Chapter Nineteen

The minute we passed through the wooden door, I was extremely thankful that the spirit had liked me. More bones scattered the floors of the well-lit hallway we emerged into, bloodstains covered the walls, and the were some not-so-fresh corpses to go along with the bones. I kept having to remind myself that this entire thing was only a game, and that nothing here was real. Not the corpses or the bones, or the body that had fallen into my arms.

... Or Revion, I guess...

There were slight slits in the walls that stretched from the floor to the roof. I peeked into one and saw the gleam of a blade, and suddenly thanked my apparent luck in this game. It was a bladed pendulum, which would have cut us both down for sure if we hadn't been aware of it. Perhaps it would have killed us even if we were aware of it.

"And how exactly did you manage to find the door and disable these traps?" Revion asked, a touch of sarcasm in his voice. "I happen to remember that you've said you've never been here before."

"I haven't," I replied. "There was a spirit of an Elf and she asked me a riddle. I answered it and we got to go forward."

"Did she have any terms?"

"If I got it right, we could proceed without any fear of harm. If I got it wrong, then I'd have to drag your sleeping ass up the stairs and we'd have to stay away for ten years."

Revion facepalmed and then groaned. "You are so lucky that that spirit liked you..."

"You're telling me..." We followed the hallway closely while watching for any sudden movements. Despite what the spirit had said, I guess we still wanted to be on our guard. "Hey, I had another of those dreams..."

"The creepy ones?"

I nodded. "Three, actually. One while I was sleeping here, one this morning, and then the other when I was, erm... captured..."

Revion rubbed his chin. "What were they about?"

"It was the same person," I explained. "First she was in a prison—must've been Spire's prison. She was visited by a woman named Marian, who said she was the Princess or something. She offered her a way out of her impending death."

"I remember Princess Marian," Revion remarked. "Good woman. Damn good Queen. She was probably one of the best rulers Asala had ever seen. What was this, 'way out'?"

"She said something about becoming a 'Blade of the Goddess'." I manoeuvred around some bones. "And then she was at an Academy, I think. She met someone there that she became friends with."

"Well, that's a nice end to a story."

I shook my head. "It's not over yet. I remember that she and her friend were kidnapped by bandits. She killed them all, and then carried her friend back to the Academy. They were both wounded the last I saw."

Revion considered what I'd said solemnly. "The Academy of the Blades," he said, smiling. "I've only entered once. Nice place. There aren't many Goddess' Blades around any longer, though. Seventy-three years ago, it seemed like the Purge was going to attack again. The Goddess had appeared, but I'm not exactly sure what happened. She disappeared as soon as we got reports that the Purge was retreating. So, it's been a mystery for a long time as to what happened, and most of the Goddess' Blades since then have been searching for the Goddess. Not like they can guard a Princess or a Queen right now."

"Why do they guard them?"

"When there isn't a Goddess, they're the next most important female figures," he explained. "Of course, when the griffons came, the King got jealous that he didn't have elite security and helped to form the Paladin Knights. But they rarely guard a King or a Prince any more. They're too concerned with proving how large their biceps are."

"So, what I'm seeing must have happened before the Purge attacked?"

"Marian didn't ascend to the throne until 14:37 United, so about a year before reports of the Purge came in."

Thankfully, it cleared some things up for me. It must have been mandatory in the game to watch someone from the past—.

In order to figure out what happened to the Goddess!

I snapped my fingers. "Of course!" I exclaimed. "These visions I'm getting are from someone who probably knew what happened to the Goddess seventy-three years ago! Blades of the Goddess are the Goddess' bodyguards, and so they'd have to be with her at all times!"

Revion nodded. "I suppose. But you might just be going insane—."

"Can we please think positively for two seconds?" I groaned, rubbing my temples.

"When we find the Goddess, she'll answer our questions," Revion said, assuring me. "But we need to tread carefully. When we find the Goddess, Dûrion won't be far behind."

