“Do you have any idea where you’re going?” ShiKon asked him, crossing her arms from behind.
“Somewhat,” KiNa answered, distantly. He was concentrating on the identification panel next to the door. The further they’d infiltrated inside the Manor, the more technologically advanced the internal systems became.
“I know as much as you do – whatever was on Fu’s maps,” he clarified.
“That’s not very reassuring,” the girl fingered one dagger as she watched down the hallway for any sign of trouble.
“You want to let me get this thing open? I need a little silence,” KiNa muttered.
“Fine. Whatever,” she frowned.
ShiKon was getting more and more antsy as they made their way up into the master estate. Maybe she didn’t think they’d get that far before being discovered. To be completely honest, KiNa didn’t expect it either. He was playing it by ear.
With the power out, that left a lot of the Manor’s defenses down, including the electrical doorways that appeared to work by hand print scans. The boy pressed his own palm against it, tiny hair-line energies crackling from his fingertips as he worked to hack the code.
They never planned for something like this to happen. This is the only chance we’re going to get at it, though. For sure, they’ll reinforce everything after this fiasco. That’s why we have to go for the top.
After what seemed forever, the doorway gave a very soft click, indicating that he successfully replicated the energy patterns needed to remove the lock. The door, however, didn’t budge, seeing that it had no power source. KiNa wedged the end of his pry tool into the crack and began jimmying it with all his strength. Inch by inch, the door gave way until he was able to insert his fingers into the crack.
“Hey, I need some help back here,” he looked back at ShiKon, face red from exertion.
“Help? Aren’t you supposed to be manly enough to bust in doors?” she teased him.
“Not when they’re not made to bust down,” KiNa muttered. “They’ve done a good job making it tough to get in here.”
The girl grabbed the pry tool and got to work at the lower area of the door while he gripped the frame and pulled at the upper end. Just as they were making some way, a voice shouted from down the hall.
“Hey! Who are you? What are you doing here?”
~It’s the guard!~ ShiKon’s warning echoed through her mind.
Just one of them. But one is bad enough.
~Keep working on the door, I’ll take care of him.~
Before he could stop the girl, she spun around, the pry tool in her hand. KiNa thought she might whack the oncoming guard with it as viciously as she advanced on the guy. In fact, he was a little sorry for the lone, unfortunate guard.
ShiKon swung out with her hand, pointing the pry tool at the man with a silent flourish. A blast of mind energy shook the hall, washing over the guard and stopping him in his tracks. Instead of reeling backwards from the blow, KiNa was surprised when the man hunched forwards, clutching his stomach.
His face turned green momentarily before he puked up every last bit of supper all over the floor.
Ugh! ShiKon! That’s gross! You made the guy spill his guts!
~That’s what he gets for attacking us!~ she retorted, rushing the spewing man with fierce speed.
Couldn’t you just have put him to sleep or something?
~Oh, I plan to…~
The dark walls echoed the light from ShiKon’s crystal headband as the girl spun off her feet, flipping forward at the guard faster that KiNa could follow. Unfortunate for her, the man wasn’t quite done sharing his lunch when her feet connected to his skull. He wasn’t the only thing that went flying through the air as she roundhoused him.
KiNa winced, “Ewwww…. Maybe next time, you let the guy finish before you…”
“Shut up,” the girl snarled, shaking the mis-colored bits off her robe. “Not a single word.”
“It’s not like these are my robes anyhow,” ShiKon scowled. She was starting to take on a bad mood. “And if you’d hurry up opening the door, I wouldn’t have to do things like…”
The girl glanced over at where the guard lay motionless, groaning slightly, with his face down in a pool of his own vomit. There were definitely worse positions for KiNa to be in that night.
“You seemed to enjoy it enough,” the boy muttered, giving the door one last yank. There was enough of a space for them to squeeze through, though it was still pretty small.
“Let me see you do something like that.”
“Point taken,” he said and eyed the darkness beyond the door. Then KiNa gave her his best smile, “Ladies first.”
ShiKon’s dark scowl informed him that his humor was lost on her. She grabbed him by the shoulder and shoved him through the door crack. “Give me a break!”
“Trying to be polite here!”
“Trying to chicken out is what you’re doing!”
KiNa couldn’t deny he was afraid. He was glad that ShiKon was there with him. Her methods for dispatching the guard were somewhat unorthodox, but he wasn’t sure what he would have done if he had to face the Manor warriors alone.
Get captured, probably.
“I’m going to do this,” he told her with determination.
“And just what do you think you’re going to do?” the girl hissed. “You couldn’t handle a guard. Tell me what you think’s going to happen when we get in there.”
