Rebel the Dynasty
Chapter Four: Moonlight Serenade—sort of
"I sense there is something wrong with your spirit." The rasping voice leered out towards Garnneth, drifting around him for a moment like unnecessary fog. Garnneth gritted his teeth against the nails-on-chalkboard sound as his eyes darted towards the dark figure and back.
Night had fallen all too quickly in that town. And Garnneth felt it. It.
There was something sinister about the darkness, about how it almost innocently shrouded the sights away from him. The shadows seemed to be hiding, waiting for something.
Garnneth knew by the crawling of his spine that in this town, there would come no good.
"Look, mister, all I know is that I got something sharp and pointy and all you got is flesh. So stop prophesizing our death and chance meetings of tall, dark, and handsome men and get on with it," Lily snarled, shoving a dagger at the figure's throat. The seller was completely cloaked in a black robe, but that didn't stop Lily from making a vague slashing motion to where his neck would have been.
The vendor silently picked out the assortment of swords and other weapons, shuffling them slowly into the bag. His hand was cloaked in his dark cloth and Garnneth again felt a tingling in his spine.
"We don't have all day, miser," Lily snapped, twisting her dagger impatiently in the air, "We're paying good money for those."
"These will do you no good. You must find your own weapons. You must create your own weapons."
"And you must give us our weapons. Mr. Creepy Dude, I don't understand how clear I'm going to have to make this, but I want sharp and pointy and I want it now." Lily petulantly stomped on one foot while giving the Evil Eye to the dark seller.
A breeze brushed past the nape of Garnneth's neck and he instantly glanced back, feeling the critters up and down his spine. No. He was growing—growing paranoid. But for an instant there, it almost felt like someone was brushing cold, cold fingers across his neck…
The vendor glanced at Garnneth through his dark hood and Garnneth could feel the smirk. He stepped back for a second, but then came closer only to grab the ready bag of weapons. Something was wrong about the vendor. Chuck that, something was wrong about the entire town.
"All right, let's blow this pop stand," Lily said, grabbing the bag from Garnneth and carelessly slinging it over her shoulder. She sauntered down the empty street where the night seemed to heavily press against the ground.
"There's no one out here," Garnneth finally said, his eyes darting around.
"Probably some curfew. You humans are strange. Do not even get me started to your customs, yes?" Lily said, and then ignored her own advice. "How you manage to celebrate the most meaningless things has never ceased to amaze my tribe. The day you arrive on this planet is what you consider important…?"
Garnneth shut her out as she adamantly took a stand on how all humans were evil, stupid, or both. There was something ominous in the air. He wanted to look back, to make sure nobody was following them. It felt like all eyes were staring at his back and the back of his head completely tingled. His breathing growing labored, he was glad to see the lonesome inn Eva had been talking about.
The Blue Pony Inn looked almost empty. The lights were out and only dimly lit candles could be seen from the second floor. Garnneth pushed the door open…slowly…
A change of plans sent him barreling Damien and Silina to the Inn with Lily as he shopped for weapons. But Lily had dropped them off early, shopped for clothes a little too quickly not to be suspicious, and found Garnneth staring at a sword that reminded him of a toothpick.
"Room five," Lily reported, shoving Garnneth quickly through the dismal room. Empty tables and benches littered the room and the receptionist seemed to be almost asleep, his head bobbing low against the table.
Garnneth did not like the way the stairs creaked underneath his feet.
He did not like the way the railing was dusty.
He did not like the way the door slowly creaked as it opened.
But what he did like was the light that seemed to flood the room, despite the single candle lit on the floor. Silina was worriedly watching as Damien clamored to the top bunk bed without the ladder, looking almost monkey-like as he tried to swing to the top. He could have done it easily, of course. But what was the fun of that? Better to give a nice show for Silina before the rest of the crew came back.
And Eva did not ease any of Silina's breathy worries. She was putting a scroll dangerously close to the candle, reading it intensely the way she always did. Her head nodded up and down, as if to invisible music, as she continued to scan the pages.
"You'll fall!" Silina cried, nibbling on her nails frantically with her eyes as big as saucers.
