9 – Shadow Realm, Land of Shadows
Jenesis sat up on the floor of her cell. Her sleep had been interrupted by the faint sound of footsteps and dim flickering of torches coming from down the hall. What was happening? As the mysterious events became closer she could hear voices along with the sounds described previously. Jenesis stood up and strained through the bars of her cell to attempt to get a glimpse of the source of the sounds. Through the filthy opening in her cell door she could barely see the outlines of people down near the other end of the corridor. “Who is there?” Jenesis called out to the darkness. “Get me out of here! Help!” She pulled her face away from the bars and sat down on the floor where she had previously been sitting and sighed. Nobody was going to rescue her anyways, probably. Why couldn’t rescue parties be punctual and reliable for once? Finally, Jenesis stood up when she heard a pair of footsteps travel down the hall and stop in front of her door. A young boy of about her age stood in front of her cell door. He had a light, pale blue color to his skin. His hair was black with a few streaks of dark blue. His overall appearance resembled a dead, specifically someone who had either frozen or drowned -a zombie! Zombies of that sort were residents of the Shadow Realm. This particular zombie triggered her memory slightly. Either she had seen him somewhere or his presence reminded her of someone. Hopefully her stay in the dungeons would soon be coming to an end and she would be able to return back to her home. “Are you going to get me out of here? Stop standing there like a wall painting and get me out of here!”
Phan frowned at Jenesis. “I’m trying to work the lock,” he explained. “And shut up! You will attract unwanted attention!” He didn’t care if she was a friend of Gemini’s or not. Finally, the rusted lock was broken into two. Phan pulled the door open. Jenesis collected her bag and exited the cell. “Follow me,” Phan instructed. “Everyone else is down that hall to the right waiting. Do not make any unnecessary noises, for it will attract the attention of the shadow-shapes. He led Jenesis down the hall and took a turn down the hallway to the right. There Gemini stood with the rest of the recently-freed Shadow Realm prisoners. “This was all I found down in that hall,” Phan reported.
“Alright,” Gemini said as he continued down the hall. “Is there anything down here? Where did that girl go?”
Jenesis only now noticed Gemini’s presence. “Are you speaking to me, Prince Gemini?” she asked respectfully.
Gemini turned around. “Not you,” he corrected. “Phan.”
“Yes?” Phan answered.
“Where is that girl who picks locks?” Gemini asked. “Is there any sign of her anywhere?”
“Oh, well. I suppose she ran off somewhere. Either that or she was taken by the shadow-shapes. I’m not going to wait around and delay us more than we are for someone who may not return.” Gemini led the group through a few more passages before stumbling upon the familiar door leading outside of the dungeons. Phan easily pulled the door open, for it was still unlocked from Gemini’s previous adventure.
“The shadow-shapes leave their doors unlocked? What fools are they?” Jenesis asked Phan as she exited the shadow-shape castle. Phan stood beside the door, making a mental note of the newly rescued Shadow Realm prisoners.
“Don’t underestimate them,” Phan warned. When the group was through he closed the door, careful to close it tightly to prevent the shadow-shapes from finding it unguarded and unlocked. After taking note everyone he noticed one very important person missing from the group. “Gemini!” he called.
Gemini turned his attention to Phan. “Yes?”
“Queen Elodie is not present.”
“She is still in the dungeons, then? Well, go back and look for my mother!”
“Queen Elodie is nowhere to be found in the dungeons.”
Gemini turned to the rescued Shadow Realm prisoners. “Has anyone here either seen Queen Elodie, or have any information pertaining to where she may be?” Nobody spoke at first.
“Anyone?” Phan restated.
“Queen Elodie was not among us when we were brought to this place,” one lady stated. “That is all I know.”
“Thank you,” Gemini answered.
“Well, what should we do?” Phan asked.
“Carry on in about ten minutes,” Gemini answered. “I have to search for someone.”
“Your mother?” Jenesis guessed out loud.
“No, my dog,” Gemini replied. “Phan, could you please fetch Captivated for me?”
