Chapter 9

Amalia strode through the eastern gates of the tower mid-morning The several guards patrolling the ramparts saluted to her as she strode through with confidence. The doors to the tower were opened and out strolled her mistress and several other Sister of Breaking, excited to see and hear if one of the chosen had completed her task. Amalia dropped down to a knee before her mistress and loosed the sack from her waist and handed it up. Another sister grabbed the sack and checked the contents before handing them to the Sister. "Has our dear one accomplished her task?"

"See for yourself Mistress Collette." The other sister replied.

Collette opened the sack and drew out the contents, revealing for all who were watching the severed head of one of the towns merchants. "My, my, my, you have done well Amalia the Crafty. I can guarantee that Lord Darak'Thul will be most pleased with your success."

She kneeled down and lifted Amalia's chin to gaze into her eyes, a wicked smile spread across her lips as she saw the change that had begun.

"Oh, Lord Thul will be most pleased, assuredly. The change has begun sisters and soon The Rogue will be working fully for the Dark One." Collette announced as she stood back up.

A loud cheer erupted from the loyalists and the other Seductresses gathered at the Tower of Breaking. Amalia could do nothing but feel a small sense of pride well up in her as it was affirmed that she had completed her task and she would not be punished today. She kept her gaze to the dirt on which she kneeled until given word to stand up. "Come Amalia," Collette gestured and commanded.

She rose and took her mistresses hand. "We shall celebrate with a fine meal this evening and let all your training continue tomorrow. I shall give you this one day of reprieve, for I am feeling quite generous because of your success." Collette stroked the back of Amalias head as she led her inside to take part in the celebration.

The sound of boots echoed off the black marble and reverberated around the dark hall as the man walked in confidence towards the throne room. Guards straightened their posture as he passed and saluted him. He just nodded in return, not needing to give any response to them. The two guards at the outer door, opening the dual doors before he reached them to prohibit him from having to wait. He strode on past and walked into the inner sanctum of his Lord and King. He stopped meters before the throne and knelt down on one knee, bowing his body and lowering his gaze. He waited to speak until spoken too, putting off any wrath that would be directed towards him for insolence.

"Do we have him?" The disembodied voice rumbled throughout the chamber.

"Yes m'lord." His simple reply.

"And what about the book?"

"When the Wraith snatched him it was no longer in his possession."

"You Prating Fool!" The verbal lashing sliced into his right cheek drawing blood.

He resisted the desire to reach up and touch the wound or wipe the blood, knowing it would only bring more pain upon him. "I will have the prophecy going as plan, but to fulfill my utmost desire, I need that book!"

The man was lifted off the floor by an invisible hand wrapped around his throat, he grasped the presence and tried to breathe.

"We..have...wraiths..." He gasped trying to reply

The hand dropped him back to the ground and he clutched his throat. "We have wraiths looking for the book right now m'lord."

"Find me that book so I can again have a corporeal form and not this shroud of my former self!" The voice snapped sending the man flying out of the throne chambers and the doors slamming behind him.

He staggered to his feet and the soldiers rushed to assist him. "Leave me be you fools!" He growled wiping the blood from his face.

They returned to their posts and averted their eyes from him, he adjusted his clothes and turned on a heel, regaining his composure and marched out of the palace to return to assist in finding the book. The travel between worlds was quick and easy but it never failed to make him uncomfortable to return to the parallel world, he hated this place and the gagging presence of the Divine Creator here. Now that seven of the Chosen were on the other side, there only remained three left. Two would be pivotal in advancing his Lords plans, but the last one would do some major damage if He were to call her over as well. The thought renewed his strength and vigor to carry out his mission with success, to bring about the destruction of the Light and bring about the reign and terror of Darkness.

"Any news since my absence?" He questioned a servant who stood shrouded at the edge of the woods.

The servant was scally and had an almost lizard like appearance about him, his eyes flitted to and fro looking all about him, his posture was hunched over from the pain his scally dermis cause rubbing against his bones. The only part of him that remained remotely human was his face, it still was formed like that of his old self except for the fact it was covered in scales as well.

"No sire, the wraiths have had no luck in locating that which you seek." The servant replied, shying away from him.

"Dammit." He grumbled.

"Are you displeased with me m'lord?"

"Yes and no. I don't know how the boy got the book in his possession to begin with and when the wraith dragged him through the gateway the book was lost and now we cannot seem to locate a single book."

"If I may?"

"You may!"

"Be fortunate that the book was lost here and not somewhere else across this wretched planet."

"Correct you are my servant, now join the others and let us get this pathetic task over with." He shoved the creature out of the clearing and into the open.

The servant put up his hood and scampered across campus, joining the other servants of the Dark One in the hunt for a black book. "I don't understand why this book is so important." He muttered to himself trying to comprehend the reasoning for all of this.

