembered the mural in the Citadel, the bloodshed that it depicted. Did the King want that on our land? “What does that have to do with me?”

“The guards said that there was a rumor you could tear the barrier down, that you had the power to do it.”

I didn’t know what to say. It was obvious that I had branches to my power that I wasn’t aware of, but how could any of that tear down a barrier that has stood for hundreds of years?

“That’s not possible.”

“They seemed excited to tell me the rumor. A lot of the Guard have been talking about it.”

“How has this not leaked into the public yet?” Oryn shrugs his shoulders.

“It seems the only ones who know are the ones aware of what’s going on with the Marked and the exchanges. I guess they are better at keeping secrets than we realized.”

“What about Carena,” I demand.

“The Captain and a select few know of her location. They move her every few days or so to various spots throughout the city they think you would look. They didn’t know the most recent location, but seemed to have high hopes of you falling into their traps soon.”

“Great,” I mutter. “All of that for what? The guards told us they don’t even know where she is?”

“The Captain knows.” Oryn points out.

“Yeah, but how are we going to be able to get that information from him? He’s caught you once using an illusion, I doubt he would just share the information with anyone who asked.”

Oryn ran a hand through his hair, letting out a long breath. It seemed we had come to a standstill, the information not leading us anywhere.

“What was that back there?” Oryn said, staking a seat on the floor. He let out a low groan as he did so, reaching for the side he landed on when I tackled him.

“I don’t know,” I replied, the words coming out harsher than I had intended. I sat down opposite him, fiddling with my dress, trying to cover up my frustration and annoyance at the circumstances we were in. The gray cotton of my gown was now covered in mud and dirt. I hadn’t been able to bathe since we had left the house except to wash my face now and then. I had to reek with sweat and grime.

I’d give anything for a nice, hot bath.

“Have you been able to do that before?” Oryn asked. I thought about everything in the past few weeks, the branches to my ability that I have been able to discover. This was a major one, something that I hadn’t realized I could do.

But maybe I had.

That night, all those years ago, I had arrived at Tristan’s doorstep as if I had walked through a door and just appeared on his steps.

As if I had walked through a shadow to get me to where I wanted to be.

“I - I think so,” I whispered. Oryn looked confused as he waited for me to explain, his hand running through his hair. “After my mother died, the guards had come back to check the apartment one last time. Right as I was about to leave with Carena, they cornered me. One second I was staring up at their faces, knowing I was about to die and the next I was staring at the door to the Manor. It was as if I had just...walked through shadow. I thought maybe my mind had just blocked out the details, but now I wonder if I...shadow walked..”

“Shadow walked,” Oryn repeated, chuckling to himself, running his hand through his hair again. “That’s a new one.”

“I don’t know how I did what I did today. I didn’t mean to walk into the shadow, but it was like...they grabbed me.” I was at a loss for words, not sure how to explain this to Oryn.

“You’re saying that the shadows pulled you into them?” Oryn said slowly, trying to wrap his mind around it.

“That’s what it felt like. I felt myself pass into the shadow. It had become cold and I could hear things that I wouldn’t normally be able to hear.”

“Like what, exactly?”

“Like thoughts. When I pushed you out of the arrow’s path, I could feel your emotions, hear your thoughts. It was as if the physical contact allowed me to see the things only you would know.”

“The things that would typically be hidden, let’s say, in the dark,” Oryn said. I hadn’t thought of it that way. “Your ability is controlling and manipulating darkness, what’s to say that you aren’t able to see everything that happens in the dark?”

“It makes sense to me,” I say, not sure what all that would entail.

“So you can walk through shadow,” Oryn said, trying to convince himself of the truth.

The words hung in the air, almost too outrageous to be true. How was I able to do that? How come I hadn’t been able to figure that out before? I did it once when I was a little girl, and I had brought Carena with me through the shadow. If only I had known this before. I would have been able to keep a better eye on Carena at the ball, on the movement of people. If I can walk through shadow, dwell in a shadow world where no one knew where I was, this opened up so many different possibilities.

