Lage’s Game: Chapter Thirteen, Part One

Lage handed the bag of souls to me. I pulled it open and investigated. There were three tiny spheres. One white and silver, one grey, and one black. Well.

I drew the black one out. It was feeble, tainted, ad worthless to me. Mere filler so they could say that they were giving Lage three. I dropped it, crushign it under my heel.

With a squeal and sigh, the soul was free. Their thanks and relief poured into me, and I nodded graciously. You’re welcome.

Then, I looked to the other two in my palm. The gray one was next. I tossed it up and caught it in my mouth. It tasted sweet, fruity, and had a tang of spice to it.

I spat it out, satisfied. A good soul, but not worth my time. Be gone.

The soul scurried away, whispering thanks and all that.

Finally, I held up the silver-white one. Who are you?

I tossed the ball to the ground, ordering it silently to show itself.

As it struck the ground, a silhouette appeared above it. A hologram almost, one could say, or a ghost of a shape. It was the shape of a man, dark like onyx and bearing a striking resemblance to Rebella. Yet where she seemed merciless he seemed softer, wiser. He had long locks that were drawn back and let to fall down around his cloaked shoulders. He was dressed royally but not frivolously.

He bowed slightly to me, proper as could be. “Greetings,” he said clearly, a difficult thing for a spirit to do.

“Serve me,” I ordered. I could sense his power. Noble lineage, good fighting skills, yes, I wanted his service. He would build me a proper army, be a good general.

He hesitated. “What goal are you reaching for? What purpose?”

“I will destroy those who upset the bonds between the worlds. I have come to end the game,” I said.

He inclined his head. Lowering his gaze, he seemed to think.

“Join me,” I ordered again.

His eyes rose to mine, somber. “What you seek is no easy path. I will join you – if you pledge to keep my line safe. Especially Rebella.”

My lip curled in disdain. “Fine,” I snapped a little too swiftly.

We bowed, and the pact was sealed. As I straightened from the bow, he vanished in a flicker. I picked up the sphere from the ground and placed it back in the pouch. I tied it to my belt, and decided my time was done.

Like a cold deluge, all my heat and power drained away. I felt the biting snap of cold on my toes. I felt the sharp winter on my face, my hands. I was suddenly a thirteen year old girl, cold and in a strange land.

Shaking, I looked around as if seeing the grounds for the first time. Lage stepped forward. “It’s you again,” he said gently, crouching down before me. He took my shoulders. I gaped, looking at the bodies around. They hadn’t even had the chance to fire their guns. Or had some supernatural force held them back?

“I did that?” I asked, my voice trembling.

“No,” he said, blue eyes clear and honest. “It wasn’t you.”

“Who?” I looked down at myself. I felt so small compared to that power, that confidence, that I had been filled with just a moment before.

He sighed. “I’m not sure. But you must go somewhere safe.”

“Get her out of me!” I ordered. I knew for sure it was a woman, intuitively. How, I was not sure. But she was a ‘she’.

Lage straightened, hands still on my shoulders. “You can stay with me -”

“You work with them!” I yelled, wrenching free.

“I do not,” he said sternly. Looking around, he sighed, as if looking for some escape. “I merely do my job,” he muttered.

A shaky breath came through me. I felt like a scarecrow, just rattling with the wind. “I want to know,” I said. “I want to know- everything.” Who could I trust? What was going on? “I want to know!” I raised my voice, almost yelling.

Lage looked down at me. “You’re so young.”

Fury boiled in me – but this wasn’t the same that brought power. This was plain anger, unfuelled by that ‘other’ sense.

Then, as if the thought summoned it, I felt it wave up through me. I felt taller, haughty, and ready to take on Lage in all his own power. I didn’t care if he was the main player-

“Main player?” I asked, suddenly brought out of the trance by the jarring knowledge. “What – what does that mean?”

Lage’s eyes narrowed. I felt a sense of humor in the back of my mind, like part of me was laughing at him. I wanted to tip myhead back and cackle. Yes! Be afraid, Lage!

Lage took a step back. “Leave me,” he said sharply. “Take her with you. I can’t save you from her.”

“Fine,” I heard myself say coldly. Struggling, I tried to push aside that coldness, that haughtiness. “Lage-” I said, forcing myself to become myself again.

He shook his head and stepped back. “I can’t help you.”

“But!” I felt myself failing. I needed him – I needed someone!