"I will not fall. I will, however, probably take a crash course in tumbling and maybe end up with a few broken bones," Damien conceded, "But I will not fall."
"Men," Lily snorted, slamming the bag of weapons loudly on the floor. Garnneth closed the door behind them, feeling suddenly suspicious.
"You're back!" Silina said with delight, her eyes lighting up. And then she glanced back at Damien and her eyes dimmed down with worry. Then she looked back at Lily. Delight.
Damien. Worry. Lily. Delight. Damien. Worry.
"Get down from there before you break your skull," Lily said, kneeling by the candle. "Or are you confident it's too thick to get broken?"
"No, but I'm hoping that if I fall, I'd land on you," Damien said, his voice dripping in honey, "And if you went first, then my life has been well worth it."
"Enough of this not-so-witty banter," Garnneth grumbled, "It's too late to deal with the two of you."
Damien gracefully dropped to the floor and gave Lily a lanky grin. Lily returned his with an almost feral smile. Silina worriedly watched them both, suspicious of their intents.
Surprising her, though, Lily obediently trotted to the bag and opened it swiftly. "We come bearing gifts to appease your highnesses."
"What'd I get?" Damien asked eagerly, almost bouncing up and down with excitement.
"You got yourself a little dagger," Lily said, her eyes twinkling, "To protect yourself from whoknowswhat."
"A dagger?" Damien's face dropped with disappointment. "Just that?"
"A dagger is a dangerous weapon. We give you responsibility when we hand over the dagger, as well as danger and protection," Silina assured him softly.
"Garnneth's got a sword, I got myself a bow and an arrow kit, and Eva has the blade-on-pole thing," Lily announced, handing out the rest of the weapons.
"WHAT?" Damien's jaw dropped now, and he almost danced with rage. "You can't do this to me! I'd have better use of a broom than a dagger! What am I going to do? Poke somebody until they die laughing?"
"Fine, then, use a broom. See if I care when I get your mutilated remains," Lily sniffed, "Ignoring such a gift. You know how much that cost?"
"Yes, see?" Silina said, hastily trying to appease both of them, "The dagger is important. We know you haven't much experience at far-range, so we decided to give you something in case of emergencies. Please…"
"How much did it cost?" Damien asked doubtfully, weighing in the slightly dagger.
"Actually, I got it off the ground," Lily admitted. There was a long and pregnant pause as Damien stared at the dagger, and then slowly lifted his gaze to Lily's face.
"…I'm not even touching that topic," Damien finally said, scooting the dagger into his pocket.
"Ethop. The dynasty. We must rebel the dynasty." Eva suddenly looked up from her scroll that looked alarmingly like it was going to catch fire. Four pairs of eyes hooked onto hers and Eva, refugee little Eva who had a goldfish when she was five and named it Tellurium after the periodic table element, smiled a true feral grin.
"I got nothing," Damien admitted after a long pause.
"Me neither," Lily shrugged.
"I do not understand," Silina said bashfully.
Garnneth simply glared threateningly at Eva.
"I have researched and discovered this—this legend. A long time ago, there was an evil force called Ethop. He wished to destroy the world, but he took it by fear and hate and greed and poverty and disease. He infected people, and they did his bidding like empty slaves. His hate grew so strong, fuelled by other people's hate, that he eventually did achieve his goal." Eva hesitated then, looking back at the scroll.
"But someone named Kieron sacrificed his life, seven rings, a sword, and a shield to stop Ethop. And back then the elements had actual forms. Today they are nothing but tidbits here and there, still strong but severely lacking from their glory days. That is because they sacrificed their forms so Ethop could be defeated.
"And Ethop was imprisoned. But that is not to say he does not have routes. He ultimately works by manipulation, and I feel he has manipulated enough to try to take over the world again. Notice how this town is dependant on its seaport?" Eva asked.
Damien, having gotten lost on the word 'Ethop', nodded frantically. Lily, gotten as far as the second paragraph, honestly shrugged. Silina, remembering what Eva said earlier, nodded. Garnneth glared at Eva to get on with her point.
