|I have woken from the depths of unconsciousness many, many times. I basically was knocked out on the day of Sydney’s awakening and the strange cold fire. And yet never, ever, had it been like this before.
Like always, I felt groggy and disoriented. My body continued to ache like it did the day of the fire. But this time, the pain was horrible. Not just physical pain, but emotional. The betrayal was still imprinted in my mind. It was the only thing I could currently think about.
I lay there, not quite sure what to do. Where was I? I didn’t dare open my eyes, for fear of seeing something I couldn’t handle. So I lay still, unmoving, unsure. All I knew was that I was sitting on something very hard, and wherever I was it was eerily silent.
Finally, my curiosity got the better of me, and I couldn’t help but open one eye. But when I did, I wondered if I actually had done anything. All I saw was blackness.
I opened my other eye and stood up, rubbing my arm, which had been the first thing to hit the ground when I had passed out. It throbbed, but I hoped that moving it might make it feel better.
Then I scanned the surrounding darkness. Of course I didn’t see anything. “Hello?” I timidly called out. “Is anyone here? Victoria?”
There was no response.
Swiftly the door swung open and a single beam of bright light pierced the darkness. I jumped, afraid of what may lie beyond. But all I heard was a horrible laugh that since being in the Castle of Rain I hoped never to hear again. After blinking to make my vision return, I glanced around the room. It was quite simple; there was no furniture or windows. The only thing that could be considered somewhat interesting was the walls. They were a shade of the deepest red and veined with slashes of midnight black. It kind of reminded me of granite.
Of course, what really caught my attention was my visitor.
“You’re the leader of these ‘Seekers’ that are to defeat me? Pathetic,” said Malistaire.
I felt anger bubble up inside of me. “Do not underestimate the Seekers of Light,” I said. “We will succeed, just wait and see!”
Malistaire laughed. “You’re so sure of yourself, and yet the powerful Seekers that you speak of obviously do not exist. One of them is mine, and the others I have found various ways to make their lives miserable. It is quite entertaining, actually. Yours was by far the most fun. I got to send you far off to Earth.”
“That was you?” I gasped. Then it all clicked together. I had always known that going to Earth was how my life was affected by dark magic, but I had never for even a moment thought that it was actually Malistaire who had done it. So here it was, right in front of me, the cause of all my troubles. Here was the reason my family and I had suffered through so much, the reason they mourned for me, the reason I had been called a freak for so much of my life. For the first time since my awakening, I was happy that we were going to defeat Malistaire.
“Of course it was me,” Malistaire snapped. “And you would have stayed there if that stupid Merle didn’t have to get involved.” Thank you, Merle Ambrose! “Anyway, you’re not my problem anymore. You’re going to die soon enough.”
“I… I’m going to die?” I squeaked. All that built up anger completely vanished and was replaced by more fear.
“I couldn’t let you survive, now could I? You’d ruin all my plans. But now I must have a chat with one of your little friends… Victoria, wasn’t it?”
“Don’t you dare touch her!” I screamed.
He only laughed. “Oh yes, I remember her. She was the one on the flying machine I crashed. That was another enjoyable thing I’ve done to you Seekers. Maybe I could even capture her family and force her to help me like the balance student.”
“No. No!” I yelled as he began to walk away. “Don’t hurt Victoria. You can’t. I won’t let you!”
“I don’t believe you have a choice, Sierra WinterBreeze,” he said before slamming the door shut right in my terrified face.
Darkness again enveloped the room. Fighting back tears, I blindly walked back into the center of the room and sat. I thought of the dream I had so many nights ago. Now I understood it. Liam’s dream too… it all fit together.
Still, I thought about what Malistaire had said. You’re going to die…
No, I can’t die, I thought. As if to comfort myself, I said it aloud: “I’m not going to die in this room,” I whispered. Though my voice didn’t sound at all reassuring, it gave me a small sliver of hope to cling to. With that, I began to devise my escape plan.
The first thing I did to begin was check for my spellbook and wand and deck. As I had expected, they weren’t there. I could probably cast a spell to bust us out of here without a wand, maybe even no deck… but no spellbook? I’d never tried that before.