Lage turned around and walked away. I stood there alone, listening to the sound of his boots crunching in the snow.

“Come back to me,” said a voice from within. Rebella. “I can tell you, everything.”

Fury boiled up within me. I yanked the dagger up from the snow where I had dropped it. I shoved it clumsily into my belt – giving myself a tiny cut on the thumb for my carelessness. Then, turning, I stomped back the way I had came.

I walked for five minutes, following the snowmobile trails, before I realized I could take one of those and save myself the hours of walking. Turning around, I trekked back to the snowmobiles and took their keys from the dead bodies. Gulping down bile and ignoring the fresh smell that was staining the air, I clambered onto the smallest snowmobile.

I drove considerably slower on the way back than we had come. I didn’t want to end up crashed against a tree, and I doubted my parasitic spirit’s bravado would save me if I did have a smashing accident.

By the time I arrived at the city’s outer gates, the sky was turning a deep shade of greyish black. At the gates, proud and pleased, was Rebella on a horse at the head of a handful of guards.

“There you are,” she said as soon as I let the engine choke to an end a bit away from the horses. I stepped off the thing, scowling at her. She smiled like she was so pleased. Like I was her special gift. “Come,” she nodded to the left. “I have a horse for you.”

Still scowling, I marched to where a guard was waiting with a soft brown horse. They helped me up and I found myself sitting directly beside Rebella. She was still smiling at me. With a satisfied nod, she wheeled her horse around and entered the city.

Clumsily, the horse doing more the following than I the guiding, we made our way after her. The guards cocooned around me, following Rebella. These guards were not jesting or joking about me any longer. There was a wary look to their eyes and silence to their lips. I wondered what had changed – and realized that I would probably find out soon. Very soon.

Lage’s Game: Chapter Twelve, Part Two

Rebella took me through the castle and to a hall. It had an arched ceiling that lent it all an air of grandeur, except that was wasted, for the hall seemed to have lost anything worth mentioning. It was empty, really. There was a throne, guards, but the walls were bare. The throne was a stone seat, but it had pockets and chunks missing from it, as if gems had been pried off it. Rebella’s sister was pacing before the throne, and before here were ‘them’.

Oh, I could recognize them alright. There were three of them. They weren’t the same ones as had been sent after me before, but they had an air of familiarity to them, what with their polarized fleece winter coats and thick snow boots. They wore reflective sunglasses, hats, and lots, lots, of guns.

“I found her,” announced Rebella, dragging me into the hall after her. With a haughty tip of the head, she presented me to ‘them’. “Here you go.”

“How do we know it’s really her?” asked the man who was standing in the front of the other two.

“That’s not our problem,” said Rebella sharply. “You should have known what you were looking for.”

The man tilted his head to the side, and I wondered if Rebella was about to earn herself a hole in the head. Did I want that to happen?

The closest ‘them’ took a grip on my shoulder and wrenched me to their side. He held up a device to my shoulder, and it beeped. He nodded to the others.

“We’re going,” said the head one to the Queen. She nodded, obviously relieved.

“Have a nice trip,” said Rebella with a smirk.

The goons looked at her. I was beginning to sweat. My stomach was doing flips in my chest. I was cold, hot, and wanted to be done with murder – if I could bring myself to do it.

Where was my anger? Where was that blood-infused strength? I didn’t have it now.

They dragged me after them, marching out of the hall. My heart was pounding in my throat. The world flickered on and off, and I was just registering glimpses of what was around me. It was all happening too fast. I wanted to stop, to pause, but it was all too much.

They loaded me onto a snowmobile where they should have been riding horses. Servants watched earnestly. I felt a cold knot in my stomach, and I was trembling.

The engines revved. Servants startled away, and we zoomed off.

The city flashed by, the cold wind slapping and biting me in the face. It brought me back to life.

I was going to die, I realized. Or worse. These people meant business – and I realized I had two options ahead of me.

Screw Rebella, I could go with these ‘them’ and settle things once and for all. I could go to their nest, their boss, and slay him.

Slay him? I was rattled from that thought by the foreign-ness of it. Who was that, thinking that in my head?

But now I was cool, calm, and unafraid. I felt composed, ready. Beneath it all was a boiling anger, a power that was just waiting to surface. I was there.

As I realized the presence of this… presence? Within myself, it slipped back over my mind.

