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Starlight: Part 1 – Chapter 10


At midnight the alarm in the house screeched. It was time to move the first group through to the other side.

 

Blake stepped into his jeans, and I grabbed some of my clothes and went to the bathroom behind the divider.

 

We met everyone in the living room. All had a bag of clothes with them.

 

Emanuel and all his men, including Taylor, who looked as if she’d just swallowed a lemon, waited to go back to the other side.

 

We all went together to the Creepers. At least Blake was going to be here then tomorrow he was going to leave with August and Tom on their crazy mission.

 

I kept my eye out on tonight’s task.

 

Blake came in with me.

 

Emanuel looked at Taylor. “You’re up.”

 

She glared at him, picked up her bag and walked over to me.

 

Taylor stood behind me and wrapped her arm around my waist.

 

The Creepers woke again, started to vibrate as they moved together. They hissed a little as I took Taylor inside.

 

She was really quiet, and I didn’t like that at all.

 

“Sorry about tonight,” she eventually said.

 

“It’s fine. I get why you are angry.”

 

“You do?”

 

“Yes, you wanted to stay. I get that. You feel more needed here.”

 

“Finally.” She cussed before the finally.

 

I laughed softly.

 

When she was safely on the other side, one of the other troops took her place, and I could hear King Helmut starting to speak to her as we made our way inside.

 

He was big, like Emanuel and he gasped just like everyone did when we reached the core.

 

“Breathtaking, I know,” I said.

 

He just stared around him, mesmerized.

 

He exchanged a quick debriefing from Emanuel then they shook hands.

 

Emanuel was coming out next.

 

“I’m watching you,” Blake joked and Emanuel grinned as he picked me up.

 

He ran with me inside and once safely past the mouths of the Creepers, he started to walk.

 

“So what was it you had to get for King Helmut?”

 

“It’s private.”

 

“Does he have family this side?”

 

He nodded, but his expression said it wasn’t good. “That is why he wanted you to enter, didn’t he?”

 

“I told you before, it’s private. Now stop being nosey as it’s really hard not telling you this, but I gave my dragon oath that I wouldn’t.”

 

“Wow, that important?”

 

“Yes, so if you want to see me shrivel in pain, ask me one more time.”

 

I smiled. “Okay, sorry.”

 

King Helmut was really happy to see Emanuel exit the Creepers with me. At a safe distance he put me down, and I took another of the troops in.

 

When all the troops and Emanuel were out, and new ones had taken their place, it was Charles’s turn.

 

At first he wanted to stay, as he was one of the main speakers when the Council came, but Emanuel put him at ease. That the guy that was going to take his place would sit with him on the other side and study him, and gain an understanding of everyone he needed to know from the Council.

 

Right now, well, he was like a giddy young boy of ten. Kept talking about breathing in fresh air, seeing the stars.

 

“Not yet, it’s daytime on the other side.”

 

“Still, stars will shine tonight.” He smiled.

 

Inside he gasped. “It shouldn’t surprise me that something so dangerous had something so beautiful and serene in the inside.”

 

I smiled. “Just like the yin yang.”

 

“You mean the dent sign.”

 

“It’s a bit different though isn’t it?”

 

“Not really. To be honest, I think they had the yin yang wrong.”

 

“They copied it and sort of made it their own?”

 

“Something like that.”

 

We exited and I could see a slight fear lingering on his face as he saw all the troops who were going to take their place.

 

King Helmut stepped forward as we got behind the yellow line they had put up.

 

He reached out his hand to Charles, and Charles stared at it. A smile broke over his face and King Helmut returned it.

 

Then Charles bowed.

 

King Helmut pulled him back out and shook his head. “Welcome home.”

 

I smiled as Charles saw Connie, and they embraced one another. It was a really good feeling to watch lost ones find the people they hadn’t seen for such a long time.

 

It was time to take in another troop.

 

David came back and the rest of the night it was all I did. The times that I did rest, Blake handed me water and a sandwich. Then I went back in.

 

It carried on until the sun’s first rays started to light up around us.

