2 – Daybreak in the Forest
The second part of the series, Daybreak in the Forest is told by Gemini’s point of view. Shadows in the Night received some good reviews, and I hope they continue throughout the series. Like Shadows, this part doesn’t fully describe the attack -you have to keep reading the series as more evidence and more viewpoints are revealed. The name was especially difficult to come up with. I settled with Daybreak in the Forest because it reminds that the nightmare didn’t disappear in the Shadow Realm. The shadow-shapes were still there, and it certainly wasn’t a horrible dream that causes turmoil to the characters.
Gemini finally saw the dawn-streaked sky after the disaster at the castle. It had been a long, stormy night that felt without end. The night sky after the storm looked beautiful, but he was grateful fir the coming dawn. He was a sorcerer, the prince of the Shadow Realm. Never before had he been treated like this. Quickly he climbed out from under the soot-streaked table he was under. The castle was badly burnt, but nothing that couldn’t be repaired. Much of the furniture was strewn across the burnt, lifeless courtyard around him. A good amount of jewels and coins were stolen by the attackers. Gemini brushed off the soot and dirt from himself. His jet-black, straight hair was usually only about two inches or so above his shoulders. Now, because it was badly tangled, it was about three inches instead. He wandered around the courtyard, hoping to find anything worth salvaging. He had sent his beloved unicorn, Captivated, off with Phan. Hopefully, they were safe and well. Under a broken lantern in a pile of soot was a familiar object. He made his way through the rubble over to it. Carefully, he brushed away the soot and picked it up. It was the sword that sat on the fireplace mantle in his late father’s study. The sword was silver and light, with a pretty ruby set in its hilt. If Lord Theo were alive, the attack would have never happened. Gemini’s father, Lord Theo, had died two years ago. Since then, his mother had ruled the realm. Lady Elodie, his mother, meant well. She had done a decent job raising Gemini. However, when it came to ruling a kingdom, she was clueless and careless. He didn’t want to admit it, but she was partially the reason for the attack. Elodie was concerned more with lavish parties and dresses than the security of the kingdom. Gemini placed the sword into his belt. He might need it sometime in the future. An odd thing about that attack was that there were no bodies or people nearby. Not even a dog or a bird. No footprints were to be found, either. It was like everyone had vanished. However, Gemini immediately discarded that theory when he saw a set of wagon tracks in the courtyard. Everyone must have fled or taken prisoner. The sky turned brighter and Gemini could see clearly now. He didn’t want to be seen, so he decided it was better if he left the castle. He rummaged some more around the courtyard for supplies to take with him. He found a small bag half-filled with old coins. He picked it up and placed it in his jacket pocket. Maybe Captivated’s saddle and saddlebags were still in the stable. They would be perfect for holding his supplies. Before looking around further, he made his way through the rubble to the stable. Earlier he had freed all of the unicorns so that they would not be trapped or burnt. The stable was burnt pretty badly. Most of the roof was gone, only the main beams were still in place. Even so, they looked badly burnt. Fortunately, the stalls were all open and deserted. Gemini had rescued all of the unicorns. He made his way through the stable aisle to the remains of Captivated’s stall. The lock was melted and disfigured. Captivated’s saddle and blanket were still at the top of the stall, like they had been waiting for him. Both were covered in soot. Gemini was agitated at this, but figured that he didn’t look any better. He retrieved the saddle, saddlebags, and both of Captivated’s blankets. The blankets would be useful for sleeping on, and the saddle for if he met with Phan and Captivated again. No! he told himself in his head. Not if, when. Captivated was special to him, nothing could even keep his unicorn away. He collected Captivated’s things and left the stables. He folded the saddle blankets carefully and put them into a saddlebag. One of the blankets was a regular, black saddle blanket. This other one was far more elegant and longer. It was one that Gemini really liked…it made him feel important and respected. It was a birthday present from Lord Theo. Gemini found a stick lying beside a tin cup. He picked up both items. The tin cup he put in the saddlebag, and the stick he used to poke through the piles of items. He found two forks lying inside an overturned drawer. Those would definitely be useful. Also in the drawer were two candles. One was a new candle that was only slightly used. The other had been used many times, and was now only about six inches tall. Gemini placed the candles in with the box of matches. He put the box into his bag. Another neat find was a wooden box full of crackers and two piece of bread. A few items later, his saddlebags were full. They were heavy, but Gemini definitely didn’t mind the weight. That reminded him that he was ready to set off. But what would the point of his travels be? It