Wait, I have! I suddenly remembered. On Earth, all those crazy things kept happening to me. I didn’t have any spellbook… or a wand, or a deck. I could do it!
But the real question was what to do. What’s the point of being able to freeze things if you don’t know what to freeze? Well, there was only one way out. Most likely the door would be the first thing to freeze.
As I inched toward it, I planned out how I would do all of this. Why am I freezing it? I eventually decided that once it was completely frozen, it may be weak enough to break down.
I began to work, but soon realized what hard work it was. Though I could still summon ice to aid me without my wand or deck, it was more difficult and time consuming. I would have already been done by the time I had finished only a quarter of the door with my gear. I thought back to the day my mother had helped me get ready for school. She had claimed that it was tiring. Now I knew exactly how she felt.
Just about after an hour was up (or so I thought – it was hard to measure time in a pitch black room), I had completed freezing half the door. Too tired to move, I slumped on the ground. I groaned aloud when I thought about how much more work was required to be done in order to break down the door. Suddenly this task was looking much more daunting than I had previously planned it to be.
When I was about to begin to labor away again, I heard footsteps outside my door. Startled, I slid back away from the door as to not get hit when it swung open. I knew that if my visitor looked back even once, they would see the ice and my plan would be discovered. But there was nothing I could do except for hope with all my might that they didn’t turn around.
Luckily, the guest was only a Skeletal Pirate. I knew from my very own experience that they could usually were not geniuses. Maybe I had a chance!
“Master wants to see you,” it mumbled when it emerged from behind the door with its head lowered.
“Why?” I challenged, testy.
It stared at me in surprise, before lowering his head again. “I don’t know,” it murmured under its breath so softly I could hardly hear it. “Master never tells me these things…”
“I won’t go,” I said, turning away, with a small hope that it might leave without a fight.
“You have to!” it shouted, seeming in a way shocked. I couldn’t imagine why. Had it truly expected me to simply give in?
“I won’t,” I repeated.
“Come… on!” it huffed as its bony arm began tugging me. A chill went down my spine. Never before had I felt the touch of a Skeletal Pirate. It was creepy feeling to sense a substance hard as rock moving on your skin all by itself.
“Now you’ve asked for it,” I growled, getting to my feet and knocking the Skeletal Pirate out of the way. I was amazed to find that it was very light, but I guess that makes sense since it is only bones.
While it was still struggling to get back up on its feet, I strategized my next move. Should I freeze him? No, that would sap too much energy from me. Should I simply rush out the door? Then he would probably tell everyone. What if I locked him in? That would be pointless; didn’t he have a key?
There was only one option that I could think of that had no down side other then perhaps tiring me. But as far as I knew, it may be easier than using ice magic.
So I took a deep breath and prepared to use death magic.
I still had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with it. I only hoped it would work itself out. Since
I had never seen a Necromancer perform magic without a wand, and it wasn’t like fire or ice when you knew that you wanted something to appear, I couldn’t be sure what to do. I closed my eyes and did what I always did to cast a death spell.
At first nothing happened. Of course, I had my eyes closed, but I would know if something happened. Right?
Then, I got way more than I was going for.
I flinched when I heard the enormous sound. It had reminded me of thunder, but somehow unlike any I had ever heard from a storm wizard.
I opened my eyes just when it happened. I wasn’t quite sure what I’d summoned, but if it was here to help, I didn’t care. A formidable lightning bolt had come to save me. Except this one was much different than a storm wizard’s. It was black and gave of no light at all. In fact, call me crazy, but it seemed as if it were radiating darkness instead.
It hit the Skeletal Pirate with a powerful force and it was reduced to a pile of charred bones within milliseconds. As quickly as the lightning had come, it was gone.
I stood there for quite a long time, unmoving. A million thoughts rushed through my head in those few minutes, and I felt frozen in place. What had I just done?
Eventually I couldn’t take it anymore and I knelt on the ground, crying heavily. I knew it was just a Skeletal Pirate, and, even worse, one of Malistaire’s minions. But my sister was a life wizard, and you don’t live with someone like that and not care for living things. Even if this pirate technically wasn’t living thing, it could move and even slightly think. And I had killed it. Even though I had probably defeated plenty of pirates just like this one on Unicorn Way, it had never been like this.