 

“That is it for tonight. We got through quite a lot,” Blake said. “Elena, take Gertrude back and come back tomorrow afternoon at two. The new group will be waiting.”

 

I didn’t like this, because he wasn’t going to be there then. I grabbed him around his waist. “Just be safe, please.”

 

He stroked the back of my head. “I promised you before: I will come back.” He touched my chin and pulled my face up to look at him. “I promise, Elena,” he said and kissed me. It was a soft compassionate kiss then it turned into something else, wanting more. My heart rose, not from evil memories, from really wanting him to stay. He broke the kiss, turned around and walked away fast without saying goodbye.

 

I closed my eyes, said a soft prayer to just keep him safe, and a gentle hand stroked my arm.

 

“He will come back to you.” Gertrude looked at me with soft eyes.

 

I nodded.

 

“It wasn’t easy saying goodbye. That we all saw.”

 

I hugged Tom. “Keep him safe, please.”

 

“I promise,” he said.

 

August was next. “I really hope you guys are going to find Max.”

 

“I do too,” he said, with a lot of doubt lingering on his face.

 

We said goodbye with a hug.

 

“I’ll make sure he blends in,” August said.

 

I laughed. “It’s the blending in part I’m worried about the most.”

 

“He’s going to be fine. I promise.” Raymond had stayed, surprised King Helmut had said it was okay. Taylor was not going to like that.

 

I nodded.

 

“Hey, he’s the Rubicon. You worry for nothing.” Raymond had that confidence I wished I owned right now.

 

I nodded then took Gertrude back. She was just as scared as the others when we neared the Creepers.

 

“Close your eyes,” I whispered as I took my position behind her and wrapped my arms around her arms.

 

The sun that Goran created, an illusion, started to rise. My stomach grumbled and only then did realize how hungry I was.

 

Blake was right, I was going to be too busy to worry about their mission, as my own was going to exhaust me during the next few days.

 

The Creepers hissed close to our faces: Their teeth still scared the living crap out of me. They were so vicious, and it was hard to explain how I felt being the only one who could walk through them.

 

When we passed their mouths, and were safe inside the core, I told Gertrude to open her eyes.

 

She gasped at the small golden lights floating in the air.

 

I still had no idea what they were. They didn’t look like bugs, and they definitely weren’t fairies.

 

The pink-and-purple flowers growing on the roots, the long silver leaves hanging from the top, it made the core look like a fairy tale.

 

She looked around her, exactly like every single one of them did.

 

“Who could’ve imagined…”

 

I laughed. “You and everyone else keeps saying that. It sure is beautiful.”

 

“It’s heavenly.”

 

I smiled.

 

“Not so evil as we all thought they were.”

 

“Oh, no they are vile. They can still rip you to pieces.”

 

She tapped the back of my hand and laughed. “Not what I meant. They do belong in Paegeia. In everything ugly, evil, dark, there is something beautiful, good, and light in the middle.”

 

I stared at her. Didn’t even want to think about it.

 

“It’s a pity that we have to destroy this to free Etan.”

 

She nodded her head. “It is.”

 

We reached the other side and her entire body trembled, as she closed her eyes tightly, walking past the thousands of teeth and the hissing.

 

The reunion, even though it was just a week of them being apart, was nice to watch. Cassy was all over her grandma and acted as if she hadn’t seen her in years.

 

Connie cooked up a storm. I ate while all the others sounded cheerful. I wondered how they felt, finally being free. By their expressions, they still had a small fear. Especially Marcus and Gertrude. Both her boys were on this dangerous mission. At least Raymond and Blake were with them.

 

“Go to bed.” Emanuel ordered as I finished my coffee.

 

“Yes, Dad,” I said and his lips curved into a huge grin.

 

Charles came up to me.

 

“Elle, we can never thank you enough.” He took both my hands in his. “I know it was hard for you to let Blake go today. Thank you for doing that.”

 

I gave him a smile. “All of you deserve to be free.”

 

“I just hope fooling the Council is going to work.”

 

“I trust King Helmut. If he says that these men are the best observers he has, then I believe him. It’s going to work.”

