Authors: RaShelle Workman
“The what?” I asked, kneeling next to her. No way would I be losing her. The power of the Seal would heal her the way it healed Christopher. I just needed to do like Kenmei said, focus on using the power with love in my heart.
“You’ve got to…” She coughed, sending a spray of her blood over my face. I flinched.
“It’s okay, mom. I can fix this.” I grabbed the end of the knife in my hands and yanked it out, ignoring the disgusting sounds, like cutting an apple, when it released. Her blood smelled of honeysuckle.
The knife was thin, but sharp. I tossed it away. My hands were covered in her blood. They were shaking. So was my voice. “I just found you, mom. I can’t lose you again.” I put both hands over her wound. The power of the Seal surged through my hands. “It’ll take a minute,” I said, blinking back the tears distorting my vision.
Her eyes closed, and my heart lurched.
When I healed Christopher I didn’t realize that’s what I was doing. It was the same experience when I hurt the Vampire Queen. I hadn’t wielded the power with intent, but the Seal responded anyway. This time I would focus.
“Stop!” A voice shouted.
I looked up. Devoran was standing a few feet away with two guards. They had Gabe and Cindy by the throat, and the elf king held Dorian in the same position. I hesitated. Behind them a rectangle of light twinkled and evaporated.
“Remove your hands from my daughter. The freak of nature doesn’t deserve to be saved by your power. She’s fulfilled her obligation. The sole reason I allowed her to live was in the hopes that one day I would be able to meet you. My granddaughter.” His face contorted in a malevolent grin.
My blood boiled in fury at his words. How could he speak about his daughter that way?
“Either do as I say or I’ll kill these three where they stand. It won’t be hard. Believe me, I know.” He winked.
Had I not known it was Devoran (he looked exactly as he had when I was with Silindra) I would’ve thought he was just another guard. He wasn’t wearing anything special. White trousers, and a matching shirt. Both elven guards wore red. My hands shifted, but I wasn’t too worried. Gabe was a chayot, and Cindy was a witch. It would take a lot to kill them. I snorted, compelling more of the power of the Seal into my mother. Devoran nodded toward the guard on his right, the one holding Gabe. He twisted Gabe’s neck. There was a snap. Gabe’s eyes rolled to the back of his head, and he dropped.
I screamed at the same time Cindy did.
“Gabe.” Cindy let out a howl, and electricity pulsed between her fingers. But she couldn’t use it. Her hands, her body seemed tied up by an unseen force.
“Do you want the girl to die next?” Devoran asked. He glanced at the guard holding her. “Well?”
“No,” I whispered, and pulled my hands from my mother. Leaning down, I said, “I’m sorry, mom. Hopefully that was enough.”
Her eyes were opened, but she didn’t move or respond. She looked dead.
“Mom,” I said shaking her shoulder.
“Get over here,” Devoran yelled.
I stood. The world was hazy. As though it’d shifted, and everything was sideways. I had a hard time focusing. With great effort, I stepped closer to Devoran, and Dorian. “Let me make sure Gabe is okay. You know he’s a chayot?” The words sounded far away, like they came from someone else.
“Of course,” Devoran said, but a bewildered surprise flickered across his face. He hadn’t known. He intended his guard to kill Gabe.
The guard who’d twisted Gabe’s neck picked Gabe up.
“Take him to the infirmary, and keep him under close watch. I’ve plans for the little chayot,” Devoran said.
I caught Cindy’s eyes. They were filled with tears. I tried to nod, convince her everything would be okay, but I’d just lost my mother, and watched Gabe’s neck get broken. Nothing felt okay.
Dorian mouthed, “I’m sorry.”
Dorian. Handsome Dorian. He didn’t have anything to be sorry for.
I reached out to take his hand. It looked like he wanted to respond, but couldn’t. And I realized that was why my friends weren’t fighting back. Something had them restrained.
“Dorian,” I said. The edges of my vision faded, and I tasted blood in my mouth. Was it mine? It had to be. The darkness got thicker, and the last thing I saw was my mother’s slack, unresponsive body.
“We are waiting for you.”
