The sun’s rays cut through the canopy of green forcing its light through the resisting jungle.We had slowed and David still held onto me tightly.The air was stagnating and felt as if it hadn’t moved in years.The smell of the mellow soil was pungent and everything was still in this green cage.
David picked up his pace again taking deep breaths and grunting at times like an animal.I pleaded many times over to stop, but either he was too far gone now or, he simply didn’t listen.
The sun grew in the sky and the only way I could tell was by the shifting of the beams of light.I knew hours had gone by and my thoughts drifted from dreams to visions.
“Stay with him Emily….”My mother’s voice came to me like a whisper.
I slowly opened my eyes between the bouncing up and down from David’s running.“Mom?”I questioned and then David abruptly stopped and let my sore body fall to the ground.
I pushed myself up and looked at David.His eyes were like two white marbles surrounded by pale skin marked with silver scales on his forehead.His once dark hair curled with silver streaks among the pure white strands.If there was anything left of David, I couldn’t see it.
“You don’t have to do this, you asked me to help you and I will help you, but you have to listen to me.”I could only hope he could hear me.
David stood motionless, statue-like with his cold reptile eyes on me.I knew I had to get away from him and knew I could never out run or was strong enough to fight him now.
“Ian!Help me!”I yelled my thoughts.
Footsteps, slow and delicate came from behind me.I turned hoping in my heart that it was Quil.Instead, smiling back at me was Ulric.
“Good job, you’ll be rewarded David.”His eyes shifted to David.“You,” Ulric gazed back at me, “will come with me either willingly or by force—it is up to you.”With his remaining hand, he held it out like he was a gentleman asking me to dance.
I hesitated.“Come, Miss Moore, you know I have the upper hand here and I do hate to use force.”He tilted his head and looked at me from under his dark eyebrows.
If I struggled and fought I would only waste my energy.I had to wait and find the opportunity to run.
“I’m with Ulric we are on top of a hill overlooking the ocean.”I sent a message.“Ian, can you hear me!”
I stepped forward not taking Ulric’s hand.I glared at him as he curled in his fingers and slowly dropped his hand with a small smile.
“You know Miss Moore; I am not as evil as you think.”
I looked over at David.“Your son--”
His eyes twinkled with madman’s delight.“He chose to do that…for the betterment.”I felt my stomach churn as Ulric’s eyes were fixed on me.“Come.”He motioned with his hand to go in front of him.
Before us was a jagged, black cliff that went straight up.Ferns and other plants clung to the side of it and vines curled in between the cracks like veins.The many shades of green and the bright blooming flowers contrasted with the blackness of the rock.
I looked at Ulric wondering if he wanted me to climb it.
He smiled and then waved his arm as the vines parted and a small opening appeared.
“Sometimes you may think something is not there when really it is.”He motioned with his hand to enter just as a rushing sound came from the jungle.
I looked up at the tree limbs as they shook and leaves fell gracefully to the ground at whatever was approaching.Ulric stood in front of me and looked to the shaking trees.David still stood like a statue of marble with his eyes interlocked with mine.I pulled my gaze away just as a giant flock of white birds spewed from the green foliage like the jungle had vomited them up.The birds gracefully dipped downward barely caressing the ground before they flew off into the open air.
Ulric turned to David and nodded his head towards the jungle.“Go and check it out, quickly, then return here.”
David took off like someone had released him from a catapult into the jungle.I watched him as Ulric grabbed my arm and pushed me into the crevasse.It was a small passage that slowly narrowed over our heads to the open sky.A few ferns grew in the diffused light and water dripped from the sharp, black rock.
Ulric guided me with a poke of his finger in my back and reluctantly I moved forward still sending messages hoping someone would hear me.
The winding tunnel finally opened to a large circular area with what looked like the ruins of an old building.It reminded me of a church with tall spires and rectangular windows.It was a small building half crumbling down as I stepped closer, I could see the intricate carvings of creatures dragon-like and breathing curling flames of fire.
“This Miss Moore is the Fire Oracle and sacred ground to the Dragon clan.”He looked up at the sky holding out his arms to his side.I couldn’t help but to see only a stub of where Gabe had cut Ulric’s arm off.“Too long our clan has followed the Alliance and it was us that were here first.Their ways are lazy and I am here to bring back the much deserved glory that Atlantis once had.
