Beyond the Darkness (Guardians of Mirra: Book 2)


31. 31

~~Nicholas looked at Henry, uncomfortably. There hadn’t been enough rooms for anyone to avoid a roommate and Gabriella had wanted some space from her brother after everything that had happened with his twin, so the king had picked Henry, thinking they might relate better than the others. He was also curious about the boy who seemed to be growing so close to his little sister. However, now that they were alone, he couldn’t think of anything to say.
“I’m sorry if I’m not very good company.” Henry had sensed the king’s gaze and figured he should say something, but what did one say to a king? “I’m still worrying about my brother. I hate that we had to leave him behind.” He feared that may have been the wrong thing to say since Nicholas had also left behind his twin, albeit under very different circumstances. He wasn’t sure whether that made it better or worse. “How are you holding up?”
“Considering I’ve lost my city, I think I am doing fairly well.” Nicholas did his best to answer honestly.
Henry cocked his head. “What about considering you lost your brother?”
Nicholas looked away from him. “I lost my brother years ago. It would be pointless to mourn him, now. He made his decision and I had to choose to let him go.”
Henry thought he sounded awfully cold about his own brother, but he knew it wasn’t his place to argue. “That must have been very difficult for you.”
“It was what I needed to do and I did it.” Nicholas replied, simply.
Henry stared at the king, trying to read his mind. “You know, you don’t always have to be about duty and all that. It’s okay to get upset about things. It’s okay to want your brother back, despite everything or just be angry with him. No one would think less of you.”
“I cannot afford to show such weakness at a time like this.” Nicholas told him. “I am king and must behave as such.”
Henry looked him over. “What are you, seventeen? No one can seriously expect you to be all high and mighty when you’ve barely finished your last growth spurt.”
Nicholas was quiet as he considered the statement. “As heir to the throne, I have always been expected to be strong, no matter what. I can hardly stop, now, when Mirra needs me the most.”
Henry sighed, conceding the point. “Once this is over, you need to have a good, long cry about some stuff.” He fixed himself a place on the floor and lay down. “Good night, your highness.”

Tristan and Azazel turned towards the familiar voices. In the dim light, they could make out two easily recognizable figures. Tristan frowned as he looked at them. “What are you doing here?”
“Well, that’s not very polite.” Echo commented.
“Not polite, at all.” Mirage agreed.
“And after we came all this way to help you.”
“We just wanted to help.”
“Okay, sorry.” Tristan mostly wanted to shut them up, but he also didn’t want them to decide not to help. He knew they could use any help they could get right then.
“Oh, he apologized.” Mirage smiled.
“I suppose we must forgive him.” Echo decided. She looked at the sleeping group. “They seem to be exhausted.”
“They look completely worn out.” Mirage added. “They must be rushing to get to the mountain.”
“They must be going as fast as they can.”
“They should have gone when we told them.”
“They should have taken our advice.”
“You’re right.” Azazel looked between the girls, fearing they would go on all night if he didn’t step in. “We should have listened. You were obviously just trying to help. Now, you mentioned that you could help, again. What can you do?”
“We can do many things.” Mirage smiled at him.
“Many exciting things.” Echo agreed. “What would you like us to do?”
“How can we help?”
Azazel frowned as he realized that their offer wasn’t much good. He’d thought they might know of something useful, but that didn’t appear to be the case.
“You’re half fairy, right?” Tristan spoke up. “Does that mean you can create portals?”
“For ourselves.” Mirage answered.
“And not very far at a time.” Echo added.
“But they let us travel more quickly.”
“A ten hour journey takes one hour for us.”
“We can travel a fortnight’s distance in a day.”
“We can go anywhere.”
“Except the Domed City.” Mirage looked at her sister.
Echo nodded. “We are blocked out of there.”
“Would you like us to go somewhere else?”
“We can go anywhere else.”
“I don’t know if that could help much.” Tristan admitted. He’d thought he might have an idea, but it didn’t seem to be working out.
“Jeremiah.” Azazel frowned even as he blurted out the name, knowing the guardian wouldn’t be likely to help him, even if he wanted to help the others.
Tristan nodded as he understood. “He may have recovered enough to open a portal and bring us to them.” He looked at the girls. “Can you get to the Silver Mountain and ask the male guardian to open a portal for us? If he did, we would be more likely to make it there, safely.” He looked around, half-expecting shadow warriors to show up at any moment.
Echo’s face lit up. “We can do that!”
“That’s easy!” Mirage added. Before anything else could be said, the pair ran off into the night, disappearing from view.
Tristan and Azazel were silent for a few minutes. Finally, the prince spoke up. “He may not be willing to help if it means I will go there with you.”
“Our lady will not let him refuse.” He looked at William and, for just a moment, Azazel thought he saw the elf’s eyes turn black.

