My first instinct is to run but that isn’t even an option. There is an actual, real life dragon flying towards us and we have to get past it to the mansion. I didn’t even know dragons were real and now once is about to kill me… I live such an exciting life.
“What do we do?” Jack says weakly.
Tessa looks mesmerized by the beast as it soars over us. Either it hasn’t noticed us or it’s waiting for the perfect time to strike. Probably the latter. “Two of us distract it, the other two get to the mansion,” Tessa says. She turns as the dragon flies over it, circling around. It’s gradually getting lower.
“Why are you always the one to make the hard calls?” I wonder.
She just shrugs. She’s holding her rapier tightly. “Noah and I will distract it. Damien and Jack need to get to the mansion.”
Jack looks shocked. “Why?”
I hate it, but she’s right. This is our best shot. If me and Jack get to the mansion we can fight Violet. Jack can die and she’ll send the rest of us home. Perfect… “Because I need to fight Violet and you can’t deal with a dragon,” I snap.
“Exactly what I thought,” Tessa says.
Noah seems to be smiling as the dragon nears. “You guys have dragged me into such crazy shit,” he laughs. “I’m actually glad that I’m about to fight a dragon so that my friend can go and defeat a Daemonic-Goddess.”
I quickly hug him, knowing our time is running out. “I will defeat her. Then we’re going home.”
The dragon swoops down suddenly, causing me to jump back from Noah. It lands about half way between us and the mansion. The hugeness of the dragon is becoming painfully apparent now. Just it’s head is as big as any of us. Its wings span horribly far. Each leg ends with sharp talons.
“How do you propose we distract it?” Noah asks quietly.
Before Tessa can put forward any brilliant idea the dragon roars. The roar forces me to cover my ears, grimacing at the horrible, loud noise. It can probably be heard all across the realm. This creature was not sent to make us repent. It climbed from the depths of hell just to screw us over.
“Just draw its attention away,” I say quickly. “Give Jack and I time to get to the mansion and then quickly follow. I doubt even a dragon can break into the mansion.”
Tessa nods, stepping forward. Fearless even to a dragon. “Damien and I will go on the left. Noah and Jack on the right. We’ll split up again and it will only be able to focus on one of us.”
The dragon roars again, moving forward with giant steps. I have to stop myself from running in terror. We have to follow through with Tessa’s plan. As usual, she’s our best hope for survival and victory!
As the dragon nears I follow Tessa as she runs to the left of it. Noah and Jack run to the right. The dragon lets out another frustrated roar before turning to Tessa and I. As it does it snaps its jaws viciously. It doesn’t achieve much except scare us.
We’re almost past the dragon when it suddenly spurs into motion, flapping its mighty wings. The movement of them causes a gust of wind so strong it sends Tessa and I sprawling to the ground! The dragon flies into the air, roaring as it hovers above us.
“Holy fuck,” Tessa mumbles beside me, trying to get to her feet. “We’re not even going to make it to Violet…”
Grunting, I wave my arm in an arc. The wind changes direction suddenly and staggers the dragon. It flails around in the air giving Tessa and I time to stand. Once we’re standing, Tessa throws her rapier in the air. She splays her hand and the rapier flies towards the dragon. It slices through the wing and the dragon roars in pain. The rapier flies back and slices again. This time when the dragon roars fire spurts from its mouth like blood from a wounded artery.
Tessa curses loudly as the fire rains towards us. She steps in front of me, raising both arms. The fire doesn’t reach us and instead bounces off to the ground in front of us.
“Good job,” I say as she lowers her arms. I notice that Jack is now right outside the mansion and Noah is running towards us.
“Damien, go!” He shouts as he reaches our side.
I look at the mansion that’s within running distance and I look at the dragon that looms above us. I can’t leave them to fight this beast! “Not without you two. We’re in this together.” I try not to think about how much more difficult it will be to kill Jack with them there but the alternative is us all dying.
The dragon flaps its mighty wings and flies higher into the air. I can’t think of a way we can defeat this thing… If we can’t even kill a dragon, how do we hope to fight Violet?
“I think our best shot is to just keep throwing things at it,” Noah tells us. His sword vanishes and he taps his bracelet. His bow appears in his hand, glowing as always. He shoots as the dragon flies above us.