 

He gave me that grandfather smile of his. “Sleep tight.”

 

Everyone said in unison, “Good night.” Some even thanked me, grateful for finally being safe and free. But at what cost? They had lost their farms.

 

I went to my room and took a bath, just replaying that major goodbye between me and Blake. Why had he turned around and walked away like that?

 

This was going to be the longest three days of my life.

 


The second day I went in with a troop at two.

 

King Helmut held a huge meeting. The guy who was going to take Charles’s place was busy interrogating him, to get all the info he needed.

 

They looked at the camera that was installed in one of the buyos that the first ten had gone in with. They had scouted Eikenborough, and the nearby cities.

 

I hated seeing Eikenborough again. It brought back memories I still struggled with whenever I was alone.

 

My throat closed as I saw Seymour and Billy’s faces through the crowd. They were having a discussion.

 

One of the scouts who had gained all the information told the others who they were, the clothes they wore, all of it.

 

A part of me didn’t fear them anymore. It was only hatred and pity for what Blake would do to them when he found them.

 

I felt stroking stroking my back. It was Annie. “What are you doing in here? Come, let’s go.”

 

She took me out, and led me to my room.

 

We both sat on my bed; neither of us said a word.

 

“What did they do to you?” Annie asked.

 

“You know what they did.”

 

Tears welled up in her eyes. “I hope that my cousin finds them and show them hell.”

 

“I don’t. It will mean that Goran will find him and…”

 

She touched my arm. “I didn’t mean right now.”

 

I nodded; the fear of that turning into a reality had to be evident on my face, but I managed to give her a smile. “I never thought being with another guy would feel like this.”

 

She laughed softly. “Yes, Plucky always had a gentle side to him.”

 

“He wasn’t always like that.”

 

“Then tell me, what was he like?”

 

I frowned. “You really want to know?”

 

“I do.”

 

I start telling her the story, how he had truly hated my guts since the night Matt brought me through. She listened, even gasped at times. Pure shock was written over her face on occasion, and right before I stopped, tears had even glistened in her eyes.

 

“The dark really had its claws deep inside of him, didn’t it?”

 

“It did. I just came to know this Plucky you are telling me about.”

 

She smiled.

 

“It’s hard to take it all in. I mean, I only knew this side of him. I can’t imagine what he was like being dark.”

 

“It’s in the past now. He just needs to come back.”

 

“He will. I know he will,” she reassured me.

 

“Elena, you ready?” King Helmut asked, and I jumped back to the present.

 

I nodded and saw the first troop that was going to replace one of the farmers.

 

The first was always the hardest as a fear of the Creepers waking up, making that horrible hissing sound, and finally devouring us, still lingered with me strongly.

 

When we reached the other side, the next group with lanterns was waiting for us.

 

I looked up at the sky and saw the starless night. The faces around me were familiar, but not the one I really wanted to see. He was gone. Please, just be safe.

 

I brought out another and the entire ritual started all over.

 

Emanuel and a number of yesterday’s troops, with Jerry and Semeon, were waiting for the new group to exit from Etan.

 

Emanuel looked after me, brought me water and sandwiches as the time went by.

 

When the sun started to come up once more in Etan, the second day came to an end.

 

I’d brought out fifty in two days. Master Longwei was so right that I was going to need to use Monday and Tuesday to complete this. At least Tuesday Blake would be back.

 

I slept in the next day. I missed my friends. At least with them here, I could’ve had some sort of a distraction.

 

They would’ve loved the lake, the one where Blake had taught me how to fish, and the one where he had given me that kiss that made me run away like a mouse.

 

After I ate lunch, I spent time in the library, just looking again for that missing ingredient.

 

Two o’clock crept nearer, real fast, and once at the Creepers, the third day started. It was the same thing.

 

The day ended with a total of seventy-five of King Helmut’s army in Tith, pretending to be the farmers. Tomorrow the last twenty-five were going in and then Blake was coming home. The mission would be over.

 

On Tuesday I took the last twenty-five troops through and brought out the rest.