Nothing could stop me.

I could walk into any building I wanted without anyone’s knowledge.

I could walk straight into Tricine and no one would know.

And if I could hear their thoughts, who’s to say I couldn’t visit the Captain.

“Oryn,” I say, the realization reverberating through me. A kernel of hope blossomed within me, bright and overpowering. “I can walk through the shadows anywhere, and no one would know.”

“Yes. That’s what I just said.”

“I could visit the Captain,” I say, Oryn’s eyes widening as he realizes the door that just opened for us. “He would never know,” I say. “I could visit the King. I could walk into any place I wanted and no one would know the difference. I touched you Oryn and I heard your thoughts. What would happen if I touched the Captain, the King?”

Oryn stood, watching me, his eyes scanning my face for what I was thinking. He seemed to be contemplating something within himself, weighing the options of what was best and what our next move would be. But I knew what I was going to do tonight, whether Oryn joined me or not. I finally felt I had a purpose, a way to help Carena and there was no way I was going to sit in this basement any longer. We’ve wasted days trying to get information from bars and their customers, but now all I need to do was visit the dear Captain.

“I don’t know if it’s such a good idea.” He says after a moment of thinking.

“Oh, so you can go into a den of King’s guard without an issue but I can’t go see the Captain? He won’t even know I’m there!”

“You are who they are after!” He reminds me, “If they get their hands on you…”

“Don’t you do this,” I say, walking up to stand before him? “Don’t you turn into Marilla.”

“I’m not turning into Marilla.” He says, “I’m being the voice of reason.”

“Screw reason.” I spit out. “I’m leaving to talk to the Captain tonight and getting Carena back whether it kills me or not.”

We faced off, staring at each other with such intensity that everything around me seemed to melt away. Fear and worry flashed behind Oryn’s eyes as he watched me, as he realized what I had to do to get my sister back. I only knew the emotion because I had seen it several times over the past few days when he looked at me. He ran a hand through his hair, taking a step back from me.

“You’re right. I’m sorry.” Relief soared through me like a strong wave. “But we have to do it on my terms.”

“Hold up now, I did not agree to this,” I say. Oryn smirks as he crosses his arms, the fear, and uncertainty that was in his eyes a moment ago now gone and replaced with fierce determination.

“If I’m going to make sure you live through the encounter, then we have to do it my way. Your way will be too brazen, full of error. My way will be...perfect.” He says with a smile.

“Need I remind you what just transpired at the Manor?” I say, “I’m pretty sure I was the one that said it would be a bad idea.”

Oryn waved me off like my point was inconsequential.

“The Captain is going to the Governor’s banquet tonight.”

“How do you know that?” I recalled the information quickly, remembering that it had been the only news we kept hearing the past few nights of eavesdropping.

“It will be the best time for you to get to him. There will be a lot of people in attendance and an escape would be easier if there are a lot of distractions. We will find a location outside of the Governor’s mansion and wait until the banquet has started. Once we find the Captain has arrived, then you will shadow walk and work your magic.”

“What about you?”

“I’ll be attending.”

“Excuse me?” I say.

“While you’re inside, I will pose as an attendee of the banquet and make sure nothing happens while you are there. Once you figure out Carena’s location, then you will leave and we will meet up afterward. We will plan accordingly once we have your sister’s location.”

“Okay,” I say, a jolt of nerves rushing through me. “Let’s do it.” Oryn holds up a hand, a smile resting on his face; ever casual, ever calm.

“Before we do anything though, you need to practice. You’ve shadow walked twice in your life, and tonight is our only chance to get to the Captain. Who knows where he will be tomorrow. We need to make sure you can shadow walk tonight.”

“So we practice,” I say, nervous at the thought. Last time I had practiced I had been with Kierian, and that hadn’t worked out so well. This time I would be with Oryn, and I wasn’t sure what to think about that.

“Come with me.” He says and leads me out into the city.

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