"If all the ships were not allowed to get pass the water, wouldn't the entire economy be ruined? Wouldn't this town be vulnerable?" Eva asked seriously, looking at each and every one of them with a dangerous focus in her eyes.
"I guess," Lily grudgingly admitted.
"Ethop has returned." Eva closed her eyes for a moment, rubbing her temples. "He controls this town. There is no hope. I checked and there is a sea gate of magic connecting to the earth. Ethop is underground and controls that sea gate now. Maybe somebody was standing by the gate, but he communicated with them and now his touch is spreading too quickly."
"So, it's like a virus?" Damien asked, grasping at loose straws.
"In a way. Ethop has the power to store fear, hate, greed, and so much more in your hearts just by talking to him. Somebody must have given him a boost of power in the equality of thousands of lives so he could simply start the chain. But if the chain continues on, then the sacrifice will come faster and easier," Eva said.
Damien's obvious blank expression sent Eva rubbing her temples again.
"Ethop's cult killed thousands of people so Ethop could start a chain of viruses," Eva said patiently, "And once enough are consumed by evil, they will willingly sacrifice themselves, each other, and other people so Ethop could come back to his form and rule again."
"So, blood is geras?" Damien asked happily.
"Yes," Eva said, stretching the word out slowly. The word flowed through her lips like slow molasses, but Damien was painfully oblivious to her inner annoyances.
"This town is already lost?" Silina cried, worriedly biting her nails again. If she had been in her real form, her fingers would have been stained with blood long before.
"He can raise the sea port as he likes. The town, even those unconsumed by evil, will obey by him. But judging by the look outside, the entire town is already in the grasp of evil. Nobody comes out after dark, anyways. They must know," Eva sighed.
Rocking back and froth from the balls of his feet to his toes, Damien frowned distractedly. He ran his hand through his hair once, freeing it to be as messy as it wanted to be, as he tried to sort his thoughts out. "So you're telling us the Ultimate Evil has arrived."
"Yes!" Eva looked like she was about to cry in happiness.
"My parents!" Silina cried, her small teeth jabbing down frantically at her ghostly fingers. Her eyes were beginning to tear up.
"What are we supposed to do then? Sit around and wait until we are consumed?" Lily demanded, crossing her arms across her chest.
"Rebel the dynasty," Eva said quietly.
There was another long pause. Damien scratched his neck. Lily fiddled with her thumbs. Silina drifted a little higher.
"What?" Lily finally asked.
"It is too late to stop his chain of evil from reaching to the royalty. Soon there will be wars—many wars—and in the end, we will all die for Ethop. He plays the kings, and princes, and queens, and princesses against each other so they will start a war. In war, there is death. In death, there are sacrifices of lives to Ethop. He will come back and create chaos in this world." Eva quietly looked down at the dimming candle. The wax made a hot sizzling sound when it dropped onto the floor.
There was an acrid taste in Silina's mouth as she ventured to ask, "Is there any way to stop him?"
"We rebel the dynasty," Eva said solemnly.
"We a-what?" Lily asked doubtfully, leaning forward and arching an eyebrow.
"This dynasty is already compromised. We become rebels and try to take over this dynasty. We. Defeat. Ethop." Eva's forehead creased in seriousness.
"Rebels? Are you talking rebellions?" Lily suddenly snapped, "Because that's treason! Our heads could come off just because of that!"
"And we shall all die of Ethop if we do not stand up against the dynasty! It has come to cleanse out the old one and create a new one," Eva said firmly, her eyes already rapidly glazing over. "Like Damien said earlier, when he did his spell."
All eyes turned to Damien. He froze for a few seconds, in the middle of trying to take off his boot. "Rebel the dynasty? I don't know, I just got those words from a dream and decided to use them. It was either that or Popsicle Sticks, and…well…"
"What else was in your dream?" Silina asked curiously.
"Something about cats…" Damien murmured, shrugging. Then:
"I call top bunk!"
"Nuh-uhn! I called top bunk!"
"I didn't hear you call it!"