Finally I ran out of tears. No longer could I cry. I rose to my feet and took one last glance at what was left of the Skeletal Pirate. I squeezed my eyes shut and didn’t dare look back as I walked out the door.
I found myself in a dim corridor. It seemed like there was some kind of artificial light emitting from somewhere, but I didn’t see anything that resembled a lamp. Again I marveled at the walls. They looked very smooth and polished to perfection, but I was astonished when I ran my hand over them and got cut. The surface was rough!
As I was rubbing my now bleeding scrape, I was disturbed by muffled voices. Curious, I walked their direction. I made many turns, and since I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, I walked down many hallways and turned multiple times. Doors dotted the hallways on the sides, but I wasn’t brave enough to open any of them. After a while, I came upon a room very different from the ones I seen before which the voices were louder in.
Since I was afraid to go any further, I stayed behind a corner in the open doorway into the room. But then I saw something that made me want to shout for joy. It was Victoria. She was looking the other way from me, but I was certain it was her. The only problem was that she was behind a large cage.
“Victoria!” I hissed to her, trying to get her attention. But she didn’t see nor hear me, and it seemed pointless. I wanted to get closer to her, but I had no idea what horrors lie beyond her cage.
A little louder, I whispered, “Victoria!”
She perked up, finally hearing me. She turned her head and her face lit up. She motioned for me to come.
Hesitantly, I left my safe hiding spot from behind the corner to meet her.
“Where did you come from, Sierra? What’s going on?” she asked shakily.
“I was hoping you’d be able to answer that. I have no clue.”
“What should we do?”
“Try and escape. I’ll go and find your key. Do you, by any chance, know where it is? A Skeletal Pirate had mine.”
“It was over there last time I saw it,” she said, pointing towards the center of the large room. “But you probably don’t want to go there,” she added as I began walking away.
“Why not?” I challenged. “I’ll do almost anything to free you and get out of here.”
“Malistaire was over there just a minute ago. And so was Liam. Please tell me that Liam hasn’t actually turned evil. He has some intricate, complicated Seeker plan, right?”
Her eyes were so hopeful that all I could say was “I truly hope so.” Then, not being able to bear saying any more, I hurried off in the direction indicated by Victoria.
The room was awfully large, so it took me a while to make it all the way across. When I arrived on the other side, I located a small table. On it I found all the things I needed: Victoria’s and my wands, our spellbooks, our decks, my sapphire necklace, and a key that must have been for Victoria’s cage. I gathered everything up, except for my necklace. Uneasily I examined it, not quite sure why I was so hesitant. Something wasn’t right, though I couldn’t figure out what. Why did it look so alien to me? Why did it seem different? I recalled my dream, in which this same gorgeous amulet had attacked me. With that rather grim thought in mind, I choose to leave it there. I knew I could come back once I had freed Victoria.
Unfortunately, I just can’t seem to keep out of trouble for long.
I was nearly to Victoria’s cage when I began to hear some muffled voices. I recognized them as the same ones
I had heard before. I began to sneak towards them, but stopped when I came to a door. From the new volume, I could guess that the owners of the voices were behind there. I didn’t know what secrets the door hid, but I couldn’t resist a mystery like this. I nervously tried the door knob, but it didn’t work anyway. The room was locked. Though I still desperately wanted to know what the door concealed, I continued to Victoria’s cage.
Luckily I turned around just in time. Just as I beginning to walk away from the door, a unexplained shadow appeared upon the wall to a hallway. It began growing larger and larger, meaning whoever it was was coming closer and closer.
Panicking, I dove behind the first thing I saw. Fortunately, it was a stack of boxes that was right next to the door I stood by. I had no idea what they held, but I was glad for the temporary hiding spot.
I almost let out a sob when I saw the person who the shadow belonged to. It was Liam, and I couldn’t bear to see him walking freely in a place like this. It only confirmed my greatest fears. So far I had managed to push him out of my mind, but now that the truth was right in front of me, my heart was broken. How were we ever going to defeat Malistaire if we couldn’t even keep the Seekers together?
