All Falls Down
“I know how you’re feeling, but don’t let it overwhelm you. If you’re gone, I’m gone. Don’t let his little tricks work. Don’t make it easy for him to win, got it?”
~ Zachary Nolan (Zakarieus Nœrlaide)
“Just a few minutes more to the East,” Vivian said.
The sun had long set by now. As we chased, the sapphire sky gradated to royal blue. We left the setting sun behind us as we hurried.
“Right here!” Vivian exclaimed. We reached a vast plain, much like the others we passed on our way here. “Wait, she disappeared.”
Running around, Zach and Roman immediately began inspecting the area. We had to be cautious of Anderson possibly copying any of our abilities, so we refrained from teleporting. I strained all my senses, keen for any unexpected smells, noises, or shadows.
“Went underground?” I hypothesized.
“I should know if she did,” Vivian mumbled. “I don’t understand. No one’s ever vanished like this before. I still clearly remember her face, so it can’t be that I lost track.”
“No signs,” Roman said. Zach also returned, shaking his head.
“No,” I murmured. We had such a promising lead. She was related to the First, who was related to the Second, whose blood was in the same cave where I found traces of my mother’s blood. She had to know something. She had to have been heading somewhere important. She couldn’t just evaporate like this!
Just then, I felt a hand press against my back. It again wasn’t physically warm in the slightest, but it instantly calmed my crazying thoughts. I didn’t need to look at Zach to feel his comforting gaze.
“Maybe she copied a power that erased her presence,” Zach deduced. “Let’s wait it out. You said she can use abilities for only ten minutes. She’ll be back on Vivian’s radar then.”
I nodded. “Yeah, she can’t hide forever. But we don’t want her to contact the First or something. Let’s try searching for a secret entrance. She might be hiding underground, like in a specially made hideout.”
Vivian spoke, “Uh, it’s true she might be stalling to call for backup, but we’re in enemy territory. There might be traps.”
“Agreed. It’s too dangerous to blindly go out there,” said Roman.
I exhaled deeply. “I know, but I’ll risk it. We can’t be sitting ducks for any backup she might bring. And we’d lose this only lead if the First arrives.”
“I’ll join you. Two of us can cover more ground,” said Zach.
“Thanks. I’ll look this way,” I said, pointing to the right. Nodding, Zach zipped to the left.
I ran all over the place, stomping on every patch of grass in case it felt like any had a metal entrance buried underneath. My ability gave me nothing when I asked where Anderson was hiding, if there was a secret entrance here, and if there was a hideout of any kind here.
Was my ability nullified? A terrified tremor jolted down my spine. I squatted and picked up a pebble. I wish this little rock could float for two seconds. I stared at it, desperately wanting it to work and prove that the First wasn’t already here.
To my relief, the pebble levitated and rose like a balloon for precisely two seconds. As it dropped back to the ground, something before me caught my eye. It reflected against the brightening moonlight. Stepping forward, I shoved the pine tree branches to the side and squinted. Just as I realized what I saw, a distant shout cut through the plain. I bulleted up and sprinted toward the outcry. When all I met was untouched grass, I glanced around. Other than Roman and Vivian bolting toward me, the plain was cold and empty.
My distress level hit unprecedented peaks. “There was a camera.”
“What?” Roman asked.
“There was a tiny lens in a tree bark on the other side.”
“Why? Vampires don’t show up on camera,” Vivian questioned.
“You can still watch the movements of grass and trees,” I said, dropping to my hands and knees, patting down the grass. “Zach fell down here somewhere. Where’s that entrance? I wish I knew where the entrance is!”
When none of us could find even a crack in the soil, I asked, “Were any of you two watching him? Did you see where he fell?”
Roman replied, “No, we were both watching you stick your head into a pine tree.”
“She used that lens to distract all of us while she took Zach,” I stammered. “Fuck, this is all my fault. I insisted on charging in blind.”
“Don’t blame yourself. I’ll track him,” Vivian reassured. Her fingers rose to her temple, and Roman and I looked at her expectantly. Her eyes popped open. “What the… I can’t find him. Not anywhere. It’s like he evaporated, too.”
“What? How? What’s going on?” I asked dumbly.
“Looks like whatever power Anderson copied is transferable,” said Roman.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
I barely felt Vivian’s hand pat my shoulder in support. Roman telekinetically lifted my face. “Calm down, Hazel. You’re not helping anyone. Let’s try to dig this whole thing up.”
The noise in my head quieted. That was a good idea. At this point, we couldn’t afford to stay safe anymore. I planted my palms flat on the ground and said, “I wish the earth around me would rise up.”
Since I didn’t bother with precise wording, that wish took a rather large toll. Immediately, the ground rumbled as if a passing earthquake. Clutters of soil fluttered in the air as a chunk of land began to rise in the shape of a near-perfect rectangular prism. A second later, more of the earth ascended into the air like floating islands. Soon enough, some ten enormous lumps of grass and dirt loomed over us.