didn’t seem worth it to leave just because the castle was deserted. He wanted to make something of his travels. The night was no more, and the sky was filled with light. Gemini walked across the courtyard toward the outer wall surrounding it. As soon as he was about to pass through the entrance, his foot stepped on something nearly causing him to trip. He set his supplies down and picked it up. It was a little silver mirror. It was cracked in a corner, but not badly. He added it to his load. Now, Gemini wished more than ever that he had Captivated with him. Gemini decided that it would be best if he walked into the city. It was just a half hour or so away by foot. There, he might get to ask some citizens if they had seen anyone escape from the castle. Gemini forced a smile onto his face as he started off on his walk. Look on the bright side….now you can finally get out of the castle without Elodie complaining about it! He only felt slightly optimistic. As he continued down the road, bit by bit everything almost seemed normal. There were a few birds chirping and fluttering through the trees. He even saw a little turtle crawl out from under a rock. Gemini’s arms were tired from carrying the saddle by the time he reached the edge of the city. I could probably set the saddle and the saddlebags somewhere, and retrieve them later, he thought. A few feet off of the curb was a large rock with an old berry bush growing beside it. The bush would be good for hiding the supplies behind. The rock was in an odd, triangular shape and could be used as a landmark for a reminder of its location. Gemini looked around casually to be completely sure that nobody was around. When he was sure that he was alone, he made his way off of the road and ducked down behind the bush. He carefully set the saddle and its saddlebags under the bush. He moved them a little behind the rock so that people looking under the bush would have to strain to spot it. To be sure that the wind would not carry it away or it would fall out from under the bush, he wrapped one of the saddle stirrups on one of the branches. When the supplies were finally concealed, he quickly returned to the road. Then he continued a short walk to the inside of the city. Inside, it looked almost as normal as before. People were mingling and talking in the streets. Dogs were barking and running alongside their owners as well as around the road. Shops had their doors wide open, starting the business day. Gemini realized that there were only a few differences. First of all, the people mingling in the streets weren’t walking and standing around. They were running and screaming with horror. Instead of playfully barking and romping around, they were chasing and snarling at everything around him. The shops’ doors were left open for the purpose of either them being busted open and robbed, or their owners had left them open after they ran away from them. The city was totally consumed in fear and panic. Gemini couldn’t believe what was happening. He could see black, shadow-like shapes standing in the dark corners of the alleys and buildings. They weren’t moving or attacking, but their presence was enough to make the average citizen scream for their life. Gemini didn’t want to be afraid. These were his people, the loyal followers. They didn’t deserve to be subjected to this terror while he just stood there, staring. Yet, it seemed that there was nothing that he could do. A young girl of about fourteen or so in a black dress with many red ribbons ran past Gemini, clutching her purse tightly. She didn’t seem to take any notice to him at all. Gemini, however, vaguely recognized her. She was the daughter of a power sorcerer who was a loyal follower of Elodie. She sometimes would show up at balls and parties at the castle, but they never talked to each other before. Gemini hurried after her, dodging people, dogs, and various objects that were being thrown around the street. He was getting closer and closer to her when a leather rope came sailing through the air. It landed on the girl’s head and quickly tangled around her. “Wait!” Gemini yelled. “STOP! I need to ask you something!!” Unfortunately, the panic grew louder and the girl couldn’t hear him. She was caught in the rope, and it was slowing her down. Gemini caught up to her. “Help!” the girl yelled to Gemini. “Get this off of me!” Gemini grabbed the end and yanked it as hard as he could. “NO!” she screamed. “It won’t come off!” Gemini exclaimed. “Not you! That THING!” Gemini pulled the rope off just in time to look above him. Towering above them was one of the shadow-shapes. Its bright, red eyes were filled with evil and hatred. “There you are!” Its deep, dark voice spoke. “I was looking for you….both of you, actually.” Its hand reached down at them, and grabbed the collar of the girl’s dress. She kicked the shadow-shape, but it had no effect. It was translucent, and her foot went right through it. Both the girl and Gemini were astonished. “How is that even possible?” Gemini asked, even though he knew not to expect an answer from either. He stuck out his hand as to slap the shadow-shape, but the same resulted. However, when he looked down at his hand, he could see that where he had attempted to touch the shadow-shape was covered in some sort of an ash. He shook the ash off of his hand. It was clear, however, that the