I'd almost forgotten about him. The Elf who was completely and utterly obsessed with her. I resolved to protect her from him, because she was my only lead to get home back to Nate.

We crossed into another large room, but this one had a single candle flickering in its centre. As soon as we neared the candle, I heard something, like stone moving. Revion spun on his heel, and just as I turned around I saw only a wall. Something had blocked our escape.

"Now what?" I exclaimed. "We're stuck here with just a candle!"

"We may be able to find another door," Revion said, crossing the room. "Stay by the candle so I know where you are."

I sat near the candle and watched Revion's form slowly fade into darkness. It took a while, but I could no longer hear his footsteps, either. I watched the candle's flame for a time before I groaned.

"Revion!" I called. "Find anything?"

I was unnerved by the silence, despite hearing my voice echo through the room. I shivered when I didn't hear anything.

"Revion!" I yelled, louder this time. Still, I heard nothing. I clenched my fists and stood up. "If you're trying to scare me down here, I'm going to cut your head off!"

I finally heard footsteps approaching, relieved, I relaxed and grinned. I hoped that Revion had managed to find a way out for us. But... the footsteps were off, somehow. They were too heavy, and made too much noise, unlike Revion who could actually pick his feet up off of the ground.

I started to pull my sword out of my scabbard, eyeing the direction the steps were coming from warily. Eventually, Revion's white head of spiky hair came into view, followed by the rest of him.

He blinked when he saw my sword. "Something wrong?" he asked.

I relaxed and sighed. "I guess not."

Revion held out his hand. "C'mon, Ani. We should get moving."

"You found a way?"

"I did." He smiled. "We should get moving. We have a Goddess to get, right Ani?"

I reached out for his hand, but stopped suddenly. Something felt wrong. Something felt terribly wrong. He looked confused when I stopped.

"Ani?"

"Don't call me that!" I spat. "Revion never calls me by my name! He only ever says it when I'm in trouble!"

"What the hell're you—?"

I thrust my sword forward, into his stomach. He staggered backwards, holding the blade in his hands, and then looked at me with a hate that chilled me to my very bones.

"Smart girl," the shade of Revion said. "Smarter than your friend, anyway."

"Where's Revion?" I yelled, bringing the shade closer to me. "Tell me!"

The shade lost its form (or the imitated form of my friend) when it got closer to the candlelight and hissed, disappearing from my blade and reappearing not very far away, but closer to the darkness around me. It didn't take on Revion's form again. This time, it just looked like a black shape, darker than the blackness around us, with glowing red eyes.

"He is with us," the shade said as it floated around, watching me. "Though he is seeing through our guise, just as you have."

Its voice was ethereal, and almost seemed to cut through the air in a metallic sound. I pointed my sword at where I believed the shade was.

"Bring him back here!" I demanded. "Or else!"

"Or else what, little girl?" the shade chided, its body massing to another side of the room. "What can you do when we will not approach you in light, and you will not approach us in darkness?" I stooped to pick up the candle, but the shade clicked a non-existent tongue. "That cannot be moved, or it will die out, and you will be in our darkness."

"So we're at a stalemate?" I glared at the shade, but I didn't know if I was shaking in fear or fury. The shade didn't seem to know, either. "Fine. I'll think of a way to force you to tell me."

"You cannot. I know that you haven't yet preformed magic. You cannot now, unless it is under proper instruction from a Mage. You haven't a torch, either, so you should give up to us now and let us feast on your—."

The shade was cut-off by a sound coming from where Revion had gone. And then lights started to come from that direction. I saw a tunnel, and it must have been where Revion was.

And then Revion appeared, his fists brimming with fire that cut through the darkness. You wouldn't believe the relief I felt then.

"Revion!" I called. "Thank the Goddess you're all right!"

He looked at me with suspicious eyes, but then he saw me standing in the light of the candle. "Look out!" he called suddenly.