Liam walked hesitantly, almost guiltily. I felt a very small feeling of triumph. At least he wasn’t happy about what he had done. He approached the door I had just tried to open, and he got a little too close. I held my breath and kept entirely still. If he had even glanced to the side, he would have noticed me. Thankfully he was too focused on whatever he was doing. To my surprise, he easily opened the door when I had such difficulty with it.
For some reason, even with the door wide open I could hardly hear the conversation inside. It must be enchanted, I decided.
Malistaire emerged from behind the door soon enough with Liam and a tough-looking Skeletal Pirate. I tensed up when they walked by, but they didn’t notice me. “Are you completely sure you understand your mission?” Malistaire asked.
Liam replied, “I tell them about Sierra’s and Victoria’s deaths, then find out who the life Seeker is. But why do they have to die? Can’t you give them a chance like me?”
“They know too much. We cannot risk them escaping.”
They began to walk away. I was alarmed by this “mission”, but somehow relieved that I now knew about it. If they were still confident that their plan would work, then maybe he didn’t know I’d gotten out yet.
I crept out from behind the boxes to follow them, wanting to know as much about this plan as possible.
But only after a short period of walking, Malistaire abruptly stopped. Frantically, I darted under the table next to me. It was the same one all of our stuff had been on. “The room is colder than usual,” Malistaire observed. To the Skeletal Pirate trailing them, he barked “Where is the pirate I sent to get the ice girl?”
“I d-don’t know, Master,” it stammered.
“Hmm…” Malistaire scanned the room. When his eyes passed the table I hid under, I flinched, but he made no move towards me. The table completely covered me. “I know you’re in here,” he said aloud. He didn’t need to say my name; I knew he was talking to me. I backed farther under the table. “It is futile to hide. Perhaps if you reveal yourself now, I will give you the luxury of a quick death that is not at all painful.”
I still held my silence. With no response, Malistaire turned to Liam. “Search the room,” he ordered. Then to the Skeletal Pirate, “Go and find someone to guard the storm Seeker. We cannot let those two reunite.”
As Malistaire, Liam, and the pirate walked away, I scrambled out from under the table. I had to get to Victoria before any guards did!
To my surprise, when I arrived at Victoria’s cage it was completely empty. Shocked, I clasped my hands around the bars of the cage and said “Victoria? You’re in here, right? Come on, we have to get out of here!”
I then unlocked the door and walked inside to see if she was hiding in some place that I couldn’t see. My search came up with nothing.
Puzzled, I walked back out. My thoughts were not pleasant. Had they taken her away? Was she already… dead?
At that moment someone grabbed me from behind. Quick as lightning I spun around, ready to use both wands if
I had to. “Oh, it’s you!” I shouted with a broad grin. “Hi Victoria! Where’ve you been?”
“Oh, you have my wand!”my friend exclaimed with glee. She yanked it out of my hand, and I gave her the spellbook and deck as well. She beamed. “Thanks. I was looking all over for them.”
“How did you escape?” I inquired. “I was so worried! When you weren’t here, I thought you’d…”
“It’s okay,” she comforted. “As for escaping? I got bored waiting for you, so I made my own key.”
“Out of lightning bolts,” she explained.
“Lucky you,” I murmured. “Even if I had a key, I wouldn’t have been able to unlock my door. It was locked from the outside, and mine was an actual room. Well, we’d better get out of here. Malistaire knows I’ve escaped, and it is only a matter of time before he discovers you’re gone too. Hopefully we’ll be long gone by then. He’s sent guards here, so we better leave. This would be a bad spot to be caught in.”
“That reminds me. How exactly did you get out?”
“Uh… long story. Let’s go,” I said, not wanting to relive the moment in which I summoned the bizarre lightning.
We silently walked out of the large room back into the hallway from which I had entered. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before we got lost.
“Which way should we go?” asked Victoria for what seemed like the millionth time at the next four-way intersection.
“How should I know? I lost track a long time ago,” I complained.
“We have to go somewhere,” she said.
I took a single step, and then perceived a noise which was very different in the silence we had heard thus far. “Victoria, do you hear that?” I whispered.
She tilted her head and listened. “Yeah,” she replied. “It sounds like crying.”