“I have to figure out where there is first,” he procrastinated.
“Right… You don’t have the guts to do this.”
She was probably right. But the less he thought about it, the easier it would be.
His crystal light illuminated bits and pieces of the long dark hall ahead. It was odd that everything on this side of the door was silent, making the shadows stretch longer and darker. The décor here was also peculiarly inconsistent.
It’s like someone had a spaz moment and just dropped stuff all over the place. Some walls displayed grand, elegant tapestries and long flowing curtains. Here and there, flowers stood in planters, some dead from neglect while others flourished with great care.
Doorways dotted the wall along the hall, some of them the same metal and palm-plate protected as the one they just broke through. Others were plain dark wood, looking as old as the walls around them. This was obviously one of the first areas of the Manor House that was built.
“Are you getting a creepy vibe from this, too?” ShiKon whispered. She inspected one of the wooden doors, which was marred by huge gashes from what looked to be a large, clawed creature.
“Creepy isn’t the word,” he answered, touching the long fissures in the wood with one hand.
“Your government at work,” the girl noted, moving forward down the hall as silent as a wraith.
It was hard to believe that this was the place where the High Mages who oversaw everything within the Manor lived.
KiNa just shook his head as he followed, “I expected something…”
“Different,” she offered. “Yeah, me too. I’m not sure what, but not this.”
“So weird,” the boy noted, peering up at the strange patterns on the wall.
That’s when he realized it wasn’t a pattern at all. Rather, it was the frames of tall, once ornate windows that were now bricked up with stones, as if to block the world from seeing the darkness the halls held within.
“Why would they do something like this?” ShiKon was drawing similar conclusions.
“They’re hiding something up here?” KiNa suggested.
Could there really be something worse than the High Mages and their deeds? It’s hard to believe.
“Look here,” ShiKon whispered.
A set of stone stairs crept up into the rising darkness. The frame around the stairs was obstructed by a gate of metal bars. The bars were bent and worn looking, as if something huge had clamped on to it and tried to pull it apart. Along the stone of the walls, KiNa could see more gashes where claws attempted to rip the rock itself.
Oddly, hanging next to the gate was a very ornate robe, one that the boy only caught glimpses of when he spied on very important meetings. It was a dark, rich color, woven with strands of gold that spun patterns at the hems.
“I wonder why this is here,” the girl frowned, brow marred with confusion.
“I don’t know,” KiNa inspected the gate mechanism. “They had this door electrified, though.”
“I’m getting a bad feeling about this,” ShiKon took his shoulder. “No one knows we’re here yet. We can always go back.”
“No,” he shook her hand away. “The patterns on the robes… These match what FuSoYa described. We’re very close.”
“You’re not really thinking about going up there, are you?”
“Whatever secret they’ve got up here, if they’re hiding it, then it’s our job to reveal it,” KiNa muttered, placing his hand against the lock. Surprisingly, it was only a simple, mechanical thing, easily deconstructed in his mind. The lock clicked open with a terrible and ominous click.
The gate swung out as he opened it.
ShiKon swallowed, drawing her daggers as she stared into the shadows above. KiNa drew a dagger of his own, keeping it concealed under the fold of his robe’s sleeve. He wasn’t very skilled with blades, but a real assassination couldn’t be carried out by something as bulky as a fighting staff.
All I need is a few scratches. The poison on the dagger will do the rest.
~You’ve poisoned your dagger? Where did you even get that?~ ShiKon seemed taken back. ~Are you that serious about doing this?~
I told you… I’m coming here to end this. I mean it.
Holding on to the determination in his words, KiNa crept up the steps slowly, being as silent as he could. He was nowhere near as good at creeping as ShiKon was, but fear helped him keep his mind on every motion and step.
A room unfolded at the top of the stairs, unlike what the boy expected, given the gate and the gashes along the wall below. It was compact and, in a word, cozy.
A legacy-style fireplace kept the room lit with a flickering flame at the far end of the room. There was a large bed, neatly made, with a number of pillows precisely placed on the blankets. The windows here were bricked up, nothing but stone enclosing the chamber.
The walls were bare, except for a large glittering hooked weapon that hung over what appeared to be a wooden desk. KiNa had never seen a weapon so large and dangerous looking.
ShiKon visibly shivered as her eyes locked on it, face paling. He could sense her panic rising, unexplained.
As the boy reached out to try and calm her, something stirred within the room. As it rose up, standing from the chair in front of the fireplace, the shadow filled the room, leaving prickles over every inch of KiNa’s skin. When he turned his head to look, the light of the crystal illuminated the figure’s features.
Suddenly, ShiKon screamed.