7 – The Amulet
Gemini was learning that the shadow-shapes’ dinner party was quite an important event. The attendees were dressed in their finest attire and he had learned that the cooks spent the whole day and evening preparing the food. Gemini was seated to the right of King-Oink,ooh’s place at the head of the table. King-Oink,ooh was not seated and was nowhere to be seen. The chair to the left of him was occupied by a young shadow-shape wearing a purple gown with matching hair ribbons. The seats beyond her were taken by various shadow-shapes clothed in lavish clothing and valuable jewels. Gemini could not recognize any familiar shadow-shapes among them, but he was sure there were some familiar shadow-shapes somewhere among the party. The seat to the right of Gemini had no occupant. Gemini was hungry and couldn’t wait to begin eating. Unfortunately, it did not appear that he would be eating very soon. The guests were busy chatting to pass the time until the food was ready and their king would start the dinner with a speech. He was sure the shadow-shapes were speaking about him. Servants and waiters served the guests and made sure everyone was seated properly. Nobody spoke to Gemini and Gemini did not desire to begin a conversation with any of the shadow-shapes. The little shadow-shape glared at him menacingly from across the dinner table. Finally, the shadow-shapes quieted down and the waiters rushed back to the kitchens to prepare to serve the dinner. Gemini assumed the dinner was about to begin. The room was quiet and everyone turned their heads to the large golden door at the end of the room. Finally, the doors opened and King-Oink,ooh made his grand entrance into the room. The king seated himself at the head of the table next to Gemini. “Let the dining begin!” he announced and the servers entered with platters upon platters of delicious looking food. Gemini could recognize some dishes, others he had never seen before. King-Oink,ooh was served first, then Gemini. Gemini was served a drink in a silver goblet studded with emeralds. After he was served the servers served the shadow-shape seated across Gemini and then the remaining guests. At first Gemini was reluctant to try some of the food -familiar or new- because he was afraid it would contain a poisonous substance or something of the like. Finally, he was forced to give in to his starving stomach. After tasting the food he was sorry he was reluctant to eat it. The food tasted delicious. He tried every food he was served and it all tasted delicious. Gemini couldn’t decide whether the meat or the soup was his favorite. The rest of the guests seemed to be enjoying their food as well. They chatted to each other while dining, whereas Gemini remained silent. Nobody was sitting in the chair next to him and the shadow-shape seated across from him did not seem to want to talk to him. Finally, he decided it was best to discuss the castle attack with King-Oink,ooh. King-Oink,ooh was still sipping his drink. Gemini decided not to speak with him until he was finished. When he set his goblet down he started talking to the shadow-shape across from Gemini. Gemini could have listened in on the conversation but it was nothing of importance to him. He came to the conclusion that the unfamiliar shadow-shape must be the princess. “Now, Prince Gemini, you said earlier today you wanted to discuss something with me?” King-Oink, ooh asked.
“Yes,” Gemini answered. He did not bring up the fact that King-Oink,ooh, not himself, planned on meeting with Gemini. “King-Oink,ooh, I am not pleased with the attacks on the Shadow Realm castle. Why would you feel the need to attack us. Where have you taken Queen Elodie, the knights, sorcerers, guards, and everyone else?”
“Many questions!” the shadow-shape princess interrupted before shoving another spoonful of soup into her mouth.
“Prince Gemini, your realm is very valuable and powerful. Your magic is the envy of many realms both neighboring and across the seas. The Shadow Realm is filled to the brim with jewels, gems, gold, and silver. However, we did not attack to take your valuables and your realm,” King-Oink,ooh explained.
“Why, then did you attack?” Gemini wasn’t sure he was following King-Oink,ooh completely.
“We were not searching for land or prisoners. My desire is one of your greatest achievements, the ultimate power. Your Shadow Realm has achieved something of great wonders: immortality. My land is wonderful and powerful, yes, but we do not have a wonder as great as your immortality. We came to search for a particular item which could give an small amount of that power to us. However, we could not find it in the castle and it was not found among any of the prisoners. Prince Gemini, I will pay you dearly for that item. Do you have it with you?”