shadow-shape had no problem grabbing something that wasn’t translucent. The shadow shape didn’t have any other facial features other than the eyes, but Gemini knew that it was probably grinning. This was merely entertainment for it. “I will be taking you, too!” the shadow-shape said and reached out for Gemini. Gemini, however, was too fast for it. He jerked away, just in time. The shadow-shape tried to grab him once more, the it missed. “Stand still!” it ordered with an annoyed tone in its voice. “Why waste you breath?” Gemini taunted while trying to control his laughter. “Do you really think I’m going to stop just because you said so?” This made the phantom-shape even angrier. The eyes burned like two fires embedded into its head. It stepped closer to Gemini, but Gemini was still too quick for it. The struggling girl was probably impairing its ability. “I’m the prince of the Shadow Realm!” Gemini announced happily. “I’m not going to listen to you!” The shape became enraged, and gave up on pursuing Gemini. “I guess I will only have to settle for one!” the shadow-shape said, and turned the other way. Gemini didn’t want to abandon the girl, but yet he didn’t want to put himself into further danger. Still, there was no possible way to defeat the shadow-shape. There was nothing that he could do, just like he thought. The shape wasn’t interested in him anymore. It turned around, and drifted down a side street. Gemini ran after it, but not for long. After about twenty seconds he couldn’t keep up. The shadow-shape had extraordinary speed that kept increasing. Soon, it was traveling so fast the he couldn’t even keep up if he was galloping at top speed on Captivated. “Don’t worry!” Gemini called out. “I’ll catch up!” He didn’t know if the girl heard him or not. He didn’t have the breath to repeat it, so he turned around and walked back to the main street. Don’t give up! he told himself. Once you get your supplies, you can decide what you’re going to do next. He tried to avoid walking through as many places where the crows was not as dense, as not to cause attention to himself. After all, he was the prince of the Shadow Realm. According to the shadow-shape, he was to be captured. Gemini finally made it outside the city. He spotted the tree and the rock fairly quickly and rushed over to it. Luckily, the supplies were in the same place as he had left them before going into the city. He unraveled the stirrup from the branch and picked up the saddle and saddlebags. It wasn’t wise to go back into the city. There was really only one place where he could go to hide. He considered the forest. It would be almost the perfect place for him. He could hide among the rocks and trees, and there would be berries for him to eat. When the berries were gone, he could go into the city and buy more with his money. Gemini carried the supplies across the road to the edge of the forest. He entered the forest, looking for a place to establish a camp. There were two large rocks forming an arch beside an old, dead log. The log would be a good place to hid his supplies in, but there was no place where he could stay. Gemini decided that it would still be worthwhile to sit under the arch for a little bit, even just to think. He had to watch his step for rocks and roots as me made his way to the arch. He set the supplies down on the log before finally sitting down himself. He didn’t realize how tired he was until now. His arms were mostly tired from carrying the supplies. He opened the saddlebag with the food and took out the wooden box of crackers. He slid open the lid and took out two of the crackers. Both of the crackers were eaten in less than a minute. Gemini realized that food would be a difficult problem with his hiding. He was too used to eating grand meals three times a day, plus dessert and snacks. According to Elodie, that still wasn’t enough for him. She was always complaining that he was “too skinny” or “looks like dead ghost”. Thinking about Elodie made Gemini pick through his matted and tangled hair with his fingers. It was pretty tangled, and at first it seemed like it would be tangled for the rest of his life. However, half an hour later, Gemini’s first theory was quickly disproved. He pulled out the cracked mirror he found and flipped it open. His hair looked much better now. He placed the mirror back, as well as the food box and finished up his hair. He found a stubborn knot in the bottom part of his hair. When he pulled out the knot, he accidentally pinched the bottom of his neck. Immediately, he realized something very valuable. It was early afternoon already and he still couldn’t believe that he hadn’t remembered it earlier. The ruby amulet wasn’t around his neck anymore. Gemini sat back down and thought back to the fire and the attack on the castle.
Gemini was trying to bridle Captivated, but Captivated’s horn almost snagged and ripped apart the chain that held the amulet. Gemini took the amulet off, and placed it in the had he was using to hold the bridle with. When Phan came in and Captivated was finally bridled, he had completely forgotten about the amulet. He turned Captivated over to Phan for a better chance for survival. That meant that the amulet was caught in with headstall part of the bridle. Phan and Captivated left, and presumably survived the attack and the fire. At least, that’s what Gemini hoped.
