You can read the first 25 chapters of “An Elusive Hero” here.
I stepped into the room expecting to finally lay my eyes on the person everyone had been telling me about since I had stepped into this world. Instead, I saw nothing.
Complete darkness surrounded me and my head started turning. It felt as if I was taken back to when I had been confined without light due to the poison. My captors held their breath. They weren’t expecting the complete darkness as well. But the leader of the group found his footing immediately and began to speak:
“We have what you were looking for.”
My eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness, but I couldn’t make out a single face. I thought I saw the silver of a blade flash, but that had been an optical illusion. The Chosen One didn’t feel like it was time to show his face just yet. I wondered if he was alone on his makeshift throne or if he had any advisors and guards by his side. Not that it mattered. I was weaponless and felt like a fish out of water. I just kept my gasping for air a lot quieter.
The person who was supposed to be in the room hadn’t said anything, leading the leader to yank me forward to present me. Still no audible reaction. I noticed a dagger hanging by the side of the officer. It was shining at me conspiratorially and wanted to take me a risk, to take a leap of faith. But behind me, my two others guards stood ready, slowly getting used to the absence of light. Their hands were holding short swords and they were ready to pounce at any disturbance.
I looked around the room, trying to find a source of light or a window, but I had no such luck. The room seemed to be completely on the inside of the fort, some sort of panic room. No windows and I couldn’t even see if the walls had mounted torches. The only sounds piercing through the darkness was the breathing of the men and women present. I could make out the breathing of my captors and there seemed to be at least three more persons in the room. But I couldn’t really tell by the rhythmic breaths all around. At least twenty people could have surrounded us.
The leading officer had enough of the uncomfortable silence and addressed the room:
“We have arrived with our prey.”
Again, silence and darkness all around. This was not how anyone had expected it to be. The guards behind me started to retreat slowly, wondering if this was one big trap they had been lured into. The leader tightened his grip on my arm and I could feel my shoulder aching under the swaying movements I was forced to take.
“Hello, is anyone here?”
The self-confidence in his voice had wavered and while his left hand didn’t let me go, his right one now went to the dagger at his side. From up close I could see the worried look on his face. What had he gotten into? He had walked into the room, fully expecting to be handsomely rewarded for a job well done. Instead, he found a discomforting darkness and no words to soothe him for his trouble. No words to commend him for his actions. And most disturbingly, no pot of gold waiting for him at the end of the rainbow. Only darkness and silence. He waited another heartbeat and then slowly, as if he thought he had led into the wrong room, he turned around.
The guards were now in front of me, opened the round red door and stepped outside, letting in a shimmer of light. But it was enough to make out any of the figures in the room. But there were definitely more than three persons present. When the leader of the group attempted to push out of the narrow opening of the door, a deep voice boomed through the room with authority. “Your prey stays here.”
The officer turned around in disbelief: “What?”
“You heard me.” The tone was friendly and encouraging, but at the same time full of force and authority. My arm was released immediately. The captor kept a curse to himself at the last moment and mumbled through his gritted teeth: “I’ll be waiting outside.”
“That won’t be necessary.” And just like that, I stood in the room alone.
It seemed that the presence of my initial captors had given me some kind of security. After all, they couldn’t kill me because they needed to deliver me to the Chosen One. Now I was here, standing in the middle of the windowless room of a massive fort, surrounding my unknown persons (were they really persons?) who were definitely not on my side.
Another familiar wave of despair washed over me, but the words of the officer stuck with me. “Stand up straight and show some respect”. Respect for whom? Respect for myself. Two nights ago I had made the decision to stand up for Sophia, Seraphina, Laurenar and everyone who had brought me along on this journey. I was not about to crumble due to the creepy show effects. I took in the stale air and felt my confidence growing on the inside. Another breath later I was ready to address my unseen opponents.
“Is this how you treat all your guests?”
One quiet and lonely chuckle was the only reaction. Nobody in the room had acknowledged what I had said except for the stranger with the deep voice.
“What makes you think you’re a guest?”
I stretched my arm as well as possible. A moment passed before I answered. The theatrical breaks made it seem like I knew what was I doing.
“Well, our mutual friend gave me an exhausting tour of the fort while making sure my companions were shown their quarters. You seem to be the host as you’ve excused him to discuss our business, leaving me free from shackles or guards.”
My short speech was again met by a chuckle and the disturbing silence. My eyes had gotten used to the darkness, but it was such an utter and complete darkness that I still couldn’t make out anybody in the room. The voice had a soft echo, when it spoke in that calm tone. However, I wasn’t skilled enough to find out if that meant the room was tiny or large. I heard someone standing up. I braced myself for an impact, but no further movements were audible.
“I think I can take care of you by myself just fine.”
Just as he finished his sentence, I heard him whisper a word forcefully.
A second later, I was blinded by lights.
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Have a great weekend.