Gemini didn’t have a clear idea on what King-Oink,ooh was speaking about. He placed his fork back down on his plate and remained silent. King-Oink,ooh grinned. “I don’t have it,” Gemini finally said. The dinner table was silent.
“Yes, you do!” King-Oink,ooh started to lose his patience. “You MUST have it with you!”
“I don’t understand,” Gemini calmly argued. King-Oink,ooh may have lost his patience but Gemini somehow managed to remain calm. “Our immortality isn’t a possession to be granted and sold any time it is convenient.”
“You do not understand, do you?” King-Oink,ooh smiled. “I suppose that is not completely unexpected. It was before you were born, after all.” Now Gemini couldn’t follow the king whatsoever. Either King-Oink,ooh was excellent at eavesdropping long ago at some unknown event or was completely insane. “Think for a minute, Prince Gemini,” King-Oink,ooh suggested. “I have been watching the Shadow Realm since the beginning of King Theo’s rule. I had my eyes on your immortality from the beginning. So, it is only natural that I know more than you about immortality. I doubted King Theo would have told anyone about it.” King-Oink,ooh paused to observe Gemini’s reaction. Gemini kept a straight face and waited for the king to continue. “All you have to do is hand it over, Prince Gemini. Queen Elodie and King Theo are gone now, so you have nobody else to tell you. Why not hand it over and save your realm now?”
“I’m not sure,” Gemini responded. “Hand over what?” The entire room was silent, watching and listening the conversation between King-Oink,ooh and this strange new Prince Gemini.
“Prince Gemini, had over your beautiful ruby amulet.” The king held out his hand for Gemini. Gemini couldn’t respond, even if he wished to. He could do nothing except sit as motionless as the ice sculpture centerpiece and think to himself about his dilemma. Half a minute later he finally realized that in one way he had nothing to worry about. Thanks to Phan, he did not have it with him. “I do not have it,” Gemini finally responded.
“You don’t HAVE it?!” King-Oink,ooh gasped. The loud volume of his voice startled Gemini out of his deep thought. “You MUST have it with you!”
“I do not have it,” Gemini repeated with a tiny smile on his face.
“Where it is, then?”
“TELL ME THE LOCATION OF THE AMULET!” King-Oink,ooh erupted into a raging ball of anger.
“I DO NOT KNOW WHERE IT IS!” Gemini screamed back. He would have lied to the king if it was the best solution, but in this situation he was telling the truth. The amulet was with Phan, but he did not know where Phan was. He had no plans to reveal that the amulet was with Phan. The guests were astonished by King-Oink,ooh and Gemini’s quarrel.
“I LIKE PRETTY!” screamed the shadow-shape across from Gemini.
“SHUT UP!” Gemini did not intend to scream at the shadow-shape but no harm was done. King-Oink,ooh turned to her and his anger disappeared.
“Darling, that reminds me!” he said. “I believe you have something VERY special planned for this event tonight!”
The shadow-shape smiled. “Yay!” she cheered before standing up and leaving the table. “Attention, everyone!” she announced with excitement in her voice. “As you all know, I am Princess-Cay,lye the most wonderful princess in the entire world. And tonight I will treat you to a performance by the best kbat in the world, Zookles Princess!” The guests answered Princess-Cay,lye with an ocean of applause. “Thank you!” the princess continued. “Tonight’s performance is going to be extra special. Can anyone here guess why?”
One of the guests seated farther down the table had an answer. “Is that a new dress, my beautiful and talented Princess-Cay,lye?” he guessed.
“It is a new dress, actually” Princess-Cay,lye answered. “However, that is not the answer I had in mind. Tonight Zookles Princess and I will be performing with our brand new assistant given to me by my wonderful father!” She turned around to where two shadow-shape guards were standing by the door. “Set up the stage!” she ordered. The guards nodded their heads in agreement and exited the room by the doors behind them. Princess-Cay,lye followed behind. A short moment later she reentered the room followed by the guards. The guards were wheeling in what appeared to be a portable stage for Princess-Cay,lye’s show, placed on two small sets of wheels for easy transport. The stage was constructed of a flat surface with curtains surrounding it on all four sides. The guards stopped and turned the stage so it was positioned within everyone’s view.