“It is urgent we speak with you.”
I opened my eyes, and noticed a tiny blue light shining above my head. It flitted around like a pixilette, but was much smaller. I quickly took in my surroundings and saw I was in a box. No windows. No doors. Just four sparkling black walls, a ceiling, and a floor.
“Snow, please hurry.”
“This is urgent.”
I reached out a finger to touch the light. The voices seemed to come from it. But it darted away.
“I can’t get out. There’s no door,” I whispered, standing.
As I spoke a door appeared, and I snorted. “Nice.”
I opened the door to a black wall. But it quickly morphed into a tunnel. The further I looked, the further it went. “Okay?” I watched the blue light dash down the tunnel, so I followed. It felt like I was going down, but I couldn’t be sure.
Tentative, I looked back the way I came. The door was still opened, and I could see the nothingness inside. The light buzzed in front of my face, urging me to follow. So I did. I certainly had no desire to stay in the small room.
The tunnel kept going for a long time, until the sparkling blackness morphed into another tiny room. It was exactly the same as the one I’d just been in, except in the middle of this room was an altar. It stood out against the black rock. It was made of sleek, smooth wood.
An intangible pull emanated from the altar. I moved toward it, but stopped as two strands of smoke rushed through the walls, and hovered in front of me.
They moved like water, their features indiscernible at first, before they shifted into something animalistic. Like clouds, they changed into a girl who looked like me, then a vampire, and then a skeleton.
The Unknowns, I thought.
That’s what my mother called them. The term seemed fitting.
“You are Snow White.”
“Daughter of Ariel.”
“Born of Silindra.”
I didn’t respond.
“You are the Seal”
“The restoration bringer.”
“Okayyyyy,” I said slowly, wondering why they were talking. They weren’t asking questions. Their words didn’t make sense. Plus, it was hard to focus on their changing faces. It wasn’t like their voices came from mouths. Their lips didn’t move. Sometimes they didn’t even have lips.
As they spoke, they moved closer. So they were nearly touching me.
“What do you want?” I asked, my voice quivering.
Their bodies took shape. Each possessed a face, arms, legs, a body, but I couldn’t tell what kind of creature they were. Everything and nothing. Their color stayed the same—one was silver and the other gold.
“Close your eyes.”
“Let us show you.”
I did as they said.
This can’t be real, I thought.
Their fingers touched my eyes. I tried not to wince at the chill that ran through my body.
Immediately images shot through my mind.
I was on the altar.
My blood flowed from my body, spilling over the sides, and dripped to the floor.
A heart was in the air, above my chest. It beat in a slow rhythm. Sparkling red flowed from it, and I immediately knew it was the power of the Seal. It pumped through the heart, and out into the room. A swirling vortex of red veins, like pieces of tangled yarn. They lit up the room. Dipped, and twirled.
It was beautiful.
Tendrils swirled into my blood, and when it did, something… miraculous happened. The blood and the power of the Seal mixed together, and transformed.
Above my head hung seven large gems.
One gold. The magic of the dragon.
One blue. The magic of the elf.
One green. The magic of the fairy.
One brown. The magic of the troll.
One indigo. The magic of the unicorn.
One silver. The magic of the vampire.
And, one red. The magic of… what?
To complete the Seal, it required the blood of the Hunter. Gabriel’s blood. Was the red gem representative of the Hunter? Or just blood?
“What does this mean?” I asked, a little terrified at seeing myself bleed out.
“In order to restore balance to magic, you must sacrifice yourself.”
“It’s the only way to regenerate the cycle.”
“Allow the seven magics to return to the beginning.”
“The way magic was before Sharra disrupted it.”
“But—” I didn’t want to die. “What about Sharra? If I’m gone, who will stop her? The Seal has made me more powerful. I can stop her. But not if I’m dead.”
“Once the Seal is broken, the seven magics will be reborn. When that happens, Sharra will be destroyed.”
“She’ll become nothing.”
“We know what she’s done.”
“And her power will be stripped.”
“How,” I asked, watching the gems pulsate steadily as they grew. I realized the gems were a similitude of the magics being reborn. Each possessed a heartbeat. Each thumped in time
with the others.
