11 – The Clash

King-Oink,ooh stared out into the fiery evening sky from the tallest rock of his castle. He caught sight of the Shadow Realm border in the far distance.  Before nightfall his grand shadow-shape army would be marching across into the realm prepared to attack the castle for a second time. The king turned his gaze to the army assembled beneath him. He descended from the rock and mounted his horse. “Onward to the Shadow Realm,” King-Oink,ooh ordered and pointed to the darkening horizon.

After finding nothing to occupy his mind inside the castle Phan stepped outside for a stroll around the castle’s outer wall. Being a zombie he preferred night’s darkness. The cool stormy air refreshed him, contributing to an atmosphere which reminded him of his graveyard home from long ago. His only company was the castle guards and even they did not even speak a word to Phan as he passed. Phan walked along the wall to his favorite spot overlooking the forest. He was surprised to see Prince Gemini standing in his usual spot overlooking the forest.
“It is unexpected to see you out here,” Phan remarked. Startled Gemini turned around.
“Good evening Phan,” Gemini answered with an artificial smile. “I cannot sleep it seems.”
“What is troubling you?”
“Nothing more than usual.” Gemini sighed and peered out into the forest cloaked with darkness from the night. Something from deep within the forest alarmed his senses. Phan turned around and also stared into the eerie forest setting. He too was alerted by the unknown presence.
“Do you feel something odd?” Gemini whispered. “I feel as if there is something in the forest.”
“I feel the same. Shall I alert the guards?”
“No. I shall investigate the matter myself.” Gemini turned away from the wall and stepped back inside the castle.
“Are you sure?” Phan questioned as he followed Gemini down the stairs to the castle’s first floor.
“I am positive,” Gemini answered sincerely as he briskly walked out of the castle and over to the stables.
“I suggest arming yourself,” Phan recommended.
“My sword is back in my room,” Gemini responded. “I did not think I had enough time to fetch it.”
“I can saddle Captivated for you,” Phan offered.
“Thank you.” Gemini quickly pivoted and darted back inside the castle. Phan considered asking the reason for the hurry but decided against it. He in no way wished to hold Gemini back from his mysterious mission. Instead he made his way towards the royal stables to saddle the prince’s beloved unicorn, Captivated.
Phan entered the stables and quickly found Captivated in his stall. He tacked up the fiery unicorn and led him outside. There Gemini was waiting for them with his sword in hand. Phan handed Gemini the reins before going back into the stable for a unicorn to ride himself. He reappeared with a dapple gray unicorn granted to him by the royal head of the stables.
Quietly Gemini and Phan mounted their horses and quietly galloped away from the stables and into the forest. They only had to venture fairly far into the forest before he could identify the mysterious presence. Gemini’s instincts told him to turn away immediately but already it was too late.
“Good evening, young Shadow Realm prince,” King-Oink,ooh greeted with a cold voice. “I see you have found me once again.”
Before Gemini had a second to respond the shadow-shape king and his army charged forward, nearly knocking Gemini and Phan off of their unicorns. Captivated pivoted and bolted back to the castle and Phan’s followed behind. Fearing they would arrive back at the castle too late to warn of the invaders, Gemini kicked Captivated with his spurs hoping to outrun the army. Captivated, spooked by the chaos surrounding him, reared and knocked Gemini to the ground before taking off.
“Get on,” Phan exclaimed and held out his hand. He pulled Gemini up into the saddle behind him. The pair galloped back to the castle and were relieved to find it in a still-standing condition. Gemini was especially thankful to see the Shadow Realm’s military busy fighting off the invaders. He dismounted from the unicorn and drew his sword.
“Thank you,” he spoke as he charged inside the castle. The castle was filled with shadow-shapes running rampant. Strangely they didn’t seem to be interested in destroying or looting the castle, concentrating only upon fighting with the castle guards and harassing anyone around them.
“Leave!” Jenesis shrieked as she ran across the throne room floor waving a fork as her feeble attempt to drive away a shadow-shape chasing her. “We’re under attack!” she wailed to Gemini. “Do something, please!” Sword in hand, Gemini drove towards the shadow-shape and swung at it. To his devastation he discovered that the sword phased through the shadow-shape completely. “What are these creatures?” Jenesis continued waving her fork. “Can’t they be driven away?”
“Not that I am aware of.”
Queen Elodie burst into the room, attracting everyone’s attention. “They are here! Fight them off! Quickly, or we shall soon see the Shadow Realm’s demise!”
“Everyone is doing the best they can,” Gemini responded. Elodie ran over to Gemini as she swiped at the shadow-shapes gliding around her.
“The shadow-shapes can touch us,” explained Gemini. “But we phase straight through them. That is our biggest problem.”
“NO!” Elodie’s response shocked everyone in the room.
“We can summon the nearest soldiers from the city,” Jenesis suggested. Elodie waved her away.
“The nearest soldiers are in cities over a hundred miles away,” Gemini whispered with concern. “The soldiers from the city below are already here.”
“I know that,” Elodie snapped. “Anyways, I need to speak with you. Come along, and do hurry!” She grabbed Gemini’s hand and led him into the hall.
“Where are we going?” Gemini was ready to listen to any information his mother had to say yet confused as to why she was not focusing on defeating the shadow-shapes. “We need to defend ourselves against the invaders.”
“Don’t waste your time with those pointless nuisance,” she replied. “Your true enemy is waiting outside. That is where you are needed!” Elodie led Gemini on one of the castle balconies. “Fight the true invaders, for they are the ones who will destroy the realm!” Looking down at the castle gates Gemini witnessed what his mother was talking about. Marching through the castle was another army, unidentified to him. Observing the queen’s behavior he could assume that she knew more about the foreign invaders than himself.
“Who are they?” Despite being a well-educated prince Gemini knew nothing of the nations sharing the Shadow Realm’s borders. The main reason for this was that there simply was not information on them available. Very few people ever crossed the borders and those who did rarely spoke of the cultures outside of the realm.
“I would know that army if I was blind,” Elodie muttered to herself.
“Mother, who are they?”
“What are you standing here for? Go, defend the castle! We’ll worry about questions later.”
Gemini turned and raced through the castle despite not being fully satisfied with the queen’s answer. Elodie was correct.