“I’m so excited!” King-Oink,ooh whispered to Gemini. Gemini didn’t say anything in response but he nodded his head in agreement. He would have preferred to continue discussing the conflict within their kingdoms but he had a bit of curiosity on what Princess-Cay,lye’s show would be like. The princess seemed to be an attention-loving brat, but he figured all princes and princesses were -including himself.
“Everyone, put your hands together for Zookles Princess!” Princess-Cay,lye announced and stepped behind the back curtain of the stage. The guards checked the stage curtains to be sure they were functioning properly, then resumed their post by the door. Finally, Princess-Cay,lye pulled open the front curtain revealing the stage floor. A hoop, a wooden tunnel, a ladder, and a tub of water were set on the stage. The dinner guests sat in suspense eagerly awaiting the start of the show. Finally, Princess-Cay,lye emerged from behind the back curtain carrying a creature which was similar in appearance to a black cat with bat wings, horns, and glowing red eyes. The guests applauded with a thunder of applause and a chorus of cheers. “Zookles Princess and I will not be alone while conducting this performance.,” Princess-Cay,lye added. “As I previously announced, I am fortunate enough to have an assistant with me for tonight’s show.” She set Zookles Princess down on the stage. The kbat sat down and started licking its right front paw. Princess-Cay,lye walked offstage and reappeared with a small silver flute. “For our first act, Zookles Princess will swim around in this tub of water!” As Zookles Princess hopped into the tub of water and started swimming around in circles. To accompany Zookles Princess’s swim Princess-Cay,lye started playing her flute. Zookles Princess may have been the center of attention, but it was apparent that Princess-Cay,lye had never learned to play the flute correctly. In only twenty seconds Gemini was cringing from the out-of-tune pitches coming from the flute. On top of this, Gemini came to the conclusion that she never did write an actual song to perform. The princess played whatever notes she felt like at no recognizable rhythm at all. King-Oink,ooh and the shadow-shape guests either had a horrible taste of music or were only trying to get on the princess’s good side. Gemini figured it was best to fake a smile and go along watching the show like all of the other shadow-shapes. After Zookles Princess jumped out of the tub of water Princess-Cay,lye ceased her abominable song. “Now, Zookles Princess will run around through this tunnel!” When Zookles Princess started to run into the tunnel on one side Princess-Cay,lye continued with her flute. Once again Gemini couldn’t wait until the show was over. The kbat ran through the tunnel and back for about seven or eight times as the guests clapped in awe. Gemini applauded along until the applauding ceased once again for Princess-Cay,lye’s announcement. “For the next act, Zookles Princess will climb up this wooden ladder which will be held in place by my new zombie assistant!” Immediately after hearing the word “zombie” Gemini’s attention was permanently fixed on the show. His first thoughts were thoughts of Phan, who was last seen standing on the opposite side of a stream of lava waiting for Gemini to return. Could it be that Phan -or any other zombie from the Shadow Realm- was in the land of the shadow-shapes? His hopes came true when Phan stepped onstage and picked up Zookles Princess’s ladder. Phan immediately caught sight of Gemini and smiled as if to say “I’m here, Prince Gemini! Princess-Cay,lye is forcing me into her show business. I’m glad to see you’re safe!” Phan could not say those words aloud, for if he did both him and Gemini would be in trouble. Instead he continued on with Princess-Cay,lye’s show. Princess-Cay,lye again placed her flute to her mouth and carried on with her song. He held Zookles Princess’s ladder up as the kbat hopped from one rung to the next and seated herself on the topmost rung. As opposed to the rest of the shadow-shapes Gemini found this trick unimpressive. An ordinary cat could be trained to climb a ladder and Zookles Princess’s wings added to the trick’s boredom. Nevertheless, after Zookles Princess glided down from the top rung, the audience applauded yet again. Hopefully, the show would be over soon and Gemini could talk to Phan. Phan took the ladder down and held up a wooden hoop. “Zookles Princess will now fly through a wooden hoop!” Princess-Cay,lye announced shortly, then continued with her flute. As Phan held up the hoop Zookles Princess flew through it, changed direction, and