 

The last five troops were the most important, as they had studied the heads the past three days, learning everything they could to fool the Council.

 

They were either going to make or break this mission.

 

I hoped it was the first.

 

Charles walked with Remi, the soldier who was going to take his place. I could hear him going over the list of things Remi needed to remember, which was of the utmost importance.

 

When they reached me, Remi laughed, turned around and cupped Charles’s face. “You worry too much. I learned plenty from you the past few days, Charles. I won’t fail you.”

 

Charles smiled. “Okay, son. I trust you. Just watch out for Seymour, please.”

 

“He will never know the difference, sir.”

 

They said goodbye, and I took Remi inside.

 

“Princess,” Remi greeted me. I hadn’t spoken to him before, just seen him with the troops and speaking to King Helmut from time to time.

 

“Elena, please.” I smiled.

 

He laughed. “You don’t remember me, do you?”

 

I frowned, trying to think where I should know him from.

 

“It was my brother you saved that night when we ran into the hippogriff.”

 

“He was your brother?” I sounded like an idiot, and Remi smiled.

 

“How is he?”

 

That made him roar with laughter. “You took him in on the second day.”

 

I felt like an idiot. “Sorry, the past few days were a blur to me, honestly.”

 

“I can only imagine.”

 

“So they gave you the big task of becoming Charles. You have some serious big shoes to fill.”

 

Remi squinted. “I got that much.”

 

“I have faith in you.”

 

“Thank you so much, your Highness.”

 

“Elena, please.” I laughed.

 

He gasped too as we reached the core. Everyone did.

 

When he was safely through, he hit the button of his buyo and became Charles.

 

“Good luck, Remi,” I said as he walked to the farm with one of the other men who had taken one of the farmhands’ places.

 

I felt sorry for Seymour if they found something out of place. He wasn’t dealing with farmers anymore; he was dealing with an army of dragon riders who all owned abilities and knew how to use them.

 

The last guy to go back to Etan was a farmhand.

 

Emanuel and everyone waited for us as we exited.

 

The farmhand had tears in his eyes as he looked at everything around him.

 

“I’m free,” he said with his arms open wide.

 

It always closed up my throat thinking about the fear in which they had lived the past seventeen odd years.

 

“It’s over,” Emanuel whispered next to me.

 

“One more night, then Blake comes back.”

 

Emanuel smiled and looked at the ground. “I told you he will realize what an idiot he was. I’m glad you gave him another chance.”

 

“Didn’t think that I would.”

 

“I’m sorry that I lied to you.”

 

“About?” I asked.

 

“That time in the SUV, when I told you that it was me that sensed them.”

 

“It’s okay. He told me that he made all of you promise to not tell me a thing.”

 

“Yeah, told him it was silly, but he said you had to trust him on your own terms. Guess he has a little bit of wisdom.”

 

I laughed at the way he said it. He opened the door of the SUV for me, and we went back to the lodge.

 


Someone knocked on my door and I opened. I found Emanuel with a cup of coffee.

 

I stepped out of the doorway, and he entered.

 

“So whom do I owe for the pleasure of your company tonight?”

 

He chuckled. “Nobody, get dressed.”

 

“Where are we going?”

 

“To the other side. I know you want to be there when Blake comes back.”

 

“You serious?” My stomach flipped just thinking about seeing Blake again, safe in Areeth and not on some crazy mission.

 

Emanuel laughed and nodded.

 

I jumped up and down and into Emanuel’s arms then gave him a hug. “Thanks, Emanuel.”

 

“He’d probably have my head, but I promised that I’d protect you with my life. So hurry, before I change my mind.” He let go of me and went out the door.

 

I put on my jeans and a warm top, and we entered around nine.

 

The sun was already up, and we had to be extra careful exiting the Creepers.

 

When Emanuel felt it was safe, he ran out of the Creepers with me, hit his device and changed back into Charles.

 

“Isn’t there another Charles already?”

 

“Yes, but whoever is going to find us, wouldn’t know that. Here, put this over your clothes.” He gave me an old cloak.