Katherine awoke to the sound of someone moving around her room. She quickly made herself start glowing to shed light on the room. “What…” She paused, not even sure which question to ask first.
“Oh, wrong one.” Mirage commented as she saw the guardian.
“We wanted the other one.” Echo explained.
“What’s going on?” Gabriella rubbed her eyes as she woke up. She had wound up sharing a room with Katherine since she felt safer with the guardian.
“We sensed the guardian’s power, but it was the wrong one.” Echo told her.
“Can you direct us to the other one to make things easier?” Mirage looked at Katherine.
“Why do you want my father?” The guardian figured she could trust these girls, but she wanted to know what they were up to.
“We have a message for him.” Echo replied.
“A very important message.” Mirage agreed.
“Can’t you just give the message to me?” Katherine asked. “I am a guardian, as well.”
“But you’re not the right guardian.” Echo answered.
Mirage nodded. “We need the other one.”
Katherine sighed, realizing she wasn’t going to get anything out of them that way. She looked at Gabriella. “Go back to sleep. I’ll take care of this.”
The princess nodded and lay back down without argument.
Katherine stood and looked at the girls. “Follow me. My father is nearby.” They had elected to stay in the same building, figuring it was wise to be close together. She led them down the hall and knocked on his door. “Father?” She turned to look at the girls, but they had disappeared.
“Who are you?” Jeremiah’s voice demanded from inside, confusing Katherine until she heard other voices responding.
“We found you!” Echo declared.
“We win!” Mirage’s voice added.
Katherine sighed and opened the door. Jeremiah was holding an orb of light in his hand to illuminate the room. His roommate, one of the palace staff members, was staring with wide eyes at the girls who had magically appeared in their room. Jeremiah’s expression was halfway between confused and annoyed. The girls looked pleased with themselves. Katherine held up a hand in a peaceful gesture. “They say they have a message for you.”
He looked to his daughter and nodded. “Very well.” He stood, taking a more dignified stance as he turned to the girls. “What is your message and who is it from?”
“The prince needs you to make a portal.” Echo replied.
 “Not just him, his friends, too.” Mirage elaborated.
“Why would I make a portal for him or his friends?” Jeremiah demanded.
“They’re not just his friends.” Echo explained.
“There are the wood elves, the dark elf and two humans.” Mirage held up two fingers.
“The one human is hurt.”
“The blonde one.”
“He needs to get here, quickly.”
“William?” Katherine wasn’t sure whether to be fearful or hopeful that they might be talking about him.
Mirage nodded. “That one.”
“He was sleeping when we left.” Echo told them.
“But he isn’t well.”
“He needs help.”
Katherine looked at Jeremiah. “How soon can you bring them to us?”
He shook his head. “You know my powers can’t reach within the city while the dark crystal is active.”
“They aren’t in the city.” Echo offered.
“The prince helped them escape.” Mirage explained.
“Why would he do that?” Jeremiah asked.
“We don’t know.” Mirage admitted.
“We weren’t there.” Echo informed him.
Katherine took a breath, trying not to let her emotions overrule her. “We can’t leave them out there, especially if William is hurt as they say. At the very least, they may have valuable information to share with us.”
Jeremiah sighed, not wanting to refuse to help them, but unable to ignore the risk. “We can’t let a shadow worker into this city. It’s much too dangerous.”
“We can help with that.” Echo volunteered.
Mirage smiled and nodded. “We know exactly what to do.”