Following his lead, I conjure shards of ice and hurl them towards the dragon. Only a few hit as it continues flying away. “Where is it going?” I wonder. I’m no expert on dragons but I’m pretty sure they don’t just fly away when you shoot them once or twice. What a pathetic dragon…
“Damien,” Tessa snaps. “Don’t call a dragon pathetic. So fucking rude.”
I glare at her. “I’m just a little confused,” I say. “It could have killed us all but it flew away. Why?”
“I suspect Violet had something to do with it,” Noah puts in. “She’s manipulating everybody and everything…”
I nod, knowing he’s probably right. “Maybe she just wants us to die by her hand. It wouldn’t be all too surprising.” We begin walking towards the mansion. I know we should be running in case the dragon comes back but we should conserve our strength ready for the battle.
“Have either of you considered why Violet is doing this?” Tessa asks. “She has no reason to make deals with us and bring people back from the dead.”
“She just wants to play with us,” Noah says. He sighs after he says it, presumably realising how creepy it sounded. “Violet is an immortal Daemonic-Goddess. I don’t imagine she has much to do with her spare time. We’re probably not the only people she torments.”
I can’t help but to laugh at that. I’m not even sure why I find it funny. “She’s probably in the throne room,” I say as we get close to the mansion. “Should we go straight there?”
Tessa scoffs loudly. “Hell no! I want to explore.”
“Wow,” Noah says with a content smile. “If you told me a year ago that I would be exploring a Daemonic-King’s mansion that is being inhabited by a Daemonic-Goddess with a telepathic psychopath and a really stubborn ice mage I would not have believed you.”
“You’re both such assholes,” Tessa pouts. “Noah falsely accuses me of being a psychopath and Damien is really rude to dragons.”
I roll my eyes as we reach Jack at the steps to the mansion. The gate looms above us. Only now do I realise it’s already open. “Why do you keep defending a dragon that tried to kill us?” I wonder. The inside of the mansion looks just as it did last time I was here. The door to the throne room is closed.
Tessa doesn’t answer my question as we walk in. She’s busy looking around in awe. “Why don’t we have places like this in Wychelm?”
“Because there’s only one Daemonic-King who lives there,” Noah jokes. I laugh, knowing he means our actual king.
Tessa moves straight to the stairs and we follow her. I didn’t get to see much of the mansion last time I was here. It would probably just be a better idea to just go and find Violet but why shouldn’t we do some exploring in what may be our last moments alive?
“The bitch probably has a bedroom here,” Tessa grins. The top of the stairs leads to a long hallway with seemingly endless doors. “I hope she keeps a diary.”
Noah opens a random door and peeks in. “What kind of Goddess keeps a diary?” He laughs. Tessa just shrugs and starts looking in rooms. I stay outside, keeping an eye on things while the three of them look into different rooms. The hallway does seem to go on forever which is actually quite terrifying.
Before I can tell them we should stop looking, Tessa points at a door she just opened and grins. “I found it!” She exclaims before walking back in.
Reluctantly, I follow her in with Jack and Noah walking behind me. The room is obviously Violets. It’s large and has several headless mannequins. Each wears a different, elegant dress. Tessa sighs longingly as she touches the fabric of one. “Can I take it?” She asks.
“Tessa no,” I snap, looking around. There’s a desk that’s covered in letters. Curiosity takes me over and I walk over to it. I open a letter at random. The paper seems old, hundreds of years old. “To my dearest Violet,” I begin reading aloud. The others gather around. “It has been a long time since we last spoke and honestly, I miss you. I know it is stupid to miss you and yet I do. Violet, you hurt me. I did everything I could for you but you hurt me nonetheless. I want to stay away from you but the desire to find you is too overwhelming. I know you’ll get this letter and I know you have the power to come to me. Please, please come to me Violet. Yours forever, IH.”
Jack gasps, no longer paying attention to me or the letter. “Why are there shackles on the bed?”
Tessa rushes to the bed, laughing manically. “Noah, get on!”
“Tessa no,” he snaps, copying my tone.
Ignoring them, I put the letter down and pick up another. “Diana,” I say. “This was written to Diana!”