flew back through again. She repeated this for at least five more times before finally gliding back down to the ground. Princess-Cay,lye paused yet again for another announcement. “At this moment, Zookles Princess will now perform an exciting and breathtaking stunt like you have never seen before. Add the fire, Phan!” The guests were filled with excitement as Princess-Cay,lye exited the stage and reappeared holding a burning match in one hand and her flute still in her other hand. She held the match to the hoop and it immediately caught fire. After the hoop was burning she handed the match to Phan, who extinguished it, and then resumed playing the flute. Zookles Princess flew through the flaming hoop and the audience erupted into applause. Gemini applauded along with the guests, more for Phan than for Zookles Princess. “This amazing and death-defying act concludes tonight’s show,” Princess-Cay,lye announced. Gemini and Phan were relieved. The princess picked up Zookles Princess and stepped off the stage. The two guards extinguished the hoop by dropping it into a bucket of water and closed the stage curtains. They wheeled the stage out of the room and Phan along with it. Princess-Cay,lye took her seat back at the table set Zookles Princess down on the floor beside her. Gemini was still watching the door where Phan left. He was overjoyed to have seen Phan once more and wished he could come back. Gemini glanced to the other set of doors at the opposite end of the room. Phan still did not return. “Wasn’t the show wonderful?” Princess-Cay,lye asked. “It was magnificent,” King-Oink,ooh praised. “And now that you are finished performing, you can relax and enjoy some dessert!” King-Oink,ooh clapped his hands. “We now begin with the dessert!” Gemini almost couldn’t believe there was more food yet to come. A waiter took away his dinner plate and silverware. Another refilled his glass. Gemini was feeling very tired from a lack of sleep and his difficult journey but there was much to be done before he would be able to rest. He wanted to learn more about the shadow-shapes and his slice of chocolate cake needed to be tended to. Like the rest of the shadow-shapes’ food, the cake was very delicious. So was his pie, pudding, and the rest of his cake slices. He was served at least four. Keeping his thoughts of Phan in the back of his mind for now, he returned to the situation of the amulet. “I could understand how you may want my amulet,” Gemini began. “However, I am asking that you cease all attacks on the Shadow Realm.” King-Oink,ooh looked up from his cake. “I am sorry -well, come to think of it, not so sorry- but I cannot stop the attacks until you give me your amulet. I have plans to return to your realm to search once more for your amulet. If the quest turns out unsuccessful, I will lock you up until you give it to me. I am prepared for a war over the subject, if necessary.” “As I have said before, I don’t have the amulet!” Gemini insisted. “Liar!” King-Oink,ooh slammed his fist down on the table nearly spilling a bit of his drink. He glared at Gemini and took another bite of his cake. “I WILL go to war,“ Gemini added. “If you are willing to go to war over an amulet then so am I. The Shadow Realm is ready to defend against any attack you inflict upon us.” Only after the argument did Gemini feel a continuous tapping on his right shoulder. The harsh words thrown between the two rulers finally ended in a draw. Gemini turned to face whoever was tapping him and was overjoyed. Phan had finally returned. “I did not wish to take so long, but I had to clean and put away the stage after the show,” Phan explained. Gemini nodded in agreement. “However, that was not the only cause for my delay,” he continued and lowered his voice to a whisper. Gemini leaned in closer to listen. “I found everyone. I found them in the shadow-shapes’ castle dungeons -Queen Elodie, Torren, Sir Edwin, Sir Delen, and everyone else. I wanted to set them free but I wanted to tell you first in case you thought of any other plan. Anyways, I did not have a key to unlock the cells.” “Wonderful!” Gemini praised. He could hardly believe that what he was hearing was true. “We shall free them as soon as possible.” Now that Phan found the dungeons Gemini couldn’t wait for the dinner to be over. Phan was finally found but Gemini was still missing one of his best friends. “Where is Captivated?” Gemini asked. “No worries,” Phan reassured. “He was stabled in the stables after I arrived here.” “Alright.” Gemini was satisfied. “Dessert should be finished soon. It is in the middle of the night almost, surely the shadow-shapes need some time