“You’re right! It’s coming from that direction.” I pointed to the right, where the sound was louder. “Should we go see where it is?” I asked.
“Well…” Victoria was hesitant. “I guess. But we have to memorize our path this time, okay? Just in case it turns out to be something dangerous.”
Walking side by side, we got closer and closer to the loud sobs. Soon we came upon an enormous room that was not unlike the one Victoria’s cage and our stuff had been in. However, this one wasn’t covered with boxes as the other was which was rather disappointing. The boxes provided good cover. The only things in the room were three cages and a weak Skeletal Pirate that I knew we could easily defeat if needed. One of the cages contained a small girl.
The pirate looked awfully annoyed. He was continuously muttering to himself and glaring at the poor girl in the cage. I estimated she was about Sydney’s age, which was one year younger than me but older than Rowan.
Her clothes suggested she was balance.
“Look!” whispered Victoria, pointing to the farthest side of the room from us. I was relieved to see a door with natural sunlight seeping through the few cracks. “It must be an exit!” she said excitedly.
“We still have to do something about that helpless girl,” I reminded her.
“I’m sure she’ll be fine. Maybe if we’re really quiet we can sneak past the pirate without him noticing us.”
“Come on Victoria. It is just a Skeletal Pirate and it can only be as powerful as the ones in Haunted Cave.
We beat those ages ago. Possibly we can free the girl and you can make a key out of lightning bolts again.
Don’t you get it? If we leave her, she will die!”
After more debating, Victoria finally agreed. “I understand. You’re right.”
To defeat the pirate we didn’t even need to form a dueling circle. Victoria and I both just used our wand spells. The girl was crying so uncontrollably that she didn’t even notice.
“Hello?” I asked, coming up to her cage.
“Leave me alone!” she screamed. “I didn’t do anything! I don’t deserve this!”
“We’re here to save you,” Victoria informed calmly.
“Really?” The girl looked up, and I couldn’t help but gasp. This girl almost perfectly resembled Liam!
“W-who are you?” I stuttered, shocked by the uncanny resemblance.
“I’m Vanessa. Vanessa DreamHaven. What about you? Are you serious about saving me?”
“Yep. I’m Sierra WinterBreeze and this is Victoria RavenSmith. Do you know where your key is?”
Vanessa shook her head.
“Oh. So Victoria, you know what to do right?” I looked at her expectantly.
She sighed. “Fine. I didn’t like doing it last time. It takes a while. The only reason I did it was because I was worried about you.”
“If it takes time then you should start.”
“What are you talking about?” questioned Vanessa.
Neither of us answered.
Victoria began by making her hands form a circle. Vanessa and I waited for at least another three minutes, just standing there, staring at Victoria. Suddenly we heard something like the far off rumble of thunder.
Vanessa jumped at the noise, but I stood still, listening. The slight rumble grew louder and louder, until it became a roar. Soon lightning bolts flashed within Victoria’s hands. I continued watching, amazed that my friend could do such a marvelous thing. Already I could see the bolts merging to form the stunningly gorgeous key.
When the bolts completely combined, Victoria moved her hands apart and a purple key engraved with elaborate storm symbol designs that seemed to have static energy surging through it clanged to the ground with a metallic sound.
I leaned down to pick it up, but when I touched it the key shocked me. “Ouch!” I yelled. “Victoria, tell your key to not hurt me next time!”
“Sorry. I didn’t know it would to that. I’m immune to shocks of lightning.”
“Wow, is that key for me?” Vanessa breathed. “How do you know it will fit?”
“We don’t,” replied Victoria matter-of-factly.
Luckily, when Victoria lifted the key and turned it into the lock, the door slid open, but not without a loud whine.
“It sounds as if this door hasn’t been opened in ages,” I commented.
“I agree,” said Victoria.
Vanessa stepped out, grinning wildly. “Thank you so much!” she exclaimed. “But… what about my parents?”
Victoria and I exchanged glances. “Parents?” I asked. “Where are they?”
“I was hoping you would know, or at least had seen them. If you haven’t, then that means…” She didn’t even finish before once more breaking down, crying.
“Wait, don’t cry! What does it mean?” I inquired.