Coldly, I thought again of my options. I could kill them in their nest. Slay their chieftain. Or I could slay these ones and flee. Flee again! I was tired and sick of running. But did I have a choice? Was I strong enough, at one, to defeat them in their nest? Would they let me close enough to utterly destroy them?

They first gates, those of the castle, whizzed past. Horses and people were now jostling out of the way. We had to slow, and that gave me precious time.

Two paths, so clear, lay before me. All involved death and bloodshed, but I was settled for that. It was nothing to me now, just another consequence of life. But was there a third path?

Lage, I thought. I swallowed his card.

Nagging, in the back of my mind, I knew that meant something enormous. Gigantic. Could I call upon him like these other spirits? Would I be able to summon him to my aid? I was not sure, and certainly did not know how.

Then there was Ekundayo’s necklace. But what good was that? I dismissed it almost as swiftly as it had come up.

No, two paths it was. Which one?

Guards rushed, people screamed, and we were at the final gates. The guards watched nervously, and we whizzed past them. The warm stench of the city was now gone, and we were out in the biting cold. Snow churned up around us.

Now, a voice called out within me. It called, if such a thing was possible, through my chest. From the stone, I realized coldly.

Rebella, you bitch, I thought. You’re watching me.

Distantly, I heard her laugh. Come back to me, she ordered.

I held my stillness. I was still not sure which path I was to take. In fact, I was beginning to drift towards the first. Not only because it was delayed action, but because I wanted things to end. Let me have closure. Let me close this chapter.

The forest, black trees on a white background, it all went by within the deafening roar of the machines. A familiar dolmen appeared, then grew in the distance. Beside it stood Lage, wrapped in his cloak with a spattering of snow atop his shoulders.

The snowmobiles drew to a jarring halt before the dolmens. “Here,” said the goon in charge. “We pay the toll.” He drew a pouch from his pocket and handed it to Lage. Lage, looking tired and drawn, accepted the pouch. He pried it open and looked within.

I heard a strange whispering, the cries of souls on the wind, and felt a sense of whimsical homesickness. How I missed having my own souls, being paid my own tributes.

Shoved off the snowmobile, I returned to my senses. I was just a kid, a teen. Fear seized me. Cold bit through me. In a flash I wondered at what was happening in my mind – what was this presence taking over me?

But then I was cool again. Controlled. I rose to my feet as the goons, the soldier I realized they must be, dismounted their snow machines.

My eyes met Lage’s. In a flash I knew he didn’t want this. He would help me – if he could.

Then help, you bastard, I thought. And he heard me. He lifted his head, holding up the bag. Cleared his throat.

The goons looked at him. It was a fleeting distraction, but it was enough.

In one fluid motion, I drew the gun from the holster of the guards’ hip. Bang, bang, bang. I heard the shots, but didn’t so much register what was happening. In a blink, I heard yells. Heard the almost silent thud of the gun hitting the ground. Felt the touch of the dagger in my hand.

I came to, wiping my dagger clean on their clothes. Lage stood there still, the bag now closed in his hands. Three heads lay at my feet, still bearing their sunglasses. Should I keep them? Did I want these souls as mine?

“Thank you,” I heard myself say to Lage. I turned to him.

“Who are you?” he asked softly.

I felt humor come over me. I laughed, and the voice was jarring. Again, I shifted. Panic swelled over me. Was I-? Who was this in me? What was this feeling of – otherness?

But then it slipped back over me. I was calm, controlled. I held out a hand. “Give me those souls,” I demanded. Not that I needed the food. But a girl likes an army, doesn’t she?

Lage’s Game: Chapter Twelve, Part One

I caught Rebella by surprise. There was a smear of blood on the Grandmother’s lips, but it was tiny. Rebella spun with a yell, but I had the dagger.

I stabbed blindly – but she caught my arm.

And we were stuck. Me bearing down on her with all my strength, her sitting, half falling backwards, bracing up against me and the dagger. The dagger which was so, so, close to her eye that it was maddening.

Fury pumped through me. I willed this with all my might. To murder her.

“Guards!” Rebella yelled as her hands slipped ever so slightly. The tip of the dagger grazed her cheek, cutting a slim line.

It was not enough! I wanted her dead!

The door behind us burst open. Hands seized me and I was flung back, the dagger wrenched from my hand.

“What on earth are you doing?” yelled a voice. As my mind spun, I came to on the floor at the foot of a guard. Before me was the tall figure of the other princess, who was holding Rebella by a blood-spattered wrist. “What are you doing?” she screamed.