Finally, Gemini stood back up. He got the supplies together and hoisted them up off of the log. He knew where he was going to go, now. In another part of the forest was a glittering, shimmering cavern. It was beautiful, filled with thousands of gems and jewels. It was a spacious place underground where he could stay. It was in another part if the forest, but he could walk there by nightfall at the latest. He decided that it would be better if he returned to the road and then followed it back to the castle. Then, he could look for more supplies -this time, inside the castle. He needed more food. A cart or wagon would be nice for hauling supplies. Gemini tried to hurry a little faster while heading back towards the road. He wanted to walk on a firm surface again. While walking, he tried to come to a conclusion on why the girl in the city was wanted by the shadow-shapes. If they wanted prisoners, they could have easily rounded up the many people panicking and running around in the streets. Only certain people were wanted by the shadow-shapes. So far, the only people he knew were wanted were him and the girl. They must be looking for people who were rich, or people who young? No….that couldn’t be it. There were children running through the streets who weren’t being pursued by the shadow-shapes. Wait a minute….there was one other thing they had in common. They both had been to the castle balls. Actually, there was something else they had in common. Gemini was a sorcerer, and Queen Elodie was also a sorceress. One of the girl’s parent was either a sorcerer or a sorceress. There! Gemini was at the road at last. He turned onto the road and continued on. It was a long walk to the castle, but after the problems and conflicts he was facing, he didn’t mind it much. The walk down the road was dull at some points. He had to accept that he wasn’t in the castle anymore and nothing would entertain him whenever he wished. Surprisingly, he didn’t miss his castle life much. With Elodie’s rule, appearance and elegance was one of the most important issues. He didn’t care for all of the fancy decorations and the parties. If decisions were up to him, he would have focused more on military and army forces. There were whole borders that weren’t guarded and scammers that needed to be punished. The realm could be richer and more powerful than it already is. The realm needed to be strengthened, but Elodie would never give much effort into that. If Elodie ever came back, he would ask for her to at least give some effort into protecting the borders. Gemini didn’t want to think ahead to that. He wanted to focus more on the goal he was working towards now, which was to get to the cavern. If he got his hopes up too high, his disappointment would be greater if he failed. Reaching the castle was sooner than he expected. He hurried up to the door of the castle. Before he took a single step inside, he closed his eyes. Slowly, he took three steps into the castle. When he was ready, he opened his eyes and took a look at the castle he had lived his entire life. Inside it was dark and gloomy. Soot and ash covered about over three quarters of the floor as well as just about everything else. There was good news, however. The furniture that was still in the castle wasn’t damaged as badly as he had expected it to. Some parts of the furniture were completely burned to ash, but others were almost perfectly fine. The furniture was toppled over mostly from the attack and some of the castle windows were broken. Gemini proceeded through the castle halls to the kitchens and the dining room. The dining room chairs were sprawled around the room, making it difficult for maneuvering through. He set his supplies down on the table and started to turn the chairs back to their proper position. After his path had been cleared, he made his way into the kitchen. The beautifully crafted wooden door was left open and covered in ash. A few scorch marks were at the very bottom left side of the door. Upon him entering the kitchen, he almost tripped over a rolling pin lying directly in front of the door. Gemini picked it up and gently set it on a cabinet shelf. Carefully, he made his way over to the cupboards. He opened the first cupboard as gently as he possibly could, even though the cupboards received minimal damage. For all he knew, a shelf might come crashing down on him. Inside the cupboard was a box of crackers, just like the ones found in the smaller box. He was hoping for a little more than that, but it was still worth bringing. The box was placed in the saddlebags and Gemini went back to the cupboards and the frozen foods. When he was fully finished with his search, he discovered that he had found many items such as bread, sugar, candy, fruit, five carrots, and an ear of corn. These would be good enough for bringing with him. He stored the items in his saddlebags with the other foods and looked around the kitchen one last time. Gemini finally ended up taking two more tin cups, a metal plate, and an extra spoon. After he was finished in the kitchen, he returned to the dining room. There was nothing in the dining room he really needed. He had gotten what he wanted, but he didn’t actually want to leave the castle. I should take a look at the old study. Gemini decided that he should at least take a look in Lord Theo’s old study. It was abandoned after his death, Gemini