“Yes, Gemini,” Phan answered. “I’ll go find the stables.”
Gemini was, in fact, searching for two people as he ran through the castle dungeons. One was, as he had previously addressed outside, was his mother the queen. The other was someone who may be able to assist him once again, the strange girl who was last seen lurking around the dungeons. Gemini had no clue or trace as to where they may be. He turned down a hall with unusually uneven and sharp stones lining the floor. Like the other halls it was littered with debris and bits of metal. Gemini failed to notice a broken piece of flat metal sticking up in between two triangular shaped stones. His boot caught on the metal and Gemini lost his footing. He slipped, hit the floor, and landed on a glass bottle. The bottle shattered and Gemini scrambled to regain his footing. “It seems nobody can keep a hallway clean around this place!” He kicked the broken shards of the bottle. They flew down into the darkness of the hallway ahead of him. A clinking noise followed. The broken glass had hit something. Gemini drew his sword and cautiously continued down the hall. The walls became narrower and the stones became sharper and even more unbalanced. The light from the torches was no longer present, causing the hallway before Gemini to appear pitch black. Gemini stepped from stone to stone slowly, testing the ground before him with his sword. A thought appeared in his mind as he made his way down the passage. Shouldn’t someone have heard him by now? He and Phan had left the shadow-shapes’ party without notice or any attempts to cover their location. It was about time for someone to come searching for them. The dungeons were empty of any guards. Gemini’s sword struck metal directly in front of him. He tapped around and discovered he had come face to face with a large metal wall of some sort. Gemini put his sword away and felt his way to the edge of the metal wall. He could feel a lock on one side. He brushed his hand across the wall and discovered a set of hinges on the other side. This was not a wall, it was a door. “Hello?” Gemini called out into the darkness and knocked on the door with his fist.
“Be careful,” warned a very familiar voice. “They may seem far away, but they are closer than you think. Watching.” The door swung inward. Gemini stepped inside.
“Mother!” he said, his voice echoing around the room and back to him.
“Over here!” Queen Elodie’s voice came resounding back.
Gemini felt his way around the dark abyss of a cell, trailing his right hand against the rough-edged stone walls to keep his place. He rounded a corner of the room and brushed his leg against a ruffled silk cloth and the splintered top of a wooden bench. A delicate hand adorned with rings and bracelets reached out and tapped Gemini on his shoulder. “Right in front of you, Gemini,” the queen said. Gemini felt his mother stand up and guide him back around the room to the door.
“Whisper quietly and listen carefully,” Queen Elodie instructed to Gemini during the walk back through the uneven and dark passage. “There is little time and much to be discussed between us.”
“What exactly happened back at the castle?” Gemini asked as he kicked away a loose rock from the floor.
“We were invaded by the shadow-shapes,” his mother answered. “But you freeing me means that you have already realized that.”
“Your door wasn’t locked,” Gemini pointed out. “You could have simply exited your cell and escaped in a similar fashion as I have planned for you and all of the Shadowians who were locked in the dungeons.”
“I knew that if you were still alive you would want to come find your people. I realized that I have been neglecting the realm lately and I may not even have the mind or magic to rebuild the realm’s ruins. I have also been neglecting something even more important. And even if I was capable of leading everyone out of the shadow-shape lands, where could I take them from there? I lack the leadership skills your father possessed, and that is what will lead to the fall of the Shadow Realm unless someone else can win back what we lost.”
“And speaking of things you “failed to do,” Gemini answered. His mother’s explanations were tiring him. “Why did you not tell me about my amulet or the Shadow Realm’s magic?”
“As I had previously said, I will not discuss that situation here in enemy lands.”
They had reached the exit door Gemini and Phan had found. “Everyone is waiting outside,” Gemini told his mother as he pushed open the door.
Gemini returned to see that the area outside of the shadow-shape dungeons was not as he had left it before his trip back inside the dungeons. The Shadowians were running around, chasing and being chased by, fighting, and causing other forms of physical violence towards a group of charging shadow-shape guards. “What is going on here?” he shouted. Nobody answered him. “This was not how I left them,” he muttered to himself (Or possibly Elodie?)