“They’re dead!” she wailed. “Malistaire took them away. Why? We didn’t even do anything! I wasn’t even one of those students like almost everyone else in Ravenwood that are trying to defeat him! My parents didn’t even care, as long as he didn’t bother us. My brother didn’t do anything either! And-” She stopped, and looked up at us. “What were your names again?”
Puzzled by this random question, I replied, “Sierra. And Victoria.”
“Sierra Winterbreeze? Victoria Ravensmith?” Now she looked excited and hopeful, as if she hadn’t been crying only seconds before.
“I know you!” she gasped. “You’re Seekers!”
“Wha… how do you know that?” I demanded.
“My brother told me. He sent you here, didn’t he? He wasn’t captured with the rest of us. Is he coming soon?”
“Who is your brother?”
“He’s your friend.”
“Yes, but who?” I asked, beginning to get impatient. I thought I knew who she was speaking of, but I greatly hoped not.
For a moment, no one spoke. Vanessa just looked expectantly at both Victoria and me. “Well,” I said after a while, “I guess that means you don’t know then.”
Vanessa looked confused. “Know what?”
“That Liam isn’t a Seeker anymore,” blurted out Victoria.
“No!” I protested. “Liam may be misguided for the moment, but he will come to his senses. I just know it.”
“How can you possibly think that he is still a Seeker when he is now helping Malistaire?”
“He asked for my forgiveness earlier. I have given it to him, as long as he will accept the consequences.”
“Wait!” Vanessa shouted. “What are you talking about? Liam with Malistaire? Not possible! First of all, my brother is kind and caring. Second, he’s a Seeker. Third, he would have set me free.”
“It’s true!” argued Victoria. “We saw him. He has most likely forgotten all about you. I bet that-”
“Victoria, calm down,” I said. “She has a point. The main reason he did this is because of his family. Liam can’t know where they are. Malistaire tricked him. He is going to try and get rid of them so he doesn’t have to let them go!”
Victoria gasped. Vanessa yelled, “We have to warn him!”
“Warn him of what?” scoffed Victoria. “He doesn’t care about us anymore.”
“He will stop doing these things if we tell him. Plus, as his sister I may be about to convince him.”
“I don’t know, Vanessa. I think that Liam is… gone,” I cautioned.
“We have to try,” she said in a determined voice.
I sighed. “I would love to, but we have to find him first. And the exit is right there.”
“No, that’s not an exit!” Vanessa corrected.
“How do you know?”
“They took me in there. It is a really weird room, with all these monsters in it that I had never seen before. They asked me questions about Liam, but mostly about the Seekers in general. I told them I didn’t know any of you. Right before I went in that room, I saw my mom for what I guess is the last time. She said
‘I love you Vanessa, no matter what. Promise me that you’ll be brave?’ And I agreed, and when I came back out of the room they were gone. How could I not realize what she meant by that?”
I felt sympathetic. “I’m so sorry. I completely understand. I grew up in an orphanage without any parents, and I was always so jealous of anyone with them.”
“But this is different,” she sobbed. “You never had parents. Mine were there, but now they are gone!”
I couldn’t say anything to that, so the three of us sat in silence.
Eventually, Victoria piped up, “I think that if we are planning on going to see Liam we should better get going.”
“We still don’t know where to go,” I pointed out.
“My guess would be to go back to where we last saw him, in that room.”
“We got lost hours ago. We’ll never find our way back!”
“You didn’t have me last time,” put in Vanessa. “I know my way around here.”
“I tried to escape a few times. Yep, they really don’t like me here. I keep getting out. The first time I used my hair pin, but then I just broke the bars on the cage twice after that, because they’re not that sturdy. That’s why they set a guard here to watch me. But I’ve memorized most of the way. Please, let me help!”
“She could be helpful,” commented Victoria.
“I suppose if you know your way around so well, you can help. You’d just run there by yourself if we told you no.”
“So which way, Navigator?” asked Victoria playfully.
“The way you came,” she replied, beginning to walk that way.
Victoria and I exchanged glances before following her.
As we traveled through the dimly lit red and black hallways, Victoria behind me and Vanessa in front, I knew we were in for an adventure. And in this one, if we were caught, the consequences were deadly.