Rebella wrenched free. “What needs to be done!” and she turned to her grandmother.

The moment seemed to stand still. Rebella gasped. Her dagger clattered to the floor, splattering my blood across the planks.

“No!” gasped Rebella, shaking the elderly woman, who now bore a slight smile on her face. But the woman was limp. “No!” Rebella screamed, shaking her some more. Desperately, she smeared blood on the grandmother’s lips – only to be wrenched back by the sister.

“Don’t do that! You can’t!”

“I can and I will!” screamed Rebella, wrestling free from her sister. “I don’t care! She can’t die! We need her!”

“Stop being so selfish!” screamed the sister, grabbing at Rebella again. “It’s not about you! Let her rest!”

“No!” Rebella screamed, stamping a foot. “We need her! I don’t care if it curses us all! We need her!”

I staggered to my feet, determined to try again. The sister turned, our eyes meeting. Her eyes swept me up and down – and she nodded to herself. “Guards! Take this one to the healing ward! And this one-” she gestured to Rebella. “To her room! And keep her in there!”

“No!” Rebella yelled, but the sister yanked her forward and away from the Grandmother. A squabble began, but the guards quickly seized Rebella. With a slam Rebella bodily shoved one aside, punched the other in the visor, and stamped past me out of the room.

“See to it that she stays in her room!” called out the sister at the guards who rushed after Rebella.

I was left in the custody of one guard. They picked me up in their arms, limp and head spinning. The last thing I remembered was watching the ceiling twirl above me – and then nothing.

Time passed in lurches. I saw darkness, then I was beside Lage, watching him fish in the ice.

“You’re here?” he asked. “So soon?”

Then, the world lurched. Ekundayo was beside me, humming as he drummed happily with a stick on a rock. “Child, child,” he said, shaking his head with that strange grin.

Then, I spun downwards.

With a gasp, I sat up. My chest was seizing with pain. Two pairs of arms belonging to robed people were stretched above me. They were chanting incoherently. A sense of panic was crashing over me. I had to get out of here. They were going to pullt he card out of me!

I lurched to the side, falling clean off the bed and before a pair of feet. I grabbed onto a hand and helped myself up – and was faced with a sneering Rebella.

“Well,” she said.

Hatred swelled in me- but I was pushed backwards onto the bed.

“You should sit,” said Rebella nastily.

I breathed, heart hammering in my chest. Rebella. How I hated her. The monks, healers, whatever they were, lowered their arms. A sense of static electricity left the air, and my panic left me. Cool calm came over me. I focused on Rebella, wonderign how I could kill her.

But Rebella wasn’t herself. She was fidgeting, looking from me to the door beyond the curtains that framed the bed. “They won’t think of coming here,” she murmured. Then, to the healers, she snapped “Get out!”

The healers bowed, scraped their feet back, and shuffled away without another word. Rebella followed them. Once the door was shut, she latched it shut. Then she pressed her back to the door nad glared at me.

It dawned on me then that this wasn’t an infirmary. The room was small from what I could see, but – it was a personal room.

Rebella marched towards me. “Who are you? Why do they want you? Hmh?”

She was now at my side, drawing out a dagger from her belt with a hiss of metal. She held it between us, eyes flashing.

“They?” I asked. “They’re here?” Could there be more than one ‘they’?

“They want you,” said Rebella angrily. “They are saying they will kill the new Queen if we do not hand you over.”

Her hand was trembling. Her eyes flicked over me like a spider darting all over.

“Who are they?” I asked, feeling a sense of control. A sense I could finally get some answers.

“They?” she hissed. “You know them! They are the Associates. They rule your world, or so they say.”

I made a face. “They do not,” or so I hoped.

“Why do they want you?” she hissed, prodding the dagger at me. But I knew she wouldn’t hurt me this time. She was too uneasy. Or maybe that was the danger.

“Where am I?” I asked, drawing back the curtains from the other side of the bed. My fingers barely grazed the fabric before my shoulder was seized by Rebella. She shook me, making sharp daggers of pain burst in my chest.

“What do they want?” she hissed rabidly. “You- who are you?”

She had dropped the dagger in my lap. In a flash I knew I could take it and slash her throat- but somehow I chose not to. I grabbed her wrists and pried them off me.

