The thoughts of those around her buzzed like flies in her mind, yet she kept her focus on Brennus. She fought to keep her face expressionless, but soon the strain from her power began to show on her face. Just before she decided to let go, Adina noticed Brennus grab a pendant around his neck. A sudden surge of power emanated from him, nearly breaking her connection. Adina took a deep breath and opened her mind a little more, reaching out to Brennus’ mind.
A wave of nausea crashed against her as images of a sea of fire and shadow filled her mind’s eye. Brennus stood on a beach watching the island burn. At least Adina thought it was Brennus. When the man turned around, Brennus’ eyes were glowing a bright ruby red and shadows danced playfully over his face and body. The thing inside Brennus made him smile as another figure joined his side.
“Yes. A world of death and war for my children to feast on. The goddesses’ people enslaved by their hope.” He held out an arm to the second figure. “Come and witness our triumph.” Adina could tell the figure was female from the slight build of her shoulders but even the figure’s face was covered. The cloak the figure wore was plain black with a pillar of flame stitched in red over the right breast. Brennus and the other figure turned to look over the edge of a cliff that dropped off behind them. Just as Adina leaned over the edge, she felt a hand on the small of her back. Before she could turn, Adina and the second figure went tumbling over the cliff face. She scrunched her eyes shut and resisted the urge to scream.
When her eyes opened again, she was back in the council room. Above her a half-dozen of her colleagues were leaning over her. A priestess was at her side, one hand at Adina’s wrist and the other clutching a pendant that bore the water goddesses’ symbol of the cresting wave.
“Get back, I said.” Adina looked up to see Garreth push through the crowd of senators. He knelt next to her, feeling her forehead with the back of his hand.
Adina waved him and the priestess away. “I’m fine. Someone just knocked me over.”
A loud smack of a gavel made everyone silent. Brennus placed the gavel down and indicated everyone’s seats. “Please, don’t let me interrupt. Is everything alright Senator Adina?”
Adina straightened as much as she could but a sharp pain flared between her eyes. She clenched her left hand into a fist to help with the pain. “Of course, High Senator. I beg your leave. I trust you will levy the appropriate judgment on these false prophets.”
Brennus’ gaze relaxed and his lips lifted into a disarming smile. “You see reason clearly. May the goddesses grant you a full and speedy recovery.” When he turned to the trembling group of senators huddling on the floor, his eyes grew cold once again. Garreth noticed the pendant Brennus stroked with his right hand every time he got that look in his eyes.
Brennus lifted a hand for silence, even though everyone was too scared to make a sound. “These false prophets, or seers, have gone unpunished long enough. Many believe my kingdom has been attacking our northern neighbors. These rumors are not true and the attacks are carried out by people like these seers, hoping to create chaos for their own selfish ends. Therefore I would declare war on these abominations. In the name of the Goddesses!”
The word goddesses echoed softly in the silent chamber. The green robbed senators were the first to rise with their right fist placed over their heart. Then, much to Adina’s surprise, several of her colleagues repeated the motion. Soon most of the senators were beating their chests, chanting the name of their respective patron goddess.
Brennus raised both hands for silence. “Then in the name of the power of High Senator, with your approval, I decree any seer or persons associating with seers be sentenced to immediate death.”
Garreth grabbed Adina’s arm and pulled her into one of the aisles. As he half-dragged her away from the carnage unfolding at the front of the room, he only stopped to relay orders to his second in command. Adina was trying, unsuccessfully, to hold back tears. They fell like twin waterfalls down her cheeks.
“What did you see?”
“Everything was burning,” Adina’s voice was barely above a whisper. “We need to find the Bloodstone before his child can free him. Time is running out for all of us, Garreth.”
“Do you think she’ll really help?”
Adina wiped away the tears. “I hope so.”
The two stopped at the door to their chambers. Garreth knocked briskly and was met with silence. Garreth swore under his breath, but it was Adina who pounded at the door. “Vanar, you open this door now.”
The door clicked softly and opened slowly to a seemingly empty room. Garreth drew his sword used his other hand to push Adina behind him. He had barely stepped into the room when a vase came crashing down on his head. Garreth fell to the ground, releasing his grip on his sword. The strange woman with the white hair and sapphire eyes stood above him with a dagger pressed to his throat.
Adina gasped, which made the woman turn her attention to Adina. “Close the door,” she said, her voice shaking slightly.