"Just do what you are asked." His watcher spoke into his mind from the shadows.

He let out a deep sigh and ran his fingers through his hair. "As you wish." He conceded.

He bundled up his jacket and stepped out of the woods to assist the wraiths under his command. The students on campus paid him no heed as he was dressed to look like one of them. He had fifty wraiths under his command during their investigation, His Lord never really trusted him enough to have Soldiers or blood wrights, mindless demons who lived off the blood of humans draining them of every last drop, to lead. He was going to have to be content with his place right now and hope that eventually his loyalty would be rewarded and he could sit at the right hand of His Lord.

The wraiths were searching every nook and cranny looking for the book, luckily for them most humans were so insensitive to the supernatural and spiritual that they could go about their business unheeded or unnoticed. Which left him perfectly capable to go slink around the college campus and go where he pleased without being questioned. Hours had past and the sun had finally descended beyond the horizon leaving them working in darkness, the wraiths didn't seem to mind, their natural habitat being the shadows.

However it left Damian exhausted and tired, he left his servant to continue the watch and he retreated to one of the empty dorm rooms they had commandeered as a temporary headquarters. Damian washed the grime off his pale flesh and crawled into the warm bed, dreaming of his place back home with his sister and younger brother playing on the grassy hills surrounding their home near the coast.

Sabrina spent time each day when the caravan would stop for food to enter the trailer holding Desmond and talk to him. The boy slowly warmed up to her and their conversations grew longer and longer, she was careful to not draw the information out of him too quickly and harm the trust she had built with the boy. The two of them conversed about many topics, ranging from weapons, to country life, to his and her life back home etc. Sabrina had come to discover that the boy was near the age of her younger brother Sean back home.

I wonder if Sean is here or if he is still at back in our world, are they out looking for me or have the forgotten. Sabrina pondered to herself in between a lull in their conversation.

"Everything okay Temptress?" Desmond piped up after a few minutes of silence.

"Huh?!" Shaking her head as she was brought from her thoughts. "Oh yeah just thinking about my life back in my world and how my family is faring since I have no way to contact them and let them know I am okay." She smiled weakly over at Desmond.

He reached his chained hands over and patted her thigh, trying, of sorts, to console her. "I know what it is like to lose everyone you know and be all alone."

She smiled again. "Well as of right now I know that my family isn't dead, I do at least know that most of those that are like family, my closest friends are here on this side with me. That at least gives me some sort of solace."

"And are the rest of them like you?" Desmonds curiosity was peaked.

"A Temptress? Goodness no!" she laughed and blushed.

"Oh sorry, I didn't know."

"Don't apologize, you are young and still have much to learn. No my friends are all part of the Prophecy, the Chosen that are meant to rid this world of the evil that has manifested itself. Some of us are currently aligned with the evil and others fighting as part of the resistance. But the Divine Creator is good and He will see us through to victory." She ruffled his hair and wiped a tear away, missing her brother more than she even realized.

"It would be so cool to be a part of something like Captain Danyew or Lord Edward or even you Temptress." Desmond blushed as he admitted something that was in his heart.

"Well maybe I could arrange something, but there is something you have to do for me first."

"Really, I would love that, to feel like I am a part of something greater, to have a purpose. I would do anything for you Temptress." Desmonds eyes lit up with the excitement of possibly being released from his chains and finally doing something positive with his life.

"You need to tell me everything about why you and your sister were going to the encampment of the Shadow to steal something of which you knew nothing about, or so you say." she smirked and winked at him.

Desmond looked down at the floor and away from Sabrina, shame seemed to wash over him.

"You can tell me, we aren't going to kill you. You didn't attack one of the chosen ones, you were running from our enemies. But we need to know Desmond, we can't protect you nor figure out what they were planning if you don't help us out." She pleaded with him.

He let out a deep sigh and returned his gaze to Sabrina's curious eyes. "Alright." He relented. "I will explain everything."

"Excellent, thank you Desmond!" she smiled and kissed the top of his head like a loving sister.

"My family and I were headed to the town that is just beyond the lake, our previous home had been ransacked and burned by the forces of the Shadow, so we were in a travelling caravan of refugees headed to the nearest town. My family had slept late and the rest of the caravan had left without us one morning. So when we awoke we packed our things and continued to travel. Along the way a band of thieves and raiders came out at us from the surrounding countryside. My Father saw them approach and ordered my Mother to hide us inside the wagon, she took us inside and hid us under one of the benches.

We heard them say some things at my parents and pull them off the wagon. I covered my sisters ears as I heard the men laugh, my father scream out and telling them 'not to do it, leave her alone' and he would give them anything they wanted. A couple of men, dressed like thieves came into the wagon and tore it apart looking for valuables and whatever else they could find. They quickly found my sister and I and dragged us out before our father. I saw that a man had my mother by the hair and another had a knife against my mother's throat." Tears started to collect at the corners of his eyes.