The three of us crawled to the nearest hollow in the ground and peered downward.
Vivian gasped out loud. “Holy, that’s a literal castle!”
Indeed, a castle-like structure rested deep beneath the surface. It was pitch dark down there, and many poles and panels held up the earth that used to conceal it. Due to my interference, dirt littered the many roofs, balconies, and roofless walkways of the castle.
“Should’ve done this way sooner,” I noted. “Let’s go down.”
Roman teleported us to the front door. For an underground castle, the ceiling was incredibly high. Present was not any feeling of oppression or constraint. The design of this place was breathtaking, and the architecture of the fortress only amplified my amazement.
“Who the heck are you?”
We spun around only to look down and discover a young boy glaring at us with crossed arms. He looked about fourteen, fifteen years old. But of course, this was probably a thousand-year-old vampire. Strange though, since vampires usually grew to the most attractive age. And that is most certainly not fourteen.
“You took our friend,” Roman plainly stated.
The boy’s brown irises darkened. “Excuse me?”
My eyes blazed fire engine red in return. “I wish for you to tell me where Zach is.”
“I don’t know who that is,” he muttered. “Now, fix my roof and get out of my house.”
I mirrored his glare. “We’re not leaving until we find Zach.”
Right then, I saw a fraction of a movement in his eyes. I briskly turned around and bared my fangs at the vampire behind me. He looked exactly like the boy in front of us.
I frowned. “Twins?”
In the blink of an eye, the second boy split into two more versions of himself.
“Cloning!” Roman exclaimed. Before we could react, some twenty clones of the boy had us dead surrounded.
All of their raven eyes screamed bloody murder. “Get out!” they yelled in unison.
There were many things I could’ve done in that situation, but my inexperienced brain froze. In the face of hostile foes closing in for the kill, I couldn’t think to wish for anything coherent. Roman swatted the swarming clones with his telekinesis, and Vivian punched them at bay. Meanwhile, my inner monologue sputtered even as one of the clones hissed and leapt at me.
“Hazel!” Roman cried out, but it was too late. The clone’s claws were half an inch away from my jugular. My eyes squeezed shut for a second, arms raised up and felt nothing. When I glanced around me, all the clones seemed to look right past us as if we were invisible.
“Reįglii, what are you doing? I’m ridding intruders here,” said the boy grumpily.
That name was familiar. Yes, it was one of the progenitors. Josephine’s father was a Reįglii.
“Rest assured, they bear no ill will. It is their friend whom they seek.”
As I turned around, Vivian asked, voice trembling, “Who are you?”
I found myself face to face with the second progenitor I’d met. With a derby hat and a matching dark grey suit, he appeared to be a classic young gentleman. He raised his pointed umbrella for a moment and gestured toward the boy. “Please excuse my companion’s behaviour. A hot-headed one, he is. He is Hëdvig, the Seventh. I am Reįglii, the Eighth. Pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
Oh, that little clone-making kid was the seventh progenitor.
“Where’d you take our friend?” I pressed.
“It is not I who borrowed your companion. ’Twas the Fourth,” Reįglii stated in a winding tone as if he were in a theatrical drama.
Hëdvig arched his brow. “Anderson was here? And I didn’t see her?”
I interrupted, “Yeah, I know. Where is she now?”
“I’m afraid she departed immediately after rendering your friend to sleep.”
My eyebrow twitched. “Which direction did she go, then? Where’s the doorway?”
“There,” Reįglii said, pointing to a solid wall. “However, she sealed the passage behind her; thus, the hallway now ceases to exist.”
“She sealed it that solid?” I questioned.
“Correct. Using geokinesis copied from the Third, who manipulates all elements.”
Roman threw his head back. “That’s why we couldn’t find anything! There was no secret entrance. She opened the earth, hopped down here, and closed it back up.”
I sighed loudly. “No matter. I can do that, too. I’ll start digging in the direction she went.”
“Oh, I would highly recommend against that,” Reįglii started, but Hëdvig jumped up and shushed him.
The petit progenitor tossed us a side glance. “You’re desperate to save your friend, right? Anderson went that way. Go and stop bothering us.”
My orbs glared even brighter as I flashed up against them. “Listen up, I will get Zach back safely even if it means waging war against the rulers of heaven and hell. You are going to tell me everything you know about where she’s headed and what is there.” My brain produced a series of unspoken wishes, demanding answers and obedience. My millions’ worth of saved-up energy nosedived as the two progenitors in front of me stood, eyes as bloody red as mine.
“The Fourth is likely headed to her hideout due north. It’s quite a ways away from here and riddled with traps and heavy protection. I believe anyone who wishes to enter must be led by the Fourth herself, unless one desired to become a honeycomb.”
Hëdvig added, “But Anderson’s pretty fucking crazy. I’ll just give you that. She kidnaps people off the streets all the time, and no one ever sees any of them again.”