"Well, I called it in my mind."
"That doesn't count! Get off of my bed!"
"Get off of my bed!"
"I wan' it, I wan' it!"
"Shut up and shove off!"
"I have a right!"
"The only right you have is the right to be stupid and believe me, you filled that up rightly."
"Gar-nneth," Damien whined, turning his head around to glance at the singular figure below, "Lily won't give me my bed back."
Garnneth was not a parent.
The only two things he truly feared in the world were cute, furry animals and kids. If either of the two started crying, he would try to inch away as quickly as possible while regarding said crying object as if it was going to explode.
So when Damien, whom he deemed nothing more than a child, went begging for him for parental help between him and Lily, whom he deemed a teasing older sister, he did the only thing he could think of at the moment.
He fell asleep.…
If eyes were really windows to souls, Damien's eyes would be twin tempests of confusion, horror, and worry. On the bottom bunk, he stared up emptily at the bed above him. Occasionally Lily would turn around and make an alarmingly loud sound above him, but after the first twenty times he was starting to calm down.
Damien released his vice grip from the sheets and slowly twisted around, trying to make out anything in the moonlight. He wasn't sure how he was supposed to take in the fact that
they were all going to die
they would all die a horrible death
and finally that they would all die underneath the ultimate evil that was coming and Eva had concocted an insane plan to stop him that included becoming rebels and committing treason.
The most disturbing part of the whole thing was that he was going to have to go through all three things with only a dagger. Honestly.
Unable to fall asleep, he got up and slid his boots on. Slinging on his robe again, he padded softly over to the corner where Silina was peacefully sleeping. Her eyes fluttered open suddenly.
"Can you not sleep?" she asked, drifting up.
"Not really," he said, grinning at her, "I was thinking about going downstairs for a while to get something to eat or…I don't know…something. Do you want to join me?"
"In a midnight feast?" Silina laughed, clapping her hands together as if something amused her.
"Milady," Damien said, sweeping a bow and letting her go out the door first. He gave one more backwards glance at the little group they left behind and then shut the door after him.
In his heart, he felt something cold and heavy settle in. Evil. It was like his entire surroundings were filled with…darkness, and evil. It didn't feel comfortable, to say the least. But nobody else seemed to be affected, so he tried to dismiss it as paranoia…
Meanwhile, Silina danced quietly pass the receptionist towards a small room on the side. Damien opened the door for her and glanced inside. It was like a small closet, with bags of flour and cleaning supplies littered around. By the thick layer of dust that settled over everything, Damien suspected the last time it had been used was somewhere before he was born.
"Maybe there is food here," Silina suggested, "I do not wish in particular to awaken the chef."
"And even if we did, he'd probably serve us sloppy joes," Damien said mournfully, entering the closet. Curiously, he blew off the dust of a broom and picked it up. "This hasn't been used in a long time."
"Mm." Silina sat down on a dusty shelf, staring down at the floor.
A deep and sullen awkward silence followed. Damien was unsure what to say to such a beautiful, crystalline princess. A single word wrong and it might break the little princess, who so dearly loved her parents. Silina had the same problem with the childlike person in front of her. Who was she to ruin such innocence?
And so both of them stood still for a while, trying to craft out delicate words from the air to please the other.
"It'll be all right," Damien blurted out. He was reminded of an instance when he gave his father his first ever painting when he was a small little boy. The picture had absolutely looked perfect to him, but the moment it exchanged hands he could see the major flaws. Everything was tilted. The colors were too bright or too dull. His figures were always slightly off. Likewise, the moment he said anything he regretted his words.
Silina, pleased at the awkward words, smiled gratefully down on him. "Thank you. I just…worry about my parents sometimes." What idiots do princesses be! she told herself sternly. Why was she humping all her problems onto him?
Happy that the beautiful princess would confide in him, Damien took matters into his own hands. "You shouldn't. We'll rescue them, you'll see," he said blissfully, "Garnneth is a capable person."
"I suppose," Silina sighed, "I still worry, though."