"You don't have to go on if you don't want to, we can continue at some other time." Sabrina wrapped an arm around the boy.

"No, I can do this, I have to be strong." He pushed the emotion back and took a few deep breaths to collect himself. "'Leave them alone' I shouted as my sister and I were thrown to the dirt, a raider bound our hands together and pulled us into a kneeling position. I ripped my hands from the grip of my captor and ran my shoulder into one of the men holding my mother, throwing him off balance by surprise and into the dirt. One of the men standing by called me a 'little bastard' and dragged me by my hair back to where my sister wept. 'Now you get to watch,' the leader said. He grabbed my Father's head and yanked it in the direction of my mother.

'Rape her,' he told them and several laughed with evil excitement, their eyes were black and hungry. I grabbed my sister as well as I could and shoved her face into my chest and tried to block out her ears, I turned away just in time to see one of them unlace his pants and the leader slit my Father's throat from ear to ear. I can still hear my Mother's screams as each one had their turn with her until she died from the complete terror she was experiencing." Desmond started to cry this time, not even trying to retain his composure.

"Shh, shh, shh..." Sabrina pulled the boy against her and allowed him to weep, releasing the emotion he had kept bottled up.

She sat there and rocked the boy, stroking his hair and holding him close to her. She quietly prayed for him as she moved back and forth with him. He eventually quieted down and wiped the tears from his eyes and let out a long, deep breath.

"Okay now for the rest. The thieves bartered with the raiders and took my sister and I with them, 'to be trained' I heard them say. We were blindfolded and carted into the hills and down into the thieves guild safehouse of this region. We heard them talk to the Thief leader about what they wanted to do with us, something along the lines of an artifact that would bring this guild back to a feared status among the villages and towns along the countryside. A status they had lost once the forces of the Shadow had snuck into their safe house and stolen it, lets just say the person who let them slip past was impaled outside for all to see.

I don't know what the artifact does or even what it looks like, they just gave my sister and I the instructions on where to find it and how to get it. That if we succeeded in bringing it back we would become part of the thieves guild and if we died in the process it wasn't a big deal. My sister and I got the artifact, switched it out with the fake and we were out the gates when we were noticed and the rest you know."

"What a horrible experience Desmond, I am truly sorry for you loss. I will converse with my leaders and the Elders of this tribe and see if we can get you out of here okay?" She tilted the boys face to gaze in her eyes and smiled at him.

"Okay, thank you Mistress Sabrina."

"You are welcome."

She rose and knocked on the door, the guards opened it and she turned back to Desmond and gave him a reassuring smile before stepping out into the noonday sun. Sabrina made her way to where Danyew and the Elders were meeting, deciding best which route to continue to avoid as much of the enemy as possible. They all looked up at her as she entered the tent.

"Did you finish getting the information from him?" Danyew piped up.

"Yes, His family were refugees and a band of raiders and thieves ransacked them, raped his mother and slit his father's throat. He has no idea what the artifact does, what it is or what good it was going to do for the Thieves guild beside make them feared again in the area where we found him." She sunk down into a chair and accepted some water from one of the ladies of the tribe.

Sabrina could see the artifact laying on the open table, surrounded by maps and drawings and letters from other tribes and pockets of the Resistance. It was a circle of gold with what looked to be a flawless emerald planted in the center, with old runic detailing along the circumference of the amulet, all attached to a thick, gold link chain.

Edward picked up the amulet and gestured with it, "Well where can we go to find out about this thing?"

"I know of one place but that is going to be a distance to travel." Danyew suggested.

"And where is that?" Sabrina chimed in.

"That would be where the Tower of Learning went."

"That would be?" Edward asked.

"Where the Sisters of Prophecy are trained and the central point where the Divine Creator speaks and His word gets translated across the world."

"Well then let's go." Edward started grabbing things to pack.

"It's not that easy Edward, the journey shall take us many weeks to travel and I doubt that we can get the entire tribe through the forest on the way to the Sisters. Only select few are privileged to know the path to travel."

"Then shall only a few of us travel there?" Sabrina chimed in.

"I believe that would be best, maybe just the three of us?" Danyew suggested.

"Oh before we make this official, I have a request from Desmond and from myself. Can we allow the boy to remain? Because he never chose the life of thieving I believe that time spent training and learning from the Aurmai people will do the boy wonders or take him with us to learn from the three of us would possibly benefit even more." Sabrina brought up the possibility.

"I don't know if that would be wise, the boy may just slow us down." Edward protested.

"I honestly believe he could be an asset to us, and he would benefit greatly from the wisdom and skills you both have to offer and the training I have finished here with the Aurmai people. Not to mention that we need recruits towards our cause and eventual members of the Royal Guard, to which you were a member Danyew and Edward here shall eventually lead." Sabrina debated with the boys.