Phan dodged a flaming rock and stumbled his way across the rocky ground before tripping and landing at Gemini’s feet. “Attack!” he croaked as Jenesis accidentally stepped on him while running by.
Gemini took Phan by the hand and helped him back on his feet. “Get Captivated from the stables if you haven’t already,” he instructed. “And while you are there, take enough horses to bring everyone back to the realm.”
“Yes, Prince Gemini,” answered Phan. “Captivated was last seen galloping around the area, but I’ll fetch the horses as you wish.” Phan ran off and out of Gemini’s sight to the stables.
Gemini drew his sword as he waited for his friend’s return, but he wasn’t about to rush into the fray just yet. To him there was nothing to be done until Phan returned. Then everyone had to make an escape away from the city, across the lava river, and back to the Shadow Realm. That seemed like a workable plan. Besides, the people in the Shadow Realm couldn’t die, right? But then why was Queen Elodie screaming and ducking under a giant pile of rocks? She knew about the amulet……that Gemini did not have.
When Phan returned with his hands stuffed with horses’ reins Gemini knew everyone was saved. Captivated trotted from behind the horses up to his master.
“Here!” Phan shouted and tossed a few of the horses’ reins into Gemini’s hands. Gemini put his sword away.
“Mother!” he called out. “Get a horse!”
Queen Elodie climbed out from behind her hiding spot and took the reins to one of the horses, a white stallion.
A few of the Shadowians saw the horses and ran to Phan to claim one. More followed after them.
“Get on your horses,” Gemini ordered. “Follow me when you’re ready. We’re heading back to the realm!”
Besides the terrified Shadowians running in panic the shadow-shapes also heard Gemini’s orders.
“Get to the stables,” the captain of the shadow-shapes guards ordered. “We’re going after them!”
The guard’s words increased the terror of the situation and propelled everyone to hurry. When Phan’s hands were empty (Besides one frisky gray mare he had saved fir himself and Jenesis) those remaining were forced to double up on the horses. Gemini climbed onto Captivated. When everyone was mounted they galloped off. Most of the horses were bridled and not saddled. A few riders were forced to maneuver the horses with their lead ropes and manes while clinging on for dear life. Due to the direness of the situation there was no way Phan could have readied them all in time. Still, they were lucky to have them.
By the time the shadow-shapes were on their horses and galloping off Gemini, Phan, Jenesis, Queen Elodie, and the rest of the Shadowians already reached the bridge. Gemini and Queen Elodie rode across first, followed by everyone else. Phan kept watch towards the end of the procession. They rode over the bridge with no problems.
“The landscape is horrible!” Queen Elodie remarked. “How do they grow crops for food?”
Phan did agree with the queen’s statement, but he was loyal to Gemini first. Now that Elodie would return to her reign after her short adventure he wondered what Gemini planned to do. Like you would know how food is grown in your own kingdom. Phan was not merely a companion or assistant to Gemini, he was a friend.
“Perhaps they have growing fields on the other side of their kingdom,” Gemini considered. “Or else they are strictly meat eaters.”
“Perhaps they do not eat food,” Jenesis guessed.
“They eat food,” Phan corrected. Jenesis glared in his direction.
“We’re almost across the border,” Gemini stated. “Just a few more miles and we’re home.”
The news of returning to the Shadow Realm soon gave the Shadowians hope and excitement. For Jenesis it meant being reunited with her family once again. As for Queen Elodie, it served as an opportunity to start again at ruling the realm. Gemini’s future appeared uncertain. His previous thoughts were that he could possibly save the realm from his mother’s neglect and the threats from the neighboring shadow-shapes. Now, with Elodie coming back onto the throne, she was the one who handled the problems of the coming ward against King-Oink,ooh. As Captivated set his front hoof across the border they were officially home. They were alive, and that was the goal of the journey. The rest could fall into place after that.