Tristan explained the situation to Kaelen, who took the watch after him. Kaelen explained it to Valda who took the next watch. She was dubious, since it had been hours since the twins left and they hadn’t heard anything. Even so, she told Jake about it when he woke up for the final watch.
“Do you really think he’ll be able to help us?” Jake asked. He wanted to believe that Jeremiah could get them straight to the mountain, but he had been through one of the guardian’s portals before and he knew things didn’t always go as planned.
“Assuming he hasn’t had to use his powers before now, he should be recovered enough to create the portal, but the question is whether he will, knowing the company we are keeping.” She looked over at Azazel, who had managed to fall asleep at some point.
Jake frowned. “Surely, he wouldn’t leave William out here like this if he is able to help.”
“As the guardian, he has to think of what is best for everyone.” She pointed out. “He can’t just focus on one boy like that.”
He looked at William, wishing he had a decent argument for that. “Do you really think he’ll make it there if Jeremiah doesn’t help us?”
Valda was trying to think of a response that wasn’t completely negative when she heard somebody behind her.
“Such a depressing mood.” Echo commented.
“It’s no fun, at all.” Mirage agreed.
Jake jumped up and looked at the pair. “Did you talk to Jeremiah?”
“We did.” Mirage answered.
“We had no trouble finding him.” Echo gave a pleased smile.
“Is he going to help?” Jake asked, trying not to get annoyed with them.
Echo nodded. “He has agreed to open a portal.”
“On one condition.” Mirage added.
“What’s the condition?” Azazel had gotten up and walked over to hear what they had to say.
They turned to face him as Echo pulled a silver band out of a fold in her dress. “You must wear this.”
“You must put it on, willingly.” Mirage told him.
“I don’t usually wear jewelry.” Azazel frowned at the band. “What does it do?”
“It suppresses your power.” Mirage explained.
“It keeps you from controlling shadows.” Echo elaborated.
“But you must put it on willingly for it to work.”
“And only a guardian can remove it.”
“We had trouble finding the material to make it.”
“That’s why it took so long for us to get back.”
“But it definitely works.”
“It will keep you from using your power.”
“That seems fair.” Valda looked to the band, then the prince, wondering if he would agree to such terms.
Azazel gingerly took the bracelet and looked it over. “Will it completely suppress my power?”
“It will keep you from using it.” Echo told him.
“However, it won’t protect you from your own darkness.” Mirage added, seeming to read his thoughts.
“If you put it on, we will return to the guardian.”
“And he will open the portal.”
“I see.” Azazel continued to stare at the bracelet, clearly hesitant.
Jake watched him for a moment, fearing he may refuse. “Please, Azazel. It’s our best chance to help Will.”
The prince looked at him and nodded, silently slipping the band onto his wrist. As he did, it tightened, fitting snugly there. He stretched out his hand and tried to move one of the shadows, but nothing happened. “It is effective, isn’t it?”
“Oh, yes.” Echo nodded.
“Quite effective.” Mirage agreed with a smile.
“Now, we’ll return to the guardian.”
“He will open the portal during the day.”
“Thank you.” It wasn’t clear whether Jake was talking to the girls or Azazel, but Echo nodded to him before the pair ran off into the darkness and disappeared.
Valda breathed a sigh. “I’m going to get some rest. At least, now I know you will be safe from him.” She indicated Azazel who didn’t even bother looking at her in response. Unconcerned, she lay down and closed her eyes, willing herself to sleep, quickly. She was relieved to know they would soon be safe.
 He looked at Azazel, who was inspecting his new bracelet. “Does it hurt?”
“Not that I notice.” Azazel pulled on it, experimentally, but, as they had warned, he couldn’t take it off.
“Well…good.” Jake wasn’t really sure how to take that answer. He felt a little guilty for getting Azazel to put on the bracelet, but he looked over at William’s sleeping form and reminded himself why it was necessary.
“I won’t be able to protect you, now, if anything attacks.” Azazel commented. “I won’t be able to protect anyone like this.”
Jake frowned at that. “I’m sorry about that.”
The prince sat down in the grass. “It’s fine. I suppose this is some divine punishment for me. I have to give up the power I worked for in order to repent for what I’ve done.”
Jake stared at the older boy, taking a seat beside him. “You really want to make amends, don’t you?”
“I doubt that’s really possible.” Azazel replied. “Whatever my reasons for following the dark lord, I have done too many bad things to ever hope of finding redemption.”
Jake paused, trying to think of the right thing to say in response. “I find that hard to believe or rather, I don’t want to believe something like that. Everyone is capable of finding redemption if they really want it. Otherwise, what would be the point of anything? If the worst people can’t find redemption, what’s to say that the slightly bad people can do it? If one thing isn’t forgivable, can any other thing truly be forgiven?”
“I’m not sure you’re really making sense at this point.” Azazel told him, but he was listening, nonetheless.
Jake shrugged. “I don’t often make sense, even at my best. Currently, I’m stressed and tired, so you’ll just have to forgive me.”
“Well, if you say I have to...” Azazel looked back at the band on his wrist. “Maybe, you’re right. I’ll try not to give up just yet.”
“Well, good.” Jake smiled. “I’d hate for you to get all mopey and withdrawn over this.”

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