You see, the glass people won’t wait for long.They have had a taste of this world and the Alliance hasn’t recognized them as a threat.If we do nothing Atlantis will succumb to them.We have to have their power and destroy them or…they will have ours.”
Ulric paced around brushing his black boots across the neon looking grass that grew in sporadic clumps.
“Eutopia is using what power they have the wrong way.It is like a magnet, attracting the glass people, inviting them in.Eutopia will fall to them once their wall is complete and that is when I plan to attack and the amulet along with you is the only way this is possible.”Ulric stood in front of me.“Emily,” his voice was soft, “I am asking you to join me in this quest, not hurt you.”
I looked at him thinking of what he had done to David, his very own son.
“You want to do to me like what you did to David.”I shook my head.“You want power, not to save Atlantis or Eutopia.”
Ulric took in a deep breath and let it out slowly as his eyes darkened like the sky before a storm.
“You’re just like your mother, all for the mindless people who don’t even deserve to be ruled!”
His words ripped a hole through my stomach.My mouth opened but no words came out.
Ulric’s eyes lightened and he smiled.“You look just like her, almost like a copy that I don’t mind killing again.”
He bent down meeting me directly eye to eye.With red eyes, teeth clenched and a growl that vibrated from his throat, Ulric looked like he could have transformed into a dragon.
I stepped back trying to look for the disguised passageway as I knew I was on my own.No one had heard my messages.
Ulric growled with his eyes fixed on me.Finally I caught a few of the still vines that dangled from the cavern walls move slightly in a sudden breeze.I turned, darted towards them as Ulric ran past me quickly, propelling himself up onto the rock wall and jumping in front of me blocking the passage.
“You’re not leaving.”His voice was raspy as he crouched down and screamed half in pain and half in what sounded like joy.
Beams of light penetrated through his skin like he was the sun himself.I shielded my eyes through a blast of light that was followed by a roar.Ulric to my surprise, lived up to the name of Dragon clan, because that’s exactly what he was.
His eyes glowed red, and he was still the same size as he was in human form.His legs were long and muscular covered in greenish brown scales.His arms were human-like except with talons for fingers and he had a long snout with flaring nostrils.
“Do I scare you Miss Moore?”He asked with a dominatingly inquisitive voice that sounded the same except a little raspier.
I couldn’t answer and shook my head wondering how I was going to get out of this.He gave a deep chuckle.
From overhead a black object fell from what I could see of the vivid blue sky.What I thought was a boulder at first, landed on Ulric’s back and sunk its claws into his scaly flesh.Ulric yelped and then growled throwing Quil, in Ranger form the ground.Quil jumped up like a compressed spring and slashed Ulric across the neck and then across his face, so quick that his arms moved like blurred shadows.
Yellow liquid ran down his green scales as he held his face with his hands and let out an air shattering screech.
Quil grabbed a hold of me and passed through the passage, through the tunnel and out into the jungle.I clung to his back feeling his rock solid muscles flex with each movement.The green jungle flashed by and we didn’t stop until what felt like several miles separated us.
Quil didn’t stop until we reached a clearing with fountains, flower pots with bright flowers exploding from the containers and a blue house with a white roof sitting among the well-manicured yard.
Quickly Quil changed back into human form and taking in deep breaths he supported himself on bent knees.
“She’s here!”Claire yelled running out of an open door from a shaded patio area.
Claire wrapped her arms around me tightly and then looked into my eyes.
“Em, are you alright?”
“I--” Everything had happened so fast.“Where am I…what happened…Zach is he…Ulric’s a…”
“Zach’s here along with everyone else, everything’s fine.Come inside.”Claire guided me with her arm around my shoulder.
I went inside the small cottage.It was inviting with overstuffed pillows, large windows opening to the outside and the smell of roses curled around me the minute I walked in.Claire guided me to the couch as Quil sat across from me.
“Ulric—he killed…”A sudden lump formed in throat.
Claire wrapped her arm around me and pushed back the hair from eyes.
“—he killed my mother.”I finished what I wanted to say as the lump slowly dissolved.
I closed my eyes for a moment.I wanted to turn the world off for a moment as everything came crashing down on me.Just as my body began to relax, I felt a strong arm around me.Immediately I thought of David and woke suddenly, pushing whoever had me away.
“Em, it’s alright, I got you,” Gabe said smiling back at me.
I leaned over to him, curling my legs up around me.“I thought I would never see you again.”I looked up at him.“Promise me you will never leave my side.”I tightened my arms around him.