“The Seal is connected to Sharra—to all who’ve been touched by her blood. Once the Seal is shattered, those who’ve been tainted by Sharra, including Sharra herself, will cease to live. And a new breed of magical creatures will be born.”
“What are you saying?” I took a step back, searching for an escape.
“Your death will bring forth new life, Snow White.”
“You are the purest of the pure.”
“The best of the best.”
“The fairest in the land.”
“That’s unacceptable. You can’t kill everyone. It’s-it’s…” I stammered, frantic. “Ludicrous.”
“Death begets life.”
“The cycle of the living is to die.”
“No! What about all we’ve learned?” I opened my eyes, and the beings shifted, and floated away, their forms once again smoke and light.
“It’s how it must be.”
“It will be.”
“You said it yourself.”
“If a creature lives long enough, it becomes evil.”
“That includes you,” I yelled, turning to run.
A strong energy surrounded me. Holding my body firmly. I was lifted in the air, and placed on the altar. The beings moved to stand over me. I wasn’t able to move or speak. A wicked knife, the blade twisted like that of a unicorn horn, appeared above my chest.
The wispy individuals started chanting in a language I didn’t understand. My skin changed from a too-white-white, to a glittering red.
I tried to struggle, to get away, but I couldn’t even scream.
“We are beyond the living and the dying, no longer like those who dwell on Earth.”
“We are the creators.”
Deep down, I knew, the Seal would do what I wanted. I thought of anger, hate, fear, anything to break the bands that held me. But I couldn’t access its power. As though my brain and my body were separated.
This is it, I thought. And a profound sadness curled its way around my heart. Never in a million years did I imagine my life would end this way. If I’d pictured anything, it was that I disappeared into nothingness as the Vampire Queen took over my body. Dying like this. No one would know.
It won’t matter. If you die, everyone you care for dies too, my inner voice shouted.
How can I stop this? What more can I do?
The knife suddenly descended, and sank deep into my flesh. If I could have, I would have cried out in pain. I felt every rip, every tear, every shredded vein, and vessel.
But I was unable to move. The knife retreated as quickly as it dropped, and once again hung above my chest. Blood slid from the blade and fell on my shirt. The scent of copper stung my nose. I wanted to cry at the injustice of it all.
And, in a way, the knife did that for me.
Red tears of mourning.
A glittering red mist flowed from my wound, dipping and swirling into my blood.
It was happening.
The Seal was breaking.
Soon everyone I loved would vanish...
I don’t know if I went unconscious for a second, or a day. But when I came to, it was to shouting.
“I don’t care. Let her go. I’ll take her place.”
The Unknowns responded.
“That isn’t part of the plan.”
“We can’t allow it.”
“Dorian?” I asked wearily, surprised I heard his voice and the sound of my own. I wondered if I was dreaming.
Dorian can’t be here, wherever
is, I thought.
“Snow,” he cried. His voice broke. His face appeared next to mine. But he turned in the direction of the Unknowns. “You can’t stop me. It isn’t her time to die.”
I blinked several times, unable to believe. “What are you doing? How did you find me?”
He climbed on the altar and straddled me, placing his body between mine and the dagger that’d already stabbed me a hundred or a thousand times. I didn’t get why the knife kept going, kept stabbing, but it did.
The Unknowns spoke.
“We can’t control him.”
“He is too strong.”
I didn’t get what they meant. Dorian was human, perhaps the weakest of all creatures.
Dorian faced me.
“How?” I asked again, relieved to see him.
He kissed the tip of my nose. “I followed my heart,” he said. The last word came out in a rush, and I knew the sharp blade drove into his back.
“Dorian, you need to get down. Leave. I don’t know how you did it, but…” A sob caught in my throat as the blade sank and withdrew from his flesh again. “Go. Please.”
He searched my eyes. “Don’t cry. Shhh-hh.” The knife went into his skin again. I noticed the dazzling red of the Seal winding around the room. It was still glowing, but didn’t seem as strong. Its potency lessening as it spun and dipped into Dorian’s blood instead of mine.