 

I did as he said, and we walked into the Benson’s house half an hour later.

 

Once we were safely inside, Emanuel pushed the button on his device and turned back.

 

I couldn’t wait for later when Blake was finally going to come back.

 

Tomorrow it was that time again. The Council was going to come. Blake just had to be back by then.

 


At two o’clock I started to get antsy. They weren’t back yet.

 

Then around four we saw the outline of a group of people. They were all wearing cloaks with the hoods up.

 

My heart fluttered, and I blew out air, as I knew Blake was one of them.

 

I ran into the house. “They are here!”

 

Emanuel came out.

 

I started to frown when I only saw five figures, and two of them were Nicky and Max. Something must have happened to Leana, or one of the girls. My throat closed up again. Two of them weren’t alive. Tom? What kind of state wasn’t he going to be in?

 

They came closer and I could tell two of them were sort of supporting one.

 

Emanuel and Remi, dressed as Charles, ran toward them and assisted.

 

“Something happened,” the woman or guy who had taken Gertrude’s place said.

 

No kidding. “It’s this place,” I said. “It’s dark and evil.”

 

They finally reached us and Emanuel put the one dressed as a lord on the couch. When he hit the device, I found Tom’s figure. He looked like a ghost. Didn’t say a word. His eyes were dull, and he was crying.

 

Leana. She hadn’t made it.

 

August appeared next then went to sit next to Tom, wrapping his arms around him. Tom started to cry.

 

Nicky and Max took off their cloaks.

 

“Elena,” Emanuel had that tone in his voice.

 

A cold shiver ran up my spine. As the last one took off its hoody and hit the device, Raymond appeared.

 

“No, no, no!” I looked at Raymond. Where the hell was Blake?

 

I ran down the steps and searched the horizon. No one else was coming.

 

I walked up to Raymond and pushed him.

 

“I told you not to lose him. Where the hell is my dragon?” I knew I sounded deranged. I couldn’t go through this again. I couldn’t lose him again.

 

“We don’t know.” Raymond spoke with his hands slightly on my shoulder.

 

“Don’t touch me. What do you mean you don’t know?”

 

“What happened?” Emanuel asked gently.

 

“There were complications.” Raymond looked at him.

 

“Raymond just tell us what happened. Does Goran have him?” Emanuel asked.

 

“It was simple. Find the women and make sure Blake got back. I can’t do this without him.” I didn’t even want to think if Goran had him.

 

“I know, but he saw Billy.”

 

“What?” I spoke softly with closed eyes I plunged my hands into my hair. I had known he would go mental if he saw one of them. I started to pace, considering the consequences.

 

“He didn’t go after him, but Billy saw him and then chaos broke out.”

 

“Does Goran have him?” Emanuel demanded.

 

“No,” August answered him, and it felt as if I could breathe a little bit. “He just vanished.”

 

“What?”

 

Raymond nodded. “He’s gone.”

 


Everyone stared at me with huge eyes as my entire body froze. I couldn’t breath as I listened to Raymond tell all of us what happened.

 

“What do you mean he just vanished?” Emanuel asked what I couldn’t.

 

“One minute he was there, people started to surround him. He told us to get the hell out of there, he could take care of himself.”

 

Raymond rubbed his face.

 

“I didn’t want to leave, but I don’t know. He is stronger than he let on. He somehow forced me away from him, with the others.”

 

Emanuel shook his head. “He is powerful.”

 

“He is only twenty-one. How powerful can he be to force a dragon my age away from him?”

 

“The last few months, we all forget who Blake is. He is the Rubicon. The alpha of all the dragons. Never forget that.”

 

Raymond nodded.

 

“So what happened after he forced you away?”

 

“When I reached the others, I looked back. He wasn’t there.”

 

“Because they took him!” I yelled at Raymond.

 

“No. Everyone was still gathering around them. I could hear their confusion. He was gone.”

 

He wouldn’t have flown. The Creepers that were hiding behind the illusion of daylight would’ve grabbed him. “He blended in,” I told Emanuel.