for rest? Besides, how much longer could the shadow-shapes possibly take to finish their desserts?” Phan took a minute to imagine living in the land of the shadow-shapes. “Phan,” Gemini continued. “Were you sitting here very long after you returned?” “Not at all. As soon as I arrived I sat down next to you,” Phan recalled. “I see. I can assume you haven’t heard of King-Oink,ooh’s plot. The Shadow Realm is on the verge of war with the shadow-shapes. The shadow-shapes have plans to attack.” Phan was not surprised. “Gemini, do you intend to declare war against King-Oink,ooh?” “Only if what King-Oink,ooh said is true and he did plan another attack. There is still a possibility he is only threatening us. If there is an army of shadow-shapes ready to attack, I will attack the shadow-shapes before they attack us.” The waiters cleared the table and King-Oink,ooh stood up. “We proceed to the ballroom for music, games, entertainment, and dancing!” he announced. Gemini, Phan, Princess-Cay,lye, and everyone else followed the king out of the dining room. “Come this way!” Phan whispered and pulled Gemini away from the shadow-shapes. They ducked behind a large plant in the hall. There they waited until the shadow-shapes passed out of sight. None appeared to notice Gemini and Phan’s disappearance. “This way to the dungeons,” Phan said. Gemini quickly followed him through the halls, ducking down to hide at any sign of a shadow-shape. Finally, after sneaking through a few more hallways, Phan found the wooden door leading to the dungeons. The brief victory turned to yet another disappointment when it became apparent that they were not entering through the door. Guarding the door was Zookles Princess, who witnessed their departure. Phan discovered the door while carrying Zookles Princess to her show. Zookles Princess remembered the route taken to the dinner show and retraced it to the door. She had a feeling Phan would return and she was absolutely correct. “Can’t you just shoo her away?” Gemini asked. Phan was not in any way thrilled to face the kbat once again. “I’ll try,” he offered and knelt down in front of Zookles Princess. He picked up Zookles Princess behind the wings, careful to keep away from her claws, teeth, and horns. “Come here, Zookles Princess!” he said with a forced smile. Zookles Princess hissed and tried to claw at Phan. Fortunately, Phan was able to restrain her and suffered no scratches. He carried her away from the door intending to release her around the corner in the next hallway. After setting her down Zookles Princess started screeching and darted back in front of the door. Gemini and Phan heard footsteps rushing down a nearby hallway. “We have to get out of here!” Gemini whispered. “There is one other entrance but to access it we must exit the castle.” “A great plan,” Phan agreed. “As long as we are able to find our way out.” Running through the hallways attracted a great deal of attention but they did not care. As soon as their captives were released they planned to grab Captivated and escape from the shadow-shape lands. Neither gave a thought as to how they would transport everyone. They outran the shadow-shapes and bolted past the guards and down the steps. It was still in the middle of the night and it was crucial that nothing was overlooked. During the time spent running to the dungeons Gemini and Phan had to plan the rest of their escape. They came to the dungeon entrance previously discovered by Gemini.
“How did you find this entrance?” Phan asked. “It’s perfect!”
“Searching around before dinner. The door shouldn’t be locked,” Gemini answered. “I can’t explain now, it’s an odd story.” He paused to shove open the dungeon door. “It pertains to how I found this,” he added and pulled the second amulet out of his pocket. Upon entering the dungeon he placed it back.
“That reminds me!” Phan exclaimed. “I have your amulet!”
“Shh!” Gemini ordered. “Do NOT say that here! I will tell you the rest later.”
“I am not very familiar with this part of the dungeon. Everyone is in the dungeon in some location. There are different ones. Some are at the end of a long, dark hallway, some are locked in a tower, and others are also at the end of another long and dark hallway. Even more are locked up, but I do not know where exactly. I can, however, hear them through the walls.”
None of this sounded good to Gemini. Finding and freeing the unfortunate Shadow Realm citizens and nobles was going to be difficult. Gemini and Phan were also under a time limit, which increased the level of difficulty drastically. “Try this hall,” Phan suggested. “I may have seen this particular hallway before.”
