“Wow! What a rush!” Sage grinned as we finished crossing through the portal, landing with a hard thud on the other side.
“If you say so,” I said with a scowl as I stood up and dusted myself off, “You okay there, Ambert?”
He gave me a thumbs up and a small smile, “Yeah, Elizabeth, I’m good. Everyone else okay?”
“I think so,” Arvin said as Ambert pulled him up.
“Welcome to your new home. Isn’t it wonderful?” Sage said as she gestured with her arms.
She was grinning so wide, that I thought her face would crack. Like she did. She was a straight up wack job. We all looked around despondently, taking in the dismal view. We were surrounded on all sides by two opposing forests, with trees that were unfamiliar to me. One side seemed to inherit all the light. It was whimsical and colorful in appearance. On this side, the trees had the greenest leaves I had ever seen and almost seemed to sparkle invitingly. However, the other side was the polar opposite with it’s jagged, nearly black tree branches that were devoid of any life. Mist rolled along the ground there, seeming to have a mind of its own.
Looking up, the sky was grey and bleak, with no stars in sight to guide our way. It was fitting and set the tone for how we all felt. The moon was the most interesting part. It was blood red and reminded me of the blood that was spilt in the name of our cause. The cherry on top was the dead, brown grass that rustled under our feet like dead leaves in fall. Off in the distance, a gigantic black castle could be seen. I assumed this was our destination by the way Sage stared at it lovingly. As if she could ever know what love felt like. I was pretty sure she had no soul
“Oh don’t look so sad, folks. We’ll have lots of fun. I promise!” Sage flashed an evil smile.
“Oh do you really?” I mocked her, then muttered under my breath, “As if.”
The smile was wiped off her face for only a millisecond, but it was enough for me to know that I could get to her. I could break her down. I could do anything as long as I had my twin brother, Ambert, by my side. This made me smile, probably more than it should have.
“Follow me! And don’t get any bright ideas about escaping. I won’t hesitate to kill you,” Sage said, looking directly at me of course. I narrowed my eyes at her, daring her to try it. I would love nothing more than to kick her --.
“Please don’t instigate anything, Elizabeth. I can’t lose any more of you,” Ambert pleaded softly, his eyes so full of sadness that I rolled my eyes, hating that my thoughts were interrupted by his never ending optimism yet again.
Couldn’t he just give it a rest already? I love him, but doesn’t he realise how annoying he is? Sometimes things just don’t work out the way you hope.
“Whatever. She’s evil. I’m not gonna be nice to her if that’s what you’re expecting,” I growled, trying not to snap at him.
Ambert sighed, “I understand that, but we need to figure a way out. Focus.”
I sneered at him, knowing he was right, but not willing to admit it outright. I nodded, a scowl on my face and clenched my fists at my sides, glaring directly at Sage’s ugly face.
“Okay, that’s enough from the peanut gallery,” Sage whirled around, pointing towards the castle with her gun, “It’s time to meet my queen. This way. No funny business.”
When Arvin tried to protest, Sage pressed the gun to his head, “What was that? Were you saying something?”
Arvin whimpered and began to shake his head.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that,” Sage pushed the barrel of the gun into his head, causing him to wince.
“N-n-no,” Arvin stuttered, but she wasn’t satisfied.
She wrapped her arm around the front of his neck and squeezed, causing his eyes to bulge and his face to tinge a dark shade of purple. He clawed at her hands and she just laughed at him.
“Enough!” Ambert shouted, stepping forward to stop her, “Leave him alone.”
“Oh shut up, hero,” she said, shoving Arvin to the ground and taking a menacing step towards Ambert, “Get back in line.”
He glared at her, showing a hint of anger, something I didn’t know he was capable of. When he didn’t move, I started towards him, determined to stand by his side, but he halted me with his outstretched arm. He turned to look at me and shook his head silently, pleading with his eyes for me to let him handle it. I grunted, but didn’t move. When he was satisfied that I wouldn’t interfere, he turned back towards Sage, who had had enough. She smacked him hard with the butt of the gun, catching him off guard and sending him sprawling to the ground. He groaned in pain and I took another step towards her. I didn’t care what he said. We shouldn’t have to take this.
She tsked and cocked her gun, pointing it at Ambert, but looking at me, willing me to try her patience any further. I glared at her, but refused to move until Ambert finally got up and walked to my side.
“Back in line. Now,” she waved the gun, a vein popping out in her head and her lips pressed into a white line.
Ambert pulled me back, complying and I followed him. I never took my eyes off of her as I walked backwards, squeezing his hand until we were back with the others. She smirked.
“That’s better. Anyone else?” She stared us all down, murder in her eyes. When we didn’t move, her grin widened and she pulled the gun back, putting the safety back on, “I didn’t think so. Now move it. Zolana doesn’t like it when I’m late. If I get punished, you will as well.”
I just wanted to punch her. Just one good shot. That’s all I needed. I looked around at the others, their expressions seemed to echo my thoughts. But what would happen if we took her out and escaped? Then what? How would we get out of this situation? How would we get back to Calista and everyone else back home? We knew nothing about the portal or how it worked. I turned back to where it had once been. There wasn’t even a trace of it now. It must have closed behind us. I sighed and crossed my arms in front of me defensively, my eyes downcast so that I wouldn’t try anything that would ultimately get someone else killed. We needed to collect some information before we acted. That much was true. Until then, all we could was do our best to survive.
“Come on. Pick up your feet, you lazy bums!” Sage shouted, waving her gun in the air as a reminder of who was in charge.
Not for long. Ambert will come up with something. I just know it.
I felt confident as I snuck a peek over at him, only to see him looking back at me, blood trailing from a wound on his head, dripping onto his shirt. He mouthed thank you and I nodded, pressing my arms against my chest, a little harder than necessary as I motioned my eyes towards Sage. Concern washed over his features as he furrowed his brows and reached a hand out to me. But one look at Sage’s sour expression and he shook his head, pulling back his hand with a sigh. Already I could see the changes this trip were bringing on in him. His back was hunched and he wore a defeated look as he looked down at his feet, dirty from the dust of this new world.
Oh please, Ambert. Don’t give up.
I willed my words to him with all my might, but unfortunately he could not read my thoughts. What was to become of us? The hopeless look on his and everyone else’s faces steeled my resolve. I vowed then and there to help motivate him and keep him focused. He was teaching me to believe in myself and I would not let him give up on our salvation. I would do everything in my power just to see him smile again. I would do everything I could to help get us home safe and sound. Even if it was the last thing I would do.