 

“No.” August shook his head with guilt written over his face. “There was no shimmer. Blake showed us what the shimmer looks like. We all searched for it. He wasn’t there; he vanished.”

 

I didn’t care anymore. I found my legs again and ran down the porch’s steps. I would find him myself if I had to.

 

“Elena,” Emanuel called after me.

 

I had to find him, wherever he was. What if they’d captured him, what if he was dead? What did they mean he just vanished?

 

I was beside myself. Nobody just vanished. I mean, where the hell did he go to? This had been a mistake to begin with. This was so stupid. I had a feeling something bad was going to happen, and now I had no idea where he was.

 

“Elena stop!” Emanuel yelled but I didn’t listen.

 

Then he grabbed me.

 

“Stay here! We’ll be back when she is calm.”

 

“Let me go!”

 

“Elena! Don’t make me use a spell on you. Now keep your mouth shut,” he said as he flung me over his shoulder.

 

“I need to find him! Put me down.”

 

“You are going to get yourself killed. He is the Rubicon. Not one of us knows where he is.”

 

“No, I can find him. I know I can.”

 

“You are delusional. You cannot find him.” He was already in the corn fields.

 

“Please I’m begging you don’t take me to the other side, please.” I started to cry.

 

He didn’t answer and just took me through.

 

Safe on the other side, he put me down.

 

I pushed him away from me hard, trying to run past him and back into the Creepers, but he was too fast. He blocked my way.

 

“Let me go!” I yelled as loud as I could, but he didn’t.

 

While he took me back to the lodge, I fought Emanuel like I had never fought with anyone before.

 

“You are my main responsibility, Elena. Keeping you safe. It’s an oath. I’m not going to break it, and neither is he. He will die wherever he is if anything happens to you. Don’t forget that. He is safe.”

 

“I don’t care what you say. He is alone somewhere in Etan. He can’t come back when he appears again, Emanuel. The Council is going to the farm tomorrow. If they find him, Goran will kill him.”

 

“He won’t kill him. He wants him.”

 

“That is not alleviating anything. Let me go. Please.”

 

“I can’t.”

 

I was a deranged lunatic. I tried every spell I could think of, but I wasn’t the Rubicon, and Emanuel was a three hundred and something-year-old Sun-Blast who was faster than I could ever dream of.

 

He blocked all my spells, and even used one on me that numbed everything.

 

I couldn’t say a word. I couldn’t move. I was like a sack of potatoes hanging over his shoulder.

 

Everyone gasped as Emanuel walked in the doors with me.

 

Deranged noises came from my lips.

 

“Emanuel!” Constance cried. “What happened?”

 

“I had no choice,” he said. “I’m sorry, Elena, I can’t let you go.”

 

Everyone stared at him. Constance looked at me as he put me on a chair. I searched for his gaze wildly. Noises came from me.

 

“What the hell did you do?” Constance shouted.

 

“Blake didn’t come back,” he said.

 

“What do you mean Blake didn’t come back?”

 

He started telling them the story while I still sat on the chair with no motion. It was as if I was strapped up with invisible cords, and the more I fought it, the more it hurt.

 

“She is deranged. She wants to go after him. I had no choice,” Emanuel finished.

 

Constance stared at me with soft eyes.

 

“He just vanished?” King Helmut looked confused.

 

Constance spoke quickly, and the spell Emanuel had put me under vanished.

 

She hugged me tightly. “He will come back, but I’m with Emanuel. You can’t go looking for him.”

 

I wanted to yell at Emanuel again, but I was too tired.

 

Constance hugged me close as I started to break down.

 

“We need to get word to his family and to Chong. Elena needs support.”

 

“I’m on it.” Connie ran behind the receptionist desk and I could hear her dialing.

 

Constance and Annie took me up to my room.

 

I didn’t want to think anymore. Blake was gone, he was missing. Wherever he was, I couldn’t reach him. Nobody could reach him.

 

And I had to wait for him to come back. What if he was never going to come back?

 

I couldn’t think about anything but that, and somehow fell asleep when my body was drenched from all the crying.

 

I would sleep until he got back.


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