“I am no one!” I answered coolly, shoving her back so I could stand. “I-”

“They wouldn’t threaten my sister for just anyone!” and the dagger was back between us. Then, with a flick, she slid it back into her belt. “Tell me – or I will bring you to them!”

That stilled my heart. That meant … “If I tell you?” I asked cautiously.

“I will keep you safe from them,” she said too swiftly. Nodding to herself,she held out her palm. “Word of honor.”

There was a catch. Obviously. But I didn’t want to be turned over to ‘them’, did I?

I looked around the room, hoping for some escape. I gripped at my robe, a strange flimsy white thing. I was barefoot, too. I wouldn’t get far.

“Five,” declared Rebella. “Four,”

I scowled at her. What a stinker she was.

“Three,” she said, challenging me.

“I ate Lage’s card,” I snapped.

Her jaw fell. A choking sound came out of her throat – then she turned to disbelief and started laughing. “You did what now?” But then she tipped her head back and laughed.

Humiliation burned over me, but she seemed relieved when she was done with her laughter.

“You idiot,” she said happily. Then she clapped a hand on my shoulder and squeezed. “You are stupid, you know that?”

I fueled all my anger at her through my eyes, choking up on words. How I wanted to tell her that I hated her right then. Maybe I should try and kill her again.

“Don’t worry,” she clapped my shoulder. “I will keep you safe. Now,” she pressed a finger to her lips and looked me up and down. A smirk drew itself on her lips. She looked smug. “We need to find you some clothes. Come.” She snapped her fingers at me and motioned me to follow her.

We drew to a large chest, from which she drew out some old clothes. They were worn through in their colors, but still solid looking. Several shirts were held up to me until she found one that she found suitable. From there she gave me a tunic to put over, a sort of bra to wear under, and pants. Boots – she gave me some soft slipper-like things in leather.

“They will have to do,” she muttered, cluckign her teeth. Then, she gave me a belt. It was set with a snake biting its tail worked into the metal ring. She set a dagger on it and set it about my waist. “Here,” she said. Then, stepping back, she looked me over. “Good,” she declared.

I had a sinking feeling that something was wrong. Something about the satisfied gleam in her eyes. I felt like a pig being dressed for slaughter.

She took a gray cloak trimmed in white fur from the chest. It was old as well, but fitted me a little largely. It occurred to me that I must look like a younger version of her – was I to be some decoy?

“Now,” she took a white globe from down her shirt, fishing it out with some difficulty. “Hide this in your shirt. Don’t eat it,” she added with a chuckle.

It was cold like ice, so much so that I almost dropped it. It was marble perhaps, smooth white with shoots of glimmering gray woven through it.

“When you are ready to escape, call out the name-”

“Escape?”

“Of course, I’m going to hand you over to them. Then you will escape.”

There it was. The betrayal. “But you had promised-”

She held up a finger between us. “I can’t hide you. If I do, they will sack the city. No, I will hand you over. You have my dagger, and my spirit-weapon.” she closed my fingers over the white ball. “Call their name when you are ready to kill them, and they will appear and fight with you.”

“Kill them?” I gawked. I’d never killed before!

“You must strike the killing blow,” she said softly, “and don’t leave it to the spirit to do.” Then, sensing my dismay, she added “You must kill them. If you don’t, they will follow you back to the city. Killing them will buy us time. Take it,” she pushed my hand to my chest. “Kill them. Then come back to me.”

On remote, I put the ball down my shirt. Then, numb, I felt myself turning to ice. This couldn’t be. It was too awful to be true.

But it was. Rebella whispered a name to me, then nodded. “Come back to me, and I will take care of you,” she announced.

Like hell I would.

Picture Share! Princess Rebella!

So, wifey built me a new computer! It has windows 10 and the ensuing krita on it, and I messed around on it. And ohhh, I actually like this picture!

I have to say, the single thing that has helped my art the most (beside my wifey’s critiques) is doing my own makeup studiously. Y’all, that REALLY helps figure out how to paint a face. Blend, blend, blend, contour!

Lately, I’ve been drawing the characters from Lage’s Game, and I gotta say, I really do like this picture of Rebella! Yes, that nasty princess will be quite important in the story I feel… I have some idea of what kind of future she has in the story, but I’m not sure. Things can change so much! But yes, she will be important!

Anyways, I am well, and have spent a lot of time art-ing around 🙂 so enjoy this picture, let me know what you think, and have a great evening/day!

Take care y’all, much love to you all ❤