“Well, sometime we are going to have to leave the couch.”His voice teased.
I smiled to my surprise.Gabe had a way of doing that—making the world less frightening for me by his lame joking around.
I nestled my head in the crook of his shoulder.“Just hold me until someone makes us get off the couch then.”Gabe gave a small laugh then ran his hand over my head, running his fingers through my hair.
“Is she here?”I opened my eyes to the sound of Jimmy’s voice.
I pulled myself away from Gabe, but still held onto his hand.Jimmy came through the door as I stood up.
“Oh, girl I thought I would never see you again!”He wrapped his arms around me.
I returned the hug surprised at his concern.I knew he would be worried about me, but this was a hug that you would give to your real child, not an adopted one that works for you.Nevertheless, I cared for Jimmy as much as he cared for me.He was like a father to me since I started working for him and it felt good to feel that way.
“We will have to set up base for here right now since the mansion has been taken over.”Abe said coming in the door with Karinna following behind him.
Karinna came and greeted me with a hug.“I got your messages.”Her jeweled eyes twinkled at me as she turned her attention to Claire.“Alicia—where is she?”
Claire looked at me and gave a quick smile.“She’s resting back here.”
Zach I knew was attacked by David and a knot formed in my stomach.I looked behind me as Karinna and Claire went down the hallway mumbling to each other.I started to say something when Abe cut me off.
“Is everyone here…and a couple extra I see.”Abe looked at Quil who loomed against the wall with Ethan who sat in a chair looking uncomfortable, stood immediately like he was a soldier being called to attention.
“You and you are both from Eutopia?”Abe asked as he motioned for Ethan to sit down and for Quil to come closer.“I want to know everything you know about Eutopia.”
“What is going on?”I asked with my arm wrapped around Gabe.
Abe drew in a deep breath.“A lot.”His answer was vague.
Everyone was in the room except for Claire, Alicia, Caleb, Karinna and Zach.My stomach churned with worry for him and I anxiously looked down the hallway waiting to see him.I hoped Alicia could heal him.
Abe was speaking, but my ears weren’t tuned into him.My mother’s voice, Ulric and David pleading for me to help him kept running through my head.
“Emily,” a soft voice said.
I looked up to see Alice, Jimmy’s wife.She still looked the same with short, greying bobbed hair and pale blue eyes.She was handing me something to drink.“I thought you might like something to drink.”
I smiled and took it as Abe rambled on.Alice was gentle and I remembered staying the night at her house in St. F when I broke up with David.She had made a mountain of food for breakfast the next morning and had gone to so much trouble to make me feel welcomed.
When Jimmy told me about his secret life, he had said Alice was from Meropsis and I looked around the house.This was her place I thought, Alice’s and Jimmy’s house in Meropsis.
I watched her pass drinks out to everyone and suddenly she stopped when she came to Ethan.Her body went rigid, almost like someone had stabbed her through the heart.
“Oh my goodness.”Alice’s voice was soft, but tinged with shock that got everyone’s attention.“Stand up,” she said not taking her eyes off of Ethan.
Ethan looked around the room and slowly stood up.Alice walked around him and held his face between her hands while she looked steadily into his eyes.
“Alice, what are you doing?What’s wrong?”Jimmy went over to her and put his hand on her shoulder.
She then turned Ethan around and pulled his shirt off.
“Alice!”Jimmy tried to stop her.
Ethan didn’t resist as I’m sure it took him by surprise.Alice turned him around and there on his back, right on his shoulder blade was a black mark of what looked like wavy lines and about the size of my little finger.I looked at it and could see everyone’s face pale upon seeing the tattoo.
“He has the mark.”Alice whispered.“He has the mark of a Blackbird.”
Gabe suddenly stood up as everyone’s eyes were focused on them.I looked between Ethan and Alice and started to make the connection I didn’t see before: pale blue eyes, at one time the same color of hair and a gentleness that they shared.Then, I remembered the newspaper clipping of the obituary that I found the night I stayed at their house in St. F.It was their son, Thomas, he had died and I never asked about him feeling it wasn’t business to bring up such a delicate subject.Now, I felt like I was looking at their once thought lost son.
“A mother never forgets her child.Thomas…Thomas McVaine, my son!”Alice looked up at Ethan cradling his face with Jimmy behind her staring in awe as the room fell into a dead silence.