“What?” Tessa asks, moving back to my side.
“Diana,” I begin reading. “You have to stop what you’re doing! You have great power and you are using it recklessly. You risk everything… I brought you into this world and with the click of my fingers I can remove you from it. Lots of love, your mortified mother.”
Noah laughs lightly. “What the fuck?”
“So, Diana is Violet’s child?” Tessa sighs. “It explains a lot.”
Jack looks as if we’re all stupid. “You didn’t know? It’s so obvious!” He says, clearly exasperated. Noah, Tessa and I all look ashamed. How had we not realised? It all makes sense. “Who do you think the father is?” Jack wonders.
“Whoever sent that weird love letter,” Tessa says slowly. “IH.”
“Isaac Hawke,” Noah says with a frown.
I shake my head, knowing it’s ridiculous. “There’s no way. It has to be some other guy with IH as his initials. There’s no way Isaac knows Violet. This is just a coincidence.”
Noah nods but doesn’t seem too sure. “If we make it back to Wychelm, we need to find out what the hell happened to Isaac in his past! Not only am I curious but he could give us valuable information about Violet.”
“I completely agree,” I sigh. “Now, should we actually get ourselves back to Wychelm?”
“Let’s kill a bitch,” Tessa grins, making her way from the room with one last lungful look at the dresses.
I follow her, wishing I could read more of Violet’s letters. “We can’t actually kill her; you know? We just need to defeat her in combat… Then she brings Daniel back and we get to leave.”
“How simple it all is,” Jack mumbles.
We make our way down the corridor as a group, back towards the stairs. “What’s our plan of action when fighting her?” I ask.
Tessa shrugs, drawing her rapier as we walk down the stairs. “We stab the bitch and laugh when she bleeds.”
Jack and Noah both draw their swords too. “It is four versus one,” Noah points out. “Unless she has Daemons to help her.”
I try not to think about what else could be in there as I approach the door to the throne room. Perhaps the dragon is in there, but that seems unlikely. It wouldn’t have much room to move and how would it have even gotten in? “The dragon probably won’t be in there,” I mumble. The confused looks my friends give me make me wish that I had remained silent.
Noah walks to the door and pulls on one handle while I pull on the other. Unlike last time, they actually open with minimal effort. The throne room is basically the same. Fires are lit in braziers across the sides of the room. There are more weapons on the walls now.
“I’m so glad you finally made it,” Violet says. She’s sitting on the throne, one leg over the other. Once we’re all in the room the doors close behind us. “Have you said your prayers yet?” She mocks.
Tessa rolls her eyes, stepping forward. “We have no need for praying. Who needs Gods when we have each other?”
Violet laughs, standing. I’m confused to see she’s wearing a dress. “When you die I’ll put that on your gravestone. The statement is almost as pathetic as yourself.”
“Do you intend to fight us in that ugly dress?” I wonder. “It would be such a shame to ruin it.”
Violet stretches and I can hear bones cracking even from across the room. The dress disappears and is replaced by underwear that seems to be made from spider webs. “Will this distract Noah?” She asks with a grin, walking towards us with her whole body on show.
“Definitely,” Noah mumbles. I glare at him.
When she reaches the middle of the room she arches her back and rotates her neck. She moans loudly as a grotesque transformation takes place. Her legs come together and quickly turn into the body of a spider. Eight long, black legs tap gently on the stone floor. In place of the spider’s head is her upper body.
“Not anymore,” Noah says in a small voice. Now that she has transformed into a creepy human-spider hybrid she’s twice our height…
She laughs manically as a rapier appears in her hand. “Do I look like a Daemonic-Goddess yet?”
Violet begins moving towards us, her rapier ready to match Tessa’s. “Spread out,” Tessa commands, rushing forward to meet Violet. Their rapiers clash as they move backwards and forwards, side to side to dodge and strike at each other. For once I see Tessa struggling but still, she’s managing against her. I feel a strange swell of pride.
“Noah, get the legs,” I command. He nods and rushes off to flank Violet. “Jack, stay close to me.”
He nods, thankfully not questioning why. I watch the scene, unsure what I can do to help. Violet and Tessa are furiously trying to wound each other but to no avail. Noah can’t seem to get close enough to damage the legs because they’re moving so quickly.