Adina did as she asked, keeping her hands up. She glanced around the room and saw Vanar’s legs peeking out from the edge of the bed. Turning her gaze back to the white-haired woman, she nodded at the dagger against
Garreth’s throat. “Put the dagger down. We’re not here to hurt you.”
“You’re lying.” She looked down at Garreth. “Him and the other one just let my uncle and the village die. Why would you want me?”
“We couldn’t save everybody. We needed you. Please, give me the dagger. We’ll explain everything.” She tried taking a step closer but the woman pressed the dagger against Garreth’s throat. “We can help find your uncle.”
“He’s dead. I saw…”
“Taken by shadows, right?” Adina tried taking another step closer. “He was only taken. We can help you find him. More importantly, we can tell you the truth about who you are.”
“You can find him?”
The momentary distraction was all Garreth needed to knock away the dagger from his throat and knock the white-haired woman onto her back. By the time she sat up, she was staring down the point of Garreth’s sword.
The tough facade the white-haired woman wore immediately broke down and she began sobbing. Adina sat next to her. “We can help find him, princess. I swear to you, we can.”
“Princess? You must have me confused. If you’re going to kill me, at least don’t lie to me.”
Adina sighed. “What is your name?”
“Miranda,” the white-haired woman said. “I grew up with my uncle in a small village in the Goshken Forest.” Vanar moaned as he began to regain consciousness. Miranda looked away from the bed. “I swear I didn’t hurt him. Just knocked him out, but I was too scared to leave the room.” Miranda looked Adina straight in the face, even though her hands trembled in her lap. “Who are you? What do you want with me?”
Adina tried her best to smile. “My name is Adina. I am a senator for the Ausceran Kingdom.” She nodded towards Garreth and Vanar. “The one you attacked is my brother Garreth. The one you already knocked out is Vanar. They are both royal guards of House Frey. As for what we want, we want to reunite you with your real parents.”
Miranda stood and walked to the bed. “My parents died when I was young. My uncle…”
“Lied to protect you.” Garreth interrupted. “He wasn’t your uncle either.”
Adina stood but remained at the other end of the room. “You are the heir to the Kaitu Kingdom. You were lost when you were very young. Some say taken. We know that the man you believe is your uncle was once a Kaitu Royal Knight, and he disappeared the same night you did. We believe the queen sent you away with him for your own protection.”
“Protection? From what?”
Adina swallowed the lump in her throat as she remembered some of the particularly disturbing visions. “Terrible things.”
“Then why did you bring me back here?”
Vanar stumbled to a standing position, rubbing the back of his head. “We need your help.”
Adina nodded. “There is a prophecy, very old and almost lost except to the Trinity Knights. It begins with the death of the goddesses and corruption of the temples. The corruption breeds in the shadow creatures that once ravaged the land under the dark god Naonet’s command. They have been growing stronger. He will seek the Bloodstone. The Trinity Knights must find it first. The prophecy tells of a lost princess who will lead those most worthy to Trymeena’s Bloodstone.”
Miranda curled her legs under each other. “And you think I’m her?”
“But how could you know?”
Adina pointed to her right temple. “A gift passed down through my family from the goddesses themselves. After an audience with your mother, I was able to sense where you were.”
After a moment, Miranda rose and looked out the window once again. Adina wondered what Miranda was thinking, most likely that they were all insane. Adina almost laughed. They could all be insane for the amount of information Adina just let out. Something about talking with Miranda was soothing. Adina made a note to watch her guard in case any unsavory types happened to be listening in.
“Can I ever go back home?” She thought of the other villagers, especially the children.
Garreth crossed his arms. “You are home.”
“This,” Miranda used a hand to indicate the city below. “This isn’t home.” Even as she said that, something inside her stirred. She had seen this place before. “I don’t even know where this is.”
“That out there is Wynlan City, capital of the Ausceran Kingdom and the main trade center for all three kingdoms.”
Miranda sat on the window bench, gazing at the city beyond the palace walls. This room was the highest, and she could see clear to the ocean at the other end of the city. Below, thousands of people in a sea of colors roamed the courtyard.
“We’re prepared to make you a deal. You help us find Trymeena’s Bloodstone and we’ll get your uncle back.” Miranda and Adina turned their gaze to Garreth. His eyes were hard as rocks, unyielding and unforgiving.
Adina had to applaud Miranda for the way she met her brother’s gaze. “It appears I have no choice being alone in a strange world. Once this is done, and my uncle is safe, you all will leave me alone.”
Garreth nodded. “Fine.”
Miranda nodded back. “Good. Now I suppose you’ll be wanting to introduce me to my ‘real’ parents?”