At that moment, I squeezed my eyes shut and inhaled deeply. I had unknowingly mind controlled not one, but two progenitors at once. It was much more taxing than I ever imagined. I briskly lowered the hovering chunks of earth that were draining my power. With the hollows filled back up, the underground cavern returned to pitch darkness.
When I refocused my gaze on Hëdvig and Reįglii, I met their saucer eyes and dropped jaws.
“Did you just hypnotize us?” Hëdvig grumbled, his uncertain raven orbs shifted to glance at his hands.
“You who are not even a Pureblood.” Reįglii gasped.
“Yes, yes, I don’t have time for this.” I clutched my head, searching for a solution. “Vivian, try again to see if you can locate Anderson.”
“Oh…! Right.” Vivian touched her temple. Her face lit up. “Yes! I got a signal. She’s heading north, fast. Zach’s right behind her.”
My heart leaped. “Roman, let’s teleport immediately!”
“Finally, abilities work on them now,” Roman muttered as Vivian told him the coordinates.
“The perpetrator would be yours truly,” Reįglii cut in. “You see, the Fourth dove down here asking for an invisibility barrier, as she had been tailed.”
I frowned. “But this place wasn’t invisible.”
“Indeed, I can only presume that you entered the area prior to my production of the barrier. It is a characteristic of my force fields that everything and everyone in them becomes transparent and undetectable.” Reįglii nodded, agreeing with himself. “You cannot track someone who did not exist. Now that they have exited my field, the Fourth and your friend reappeared in this world.”
By then, Vivian and I had our hands on Roman’s shoulders. “I see, thanks for the explanation,” I said, deadpanned. As Reįglii smiled and waved, my view flashed from the underground castle to an endless forest. Vivian, Roman, and I teleported, just far enough from the Fourth to remain undetected but close enough to catch up.
“She’s about five feet below ground,” Vivian reported.
I stared ahead. “Not for long. Ten minutes is almost up. She can’t keep manipulating earth forever.”
We followed Anderson as she continued to tunnel north. Seven minutes later, we were right on her tail. The strange thing was, she continued to tunnel underground.
“What’s going on? It’s way beyond her time limit.”
After a few seconds of silence, Roman reasoned, “The Tenth. Crysanthė must’ve enhanced her power before she left.”
“Fuck, of course. No time to waste, then. Tell me exactly where she is.” I gritted my teeth and cracked my knuckles. “I’ll dig her up.”
Vivian pointed to the ground in front. “Right there. Moving at the same speed as us.”
My crimson vampire orbs blazed. “I wish to bring Anderson and Zach to the surface.”
Instantly, a ball of dirt shot up from the earth and rolled in the air. A ball the size of two people, that is. It disintegrated into small clumps in mid-air, revealing a stunned Anderson and a spherical boulder. She twirled and landed on her feet behind the gaping hole I created. The boulder crashed down beside her, sending a tremor through the earth.
“Zach’s in there, isn’t he? Release him,” I commanded, nodding toward the boulder.
“You mean my Nolly?” Anderson giggled, to my surprise. “Nuh-uh. Finders keepers. He’s mine now.”
“‘Nolly’?” Vivian repeated, cringing.
Ignoring us, Anderson inspected her hand. “Wow, you can grant your own wishes.”
Alarmed, I realized my mistake. I used my ability when she was far too close. She took advantage of my slip up and copied my power even when I had the element of surprise.
I glanced at the boulder, about to wish for it to crack open, but Anderson was one step ahead. Much more quickly than I could execute my power, she generated a patch of anti-vamp spikes on the ground, then telekinetically hovered the boulder above them. She cracked her fingers on one hand. “Oh, my Lords. Just copying you gives me every ability imaginable. For someone this powerful, you sure are weak.”
Through her taunting voice and ever-changing actions, I fell for her trick. I grew confused, fast. The moment I articulated a wish that countered her set up, she created a new perilous situation that reset my thought process. As anxiety built, I could feel myself on the brink of tears. It was as if Anderson was reading my every thought, predicting my every move. As I thought to break the boulder, she added a vine coating to it. As I thought to free Zach, she reacted faster and added a layer before I could destroy a layer. Just as a hundred different ideas crashed and exploded in my brain, it suddenly fell utterly silent.
“I just shut down your mind. I bet you didn’t even know you could do that,” Anderson said with a Cheshire grin. “I’m ecstatic! I’m discovering new lands. I don’t get to experiment with new abilities much. Not a lot of unique powers left undiscovered after you live for thousands of years, am I right?”
My lips parted, then shut, then parted again like a goldfish. No thoughts could form in my vacant mind. I turned to seek aid from Roman and Vivian, only to find them both collapsed, unconscious. I hadn’t noticed when Anderson knocked them out.
She giggled again. “I knew you vamps were waiting to ambush me at Crissy’s house. I can sense any active abilities around me, okay? That telepathy was pretty loud. And thanks for trying to use your ability a lot. I got lots of copies. Kisses!”
At last, as she blew an air kiss, dread sank my soul into the depths of hell, and my eyelids slowly grew heavier.
“Good night, sweetie.”