Stepping forward, I hold out my hands and send chains of ice towards Violet. They wrap around her spider legs, causing her to stumble. Noah takes the opportunity to lunge forward and cut off a leg while Tessa slices at Violet’s stomach.
Violet shrieks as she quickly breaks free of the chains. She spins on Noah, holding out a hand. Thick webs entangle him from nowhere. I run towards him as he desperately struggles. “Damien,” he gasps as he falls to the floor. They wrap quickly over his head and face.
“Free him!” I shout, my voice echoing off the walls.
Violet waves her arm and Tessa’s rapier flies away. Violet scurries towards Tessa who backs away quickly. Tessa waves an arm as Violet nears, presumably trying to knock her back. Her magic literally backfires. Tessa soars backwards, knocking against a wall and crumpling to the ground.
Violet turns towards me, grinning. “You know what to do,” she says calmly. “I’ve made it so easy for you!”
Jack moves to my side. He’s holding his sword towards Violet but right now, she’s not his enemy… I am!
“I’m so sorry,” I whisper, turning to Jack. It’s the last thing I want to do but I have to. Noah is suffocating behind me, Tessa is unconscious, maybe even dead… “I’m so sorry Jack,” I say again, drawing my dagger. I’m doing it for all the wrong reasons.
His sword drops to the floor as I sink my dagger inside him. He clutches my arm and stares deep into my eyes. I expect him to scream. To curse at me. To wish me dead but instead he asks one last thing of me… “Get Tessa to Aaron.”
I nod. I pull out the dagger and with it, I pull out his life. Jack drops to the floor beside his fallen sword. He isn’t the first to die because of me and I’m sure he won’t be the last…
Violet laughs again, walking slowly towards me. “Your betrayal was in vein, Damien Harpen,” she grins. “You will still all-” before she can say more, I toss my dagger through the air. She gasps, clearly taken by surprise as it imbeds itself into her chest. Into her already dead heart. “This won’t be the last you see of me,” Violet whispers. Her body begins collapsing in on itself, taking my dagger with it as she dies. No. She’s not dying. She’s retreating…
“Noah,” I gasp, rushing to his side. I pull my second dagger from my belt and carefully cut the webbing from around him. He’s still breathing! “Noah,” I say, sighing in relief as I remove the web from his head.
“I almost suffocated,” he whispers.
“I would never let that happen,” I tell him, hurrying to free the rest of his body.
Tessa moans from across the room. Noah and I stand, looking at her as she stands and walks to Jack. “Is he… Dead?” She asks quietly.
I nod and Noah gasps. “I couldn’t save him,” I lie. “Violet was too fast.”
I expect her to cry. To scream for the loss of her beloved friend but instead she just sighs, looking longingly at his corpse. “I envy his escape.”
It feels like an entire eternity passes before she speaks again. “Where’s Daniel? And the portal home?” I’m shocked by how apathetic she is being right now.
“The bitch tricked us,” I gasp, looking around. No Daniel… No portal… Was it all for nothing?
The mansion rumbles suddenly and I hear the sound of grating stone. “What’s happening?” Noah wonders, rushing to the door and opening it. Tessa and I both follow him, abandoning Jack’s body. I know I ought to be sad that Daniel is not back and yet I’m not. Not yet at least. Perhaps the instinct to survive is too over baring right now.
“The portal,” Tessa says once the doors are open.
“But no Daniel,” I point out. Oh. There it is, the sadness and the helplessness hitting me like a wave of fire. “He’s still dead.”
The roof of the throne room collapses suddenly, causing us to rush towards the portal and cover our ears. Tessa jumps straight through but I can’t. “Daniel!” I scream. “Daniel where are you?”
Noah grabs my hand. “Let him go.”
But where is he? Daniel should be here! After everything I went through to get here and it was for nothing. He’s not back. I killed Jack, I did so many taxing things and Violet just tricked me… “I don’t think I can,” I say, trying hard not to break down right here.
Noah grabs my hand tighter as the room around us begins collapsing. “You have to!” He drags me through the portal before I can object. Once more everything is out of my control.