Darkness, dampness, and various items littering the unevenly leveled halls worked against the brave rescuers. The dungeon was littered with swords, spears, sticks, broken bits of glass and metal, food scraps, and a few black bird feathers. “The shadow-shapes are actually going to help us on the escape. What are they thinking, leaving their weapons lying around unguarded? They must not put much thought into castle defense,” Gemini noted. “Or they may be extremely intelligent and very powerful that nobody would dare to fight back against them!” Phan had no intention to argue against Gemini. He was only concerned about how Gemini would handle the coming war. Phan was correct. They had reached the section of the dungeon in which Phan knew the way around. “The prisoners closest to us are held over here in this cell,” he whispered. Gemini followed him to a large iron door fitted with a large, complex lock. “Is there anything we can use to pick this lock?” Gemini asked. “I don’t think I have anything on me,” Phan answered. “I’ll try searching around.”
As Phan rummaged around the hall searching for a thin, metal object to pick the lock Gemini tried to get a good look through the iron bars at the inside of the cell. So far it was next to impossible to see anything through the bars. If he took a torch off of the wall to use Phan would have nothing to use to see the floor. The other torches were too far down the hall and Gemini did not want to wander too far from Phan as long as it could be helped. “Phan, may I borrow your torch for only a few seconds?” Gemini asked.
“Certainly,” Phan answered and carried the torch over to the cell.
“ I just want to see what is inside,” Gemini explained. Phan held the torch up to the bars and they peered inside. Inside was only a short hallway and another door. “Keep searching,” Gemini ordered. “And hurry. We have two doors to unlock.”
“I think I found something!” Phan said and held up a broken, bent piece of metal just small enough to fit inside a lock.
“Great!” Gemini took the piece from Phan and inserted it into the lock. After maneuvering it around and stabbing it in various places the lock would not unlock. Phan tried his luck and twisted and turned the metal but had no more success than Gemini. Gemini then tried slashing the lock with his sword. Phan dropped the metal piece after another failed attempt. Shadow-shape guards could be heard on the floors above rushing around and shouting. Time was running out and something needed to be done fast. “There’s an ax lying over there,” Phan said. “Smashing the lock is the last option available. Shall I try?”
“Go ahead,” Gemini answered. Phan picked up a large, metal ax and intended to swing it at the lock. Gemini stepped aside and waited eagerly for the result. However, just as Phan was about to smash the lock, he was forcefully shoved out of the way.
“STOP!” whispered an unfamiliar voice. “What are you doing?” Gemini and Phan were surprised. The voice did not belong to a shadow-shape. Instead, it belonged to a girl about Gemini and Phan’s age. Immediately she began picking the lock with a piece of metal similar to the one found earlier by Phan. The girl had blond hair and wore a black and white striped top with a black skirt. “Who are you?” Gemini asked but the girl gave no response. In just about no time the cell door swung open and she started picking the lock on the second door. Gemini and Phan followed over to the second door. Neither questioned the girl’s unusual ability or her identity. Like the first door, the second swung open in mere seconds. Then, as spontaneous as she had appeared, the girl darted off again leaving Gemini and Phan behind.
Gemini and Phan ran into the cell. “Hello!” Gemini called out into the haunting darkness. “Is anyone in here?”
“Who is that?” asked a voice coming from the back of the cell. “You don’t sound like any of the shadow-shapes.”
“Are you from the Shadow Realm?” Gemini asked.
“Yes,” answered another voice.
“This is Prince Gemini,” Gemini answered. “My friend Phan and I are here to set you free.”
“Prince Gemini?” the first voice questioned. “Is it really you?”
“Get out quickly! The shadow-shapes may be here any minute!” Gemini urged. “Yes, it is really me.”
The inhabitants filed out of the cell one by one and were directed down the hallway by Phan. Most of them thanked Gemini and Phan as they walked by. “Prince Gemini! I cannot believe you came for us!” said a lady clothed in a lacy orange dress. “Are we really going home?”
Gemini was pleased that the first of the Shadow Realm citizens were released but he would have preferred if the lady hadn’t asked that particular question. “You are going home,” he confirmed. “But I don’t know what sort of home you will be going back to.” Everyone was silent as they were escorted by Gemini and Phan to be reunited with the rest of their friends and family.