"Enjoy yourself," Damien said fiercely, "It's a big and free world and you should be happy." Silina smiled again. Underneath the awkwardness, there was a shining truth and complete belief that made her think that maybe, just maybe, Damien was wiser than he acted.
"Food!" Damien pounced on the bag of flour and opened it swiftly, nibbling on said flour for a few seconds.
"You're not supposed to eat raw flour!" Silina cried, swinging towards him from the dusty shelf.
"It's not that bad, actually," Damien said thoughtfully, munching on another handful, "Tastes like chicken."
Silina froze in the middle of her nail biting. "Really?"
"…No. Tricked you!" Damien smirked, doing a little victory dance on the floor. Silina weakly laughed, having the feeling that she missed the joke. But then Damien froze, his eyes darting to the door.
"What? Is the flour not settling well in your stomach?" Silina asked anxiously. She was not going to have to tell Garnneth that she killed Damien with flour.
"It's coming," he whispered, barely a hoarse scratch against the silence. Slowly he knelt down, grabbing the broom. His eyes intently watched the door, expectant and worried.
"What's coming?" Please, don't let it be from his stomach…
Then she heard it. It was like a rumble of an earthquake, or a rumble of a stampede. The ground shook from beneath her, a few things toppling off their shelves.
The door split open as the first of the pitch-black, red-eyed rats sprang through, the yellowing teeth glinting evilly off the moonlight, its eyes having no pupils or irises. But what frightened Silina the most was its squeal—its death squeal. It was like the scream of a dying person…
Lily was having a pleasant dream. She was chucking rocks against her worst enemy and watching them scream in agony. Then the scene skipped to the part where she was dancing in the meadows with a bunch of flowers cheering her on. Then the scene skipped to where she was sumo-wrestling with this big guy and neatly defeated him in two swift moves.
But that isn't the point.
She suddenly awoke to a song of screams, like nothing she heard before. She could have sworn her hair turned white at that exact moment. It was filled with pain, and hurt, like somebody had been tortured too much and was finally dying.
It was like a song of death.
Chilled to her very bones, Lily sprang up and glanced around the room frantically.
Garnneth was also awake, his eyes wide open and one hand wielding the silver sword. Eva was already up, studying the scrolls, but she blandly looked at the doorway. And that's when Lily noticed it.
Two of their own were gone.
She sprang out of the bed, landing on the floor, with a graceful leap. Grabbing her assortment of weapons, including her dagger, she sprinted out the door. Garnneth was a few feet behind her and Eva was busily following him. And the screams continued to grow louder.
Damien was convinced he was going to die.
A rat almost bit him, but he frantically batted him away with his broom. The waves of rats just continued to come! Wave after wave of black with blood red spots charged on and on, like suicide runs for an ultimate goal.
He never wanted to go out with rats. He would have preferred if he died in his sleep. He'd always imagined his death would be from being beaten by his master. He would have contented with that, more or less. Better than death by rats.
What were they going to put on his gravestone? What if he was completely eaten and couldn't have a gravestone? And if he actually did have a gravestone, what if Lily was the one to make the words?
He couldn't die here! It'd probably read 'Didn't Die Soon Enough' or something equally disturbing.
Okay. He'd settle to die tombstone-less.
"Ah!" Damien momentarily stopped as a rat bit the thicker part of his wrist, which was bony enough. As he paused to stare at the dripping blood, the rats took that opportunity to try to jump him. But many swarmed around to lick the blood, encouraged by the first taste of the acidic liquid.
Damien beat some rats back quickly, but enough so that another rat would bite his shin. He was not having a good day.
Silina felt like slapping herself. Here she was, watching her friend get eaten by rats, and all she could do was watch? She was utterly, utterly worthless! As the feelings of despise simmered in her stomach, she tried to soothe herself. But none of them had the simple charm and truth Damien had told her and in the end, she ended up feeling more miserable.
"AIIIEEEEEE!" Lily came through, beating the rats with her bow like she was playing whack-a-mole. Silina smiled and looked at Damien, feeling something kick in her stomach when she saw a relieved smile sprout on his face.