"Not to mention we don't have any horses we could spare for him to ride." Edward interjected.

"Desmond and I are small, we can ride together, that will keep us with three horses." Sabrina finalized.

"I am still leery of having the boy join us, let us think about it overnight and convene in the morning and come to an official decision then." Danyew ended the conversation there and collected his things before heading to his trailer.

Edward and Sabrina remained and continued to hold conversation about what was discussed while she was talking to Desmond. The night grew later and later and soon only the two of them were left talking, sleep setting in Sabrina bade Edward goodnight and retired for the rest of the evening. Edward stayed some time alone and just prayed and thought about his friends who were here, those that weren't and prayed to the Divine Creator for their safety and well being.

Michael woke with a fright, the early morning light illuminating the bedroom. Sweat glistened over his bare skin, his breath came in heavy, the images from the nightmares still flashing in his mind. Throwing the covers off he walked over to his bathroom. Throwing the switch he stopped mid stride as he saw his reflection in the mirror, it wasn't him, it was something more ghastly. A man stared at him through the mirror, his smile twisted into a gruesome grin. His teeth tapered off into points and blood dripping from the almost luminous pearly white teeth. His hair was in complete disarray and in knots with bits of leaves and twigs sticking out. There was a undeniable hunger in his eyes. A thirst grew in Michael's throat looking upon this doppelganger who stared at him through his own mirror. "Michael." It spoke.

Michael took a step back, sweat still running down his face and chest.

"Michael." It repeated.

Michael stepped forward cautiously, he turned the water on and bent down, splashing his face a couple times, grabbing the towel by the sink he patted his face dry. Slowly he opened his eyes while setting the towel down. "Michael!" The doppelganger ecstatic and its face as close as Michael's was to the mirror.

"Ahh!" Michael shouted, jumping back. "What in the world?"

"I bring a message from the Master."

"What are you talking about?"

"He wants you to know that soon he will require your services against the light, darkness must prevail." The image stood back up straight and licked his lips, wiping up the leftover blood. Letting out a shriekish laugh the image shimmered and all that was left was Michael staring at himself, jaw dropped and red eyed. He walked out of the opposite door that led to his kitchen and opened the fridge, grabbing the milk and pouring himself a glass. Trying to wake up and shake the fright from his bones. He still couldn't get the dream out of his head, he was being torn alive by demons and creatures of every type of villainy. They laughed at his screams of agony and squealed in delight when he sobbed uncontrollably.

Michael cautiously moved back to the bathroom, looking at the mirror and finding only his exhausted reflection he turned the water on for a hot shower. Closing both doors and locking them, Michael stripped down into nothing and climbed into the hot water, shutting the curtain behind him. He let the heat drown the sleep and fear from his bones, clearing his mind of the hell of last night and the fright of fifteen minutes ago and bringing him to the usual candor of his personality. Stepping out mere minutes later, refreshed and awake for his job. Wrapping a towel around his waist and moving to his room to get dressed. He unwrapped the towel and dried off, slipping on a clean pair of boxers and dressed in jeans, work boots and a plain shirt. He grabbed a granola bar from the kitchen along with his wallet, sunglasses and keys and left the apartment.

He started the automatic start on his car, a feature he used often and quite liked all the time. Climbing in he backed out and headed on his way. He listened to five iron frenzy on his way to work, his all time favorite band, singing along word for word. The events of the morning drifted back into his subconscious, deep down the seed had taken root, the fear was there, it only needed the kicker to cause it to grow.

During work his thoughts lingered around the events of a couple weeks ago, the opening of the journal at Red Robin. Something about it wasn't natural, it scared him, made him afraid of what was going on. His friends were disappearing, first Joshua, then Cassie, Phillip and Jessie and now mysteriously both Kristin and Lena were gone without a trace. This wasn't right, it wasn't a good thing. He worried for Chris as well, having not heard from him since he went back to school. Chris was really busy with his studies, that helped to ease the worry, even if just slightly. People just don't disappear like that without some sign as to where they went. Not to mention the screams he heard right before he knew they vanished. They were gut wrenching, each time he heard the scream he wanted to vomit. Whoever or whatever force was doing this to the people he cared about most had to be stopped. He had to put a stop to it, save his friends from whatever fate they were possessed with. Shaking his head he went back to the task at hand, pushing the thoughts from his mind into a dark corner where they continued to fester.

Unknowingly that darkroot found some motive to grow and the tendrils sank themselves into those festering thoughts, gaining strength and ground. The thought that this force removing his friends from this world needed to be stopped, destroyed, gave the Shadow a reason to move closer. Gently drawing Michael into its poisonous clutches it began making preparations to make Michael who he wanted him to be.