The shade reached into the light, its form turning to a skeletal hand, and clamped tightly onto my shoulder. The sharp edges of its fingers dug deep into my flesh and tugged me backwards, teetering me on the edge of light and dark.

Revion leapt high into the air, obviously helped by magic, and tossed several fireballs at the shade. It skirted around the lights, but held out my shoulder. I switched hands with my sword and spun around, the shade's skeletal hand digging further into my skin as I did so, and cut at its vulnerable arm. The shade screeched again and again until Revion finally hit its arm with one of his fireballs, and then it released me and retreated back into the darkness. We could follow it only because of its glowing eyes.

Revion came into the candlelight with me and focused his eyes on the growling shade. "Are you all right, Vanya?"

I nodded. "Fine. What about you?"

"Minor cuts and bruises. There was another of these shades deeper into the tunnel. It looked like you."

"Great. What gave it away?"

"It hugged me as soon as it saw me."

I chuckled. "Oh crap. It gave away my secret plans. So what happened to it?"

"I managed to surround it in fire, but there was barely anywhere for it to move in that tunnel. This is a completely different story."

The shade stopped suddenly, and then seemed to grow in size. "You killed our brother? You will burn in the darkness!"

"We need a plan," I said to Revion hurriedly.

"Working on it..." he replied.

The shade shot forward, barely touching the light with its body, but its hand leapt out of the darkness again and latched onto my already wounded shoulder. Revion launched as many fireballs as he could at it as it dragged me out of the light. Revion leapt out of the candlelight, igniting his hands again, and came after me. I sliced my sword in the air around me, hoping to hit something, but couldn't find anything but black mist.

Damn! I cursed. I need magic to fight this thing! Okay, c'mon! Think! Magic!

I remembered Revion telling me that speaking my sense of "self" out loud may help. I took a deep breath, attempting to ignore the burning pain in my shoulder, and continued to fight it with my sword as Revion chased after us.

"My name is Anima!" I stated as loudly as I could. "I'm from the United Kingdom, America originally! I like bungee jumping, reading, swimming, and I need to find the Goddess! And there's no way in hell that I'm going to let a butt-ugly spirit get in my way!"

I focused, fuelled by adrenaline and fear, and then felt something in the palm of my free hand. A violet light shone brightly, lighting most of the room. The shade screeched as I focused harder, brightening the small orb. It flew from my palm and entered the black mass that was the shade, making the shade scream in pain and finally release me. I hit the ground hard, but forced myself to continue focusing on the violet light. Revion leapt overtop of me and ignited the shade, his hands spewing flames similar to a flamethrower, trapping it in the heated prison. It turned from a black mass into a skeleton, and then its bones crumpled to the ground soundlessly, dead for good.

The little violet orb glided over to me and circled my head playfully. I grinned in utter relief and sighed. The pain in my right shoulder still felt like I'd been stabbed with a knife repeatedly, but it was bearable now that the shade was dead.

"Ani? Are you all right?" Revion crouched next to me, biting his lip.

"Fine," I replied. "Thankfully, you only ever say my name when I'm in trouble."

"Well, 'Vanya' wouldn't fit at that moment. If you knew what it meant, you'd understand." Revion carefully helped me get up from off of the ground. "Good job, by the way. Summoning your magic like that. I should've thought of that sooner."

"Honestly, I just wanted to use fire magic. It turned out all right though." My shoulder was bleeding badly, and the violet orb illuminated the wound so I could see it better. It looked like I'd been attacked by a bear. "We should find the Goddess. Then we can get out of here. I wonder why that spirit from before couldn't stop the shades...?"

"They've probably been here for a very long time and gathered their strength from all the mortal spirits here," Revion deducted quickly. "That spirit may have underestimated their strength when she made her promise."

"She did the best she could." The orb fell into my palm and disappeared, so Revion called his own golden manifestation of magic to light our way. "Let's go. I'm sure that we're close."

Revion nodded, and we descended into the tunnel.