"You always have all the fun!" Lily shouted over the keeling screams of the rats.
"I'm not the one who overslept!" Damien yelled back, happy to know that saviors were coming.
Garnneth ruthlessly came next, using his sword to slash at the rats. And as Damien glanced at him, he understood what fear really was. And what he had for Garnneth was respect and fear.
Garnneth's eyes were pools of anger and focus, the glance itself probably able to kill a plethora of rats. His sword flashed out and rats screamed one last time as they were chopped into two, threes, and sometimes fours if they were really unlucky. Blood continued to splatter and the other rats came forward to lick eagerly, and drawn to the allure they were slashed through viciously.
Garnneth had no mercy.
Chilled now, Damien stepped back against the corner. This wasn't Garnneth. It couldn't be Garnneth. Could it?
Lily yanked him from the corner and continued to fight her way through the rats, springing over a few of them to reach the doorway. Eva was calmly holding the door to the outside as she beat off the rats with her scrolls, her face a perfect mask of ease.
"Run, run, run!" Lily yelped, pushing him out the door first and then follow. Silina rushed through after them, and Garnneth ran through next. Eva slammed the door shut and jogged after them down the empty street.
"We have to get out of this town and we have to get out of this town now," Lily whispered, trying to catch her breath.
"The exit is nearby," Garnneth said sternly, already walking off, "But I say we burn this town, if it's so evil."
"Burn it? But, Garnneth!" Lily gasped. As everybody followed him, they seemed to have come to a lack of words.
"That…would not be wise," Eva said slowly.
"Why not? If your so-called legend is true, then wouldn't Ethop get more materials from this town than if we took it over?" Garnneth snapped.
"You disbelieve my legend?" Eva looked completely surprised.
"It's ridiculous to imagine if an ultimate evil were coming and we were the ones to save the fate of the world," Garnneth scoffed, pushing open the gate doors.
"If we burn this town, we would be no better than Ethop," Lily said fiercely, "Or whoever. There are innocent people in this town."
"But there is also evil in town!" Garnneth said angrily, "The only way to stop evil is to destroy it. To kill it."
Silina was completely taken aback by the ferocity and angriness of the words. She nibbled her fingers nervously, but then felt a hand go through her back. When she glanced behind her, she saw Damien had distractedly placed a hand on her back to reassure her.
"Happiness cannot be found by killing! We do not wish to earn this world for the side of good, we wish to restore the balance between good and evil!" Eva said fiercely, wondering if she had made the wrong choice when she approached the serious, silent boy.
"If what you say is true, then I doubt we would be the ones to stop Ethop," Garnneth snarled.
"No, we will not. But we are part of the few that actually know and we must try our best!" Eva declared. Garnneth glared angrily at her.
"Well, our best would be to stop this now!" Garnneth growled.
"Burning one town is nothing but murder! He has already infected the royalty! All around the world he is wrecking havoc! The dragons are fighting each other at the north end, the fairies the east, and the griffins the south!" Eva tried.
"Burning this town," Garnneth said through gritted teeth, "Will stop this town from spreading evil."
"Then you're going to have to go through me," Damien said firmly, stepping forward. "I am not letting you kill innocent lives."
"I command you, slave, to get out of the way." The word cut through dangerously to Damien as he winced. The ugly word was like a wart to him and it felt like somewhere in his heart, something was being cut into two.
"I must refuse," Damien said just as softly, and then winced sharply. His collar sent out zaps of blue, but he stood his ground.
The magical cuffs…Garnneth dug around in his pocket until he found the bracelet. It looked faded and weak now, but maybe—
"No!" Lily lurched at him and flung the bracelet away, swooping down and jamming him into a neck hold. Her breath came out in short pants and sweat dripped down her forehead as she uneasily tried to hold him down.
"What are you doing?" he yelled, trying to grasp her and knock her off balance.
"I'm trying…to…stop—you—oops." Lily released Garnneth from her hold a little too early before she could completely slam him to the ground. The end result?
"The day dehans flew," Lily said diplomatically, rubbing the back of her neck. "Just for the record, that was an accident."