Unlike the shadow-shapes the second wave of invaders were able to be physically fought. The approaching army, clad in various shades of gold and purple, stormed through the castle’s outer wall. The majority of the Shadow Realm’s soldiers and knights formed a fighting force behind Gemini. Those remaining prepared to defend the castle from the inside. At once the two forces collided into each other and a battle broke out. As Gemini fought face to face he realized some of the invaders possessed a pair of thin, glass-like wings sprouting from their backs.

Who are these people? As the thought lingered in his mind Gemini was unaware of the swift sound of hoof beats approaching behind him. In a split second he felt a hand close around the chain to his amulet and pull forward, knocking the stunned prince off of his feet. As he was being dragged across the castle yard Gemini had a chance to glance up to see who caught him. When he did this his attacker abruptly jerked on the amulet’s chain, causing it to snap off of Gemini’s neck.
“NO!” Gemini howled as he fell to the ground and could do nothing except watch the unknown unicorn rider gallop off with the precious ruby amulet in his fist. He scrambled to his feet and caught Captivated as he galloped past. Gemini flung himself onto Captivated’s back as a last attempt to regain the amulet. No matter how bleak the situation appeared he promised himself, “I will never give in.” Captivated’s impressive speed allowed Gemini to catch up to the unknown thief.  “Give me that back!” he demanded as he attempted to wrestle the amulet out of the thief’s hand. The thief continued pulling at the amulet until Gemini pulled him to the ground. When Gemini and the thief was thrown to the ground they both lost their grip on the amulet and sent it flying through the air. Devastated because he lost the chance to recover his amulet for the second time, Gemini quickly jumped to his feet and looked around for the amulet. The thief climbed up off of the ground and bolted off into the background of the surrounding battle. At first Gemini could not see exactly where it landed through the fighting and chaos him. When he did spot the beloved ruby it was in the hands of a familiar face, one Gemini did not recognize but was sure he had seen somewhere before.

Despite having full awareness of the events occurring around her DA still could not believe she was holding the Shadow Realm’s precious ruby amulet in her hands. At one moment she felt doomed to a tedious fate of scouring the realm endlessly for the amulet and a second later it landed from the sky on the ground in front of her.  As DA examined the amulet’s priceless design she almost considered keeping it for herself. Yet what practical use would she have for a piece of jewelry so intricate and powerful? The best course of action would be to turn it in and claim a large reward. DA was just about to fetch her unicorn when she was stopped by who appeared to be the Shadow Realm prince darting towards her through the castle yard.
“Wait!” exclaimed Prince Gemini as he ran up to DA. Looking down at the amulet in her hands he said “You found it!”
“Yes, indeed.” DA held out her hand with intentions of returning the amulet but stopped. When she looked up she saw King-Oink,ooh silently floating up to Gemini behind his back. She clutched the amulet tighter. “Gemini, behind you!”
“Yes?” Gemini turned around and recoiled at the sight of the shadow-shape king. In horror he was forced to watch the amulet exchange hands once again as King-Oink,ooh seized it out of DA’s hands.
“You had best prepare yourself and your realm for the worst, young prince,” King-Oink,ooh stated solemnly as a floated away. “For no weapons can fight the catastrophes yet to come.”
“Return to me my amulet!” Gemini demanded as he and DA ran after the king. Sadly they were forced to stop and face their defeat as King-Oink,ooh mounted his horse and disappeared out of the castle gates. The rest of the shadow-shape army concluded their fighting before following their king away from the castle. As swiftly as they arrived the shadow-shapes faded away as the darkness died into early morning.

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