was the only one who entered it since. He lifted his supplies off of the table and exited the room. He made his way through the halls, avoiding the many objects strewn all over. Still, he reached the study fairly quickly. Thankfully, it didn’t look like it was damaged. It was too hidden for that. Theo was an expert in planning his study. The chairs and sofas weren’t scorched at all, and the books on the bookshelves were intact. He set the supplies down on the writing desk and wandered over to the table where he kept the more recent records and papers. He kept them in between two bookends shaped like dragons. There was a diversity of papers inside, but there was one particular collection which he found interesting. Once he had removed them from the bookends for studying, he found that it was a list of people who attended a ball that was held a month or two ago. He skimmed down the list to where the names of the nobles and their families were. Gemini read through the section until he found Sir Delen, a loyal knight and sorcerer who served faithfully for almost about thirty years. The parchment read “Sir Delen, Lady Lucille, and daughter Jenesis”. The bag that the girl in the city was carrying was the same bag that Lady Lucille had brought to the ball. She had used it to bring Elodie a silky puppy that Elodie had always favored. Gemini remembered how Lucille handed Elodie her gift as a thank you for inviting her to the party. He thought back to that moment and tried to remember her daughter. He was right. The girl in the city was Jenesis, daughter of Sir Delen and Lady Lucille. Gemini put the papers back in between the bookends. He realized something else, too. There was one other thing that he and Jenesis had in common. Sir Delen was a sorcerer, and Queen Elodie was a sorceress. Both of them had a parent who was either a sorcerer or a sorceress. When he was in the city, he didn’t see any sorcerers or sorceresses. Alyssa and Jacob, two other children of a sorcerer, should have been in the city. They would have been sitting on their porch as usual. Gemini had passed their house twice, but they weren’t there neither times. Nobody else he knew was on the streets. It was like they had all been taken, for a reason. Why would anyone want to take sorcerers and sorceresses prisoner? It was all very simple. Sorcery powers could be taken away by the king or queen of the Shadow Realm only. Then, the powers could be either destroyed, given away, or used to strengthen existing powers. Something wanted the power of every sorcerer and sorceress in the Shadow Realm. Many kingdoms and realm had a hatred towards the Shadow Realm. The Fairy Mountains, inhabited in good-hearted fairies, were upset with the realm for many different reasons. However, they weren’t capable of causing this many problems for the Shadow Realm. A neighbor to the south, however, might be responsible. The kingdom didn’t have a name, as far as Gemini knew. They didn’t trade with other realms and kept to themselves in solitude. The kingdom supposedly was made up of monsters and wild beasts. The beasts and monsters weren’t the honored dragons, unicorns, mermaids, and serpents of the Shadow Realm. It was composed of violent and horrible monsters that had huge claws and had a long, thorny fur coat. The residents weren’t limited to that form, unfortunately. The shadow-shapes had a pretty good chance of coming from there. Possibilities seemed almost endless. Gemini knew that if he wanted to save the realm, he had to act soon. He returned to the desk to collect his supplies. Captivated and Phan had to be found. Then, he could find out where Jenesis was taken. Gemini had to hurry fast or else Jenesis’s tracks would be gone. Once he made sure that he had all of the supplies, he left the study and hurried through the halls. He stopped in the throne room. The throne was still untouched and in its proper place. Only one little thing struck him as being odd. Something silver and shiny was stuck in the pillow cushion that saw on the throne. Gemini set his supplies down and slowly approached it, like a raccoon approaches a dropped coin in the streets at night. He climbed up to the throne and lifted up the pillow. He was delighted at what he saw. Carefully, he pulled a beautiful silver crown out of the throne. It was the crown to the Shadow Realm. King Theo wore it, and now Queen Elodie wore it. The crown didn’t have any jewels, but it was still beautiful and priceless. It was made up of silver that was woven together to form points and swirls. Gemini couldn’t bear to leave it in the castle, yet he didn’t want to carry any extra weight. He examined it and then placed it on his head. It could stay on his head, but was still just a tad too big for him. Oh, well. He turned away and collected his things. He left the throne room to leave the castle. When he was finally out of the castle, he realized that it was already in the middle of the afternoon. He made a goal to reach the cavern by evening and work on finding Captivated and Phan in the morning. Gemini smiled as he headed to the forest. Who knows? Maybe things would start to improve for him. Elodie disappeared, and he was in charge of the Shadow Realm. It seemed a shame to graduate from his ‘prince’ title, though. He liked the way it sounded with his name. ‘King Gemini’ didn’t fit him well. Then again, neither did the crown.